2: Something not kosher
That’s as far as it would have gone with Sarah, except for one of those chance overhearings. He was mighty quiet in those boat shoes, he could board and alight without a sound, given the lapping water filling the void, his usual way was to walk around the sidedeck and then into the wheelhouse, thereby being visible before he entered.
This time he saw a loose sheet or rope on the small mainmast and went to tidy it, which meant he was on the roof and it hadn’t struck him that he’d been particularly silent in doing so but the upshot was that he heard Jenny below him and heard something unmistakable.
‘He’s not buying the herpes. No, we’ll just have to see how it pans out.’
To say it chilled him to the bone would be an understatement but a second incident compounded it. Near the top of the dock road came Sarah, mobile to her ear. As he turned, he must have made sufficient noise because there was no further sound below, no speaking, suggesting she’d shut the phone off.
But Sarah was still speaking on her phone.
The constant barrage of shock after shock had him now suspecting everything and everyone and even innocuous things could now be seen in conspiratorial terms … if he let them. He was getting the distinct idea that he was being played and that he may even be in some danger. This is the start of paranoia, is it not?
Now Jenny came out from down below, saw him then glanced over – he was awaiting Sarah who was almost upon them. Sarah clicked her phone shut and the scenario clicked with Jenny immediately – if he’d heard her speaking moments earlier and sis was still on the phone …
Ordinarily, it would have a simple explanation but in this hypersensitized situation of theirs now … it was not good and Jenny realized it. Her brain was working overtime. What was worse was that he now dropped into dissimulation, didn’t mention it, did the welcoming act and they all went below. Jenny wanted none of that – either he accepted things as they were or he didn’t and this whole scene stopped now because there was real tension in the air and no one seemed to know how to diffuse it.
‘I’m thinking of going,’ was the not totally unexpected statement by Leyton.
‘Pardon?’ said Jenny.
‘I don’t want it. In this, I’m like Miles was. There’s way too much cloak and dagger, secretiveness presented to me as someone looking after me. This is not what I signed up for – I signed up for open and sharing and there’s none of that going on right now. As you said a few minutes ago, Jenny, ‘He doesn’t buy the herpes.’ No ‘he’ doesn’t, it doesn’t ring true and my antennae are not bad on most things.’
More silence. He went on.
‘And like Miles, I’d be happy enough to sign over the businesses to you two, maybe Jane as well and just go off and live my days out by myself, without this constant tension, this constant worry about people’s motives. Plus this was Jane’s and my town, we had our life and my wife is now dead, due to the choices I made. I haven’t got over her yet and I can’t see it for some time. There’s no honesty going on between you and me and I can’t take it.’
More silence. It was an ugly scene, the ugliest since their marriage and Jenny was thinking hard but was also losing her ability to respond. It was a body blow.
He continued, ‘Yes, I’m scared. Both of you are armed, Sarah’s already pulled her gun out. Were I to go, you’d track me down and kill me from a distance, as Miles was killed. So yes, I’m scared.’
Jenny began to shake, ever so slightly, utterly tongue-tied, he was sure of that. Sarah was saying nothing but eventually broke the silence by saying she was going back to the B&B. Sis could phone her there. She departed, they heard heard jump off the boat and then saw her go up the dock road.
Jenny was truly paralysed now, as he’d never seen her before. How suddenly it had all fallen apart – how suddenly. She didn’t know what a wife was meant to do – she had no way of handling it.
And yet she was not going to walk out. She was going to resolve this somehow.
‘I’m putting the kettle on,’ he said. ‘The tea will ease our tongues, we’ll be able to talk, even if it takes hours. I’m not walking out and I see you’re not. We’ll get ourselves together and talk, yes?’
She nodded, relief on her face as she saw a way back – what he had seen was sheer terror on her face, sheer chagrin. He put the kettle on, went to put tea in and she broke her strangled silence. ‘Coffee please.’
‘Leyton,’ she tried. ‘Leyton, Leyton. Let me speak. Husband.’ As if he was going to interrupt. ‘I’m no good at any of this. I didn’t read the instruction manual on how to be a good wife, but I want to tell you something. When you said you wanted to marry me, when you asked me, you don’t know how … how over the moon I was. Don’t you see that with my life the way it’s been for two decades, suddenly here was a normal life. Jenny the killer now Jenny the wife, with someone who loves her. Can you not understand what that does for me, for my self-esteem?
And so I try to organize everything as I always did, try to anticipate danger, try to protect you – you told me I was going to kill our love with that stranglehold, the way I held on, so intensely. Intense was the word you used. And just now I saw that I’d killed your love, snuffed it out. And then you showed no signs of going and I’m glad Sarah went. And now I have to explain everything and I find it impossible.
But what kills me inside is the constant bad opinion you have of me, the way it always looks, the way I let things happen. And really rotten luck too. I was calling Jane now, you can check with her. She called about the Vera May and I wanted to keep talking, to speak with someone – I can’t talk to Sarah, I couldn’t speak to you because you’re the cause of my horror at how I keep doing things wrong. What were the chances of you being on the roof here at exactly this time – it’s as if fate wants to break us up. But it could have been worse, Leyton because ten minutes before that I was talking on the phone to one of the crew on the Northern Star, James Roland and it was banter. How could I explain any of that to you – I’m so lonely, I want to speak with someone. He called about the engine – you need to check it out and replace something – check with the skipper – but he wasn’t just calling about that, you know that, he was trying it on, knowing I was alone here. And I conversed with him – I didn’t mind the banter, it was human. How would that have looked if you’d been on the roof then?
And saying to Jane about the herpes – I was so shocked, dismayed you didn’t believe me. The way you put it, I was trying to pull some wool over your eyes and it’s not so – Sarah does have it and you won’t accept it. I’ve come to terms with it. And you keep on and on and I see things slipping away with us and I didn’t sign on for that either. I can’t get through to you.’
‘You just have. For maybe the first time, we’ve really talked, talked properly. Jenny love, I accept what you just said, how it looked, how it was, the misunderstanding, but also see it from where I am – too many damned things which don’t look kosher – even your shooting me in the leg. Well, you know what I mean. Think about how that must look, you refusing to open up and tell me things, wanting me to just accept you have it in hand – I’ve always been the one to take care of things.’
‘Don’t you want me any more?’
‘I wouldn’t be sitting here now if I didn’t – you know that’s not it, you know it’s what I said moments before that. I want you more than anyone else, forever. But I can’t take being treated as a mushroom.’
‘I know the expression. I seriously did not think that’s how you were seeing it.’
‘That’s what communication is. We’re both alphas, we’re both used to taking charge, this is a brand new thing with us, both of us. We have to find a middle way. And yes, this Roland does worry me. You couldn’t stand me with Sarah – well this is the same. Let’s not take each other for fools – this is not an innocuous man with a wife who enjoys the young Jenny for a few minutes’ conversation – this is someone trespassing on another man’s territory. I know all about how women can’t stand the territorial male and I’m not with 70% of men … but this one I know like the back of my hand.’
‘You believe I would have cheated with him.’
‘I believe that you would never go out of your way to, I believe you really do love me, I believe that if he came here, you’d enjoy the banter with a young Adonis and keep it to the platonic but I also think you can have your defences undermined. You were Jenny the warrior, now you’re Jenny the delectable lone housewife available on this boat each day, with all those young men wanting you. Straw Dogs.’
She looked at him. ‘I know the film very well. I’m sure he’s connected to the man Lefebvre mentioned – de Ville. He didn’t need to phone me, not on my mobile. There’s the ship’s radio, there’s Jane’s next visit – he could have told her. I let it happen because he was a young man who wanted to talk happily about things. I know, I know. I wanted.’
‘How did he have your mobile?’
‘Exactly. He said the skipper gave it to him, he’s lying. That’s one of the things I talked to Jane about – she didn’t give it to him. The whole th-’ Her mobile went, she looked at him, flipped it open, saw the number and answered in a coquettish voice. ‘James. Twice in one day, to what do I owe this pleasure? Leyton comes back at five. Fifteen minutes? All right, I’ll drop the ladder. I’ll be down below.’
She clicked it shut, looked at him and said, ‘Over to you.’
She heard the boat bang into their side, the ropes, there were two of them climbing the ladder, they came below, she called out, ‘I’m down here.’
They walked in, smiling – before them was a catsuited Jenny. ‘Take your clothes off first, guys, I want to see what I’m getting, I want to handle the tackle.’
They looked at one another, all their birthdays etc., they took them off, a piece of 8×2 hit both heads in turn from behind, they dropped like sacks of spuds.
When they came to, they were in their dinghy, the two of them, the dinghy suspended from the derrick over the starboard side, the launch was making about seven knots towards the middle of the river, they began shouting all manner of abuse, issuing threat after threat.
Leyton slowed so that it was holding against the 3 knot upriver tide at this point, she took the wheel, he went out to the derrick’s rotating winch and slammed the dinghy into the side of the launch, swung it out again, slammed it a second time, at which point they ceased shouting, swung it out again and slammed it a third time, there was a splintering but he knew the bulkheads at each end would keep them afloat … just. They had no paddles and the outboard had also previously mysteriously fallen into the water.
He walked along the derrick arm and cut the rope, the dinghy dropped into the river and quickly disappeared behind them, both of them writhing about inside. He went inside to their cabin and gathered their clothes, boots, went out and threw them overboard as well.
Then he phoned the Patron before making for the sea against what was now a 1 knot tide, then slack water, later it would be an ebb tide. A power boat came alongside the other way, the Patron stepped onboard and was handed a coffee and cognac.
‘I told Miles once – you leave fuckers like that alive and they come back at you down the track. Jenny here knows what I mean. ‘They’ll be given a right pasting in half an hour which will buy you six months and do your reputation good among the crews, it will protect Jenny, but sooner or later they’re going to plan something.’
‘I find it difficult to kill.’
‘Then you shouldn’t be in this game. However, what’s done is done. As I say, they’ll get a right pasting once we catch up with ’em but it’s only going to buy you so much time. You remember Johanssen.’
Their launch was supposedly making for Ireland but they had no intention of going there, they began to double back to Borth-y-Gest, a small harbour where they could find shelter. Jenny asked why and he just said, ‘For Queen Mab and the sheep.’
‘Look up Shelley. Just thought this would be a not bad haven, not too far away, tides are fierce but the anchorage is good and who goes to Welsh-speaking Wales anyway?’
‘Well yes. Just thought we could do with a week’s holiday, Jane can run things but if you don’t want, we won’t.’
‘Haven’t seen it yet. Isn’t Snowdonia somewhere there.’
‘Yep, I thought it would be a nice rest for us.’
‘I’m sure it will be. Plenty of shops for food I suppose.’
‘Don’t know, suppose so. There are some nice beaches – Black Rock sands, Traeth Borth y Gest Beach, think we might quite like this. However, don’t mention Shelley and if someone brings it up, disparage Shelley, he wasn’t popular around these parts. We need to speak some Welsh too.’
‘Wrth gwrs, fy nghariad!’
‘You know Welsh?’
‘No, only that, thought it might be useful.’
She grinned. ‘OK, tell me.’
‘It means, ‘Of course, my love.’
‘I approve of that. How’s your love making gear? In good order?’
‘I’ve been in training for the event.’
‘You know, I just think we might actually get to rest for a few days, seriously. Thanks.’
When they finally chugged back to their own harbour and docked, having made copious calls and found the lie of the land, there was a small delegation of skippers. They knew which ones – Tom, the Vera May’s, the Northern Star’s.
‘Come in, gentlemen, cuppa? They nodded and Jenny got going. ‘Sit down. You don’t like how we dealt with those two, eh?’
The one called Arthur spoke. ‘You were within your rights, sir., in natural law, maybe not the new laws in this land. A bit drastic for mine – those two weren’t fit for work after that and we had to let them go. There’s a no win no pay on the way for you two, you’ll have the local constabulary soon. But that’s your affair. We went through their things in our two boats and found some interesting items, we’ve brought them, thought you might be interested.’
He emptied the ASDA bag onto the table and it was two mobiles, an interesting electronic device which seemed for tapping and a range of weapons, including a couple of pistols which were numbered – with a second number, Arthur pointed out. ‘These were not just local lads, sir.’
‘No they’re not. Jenny?’
She came up from below, took one look, asked if she could pick up one of the pistols – she had her washing up gloves on – did so and let out a whistle. ‘Falls into place.’
‘All right, sir, begging your pardon, your business is your business, you have your finger in many pies so the word goes. We’re just fishermen -’
‘Who do a bit of couriering now and then,’ he smiled.
‘As you say but we’re not in this league. We don’t like it.’ They all nodded.
‘And you,’ said Leyton, ‘are well within your own rights saying that. This is most interesting to us, we thought it a bit OTT for any of the crew trying that one on. You’re right that it was an excessive reaction over just two ordinary crew members but for this lot – ah, it might be that we’ve done ourselves a service and indirectly – you too. Not good for you in the short term, I know that and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.’
‘All right, said Tom, ‘we just thought we needed to sort this out but we’d best get back now. Thanks for the tea.’
Tom was the last out and just before the door, he turned and winked at the pair of them, which did mean a hell of a lot.
Next cab off the rank was Jane, the delectable one, she boarded, the pot was still warm and over tea and toasted teacakes, she gave her report on the boats, then Jenny went down to their cabin, came back and laid a folder down before him:
‘Headache, fever, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, seizures, trouble thinking clearly, personality changes, hallucinations, visual and auditory, unusual behaviours, unconsciousness.’
‘Sis hasn’t had the seizures or unconsciousness yet.’
He read on – about how if it was treated early, there could be recovery from it but if there’d been damage already, it might not be reversed. ‘You mean she might be like this forever?’
Jenny nodded. ‘Our marriage comes with strings now, doesn’t it? I didn’t know at the point we married but I did suspect and made her go. They even took a lumbar sample. Further damage is stopped … but what had happened remains there. Sis needs care.’ She looked at him carefully and he knew where this thing was.
She went on. ‘I don’t expect you to accept this, I wouldn’t want you to, it wasn’t what you agreed to go into, you have a right to certain things from your wife. But this changes my life – you do understand. You know me, always the planner. I think the best thing would be we give each other the divorce, no money beyond what you’d give for Sarah’s care, maybe something would happen with you and Jane, maybe it wouldn’t.’
‘You have got to be kidding -’
‘I don’t want nobility, Leyton. You know me, I want the best solution and I think I have to give much of my time to sis.’
‘I repeat – you have got to be kidding. How does that line go – in sickness and in health? Them’s the breaks, that’s how it goes. Where’s Sarah now?’
‘With me, on my boat ,’ said Janes. ‘Well, your boat you gave me.’
‘No, your boat. You’ve been looking after her?’
‘And Jenny. It hasn’t been impossible yet, no sudden actions, no jumping overboard, nothing like that. And maybe there won’t be, maybe they got to it in time. She knows I can’t kiss her, have skin contact, she sees how things are, she hopes Jenny won’t abandon her.’
‘All right, what seems clear to me is that the responsibility needs to be shared. Jenny feels she has to be 24/7, which is fine but that is only going to kill you, love. We have the means, we can give care, we can hire care for certain parts of the week to give you and Jane a break. You, Jane, need not be part of any of this, not yet being family, I can’t expect it and we need you to run the boats, maybe sometimes the other businesses. We do need that very much now. Will you at least stay on to do that part?’
‘I’m sure we’ll apportion the time fine, we’ll find a way.’
His relief was palpable, he thanked her profusely. ‘Naturally, the cost of this will be covered.’
‘I want no more.’
‘We all need to be covered for our time and stress – everyone does and the businesses, which are our fruits anyway, plus the skippers’, provide. It’s going to be fine, let’s not concern ourselves with that part now.’
‘There’s another reason I have to do this, Mr. Young.’
‘Mr. Young? That’s very formal.’
‘Yes … it is. There’s something I must tell you.’
‘Does Jenny know?’
‘No, but she might suspect.’ Jenny shook her head. The names of the clowns who came to this boat and who you dispatched were James Roland and the other one was interestingly, also Roland – Roland Schumann. It’s a good thing you knocked them out because they’re operatives of a rogue section based in Amsterdam, called NPRV. They take the stubborn cases where the business does not fail, where the principals do not die or are not maimed or taken out some other way. They mop up.’
‘Who do they work for?’
‘That lot – them, the ones who run things, fund things, do this mind breaking. Their sole purpose was to cause trouble – so they were going to set you and Jenny at each other’s throats, that sort of thing. The purpose is not destruction of the fleet or the businesses in the least – no sinkings, none of that. They just want it to fall into their laps.’
Jane took a sip and went on. ‘Sarah’s diagnosis is part of that but that’s just luck to them, her situation is genuine. Those two men are now back in Amsterdam.’
‘And you know all this,’ he said, ‘because you’re one of them and I never saw it, nor did Jenny.’
‘Interestingly, Sarah does suspect because she must have heard some of my conversations, observed my manner and so on. There are people on those boats now – most boats now, who are our people. One by one, the skippers have employed them at my suggestion, as a vacancy comes up. You three would eventually, once you’d fallen out, have been drugged, bundled up, driven to the east coast and shipped over to Amsterdam. I’d remain in charge of the businesses, just as I have been on occasions and you were about to hand over more or less permanently to me because of the Sarah crisis.
I … I don’t know why I changed, why I threw in my lot with you. It may be Sarah herself, it might be a cowardly and stupid reason – that she would wake up, know what’s inside her and give it to me and I’m frightened of that. But I think the main thing – and it must happen to them now and then – is that the employee finds she likes being in charge, likes the life, likes you two. You’re so vulnerable and unable to see what is really happening, even Jenny.’
‘You mind-controlled, can you be triggered?’
‘No, not yet, I’m one of the bad ones in the first place. Or I was. Now I’m marked.’
‘Not yet. Those men on the boats still don’t know and you do the poker face well. We could turn that to our advantage.’
‘Possibly … but you do have Sarah on your hands. On our hands.’
‘All right, Jane,’ said Leyton quietly, ‘now the real reason you switched. And I do think you have.’
‘My father did some things he ought not have fifteen years ago. He’s a mayor, he’d be ruined, our name would be mud. But worse is they were shaping up to ‘train him’, I found out. he’s a mayor, they must have mayors under control. His views are not dissimilar to theirs but they need to be sure, just in case. I don’t want that.’
‘Une malfaiteuse of the worst kind – she’s right in with them, a climber. I needed an organization which could get him out and yours looked not bad that way. There may have been a lot of luck but there’s also your patron, you’re over this side of the country, there are many little advantages. You’ve been in tight situations – Jenny here has. I just prefer to be on this side, get him out and over here, take it from there.’
‘Or lull us into a feeling of security,’ said Jenny.
‘You know that’s always a fear. There’s only my word.’
‘What chance a normal marriage for crying out loud, what chance we can find some sort of normal life?’ he muttered.
‘None and you know it. Jenny is not normal anyway and that’s not an insult – I mean her experiences, her need for action, your need to be running things. Even without trouble it would not be normal. But trouble is coming. This Brexit is an excuse for the EU army, airforce, which is really Germany but this time – France also against your country.’
‘Our country? Not yours?’
‘My home is there, I’ve been almost all my life over here. You saw that in the documents when you took me on. Didn’t help you, they were forged.’
‘It’s all appalling. Why up here?’
‘The vein on the island first – I knew Penny, I was the one no one knew about. Once the fishing fleet was used as a conduit, they kept me in the area.’
‘What’s your real name?’
‘If I tell you, I’m a dead person.’
‘If you don’t lie.’
‘Oh I won’t lie. My name’s – well hang on – you guess. I’ll give you a hint – it’s a diminutive of Jane, or rather it comes out of the old name Jane.’
‘It’s Jenny,’ said Jenny, quietly.
‘In German, it’s pronounced Ye-nee, stress the first syllable.’
‘And the second or last name?’
‘Oh my goodness.’ It was Leyton who spoke. ‘I studied Marxism in my yoof as they say.’
‘Then you’d know all the Jennys in that family, you’d know about Scotland and the Templars, you’d know about Jenny Laura and about Jenny Julia Eleanor in London. I’m a few generations on. We dropped the von in common parlance.’
‘You’re actually one of them for real, aren’t you, you’re blood.’
‘Plus my mother is a full on Marxist but that’s a misnomer – there’s no such thing. Rather she’s part of the global mafia sometimes called the globalists, sometimes the communists, sometimes the revolutionaries. Churchill had it right about the French Revolution. It’s all about money and misery. Plus very dirty things.’
‘So I don’t buy that you’ve gone against your blood … for us.’
‘I see a chance to break free, just a small one. That’s where you come in.’
‘But Scotland or London will send people.’
‘I’m still blood. They’ll be very careful. We must too. That’s if you’ll still allow me.’
‘Anyone else have any shocks to spring on us?’
‘Only that Sarah’s alone,’ said Jenny.
‘I know, I’m going back now.’
And she did.
He made the obvious comment: ‘Three Jennys.’
‘You want my assessment?’
‘You have to run with this, have to accept her, she fits our game plan.’
‘I know, she knows it too. You trust Sarah with her?’
‘Oh yes, if she does anything that way, she’s dead. Let’s think more positively. Sarah can’t move the way she did, she needs medicines. Better she’s back here, though she’ll be as frustrated as crazy. I’m thinking I could go with this Jenny and run ideas past Sarah.’
‘I’d worry about her taking you to Germany or nearby – it’s her territory and the plan might still be to capture you.’
‘Yes, I know. I think she’s on the level – see, she shopped James Roland to me before he’d called. She may have had a personal reason – jilted, he was abusive, tried to come on, might have – but I think she’d made her mind up. I’m starting to think she was miffed by him trampling over her territory – she was running the fleet well and if he didn’t show respect – well, you know how we can get.’
‘All right, fine, so she does that but what’s to stop her switching back? What if she’s being blackmailed over her father?’
‘She is. That’s why she wants him out. I suppose you’re already having her calls monitored.’
‘Numbers, we can’t do any more.’
She grinned. ‘Of course not, white knight.’
‘What we have here is them – they need to entice you and supposedly Sarah back over on some pretext. Jane is a good pretext, the best. We could still send you two – but what if a third person also went independently, armed, ready?’
‘It was never just Sarah watching out as I went in and then me watching her – there was something quite organic, mystic about it. She could sniff out trouble and that’s what kept us alive. I don’t have that. If Jane and I went, even with a third person, we wouldn’t have that natural way of acting without words – sis and I just knew when and how, when not to.’
‘All right, how about we do an exercise or two, construct a scenario over here, you two try it. Jane might not have the gift but she has much inside knowledge. I’ll set up some people who are kosher, long time, and your job is get a document which, to play ball, would be somewhere within five metres.’
‘It’s artificial.’ He didn’t react. ‘OK, I’ll do it if it can’t be infiltrated.’
Around 8 p.m. three weeks later, there was a knock on the door of terraced house and a man answered it.
‘Mr. Williams?’ enquired the lady.
He grinned. ‘You’re the fourth lady in as many days. One’s been the Amazon lady, one’s been the postwoman, one’s been RSPB and now you. What’s your line?’
‘I’m the kissogram – let’s just step inside.’ And with that she stepped forward into his hallway, a voice behind said, ‘Bang,’ and that was that. They went into the living room.
‘How did she get in, we were watching the door and we had a third in the bathroom upstairs. Mike!’
A skinny man of twenty or so came downstairs and joined them. N2 from the backdoor spoke. ‘She just said ‘bang’ from above me on the ceiling – spiderwoman. How the hell did you do it?’
‘I was already in,’ said Jenny. ‘I came in after the RSPB who was meant to be suss, I heard your plan, heard you phone Mike, you gave away where the document was so I took that after killing back door man here.’ She took it out and gave it to them. ‘Jenny W here was so ludicrous I was sure you’d smell a rat.’
‘I did but wasn’t sure what to do with it.’
A person appeared at the living room door, a female, she threw a mask to each of the others, the three men collapsed, the mask wearers went out the front door and closed it behind them, Jenny D phoned Leyton. ‘How far are you?’
‘End of your street.’
‘You’ll need our masks – three of you go in.’
‘You showed us the photos,’ said Jenny, ‘Sarah had memorized them, she knew who was non-kosher but one of the kosher was there too. You plan that?’
‘So someone knew of our plan.’
‘You all agree there were six players, plus me?’ They nodded. ‘Then our problem person is either one of those seven or someone in the department and I’ve been on the trail of a few of those for a long while. We avoided the known ones in this operation but that’s not to say there are not new recruits. Ray Martin was one of those, new officer from London. Question – was he turned there or after he came up here?’
‘Leaks like a bucket with holes,’ said Jenny. ‘Who replaced the two kosher with non-kosher? Not Leyton’s man, as he’d never have given those names. But someone did and not only that but he got the plan and trained those non-kosher. So, obviously it’s either Leyton’s man or someone who could access that man’s plan.’
‘Unless he’s throwing you off the track,’ said Janes, ‘and this exercise was nothing to do with what we did – it was to make us conclude someone is kosher who’s not.’
‘What worries me is it was too bleedin’ obvious. So the routine police work starts – did you write it down, phone it, text it, was there any other contact over it and so on. And my man could be lying, if only to cover a silly error, a careless error like leaving something on a table during a lunch break. Not being in the office, I have not a clue because I can’t observe. So the lies blow out of all proportion – silly little lies, innocent lies but they derail the whole thing. I’ve used him for all sorts of minor information and it’s always come up fine. But this is different. Word comes down …’
‘Therefore,’ said Jenny, ‘we need two things – our own database and a lot of work from us feeding things in and then we need a cellular structure, where information is only known in part by various people. No one knows all.’
‘Five people knew the plan,’ put in Sarah. ‘I’m afraid one of them is a traitor. Maybe more. But at least one. Four of those are sitting here. If we fed in every single detail of possible motive, means, opportunity, the computer could make suggestions. But it would still be just probabilities. Humans are more devious, they have hidden motives, irrational ones. Still, it’s an exercise. Remembering too that anyone can hack what we enter. And when we’re all sitting around and something is put in a person doesn’t like, she or he can’t alter it unless agreed.’
‘I suggest Sarah and Jenny do the entering – but what on?’
‘An early Linux, no internet, no external connections.’
Then let’s start.’
The PC had been taken to the boat, wiped, Linux reinstalled, nothing else on it bar the OS, the programme and the data.
The other three arrived, they organized their own eats and the feeding in had begun. When it stopped, the PC was disconnected, ready for the morrow. It went into the wooden box, webbing was passed through holes and over the top, then back, there was a loop at the end and each put his or her own padlock on the loop. It was sealed. Next day, they all removed their padlocks and checked them.
And so it had gone on for the four days, it had then been run and had come up with two names – one a near certainty according to the computer and the other a possible.
Predictably Jane and Sarah respectively. They looked at Jane first.
She smiled. ‘This is a known-known. You know about me. You know I was part of it, you know what I’ve since done.’
‘Sarah?’ asked Leyton.
‘Same. You know my history, where I’ve been, all of it. Of course the computer suspects me.’
That’s where it was left for the nonce.
Four days later, work over for the day, Jenny drew his attention to the computer box, now requiring only her padlock.
‘I’ve been working.’
‘With one padlock, I can enter what I want, yes? All right, look through the files of each of the five and see if you agree that all of that can go in. I’ll make some eats.’
‘Seven questions – how you found that, how kosher is it, how relevant is it?’
She looked. ‘All relevant, before we only entered certainties, now we’re entering speculation based on modus operandi, many, many little snippets. Are any non-legit as far as you can see?’
‘Not as experimental data.’
‘Right, watch me enter them to the database.’
‘All right,’ said Jenny, ‘we’re done. Same question as before … and … click.’
Twenty seconds it took. One name overwhelmingly came up to every question they now asked.
‘Fine,’ he concluded. ‘And where does that get us?’
‘Nowhere I’d say. Computers depend entirely on the data being exhaustive and in context. I’m not sure we’ve done that.’
‘What can we be sure about?’
‘Character, overall life purpose, nuances in face and voice, attitude – we’ve not touched those yet. But the database is good for things like contacts and who those contacts know. You see, Leyton, just how difficult this is. Jane is obviously the one on all scores and what have we got? Her denial. Yet her denial should have some weight attached to it because it’s so implausible. And yet that might have been intended by professionals, those skilled in NLP.’
‘And if we get this wrong, we’re essentially dead.’
‘You’ve just accepted the scenario I painted and that’s partly because I’m your wife. But if they want you taken over there, marrying you would be the least of their worries. Besides, there are many ways they can do it – just accost you in the street, chloroform, end of game. They don’t need to go to these lengths unless there’s some sort of satisfaction in it.
Me being your wife is to accept my scenario. So you need to also do this exercise with the others and then you’ll really have a database.’
‘I’d planned to. The reason you want me to is so that you will finally be cleared in my mind.’
‘Yes. But not only. You’d read each person as well. You need to clear me but I need to clear Jane. If she and I are doing jobs, I must know I can trust her and I’m using your skill to help me with that.’
‘You know what’s needed, Jane? You can do that?
‘Oh I think so.’
‘What’s your real motive for it … all of it?’
‘There are two people I want to nail and I don’t have the troops, the infrastructure. I’ve yet to convince you to help me go after these two but I reasoned that when you know … you’ll want.’
‘Intriguing. Who gave the game away as to our plan?’
‘You can’t expect an answer to that … but I’ll give you one all the same.’