Jenny threw off her rug, looked at them and they looked at her. ‘May I dress first?’
They nodded, he untied, she dressed, allowing him to drink in his fill. He attempted to look away.
‘You want me to tell you now, Laura? 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.’
‘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.’
‘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 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 went into the position for a kill and someone taught her that.
I sent the boys for Penny. 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, 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.
‘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 though he 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 – 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, so I need to untie Jenny – are you going to scarper now?’
‘No, I’ll stay with you tonight, do you trust I won’t murder you in your sleep?’
‘You’d realize we’ll take it in 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 who needed an introduction to Jenny and on his heels came Dave Young, 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. All right, have to go but please don’t forget where I am.’
‘You’ll both be round for dinner here soon.’
‘Lovely.’ He took his leave, the four of them sat down.
‘How do you two know each other?’ asked Laura, ‘you never met.’
‘Let’s say I explored backwards to find him,’ 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 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 and visit Jenny. We’ll supply the mobile then … not now.’
‘Have we sorted everything between us?’ Miles asked on no particular evening. ‘Can we close this case off?’
‘Ah. I was wondering when this would come.’
‘We don’t have to.’
‘Yes we do. I … I don’t really know where to start, Miles.’
‘Then I’ll make it easier – you killed Melissa.’
She now did something she’d not even done with Amelie – she started trembling, he put an arm around her, she didn’t throw it off but neither did she stop.
Then she did stop and was ready.
‘Most of it was as we both know but not the bit at the stable window and events after that. To explain those, I have to go back to how I felt that day, what I’d worked out, the fear I was in.
With what you know now about Penny, you understand why her presence, more than anyone’s, 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 her the gun from the alcove, with which she was to confront you and force you to sign over the island. It’s such a stupid notion and they’re not entirely stupid people but it was insulting to expect me to buy it.
I’ve thought about this and now I think it was Frank’s cruelty, his punishment – he knew I was aware of being kept out of the loop in the last few days, that I’d worry about it and Penny’s presence might also mean she’d put Frank straight on me, so I had no choice but to play my part. He was armed, I’m assuming Penny was and now I know Chloe was – it was the rate of knots she was running up that gully, the determined look on her face.
I’ve mentioned guns but not all of them. There was one in the little alcove, which I took out but I also had one I must never admit to on my person, just in case and I did feel that I was going to need it before the day was over. Chloe reached me, saw I wasn’t throwing it to Melissa, Melissa was puzzled and started moving our way, Chloe ripped the gun from my hand and threw it towards Melissa but it hit the ground and she was scrambling after it.
The rest happened within a couple of seconds. Melissa got it and her first turn was not towards the stable door where you were about to come through ten seconds later but the other way, I assumed it was towards us – actually, towards me. Chloe suddenly produced a gun and I knew I had to control it – she was much stronger than me, probably all that farmwork but instead of aiming it at me, she poked it through the window, straight at Melissa, Melissa knew the score instantly and pointed at Chloe but then the most amazing thing happened – Chloe froze.
Yep, she couldn’t do it at the moment she had to, Melissa’s gun was already pointing our way, I grabbed Chloe’s hands and my fingers made her pull the trigger. Melissa also saw this and made a huge error, turning and starting to run but the gun went off at that moment.
Now you see the issue – Chloe wouldn’t fire, also at the last microsecond, Melissa turns, I was already getting Chloe to fire. It looks murder and my only defence is that I only saw Melissa turn for the door in that corner vision of the eye, my main look was at Chloe’s hands, getting her fingers to squeeze.
So I say. She can say the opposite. I swear that that’s how it happened, if I’d been trained in firearms, I might have upped the gun to the ceiling as I caught a glimpse of her turning. I didn’t do that and I’ve had to live with it ever since. I don’t want sympathy, Miles, I’m just explaining.
What it did though was it affected Chloe, she thought quickly and realized I was a killer, I had it in me after all but as far as she knew, she had the gun and I didn’t. I was going to take mine out but realized she might think she was next, she stared at me for a couple of seconds but you were coming through, I went behind the stable, back flat against the wall and trained my own gun on that corner.
I’m assuming she had her back flat to the wall as well, gun in hand and Penny would have seen all this and reported to Frank. You went down the path, she then dived through the window, and I heard the second shot, heard her come back through the window again, was waiting for her to come round the back but then heard her scarper down the gully.
I’m still behind the stables, Miles – if you and Frank had come around the back then, I’d have had no idea what I’d do. You weren’t armed but Frank was. I think I’d have shot Frank and then laid my gun down on the ground and stepped back, like Jenny. And it was awful hearing you and then Frank in there and he really was sobbing, not inventing it – he’d seen the result of all his machinations and I’d say he’d now be gunning, not for Chloe who’d have lied to Penny, but for me and so I had to get the hell out of there.
The DI did not interview me there, he interviewed me in Durham.’
‘An unsafe place because Frank knew it.’
‘We have our defences there … had.’
‘Your escape, love?’
‘Thanks for the ‘love’, it means a lot.’ She replenished their drinks. ‘All right, there was no way I could go back to the house, you were obviously with him in there, who knew when you’d come back out, plus Penny was in that blasted tree, so there was not going back down the gully. Pretty simple, wasn’t it – peered round the corner, saw you move off the gravel path and I assumed you were going inside, I could see Penny and was ready to shoot her but she had her eyes on events inside for that moment.
That was it – the long way around the back of the stables, onto the path, onto the corner of the roof and I’ve done that before – soft shoes, whole body lands on hands and toes. I was along that roof with the ridge obscuring me from Penny, I had to be sure no one came out of the back door, the laundry door – don’t think it would have been Frank, think it would have been Penny, I dropped down onto the concrete, facing the back door and that path runs away from the house, so Penny couldn’t have seen – I had to get out of there quickly and ran like blazes to the fence, dived over and somersaulted, Amelie had the door open.’
‘Why the taxi when she had a car?’
‘Slightly different times, she had to pick up the car too. I needed to do the taxi thing, to show I was alone. So, Judge Forrester, am I guilty or not guilty?’
‘As far as the law goes, easy to get not guilty. Manslaughter? It wouldn’t stick in court. In reality, between you and me I mean – seems classic self-defence.’
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, here there and everywhere, on this job or that, plus Jenny. 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. ‘I was just thinking, there are certain anomalies in Jenny’s behaviour, she seems one thing and then acts moodily. You noticed that, Dave?’
He shook his head, mystified. ‘When I went down there, she was fine but maybe it was things I said, that I was too keen, I don’t know.’
She had a phone call?’
‘Well, she did but who doesn’t? She had a few through the evening.’
‘But one near the end made her get cold feet and thank you for coming down.’
‘How did you … you don’t think she has another man going?’
‘Wouldn’t know and if we did, we’d drop a hint or give you advice contrary to going down again. We just don’t know – think not though. More likely to me is she was on a job and had to leave then. She’s still quite active, our Jenny. Can you live with that?’
‘I think as long as we can get a few times a week, I’m fine with that.’
‘Maybe you two are suited after all. Play it by ear but stay aware. If she suggests you go, I’d suggest you do, no matter how far it had got and then you can make decisions about continuing later. You going to the Inspector’s place for supper?’
‘Yes, have to get going now. Nice to see you two again.’
‘Pleasure was ours,’ said Miles, ‘thanks for all that work.’
Dave grinned, he really was a babe-in-the-woods outside IT and difficult to dislike.
‘What were you getting at, Laura?’
‘Thinking whether we have them all, all the rats. Seems to me Jenny’s still on the warpath but who’s paying her? Remember I was in that game so that question does intrigue me.’
‘No, we’ll just see what pans out.’
There was a call early afternoon two days later and it was 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, quite thoughtful. Then she said, ‘Give it here.’
‘Laura here. When can you get to us here, we’ll give you some tea. I might have some light to throw on this.’
‘Are you at home? Good, come round when you’re ready.’ she hung up. ‘I’ll say it when he’s here, Miles. It’s just about those anomalies.’
The knock on the door came, he came through, first question she asked was whether he was officially on duty. No. ‘Good. Brandy, Miles.’ To his look, she added, ‘Just look at the man. Brandy, Miles, and one for me, you please yourself.’
Leyton Young sat down, Laura knew his wife was as good as any wife could be but she, Laura, was another soft voice and they were both open ears and Miles always summed situations up well, she wanted this on her turf. 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 somewhere – he has jobs banked up for weeks. He might have stayed later, who knows why not.
He took his overnight bag out and went the GPS route back, which took him by a field some fifteen minutes in. Shot went through the passenger window, into his temple, end of, car went into the ditch. The rest was as you can imagine.’
‘This was yesterday?’
‘Yes, I stayed in London overnight – not with Ms Daniels.’
‘You’ve interviewed her?’
‘Only as his brother – local force has the case. They did not tell me not to.’
‘Will they keep you up with it?’ asked Miles.
‘Ah, well that’s the thing – will they? So tell me what this is about … Ms Laura.’
The English language does not provide any middle way and the Ms Laura – she thought about it, they weren’t yet married, she went along with that one, Miles seemed fine. ‘There are anomalies in Jenny’s behaviour which I don’t put down just to 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 as if she’s different.’
‘You mean schizoid or rather psycho, suddenly turns into a murderer? Can’t really see, even if she had done, how she could have got out into that field in fifteen minutes. She doesn’t drive, takes public transport. To me, it’s more likely to be that whoever it was planned to take out both of them and he was the first. Seems they may have got too close, stumbled onto something. 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 quickest. ‘Jenny, coming here.’
‘In one. And what will it be – DI, Inspector, Mr. Young, Leyton?’
‘As you wish.’
‘Perhaps on the job or connected with a case, I’ll go with Inspector, but in social situations – Leyton.’
‘Fine. So, when, how?’
‘She’ll be dropped sometime today – I’d say late evening, after dark. And yes, we’ll tell her we’ve spoken.’
‘I’ll be on my way. Miles, I know you have a gun licence. Good.’ That’s all he was saying.
‘Hell I need a pair of arms now,’ was the first thing Jenny said. ‘Who’s offering?’
‘I am,’ said Laura and that took care of ten minutes, Miles readied the Drambuie and their brandies.
Eventually she was seated, feeling a whole lot better and it was obvious she needed to speak. ‘It could only be Laura and to a lesser extent Miles and I’ll explain why. Laura has this shaky relationship with the law and she’s a woman. I’m not saying she’s not law abiding. You, Miles, use the law for your own ends but you have to tell them some things. You two are the only ones I can speak with.’
‘So speak,’ he said, but not unkindly.
‘We were working on a case and he’d cracked it, 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 the case again, he was doing what he loves. 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 did. For once in my life, I really felt I was getting somewhere here and he was worse than me on it, keen on me he was.’
‘We’ve gathered that. Go on.’
‘In the morning I said he’d better go, I assured him everything was fine but it wasn’t safe the two of us there. I’d need to go to ground myself and he’d need to find a safe haven – I thought of the Inspector or you two. He went … and the rest you know.’
She broke down here and Laura was ready again. Some minutes passed.
‘And that’s it. Seriously, the police wanted all sorts of information, they can’t believe I didn’t know at least something. I have a couple of hunches, two possibles, you don’t know either but I’m not sure how I can nail them now.’
‘How important was his input?’ asked Miles.
‘Pretty important. I’m not bad myself but together, I can’t say we were unbeatable because we were found out … but we weren’t bad. Miles, Laura, I’m going to slip out in the middle of the night, 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.’
‘I do appreciate this.’ On an impulse, she came over to him and flung her arms around his neck, kissing his cheek. Laura’s turn was next and that was on the lips, she then smiled, didn’t know what to say and turned to go upstairs.’
‘Towel is on your bed. Nigh nigh.’
He looked at her, she looked at him. ‘I like her,’ said Laura. ‘If she’s a killer, she sure has a great act to cover it.’
‘Thing with Jenny is I do believe she’s a nice girl too, a few phobias but she does have so much inside information and she can’t divulge most of it. I trust her not to lead us into danger of the terminal kind. Think we need to take our own little journey tomorrow morning.’
‘We’ll whisper that in bed.’
Jenny quickly tiptoed the rest of the way to her room.
‘We should have more crises, Miles.’ She gazed out of the wheelhouse window, the sea was a bit lumpy, the wind up but spring was most certainly here and the boat wasn’t struggling.
‘So we can go on holiday?’
‘Did it cost you much? You know I don’t mean money.’
‘I owe him some haddock for a month, we have to top up the gas and diesel. It’s fine for a week. This is not running away, it’s having a break.’
‘No other way in, he should be here in about half an hour.
‘Just as nice as last time,’ she smiled, pirouetting like a girl. ‘I’m going for a swim. Coming?’
‘In a few minutes, I’m just going to check some systems.’
She was in the middle of the pool in the altogether, treading water, he thought, ‘Why not?’ dropped his trunks and dived in at the shallow end. A few strokes and he was there, one hand out, she took it and he dolphined towards the shallows, dragging her through the water.
She kicked ahead of him, arms now around his neck, legs around his hips and as the next congress began, she arched backwards.
‘He’s got a few new movies,’ she commented, pressing the Menu through, ‘any you fancy?’
‘Whatever. You happy with this running and being on alert and all this? Don’t you want the quiet, fisherman’s routine?’
‘How can I put this? No, seriously, we need spice. Now don’t get on your high horse, I don’t mean you’re not good enough but all this cloak and dagger now – it’s a bit like it used to be. I think you’d like it to quieten down though.’
‘It’s more a security thing for me.’
‘Come here, you’ve had time enough to recover.’
‘Mmmm?’ she answered, half asleep, cuddling up to him.
‘I’ll tell you when you’re awake. Sleep on, sleeping beauty.’
‘I’m awake.’ She sat up in bed. ‘OK, let’s hear it, when did you find out?’
‘Don’t miss much, do you, love? You heard me talking in the communications room yesterday.’
‘I know it wasn’t good, you kept it from me until now.’
‘I did wrong?’
‘Wrong? No, you did right – I didn’t want to deal with it yesterday. OK, what is it?’
‘They’ve pulled my permits to various ports in Europe. Anyone can sail to any of them but these permits let you operate within narrow rules. Now those have gone.’
‘How much does it reduce your take?’
‘Not a lot in itself, it’s the inconvenience, having to be remeasured, put in far more paperwork, pay those who inconvenience you. It leaves you open to inspection all the time.’
‘Is that an issue?’
‘Well, it might be – a few of the skippers weren’t all that happy. Someone’s done this and I can’t help feeling it’s related. A word with Jenny might throw some light on it.’
‘Laura,’ assured Jenny, having appeared at the back door again, now invited in ,munching and sipping,‘reason Dave and I found ourselves in trouble was someone among that lot you exposed knew I was going to try this – it’s too complicated to explain but my reputation for being a nutter may or may not be right but I promote it all right, it helps with negotiations.
It must have worried this person that I knew you two and by extension, DI Young. DI Young is nothing special in this but he is of the law and he was in Glendinning’s office, as was I. This person could not take a chance that either the Inspector or I didn’t find something, either there or in Haas’s office. The things Dave and I were fishing for seemed to confirm that – they were designed to make this man think he was rumbled. Yes, it’s a man and he’s high up, he has the added worry of Laura, Emma and all she knows.
Obviously he’d like to take us all out in one hit and this is where you’re not going to forgive me. I had a tip off from a reliable source that it was not going to be the usual hitman, he’d been used before and would sheet it home as if it had been a signature, so he had to get one from across the channel but that was a ferry ride next morning to get there. I thought that gave Dave time to get away, plenty of time and I warned him to stay low for weeks.
The source was right in one sense – it wasn’t the usual hitman, it was an amateur the bigwig probably blackmailed. Maybe. I wasn’t expecting that and I’m cursing I didn’t wake up. I can’t face DI Young.’
‘You can’t take that on,’ said Laura.
‘I can and I do. I got Dave to help me do that and I didn’t protect him. All right, let’s get onto the next bit. He can’t hit Young because he doesn’t know what failsafes Young would have in place – again, the DI had been talking to Laura and me. Also, if Laura is hit, then he is immediately exposed, and many close to him in his ring. These are people in clubs and lodges. If Miles is hit, then Laura acts the same way. These people think that if someone has closed a door, they’re loathe to open it again – that’s if bumping them off is out. At least, in the short term, Boston brakes and skiing accidents are also out.
However, he could try to ruin Miles and that way, he could contrive to get someone totally unknown, maybe even one of the crew, to scuttle a boat or whatever. Me they simply gun for, I have no protection except my own. So it’s in my interests to expose this person – Laura can’t because her protection then ceases, ditto with Miles.
I’m pretending to sue for peace with him, I can’t even name him to you now. If he comes to a certain place, I’ll give him the code to wipe all my data and he can do it to his satisfaction while we’re there together. The deal is that he then stops gunning for me and removes the restrictions on Miles – small price for what he gains. You know and I know that won’t be the end of it but it should be enough to get him there – not his henchmen, has to be him or no dice.’
‘You’re crazy,’ said Miles.
‘Maybe but as I’m in this line of work, this is how I operate – if I change this way of doing it, I put myself in far more danger. So, I arrange this, neither of you can be present, nor the law, these are not fools and they know if anyone is about. The venue will be one of his offerings – I’ll accept the one where I know someone. He knows that’s why I’d have chosen it and will try to find out who it is. That person will be filming, with very good sound as you’d imagine.’
She finished the drink. ‘I’ll send a copy of the disk to you two and to two other people I know.’
‘Last people to send it to – they’re under control and would pass it straight on. Social media is the new way. I need to go now and you won’t see me for six months or so – don’t even try as you’ll blow everything. You two mean a lot to me – let’s leave it at that. No hugs, I don’t do farewells well. See ya.’
And she was gone.
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 take care of 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.’
There’d been nothing about it in the media, Laura and Miles had kept their eyes and ears open but had drawn a blank. Somehow they were sure Jenny would make some form of contact with the details – were she still alive.
The permit withdrawals were overturned one by one, not without litigation and much payout by them but things had got back to some kind of normality when DI Young invited himself to their place for dinner – such an outrageous request coming from him that it could only mean news of some kind.
They hoped against hope it was about Jenny and when he stepped through the door and hung his light spray jacket on the peg, turning and smiling, taking his bag into the living room, hopes were high.
‘Eat first or watch first?’
‘Eat. It’s ready, on your lap on TV tables I’m sorry.’ Miles was pouring the wines.
The conversation had been desultory, they’d covered a lot of ground and so it came to the coffee.
‘Right,’ he said, opening the laptop, ‘this is an old model as you see, no internet, no wifi, no graphics, only data. We’ll reinstall the OS once you’ve seen and then destroy the whole laptop back at our place.’ He booted it and it took a minute or two.
There were four folders, he opened the first, opened the first file. It took some reading, he told them the rest were appendices which they could view if they wanted but the summary was in this first file.
There was a fair bit of nodding and ah-ing, Laura told him to help himself to coffee and nibbles, there were twelve pages of it.
‘OK,’ Miles eventually said, ‘got the picture. How did they know about his condition?’
‘Quite easy to access, things in the food that evening, I suspect a fair bit of collusion but no one has the will – local force are on it. The filming of him was never done – for obvious reasons.’
‘And is she … Ok?’
‘As far as I know, it was her who sent the laptop with a note for me but anyone could have written it. I suspect it was her.’
‘And have you … well … have you enough on the ring?’
‘Oh yes, more than enough but it’s a game of using nothing until absolutely sure it will be taken up. It’s kept neither at my home, nor at the station. Young Jenny’s done a good job – you’ll never stamp out this sort of thing but it’s dented them for some time all right, many have gone to ground, strange resignations, gardening leave. I should say, and it’s only my opinion like, that she might have known something was in the wind but there was no way she herself could have done the food bit. This looks like her finest hour, it really does.’
Laura breathed in deeply, let her breath out, then smiled a smile of relief, looking up at the ceiling. ‘Good.’ And again, ‘Good.’ Miles took her hand.
‘So, what’s next for the Forresters if I may call you that?’
‘Invitations out soon,’ said Laura. ‘Details to confirm first. We thought we’d have a pre-honeymoon first, get to grips with each other, talk out what we want, where, how, you know the sort of thing.’
‘The redoubt again?’
‘Seems best, I like it a lot, Miles feels I’m safe there – that’s his main concern,’ she looked up at the ceiling and smiled again, ‘it’s time for a break now, not later, not after it.’
‘We’d love but we know her, how she hates these sorts of things, funerals too. That’s fine, it’s less to worry about, having her roaming about, fish out of water.’
‘She might meet someone.’
‘At a wedding? Hardly. We’ll stay on here for now as you know, it’s a weird feeling not being under threat, I feel at a loss.’
‘That’s how it is for us too, finish a case, twiddle the thumbs for a day, sometimes two. Always another one coming up and if you don’t mind, I’ll run a few things by you from time to time.’
‘You make sure you do,’ said Miles, ‘she has to be kept active, this one.’
‘Lovely supper, thank you,’ said Leyton Young, standing up and folding the napkin. ‘Must get back to my good lady – you two take care.’