5

Stone Dead: Accounts settled

Chapter 4 here … Chapter 6 here

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I

The meeting was at the little place DI Collins had arranged for them, it had been done initially as a favour but the elderly couple liked them, they liked the elderly couple, plus the house and Miles now offered a fair rental for a year, with options at the end of that time.

Laura asked him why, when there were any number of boats they could have had.

‘More secure, a boat is vulnerable, it’s closer to the action here, draws the action away from the fleet, we can get the law in more quickly.’

She would keep Durham on for now, run by Amelie, Collins was pleased it had worked out and now had come part two in the plan – Dave Collins. Yep, he was the brother all right, older brother but more au fait with the world so it seemed, a smiling, happy man, secure in his abilities and how he had things organized. See how he dealt with this one, thought his brother.

It was all chummy over the tea and cakes she’d bought around the corner – around the corner being one of the main drawcards for Laura. They’d crossed the Rubicon on first name terms. So, DI Collins was henceforth Michael Collins.

‘I’m going to leave you three now, must dash,’ he said, ‘I’ll let myself out. Dave knows what I need, tell him what you need and he’ll call me later. Keep your calls to me to a minimum – it’s not that I don’t want to hear from you but …’

Laura got in first. ‘Whatever we decide now, will you bring your lady for dinner Thursday or Friday?’

Collins grinned. ‘My lady, yes?’

‘Yes, the redhead.’

‘Someone’s been talking, yes? I’ll call her.’ He did, they came to a three way agreement, the phone was snapped shut. ‘Now to business.’

It was Laura, not Miles who took up the conversation, detailing how the various departments worked, sparks of recognition of names from time to time – he’d worked for government departments, yes he could do this, no he couldn’t do that.

Miles got up and put the kettle on again.

Laura was divulging a fair bit to the brother of a lawman but if she didn’t know what she was doing, no one did. Collins appreciated that she was so doing and suggested ways he could get a line on what was going on, especially Haas’s office. Laura said they changed their security every month, that means they were observable, that office did not go through departmental channels, that made it easier, said Dave.

The question of remuneration came up. ‘You couldn’t afford me, here’s what we charge clients,’ and he showed an invoice. Miles gulped, Laura was stony-faced. ‘Obviously, I’m not going to charge you that, I was called in by bro, but I’ll need to not be out of pocket though on some of the gear I need to get in. Not a lot, I have most of it, I’ve any number of servers.’

‘We’ll cover that, if it gets beyond us, we’ll just have to pull out.’

‘You need to see my work first, you’ll need to see some results, starting with Glendinning. I’ll show you Thursday and show you what it actually cost in hardware, the fee will be just my time halved and you’ll pay half of that again, Michael the other. Let’s wait till Thursday.’

II

Ten days down the track, it was coming up to Frank’s and Chloe’s trials.

Johanssen was already inside, his second home, not unhappy by any stretch of the imagination. His quarters were comfortable and he was spared the more ignominious privations of Full Sutton.

In return, many in the community around Pocklington enjoyed some of the largesse he distributed via his ‘aides’ as he called them. Three stretch with good behaviour – it could have been worse.

The only unpleasantness was a bit of a turf war over substances but when it became clear he wasn’t remotely interested, calm returned and the two groups maintained a healthy and respectful distance. In fact, the new problem inside was the jihadi mafia – those guys were total nutters.

Word was that Johanssen had friends in high places and he was temporarily on sabbatical to regroup and get things sorted again.

‘Let’s discuss the paternity issue,’ suggested Miles after supper one night.

‘You mean Chloe’s?’

‘Yep. Do you know the Human Tissue Act 2004, Section 45?’

‘Paternity test for Chloe, yes?’

‘Why didn’t she abort? It doesn’t avail her anymore – the need for Ralph has also gone -‘

‘Yes but it could equally be Frank’s. We just have to wait, Miles. They’ve got her on the murder, pending appeal, your DI was good after all. I could come to like the constabulary.’

III

Ms Dalshiel was having a second try with Dan Cornell or to be exact, he’d called her in and she’d swallowed her pride. He greeted her as if nothing whatever had happened.

‘We’re now on the island, Penny – that’s where I see you being. We thought there might not be a place but someone wants you around. Fine by me.’

‘And Basel?’

‘We’re flexible. You are flexible, Penny, are you not?’

She looked hard at Dan Cornell and knew there was only one reply she could safely give. ‘You’ll take over Basel?’ she asked as lightly as she could.

‘What’s that to you, my lovely?’

‘You know I had thoughts,’ she admitted, a trifle breezily, clever girl thought Cornell.

‘I’ll put you in there eventually, Penny – better the devil you know – but the N1 priority at this time is the island and nailing this Emma. She’s almost certainly Laura, would you not say?’

‘I thought so but maybe Laura’s no more than an escort after all. I’m looking at this Janine just now. Anyway, those two have issues with Johanssen -‘

‘Not if we don’t need them to. I think we should let that one play out a while longer – it’s distracting Forrester, all the other players are inside, we’re into the seam already – I think we just stick to what we have right now and see off interest from other parties.’

‘And Emma?’

‘Let’s say it’s this Laura. She’s been doing a bit of sailing lately, hasn’t she? North Sea’s a dangerous place at times. Can’t see we need to help it along.’

IV

Michael Collins felt it was within his brief in taking the London bound, due to arrive 11.52 at Kings Cross.

It had come down from above to explore the various parties more deeply, Amelie was better seen in her natural work habitat, though he could have gone to Durham.

Anyway, here was Kings Cross and outside was the car.

On the way, Paul Glendinning took in his passenger and the reverse was happening too.

Typical copper, thought Glendinning.

Typical Whitehall, thought Collins, though he was wide of the mark there, yet it was all very chummy.

‘How long do you need?’ asked Glendinning.

‘Give me the morning. There’s a little cafe on the Embankment – we’ll have tea and cakes there.’

‘You’re telegraphing your moves to me. Why?’

‘I need you satisfied. I need her forthcoming.’

‘Why do you think she would be forthcoming anyway?’

‘I have some snippets.’

‘And you think she and your investigation are connected?’

‘I’m sure of it. If I’m right, it doesn’t affect any of your operations, it’s all about her personally. There’s also a third person, female, who should not have been involved in that murder in any way – there seems no connection, no need for her to have been there. The interesting thing in checking her out is that I can’t check her out. She is of great interest to me and I’d like to discuss her with you later if you would.’

‘Not my department.’

‘Who’s not?’

‘All right,’ smiled Glendinning, ‘ I’d appreciate a summary of this morning after the event, insofar as it affects us and then we’ll speak of Penny Dalshiel. Here we are.’

He half pulled into the space, a tight fit in the courtyard, suggesting the other get out first. Now parked, they went upstairs.

Sipping on the still hot tea at the cafe, he looked across at her, a slightly older version of Laura but without perhaps the panache, with far more cautious eyes, yet there was something in her manner which triggered something in his memory banks. Not of her specifically, of the type.

‘Let’s cut to the chase, Detective Inspector. Why would I be of interest to your investigation?’

He began the spiel about the murder, how far they’d got, who was put away, who was still a danger – nothing, he was sure, she didn’t already know from her sister.

‘I’ve one question only – who would you rate the greater threat to her – would it be an MoD man or would it be a young lady who’s just come back into his employ?’

Janine paused and considered. Genuinely, thought Collins.

‘On paper, you’d have to say the man you spoke of – he has more power, greater reach – but she has the network, the knowledge and is ruthless – she’s empire building and he knows it, she knows he knows and he knows that. Penny is looking at me as being this Emma -’

‘Emma?’

‘The one who’s eluding us and yet seems to do much of our work for us.’

‘You mean Laura.’

‘Detective Inspector, you have me over a barrel here. Our department does not know it’s Laura, you know because you’ve met her and have met Miles. We could have done this in Durham and yet you chose to come here. Why?’

‘To see your section at work and to speak with your section head about other matters as well. I have to report on this conversation to Mr. Glendinning, he asked me that and I agreed.’ She nodded. ‘But it won’t have anything to do with her. It’s you I’m officially seeing you.’

‘Thank you.’

V

‘Rumblings from Johanssen, large amount of money paid over,’ said Miles to the lady at the wheel, three hundred miles from land.

‘It’s upon us then.’

‘Yes, he now feels secure enough. We’ll need to go ashore, Laura.’

‘Right, you did Plan A on the island and the element of surprise has gone. There’s now your Plan B, the redoubt and I agree it has to play out. But then we’ll try my Plan C, all right? Talk through your Plan B now and then I’ll tell you about Plan C.’

‘This redoubt is well stocked and remote, difficult to storm. Johanssen will send expendables to try though, to test it out. It’s clever because the obvious breachable is actually not, it’s heavily fortified and the vulnerable difficult route, e.g. up the cliff face, is not so well defended – primary defences, that is. They get up that cliff or are dropped from above, they break through the doors and end up in a holding bay they can’t escape from. They’re gassed, taken out to sea and left in a long dinghy, with provisions.’

‘Do you think that will stop Johansson?’

‘No, obviously, but it does tell him something and he has just attacked one of our principal’s properties, making a new enemy he might not wish to have, one he’s already met.’

‘Making him an utter nutter.’

‘Yes, it will need your Plan C, which I suspect is pretty comprehensive.’

She smiled and touched his face.

VI

Chloe did not have visitors, by virtue of Ralph and Frank being inside and the other two being otherwise engaged. In fact, she’d had no visitors since she’d been inside.

So this one was intriguing and she’d agreed. Frank’s mechanic. She laughed. He was shown into the interview room, she came in the other side, they sat and he began.

‘Frank wants to know if you need anything.’

‘Fuck off.’

‘He meant did you need anything doing, bringing.’

‘Fuck off.’

‘Uh-huh.’ He rose, nodded to the officer and went out. Chloe, on the other hand, sat there, watching.

Back in his car, the man sat in his driver’s seat and wrote in his pad: ‘Lady-replied-fuck-off.’ He thought for a moment, then wrote: ‘Twice.’

He checked the list – three down, one to go but this next one meant an overnighter to Edinburgh. Ho hum.

VII

‘Astounding place,’ Laura let slip from her lips. ‘You’ve had access to this for years?’

‘I can rent it, lease it when I need. I’ve never needed until now.’

The piece de resistance was the pool in the middle, from which various living areas extended via little bridges. It was too naff for him, too cavernous but she liked it.

‘You want one?’

‘Hell no,’ she said, ‘but it’s lovely for a holiday.’

They disrobed, she slipped into the water while he got the drinks. ‘How is it?’

‘Warm.’

‘Let’s relax today and just enjoy ourselves – time enough to worry tomorrow.’

They were on the mats with the acrylic cushions behind their heads, he asked, ‘Shall we watch a film?’

‘In the pool?’

He waded over, grabbed a waterproofed remote then waded back, pointed it at the far wall, a panel opened, a widescreen TV rolled out and switched on, he gave her the remote.

‘Press M2.’

She did and the menu came up. ‘I can’t see all the words.’

‘Press T1.’

She did and there were the titles in big text, according to genre. ‘What do you like?’ she asked and they both realized they didn’t know each other’s tastes.

‘I’m action romance thriller but I’ll watch whatever you want.’

‘Honestly?’

‘Within reason,’ he grinned.

VIII

‘Joe.’

‘Paul.’

‘I didn’t want to discuss it in there – walls have ears. Park benches are a bit dated but nothing beats them if the hood covers the lips.

‘And the reason for the cloak and dagger?’

‘Your superior is being a little careless in two ways.’ He waited for the grunt. ‘Even tightening security that way, going outside our encryption, outside our soc code, outside our … channels … that has brought attention to him. There has been some interest. No, we don’t know from where, there’s been no hacking, no DdoS and that suggests Assange’s lot. Or someone freelance. Why would you surmise Sir Gerald is being so secretive?’

‘The island?’

‘MoD.’

‘Come on, Joe, you know who I am. We’re all interested parties.’

‘Yes, and parties are the other issue. If they blow wide open, which they might if those communications are also hacked, or soon will be, those parties are going to not just sink your superior but others go down as well.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Yes you do, because I’ve just told you.’

‘Damn you, couldn’t you leave me out of it? I don’t attend them, I know nothing of them, nor do I wish to.’

There was a silence. Then;

‘Are they your prime concern or is the hacking? Meaning section business or something Sir Gerald has on the side?’

‘The former. The other stuff can be explained away.’

‘What do you want me to do?’

‘Speak to him.’

‘Insane – and be sacked immediately?’

‘You can mention I spoke with you, don’t bring parties into it, just mention the possible hacking-to-be. You might be thanked.’

IX

They arrived, not the next day but two days later, the assailants tried the ‘unexpected’ way, up the sheer cliff, straight into the holding pit.

It was pretty straightforward – the gas, the opened floor, the long dinghy below, enough provisions for them to survive a week, steering wheel lashed, one of the three tanks attached, motor on, in gear, out to sea.

Back near the pool, he asked, ‘Over to your Plan C.’

‘It’s more subtle, Miles, more psychological. t hits him where it hurts. What does a man like Johanssen care about most?’

‘Money, face.’

‘Face, yes. He can always get more money. What he can’t get is another daughter.’

He was appalled. ‘That’s a thousand times worse than what I’ve done. And your sex call us ruthless.’

‘I don’t mean physical harm but psychological. According to my sources, he keeps her well out of it in Switzerland, and by all accounts, she’s a nice kid. If she were to be away from the school and come into some danger and you were to rescue her -‘

‘How?’

‘She does social media under a pseudonym, there are photos he doubtless doesn’t see, we use a few of these, photoshop you onto them, as if you’re talking to her, as if she’s smiling and happy -‘

‘He’d go out of his tree.’

‘He would. He needs to know we have this reach but that we’re not monsters, that we could have done as we wished with her little sister as well -‘

‘Sister?’

‘Primary-aged. What I’ve spent a long time setting up is getting the older girl to agree with all this.’

‘Pardon?’

‘She’ll be waiting in a neutral place, with someone she trusts with her. You’ll arrive and speak with her. It’s necessary you do actually make this trip, even though the photo which reaches him is a fake. Photos on this meeting now won’t be used unless they have to be, later.

Word is that he discarded the girls’ mother for some young woman, the mother has a bone marrow issue which costs money which he does provide but not for the operation which would fix the problem – or so it seems.

The daughters, plural, are not impressed with that although they don’t know about his activities in general so they still care. It’s fertile ground. Our bargaining chip is always going to be that we don’t use what we have and that he knows that if anything happens to us, our protection of his family ceases and things start happening.’

‘And do they?’

‘Yes, but not to them, only to him. You’ll organize for one of your ‘friends’ to deal with him. Even that only buys us time. There’ll be real resentment no matter how soft we are with him, in fact that makes it worse. The final answer is if the daughter, the love of his life, confronts him and threatens to cut all ties.’

‘And you have your part in place.’

‘Yes, plus the plane booked to Zurich for you. A helicopter is something you’ll need to arrange now, say today or tomorrow, to get you to Rennes.’

‘Will all that be enough?’

‘No, the carrot is going to be what we do for the mother. That’s going to need a decision from you now. It will be an outlay in perpetuity, at least for the rest of her life.’

‘How old is she?’

‘Two years younger than Johansson but not expected to live that long.’

X

Dave Collins finished up for the night and was pleased with the result. Naughty boy, our Mr. Haas but the girl was a puzzle. He didn’t know why but he got the feeling she wasn’t kosher as a baddy, just a feeling – made moves too tangentially.

He wondered if Miles was aware that Glendinning was not so kosher either as secret protector of the free world. And it was those bastards feeding CCHQ. He’d tell Miles but as for Bro, Dave had to be a bit careful what went to him.

She was awake when his head hit the pillow. ‘Penny for your thoughts?’

‘Puzzled, Beth. They know I was interested, they can’t track me, unfortunately they’re now forewarned. Someone in there is not kosher, meaning he’s a baddy, and someone in there is a goody, masquerading as a baddy. He could have jumped on one vulnerability I had, an oversight, he was working late, very late and chose not to pounce.’

‘Maybe he’s not at your level.’

‘Maybe.’

XI

‘Wildest dreams’ was the best way to describe the result, as in beyond them.

Johansson’s daughter herself, Natalie, was amazing. Sharp lass, a characteristic her father had in good measure, she sniffed a scam immediately, it hadn’t been the first attempt.

It was a bench in a park and she had her Vice-Principal, plus her best friend, a prefect, with her. The attitude of the Vice-Principal was: ‘This had better be good.’ Natalie herself had insisted on this meeting, the younger sister was back at school, the school’s position was to hear this man out and then contact the parent.

It was laid out, document by document, with the Vice-Principal keeping a copy of every photo and document. Whether it was the incontrovertible evidence, whether it was Miles’s manner of the victim, whether it was that he was asking so little and was willing to put his own money on the line, ready to write a cheque to the school now – he wasn’t sent packing.

‘Why would he listen to me?’ asked Natalie, when he suggested the video.

‘You’re his daughter. If you threaten never to speak to him again, that you don’t need his money any more to be at the school, that your mother is being transferred close to where you are, that not only is she being covered now but that your remaining fees and those of your sister are now being paid, he will bluster but he’ll understand and he has to agree. Only you know if you would really not speak with him again or whether you would. I don’t need to know that, Natalie, I don’t want to know.’

‘But why, Mr. Forrester,’ asked the VP, ‘would you go to such lengths?’

‘Frankly, we’re threatened by Mr. Johanssen. I’ve explained the island, who I am, who my good lady is, he has it in his head to punish us. Though paying for fees and all of this might seem Good Samaritan, our motives are, to be blunt, to protect our chance of happiness in our upcoming marriage.’ He pulled out the church documents and handed them across, then the copies. Our only hope was to show you we’re serious in this, that lives depend on it.’

‘If he’s this bad a man -‘

‘No, he’s not bad,’ lied Miles and Natalie knew and appreciated it, ‘but he does have the wrong end of the stick here and we need protection, Natalie’s mother needs this money for the operation and the girls need this security. Mr. Johanssen is not well at the moment – he had a slight accident and we want him to know he has nothing to fear.’

The VP looked at the girl. ‘Well, Natalie?’

‘I’d be crazy not to. How?’

‘At school, your friend here can deal with it. I’ll leave all that to you, yes?’

‘Who will we send it to?’

‘It will be intercepted unless it goes to this person -‘ he handed over a photo and address, with a note on the back.

Natalie looked at the shot and smiled at the memory, turned it over and read it, then handed it to the Vice-Principal. ‘That’s fine,’ she said. ‘I believe you. I’ll do it today.’

‘Thanks, Natalie, thanks, ladies.’

He wrote four cheques, the VP pocketed them and then Miles took his leave.

XII

Paul was with Janine in their usual out of office spot, two coffees had gone down the hatch.

‘Do we wish to interfere with Sir Gerald?’ she asked. ‘What’s it to us?’

‘We’re coerced. Both of us know Emma, it will be asked why we did not bring her in, that opens up Joe’s dealings with me, some corners we cut and he did too, if I keep off anything touchy with Sir Gerald and just address the security side – we might get through this. We wish to stabilize rocking, tippy boats. How would you read Sir Gerald’s IT knowledge?’

‘Basic user.’

‘That’s my reading too. So who gave him all this super-secretive stuff?’

‘Jenny of course. Smart girl.’

He grinned. ‘Are any girls not smart?’

‘You’ll find them in Room 304, answering phones, making calls, typing up reports.’

XIII

‘Why the fuck should I speak to you!’ Johanssen’s look was murder, ‘Look at my fucking leg, look at it!’

‘Firstly, your daughter told you to speak with me and threatened you if you wouldn’t, secondly, your leg was not my doing. It was his island you attacked. I had nothing to do with the payback.’

‘You have no proof I did that.’

‘Don’t waste my time. There’s another reception awaiting you when you come out. You won’t make it past the first day. It’s my job to still be alive to stop this happening. You do know I can, don’t you? Now let’s get down to business. We can get part of the seam back for you.’

His ears pricked up, though he didn’t want. It became too much. ‘How much?’

‘2%. We remove Cornell. Stitch him up.’

‘These are words.’

‘Do you seriously think I’d go to the lengths I’ve gone and front you here if I couldn’t deliver. We have Cornell. One moment.’

He went over to the officer, showed him the document, was allowed to proceed, sat down and held it up to the glass. Johanssen reached for his glasses, strained forward and read it. He was chortling.

‘Why would you do this?’

‘Because my good lady and I don’t want you snuffing us out but we also have some scores of our own to settle. My ex-wife for one.’

‘You went to these lengths?’ Johansson had most certainly mellowed. ‘As I’ve said many times … Miles … you’re not a player, are you? You had me over a barrel and still you wouldn’t go in for the kill. You like the quiet life, don’t you? You don’t like the game.’

‘You’re right.’

‘Yes, OK, you’ve done enough, honour’s been satisfied, it cost you deep for all this and the prison know this. I call this a win-win.’

‘Thank fuck for that.’

‘No doubt you’ll still have certain measures in place.’

‘I’m not a complete idiot – yes, news of my death or mutilation goes straight to Natalie.’

‘Right, we’ll leave it at that. And Miles?’

‘Yes?’

‘Thank you.’

‘One last thing, do you want to see the girls here?’

‘No.’

‘Thought not. Natalie asked me to deliver this camcorder, it’s been watched by the authorities here. That’s for you tonight. It’s your daughters. What you need to do is record a reply on the camcorder for her. You won’t be in prison gear, you’ll be in the library. Chaplain or someone will do the filming. I’ll be back in two days to collect at the front desk, I’ll not come in here again. It will go Royal Mail in a box to the school.’

‘I don’t know what to say.’

‘Don’t say anything, I’d prefer the brownie points.’

‘You really do want that quiet life. Maybe if I make threats every few months, I could get you to do more things.’

‘I’ll do them anyway – just send word – nicely – and no threats. You know the clout I still have. OK, need to go. You’ve got some video watching to do.’

The last image Miles had was of a man who had scored a victory and that’s how it needed to be. Word of this would spread like wildfire around the prison. Now he had to, they had to, deliver on their end of the bargain.

XIV

‘I have to go to Chloe.’

‘She won’t see you.’

‘I have to try.’

‘When?’

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

‘What!’

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

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

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

‘He’ll be killed.’

‘Not by my man.’

XV

They fished the body out near Shad Thames.

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

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

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

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

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

Janine reported that the new man, Joseph, was now in a position to recover Cornell’s illegal 5% share but that share had been skimmed off all 12 principals, they’d made their deals after the theft – each with 2%.

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

XVI

‘Hello Chloe,’ said Miles.

‘Hello Chloe,’ said Laura.

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

Instead, Miles, who’d given the papers to the officer first, passed the deed for the half a percent.

She looked down at it and every instinct told her to make the grand gesture of tearing them up and flinging the pieces at the glass. But she saw the half a percent and thought of the child inside her. She knew instantly how much that was going to realize, money beyond any hope she’d had since the troubles. And if she began behaving, she could now be out in three. She wasn’t of course to know that it was considerably less than she thought.

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

‘No, we supposed you would. The originals are in safekeeping. Make the grand gesture, tell us to fuck off.’

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

‘Oh we’ll never give up,’ said Laura.

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

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

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

He would.

XVI

Dave called and wanted to report in person.

He arrived in his S40, a beer was provided and nibbles, he began. He covered the paedo party ring, the little deals between various members of various departments, the way Penny was gunning for Amelie/Janine and how she could not seem to get very far with that. Someone was covering for Amelie, he’d search who.

The death of Cornell had been the shock – Dave could throw no light on that. However, there was a worrying development. Haas, in an unguarded moment, maybe set up that way, maybe not, had sent to one in his ring that ‘the matter had been dealt with’, he was sending his best operative to deal with ‘the pest’.

Thing was, he’d seen that expression used by Penny Dalshiel in an email and also by a couple of other sources not germane at this moment. It was not a bad guess that the best could be Miles or Laura but was more likely to be Laura – they seemed to have a fetish about her.

Dave explained – these bureaucrats, they were maniacal for dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s, whilst being inefficient in every other way, especially about money. They did not like this person they could not keep tabs on but this now, if it was Laura as the intended, was taking the law into their own hands, breaking every tenet they subscribed to when dealing with the common mortal.

This was personal. It could hardly be what she could now do to them, she was too long out of practice, out of the game.

Miles thought about it and Laura commented, ‘You’re thinking of getting us away from the fleet, aren’t you?’ He looked at her. ‘That’s your M.O. you know.’

‘Ok, let’s go to Bergen.’

‘Why Bergen?’

‘One of my boats is there. We can stay on it for the nonce and get away quickly if we need. Boats are good near coastlines for that, they become vulnerable further out to see. They’re my natural retreat, I know how to use them to escape, it’s happened before.’

‘All right.’

XVII

They’d deposited the bags and were making ready the salads. She did the cold, he did the steaks on the grill top, she brought a bottle and opener, he opened it, she provided the glasses, they toasted.

‘We need to check the boat. If you go through inside, check everything which looks like a cranny, look for screws which might have been recently loosened and so on, you’ve done that before.’

‘You mean have I observed – yes I have.’ Off she went, he went on deck and aft to check the engine bay. He opened the hatch, looked down at the engine and noted the extra wires.

He went back below, as casually as he could muster, she came up, shaking the head, not having found anything, saw his expression and the way he picked up his as yet unpacked bag, she’d started on hers but through it all in and followed, he threw all the ship’s papers in from the wheelhouse, they went out, jumped to the jetty and didn’t stop until they’d reached the local information booth.

Chapter 4 here … Chapter 6 here

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