‘Go on,’ Miles said to Laura, ‘you interest me greatly.’
‘This prototype of an advanced cloaking mechanism was one of the last major technological breakthroughs to come out of Crielere Labs. They’re two separate reports, not the same material.
At the time, a group at BASF led by Carl Bosch bought most of the world’s supply of osmium to use as a catalyst. Shortly thereafter, in 1908, cheaper catalysts based on iron and iron oxides were introduced by the same group for the first pilot plants, removing the need for the expensive and rare osmium.’
‘Ah. Hence the MoD.’
‘Hence the MoD but that’s only part of it. Amelie works within her department and they have access to the same archives as a geological offshoot group, too complicated to detail now and the reason they shelved any attempt to mine under your island was that they did find your vein -’
‘Yes but it was low grade, adulterated.’
‘Yes but as those archives were not accessible, except to bureaucrats who didn’t dare show any unhealthy interest over the decades, that’s how it stayed. You, however, know differently as you’ve had samples analysed.’
‘And you know what type of rock it can be found in.’
‘And you knew where there was substantial igneous rock which may have been in the form you were starting to think of.’
He smiled. ‘I was looking around the Isle of Skye at first.’
‘Perhaps but let’s not deflect from this. Will you get up now and check for any ears onboard.’
He returned and climbed back in. She’d lost her knickers in the meantime but not her silky voice. ‘I’ve had a long time exploring all this and I had a hunch you did not just discover deposits of osmium. There was another material as well.’
He looked at her, deciding. ‘Yes, torbernite.’
‘And what you and I know but those five under the island did not, is that those tunnels all ended without going further because the osmium does not actually underlie the whole island but is only in outcrops. However, the torbernite is everywhere and though it’s low priced and of limited use in the world, it is deadly, and that has its uses.’
He did not reply and she went on.
‘So in fact, by knowing that and happily not involving yourself in the mining, also happily getting off the island the moment there was trouble, you knew you were avoiding two things – one was military interest in large quantities of crystal and the fallout once it was known the osmium was only in minor outcrops. So, it’s not about millions of pounds, the value of that island is in its destructive potential. Your issue then becomes those principals, you sometimes call them your patrons.’
‘You’re informed. They knew the whole thing, which minerals, how much. This is why they need to take the island now, with us far away, then they can bleed the MoD for ownership. I’d always wondered why it didn’tt stay owned for long, why people did not mine it, why there was lukewarm reaction to that windswept rock over the centuries, certainly over the last hundred years. Yes, I wondered that and there was the folklore of the boatmen as well, about just how toxic it really was.’
‘Is there any stibnite, orpiment or any of those?’
‘Trace. Probably not much orpiment though. Now my turn – if you knew these things, why the charade with Frank?’
‘I was being paid, it’s as simple as that – it was a job.’
‘For which you’d have sex.’
‘I was waiting for this and you’d have been waiting for this reaction. I’m close to falling in love with you, Miles but not if you’re going this route. You know my past, all of it, you know the path I took, I never said I was a saint. I can now give all that up and have the one man, although you have reservations about this Ralph – I tell you now that this might have been an issue but if you’re serious about me, then no one is going to come between us, this I can guarantee you. But Miles, if you do this jealousy thing, this asking where I’ve been, this asking about lovers – I don’t want it.’
‘Without any reservations, 100%, I accept those terms.’
‘Tell me Amelie’s thoughts about it all – the island I mean.’
‘Amelie thinks it’s vast money and it attracts her in a way which makes her just a little suspect. Inside our home in Durham, she was all right but I’m thinking she’s getting offers from them she’s not talking about.’
‘There’s one more thing I’ve discovered and it could affect my entire behaviour.’
‘Yes, you have no knickers on.’
‘I was wondering if you’d ever notice.’
‘And that’s unfair too, because I have no resistance, there’s no known antidote.’
She had this way of grinning, Laura, which challenged and invited but if you took up the invitation, you were scrutinized all the way, until, as he found now, she was no longer capable of any scrutiny, succumbing very quickly and when that happened, the man was expected to take charge firmly but gently. She did not like rough, which was interesting, given … ah no, he was not going to give it the slightest thought.
That perfect, almost boyish face lay sideways on the pillow and winced as things were done, she was so responsive to even the slightest touch.
What he also discovered was that once she’d had a fair degree of pleasure, she placed a gentle hand on him and that was the signal that she was going to deliver her package – and what a package it was, no holds barred. He just gazed down at her work which was relentless, never frenetic, never ceasing, even when it was all over her. She just kept going until he realized he had to put his hand on her as the signal for the third act.
And in this way, she sealed the deal with the two of them, everything just further detail, further pleasure, the icing on the cake.
‘Seems a bit late to ask this but … would you be my lady?’
‘I think all my birthdays have come at once.’
The meeting was at the little home DI Young had arranged for them, it was his second house, Miles offered a fair rental for a year, with the option 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 on land here, draws the action away from the fleet, we can get the law in more quickly. We still keep the boat of course.’
She would keep Durham on for now, run by Amelie, Young was pleased it had worked out and now arrived part two of the plan at the door – Dave Young. Older brother, a smiling, happy man, secure in his abilities and how he had things organized.
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 Young was henceforth Leyton Young.
‘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 own lady for dinner Thursday or Friday?’
Young grinned. ‘My lady, yes?’
‘I’ll call her now.’ He did, she was happy to, the phone was snapped shut, the DI took his leave.
‘Now to business.’
It was Laura, not Miles who took up the conversation, detailing to Dave Young 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. Young appreciated that she was so doing and suggested ways he could get a line on what was going on, especially in Haas’s office. Laura said they changed their security every month, not an issue 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, but 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, I’ll show you Thursday and show you what it actually cost in bits and pieces, the fee will be just my time halved and you’ll pay half of that again, Leyton the other. You’ll be well able to afford it.’
‘And they’ll not be aware of what you’re doing?’
‘That’s what the fee is for, if they have the slightest inkling of who we are, everything stops, you pay nothing. All right, have to be off. Till Thursday. I know this house, I’ll let myself out.
They looked at each other and shrugged. Followed by something else.
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.’
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.’
‘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.’
‘Let’s say it is this Laura. She’s been doing a bit of sailing of late, hasn’t she? North Sea’s a dangerous place at times.’
Leyton Young 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 Young, 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’s of great interest to me and I’d like to discuss her with you later if you would.’
‘Not my department.’
‘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 her specifically, but 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 Young. ‘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 -’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘All right, you carried out Plan A on the island, it had an effect and showed he had to be careful but that element of surprise has gone. There’s now your Plan B, the redoubt and I agree that has to play out too.
But then, if it’s all the same to you, we’ll try my Plan C, it has elements of finality to it. Talk me through your Plan B now, 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 part is actually not, it’s heavily fortified and the vulnerable but difficult route – up the cliff face – is not so well defended, 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 Johanssen?’
‘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.
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 to see Frank’s mechanic.
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.’
‘He meant did you need anything doing, bringing.’
‘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.
‘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?’
‘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 the 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.
She did and the menu came up. ‘I can’t see all the words.’
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.’
‘Within reason,’ he grinned.
‘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 and no, we don’t know from where, there’s been no hacking, no DoS and that suggests Assange’s lot. Or someone freelance. Why would you say Sir Gerald is being so secretive?’
‘Come on, Neil, we’re all interested parties.’
‘Yes and parties are the other issue. If they blow it wide open, that would not be good.’
‘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. 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 – you might evenbe thanked.’
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 really – the gas, the opened floor, the long dinghy below, enough provisions for them to survive a week, steering wheel lashed, one of the three fuel tanks coupled, motor on, in gear, out to sea.
Back near the pool, he said, ‘Over to your Plan C.’
‘It’s more subtle, Miles, more psychological., it hits him where it hurts. What does a man like Johanssen care about most?’
‘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 -‘
‘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 -‘
‘Primary-aged. What I’ve spent a long time setting up is getting the older girl to agree to all this.’
‘She’ll be waiting at 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 of this meeting now won’t be used unless they have to, 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 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 Johanssen but not expected to live that long.’
Dave Young 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.
His ladyfriend was awake when his head hit the pillow. ‘Penny for your thoughts?’ she said.
‘Puzzled, Beth. They know I’m interested but can’t track me. Someone in there though 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.’
‘Wildest dreams’ was the best way to describe the result, as in beyond them.
Johanssen’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.
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 Neil’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. How would you read Sir Gerald’s IT knowledge?’
‘That’s my reading too. So who gave him this super-secretive encryption?’
‘Jenny of course. Smart girl.’
He grinned. ‘Are there any girls who are not smart?’
‘Plenty – you’ll find them in Room 304, answering phones, making calls, typing up reports.’
‘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.’
‘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?’
‘One last thing, do you want to see the girls here?’