Monday, April 6, 2015

6. Death of a Sister



I

'You believe him?'

'I think so.  We went to unbelievable lengths and that did his cred a world of good, our fear of him, all his people know what lengths we went to - he has a way out now - more than one way.  Thank you, lover.'  She smiled. 'Cornell's going to be the one now.'

'Penny is the one.  She's the ambitious one, the ruthless, over granny's dead body type.'

'OK, so let's get planning.'

'First draft done.  You have time now?'

'No, meeting the Prime Minister.'

'Give him my love.  Miles, what did you fear most?  Harm to me, harm to yourself, what?'

'Harm to the fleet.  I always thought you could handle yourself, I thought I could.'

'Clever boy.  Right answer.  Go to the top of the class.'

'May I have my reward, Miss?'

'Oh, I think that can be arranged.'

'Just one thing to kill the mood.  I have to go to Chloe.'

'She won't see you.'

'I have to try.'

'When?'

'ASAP.  End of this week.  It's on my mind.  Laura, will you come with me?'

'What!'

'There might be a paternity suit in the offing down the track.  Largesse from us now, as well as being kind, is good politics.  Plus I need you to hold my hand.'

She thought. 'It might work - if it's both of us.  We need something similar to Johanssen - a carrot she won't be able to refuse.  Trouble is, she doesn't really have anyone.  Sure there's family but she never spoke of them. She must be hellish lonely in there, with that baby inside.  Can our financial position cover it, plus Johanssen?'

'It won't need to.  As the former occupier of the land, she can negotiate or I can on her behalf, for a half percent.  Carrot we offer is Cornell on a plate.  We have the goods.  One of my 12 friends would be interested in one of the deals Cornell made to stiff him.'

'He'll be killed.'

'Not by my man.'

II

They fished the body out near Shad Thames.

Such a public disposal - who was being warned?  Janine had done as they'd agreed, she'd fronted Cornell in his office, provided the proof and that was that.

Janine had gone to ground, also as prearranged, the resignation had come.

He was still in his suit, nothing had even been taken - the issue was more what had been planted on Dan Cornell. Naturally, it put Ms. Dalshiel in the box seat.

...

Miles immediately checked back with his man - no way on earth had it been him.  Sounded an internal matter.

There was no doubt that, given Miles' assurances to Johanssen and with his grapevine getting the word, Johanssen might take a slightly different view now of Miles's softness. 

Janine reported that the new man, Joseph, was now in a position to recover Cornell's illegal 5% share but that share had been skimmed off all 12 principals, they'd made their deals after the theft - each with 2%.  It was important that Miles's dispossessed man also have just 2% - anything else might start a turf war.

If 2% went to Johanssen as promised, 2% to Miles's man and half a percent to Chloe, then the other half a percent might go to Frank.  Joseph would not be allowed to hold any - them's were the transparency rules - but nothing was stopping him handling the affairs of the two lesser jailbirds for, say 5 years, at, say, £500k per year per person.

III

'Hello Chloe,' said Miles.

'Hello Chloe,' said Laura.

Chloe looked a wreck.  She was not happy to see them but neither was she now prepared to turn away a visitor.  But what could they say to each other?

Instead, Miles, who'd given the papers to the officer first, passed first the photo of the hut and then the deed for the half a percent.

She looked down at them and every instinct told her to make the grand gesture of tearing them up and flinging the pieces at the glass.  But she saw the half a percent and thought of the child inside her.  She knew instantly how much that was going to realize, money beyond any hope she'd had since the troubles.  and if she began behaving, she could now be out in three.

'You've bought me trouble, this will get around, I'll be heavied now. If I tear it up, the certificate I mean - does that stop, does that -'

'No, we supposed you would.  The originals are in safekeeping.  We think you should still make the grand gesture.'

'Thanks.  And thanks for coming.  Will you ... er ... come back again, another day, to have another try at melting my cold heart?'

'Oh we'll never give up,' said Laura.

So Chloe went into her performance and none too pleasant was it either.  They both beat a hasty retreat, the officer shrugged to them, they departed.

IV

They thought it was pushing it to visit Frank with largesse - it could wait till he came out and frankly, Miles did not want her near Frank.  Which was fine, as she didn't want either.

What they did do was track down Frank's mechanic, made him au fait that there was a little bit of cash coming to Frank, enough to let him set up again when he came out but it wouldn't be due for two years.  Would the man visit Frank, give their regards and tell him?

He would.

...

So now they'd retired to the boat at last for a bit of R&R and would see out Easter in Bergen, a bit uninventive but they liked the harbour, the easy walks, the train to Oslo and other places they could fit in as well.

The weather had finally decided to behave after months of cold, drizzle, sleet, snow in parts, all the angst of the past few months- it had taken its toll on them as well, only they'd been too kind to come out and say anything to the other.

'If we build a modest boat,' said Miles, 'of maybe 60 feet by about 11 feet, that's enough to live on with a split level in the back half.'

'I like the rustic boats best, the wooden ones.  Like this we're on.'

'Have a look.'  He went over to the drawer in the dresser and brought out some plans, laying them on the bed.

'Already designed?'

'I've designed many - this one's for discussion.  If you let me take care of the structural side, the shape of the hull, the engine and so on, that leaves the interior to be designed, given the available dimensions.  You'll do that.'

'Is 11 feet narrow or wide for a boat?' She was suddenly poring over the plans, then looked up and grinned. 'It is exciting, you know. I've some questions.'

'Fire away.'

'You have a passageway here right of centre.  So a wide room is 5 feet and a narrow room on the other side is 3 feet.  So I suppose the kitchen -'

'Galley -'

'Whatever, is on the right. Bedroom - cabin, cabin, I know - is on the left.  Not a lot of room a-crossways but plenty in length.  That's to go up narrow rivers and things, yes?'

'Yes. Could you live in that?'

'If there was deck space and the living area was OK.'

'Have a look.'

'You have two spaces - that's nice.'

'We could put a small pool in on deck at the stern, very shallow, size of two bathtubs.'

'Do you want to?'

'Up to you - you design the available space as you like.  I'll need spaces for the engine, locker for spares, that sort of thing but they're mainly below and outside.'

'Then you mark the spaces you need and the ones I can design in.  Who's building this?'

'One of my mates, you and I.  We clear the Penny thing up first then get down to it.'

She kept looking at the plans.  'I like it.  It has a nice feel about it - very simple, very open. We don't have to wait until we've cleared that business up - we could start soon if you wanted.'

'OK, I'll have to release some money up front for Sam.  We need to pamper our people a bit.'

'I have money, I'd like to put in to this.'

'OK, we'll sort all that out.  We need to run the engine - it's been dormant for months.  It's also lunchtime.  Which do you want - check the engine bay or start the lunch?'

'I'll check the engine bay.'

He got on with it, splitting the rolls, chopping the salad, she came in and beckoned him, face expressionless.  He went out with her, up the steps and looked down through the hatch at the engine, at the extra wires.

Both turned, went casually back inside, downstairs, threw everything into the canvas holdalls as fast as they could, he threw all the ship's papers in as well from the wheelhouse as they went out, they jumped to the jetty and didn't stop until they'd reached the local information booth.

V

They were in the equivalent of a B&B, a small room on the second floor, they'd eaten, they were awaiting the call to the hostess and the visit.

It came about 2.15.  The hostess appeared with a man who introduced himself and behind him was a young, adenoidal lad - and this one knew English, as he now made apparent, quite proud of it too.

To Miles's raised eyebrow of enquiry, the process began.

Yes, it had been a bomb, would have blown the boat to splinters, would have been activated by the starter.  Miles and Laura looked at one another.  The defusing men had found a second device under the bed and this one was activated by remote.  That is, they'd been incredibly lucky.  Not as powerful, it would still kill.

They could only surmise that the killers were in no hurry.  Sooner or later, the engine had to be started.  At night, the light in that cabin would show someone on shore.  The explosives man nodded that it seemed a sound enough scenario.  He didn't seem fussed at all.

The young man now took Miles aside and quietly hinted at a couple of things about the custom for this sort of service.  Er ... how much?  OK.  Miles peeled some off the roll still in in the holdall.  Little bow, much obliged.  Safe to return. Leave taken.

They came back, he sat on the bed, hands on legs. she sat on the bedside stool, leaning back against the wall, staring at the ceiling.

They could not find words.  Neither could have been called nervous people, lacking daring, both had had more than enough shocks but this one ... this one. 

She came over and sat on the bed beside him, resting a hand of reassurance on him.  'I like that,' he said, 'someone reassuring me.  Makes a change.'

'I got in first.  Miles, boats, concept of, new design, project.  Thoughts?'

'That was a far greater fear than the actual explosion.  I've spent so long on boats, you're coming into it.  I fear you'll be ... jaundiced.  And you need not be.  Boats can sink, they're vulnerable at sea from attack, wind and waves.  Moored, you've just seen.  There is that, I grant you but the pleasures of the boat far outweigh it, the times something does not happen is far more common than when something does.  I suspect this is Penny related.'

'Me too.  I'll reserve judgment on boats until further down the track.  I still like our design.'  The “our” was reassuring to him, as she had intended it to be.

'Couple of the local lads are going to motor her around to their dock, give her a thorough looking over, do a bit of routine maintenance as well.  You have a problem with that?  It will take some days for our replacement to arrive.'

'Fine.'  She lapsed into silence.  'Not nice, is it?'

'Not so close, no.  I'm sure you were close many times.'

'Yes I was but I had control of my destiny.  Well I see now I didn't completely but in that situation, at that time, with it depending on my planning - it was under my control.'

'Yes.  I'm so glad you see it the same way about obstacles, threats - that they have to be removed.  And yes, I own your way produces results.'

'Both together, both methods together.  Can we go walking?  Don't answer that.  That's the frustrating part.  Stuck for days - I love making love but for how long can we do that?  Well OK, don't answer that - we can but ... well, you know.'

'I do.  Lunch?'

VI

'Penny Dalshiel?  Right.  Send her through and go for a walk, Jenny.'

When Gerald Haas suggested a walk, his PA always thought it a good idea - immediately.  She gathered her papers and put them in the drawer, went over to the cupboard, took her bag, checked her keys and hurried out.

She even forgot to ask Ms Dalshiel to go through, much to the latter's amusement.  Never mind, Ms Dalshiel went through and didn't even wait to ask to be seated on the other side of the monstrous dark desk with the turned legs.

'What do you have, Ms Dalshiel?'

Silently, she handed the file across.  Haas turned side on to catch the light better, skimmed through, then went back through, reading.

It took some eight minutes but eventually he was done.  He turned to Ms Dalshiel.  'And the bottom line, Ms Dalshiel?'

'I should have thought that was obvious.  My firm mines it, for a minute consideration.'

'A tender is a tender.'

'Oh , Sir Gerald.'

'This is Dan Cornell's firm you speak of here -'

'Correction.  My firm.'

'I see.'  He looked through the file again, noting certain points, nodded and turned back to her. 'I can't see there'll be any issue with this.'

'I thought you might be kind enough to think so.  I've prepared these.'  She handed two sheets across. 'I've marked the spot with a cross in each case.'

'Most thorough.'  Taking up his pen, he signed where indicated, took the two sheets and tapped them into order on the desk, then handed them across.  'Don't come back to this office, Ms Dalshiel.'

'I'd think the chances of that are rather remote.'

He got up, she got up and departed, he walked through and out of the door to the lift, watching it going down to the ground floor, went back in, behind Jenny's desk and watched Dalshiel go out onto the flagstoned footpath, went into the kitchenette to make a coffee, went back to his desk with it and sat in the chair, thinking.

About seven minutes later, Jenny returned and the two of them went through the section on the disc.  'Didn't get a clear copy on the second, as she was watching in that non-watching way.  Is it enough?'

'Yes.  When?'

'I'll leave that to you.  You're not in a hurry, are you?'

That was her cue to go to the door and lock it.

VII

They'd got to the point where she flopped back into missionary and that's when Laura's phone went.

She sighed, reached over and saw who it was. 'It's Amelie.'

Miles also sighed, withdrew, climbed off the bed and refilled the glasses.  She looked at him in that way, he put on the robe and went out to the window.

It was a gorgeous night out there, well-lit craft bobbed up and down on the river, he took their glasses and went out to the balcony, a risk to be sure.

Laura came out, took her glass and agreed it looked romantic.  'I have to break this mood. Penny.  Fished out the same way.  Not Shad Thames, closer to her home - canal there.  No rape, nothing like that, no violence other than having lost her balance, fallen and cracked her head on the concrete block, rolled into the ditch.'

'Phew.'  He now felt the silence deafening.

Eventually he commented, 'You didn't like her.  Is it that she's a fellow woman?'

'Nothing like that.  Sorry for her, sorry for anyone who dies that way.  No, it's Amelie.'

'What about Amelie?'

'Amelie's always been first rate at the impersonation, playing the part, gleaning the information - runs in the family.  More than once it's bamboozled someone hot on my heels because she'd step in and be me.

Her real work is actually with Paul Glendinning so she needn't play a part there, apart from her name.'

'How could she get away with that?  Civil service?'

'Well obviously Paul and Haas are in on the real name but they maintain the fiction in the office and why would anyone question it?'

'So?'

'She lied to me just now.  She was good at it, as I'd expect but I happen to have knowledge that she was not where she said she was.  Could be any number of reasons - someone hot on her heels, someone beside her, some other consideration - that's happened before and she's come clean later as to the whys and wherefores.

This is the second time she's lied in this way recently.  The first time, she did not come clean with me and it will be interesting if she does this time.'

'Could mean she doesn't trust me, you with me.'

'I'd thought of that. Yes, could be.  You could be the problem all along.  Don't act hurt - your mind's the same - it's what keeps you alive.'

'Since you've been with me, the information has dried up.'

'Well - yes.  From the time I visited you on the island.  That was understandable as control of the island was at stake.'  She paused.  'But it's not now.'  She paused again. 'Is it?'

'As far as I know, I have no further part.'

'I don't think that's it.  I think it might be something quite simple.  That if you knew where she was or what was being said - something like that - you might tumble to something, say it to me.'

'And what would you have to do?  Have you ever killed?'

'You ask me that?  In the light of Frank's place?'  She sipped on her drink. 'Not personally.  I've arranged for people to be ruined.  I've set it up so that a known enemy would seek revenge, not knowing the outcome.  I'd know it would mean the end of the person's career, maybe even marriage.  Do you think if that enemy goes ahead and kills the target, that I'm guilty of murder?'

'I don't know.  That's for another time.  What's your chief fear for Amelie?'

'That she did it.  Possibly with someone.  That she was the decoy, that Penny would have expected to see someone like Amelie.  I don't think she has the physicality to actually do it - that would seem to be others.  You see, I've already had someone on Amelie but she's like me - spots them a mile off.  It's had to be from some distance.'

'She may have woken up to Sis stalking Sis.'

'Yes, she may have.'

'Can you actually operate without her?'

'I could with you but first - you couldn't take my place when I needed a double and second - I don't think they'd contract me with that arrangement. My livelihood would be gone.'

'Would it have gone that way anyway if I were not on the scene at all?'

She thought about it.  'I think so.  It was always going to have an end date - there are only so many people you can do a job on before you become known.  I've mentioned that.  Would I miss it?  Yes.  Could I do the things you do, join you in them?  Yes and no.  We both like space - not much but some.'

'You don't know all my enterprises yet.  Also, we can create new ones using the skills you have - some sort of high class agency.'

'Like the escort business?'

'Nothing like that at all.  There are delicate things I need to negotiate and to have someone up front who does that - I should think they'd like it better.  Might seal the deal so to speak.  My thing is the openness, the modest demands.  Yours is the ability to get round obstacles. If we were known in the business, starting with my clients to get the reputation going, you would then branch out naturally and independently on your own projects.  I think there'd be enough movement about and autonomy in there to keep you happy.'

She kissed him.  'That's not because I accept yet but because this fallback position with you is mightily attractive, it keeps me positive.  And I'm not bound by someone above whose motives I often suspect.'

'It doesn't make the type of money you were getting.'

'It makes enough, it makes what I want it to.  Miles, I'm going to ask you something and I don't care if the answer is no.  I'd like you to understand that before I ask it.'

'Ask.'

'If someone were to hit all your boats, could you replace them?'

'I could but there'd not be a lot left over.'

'There would be if I were working.  And before you ask - yes, it does worry me.  She worries me - what she's into.'

The flash out on the water preceded the explosion by a split second, then the night lit up - they saw fragments in the air, the implosion, the boat swiftly sink, in less than a minute and like watching a horror film, a train wreck, they couldn't take their eyes away.

'Let's go in,' she suggested.

Lying on the bed, they didn't need the fine details.  'Was it?' she asked and he nodded.

'I'd say so.  Might not be but I'd say so.  Something was missed.'

'Something new perhaps?'

'How can you or I know?'

'She's dead.'

'Delay.  Poor lads.  So, we can only wait.  The boat itself was insured.  But it was Alec's livelihood.  He'd lent this to us.  Poor bugger.  He can have ours for now.  We'll start building our new one.'

'No.'

'No?'

'No, not until we clear this business up.  Sorry for Penny and all that but that's one more down in my book.  We've mentioned Amelie, I think there might be a couple more hidden away in there.  I'll use my sources, which are drying up anyway, you use yours.  It doesn't read like Johanssen - our largesse would cease.  It's someone not wanting us to talk.  Still sure it was Penny and it all might stop now but I think it's Amelie and person or persons unknown.'

'Paul, Haas, Jenny?  Chloe?  Frank?'

'We've work to do.  We need to be back on home ground.'

'Actually, I'm thinking we need to be on a boat again, draw them out.'  He looked across at her and saw it. 'Sorry, love.  Insensitive.'

She was struggling but knew that spinning wheels was not going to nail them their naughty person.  'All right, Miles.  We'll do that.  But we're running short of boats.'

'We'll lease at over the odds.  Might not want to touch us now but let's try.'

'Miles?' He looked over and she asked. 'I've suddenly had a thought. Nothing to do with this matter. We've had so much on the mind, I never thought to ask you about the sheep.  I mean, I know they just munch on the grass and have the fur to cover them in winter and all that and they roam freely but did you - did you make any long term provision?'

'That ship which was approaching the island wasn't a ship, it was an old troop vessel which can come in close.  There were a dozen men with shotguns, farmers.  You know the gite walkway -'

'That's no walkway, it's just grass.'

'Yes but sheep can get down there, the 83 we had left.'

'Ah.  You lost money then?'

'Lost half of it but as I was only getting half, I lost nothing.  It's already recouped on paper.  Fishing is a reasonable trade you know and one or two of my other little ventures have come up trumps of late.  And yes, you'll know all if and when we ever tie the knot.  Question now is getting two new boats going - a smaller version to replace Alec's and then ours.'

VIII

Gerald Haas was in conference, as he liked to call it, with Jenny Gainsborough.

And Amelie.

'What chance, my sweet,' he turned over towards Amelie, 'Paul entices our Laura in?'

Amelie lifted herself onto a forearm.  'She'll not listen to me now.  I know her.  She picked something up - with her it needn't be anything special, even just an eye movement - she suspects me, she's working on the basis I'm in with you.'  Here she looked straight across at Jenny. 'She'll not go back to Durham.  I'd say she's on one of his boats.'

'Oh, we know that,' said Haas. 'The issue is - were they on that unfortunate boat in Norway.'

'Why do I suddenly feel very cold?'

'I heard they're still alive. I don't want Paul snooping around.  You need to be there with him, Janine.'

'Also,' added Jenny, 'ask where he took a cab to last evening, instead of going home.'

IX

Paul Glendinning had left for home, it had been a revealing day.  Amelie watched him down below heading his usual route home, went to the phone, then thought it was better reported direct.

She herself though was starting to become uneasy with Haas, with his little references, with his surprise that she was onside.  And that Jenny was a little monster - the girl's eyes chilled her.

She, Amelie, would need to disappear but not the way she felt Haas and Jenny had in mind.  Even now it would be nice to get back with Laura but the trust had gone.  Where had she messed up?  Probably her careful manner.  She really needed Laura now - even her arms.

First, the filing cabinets, lastly the computer in case anything went wrong.

She unlocked the one which looked the most nondescript, the one which would least house any current day key information.

She rummaged.

Yep, here was something.  She took the file and went over to the table, her brow creasing and her eyes narrowing.  So.  That was the lie of the land, was it?  Nothing she hadn't already suspected.  She returned the file and locked the cabinet.

She tried two more and drew a blank.  Computer.  She knew his yesterday's word and hoped it hadn't changed.  This was the moment.  Anything she brought up now, Haas or that little bitch would know instantly and she might need to disappear herself fast.

Tomorrow, Glendinning would know and would have the pull to find her and bring her in.  Subject to Haas or Jenny of course.  It really was all on the line now.  the log-in was standard, the password she now typed in, looked at the screen and clicked.

Ah, second check.  Enormous chance - Laura or Emma?  It was Glendinning.  Had to be Emma. She typed it in and clicked.

Damn.  But he couldn't have known she was Laura.  Settle down, girl.  Password could be anything.  Twenty seconds left. L-A-U-R-A and click.

She was in.  Well I'll be damned.  That's frightening.  And here was a file with her real name.  She clicked.

Letter to her.  She had little time, Paul said.  If she wanted to save them both, send to Haas once she'd read it.  Delete, shut down and get out of the office, make herself scarce.

She sent it, shut down and got out of the office.

X

Jenny Gainsborough was methodically going through the files in Glendinning's office.

She'd found two but they were small potatoes.  No, he'd covered himself, had Paul.  Haas online was clean, she'd made sure of that.  So, it only remained to contact the terrible trio, via Paul.  She phoned the company - yep, she'd need to top it up.  Straightforward, office phone, she put £30 on it from his slush account, shut down, closed up and left via the east entrance.

On the train, she removed her gloves and put them in her bag.

XI

There were messages on Laura's phone.  Sis, with news of Haas.  He'd made it home to his wife - almost.  Knifed on the gravel path from the small gate.  Haas.  Not Jenny.  She wouldn't answer, not for now.  A second, asking her to meet in Kensington.  Jenny. A third, from Paul Glendinning direct. 

So, he'd deliberately broken cover.  she tried to think it through, then ran it through with Miles.

'And Glendinning wants to come and talk to us?  Tell me about Amelie, what she'll do if you give her the signal to.  I mean, is there some way she'll go to some failsafe point and you'd meet her there?'

'Of course.  She might not respond now though.'

'And she might, with a reception committee.  We're running out of miscreants and I don't like how this is shaping up.  My money is on Jenny for now but I can't see her doing these murders.  Causing them, yes, but not actually doing them.  Seems to m to be someone near her or whom she employs, perhaps on Haas's behalf before.  There's always Paul Glendinning.  And then ... well ...'

'Seems to me we have to meet them and they seem keen to meet us.  We two can plan just as well as they can.  What did Paul want?'

'To visit us.'

'You know, love, what it all seems to me like, from the outside so to speak? It's so obvious, we've always known but maybe we haven't sat back and looked at the whole overview. Officials have fingers in pies and can't afford anyone to know, however close-ins do know and see their own way into that position.  Maybe, in the case of Penny, it was the blackmail Cornell had on her.  And so a process begins which has no end.  As someone goes into the top role, they both vilify the former incumbent but also keep part of the payola, getting the 2IC to do the dirty work, then comes the blackmail.'

''Yes, that's how it is and I have to say it's been lucrative with me.'

'And highly dangerous.  Boats get blown up.'

'They do now, yes.  I used to make sense of it this way.  Looked at as a whole, it was sheer madness. Looked at as one baddy who needed stitching up, it was easier to understand ... and I moved on from baddy to baddy.  If I found out they weren't baddies, I declined the contract.  I became known for that, so they'd only contract me if that man or woman had really been ... naughty, as you put it.  I didn't need to feel it personally - sleaze is sleaze.

With this situation now, there are too many agendas overlapping and no one knows who is good or bad.  I don't like the lack of clarity.  So, I propose I call Paul, no text, no voicemail, answers or nothing, and invite him to join us on our boat in port.  I'll also give Amelie her code and we need to sail down the coast there, meeting her after dark.  We'll leave Jenny out of it and see if she shows.  If not, I'd say she was Haas's girl.  If she does, it could be anything, even something we know nothing about.'

XII

The morning silence, broken by the gulls, was now further broken by a phone call.  Paul Glendinning on his way, his ETA, he'd have eaten.

Amelie had given her response code and that was set in place.  Miles had two people watching Jenny but she seemed to have gone to the office as usual.

Glendinning arrived, they did the security, he had no weapon bar his mobile.  Yes, he'd love a drink.

'Saw your unobtrusive people, Laura.  I need you to come in, for you and Amelie to talk, for us to start over again.  I also need to warn you both about Jenny.  I think she's gunning for someone and it looks like me but it might be any of you.  Haas will be replaced - interesting how that happened so soon after Amelie's message.  Ah but you don't know about that.'

He explained.  'So it does seem it would be in everyone's interests for us all to talk.'

'How is it in my interests?' asked Miles.

'The island.  Your puzzling little deals have gone through, word gets about - Joseph on that one.  Department would like to know of any further interest from you in that direction.'

'No further interest, I'll not cramp your game.  Your affairs, I mean.  My long game is now Laura.'

'Yes, I see that.  I needed to see that at close quarters.  All right, can you come to London or shall we meet here?  Very pleasant spot.'

'Neither.  We've already set the wheels in motion or rather the keel - we're going on a little journey.  How are you situated with Mrs. Glendinning?  Is she expecting you back?'

'I'll need to call.'

'You'll understand,' said Laura, 'that as we're going into a secure zone now and as the law of the land has certain views on weapons, we've taken a fairly unusual approach to this.  The boat in port here is clean - you're welcome to check her over - but we'll need weapons close to our destination - that includes for you ... Paul.  Then we can meet on equal terms.  Also, there'll be a security blackout until the meet, including us.  Do you need to phone your wife now?  No one else, none of your people.  We need to see your message in front of us, then the phone goes in the safe, with ours.'

Glendinning had been caught short on this. 'I do ... er ... have to make some calls along the way to ensure my safety and actually - yours.  It's on a no call, rescue basis.  There'll be a helicopter sent out unless I call at certain times.'

'Pity.  You'll need to make those now, here in front of us and the rule applies to us as well.  We're making this meet up, we make the conditions.  We all meet up, sort out our issues, we come back on board, weapons go back to their owner, mobiles come out of the safe and yours is given back.'

'I'm sorry,' smiled Glendinning, 'no can do.  I'm not kidding about the support.  I need to check in.'

'No, we're sorry, Paul.  There's your choice.  Do it our way and we all meet up or depart now, unhindered and we never meet up.'

He was in a pickle.  It might not have been a guilty pickle of course.  He'd seen people being snuffed out around him and was understandably nervous.  Looked at from his point of view, this might be a set-up, together with Amelie and who knew - maybe even Jenny.  They were asking him to go with them on a voyage, with no tracking.  The prize though was the meet, an armed meet as well.  They could see the cogs turning.

His hands clasped and unclasped.  'Two calls you say?'

They smiled.  'Your wife and one other,' said Miles.

He brought out his mobile, there was good signal in these parts, he did call her and excused himself for twenty-four hours.  After that, come looking down the east coast.  Love.

So, she was aware of the boat and the general plan.  He made the second call and the very non-committal nature of the comments - no can do, no, don't do that - and so on showed this was his lifeline.

The instant he looked at the end and about to shut off, Laura swooped, as if from nowhere, lifted the phone from his hands and threw it to Miles, Glendinning went for him and he threw it to Laura who disappeared down below and locked the door.

Glendinning was furious but Miles said, 'You can stop that now.  She needs to know the numbers, that's all.  Then she'll shut off the phone and put it in the safe.  We'll show you the phone in the safe.  He subsided but was not a happy bunny.  In fact, his anxiety was quite obvious but again - that could have meant a number of things.

Laura, true to Miles's word, unlocked the door and beckoned him down to the cupboard with the safe.  Behind its open door was his phone, plus theirs, plus other items.  Miles took Laura's phone out, closed the safe door and turned the dial.

They all went up top, Laura showed him the two numbers she'd written down and it was clear no other numbers or data were on the slip of paper - meant nothing of course.  She now proceeded to dial both, listened and closed down.  She then called a number of her own and read out the two numbers.  That ended it, she handed the phone to Miles who went downstairs and opened the safe, asked Glendinning to watch and repeated the safe locking as before.

They went up top and Miles started the engine, let it run for a few minutes and he was aware they were watching to see him move to extract himself but he couldn't, not without the mobile.  For all he knew, in the economy mode, his phone might not have been switched off.  If he left now, they had open access to his phone.

Laura went outside a few minutes, came back, Miles put the boat in forward and they chugged away from the bank.

...

Pretty well mid-harbour, Laura went out again, Miles throttled back and put it in neutral, the anchor went down. 

The boat drifted back and then grabbed, the nose rising and falling not to much.

'OK, Paul.  We'd like you now to go all over the boat to see if there are any weapons, hidden mobiles, anything you feel insecure about.  No cupboard is locked to you, no nook or cranny is offlimits.  Take as much time as you want.'

'I don't need.  You'll have cleaned her.'

'We did but you're still welcome to look.'  The man shook his head. 


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