They were at the pizzeria.
‘Don’t do me any favours, I never asked you to.’
‘Laura, please, you know there was no choice.’
‘You’ve ruined me.’
‘You have your bequest, no one’s challenged it, I don’t want you dead, you still have 15 boats. It’s not riches galore but it’s a damned sight better than you might have had – those girls were going to be killed.’
She ignored that. ‘What you ask is impossible. If I shop her, I might as well kiss life goodbye.’
‘Yes but that’s going to happen if you don’t. The department’s reducing your protection, despite my protests – I’m worried about your security now.’
She was unnerved. ‘You get into a case, Leyton and everything becomes that case. How on earth your wife stays married to you I don’t know.’
‘We depend on each other. I depend on you too, on the girls.’
‘Especially her, for this cooking.’
‘What do you want me to do?’
‘I’m not asking but if Mandy Sobel is not in a new will, she loses her prime motive.’
‘And leave what I have to who? To you? To those girls? Mandy’s the only one left I know.’
‘I know she is but she bears you no goodwill, you know that, as long as Mandy remains with a bequest, plus she’s controlled by them, you’re a sitting duck. I want you alive, I want nothing more from Miles’s estate, it was way over the top as it was. And the girls probably don’t either.’
‘How would you know?’
‘Things they said, the way they’re keen for their jobs.’
‘Yes, that’s so, let’s leave them out of it.’
‘You can’t be pushed, Laura, you make up your own mind in your own time, you always have. But do think this one through. Please?’
‘Why should you care? Don’t answer that – you love me. I have to go. I’m paying for my half, don’t argue.’
With that, she was gone.
‘More coffee, Mr. Young?’ asked Madeleine.
It was exactly two weeks later to the day.
Young was inconsolable, he took a week’s leave after attending to funeral things.
Jane knew how far he came ‘back home’ at these times and that was fine for her. It had crossed her mind a few times over the journey to move on but never seriously, he’d not crossed the physical line but he’d fallen in love fairly regularly.
She was here now and lent her ear. ‘So sudden, Jane, so sudden, through the window too.’
‘You weren’t the one to reduce her protection, the department would not pay any more. That lot gunning for her – they could have done it any which way they wanted. Even if you’d guarded her yourself 24/7, for how long could that have gone on? I mean, what sort of life was that for her? I reckon she felt deep guilt for Miles and never got over it, felt she was living off him in a way after he was dead. She did have that decency to her.’
‘Oh, she was decent all right, in her own way. In a sense it was quick, almost poetic justice, she might even have been half hoping Ms Sobel would do it.’
‘Are you sure it was her?’
‘I’m not on the case now as you know but it does seem her modus operandi. Such a horrible waste – two people who’d made a life and I believe she’d have got over the plateau with Miles, she’d have spoken to him but it all stopped with that hit. Her entire future ended with that hit. That’s the part I can’t come to terms with.’
‘And the strained relations at the end.’
‘That too. My part of Miles’s estate would have helped her with security, even if she would not employ guards herself.’
‘You can’t be everyone’s guardian angel – there are actual guardian angels for that, so they say and I don’t mean ‘your girls’.’
‘You’re worried about them?’
‘I’d have said so by now. No, you’re good to them but they’re also good to you, they’re loyal. As long as it stays that way.’
‘I think they want it that way as well. But now we have Ms Sobel to hunt down.’
‘Why? Why must you?’
‘For Miles. For Laura. For the girls. For yours and my safety. For the world to know that such people do not get away with such things for long.’
‘So much graft and you’ve scratched the surface. When those hoods came off, there were some very surprised people.’
‘That bit was good,’ he smiled. ‘They needed nailing – the bloody nerve of those people secreted into the force. They got theirs.’
‘But you’ve made real enemies.’
‘I’ve been doing that, Jane, all my working life.’
‘So you’ll send the girls after her, even into danger, as they’ll know the Jennys are coming.’
‘I couldn’t keep them away. We’ll take the best advice and yes, I will keep them back just for now.’
‘Advice from Miles’s ‘patron’?’
‘Partly, yes. But we’ll plan it in detail, get reports from the continent, that sort of thing. I do understand how these things escalate but it still has to be done – thing is, everyone knows it and perhaps she herself knows it, Laura was always sure though that Mandy had aimed off. Interesting, wasn’t it?’
‘No, not interesting at all.’ She looked at him. ‘I’m quite sure Ms Sobel aimed off all three times – aimed off Laura that is, which Laura was immensely grateful for. Had that not crossed your mind? Ever?’
He deflated. ‘It did, I never wanted to face it while she was alive. I didn’t think it helped Miles for me to think that way, the living have to go on.’
‘But now you can face it, will you be vindictive about it?’
‘All right Jane, I have to mention this and it sounds tacky to me, it sounds awful. One of the reasons I do not wish to think of Laura being involved in any way is that she might have altered that will.’
‘Ah, I see.’
‘I swear before you now – I don’t want to see a penny of it but if she did alter it, if she left something and I’d just been thinking not nice things about her … I’m not prepared to do that.’
‘Good. Another coffee?’
They wouldn’t have had the girls return any other way.
It was 9 p.m., first one of them dropped lightly to the rear decking, two packs were dropped, were caught and silently put on the deck, then the other dropped down, they smiled sweetly at him through the glass and he was glad it was Jane who let them through, because that way, he felt justified doing what he now did – hug each of them in turn and the body language of both was reassuring, which they clearly felt reassured by too.
‘You’ve eaten?’ asked Jane.
Jenny looked at him for guidance. ‘You’re going to eat, we keep things in the freezer for when you return, the Drambuie is at the ready. I’m ready for supper.’
They looked at each other, then turned back and nodded.
‘Take your things upstairs, girls,’ said Jane, ‘get yourselves freshened up, that gives me time to put it on.’
They quickly took their packs upstairs.
When they eventually came downstairs, it was minus catsuits and they looked quite the young ladies in jeans. Still they were worried, Sarah came up to him, touched his shoulder and asked, ‘Are you all right … about Laura? We were so worried.’
‘Yes, it’s Ok now, it was rough for some time. Listen, girls, we have two things to do. Tomorrow morning, I have to phone Mr. Pendlebury and we have to go down there -’
‘You do realize,’ interrupted Sarah, ‘there’ll be people gunning for us, there’ll be those not wanting us to reach that office.’
‘I think you girls will have that covered. Also, I like the way you’re speaking more, Sarah. Sis worked on you, did she?’
‘And how. Time had a lot to do with it. Relaxation, exercising, good things.’
‘You do know the second I was going to mention.’
‘Must we speak of that now, tonight?’
‘Not at all – I was going to say that. After the meeting with the solicitor. Now let’s eat.
Mr. Pendlebury coughed, adjusted his glasses, the teas were brought in, before they’d even been asked if they wanted any but no matter.
‘To business,’ he said from his side of the enormous table, piled high with papers. ‘The reason you’re seeing me is that though we did not act for Mrs. Forrester in the matter of her last will, a new one has been made and we are acting for her. There is no executor, it is being handled by us as trustees. It’s a relatively straightforward will, I can’t see complications in any but one area.
Essentially, she observed Miles’s wishes, though they were not binding on her own bequests and there were people he had left bequests to, not the gifts to the skippers and the other parties but actual bequests. Those people received those bequests but she wanted to leave them more, so she’s detailed 15% of her estate to them.
Now, she has also left 15% each to the girls and the remainder, Mr. Young, to you.’
He was dumbfounded. When he recovered, he said, ‘Your fee must be covered by the estate and I do not feel, given how much you acted for us, for Miles, for Laura, that the current amount suffices. Is there any leeway, might we alter the percentages a bit?’ The girls thought they’d caught his drift but weren’t completely sure.
Mr. Pendlebury gave a little smile. ‘It’s possible, it’s irregular, all parties must agree.’
‘But as trustee, not just executor, you have discretion.’
‘As before, yes.’
‘Then I would like 20% each to go to the girls, 17.5% to those other beneficiaries, 5% to you, Mr. Pendlebury and the remainder to me.’
‘I really don’t know what to say, Mr. Young, that’s most generous of you.’
‘No,’ said Sarah.
‘I beg your pardon?’ Mr. Pendlebury was surprised.
‘May we go to a private room for five minutes please,’ requested Jenny, ‘no longer?’
‘Of course, you’ll be shown through now.’ He pressed the buzzer.
‘Well well,’ said Young when they returned.
‘May we speak?’ asked Jenny. The solicitor nodded. ‘We feel the amounts are unfair. Our division is this – 17.5% to those beneficiaries, 17.5% to each of us and 7.5% to you, Mr. Pendlebury. The rest to … to Leyton.’
Mr. Pendlebury adjusted his glasses again. ‘I need to hear Mr. Young before I can reply.’
‘Seems fine to me.’
‘Then once again, I don’t know what to say, I’m … at a loss.’
‘You do understand that we’re strictly requesting that the firm only takes what they would from your portion for a complicated case, whatever that is and the remainder goes to you personally.’
‘I have to say I’m delighted you’ve stipulated that, about it coming from this 7.5% and that the firm must take their just and due amount from there, not from the estate in general, that the remainder may then go to myself. Please, does anyone have anything more to say on the disbursement of the bequests?’ They all shook their heads.
The girls had brought their packs, they took Leyton Young aside once it was done and said they were going to make their own way. Could they go out of the back of the property?
‘You’ll be in touch within the month?’ They nodded. He kissed them both on the cheek, then went to the desk and explained.
Not an issue, in fact, two of the clerks would drive them, tucked down in the back of their cars. In the footwells in fact.
‘Jane,’ Leyton addressed his wife in the B&B they’d taken for security purposes, ‘we have to sort ourselves out now. It’s far more money coming in but that’s a double-edged sword, it’s far less safe for us now, especially with Ms Sobel. Should we make contact and offer her a portion?’
‘I’m not saying no. If you could get her reasonable, then if you didn’t mention it to the girls, I think it could be done. I can’t see that type being reasonable though and that’s why I’m not sure it can happen. At a minimum, she will claim undue influence, though there was a recording, you say.’
‘That takes care of the letter of the law, what about Ms Sobel’s wounded feelings though? She may actually challenge, that sort has chutzpah.’
‘She has that right and we have the right to stop that challenge, in that Mr. Pendlebury had discretion as trustee, as was stated by Laura. I did suggest to her cutting out Ms Sobel, there’s no record of that unless Laura wrote one but there’s the moral question. We weren’t to know she would bequeath us anything.’
‘Did you state that to Ms Laura?’
‘Clearly. I think that was why she did it.’
‘Then that seems to be an end to it. Let’s just wait and see, let’s not count our chickens yet, I’m perfectly happy to go on as we were, I’m a bit more reticent about this security aspect now, although you’ve always had danger from that element. Let’s just wait.’
They had a solicitor’s letter from The Hague and yes, wrote Mr. Pendlebury, there was a challenge and they needed to talk. The fees would still come from his portion.’
The old man read them the letter, yes, Mandy wanted the same amount she was told by Laura was due to her, 10%, plus she wanted compensation which was not a percentage but the equivalent of £2.5 million, compensation from the estate. She had no legal grounds for the compensation because notice had been posted in various places within Britain, there was no requirement to post overseas, even as an erstwhile EU member.
He had prepared a brief on that aspect and was not unduly worried. He was worried about the 10% though. Leyton asked if he could call the girls. Yes. He did, he explained and then put to them that the three offer 12% to Ms Sobel. He had to take the phone away from his ear.
He explained why, the chances of the £2.5m, but the better chances of the 10%. If they were to offer more than that, a full 12%, then Ms Sobel would have come out of it better than she thought she was going to. Mr. Pendelbury nodded on. OK, they’d put in their 4%. No, said Leyton, 7 to 2.5 to 2.5 would cover it well. OK, they said and then uttered more expletives.
‘We can offer them 12% and no dice at all on the other claim.’
‘Will you wait while I write the letter, it will be short.’
‘So now we wait, Mr. Young. Stay safe.’
‘And you, Mr. Pendlebury.
Just how much Ms Sobel’s solicitors had leant on her they didn’t know but they would have been aware that the £2.5m was going to be near impossible to extract across the channel with this strange situation in Europe. 12% was concrete and would be within five days.
She’d accepted and that appeared to be that, except Leyton, Jane and both girls knew it was not the end by any stretch. ‘That sort,’ as Jane said again, ‘are not going to rest.’
The girl’s reappeared soon after Sarah was showing signs of having recovered – she was sharp, she was onside with sis, it seemd good.
All except for what they were going to do.
‘I have to say, girls, I don’t have the stomach for this – killing a woman in cold blood.’
‘First, you’re not, two women are – much easier. Second – we’re not killing in cold blood – you know she’s a menace, she’s lost her way and taken to killing innpcents, which is where we come in. When did you ever know us to kill in cold blood?’
‘You know she’d gone like this one,’ said Sarah. ‘They waited until she drew, then acted.’
‘Ah, that never came out.’
‘No it wouldn’t, of course it wouldn’t,’ said Jenny. ‘You are going to back us up, aren’t you? You won’t go to water?’
‘You’re being supported, I won’t go to water.’
‘I think she knows how it must be.’
‘Damned sure she does,’ muttered Sarah. ‘Actions have consequences. Where? Home or away?’
‘You tell me.’
‘Home – visas over there aren’t as straightforward as they were for people like us. She can go anywhere freely but we can’t. The bait has to be good and she’ll back herself, she’ll have support.’
‘We have to appear to make an error of our level,’ continued Jenny, ‘not something pathetic, she has to feel she’s doing the chasing, we almost have her but falter at the last second.’
‘I have to be there at the kill so to speak, for various reasons, mainly legal. You prepare the plan, run it past me, the parts you can. While you’re off doing that, I have a fleet to run, see the skippers, sack crews, usual day’s work.’
‘How can you do that as a policeman?’
‘With great difficulty – 9000 of us do though.’
Leyton saw the remaining skippers, the others having been mopped up in that sting some time back.
‘Do you want to do your own maintenance or pay a bit higher percentage and I take care of it once a year?’
‘You?’ said one of them.
‘Yes, contract it back to anyone good at it. With the expanded fields and better catches now, the core rate drops to 4%, provided you’ll clear the boat of known naughty lads, if you won’t do that, it’s 6% and we’ll do it for you, for annual maintenance add 2% to either of those two rates.’
‘How are you going to keep the ex-EUs off our backs?’
‘We do have a cunning plan, part of that plan is in operation now. It really depends on your catches which would mean we’d have the cash to pay for good muscle, the type which asks no beg pardons.’
‘You’re a police officer.’
‘Just for now.’
They traipsed back to their boats in thoughtful mood.
There was a different meeting in Amsterdam. Translated, it ran:
Man 1 in suit: He doesn’t use the launch, he goes from boat to boat.
Man 2: Then we hit him, why would that be an issue?
Woman: Because there are two little bitches in the background looking out for that.
Man 2: But it can be done?
Woman: Oh yes, it can be done.
Man 1: Our people on board?
Man 2: He has tabs through the department, it’s made it more difficult, he’s getting help, our own people are trying to close access to him but can’t show themselves too much. He needs to be hit, as I said.
Man 1, looking hard at Woman: So be it.
Sarah came back one mid-evening but not Jenny, straight through the upstairs bedroom window, then downstairs as silently as she could, past Jane going the other way. Jane looked to the ceiling.
There in the living room was Leyton, reading the Mail.
She tiptoed close enough to get a shot, put out her hand as a gun and a voice beside her said, ‘Bang bang, you’re dead.’
A grin spread across Sarah’s face. ‘Need to up our game, don’t we? Well done, how did you ever think to do that?’
‘Thought it was only logical. Meet Leyton 2, this is Sarah.’ The man got up and she laughed when she saw it – it was latex, it was pathetic. Leyton 2 asked, ‘Drambuie?’
‘Yes please.’ She turned around and damn it, Leyton 1 was also in latex. ‘Ah, now that I like! That I like very, very much. Inside or outside?’
‘Good question,’ said Leyton 1, as Leyton 2 handed her the drink, both then removing the masks, ‘five masks, five men – cheaper than creating doubles. But you’re right, for outside, we have something a little different.’ Leyton 2 had slipped into the kitchen and came back now with a helmet of sorts, more like Sutton Hoo but with no gaps, the bust covering almost to the chest and also on the back. ‘Have a good look.’
‘Perforated – not sure that’s enough ventilation.’
‘Have a look inside.’
‘Blimey. Your own unit. Plus the usual – kevlar?’
‘Better. Body too, covers knees. We’re not stupid enough to think it will stop everything, so the vests are what we’re calling flexi-mail, only problem is the opposition inside know about these too, by reputation.’
‘Just had an idea – we could go in those. Why don’t you have the number of men four all up, then four women – we have two friends who are very, very good. So we wouldn’t need to emulate you.’
‘It would work. We got over the mannerism issue by creating new mannerisms, all the same – for example, slight limp left leg, slight movement of head to side etc. Everyone, including, me, including you, does the same.’
Sarah liked it. ‘I’m here just to see if you’ve any messages. This is a message.’
‘Thought you’d like it.’
‘OK, have to dash. Nice to meet you,’ she turned to him, ‘Leyton 2.’
The observer through the 12x50s, also being observed through a telephoto unbeknowns, was dismissive.
‘Fucking helmets – they think fucking bike helmets will save them.’
‘If those are what I think, they will save them, from me at least. Blow up a boat, yes, boat leaks, sinks, yes. Outside shot – no. Old standard through the window, if they remove the helmet – maybe.’
‘We can’t sink any more boats. Regulations now – will take months to register, we have to use these. Has to be a hit on Leyton. Where’s his money go?’
‘I know,’ said Mandy. ‘Friend in the firm, she checked it one evening – he’s leaving some of it to me, the fool. Inviting a hit on him. That’s why my eye’s elsewhere first. We’re being watched too and the watcher could do with some explosives in the engine room.’ The other swung round and looked through the window.
‘You know the boat?’
Dusk on a Thursday evening, approaching summer, which meant a few hours of sunshine and a few of drizzle.
The two boats were the only ones at that distance, they’d been observing for a week, what the boat with Ms Sobel on it could not have hoped to predict was that the patron’s LAW would get a second outing, almost horizontally. What they could not have hoped to predict was that they’d be down to the gunwhale, with a police launch speeding out from the fleet and some four minutes away.
And given what they had on board, they had to further scuttle their own boat and get to the punt asap, all of which they now did. Mandy had a feeling the game was up, this was unfair using the law, after having used the LAW, although she wasn’t to know what had hit them.
Only way was to outrun the police launch, two people, fair old engine and it started. What they could not have hoped to predict was something scudding through the water from the police launch, hitting the stern and shattering it – thought they were meant to give warnings, Plod?
The idiot with her started firing at the launch, someone on the launch returned fire and it was sufficient.
Of the punt, there was no more – the part with the engine had sunk, bits of the man and Mandy were bobbing up and down on the reddish waves.
On Jenny’s boat, Sarah and their explosives girl watched with keen interest, the fourth spun the wheel and they dawdled back to port, but not their port.
‘Still say four in the boat was too risky, Sarah. They didn’t even know we had the other two and we could have lost everyone, still could.’
‘Think we might be OK, here come our boys. Sis and Gabby, as we agreed, with Leyton 1, Jen and me with Leyton 2.’
The two runabouts pulled up, the hard dodger and curtain obscured the view from the shore as each man respectively took off the helmet, took off the Leyton mask, the girls nodded, collected their things and jumped down to the respective runabouts.
They went separate ways but some two minutes later, the most almighty explosion rent the evening sky as their former boat was spread, in pieces, over the waves – two boats on the one evening, careless.
‘All right,’ said Leyton 1, in the second house, inside the cellar he hadn’t told Miles and Laura about, accessible from a house two down, friends of Jane’s.
‘How did this get past planning regulations?’
‘Chap owned all three, mania for prepping, said he was putting water tanks in, did too but he also created the tunnel, you have to crouch, garden beds above, looks like easement. One day it will be inspected but no one’s had any reason until now.’
‘But why not?’ asked Sarah. ‘Local kids see it, visitors.’
‘Miles might have suspected something, maybe Laura, hope not. Often just not doing or saying anything is enough for some time.’
‘But it’s legal.’
‘Oh yes, for its stated purpose it is, it contravenes nothing, it just has these advantages too.’
‘Is that the only way out?’
‘Usually but there is an emergency way out, up the stairs here, have to force up the board and the carpet, not easy as it’s been tacked into place along the skirting boards. ‘Never used it. All right, we have an hour. Questions and comments.’
‘What moves do we still have to make to rid ourselves of all this interest?’ asked Leyton 2.
‘Get rid of the personal element first, think we’ve done that now, unless the girls still have someone after them.’
‘No one especially, maybe someone’s friends and family out of the woodwork.’
‘OK, second thing is to shift operations to somewhere more secure. Waterfront is too exposed, escape routes too able to be cut off. Skippers will have to come to us, we’ll shift venues, announce them without prior notice. Things like that, have proxies the whole time.’
‘These ideas came from Miles’s patrons did they not?’
‘There’s much quid pro quo.’
‘But you couldn’t stay on, Leyton, not with that connection, to the girls here too.’
‘As you know, Ray, I’m retiring Monday, jumping before the word comes down from above. Thought we’d best all talk somewhere. It gets to a point where the game’s not worth the candle to them – the kaboom helps them make that decision. I’m sincerely hoping they won’t be stupid enough -’
‘I fear they will, there’s face to consider.’
‘Well OK, so they sink our boat, maybe even kill me, Gabby knows the score over there.’
‘There’d be quite a fireworks display,’ murmured Gabby.
‘All organizations like this need discipline,’ said Jen. ‘There’s going to come a time, Leyton, when someone will betray us and you’ll have deal with him. Or fail to.’
‘It has to be as we’ve done,’ he replied. ‘We say by our actions – you leave us alone, all is well. You hassle us, you get hit. We never murder – see how Mandy was finally got, call it the copper still coming out.’
‘Other boats want to join you now,’ mentioned Leyton 2. ‘They see a strong organization which can protect, the terms are reasonable.’
‘We still take all precautions, we look about, listen, use all our contacts – that lot over there and even their agents in London – they’re not going to take this thumbing of the nose, not for long. Having the patrons does help, it’s an immense help. We have to supply you four now and then with juicy jobs but you need to stay in … er … you need to be battle fit,’ Sarah appreciated that shift. ‘It’s like a team in the middle of the season – we’ve had a win, we’re drinking our tipple together, we’re not out of the woods yet.’
Said Sarah: ‘No , we’re not but if they do anything, the idiots, then when we hit them over there, it brings all sorts of attention down on them, unwelcome attention at a time they’re doing all they can to keep it all anonymous.’
Said Jenny: ‘We have to go.’
Said Sarah: ‘No need to remind everyone of course – when you leave now, you don’t deviate from your agreed routes, which means you deviate at the right moment. You know where and when we meet next.’
The reaction was one of bemusement mixed with new respect.
Gabby was the key when it did come.
All 15 boats were shot up, it was like Pearl Harbour in that river, a clear test and unwelcome publicity from the media. It was the gauntlet.
First thing by way of reaction was Leyton Young publicly naming names now – didn’t matter which one had done it but 48 names in Amsterdam and London, plus some other places, had mined-data supplied to the papers – naturally many of those did not print but the samizdat did.
Gabby, being Dutch, had a network up and down that coast – the way they’d got along was that Leyton’s operation wasn’t remotely interested in hers, nor her in theirs but this time, favours were being called in on her side of the channel and what triggered it was an upcoming foolish gathering at a temple for many of those principals. For Gabby, it was child’s play rigging up the shells.
Leyton’s people had to supply the personnel for the boats in various harbours belonging to principals, Gabby instructed them how, naturally it couldn’t be traced to her.
It was almost anti-climactic, despite the perilous chance of falling into the hands of the nasty ones, plus their outfit was now marked forever as a result.
One shell took out the top floor of the temple, thirty-seven boats were sunk.
Nothing could be traced to Leyton Young, nor to any of the girls, nor to the patrons, as it had been local elements with grudges. Any Brits were well back in their waters when it had gone up.
One killed was van Agt and a couple of names beside him who had not shown up on radar earlier but now did, which explained a lot to local authorities, which caused the investigation to fumble here and there on that side of the water.
A major task now was to work out why all attacks had ceased. Was it van Agt who’d been the key or was it someone else who’d died that night? Or was it the PTB who now decided to bide their time? Who knew?
One answer came in an enforced meeting in London between various parties – it was put by shadowy ministry reps from both sides of the channel that it might help relations to desist from boat sinkings and killings, that everyone keep to his own territorial waters, that British fleets for a time be British owned and Dutch fleets Dutch owned. The government had a vested interest in the renewal of British fishing, not least with the ongoing second front of Scotland.
The respective governments would like for this to be attended to. It was not a ‘request’.
The Jennys were obviously chafing at the bit for some sort of action again, but there was something more important they wanted to make clear before that, even if it cost them their positions.
They didn’t care to see Leyton go the way they’d seen so many others go, they didn’t want it to go to his head, this new overlord thing – they had plans for that noble head today.
Meeting at a random cafe, Jenny eyeballed him and told him to take stock. Seated at the high bench along the window, looking out, they moved up either side and leaned into him, he could feel the heat of their restless bodies against him all the way down and it was doing his head in, which was surely the idea.
‘You were this principled officer we had to look out for, who did things by the book and now you’re getting to be some Che Guevara,’ Jenny spoke softly, but cupped his chin firmly and made him look into her eyes. ‘Associating with Miles’s principals and us, Gabby too – maybe people don’t plan their career paths, Leyton, maybe the career paths are put upon them by what happens.’
Sarah now cupped his chin from the other side and drew his eyes to hers, they were lovely eyes. ‘We need work as always, call these our job applications, but we wouldn’t want you to become a mass murderer – just some sort of local warlord of principle would do just fine.’
Jenny now drew his face over again and one hand went behind his back, as did Sarah’s from the other side. ‘We still need to look up to you, Leyton, you still have to be better than us.’ It helped the effect that they were diminutive young ladies, literally looking up.
‘And you think … er … the sinkings over there were … one step too far?’ he faltered.
Sarah’s turn again. ‘You have to show you can’t be pushed around,’ said she, pulling his face round, ‘that’s agreed, but there are limits – we’re the ones who do this sort of work, you stay above it, you send us out.’
‘You’ve done a right number on me … haven’t you? If I stay above it all this way you envisage, you’re my loyal henchgirls, if I go like all the others … then it doesn’t bear thinking about, yes?’
‘Something like that.’ She placed a kiss on his lips. Jenny now drew his head to her and crossed a line she’d always maintained before – her kiss was close to tactical assault, then she pulled back as she sensed the pizzas were about to arrive, still looking into his eyes as the smiling lad put the pizzas and coffees on the bench before scurrying away.
He wasn’t sure which one to look at, he looked across at Sarah who’d already lifted a slice to her lips. ‘Eat, Leyton, eat. We’re for later.’
He was sure they meant discussing later what needed discussing. He tucked in, with them either side of him doing the same.