6

Just when you thought

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I

Before they could even get to their plan, Laura’s boat was sunk, a great sadness to Leyton and the girls for obvious reasons but the patron – and presumably Gabby – saw this as requiring immediate escalated response. The patron obviously saw the slightly naive Leyton in these matters possibly taking it easier but as he explained when he dropped in for his pick of the catch for that week – with people like van der Haar, you don’t go easy.

Thus things were set up for the coming Sunday evening. One thing which had added stick was that a prized mechanic working for Leyton, as he had for Miles, an irreplaceable person truth be known, in fact the very one they were sending to Gabby, was killed in the sinking.

Leyton asked about escalation – how it ever stopped.

‘It stops with someone wiped out or close to it. It can’t go on forever because upping the ante can only go on so long. But the point does have to be made all the same. We have that one in hand – you take care of things at this end.’

II

Sunday evening, about 23:35 Amsterdam time, fifteen crews were given enough seconds to jump off their boats and swim out of the way, the charges were put in the bilges, there was a two minute delay and then, more or less at the same time up and down the coast, the boats were blown up, debris a fair way around the location of each former boat.

At the same time, a well dressed escort brought a tray of drinks to the meeting of van der Haar and certain people from his organization, the escort retired graciously and various noises were made about meeting her after the meeting.

One minute later, the walls of that room were blown out.

At the same time, Schmelling received a phone call to check the news. He was lucky it had not been him – best to get out of the fishing business while the going was good.

As Schmelling was locked into various EU moves on the industry of the former vassal state called Britain, a meeting was called for the following Wednesday, just for Schmelling, Gabby, some government officials and the patron.

The complication was that it hadn’t been any of Schmelling’s operations hit, nor his personnel, it was van der Haar’s and van der Haar was no longer around. All agreed to stop this destructive escalation.

The patron felt that that it might buy Leyton about a year.

III

‘Your boatyard,’ started the patron two months later and Leyton had a sinking feeling.

‘You use it for winter maintenance but there is unused brown land beyond your fence, twice as much as your yard. I know who owns it and can buy or lease for you.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I’m such an angel. No, seriously, have you thought of diversifying?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Think about it. How often do you get big waves, say 10 feet?’

‘Wind opposed to tide – not often and not for the whole day as a rule, not with our land buffers.’

‘How about building something different, like hovercraft?’

‘I have better – it’s an idea I’ve thought about since reading about these ecranoplans, ground effect.’

‘Explain.’

‘They fly just above the surface. As long as the distance between surface and wing is in proportion to the overall size of the craft, they work. In practical terms they can handle a five foot sea.’

‘You’d get that more often. I was thinking – you could run one of those as your main craft, as a ferry perhaps and then on those bad days, use a hydrofoil – both are easy to build. Problem is concessions in this country, council trying to muscle in, which is where we come in.

From scratch, you’d have no hope. We though have some people friendly enough to us on the council. It would be another string to your bow and I think you might need a few of those. You could combine it with a sort of tearoom onboard, a bit like Betty’s, get in some good cooks and it would be a winner. Leyton, we have to use our assets to advantage.’

‘My issue right now is the Jennies – I don’t want to lose them but they’re chafing at the bit and I don’t have anything to suit them at this moment.’

‘I do, so you put limits on what I could use them for.’

‘As long as it’s righting an injustice, they’re fine. It’s just going out and topping someone, not that you’ve ever done that, then that’s an issue.’

‘Was I born yesterday?’

‘Of course not.’

‘You had some weird hours as a copper but overall your load was what – 50 hours a week, more?’

‘No, that’s about right.’

‘Despite what you’ve heard about a boss sitting back enjoying the fruits, I’d work maybe 65 hours – every hour I put in is productive and helps the business. Seems to me you dropped off a bit after you left and I know why. But now it’s time to diversify your holdings – do things people want, like that ferry with the tearooms. It takes work but what else is there to do?’

‘I’ll get onto the boat and yard idea, I can freelance the girls but they mustn’t be paid over the odds for obvious reasons – you planning to take them from me?’

‘You’re more use onside. I’ll ask about the land next to the yard. You get talking to your people.’

IV

‘Can you put it to him that I’m more use on computers and online, as we did before? I don’t mind the occasional job of the other kind but as a freelance, not as an employee. Sarah will surprise you – she’s the computer whiz. I’m not bad on hacking but she can build. Would he be interested in that? Would you? Maybe we can start that as another of these strings to the bow he talks about. If it got about that we were pretty hot online, then that might throw up some possibilities.’

‘I’ll put it to him, we meet fairly regularly now as you know. I know you want back into the action but I also don’t want to lose you.’

‘You won’t lose me, I tell you that now. As for Sis, I can’t say.’

‘I like what we have now,’ Sarah added.

‘Could you create an online business for him – fashion, anything?’

‘Fashion’s not my bag,’ said Jenny, ‘but the tech side is. Let’s stick with that one.’

‘Jane?’ asked Leyton.

‘I like the bean counting, that’s my thing, being the anchor. Give me the accounts, visiting the skippers, doing the invoices. As for the girls, as long as they can stay freelance, that’s the big thing for them. They must not be blackmailed into being on a payroll.’

‘That’s our concern,’ agreed Jenny.

‘Seems to me,’ said Jane, ‘That we should only go into repeat-use things, things people will always need. The teashop idea is always good and on the boat is ideal, it would never end. Computer services is always good, selling whole grains is one I was thinking about – by the bagful. Meanwhile, keep the fishing going and the Jennies do their jobs. There is a cloud though.’

‘Oh?’ asked Leyton.

‘It’s the girls, their age, their future. The two of us have got to where we want but the girls have marriage and family ahead. That requires a man or two. That’s going to be an issue in the next few years. They might not think that now but it will come.’

‘You’d prefer we weren’t with Leyton?’ asked the always direct Sarah.

‘No, because he told me about your question to him,’ Sarah went red, ‘and I’m fine with you both now, don’t get me wrong. At this time, I’m fine with it all. I do like you girls very much, you’re refreshing.’

‘Thank you,’ said Jenny. ‘We’ll just take it as it comes.’

V

Six months is an eternity when the situation is fluid, when things are being bought, set up, when people are sorting out their futures. Into this came Robert Landers.

Five years older than the twins, it was natural that Sarah would be the one smitten, Jenny more circumspect as usual – Jenny was always the organizational girl, placing the firm over the person. There’d been two jobs for the patron, they’d done their bit but he’d seen they couldn’t be coaxed away and frankly, Leyton was more use onside – those boats were critical without scrutiny.

Holland seemed to have responded to the call for a ceasefire so all in all, it wasn’t too bad just now. The yard had been extended – for a consideration to the council – the first ferry had been launched and a happy compromise had been reached – they’d not do the straight ferry run, it would be as part of the round trip, therefore longer than a straight ferry trip.

Robert was the mate on the Nellie May, one of Leyton’s fleet and the captain had seen his potential, both for the girls and for Leyton. To have the ability but none of the cavalier of a Jan van Vriet, to actually find an honest person, was really something and it was at a meeting on Leyton’s first ferry that he’d met Sarah, though he’d met Jenny many times and had liked what he’d seen.

Everyone with an organization sees a line of succession, Leyton had neither sons or daughters, nor nieces and nephews he’d trust – he needed an heir but was in no hurry, as he explained to Robert. His idea was, just as with the fishing fleet – to have autonomous bosses running each part, paying a percentage – Miles’s old model. It might be that Robert would go the ferry route, it might be that there’d be another diversification – how about just learning the ropes now and there’d be time enough to be a boss later?

‘That’s exactly what I had in mind, sir,’ said Robert. ‘It’s to my advantage – ours if I can persuade Sarah – to do it just this way, learn on the job.’

‘How much do you know about Sarah?’ asked Jane.

‘Only what she’s told me. We all know that as twins, they do some heavy jobs, we know Sarah’s had previous issues.’

‘Not our place,’ said Jane, ‘but you need to talk that out with her before you contemplate anything more permanent. You really do need to. Leyton and I will answer any question but we won’t volunteer information on Sarah.’

Robert had left after a short lunch and Jenny, who’d heard most of it, asked to be allowed to speak.

‘Why did you create this mystery over Sarah? May I talk to him?’

‘By all means,’ said Leyton, ‘we didn’t think it was our place to. Sarah is taken in by men more than you are – I’d say you’re a more stable proposition than Sis -’

‘Perhaps … but that’s always been the problem … she’s never had anyone stay with her and she so desperately wants a good man -’

‘As all hetero women do,’ said Jane, ‘and vice-versa for the boys. We’re neutral in this, Jenny, we want what is going to turn out stable and longterm. Call that my influence but I think that’s one thing Leyton puts up with me for.’

Jenny considered. ‘Leyton, you need to talk to her one-on-one, she responds to men one-on-one as you know. You need to tell her what a man needs in her, how he’d stay loyal, how he’d get up and leave just like that. She can take that these days. Would you do that? If it’s OK with Jane of course.’

‘He should,’ said Jane.

VI

‘What do you think of him?’ asked Leyton.

Sarah sipped on her champas and looked steadily at him. The ferry bobbed up and down slowly, midday had seen the sun come out from behind a cloud and bathe the boat in light – she looked radiant in that eternal jumpsuit – Sarah, not the boat.

‘Must we speak of him now?’

‘Yes. I’d like.’

She sighed. ‘You don’t think a lot of me, do you … Leyton?’

‘I know your history, Sarah, don’t I? We’ve been together some time now, I think you’re gorgeous, especially with that light shining on you,’ she blushed, ‘and I’d be chasing you if there wasn’t your sister -’

‘Or Jane.’

‘You see, the problem I have is I like you so much -’

‘Like?’

‘You know I mean love. But that comment could almost be taken as a threat, given your past ways. Look at how we are now, Jane and I, also Jenny – we want things to work.’

‘Don’t have any fear on that score … Leyton … not on my score, I know the lie of the land, I’m thinking my thoughts and they’ll stay mine for now … about Robert I mean.’

‘I have to ask it – have you laid the hit on Miles to rest, have you laid the rest of it … to rest?’

She looked at him and smiled. ‘You take risks, don’t you? I really like that in a man.’

‘It’s the reference to ‘a man’, ‘any man’ which worries me – if I were your man, I’d not like you always bringing other men into the conversation. Call it naive but I’d like to think you were mine.’

‘I’d like to be yours.’

‘You know what I mean.’

‘You’d really like to know me in every sense, wouldn’t you?’

He sighed. ‘You’re intriguing, delectable, that’s it. I could fall for you and must not. All right, if you won’t open up about him, there’s nothing more I can do.’

‘I have feelings, yes, he seems a good man, on the way up, he seems to have ways about him which Miles did. You’re here to tell me what men need, I know what they need and if I loved one, he would have no cause to complain. But Leyton, I like more established men, men who’ve got to where they’re going and I don’t mean money. I think Robert will do very well but I have to be his one and only, his focus.’

‘Thanks, Sarah, when you’re open, I like it so much better.’

‘I know that.’

‘You’re the one I fear most, you know that too?’

‘Yes. Because you don’t know, because there is the unknown in me. And I don’t mind that sort of mystery for reasons you would know. But I tell you this – when I decide on one man, no one need concern themselves about anything the way you have – I’m not regressing to Holland, not anything.’

‘How can you be so certain?’

‘Because I’ve been through it, they gave me their worst, Jan betrayed me, I’m stronger. I’m telling you this so you can stop worrying.’

‘Yes but it’s your calculating way which does worry me.’

‘I am what I am, I’m loyal, I was loyal to Jan, I’m loyal to you now. I’m always loyal to Sis.’

He’d stood to refill the glasses, she now stood up, stood in the way in fact, and she was looking straight through his eyes. The distance closed to nothing, he placed the kiss on her lips which had always been coming.

She didn’t respond, nor did she recoil. And she did not get out of the way.

Now she placed her lips on his and as he went to move his head, she moved her whole body to follow him. He stepped back and she stepped forward, lips still joined, he went to take her arms to move her aside and she looked down at where he was holding her, as if it were a violation, which at least broke the kiss.

He was frightened and she knew it.

Then he took her in his arms and poured a torrent into her through the kiss, the usual surrendering began, then she upped the anti by letting the fingers of her right hand rest around the outline of his rigid member … but no more.

He stepped back and she did not follow.

They just stood there, the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife.

‘You poor dear,’ she ventured. ‘I cause you so much trouble.’

‘May we just sit, may we have a champagne each?’

‘Of course. You’ve taken your time.’

He just gazed at her and then uttered something which might be written, ‘Phew,’ or similar. He brought the champagne over from the bucket. She played no coy games, nor did she penetrate him with her gaze, she ceased all gamesmanship and just held out her glass – he looked at that shapely wrist while he was pouring.

They clinked glasses, no pointed toast, no heavy innuendo, nothing. Just her there and a feeling he was sinking.

‘You’re going to bring Jane into it now, aren’t you?’

‘I don’t know what to say to you, I truly don’t.’

‘I’m asking whether what you’ve just experienced would be something Robert could handle. Jenny seems more his type.’

He had to own she’d given quite a demonstration – she’d made it clear it would require someone of his calibre or more adept to handle her, keep her in line. And as if having followed these thoughts, she observed: ‘You do see what I’m getting at … don’t you, Leyton.’ She nodded at his tadger which was still at attention.

‘What do you want, knowing I’m married?’

‘I can’t want anything, can I? I know who might not be right for me, I know who would. But life is life.’

‘I’m not sure I should have allowed this today.’

‘You had to, you had no choice. This day has been coming for a long time and you know that. Jenny would call me compressed fury.’

‘I would never leave her, I love her.’

‘I know you wouldn’t and if you did, my interest in you would cease at that moment. Nor is she in any danger, things go on as they always have – well since you got me back I mean.’

‘Goodness. I’m really at a loss.’

‘I had to set out the stall, I had to get you to see how things were.’

‘I know you did and that makes it worse – I like you even more now.’

‘Like?’

‘In this case … like. The love part you know.’

‘Lust?’

‘That too.’

‘My glass is empty.’

Five hours later, heads on pillows, Jane asked him, ‘You want a child by her?’

‘No, not really. I’m not sure about her stability, about what would happen. We discussed adoption once, you and me, we decided no – that’s surprised me through the years.’

‘You’re speaking as if we’re no longer young. I’m a long way from menopausal.’

He looked over quickly. ‘You want, yes?’

‘You don’t.’

‘Would you start looking elsewhere?’

‘That’s flattering but I think I know what works and what’s speculation.’

‘Listen, if your heart is set -’

‘It’s not,’ said Jane. The circumstances all have to be right and it’s not as if we’re talking my own child, we’re talking of adoption just to have a child. I ceased wanting my own.’

There was silence.

‘She made a play, didn’t she?’

‘Half and half. She knows where it is, where she is, where I am, where you are … where Jenny is. She and Robert is not an idea which will work, not at this stage, maybe after five years, after a decade. She’s no girl. Jenny is though.’

‘I know, that’s why I don’t mind you with Jenny. Did Sarah get under your guard?’

‘Yes. There was a kiss, she was, as she said, setting out her stall.’

‘I want the truth – would you rather be with her?’

‘No. She’s too much like doing it all again, I’m past that now, even at this age. You count your blessings, I think. I’ve got what I want, I often wonder if you have.’

‘I have. I admit I was thinking of some changes to our life around the time Miles appeared on the scene and they’ve happened anyway – I’m fine with it all. No, that’s wrong – I’m happy enough. But it doesn’t sort out those two, does it?’

‘No.’ He paused. ‘What about Robert and Jenny?’

‘We can’t matchmake.’

‘No, we can’t.’

VII

The patron wanted to see Leyton, also Jane this time. The venue was one of the three ferries they now had.

‘Can’t use your girls for this, they’re too well known. Can’t go over myself and I need people who can handle themselves. It’s a cocktail party, everyone will have partners there. You can do that?’ he in that way Leyton knew meant it might be a good idea to accept.

VIII

It was in the 2006 renovated Cercle-Cité in Luxembourg, with that light and grand staircase, a place you could hold balls but hardly cocktail parties – Leyton and Jane had the general idea when it came to recommended dress – he’d not worn white tie since his wedding.

There were possibly two flies in the ointment – one is that it was known they were the patron’s people and he had enemies. The second was that Leyton himself had enemies on the continent with that fishing unpleasantness.

On the other hand, the patron’s people would be supporting them.

They saw the pair they needed to speak with, Leyton ambled over to the man called Robert, the two went upstairs to the inner balcony where they could look down on the throng below. They leaned over the balustrade and spoke.

Among the swirling throng below, he caught sight of Jane and she was with the wife, a man and two women came out to the pair and soon all of them were under the balcony and Leyton was worried. He’d give this one he was with ten more minutes and then go looking. He looked across again and the man was observing him with great interest. The man began conversing again.

He saw Jane reappear below but then Jane disappeared a second time and he now excused himself. Going back down to the great hall but of Jane, there was no sign. He went to the end of the hall and asked the patron’s man about Mrs. Young.

He’d seen the first disappearance from the floor and knew the pair but the second had puzzled him – it seemed to be no one Mrs. Young would have any call to be with, it didn’t even seem one of the nibs, more like an official of some kind.

‘Then get the hell after them and find her … please! I’ll be at the second bar we saw on the way in.’

‘Can’t find her,’ reported the patron’s man, as if it were an everyday occurrence.

At this moment, a small man of some sort of European extraction appeared at the bar and spoke to Leyton.

‘Mrs. Young is safe and well but for her to remain that way, we need some things.’ The bodyguard had retired to the other end of the bar and was pointing to the back of the official and indicating that this was the one. Leyton nodded.

‘If she’s harmed, you’re dead.’

‘Mr. Young, Mr. Young, we do not do things that way. We need only negotiate these points and all is well.’ He took a list out of his inner pocket and passed it over. Leyton scanned it, realized it was the negotiating points on the balcony before, plus some concerning the fishing fleet.

‘We’ve already concluded the deal on the balcony, the fishing fleet would require all four principals present.’

‘A pity. Most unfortunate. Enjoy your life with the two Jennies, very pretty girls, yes?’

He turned and swiftly exited the bar, the patron’s man followed, Leyton went back to the great hall, realizing what he would be expected to do and deciding not to do that. It was a matter of sheer chance to catch a glimpse of Jane being hustled from the columned side walkway but his training said not to chase, to rather anticipate where’d they go. Plus he’d seen two people on his own tail.

He went back to the bar and there, sitting on a stool, was Jane.

He sat next to her, facing out and asked her to explain. Her silence was eloquent, he looked over and she was staring straight ahead at the back of the bar, he looked about and there was the little extortionist who now saw him and departed but Leyton remained where he was.

Out of the corner of her mouth, she said there were two more. It wasn’t too hard to pick them, they knew they were rumbled and they too went quickly. A stroke of luck was one of the couples they’d spoken with earlier coming to the bar, Leyton insisted on buying their drinks and then spoke low and earnestly to the man, in English, that their lives were in danger and they needed to get to a taxi but not one waiting outside.

The man immediately pulled out his mobile and phoned for a cab for his wife and him, they’d adjust it at the cab itself in twenty minutes.

Leyton bought another round.

The man’s mobile went, he checked the text, yep. They drank up, went to the garderobe and collected their gear, making their way out and there was their cab from a different company to that which had the concession, which caused a bit of yelling, Leyton shoved Jane into the back seat, the other lady next and the husband in the front seat. The taxi took off.

The Youngs were dropped off first at their hotel, they gave profuse thanks, Leyton pressed over the odds into the man’s hand and turned to go in, there was a thud and Jane dropped to the tiles.

IX

112 had been called, the ambulance had taken them to Hospital Kirchberg, she’d been shot and it was touch and go. Intubated and with an IV drip, she was wheeled into the foyer, about to go through the doors when there was another thud.

X

Four weeks on.

You never know until it happens how you’re going to miss someone but Leyton was inconsolable, well past the expectations of the patron. The patron simply couldn’t see why it was Leyton’s wife – Leyton himself but his wife?

The patron visited over and over, took care of the funeral, had his people contact all the others. Leyton asked if he’d pulled off the deal all right. Yes, yes, it was great, let’s not look at things like that now.

On today’s visit to the ferry Leyton asked to be given one week more, then they’d talk and plan, the patron grunted.

XI

Sarah had kept away once they’d returned, she’d been distraught herself and Jenny had therefore kept her away. Ever the pragmatist, Jenny knew exactly how it would look and frankly, she wanted to know herself.

It had gone through everyone’s mind, from the skippers to the crews to the clientele in various ventures, to former colleagues. His grief seemed to be the saving grace but things were certainly still being whispered.

‘You can’t see Sarah, you know why.’

‘Of course.’

‘When will you talk to me? I’m the one you have now, as long as you wish.’

‘How are … er … the businesses?’

‘They’re in hand, you can look those over once you can manage again. They’re thriving, your patron’s done a power of work on them, he hasn’t muscled in, he was as shocked as anyone. We’re all utterly devastated. She was the one who kept it all together and I never saw how much. I’m doing it as well as I can.’

She looked at him for half a minute, then reached into her bag and extracted a note. ‘I’ve read it. Here you are. I’ll be back this evening.’

‘Dear Leyton

I don’t have the words. I agree we should not meet, for all sorts of reasons but keep in your mind that I’m going nowhere, I am here for that day we can meet and talk again.

With a great deal of feeling
Sarah’

Just that.

Unworthy thoughts of the kind which wondered if she could have set this up, could have been there – those sorts of things went through his head. It was stupid thinking there was any plan as they could never come together, ever now, not this way.

And he didn’t want to see her, to face her.

And yet that was cruel. He wrote a quick note: ‘Thanks. Appreciated.’ He’d give it to Jenny when she came back.

He had to know for his own sake, he really did and he knew one or two over there he’d met at a copper’s conference, he’d put enquiries in hand and see what they came up with.

Jenny came home in the gloaming, laden with bags, she did the distribution, he helped, they sat and she had her Drambuie, he had his malt.

Said he, ‘Let’s work on dinner together, then we’ll talk.’

They got down to the makings and eventually ate.

She was just sitting demurely, expectantly and he asked her to begin.

‘You’ve been checking on my sister, one of those officers I know, Etienne Dubois, he phoned me immediately. I don’t blame you, I’ve been checking on you too. And you’ll check on me. It was just so convenient, it had no strategic point, I still don’t understand it.’

‘The Will did nothing either – she provided for you two but it was hardly a huge amount, she left most to me. There was no reason anyone can see why. No one’s claimed anything over there, no one’s seen those people before – naturally.’

‘Thing was, we weren’t there. Why were we not taken with you?’

‘Patron felt you’d be hit, too well known.’

She pondered. ‘I’ll half buy that. I still think you lost your protection.’

‘I don’t disagree. There are two things running through the mind – firstly there was perhaps some continental reason we can’t know, secondly someone here had a very good reason – it was pursued – aggressive wasn’t it? No way it was random. My thought is that Jane was up to something or she’d discovered something and had to be stopped.’

‘Don’t take this the wrong way but it has not stopped the ventures, the businesses, you’re still in charge when you wish to start again, the only change is your personal loss and it’s very bad, that loss.’

‘Thanks, Jenny. Now say it, say what’s been on your mind, say the thing you could never say to your sister. I swear I’ll not be angry, I need your thoughts.’

‘All right. Did Sis do it? Could she do it? You two got close not long before the end. I love you in a Jane way, Sis loves you in a way which makes you feel a man, she does have contacts over there and they may have felt … well no, I can’t see it, seriously I can’t. I did have another thought though and you won’t like it.’

‘Yes?’

‘Jane – she was all for you, she saw the whole picture, saw the two of us, saw how you felt …’

‘It’s been on my mind too, the ultimate altruism – thing is, I simply haven’t got a clue. Mistaken orders? Not mistaken identity but someone gave the wrong order?’

‘Could be, I can see that one. I’m certain it was deliberate. What about Jane’s past as far as you can say?’

‘Ah, yes, how much we do and don’t know the one we love.’ He thought long and hard, Jenny refilled the glasses.

‘Jane was not always the calm, mature, loving wife – in the early days she was here, there, everywhere, even feisty -’

‘A bit like me.’

‘Yes, it’s been mentioned. Look, I don’t buy that line. For a start, it’s far more likely she’d have something on someone over there and was doing her own bit of blackmail, not the other way around. You see, nothing would shock me. We knew it was always a chance in my work and so we had a rough few weeks when she told me – I think all of them – her sins of the past. I did too. Unless it’s someone with a real reason in his or her own head, then that’s the only other one I can think of.’

‘Leyton?’

‘Yes?’ The tone worried him as he thought he knew what was coming – the one suspect not openly mentioned so far. Jenny was silent but was gazing at him.

‘No,’ he told her. ‘No, I didn’t. My thoughts were finding partners for you two – Robert Landers for Sarah, who knew for you?’

‘Me?’

‘I hope to God it wasn’t you who arranged it, Jenny, because I’ve had thoughts about you, about your future, about mine.’

‘Sis is your style, she’s the one who would make you happy.’

‘Yes of course, you wouldn’t want.’

‘Did I once say that?’ He looked at her sharply. She went on. ‘It would tip Sis over the edge though, I don’t want that. Not unless she was sorted.’

‘Jane was the most pragmatic of any of us, she hated bullshit emotion, just because people must. She would want it resolved, for the ship to then sail on. What am I going to do about your sister?’

‘Can’t help you, Leyton. Only she and you can sort that one out.’

‘You met Robert Landers – what did you think?’

‘Nice boy, solid, dependable – Sis needs someone like him, Sis won’t go for him because he’s not near the centre of operations, he’s not the main man. You do see the issue.’

‘And I don’t like it – I want to be wanted for me.’

‘Can’t believe a man of your age is saying that – teenagers say that.’ She paused. ‘You are a bit teenage in some ways. All right, I’ll lay my cards on the table. Neither of us want to leave, to be sent away but as for marrying you – that’s a whole different ballgame. She has advantages – is more openly sexual, wants an older man – don’t get on your high horse, I mean relatively – but I’m more dependable. And we’re both ex-killers.’

‘You’re frightening at times.’

‘I know. Also, you have to think about waking up in the morning to one of us, sitting across the breakfast table, the conversation, what our expectations are. Also, our protective strength is when we work together, Sis and I. If I become surplus to marital requirements, then what’s still in it for me? It would be such pain. Same for Sis if you reject her.

I think you must have a long talk with her, find out about her, see how much she opens up, how much she holds back, how honest she is … or not … don’t have sex because at this stage it only clouds things. You need to have that time with her, serious time, no flirting.’

She thought about it. ‘Assuming you want of course. Oh and find out if she can cook and likes to. Decide if she’d be reliable for the business, decide about growing old together, decide if you can fully trust her.’

‘The thing I must do first is come to terms with Jane. And I haven’t so far. Everyone’s trying to rush me.’

‘I’m not, truly.’

Chapter 2-5 hereChapter 2-7 here

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