SHATTERED BITS OF BROKEN GLASS

by Joana Dey

 

 

(This was originally in Chalk and Cheese 18)

 

"Hell, I don't see why we're always getting stuck with the minding jobs," Murphy grumbled, looking for Bodie and Doyle to join in the complaining.

"The Cow's gotta keep us busy somehow, hasn't he?" Doyle asked, grinning at the scowl on Murphy's face.

"Yeah, isn't anyone out there blowing up the PM or hatching any badger jobs right this moment. Wouldn't want us getting stale would you?" Bodie chimed in.

Murphy looked from one seemingly innocent face to the other. "You two hate these kinds of jobs even more than I do, so what do you know that I... Oh, shit." He shut his mouth quickly, but Bodie jumped right in the opening.

"Plenty, my son. Have we taught you, yet, about the delights of the flesh? Or the joys of a pure malt in front of a warm fire on a cold evening, a sheepskin rug to lie on..."

"...and a willing Bodie beneath you?" Doyle added mischievously.

"Eh?" Murphy raised his eyebrows.

"We were doing fine up 'til then, you idiot," Bodie scolded Doyle. "The man doesn't want a willing Bodie under him."

"Did I say Bodie?" Doyle's eyes widened. "Sorry, m'lad, I meant body. As in naked, female..."

"All right! I give up!" Murphy couldn't help himself, and he burst out laughing. "When you two get going... I'm sure I didn't stand a chance."

"No, you didn't," Bodie smiled at him. "Besides, what we know that you don't," he shook his head sadly over Murphy's lack of knowledge, "is who we shall be minding."

"Whom," Doyle corrected.

"I'm telling him," Bodie said, giving Ray a slightly irritated pout.

"That's not what I-"

"Doyle!" Murphy bellowed.

"Thank you, Mr. Murphy," Bodie nodded politely. "As I was about to say, before someone was so uncouth as to interrupt me-"

"Berk."

"-we are watching the lovely and talented Gloria Delarbre," he finished triumphantly. His exultant expression faltered as Murphy looked blank, and Doyle burst out laughing.

"He doesn't even know who she is!" Tears slid from the slanted green eyes. "After all that," he gasped out, "that big build-up, Murph has no idea who the voluptuous madame is!"

"She's a singer," Bodie enlightened him.

"A tart," Doyle corrected.

"A singing tart, then?" Murphy suggested wickedly.

The other two wiped the grins off their faces and gazed at him sombrely. Murphy looked perplexed. "What?"

"Bit disrespectful, that," Doyle commented.

"Not a nice thing at all to say about the lovely lady," Bodie added. "Especially since His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, is casting his eyes-"

"Och, can't you two do anything seriously?" Cowley walked up behind his three agents.

"Yes, sir." Bodie immediately straightened his spine.

"Certainly, sir!" Doyle leaned against the door jam, arms crossed, hips canted slightly forward.

"Then perhaps you might consider telling 6.2 exactly who Miss Delarbre is?" When it came to sarcasm, Cowley could out-do the best.

"Sir." Bodie faced Murphy, his expression solemn, his eyes twinkling. "She's a jazz singer who's been receiving death threats recently, and it's our business-"

"-instead of police business," Doyle butted in, flashing a small, irritated look towards Cowley.

"-because Charlie, er, Charles has recently taken an interest in her, and the Home Office has asked us to discreetly-"

"Yeah, 'Bodie the subtle'..."

"Shuddup, Doyle. I'll have you know I-"

"Enough!" Ice-blue eyes glared at the two clowns. "The PM has requested we watch over her for a few days, while she's here in London. I assured her that the lady would be safe with the three of you." Wisely, Bodie and Doyle kept mum, and after another sharp glance, Cowley continued on his way.

"You know where she is?" Murphy asked them, keeping his mirth under wraps.

"Yeah, the Savoy." Bodie grinned. "We shall be paid minders in surroundings that are more suited to my, er, lifestyle than the golly's, but I'm sure we can overlook his scruffiness this once."

Doyle just gazed blandly at him, smiled a secretive little smile and trotted off down the hall. Bodie glanced up at Murphy.

"He loves me, you know," he reassured the other man, then quickly followed after his partner.

Murphy looked up at the ceiling. "Heaven help us if they ever fall apart," he muttered to the peeling paint.

********************

The Savoy did tolerate Doyle's tight jeans and T-shirt, probably because he'd added his favourite oatmeal-coloured jacket to the ensemble. The look on Murphy's face, when he finally laid eyes on the

mysterious lady, almost wiped the polite look off Bodie's face.

"Pick up your chin, mate. Looks messy drooling on the carpet," Doyle whispered as he stepped forward to introduce himself and his companions.

Gloria Delarbre was in her twenties, with a mass of curling blonde hair that stopped a few inches above her hemline. Her long legs ended with feet that were encased in a pair of bright red stiletto heels. Doyle had to raise his eyes a fraction in order to see the top of her head.

Murphy, being interested more in bed partners of the female kind, hadn't even got his gaze as far as her chin. Glancing over at him, Bodie saw his eyes clamped on the spread of Miss Delarbre's not inconsiderable cleavage. Stepping squarely on one of Murph's large feet, Bodie put on his best "You're beautiful, but I'm amazingly more so" smile, and held his hand out.

"I'm Bodie."

"Doyle."

"Er..."

"That's Michael Murphy," Doyle said helpfully, rolling his eyes, and she smiled brightly at him. He quickly reminded himself just who slept in the other half of his bed at night, and why, before politely returning her smile.

"You sing," Murphy said, then could have kicked himself. That was bloody brilliant.

Doyle and Bodie both hid smiles. "We'll just have a look around the other rooms, then," Bodie said, motioning to Doyle.

"Yeah. Murph, why don't you stay in here with Miss Delarbre-"

"Gloria," she said quickly.

"-er, Gloria, and make sure she's secure." He beat a hasty retreat, followed rapidly by Bodie.

They left Murphy still standing near the front door, and slowly he turned to lock it. Gazing around, he noticed they were in the front room of a rather large suite that must also include a bedroom somewhere, since there was no sleeping furniture in here. It was quite opulent, done up in shades of gold, yellow and brown, with ruffles adorning almost everything that had fabric.

His eyes finally settled on what he considered to be the loveliest item in the room, to find her smiling sweetly at him.

"Er..."

"Yes, I do sing, Michael. Mostly opera and jazz." She volunteered this as though realising Murphy had been temporarily rendered incapable of speech.

"Yes. I..." He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, I've never heard of you." It came out in a rush, and he looked horrified as he realised how rude it sounded.

"Do you listen to jazz?"

"No, Miss Delarbre."

"Gloria. Opera?"

"Never."

"Then it's not surprising you don't know my name, is it?" She grinned at him. "Don't worry, I shan't bite you!"

Murphy suddenly remembered he was here because someone had threatened the life of this perfect creature, and he began nosing around the room, checking out escape routes and the like. She watched him

quietly, her eyes never leaving his solid bulk. After several turns around the room, he came back to stand in front of her.

"Can I get you anything? A drink, or..." His voice fell silent. He was in her suite and had no idea where anything was.

"I'm fine, thank you. I'm very sorry you're having to go to so much trouble."

"No trouble at all, miss, er, Gloria, it's our job." Inwardly, he winced. He was sounding like the prat to end all prats, and he wished he could go and soak his head right this second. Or at least, start the job again, beginning with his entrance at the front door.

"I understand you're dating the prince," Murphy said just as Bodie and Doyle came back into the room. At that sentence, they both burst out laughing, and Murphy's face alternated between anger, confusion and embarrassment.

"Now what did I say?" He almost spat out the question.

"I said the prince was interested in her, mate, not dating her," Bodie said.

"It would be going behind the back of the lovely Lady Di, if he was!" Doyle smiled sweetly, doing his best to look cherubic.

"He's asked that I sing at his wedding," Gloria said, giving Bodie and Doyle a stern look before turning her interested gaze back to Murphy. "I'm here to meet Lady Diana."

"That's lovely!" A brilliant smile spread over Murphy's face, and Doyle snickered rudely. Murphy just glared at him.

"He's got it bad," Bodie whispered in an aside to Doyle, who nodded wisely.

"You checked the other rooms?" Murphy asked pointedly. "Find anything?"

"No. Clean and empty," Doyle answered him in a voice suddenly devoid of any mirth. "No way in unless our man can abseil down the side of the building."

Gloria walked over to one of the small settees and sat down, sighing heavily. "I wish I know who was threatening me, and why. I don't think it has anything to do with the Royals, though, since it began before the engagement was even announced."

"It may not, but it's a chance the Home Office, and Cowley, don't want to take," Bodie said quietly. "I think Doyle and I will go down and take a look at the lobby area, Murph. We'll leave you here with Miss De... Gloria."

Pausing next to Murphy, Bodie leaned close to his ear. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, mate."

"Hah. You wish," came the quick answer.

Bodie watched as Doyle's bum disappeared through the door, and grinned. "Not really," he said, before following.

Murphy turned back to find Gloria watching the scene with a slightly bewildered look to her face. She glanced up at him. "Are they always like this?"

"Yeah. Two peas in a pod, they are. They're also," he added, lest she get the idea they weren't capable of guarding her, "the best in CI5. You'll be fine with them here."

"What about you?" She asked this with a small smile on her face, teasing.

"Oh, I taught 'em everything they know!" he quipped. Then laughed out loud. "No, they are the best. I'm good, but not quite in their league. Never will be, either," he added honestly.

She patted the space next to her with a well-manicured hand. "Come and sit, and tell me about yourself. It's not often I meet someone who doesn't listen to opera or jazz, and who's never heard of me!"

"I'm sorry about that-"

"Oh, no, don't be! That's not what I meant at all." She smiled at him, and he finally moved over to perch on the edge of the cushion. "It's refreshing to have someone talk to me, not the singer and not feel like they have to pretend, or flatter me or anything."

They spoke quietly together for some time, Murphy finally relaxing enough to lean back in the settee. He kept one eye and ear on his beautiful companion, and the other set on his surroundings. No nutter would get past him to do harm to Gloria, he vowed silently.

They were sitting in a companionable silence, when the R/T suddenly beeped. He fumbled in his jacket pocket, trying not to jostle Gloria, and pulled it out. "Six-two."

"Is Gloria expecting a pressie today?" Bodie's voice came over the set scratchily.

Murphy glanced at her, and she shook her head negatively frowning just a bit. "She says not, 3.7, why? Did we get a delivery?"

"Yeah. Small box. We sent for someone to open it for us," he added, referring cryptically to the bomb squad in order not to alarm Gloria. "We'll keep you informed. Anything happening up there? D'you need help?"

"No. We're doing just fine here." Murphy knew exactly what Bodie was getting at, and it had nothing to do with threats or intruders. "Six-two out."

"They think it might be a bomb, don't they?" Gloria asked discerningly. She didn't seem particularly worried, only a bit sad. "I do live in the real world, you know. If it were a harmless package, they'd open it themselves."

"Yes. Better to be safe than sorry. If it's just an admirer sending you a... a... What type of gifts do singers get, anyway?" He was temporarily distracted.

She laughed, a delightful peal that reminded Murphy of the clear ringing of bells. "The same as anyone else, of course. I'm fond of glass figurines, crystal ornaments; fans send them to me all the time. I'm sure that's all this is."

"Oh. Well, if that's all it is then, they'll wrap it back up and send it over to you." He grinned. "If they do it properly, you'll never know it was ever opened."

Before he could say anything else, the phone rang. Gloria moved to answer it, but was stopped by Murphy's hand coming down gently on her arm. She looked at him, her eyebrows knitting together in a

puzzled frown.

"Let me call this in, we may need to get a trace on it." He quickly radioed into HQ, then nodded at her to pick up the phone. He quietly explained the situation, listening to her conversation with one ear.

"Hello? ... Yes, it is. Who is this? ... Did I get your gift?" She looked at Murphy, eyebrows raised in question.

"Tell him no, not yet," he whispered.

"No, I haven't received anything yet. They may be holding something for me in the downstairs lobby, and just haven't brought it up yet." She'd watched enough telly to know the importance of keeping the line open. "Would you like to hold on while I... Hello?" She replaced the receiver. "He hung up."

"Probably reckoned we'd try to trace it." He spoke into the R/T. "You blokes get anything? Thanks." He shook his head at her questioning gaze. "Nothing. Not enough time. Cowley's gonna have a tap put on, in case he calls again. Did you recognise the voice?"

"No," she sighed. "That would be too easy, wouldn't it? It was male, small voiced; he'd be a weak tenor if he sang."

Murphy laughed at that. "We could get Bodie and Doyle to go around asking men with small voices to serenade them. No?" She shook her head, smiling. "I suppose not. On to Plan B, then."

"And that is?"

"We wait. And find out what was in the box." He settled back onto the settee. "Come on, then, relax. We were just at the point where you were leaving for the Academy, and ..."

*****************

"They found what?" Bodie glanced at Doyle, his forehead wrinkling into a frown. "Maybe it was a real gift and it broke?"

"No. It didn't have a name or gift tag. Just the bits of broken glass." Anson's voice came back over the R/T. "They're going to try to piece it back together and see what it was."

"Rather strange way of threatening someone," Bodie said as he shut off the R/T.

"Oh, I dunno," Ray mused. "If it represented something she was fond of... If someone sent me bits of broken glass that spelled BODIE when they were glued back together, I'd be a little upset."

"I should hope so!" Bodie looked at him indignantly. He glanced over at the front desk to find one of the receptionists staring at him intently. Quickly, the young lady's eyes shot over to her colleague at the other end, back to Bodie, then over again. His eyes followed her gaze.

A man was leaning against the counter, his feet almost on tip-toe as he spoke to the second receptionist, their noses only inches apart. Bodie wasn't near enough to hear them, and nudging Doyle with an elbow, he casually meandered closer. "...package. Where is it?" The words were being spit out of the stranger's mouth like bullets, and the clerk moved back an inch.

"I'm sorry, sir, the package was picked up." The young man - - his name tag read Mr. Thompson - looked around beseechingly.

"I just spoke to her on the phone, and she said she hadn't received it yet." His voice raised an octave towards shrillness. "Where is it, then?"

"Miss Delarbre must have it, sir." Beads of sweat were breaking out on his forehead, and with a shared glance, Bodie and Doyle moved forward.

They stopped, one on either side of the furious man. Such was his anger, he didn't notice them until his arms were firmly taken and pulled behind him. He jerked back at that and glared at them.

"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing? Let me go at once!" he demanded in a haughty tone.

"We'd just like to have a small chat with you, if you don't mind," Bodie began.

"And even if you do," Doyle finished for him.

"You have no right."

"'S what they all say, isn't it, Bodie?"

"Yeah. We have all the right, mate, we're CI5." He looked up to find Murphy and Gloria coming out of the lift. "Murph! What're you doing down here?"

"Receptionist rang up, told us what was going on."

"Michael thought you might need... back-up?... but didn't want to leave me, so I promised to stay out of the way," Gloria explained. "Who's this?"

"That's what we were about to find out, before you two arrived. Let's all go back up to your room, and have a little party, shall we?" Doyle's voice gave the impression he was in a less than playful mood.

"Especially since we're attracting the kind of attention we don't want," Bodie added, after seeing the curious looks that were beginning to fall their way. He gave a tug on the arm he was holding, prodding them all towards the lift.

There was silence during the ride to the tenth floor, everyone keeping their eyes trained on the man they'd apprehended. It wasn't until they were all in Gloria's suite that the man opened his mouth.

"I demand to know just what you think you're doing here. You've no right to handle me in this fashion when I've done nothing wrong." He wound down as his words seemed to have no affect on anyone standing in the room with him.

"Reckon he's finished, then?" Bodie spoke over the top of the man's head.

"I think so, yeah," Doyle answered. "So what's your name, Mister-I've-done-nothing-wrong?"

"James Sheridon," he answered with as much dignity as he could manage with both arms held behind his back.

"Address?" Murphy asked.

"Thirteen Charington, Lowes Mews, London."

"Well, that was concise." Doyle beckoned to Murphy. "Hold him, will you? I'll report it."

Doyle disappeared into the other room, pulling his R/T out of his jacket as he went. While he was gone, Bodie continued the questioning. He was curious about the package the man had been yelling about when they'd pulled him in.

"It was a gift, for the lovely Miss Delarbre," he nodded in her direction. "I've been a fan of hers for years; knowing how she loves glass and crystal objects d'art, I wanted to give her one I'd recently acquired. It was made from a rare Australian glass."

"Did you also send her letters? And ring her up at night and threaten her?" Murphy asked.

"Certainly not!" Sheridon said indignantly. "I have the utmost respect for her talents. Why would I want to do her harm?"

Before anyone could answer that, Doyle came back in, shaking his head. "He checks out. He's a friend of the Home Secretary's secretary's husband." He looked rather disgusted with the whole idea. "You can pick your package up from the local nick. What I'd like to know is, why didn't you put your name or a greeting in with the bloody thing?"

"At the last minute, I lost my nerve." He looked from Bodie to Murphy. "Would you kindly release me?"

They let go of his arms and stepped away, although they kept their eyes glued to him. Just because he had friends in high places, that didn't automatically assume innocence.

"I'm sorry if I've caused you any worry with my actions. I've admired you for quite some time now. It's a pleasure to finally meet you." He smiled at Gloria, and held out his hand.

"Don't worry about it, sir," she assured him, reaching to shake it.

"Could you possibly sign something for me? A photo maybe, or even a simple piece of paper?"

"Of course. I have photos for just that purpose. If you'll excuse me for a moment?" She turned and disappeared into the bedroom, leaving the four men alone.

Sheridon started to follow her, and Doyle stepped in front of him. The late afternoon sunlight pouring in through the window bathed them both in a yellow glow.

"She'll be out in a tick, mate, where'd you think you're going?" He reached over and closed the connecting door, standing defensively in front of it. Quietly, Murphy joined him.

"Nowhere." Sheridon glared at him. Doyle's guts tried to crawl from his belly at the look of hatred that flickered briefly across the face in front of him.

"Here we are." The door opened and Gloria came out, a large glossy photograph clutched in her hand. "I'll just sign it, and you may have it. I'm afraid I don't have a pen, though."

"I do..." and Sheridon reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a gun. Behind him, Bodie reached for his, but in a flash he'd grabbed hold of Gloria and was holding the gun to her head. Doyle and Murphy stood quietly by the window, waiting for an opening.

"Fooled you, didn't I?" He inched towards the front door, his back against the wall. He kept moving slowly, eyes flickering from Bodie to Murphy, finally settling on Doyle. "Want to know where I'm

going, eh, Curly? Where you'll never find us. She'll sing for me, just me. I won't share her any more."

From the disjointed nattering, it was easy to see Sheridon was a complete nutter, obsessed with Gloria Delarbre. Doyle didn't doubt he was the one who'd been sending the letters and making the calls.

"I don't like you, Curly," Sheridon said almost conversationally. "I don't like your attitude or your looks or your voice. I don't think I want to see or hear you any more."

Before anyone else could move, Sheridon adjusted the gun and shot, aiming straight for Doyle.

"NO!" a trio of voices cried out at once, as Doyle tried to move. The blast of the gun sounded just as Murphy gave a mighty push, sending Doyle flying to the floor. The bullet, missing its original target, landed with a dull thunk in a different chest.

Bodie's gun fired twice, hitting Sheridon with deadly aim. Breaking glass and Doyle's frantic shouts told him what was happening across the room, and he turned just in time to see Doyle reach for, and miss, Murphy's leg as it disappeared out the window.

After that, there was silence as they all looked at the empty window, and the shattered bits of broken glass lying on the floor.

How much time had passed when a knock sounded on the door, no one could guess. Woodenly, Gloria went to open it.

"I've got the box... What's going on?" It was Anson, carrying the reassembled package from Sheridon. "Bodie?"

Gloria took the box from his hands, and sat down on the settee with a thunk. Anson looked around, noticing the mess.

"Where's Murph?"

Bodie and Doyle looked at each other, at Anson, and then out of the window. Realisation formed on Anson's face, and his mouth gaped.

"Holy Christ..."

"Don't think He had much to do with it," Bodie said roughly. "What's in the box, Gloria?"

She opened it with hands that shook. Her eyes filled with tears, and she slowly upended the box, watching as small shards of crystal tumbled from it.

"They couldn't put it back together, miss. They reckon it broke in a fall or something and they couldn't ... Oh, Jesus." Anson shut his mouth.

Doyle was still slumped below the window, numb to the sharp edges of glass poking into his legs. "Like Humpty Dumpty, fell off a wall. All the king's horses... they couldn't put Murphy together again..." Doyle was mumbling under his breath.

"I'm so sorry," Gloria whispered. "So very sorry."

Bodie quietly moved to Doyle's side, gently moving him up and out of the glass. He was sorry, too, but also glad. If Murph hadn't been there to push Doyle out of the way...

"You'd better call Cowley, Anson, before someone else does. Sounds like the police are already down there." He carefully manoeuvred Doyle to sit next to Gloria. She looked at them both.

"I'm so very, very sorry..." she whispered again.

THE END

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