He was running, his feet pounding on the wooden deck, the sound echoing in his ears above a terrible, heart-shattering, all-consuming silence of the kind that made the head pound and the senses whirl. He could feel his chest constricting, burning with panic, with fear, with desperation. He wanted to turn and look for Harry, but he knew that he couldn't - knew that if he did he was sure to fall, or to lose those few necessary seconds he still had as his lifeline. Those last few, tiny, vital seconds that Harry had won for them, with the simple flick of a final cigarette. God, but he hoped it wasn't the final one for real. Not here, not now - not like this. It just wouldn't be fair.

Behind him he heard a shout, and he knew that somebody was after him, probably just a hair's breadth from grabbing him, dragging him down - or just shooting him outright. There was no second chance with this. There never had been. It had always been escape or die, from the moment he had looked down the barrel of that gun, and seen the resolution in the terrorist's eyes. Death, cold and sure. Somewhere overhead he could have sworn that he heard echoes of John Deakin's mocking laughter.

"The hatch!" Somewhere off to his left, from a swirling void of blackness that his exhausted mind could not penetrate, Harry's voice came. It sounded broken and exhausted, the man pushed to the limit. Harry was a lot older than Tony, and even though he was tough, God only knew he shouldn't be doing this - shouldn't be here now, running for his life, pushing lungs scathed by years of heavy smoking, and arteries pressurised by too many hurried pub lunches and takeaways grabbed on the run. At any other time Tony might have wondered if that would be him in - what - ten, fifteen years? Weathered face, seen-it-all eyes, body that was willing but not always quite able. Right now, though, pushed to the limit himself, he couldn't see as far ahead as ten or fifteen years. He was stuck in ten or fifteen hopeless bloody seconds, lasting forever, stretching onwards into endless, infuriating, terrifying, inadequate eternity. The hatch ahead was the way to freedom. It was the way out of this before that blessed - cursed? - cigarette sent the whole bloody boat flying into the next world. A few wooden rungs on a ladder, a few more steps along the jetty. If only he had enough of a lead to make it up those rungs before they grabbed him. He wanted to wave Harry ahead, but he couldn't see him anymore. He wanted to reach that infernal hatchway, but every step he took towards it seemed to carry him further and further away. It was a dwindling square of light now, far away in the back of his mind. Behind him he knew that everything was about to go up. He could hear the explosion building, feel the waves of heat and concussion coming towards him, ready to obliterate the boat, the jetty, Tony Clark and all the world. No matter how fast he ran, he knew that he could never run fast enough...

Tony Clark awoke with a shout, his eyes snapping open as though powered by springs. He didn't know how long he lay there, staring up at the ceiling, gasping for breath and waiting for his vision to clear. About as long as usual, probably; until the cold sweat was beginning to dry, and the immediate fear had subsided into frustration and growing rage. He punched the bed, annoyed when his fist bounced harmlessly, denying him the chance to work off a little of his anger. He thought about punching the headboard, but controlled himself just in time. No nightmare was worth broken knuckles - and certainly not a nightmare that was nearly four months old.

He sat up slowly, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, and let his tousled head drop into his hands. He was exhausted. He knew it by the tension in his shoulders, by the droop of his head, by the heavy, resigned feeling in his muscles. Too many broken nights added up, and had been adding up for far too long now. He was angry with himself for not finding a way through this, and that only made the exhaustion worse. It built his frustration higher, and left him with an even greater desire to hit something. It certainly didn't help knowing that he wouldn't get back to sleep again tonight. The huge windows of his pleasantly spacious flat were already beginning to let in a little of the cold, grey light of dawn. It had to be nearly four o'clock by now, if not past that already. Hardly time to rise and shine, but far too late to think about regaining some lost sleep. He would only feel worse if he spent the next couple of hours tossing and turning.

Swearing miserably in a way that never seemed to make him feel better, but at least helped stop him from feeling worse, Tony stood up, stomped across the bedroom floor, and fought his way into a pair of trousers and a shirt. The shirt refused to be put on at first, and it was some time before he realised that he had washed and ironed and put the bloody thing away inside out. He swore at it, threw it across the bedroom, and then promptly felt stupid. It didn't help that he had to move the bed to extricate the ridiculous bloody garment from behind the headboard. He scowled at it, swore under his breath, and then forgot his earlier resolution by punching the headboard, hard. Pain rose in neon waves up and down his hand, and his wrist threatened to crack. He shouted, swore loudly at the bedroom in general, threw the shirt on and stormed out of the room, throwing himself miserably onto the settee in the flat's main room. It doubled as a living room and an office, with an integral kitchenette tacked on just by the front door. Just lately though, it was more of a room for lazing about in, cursing the world as a whole and John Deakin in particular. Tea and sympathy passed through Tony Clark's office far more regularly than did work these days. The clients had all gone away, save for a handful of divorce cases and the occasional sleazy little insurance investigation. It was hardly surprising. With MI5 camped permanently on his doorstep, MI6 watching his every move, and Special Branch threatening to break his kneecaps if he ever went anywhere near their turf again, he would be lucky if he ever got close to a case more interesting that Aunt Mabel's missing budgerigar. That had been the highlight of last month. Just thinking about it made Tony swear loudly once again, and reach out for his cigarettes. He realised, just as his hands met empty air, that he had supposedly given them up. His last packet of cigarettes had been ritually deposited in the wheelie bin the previous morning, by his clerk-cum-accountant-cum-secretary, Ellie Hughes. She had even said a few words, to complete the ceremony and make it official. He groaned.

It was the sound of the doorbell that dragged him from his misery, and finally forced him to straighten his clothing, tidy his collar, and make a vague stab at getting his hair to behave. He stumbled to his feet, shouting loud salutations in a bid to make his guest cease ringing. The doorbell made the most horrendous noise, likely to wake the dead with ease - and certainly more than likely to wake his already less-than-friendly neighbours. The sound went right through his head, and each time he heard it he swore that he was going to buy a new one. Somehow he never seemed to get around to it. It rang again, and he scrambled towards the door, tripping over a shoe and almost knocking himself out on the wall as he fell. He was not in the best of moods by the time he eventually managed to drag the door open, and came face to face with Harry Naylor.

"Hi." Harry was smiling in that slightly sheepish way that Tony had come to know rather well in recent months. It went with the rumpled suit, the tie in need of an iron, and the paper bag from the nearby twenty-four-hour Chinese takeaway. Somebody else had had a broken night too.

"Hi." With a sheepish grin of his own, Tony took the bag and stepped aside. This was hardly an unfamiliar ritual. Whilst Harry had not been hit quite so badly by the nightmares, he was finding the recovery process almost as much of a drag as Clark himself. Harry was older of course, and very likely more resilient. He had seen more, and it took more to get to him - and he had the loving arms of Ellie Hughes to help him keep the nightmares at bay. At the end of the day, though, it took more than experience to get over the fact that they had come so very close to a horrible death.

It had never been a routine investigation of course. Clark Associates had never gone in for divorces and insurance scams - not back then anyway. But that particular case had been odd in more ways than Tony could count. Looking back, he had been a fool to take it on. It smacked of the secret services trying to find a way to get rid of one of the least favourite thorns in their collective side. After floundering for some time, losing ground every way he turned, he and Harry had wound up as prisoners of a lethal terrorist cell, trapped onboard a boat packed with explosives, and about to be executed. Somehow Naylor had managed to come up with the condemned cigarette routine, and had used the situation to start a fire, risking the integrity of the explosives. It had been run or die, with very little hope of avoiding the latter. Tony recalled little of the explosion, save the rather unpleasant sensation of being plucked into the air - hurled forward for what seemed like miles. He had reached the hatch of course, even though in his dreams it always remained stubbornly out of his reach. It had been on the jetty that he had been consumed by the explosion; hurled outward and upward into nothingness. He had discovered later - much later - that the whole of the jetty was no more. Several expensive boats had gone up with it, and the owners were hunting high and low for an explanation that no one was prepared to give them. The truth, of course, was out of the question. The only people to know what had happened - save Tony and Harry - were the kinds of people who never told anybody the truth, whatever the circumstances. There hadn't been enough left of any of the terrorists to make identification a likely threat, and that had been that. For Tony and Harry there had been several weeks worth of hospitalisation in large white rooms with impressive combination locks, watched over by dark-suited men who exuded menace but never seemed to speak. Then there had been a long car ride, a concise, meaningful chat, and a polite request to get lost sharpish - followed by a very long walk home. It was a far cry from the difficult, but reassuringly closeted, days with the Met.

They ate in silence, watching the dawn progress, seeing the little boats beginning their day's work on the river. Tony dug up half a bottle of whisky from a cobwebby cupboard in the kitchenette, and mixed it with some instant coffee. There wasn't any milk. He had vague memories of Ellie finding some in his refrigerator the previous morning - whether before or after she had ritually cremated his cigarettes, he couldn't remember - and declaring it unfit for human consumption. He had been impressed by it himself actually. It had looked rather more intelligent that some of his former colleagues in the police force. Ellie had consigned it to the dustbin, however, without regard for its potential status as a sentient being, and had told him to go and get some more. The telephone had rung, however, and he had never got around to it. He had had to spend the rest of the day fielding calls from a practically brain dead builder, angry at Clark Associates for losing him his fifty-thousand-pound insurance claim. It hadn't been hard, in all honesty. The man had claimed paralysis following a fall from a roof, and had then spent the weekend filling in as centre forward for his local football team. There hadn't been a sign of a wheelchair when he had been tackling a two-hundred-pound greengrocer who doubled as star striker for the opposing team; not that this had stopped the builder blaming Tony and Harry for the loss of his potential windfall. It was cases such as that one which were placing Tony in serious doubt over whether continuing with Clark Associates was such a terribly good idea. There were other jobs after all, even if he was unlikely to have much of a chance with many of them. Almost anything was better than watching and waiting for husbands to be unfaithful, or scouring the lost and found section of the local dailies, trying to locate lost cats. Now that Maureen Connell was gone, returned to the employ of the Met, things were bleaker than ever. He felt rather like a sinking ship, stuck watching its rats dive overboard.

"Penny for 'em, guv?" Harry was sitting on the sofa, staring at the carpet, his coffee cooling in one hand, and a carton of noodles in some kind of sauce balanced precariously on his lap. Clouds of greasy steam arose from the carton, filling the room with a pungent odour that did not feel at all welcome at such an early hour of the morning. Clark grunted.

"What do you think?" He realised even as the words were tumbling out that he had used unnecessary force behind them. It certainly wasn't fair to direct his belligerence at Naylor. "Sorry." He rubbed his forehead with his hand, trying to massage it into some sense of escape from the clouds of depression. "I've just been thinking a lot lately, that's all. About stuff."

"Mo? Sarah?" Harry was all ears, eager to be useful. Maybe it made him feel better, knowing that there was somebody who felt worse than he did.

"About me." Tony sighed. "About getting out of this game. Finding some proper work."

"Nine to five?" Harry sounded doubtful. "That's not going to happen, and you know it."

"It might." Indignation and defensiveness coloured his words now. "Why the hell shouldn't it? We're both intelligent. We've certainly never let our private lives get in the way of our work, have we. That's got to make for a pretty good CV."

"And whereabouts do you mention the fact that we both got a summary dismissal from the police, with enough clouds and ill-feeling to taint the whole bloody Met - and that you have an unanswered murder charge hanging over your head?" Harry drained his cold coffee and put the mug aside. "No bloody chance, guv. Nobody's going to look twice at either of us and you know it. Hell, even you're not as young as you used to be, and I'm certainly no flaming spring chicken, am I. Who's going to take on a clapped out old copper who got kicked off the force for killing his wife?"

"Don't sell yourself short. Nobody thinks you killed her, and you know it. There was never any doubt about it being suicide." Tony sighed. "Anyway, I'm only thinking. Doesn't mean I've got anything definite planned, does it."

"Good." Harry was silent for a moment, trailing patterns through his spicy noodles with a pair of disposable plastic chopsticks he had not quite got the hang of. Clearly there was something on his mind, but Tony knew that it would come out all the sooner without questions being asked. He took another bite from a carton of crispy duck that was most definitely not crispy. He had his doubts about whether or not it was duck, either. Harry coughed, the sound dull in the silence.

"I've been thinking."

"Yeah?" The words made Tony smile, but he refrained from making the standard rejoinder. "About what?"

"Us." There was a long pause, almost as if Harry was unsure how to broach his subject. "The business. You talk about closing it down, looking for something else - but you know this is what we were meant to do. It's what we do best. Investigating things, finding stuff out."

"Getting our heads kicked in by toss-pots in jackboots." Tony had meant it as a dry joke, but Harry didn't smile. There wasn't much to smile about.

"That's your line, not mine." He smiled then, although clearly his heart wasn't in the mood for light-hearted banter. "My point is that this - all this, like it is now - isn't the right way to go about it, that's all. Cheating husbands are for the back-street sleaze merchants, not you and me. You know what I'm getting at. We've fought corruption in some of the highest places. We came close to exposing the security services' shoot-to-kill policy. Think about it. You're the man who prevented the assassination of a top Chilean general."

"Not that he deserved it." Tony still felt sore about that one. He could see how the murder of General Herrera could have led to the reinstatement of Pinochet as Chilean ruler, and he knew how terrible that would have been; but saving the life of a vicious and sadistic military mogul had hardly felt like the most worthwhile moment of his career.

"Granted. But you've still got to agree with me on this. This just isn't us. There's got to be something going on out there that would benefit from the Clark and Naylor touch."

"Maybe." Leaning back in his chair, Tony turned a speculative gaze onto the far wall. The suggestion was a tempting one, and the thought of spending the next few decades investigating the extra-marital activities of London's businessmen was most definitely not. "You do realise what it could mean though? Thanks to our secret services friends every copper in London has got me painted as an unconvicted murderer. We've both nearly been killed. It might not have been Five or Branch that blew us up, but they certainly didn't do anything to help out that night, did they. If you ask me, some of their bullets came suspiciously close during the shootout."

Harry laughed. This fact had not escaped him. When he and Tony had been running for their lives along the jetty, a full range of plainclothes officers had been providing them with cover, shooting at the terrorists to keep them from shooting Clark and Naylor - or so it had appeared. Naylor was not quite as paranoid as Tony where the secret services were concerned, but then admittedly he was not quite as high up their list of potential troublemakers as was his former boss. Harry was not the one living with a bugged telephone, and very likely a bugged apartment. Neither was he the one with a girlfriend whose crusading zeal had nearly got her liquidated. The beautiful, intelligent, but dangerously rash Sarah Teale had made it her business to show up British freedom of speech and information as the mockery it was. She worked largely abroad now. It was practically the only way to avoid official censure.

"All I want to know is whether or not you're interested. If an investigation came up, would you want to follow it, or would you honestly let it pass you by, so that you could avoid getting grief?"

"I don't know." Tony was tapping his foot on the floor, possibly as a nervous reaction, or possibly as a way of focussing his attention, and forcing himself to think. Suspicion lighted his mind for a moment. "Harry, have you been talking to someone?"

"Who, me guv?" Naylor was the very picture of innocence. "Who'd talk to me? No, I'm just being rhetorical like. Trying to see where you stand on the issue."

"Right." Clark was already feeling more cheerful, although whether that was as a result of Naylor's company, the fortifying effects of a particularly spicy brand of black bean sauce, or was due merely to the subject matter, he did not know. He stood up, grabbed Harry's mug, and headed over to the kitchenette to prepare a refill. "Yeah. I'd be interested. If the right case came along, I'd be prepared to look into it. See what was what." He let his eyes flicker around the room for a second, and Harry knew that he was wondering whether they were being overheard. After all this time though, he couldn't believe that Five and Branch really still cared what they got up to. Four months was a long time, and it was easy to forget a pair of awkward ex-policemen in such a period. He felt his craggy face break into a smile.

"Good." He let his eyes drift towards the window, and let his head nod slowly and thoughtfully. "Good."


Detective Inspector Maureen Connell, feeling strangely jubilant and cheery for so early on so cold and misty a morning, locked her front door with the determination of one who had seen too many of the results of lax security. Her days with CIB now firmly behind her, Mo had become part of the CID team at a local police station, and was back doing the work she had always loved best. It had been a wrench at first; a strange adjustment to make, working with a new team, in a new office. There had been some animosity from her new colleagues which had hardly helped - but Mo was far too much of a professional to let problems such as that get her down. She had faced prejudice from colleagues in the past for all manner of reasons, and the fact that she had once worked with CIB - and particularly with Tony Clark - was the least of the barbs people were likely to throw at her. Her quiet resolve and steady efficiency had gradually begun to swing opinion more in her favour, however, and she was finally beginning to settle in. She had an ability to blend in that was practically unmatched, and this if nothing else had led her to win the respect of her new colleagues. All the same, she did not yet feel established enough in her new position to come out and declare her sexuality. Experience had taught her that not everybody - especially in as closed and insular an institution as the Met - was as supportive and understanding as Tony Clark and Harry Naylor had both proved, however unexpectedly, to be.

Mo had not seen either of her former colleagues for some time. She had been warned that her silence regarding the terrorist affair was the price of her reinstatement in the Met, and scared by the events that she had witnessed she had been only too willing to pay that price. Confused by everything that Clark had apparently uncovered, concerned over the crisis point which she seemed to have reached in her love life, and successfully intimidated by her shady former boss John Deakin, she had slipped easily into the background, unwilling to risk her new position. Her career had always been important to her, and the only thing which meant more was the chance to salvage her relationship with Kate Roberts, with whom she lived. She still wasn't sure what she would do should Tony or Harry approach her, as they had done before, with propositions and new investigations. She hoped that she would be able to turn them down, but she doubted it. Mo had been very close to her former partners, and she missed the shared trust and easy camaraderie.

Leaving the house behind her, Mo climbed into her car, a respectable looking metallic blue Vauxhall. She had bought it as a symbol of her new life, with some small hope that it would help draw a firm line under her past. It seemed to be working. Deakin had vanished, Kate's dissatisfaction had disappeared, and the distant whisper of possible promotion was the icing on the cake. Life was good, and she saw no reason why that state of affairs should change.

Settling herself into the driver's seat, Mo fitted the key into the ignition, whistling softly all the while. The engine started smoothly, and she reached for the gear stick. She movement carried her eyes down low for a second, and she caught a glimpse of the early sun glinting on the windscreen of a nearby car. It had seemed to her, for a moment, as though a figure in the car had ducked down below the dashboard - as though they were anxious not to be seen. She frowned. Was she just imagining things? She could see nothing else to raise her suspicions - no indication that there had been anybody in the car at all. She certainly didn't feel inclined to go over and take a closer look. Instead she slipped the car into gear, releasing the handbrake and dismissing all thoughts of the incident from her mind. There were times, she thought with a smile, when a career as a detective could make one unnecessarily suspicious at the most innocent of moments. She didn't even notice when the car she had just seen started up, and slowly began to follow her down the road.


It was getting on for noon when Harry Naylor left Tony Clark's flat to head for home. He had stayed longer than intended, which was invariably the case when he went to the office for reasons other than work. His friendship with Clark had grown a great deal over the surprisingly few short years of their acquaintance. Hard to believe, really, that it had been such a short time since they had met. Clark had been brought into CIB somewhat unwillingly, and Naylor had been initially suspicious of such a strikingly young superior. Clark had a reputation for being a man who thought more about the colour of his ties than he did about the task in hand; a man whose prolific love life had preceded him into his new career. In the event he had turned out to be a talented and strong-minded detective, who had flinched at nothing in his endeavours to deal with the darker side of the police force. Together Clark and Naylor - and Connell of course - had sorted the wrong from the right and the corrupt from the straight, whilst getting fairly bogged down by the myriad different stages in between. Tony Clark might have had an unnecessarily complicated personal life, and he might have been rather too interested in his image; but he was a good copper, and had earned Naylor's trust and respect - something that was not given at all lightly. Harry Naylor had been a policeman all of his working life, and in that time had seen more colleagues, more bosses and more unimaginative pencil pushers than he cared to remember. Whilst there were far more good men than bad in the police force, there were enough bad ones to tarnish many a good copper's outlook. Harry's wife, Joyce, had not been nearly as enamoured of her husband's guv'nor as was her husband himself, her opinion somewhat governed by the stories she had heard of his supposed affairs. Harry's copper's instincts had, however, proved that he was right where Joyce had been wrong. Always the centre of Harry's life, Joyce's death had turned out to be the final nail in the coffin of his career - and the cause of the final cementing of his relationship with Tony. Stricken with motor neurone disease she had faced the end with calm dignity, whilst Harry had sunk into depression and despair. Clark had proved to be a tower of strength, touchingly supportive to a degree that went well beyond anything Harry might have expected. When Joyce had committed suicide, no longer able to face her pain and increasing decline, Harry had faced criminal charges. Expecting him to be in Spain, and therefore out of the way, she had taken an overdose, and when he had found her she had begged him to allow her to end things her way. The police, and Harry's direct superiors in the CIB in particular, had chosen not to understand the situation. With Tony Clark already out of the picture due to an abortive murder investigation, the case had been handled by his hated rival David Graves, whose crass insensitivity in the face of Harry's grief had finally caused something to snap. Harry had hit Graves, satisfyingly hard, and then resigned in a blaze of spectacular rage. Then he had gone to Tony. Nobody had been more supportive, more loyal and understanding, than Harry's former boss. Harry was prepared to accept that fate seemed determined to keep the pair of them together - and that was part of the reason why, with the odds stacked so securely against them, he was still not ready to call an end to their partnership; no matter how unprofitable it had been of late.

There was much on Harry's mind as he climbed into his car and drove away. Today was his day off, and he had promised Ellie Hughes that he would take her for a drive somewhere. He wasn't sure where their relationship was going - after all, Joyce had been dead less than a year, and the whirlwind of subsequent events had hardly left him in the best frame of mind to plan for the future. They enjoyed each other's company, however, and Ellie was good to be around. Harry liked her a lot, not least for her incredible efficiency and determination. He had to feel respect for someone who had made such a good job of keeping the firm's affairs in order. Tony Clark was almost religiously opposed to paperwork, and a fleet of secretaries might have found such a task hard going, let alone one solitary woman armed only with an outdated computer system and a collection of dog-eared files improperly kept. She was going to have even more to occupy her soon, as Harry was only too well aware - and as he edged his car around the corner at the end of the street, a shadowy figure standing in the doorway of a nearby building caught his eye. Harry smiled grimly to himself. Tony Clark was going to find a change in his fortunes coming rather sooner than he had anticipated. Harry only hoped that he appreciated it, and that he didn't find the source as unpalatable as his partner feared he would.


The solitary figure standing in the doorway waited a long time after Harry's departure, then straightening his rumpled, tie-less suit with the unwilling resolve of a condemned man, he stepped out of the shadows and headed towards Clark's apartment block. A tall man, built like a rugby player and with a boxer's broken nose, he looked to be in his mid-thirties; although there were lines around his eyes and signs of ageing above his years. His straggling, greased blond hair and glowering blue-grey eyes were added testimony to his world-weariness, as was his constant, restless watchfulness. Paranoia came easily to Eddie Hargreaves. He had seen the dark side of London, and knew how far up the ladder of authority that darkness travelled. The knowledge leant him a haggard air that might have been more at home on the face of a man twice his age.

A former detective sergeant, Eddie Hargreaves had had a solid, although hardly sparkling, career in the police force. He had liked his work, and been effective in his own, rather bullish way. He had never been a diplomat, and had never expected to rise far up the ranks, but he had certainly never expected to be thrown out of the force under a cloud. Caught up in a murder investigation which had taken on a life of its own, Eddie had found himself securely trapped in a web of his own weaving, and knew that he had been lucky to escape with his legs intact. Tony Clark had been brought in to investigate a suspected fit-up and, with his usual talent for rushing in where angels fear to tread, had wound up uncovering a trail of corruption that had dug the very heart out of CIB, and in the process had seen Hargreaves thrown to the wolves as a handy scapegoat. The latter had not been Clark's fault of course, but Hargreaves hated him for it nonetheless. If Clark had been that image-conscious, sex-mad high-flyer everybody had originally thought him to be, he would have left well alone, turned a blind eye to the obvious lies and deceptions, and let sleeping policemen lie. He would hardly have been the first to do so. Instead he had leapt before looking, found things others would have shied from; and then, on looking harder, had leapt even further. The Met was still reeling, and so was CIB. Hargreaves' opinion was that Tony Clark was a smug git who deserved a good kicking. He had tried that himself once, and the bruises had been worth it.

"Here goes nothing." Hargreaves muttered the words under his breath, the low volume doing nothing to hide the distaste in his voice. He had another look around for possible observers, and then hurried across the road. There were never many people about at the entrance to Tony's flat - one of the features which had made it attractive to Clark in the first place - but Hargreaves did not dally nonetheless. He entered the communal hallway with the air of a man throwing himself into a lion's den, his special set of keys allowing him access through the security door that would have otherwise have remained closed to him. He had prepared well for this moment. The stairs were as deserted as the street outside.

Tony Clark's front door was unassuming and plain, without even a nameplate to display his presence - odd for a place that doubled as an office. Hargreaves checked the number against a slip of paper in his pocket, and then stepped back, making a vague stab at straightening his shirt. This was not going to be easy. Tony Clark and Eddie Hargreaves had hated each other from first sight, long before the investigation had come between them. Hargreaves had been jealous of a man who, whilst still the same age as him, had outranked him considerably. That had all changed now of course. They were both out of the Job, and therefore equals. The other reason for their rivalry - more than that, for their enmity - was a simple one, although it had proved to be anything but simple in the end. They had both been in love with the same girl, and Tony Clark had won. That was, until the pressure of the corruption investigation, which had involved her as much as it did Hargreaves, had become too much for WPC Jenny Dean. She had committed suicide, pushed over the edge by pressures from far up the chain of command. Eddie knew that Clark would never believe her death had left him as anguished as Clark himself had been - but then Eddie himself had been partly responsible for that final escalation of pressure that had pushed Dean over the edge. The main culprit had been John Deakin. The former head of CIB had been at the heart of the double dealings in the case, and had been remorseless in his attempts to keep Jenny silent.

Tony Clark was thinking about going out for lunch when the doorbell cut into his thoughts and made him swear, for the second time that day, that he was going to buy a replacement - preferably one that didn't qualify as noise pollution. Still on a high from his morning spent with Harry, and feeling bright and cheerful about the possibility of returning to the kind of work he liked best, Tony was positively jaunty in his step as he crossed to the door and pulled it open. His eyes met Eddie's. There was a long silence. Eddie felt desperately uncomfortable. He tried out a smile, but had no hope of it being returned.

"Afternoon," he said, attempting to sound friendly. In answer he received the full power of Clark's most piercing stare, and remembered with trepidation how those intense blue eyes had unnerved him in the past. He had been told that they were one of the features which made Tony attractive to women, but to anybody who had been on the wrong side of them, they could be terrifying.

"What do you want?" The voice was as cold as the stare, and Tony felt a wall of cold rage shutting off his previous good cheer.

"I want to talk." Eddie tried to keep his voice even. He and Clark had fought in the past, and Hargreaves was not looking for a repeat of that experience now. Although he was taller than Clark, not to mention stronger and with a heavier frame, Clark was built like an athlete and possessed an impressive turn of speed. The last time they had clashed they had both found it impossible to gain the upper hand, and had borne the scars of the conflict for some while.

"I don't want to listen." Clark, too, was trying to keep his temper under control; a relatively new experience for him. "So get lost."

"You don't know what I'm going to say yet. Just take it easy, Clark. I didn't have to come here you know."

"Then why did you?"

Hargreaves summoned up another smile. "I told you, to talk. I've er... I've got something important on my mind, and I thought you might want to hear it. Now let me in, I can't talk out here."

Wordless, Clark moved aside, his eyes never leaving Hargreaves as he entered the flat. Hargreaves was just as wary. He was beginning to think that it might have been a mistake to come here. He needed help, but there were better places to meet than on an enemy's home turf. He only wished that there was somebody else he could have turned to, but all other doors had been firmly closed. Nobody cared for an ex-cop who had been kicked out of the force - except, perhaps, for another ex-cop who was in the same boat. If only Clark was less volatile. The infuriating bastard had an annoying tendency to see the world in black and white, classifying everybody as good or bad, in a world where most people fitted far more easily into the shades of murky grey that lay between. It was this naïvety that had nearly got Clark killed; but it was also one of the things that had made him such a good copper. It was also why he saw Eddie Hargreaves as an enemy, with reconciliation being totally out of the question.

"Harry sent you, didn't he." The reason for Naylor's previous turn of conversation had suddenly become clear, and Clark's annoyance was growing.

"Er... yeah." It felt better to put some of the blame onto somebody of whom Clark thought fondly "Don't matter though, does it? Look, it's been a long time."

"Leave it Hargreaves." Clark was in no mood for his guest's apparent overtures of friendship. The man's mere presence brought back some very unpleasant memories, and some very painful ones too. "I haven't forgotten what you did, and I'm not likely to."

"Oh come on Clark. Grow up." Eddie was angry too now. "It wasn't my fault that Jenny died. I loved her too."

"I'm not talking about Jenny." Jenny Dean had left a big hole in Tony's life, not least because he considered himself partly responsible for her death - especially since he did not believe that he had loved her as much as she had thought he did. "I'm talking about perverting the course of justice, fitting up an innocent man. Conspiring with John bloody Deakin. Carswell might have been a toerag, but he didn't deserve to get set down for a murder he didn't commit."

"I didn't know he was innocent." That was partly true at least. He hadn't known at first, and it had been in the best of faith that he had perjured himself to get Carswell convicted. He had thought it a small price to pay to get a dangerous man off the streets and into prison where he belonged. Later he had realised the truth, but had thought it too unsafe to make any noise. "You are one righteous bastard Clark."

Clark frowned. He hadn't invited Hargreaves in to swap insults. "I don't have all day." His tone was filled with warning, and Hargreaves looked sulky.

"Yeah, yeah. Okay." He looked around. "Nice place. You must be doing pretty well to afford all this equipment."

"Not bad." Not bad at all considering that half of it had been paid for by the security services. The fax machine and answer phone had both been bought with the money from the contract to protect General Herrera, which added to the irony of it all. Despite their hatred of Tony Clark, the security services had made quite a sizeable contribution, one way or another, to the upkeep of his company. It was a shame they hadn't thrown a little more work his way, so that he could have afforded to update the computer as well. The rest of the world was waiting for the arrival of Windows '95, whilst Tony was awaiting the arrival of Windows, period. Not that it bothered him. Computers were hardly his game anyway. "You didn't come here to admire my office. Get on with it."

Hargreaves was delighted. He had hoped to get Clark's attention by playing on his natural curiosity, and it looked as if he had succeeded. He sat down on the settee, relaxing slightly, and gazed over at Clark. The other man was still standing beside the kitchenette, next to the front door. "Sit down Tony. Don't stand on ceremony."

Tony glowered, and sat down on a chair near to the settee. His eyes remained fixed on Hargreaves. He had not expected his return to the major league to be initiated by an old enemy, and he felt uneasy. "If you've got something to say, say it. Otherwise get lost, and stop wasting my time."

Hargreaves looked at the floor. He knew that he could trust Tony. Clark was honest. He was infuriating at times, undoubtedly, but incorruptible to the end. Eddie was sure he had come to the right place. Taking a deep breath, he began to talk.


Life had not been too difficult for Eddie Hargreaves since his enforced retirement from the police force. He had known things, and there were plenty of people willing to keep him happy if it would prevent him from talking. Their other option was permanent removal, rather too drastic given the circumstances, and not necessarily a good idea; especially given the questions that were already being asked over the death of Jenny Dean. Rather than stir up any more wasps' nests, Hargreaves had simply been shunted aside, given a new job where his skills would be appreciated. If he was grateful enough, his loyalty would be even more assured.

He had taken on a new job fairly soon after leaving the police - after a fitting period in the wilderness, to be sure of his gratitude when the job finally did come along. Acting as part of the security team to a large, London-based firm was not exactly his dream career, but it paid well - rather better than the Met - and gave him the kind of lifestyle he had always aspired to. He kept his head down, didn't ask unnecessary questions, and didn't get in anybody's way. It was a way of life that appealed to him, and since he had no problem with scruples there had been no shortage of extra work. After hours deliveries, late night jobs when the offices were supposed to be closed up. All much the kind of thing that brought large, tax-free supplements to his wages, handed over in bundles of cash wrapped in brown paper. He had welcomed it all, and never given a thought to what he might have been getting himself into.

It had all changed a month ago. Working the late shift, when everybody else had gone home, Eddie had seen a large black truck pulling into the rear compound, and had gone to check it out. He had found the vehicle apparently abandoned, with no deliverymen or representatives of the firm around to deal with it. Curiosity aroused, particularly given the many occasions when he had seen similar vehicles coming and going - and been paid well for his silence - he had crept up to the lorry and tried opening it. A large combination lock had prevented him from accomplishing his task, and sufficiently intrigued he had hidden himself to watch what happened. Several people had come from the main building, opened up the truck, and under the supervision of one of the managing directors had begun to load it up. Eddie had recognised the crates being loaded. It was the firm's business after all. Weaponry, of all shapes and sizes. He had seen everything from handguns to assault rifles stored in the warehouses in the past. It was all supposed to be carefully logged of course, guarded meticulously and protected by reams of paperwork and computerised security. None of that had been in evidence in the deal Eddie had witnessed that night, and even had he not been suspicious already, he would have realised that games were most definitely afoot. He knew that he had witnessed an illegal movement of arms, and he was beginning to realise that all those other nights, with all those other secret payments and after-hours duties, had involved similar deals. The firm, quite clearly, was selling weapons. Whether to terrorists or rebels or foreign armies Eddie had no idea. He didn't know if he wanted to find out, either. Instinct told him that he could easily be implicated himself; and did he really care anyway? After all, he was earning good money from the deals himself, and there was no reason to think that that was going to change. In the end he had decided to remain silent. Why rock the boat? He needed the job, and he had no problem with whatever the firm might have been up to.

And then one day one of the under managers, a young graduate named Simon Fowler, had come to him early in the morning. He had been hedgy and nervous, clearly spooked, and had talked about suspicious paperwork and figures that didn't add up. Eddie had tried to send him on a wild goose chase, but Fowler had been determined. He had looked in places where people had not wanted him to look. He had asked too many questions of people who didn't like such questions being asked. And he had kept coming back to Eddie. Maybe he knew about the security guard's police background, or maybe he suspected him and was trying to provoke a reaction. Either way, the reaction he had eventually provoked had not been the one he had been hoping for - and it had not been Eddie's. Fowler's car had spun out of control on his way in to work one morning, and had exploded in a massive fire ball on a deserted road. The police had put it down to trouble with the fuel tank. New, powerful cars with fuel injection were prone to exploding after a crash, and since nobody else was involved, the death was a clear cut case of misadventure. No one to blame, no reason to suspect anything. No reason for Eddie to worry either - until two days later when a plain brown envelope had turned up on his desk. It had been empty save for three little wires - one red, one blue and one green - and a photograph of the smoking wreckage of Fowler's car. The message was simple, especially to someone as nervous and jumpy as Eddie had been by then. Fowler's death had been no accident, and somebody somewhere knew or suspected that Eddie also knew things he shouldn't. Eddie was terrified. He had not known what to do, or even if he should do anything at all. He didn't know who to plead his innocence to - and if he showed that he felt such an action was necessary, surely that would confirm that he did know things he shouldn't? After shivering and shaking his way through several days at work, and long nights on his own in his flat, Eddie had taken a week's holiday and set out to spend it getting severely drunk. Only two hours into what could have turned out to be one of the greatest pub crawls in history, he had run into Harry Naylor - literally. Realising that something was wrong, Naylor had picked him up, plied him with enough whisky to loosen his lips, and then had listened to his sorry tale with a face as hard as ice. After that it had all been out of Eddie's hands. He hadn't wanted to speak to Naylor, but he had. He hadn't wanted to spill the beans, but quite obviously he had managed to do just that. Terrified at what the consequences might be, he had been almost pathetically grateful at Naylor's suggestion that he take his story to Tony Clark. Clark, after all, was the one person who could be guaranteed to welcome the chance of a little inadvisable poking and prying. And so now here he was, sitting on Tony's sofa, nervously flicking his eyes around the wide, comfortable living space, and wondering if all those grapevine tales were true, and that the place really was bugged. And if so, who by.

"That's about it." On edge, Eddie ran his right hand through his tangled, greasy blond locks, and looked up at Clark. The former detective superintendent had stood up before the tale was half-told, and was standing by the window, his back to Hargreaves. "What do you think?"

"I think..." Tony was staring down at the river, imagining that every one of those innocent little boats was full of men with powerful binoculars, all watching him as he stood there admiring the view. "I think that you did the right thing coming here."

"Then you'll look into it?" Hargreaves was delighted. Tony still did not turn around.

"Yeah. I'll look into it." He sighed, then turned about with a brisk smoothness he had not employed in a long time. "Is there somewhere you can stay for a few days? Not somewhere obvious, like with family. Somewhere else."

"Yeah. I have a canal boat in Norfolk. Nobody else knows about it." Hargreaves could feel his blood beginning to pump excitedly. "You think they might come after me?"

"I don't know, but I wouldn't advise taking the risk." Tony rubbed his jaw, deep in thought, rather surprised to discover that he hadn't shaved that morning. Of course; he had woken up due to the recurring nightmare, and had spent the rest of the morning trying to get drunk on whisky-laced coffee. It seemed like weeks ago now. "Get there as soon as you can. Call me when--" He broke off. "No, on second thoughts don't call me. I don't know how secure my line is. Do you have a mobile?"

"Yeah." Eddie held it up. Tony nodded.

"Ditch it. Use a pay phone. Call this number if you have to get in touch." He scribbled something on a piece of paper, and handed it across. "But try not to use it. It's for emergencies only, got it?"

"Yeah, sure." Eddie hesitated. "What happens now?"

"I get to work." Strangely Tony felt almost inclined to bounce up and down and rub his hands together. "You get going. And watch your back. Don't take your own car either. Get a taxi, or rent a car. Better not go back home before you leave."

"If you say so." Eddie was frowning now. Just what had Tony Clark got himself into since leaving the police force, if he was so well practised in dealing with cases like this? The mind boggled. He had heard the tales of course, even though he had already been out of the Job a year when Clark had got his dismissal. Tales of MI5 dealings, a glamorous older woman and the ever-shadowy John Deakin. All speculation of course; nothing that even the sleaziest of tabloid newspapers had managed to get an angle on.

"I do say so - unless you want to go the same way as your pal Fowler, and risk landing me and Harry in it too." Clark was already heading for the door, opening it in preparation of sending Eddie on his way. "Get going. Don't speak to anyone, don't call anyone - especially not on that mobile. They're even less secure than public phones. Play safe at that boat as well. There's no way to be sure nobody knows about it. You don't know who we might be dealing with here."

"It's just an arms firm. They make guns and sell them."

"Yeah, sure." Clark raised his eyebrows. "And who exactly do they sell them to? That leaves us with rather a large unknown factor to deal with, and I don't want to take any risks. It might have been them, not your employers, who dealt with Fowler. Either way, somebody has killed once."

"Good point." Eddie dragged up a smile from somewhere. His interview here today had done nothing to lessen his hatred of Clark, especially now that he was in the other man's debt - but still it felt better to know that he was onboard. Clark might be naïve and self-righteous; he might be a smug bastard with far too many ties that matched his eyes; he might even have been a two-timing snake who had screwed Jenny Dean and lured her away from Eddie's own, lecherous embrace - but he knew what he was doing. "Thanks Clark."

"Get lost Hargreaves." Clearly Clark's feelings hadn't changed either. "Stay low, keep your head down. I'll be in touch if I think I have to be."

"Good luck." It seemed a stupid thing to say; almost hopelessly impotent; but Hargreaves said it anyway. To his surprise Clark smiled, and for the first time since he had answered the door to his unexpected guest, those piercing, intense blue eyes softened a little.

"Thanks." He ushered the other man out of the door. "Bye."

"Bye." He said it absently, already heading away down the corridor. Behind him Tony Clark pushed the door shut, slipped on the chain, and then leant back against the door with his eyes closed. A big grin began to spread its way across his handsome face. He was back in business - and already the nightmares of the past four months felt like ghosts in somebody else's memory. Punching the air in triumph he headed for the computer. Time to see what he could dig up out of the last few links of his past.


Mo Connell left the pub after lunch feeling refreshed. She had taken a longer lunch than usual, enjoying both the time and the chance it gave her to relax. Relaxation of any sort did not come easily in her job, with all of its attendant pressures and problems. She had spent the morning listening to the testimony of a drug-ravaged young man who had knifed a young mother in order to steal her purse. The mother was going to make it, although she would always be scarred. Her attacker still wasn't entirely aware of what he had done, and Mo wished fervently that she could give up, and hand the case over to somebody with some psychiatric training. No such luck, she thought, as she massaged the back of her neck with one hand, and strolled out into the weak afternoon sunshine. It was possible that her suspect would be spared trial due to his obvious mental deficiencies, but for the time being he was still her responsibility. She had to work her way through his confusion, and try to get something approaching a comprehensive statement. Given that he could not even remember meeting his young victim, let alone actually attacking her, that was likely to take some time.

"I really need another drink." She spoke the words to the empty air, ignoring the looks one or two passers-by threw at her in response. She sighed. A streetful of wandering businessmen, closeted and wrapped in cotton wool. None of them knew the things she did, or had seen the things she had. None of them had seen the pictures she still carried in her mind, of a young woman bearing the deep scars of a knife attack, and her terrified three year-old son, who had witnessed it all. In the photographs he was standing nearby, trying to huddle close to his mother whilst a WPC tried to pull him away. He was speckled in his mother's blood, and his huge black eyes were wide with childish understanding. Mo had worked in the juvenile squad in the long ago days before CIB, and she knew that most kids understood a lot more than adults gave them credit for. She had also seen some of the effects of that understanding.

She was halfway back to the station when she began to get the sensation that she was being watched. She glanced back, pretending, in a moment of inexplicable caution, that she was brushing something off her shoulder. About twenty yards behind her, half hidden by a gaggle of strolling would-be yuppies, there was a man. He was dressed in a plain, dark suit, and his short black hair was slicked back, lying close to his skull. He was watching her quite intently, his eyes partially closed as he looked directly into the faint glare of the sun. Mo frowned. She didn't recognise him, and there was no definite reason to suspect that he was watching her - and yet she could not get rid of a strange, warning tingle between her shoulder blades. Her subconscious was fiercely on edge.

She spent the rest of the day in the office, always within sight of a window; and every time she looked out into the street, she saw her mysterious shadow. Sometimes he was walking, sometimes standing - sometimes staring straight up at the window of her office. It unnerved her to think that he knew so much about her workplace, and even though she tried not to let it get to her, she could not shake the growing sense of unease. It was when she saw him climbing into a parked car; when she recognise the colour and make of the vehicle, and realised it was the one she had seen outside her house that morning; that she began to feel her unease growing into something rather more powerful. She bit her lip as she stared down into the street, watching the car and its mysterious occupant. She didn't notice when one of her sergeants put a cup of coffee in front of her, and she didn't bat an eyelid when an eager young constable bid her a cheery good afternoon. Instead she stared at the car, and thought dark thoughts with a paranoid base. The paranoia reminded her of someone - made her think of somebody who had delighted in telling her tales of those who watched, and of what it was like to live under twenty-four hour surveillance. Sarah Teale, the dangerously dedicated investigative journalist, who had fallen for Tony Clark whilst inadvertently leading his team to what had so nearly been the end of the road for all of them. Good old Sarah Teale - and good old Tony Clark. Mo felt something click within her.

The man in the car outside had been waiting a long, long time for Mo Connell to go home. It was long past dark before he began to grow suspicious, and checking a number written in his notepad he dialled her office. There was no answer. He let the phone ring on and on, until finally a sleepy sounding night-duty DC answered. The man in the car could almost picture him wiping the sleep from his eyes as he stood in the office.

"I want to speak to Detective Inspector Connell please." He worded it as politely as he could. There was the sound of a faint yawn.

"I'm sorry. Inspector Connell left more than two hours ago. Can I take a message?"

"No. Thankyou." Glowering at the telephone, the man in the car hung up. He could see Connell's car, standing just where she had parked it. That could only mean that she had seen him, and decided to leave by a back way. He swore under his breath, started the engine, and manhandled the car into gear. If she had made him, there was only one place that she was likely to go - and he was going to get there as soon as possible. He only hoped that he was not already too late.


Tony Clark swallowed the last of his coffee, and grimaced. He had no idea how long it had stood by his side, untouched, but it was freezing cold. The unpleasant taste of it filled his mouth, reminding him with a jolt just how hungry he was. He glanced at his watch, found himself staring at an empty wrist, and looked up at the clock instead. Half past six.

"Half six?" It took a moment for the time to sink in, for the last time he had looked it had been two o'clock, and he had been thinking about getting something to eat. That had been before he had found some very interesting files, and had spent the rest of the afternoon totally absorbed. He stifled a yawn, stretched and stood up, rubbing his eyes to clear them from the lingering glow of the computer screen. How Ellie could sit there for hour after hour typing all those files up, he couldn't imagine. Still, he was glad of it now. It would have taken days to find the information he needed using his old system, which had consisted largely of odd pieces of paper lying around on the coffee table, or filed irretrievably in the black hole that was his filing cabinet. Somehow he had never quite got the hang of paperwork.

There was, predictably enough, no food in the fridge or in the cupboards, so after sorting through the remnants of the Chinese takeaway, Tony put the least congealed selections he could find into the microwave, and gave them a few minutes bombardment of potentially lethal energy. His wife had referred to it as that once, he remembered, and for a second he found his mind wandering. It returned to the present soon enough though. Sue Clark had been a beautiful woman, and for a long time the only one he had ever felt capable of truly loving - but he hadn't seen her in more than a year now, and she did not seem to be missing him. She wasn't his wife anymore anyway, thanks to - to who? To Jenny Dean, for getting in the way? To Mo for suggesting that he take Jenny out as a proper way of ending their affair? Or to Sue herself, for seeing them together, and getting the wrong idea? He still couldn't quite think of it as his own fault. Not quite. Not entirely. That was too much of a responsibility to accept.

He ate the rest of the takeaway seated in the gathering dark, illuminated only by the glowing of the computer screen. Neatly arranged characters travelled up the screen when he touched the keys, showing him lists of names, addresses and other such information. He had always known the name of the firm where Eddie Hargreaves now worked. It had seemed prudent to find out, especially since there had always been the suggestion that they might need him for further help in the Carswell case, particularly after John Deakin's involvement had been revealed. There had been other reasons for wanting to know it of course. Tony could not quite let go of the idea that he might be allowed another crack at Hargreaves one day, just to prove that he had always known more than he had let on. Lowly DS he might have been, but there was always a chance. Either way, whatever his motives in checking up on Hargreaves' career, it seemed to be paying dividends now. He tried to search for a list of shareholders to the company, but came up against a dead end. Either he had no such information, or the computer was determined not to give it to him. Either explanation seemed likely, and the computer bleeped ominously at him, as though throwing its weight behind theory number two. Clark hit the enter key hard, and was rewarded with a knock at the door that quite threw him momentarily. He smiled at his own confusion, and rose to answer the knock. Best to move quickly, before his guest decided to try ringing the infernal doorbell instead.

"Hello?" He was venturing the inquisitive greeting even as the door was still opening, long before he had caught a glimpse of who was there. The well-educated, smooth Scottish accent that was so familiar to him came in immediate response, and he felt a huge smile of welcome spread itself across his face.

"Mo!" The delight was evident in his voice, even if his face hadn't already been testament enough to his feelings. He grabbed for her hand even as she was stepping over the threshold, pumping it up and down in enthusiasm. Mo smiled dryly. Clark hadn't changed; still doing nothing by halves. As she remembered he was invariably either blazing with rage, cold with frustration and misery, or ready to dance about in unrestrained joy. She wasn't surprised to realise just how much she had missed him.

"Tony." Sometimes it still felt odd calling him by his first name. Harry, of course, kept up appearances by using the old title of guv'nor even now. Such a nod to the past seemed somehow ridiculous.

"How are you?" He was still grinning at her, and the sight made her smile even more. He had changed so little. Hardly surprising of course; it was only a matter of months since their last meeting. Only a matter of months since she had watched with John Deakin, horror-stricken at the sight of Tony and Harry running along the jetty, gunfire filling the air around them - watched as the pair of them had been hit by the force of a sudden, violent explosion. She had thought that they were dead then, and not contacting them afterwards was almost an act of self-preservation on her part. She felt sure that she wouldn't have been able to handle it if either of them had been killed.

"I'm fine. Sort of." She went past him, avoiding the lingering desire to give him a hug. "Everything's great. You know I'm back in the Met?"

"Yeah. I'd heard." He sounded guarded, although she wasn't sure if that was due to jealousy. "It's great. I'm really happy for you."

"Everything's going great. It's like they've forgotten all about my past."

"Yeah. I know that too." He offered her one of his charming, lop-sided grins. "I like to keep track of how you're doing. Make sure you're okay, all that sort of thing. There's an old friend of Sarah's who works as a public relations officer with the Met, and he told me there was talk of promotion. I wanted to call you, wish you luck, but..." He trailed off and paused, then shrugged. "I wasn't sure if you'd want to hear from me. Since it was me that got you sacked the first time."

"There's no hard feelings Tony. Really." She sat down, enjoying the familiarity of the flat. Nothing seemed to have moved since the last time she had been here, save for the marked lack of dog-eared cardboard folders. Ellie was obviously doing her job well, in that case. "I didn't have to help you out that time. I only have myself to blame - and besides, I still believe that I did the right thing." She lowered her eyes. "Actually, it wasn't anger that stopped me getting in touch. I wasn't sure that you'd want to hear from me. I only got my job back because John Deakin pulled some strings for me, and I know how you feel about him. Thing was, Kate didn't like me working for you. She knew that your work tended to be dangerous, and she didn't like the risks you were taking. I was going to lose her."

"I understand." He sat down on a chair opposite, then immediately leapt to his feet again. "Sorry. Coffee? No milk I'm afraid, but then you like it black, don't you." He frowned. "Not sure that there's any sugar either, actually. We could play it safe and stick to the whisky."

"Nothing for me, thankyou." He sat back down again, and she found herself smiling once more. "I didn't really come here for small talk."

"Trouble?" His sudden attentiveness was almost comical. "Actually I'm in the middle of a case right now, but there's no reason me and Harry can't handle two things at once. There's always Ellie to run this end of things."

"I didn't say it was a case." She frowned. "What exactly is it that you're working on right now? Anything sensitive?"

"Could be. Somebody... an... an old acquaintance. He put me on to it. The arms firm where he works seems to be sending a lot of shipments out in the middle of night. No paperwork, that sort of thing. One of the under managers died rather suddenly when he tried to look into it."

"Oh." Mo leaned back in her seat, staring hard at Tony. "Well that answers a few questions. I didn't think I was involved in anything at work that might cause somebody to have me followed. All I'm working on is a few minor robberies and a string of assaults. Small time stuff, mostly drug related."

"Isn't it all?" Tony frowned. "Followed?"

"Yeah. Tall chap, dark hair with at least a jar's worth of hair gel dumped in it. Black suit, very reserved in appearance. He doesn't like being noticed."

"And you're sure that he's following you?"

"He's been there every time I've looked up, since first thing this morning. He was waiting for me when I left the house. Dark car. Sierra I think."

"I hadn't spoken to Eddie this morning." Tony was on his feet now, pacing up and down before the large windows overlooking the Thames. "Damn. If they're watching you because they know about your connection with me, they must have known that Eddie was going to talk to me. They must have been watching him for days, even before he spoke to Harry at the weekend." He cursed.

"Eddie?" Mo joined him at the window, staring down at the distant boats. "Eddie Hargreaves? He put you on to this?"

"Yeah." Clark looked decidedly contrite. "Not exactly my favourite client, but he's onto something. I need to get down to the library really, check up on some old newspaper records to find out about the death of that under manager; but I think Eddie was right about it. It's too much of a coincidence otherwise."

"Then you think it's likely that my tail is something to do with this case?" Mo sighed, sitting down rather heavily on the arm of the nearest chair. "Great. That's going to please Kate no end. And just as things were really starting to work out between us."

"Sorry." He lowered his head. "Maybe you should take a break. Go away somewhere together. If these people see that, they'll realise that you have nothing to do with this case. It's better than running the risk of them finding out that you've been here. I'd rather that didn't happen."

"So would I. Don't worry, I wasn't followed. I gave my tail the slip by leaving the back way. Took a taxi here." She frowned, tapping on the back of the chair with her fingers. "I ought to give Kate a bell though, maybe fill her in. I'd rather she heard it from me." She glanced towards the telephone. "Is it safe?"

"No idea." He shrugged, smiling in faint embarrassment. "I just assume that they're bugging it all the time, but I guess there's no reason why they should be. It's been a long time now."

"I wasn't thinking of MI5 or Special Branch." She pulled a mobile phone from inside a pocket of her coat. "I was thinking about whoever is following me, and presumably Eddie Hargreaves too. Have you noticed anybody hanging around here?"

"Haven't looked. I spent several months seeing dark suits behind me every step I took. Five and Branch were practically camped on my doorstep, and I got rather used to ignoring it all." He looked concerned. "They might be watching Harry though. He's gone out for the day with Ellie, and something like this would probably spook her no end. I wish I knew where they've gone."

"They'll be back soon. It's dark outside already, and it's not exactly warm." She smiled at him. "Some private detectives manage to go their whole careers without being followed. I don't know how you do it."

"It's a talent." He shrugged. "Fancy that whisky now?"

"Definitely." She waved the mobile phone at him. "I'd better just call Kate first. Do you think it's safe using this?"

"Safe as any other telephone. If they want to listen in they will, no matter what you use." He nodded towards the bedroom. "Would you like a little privacy?"

"Thanks." She was touched, surprised by such thoughtfulness. At one time he would probably have tried to listen in, grinning at her frustrated attempts to hold a personal conversation in public. Locker room humour, of course. Part of being in the force. He shrugged, turning about to pour out the whisky, and she headed into the bedroom. Tony's new-found respect for privacy was hardly her greatest concern right now. Placating Kate was; and that was not going to be the easiest of tasks.

The bedroom was quite small, especially when compared to the size of the living room. The large double bed did not leave a great amount of further space, and what there was was filled mostly with other furniture. A chest of drawers stood against one wall, a small collection of framed photographs resting on it. Tony and Sarah standing by a river somewhere; a picture of Sarah evidently sent from America, showing her standing, in classic tourist pose, in front of the Washington Memorial. She was wearing a Washington Redskins baseball cap, but with an Arsenal T-shirt as well, as though confirming her cultural origins. There was also, Mo was touched to see, a picture of her and Harry, taken, as far as she recalled, at a Christmas party. 1992, she thought; the year Clark had joined them in CIB. They had still been unsure of each other back then, and Tony had still been trying it on with Mo at every available opportunity. She hadn't come out yet back then of course, and Tony had been just one of many male colleagues concerned at his apparent lack of success. She had never been sure whether to be flattered or frustrated at their persistence. Possibly there had been a little of both.

Turning her back on the photos, Mo sat down on a chair in one corner of the room, after first removing the crumpled suit jacket and three creased ties - all varying shades of blue she was faintly amused to notice - that were draped over the seat. The ties reminded her of all the old jokes about Clark, and the supposed importance to him of his ties complimenting his eyes; jokes she had started out by making herself, and had wound up being offended by. Typical of their relationship really. Mo smiled as she hit the button for the speed dial. Tony had been such a good friend in the past. They had been closer than most colleagues, even in a close-knit organisation like the police force. She found herself growing worried that she might have ruined that close relationship through the past four months without contact.

"Hello?" Kate sounded breathless, as though she had only just come in. It was quite likely, since she worked in advertising and kept hours that were almost as anti-social as Mo's.

"Kate? It's me. I didn't want you to worry..."

"Worry?" Amusement filled the other woman's voice. "I stopped expecting you back at the proper time about... oh... three days after I moved in. What is it this time? Suspects that won't come clean?"

"Not exactly." Mo hesitated. "Could you do me a favour? Go to the window that looks out onto the front, and see if you can spot a dark car there. A Ford Sierra."

"Why?" Kate sounded as though she wanted an explanation in short order, but Mo wasn't prepared to tell all just yet.

"Just do it. Please?"

"Okay..." There was the faint sound of footsteps. Mo imagined Kate walking through the familiar hall, passing the painting opposite the stairs, and heading into the lounge. She would be standing in front of the window now, staring out into the street, her back to the comfortably worn three-piece suite she was always trying to talk Mo into replacing. "There's no car out there. Nothing beyond the ordinary, anyway. Sam Jenkins just drove up, and I can see Rachel Whatever-Her-Name-Is coming along the road. Probably bringing that ghastly little boy of hers back from his piano lesson."

"Their name is Kentworth, and he plays the violin, not the piano." Mo smiled to herself. "You're sure there's no car there that you don't recognise?"

"Quite sure." There was familiar determination in Kate's voice now. "So are you going to tell me what this is all about?"

"Yeah." Mo sighed, suddenly wanting a cigarette, or the whisky she had been promised. "I'm being followed by some guy in a black car. Brand new registration. He's been everywhere I have today, and I've only just managed to give him the slip. I wanted to make sure he hasn't gone back to our place, and that they're not watching you as well."

"They?" There was suspicion in the voice now. "Do you know who 'they' are?"

"Maybe, maybe not." She paused. There really was no easy way to say this. "Tony Clark has a new case on, and he thinks that the people he's investigating know he's a friend of mine. They're probably expecting me to have some involvement in the case, and so they're watching me." She heard a protest starting at the other end of the line, and raised her voice slightly. "I'm not mixed up in this Kate, I promise. I hadn't seen Tony before today. When I realised I was being followed, I had my suspicions, so I came to see him about it. That's all."

"It had better be." Kate sounded afraid now. "I know he's a friend of yours, and I've got nothing against him personally, but whenever he's involved things go wrong. You know they do. You were sacked from the police force because of your involvement with one of his cases, and it was only chance that got you your job back. I know how much the police means to you, and I don't want to see you getting hurt like that again."

"I know." Mo smiled, her girlfriend's concern pleasing to her in an odd kind of way. "But like I said, I'm not mixed up in this. I don't want to be. I just wanted you to know the score."

"Then you're coming home now?"

"Not quite yet. But soon, I promise."

"Okay." There was a pause. "Be careful. Please."

"Of course I'll be careful. They'll soon figure out that I've got nothing to do with Tony anymore, and then they'll leave us alone. Don't worry about it." She smiled at the receiver. "See you soon."

"Yeah." Kate sounded tired, and uncertain. "Bye."

"Bye." Mo hung up. She felt tired too, and equally uncertain. Despite her words of assurance to her girlfriend, she didn't feel right about stepping out of this, and washing her hands of it all, right when Tony could be most in need of her help. Clearly it had been one almighty mistake coming here today. She gave a rueful smile. Story of her life, really.

The jarring sound of the doorbell startled her out of her reverie, and jumping in surprise at the loud noise, she rose to her feet, stowing her telephone away in her coat, and putting the jacket and ties back on the chair. Maybe this latest guest had something to say about the case - and if that was so, she was anxious to hear about it. She couldn't help herself. Deep down inside, she still thought of Tony Clark as a colleague; and she was beginning to think that she always would. Turning her back on all of this was going to be one of the hardest things she had ever had to do.


Tony had admitted his latest guests by the time that Mo joined them all in the front room. Harry and Ellie, both looking faintly ruffled, were standing beside the kitchenette, and Tony was pouring them each a glass of whisky. He handed one to Mo as she approached them, and was surprised to see the usually unshakeable Scot looking faintly shy. She smiled awkwardly at Harry, and he grinned in reply.

"Maureen!" If he was upset by her failure to get in touch over the last months, he did not show it in the slightest, and instead gathered her up into an almighty bear hug. She laughed, trying to extricate herself from his embrace before he tried picking her up and spinning her in a circle.

"Hello to you too." She straightened her clothing, then shook hands with Ellie. The clerk was looking faintly amused, although Mo thought she saw something else in the older woman's eyes. Was she scared?

"Where did you spring from?" Toasting her silently with his whisky glass, Harry lent on the counter and looked expectantly at Mo, as if waiting to hear the full story of her life since their last meeting. She shared a look with Tony.

"Well I'm afraid I didn't exactly come over for a fireside chat. Reunions were the last thing on my mind. I was followed today, and I suppose I had an idea that Tony might know something about it."

"Followed?" Ellie was holding Harry's arm, looking up at him earnestly, and he flashed her a gentle smile.

"So were we." Mo looked up questioningly, and he nodded. "Yeah. A flash, new-looking car. Dark colour. They were pretty good, but we were on some fairly deserted roads and they stood out a mile. Didn't seem to mind though; like they didn't care if we saw them or not."

"Probably there as much to intimidate as to watch you." Tony sighed. "It's got to be something to do with Eddie Hargreaves. What else could it be? Somebody knew he was coming here to talk to me today, and whoever it is obviously knows that the three of us are friends - and probably knows that Mo has helped out on our cases in the past. I was hoping to have the element of surprise with this one."

"Doesn't look like there's much chance of that." Harry headed towards the settee, sitting down with Ellie beside him. "So what do you want to do? Play it quietly for a few days, make it look like we've got the message and backed off?"

"No." Tony began to pace, looking deep in thought. "There'd be no point. They're likely to be watching us for some time, and I'd just as soon get this case underway. Eddie Hargreaves was scared, and if we leave things for much longer, I think he'll have reason to be. They must know where he's hiding out. Chances are they're following him too, and he hasn't realised it." He scowled. "And I can't get in touch with him either. I told him to chuck his mobile."

"It's just as well you did. The man's hardly a Mastermind contestant, is he. He'd probably get to his safe house and then use his mobile to call for a pizza. They might not know where he is now, but they'd certainly find him pretty quickly then." Mo sat down in a chair, drinking her whisky slowly. She had wanted to throw it straight down and then leave, but she was beginning to realise that that was not going to happen.

"Good point, I suppose." Tony sighed. "We need a gameplan. If they know us, we can't do this the way I'd planned." He sat down on the arm of a vacant chair, staring thoughtfully at the floor. His glass tilted in his relaxed hand, bringing the amber liquid inside to a dangerous angle. He didn't seem to notice. "We have to find out when the next arms deal is going to take place."

"We need somebody inside for that," pointed out Harry. Tony nodded slowly, conceding this point, but not letting it interrupt his train of thought.

"And once we know when and where the next deal is to take place, we have to be there as well."

"And do what?" Ellie raised her eyebrows, looking and sounding a little sarcastic. "Make a citizen's arrest? Ask them to come quietly? For all we know, the people buying these weapons are already armed. They could be anybody - terrorists, religious extremists, mercenaries - anything. They're not going to throw up their hands in horror at the sight of you and Harry emerging from behind a bush."

"That's not quite what I was planning." Tony shot her a faintly annoyed glare. "We don't even need to stop them. I can talk to Sarah next time she phones, and she'll put me in touch with some people. Investigative journalists, that sort of thing. They'll take some pictures, and we can blow this wide open without needing to get our hands dirty. Sell them to a newspaper; hell - sell them to Roger Cook if it'll get the job done faster. At any rate, we'll be safe then, 'cause once this thing is news, nobody will dare touch us. It'd be too obvious."

"Why don't I believe that?" Mo leaned back in her chair, sighing heavily. "Okay, supposing you do manage to get somebody inside, and supposing you do manage to infiltrate security with a bunch of photographers, and supposing you do manage to get some pictures of an illegal arms deal - that isn't all it'll take. You'll need something else; tapes of any conversations that are going on, for example; and that'll mean getting in close. Either before the deal or during it, you'll need to get right up to the place where the deal is going to take place, and that's going to take a lot of planning and intelligence work. It won't be easy."

"Plus any information you get that way won't be admissible in court," put in Harry, then bobbed his head with a wry smile. "Not that I need to tell you that of course."

"No, you don't. And I had thought of that." Tony's voice suggested that he probably hadn't; but then bringing his boss back to Earth had always been part of Harry's job. "First things first, alright? We need to know what's going on inside this firm. We need to speak to some of the employees."

"Some of Eddie's workmates in security might know what's going on. If he's scared, chances are that a few of them might be too. I could talk to them if you like. Have a chat." Harry was good at chatting. He could easily win the confidence of a suspect, and lull them into a false sense of security. Often in the past, and most especially during their time together with the CIB, Harry had proved better at certain types of interrogation than his guv'nor. Tony was too flash, too smart. Too many ordinary, street-level types didn't trust him. They trusted Harry though. Everybody trusted Harry. Usually that was their undoing.

"You can try. If Ellie can get us some names, we can get to work." Tony stood up, clearly happy with his plan, despite the fact that it was vague at best. His eyes strayed to Maureen. "I'd ask, but..."

"Yeah." She held up her hands. "I'm not really here."

"I know." He smiled rather tightly, showing that he really did understand - probably all too well. She wondered what he might be willing to sacrifice, in order to regain his career in the force, and she felt a sudden rush of sadness. The police force might be her life, but it would never be the same when it was just her, with a new team. She wanted to be back with Harry and Tony. Not the same as before, necessarily; but something very similar.

"That's that then I guess." Harry stood up. "I'll run you home Ellie. Will you be okay?"

"Yeah." She smiled, although she didn't sound too certain. "They're just watching us, and they're probably not interested in me anyway. I should probably get used to it all, if you're going to carry on taking cases like this one." She looked questioningly at Tony as she said these words, but he didn't meet her eyes. His intentions were only too clear. Beating the big boys by their own rules had been like an obsession with him for more than a year, ever since John Deakin had first taken him aside and warned him, in his usual, guarded way, that if he carried on the way he was going somebody would take his legs off. Everything that he had gone through since had so far failed to dissuade him.

"Listen." He was still staring at the floor, apparently fascinated by the way that the carpet bounced back into shape when his feet ceased to press on it. "This... well this could get inflammatory. If any of you would rather pull out, I'd understand. I mean, like Ellie says, the buyers in this could be anybody. They could be more than one anybody. We could be dealing with any number of separate groups, all buying from this one company, and there's no telling how long it's been going on, or how deep it goes. This is a big arms firm. They supply a lot of people. We could be talking MOD involvement, or at the very least big businesses with their trousers down. One person has already died over this."

"And if we don't get to the bottom of it, more people might die." Harry still spoke softly and firmly. He rarely spoke any differently, although his voice never failed to carry authority and experience. "What happens when the next young under manager questions what's going on? Or some bright young graduate fresh out of college, who's looking to impress? How would we feel if we saw some other employee dying in a car 'accident' in a few months?" He shook his head. "It's like you said once, guv, about Deakin. Being big isn't a defence. Nobody's fireproof."

"Yeah." Tony looked up for the first time in a while, and smiled at his partner. "I know." There was a lot of gratitude in those few short words, and Harry nodded in acknowledgement of it. He clapped his hands together.

"Come on Ellie. Let's make a move." He looked towards Mo. "How about you? I didn't see a car parked outside." She smiled.

"Taxi. I left my tail back at the station, watching my car. He's probably figured it out by now."

"Probably waiting for you outside. Wouldn't have taken much to figure out where you went." Tony began collecting glasses. "Do you want to wait here for a bit?"

"No need. I'll run her home." Harry was already herding the two women to the door, clearing enjoying the rôle of organiser. "See you tomorrow, guv. And don't go opening the door to strangers."

"Get lost." Tony raised one of the empty glasses, as though threatening to throw it at Harry. The older man laughed, and went quickly through the door. It clicked quietly closed, and left Tony alone. Standing in the brightly lit room, with the darkness of London's riverside beyond the window, he felt strangely and disturbingly exposed. He crossed to the glass and looked out to the strings of lights along the sides of the Thames. Anybody down there could be a sniper. Anyone out there could be aiming a rifle at him right now. He must stand out like a sore thumb, with the light behind him. Flashes of memory ran through his tired brain, and for a second he felt an almost overpowering urge to leap for cover. He could see the gleaming eyes of a terrorist, hard like flint, standing in a boat preparing to shoot him - and before that; almost a year before; there had been a madman with a high-powered assault rifle, standing in a darkened hallway, intent on pulverising Tony into the carpet. Noise, confusion, heavy blows - and the sound of echoing gunfire, viciously loud in the darkness and solitude. Explosions of pain, whirlwinds of fear and fever; and then Harry, standing in the doorway with a smoking gun, a dead man lying on the floor between them. It hadn't been murder - far from it; but to protect Harry, who might still have had a chance to salvage something from the mess, Tony had taken the blame; taken the murder charge; lost his career. It wasn't that that bothered him now though. It was the feeling of helplessness and vulnerability. The fear of losing everything in the second it took to pull a trigger. Breathing noisily through his teeth he forced himself to stay there, still standing by the window, in full view of everybody. The momentary panic subsided - and then, and only then, he allowed himself to walk away.


By ten o'clock, Eddie Hargreaves was getting tired of sitting in his boat. He had been there for nearly two hours, and boredom had set in barely an hour later. He yawned, stretched, and threw his sixth can of lager at the painting on the wall opposite him. Bulkhead, something told him, from the back of his mind. Weren't they called bulkheads on boats, and not walls? Bollocks to that, his semi-drunken mind muttered in answer, and he scowled heavily. The can of lager hit the frame of the painting and fell back to the floor, rolling away under the bed. Eddie glowered. He couldn't be bothered to fetch it. Next time he'd just use a bloody empty one. The figure in the painting smiled down at him, he and turned his back, filled with childish sulks. Bloody painting. It was only a daft portrait of some unknown ancestor anyway. Some toffee-nosed twat in a wig and a frilly shirt, self-congratulation written all over his long, lined face. He thought he was somebody important because somebody was painting his picture. He clearly thought that he was far superior to his slovenly, ex-cop descendant. Eddie's frown grew even deeper. Bloody painting. Bloody ancestors. Bloody, bloody boat. He kicked the edge of the bed, hurt his foot, and cursed. Bloody Tony Clark. All his idea. If it hadn't been for him, Eddie would be at home right now - quite possibly cowering under the bed, but still at home. He would be warm and comfortable, and he would have his collection of Emmanuelle movies on video, with his nice, large-screen TV to watch them on. Instead he was cramped up in the dark, with nothing but a smug git of a painting for company. He smiled unpleasantly in the darkness. Well bugger Tony bloody Clark. He was going to go out and have some fun. That was what he was entitled to do after all. He was on holiday, after a fashion. He was bloody well going to enjoy himself.

The stairs were ill-lit, and he fell up the first few, banging his head on the railing and cursing in a low voice. Muted by alcohol, his brain took several full seconds before it conceded the point that, okay, he might have had a bit too much to drink, and that it appeared he was no longer in a fully vertical position. It took even longer before he could decide which way he was facing, and he had to pause for a fit of giggles to leave him before he could think about sitting up. He winced. Talk about strong lager. What the bloody hell did the manufacturers put in the stuff? He had only had five cans, which was fairly normal evening drinking to his way of thinking. Certainly not enough to get him fall-down-drunk. A vague suspicion crept into the corner of his mind, but confused as he was it did not fully connect. Grasping the railing firmly with both hands, he dragged himself to his feet, and stared up the steps that led to the deck. It was very dark beyond the hatch. Very dark indeed. He was moored some way from the nearest boat. The landscape was desolate and flat, empty and lonely. And here he was on his own, drunk as a skunk, about to step out onto the deck of a boat, where he would be in full view of anybody who happened to be in passing. He hesitated.

Eddie wasn't sure what passed through his mind as he stood at the foot of the ladder. He wasn't sure what sense it was that made him back away from the hatch, and retreat to the back of the boat. He didn't even know for sure if he had heard the scratching, delicate sounds of footsteps creeping quietly on the wood of the deck above him. All that he knew for sure was that somewhere, buried deeply in a drunken, rarely used mind, still lay the instincts of a policeman. A detective, from the Met, used to handling situations that might, just might, turn into something very unpleasant indeed. He felt a very familiar tingling in the soles of his feet. A tingle that told him something wasn't right, wasn't safe. He thought he heard breathing.

With a burst of speed Eddie had never known he possessed, he turned about and ran through the nearest doorway, slamming the door shut behind him. He found himself in a storeroom, where empty crates that had once stored food and drink lay gathering dust and cobwebs. Behind him, on the other side of the door, he heard the footsteps loud and clear. A voice called out to him.

"You in there Eddie?"

"Who's there?" Curled up in a corner, Eddie wanted to cry. He was sure that this was it. He was under no illusions. All that he could think of was Simon Fowler, and the way that the smoking wreck of his car had looked, when he had seen it on the news; all its gruesome detail showing so clearly on his large screen. He wondered what the police were supposed to think about his death. One drunk man on a boat, alone at night. The permutations were endless. He closed his eyes and began to shake.

"We want to talk, Eddie." He thought that he recognised the voice, but he couldn't put a name to it. But 'we'? Christ, how many of them were there? What were they planning to do to him? He knew that when they said they wanted to talk, they really meant no such thing. They just wanted him to go out there, so they could have him unscathed. It made it easier, made the post-mortem more convincing. Told a better tale to convince the police there was no case to answer.

"I don't want to talk to you." Dobson. Wasn't that the man's name? Edward Dobson, the man in charge of security. Eddie's big boss, with his huge frame and rumpled suit. He smoked cigars; great big, fat ones, like him; foul-smelling things that produced huge clouds of blue-grey smoke. The smell of them followed him everywhere. Eddie couldn't smell them now though. He couldn't smell anything but his own fear.

"Oh come on Eddie. Don't be daft. We only want a little chat. It's about work." Dobson sounded jovial, which made Eddie's blood curdle. He stood up, indecisive for a moment. "If you don't come and talk to us, we'll have to come in there and talk with you." The tone had not changed in its silkiness, its friendliness. Eddie took a step away from the door, and backed straight into a bulkhead. There was a porthole behind him, probably too small to get through. He forced it open anyway, his hands slick with sweat.

"Eddie..." Dobson's voice was losing its pally tone. "Come on Eddie. I should hate to have to get physical. Not at this time of night."

"Get stuffed." Eddie dragged the porthole the rest of the way open, and without waiting to think about size and shape, he forced his head and shoulders through the gap. Behind him he heard blows on the door. He panicked, and began to push himself harder, feeling his shoulders jam, knowing that they weren't going to go any further. Another blow hit the door.

"Damn it." He was terrified, the blows from behind distant, but still loud enough to feel as though they were the end of the world. They probably were. Shaking like a leaf he dragged himself back through the porthole, changed his position, and with his violently pounding heart lying quaking in his throat, he tried again. This time he felt his shoulders beginning to slide through the hole. Glee filled him, and at that moment he heard the door behind him give way. Feet pounded across the floor, hands gripped his legs. He struggled wildly, kicking for all he was worth. The hands did not let go.

"Leave me alone you bastards!" He was shouting the words as he flailed away, his feet striking out in all directions, the edge of the porthole biting into his waist. He could feel blood on his shoulder, and knew that he had gashed it open in forcing his way through the hole. Now his waist and legs also felt as though they were on fire, and his lungs were fit to burst. With an almighty effort, he pushed himself forward, and fell the rest of the way out of the porthole. Behind him there were no shouts of anger, just footsteps, running hard. They didn't seem to be running his way though. He heard the feet on the steps, heard them on the deck, but wasn't capable of getting up and running himself. He waited for them to come for him, suddenly too exhausted to care. His whole body was in agony. But nobody came.

Confused, Eddie Hargreaves sat up. He was resting on the ledge that ran around the outside of the boat; where people were supposed to lie, he remembered reading somewhere, so that they could walk the boat through tunnels. They lay where he was now, with their feet on the roof and sides of the tunnel, propelling the vessel through. Strange to think of that now. He straightened up. Where was everybody? Why hadn't they followed him? It wasn't until then that he looked down, and saw something lying on the decking at his feet. Something which had been thrown through the porthole after him; something thrown by an exasperated man no longer willing to proceed with the chase. A small, hard, round, metal object. It was black, he saw, in the seconds that remained. He knew what it was. He knew that he had to run. He just wasn't sure that he had the strength.

One second before a massive explosion rocked the river, and sent Eddie Hargreaves' boat flying in pieces into the next world, Eddie jumped. He dragged up his last reserves of energy, hurling himself forward in desperation, distantly aware that the world had suddenly turned bright orange. Roaring filled his ears, filled his head, filled his mind. Flames engulfed everything, shockwaves ransacked the countryside. Then all of a sudden the lights and sounds had gone, and he was surrounded in blackness. He was cold. He knew, in that faint, barely-aware section of his mind that was not disorientated, that was not drunk, that was not too exhausted and pressured to think straight, that he was underwater. He knew that he had to find the surface and breathe. He knew that he had to swim away - far away - and leave Dobson and his lynch party behind him. He was safe here though. Another part of his mind told him that. It was quiet and dark here, and nobody could see him. Wet weeds trailed across his face. They would hide him. Dobson couldn't get him down here. Beginning to relax, happy to let the dark waters cradle him, Eddie let the faint current drag him away. Tomorrow. He'd worry about breathing tomorrow.


John Deakin had been a part of the security services all of his life, one way or another. From his long, distinguished career in the police force (or police service, as it was now required to call itself, in the interests of better civilian relations) to the rather less easily defined career he had taken up since his quiet, low-key dismissal, he had been involved in many ways with a lot of shadowy organisations. It suited him. By definition John Deakin was a shadowy man; quiet, mysterious, cryptic - and able to appear and vanish again with disturbing ease. He was past the onset of middle age, his dark hair was turning grey, and his powerful frame was showing signs of inescapable age; but still he retained the vigour of his youth, and the determination and strength that his job demanded. What his job was exactly, few could have said. His family, to whom he was devoted, thought of him as a security consultant, employed by various London firms thanks to his long years of experience with the Met. They thought that he had left the force by choice, or had been nudged out by eager younger rivals. Deakin's family knew nothing about the bribes, the power games, the web of deceit he had woven. They didn't know that he had tried to frame one of his superiors for his own crimes, and had helped conceal a murder in order to protect his own interests. They didn't know that he had so pressured a young WPC into silence, to avoid her implicating him, however inadvertently, that she had committed suicide by jumping into the whirling, raging propellers of a Thames tour boat. They certainly didn't know about her lover, a determined, tireless young detective superintendent named Tony Clark, who had struck out after the people he suspected were responsible for her death, and had found himself up against his own guv'nor. John Deakin, a man he had trusted - liked even, as much as you could like somebody as coolly detached as was the former head of CIB. Deakin had been arrested, charged, locked away in a cell in a low-key little station - and then saved from disgrace by his friends from MI5. Or possibly Special Branch. Or, equally possibly, neither. That was just the point. Deakin worked for everybody, or so it seemed. He was not the man of power he hoped one day to be, but he knew more about the workings of the country than any government minister; and he knew enough about most of them to be sure of his position for some time to come.

There were some people, however, no matter how far up the chain of power John Deakin liked to think of himself, who outranked him considerably - and on the very same night that Eddie Hargreaves was making his mad dash for freedom through the porthole of his canal boat (whilst Tony Clark was busy on the telephone, trying to track down that very same boat) John Deakin was sitting in a quiet restaurant in a London suburb, enjoying a long and satisfying beer. He had agreed to come to the restaurant to meet his contact, but the man in question, a tall, spidery fellow who seemed to be a living celebration of the colour grey, had proved to have all manner of airs and graces. The meal had been anything but simple, consisting of a myriad tiny, beautifully presented dishes with names Deakin could not begin to pronounce. It was a relief to retire to the bar, the meal finally over, and settle his stomach with a beer.

"You see, Mr Deakin..." The man, Deakin's contact, had a habit of being faultlessly polite, and yet managed to make the courtesy anything but courteous. His manner was beginning to get on Deakin's nerves.

"John," he cut in, raising his glass slightly. "Just first names, remember. Keep it simple."

"Oh you don't have to worry about this place." His contact waved his wide-mouthed brandy glass about as though it were a flag, which he was using to announce his presence to all and sundry. We're all friends here, John." He smiled broadly, the expression the sort that Deakin had not seen since he was six years-old, when a family friend had aggravated him constantly with his deeply patronising attitude.

"If you say so." Unhappy, but prepared to accept the situation, Deakin finished his beer. He didn't gesture for a refill. He wanted to be sure that his mind was clear. His companion took another sip of his brandy, a rich-looking liquid of ridiculous vintage.

"We're perfectly safe to talk here. Which is just as well." The other man leant close across the table, openness flooding from his face as though drained through the plug holes that were his eyes. "We've got a problem."

"Meaning?" Deakin wished that the other man wouldn't sit so close. He couldn't have looked more suspicious if he had tried.

"Meaning that certain people know certain things. Certain things that certain people shouldn't know about." The long, grey man looked earnest, but then he rarely looked anything else. Earnestness was embedded deeply in his skin, in his jaw, even in his eyebrows. Something to do with his rôle as a London banker, presumably. Deakin thought of him as a particularly sombre example of his breed.

"I am aware that one of your under managers met with an unfortunate accident." His mouth twitched, eager to smile at the surprise his contact couldn't hide. Hard lines appeared around the other man's eyes. It looked as though he was about to pull rank, which Deakin would rather avoid. He softened his approach in response. "Of course I fully understand your problem. Questions will be asked of course."

"It's who is asking the questions, and which questions they're asking, that I need to worry about." The tall grey banker glared at him. "And he was not my under manager. I'm just an investor."

"You mean your bank is an investor." This time Deakin could not stop himself from smiling. "I wonder what your customers would think, if they found out that their money has been poured into a crooked firm."

"My bank is hardly alone in making... non-media friendly investments." His contact actually smiled. "Other banks are involved in all kinds of schemes that they would much rather the public didn't know about. Research groups specialising in vivisection, companies making suspect chemicals for sale overseas, nuclear research. All the kind of thing that plenty of ordinary members of the public would rather their money wasn't involved in. This is no different."

"The firm sells weaponry on the quiet." Deakin's voice had gone hard. He didn't like guns. They were messy and inefficient. John Deakin could handle an adversary far more effectively armed just with his contacts, his network of information and his cold, calculating brain. He didn't like guns because they found their way onto the streets. They hurt innocent people - which meant a lot more to Deakin than most people would have given him credit for - and they hurt the police. Deakin had spent most of his adult life in the police force, and in his last years with the Met he had seen an increasing number of bright young coppers gunned down, mainly by panicked idiots who thought guns made them something special. He had seen other people hurt too. Civilians, like his family. Like his grandchildren. Kids no older than them, parading before the cameras of the world's media with their own guns, and their own bombs, fighting wars the west had chosen to forget about. John Deakin didn't like guns at all. He smiled though, masking the distaste in his eyes. "That's not going to go down too well with your investors. I presume you'd like us to stop the information escaping?"

"That's the plan." The banker nodded briskly. "Plenty of your other colleagues have interests in this firm, John." He used a patronising little smile to accompany the name. "People who stand to lose a lot, if this goes public. It's not just the sale of the arms, it's who knows about those sales. People close to the government. People who won't be allowed to sink without trace if their involvement is discovered. You do understand?"

"Perfectly." Deakin smiled again, the picture of a man already going about his work. "Leave it to us. My colleagues will ensure that this is swept under the carpet. Dealt with quietly." He frowned. "Although it might be sensible were your firm to look for another way of keeping profits up."

"We've been talking about it around the Board table for some time. A change of direction for the firm. New times call for new measures. Guns belong to the past. We think it would improve media relations - and investment prospects - were we to abandon our warlike image, and turn our factory lines to some other purpose." He smiled, looking rather fox-like and snide. "It certainly can't do us any harm. We're re-launching our entire image with the new financial year. 1995 will be a whole new start for us - and there'll be a few shares set aside with your name on them, John." In other words, if we go down, we'll make sure we take you down with us. Deakin smiled.

"That's very kind." He smoothed out his tie. "So, where does the problem lie?"

"One of our security guards knows some things it would be better for him not to know. He's taken that information to a private detective."

"Private detectives can be bribed. In my experience it's what they live for."

"Not this one." Another unpleasant smile was lighting up the face of the banker. Deakin decided that he didn't like the man one little bit. He was not given to physical violence on the whole, but he thought that he would rather enjoy dealing with this man. Taking him outside. Wiping that smile away permanently. "This one is different. I believe that you know him."

Deakin's eyes lowered, and without changing his expression or his tone of voice, he nodded his sudden understanding. "Tony Clark."

"That's him." The banker rose to his feet. "We're having a word with the security guard. I shouldn't think he'll be assisting Clark with his investigations any further. Clark is your department though. Deal with him, John. Before we do." With that he smiled his farewells and left. Deakin watched him marching away through the restaurant, sharing polite nods with the staff. He sighed. No matter how many warnings he got, no matter what happened, Clark never learnt. Suddenly feeling very tired, Deakin stood up and followed his contact from the building. It was cold outside, a shock after the cosy, warm restaurant; but despite the chill he trailed rather slowly towards the long, gleaming black car that was waiting for him in the car park. It did not surprise him in the slightest that there was a man seated in the passenger seat, even though he knew he had left the car locked.

"John." The man did not look at him, but remained staring out of the windscreen. Deakin slid into the driver's seat, but did not start up the engine yet.

"Adam." He also stared out of the windscreen. Neither man needed to look at each other. There was no point. "Did you hear the conversation?"

"Of course." Adam smoothed out his lapels, stroking them in a most fastidious manner. His jacket looked immaculately tailored, and hid the automatic pistol Deakin knew was holstered carefully in the inside lining. "What are you going to do?"

"What am I expected to do?" It was with a certain amount of fatigue that Deakin asked the question. He knew that his colleagues were getting very sick of Tony Clark. He had a habit of popping up all over the place, and even though he had been inactive these last few months, he was still thought of as a major irritation. A minor player, perhaps; a small, largely inconsequential figure; but one with the potential to cause far-reaching effects. Smaller obstacles than Clark had been removed before, and would be again. When you played the big boys' games, you had to use their rules; and those rules worked only in their favour.

"Clark is investigating Warder Armouries. All sorts of people are nervous." There was a pause. "He has to be dissuaded, John."

"How far does this go?"

"You know all you need to - all any of us needs to. Warder Armouries has a lot of high-power investors, both in the City and outside of it. It has a lot of shareholders, not all of whom have been receiving the same share of the profits, if you get my meaning. Those that are receiving the... extended benefits... are fully aware of the reasons why. And that's a lot of people in some very prominent positions. You have to understand our position in all of this."

"I do. I've just had Lewis Checkland explaining it all to me very carefully. What I don't understand is why it concerns you. You don't care if the government goes down."

"This isn't about the government." Adam brushed once more at his lapels, smoothing the already uncreased, and practically uncreasable. "Not entirely. It's not about any one thing, that's just the point. Certain people want this dealt with, and since Tony Clark comes under your special jurisdiction, you're involved too. You could be involved a lot more. If necessary you will be."

"Fine." Deakin started up the engine of his car. He had always intended to do so whilst Adam was still inside with him, and was even more determined to do so now. It paid to be sure that nobody had left any surprises in the engine during his meal. "Can I drop you anywhere?"

"No thankyou. I have my own car." Adam opened the door and climbed out of the car, but he remained standing beside it for a moment, the door still open. "If I was you, John, I'd get to Tony Clark before Warder Armouries do. They're gunning for him in a big way, and some of the people on the Board are rather less patient than others. They have more to lose."

"Of course." Deakin waited until the door was slammed shut, then put the car into gear and headed back to the main road. Another day, another bloody nightmare. Sometimes he thought he was too old for this game. Sometimes, such as now, when some other fool's indiscretions were threatening to blow up in everybody's faces, it seemed easier not to think at all. He just wanted to watch his own back; and for now that meant dealing with Tony Clark.


Clark was not expecting guests at twenty past midnight; but he was still awake, and so he rose to his feet and went to answer the aggravating doorbell. He had been sitting in his bedroom, still fully dressed, attempting to force his way through a particularly indigestible financial report, published by Warder Armouries. It listed profit margins and percentages, and gave detailed descriptions of annual earnings projections right up until the year 2000. Clark was making no headway with it at all. He had called Sarah at her office in the States, where for her it had been anything but late at night, and got her to put him in touch with a financial whiz-kid, whose brains she picked at frequent intervals when working on stories that involved money. The financial whiz-kid, who dwelt in Surrey, had been rather less chirpy on the telephone, and had wound up calling Tony a lot of decidedly unfriendly names. He had perked up though, at the mention of a company as well-off as Warder Armouries was rumoured to be, and had tracked down the financial report in a matter of minutes. It had been delivered by motorcycle courier at half-past eleven, and ever since then Tony had been floundering in its complicated depths. So far the only conclusion it had helped him to reach was that he didn't understand the first thing about finance. The only bit which had made any sense to him had been a rather attractive coloured pie-chart on the second page, which had shown the ratio of private to military sales of Warder Armouries' lethal output. There was a large, ominous section of the chart marked for private sales. Somehow Tony couldn't quite accept that they were all harmless gun-enthusiasts who liked blasting clay pigeons. There was no evidence to the contrary however; and he knew that he was not likely to find any in a report that was for public reading.

When the doorbell rang he had been on the verge of sleep, lulled there by the turgid reading material. He jumped violently, then threw the report aside and went out to the front door. There was no suspicion in his mind when he opened the door. It was a little early for a sympathy visit from Harry Naylor, and it was rare that they occurred two nights in a row - but Tony expected it to be him anyway. Perhaps he just fancied a nightcap, after leaving Ellie's place to head for home.

"Tony." John Deakin, without a smile, pushed straight past his former underling and marched into the living-room office. There was a purposeful look on his face which did not diminish as he headed for a chair, sat down in it, leaned back and crossed his legs. If anything it became more purposeful. His eyes glittered.

"What the bloody hell--" Tony was heading towards him, preparatory, perhaps, to throwing him out into the corridor. Deakin raised a hand, a quietly authoritative gesture that stilled Tony in his tracks.

"Now now Tony. We know each other better than that." Deakin's lips twitched in the imitation of a smile. "You know why I'm here."

"Don't tell me you work for Warder Armouries." It sometimes seemed to Clark that Deakin worked for everybody. There did not seem to be a single major company in the country that was not of some interest to him, or to whoever the hell it was he worked for. Deakin shook his head.

"Not exactly. Or not directly, shall we say." His eyes narrowed. "You've made a lot of people very nervous, Tony. There are certain people who want you taken out of the game permanently this time. It wouldn't be hard to make an ex-copper disappear, especially one with a past like yours. I doubt if the police would try too hard to find out what had happened."

"Don't sell them short." Tony's brow twitched. "You might be surprised."

"Perhaps." Deakin smiled. "But then they're just puppets like everybody else out there. You know that Tony. You've seen the way the world really works. You know that everybody out there dances to a higher tune. If somebody doesn't want a case investigated, it won't be. It doesn't matter who it involves, or what happened. It'll be swept under the carpet."

"Its nice to know you care." There was nothing but unbridled hostility in Tony's voice. "So what have you come here for? To threaten me? Or to pull your usual trick of feigning concern for my welfare? I've seen the way your friends work, and it doesn't impress me. You're not going to make me back down."

"People could get hurt, Tony. Not just you. There's Harry for instance. Anything could happen to an ageing, hardworking man who isn't as fit or as strong as he used to be. He's been through a lot this past year."

"Now listen here, you--"

"And then there's Maureen." Again Deakin held up his hand for silence. "She's just got her job back. A promising career, with the suggestion of promotion. In the blink of an eye she could be a constable again, doing traffic duty; or out of the Job altogether. And her girlfriend. Kate is it? She could disappear so easily, and who'd notice? She doesn't have a very prominent job, and there's no family to speak of. A brother, I hear, who works as a teacher in Cardiff. Hardly distinguished." His smile broadened, in response to the growing disbelief on Tony's face. "And then there's your clerk. Ellie... Hughes, isn't it? Nice lady. Respectable. Likes to go for a jog most mornings at ten past six, did you know that? Buys a paper on the way, at a little newsagent's about a mile from her house. Run by a little old fellow named Clarkson, who used to be a lieutenant-commander in the Royal Navy. Retired in '75. He's married, has three kids. Two grandchildren."

"What's your point?" Very slowly, Tony sat down in a nearby chair. Deakin made a disparaging gesture.

"No real point, Tony. Just making conversation. Were there a point, it would only be a simple one. The information I've just mentioned was left for me in my house, by an employee of Warder Armouries. There was more as well. About you, about your ex-wife. She's engaged, you know. To a man called Stephen. Apparently they're hoping to invite you to the wedding."

"You want me to back off." Tony felt sick. Deakin rose to his feet, clearly taking the younger man's grey face as a sign for him to leave. He clapped Clark on the shoulder as he passed him.

"It's up to you what you do, Tony. You're a free agent - as much as any of us are. And it's a free country, on the surface at least. So you do what you think is best."

"You're a real bastard, Deakin, you know that?" Tony did not look up. Deakin smiled grimly.

"If you're lucky, Tony, you may live long enough to get that way yourself." He had reached the door, and hesitated there for a moment. "I'll leave you to think about things. Need I come back tomorrow to hear your final answer on the matter?"

"Just get lost." Slowly Tony leaned back in the chair. Deakin gave a brisk nod.

"Certainly." His expression turned dark. "But watch yourself Tony. This is a big city. There are a lot of people in it, and you can never be sure who all of them work for."

"Yeah." Clark was lost in thought. "And you've only got my best interests at heart, right?"

"Believe it or not..." Deakin smiled, and stepped out of the flat into the corridor. "Goodnight."

"Get knotted." The door clicked shut. Alone in the dark, Tony listened out for the sounds of the other man's footsteps in the corridor. He couldn't hear them, even in the silence of the night, and suddenly feeling very tired he stood up and headed for his bedroom. He needed a shower. Most of all he needed to speak to Sarah.


"So where do we start?" It was late the next morning, and after a lengthy breakfast at a nearby restaurant, Tony and Harry were back in the office, sitting either side of the low coffee table, endeavouring to decide upon a course of action. Tony, Harry had noticed, had been decidedly quiet all morning. He had hardly joined in with the conversation over breakfast, even when Ellie had asked about Sarah, and when she was next coming back for a visit. Tony had muttered something very noncommitted, and then lapsed back into silence. He had not appeared to be paying attention to the other two at all.

"What?" Glancing up at Harry's question, Tony frowned. "Oh. I don't know, Harry. Maybe we're barking up the wrong tree with all of this. We've got nothing to go on. It could all turn out to be a waste of time and money. Eddie's not exactly in a position to meet our usual fee, is he."

"I thought you'd let him have this one for free, since it's going to get us going again." Harry's already lined face grew lines that were deeper still. "Is something bothering you Tony?"

"No, not really." Tony's eyes lowered. Harry usually only called him by his given name when he knew that something was wrong. It was part of his older associate rôle; the wiser man trying to offer assistance. The problem was that no matter how much Tony wanted to turn to him right now, he didn't know how to begin. Ellie glanced up from the computer screen.

"Did something happen last night? After we left?"

"Huh?" The clerk's ability to get to the route of every problem never failed to startle Tony. At times he thought that she might just make a better investigator than he did. And to think that he had once thought of her as a shrinking violet. "What makes you ask that?"

"A hunch." She carried on typing, as though she had never spoken. Clearly she considered the next step to be Tony's, or maybe Harry's. The latter looked down at the coffee table.

"Did somebody from Warder Armouries come by?" The guarded look in Tony's eyes reminded him of the night, some months ago now, when Tony had been kidnapped, and pressured into dropping a case under threat of something happening to his friends or himself. He had looked like this then, as though he didn't want to admit to the reality of the threats, and didn't quite know how to face up to them.

"No." The look in Tony's face convinced Harry that he was telling the truth - but only to a degree. He decided to press a little harder.

"Then who did?"

There was a silence. Tony glanced up, glanced down, glanced around the room, as though trying to find inspiration in any place where he could not also see Harry's face. Finally he sighed, and his voice lowered. "John Deakin." Glancing back towards his old friend he must have seen some considerable surprise register, for he nodded to confirm his revelation. "Yeah. I couldn't believe it either. He walked right in here, started telling me all about what he knew - about us taking on the case, about..." He paused. "He knew everything, Harry. He said some people - I don't know who for sure, but certainly someone from Warder Armouries - had sent him a file, full of information on us. On you, me, Ellie - and on Mo and Kate. They even knew some stuff about Sue, and where she's living now. And for them to drag her into this... I just don't think I can justify taking this kind of a risk, Harry."

"Are you going to let us have a say in any of it?" Harry's voice was quiet and level. Tony met his eyes directly, his piercing blue stare staring straight into Harry's soul.

"I already know what your answer would be - mine too, if I was in your position." His gaze did not flicker towards Ellie, but his words turned themselves towards her. "But what about Ellie? And Mo and Kate? Maybe Mo would agree with you... maybe. But she has Kate to think about, and a job she's practically only just won back. And Kate never agreed with what we do anyway. She thinks the risks are unnecessary. You know she thinks I'm a bad influence." His eyes finally lowered. "And what about Sue? She's my ex-wife, Harry. I can't hurt her. Okay, so we got a divorce; so I'm happy with Sarah now - but that doesn't mean I've stopped caring about her - stopped feeling some responsibility for her. I couldn't put her in danger like this." He rubbed his eyes, suddenly looking terribly tired. "We've been on this case less than twenty-four hours. We haven't even started our investigation, and already we're getting warnings; already we're being followed, being intimidated. These people know who we are, and we don't have a clue about them. It all says lost cause to me. We're sunk before we've even started."

"Have you finished?" Harry was sitting up very straight, his arms folded. Tony frowned.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, have you finished? You've done a pretty good job of listing the reasons why we shouldn't take on this case. Now how about having a go at the reasons why we should? Tony, think about it. This is a big firm. They're playing with people's lives. They're selling arms to goodness knows who, without so much as a second thought. You know what it's like to look down the barrel of a gun. Would you wish that on somebody else? Can you honestly say that you can sit back and let this go on? Would you ever be able to look at yourself in the mirror again? The people buying these guns aren't buying them for decoration, or as status symbols. They're buying them to use. Civil wars, terrorist campaigns. Some of them might even be finding their way onto the streets of this country. These might be the guns that the slags out on the streets turn against the police, or the owner of the newsagent's on the corner. Do you really want to let this continue?"

"You should have been a philanthropist Harry." Tony seemed drained after listening to this outburst, and he slumped back into his chair. "I don't know. I just-- I just don't know."

"I do." The voice came from across the room, where Mo Connell stood framed in the doorway. There was a newspaper in her hand. Tony stood up at her entrance, looking surprised to see her; but Harry smiled and relaxed back into his seat. Mo came closer, holding the newspaper out.

"It made the front page." She was pointing to something - a story about Graham Allinson, vice-president of a certain famous arms company, who was rumoured to be making an appearance in the New Year's Honours List. Alongside the story was a piece about how Warder Armouries were apparently changing businesses, and moving into other areas of manufacture. They would be making machinery parts as of April 1st, 1995; a whole new era for a new financial year. There was talk about heading the march into the drive for peace that was coming with the approaching new century. At the foot of the story Graham Allinson was pictured with his arms round a couple of small children; a typical caring photo opportunity, from a man who was probably responsible for the deaths of thousands of children elsewhere. Tony found a very bitter taste developing in his mouth. He threw the newspaper at Harry.

"What the hell is this?" Harry scanned the story quickly, mouth open. "They can't do this. They're honestly suggesting this bloke is up for a knighthood?"

"Worse people than him probably have been in the past," Ellie did not sound bitter, but there was a suggestion of it in her face. Tony glared at her.

"Yeah, a thousand years ago when knights used to wipe out Muslims by the city load. This is insane."

"I don't much like the sound of this new line of business either." Harry tapped at a relevant sentence with his finger. "In the future Warder Armouries will be focussing on non-combative machinery, such as engine parts and such like." It was his turn to throw the paper aside. "All weapons are made up of non-combative machinery. Look at the bloody super-gun. Everybody thought that was just a pipe line."

"They didn't think that, Harry," put in Mo in a dry voice. "They just said that."

"Whatever." He was looking up at Tony now, eyes bright and expression earnest. "Well? What do you say now?"

"There's something else." Mo had retrieved the paper, and was searching through it for some other story - one which had not made anywhere near the front page. "Here." She held the page out, pointing to a small headline, about halfway down the sheet. Tony took the paper and read the story, the words sticking in his mind and draining his heart. A boat on the Norfolk Broads had been demolished in an explosion the previous night, leaving wreckage strewn over a wide area of river and surrounding land. The boat was registered as the property of one Edward Hargreaves, a Londoner with some roots in the area, who was given to spending the occasional weekend in Norfolk. It was not known if Hargreaves had been onboard his boat at the time of the explosion, and no bodies had as yet been discovered. The cause of the explosion was not known, but foul play had not yet been ruled out. Tony felt sick. He had always hated Eddie Hargreaves - had in the past wished all kinds of misfortunes on him - but he could never have wished for something like this. The newspaper fell from his nerveless fingers, and the page containing the few sorry lines blew gently under the coffee table. Harry retrieved it, glancing quickly over the main points. There were not many. Graham Allinson, vice-president of Warder Armouries, might have qualified for half a front page's worth of speculation and theory, but the post-script to Eddie's entire life warranted only a handful of sentences halfway down page eight.

"You think he's dead?" Harry still held the sheet of newspaper, his fingers gripping so hard that they scrumpled it. Tony shrugged, beginning to pace, glaring fiercely at the floor whilst not looking at any of his friends.

"If he's not yet, and they find him, he bloody well soon will be." He cursed under his breath, and then again rather more loudly. "The police won't find any evidence of foul play of course. That'll be seen to."

"What about us?" Mo spoke as softly as ever, her characteristically calm and precise speech making Tony's fire and fury stand out in stark contrast. He glared at her, blue eyes ablaze.

"Us? There is no us. You're a police officer, Mo. Don't let that get away from you."

"I won't. I have a week's leave due to me, and I informed the DCI this morning that I intend taking it immediately. He thinks I'm going away with my fiancé, and I'm happy to let him go on thinking that." She flushed slightly, turning nearly as red as her hair. "I don't think I'll let that bit slip to Kate though. She thinks I've come clean and told them all about her."

"What does Kate think about you taking a week's leave?" Tony had his interrogation face on, and the harshness showed through in his voice as well. "You know what she thinks of you working with us."

"She got angry once. I used the PNC illegally, and that's why I lost my job. It wasn't your fault. This time I won't have PNC access, so I'm hardly going to be able to make the same mistake." She smiled, the expression as much of a challenge as was the cold light in his eyes. "You're not going to dissuade me from this, Tony. They're following me as well. They're taking photographs of me through the windows of my house, my office - even through the supermarket window, when I dropped in for a loaf of bread first thing this morning. I'm already involved."

"She's right." Harry offered her a quick, impulsive hug. "She's onboard with this, guv. Don't let's argue with fate."

"Fate? What the bloody hell has fate got to do with it?" Tony turned away. He still seemed indecisive, but secretly he was more excited than concerned. The case had captured his imagination, and he felt flattered and proud that his team - his old, loyal, dedicated team - was backing him once again. Harry and Mo, like the good old days - except that in the good old days they had had the weight of the police force behind them, and had been innocent and ignorant of the higher powers that worked behind the more familiar authorities. The big boys, John Deakin had always called them; the ones who played by their own rules. Rules that included planting explosives on an ex-copper's canal boat, and being sure of getting away with it. Rules that made it okay to kill a young under manager, when he asked the wrong questions. It should have scared Tony, but it didn't. It never had. He wasn't sure why. All he knew was that it made him feel very, very hot inside; as though there were a fierce pressure building inside him, that was going to grow and grow until somebody found a way to release the valve - or until something gave way, and the whole lot blew up. It made him eager for the off, eager for confrontation. He smiled to himself, and slammed a closed fist into the palm of his other hand.

"Mo." He was already spinning on one heel, turning to face her, almost seeing her as his sergeant again, in his old office. "You're taking that holiday after all. Get on down to the Norfolk Broads, see what you can pick up. Don't get in anybody's way, and don't talk to anybody unless you have to. Stick to locals if you do. You know the drill."

"Everybody's an enemy." She nodded. That wasn't exactly an unfamiliar scenario; not in the police force. It was amazing how much animosity there could be for the force from the very people who demanded the most from them in terms of protection. It was even less unfamiliar to a veteran of the CIB. The rest of the police force was your enemy then, as well as everybody else. "Am I looking for anything in particular?"

"Eddie Hargreaves." Tony almost began to pace again, but stopped himself and stood very still instead. His gaze focussed on Maureen alone. "I don't know if he's alive or not, but if he is, he'll get himself into hiding. He won't be able to get far, 'cause he'll assume people are looking for him. They won't count him as dead until they've seen his body, and he'll know that. He may be a right prat at times, but he's got one almighty survival instinct." For a moment he remembered back to his violent battle with Eddie, in a junkyard at the end of a deserted alley. The wild look in the other man's eyes, as he had swung a huge plank embedded with nails. Eddie was a survivor alright; he'd look after himself no matter what it took. "He knows you. If he sees you, he'll try to make contact. He probably won't trust you completely, but he knows you're with me. I'm counting on him being scared enough to make the first move - so don't expose yourself unless you have to." He grinned suddenly, a flash of unexpected humour that was most welcome. "Not that you're given to exposing yourself much anyway."

"Thankyou very much." She glared at him, and he let his grin remain for a second - before switching it off as he turned to face Harry. "Harry, you and I are going to do a little digging at this end. We're going to pay a visit to Warder Armouries, talk to some people if we can. I'm not expecting to be able to stay long there; once we're recognised they'll find some reason for throwing us out."

"It'll be long enough, guv." Harry's quiet confidence was the reassurance it had always been. "Just give me a few minutes with some of Eddie's fellow security guards. If they're low on the chain of command they'll be just the boys for us. Low enough not to be directly involved, but with enough eyes and ears to know when something's going on - even if they don't know what."

"Then that's the way we'll play it. You get them talking, I'll try and deflect the heat away from you." Tony slapped his hands together. "Ellie, you keep things going here. Use the library, whatever. Use the contacts Sarah left for us. They're listed in the back of the phone book."

"They used to be." She raised a floppy disk rather meaningfully. "I'll get right onto it."

"Will you be alright here on your own?" Harry sounded concerned, but she merely smiled at him.

"I'll be fine. They won't be interested in anything once they see you lot leave. They'll be too busy trying to find out where you're going."

"And they better not do that." Tony turned back to Mo. "Make sure you can get away clean, Mo. If they know that you're heading for Norfolk, things could get unpleasant; for you and for Eddie. If he's still alive."

"Nobody will see me leave." He believed her, despite his certainty that they were dealing with professionals. Mo was a professional too, and if she said she would not be followed, then she would not be followed. He found himself grinning at her.

"Okay." He was heading towards the door almost before the second syllable was out of his mouth. "Let's get this show on the road." He glanced back at Harry. "I don't suppose you've still got your old warrant card?"

"That's illegal, guv. It's one of the first things they ask you for when you quit."

"Yeah." Tony nodded patiently. "But do you still have it?"

"Course I do." Harry looked immeasurably innocent. "All the years I put in, I wasn't going to let a little twat like Graves take it away from me. I handed it in of course - it just found its way back to me later like." He frowned. "Why?"

"Because I think I've got an idea how we can get in to Warder Armouries, that's why." Tony was opening the door. "Come on. Let's get going. Before one of us changes their mind."


"So this is Warder Armouries?" Harry peered out of the side window of the car. "It doesn't look very special, does it. I expected men with guns, and dogs and electric wire and things. It all looks pretty low key."

"The weapons they make are probably stored underground. There wouldn't be any need for major front door security then." Tony slowed the car to a halt at the checkpoint, and wound down his window, smiling all the while at the young guard in his steel-and-glass booth.

"Morning sir." The guard sounded stiff and correct. "May I see your authorisation please?"

"I don't have any." Tony's voice oozed confidence, along with his poise, his expression and the very cut of his clothes. If there was one thing Tony Clark could not be accused of, it was lack of self-assurance. "I'm Detective Superintendent Tony Clark, Muswell Street CID. This is Detective Inspector Harry Naylor." Naylor waved his illegal warrant card, and Tony flashed his own, copied version of the same. "We're here to talk to some of your colleagues about a Mr Edward Hargreaves. I understand that he used to work here."

"Eddie?" The guard nodded. "Yes sir. I heard about that on the news this morning, sir. It's been a bit of a shock."

"Of course it has. To everybody." Tony kept the smile up, although his face was beginning to ache. "We have some routine questions to answer. I'm sure you'll understand, nothing major, nothing for you to worry about..." He cranked the smile up a notch or two. "There's no reason to suspect that it was anything other than a tragic accident, of course, but there's such a thing as procedure, and since the death was so unexpected..."

"Of course sir." The young guard crashed to attention. "Please go right in, and feel free to make use of our offices. I'll have to ask you to restrict your movements of course, but if you need to move outside the security areas, I'm sure that I can find somebody to escort you."

"That would be perfect, thankyou." Tony leaned forward to read the guard's nameplate. "Daniel. I'll remember that. I'll speak to you a little later on perhaps."

"Yes sir. Glad to be of help." The guard reached beneath his desk to operate some hidden control, and the electric barrier swung open. "Just follow the road round, and you'll come to Security HQ. I'll make sure that there's somebody there to meet you."

"Excellent." Flashing one last smile, Tony slipped the car into gear, and passed on down the road. Beside him Harry let out a long, low whistle.

"Bloody hell, guv. You're playing it a bit close to the fence aren't you? What if he'd checked with somebody?"

"He didn't, did he." Tony grinned at him, his eyes revealing his own relief, as well as his excitement at the possible dangers. "Just play it low key, and be as quick as you can asking those questions. We'll be fine."

"Yeah, sure." Harry couldn't stop a smile from crossing his face. "Muswell Street CID. Where in Heaven's name is Muswell Street?"

"Dunno." Tony guided the car into a parking space, and jumped out before Harry had time to make a retort. "Come on. Time's a-ticking, and we've got work to do."

"Lead on, Super." Harry's steps slowed almost immediately. "Uh oh. Company."

"They're here to greet us, not to throw us out." Knowing that the only way to be sure of that was to keep his nervousness hidden, Tony strode ahead, hand held out to shake that of the closest of the approaching security men. They were all more or less the same age, with a similar tall, athletic build. The nearest of them shook Tony's hand.

"Superintendent Clark? It's good to meet you. Please follow me." He began to lead the way towards a small stone building nearby, bearing a large sign that read Security Headquarters. Please Report HERE. There were three steps up to the door, alongside a gently sloping wheelchair ramp, the whole hemmed in by a pair of metal railings of a most virulent green. The little party went up the steps and into the building.

Inside it was warm and cosy, with the usual pleasant atmosphere of a place where people worked together in close quarters. Clearly the main room was a recreational one, for there was a snooker table in the middle of the space, and a number of drinks machines around the sides. There was also a dartboard hanging from one wall, a photograph pinned carefully to the board. Tony didn't have to go any closer to it to see that it was a picture of Margaret Thatcher. He smiled.

"Coffee?" Their guide was already pouring some nearby. Tony shook his head.

"No thanks. Actually I was hoping to have a look around, maybe talk to some of the other employees. My assistant here would probably love some coffee. If it's all the same to you, I'll leave him here to handle things at this end."

"That would be fine. I'll show you around myself." Handing Naylor the coffee he had just poured, the enthusiastic security man offered his hand for the second time in nearly as many minutes. "The name's Jason Hanley, by the way. Sorry, I should have introduced myself earlier." He gestured around at the other people milling around the room. There were an awful lot of them, which rather left Tony wondering if there was anybody out patrolling the grounds at all. "This motley crew are Stephen, Paul, Gary, Vishram and Nigel." The introduction seemed to have been more for Harry's benefit than Tony's, for Jason himself was already on his way to the door. "Come on, superintendent. I'll show you the grounds. Perhaps you'd like a look around the office where Eddie worked?"

"That would be great. Thankyou." Obediently Tony followed the man. He did not glance back at Harry as he left. There was no need. Harry Naylor, he was sure, was already hard at work.

"Your boss is a bit of a whirlwind." Grinning around at the assortment of security officers, Harry laced his fingers behind his head, having first balanced his coffee cup on the arm of his chair. Making himself at home was a talent of his, and a great way of putting others at their ease. "Reminds me of mine. There's no slowing him down once he's got himself set on something."

"Rings a bell." One of the other men seemed to relax a little, and sat down in another of the scattering of chairs. Nearby a previously hovering Gary and Vishram turned back to the table to resume their game of snooker. Already the awkward feel to the atmosphere in the room was beginning to dissipate. "So you're here to find out about Eddie Hargreaves?"

"Nah, not really." Harry took a sip of his coffee, and was surprised to discover that it was rather good. Better than the junk they served in the recreation rooms of police stations anyway - but then a multi-million-pound company like Warder Armouries ought to be able to afford a few decent coffee makers. "The Hargreaves thing is cut and dry, really. It's not like anybody suspects foul play, or anything like that. We're just here to make the file neat and tidy. Eddie used to be a copper, so we're just making it all look good." He stretched his feet out. "Was he good at his job?"

"Eddie? Yeah." The most talkative of the group, the one Harry was fairly sure had been introduced as Paul, lit up a cigarette, then offered one to Harry. Hoping that Ellie wouldn't have her in-built smoke detectors tuned in later, Naylor accepted gratefully. There was nothing like an illicit cigarette during a quick break to build up a rapport with someone. The smoke helped to ease his nerves too.

"Always on time, never drunk on duty, that sort of thing?"

"Pretty conscientious. I mean, he wasn't exactly the model worker, but he was a good mate. He was one of the lads, you know?" Paul shrugged. "Course, I didn't know him outside work, like. None of us did really. We had a drink occasionally, at the pub just down the road; but that was all. I never even knew he had a boat."

"No. It was a bit of a surprise all round." But not a surprise to someone, that was for sure. "He been here long?"

"Since early in '93 I reckon. Said he'd been kicked out of the police force for some reason. Don't know what, but he wasn't a bad bloke. Seemed a bit put out by it; like he'd been screwed by somebody."

Harry nodded sagely. "There's a lot of politics in this game. He probably put somebody's back up. I knew him actually, when he was still on the force, and I could never figure out why he was sacked. Seemed like a good bloke to me." He grinned. "His girlfriend was a real looker. You ever meet her?"

"Never knew anything about a girl." Paul grinned. "No surprise he kept her to himself if she was that good though."

"Yeah." So, no girlfriend then, at least that the others knew about. That meant one less person who might know something. "He have any special mates around here? Anybody who might have known if he was a bit... depressed like. Or who might know if he had any enemies?"

"I thought you said it was a clear cut thing? No foul play?" One of the other men, Stephen, sounded suspicious. Harry glanced up at him.

"Still have to ask though, don't I. Why? Was he a mate?"

"Yeah. We were pretty close." Stephen shrugged, looking defensive. "He wouldn't have done himself in, if that's what you're getting at. As for enemies, he played a bit of poker, but he'd been on a winning streak lately. No debts."

"Lucky bloke. Wish I could say the same." Harry shrugged. "Guess we file the report away then, no questions asked." He stood up. "I'd better go find my boss."

"I'll show you the way. I've still got half an hour's lunch break free." Stephen took a step forward. "He can't have got that far."

"Don't bet on it." Harry flashed him a cheery grin. "Thanks, I appreciate the escort. Don't want to be arrested for trespass and sabotage. It might be hard to explain that to the Chief Super back at the station."

"You'd have to be up pretty early in the morning to manage any sabotage round here." Stephen pushed the door open and led the way out into the cold, sunny air. His breath misted as he spoke, sending gentle clouds of steam drifting skyward. Both men shivered. "Security's the tightest I've ever seen, and I've worked a lot of places."

"Just as well, given what they produce in here. Must be a lot of weaponry on site." Harry paused briefly. "Wouldn't want any of that falling into the wrong hands."

"No." Perhaps it was just Harry's imagination, but he was sure that Stephen had averted his eyes for a moment. The younger man paused, straightening his uniform momentarily, then pointed ahead. "Your boss probably went up that way. They must have headed for the main security offices. Eddie was stationed there most of the time. He looked after the security for a lot of weapons shipments."

"Important job. You probably send most of the weapons out by night, to avoid risking any hold ups, yeah?" Harry did not look at the other man as he spoke, but merely strode on. His steady, casual-but-quick step left Stephen behind.

"No." For a moment the younger man sounded indecisive; worried even. Then he caught up. "Actually we make all our sales in daylight. Not as if there's anything to hide." There was the briefest of pauses. "If there were any night time sales going on, I think your lot might be interested."

"Probably." They shared a moment's laugh, then walked on again in silence. Harry did not press the issue any further, but it seemed to him as though Stephen might know more than he was letting on - and that he might be prepared to speak further. For now, though, he did not want to pressure the man, and risk scaring him off.

"Is that your boss?" They had not been walking long before they saw Tony up ahead. Jason, his over-enthusiastic guide, was clearly visible, striking in his sharp grey uniform against the black and tan of the buildings, and the green of the frequent shrubberies. Harry glanced up, surprised. He had expected Tony to be heading back his way by now, not standing around in the yard talking to men in suits. Inwardly he groaned.

"Looks like him." He tried to keep his tone light. "Who's that he's talking to? One of the bosses?"

"Out here?" Stephen sounded disparaging. "Not likely. I don't know that the bosses would even know where to find the shop floor, let alone the security offices. It's probably the sales manager and some of his people, or some of the building security men."

"You have different security firms handling inside and outside security?" Harry frowned. That suggested that the men who worked inside were higher up the scale - particularly if they wore suits, and weren't known to Stephen on sight. Unpleasant phrases such as 'dirty work' and 'hired muscle' strayed into his mind.

"It all helps to make the place safer." Stephen had pulled ahead now, taking the lead. "They don't look like they're too happy to see your boss though. Maybe his identification isn't quite checking out."

"That's not very likely." The words sounded leaden in Harry's ears, and he hoped that Stephen hadn't caught onto his unavoidable sarcasm. If anybody even tried to look closely at Tony's 'warrant card', they would find that it was about as genuine as the ID most sixteen year-olds flashed around when they tried to get into night-clubs. Less so, probably, since it had been constructed in half the time. He quickened his own step, and put as much joviality into his voice as he could muster, as he approached the little gathering. By the time that he arrived, the three men in black suits seemed on the verge of some decisive physical action.

"Hey guv!" Voice hail and hearty, Harry flashed cheery grins all round. "Any luck your end?"

"Harry!" The relief was obvious in Tony's eyes. "No, I haven't got very far. These gentlemen seem reluctant to help out with our enquiries."

"Really?" Feigning surprise as well as he could, Harry glanced at the three men. They were bristling, their faces displaying no small amount of suspicion, as well as hostility. "Well it probably doesn't matter. I've spoken to some of Eddie's colleagues. They confirm our own suspicions. He had no enemies, no reason for depression or suicidal thoughts. All points to a tragic accident." He shook his head, trying to look suitably regretful. "It's a pretty sad story, guv."

"Yeah. You're telling me." Tony's eyes flicked nervously over the three men. "Well in that case I suppose we'd better be going."

"That might be advisable." One of the suited men, who wore a neat plastic badge reading Adam Cartwright, straightened his shoulders in an obvious attempt to look physically intimidating. "I should hate to have to call the head of security." He smiled meaningfully. "Or the police."

"It would certainly be embarrassing if we were to have to call the police in." Tony gestured at Harry. "Come on, inspector. I think our work here is done."

"My pleasure, guv." They both turned about, walking quickly back along the path. After a second it became clear that somebody was following them. Neither felt inclined to turn around to see whether it was Jason and Stephen or the three men in suits. Instead Harry quickened his pace.

"What happened guv?" He kept his voice as low as he could. Tony flashed him a sideways glance.

"They came out of nowhere. There must be security cameras by the entrance, and somebody saw us arrive." He gave a philosophical shrug. "We'd expected something like that. It's no big deal."

"It might be if the three musketeers back there try to stop us leaving." Harry glanced back for a second, seeing the three men heading towards them. "Looks like they at least want to make sure that we do leave. What did you say to them? They look mad as hell."

"I gave them the Muswell Street spiel, and they got heavy. It was like they knew exactly who I was, but they didn't want to say anything in front of Jason." He also threw a glance over his shoulder. "Not hard to tell who's in on this and who isn't."

"Maybe, maybe not." They had reached their car now, and Tony did not tarry in unlocking it. They both slid inside. "Let's just hope your friend by the gate hasn't been warned."

"Oh ye of little faith." Tony gunned the engine. "Can you see our three friends?"

"One of them's talking into a radio. The other two are just standing there." Harry glanced into the rear view mirror. "Can we not worry about it right now? Let's just get out of here."

"My pleasure." Tony headed the car back towards the gate, nodding a cheery hello to the man in the steel-and-glass booth. He nodded back, a telephone receiver clearly visible in one of his hands.

"Good afternoon." Something about his earlier, deferential manner had changed. "I've had a call from head office, sir. They'd like a word with you. I've been asked to request that you wait here whilst one of the managers comes down."

"Love to." Tony glanced at his watch. "Sadly, however, I have a meeting in twenty minutes with the Chief Constable. It's about... the neighbourhood watch. Sorry." His eyes strayed to the security barrier. "I'm going to have to ask you to raise that."

"I have my orders, sir." The young guard looked worried. Tony did not let his smile slip, but he made the cold lights in his piercing eyes burn brightly.

"So do I. You don't want to spend the rest of the day in police custody, do you? Obstructing a police officer is a serious offence."

"I don't want to do that." The guard hesitated still further. Behind the car the three men in dark suits were strolling up. Another man was coming to join them, and from another direction yet further men were approaching. One had a dog on a lead. Beside Tony, Harry was very tense.

"Then you'd better let us pass." Tony tried to keep his fear from his voice. The young guard was still hesitating.

"I don't want to do that either."

"Put it this way, Daniel." Urgency filling his voice, Tony directed the hardest stare that he could summon straight at the young man. "Do you want to have to answer to your boss - or to the whole of the Metropolitan Police Force?"

"I--" The young man swallowed hard, and turned very pale. "Very well sir. Please go on through." He touched his hidden control, and the security barrier swung up. Breathing a great sigh of relief, Tony slammed his foot down on the accelerator and shot out of the gateway. Behind him he caught a glimpse of his pursuers speeding up, the lead few starting to run towards the gate. He heard a shout - and then the car was speeding away down the road, and Warder Armouries was vanishing into the distance. Harry flopped back into his seat and closed his eyes.

"I never, ever, want to feel like that again." He glared at Clark. "Of all the stupid ideas you've ever had--"

"Relax Harry." His practically unshakeable confidence once more aglow, Tony had begun to laugh. "We're untouchable." He banged on the steering wheel with a triumphant fist. "Bloody untouchable! It worked like a charm!"

Back at Warder Armouries, where he had just finished giving a very abashed Daniel a severe reprimand, a tall man in a dark suit had stepped aside to talk into a small radio unit he had pulled from his jacket pocket. It crackled softly as he spoke, and a red light flashed in time to the resonances of his speech.

"Hello? Mr Dobson? Wolczek here sir." He paused, evidently listening. "Yes sir. Security breach. It was Clark and his associate. Harry Naylor." He paused again, for longer this time, then raised his head to stare in the direction taken by the fleeing car. A hard light shone in his eyes. "Yes sir, I agree completely. The sooner the better if you don't mind me saying." He nodded grimly to himself, in pointless reply to some comment that only he could hear. "I'll see you when you report back in tonight." With that he turned off his radio and slipped it back into his pocket. Around him the collections of suited guards were beginning to thin out as everybody went back about their business. Wolczek watched them for a while, a smile on his face, then stared once again after the long departed car.

"You're going to regret this, Clark," he told the empty road. And after a moment's pause for grim reflection, he turned on his heel and marched away.


Tony Clark awoke from the first truly relaxing sleep he had had in ages, his mind snapping into wakefulness rather sooner than his body. He blinked up at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of the infernal doorbell echoing away into the night.

"Damn." He heard the word fade into the dusky impenetrability of the darkness that hid the ceiling. Who the hell could that be? Harry? Surely not Deakin again. Tony glanced at his clock, and read the time in brightly-lit, hot green figures. Six minutes past three. The doorbell rang again, and he staggered out of bed, yelling blurred and tongue-tangled assurances that he was on his way. It was dark enough to make progression to the bedroom door a chore, and he tripped over a chair and stubbed his toe. The doorbell clanged out once again.

"Alright!" He shouted the platitude with real exasperation. Surely Harry wouldn't be that impatient? Concern flitted about through his brain. Trouble? Could something have happened to Harry or Mo? It couldn't be the police - they would have announced their presence verbally by now. Who then? Gripped with a sudden sense of urgency, Tony dragged on his trousers and fumbled for his shirt. There wasn't time to dig out a fresh one, and he hoped that whoever his nocturnal guest was, they would be understanding about his bedraggled appearance. In the darkness he couldn't find the buttons properly, and couldn't be bothered to fight his way to the light switch. He was still too sleepy to appreciate the suggestion of light right now.

"Coming!" He could see almost completely when he left the bedroom, for the light beyond the large windows of the front room was always enough to dispel the darkness to some degree. Flickering bulbs from somewhere attracted his attention momentarily, before a sudden hammering at the door made him increase his speed. His bare feet knocked against a chair leg, and he stubbed his toe for the second time in as many minutes. Why did everything have to be so bloody awkward? Why could chairs never stay where he left them? He kicked it aside, finally reaching the door. Caution made him pause before opening it, and he called out.

"Who's there?"

"Don't prat about, Clark." He recognised the voice, but he couldn't place it. Somebody he had spoken to recently? Not a friend, not a colleague - who then? The hammering resumed, and the door shook indignantly.

"Okay, steady on." He fumbled with the chain, no longer sleepy but still a little confused. He resented being up and about at this time, especially since he had been enjoying a rare good dream. The Bahamas, a deserted beach of white sand... Sarah Teale stretched out at his side, a bottle of champagne in an icebox nearby. The doorbell had been a most unwelcome intrusion.

"Hurry up." Agitation showed through in the voice of the man beyond the door. Tony felt like ignoring him and going back to bed. At this rate none of the neighbours would ever speak to him again. He pulled the door open with an almighty yank - and to his surprise, found somebody helping him from the other side. The door crashed open, nearly hitting him in the process, and slammed back against the wall as it swung open to its widest extent. Tony felt the vibrations in the floor, coursing up through the carpet and the soles of his feet. The open door brought a draught to his toes, and he found himself wishing that he had put on some shoes.

"Steady on!" He had backed away from the violence of the opening door, and in the suddenness of his deepening confusion had not yet caught a glimpse of his visitor. He realised now, as he looked out into the corridor, that visitor had become visitors. A powerful torch blazed in his eyes, and he threw up an arm to shut out the glare.

"What the hell-?" He was grabbing for the door, trying to shut it, even as the new arrivals were forcing their way in. Hands grabbed Tony, caught hold of his shirt, snagged in his collar. He lashed out, still blinded by the dazzling power of the torch, and tried to shout. The words were lost somewhere, swallowed up by the fumble and violence. He felt himself slammed into a wall, the cold stone and plaster catching him painfully on his back and his head, knocking away the last of his lingering confusion. He struggled, and a heavy fist collided with his stomach. He wanted to double up to lessen the pain, but the hands on his shoulders and collar kept him upright.

"Who are you?" The spots and patches before his eyes were beginning to fade, but his vision was still seriously impaired. Someone to his left laughed, and he ran a quick calculation based on the number of similar sounds he was able to distinguish. He thought that made four intruders in all. Not the best of odds, even on home territory. For a moment he ceased his struggling, and tried to focus his sight and concentration on one person alone.

"What do you want?" He was surprised to find that he felt more angry than afraid - indignant, perhaps, at this brazen intrusion. "What's going on?"

"We thought you needed telling things a little more clearly." The voice came from somewhere very close to his left ear, startling him. He started to turn towards it, but before he could do so he felt himself being spun around. This time it was his front that met the wall, with a force that stunned him. What little of his vision he had recovered blurred alarmingly. He felt his arms being seized, dragged behind his back, and in a sudden panic he kicked out. He heard an exclamation close by, and threw himself towards the noise, tearing free from his immediate captors, gaining a temporary freedom in the midst of the sounds of rendering cloth, scratching feet, muffled curses. He felt one of his fists strike home on something warm and soft, and a yell answered him. He hit the ground, suddenly finding himself in a wide, more open space. No longer cramped in the narrower part of the room, where it went to meet the door, he was now in the main living room. Light showed him his furniture, and his eyes came back to him. He leapt over the coffee table, and dodged around the sofa.

"You're making this harder than it needs to be." He could see his attackers now, and his eyes turned to the one who had spoken. A big man, much bigger than his companions, whom Tony recognised immediately. His picture had been in one of the company files Ellie had unearthed. Edward Dobson, head of security at Warder Armouries. Eddie Hargreaves' boss.

"Harder than it needs to be? What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?" Tony could see one of the men looking rather more dishevelled than the others, apparently wiping blood from his mouth, and he felt a surge of encouragement at the sight. Clearly at least one of his blows had caught a worthwhile target. "Or is that what you told Eddie, before you incinerated him?"

"I don't know what you mean." Sarcasm disguised as innocence filled Dobson's voice. "Eddie's death was an accident, that's all. Prat probably left a gas tap on." He smiled. "If you were to do that, it would kill a lot of people. How many flats are there in this building? How many families?"

"You're bluffing." Tony felt very cold inside, the look in Dobson's eyes suggesting to him that this man was capable of practically anything. Dobson shrugged, beginning to pull on a pair of soft, black leather gloves.

"We'll see." His face bore a look of infinite patience. "Believe it or not, Tony, there is an easy way to do this. It doesn't have to hurt at all."

"Did you tell Eddie that too?" Tony' eyes strayed nervously towards the other men, who were beginning to spread out. He wondered if any of his neighbours were hearing what was going on here - if any of them would have the presence of mind to call the police. He doubted it. Nobody seemed to want to get involved these days.

"You really do believe that there was something suspicious about Eddie's death, don't you." Dobson took a few steps forward, and Tony began to feel increasingly like a caged animal. There didn't seem to be anywhere he could run to. "You're going to have to change your opinions, Tony. People don't like it when you think ill of them. Prominent people become nervous, if they think the public might grow suspicious. Then they become terribly grateful, when threats are neutralised." His lips twitched into a rather predatory smile. "Don't get me wrong, Tony. I mean, it's not like this is nothing personal. I really don't like you very much. Swanning into Warder Armouries today, acting like you owned the place; sticking your nose in and asking awkward questions..." He smoothed out the black gloves, checking that their fit was snug. "You've brought this on yourself, pure and simple. Nobody but yourself to blame." He grinned, the new expression twisting his broad face into new descriptions of depravity. "I only hope that lady friend of yours feels the same way. Sarah is it? Nice looking woman, so far as I hear. Maybe I'll be the one to meet her at the airport when she next comes to pay you a visit." He nodded to himself. "I think I'd enjoy that."

"You bastard." Anger swelled up in Tony in irresistible waves. He took a step forward. "If you lay one finger on Sarah, I'll..."

"Yeah?" Dobson also took a step forward. Maybe he had done enough background work to know Tony's volubility, or maybe he could just recognise the signs. Either way he seemed satisfied, knowing that his victim was about to play right into his hands. His fingers twitched inside the gloves, and his eyes smiled broadly. "You'll do what? It's as good as done, Tony. We'll know she's on her way before you do. She won't know what's hit her. But then, maybe she'll enjoy it. I'm very good at my job."

"You complete bastard!" With sudden, uncontrollable fury, Tony hurled himself at Dobson, crashing through two leaping assailants in his desperate desire to reach the big man who was their leader. Hands grabbed for him, but he fought back with wild abandon. He knew he had made a mistake almost as soon as he had moved; knew that he was doing what they had wanted. He might have been able to dodge them; might have managed to stay out of their hands if he had only kept cool - but it was too late to worry about that now. He saw Dobson's skull apparently split into two with the breadth of his sudden smile, and felt himself grow sick to the stomach. He lashed out.

He caught Dobson two blows, surprising himself with their force. Dobson was surprised too, for he went down with a grunt, hitting the floor hard. Breathless with rage Tony did not even think about making a break for it now. He wanted to go on hitting the big man; wanted to keep hitting him until there was nothing left to hit. Instead he felt a powerful blow slam against his shoulder blades, and in a sudden, confusing rush, he was borne to the ground, a great weight covering his body. Fists caught his head, his shoulders, his back; a foot collided painfully with his ribs - then he was dragged to his feet and thrown up against the wall. He tried to struggle, but he was exhausted now; his chest hurt with each breath, and he felt vaguely nauseous. He could do nothing to prevent his arms being twisted behind his back, and felt the bite of warm, rough rope around his wrists. The knots were pulled unnecessarily tight, before he was whirled giddily about, finding himself facing the room once again. He blinked. Dobson's grinning face filled his vision.

"Comfortable?" The bigger man's voice was geared to annoy. Tony tried to pull free, but the hands holding his bound arms were too powerful. Dobson made tsking sounds, like a disapproving adult confronting some juvenile miscreant.

"I'll get you for this." Tony found the words catching in his throat, his mouth painfully dry. Dobson smirked. With an almost casual lack of speed he raised his gloved hands, flexing the fingers, then drove one large, heavy fist into Tony's stomach. The detective gasped, tears springing into his eyes. For a second the pain was everything, before another blow caught him on the side of the head, and his consciousness spun in dizzying circles. He felt the room move as he was dragged forward, and felt the pain in his stomach ease fractionally as he was thrown into a chair. He thought he felt somebody tying his wrists to the chair back, but everything was too confused now to be sure of anything. The only thing he was entirely certain of was the blindfold being tied tightly around his head. For the first time, real panic began to set in.

"Hey!" He tried to shake the blindfold free, but it would not loosen. All that he received for his troubles was a sharp, backhanded slap. He heard rustlings, faint voices, a low laugh; and then something punctured his arm. For a brief, lingering second, he wondered what the something was - and then as unbidden shadows stole determinedly up upon his mind, he found that he could no longer be bothered to worry. Soon there was nothing but darkness, and then there was nothing at all.


The miles raced by. The darkened fields beyond the train windows were invisible, but Mo stared at them nonetheless. Anything was better than looking at the bruised and battered face of Eddie Hargreaves. He had remained a whiter shade of pale since finding her, his eyes sunken, and surrounded by great dark patches. The British Rail employees had all been concerned, and Eddie had almost lost his temper with them. In the end Mo had explained that he had recently been in a car crash, and was still suffering from shock. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible, to be with his wife - although Eddie himself had hardly seemed eager to play along with the charade. A sweet young woman in a rather too tight uniform had plied them with free cups of coffee, which Mo had accepted through a desire to be polite. They tasted worse than the coffee from the machine at work, but she smiled at the sweet young woman every time she turned up with fresh supplies. Eddie didn't smile at anyone, but seemed to sink deeper and deeper into his seat with every mile. Mo was worried about him. If he really did go into shock, she didn't know what to do with him. She certainly didn't think that she could risk him being taken to hospital. He would be too easy to find there, and far too easy a target.

"Are you okay?" It was at least her tenth attempt to make conversation, but as usual Eddie ignored it. He hadn't spoken since contacting her, less than three hours after her arrival in Norfolk. She had been walking along the banks of the river, looking for clues amongst the pieces of wreckage still remaining in the water, when she had heard a low voice calling her from amongst patches of reeds and low-hanging trees. Eddie had stumbled out of nowhere, his clothes damp and his longish hair hanging in wet, muddy tangles around his shoulders. He had grabbed her, dragged her into cover, and mumbled a disjointed, uncertain tale of armies of men who had burst onto his boat in the middle of the night. Even through his confusion it was obvious that he was drunk, but he swore that he had hardly had anything. He had muttered something about spiked lager, before lapsing into silence. His only comment since then had been a rather sharp-voiced question about whether or not a journey by train was safe. Mo had been able to offer him little in the way of reassurance. She had never been the paranoid type, but in the last year she had seen enough to know that if somebody really wanted Eddie Hargreaves dead, they would get him no matter how careful he was. She could think of nothing else to do with him other than take him back to London, and to Tony Clark.

"More coffee?" The young waitress was hovering at her elbow again, smiling all the while. Maureen found herself smiling back. There was nothing quite like a pretty face to ease the mind.

"No thankyou." She indicated her cup, which was still half full. Eddie glanced up momentarily, his eyes veiled by sheets of black withdrawal, and with a low, unsteady hand he pushed his own, empty cup across the table towards the waitress. She beamed at him, and refilled it.

"Are you feeling a little better now sir?" He blinked up at her, and for a second his lips twitched into a very half-hearted smile.

"A little, thanks." He raised the hot cup in a shaky salute and took a sip of the thick, grainy coffee. The waitress, clearly delighted with her new-found nursing skills, scurried merrily away. Mo raised an eyebrow.

"How come I didn't get any answers?"

"Huh." Eddie rubbed at his eyes, wincing as the necessary action aggravated the superficial injuries to his face. He almost smiled. "Maybe I fancied my chances with her. Haven't got any chance with you, have I."

"It's nice to know you've still got your priorities right." Mo played about with her coffee cup, wishing that the grey-brown liquid was not quite so repellent. She felt sorely in need of a good fix of caffeine. "Look, do you feel up to talking now?"

"There's nothing to say." His eyes drifted away from her, staring out at the dark world beyond the window; or possibly just at his own reflection lying bright in the glass. "There was an explosion. A small device, not much bigger than a coffee cup. I don't think it was a grenade, but it was bound to be Warder Armouries stock, whatever it was." He sighed, and stifled a yawn. "Is Clark making any headway with this?"

"He might have uncovered something today, I don't know. I'm not going to contact him in case his phone is bugged. He always assumes that it is, although there's no way of telling who by. MI5 and Special Branch seem to have some interest in this. John Deakin warned Tony off the case last night."

"Deakin?" Hargreaves whistled through his teeth. "I never thought I'd hear about him again. Smug bastard screwed my career."

"Yes." Mo did not comment further. Much though Deakin's involvement in that sorry affair had been clear, she had always considered Eddie to be responsible for his own downfall. Nobody had made him play along with fitting Michael Carswell up for murder. She turned her eyes back to her coffee. "Tony will probably want you to lay low until this is over, you do realise that? You've opened quite a can of worms here."

"Yeah." Eddie stared at her with coldly reasoning eyes. "I figured that bit out when I saw them scraping Simon Fowler off the road. I'm not scared." He shrugged, a nervous smile playing across his face, shimmering in and out of existence many times in quick succession. "Actually I am. I'm bloody terrified. Don't think I've ever been this scared in my life." He seemed to be trying to fold himself up in his seat, curling up into the smallest ball he could produce. "I wish I'd never asked any questions, I wish I'd never accepted their after hours work, and I wish I had never taken their stupid poxy job in the first place." He glanced up rather sharply. "What happens when this is all over? Does it all go back to normal?"

"I don't know." Maureen lowered her eyes, watching the scuffed pattern of the carpet, with its stains and its tears. She couldn't even give herself an answer to that question, let alone manage to put Eddie's fears at bay. "We'll just have to worry about that when it's over."


Harry took the stairs two at a time, a spring in his step that was entirely out of keeping with the way he knew that he should have been feeling. After the confrontation at Warder Armouries the previous day he was beginning to think that this investigation was never going to come to fruition; but he was finding it hard to care. It had at last galvanised Clark into action, making him see that there was life in their association yet - and even if the Board at Warder Armouries all won honours in the New Year, and never faced a single prosecution, Harry was cheerful. He didn't know why. Maybe it was the bright sunshine which had flooded through his bedroom windows that morning. Maybe it was the fact that his daughter had rung him the previous evening, all laughter and happiness. At any rate, he was eager to share a little of his enthusiasm with his boss.

The door of the flat was open, which surprised Harry without worrying him. It was only open a crack, so it was likely that Clark had left it on the chain, or had seen him coming and left the door open for him. He rapped sharply on the wood with his knuckles, deciding against ringing the bell. That was just the sort of noise practically guaranteed to put a hole in his good mood. Why Clark couldn't buy a new doorbell was beyond him.

"You there guv?" There was no immediate answer to his knock, so he pushed the door open. Clark himself wasn't immediately visible, but a couple of chairs, both lying on their sides, were. Harry felt his blood run cold.

"Tony?" Throwing the door open the rest of the way, Harry burst into the room. Despite the daylight flooding through the windows, despite his certainty that he was in no danger, still his senses screamed at him to duck for cover. Nobody called out to him, nobody attacked him. It was as if the flat was empty. He stared around.

The computer lay on the floor, the monitor screen smashed and the keyboard broken in half. Several circuit boards hung out of the computer, sparks arcing from one to another, wires buzzing loudly. Harry used his foot to hook the plug out of the mains socket, and the sinister buzzes and crackles stopped instantly. He made no attempt to right any of the other messes. The papers that were strewn about the room would have to be Ellie's responsibility. Only she could know if anything was missing. The tipped over chairs and slashed cushions he could straighten, but as he turned to look towards the kitchenette, and saw the mess left there, he realised that it was not really going to be a job for one person at all. Tiles had been torn down, paint chipped and scratched, and glasses and crockery had been hurled about. Broken chunks of a pottery roasting dish lay strewn all over the counter, and the toughened glass door of the microwave had been smashed. So amazed was he by the scale of the destruction, that it was several moments before Harry noticed the figure slumped in a chair at the side of the room. His heart seemed to freeze in his chest.

"Oh no..." He was running before he realised it, skidding to his knees beside the chair. The drooping figure was covered with a blanket, and it snagged on something as he struggled to free it. In the end he tore it away with such violence that it ripped, leaving pieces of itself dangling from the chair back. Harry almost tore loose a nail in the process, and managed to scratch much of the skin from his fingertips. He didn't notice. His whole attention - his entire being - was focussed on the man in the chair. He checked for a pulse through little more than instinct, some long-ago learned routine from his days on the force. The pulse was slow, but it seemed steady and strong against his touch. With a long, drawn out sigh, Harry felt the tension rush from his body. He hadn't even realised he had been holding his breath.

"Harry?" Ellie's voice startled him, but he did not look up. She wandered into the flat, looking about with wide and wondering eyes, and he heard her gasp of shock as she saw him - saw Clark - and came hurrying to help. Harry was working to loosen the blindfold, finally managing to pull it off. Tony gave no reaction to its disappearance, and his eyes remained closed.

"Is he okay?" Ellie whispered the words. Harry glanced up at her for a moment.

"He's alive. Get a knife." He jerked his head towards the kitchenette as he gave her the order, and she scuttled off. Almost immediately she returned, bearing a kitchen knife with a black plastic handle and a fearsome, six-inch serrated blade. Harry took it gingerly, cutting the ropes as gently as he could, mindful that Tony might awaken at any moment, and risk cutting himself on the knife. As soon as the ropes were undone, the unconscious form slipped slightly in the chair. Harry gathered him up in his arms and carried him over to the settee.

"Hold on." Ellie scurried ahead, grabbing the cushions that lay scattered about the floor, and replacing them hurriedly onto the sofa. Harry laid the still form down, taking an exaggerated care that was almost fatherly. As soon as the younger man was lain down, Naylor slumped to the floor, staring about at the mayhem with eyes that did not seem to see.

"Are you okay?" Ellie put his hand on his shoulder, and after a second he lifted his own hand and placed it on top of hers. He did not raise his eyes to look at her however, and remained staring emptily at the ruined furnishings.

"It's my fault. He wanted to drop this stupid case. I wouldn't let him."

"That's nonsense and you know it. Nobody can make Tony Clark do anything." She turned to bend over the sleeping form, brushing some stray hairs from Tony's forehead with a surprisingly gentle hand. "He could have backed out at any time."

"I still feel responsible." Harry let out a long, shaky sigh. "I thought he was dead. I thought-- I thought he was gone; that they'd killed him like they killed Eddie Hargreaves. Then when I felt his pulse I thought I was going to cry." He glanced up at her, and his brows closed together into a frown that was not entirely meant in jest. "But don't even think about telling him that."

"Telling who what?" The voice was very faint, and very sleepy, but it came from the sofa behind them. Harry whirled in an instant, almost losing his footing in his hurry to stand up.

"Tony?" The concern almost caused his voice to crack, but he covered for his slip immediately. "What the bloody hell did you think you were doing, pulling a daft stunt like that?"

"Sorry." The eyelids flickered, and then suddenly a pair of decidedly blurry blue eyes blinked up at the world. "I feel terrible. What time is it?"

"Time? I don't know." Harry glanced at his watch. "Eight fifty. Why?"

"Eight fifty?" Tony struggled suddenly, fighting an unenthusiastic body in an attempt to sit up. Harry caught his shoulders.

"Hey. Take it steady, son. You look half dead."

"I bloody feel it." After a second's futile resistance, Tony gave in and flopped back on the settee. "Last I remember it was about three o'clock. I must have been out all night."

"What happened?" Harry pointed towards the kitchen, and Ellie nodded, catching the hint. Somewhere in the mess there must be at least the basic means of making some coffee. She went to look.

"I was asleep. Somebody rang the doorbell." Tony's eyes opened again. "I thought it was you." He frowned. "Then I figured it wasn't, but I didn't think it could hurt. I never imagined they'd try anything here. I thought it would be too public. Next thing I know somebody's bursting through the door, and then we were fighting..." He focussed sharply on Harry. "Dobson. It was Edward Dobson, the head of security from Warder Armouries. I'd know that bastard anywhere. Him and three others. We had a bit of a scuffle, and then I was in the chair... I think they drugged me. I think I remember a needle."

"That would account for you being so far under when I got here." Harry sat down on the arm of the settee. "Christ you gave me a scare, guv. I thought I'd been left with a dead body. Dunno what I'd have done then. Bloody Old Bill would've had a field day."

"Yeah." Slowly Tony sat up, and this time Harry did not try to dissuade him. Instead he watched the younger man carefully. Whatever drug had been used, it had clearly left Tony with a headache, and some considerable dizziness; but he seemed to be gaining strength all the time. He glanced about, taking in the destruction to his home.

"It's probably not as bad as it looks," Harry muttered lamely. Tony glanced up at him.

"Who are you trying to kid?" He looked over at the kitchenette, where Ellie was boiling water in a saucepan, unsuccessfully trying to find some unbroken mugs in which to make the coffee. "They really did a good job on this place. I can't believe nobody heard anything. This isn't the inner city for Christ's sakes."

"Maybe there wasn't enough noise." Harry smiled as he looked around. "Although it's hard to imagine that."

"Well it didn't wake me up." Tony managed a dry smile, and stood shakily. Harry caught his arm to steady him.

"Are you sure you should be on your feet?"

"Not going to get very far sitting here, am I?" The former superintendent looked about at his ruined flat once more. "I've got to get this place looking good again for one thing, and I want to have another go over at Warder Armouries. One or two of the people we spoke to yesterday looked like they wanted to talk. It might be worth our while to have another try."

"If we go back there, we'll be met with force. They might even call in the police." Harry raised an eyebrow. "Do you really want that?"

"Yeah. Playing tag with my illustrious former colleagues." With a sigh Tony sat back down again. "Bastards. After all I did; all the good I did; you'd think a few of them at least would back me up. Not one single one of them stood up for me at the hearing."

"Yeah. And now they'd all be happy to show you the inside of a cell, given the slightest opportunity. Don't push it Tony. If we go back to Warder Armouries, they'd be well within their rights to call the police. We'd be trespassing at the very least, and in a place as security sensitive as that, there'd be reason to suspect more than simple trespass. It just wouldn't be worth it."

"Bollocks to it." Tony caught up one of the cushions from the settee, which was dribbling stuffing all over the place. Small, white curled feathers drifted over his trousers. "So all that talk about getting these bastards regardless of the threat is all going to be for nothing now is it? We can't even make a move. We're screwed."

"Looks like it." Harry glanced up as Ellie came over, bearing a dented tray on which was balanced an eclectic collection of crockery. Three mugs, none matching, were filled with coffee, and a badly chipped and scarred bowl carried a few sugar lumps, all of which looked suspiciously dusty - rather as if they had been collected up off the floor. There was also a bottle of milk - or, more correctly, half a bottle. The top half was gone, leaving only the bottom, surrounded by jagged peaks of broken glass. The clerk looked quite proud of herself for having come up with the coffee, and Tony had to smile. He took one of the mugs, declined the suspicious sugar, and managed to pour some milk without spilling it everywhere. If Harry and Ellie noticed that his hands showed a slight shake, neither of them made any mention of it.

"This is getting to be the story of my life. Scared off the interesting stuff by heavy-handed gorillas who all seem to be above the law." Drinking thoughtfully, Tony flashed the other two a regretful smile. "I always knew I shouldn't have taken that job with CIB. I should've held out for the Flying Squad."

"Me too." Harry perched on the arm of the settee. "I could be sitting behind a nice little desk somewhere, waiting for a nice little retirement, to spend the rest of my nice little life being bored out of my skull. Snap out of it, Tony. So they got us this time. Who cares if we have to throw in the towel?"

"I care." Tony's voice was hot, and startlingly angry. "I care that some jerk in Whitehall is going to avoid yet another scandal. I care that whichever bastard tried to knock my spine out through my teeth last night is never going to face prosecution. I care that these people have murdered at least twice, and now it looks like they're going to get away with it." He threw the ruined cushion away, ignoring the picturesque image of its shedding feathers as they whirled and sprayed about in irregular spirals. "I care that they killed Eddie Hargreaves. He may have been a twisted git, but he was one of us once. We were on the same side, in principle at least. He's probably lying in pieces at the bottom of some Norfolk river somewhere, and nobody's ever going to know the truth. So don't tell me that nobody bloody cares!"

"I certainly didn't know that you did." The voice was soft and oily, filled with the heavy notes of fatigue. The threesome in the flat looked up as one - and standing in the doorway, looking exhausted, they saw Eddie Hargreaves. He looked a mess, his dirt-streaked clothes torn and ragged, his hair a wild and unkempt mess. He was smirking though, although the expression of snide amusement had not yet managed to reach beyond his lips. His eyes remained haunted and distant, fitting in with the strangely tense and nervous poise of his body. Harry stood up, amazed.

"Eddie?" His eyes drifted past the bedraggled former sergeant, focussing now on Mo Connell who stood just behind him. "Mo, you little beauty! Where did you drag him up from?"

"The bottom of some Norfolk river." Mo was walking into the flat now, looking about at the mess. "What the bloody hell happened here?"

"I didn't pay my rent on time." Tony, who had apparently recovered his spirits and his health in one fell swoop, bounded over to shake both her hands at once. "This is great!" His expression changed as he looked back at Eddie. "Not that I'm that pleased to see you. But it's possible that you might just be useful."

"Yeah. Sure." The animosity between the two men was already palpable, despite the gravity of the situation, and Eddie was happy to do what he could to antagonise Clark further. He ran his eyes up and down the other man, and his crooked smile widened. "What happened? They throw you in a river too?"

"Huh?" For the first time since his rescue, Tony looked down at himself. He had not given a thought to his bedraggled appearance, and it was with some surprise that he realised his feet were bare, and that his shirt and trousers were torn. Small wonder, then, that Ellie had been looking at him with such concern. He must look a fright. There were marks on his wrists from the ropes, and the stiffness of his facial muscles suggested that some of his injuries were visible. He reddened. "Oh. Yeah." A sudden grin took over his face, by the feel of things reopening a cut on his lip. "I'll go get washed up, find a change of clothes - and then you'd better do the same thing." This last was clearly directed at Eddie. "After that we'll have a council of war." He frowned, and clapped Ellie on the shoulder. "You couldn't go out and by us some milk, could you? And some more sugar?"

"I suppose I'd better." She was heading towards the door before he called out again.

"And some mugs."

"Okay." Smiling a farewell to the others she headed out of the flat, and was some distance down the corridor before she heard Tony's echoing final request.

"And a kettle!"


On hastily straightened furniture, amidst clouds of floating feathers, Tony Clark and his rag-tag team of would-be do-gooders gathered to talk. Ellie came up trumps with the kettle, and brought back rather more supplies than she had been sent out for. She straightened files and examined the ruined computer whilst the others talked, declining to take part in their discussions. Munching on supermarket brand, ready-made sandwiches, courtesy of Ellie's improvised shopping list, Tony chaired the meeting. He had showered and shaved, and changed into a typically expensive looking suit, and his experiences of the previous night appeared to be well behind him. Only the vague nervousness of his occasional silences suggested that he was other than one hundred percent recovered.

For Eddie it was a different story, for even after a shower and a largely fruitless search through Clark's wardrobe, he still had a haunted look about him. Every sudden noise seemed to startle him, and he sat with his eyes fixed intently on the door. Harry felt sorry for him, but the time was not right to offer condolences. Instead the veteran policeman concentrated on Clark, and on the busily working Ellie. If Eddie was aware of the chance for some sympathy he did not play on it, and instead hugged a mug of coffee to his chest, sitting awkwardly in an expensively cut sports shirt that was too small for him, and a pair of cotton trousers that were much too short in the leg. He wore his own shoes, despite the muddy scars in the leather, for Tony's shoes had proved painful to wear.

"We were hopeful this time yesterday." Tony neglected to mention the fact that 'this time yesterday' he and the others had believed Eddie to be dead, and had been more or less shell-shocked by the news. "We made some good progress at Warder Armouries."

"Really?" Mo was interested, not having heard about that particular excursion. "What did you find out?"

"That the security's really good, and that they all know what we look like." Harry ignored the fact that Tony was glaring daggers at him. "We were spotted, and only made it out by the skin of our teeth. I think what the guv'nor means is that we made good progress at high speed in the opposite direction."

"Not at all." Tony sounded heated. "You said that guy was close to speaking to you."

"He knew something. Whether or not he was going to tell me what he knew is something different." Harry shrugged. "Maybe we could try again, if we could speak to him on his own."

"Worth trying isn't it?" Tony had the familiar timbre in his voice that told his friends he was going to make the attempt anyway. The fact that he might have been killed by Dobson and his associates during the night might have occurred to him; but he did not seem to be dwelling on it too much. Eddie glanced up, looking vaguely interested - if still a little distant.

"Who?" he asked. "Which one?"

"Bloke named Stephen I think. Don't know his last name." Harry tried to remember if he had been given one, but had to conclude that he hadn't. Names were one thing that he never forgot.

"Steve? That'll be Steve Hardcastle. He's a good bloke. A mate." Eddie rubbed his eyes, obviously tired. "We worked some of the dodgy nights together. Bit of extra money, that sort of thing. He figured out what was up before I did, but he didn't want to rock the boat. He's got a couple of kids. Littlest can't be more than a few months old. I remember him giving me a cigar the day after it was born."

"Sounds like we can rule him out then." Distaste coloured Tony's voice. "Damn." He threw aside the plastic container that his sandwiches had come in, and watched dispassionately as its brisk movement set a small pile of feathers in motion once again. "This case has been falling apart since day one."

"Let me talk to Steve." Eddie sounded as though it was the last thing that he wanted, but was game enough to give it a try. "He might talk to me. He's sure to know when the next shipment is going out, even if all he knows is when he's next needed for some after hours work." His eyes narrowed. "But what you do with the information then is up to you. I don't want to know about it."

"You sure?" Tony couldn't quite understand why anyone wouldn't want to be in on the bust, but Eddie sounded quite emphatic.

"They've tried to kill me once, Clark. I want to get them for that - I do not want to give them a reason to try again. If we find out when the next shipment is, you handle it all from then on. I don't want to know how you intend to stop it, or who you intend to tell. Just let me... I don't know. Hide here or something, till it's all over."

"It'll never be all over, Eddie." Mo's voice sounded gentle, but Eddie did not react either to the words or the tone. "We'll never get all of them. There could be any number of people who might want revenge."

"Not against me. You lot will make more enemies every single day you stay in this game. Maybe you don't mind that." He indicated Clark. "That daft bastard seems to thrive on it. But me? I'm nothing. Who'd want to wipe me out? Be more trouble than it was worth." He shook his head. "Deakin'll look after me. I hate going to the slimy git, but he owes me and he knows it. I could bury him if I wanted to, and unlike some of his pals he's not the killing kind. He'll get me another job, just like he got me the one at Warder Armouries - only this time, if somebody offers me some money on the side, I'll tell them where they can stick it."

"Sounds wise to me." Ellie glanced up from her toils at the broken computer. "It's no good. This thing's had it."

"Is that important right now?" Tony was not interested in computers, broken or otherwise. His clerk shrugged.

"Depends on whether or not you want to phone anybody up. When I put the records on disk, I didn't bother keeping the paper copies. There didn't seem any point."

"Great." He sighed. "Shame we can't charge it to Warder Armouries."

"They'd offer us its value in automatic weaponry instead." Harry yawned and stretched. "I suppose we'd better make a move. Where can we find our man?"

"At work." Eddie's tone of voice suggested that this was obvious. "We can get hold of him during his lunch hour, though, if he goes to the same place as normal. There's a little pub just off the beaten track near the main base. He always has his lunch there."

"Then that's what we'll do." Tony was rising to his feet, once more ready for the off. "Ellie, hold the fort. Harry, come on. Mo--" He broke off. Mo smiled sweetly at him, anticipating a warning to keep out of the way. She appreciated Tony's concerns, but if she wanted to take risks with her career, she just wished that he would let her. Instead of telling her to stay put, however, he grinned. "Fancy a ride?"

"Yeah." She was on her feet in seconds, already striding ahead to the door. "Do I get to sit in the front?"

"Not bloody likely." Harry pushed her aside, so that he could get out of the door first. "I still get seniority, even if I don't outrank you anymore."

"Shut up, the pair of you. You can both sit in the front." Tony was looking Harry up and down, making approximations. "If somebody's watching the flat, they'll have seen Mo and Eddie coming in together - so we're going to give them Mo and Eddie leaving together too. What did you do with your clothes when you changed out of them, Eddie?"

"What?" Harry looked stricken. "No way. No. Guv, I won't--"

"Forget it." Tony held up a hand to stall the complaint. "It'll work like a charm. The pair of you can go out, drive around a bit - maybe go to Eddie's flat or something. Just be careful. Don't go down any quiet roads, always keep lots of people around you. And stay in touch."

"While you go and talk to this chap Stephen?" Mo made a face. "I don't like it. We're spreading ourselves too thinly. All of us are putting ourselves in danger this time."

"It'll only be for an hour or two. By..." Tony glanced at his watch... "four o'clock, we'll have the information we need. After that we can all meet up back here."

"And then what?" Ellie asked the question in a soft voice. Tony seemed surprised.

"And then?" He shrugged. "After that we play our joker. Don't worry. It's all in hand."

"Yeah." Eddie rose to his feet, looking increasingly reluctant with every passing moment. "Sure it is." He nodded at Harry. "Him wearing my clothes isn't going to fool anyone. He's still Harry Naylor. He's got grey hair, he's the wrong shape, the wrong size..."

"They won't be looking that closely. They'll see the clothes, that's all. We'll pad him out with some of these cushions." Tony raised one that had lost half of its stuffing, and looked a likely candidate for some padding work. "As for the hair... we'll think of something."

"Well think quick, or we won't make that pub before lunch hour is over." Eddie limped over to the kitchenette for a coffee refill. "I still say the whole idea's daft."

"So do I." Harry was visibly drooping at the thought. "Can't you do it guv? You're the right age..."

"I'm not tall enough." Tony beamed at him. "And anyway, it was my idea." He put an arm across Harry's shoulders, and began guiding him towards the bedroom. "Come on, Harry, you'll love it. It'll be just like dressing up."

"If there's any justice," Harry announced, as he removed Tony's arm and pushed open the bedroom door, "when all this is over, and we're in pieces at the bottom of the Thames, we'll be offered an option on reincarnation. And next time, I'm going to be the superintendent." The bedroom door slammed shut behind him. Tony smirked, and turned back to face the others.

"He's going to be even less happy when he sees what I'm going to do to his hair."


It was half an hour later when a bedraggled, padded and uncomfortable Harry Naylor trailed out of the flats in Mo's wake. The cushions inside his clothing made him uncomfortably hot, and he did not appreciate Ellie's last minute make-up touches. She had dug some of the mud from Tony's few, sorry-looking pot plants, and had smeared some of it on Harry's skin. He felt like a refugee from a war zone - and his sulk was only deepened by the crowning indignity of his 'wig'. Tony had tugged the head from a straggling old mop, and had jammed it onto Harry's head to simulate Eddie's greasy curls. They were the wrong colour of course, but with the hood of Eddie's jacket up, as protection from the faint drizzle, any onlookers should have been unaware of such minor details. Mo had to suppress a giggle as she led the way to her car, still waiting for her where she had parked it the previous morning. Harry glared.

Inside the block of flats, Ellie watched as the car bearing the decoys pulled out into the traffic. It was not long before she saw another car follow it, and she saw no sign of any others remaining nearby to continue their vigil. After waiting a while longer to be sure, she ran back up the stairs to the office. Eddie, his hair tucked into a baseball cap, had donned a long overcoat in an attempt to hide the shortcomings of his ill-fitting wardrobe. With the addition of a pair of glasses Tony had dug up from somewhere, he no longer looked much like the old Eddie Hargreaves - but neither did he look much like Harry Naylor. It would have been hard to say exactly what he did look like, for that matter.

"Ready?" Tony was at the window, looking down at the boats. His usual nagging concern troubled him - the thought that any one of them could be holding people with zoom lenses, or long-distance listening gear, in which case the game was already up - but he told himself off for being paranoid, and turned his back on the glass. Eddie shrugged.

"I guess." He led the way to the door. "When we get there, you'll have to play it low key. Let me talk to Stephen. You keep out of the way."

"Afraid I'll scare him off?"

"Maybe. You can be pretty intimidating, you know. Stephen's the nervy type - and he's got kids, so he's not going to want to get involved anyway. So just keep your distance, and let me handle this. Okay?"

"Okay." Tony glanced back at Ellie. "Be seeing you."

"I hope so." She dredged up a smile. "Be careful."

"Of course." His grin was dazzling. "Harry will be back before you know it. Don't worry about him."

"I know." This time she couldn't quite manage a smile of her own, and instead turned back to the shattered computer. She heard the door shutting softly, and only then did she glance back at it. Tony, of course, was long gone. She sighed. Somehow she got the feeling that this was the way it was always going to be from now on.


The pub was quiet and secluded, just as Eddie had promised. Happily ensconced in a corner, Tony sipped slowly from a large glass of dark beer, of a brand he did not recognise, and tried to look like he was not interested in Eddie's conversation. On arrival at the pub Hargreaves had headed straight over to his friend, who after crossing himself repeatedly and declaring to the room in general that he had had far too much to drink, eventually welcomed him, told him to sit down, and offered to buy him lunch. They were huddled together now, at a little table as far from Tony as was possible. He could not hear them, and was doing his best to appear as though he was not trying to. Neither man had thrown so much as a second's glance in his direction, and he was getting bored. He decided to use the time in checking out the other clients.

There was a tall redhead by the bar, puffing less than gracefully on a Woodbine, and trying to attract his attention. He ignored her. Now that he was steady with Sarah he wasn't exactly immune to the charms of other women - that would have been a highly unlikely state of affairs - but he was, and always had been, immune to women who turned up at pubs wearing what appeared to be a cheap brand pac-a-mac, with nothing underneath. Her long legs swung into view on occasions. Tony swallowed. A barmaid, who clearly was familiar with the wiles of the redhead, flashed him a smile, and he nodded a vaguely embarrassed reply.

There were only a handful of others in the pub, mostly middle-aged men. Two were seated together at the bar, a third was reading the latest Jilly Cooper in a secluded corner; and a fourth, accompanied with his wife, appeared to be planning his daughter's wedding. Tony wondered how much say the daughter was having in it all.

The room's other patrons were a pair of men about Tony's own age. One, dressed in an immaculate suit, had a fashionable haircut and an expensive silk tie. The second man wore a suit that looked as though it had fallen off the back of a lorry, and his longish brown hair hung in inadvisable curls under his ears. A cigarette, unlit, hung from his lips. He reminded Tony of Columbo, only without the gleam of intelligence in the crooked, screwed-up eyes. He smiled to himself. The pair just had to be policemen. He could spot them a mile off. He raised his glass in salute, and the pair studiously ignored him. He grinned again.

"Clark?" Eddie's voice, uncharacteristically quiet, startled him back from his thoughts. He glanced up. Hargreaves was jiggling nervously about, glancing around at the other customers as though certain one of them was watching his every move. "Let's go."

"You finished?" Tony rose to his feet. Eddie nodded.

"Yeah. No problem. Let's just get out of here shall we?"

"Sure." Tony led the way to the door. "And try not to look so jumpy. If one of these people is watching us, you're telling him he's got a reason to want to get closer. Understand?"

"Yeah. Sure." Eddie's nervousness did not seem to decrease. "Come on, hurry it up. Steve's got to get back to work, and he doesn't want anybody to see us leaving together. Might make things awkward for him." He pulled the baseball cap low over his eyes. "No telling who might be nearby."

"Nobody. I've been watching, and all I've spotted is Middle England." Tony frowned. "Are you okay? You look spooked."

"Steve says everybody at work reckons I'm dead. It's liable to spook you when you hear something like that." Eddie led the way to the car, waiting impatiently whilst Clark unlocked it. "I bloody nearly was dead, too. No thanks to Warder Armouries that I'm not." He glared at Clark. "I shouldn't even be here. I certainly shouldn't be telling you this."

"You haven't told me anything. What is it?" Infuriated, Clark tried to keep his voice patient. He knew that Eddie had every right to be scared, but that didn't stop it from frustrating him. "Did your friend tell you something important?"

"Yeah." Eddie hesitated for yet another, aggravating second. "There's another arms sale. He and a couple of others were asked to cover for it - explain why a truck's going to go missing. He's trying not to get involved, but it's hard to do that and keep a low profile." He glanced in the rear-view mirror, and to try and make him feel better Tony started up the engine and headed back onto the road. Some distance had passed before Eddie spoke further.

"They're trying to cover their tracks more now. The next deal's not even going to be on company property. You know the underground car park near that big new shopping centre in the West End? Harvey Somebody's."

"I know it." Tony was trying to drive whilst keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the rear-view mirror in case of pursuit. "They're going to be making a deal there?"

"Tomorrow morning, at eight. The centre hasn't opened yet at that time, so there shouldn't be that many people around." He looked agitated. "Tony... This will be it, won't it. You're not going to want any more from Steve after this?"

"No. Course not." Tony grinned. "Clever bastards. We'd never have figured on a place like that for the drop. I'd have been watching the factory for nothing." He punched the steering wheel in delight. "Now we're getting somewhere! All I need to do now is--"

"Forget it. I don't want to know." Eddie was apparently trying to vanish into the car door. "I don't want to know."

"Sure. Whatever." Mind buzzing, Clark headed the car for home. Now if only Mo and Harry had managed to avoid any problems, they should be home free. He smiled to himself. Just so long as Harry was still speaking to him.


John Deakin sipped his brandy, and smiled benevolently at Adam, his Special Branch contact. The man was dim of course. Most of Branch's field agents seemed to be these days. They had all been brought in from alternative backgrounds; either to cut costs or to try and dispel the old image of Branch and Five as exclusive boys' clubs. Truth was, they had been effective back in the exclusive old days, when you'd needed a public school education to get in through the door. Maybe there was something about the old public schools that bred talented spies and back-stabbers; people who knew how to manipulate and deceive. These days your average field agent might well have started life as a geography teacher - and that had to affect the way people dealt with them. How could you have the same respect for a modern spy as you had had for their illustrious predecessors? John Deakin had always held his teachers in particularly low regard, and he saw no reason to see a former geography teacher in any better light - but then John Deakin held practically everybody in very low regard indeed.

Not to say, that was, that Adam was a former geography teacher. In point of fact he had risen the time approved way, with a distinguished career at Harrow and a good stint at Oxbridge. Adam's great fault was that he obeyed his orders to the letter, and naturally assumed that everybody else did exactly the same. John Deakin, of course, had rarely obeyed a single order in his life.

"Your boy Clark is making a pain of himself again." Sipping a glass of fine red wine, Adam stretched out his long legs and regarded Deakin thoughtfully. "Our friends aren't impressed."

"Our friends should have handled the situation better then, shouldn't they." Deakin finished his brandy. "I'm sorry Adam, but I've no sympathy for them. Killing that under manager was a shot in the foot; and then trying to finish off Eddie Hargreaves was simply waving a red rag at a bull. They're behaving like madmen."

"Fair point." Adam ran a hand through his wavy red-blond hair. "But the point is, John--"

"The point is that certain people have worked themselves into a corner, and they're moaning about the fact that they've been caught with their trousers down. They're selling arms illegally, and they expect us to pick up the pieces. Why should we? We should let the whole ship go down, and let whoever wants to, go foraging for salvage." He shook his head, gesturing with his glass for a refill. "No, I'm with Clark on this one. It's not our concern."

"Enough people are worried to make it our concern. If Clark doesn't want his legs shot off - or more to the point, if you don't want him to get his legs shot off - you'll make a move. Word is there's another deal going down early tomorrow morning. Clark knows about it, and he's sure to be there."

"And you want me to warn him off?"

"Do you think that's likely to work?"

Deakin smiled. "No, I think it's likely to do just the opposite." He frowned, falling silent whilst a waiter poured more brandy for him. "What do you want me to do?"

"Use your imagination. Deal with the situation." Adam finished his wine. "If Clark succeeds in his plan tomorrow, and manages to discredit Warder's, we're likely to go down with it. You know as well as I do how far reaching this could be. Now if Clark is going to walk away from this - if he's going to survive - something else is going to have to give instead. We need a valve to release a little of the pressure, if you catch my drift. That valve will be Clark, if certain people have their way. I thought I'd give you a little advance warning. I know you like the man..."

"Like might be going rather too far." Deakin drank thoughtfully for a while. "You're saying somebody is going to take Clark out tonight?"

"Tomorrow. When the deal is made, if Clark is there and is doing what he set out to do, he will be removed. So will his associates, if it proves to be necessary. In order to avoid that..." Adam splayed his hands and fingers, in a gesture of intentional vagueness. "We'll need scapegoats. People to throw the book at, who won't fight back. We'll need names, dates and places that will take the heat away from the people we represent. And most of all, we'll need to be sure that Clark isn't going to make trouble." He stood up. "Can I leave it in your hands?"

"I think so." Deakin drained his glass, suddenly no longer enjoying the taste as much as he had been. "Thankyou Adam. I'll speak to you soon."

"One way or another, that won't be until after this is all sorted out." Adam allowed himself a tight little smile. "Deal with Clark, John. Or we will."


"An underground car park in the middle of London? Are they crazy?" Harry shook his head. "A truckload of illegal arms in the middle of a public place. That's a great idea."

"They're certainly public spirited." Mo looked to Tony. "So what do we do? Tell the police? If it's taking place in that car park, that does make it police business. It's not just down to us anymore. We can't be had for trespass, and the police wouldn't need a reason to be there."

"No. They could just turn up and get themselves shot by whoever is buying the arms." Tony was pacing up and down the slashed carpet. "Besides, who's going to tell the police? If you do, you'd be getting yourself into trouble. You shouldn't even be involved in this. And the rest of us... Harry? Me? Eddie? Two ex-cops who were kicked off the force under a cloud, now working for another ex-cop who was kicked off the force under a cloud. I'm sure they'd welcome our input - especially once my name came into the equation."

"Nobody remembers that anymore." Mo averted her eyes. She knew that was a lie. People still mentioned her ex-boss to her around the station; and the people there had no reason at all to know who Tony Clark was. There was infamy in the case of a man employed to deal with crooked coppers who had turned out - to all appearances at least - to be crooked himself.

"You think?" Tony smiled. "Either way it's not going to work. Nobody's going to listen to us - and what if they do? The word will get back to Warder Armouries. We keep hearing about how many friends they've got in high places. If we tell the authorities, the deal will get cancelled, or moved somewhere else. All we'd be doing is getting Stephen Hardcastle and his colleagues into trouble. No. We have to handle this alone."

"You still want to try and get the whole thing on film?" Harry sounded doubtful. "I mean, have you been to that car park? We'd need a powerful flash to get any decent shots, and that would hardly be subtle."

"There's got to be a way to work around that, surely?" Tony shrugged. "Whatever. No, we'll play it safe. We'll watch the deal, and find out who they're selling to. That way we can track the guns to their final destination, and get the whole lot of them in one merry bundle. Eddie told me that the deals are chaired by the firm's main director-manager, Graham Allinson. He's also the vice-president. He's a nervy looking fellow apparently; all thumbs; but he takes an active interest in all the illegal sales. He'll be going to the meet by a separate route to the weapons - which'll be under the protection of our friend Edward Dobson by the way - so I'm going to wait for him, and tail him to the car park. He might meet somebody on the way, or get a tip off - anything. If that happens I want to know about it. You two get to the car park in advance. Find somewhere to hide. It's a two storey place, and the deal's on the lower level. I don't know where, but get yourselves well hidden. We'll keep in touch by radio."

"Do we need guns?" Ordinarily the suggestion would have been laughable, but Harry asked it in a voice so soft and serious that Tony hesitated before answering.

"Would you use one if you had it?"

"I might. So might you." Harry's eyes met his and held them, rigid and steady. "So might they."

"Yeah." Tony glanced across at Mo, then shook his head. "But no, we won't need guns." Behind him he thought that he heard Ellie start breathing again. He shrugged. "So. Till tomorrow then."

"Yeah. Till tomorrow." Mo rose to her feet. "I'm sorry to leave so abruptly, but--"

"But you want to be with Kate. We understand." Tony frowned. "How much does she know?"

"Everything." Mo smiled. "I wasn't going to leave her in the dark. Not about something like this. Does Sarah know?"

"No. I've only been able to tell her the basics. The phone isn't secure." He managed to match her smile. "But she'll be over here at the end of next week. I'll be able to tell her everything then." He didn't add If I'm still alive. Mo nodded.

"We'll have to get together. The six of us."

"Yeah." Harry nodded, and automatically reached for Ellie's hand. "Somewhere nice."

"Sure." Tony watched as Mo went to the door, then nodded at Harry and Ellie. "You two had better be off too. Spend the evening together. Go and do something special."

"What about you?" Harry was watching him intently, but Tony didn't look back at him. Instead he just smiled.

"I'll be fine."

"Sure?" Rising to his feet, Naylor seemed indecisive - torn between the wish to spend the evening with Ellie, and the desire to make sure that his closest friend was alright. Tony waved a hand at him.

"Yeah. I'm going to watch some TV." His eyes travelled to the smashed television screen. "Or I might just listen to some music. It'll be good to relax for a bit."

"Okay." Taking Ellie's hand, Harry began to walk towards the door. "See you in the morning."

"Yeah." Right now morning seemed years away. "Night Harry."

"Night." The door swung shut, and the two pairs of footsteps receded into the distance. Alone in his ruined flat, Tony lay back on the settee and gazed at the ceiling. He was scared. Tonight, as never before, he did not want to go to sleep.


It was easy for Tony to follow his target the next morning. As a former police officer, he knew the streets of London - and particularly his part of it - very well; and keeping somebody in sight whilst remaining hidden himself was a skill he had learnt long ago. He remembered his early days in CID, being given the boring tailing jobs by sergeants with better things to do. He had hated it then, but now, as on many previous occasions, he appreciated it.

They made many twists and turns, cutting through a shopping centre at one point and through a practically deserted car park almost immediately after. Tony felt exposed, and tried to keep to the shadows, but he was fairly certain that he had not been spotted. He saw his mark take out a mobile phone at one moment, and talk into it earnestly whilst he hurried along - then he hung up, dialled a number, and spoke for a short while. Other than that he seemed focussed on nothing but walking; the very picture of a man anxious to get from point A to point B.

They had been walking for only a few minutes more when Tony heard the sound of a car engine behind him. He suppressed the urge to glance back. He was an innocent man out for a stroll, and it didn't matter to him what others did. After a while, though, it became apparent that the car was keeping pace with him. He stopped then, and turned around, staring back at the car as it glided to a halt just in front of him. It was a police car, and it bore two men in uniform. Tony felt his chest constrict.

"Officers!" He heard the plummy voice behind him, and did not need to turn to know who was speaking. Graham Allinson, his navy suit immaculate, his briefcase gripped lightly in his right hand, was the picture of a City businessman. "This man is bothering me."

"Are you Mr Allinson, sir?" The driver, sliding out from behind the wheel, looked both Allinson and Clark up and down. Allinson nodded. Clark took a step forward.

"Listen, there's been--"

"Shut up." Climbing out of the passenger side, the second policeman shot Tony a glare that spoke of pure poison. "Mr Allinson, sir, do you know this man?"

"Yes. His name is Tony Clark. He's a private investigator. His firm has been harassing a number of my employees of late, and to be honest I'm getting sick of it. The day before yesterday he even came to the factory where I work, and impersonated a policeman in order to gain entry. It was only due to the vigilance of certain members of my security team that we were able to--"

"That's bollocks!" Tony stepped forward, but Allinson jumped back, a look of exaggerated fear on his face. Both policemen moved to block Tony's path.

"You've had a lucky escape, Mr Allinson. Mr Clark here has a history of violent behaviour." The unpleasant tone of the first policeman's voice told Tony everything he needed to know. These two were not going to listen to his side of the story no matter what he said or did. He took a step back.

"Why don't you just come quietly Mr Clark." The second policeman sounded as though he would just as rather Clark did no such thing. Tony decided that he didn't like the emphasis the man had put on the 'Mr'. In his career with CIB he had learnt that, no matter how vast a majority of policemen were good people, doing their best in a hard job, there were always a few who were anything but. Somehow that second type always managed to travel in pairs - and he had a nasty suspicion that this was one such pair. His worries were hardly allayed by his growing conviction that one of them - the driver - was horribly familiar. The man must have noticed Tony's interest, for he smiled a nasty smile.

"Recognise me do you Mr Clark? I was a sergeant when we last met." He tapped his sleeve. "I'm not a sergeant anymore."

"Shame." Nervous, Tony took another step away. Both men moved to intercept him.

"There's been a complaint made against you, Mr Clark. If you'd just like to come down to the station, perhaps we can--"

"Bollocks to that. You don't want to take me anywhere near the station." Tony took another step back, looking from side to side for a possible route of escape. "Listen to me. This man is lying to you. I'm investigating him 'cause he's mixed up in illegal arms sales. If you'll just come with me I can prove it to you."

"A likely story." The first policeman held out his hands. "Just come with us, Mr Clark. We'll deal with this down at the station. There are one or two outstanding matters that we would like to talk to you about, as it happens."

"I'll bet." Tony glanced towards Allinson, who was looking on with undisguised delight. It struck Tony that the smarmy git had probably known all about his relationship with the police - and the fact that practically everybody in a blue serge suit wanted a crack at him. It was probably all in the information that Warder Armouries had had on him since the start. "Can we talk about this first?"

"We'll talk about it down at the station, sir." The exaggerated politeness was almost an insult in itself. Tony nodded slowly.

"Yeah. Maybe you're right." His eyes flickered across to Allinson. "Okay. I'll come quietly." He smiled, trying to make himself look as harmless as possible, and took a slow, measured step towards the two officers. He could see the grin growing on Allinson's face, mirroring the satisfaction that that two policeman were as yet still keeping to themselves. Taking another step forward, Tony scanned the streets through the corners of his eyes, registered the fact that they were all but alone - and in a sudden turn of speed, he swung on his heel, pushed the nearest of the two policemen into the other, and made a grab for Allinson. The older man flung up his arms to protect himself, which was what Tony had been counting on, leaving his briefcase exposed and within easy reach. Clark grabbed at it, twisted, and tore it free from the businessman's hand. Allinson shouted, one of the policemen echoed the cry - and then Clark was running hell for leather through the streets, the wind threatening to tear the clothes from his back.

"Tony!" Mo's voice was in his ear, the volume uncomfortably loud. Clark didn't have the breath to answer her just yet, and concentrated instead on running. "Tony, what's going on? Is everything okay?"

"Fine!" He barked the word, catching a second to measure his breathing as his pace levelled out. He had almost forgotten just how fast he could run. Behind him echoed another shout, and he had to think for a moment to distinguish it from the anxious voice in his ear. "Slight problem though."

"We heard!" There was a pause in Mo's speech during which Tony could hear only the heavy thud of his own feet on the tarmac. "Where are you now?"

"Heading towards the handover point. What's going on at your end?"

"Nothing yet. It's all quiet." Mo sounded as though she were conferring with somebody too far away to be picked up by the mike. "No, hang on. There's a truck drawing up. Looks like your friend Dobson behind the wheel."

"Then I'll keep on coming." Tony could hear urgent shouting behind him. "Looks like my friends aren't going to give up." He broke off for a second, his lungs beginning to protest at the waste of so much oxygen on speech. "I'll try to lose them, but I don't hold out too much hope."

"You can't lead the police into this!" Mo sighed. "This is just what we needed."

"Don't I know it." No longer minded to talk, Tony tugged the receiver from his ear and let it hang from his collar by its wire. He needed to concentrate on running. Somehow he didn't think he was past the worst of it yet.


Nobody seemed to think twice about the sight of a leather-jacketed madman haring through the streets of London, pursued by a growing number of policemen. At one time Tony would have cursed the apparent inability of the public to join in and help out; but he thanked the Lord for it now, feeling perfectly safe as he dodged shoppers and pedestrians, knocking down displays from street stalls, and pushing the occasional innocent bystander into the path of his pursuers. He knew from experience that most of the anger his actions caused would be directed at the police. The public hated it when they were inconvenienced by a police chase - and hated it even more when the police failed to give chase at all. Tony allowed himself a cocky grin. There were five policemen on his tail now, none of which seemed to be a match for him in terms of speed. He was finding it increasingly easy to stay ahead, especially now that they were all tiring. He was sure that he could keep his speed up for a while longer, despite the ticking minutes. Tony was proud of the way that he always managed to keep himself in shape. You never quite knew when something like that was going to come in handy.

He had been running for nearly twenty minutes when he reached a quiet T-junction at the foot of a Pedestrians Only Zone. The stone cones at the end of the lane told him that he was going back to the land of traffic, and he moderated his speed accordingly, preparing for a possible need to slam on the brakes and avoid being flattened. Behind him somebody was shouting, and he stole a glance back over his shoulder. The two lead policemen, neither of whom he recognised, were busy struggling with a pair of ageing market stall owners, who were apparently objecting to the rather heavy-handed approach of the boys in blue. Jubilant, Tony managed a breathless grin, raising his hand in a cheery wave as he slipped out between the stone cones, heading onto the road beyond. There was a squeal of brakes and a screech of tyres, and he spun to face the road. A police car had come to a halt directly before him, its bonnet resting no more than two inches from his legs. Tony froze. His eyes met with those of the driver. Anger and exasperation turned to recognition.

"Bugger." Taking a step back Tony heard a cry of delight from behind him. The driver of the police car fumbled with his door, anxious to get out of the car and grab his target. Tony swung around, unnerved by the suddenly redoubled progress of his pursuers, then swung round again. On the passenger side of the car, a policewoman was emerging, her handcuffs ready in one hand. She was simultaneously talking into her personal radio.

"Come on, Mr Clark." The driver slammed his door shut. Behind Tony the footsteps of his pursuers were almost close enough for him to expect a hand on his collar at any second. He doubled over, allowing himself one brief, joyous moment of relaxation and rest - and then hurled himself forward. He hit the bonnet of the police car, rolling with the impact, skidding across the smooth, warm metal and colliding painfully with the driver. They went down together, a jumbled collection of arms and legs that left Tony on top, and anxious to be off. He struggled upright, breaking into a run once again, discovering only at the last second that the policeman had taken a firm grip of his ankle. Stumbling, Tony fell, colliding with hard, rough tarmac with a force that took his breath away, and threatened to graze all the skin from his knees and palms. He thought that he felt blood trickle down one leg inside his jeans.

"Get off me!" As the other policemen caught up, as they were running towards him, Tony kicked out wildly. The policeman holding his ankle let out a shout of pain, and his grip abruptly relaxed. Struggling to his feet, Tony made it just as his pursuers reached him. One of them grabbed his arm, but letting loose with a wild, un-aimed punch, Tony tore himself free and threw himself forward into a renewed sprint. So sudden was his acceleration that he almost tripped, but by the skin of his teeth he was able to maintain his balance. The ground beneath his feet became a blur once again.

"Tony, where are you?" He could hear Mo's voice echoing tinnily out of the receiver that was dangling halfway down his chest. "Allinson just turned up. He must have called somebody to give him a lift. If this deal goes down before you get here--"

"It won't." Tony could only gasp the words, unsure whether or not something so quiet would be picked up by the mike inside his collar. "I think I've got the paperwork." He took a corner rather too fast, and hit a jutting piece of wall with a loud grunt. Mo's voice came back to him, confused and concerned.


"I'm nearly with you!" He could see the place ahead now; could see the darkened interior of the underground car park through its large, cavernous entrance. A row of lights flickered on a ceiling that was as yet invisible, emerging from a darkened, gloomy place of shadows. "Can you see me yet?"

"We can't see anything here except the truck." Mo sounded increasingly urgent. "Where are you? Tony, there's men all over the place with guns. This is a public place..."

"Be... there... any minute." Tripping over the kerb, Tony crashed into a low stone wall, and almost lost hold of the briefcase. He was beginning to wonder if it was very sensible turning up here with it in his possession. "What's... going on?"

"Lots of standing around. Dobson was arguing with some guy in a combat jacket. Allinson is looking nervous, and I'm hardly surprised. I'm looking nervous, and nobody knows I'm here."

"Make... sure it... stays that way." Leaning on the wall for a moment, Tony glanced back. The policemen were still on his tail. He really wasn't sure what to do now. Raising his hands in a cheery salute, and waving the briefcase like some curious lure, he turned about and plunged into the darkness.

Inside, the car park was not nearly as dark as it appeared. The lights were enough to give everything a cursory illumination, dispelling a few of the shadows and creating more. Great spikes of towering darkness rose up around every pillar, and patches of it spread themselves over the floor around and about each and every parked car. Tony forced himself to be still for a moment, holding his breath to make the ragged panting cease. He could hear nothing, and he caught hold of the ear piece, putting it back into position so that he could hear Mo properly again.

"Mo? I'm inside. Where are you?"

"Down a floor. Be careful Tony. We've managed to stay out of sight so far, but somebody nearly spotted Harry a second ago. An inch or two to the right, and--"

"It's okay. Cavalry's here." Tony glanced back into the darkness. "At least I think it is. How many people are armed?"

"I've seen six." Mo sounded strained. "What are you going to do?"

"Make contact." There was a pause. "Stay out of sight. I'll be with you as soon as you can."

"Tony?" Mo sounded afraid. "Tony, what do you mean? Tony?"

"Sorry Mo. Silent running from now on." He pulled the receiver wire out of the tiny box of tricks in his jacket pocket, then broke into a gentle jog. He needed to get down to the next floor - but first he had to take care of his uniformed friends. In the heavy silence he called out, listening to his voice echoing around the vast underground area.

"This is Tony Clark. You know who I am."

"Yeah. We know." A tired voice, surprisingly close, echoed back to him. It was almost impossible to discern which direction the voice had come from. The cars reflected and redirected too much sound. "You can't get out of here, Clark. We're watching the entrance."

"I know. I don't want to get out of here just yet. Listen, there are armed men in here. You have to leave."

"If you have a gun, Mr Clark, you'd be best advised to hand it over right now."

"I don't have a gun!" Tony grimaced in the darkness. This might be harder than he had envisaged. "Listen. There are--"

"Just give yourself up, Mr Clark." Another voice echoed to him, apparently from another direction, although there was no way to be sure of that. "It'll go much better for you if you do."

"You have to listen to me!" Frantic, Tony took a few steps forward, trying to spot his pursuers. He was sure that he saw something moving up ahead, and so he directed his words at it. "I'm here on a case. There are illegal arms being sold here, to people who aren't going to take kindly to your involvement. You have to get out of here. Call an ARV. I know what I'm talking about. I know what we're dealing with here."

"Clark." This time he knew exactly where the voice was coming from. It was too close for there to be any doubt. He spun around. A tall policeman; the driver from the first car, he thought, although in the semi-darkness it was too difficult to be sure; was standing before him, arms folded. Tony flashed him a breathless grin.

"Hi. Listen to me, I--"

"Just shut up." The policeman took a few steps forward, reaching Tony before the detective could even think about moving out of the way. A hard hand gripped his shoulder, and then without warning he was flung up against the nearest car. A wild alarm began to wail, and the car's headlights began to flash. In the gloomy car park the noise and lights were disorientating. Tony tried to stand up straight again.

"You have to listen to me!"

"No I don't." Heavy hands were searching him. "I thought you said you had a gun?"

"Not me you idiot! There are other people here. At least six men with guns, on the lower floor. There's an illegal arms--"

"You're not fooling anyone, Clark." A second voice had joined the first now. Tony was spun around to face his captors. He shook his head, frustrated and annoyed.

"I'm telling the tru--" He was cut short abruptly by a heavy blow that crashed into his stomach. Tears sprang into his eyes. Somewhere off to his right another policeman shouted out an objection, and an argument began to circulate. Struggling to stay upright, Tony forced his eyes to refocus. "Will you lot shut up and listen to me!"

"Look at this!" Standing nearby, one of the other policemen had succeeded in forcing open Allinson's briefcase. Inside, on top of a pile of slim cardboard files and loose sheets of paper, lay a small, black hand gun. Tony was no expert, but he thought he recognised the signs of laser sighting. The gun looked brand new.

"What's this?" Grabbing the gun, the first policeman seemed about to threaten Tony with it. "Where'd you get this?"

"It's not mine. You know it's not. You saw me take the briefcase from the guy I was following." Tony took a deep, calming breath. "Listen, I'm working on a gun-running case. You've walked into the middle of my operation, and there are a lot of dangerous people around. You need to get out of here before somebody hears all this noise, and comes to find out what's happening. Please, just back off and call in an ARV. We could need backup. Armed backup."

"I don't believe him." Stepping away the first policeman looked to his colleagues. "He could just be saying it. Why should we believe him?"

"What harm can it do? Look, this is a public place. People are in danger." Tony sighed. "Okay, listen. Give me a radio. I'll make the call. I'll take the consequences."

"You're taking the consequences anyway, sunshine." Hands were gripping his arms, and Tony heard a familiar clicking sound. He shook his head.

"No! Look just--"

"Save it." The click became a louder, more final sound, and resistance met Tony's attempts to struggle. He glanced down. His left wrist was securely handcuffed to the handle of the car door. He pulled hard, but neither the cuffs nor the handle showed any sign of defeat. Tony's shoulders slumped.

"You stay here." A determined voice, filled with self-congratulation, echoed in his ears. "We'll take a look around."

"Be careful." The persistent wailing of the car alarm was beginning to hurt, and Tony felt faintly sick. The horrible thought that he might have led these officers into an extremely dangerous situation did not help his mood at all. Perhaps he should have let Allinson keep his briefcase. The deal would have been over by now - perhaps.

"Just sit tight, Clark." There was the sound of footsteps scraping on the rough concrete floor. A hushed voice hissed something that Tony could not catch. He heard a low laugh.

"Who's there?" One of the policemen, his voice curious, echoed loudly for a second. Tony caught a glimpse of light flashing on metal. For a brief second the sight did not mean anything to him - and then, in a sudden burst of horror, he realised what it was.

"Get down!" He heard his own voice loudly, but was painfully aware that it would not carry far above the wail of the alarm. Somewhere off to his right he heard a scuffle, and heard the voice of the policewoman shout something. Then, in the brief, uncertain silence that followed, there was a rattle of gunfire. Somebody screamed. Somebody shouted out in pain. There was a jumble of desperate, panic-fuelled footsteps - then silence once again. Tony began to gasp painful, staccato gulps of air. The silence hung above him, filled only with the persistent, infuriating sound of the car alarm - and then that too was silent, and the air was still. The scratching crunch of footsteps began to approach.

"Well well well." The footsteps drew to a halt beside the car, and Tony raised his head. Standing before him, a powerful torch in one hand and a gun in the other, was Dobson. Just behind him stood Allinson, his newly retrieved briefcase clutched in his hands. He looked terrified.

"You didn't have to shoot the policemen." His voice sounded high-pitched. Dobson did not even bother looking at him.

"I didn't shoot them all." He seemed to find his words funny, and giggled for a moment. Tony felt sick.

"If the others got away, they'll be going for help." He tried to keep his voice level, only too well aware of what Dobson was likely to do with the gun. The big man chuckled, turning the beam of his huge torch to show Tony the sights that lay beyond the darkness. Three bodies, their uniforms unmistakable, lay in a bloody, huddled heap. Tony recognised the demoted sergeant and the policewoman amongst the tangle, and for a second he closed his eyes.

"If they go for help, they'll be too late. Our business here is done." Dobson smirked. "At least mine is, more or less."

"You've ruined everything. We'll never manage to get all of our men out of here before the police arrive. Our truck..." Allinson sounded weak with fear. Dobson glared at him.

"How you came to be in charge of this operation is beyond me. I've been telling the shareholders to replace you for months. Maybe now they'll listen to me. You let this man hold things up. You risked everything by letting him get hold of the sample case." He shook his head. "You're going into retirement, Mr Allinson."

"We have to get out of here." Allinson hefted the briefcase in his arms, as though its weight were suddenly too much for him. "We have--"

"If you want to go, go. Maybe you can run fast enough to escape being retired more permanently." Dobson turned back to Clark. "I have some business to handle first."

"You can't shoot me. Too many people know about my involvement." Tony wondered where Mo and Harry were, and if they were on their way. Strictly speaking they should be able to hear his side of things, even though he could no longer hear them. He hoped fervently that they were both still okay.

"The only people who care about your involvement don't give a damn. You think anybody cares? Everybody wanted you off this case. They'll be glad I got rid of you." Taking a step forward, Dobson slid his torch and gun onto the roof of the car. Tony made a grab for the latter, but the handcuffs prevented him from succeeding. Dobson grinned.

"Can't you reach them? Too bad." He clenched his fists. "Don't worry. It's not going to hurt for long."

"Dobson, you--" For the second time that afternoon Tony found his words cut off by a heavy blow, as Dobson's powerful right fist crashed into the side of his head. The world jarred painfully, and the car alarm, once more jolted into life, began to blare. A hand closed around Tony' lapels, hauling him upright just long enough for a second blow to drive the breath from his body. A third filled his mouth with blood.

"The police will be here soon." Allinson sounded far away. "Come on! There isn't time for this."

"There's time for whatever I want." Another blow caught Tony under the jaw, and this time when his vision dimmed it did not return. Barely conscious he heard Allinson shout something indistinct. Dobson made some vicious reply, and Tony felt his world lurch as he was hauled upright once again. Instinct told him that this next blow would end it. Once he was unconscious, Dobson was sure to give up and shoot him. Somehow Tony had never imagined that his last view of the world would be through an impenetrable blur of pain and concussion. Distantly, through the pounding of blood in his ears and the haze of confusion and fear, he heard Allinson's voice. Dobson laughed. There was a thud, an echoing cry, and then a gunshot. Tony heard the latter with painful clarity, the sound of it cutting through the fog that was trying to blind and deafen him. He blinked, and vision swirled back.

He was half standing, half lying against the car, his cuffed hand twisted painfully thanks to Dobson's ministrations, blood clearly visible on his shirt. Blood and gore splattered the pale blue cotton, and lying at his feet, body twisted, was Edward Dobson. Allinson stood over him, the small black handgun gripped in his fist. The briefcase lay nearby, its contents beginning to flutter away. Tony blinked.

"I wasn't going to let him steal my job. Or have me killed." Allinson looked up, eyes unnaturally bright. "And I can't let you do that either."

"Allinson, I--"

"No. Don't bother. I've already made up my mind." Through the splashes of Dobson's blood on his shirt, Tony saw a small red dot appear. It hovered by his heart for a second, then steadied. Tony's eyes snapped up from his shirt to Allinson's face.


"I said don't bother." A hardness had come over the other man's face. "You should have kept out of it." His hands tightened on the gun, his finger began to press on the trigger. There was the sound of a gunshot.

Tony froze, fully expecting the feel of a bullet to come tearing through his chest. He knew how a bullet felt; knew it only too well. He wondered if he would feel this bullet, or if it would all be over too soon. Instead he felt nothing at all. He opened his eyes. Graham Allinson, the gun now dangling from his fingertips, toppled to his knees in a strange and grotesque slow motion. He looked up at Clark, eyes struggling to focus. His neck and the top part of his chest were nothing but throbbing blood.

"How-?" Allinson was frowning. He seemed about to say more, but compelled by gravity his body gave up its struggle. The dead man fell to the ground and was still. Tony felt his legs go very weak. On the floor, by the body, a small red dot hung motionless. Clark's first thought was that it was the laser sight from Allinson's own weapon - until he saw it begin to move. It travelled over the body, moved across the ground; and then slowly and surely began to climb up Tony's body. It waited for a moment, bright against the gore on his shirt, still as death just above his heart - and then it was gone. Very, very slowly, Tony sank to the ground.

"Guv?" He wasn't sure how long he had been there before he heard the sound of Harry's anxious voice; not long presumably, since the police reinforcements still hadn't arrived. He raised his head, suddenly terribly tired, a hammering pain in his head from a combination of the ever-present car alarm and Dobson's heavy blows. He was hardly aware of Harry's presence before the older man was crouching beside him.

"You okay guv?

"Never better." Tony peered at him through one eye, unsure whether the other one was still capable of opening. "Dobson and Allinson...?"

"Very dead. Hold on." Harry caught up one of the two fallen guns. Tony didn't need to look to see that his associate was wearing gloves. "Keep very still."

"I hope you know what you're doing." Mo's voice sounded concerned. Tony decided that he wanted to have both of his eyes closed now. He felt Harry's hand take his cuffed wrist, and hold it very, very tightly. A single gunshot rang out, and all of a sudden Tony was free. Harry hauled him to his feet.

"Can you walk?" he asked, his deep voice deeper with worry. Tony nodded.

"No problem. Just point me in the right direction." He sagged against Harry. "And don't go too far."

"What happened?" Mo was trying to talk to him, but he didn't want to listen. He wasn't sure if he had shrugged, or if he had just thought about it.

"Dead," he said finally, fairly certain that he had spoken the word aloud. "Don't know who. Thought you. Maybe not. Thought I was a goner." The words began to slur into one another. "Police are coming."

"Yeah, we know." There was fondness in Harry's voice, and the assurance that everything was going to be alright. Tony began to feel surprisingly good - and very, very tired. He let his friends help him along, and tried to make his feet follow in their wake. He was going to be extremely glad to get home.


John Deakin stretched out his legs, enjoying the comfort of a brand new easy chair. Tony had replaced his suite and much of the rest of the rest of the furniture in the room. Even the brandy glass, from which Deakin was sipping his drink, was new. It caught the light, flaunting its newness.

"You seem to have everything looking shipshape again." Deakin nodded his approval. Tony glared at him.

"I'm glad you like it." Shifting his position on his own chair, trying to ease his bruised ribs, Clark fixed his former mentor with the sharpest glare he could summon. Deakin, as usual, remained unmoved.

"I especially like the blue stripe on the suite. Always was your colour." He smirked at the younger man's rising temper. "Incidentally..."

"What?" There was a lot of force behind the word. As had become the norm, Deakin had managed to choose a time to visit when Tony was alone. It was uncanny the way it happened, and did nothing to lessen the vague sense of paranoia that always dogged Clark these days. Was somebody watching him? And if so, who? And just who the bloody hell did Deakin work for anyway?

"A lot of people are quite impressed with the way you handled the Warder Armouries affair. You've made people sit up and take notice."

"Yeah. Mostly Warder Armouries people, with big muscles and bigger guns." Tony rubbed his sore ribs. He had taken quite a battering one way or another during this case; and he only wished that he could think of that as a rare event. "What happened with all of that? There's been nothing in the news, and I haven't heard anything from the police. I was expecting to get woken up by the heavy mob at three in the morning. Guns and battering rams, all that crap."

"Are you sorry that didn't happen?" Deakin's soft voice, with its softer accent, seemed so well suited to this sort of work. A quiet explanation; a gentle hint to stay out of the way. "The buyers weren't caught, needless to say."

"Who were they?"

"I genuinely don't know. Neither do I want to. Warder Armouries has a clean conscience..." He held up a hand to forestall Tony's objections. "You surely didn't expect to get your great scandal? You must know by now that some people will always make sure that it doesn't happen. In a few days, when the police have had a chance to look into things themselves, to think that they're handling this case independently, we'll release some details of Graham Allinson's background. He'll be presented as the perfect scapegoat. He and he alone was responsible for the illegal sale of those arms. His customers are hardly going to come forward to argue. We'll admit Dobson's involvement, maybe allow your murder charge where that young under manager was concerned... It'll be easy enough to point to Dobson's handiwork there. It's doubtful that the attacks on you and Hargreaves will be mentioned though. I'd advise both of you to keep out of this from now on."

"So yet again the bastards win." Tony shook his head. "I hope you're satisfied. I hope your bosses adequately reward all your hard work." He frowned. "Why haven't the police come to talk to me?"

"Because my bosses have decided to adequately reward you for all your hard work." Deakin's smile was unreadable. "Or at the very least, they've decided you're less of a threat out here than you might be in court. It doesn't take much to pull a few strings here and there. It's been done in your benefit before."

"And this is supposed to make me so grateful that I'll drop this investigation?" There was a hot challenge in Clark's eyes. Deakin sighed.

"You'd be strongly advised to do just that, yes. There is no existing evidence to tie anyone save Allinson to the arms sales. Warder Armouries has a lot of friends in high places. Some of them were even involved in its dealings. They will kill you, if you try to turn this stone back over again. You've had a narrow escape as it is. Don't push it." With a little sigh he rose to his feet. "I suppose I'd better be going. We'll be in touch Tony. You may be a pain in the backside, but there are always cases we'd be grateful to have you handle for us."

"Get stuffed." Tony turned his back. Deakin shrugged.

"We'll see." He dropped an almost fatherly hand onto Clark's shoulder. "I'm genuinely glad that you came through this, Tony. I'd hate to think that next time you weren't so lucky."

"Your mates didn't want me to have a next time," Tony reminded him. Deakin frowned.

"Not my mates. I know our little power games frustrate you, but that's no reason for you to give them up. Maybe next time you'll get lucky."

"And maybe next time you'll get lucky, and I'll get shot too."

Deakin smiled, and suspicion floated like butterflies through Tony's mind. "That was never meant to happen." He headed towards the door. "Till the next time. I'm sure our paths will cross again."

"I won't be your pawn, Deakin." Tony's voice froze the space between them. Deakin shrugged.

"You'll never be anybody's pawn, Tony. But there are other pieces on the chessboard." He stepped through the door. "Be seeing you."

"Yeah." The door clicked shut. Tony stared at it for a while, thinking over the older man's parting words. Cryptic nonsense, as usual. He smiled to himself. Still, it had a ring to it. 'Next time'. With a smirk he turned about, and headed over to the brand new computer he had just had installed. He had some research to do, once he had figured out how to turn the infernal machine on. People to find out about, careers to trace. Warder Armouries might think that it was safe, with its shareholders in high places, and security services eager to protect its secrets - but Tony Clark didn't give up quite so easily. Tony Clark didn't give up at all.

Downstairs, John Deakin was just about to climb into his car when his mobile phone rang. He took it out and pressed the button to talk.


"Your boy is hard at work. He's pulling up his files on Warder Armouries." The clipped tones of Adam, his Special Branch contact, sounded frustrated and put out. Deakin smirked.

"I'm sure he is."

"What do we do about it?"

"Nothing." Deakin was staring out towards the river, enjoying the view. He wondered which of the scudding boats was the one containing Adam, and his assistants and equipment. "He won't find anything." Nothing except a little, cleverly planted file, roping a certain banker named Checkland into the arms affair. "Am I meeting you for golf on Friday, Adam?"

"Yeah." The voice was faintly reluctant. "Are you sure everything's okay?"

"Oh yes." Deakin glanced up at the block of flats, towards the room where his former subordinate was hard at work doing Deakin's own work for him - again. "Everything's just fine." And with a quiet smile the former Chief Superintendent turned off the telephone and climbed into his car. Nobody but Deakin understood the web that he forever industrially wove; but right now, every little strand of it was weaving itself into place just perfectly.

And far above him, in his flat, Tony Clark found a name that seemed to be where it shouldn't, and began figuring out how to use a search engine, so that he could study it in more detail. Lewis Checkland. Maybe it would be worth following up.