by Jane Carnall
It had been a long three weeks in Birmingham. Presumably the weeks had been just as long in Glasgow, Glossop, and Gloucester, but in any case Murphy had actually spent the aforementioned three weeks in Aberdeen. As a pirate. In a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera. Only because he was the only one of the top operatives who could sing, apart from Doyle, and he could only do Elvis Presley impressions. And anyway he had laryngitis. So he said.
And after all that the Major-General had turned out not to be selling heroin to the chorus, only having an affair with one of the pirates and three of his daughters. Fortunately Murphy had only found out about the pirate after he had definitely proved the Major-General's innocence of being a pusher, or else Cowley would probably have suggested he sell his arse as well as his voice for Queen and Country.
He was looking forward to a long shower, a change of clothing, and maybe even something to eat before he had to go and report to HQ. He climbed the stairs wearily, pushed his key into the lock and closed his eyes, leaning against the door. Long British Rail trips were pure hell. The door opened, and he stumbled in and sank down luxuriously in the comfortable chair by the phone, it having occurred to him that if he rang in, HQ might tell him he didn't need to report in till the next morning.
Actually, the door opened, he stumbled in, tried to sink down, and found that the chair wasn't there anymore. Nor was the carpet; the floor he landed on was dusty boards.
The rest of the furniture and his belongings had vanished too. And the phone had been disconnected.
Murphy sat on the floor looking around and realising, depressedly, that CI5, Security Division, Personnel Section, must have moved him again. Since he hadn't been there to supervise it that probably meant that half his things had been broken.
So he'd have to report straight to HQ anyway, and they could tell him where he'd been moved. Shit.
Not feeling like struggling with public transport, Murphy flagged down a taxi and gave it the address in Whitehall.
It was only after the taxi had moved off that Murphy realised that the building was deserted, and had been for some time; long enough at least for windows to get broken and graffiti spraypainted over the door.
Standing there, in the desolate car park, Murphy felt even more depressed than the Christmas Bodie had made a pass at him and then passed out before he could follow through. He leant up against the wall and counted his options.
He could ring up the Guardian and leak whatever vital national secrets he could think of to the editor of the Diary. (That was rumoured to be the only way actually to resign from the Squad; no one had actually tried it yet, but none of the other ways worked.) Then he needn't worry about where HQ had vanished to.
He could walk into the nearest pub and order best malt Scotch with ginger ale. If the legends were true, within ten minutes George Cowley should walk in through the door and demand to know what the hell was going on. Either that or the earth would develop a new tremor in its orbit where the old man was spinning in his grave.
Or he could go and see Bodie.
On sober (far too sober) reflection, Murphy decided to go and see Bodie. He caught another taxi, gave it the familiar address, and paid it off with his last fiver.
Bodie's flat was deserted as well.
Not only deserted, but the block was already half-demolished.
Now he didn't even have enough money left to buy a Scotch and ginger ale. In fact, it looked like he was going to be sleeping rough tonight.
At that moment, he caught a glimpse of a familiar dark head and easy stride vanishing down into the Underground on the other side of the road. "Bodie!"
Bodie evidently didn't hear. Dodging two cars, one motorcycle, and one bus, Murphy raced across the road and down the stairs. He caught Bodie halfway down the escalator.
"Bodie! Thank Christ I found you!"
"Hi, Murph. What's wrong?"
Murphy swallowed, hard. "Oh, nothing... it's just that I came back from the Penzance job in Aberdeen and I couldn't find HQ."
"Oh, yeah," Bodie nodded, "Security got a bee in its bonnet and insisted we all had to move. You were lucky to miss it, actually; it was pure chaos for a fortnight. Haven't you been home, though? There's a note pinned up by your phone giving the new department number."
Murphy opened his mouth and closed it again. "I don't know where my new flat is," he said, with unnatural restraint.
"Oh," Bodie said thoughtfully, "no more you do. I don't think anyone thought of that."
They caught the northbound train and had to stand for twenty minutes. The new HQ was only ten minutes down the road from the old one; with positively perverted restraint, Murphy silently turned in his old flat's keys and collected the new set, and his new address.
"And Mr Cowley wants to have a word with you before you go home."
"He'll be in the coffee room," Bodie said hastily, grabbing Murphy's elbow and pulling him away. In the coffee room, he sat Murphy firmly down in a seat, poured two cups of coffee, and sat down in the seat next to him.
Murphy shut his eyes and drank the vile coffee and felt, for the first time in several hours, thoroughly at home. The other agents gossiping, the mellow sound of someone cursing Cowley gently in a corner, and Bodie rabbiting on about the football results.
The door opened sharply and Cowley snapped "6·2. My office, immediately."
Murphy grinned slightly. Now he really felt at home. Wondering vaguely when Cowley would get around to seeing him, and when he would be allowed to go home and have a shower and change, he took another mouthful of coffee.
"6·2! Are you deaf, man?"
The rest of the room had fallen silent. Murphy opened his eyes as someone snatched the coffee cup out of his hand, and realised that Cowley was standing over him, glaring glacially. "Did you hear me, 6·2?"
"But... my number's not...." Murphy said feebly, and shook his head. "Er, sorry, sir." He stood up. "Sir? Permission to ask a question?"
Cowley turned around and stared at him. "Aye?"
"Have you changed my girlfriend, too?"
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