2

Last hurrah

Chapter 1 hereChapter 3 here

I

Miles answered. ‘They’re just one of the shadowy departments, bean counters the programme gave our address to – for the most part. And you’re there too, by association with us.’

‘And if we stop associating?’

‘Worse – that’s of even more interest. What triggered it?’ He went into what Jenny B had said in general terms, he added about the Deep State. ‘That’s today’s reality – anything online, anything at all, ends up at GCHQ if the bots say it’s of interest. Soviet Union – eat your heart out.’

‘It’s … horrifying.’

‘It’s today. Welcome to the new world.’

Laura joined in. ‘There’s no way to touch those five names, they’re too well entrenched. Like spiders, any tugging on the web and they’re alerted.’

‘So,’ continued Miles, ‘if they want to snuff out the Jennys, that’s that. Where does that leave official crimefighting, Inspector?’

He was thinking. He stroked his chin. ‘Directives come down all the time, more paperwork, more reports, inventories, things which tie us up in paperwork. We’re ordered to be hard where before we’d let it go. Minor things, naughty lads, that’s all – we throw the book at them now.’

‘That’s what is happening. Our ships’ paperwork – you want to see it?’

‘I’ve got the idea. And now I might be of unofficial help. Try these two names, leave the rest.’ He took a sheet from his briefcase and handed it across. ‘Third and seventh – one you now know, the other you probably won’t.’

‘Actually, I do,’ said Laura. ‘My former work,’ she explained.

‘Tell me more.’ That had the effect of her clamming up. ‘If you feel you can,’ he smiled. She shrugged and plunged in, about the man’s side ventures, about the children’s charity he was patron of, all the good work he’d done, of the church society, the vestry in question.

The Inspector’s eyes showed immediate recognition. ‘I’m wondering if there’s any point any more.’

‘As you’re meant to think. Stay a good boy, don’t investigate the ‘unnecessary’ or you’ll be framed. This is why Jenny’s now irrelevant, the work she does. The killings go on – turf wars, that’s all. We want nothing to do with it, we fish.’

Young smiled. ‘Paragons of virtue.’

‘Known-knowns, Inspector. Not saints but within the law.’

‘Why?’

‘Because,’ said Miles, ‘in this day and age, you get away with nothing, everything’s online or on computer, you stay clean. If you did take our hard drive – what’s the bet it would come back with more on than it went out with?’ Young was noncommittal. ‘Not saying you’d personally do that. However, when it comes back, we destroy the drive immediately, we have back ups for our own data in many places. We ditch the entire laptop every couple of months.’

‘Those are the acts of suspicious people, money launderers and the like.’

‘Those are also the acts of people who’ve educated themselves that the state is not their friend, even if they are within the law. I’m sorry because you’re a dedicated officer -’

‘No, you’re right. And it’s the same elements every time.’

‘Look at the current police chief.’ Young groaned. ‘These people are career bureaucrats, doing bidding from above, word in the ear and they deploy a dozen officers, so what chance we can nail these two names? And what if we could anyway? It’s a hydra, as Laura says, grows two more heads.’

‘Ah, but as I pointed out, you might just discover some recent developments with those two names which could shift the balance.’ He was smiling. ‘Use Jenny, go after this lady,’ he wrote it down on a sheet from his pad, ‘connected to N7 and this … connected to N3. They’re disgruntled.’

‘High-ups?’

‘You don’t know how high.’

‘With N3,’ put in Laura, ‘I do know.’

‘I have to get back. Don’t suppose you can tell me where Jenny is?’

‘Safe, she’s not on the game at this moment, she’s frightened and lying low.’

‘You two take care.’

II

Three months later, they were in the second cabin of the Lainey Marie, the smell of fish wafted through so they closed the window, the two Jennys had more or less been the onboard crew and stayed inconspicuous – only one went out at a time.

Laura handed them a sheet each with the two names. ‘I didn’t give you them before because I wanted Jenny B recovered first. You recognize them?’

‘Sis knows of one, not the other, the man, not the woman.’

‘We need them dealt with.’

‘We’re allowed to bump ’em off?’

‘Not on your nelly – not legal any more, girls.’

‘Will you leave it to us?’

‘Why do I get an uneasy feeling about this?’

‘What’s the aim?’

‘Get them to lay off you, there’s nothing we get out of it.’

‘Appreciated. Thank you.’

III

‘Close fitting suit and acrylic gloves, Miss Daniels,’ observed Mandy Harrison, the estranged wife. ‘I remember those nights well. Don’t know how I can help you, we’ve been apart two years.’

‘You run the show. Here’s something which might interest you.’ Jenny took out the top paper, then the second and handed them across. ‘Ronald Harrison bought them for his party on the 14th last, but you paid.’ She handed over a further sheet.

‘Get to the point, Ms Daniels.’

‘Do you know the Indie Enquirer?’

‘That rag.’

‘Yes and they want to stay in business. What though if a similar newspaper was set up as if it was new yellow press but in fact it was only funded for one issue? Everything closed down after they printed the lot.’

‘What lot?’

‘Oh, these.’ She reached in and pulled out the manilla envelope, handing it across. ‘I know you were young, you needed the money.’

‘And here was the guest list for one of those evenings.’ She handed that over. ‘Interesting, eh?’

‘You bitch.’

‘You have a project in the pipeline, you’re an upstanding citizen for charity. Society admires you.’

‘You won’t get out of here alive, bitch.’

‘Yes I will.’ She opened her suit and there was the microphone bud. She removed it and placed it on the desk in front of the woman. ‘I want your ex husband off my sister’s back, as of now. You can do that, can’t you?’

With that, she stood and as she approached the door, pulled a mask out of her large bag , the woman furiously pressing the floor buzzer to no avail.

Jenny opened the door, stepped over the two torpedoes and the dozen other staff, the gas poured through the door, she went out via the fire escape, removed the mask and some twenty two minutes later met her sister in a cafe in a nearby town.

Mrs. Harrison staggered to the door, the gas now taking effect, she collapsed on the welcome mat.

IV

They were all at the computer in the DI’s second house and Laura had brought up the news report onscreen.

‘Jennys A and B,’ asked Laura, ‘do either of you two know anything about this?’

Onscreen was shot after shot of a man suspended in a harness under Blackfriar’s Bridge. He was alive and gesticulating, unlike a former banking man under that bridge. Maybe the same organization. Below him, dangling by a cord, was a Gladstone bag.

‘They say the bag was empty,’ she added.

‘They would,’ answered Jenny A. ‘It would be a pity if copies reached Breitbart, Instapundit, Huffpost and a dozen others, plus two hundred bloggers in eight countries. Because those writers might ask where the contents of the Gladstone bag had got to – the documents and the photos everyone now has copies to.’

‘And,’ added Laura, ‘if shots of those documents also made their way to Facebook and Twitter before they could be taken down -’

‘Youtube too.’

‘But what about this one, girls …’ She brought up photos of Mrs Harrison’s staff, all with crosses etched into their foreheads, ‘you don’t feel that was a bit over the top?’

‘Gosh, whoever did that did it very lightly, just scratches. But it would still make anyone think twice about taking on someone called Jenny.’

‘It would, but it would also tip someone over the edge who need only hire a long range weapon. Even on a boat you’re not safe.’

‘We are. We’re good at that type of thing.’

‘I don’t know, here you are, legs crossed, sweet and demure, sipping on tea.’

‘We know. We’re angels.’

V

The Harrison incident did not make any headlines and that stayed their hand but the Blackfriars suspension hit the fan all over the world. By the time the D notices and injunctions came down, it was all as private as a Ryan Giggs or Jeremy Clarkson injunction.

There was no mention of the girls and perhaps that would have helped them. Laura felt that some of those names were going to fork out big to hire the best to take care of the Jennys.

Miles’s patron phoned about the possibility of hiring her, still unaware they were in stereo but Miles explained she didn’t do hits anymore, only compromising and theatre. That’s what the patron had in mind. Miles promised to put it to her and get back by day end.

They were right there on the divan at that moment so he laid out the probable scenario. Laura was chafing at the bit too because that was exactly the sort of thing which had been her speciality. She asked if they’d take her along.

Jenny B grinned, mainly because she knew Miles would say no. However, something in Laura’s eye, the look she reserved for these occasions, told him to back off or it might create a situation.

‘But look at it, Laura, love, you’re out of practice, there are things you have to do …’

He realized he was bringing up the very things he must not and she knew it, she was saying not a word. ‘All right, all right … but it’s going to be planned to the nth degree.’

‘When do we not?’ asked Jenny B.

He phoned back. ‘That lunch invitation – very kind. When?’

‘Ah, good Miles, good.’ He gave details.

VI

It was getting on for a month. The luncheon had been had, his patron disappointed Laura had not attended but when told there were three girls involved, not one, a grin spread across his chubby face.

‘Not happy about that, are you?’ he chuckled. ‘Dear wife one of them. And the third?’

This was the moment. The girls had thought long and hard about it – it had been to their advantage earlier to be seen as one but now there might be menace in a known tag team. So they’d agreed to let Miles tell and now he did. ‘There’s a sister called Sarah. We call her Jenny A.’

‘Doesn’t ring a bell.’

‘The girls are twins.’

‘Well I’ll be.’ A grin spread across his face again. ‘That’s going to be expensive.’

‘You agreed to pay for two, the girls are one payout.’

‘Hmmmm, let’s see how they do, I might be in a good mood after this.’

There was a lot of negotiating, the patron wanted some of his key men in there, the girls wanted space to do their thing as well, Miles supplied details of some of their cases, the patron was impressed.

Diagrams were pored over, training would be all of three weeks. Miles put them straight on one thing. ‘I’m sure you know this, ladies, but while you were taking the Crown shilling, you had what the Russians call razresheniya or permission to kill. You don’t have that any more and anything you do can be a crime. This does not bother my patrons but it can come back on you. Plan it so that you do nothing but incapacitate.’

‘Did we not do that last time?’ He owned that. Jenny mentioned the obvious: ‘And how did your .600 Nitro and Laura’s M72 fit into your definition of legal?’ They had him.

Jenny B thawed. ‘The business with the helicopter could be called self-defence, though why you had that firepower in the first place would need explaining. We admit the crosses in the foreheads crossed the line.’

VII

So, here was the night and people had moved to prearranged places. Miles would man the phones on his fastest launch – observers might have concluded he was being put out to pasture but no matter. Laura got round it by saying that the ‘mastermind’ had to remain in position, also the ‘main breadwinner’ – only the best butter from Laura. She was like a kid again.

There was a dinner. What the patron had liked was their plan to do this a little bit more cleverly, not just wade in with the Tommy guns and blast away, it took the heat off him and got the job done at the same time, in no uncertain terms. Mind you, he said, he had to show cojones sometime otherwise they’d think he’d gone soft.

Laura had sailed dangerously close by saying he was now not going to be seen just as a meathead – Miles had winced – but as a clever meathead. He’d bought that, he’d let her have that one.

At this dinner was a who’s who of the underworld – no one was to actually fire until fired upon – if it ever came to an investigation, that point had to be quite clear. Laura had wanted to use the LAW again and even the patron’s boys had smiled at that. Miles had suggested the Nitro would do the job. The boss was itching to try them all out, for as he continually pointed out, it had cost him deep in the purse.

It was the overkill everyone liked because overkill actually saves lives, it doesn’t create a general small arms bloodbath, difficult to clean up.

Plan was this – the map said the dinner was on the second floor of a club’s quarters, but those quarters were not on any main drag, they were tucked away in a sidestreet. It all had to be done quickly, within fifteen minutes, so a fire engine was thought best – pull up, hole in the wall via Laura’s beloved rocket, fire ladder extended, everyone inside, patron’s men first, girls second, the torpedoes would obviously fire and be taken out, the suits who’d caused the patron trouble would be left tied there, all sorts of incriminating documents lying about on them, the women would be taken back down the ladder, enough money would be sent by mail on the Monday to the club to cover repairs.

The patron’s own men had their plexishields and suits, the girls didn’t need them, apart from vests and helmets.

VIII

Those who love gunbattles were going to be disappointed. Sure, one of the principals tried to make it out the back door, pulled a gun and that was his last act on earth, his papers were left over his body but apart from him, it went off as expected and hoped for.

On the signal, Miles contacted Young who’d been misdirected to be two blocks away and vehicles had been ‘inconveniently parked’ at either end of the street to help, just in case. The vehicles now conveniently removed themselves from the direction the DI would come, the two at the other end were observation points.

Laura and the Jennys took a B&B for two nights, they got in some shopping at a local Arndale or whatever they called it now, no contact, there was no helicopter, they went by train, separately, to meet a runabout at a prearranged point, one of Miles’s employees.

IX

The boat pulled up alongside the launch, the ladder was dropped down, up came the three and into the wheelhouse, Miles gave each a hug in turn. Lunch was ready – cold cuts and salad, vino, torte for dessert, coffee.

The question of the money came up, Miles explained that it was not a good idea for the girls to be caught with that sort of money on them, it would be forthcoming and soon.

X

And so it was. Miles was pulled over on the way to visit the DI, only instead of being kidnapped, he recognized the car and had got in, a bulging envelope was shoved in his hand. Plus a message of thanks.

The DI was in good spirits to. He’d nabbed three who’d not even been on his immediate list, plus the one who had, his own stocks were high in the department and now he had news for Miles.

‘Harrison himself, plus eight of his Ring, his Ring mind, we never expected such a thing,’ Miles did not want to set him straight on this, ‘were down for a stretch before the Word came down.’

‘So, not prosecuted then?’

‘Come on Miles, get real. If that had happened, your own position on the boat and your mobile call would have been scrutinized, also where your women were that night. Also your enforced meeting with a certain car as well.’

Miles allowed a smile. ‘Ah.’

‘Just who do you think you’re dealing with here?’ But it was a gentle reminder.

‘Any plans for a repeat?’ asked Young. ‘I could quite get to like this.’

‘You know there can’t be for months. Also, I’m not sure I like the girls involved – it was tough enough keeping them away from this one.’

‘You did keep them away from this one then?’

‘Most assuredly,’ he had to say.

‘The Daniels girls and Mrs. Forrester,’ he wrote down on his pad, ‘not involved in any way. Now, that lunch you were kind enough to offer. It’s coming up to that time and there’s a nice little place around -’

‘I know, I know,’ accepted Miles.

XI

‘Have we done enough damage to the Ring do you think?’ asked Laura in one of their pillow talks.

‘Of course not. That’s fantasyland.’

‘I want to put your mind at rest. With my own projects, I planned them, carried them out, knowing Amelie implicitly, even to where she was probably standing – and though I like the modus operandi of the girls, it’s still fitting in with someone else’s agenda on my part. My sense of safety and my ego is too large for that.’

‘Understood. And you want to do one of your own again.’

‘No you’re not listening – I said I wanted to put your mind at rest, that was no joke about having lost a yard – well I felt it, plus guns were never part of my milieu, mine was all drawing room stuff, intrigue. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do something like that again but look, Miles, I’m no gangster’s moll.’

‘Thanks, love.’

‘The Jennys will have to find their own living quarters, they’re enjoying the comfort zone too much and … well … it’s not doing either any good.’

‘Jenny B had a word with me, she knows that. Jenny A goes to Jan who’s back in Holland, let’s see how that pans out, Jenny B is going to do shorebound work from your old shop boat if you don’t mind, live aboard.’

‘Fine.’

XII

It was the middle of summer when the first major negative raised its ugly head.

For months they’d all just got on with their work, Miles had secured a few new customers, had lost a couple, Laura and he had got the thing down to a fine art, she ran day to day operations, he found new custom and sometimes she did that part where a lady’s powers of persuasion were better.

Jenny B was still close to what she’d done before, but without the shooting, Jenny A and Jan were an item over in Holland. The two sisters phoned quite regularly but it wasn’t quite the same and Jenny B felt it.

Had there been a project going, he’d have let Jenny B go to it.

And now one appeared.

Someone had started scuttling boats. Apart from the cost of the boats, there was the loss of business, the skippers of those boats paid Miles the 5% as they always had and if the boat was in dry dock for repair they paid nothing – this is how they did things. But those boats were those men’s livelihoods and without those livelihoods, they were in trouble.

It was difficult enough during the transition from the EU to the new Britain – the greedy ghouls had got in of course and monopolized things and if anything, things were worse than how they’d been before – it was not easy and Miles was forever getting advice on how the regulations had changed yet again.

Now to have boats scuttled – scuttled mind, not wear and tear or age – was outrageous. He’d understand if they’d hit him via Laura or the Jennys, via some of his deals which didn’t affect any one else and it wasn’t as if the boats were more than 47% of the income – it was just that those innocent men were paying for his messing with the Man.

And it was not in a way which could be tracked – for weeks nothing happened – and then something else did. By the time the third boat had been sunk, it was time to have a conference of high ups, plus Jenny B and one or two others.

The launch came into harbour, was docked, the guests came aboard by gangplank. They included one of his patrons, a risky gesture by the man to be seen away from his stronghold and openly associating with Miles.

Laura did them proud over dinner.

Long table cleared, they sat back and got on with the issue.

Patron spoke first. ‘This seems inside. You know and I know that if any of us twelve wanted … OK? No my friend, this is someone inside who has a working knowledge and he’s leaning on you. Were it something else, all boats would be on the riverbed by now. Put someone in charge of this.’

‘All right – a show of hands – do we put someone in charge? Those who think we need?’

All showed.

‘Second – is that person to be Jenny B?’

At that point, the patron asked if he could speak with Miles on deck. They went out, walking down towards the bow. ‘Why are you so sure about that girl?’

‘I’m not. I keep her close, to see her moves. But she’s a great bloodhound, with experience.’

‘Who’s on your list of those who might be doing this?’

‘Off the top, one of the patrons, as I call you – sink the boats, salvage, own the business. Either of the Jennys, possibly A. Someone in Holland. Might be Laura who might feel she’s not her own boss any more, Jan is another I keep my eye on as he’s ambitious, it could even be the DI who might feel he’s been sold a pup.’

‘Any of your skippers? Any showing any signs?’

‘Not really, though I’ll have all of them in next and they might know of someone onboard.’

‘I’d appoint this Jenny for now, give her enough rope. Your decision though.’

They went back and sat down, their glasses had been refilled.

‘So to the vote. Those for Jenny looking into this?’

Hands begrudgingly went up.

Everyone departed and Laura and he made ready for bed.

Pillow talk time.

‘Why was I passed over?’

‘Same reason as me, love – you’re management.’

She stewed over that one. ‘All right. But I do know how to find things out.’

‘Listen love,’ he turned and faced her, ‘our patron asked why I was so sure about Jenny B, I said I wasn’t. I was going to watch her in action, give her enough rope. Let’s give her some weeks and if she achieves nothing, then you take over.’

‘OK, that’s fine. Yes, Jenny B must have rope enough but I’m going to put my money on it not being her, she’s too obvious and though she’s a difficult person, seems to me she might feel a sort of loyalty to you, to me too, to the organization as well now. I could be wrong, I’ve been wrong before, many times but she does strike me that way. The issue will be that if she does find that person – she might kill him … or her.’

‘I need to give her a twenty foot runabout, a longboat type and give her free rein to visit any boat at random. Think she’ll enjoy that.’

‘Anyone else on the horizon?’

‘Jan.’ He told her about van Groot.

‘And you employed him?’

‘Call it a vain folly. He does have the ability to run things, he has the steel to get things done.’

‘And the loyalty?’

‘Well, that remains to be seen.’

‘You knew I’d ask this – how high up on the list am I?’

‘Very high.’

‘What!’

‘Think it through – who is the most adept and cunning but with none of my naivety, who has done this sort of thing many times in her work? For the record, I don’t think it’s you but there’s no operational reason why it couldn’t be.’

‘How about a little thing like marrying you, accepting you as my life? I’ve been thinking it might be you.’

‘Why?’

‘Constructing a scenario to go off with Jenny B.’

‘Ok, point taken. I’m not going to use words for my reply, so prepare for a different kind of language.’

She smiled and awaited the first move.

XIII

It was 11 a.m. four days later when the Vera May went down to the gunwhales, the crew took the boat and rowed towards shore. Miles called for a full manifest, the skipper had brought the logs.

Both lodged reports at the nearest police station and signed them, Miles had a few surplus vessels just now so the skipper took over one of those. The skippers’ meeting had been postponed but would be at 4 p.m. today, on the launch.

XIV

The skippers were understandably not happy, they had a meeting, minus any but the skippers, the brainstorming brought all sorts of details out, quite a few miscreants were mentioned, no one of this calibre. Miles wanted to know if there was any turf war raging just now.

Two of them went silent at this, some looked away. Yes there was – details please.

Turned out that the first sinking might have been down to that feud, obviously the other skipper hotly denied it. It was also clear there was something else on their minds as well, boatmen aren’t the most subtle of men as a rule and as no one wished to speak, it was obviously delicate.

Miles took the bit: ‘Seems to me, gentlemen, that it might be one of four things – first is the patrons I do business with, second is my new wife, third is this girl, fourth might be the new assistant manager of operations de Vries.’

He’d certainly hit on it but which one?

Miles’s longest serving skipper spoke in as close to a respectful tone as he could muster. ‘I don’t hold with wimmin on boats, sir,’ much nodding, ‘but your own good lady has been fine, doesn’t interfere with operations, collects and is pleasant. She raises the blood of some of the crew and she enjoys that, what woman doesn’t?

It’s that girl, sir, she’s a caution. It was one thing before the sinkings started but now this one appearing in the dead of night, or just as the boats are going to sea – I can’t be having this, sir.’

There was a chorus.

‘Then she’ll stop.’ There was appreciative nodding all round. ‘However, if she stops, you have to give me another way to find out what’s going on. The police are not an option, as I think we’re all agreed. So I need suggestions.’

That was a step too far for the thinking processes of most of them, they were just happy the damned girl had been stopped.

‘I know the pressures on you each day, I know your thoughts are getting out and back safely, the bloody EU quotas, the new quotas, the actual catching and processing. You’ve no time for police work but if you don’t do some on your own boat, you’ll have no boat left. I’m running out of spare boats to give people.’

That last point was one most likely to impress – they did see that they needed to clear this up themselves. Miles went on. ‘The damage, the scuppering, is being done at dockside or at least before the heads. It’s someone in your crews.’

Spoke up one: ‘If we could have sorted this, sir, we would have by now.’

‘All right, let’s move on – you two in this feud, would you let Tom here be the arbiter, he’s far enough from your own grounds not to be a player – you’d accept that? He’ll tell you the line and you’ll not cross it, not drift over it. Any objections? No? Thanks, lads.’

Tom stayed back and Miles was glad, light ales were provided.

‘Good lady not with you, sir?’

‘Thought it unwise, had a feeling the meeting might be like this.’

‘You’re a good franchiser, sir, may I call it that, but bringing wimmin into it …’ He shook his head and shuddered.

‘I know, it’s been corrected. Tell me the truth and I won’t hold it against you in any way, Tom, I need your honesty more than anything else – is Laura a problem?’

‘To be honest sir? No, she’s fine and the lads do like her visits, it’s fine there.’

‘Ok, then who’s the bastard doing this?’

‘Have you looked closer to home?’

‘Very much. Jenny -’

‘Not only. This Jan – he has big ideas, sir.’

‘I’m keeping him onside for now because it’s better than having a rival. There’ll be a fishing war before this is out.’

‘Not telling you your business but it doesn’t always work to appease. Sometimes you have to have the war and rules come out of that.’

‘I need grounds to dismiss him, Tom, I can’t just dump him without reason.’

‘We’ll find the reason, sir. And it will be the real reason, not made up.’

‘Is it that he’s Dutch?’

‘That’s part of it, he’s not straight. I see why you want someone Dutch – access to those ports – but he’s not the only Dutchman in Holland. Trouble is, you’ve given him the overview now, the plan of our operations and he can pick off anyone he wants.’

‘I hear what you say. I want you to feel you can call me any hour of night or day.’

‘Mighty decent of you.’

‘Our interests in this are the same. I’m going to keep him on for now but only in Holland, to be our man over there. Another ale?’

‘No thanks, have to be off.’

I’m perfectly happy for you to solve this your way now, Laura, because I sure can’t.’

‘You mean that? You’ll accept what I tell you, even if you think it’s jealousy on my part, resentment?’

‘I hope so.’

‘Miles, if I want to run this, it’s because my mind is more tortuous than yours, you’re all for straight talk and all that – this person is no straight talker, he or she is a weasel and I know weasels.’

‘Do you know who it is?’

‘No, but we need to change tactics, as we’ve done before. The skippers need to invite me, not just tolerate me – you’ve said they don’t mind me. My job is to explore and I can only get away with that if there’s a real job I’m doing on those boats, maybe checking for annual repairs which need doing.’

‘Good, yes, you’ll do that too but on this matter, do it straight. We’ll get them in again and you’ll be upfront about wanting to explore the question.’

‘Novel.’

XV

The skippers were assembled again one week after the last meeting, this time with the addition of Laura who’d put out little snacks of homemade sausage rolls and the like – she knew how to get to that sort of man. For all their talk of women on boats, they weren’t averse to this one.

‘With your permission, Laura has some ideas.’

‘I’m well aware this is man’s business but my former work was in Europe, finding things out, putting ideas in heads, exposing wrongdoers.’ They glanced at Miles. ‘Someone is sinking these boats and it’s a crew member in each case. Seems to me there are a few crewmembers doing the physical part but someone else, someone they come into contact with, is putting the idea into their heads.

Now look, no one, not even a crewman, suddenly says, ‘Oh, I think I’ll just sink my boat today. There has to be a reason and there are, in my experience, usually two reasons. One is petty resentment – little things that that person has built up but it needs a second person to keep feeding the poison into his head. The other reason is money – someone is offering big money to that person to do the deed.

For me to do anything worthwhile on this matter, you have to want me there or there’s no point. To sweeten this and make it believable, what if I’m taken over each boat to see what immediate repairs are needed, engine serviced and so on. That will cost Miles some.’

There were nods of approval, Miles grunted, ‘You’ll get some of these done – don’t push it too far.’

Obviously the motion was carried unanimously.

‘How was I?’

‘You know you were bloody good.’

‘Make love to me.’

XVI

There were two sinkings on the same day and the pattern continued – it was never while the boat was outside the heads, it always happened inside the river and always before 4 p.m.

Miles and whoever the skipper was at the time were sick to death of having to go to the police station to submit reports and obviously the law was onto it in its own right.

Now who should turn up but DI Young, Miles welcomed him aboard, Laura went for the eats.

Young grinned. ‘Don’t you resent him sitting here, Laura, while you bring him food?’

‘He’ll have to do supper.’

There was a splintering of glass, something hit Miles in the chest. The other two dropped to the floor, Young pulling Miles to the floor too.

They turned him on his back, Young knew his training, they worked on him feverishly, calls were put through, police cars arrived at the quay, ambulance arrived, Laura rode in the back but everyone knew already.

Chapter 1 hereChapter 3 here

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