Jenny looked at them and they looked at her. ‘May I dress first?’
They nodded, he untied her, she dressed, allowing him to drink in his fill. He attempted to look away but it was difficult, as the other two fully realized.
‘You want me to tell you all of it now, Laura? You’re sure?’
‘I need to know. Abbreviate it.’
‘Haas and Glendinning always knew who Laura was, always, via Amelie – she 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 also knew she thought you, Laura, did not know, he made full use of it. Amelie betrayed you all the way along the line. I can show you proof of that if and when we get back and if 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 so openly again, I suppose 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.’
‘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. And at the different scenes of course, from Amelie.’
‘I know that, it was handy.’
‘It also suited the book of the people over Haas. They were all paedos, you know, it crossed borders and Laura was actually taking out people who threatened their members.’
‘Sorry, Laura. This is a worldwide racket at the top levels, the very top I must say. Look at some of the pro-statements from some of our MPs on the general topic – word has come down from above that society is to be made ready to accept these things and as agents of that power, they have no choice – every one of those people has skeletons, they’re not allowed in as an MP unless they do – it’s all about power and control.
I was after the ring, not specifically after Haas, not Amelie, not you. Haas was sleazy in his own way but he was no paedo, that worried those above him. In fact, I have evidence he was doing a spot of blackmail on a man named Joseph who was definitely one of the higher-ups in the ring, but the ring was only part of another organization, worldwide, an organization I shall not name, even now. At least the organizations weren’t merged, it was just that members of one were members of the other.’
‘Tell Miles about the guiding philosophy of this ring.’
‘Yes, you’ve experienced it at first hand, haven’t you, Laura? They say to people that if you do this or that for them, spread their philosophy, whatever, then what you saw at some party last week can be yours, you’re a VIP, there is no limit, from babies to rent boys to men to women, no limits on drugs, no limits full stop – that is the lure. Those who resist because of upbringing, moral code and all that – they are released and mopped up later. Those who show they’re open, susceptible – there’s only one path after that.’
‘That’s religious,’ he said.
‘It’s damaging your spirit, Miles. Do as thou wilt and no one will stop you, no one. I’ve been on this for two years and in that time, can you imagine what I’ve seen? And no, I stayed inside my code, so my chances of investigating were reduced because they didn’t really trust me.’
‘Why did you stay within?’ asked Laura, feeling that Jenny was onto something here which might have saved her from a hell on earth.
‘I saw where it led – I saw the slow disintegration of people and I mean that there was a once well-functioning organism … now it wasn’t. Somewhere along the way, all values like loyalty, except to the power, kindness, all of those are replaced and it’s only dog-eat-dog now. You should have seen who was backstabbing who in these last days – everyone was carrying out jobs on everyone else – the same madness which made the mafia bosses meet in America and say enough of the killings. They imposed a code. No code – total mayhem.’
‘Did you kill Haas?’ asked Miles.
‘No. Gun is my thing. You have my guns, I know you took a knife too but that wasn’t the kind which did for Haas, it’s my pocket ceramic, last resort. Did you kill Glendinning?’
‘Our man threw him overboard into the river, I threw a life ring after him.’
‘Then you just allowed the head of the entire ring across Europe to escape. We really do get into moral questions here – why would you let him escape that way? Why the scruples? You told me that bit about the life ring to virtue signal – doesn’t impress me.’
‘Not to become like them,’ said Laura, quietly. ‘I could believe in this religious thing. Maybe. The idea of there being some things you’d never, ever do is quite attractive to me now. And a code inside your brain helps you stay on the straight and narrow.’
‘Yes but it’s not that narrow – it just has to have limits – this thing is all about limits. You, Laura, had them because at the Travellers, that room was bugged but I’d hacked in for my masters – I didn’t give them everything. I heard you say a few times, ‘No, I don’t want.’ I didn’t hear Chloe say that once – she was for every possibility.’
‘Every perversion she could dream up. It wasn’t so much a moral code for me, it was that she was coming in and framing the doings, I wanted it framed my way, not hers.’
‘We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for signs of Glendinning now,’ rued Jenny. She was quiet for a moment, Miles was about to speak when she began again. ‘We were investigating O’Brien for narcotics – that’s not exactly my department, it’s a brother department but the two issues kept criss-crossing. The Melissa murder was a puzzling complication – didn’t seem to fit – but the presence of Penny Dalshiel showed that Cornell and the island were definitely 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 – things were once done to Laura. But Janine’s gun pointing 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 covering Laura, she wasn’t – she dropped into position for a kill and someone had taught her that.
I didn’t do Penny in, no. I would have done, she was out of control, she’d knifed Haas herself, hated him, hated Laura. Laura was certainly next -’
‘So you saved me twice.’
‘Don’t look at it that way, those things had to be done – there’s an inevitability in all this, there’s a dark logic. Always a dark logic. Frank O’Brien, by the way, is dead, jail brawl. We have no way of knowing who or what was behind it.’
Laura sagged, unable to speak, unable to think.
‘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 in there, only you know how safe you are. Stammers won’t be out for a very long time – Johanssen himself is making sure of that. Though Stammers has no organization, he still has some mates outside, he might still be a danger.’
‘How do you know all this?’ asked Miles.
‘Remember who I was, remember the tools at my disposal, remember my nature – it was our job to have a finger in every pie. I think that’s all.’
‘We need to go next door now,’ said Miles. ‘I have the back door key, we need to climb the back fence, so Jenny – are you going to scarper now?’
‘No, I’ll stay with you through what’s left of this night, do you trust I won’t murder you in your sleep?’
‘You do realize we’ll take turns.’
At the little house which had now become something of a meeting place, there was a knock on the door.
It was Leyton Young and in tow were Jenny and Dave Young.
Leyton launched into it with the tea. ‘Ms Chloe has had her child, a boy, don’t know the details yet. She’s still inside but it’s reducing as her good behaviour continues. I’m not sure what they’ll do in her case. All right, I have to go, I just wanted to bring Jenny and introduce Dave but please don’t forget where I am.’
‘You’ll both be round here for dinner soon,’ said Laura.
He took his leave, the four of them continued. Laura asked, ‘How good is Jenny at this stuff, Dave? Jenny, how good is he?’
‘She’s good,’ admitted Dave. ‘I’m going to visit her in London.’
‘Er Dave, what about Beth?’ Miles mumbled.
Jenny looked over sharply, 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 back through,’ said Laura, ‘we’ll eat and talk about it. Come 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 you’ll get nowhere running after her now. Sorry us mentioning Beth – when were you going to?’
He looked down at the rug.
‘Give Jenny space – I’m a woman, give her space. Sort your own head out first, sort out Beth. Then go to London if you must and visit Jenny. We’ll supply you with her number just before then … not now, not yet.’
‘Have we sorted everything out between ourselves?’ asked Laura out of the blue. ‘Have all the questions been answered?’
‘I still have some.’
‘You killed Melissa.’
She now did something she’d never done before in his experience, not even over Amelie – she started trembling, shaking, he went over, knelt and put an arm around her, she didn’t throw it off but neither did she stop shaking.
Then she did stop and was ready.
‘Most of it was what we both know but not the bit at the stable window and not events after that. To explain those, I have to go back to how I felt that day, what I’d worked out, to explain the state I was in.
With what you know now about Penny, you’d understand why her presence, more than anyone else’s there, had me worried. I’d been tipped off about her by two people. That was the first thing but when I saw Chloe racing up the gully like that, suddenly I understood.
I was at that little window, as arranged with Frank and my job was to throw Melissa the gun from the alcove, with which she was to confront you and force you to sign over the island – all that was as we’ve said. It was such a stupid notion and they’re not entirely stupid people, so that was highly suspicious and worrying to me on top of all the other things, being kept out of the loop and so on.
I’ve thought long and hard about it all – Penny’s presence might have been just added pressure to make sure I played my part. Frank was armed, I’m assuming Penny was too but now I know Chloe wasn’t, most curious in the light of the story – it was the rate of knots she was running up that gully, that determined look on her face – that’s what tipped me over the edge.
I’ve mentioned the two guns but haven’t told all and strangely, neither the Inspector or you have asked. There was the one in the little alcove, the one thrown to Melissa but I also had one I never admit to having on my person, I have it with me on every job and I did feel I was going to need it before this day was over. Chloe reached me, saw I wasn’t throwing the alcove gun to Melissa, Melissa was puzzled too and started moving our way, Chloe ripped the alcove gun from my hand and threw it towards her but it hit the floor and Melissa started scrambling after it.
The rest happened within a couple of seconds. Melissa got the gun, the alcove gun and her first movement, the first turning of her body was not towards the stable door where you were about to come through about ten seconds later but the other way, towards us – I was sure it was actually towards me.
I produced my gun and pointed but Chloe ripped it from my hands – she was much stronger than me, probably all that farmwork – then I realized Melissa had had no intention of aiming the alcove gun at me, she was aiming for Chloe and then the most amazing thing happened, the very worst thing possible – Chloe froze, so did Melissa. Yep, at the moment both had to, neither could fire and I couldn’t shout – you were coming up the path, you don’t know how close it all was.
Melissa must have suddenly remembered that the alcove gun was not loaded but this new gun may well have been, which it was, she now saw a determined look on Chloe’s face, as if she was going to kill Melissa, Melissa saw the situation, turned and ran, I went to grab the gun from Chloe and it went off.
I don’t want sympathy, Miles, I’m just explaining. The killing of Melissa, for my part, was accidental – whether it was accidental for Chloe or not, I don’t know, Chloe had good reason to kill off the threat to the island. What I do know is that I suddenly saw that Chloe might have been aiming to replace me with Frank, given everything which had happened and she – Chloe – might have been kept out of the loop by Frank. She didn’t hear the fight in the conservatory, she didn’t live at the house as we all did. Did you tell her that Frank was bankrupt?’
‘Well … er … no actually. You and I talked about it.’
‘Yes and now I tumbled to it this day at the stables – Chloe was just coldblooded enough to remove me and blame me for Melissa’s killing or else she’d finish me off too. I ran behind the stables but then you started coming through and the rest is known. She had to wait till you went down the path. I heard noises, I’m assuming she then went in through the window, with my gun, and finished Melissa off, though Melissa was dead by then. She then climbed back out through the window, decided to let me get caught and scarpered down the gully. If Frank had seen her, he’d not have reacted. Penny certainly wouldn’t. And another thing – Chloe was wearing kitchen gloves.
I’m still behind the stables, Miles at this point – if you or Frank had come around the back then, I’d have had no idea what to do, I didn’t have my gun any more. Frank was armed though, remember. It was awful hearing Frank in there sobbing, not inventing that – he’d just seen the end result of all his machinations and I’d say he’d now be gunning, not for Chloe but for me but he had you on his hands. You’d gone back out but he couldn’t know exactly where you were and I myself did not either, so I had to stay put.
But I also knew I had to get the hell out of there quickly. The DI did not interview me there, he interviewed me in Durham.’
‘Your escape, love?’
‘Thanks for the ‘love’ bit, it means a lot.’ She got up and replenished their drinks. ‘I ran around to the front of the stables, out of the line of sight of all but Penny but she was not in the tree, I climbed onto the low-hanging corner of the roof – I’ve done that sort of thing before – soft shoes, the whole body lands on hands and toes. I was along that roof with the ridge obscuring me from the drive, I had to watch that no one came out of the back door – that’s the laundry door on the lower side – I don’t think it would have been Frank, more likely Penny, I dropped down onto the concrete, the path runs away from the house, I ran like blazes to the fence, dived over, Amelie had the door open. And that’s it.’
‘And your gun?’
‘The police found it in the alcove, as you heard at the inquiry. It was never mine, it was one supplied by those employing me, no prints, I also wore gloves and when that all became apparent, the shutters must have come down. I think that’s why the Inspector backed off from a really intense investigation. Are you asking me to tell him all of this now?’
She hugged him, weeping.
There was a call some days later, late afternoon and half an hour after that, Dave appeared at the front door. He came in, the makings were put out on the low table.
‘You don’t seem too pleased with yourself,’ said Miles.
‘Beth and I talked, she wanted out, too up in the air, me being here there and everywhere, on this job or that, plus Jenny was the last straw. Jenny doesn’t seem keen but I’m going down there one last time. I’m staying this time, overnight.’
‘Well, best of luck then.’
‘Yes,’ added Laura, ‘best of luck.’ Something in her voice had Miles looking across. ‘She’s still quite active, our Jenny. Can you live with that?’
‘I think as long as we can meet a few times a week, I’m fine with that.’
‘Maybe you two are suited after all. You dumped Beth, didn’t you? That was rubbish about her not being able to take it any more.’
His face fell. ‘I … I have to explore this.’
Dave had departed.
‘What were you getting at, Laura?’
‘Jenny’s a puzzle – her behaviour is a puzzle. I’m starting to see an idea form but I really have to keep it to myself for now. I feel so sorry for Beth.’
There was a call early afternoon two days later and it was Leyton Young.
‘Dave’s been shot. He’s dead.’
It was good that Miles had taken the receiver because he showed the appropriate shock and said the right things, Laura though was thoughtful when Miles now told her, quite thoughtful.
Then she said, ‘Give it here.’
‘Laura here. When can you get to us here, we’ll give you some tea, supper, whatever. I might have some light to throw on this.’
‘Just get here when you can.’ She hung up. ‘I’ll say it when he’s here, Miles. It’s about those anomalies.’
The knock on the door came, Leyton Young came through, first question she asked was whether he was officially on duty. No.
‘Good. Brandy please, Miles.’ To his look, she added, ‘Just look at the man for goodness sake. Brandy please, Miles, one for me too, you please yourself.’
Young sat down, Laura knew his wife was as good as any wife could be but she, Laura, was a softer voice who knew this game. The brandy was brought over and he whispered thanks.
‘You start,’ said Laura, ‘then we’ll add our bit.’
‘He stayed overnight with Ms Daniels, they were working on getting into a system, Ms Daniels says by phone that they were working most of the night, naturally she could not say what on. They both caught some sleep – yes, in bed, until about 7 a.m., when he had to be back up here – he has jobs banked up for weeks.
His route took him by a field some fifteen minutes in, he uses GPS. Shot went through the passenger window, into his temple, end of, car went into the ditch. The rest you can imagine.’
‘Yesterday?’ asked Miles.
‘Yes, I then stayed in London overnight – not with Ms Daniels, I hasten to add.’
‘You interviewed her?’
‘Local force has the case but I saw the notes.’
‘Will they keep you in the loop?’
‘Ah, well that’s the thing – will they? So tell me what this is about,’ he turned to her, ‘Ms Laura.’
‘This is strictly as Dave’s brother, yes?’ Young confirmed that. ‘There are anomalies in Jenny’s behaviour,’ said Laura, ‘which I don’t put down to just mood. I’d really like to know if she’s been in for mind work, mind control but there’s no one left to tell us … except her. She seems one thing and then acts so differently. She even looks and moves differently in my eyes.’
‘You mean schizoid or psycho, suddenly turns into a murderer? Can’t really see how, even if she had done, she could have got out to that field in fifteen minutes with no car. She doesn’t drive, she takes public transport. To me, it’s more likely to be that whoever it was had the route planned. Seems the two of them may have got too close, stumbled onto something or were going to. At least she’s still alive.’
‘For how -’ Phone went, landline, Miles went over.
‘Pardon? Understood. Understood. No, that will be fine. Not the slightest problem, seriously. Well yes, we were thinking about you too.’
Laura was quick. ‘Jenny, coming here.’
‘She doesn’t know, she has to skirt the area, make sure the time is right. Maybe today, maybe not. Also, she says she has a job to do first which has to be done.’
‘Jenny, we sleep in the back part upstairs, we keep our curtains open and our light off at night because we want to see out without anyone out there seeing in. You get my drift? Good, you take care too.’
She looked back at the other two.
‘I’ll be on my way,’ said the DI. ‘Miles, I know you have a gun licence – good.’ That’s all he was saying.
‘It’s something I’ve been meaning to ask if you’d mind – I feel unsafe with those curtains closed – someone on that part of the roof – we’d be sitting ducks. Plus it fits in with what I have in mind with Jenny, it’s an opportunity thrown in our lap.’
‘Your mind never rests.’
‘It’s one of the main reasons I’m with you too – think, plan, a bit of compassion too, you listen to me. There’s a reason for this, Miles, you know me, you know there is a plan.’
‘I think Jenny is OK, enough that I want her on Team Forrester with us. I’m assuming we keep our little ventures going.’ She paused, he nodded. ‘She has the grit, the foresight, she’s a kind girl, she’s an asset – I know you think so too and I know you’re keen on her, don’t get yourself into a twist over me saying that. We need to test her because there’s an anomaly with Jenny, something isn’t right. I don’t mean she’s a traitor or a baddie, she’s not but she still has something going she’s not saying and I think I know what it is. But it needs a few intimate tests without being sleazy.’
‘Ah, I’m starting to get it. I think. Has to be the bedroom?’
‘Has to be the bedroom, yes. She knows we’ll be testing her, she knows she will be naked again, this time in bed with us naked – the bedroom window could only mean that. We need to get a photograph in our minds of exactly how she looks – her face, neck, overall shape, any blemishes, her breasts, between her legs but that’s just the first part.
Once she’s in bed, I need to hold her – primarily for comfort but also getting a picture in my body of how she feels, body on body. We’ll place her in the middle – while you talk, I’ll snuggle up, then I’ll talk and you will. Sounds sleazy but that’s not its purpose. We’re going to need this knowledge for the next time we meet her. If we can find a justified way to kiss her, that would be a bonus, otherwise we can’t.
Whatever you do, don’t penetrate her because that would wreck everything. She’d run screaming and I’d leave you. We’re doing this for information and to give her some comfort. But the main thing is to get that picture in our heads of what she’s like. You’ll do this?’
‘You run it but the moment she is stressed out, I’m out of it.’
‘That will never happen – this is my field, Miles.’
Jenny arrived at the out of London hotel about 7.45 p.m., fifteen minutes before the meeting, went to the bar and had a Drambuie to steady her nerves and to add verisimilitude, this man was not to be trifled with, it was no time for theatrics or heroics. In Jenny’s case herself, she was not sure how much he knew of her, of her hidden side.
There was also a question over the loyalty of this contact of hers, especially since the death of Dave – that had shaken her up more than she cared to admit. She’d made her quietus, sure this was her final night on earth but she’d make damned sure she’d take him out too, and dossiers on the man would speed to various places – if she lived, she’d not send them, that would mean being hunted in perpetuity.
It was getting close to time, she went into the sideroom he’d booked and there he was – Neil Joseph, alone.
She sat down, slid up beside him and said, ‘You’ve cleaned out my place, you have my devices, all of them, except this now. There are no sticks left with anyone – no doubt you’ll be doing my friend’s places over while they’re away. You already know I’ve never accessed any of it and that was deliberate – I can sheet nothing home to you.’
He inclined his woolly head and indicated for her to go on.
‘So let’s get going.’ She booted the device. ‘Watch what I do and then tell me if you’re satisfied.’
‘Why are you doing it? Horse has bolted – why close the stable door now?’
‘I’ve my escape plan – if you know there’s nothing on you and I’m far away, it might be a bit dangerous coming after me. You know this is it this evening.’
She did and everything she’d ever had, not only on him but on the ring, was systematically destroyed, then she cleared and reset the device, finally deleting the OS itself. It had taken twelve minutes.
‘Satisfactory. Now you’ll leave your device with me, you’ll get up, go back to the bar and stay there for fifteen minutes. I can’t say it’s been a pleasure.’
She went back to the bar as instructed and ordered another Drambuie, there was a hubbub behind her but she stayed there. ‘What’s happening?’ she asked the barmaid. The barmaid went off to find out and came back fairly quickly.
‘Man’s dead, heart attack they think.’
Miles wasn’t sure if it had been Jenny’s doing or what but the withdrawn permits to fish were now overturned one by one, and things had got back to some kind of normality.
They’d gone to bed three days after the call and of course, there she was – outside that window from the roof, grinning.
‘Climbed up from the back garden,’ said Laura. ‘Shall you or I?’
He climbed out, starkers, opened their side window, Jenny shuffled across, handed him her pack and squeezed through, looking his nakedness up and down. ‘Welcome, Jenny, do come in, have you eaten?’
‘Yes thanks. Your front room is not safe. May I sleep on the floor here?’
So, she’d accepted part one of the test.
‘Not on the floor,’ said Laura, ‘this is a king-sized. The bathroom’s safe enough, you’ll find wash cloth and towel, the Drambuie’s already here on that chest of drawers, glasses too. Do your thing. then get in with us.’
The fact that Miles had made no comment meant they’d prearranged this. There was nothing she wanted more just now than a pair of arms. Well, yes there was – two pairs of arms but all the same, it was a test and she wondered how far they’d go in bed.
She left her bag and went to the bathroom, they heard her in there, then she reappeared some fifteen minutes later in the altogether, she poured and knocked back a quick Drambuie, they’d left a gap in the middle. She climbed over Laura and stood there for a few seconds, letting them both have their fill, therefore fulfilling another of the tests, then slipped under the covers, holding them up to her chin and looking at the ceiling.
‘Laura, said Jenny, ‘do you want me on the outer side of you, away from Miles?’
‘Why? Does he smell? Why so coy? You weren’t so coy last time.’
‘I don’t want to get into what you were doing at the Travellers.’
‘Is that what’s worrying you? This is Miles, not Frank, we’ve had this discussion. I admit I was involved in those other things, you heard them live, I confess this is unusual now but we’re going to be doing a lot of talking and I’d prefer it here. You all right with that?’
‘No. I want you to be honest instead.’ She let that sink in. ‘Tell me this is not a series of tests.’
‘Good, I’m all right with it then. Let’s start.’ with that, she turned straight to Miles and the arms were everywhere, the kissing, she was rotating her nether regions over his thing and it was getting pretty willing. Then she stopped, turned over to Laura and did the same, with certain female variants. Now put your fingers in and take them out.’ Laura, shocked, did.
‘All right, you now both know how I feel next to your bodies, you have my pattern in your mind. You need more, just to make sure?’ she smiled at each in turn.
‘And that,’ said Laura, ‘is why we want you on Team Forrester. We were already impressed, we’d like to stay alive, we’d like to also keep you alive now that the work will dry up, we need your advice, your input, Miles can create a position which you’d be happy with, you can be part time.’
‘You’re serious, aren’t you?’
‘We are, we’re sure you still have commitments.’
‘No I don’t, I’m out of work. I’m … stunned.’
‘While you’re stunned, tell us about from when you met Dave onwards.’
Jenny began. ‘We were working on a case and Dave had it cracked, we had a great relationship, even that one night – he didn’t crowd, I didn’t crowd, it was an intellectual thing, trying to solve a case, I was on a case again, he was doing what he loves, there were definitely feelings involved. We got into a site where the failsafes were better than our anonymity, we both knew it and they knew it too – we actually had them but couldn’t hold it together. It was 4 a.m., he couldn’t leave without sleep, we -’
‘- don’t need to know,’ Laura completed the sentence.
‘Maybe not but it’s all part of the picture. So yes, we were close but no, I didn’t do that. I’m still a virgin. And that’s it. She now described the whole Neil Joseph story, in fine detail, then looked at Laura, who felt vindicated.
‘Yes,’ confirmed Laura, ‘you got the right one. Astounding you’re still alive – maybe a few I know had got it into their heads he’d become a liability – even meeting you is a liability.’
‘Now come on, you’re lying here between us, you know what I mean.’
‘Miles, Laura, I’m going to slip out in the middle of the night tonight, maybe five hours sleep now, if I wake you up, I’m sorry, I’ll say, ‘It’s me,’ and leave by your backdoor if you don’t mind, over the fences. Any dogs?’
‘Not of late. Jenny, there’s something I have to say and then something I have to ask.’
‘Your work you were doing – you were actually employed on a moral hunt – the state assumed that sex with minors is wrong – why?’
‘Code we grew up with, the culture.’
‘Yes. You were brought up well but something happened later. I had a messed up childhood, deaths in the family -’
‘I know your history.’
‘But things hold us back. These people have nothing hold them back, they’ve lost their souls. You come to us, Jenny, because we’re a settled couple, we seem to have values – I didn’t but I do now and I feel good inside again. I saw it in Miles the instant I stepped onto that island and I confess I wanted that life there and then. And Miles wanted me in it. I would not have made a play but we both know what Chloe was doing to him.’
‘There have to be rules,’ said Jenny, ‘humans make rules for themselves. You break them with impunity and you get what I’ve been chasing two years, everything goes down. Even in this weird situation in bed with you two, we’re following rules. And yet the temptation to have Miles now is strong, plus have you.’
‘In some ways we’re similar, Jenny, our tricks are the same. You’ve established you’re a girl who will if the conditions were right but in doing that, you failed the test.’ Jenny said not one word. ‘I know a good girl when I see one, one well brought up, and I’m looking at one now. You were artificial in your Chloeness. I think I know your secret, dear Jenny but Miles doesn’t. Next time you visit, I suspect you’ll test us on that.’ She still said nothing. ‘Just so you’re sure, it’s nothing to do with good or bad – you’re good – it’s just a secret you keep and I know you’ll want to test it out.’
Jenny shot her a glance, kissed her, kissed Miles and fell asleep.
It was 8 a.m., Jenny had gone and they looked at one another.
‘Extraordinary night,’ he said.
‘It really was.’
‘Suppose you’re not going to tell me what the big secret is?’
‘I must not, I must see what registers with you and what doesn’t. Then I’ll tell all.’
There was a meeting of the captains on Miles’s boat, Laura was the hostess and she was enjoying the attention and compliments.
Thing was, the EU was changing the rules and what waters were still left to the fishermen were going to be reduced even further – they were being squeezed out of business. They were going to have to either defy their own government who’d been rubber stamping anything the EU wanted or else they’d have to just defy the EU … but it was the same thing in the end.
The question came up of doing it on the sly – just catching anyway and to hell with it. If there were gunfights in the English Channel, so be it.
They all agreed to go away and think out plans, then meet again a week Tuesday.
The captains departed, a call came to Miles’s mobile, things had begun on the island according to one of the patrons, he wanted to meet.
Laura had a text from Ralph and immediately showed it to Miles.
‘What will you do, love?’
‘Change my sim card in Lytton this afternoon. Ditch my other mobile. Do you trust me?’
‘Yes, because the consequences are too terrible otherwise.’
‘Thank you. I’ll show you what I’ve done later today. Miles, how can we employ Jenny?’
‘If, as I suspect, we’re not out of the woods, never will be, if other agents try it on, then she’s immensely useful and in her milieu. If, however, everything goes swimmingly and things are calm, normal, that’s more of a problem finding the type of work she could stand. It’s not just the goodness of our hearts involved – the work would have to be genuine and interesting, with side excursions into the old work now and then. I’m well placed with the patrons that way.’
‘I know you are.’
‘And what I just said applies to you too – you have to feel you’re achieving something someone else can’t but not in a constructed position. Probably best just to see how it unfolds and take it as it comes. You need your own money you’ve earned, I don’t want you moving on to be someone else’s woman. As I say, let’s just see how it unfolds.’
‘I agree. I swear I haven’t the slightest intention of going anywhere else because I like this as it is but eventually, a project or two might be nice.’
‘I’ve a feeling there are going to be plenty of them.