4

Out of the past

Chapter 3 hereChapter 5 here

I

Laura was out of sorts about this line of questioning.

‘Must it come out?’

‘No, I’ve already told you this. Of more concern is keeping you alive and remember, it’s not just you either, it’s Sarah too who’s become dependent on you.’

‘Will you take her away?’

‘Indirectly. I’m introducing her to a young officer of mine – he’s working with me on the case.’

She thought about that. ‘Why would you care about us, especially with what you know?’

‘Why do you think, if I’m any good at my job, that that must mean I don’t keep on caring for you?’

‘Underhand way of showing it.’

‘What would you have done if it was your task to get to the bottom of it? Would you not use everything you could which was legal and fair?’

‘Her name’s Mandy, Mandy Sobel. I’ll save you the time. She’s in my will. I will come back with you tomorrow, no tricks, no trying to escape.’

‘She’s still gunning for you, isn’t she?’

‘It’s so stupid and I can’t change my will.’

‘You think Miles knew about her?’

She did consider it. ‘Nah, can’t see how, she was never connected to him.’

‘All right, you’re tired. I’ll collect you tomorrow.’

‘Young officer, yes?’

‘Maybe for Sarah.’

II

‘There’s my Will. Go ahead, I want you sure about me.’

He read it through, asked if he could write some of the names – only to check out, mind, not to approach, less disturbed the surface was the better. She nodded.

‘Ralph before Miles, eh?’ he stated the obvious.

‘Not really, I knew of him then through Chloe but there was no real communication, I was always somewhere else, doing something else. That’s all I had at that time.’

‘Tell me about Mandy Sobel.’

‘Agency, like me, not one of the good ones, she knew Ralph around the same time as me. Perhaps she was in his diary, but why her to do the shooting I don’t know, she was never a crack shot. I mean, it was just not something she’d be into – nails and make-up were her thing.’

‘If Ralph wanted her to though.’

She froze up. ‘I can’t go there, not to that topic.’

‘I could pick her up and charge him tomorrow.’

‘No!’ She calmed down. ‘No … please.’

‘Goodness me, after all this time. Even after … Miles.’

‘Don’t look for reasons.’

‘You’re a free agent now. Not my business.’

‘You think I’m pond life, don’t you?’

‘I’ve seen this too many times. We have our weaknesses.’

‘Am I one of yours?’

‘Need you ask?’

‘But you’d never …’

‘No, I wouldn’t.’

‘I take it your young officer’s with Sarah.’

‘Yes.’

‘That should be interesting.’

‘Yes.’

‘I miss Miles so much I blot it out, I can’t emote.’

‘Sarah’s heard you in your sleep. So have we.’

‘Can you get onto something else?’

‘What do you want for dinner?

‘Fish ‘n chips.’

They heard the front gate close and then the door opened.

Sarah came through to the living room, quite relaxed and with a slight smile.

‘Nice is he?’ asked Laura.

She narrowed her eyes and realized that of course Laura would know. ‘He’s OK.’

‘He’s nice,’ concluded Laura.

‘If you two want to continue in the bedroom, we’ll organize the eats. Fish ‘n chips.’

‘Goody, one of my faves,’ said Sarah. They went upstairs.

III

The next day, Young and Madders laid it all out on the big table, pictures and charts all over the wall and Tim was going to be invited to give his first summation.

First though, a good two hours going through the material again.

‘Well?’ asked Young.

‘Mr. Forrester was a professional hit, they wanted him out of it. Mrs. Forrester seems to me like the frighteners.’

‘Hospital doesn’t say frighteners, it says it was a hit.’

‘Perhaps she was a bad shot, as Mrs. Forrester says … or perhaps she was putting on the frighteners.’

‘And what do we do if we can’t decide?’

‘Shelve it until something else comes in. But factor it in all the same and don’t let it go by as one of those anomalies. Could one of the girls have done it?’

‘Of course, both good shots … and you’re palming one of them off onto me.’

‘She might be fine with you, I’d not lay someone on you I didn’t think was probably OK. What do you think would be a good move now?’

‘Remove the sisters from the board.’

‘How?’

‘Contrive a situation, send them on a mission.’

‘Yes, I was thinking that too. Now character details, I’d appreciate your opinion. Let’s start with Laura – we can use first names in here.’

‘Ms Laura, right. How far do your feelings come into this, sir?’

‘Good question. Ignore them because you might be able to change them, just say what you think … having reasoned it out of course.’

‘I’m not sure about her. From the outside here, I looked at her past, the decisions she made, that business with Miles’s ex-wife, what Laura did there, what she did on the Continent, her ideas about herself, this Stammers – how far she did go, sexually, her escort job. She might have grown to love Miles but it seems to me an artificial thing, something which came gradually. Sure she liked him but to be completely loyal to him – that came later, if at all.’

‘Do old habits die hard?’

‘Ah, well that’s the thing – do they? She sure had the perfect motif – all that coming to her and the will showed he was very careful she got it. But people have debts, don’t they, to people from the past.’

‘Would you say it all turns then on her character?’

‘Hers and the girls’. I would say, sir, that she found herself in with a chance of a stable, comfortable life, which even though her work paid, was not stable and they were not nice people. I’m not sure she could live with herself, ordering a hit.’

‘What about something like that king who asked who would rid him of a pest? And his offsiders went and murdered the pest.’

‘A Beckett.’

‘Yes.’

‘You mean Jenny?’

‘Yes. And maybe Stammers’s woman was the punishment she gave herself for it, half-hoping this woman was not a good shot. Who then fired the three shots?’

‘First shot which killed Miles – Laura organized it, it might have been anyone, my money is on the woman Sobel for all three.’

‘Not Stammers?’

‘Indirectly. He pumped ideas into Laura’s head, she’s quite weak with him, isn’t she? What about you, sir?’

I’m for the first one being Stammers’s order, Sobel was used. First hit on Laura and Jenny was also by Sobel, ordered by Laura. Stammers had nothing to gain from it, he had a lot to gain from a dead Miles. Last one was a second attempt by Ms Sobel. You know what you have to do now, Tim?’

‘Follow up Ms Sobel. Everything from past to relationships to ability to do such a thing.’

‘Yes, explore Ms Sobel, I’ll get onto that room, when you come back, we’ll compare notes.’

IV

Laura was healing but she felt a deep emptiness insidet, he feeling was pressing in on her that she’d failed yet again.

There was no knowing how long she could have kept up the marriage thing with Miles and his anxiety was probably due to that – she was constantly telling herself it was not a golden cage and then had come the letter.

She didn’t know what it was with her and Ralph, why she even gave that letter to that woman, a woman the DI had said was the one who’d shot her. Ralph was a rotter all right, but he had that manner, didn’t he and … he had that thing.

She didn’t want this life, she hadn’t asked for it, she wasn’t rustic, she’d been conned into it and here it was on her hands.

V

Ms Sobel was tucking into her meal already at the McDonald’s in Kingstown, Cumbria, when Madders arrived. He bought his and came over, sliding onto the bench opposite.

‘Not tall, not dark but with definite possibilities, no uniform, Sergeant?’

‘Different branch.’ He scrutinized her. ‘Ms Sobel, I’m faster than you but I’m not going to arrest you – let those two things sink in. So there’s no need to get away quickly. Also, we’re both armed.’

She was alarmed but decided to ride it out. ‘Your word, is it?’

‘Yes, my word. I’d not have promised otherwise.’

‘Man of integrity eh? Haven’t met one of those in a long while.’

‘I need your help but can’t ask that unless we’re clear what we know and what we don’t. These will show you what we know.’ He handed over an envelope with screenshots of the garage roof and Mandy at work, plus various data on her past.

She was quite uneasy. ‘If you know all this, why don’t you arrest me?’

‘Don’t be insulted but we’re after the bigger fish. I’m going to play fair – we think Ralph Stammers commissioned you and supplied you but I’m not asking you to confirm that. What I am asking is – if that’s quite wide of the mark, we need a line on who else it was not – we’re not holding out much hope you’ll name who it was. Are you interested in what we think about you so far?’

She looked to the ceiling. ‘What do you think?’

‘We know about the last one but there were three. One was from a boat on the river – that killed Laura Forrester’s husband, then there was one at Mrs. Forrester also from a distance on the water … and then there was the one you have the screenshots of. You’ve also seen the testimony of some of the boatmen, that you were onboard a few of those craft. Not saying they were the ones which sank but you were on some boats – you have those in the envelope.’ She didn’t bother looking.

He continued. ‘We think Laura was getting wise to some things going on with the boats and these puzzled us for some time. As this is the west coast, that had us fooled but then we realized how it was done – down the Leeds-Liverpool and over to Holland. We’re still not sure whether those were guns or drugs or both. We’re not sure yet whether it went through Goole or not. That can be sorted later.’

‘Where do I come in?’

‘We can’t offer a plea deal but there’s another way – we don’t charge you at all, feeling we couldn’t make it stick. I think you see what we need in return.’ He could see the cogs working overtime in there and this was the critical point – would she shop others to save herself or would she mislead to protect?

‘I’m not naming names.’

‘Not asking you to.’

‘But later, you’ll pull me in and make me tell, keep me there all night, all of that.’

‘Not during this case. It’s about others.’

‘I’m not talking about you personally. Someone, years later, goes through the files and decides to chase me.’

‘Depends what was written in the files – how it was written up. Who wrote it up.’

‘I don’t trust you. You got a sweet face but I don’t trust you. And I don’t grass.’

‘Ms Sobel, Mandy – we need pointers, ideas. You play it the way I’m putting to you, no one comes after you ever, no one wants anything more from you. We’re after the principals. You say what you can but protect yourself too – not an issue to me. Only thing I ask is don’t put us on the wrong track entirely – because then we really would come after you, even overseas.’

She stewed over it and stewed over it, knowing exactly how it would pan out. She made a decision. ‘It doesn’t go Scotland to Holland, it goes the other way. It’s not drugs, it’s people.’

‘Migrants you mean?’

‘No, something paying far more.’

‘Children.’

‘I’m saying nuffin.’

‘Miles’s boats were used for that? Did he know?’

‘I never knew this Miles, so don’t know what he knew. Yes, there were a few boats, not most.’

‘But that’s a long, slowwinded way of doing it, with checks along the way. Why not just a light aircraft?’

‘Too open, too known. Much easier to get them off the boat short of a control point, put them in a van, put them back on the boat later. They work it out to the last detail.’

‘They come through Amsterdam?’

‘Correct. There’s a Dutchman whose girl is connected with someone involved with the boats this side.’

‘That’s much more specific information. I get the feeling you want to sink the two of them.’

‘That’s my business.’

‘Why has none of this ever been found out? There are pilots, inspectors, all sorts.’

‘You think it through, clever boy, why not.’

‘What amazes me is how the owner of the fleet never saw anything of the kind. Do you think he was in it?’

‘No, he just collected money – he phoned his skippers when he’d be there, it was regular. It was the chick who started getting suspicious.’

‘Plus she has the business now and that must be making people nervous. But if he was as naive as he seems, why would anyone kill him?’

‘I’m not interested in that, all I know is, it wasn’t me. Sounds good coming from me – but that one I know nothing about. How long you gonna keep me here?’

‘You can go whenever you wish. The more you help, the more we help you, the more complete my report on you becomes, no loose ends left open.’

‘That’s blackmail and you’re a smiling assassin.’

‘We’re trying to solve a case, Mandy, we make deals. This is a deal today. Here’s my mobile number.’

VI

‘Impressive, Tim. I’m not going to push your case yet because we need to nail these people first, wrap this thing up and then I’ll be speaking loud and long.’

‘Appreciated, sir.’

‘As long as you keep doing it of course. Now, let’s get down to this. After you told me two days ago, we ran checks – didn’t burden you with them – the checkers can do that. Yep, we’re not the only ones watching it and a certain amount of backing off was recommended. I’m fine with that if these bastards are going to be nailed but if the recommendation to back off was to cover up, then we know our moles, don’t we?

I have to warn you, Tim – if we go down this path, a lot of people inside our ranks will go down and the mateship of your fellow officers will be replaced with suspicion, even hostility. Everyone wants an honest policeman – but not too honest. I read you as honest, I’d be disappointed if you succumbed to the money further down the track. But it’s dangerous. You’re going to be in physical danger, and then it becomes a case of who’s honest … and who’s not. You need to think about this.’

‘I have, sir. This seems the right way to go.’

‘Good man. Get over to Amsterdam and sniff around, go to this de Vries and interview him and the girl, we’ll clear it for you. Not expecting anything, don’t push, make it a nice interview use your discretion but be careful of one thing. You did it well with Ms Sobel – promising things you could promise so I think you know this already but be very careful what you really can promise. If we can’t carry out what we promise or threaten, we lose big time, I can’t tell you enough how important this is. Never lie, never, not even to obtain a conviction.’

VII

‘You’re interested in my sister, aren’t you?’ smiled Jenny A. A slight smile was on the corners of the mouth of Jan de Vries.

‘Yes. You look so like her I wonder if you didn’t swap, I told her I was coming. Describe the kitchen of the redoubt you were in.’

‘The galley sitting room you mean.’

‘Yes, the one with the mat under the table.’

‘There was no mat. It was seagrass matting.’

‘What, all the way out to the laundry?’

‘Yes – someone had dropped a cigarette and it had burnt a section of it.’

‘Must have hurt when you tripped on that.’

She caught Jan’s eye. ‘Not much, I picked myself up.’

‘You didn’t fall.’ Jan turned his face away barely perceptibly but it was enough. ‘You tripped, yes, but you recovered and went over to the washer.’

‘Well, fell, stumbled, all the same.’

‘Maybe but there was no washer in there.’

‘How can I notice everything there, I was in the middle of euphoria then.’ She looked at Jan.

‘All right.’ He backed off, which surprised them more. ‘We’re trying to solve this murder and two other shootings and so far, we haven’t asked you two if you’ve heard anything. I’m here to ask that.’

‘Serious question now? checked Jan. Madders nodded. ‘Ok, we know about it of course. The sisters stay in touch as you know and we know the one you call Jenny B was onboard with Mrs. Laura when someone fired through the porthole – that was a pretty good shot, I thought.’

‘It’s puzzling us.’

‘So the shot in the town, from that roof,’ Madders did a quick mental check and accepted Laura might have told Jenny B, ‘was clumsy.’

‘That’s our issue. It seems two different people.’

‘You have any leads?’

‘We have a dozen leads, none which come to anything.’

‘Why are you really here, Inspector?’

‘Sergeant. We have to look at all leads, every snippet we can get and as I said, no one’s asked you yet.’

‘Sorry we couldn’t be of more help.’

‘Oh you have, you have. I’d like to thank you for your time, both of you. We press on.’ He drank the last of his coffee and stood.

Jan came back from the door thoughtfully.

‘You think he bought my explanation?’ she asked.

‘Not at all. He’s a clever one, our Sergeant Madders. Clever people have been known to have accidents.’

‘You do that and you might have an accident yourself, do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes, Jenny, loud and clear. Don’t come over again.’

VIII

To call it a shock would be the understatement of the year. DI Young took the call on his mobile, to the effect that Laura would like to meet him at the earliest opportunity, on her territory please.

Young was not going to point out that anywhere in Britain was ‘his’ territory.

And so he wandered onto the dock and up the gangplank onto Laura’s launch as he called it, early morning in the early spring, with the mist in the air and moisture on the ground, still dripping from the trees, over everything.

The engines were already running, the surprise was that Tom Raines, the virtual ‘chief’ skipper of Miles’s fleet was skippering this time and there appeared to be no other crew.

Young had failsafes in place, including Tim Madders on a launch himself.

Laura had made some snacky, brunchy morsels and they swilled these down with tea in the dining area. That done, she led him to her stateroom and he knew why – the acoustics precluded being heard. He sat on the plush chair and she sat on the bed, arms resting on her knees, she was ill at ease.

‘You’re never going to solve this case, Detective Inspector, without my input – may I ask what your main priority is? Is it solving Miles’s murder or is it breaking the paedo ring everyone knows about but no one can touch?’

‘Both but the murder is first.’

‘The paedo ring you can’t break because you would not be alive to break it – once you get close enough, things happen, they have different ways of dealing with it. Yes, there’s a central organizing group of people in each case but it’s part of a larger, global move for a change in society – let’s not get into that now. There are rings which form, then disband, fade away, new ones form – it’s always moving, always changing. You can nail some figures in it but usually after their deaths.

Sometimes a figure is exposed but that’s often a disciplinary measure. I didn’t know this when I thought I was being so clever on the continent but I was ‘allowed’ to expose individuals – they had either transgressed or had reached the end of their useful careers, maybe they’d shifted position, politically – often it was the threat of exposing secrets. Some say that happened to Kennedy, it definitely happened with Strauss-Kahn. That wasn’t paedo so much but they still had the goods on him in his chosen perversion.

That’s how it’s done, that’s how they keep people under control. I was a fighter for what I believed to be good, seems I was just as used. Looking at my past, you could say abused as well – yes, I fit the classic profile, oversexed from too early exposure to it. And it’s not from moral rightness that I’m talking to you today, it’s from personal pride, ego – that they think I’m going to stay quiet.

I’m going to tell you some things and then it’s up to you what you do with them – if you use them, you condemn me to death. I know you to be an officer who does his duty but who also knows discretion.’

‘I can promise nothing … Laura.’

‘Of course not and have I asked? So, to finish up this paedo thing – the boats were not so much for that as for borderline paedo, the girls were 18 or close to it, it was for the porn industry. The real paedo stuff you haven’t even got near yet but Holland is certainly one place to start, also Belgium.

These ones were for clubs across the land – you might ask why not homegrown – answer is preferences of the clientele. Shirl from Barnsley is not quite the same as Maria from Slovakia – they move differently for a start, they do things differently.

Also, the older kids are much easier to transport in plain sight – take them off a canal boat and they could be some twenty year old guy’s girlfriend, they rejoin later. Meanwhile, their lack of papers – well, there’s a whole smokescreen of illegals right now, isn’t there? The media play it for all it’s worth but look at the overall numbers.

I still think you can go after the people who did it but understand what you’re actually going after – I mean know what they’re actually doing. Drugs? Maybe but that game is pretty tied up. Miles was neither interested nor dirty enough to know these things were going on under his nose. I’ll get onto Miles soon. You need a drink?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Now look why these people deal with this so-called low level trade – the authorities have bigger fish to fry. If you front them with one of the girls, the authorities will act but who’s going to do that? And so it goes on. Tom who’s skippering this boat was not involved, this is why he’s here – they kept him in the dark just as much as Miles. Anyone halfway moral is kept in the dark – that’s obvious. Tom’s like Miles – proud of the fleet, steady income, despite the EU, but has found restrictions placed on him since these incidents began, almost as if the EU was punishing this fleet.

I don’t have proof but I’m pretty sure some of the young men on those boats which sank – and there were more ready to sink – they were tied with either this gang, the EU or both, I’ll give you a list before you go, they’re not central to the story. So everyone was fine with Miles and Tom but when I came into it, there was danger and people waited to see which way I’d go, because, Detective Inspector, I’d been one of those girls many moons ago, that’s how I got to that agency, that’s how Miles found me. Did he rent girls? No, but girls found him – he represented money in those days, they called themselves hostesses and PAs and Miles was fine with that.’

‘Are other skippers involved?’

‘I’m sure a few are but don’t forget there are 26 skippers. It was more a case of direct contact with crewmembers by those from abroad … and yes, Jan was one of them, much higher than anyone really knows. And Miles was going to make him a partner!

That tells you something about Miles – either he really was that naive or else he knew and was keeping the person close, you could never tell with my husband, he kept his cards pretty close to his chest and that was one thing which told me he hadn’t had all that many women – no woman will take being shut out like that.

At least we know the ones he’s had but I’ve never seen anyone more single in a relationship.

Also, sometimes things seem to be fine and then one partner will say something and the other thinks about it and realizes what the other really thinks of him or her. As a woman, I need the attention a woman needs, need to be respected, need to feel that I am vital to him, need to feel part of a partnership.

Miles certainly talked the chivalry and was genuinely chivalrous but part of chivalry is not to quite value the woman on the same level, I’m no feminist but a woman knows if she’s valued. That’s what I thought it was about for a long time but then I realized he was like that with everyone – male, female, child. He’d relate in a pleasant, cordial, complimentary, even supportive way, he’d back your project, he’d do anything you’d hope your man would do.’

‘But he still kept a lot in reserve.’

‘Well yes. Now look at me, look at my recent work, I was quite a name if I say so myself, and he constantly reminded me how in awe he was of me, kept assuaging my ego but I always felt he was doing it by numbers. I can’t even say he was only after N1, as he gave so much away – I saw the way he treated the skippers and crews, which is why he still had them.

But, but, but … there was something remote about him, there was no family he’d talk about, I was all the family he had. He was close to you, he liked you. In bed, he wasn’t too bad, he could be inventive, he’d always try to make it good for me and I once said he should just take some pleasure for himself – didn’t register. His concept of woman was a damsel who needed to be feted. – now what woman would not want that?’

‘A woman who wanted an eyeball to eyeball, down to earth relationship.’

‘Yes, exactly, he was never down to earth. He had the businesses, he had the cash inflow, and yet I was the real one.’

‘The lioness.’

‘Well yes, I was the one covering his back and he did know and he kissed me for it but I always felt he should have had covered himself a bit more. In many ways, he was not in the real world. Then in came the Jennys and that complicated us, he put me on even more of a pedestal and yet I’d been as bad as any – he had this image of a lady he wanted me to live up to and that was not me.’

‘But surely that’s a good thing holding up high standards, as long as he also aimed for them.’

‘Yes, on paper, yes, but I could never talk out how sordid it had been, I could never share a smutty joke because ladies don’t tell them, do they. It became wearing, Inspector. He saw everything as fine, because I was behaving and playing up to it but surely he must have known deep down what he had on his hands. I’m better than most but I’m still no saint.’

She sighed and Young did too. He could see it now. Laura went on.

‘I had countless opportunities on the boats if I’d been a slut and he never saw how good I was being, he saw it as vindication that he’d chosen the right woman. Aaaaaaggghhh! I don’t say he was boring, he’d often surprise me and that kept things bubbling along.’

‘Laura, do you think we don’t have our issues, my wife and me? You were never in a long term relationship, your circumstances with Miles were so unusual that even your marriage was not the standard but after a few years, sometimes after a month, the two realize that unless something replaces the first fire, it’s going to end, we managed to get through that. You, it seems to me, were coming up to the first real crunch, it happens with almost every long term couple.’

She looked at him and then said: ‘Thanks. Thanks for that perspective. If I’d stopped him and said I wanted to talk – well, I’ve seen men run when they hear that. I think he would have listened and would have tried to adjust.’

‘Maybe it’s because I’m the man here but with the greatest respect, all I’ve heard so far is how he was for you, not the other way about – whether you were what he’d hoped for.’

‘I accept that, that’s fair. Point was, it never had a chance to work out because of three people -’

‘The Jennys and Ralph.’

‘Yes.’

‘Tim Madders reported he was sure it was Jenny B [let’s use those names for now] in Amsterdam with Jan de Vries.’

‘It was and you know that.’

‘Why would they swap for that interview? How did she know to do it?’

‘Mr. Madders phoned them to say he was coming over, mainly to see if either did a runner or whatever, they knew that. Jenny B told me Jenny A shot Miles, I know she didn’t.’

‘How?’

‘Because I know who did – it was Mandy Sobel, she took all the shots at me. Now I’m not defending Ralph Stammers and he certainly would have done that – sent someone, that is – after I rejected him but you have to understand Ralph. To be rejected is not the end of the earth to him, he always thinks he can come and take what he wants another time – that’s the arrogance of the man. And I have trouble saying no. I could say no through a letter but if he’d been there, it would have been difficult.’

‘Would you have succeeded?’

‘I’d hope so, because my own pride is involved in this … and my being with you now is my pride, as they all think I’m cowed and silent. I probably would have remained silent too, except for the three shots and the sinkings.’

‘I’m quite interested in the order of annoyance for you … if you can be honest about it.’

‘First is that they think I’ll do their bidding, but I have my pride and I’m a functioning person now. Second is Miles of course. Third is the sinkings, because that was our livelihood. Fourth is the Jennys. Fifth is a general feeling that I’d like to see them all go down – this is related to the first.’

‘Thanks. Come back to the three shots now.’

‘She’s a terrible shot – that’s why she missed me but got Miles. That’s also why, at close range, she still couldn’t finish me off.’

‘But why, Laura? Why did you have to be shot and who ordered it? Can you go that far?’

‘Can I go that far? Look at it this way, Inspector – the very fact I’m talking to you, whatever we say, has condemned me, I’ll need protection now for the rest of my life and I don’t have a lot of faith in the police, especially as they’ve been infiltrated and changed of late. If I go to prison, well that’s end game for me. I know this. I think you know this.’

‘All right, understood. I’m listening.’

‘Jenny A and Jenny B are twins, they look the same, they act the same from practice, in character, they’re streets apart. Jenny B has scruples, Jenny A fell in with Jan. Jenny B’s no angel but she’s a thousand times better than Jenny A.’

‘On Ms Sobel?’

‘They knew Mandy Sobel and I had a past, she was originally sent to me for blackmail, not extortion, they don’t need the money, it was just to shut me up. And yes, she did have something on me from years ago – I set up wealthy men for her to rob, only for a very short time. I tried to take my share of the haul but she refused and so I shopped her. She did five years and that was a pretty steep sentence for that, I was on a bond and assurance as I’d not profited and turned that to my advantage as the innocent who’d been misled.

The problem was that with my more recent past – the last ten years – they had no real hold. So what if I was exposed, so what if my sexual activities were exposed? Miles knew the second and would have forgiven the first. They had no hold. With the fleet, it would have made me more useful in their eyes, not less, except in Tom’s eyes of course.’

‘So the extortionist had to become the assassin.’

‘Yes – she had to show willing but I believe she deliberately missed or in the last one, aimed off and caught my side and while you leave her out there, she’ll try again. If she doesn’t, someone else will be sent – I’m on borrowed time.’

‘You may be, you might not. You haven’t told us the one giving the orders.’

‘You won’t know him, he’s over there and he uses Jan for a front, Jan in turn uses Jenny A. His name is Ruud van Agt and there’s another – Neil Joseph.’

‘Ah, the second we know but that’s a dead issue now.’

‘Yes and no. He’s been replaced by a lesser member of British royalty and a Belgian aristocrat.’

‘We know those two as well. Maybe London knew of van Agt but we didn’t up here but I can’t see how van Agt would be remotely interested in bumping you off.’

‘He wouldn’t, nor would Jan – they would just scuttle the ships until I gave it away, they don’t need dead bodies to draw heat.’

‘Well who did order it? Who persists?’

‘There’s a slush fund, Jan can dip into it, he needn’t stipulate, it’s not a govt department, he has discretion -’

‘And he’s under the control of someone close to us – Jenny B.’

‘Jenny A. Sorry to spoil a good story but Jenny B is not a baddy in this. This is my speculation now but I think Jenny A got to Mandy Sobel and as she was splashing the cash, it seemed she was the main go-to. She was, of course, protecting Jan, Jan knew about it and didn’t care, he wanted to keep Jenny A as a most useful sidekick. Mandy was threatened of course, that’s why I’m not so down on her – I know that sounds strange.’

‘No, it makes sense. Now, Laura, what chance every single thing you said is total guff and you are the mastermind?’

Chapter 3 hereChapter 5 here

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