6

Stone Dead: Not too much of a surprise

Chapter 5 here

I

They were in the equivalent of a B&B, a small room on the second floor, they’d eaten, they were awaiting the call from the hostess and the visit she’d said she was arranging.

It came about 2.15. She appeared with a man who introduced himself and behind him was a young, adenoidal lad who knew English, quite proud of it too.

The process began.

Yes, it had been a bomb, would have blown the boat to splinters, would have been activated by the starter. Miles and Laura looked at one another. There’d been a second device under the bed but this one was activated by remote.

They could only surmise that the killers were in no hurry. At night, the light in that cabin would show someone on shore.

The young man now took Miles aside and quietly hinted about the custom for this sort of service. Er … how much? OK. Miles peeled some off the roll still in in the holdall.

A little bow from the lad, much obliged. Safe to return to the boat. Leave taken.

He sat on the bed, hands on legs. She sat on the rug, leaning back against the wall, staring at the ceiling.

They could not find words. Neither could have been called nervous people, or lacking daring, but this one had been a tad close for comfort.

‘Couple of the local lads are going to motor her around to their dock, give her a thorough looking over, do a bit of routine maintenance as well. It will take some days for our replacement to arrive.’

‘Fine.’ She lapsed into silence. Then: ‘Not nice, is it?’

‘Not nice, no. I’m sure you came close to it many times.’

‘Not to this, I had control of my destiny. I do see now I didn’t completely but … well …’

‘Do you feel you don’t control your destiny any more?’

‘Circumstances always allowed me to escape before, but now we seem hemmed in wherever we go. I’m not blaming you, don’t think that. It’s more that my cover is now well and truly blown. It’s more unnerving now than before, nowhere to hide.’

‘We’re both pretty good at getting out of things, I don’t think we’ve lost that. Those were pretty routine checks.’

‘The remote wasn’t.’

‘No, it wasn’t.’ Silence again, then: ‘Who was it?’

II

‘Penny Dalshiel? Right. Send her through – go for a walk, Jenny.’

When Gerald Haas suggested a walk, his PA always thought it a good idea to go immediately. She gathered her papers and put them in the drawer, went over to the cupboard, took her bag, checked her keys and hurried out.

She even forgot to ask Ms Dalshiel to go through, much to the latter’s amusement. Never mind, Ms Dalshiel went through and didn’t even wait to ask to be seated on the other side of the monstrous dark desk with the turned legs.

‘What do you have, Ms Dalshiel?’

Silently, she handed the file across. Haas turned side on to catch the light better, skimmed through, then went back again, reading this page and that.

It took some eight minutes but eventually he was done. He turned to Ms Dalshiel. ‘And the bottom line, Ms Dalshiel?’

‘I should have thought that was obvious. My firm mines it, for a minute consideration.’

‘A tender is a tender.’

‘Oh, Sir Gerald.’

‘This is Dan Cornell’s firm you speak of here -‘

‘Correction. My firm.’

‘I see.’ He looked through the file again, noting certain points, nodded and turned back to her. ‘I can’t see there’ll be any issue with this.’

‘I thought you might be kind enough to think so. I’ve prepared these.’ She handed two sheets across. ‘I’ve marked the spot with a cross in each case.’

‘Most thorough.’ Taking up his pen, he signed where indicated, took the two sheets and tapped them into order on the desk, then handed them across. ‘Don’t come back to this office, Ms Dalshiel.’

‘I’d think the chances of that are rather remote.’

He got up, she got up and departed, he walked through and out to the lift, watching it going down to the ground floor, came through, went round the back of Jenny’s desk and watched Dalshiel walk out to the flagstoned footpath, went into the kitchenette to make a coffee, then sat in his chair, thinking.

About seven minutes later, Jenny returned and the two of them went through that section of the disc. ‘Is it enough?’ asked Jenny.

‘Yes, we have her but can’t see how we can use it.’

III

Laura’s phone went during her most strenuous exertions on top, she reached out without missing a stroke and saw it was Amelie.

‘Sorry, lover, it’s Sis texting.’

She climbed off, Miles went for refills.

It was a gorgeous night out there, well-lit craft bobbed up and down on the river, he took their glasses and they went out to the balcony, a risk to be sure. She put her arms around him, he put his around her neck. ‘I love you.’

‘I love you too. But I have to break the mood. It’s Penny – fished out the same way. Not Shad Thames, closer to her home – canal there. No rape, nothing like that, no violence other than having lost her balance, fallen and cracked her head on the concrete block, rolled into the canal.’

The silence was deafening.

Eventually she said, ‘It’s Amelie.’

‘How can you know?’

‘I mean I’m worried about her. She’s too close to all this going on, whoever it is are no respecters of rank, so they’ll hardly stop at Sis.’

‘Call her.’

‘I texted.’

A text came back but it made Laura’s brow even more furrowed. He put two and two together. ‘Could mean she doesn’t trust you with me.’

‘I’d thought of that. Yes, it could be. You could be the problem all along. Don’t act hurt – your mind’s the same as mine.’

‘What’s your chief fear for Amelie?’

‘That she is being used. That she’s the decoy. She sees herself as the femme-fatale spy, she’s right into it, she’s loved all that’s gone on and I know her – she wants to be part of the action all the time and then finds herself up to her neck in it.’

‘And you’ve always bailed her out.’

‘It’s been both ways. I’ve slipped up too and she’s been in the shadows. Giving all my secrets away now but I never operated alone. If I was in some village, she was always closeby. She was in the Travellers, by the way, easy enough to keep out of sight, went for a wander, had a coffee. You never asked where I went after reaching the lower fence. She’d hired a car, I texted her from the roof, she came to the nearest corner.’

‘Can you actually operate without her?’

‘I could at first with just you – but you couldn’t take Amelie’s place in the shadows, also when I needed a double, which was often. Again, nothing against you, Miles, but we had a certain thing going, Sis and I.’

‘If I disappeared from the scene now, could you get back to that again?’

‘Cover’s blown. I’d have to lie low for two years perhaps.’

‘Would you then leave me without saying, one night?’

‘Oh Miles, of course I want to say no, I would never. I even hope it’s true.’

‘But?’

‘No buts. I’m the more mobile of the two of us and that worries you. You’d go back to the fishing and the other ventures.’ She thought about it. ‘Let me say this – it was always going to have an end date, this job – there are only so many people you can do a job like that on before you become too well known.’

She kissed him. ‘I think you have me on your hands now. I’ve another question out of the blue.’ he nodded. ‘If someone were to sink all your boats, could you replace them?’

‘I could but there’d not be a lot left over.’

‘I’ve suddenly had a thought. Nothing to do with this matter. We’ve had so much on our minds, I never thought to ask you about the sheep. I mean, I know they just munch on grass and have the fur to cover them in winter and all that and they roam freely but did you – did you make any long term provision?’

‘That ship which was approaching the island was an old troop vessel which can come in close. There were a dozen men with shotguns, farmers. You know the gite walkway down to the shore -‘

‘That’s no walkway, it’s just rubble.’

‘Yes but sheep can get down there, the 93 we had left went down and were sold.’

‘You lost money then?’

‘Some, they still fetched a price and the fishing is a reasonable trade, also one or two of the other little ventures have come up trumps of late.’

‘What about the EU?’

‘We deep sea fish, we’re careful, though the EU changes the rules the whole time.’

IV

Paul Glendinning had left for home after a revealing day. Amelie watched him below, heading his usual route home, she took out her phone, then hesitated.

She was starting to become uneasy with Haas, with his little references. She’d need to disappear but not the way she felt Haas and Jenny had in mind. Even now it would be nice to get back with Laura but she knew Laura and her suspicious nature. She really needed Laura now.

First, the filing cabinets, she unlocked the one which looked the most nondescript, the one which would least house any key information.

Nothing. All right, the computer. She knew yesterday’s word and hoped it hadn’t changed. She typed it in, looked at the screen and clicked.

Ah, second word needed. Enormous chance – what about Laura or Emma? She typed in Emma.

Nothing. She typed in Laura.

She was in. File on desktop with Janine’s name on it. Letter to her. If she was reading this, so was Haas’s office, now to delete, shut down, get out of the office, make herself scarce.

She shut down and got out of the office.

V

Jenny Gainsborough, twelve minutes after she saw Glendinning leave and not return, let herself in, walked up the stairs, let herself into the office and started methodically going through the filing cabinets.

She found what she needed on Glendinning, also on Janine, the one on Haas was as she’d expected. None of them needed copying.

On the train, she removed her gloves and put them in her bag.

VI

There were two messages on Laura’s phone. Sis, with news of Haas – he’d almost made it home – knifed on the gravel path just outside the small gate. A second, from Paul Glendinning, asking to meet both, urgently.

So, he’d deliberately broken cover. She thought it through, then ran it past Miles.

‘We’re running out of miscreants, Laura. My money’s on Jenny for now, but Dave disagrees – he just doesn’t read her that way. There’s always Paul Glendinning of course. And then … well …’

‘Yes, I know.’

‘You know what it all looks like to me – everyone has done something naughty, people find out and use it, there’s all sorts of blackmail and cross blackmail. There could be two or three killers facing ruin. And so the process continues without end. Someone gets the top job, the 2IC has the dirt … and so on.’

‘Yes, that’s how it is and I have to say it’s been lucrative for me.’

‘And highly dangerous. Boats get blown up.’

‘They do now, yes. I used to make sense of it all. I used to move from baddy to baddy. If I found out they weren’t baddies, I declined the contract. I became known for it, so they’d only contract me if that man or woman had really been … naughty … as you put it.

With this situation now, there are too many overlapping agendas and no one knows who is good or bad. I don’t like this lack of clarity. Let’s set up a meeting with Paul on a boat, pull into a shore somewhere and I’ll tell Amelie to be there. If it’s Jenny, she’ll also be there – she needs no invite.’

‘Too dangerous.’

‘Not if we arrange our failsafes, if we have people looking out for the main players.’

VII

The morning silence, broken by the gulls, was now further broken by a phone call. Paul Glendinning on his way, it was about his ETA, he’d have eaten.

Glendinning arrived, they did the security, he had no weapon bar his mobile. Yes, he’d love a drink. The boat pulled out and quickly reached the choppy part of the sea.

‘Saw your unobtrusive people, Laura. You need to come in, you can’t keep running.’

‘How are you situated with Mrs. Glendinning? Is she expecting you back?’

‘I’ll need to call.’

‘You understand,’ said Laura, ‘we’re coming into a secure zone now – do you need to phone your wife? Do it now. Not your people, same applies to us.

‘I do … er … have to make some calls along the way to ensure my safety – it’s on a no-call, come-in-and-rescue-me basis.’

‘Pity.’

‘I’m sorry,’ smiled Glendinning, looking from one to the other, ‘I’m not kidding about the support. I need to check in.’

‘No, we’re sorry, Paul. You can call again at the other end.’

He was in a pickle. To be fair, with all the deaths, he might well surmise that he was next, they could see the cogs turning, his hands clasped and unclasped. ‘One call you say?’

They smiled. ‘To your wife,’ said Miles.

He brought out his mobile, there was a good signal in these parts, he made the call, there was a lot of no can do, no, don’t do that and also no terms of endearment at the end.

The instant he was about to shut it off, Laura sprang, snatched the phone from his hands and threw it to Miles, Glendinning leapt at him, he threw it back to Laura who disappeared below and locked the door.

Glendinning was furious but Miles said, ‘You can stop that now. She needs to know, you know that. You know very well this whole trip is about people being killed and we have to eliminate the suspects one by one. If you’ve nothing to hide, then what’s the issue, apart from our rudeness?’

Glendinning sat down, scowling. The skipper was oblivious.

They heard the door unlocked, up came Laura, she beckoned him downstairs and showed him the safe, door open and there was his mobile inside. ‘We promise you’ll get that back before we get off the boat.’ Miles came downstairs.

The man made to lunge and Miles lunged at him, Laura closed the safe and spun the lock.

They all went up top, Laura now dialled a number and gave two phone numbers which Glendinning knew implicitly, he went white.

They all waited and then came the return call, not a text. ‘Uh-huh, uh-huh, cheers.’

They were all seated. ‘Well, isn’t this jolly,’ tried Miles, Glendinning scowled.

‘Paul,’ soothed Laura, ‘please see the situation we’re in. Someone tried to blow us up in Bergen. Do you think we did that to ourselves? Then they actually did blow up the boat and both boys were killed, so we’re told. Cornell, Penny, Haas – all are killed, Amelie goes strange on me, goes AWOL. Would you accept there’s something rotten in the State of Denmark?

Your anger has subsided, you know the score in other words, you’ve seen our measures, nothing nasty. At supper, we won’t drug or poison you – you’ll see us eating too and you’ll eat the portion of your choice.’

Miles took it up. ‘Late afternoon, where we’re going, we have to judge the tide exactly, and it’s a long journey. Only the skipper can access the radio, it’s on lock. We’ll be 14 nautical miles from shore, outside our territorial waters. We’ll take it in turns keeping watch.’

VIII

Paul had behaved, they’d eaten, no one was seasick, he’d even caught some kip. They saw lights approaching in the late afternoon gloom, a fishing boat came alongside, his deck above theirs, Miles went outside, there was a thud, another, and another.

‘Evenin’,’ acknowledged the rough customer who came through with his pack, as the skipper departed, with his pack. The two nodded at each other. The newcomer then lifted through two long, cylindrical plastic barrels.

‘Paul, meet Calum.’ Calum nodded and grunted. He went to the wheel, opened the throttle just a little and the boat began to chug slowly ahead.

Miles explained. ‘He can’t go any faster, it will take us a couple of hours, he has to watch even today’s news on the state of the river. It will be tricky. Best we relax as best we can and have a drink.’

Laura sprang into action and asked what Paul would like. Whisky. She knew what Calum would have – tea.

The instant Paul took his whisky, he threw it in Laura’s face, ran for the door lifted the trouser leg and reached for the gun, Calum took two strides and a massive blow came down on Glendinning’s hand, Calum now lifted him on his shoulders, went outside and threw Glendinning over the side, Miles grabbed a lifejacket, leapt through the door and flung the jacket upstream of Paul who was floating on his back, not struggling.

Calum returned to the wheel as if nothing had happened, Miles tapped him appreciatively on the shoulder. Laura was in shock, not a common occurrence for her.

‘You’ve killed him.’

‘Three hundred yards from shore? No, he has a better than even chance, especially if he grabs that jacket. True, the tide will carry him for now but it does eventually return him to shore. We might have to deal with Paul further down the track.’

‘How?’

‘We do a Plan C. So, tell me about the numbers you gave Dave.’

‘They meant nothing to me. I did call them downstairs. First one was a man, he just said, ‘Yeah?’ The second was a woman. Dave said the first was some muscle Paul had organized, maybe section, the woman was Jenny.’

‘Curiouser and curiouser.’

Calum now shut off the lights, the shorelights were enough, he knew the stretch, there were no nasties below as long as he stayed aligned.

Closer in now, the engines were back to pulled back further, the tide no longer an issue.

They grounded in the one spot they could, Calum went out, ran up forward, Miles had the wheel, the line went over Calum’s shoulder, he plunged into the shallows in his wader wellies, stepped up onto the bank, ran the line around a tree and made it fast.

Laura came out in dark gear, followed by Miles in similar attire, she clipped a pulley on the line, rope below it on the hook, it went around her and back to the pulley, she jumped off, Miles did similar, both pairs of feet hit the bank. Calum would take the pulleys back. Hands were shaken and they were alone as Calum made his way back to the boat.

They were a couple of hundred feet from where they needed to be, by a launching ramp, Amelie should have been in place. Their guns were just inside their jackets.

Moving into position on different sides of the ramp, they checked their back up was there, then settled in to observe the little hut to the side of the ramp, barely lit. Someone was in there, it was up to that person now.

The person wasn’t coming out. Miles looked across the ramp and made a gesture, as if he was going to call, she immediately crossed arms and shook her head, mouthing, ‘No.’ She would do it.

Then the door to the hut opened a fraction and two eyes peered round, looking this way and that. It was a woman.

The woman cautiously made her way out of the hut, Laura called her sister by her diminutive and, ‘It’s Jacquie,’ so there’d be no mistake, the woman immediately dropped to one knee, aimed straight at Laura, there was a shot and she fell straight back with the impact, Miles immediately had the shooter in his sights, Jenny put the weapon straight to ground and stepped back two paces, hands on her head.

Laura rushed to Amelie but it was over, that was as clear as day, the back ups now came down the ramp, and yes, one was a paramedic, he examined, shook his head, Laura fell to her knees, Miles and one of the support had Jenny looking at two barrels, a third went behind her, she even volunteered her arms to her waist, they were tied, as were her feet, the man then carried her in a fireman’s lift up the ramp to a Transit van.

Miles went to Laura. ‘I can’t leave her here, not like this, Miles.’

‘If we take her, we compound it. We also cease to function. Rob will take her and do it right. It was a section bullet. Say your goodbyes, Laura. One minute.’

She didn’t need to be told, she fell on her prostrate sister and wept and wept and wept, then abruptly got up and ran after Miles – he was in the back with Jenny and one of the support team, Laura went up front.

IX

It had been a careful drive, it was always best that way, not too slow and correct, no speeding.

The driver stopped, got out and undid a gate, then beckoned them to the back door, going into the back of the van for Jenny, whom he carried in a fireman’s lift, dumping her inside, on the divan.

The other two stood in the living room, curtains closed, Laura now sunk to the carpet. When you’re in a house not your own, when it’s not your decor, when your sister has just been murdered and left for dead, when the killer is right here with you …

Jenny just lay on the divan, not that she could do much else, saying nothing.

Miles went to Laura, down on his knees, he held her but she’d done her thinking through the tears, she’d clearly accepted that Jenny had not been the guilty one and if not, then she had just saved Laura’s life.

‘Speak,’ said Laura.

Jenny’s voice was quiet and actually, it wasn’t bad – it was a nice voice. ‘Laura, please think about this. Yes, I see you have. Who was not at the scene with us just now?

I don’t know the details but I know he’d have attacked you or tried. How would I know that? Now think who was firing at you, Laura. I’m so terribly sorry but she was.’ Laura was sobbing. ‘Janine/Amelie will be taken care of, it will be done right – you’ve organized that those men would take care of things. I saw them both there when I went to position.’

‘Just who the hell are you?’ Laura cried out.

Jenny asked Miles to go over to her and remove her other guns – one in the lining of her jacket and one near her right ankle. He did.

‘Now, release my hands, Laura can keep her gun on me.’

‘You speak as a professional,’ said Miles, she turned over and Miles undid the cord. She turned back to face them.

‘You don’t know the half of it.’ She now removed all layers of clothing from her top, including her bra, causing Miles to say, ‘You don’t have to.’ Nice breasts.

‘Yes I do. Now tie my hands with one end,’ she turned over again, ‘and tie the other end to the divan arm.’ He did.

‘I prefer Laura to do the next bit but if she doesn’t want -’

‘I do.’ She got up, came over, untying Jenny’s ankles, then removed, first her soft soled shoes, then her socks, then her outer trousers, then the inners. In a final insult, she pulled down the knickers and Jenny assisted by lifting her hips.

‘Now go through everything but please throw that rug by the desk over me.’ Miles did.

They went through everything and Miles whistled. ‘She’s special section of some kind, been on this case for two years. She’s written it up.’

‘In case I was shot and you wanted to know afterwards. I’m now opening up to you.’

‘You could easily have put the second bullet into me,’ said Miles, ‘and the third into Laura.’

‘I’m glad you see that.’

There was silence, then broken by Laura. ‘Tell me about it.’

‘Now? You’re sure?’

‘I need to know. Abbreviate it.’

‘Haas and Glendinning always knew who Laura was, always. Amelie told Glendinning and he told Haas. Haas had Amelie over a barrel. She’d betrayed you, Laura, on the Martin case and Haas knew, he made full use of it. I can show you proof if and when we get back and you trust me enough to show you. Why she did that in the Martin case, we still don’t know – money, a man, who knows? She never did it again, presumably because there were too many eyes.’

‘I know why. It was something between the two of us. Go on.’

‘This part you might not want to hear in front of Miles.’

‘Go on.’

‘You had a hell of a lot of skill, Laura and might have succeeded by yourself in all those cases, we’ll never know because you were also getting a lot of back-up, facilitation shall we say, from Haas and Glendinning.’

‘I know that, it was handy.’

‘Amelie was always there in the background, stepping in when needed. It all suited the book of the people over Haas. They were paedos, you know, it crossed borders and Laura was actually taking out people who threatened their members.’

‘No-o-o-o-o.!’

‘Sorry, Laura. I was after the ring, not Haas. Haas was sleazy in his own way but I’m not sure he was involved in this one. In fact, I feel I have evidence he was doing a spot of blackmail. A man called Joseph was definitely one of them.’

‘Did you kill Haas?’ asked Miles.

‘No. Gun is my thing. You have my guns. Did you kill Glendinning?’

‘Our man threw him overboard in the river, I threw a lifejacket after him.’

‘Then you just allowed the head of the ring to escape.’

‘If he escaped. Let’s keep our eyes peeled.’

‘We were investigating O’Brien for narcotics – that’s my department, not Haas’s. The Melissa murder was a puzzling complication but the presence of Penny Dalshiel showed that Cornell and the island were tied up in it. She wanted you dead, Laura. Any light on that?’

‘Wish I could. I thought jealousy, I’d harmed her once, I don’t know.’

‘We thought Laura was about to be brought into the fold and that’s still at the back of my mind. But Janine’s gun pointed straight at her tonight seems to have put paid to that. Let me say I know guns. I would have known if Janine was just training her gun on the one who called out. Let’s consider she could not be sure it was Laura, she was closer to the water, the sound of it.

I don’t actually buy it. Her move she was trained, I might have trained her, I didn’t but I knew it instantly.

I sent the boys for Penny. She was out of control, she knifed Haas herself, hated him, hated Laura. Laura was certainly next -’

‘So you’ve saved me twice.’

‘Don’t look at it that way. Things had to be done. Frank O’Brien, by the way, is dead. Jail brawl. We have no way of knowing who or what was behind it.’

Laura sagged and slipped to the floor again, unable to speak, unable to think. She accepted his arms.

‘I’m sorry,’ added Jenny, I was forgetting. Shall I stop?’ Laura shook her head. ‘This Chloe is still to have the baby. Johanssen will be out soon enough but he’s not unhappy, he runs things from there. Only you know how safe you are. Stammers won’t be out for a very long time and he has no organization but still – he had some mates outside. He might still be a danger.’

‘How do you know all this?’ asked Miles.

‘Remember who I was – PA to Haas. It was our job to have a finger in every pie. I think that’s all.’

‘We need to go next door,’ said Miles. ‘I have the back door key, we need to climb the back fence. Let’s gather all of this together and go. And Jenny, are you going to scarper now? We won’t stop you, you don’t have to make a break.’

‘No, I’ll stay with you this night. Do you trust I won’t murder you in your sleep?’

‘You’d realize we’ll take it in turns.’

She grinned.

X

No one beat down the door next door, nor where they were, Jenny did not murder them, they were now back in their ‘home’ as they saw it – for now at least – and they had Jenny with them.

There was a knock on the door, Michael Collins who needed an introduction to Jenny and then came through Dave Collins who needed no introduction – Jenny just smiled.

‘He hacked me.’

‘She let me.’

‘When this love affair is over,’ said the DI, ‘some news. Ms Chloe has had her child, a boy, don’t know any of the details. She’s still inside but it’s reducing as her good behaviour continues. I’m not sure what they’ll do in her case. He concluded: ‘All right, I’ll leave you to it but please don’t forget where I am.’

‘You’ll be round for dinner here soon.’

‘Yes.’ He took his leave, the four of them sat down.

‘How do you two know each other?’ asked Laura, ‘you never met.’

‘I explored backwards to find him, let’s say,’ said Jenny.

‘She’s good,’ admitted Dave. The other two just looked at each other. ‘I’m going to visit her in London.’ Now the eyebrows went sky high.

‘Dave, what about Beth?’ Miles mumbled.

Jenny hurriedly got up and made her excuses. It had been lovely, thanks to both, lovely to see you, Dave, she had no luggage, she backed to the doorway, they all got up, she didn’t know what to do so she opened the door and went out, reaching for her mobile. Dave went to run after her but Laura stood between him and the door. He deflated.

‘Come through, we’ll eat and talk about it. Come back and sit down, Dave. I’ll keep you company, Miles will bring the eats.’

Miles went and did just that, Laura leaned forward. ‘If it’s to be a going concern, you two, then great and it’s not going to end this way today, I can assure you you’re not going to lose her by not running after her now. You think I’m a bitch for mentioning Beth – when were you going to?’

He looked down at the rug.

‘Give her space – I’m a woman. Give her space. Sort your own head out first, sort out Beth.’

‘She left me. It became an obsession, beating Jenny at this game, I probably talked too much about it.’

‘Did she really leave or did she tell you to sort yourself out? Or was she just hurt?’

Silence.

‘You’ll have to sort all this first. Jenny’s a bit like you, a bit unorthodox, she wants this with you and that’s why she ran.’

‘I’ll never understand women.’

‘You will if you listen to them.’

‘What should I do?’

‘I told you – sort out your head about Beth, whether you really want this tie cut. Can you not visit London while you and Beth are both cooling your heels, see how much you like the idea of Jenny second time around, don’t sleep with her. Leave that to the second visit.’

‘I don’t have her mobile number.’

‘I do. I’ll not give it to you but I’ll call her and give her yours. You want to give it to me?’

‘Miles has it.’

‘Yes, quite right, he’ll call her. While I’m here, by the way. Here are the eats.

XII

Jenny undressed and jumped into bed in her one bedroom just out of London – that’s all she’d ever told anyone of her address.

Laura had been a bitch but it had had to be done that way. If Dave had this Beth, then he needed to treat her as she herself wanted to be treated. That would tell her a lot.

But she couldn’t, she couldn’t go with a man two hundred miles way, when she was a killer like she was. Her heart had leapt so much during their duel, she wanted so much … but there was this Beth.

Her mobile buzzed, it was a text. From Miles – well I never. Laura must have known. Just a phone number. Hang on – she scrolled down. Give him a week.

She closed the phone and danced around the room.

XIII

‘Have we sorted everything?’ Miles asked on no particular evening.

‘Ah. I was wondering when this would come.’

‘You don’t have to.’

‘Yes I do. I have to know what you’ll do. It’s just been so … good. But I’m a cynic, I never believe such things can go on and I’m not even sure I want the fishing life.’

‘Who said it had to be that? Was it that before?’

‘No, it was the farming life.’

‘And what was before that?’

‘All right, I know we could work something out but it’s all academic anyway.’

‘Then I’ll make it easier. You killed Melissa.’

She now did something she’d not even done with Amelie – she started convulsing, he put and arm around her, she did not throw it off but neither did she stop. Then she did and it all came out.

‘Almost all of it was as we know – Chloe racing up there, the worry about Penny. Do you understand now the worry about Penny? I’d been tipped off by two people. That’s why she was there. I’d no idea what she had planned but when Chloe came up like that, suddenly I knew.

Chloe reached me as I was about to throw the gun but as you know, it suddenly seemed Melissa was actually there to murder me … and you. So I didn’t throw it and Chloe was upon me, ripping it out of my hand – she’s stronger than me, all that farmwork no doubt – and she threw the gun to Melissa but it went to the floor. Melissa wasn’t going to confront you, she was going to kill me or maybe Chloe.

She fumbled picking up the gun, then turned and pointed it at Chloe who had the other gun out by now but she froze – at that critical moment, she froze – all I could do was pull Chloe’s hands over and my hand made her finger pull the trigger, it was our only chance – it hit Melissa. I grabbed the gun from Chloe and threw it into the stable, then ran. I could see you at the lower door, my back was flat to the end of the stables – the double doors, I heard Chloe’s second shot, you came up the path and went in, I scarpered over the roof. I don’t know why you did not see or hear Chloe. I imagine she went around the corner, the far end of the stables and did as I had – flat against the wall, but with a gun in her hand.’

‘Which was one reason I did not go looking.’

She’d finished and was no longer shuddering. It had come out, she now looked down. ‘I told you,’ he said, ‘it changes nothing. If you still want me, I’m yours.’

XIV

There was a call and half an hour later, Dave appeared at the front door. He came in, the makings were out on the low table.

‘You seem pleased with yourself,’ said Miles.

‘Beth and I talked, it was hard to be fair, to be neutral. She’d been restless for some time, it was my hours, the sudden rushes on projects, a bit nonU. We might still have been together without Jenny.’

‘She called you, yes?’

‘She was frightened, she didn’t know how to act. Nor did I. I got in the car and went.’

‘And that, as they say, is that.’

‘Not quite. It wasn’t a 100% success – awkward, gaffes, but it was all right when I left. She’s still not sure about Beth, and I have to sort it out. I think Beth needs me 24/7 and that might be a good thing, it might not.’

‘Where’s the heart?’

‘With both.’

Miles sighed, Laura smiled. Said she, ‘I know where you’ll end up but it’s not my place to say.’

‘And you two?’

‘It’s looking that way,’ said Laura. Miles nodded.

‘Isn’t all this jolly?’ grinned David J. Collins.

Chapter 5 here

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