All falls apart
‘Now we get to something very interesting. Look at this close up of the board. Someone has colour sampled a dot from the digital display on that bus station board and there are vague outlines of the other dots not illuminated. Piece of cake one evening to add two dots in those spaces to convert 11 to 14. She even blurred the dots to resemble the others. At the distance we were meant to see it from, it looked like a 14, or 2 p.m., too late to catch Ms Laura and Miles going out with me. The killer had to have been well in place by 2 p.m.
‘Let’s switch topics for now. In that photo, would you agree it’s one of the Jennys? Yes? All right, why do you assume its a Jenny?’
‘Jumpsuit – their motif,’ said Mandy S. Laura nodded. Those pockets, that plunging diagonal, many reasons. The deportment, the hair, many things.’
‘Fine, let’s look at this jumpsuit.’
‘No.’ It was Jenny B. ‘I’ll tell you because I know exactly what you’re going to reveal. I was staying at the Inspector’s place, Jenny A was in Holland. Mrs. Young asked me to leave my black bag for washing – clothes that is – on the washing machine before going to bed that evening. It was a regular thing.’
‘Let me take it up now, Jenny, as the layout of our house is involved. Our kitchen is directly below the guestroom, which is why we wash clothes in the morning but in this case, my wife Jane needed some smalls for the next day and a polyester top. She loaded the machine but had room, so she reached into Jenny’s bag and pulled out some smalls, plus that suit. She knew Jenny was going out early next day and so it was wise to get it washed now.
Once it was done on the short cycle though, there was the question of drying. Our drier makes too much noise for night time so the only way was take the suit outside, around the corner in the back yard and hang it to catch the morning sun. Not good but all she could do.’
‘I woke up, heard the machine and suddenly realized I’d need that suit – I always go on a job with that suit.’ She stopped but Young took it up.
‘Jenny’s job was to follow her sis. She vaguely knew why her sis was there near the dock, she didn’t know exactly so she followed her. She was going to confront her sis with the photos and demand she desist from whatever she had planned.’ Jenny B nodded and Jenny A stared at her, horrified at this betrayal.
Now we get to the main part. Just as we identified Ralph Stammers’s boat, so we identified this one, with a much better resolution. That phenomenon of the lucky break comes in here. What were around in the harbour in that week of the year?’
‘Harbour porpoises,’ answered Tim Madders. Jenny had a sinking feeling, Jenny A was stone-faced.
‘Right and look at this ad in the Lytton Times – pass it around please.’ it did the rounds and was handed back.
‘Now look at the photo of that launch not blown up – what are behind it? Porpoises of course. Now look at the first close up.’ The projector was switched back on and people waited impatiently.
Then there it was – the registration number. ‘We know when it was hired, where it went, what time it went back. It wasn’t hired from that harbour. And now let’s look at the last one.’
They all did and then looked at Jenny A. She was stone-faced, in shock. She tried to rally. ‘You … you can’t pin that on me, it’s too blurred.’
‘Look at the jumpsuit. What’s in your hand?’
‘It’s not pointing at anyone.’
‘No it isn’t. Look at the person sitting at the table. Recognize anything, Ms Laura?’
Laura shook her head. Said Young; ‘Second example of honesty and cooperation, is it? All right, Sergeant Madders, describe what attire Mandy Sobel was wearing at McDonald’s.’
‘Black jumpsuit with purple and green flashes.’
‘Hell, they’re as common as muck – high street.’
‘Maybe but unusual to see such a thing on that boat. He testifies it was a woman in such a jumpsuit.’
‘Crap, this is a set-up. There’s no way anyone could identify me, as I wasn’t there.’
‘Yes you were. You’re quite right about the man identifying you – it was a woman and she was saying nothing. Is still saying nothing.’ Mandy was triumphant and Laura’s heart sank. ‘Compare these two forensic reports – one from the helicopter, one from the boat.’
‘You have nothing, nothing you shit!’
‘I’m going to draw this to a close. The person who killed Miles Forrester was Jenny A, or Sophie Daniels. But she did not murder him. Something else happened and all four women sitting here know it full well. There are two reasons she won’t be charged – firstly, she was physically overpowered, she was also under the influence of something diabolical -’
‘What, spirits?’ mocked Mandy Sobel.
‘In a way. No, far nastier, part of the things which go on but that’s way over the level of this meeting to deal with here. It’s a different investigation.’
‘I wish you the best of luck with that one.’ And this time it was not mocking.
It was apparently a prison fight over woodworking tools, the upshot was that Ralph Stammers was dead, just one week after that meeting, there was some suggestion that Mandy Sobel had been visiting another inmate and it had happened soon after but there was no way to sheet that home.
Tim Madders was seated in their dingy office, DI Young half sat on his desk, smiling. Tim Madders was not happy about the case.
‘Good,’ said Young, ‘good. Now tell me why.’
‘Jenny B wanted her sister stopped, she took those shots to stop her. She thought that if she could get us to arrest Jenny A – well, a cell protects you from the rain.’
‘There were two people to be framed – Stammers and Jenny A, for blackmail purposes.’
‘I’d say so but can’t pin it down. The shot at Laura and Jenny B was actually a shot at the Jenny who could be seen through the telephoto, who deliberately wore her sis’s hat – we know this – and drew fire. We can’t pin that on Mandy Sobel but I can’t see how it could be anyone different. Why take out Jenny A if they were attempting to frame her?’
‘Because … because … she failed to respond as a robot and someone else had to kill Mr. Forrester.’
‘I’d say so again. By the way, I asked Jenny B point blank why she wore her sister’s hat. She went about two seconds before denying it, I showed her – she knew it already – that that gave her away. She admitted wearing it because she missed her sis.’
‘Where’s Jenny A now?’
‘In custody, in a safehouse. I’ll tell you more later because you’ll need to guard her.’
‘Come to mama,’ said Jane Young, ‘and tell her all about it. I know your brooding, Leyton and in this case, it’s two young women.’
He glanced over, then at the ceiling again. ‘It really was much simpler in the early days – a naughty person was a naughty person. He’d done the theft, sometimes even the murder, sometimes he had an elaborate scheme but once you nailed him, it was x number of years inside. Yesterday I had to tell a meeting that there was a difference between murder and killing.’
‘Yes, true but it’s got me thinking about guilt.’
‘Because she’s young and pretty – don’t answer that. I take the point that she is under some sort of influence – explain that.’
‘We always knew this sort of thing went on and the internet confirms there’ve been attempts to prosecute people involved in the big agencies through the years but it’s a hydra. I always thought it was the big money behind closed doors, the hidden government and not really my field. Sometimes an order would come down to lay off and we thought it was because it was special section or diplomatic – I never knew it was this. It’s more than people being blackmailed or paid obscene amounts – its actually Dr Mengele stuff, it’s experimenting on people, on their brains, torturing them to break their minds. If even half of it is true, then people are sitting ducks. You go into a building expecting to be bribed or threatened and instead end up in a chair with electrodes attached. No one’s prepared for that sort of thing.’
‘And that makes her less guilty?’
‘Ah well, diminished responsibility. I know the old test – how would I feel if it had been my child killed by Jenny A – but she is still under their power, she becomes their robot. That’s the whole point. I don’t know with Ms Sobel whether she’s a perpetrator or victim or both and my job is still to investigate a crime and charge the miscreants but who are the miscreants, Jane? Let’s not use Jenny A as an example as they were already into things, those two, but you know what I mean.’
‘It’s not just Jenny A … is it?’
‘No. No it’s not. The station boss is one of them, I know of two officers and now another. Found out today by chance. They succumb, same formula – first money, then blackmail and threat, then torture if stubborn. It takes a special person to refuse.’
‘Life of ease as someone special or the opposite – bumped off, compromised. No inbetween.’
‘That’s it. And look how general integrity has fallen away – I see the edges of it, I hear a lot from colleagues.’
‘Who worries you most?’
‘It’s a good question. I know Jenny A is under so it doesn’t really worry me any more – she just has to be got out of it, it’s a task, a job. The two officers who’ve gone under, including the one today – that’s more deep disappointment, dismay but I’m not worried – they’ll just be caught in a sting we’ll do. Laura though – she’s right on the edge. She could well be the mastermind of the whole thing, the one who brought chaos to this part of the world and that makes her a despicable criminal but she’s also a victim. How far does responsibility go?’
‘You got close to her. Don’t worry, I don’t mean you’ve made love to her.’
‘I can tell you now I haven’t but it came damned close. Yes, I have feelings. But I also have anger at her stupidity, at her attitude, at how she did not appreciate what Miles offered. I thought she always did appreciate the new life. Pride, ego.’
‘Leyton, you must go after those two men from today – I suppose they were men? Yes. And you must go after Laura no matter what. Jenny A you need to have the story right but if she’s culpable, she goes too … no matter how your relationship with Jenny B, whom you love, breaks down.’
‘Nothing gets past you.’
‘Pretty damn obvious.’
‘You’re everything, my rock.’
‘Cuts both ways, lover boy.’
The police launch was not as nice as Laura’s, not by any stretch, but it did have some comforts inside – Jenny B and Leyton Young could talk.
He looked at her – the way she held her head perfectly still, the penetrating look in those dark eyes, her dark hair tied back, her air of expectation.
‘I don’t know what to say, Jenny.’ He leaned his arms forward on the table. ‘You’re so important to me both for work and to keep me sane. He told her Jane’s view on miscreants, verbatim. ‘I know you agree because you’re more an MI5 than MI6, you’re more police than troublemaker. And yet she’s your sister. For a start, I’m not sure how much influence Mandy Sobel had on the shot -’
‘I do but would you listen?’
‘To you, I’d always listen.’
‘Thank you. Sis is under their control, I failed to wake up to de Vries in time … time enough for them to take her. I don’t have proof that Mandy fired the gun, I think sis might have and that’s a big statement from me but Mandy was right over her, reminding her of what awaited if she didn’t. In my book, that is Mandy’s hit.’
‘In my book too.’
‘Personally. But as you know, I’m police. I’m not sure I will be for long, thing I might go freelance.’
‘Honestly?’ She was shocked. ‘You’re one of the best. Why?’
‘Corruption inside, can’t move, can’t do the right thing. Besides, I’ve a few side ventures and … I want to employ you still. That costs money.’
‘It wouldn’t cost too much … at first,’ she smiled.
‘I love Jane.’
‘I know and I’m the first one to want that to continue. It makes sis and I more secure too. But can she handle a platonic female friend?’
‘We’ll cross that one later. There’s Sarah first. She’s on another launch and it will come here. I need your help and can’t pay you, not yet. You’ll not be out of pocket when it gets adjusted.’
‘You think that’s first on my mind? With my sister? What do you need?’
He told her about the two officers and then asked if she was onboard with him in this matter, she wouldn’t double-cross him? Her withering look was the answer. He now told her the names.
She was gobsmacked, truly gobsmacked. She shook her head.
He went on: ‘I want them and Ms Sobel nailed but not a hit, Jenny. I want them to fire first. Here’s what I have in mind but I’d appreciate your strategic opinion and ideas.’
At the end, he said, ‘I like it, it speaks of justice in a way and will send a message. It will also make us targets from then on.’
‘I already am, you’re the one who needs to adjust his ideas … and his status. How does Jane feel?’
‘She knows, she gave me the idea.’
‘You know, if we put it to those patrons – one or two of them – that this is being done for Miles, if I were to put it to them, not you as you’re still police – I think they might be useful. Now talk about the one person who you haven’t mentioned yet. You think she’s guilty … don’t you?’
‘I have a theory that Laura and Ms Sobel are not enemies at all.’
She looked straight into his eyes. ‘Finally the scales have fallen. She’s not a bad woman inside, she was also under them. Not now, long ago but they still have a hold.’
‘Question 1 – do you know all? Question 2 – how much can you tell me?’
‘Question 1 – yes, well as much as can be known. Quiestion 2 – you know very well it’s if you’re wearing the policeman’s hat or not.’
‘The policeman’s hat is access to databases and fellow officers.’
‘The policeman’s hat is that you must charge criminals. If you didn’t, then you would have lost your integrity and be no use to me.’
‘I do believe you’re pressuring me, Ms Daniels.’
‘You know what you must do, you’re resisting it, there’s no guarantee of income unless you play your cards right. But it’s your only ethical choice now. I do agree it would be nice if you could keep some contacts and don’t shop us. What are you going to do to Laura?’
‘We now have our plan for these two officers, we have our plan for Sarah. There’s no plan for Laura, I can’t think straight. I don’t want her hurt.’
‘Yes, you’ve got it bad. I feel loyalty too. But she must be stopped all the same. Leyton -’ she’d crossed the line – ‘you know she’s the mastermind. You know that … don’t you?’
‘You see – I knew that the night I took down Amelie. But I know she was in the ‘playing you’ mode and you were gone on her. Wasn’t my place at that time. What’s the plan for Laura?’
‘Is this where Jenny sat?’ Laura smiled. ‘Jenny said you’re soft on her … and on me too.’
‘Well what do you expect? Did she tell you how difficult I find it all?’
‘No, she doesn’t say much, Jenny. Are you arresting me today?’
‘No. But I am going to tell you everything about what we know. Before I do that, I’m going to tell you something else you know – I love you.’
He now proceeded to tell her every single thing he had on her, from her early days onwards and her expressions ranged from dropped jaw to smirks and back to wide-eyed wonder. He gave her the lot.
‘So you see my dilemma as an officer … and then my dilemma as an officer who is not going to be one much longer. The one which disappoints me the most is the way you were playing Miles.’
‘I … wasn’t playing him, truly I wasn’t. We’re drawn into things – you’ve just outlined how I was – it was clear I had interests opposite to his and yet he was drawing me into his sphere and I wasn’t unhappy about a good, clean life. Well, a less unprincipled life, say. I didn’t go behind his back, I was already there – he never thought through Europe, what I was doing there, who the people were who paid me. Why they did. My way of dealing with any of it was to be unemotional, to affect not to care. Deep down I do very much because now the rock has been overturned and I’ve crawled out from under it, it looks very bad in the cold light of day.’
‘According to the rules of your web, you’ll have to arrange my accident. On this boat you can’t, nor can I to you. After you get off this boat, I’m a dead man.’
‘Not with the Jennys.’
‘Jenny, singular, you know all about that. Were you continuing her ‘training’?’
‘Yes and you know why – if I once faltered, I was taken back there myself. I had my role and as long as I did, I was free from … from that.’
‘Our theory, Jenny and I, was that Sarah went to shoot but rebelled, Mandy made her do it.’
‘More or less. It was Mandy, according to herself, who peered down the scope and pushed Sarah’s fingers. It was essential that she was guilty.’
‘It’s sick – all of it.’
‘Yes. Once you’re in, there’s no out. It only gets worse. Humans are flotsam, I’m flotsam, I’ll be cast off one day.’
‘Laura, that was your own husband.’
‘There speaks a man who doesn’t know that physical pain, that nausea – you never want to go back there. It transcends anything. You can be loyal, you can love but that beats it each time.’
‘Heaven help you.’
‘No one else can. What are you going to do with me now?’
‘Ask you a few more and let you go.’
‘Not wise. Go ahead, ask.’
‘That third hit on you – Mandy, was she meant to aim off and missed?’
‘No, she was meant to get me in the side. As she did. It’s true she’s a bad shot but when the rifle is resting on a parapet, like a tripod, it becomes easier. I’d seen that place a few times and had thought about it. At that time, I needed to be under protection, so that they couldn’t really get to me to finish me off – that third shot confused them.’
She stared at him for a few moments. ‘Would you kiss me one last time? You see, I think that as far as I can, I do love you too. You remind me of Miles.’
At 8 p.m., the air still being warm enough, with only a few spots of rain during the day – Young walked behind the ye olde upturned coracles draped in nets, behind the buildings abutting the cobbled Ribble Wharf, down to the unlit end of the track.
He opened the backdoor, a pistol was clapped to his head, at which point he said, ‘Enough of the dramatics, is she all right?’
Yes said Jenny as she locked the door behind him. ‘Don’t think you’ll squeeze through the gap.’
‘Oh thank you very much. I’ll breathe in.’
He did see what she meant though – the end of the wall could be prised open so far and that was all. He poked his head through and named the two officers, they acknowledged with the predetermined response and then he grinned as he could make her out sitting between them in an old armchair – strapped to the armchair in fact – in her jumpsuit, tape over her mouth but a hole had been made, a straw went through that hole and she was sipping.
He withdrew his head and Jenny let the board go. ‘OK, you still prepared to do this?’
‘What do you think?’
‘You’re really very brave you know – impressive.’
‘Maybe I’m crazy. What time will you tie me up?’
‘When we hear the first signs. It’s gloomy in here, wharf lights give enough.’ He named the other two and voices came from the corners. ‘So now we wait – everyone eaten?’ Yes.
It wasn’t all that late, they’d thought 1 a.m., 2 a.m. but it was not much past 11 when they heard the scraping on the roof – muffled for sure but still audible. He faux-tied Jenny up, pulled the balaclava over her head and withdrew to a spare corner of the room. They were banking all on them wanting to capture, not kill her and now they’d find out.
Suddenly a wrenching noise of corrugated roof was followed by two figures dropping to the floor and then a third, all hooded, they went straight to Jenny and one of them pulled off her balaclava, she acted as if she were drugged, the man seemed satisfied, they moved as if to lift her, she sat up and clapped her gun to the closest, one of the officers said to drop the weapons and a few things happened at once. The one nearest Jenny went to pistol whip her and she shot him through the head, rolling to the side, one of the others went to shoot at the corner from where the command had come and he was taken out, the third dropped his weapon and put his hands behind his head.
Then no one moved. They heard the other two sliding down of the roof onto the track behind, they also heard the exclamations as the rounds from the end of the lane went into them.
‘Kneel, keep your hands on your head.’ Same officer. Slowly now, take your hood off and take off theirs.’ He did. ‘Now kneel down again, hands on head.’ Jenny had her pistol to the back of his head.
Still Leyton didn’t come out of the shadows, the two officers did and one shone a torch on the one kneeling. ‘Effing hell, it’s Ronnie. Why, you stupid bastard?’ No reply. He trained his gun on Ronnie too while the other went over and shone the torch on the two dead men’s faces.
‘Neil Wexford and Tim Madders,’ he reported. He now went up to Ronnie. ‘We’re going to let you go, Ronnie, nuffing’s happened tonight, nuffing at all.’
‘You want the passwords.’
‘Very quick, son, very quick. If they’re wrong, you know we’ll send this girl for you. She’s good at staking out. You won’t last the week.’
‘You saw her. Look at the hole in Tim Madders’ head if you’re not sure.’
‘Fucking maniac, she wants locking up.’
‘Nice one, Ronnie. That’s the deal. Cough up and you can go, no questions asked.’
‘They’ll do for me if I do.’
‘No they won’t, Ronnie, they won’t be alive.’
He knew this scene, they’d done it a few times, he knew not to hang about. He gave the words and explained they had to go in from two directions. One was the companionway but the other was the hatch on the foredeck, it would be open.
‘You don’t know, do you? Fucking amateurs. They’ll do you two.’
‘You going to tell us or -’
‘It will be Laura’s boat,’ said Jenny, quietly.
‘Brighter than you lot, isn’t she?’
‘Getting tired of this, Ronnie. You’ve seen me when I get tired. Here are the two scenarios – you heard the commotion and lay flat on the roof, the other two slid off and got shot. You stayed up there until everyone left, then slipped away and raised the alarm. They’re not going to buy it and I think you might be marked but you leave here alive.
On the other hand, if you actively assist us now, give us the whole lot as you know it, we’ll go out of our way to keep you alive, we’ll get Young to arrange it.’
‘He’s for the chop anyway, the boss doesn’t like him.’
‘Thanks for the heads up. Your alternative now is we still let you escape but there are two at the end of the lane and she -’ he indicated Jenny ‘- she’s got free rein to come after you, now, tonight. And she’s keen for this sort of work, you saw that. You’ve got one minute.’
He saw a slight chance in the first and none in the second so he didn’t use up the full minute but got down to describing the crew onboard, that Laura would be there, also van Agt, also another bird Ronnie didn’t know. He then described how they would carry her, the dinghy,Tim Madders would give the first password and he, Ronnie, would give the second at the hatch. He didn’t know where they planned to go with the launch, maybe to Ireland and plane from there, whatever.
‘Good boy. Take off your outer gear, hood too.’ He did. ‘Now take one of theirs off too, maybe Madders.’
That done, ‘Off you go then, we’ll give you a bunk up. Stay on the roof until we’ve gone out the back, OK?’
They dressed in the dark gear, the second officer tied Jenny up the same way as before and heaved her into a fireman’s, they both went out the front and there was the dinghy. They took it.
At the launch, they went up the ladder and ‘Tim’ gave the password – he was allowed to carry Jenny downstairs, ‘Ronnie’ went round to the fore hatch and was also allowed down.
It all happened quickly – van Agt smelt a rat immediately, his torps went to fire and were removed, he ran and was removed but the woman escaped, Jenny going after her at a rate of knots, the woman dived in, jenny aimed and let off a round, the woman struggled, Jenny let off another at the head. She went downstairs, took in the scene and said she had to get back. The dinghy had gone but the launch had one – with a 6hp too, nothing but the best.
Leyton Young still waited in the corner, there was no sound next door.
A silent figure dropped down through the torn roof to the floor.
She froze. ‘Leyton.’
‘Thought you might not trust them.’
‘Always best to be sure. Mop up. What now?’
‘You depart through the back door.’
‘Those two at the end of the track.’
‘Not there now, they’re on a second job.’
‘Just you and me, yes?’
‘And Jenny on the launch, killing people.’
‘Something like that.’
‘You’re not going to disarm me?’
‘You’re disarming enough.’
‘That worries me. That worries me a lot – your mind’s as devious as mine.’
‘You didn’t come back to check this warehouse, there was nothing for you here.’
‘You know there was, we both know and I was going to complete the job. But as I now can’t, I may as well go.’
‘That would be best.’
‘Just out the back door, yes?’
She suddenly moved to fire, there were two thuds and she dropped to the floor. Jenny slipped through the gap and dropped to the floor, holstering her gun on her chest. Leyton stepped forward for the first time in a long while, legs cramping.
‘I think your was first, Jenny. Thanks.’
She grunted and went for the timber at the end of the adjoing wall, this time ripping it back but the surprise was that she didn’t have the strength. He grapped it and snapped it back.
‘Thanks,’ she said and went through to her sister. The two officers went through to Leyton. Jenny walked round behind Sarah and kissed her on the cheek, kissed her hair, reached out for her hand and they both squeezed hard. She whispered in Sarah’s ear that she loved her, then took out the pad from her calf pocket, put it over Sarah’s mouth and Sarah was out within 30 seconds.
Jenny called the men through, they fed Sarah through the gap, Leyton was talking to the officers on board Laura’s boat, Sarah was carried in a fireman’s down the track at the back, Jenny following and into a police car boot, the launch was in the next harbour about 3.5 miles off.
The officers came back and it was clear the cleanup and repairs were their job, Leyton thanked them and that was that for the night.
Leyton Young came through the companionway and down inside the police launch some three days later. The boat was far out to sea, he’d been dropped by helicopter cable.
Noncommittal but not hostile.
Jenny came over and kissed him on the cheek. Then, in the greatest shock he’d had for a year, Sarah came over and kissed the other one.
‘Tag team, yes? You both armed?’
‘I am, Sarah’s not.’
‘Safe to arm her?’
‘Don’t know, think so.’
He passed his pistol to Sarah, butt first. She took it and just stood there, cogitating.
‘I’ve told her everything, the lot,’ said Jenny. ‘Everything we talked about, everything you promised. She’s not out of danger yet but not too far away.’
‘Enough to give her your own gun?’
‘Phew.’ Sarah looked at her sister, intrigued and Jenny felt trapped. Finally she unholstered it and passed it over. Sarah stood there with the two guns, one in each hand.
She looked down at the guns and they could see the cogs turning in the mind. She could force them to take her back to Amsterdam, to that which she knew, she could kill Leyton here and now … or even in his sleep. She knew though about the top-ups as they called them in ‘training’, the pain, the nausea.
‘Can you keep all that away? Will I go to prison?’
‘We need to talk all this out. If I stay on the force, I can have influence that way. If I become a civilian, I can take better measures but have no official say.’
‘Jenny told me about the people at your station who can harm you. I know of some of them.’
‘If I leave the force, I need protection and some of Miles’s patrons are the way. I’ll be seen forever as a crooked cop.’
‘You’d do that for me? For us?’
‘Not just for you two. For Jane, for making a living, for employing both of you if you wanted.’
Sarah thought a few more moments, them proferred the guns, they were taken and holstered. Leyton stepped up to her and tentatively placed a kiss on her cheek, then a quick one on her lips.
He turned to the smiling Jenny who’d puckered her lips, so he planted one there. ‘Everyone lunched?’
By the late afternoon, they’d covered most of the ground. Jenny came back to the key question. ‘It comes down to self-defence on Laura or not. As an officer, how do you see that?’
‘Line ball and depends who conducts it – that’s the situation these days. We can call our colleagues but would they wish to testify? They need their careers. I’d say that because I’ve been allowed to come here with you two and occupy one of the launches, that counts for something. As the officer in charge, I’m not preferring charges. We come back though, to after I go. Methinks we have to catch Stevenson out in some naughtiness but he’s on his guard against that.’
‘You’re forgetting us,’ said Jenny. ‘And I do mean us. Once you’re back on your feet, we’re going to slug you for our help but not for now.’
‘How OK are you, Sarah? Can you judge that?’
‘Sis is a huge factor in it. I’d never let her be dragged into it. Me? They could trigger me but they never got a long way anyway – I was one of their lesser successes.’
‘Have you learnt anything about handsome young men who see only you?’
‘That’s cruel. Yes, I hope so.’
‘We’re in an artificial position right now, the three of us, as we’ve agreed many times this afternoon. I must settle my future work within a month but you need to be secure first, the two of you. They’ll come for both of you. And I must have time to talk to Jane – not about whether to but how and when. It was her idea in the first place. You’ll need to be armed, Sarah.’
‘We’ll take care of that,’ said Jenny. ‘Best you don’t involve yourself in that. Let’s have supper.’
Two of the patrons, the ones who’d probably been closest to Miles, were happy enough in their own way – they saw the possibilities of inside information, also hiring the Jennys now and then.
It was pronounced self-defence in all cases, even Stevenson had not objected – he probably saw the chance of Leyton gone as a good thing for his operations. They’d had a session with Mr. Pendlebury already and were due for another the Friday of the same week. There was also the funeral to arrange.
Mr. Pendlebury coughed, adjusted his glasses, the teas were brought in, before they’d even been asked if they wanted any but no matter.
‘To business,’ he said from his side of the enormous table, piled high with papers. ‘The reason you’re seeing me is that though we did not act for Mrs. Forrester in the matter of her last will, a new one had been made and we are acting for her on that. There is no executor, it is being handled by us as trustees. It’s a relatively straightforward will, I can’t see complications in any but one area.
Essentially, she observed Mr. Forrester’s wishes, though they were not binding on her own bequests and there were people he had left bequests to, not the gifts to the skippers and the other parties but actual bequests. Those people received those bequests but she wanted to leave them more, so she’s detailed 15% of her estate to them as a whole, evenly divided.
Now, she has also left 15% each to the girls and the remaining 55%, Mr. Young, to you. Our fee is taken before the disbursement.’
When he recovered, he said, ‘I don’t like the split. I feel we already had more than sufficient from Miles’s will and this is on top of that. There is also the little matter of how Ms Laura met her end.’ Mr. Pendlebury coughed again.
Leyton went on. ‘We weren’t to know things would end as they did, though we knew they’d probably end. If she’s bequested something to us, then I see it as a way to set up our business in order to fight the baddies even more and I feel Laura would approve of that. She couldn’t change things herself but her money might.
I’d like to suggest that, before your fee, those people she felt she owed get 18%, ditto to each of these girls, 18% to me too and 18% to a fund we’ll set up today for our future employment, the girls and I, anything drawn from that requiring four signatures. That leaves 10%. 4% of that goes to the firm, which should cover the fee and 6% to you, Mr. Pendlebury, with the stipulation that it was requested by three of the beneficiaries. You are the trustee, it can be done.’
Mr. Pendlebury gave a little smile. ‘It’s possible, it’s irregular, all parties must agree. I really don’t know what to say, Mr. Young, it’s most generous of you but might I suggest 5% to the firm and 5% to me. As I set up the firm and there are tax considerations, that would suit me better.’
‘Leyton turned to the girls. Well?’
‘Stunned, such generosity,’ said Jenny. ‘Stunned. Yes, naturally I agree.’
Sarah was almost in tears. ‘We’ll make this work, I promise we’ll make this work.’
‘Jenny turned to Mr. Pendlebury. ‘Sis means she agrees.’
‘You see,’ added Leyton, ‘it really is so important that the money works for Laura – I think you understand why. She’ll have a sumptuous funeral and memorial – the girls and I will discuss this with Jane and it will be appropriate. Expect a letter, Mr. Pendlebury.’
‘Well, let’s leave it at that and I’ll get to work,’ said the old man. ‘A pleasure to see you again, though the circumstances were unfortunate.’
He stood, they did too.