Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals are © Mark-1 Productions Ltd
and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Story for Professionals Lyric Wheel No 2
Thanks to Shelley for the lyrics.

At that time of the night

I prowled restlessly around and glanced at my watch. 8 p.m. The flat was quiet; the need for silence paramount.

Pulling the curtain slightly to one side I peered out. At that time of night the street lights lit the road well; I couldn't see anyone lurking in the few shadows.

I sat down and took up my book again, but my mind really wasn't on Herman Wouk's views of War and Remembrance, and I marked the page and closed it, sighing. I'd checked out the flat's bookshelves earlier. Nothing but medical textbooks and photography manuals, testimony to the owner's profession and only hobby.

Another look at my watch. The lads would be in the pub by now. I recalled the conversation in the VIP Lounge earlier...

"So you've been left clutching the short straw, eh?" Bodie obviously found the situation very amusing. I could tell from his face that Doyle was equally amused, but at least he was more sympathetic.

"Oh, leave him alone, Bodie. He's only just come off that stakeout. You'd think someone would give him a break." I noticed, however, that Doyle wasn't volunteering.

Bodie was in a good mood - as well he might be with a free evening ahead of him - and didn't want to let it drop. "Someone up there doesn't like you, Murph. Have you been upsetting Cowley again? 'cos you know he's got a personal hotline to upstairs?"

"I haven't even seen Cowley for three days," I retorted easily. "Anyway, he should be pleased with me at the moment." The stakeout had been the usual tedious event, but for once we'd had a positive result and Lucas, McCabe and I had brought in the gunrunner plus a whole lorryload of stolen weapons.

The terrible two just grinned at me; maybe they knew something I didn't.

It was nearly four, I hadn't even started the report, but had been planning to go home for a shower and a couple of hours peace and quiet before joining the rest of the squad in the pub.

The phone call had just put paid to that. I'd been directed to take over the watch for the evening on one Terrence Patrick Delaney, effective immediately...

Hence my current location. I paced around the room again, wondering if I could risk putting the radio on. There'd been no sound from Delaney for ages. Probably better not to take the chance though.

Instead, I selected one of the less technical-looking of the photography books from the shelves. Maybe I'd learn something about how to improve my skills with a camera. The pictures around the room were excellent; mine never looked as good.

Five minutes later, feeling baffled by technical jargon such as f-stops, apertures and depth of field, I put the book back on the shelf, deciding that the answer to improving my skills probably meant investing in one of those 'auto-everything' cameras that worked things out for you.

I pulled a sheet of paper out from the desk drawer. Since I was stuck here with nothing to do, it was probably a good move to make a few notes for the report I'd have to write in the morning - after an evening in the pub, the memory tended to get a little hazy.

We'd filed interim reports, so Cowley already knew about the abortive first two days of the assignment. I just needed to report on what had happened that morning.

'0810 approx, Lucas spotted Sullivan arriving in Parnell Road in his Land Rover.'

Moving to pour myself a whisky - a small one, I still had to drive - I returned to the desk and looked at what I'd written. As sentences went, this one wasn't going to make the best-seller list.

I sipped at the drink. Bodie had a theory that Cowley never read our reports and wouldn't notice if we sprinkled in mentions of little green men from Mars. There were times - particularly like now, when I'd somehow been suckered into writing the report again - when I felt like putting that theory to the test.

Under my first note, I added:

'0812, McCabe spotted a flying saucer landing in the garden of No 10 Parnell Road. Three squat green creatures (with strange sucker-like protuberances in the top of their bald heads) met with Sullivan and handed him a large box. Later examination proved this to contain the latest in Kil-o-Zap laser guns.'

Sipping the drink again, I laughed to myself. That didn't sound bad, maybe I'd leave it in.

This time I laughed out loud as I pictured the face of my stakeout colleagues if they believed I'd actually left that paragraph in the report, and wondered if, with a bit of help from Betty and the Xerox machine, I could achieve it. Smiling, I filed the thought away for later, and carried on with the real notes.

'0817, a half-truck pulled up behind Sullivan's vehicle, and Sullivan walked back to speak to the driver. Then the two vehicles moved away, with the stakeout team following. We trailed them to the warehouse in Wrexham Road, where with the assistance of Pennington and O'Hara we arrested Sullivan and two other men. The truck was found to contain the consignment of weapons stolen from Aborfield Garrison ten days ago.'

That would do. I'd have to dress it up a bit more for Cowley, but the notes really only needed to be the basics. I folded the paper and tucked it into my jacket pocket, glancing again at my watch. How much longer?

The phone rang, and I crossed the room swiftly to answer it, hoping it wasn't bad news.

It was Ray. "How's it going?"

"Quiet. What's up? Bodie drunk the place dry already?"

I heard the chuckle down the phone. "Not quite. Nah, it's a bit crowded, there's a stag party in. They're loaded, the girls are only interested in them and Bodie doesn't like the competition. So we're moving on to The Albert. Just thought I'd let you know so you could come straight there. Any idea what time that'll be?"

"Not really. Shouldn't be here much longer though. Thanks for letting me know." I heard a roar of laughter at the other end, and Bodie's voice hollering for Doyle.

"OK. Gotta go, Bodie's calling..."

Feeling suddenly annoyed, I put the phone down. The flat seemed quieter than ever and the lads were obviously having fun. Why did I always get stuck on the stakeouts, and babysitting jobs?

Talking of which, Delaney was still being very quiet. With a sudden apprehension, I made my way to the bedroom, opening the door softly.

A couple of steps, and I smiled gently down on Terrence Patrick Delaney, my six-month old nephew, who stared back with wide, softly-lashed green eyes. Chris and Yvonne would be home soon, and I could hand over my responsibility and join the others at the pub.

For all the complaints, this was one babysitting job I really didn't mind doing.

© Carol Good - May 2001

* * * * *

Lyrics reproduced without permission but with no intent to defraud

That Time of the Night (The Short Straw)
By Marillion (From the album, "Clutching At Straws")

At that time of the night
When streetlights throw crosses through window frames
Paranoia roams where the shadows reign
Oh, at that time of the night
At that time of the night
Your senses tangled in some new perfume
Criticism triggers of a loaded room
Oh, at that time of the night
So if you ask me
How do I feel inside
I could honestly tell you
We've been taken on a very long ride
And if my owners let me have some free time some day
With all good intention I would probably run away
Clutching the short straw
At that time of the night
When questions rally in an open mind
Summon all your answers with an ice cubes chime
At that time of the night
At that time of the night
Pretend you're off the hook with the telephone
Your confidence wounded in a free fire zone
Oh, at that time of the night
So if you ask me
Where do I go from here
My next destination even isn't really that clear
So if you join me and get on your knees and pray
I'll show you salvation
We'll take the alternative way
Clutching the short straw
If I had enough money I'd buy a round for that boy over there
A companion in my madness in the mirror the one with the silvery hair
And if some kind soul could please pick up my tab
And while they're at it if they could pick up my broken heart.
Warm wet circles

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