1: One was enough
It was the gentle tap-tap-tapping on the bedroom window which woke them.
‘Well look what the cat dragged in, it’s Jenny,’ mumbled Laura, falling out of bed and letting the bedraggled specimen in.
The mini tsunami came through, same catwoman outfit but anything but her usual assured self, she seemed to have taken a real hit had Jenny. ‘You both need to pack and come with me. I’m sorry.’
With any other human being, it would have been met with a smile, they knew better and ran for their bags. Laura thought for a moment and started throwing things into a third bag for the girl. ‘I’ve got clothes in my pack.’
Miles was on the mobile to the number he’d hoped he’d never need to call. The man at the other end knew the score too, swore and swung into action.
‘Forty minutes,’ reported Miles, going over to the chest of drawers. ‘Drambuie?’
‘How did you guess?’
The view from the helicopter was virtually non-existent, it was a cold night, the air was wet this late October night and Jenny was shivering as they descended by cable, the helicopter hovering just before a wooden cabin.
Once inside, not strictly a log cabin, more like a dacha, it all hit her, she swayed then collapsed to the floor.
They both set to work removing the boots and worksuit, she was both genuinely in distress but also able to manage a smile because of what had been said last time – even now they were testing – they saw she was injured in the left arm, not badly, the bleeding had stopped, the bullet had caught the skin only.
Laura went for the kit, some padding and bandaging and they were done, they got one leg up on the bed, then the rest of her was heaved on too and the bedclothes pulled up, she looked at the scene, Miles asked, ‘How long do we have?’
‘A day, depends where we are. Might have longer.’
‘Sleep now, talk tomorrow.’
They both kissed her goodnight.
He’d done the honours with the scrambled eggs and bits and pieces, they’d brought the last of the salmon with them. Jenny had slept till 9.30, she’d then spent half an hour in the bathroom, brunch was now done and she was ready to talk.
‘I thought I’d nailed the last of the big players. Naive, eh?’
‘Jenny?’ asked Miles. ‘Why did you not wake up for so long that they replace immediately? You were on that case for two years.’
‘I don’t know, really I don’t. Just a blank spot I suppose, the mind rejects things like that.’
‘You know who you remind me of?’ asked Miles.
‘That German leader, Frauke Petry. You’re smaller though, more powerful.’
‘Should I take that as a compliment?’
‘Yes and no.’
‘Can we get back to it?’ Laura sighed. ‘Tell us what situation we’re in.’
‘That lot above us – what a life, wouldn’t want it for all the tea in China. To get into any of those positions, you have to sell your soul -’
‘Well, we know all this.’
‘There’s a really nasty side too.’
‘Drug, mind splitting, all that?’ asked Laura. ‘I know.’
‘They … they didn’t get me, I knew about it, I knew before, good information … but I was invited and it seemed wrong … he said come to discuss the case … that’s bullsh, we didn’t need to do that at his place …’
‘You shot him?’
‘No, I never went inside, I know that trick – one of them goes behind, cloth comes out, I shot both of them with one of their guns but was careless, arm got in the way when the other took a shot.’
‘Just the beefy boys? Not the higher ups?’
‘As you say. So it’s not as bad as it might have been but they’re still dead.’
‘Oh it’s bad all right,’ said Laura, ‘because all patronage is suddenly removed, you’re just a fugitive citizen now. As if Neil Joseph wasn’t enough, I bet you’ve been stirring the pot ever since.’
Miles spoke. ‘This hut’s temporary, the redoubt won’t be much longer, we have to work out a long term solution. You know that.’
It had been two days. Miles had contacted Young to see what the official line was.
Laura agreed Miles would phone, they were on roaming on the second mobile, Laura would start lunch.
Miles filled them in – Young had been most anxious they return, someone had been through the house and he needed to know what, if anything, was missing. The question was whether to return and take their chances or go to the second safe place now.
Jenny asked, ‘Am I safe to go out to the yard, that lounge.’
‘Try it,’ said Laura.
She got herself a drink, they heard the back door open, they made coffee for themselves and sat down to talk.
‘That box in our room, Miles.’
He was chuckling. ‘Quite a little stash, isn’t it? He who cannot be named said we could leave our own pieces if we wished and take one each of theirs. I want the Pfeifer-Zeliska .600 Nitro. You?’
‘I like the M72 LAW.’
‘Impractical, Laura, what are you going to use it on?’
‘Girl can dream.’
They heard the beating of the blades and ran for the box in the bedroom, he saw her take the M72 and shook his head, they ran for the back door.
There was firing from somewhere up there, they couldn’t see Jenny, he stood just back from the door and aimed for the lower guy on the wire, the recoil just about dislocating his shoulder but the guy fell like a stone, the second was scrambling back into the copter.
Laura primed and vaguely aimed her monstrosity and everyone in the district, plus the contact on the end of the phone Miles had just called heard the result. It didn’t take the copter out but it certainly wasn’t well as it slewed to one side, shaking, and obliquely headed down to the forest at the end of the clearing.
‘Did it work?’ chuckled his contact, then, ‘10 to 12 minutes, there’ll be two of them, Len and Colin, they’ll jump the back fence so don’t shoot ’em, ask their names. Take the whole box too, don’t leave anything. I’ll need a report some day soon, how it went. Cost me deep in the purse, that lot did.’
They couldn’t keep going from hut to hut like this – rescued by a patron and then what? Another hut? Then another?
The doctor sent by their contact had departed and once again, Jenny had been damned lucky. Even were this part of her scam, the chances of that guy on the wire not being slightly off target were far too great. And again now it was her left arm, this time nastier. Brave girl, she’d howled but hadn’t screamed. They kept pumping in Drambuie and that allayed it a bit.
She was in her room, they were on wooden chairs beside her. She gave a weak smile. ‘Don’t … believe … in underkill … do you, you two?’
Said Laura, ‘They left us some wonderful gear, the owner was delighted a copter happened by. We have to go, afraid it’s going to be like that until we track down whoever is behind all this.’
‘We.’ They saw her relax, she lay right back, eyes to the ceiling, then closed her eyes. She got her energy up again and murmured. ‘Go to my backpack … bring it over.’
Laura got up and did that.
‘Now go to the …’ she paused and recovered ‘… to those rubber things on the bottom it rests on.’ She waited. ‘Turn it … do that with the other corner too.’
‘Bingo.’ Laura pulled the base downwards and could just reach in and extract three or four papers.
‘That’s … what … they want back.’
They went through the pages one by one, phewing and goshing now and then, before returning them to the hidden space and redoing the bushes.
There was silence.
Miles it was who spoke. ‘They’ll not rest, Jenny. That’s messing directly with the Man. We love you but that’s insane.’ She received the obligatory kisses again and he phoned.
We’re leaving in an hour.
Jenny nodded and reassured them, ‘I half expected that, I’m really all right.’
‘You’ll be at the redoubt we know of, with Jan de Vries, runs our Dutch end. All right with that?’
‘I’ll survive. And you?’
‘We’ll be at a land-based redoubt belonging to a different patron. We do need to split up.’
He and Laura had gone first with their patron’s men, Jenny had waited back until another called Sam, supposedly from the second patron was to arrive.
A phone call from Jenny said she wasn’t going to the redoubt, she had the mobile number of Colin and he was going to bring her to their redoubt, she’d explain when she got there.
In the centre of Jenny’s redoubt, by the pool, were Jan and Jenny.
Miles realized he was going to lose Jan De Vries sooner or later, fishing not a way up in the world. And yet Jan didn’t seem to have any great interest in getting on, which belied his efficiency – he ran the Dutch end of the operation quite well, maybe he skimmed off a bit but not too much – he dealt with the EU.
One more thing no one had mentioned – Jenny was down to her last £7000 and that was that. And she was alone. And she did have principles, of a kind.
The sun lounge was quite warm through that glass roof, she looked at Jan doing laps – nothing special but everything in working order, he seemed a nice guy but a bit too sharp, even for her. And he knew about her work. Nice hands, not overly strong but quick movements.
He went underwater and seemed to stay down a long time, she began to stir, to worry. Suddenly he shot out of the water before her lounge and before she could stop herself, she’d lunged straight at him and knocked him backwards, herself falling in and swimming like a fish to the other side, with him just gazing on.
She leapt out, turned, went down on one knee and looked across at him, evenly, force of habit. A few slow strokes and he was across to her, elbows on the side of the pool, looking up at her. His hair had started its long recession some time back, one or two crow’s feet pointed to his eyes, but the neck and shoulders were still strong. She liked that.
He liked what he saw too, all of it, so what was holding him back? She asked directly.
‘It’s an unusual situation,’ he answered in near flawless English. ‘You’re not the usual, Jenni, we haven’t sat over candlelight, finding out, we’ve been shadow boxing.’
‘Hoe oud ben je?’
He grinned. ‘Drieënveertig. En je, juffrouw, zijn éénendertig, uit Jersey.’
‘Welke andere dingen weet je over mij?’
‘Wij kunnen engels spreken. All right, what else do you know about me?’
‘Most of it. Miles filled me in as far as he could. Your work is dangerous.’
‘It doesn’t worry you?’
‘No, there’s logic in what you do, you do play games though.’
‘Not all the time.’
‘You’re frightened of being touched too. Is that because of your work, Jenni or is your work because of that?’
She breathed in and then let the breath out slowly. ‘It might be both. I wasn’t abused, it was later, that I drifted into this. Why do you think you’d be able to keep up with me?’
‘Because I can think ahead?’
‘Why don’t you touch me?’
‘You’re frightened of being touched, you haven’t encouraged me.’
‘I don’t know how,’ she sighed. ‘I could learn – take your zwembroek off.’
He looked at her, pushed back a metre and took them off, swam back to the wall and climbed out, facing her.
‘Take mine off.’
The ringtone of Jan’s mobile on the other side of the pool startled her, how could that have happened? She’d tried phoning while being lowered to the redoubt – she watched now as he dived in, emerged the other side and took his mobile from his robe pocket.
‘Yes sir.’ She strained one ear to hear on the other side.
‘Jan,’ said the other end, ‘we haven’t had a chance to call you, Jenny’s not going to the redoubt, she’s with us.’
‘That’s very, very interesting, sir.’
‘Jenny’s right here, same as in the photo you showed me.’
‘Really? Well isn’t that nice? Is she injured in any way?’
‘Doesn’t seem to be, she just swam across the pool.’
‘Jenny did, yes?’
‘In what state of undress is she?’
‘Check between her legs, her left leg, towards the back, slight discolouration to the skin. By the way, how did she take this call coming through to you?’
Miles thanked him and said good night, he was going to phone back later.
Jan closed the phone and put it back in the robe. She’d wandered around the end of the pool and put her robe on. He threw his off and came to her, taking hers off too.
She turned and smiled – finally, she thought.
The mobile rang later in the day, Miles walked over and answered.
‘Yes, I saw it.’
‘Something like a birthmark, an oval, where you said. Very light.’
‘Now isn’t that interesting? Give me a few moments, there’s someone I’d like you to speak to on the phone.’
He buzzed Laura, who now brought their guest up from below. Through the mobile, Jan could hear them coming up the stairs.
‘Say hello to Jan.’
She took the phone. ‘Hi Jan, this is Jenny.’
‘Nice to know you.’ He betrayed no emotion whatever.
‘You don’t know me yet but I’m hoping it will be nice.’ Miles took the phone back. ‘Right, Jan, I’ll call you back tomorrow.’
‘Thanks Jenny,’ said Miles, ‘that’s set in rock then, you’ll not want for anything but can you stand the life?’
‘Given what I’ve lost, Miles and Laura, I’m so grateful.’
‘It’s Miles’s outfit.’
‘Is the pay all right?’ he asked. ‘Nothing like what you had before.’
‘It’s fine, Miles, I’m very happy … thank you both.’
‘And now we’ve done what we need for the day …’ He coughed and Laura looked down at the floor.
‘Ah, right, nigh nigh you two.’ She made her way down the stairs, they heard her bumbling about.
In bed, he dropped to a whisper near her ear. ‘Jan is with Jenny at the redoubt.’
Laura turned onto her back, looking up. ‘Ah, yes. That was the secret, Miles, the one I wouldn’t tell you – I was hoping you’d have to hold the other one closely and I was going to observe.’
‘Let’s run through it again then. We went first, she called me shortly after that, saying she wasn’t going to the redoubt, this Colin would drop her here at our redoubt, I double checked with my patron and he confirmed that. She arrived as per schedule, we let her in, no mystery there.’
‘Right … but?’
‘My error was to not check with Jan at the redoubt itself, I knew I had to contact Jan but if he didn’t have Jenny there, then no hurry – we were in transit.’
‘Now let me be clear – there’s a Jenny at each redoubt, yes?’
‘That surprises me. Bit of a risk.’
‘Quite a risk – that patron knows a man in the mobile phone place – hers and her mobile was blocked from roaming. We got her this time, unfortunate for Jenny, she wasn’t to know about the phone biz.’
‘Not so sure – I’d have thought it was something she’d think through. So let’s get this established – the Jenny the night of Amelie had a light birthmark and the one we have with us now, with the injury, is “our” one so to speak, darker mark.’
‘Well, there’ll be other differences too, not least in behaviour. Let’s name the one we saw the first night Jenny A and “our” one here Jenny B. They must have switched between the first safehouse and our place – but how?’
‘Plus, are they twins?’
He reached for the phone, understanding it was a bit after 1 a.m. there.
It rang and was picked up. ‘Choose your moments, don’t you sir.’
‘In full flight, yes?’
‘You might say that.’
‘We think you’re in danger.’
‘You think I hadn’t worked that out? Thanks for calling though, you’ll still call tomorrow?’
‘You’re in no danger from me here but Jan might be,’ said Jenny B, they lay back and realized they’d been caught out again.
‘Clothes off,’ said Laura, ‘into bed with us – now.’
Jenny did not need to be told. Laura opened. ‘How did you ever think you could get away with it?’
‘We’d planned to get her there your way, she was going to hide Jan’s mobile, put him to sleep – draft in his drink – but do nothing else suspicious until then. She’d take the boat with Jan and escape to a harbour, Jan would have to do all the explaining to his patron, there’d be a check of the redoubt, nothing out of place, no damage done. But I had to call her as arranged and vice-versa, there was no line, no service, I knew something was going on, I wasn’t entirely sure it was your doing, Miles. I have to say I was a bit frantic but when I heard your conversation, I knew it was all right.’
‘You’re like a little mouse … or a cat.’
‘You two are not careful enough. Laura asked how we thought we could get away with it? We call it the ‘what really happens gap’. We talk through the scenario and all its permutations, the two of us – we look at the most likely scenario too and look for when the best chance is that the people won’t be concentrating. An example is this now – you were in bed, locked into a conversation, you forgot me as me for a brief time. What, you really thought I’d be asleep downstairs, knowing about that phone call?’
‘We need you to teach us all this, we’re rusty, we need to up our game.’
‘We were always going to do that but this test had to be tried. The injured arm wrecked any real test. In a real situation of life or death, Jenny A, as you now call her, would have faded into the shadows. We knew Laura would tumble to it because of Amelie.’
‘Tell us about her.’
‘I’m the elder, not by much. She’s a fraction taller than me and as twins, we can think as one, I know what she’s thinking now. She likes Jan and yet you’ve given me the job.’
‘Why did you think you could get away with the birthmark?’ Miles put in.
‘We did have you there – we can make it what we want, cosmetically. One of our ploys is to make her me and vice-versa, we’ve done it a few times – we can fool a man but not a woman. Did we have you on that one?’
‘Probably, haven’t met her yet, haven’t seen the other differences.’
‘Yes you have – night of Amelie – that was her, I learned everything from her in the call on the way to your place – those times at your place have been me.’
‘We know,’ said Laura. ‘You wouldn’t jump into bed with Jan like that, intimacy embarrasses you until you know the person but you tried to brave it out.’
‘Yes, it’s not me. I’m more shy than her but harder with a kill.’
‘But it is you we love, isn’t it?’
‘Yes and vice-versa but she also likes you both very much. You were decent to her. But yes, she got those clothes off a bit too quickly, I castigated her for that. We work hard in coordinating reactions in everything, even how we eat.’
‘Jenny,’ asked Laura, quietly. ‘If you’re under their control, maybe we, above all people, can help.’
‘No, I’m not under. Sis is. Or was. We wanted to get near Jan and find out – dangerous way to do it but we can both handle ourselves.’
‘Who’s the controller? We don’t need names, just the general idea.’
‘You know who. The ones we’ve been talking about.’
It was too distressing for her.
‘Are the powers that be aware there are two Jennies?’
‘I’d say Joseph wasn’t – sometimes things like this never come up. You’re suspicious because I’m close to you but we think Europe is not suspicious, although we’re always wary.’
‘There never was a swap then, Jenny?’
‘We go by some rules – one is keep it simple. It was better Jenny A never appeared to you – we think things through – you were used to my body and it was best you still had that, hopefully Laura would think we’d done the swap to test her. We know how things will pan out, we know the most vulnerable times we can do the sleight of hand, just like magicians only ours is life and death.’
‘Which Jenny is the real Jenny?’
She stewed over that one.
She stewed some more, bit her lip, a pretty lip thought Miles.
‘She is in one sense, she has the better claim. She’s the one who was with Haas, went to Glendinning’s office, she’s the one who stood and shot Amelie. I’m better at the shooting but she’s better at the office intrigue.’
‘Are you straight’ asked Laura, ‘… or some other way?’
‘Let’s say I could share a bed with you, Laura, Sis is straight. She genuinely wants it from this Jan.’
‘And your name is?’
‘I was waiting for this. I’m Jenny, she’s Sarah.
‘Do you mind the Jenny A and Jenny B?’
‘I quite like the Jenny B epithet.’
‘Glad we could finally meet,’ said DI Young in the living room back home, over coffee. ‘Let’s start with the report on your done-over home here. Nothing missing you say but they went through everything, especially papers. That’s a message to you and to me.’
‘What were they after?’
‘Documents, names of paedos. Here’s something for you.’ He took a file from his briefcase. ‘This is my working list, nothing official, just ones we’re interested in.’ He went round to their side of the table and laid it down.
They both scrutinized the sheet, Laura pointed to about five names. He pointed. ‘Not this one? Nor this?’ She shook her head. ‘That does fit. There were some testers on that list as you’d imagine, I had to do it that way.’
He returned to his chair and she topped up his coffee. She asked, ‘Does that move us forward?’
‘Moves me forward but not by much. Just confirms other reports coming in – can’t be touched. One is head of my department, that’s off the record of course. You know the rules if you want anything further.’
‘Naturally. Now I’ll help you. There’s an organization, runs courses for leaders, it’s in every council -’
‘The organization itself is not evil -’
‘We dispute that.’ Miles got up and booted his laptop, accessed the article and asked the Inspector over. ‘That’s their modus operandi … and this.’ He went to another page. ‘And this.’
‘Phew. No idea.’
‘Do you understand now our reticence to talk? Look at this one – an FOI request. Look at this one who phoned this one and they blocked it. It’s all here.’
‘It’s online for anyone interested. This is how things have changed these days. And those names keep coming up. Not in their capacity as heads of the organization mentioned but they are the same people are also in this organization.’ He showed the Inspector the next page.
‘We go through hoops and this stuff is all here.’
‘Yes. By the way, who’s your 2IC of anti-fraud?’
‘Have a look at this.’
‘Any computer, any library. It’s there. That is what we’re up against.’
‘Who are they exactly?’
Miles answered. ‘They’re just one of the shadowy departments, bean counters the programme gave our address to – for the most part. And you’re there too, by association with us.’
‘And if we stop associating?’
‘Worse – that’s of even more interest. What triggered it?’ He went into what Jenny B had said in general terms, he added about the Deep State. ‘That’s today’s reality – anything online, anything at all, ends up at GCHQ if the bots say it’s of interest. Soviet Union – eat your heart out.’
‘It’s … horrifying.’
‘It’s today. Welcome to the new world.’
Laura joined in. ‘There’s no way to touch those five names, they’re too well entrenched. Like spiders, any tugging on the web and they’re alerted.’
‘So,’ continued Miles, ‘if they want to snuff out Jenny, that’s that. Where does that leave official crimefighting, Inspector?’
He was thinking. He stroked his chin. ‘Directives come down all the time, more paperwork, more reports, inventories, things which tie us up in paperwork. We’re ordered to be hard where before we’d let it go. Minor things, naughty lads, that’s all – we throw the book at them now.’
‘That’s what is happening. Our ships’ paperwork – you want to see it?’
‘I’ve got the idea. And now I might be of unofficial help. Try these two names, leave the rest.’ He took a sheet from his briefcase and handed it across. ‘Third and seventh – one you probably know, the other you probably don’t.’
‘Actually, I do,’ said Laura. ‘My former work,’ she explained.
‘Tell me more.’ That had the effect of her clamming up. ‘If you feel you can,’ he smiled. She shrugged and plunged in, about the man’s side ventures, about the children’s charity he was patron of, about all the good work he’d done, of the church society, the vestry in question.
The Inspector’s eyes showed immediate recognition. ‘I’m wondering if there’s any point any more.’
‘As you’re meant to think. Stay a good boy, don’t investigate the ‘unnecessary’ or you’ll be framed. This is why Jenny’s now irrelevant, the work she does. The killings go on – turf wars, that’s all. We want nothing to do with it, we fish.’
Young smiled. ‘Paragons of virtue.’
‘Known-knowns, Inspector. Not saints but within the law.’
‘Because,’ said Miles, ‘in this day and age, you get away with nothing, everything’s online or on computer, you stay clean. If you did take our hard drive – what’s the bet it would come back with more on than it went out with?’ Young was noncommittal. ‘Not saying you’d personally do that. However, when it comes back, we destroy the drive immediately, we have back ups for our own data in many places. We ditch the entire laptop every couple of months.’
‘Those are the acts of suspicious people, money launderers and the like.’
‘Those are also the acts of people who’ve educated themselves that the state is not their friend, even if they are within the law. I’m sorry because you’re a dedicated officer -’
‘No, you’re right. And it’s the same elements every time.’
‘Look at the current police chief.’ Young groaned. ‘These people are career bureaucrats, doing bidding from above, word in the ear and they deploy a dozen officers, so what chance we can nail these two names? And what if we could anyway? It’s a hydra, as Laura says, grows two more heads.’
‘Ah, but as I pointed out, you might just discover some recent developments with those two names which could shift the balance.’ He was smiling. ‘Use Jenny, go after this lady,’ he wrote it down on a sheet from his pad, ‘connected to N7 and this … connected to N3. They’re disgruntled.’
‘You don’t know how high.’
‘With N3,’ put in Laura, ‘I do know.’
‘I have to get back. Don’t suppose you can tell me where Jenny is?’
‘Safe, she’s not on the game at this moment, she’s frightened and lying low.’
‘You two take care.’
Jenny B came out of the linen closet with no linen in it and said she’d heard all that. ‘Will you show me those names, I might know some too.’
Laura showed her the list she’d made, Jenny whistled. ‘We can nail her. Sis and I can.’
‘No. Just give us time to plan it and run it past you.’
‘Let’s have lunch.’
‘What’s the aim?’ asked Jenny A.
‘Get them to lay off you two, we get your loyalty and love.’
‘Appreciated. Thank you.’
‘Wearing a close fitting suit and acrylic gloves, Miss Daniels,’ observed Mandy Harrison, the estranged wife. ‘I remember those nights well. Don’t know how I can help you, we’ve been apart two years.’
‘You run the show. Here’s something which might interest you.’ Jenny took out the top paper, then the second and handed them across. ‘Ronald Harrison bought them for his party on the 14th last, but you paid.’ She handed over a further sheet.
‘Get to the point, Ms Daniels.’
‘Do you know the Indie Enquirer?’
‘Yes and they want to stay in business. What though if a similar newspaper was set up as if it was the new yellow press but in fact it was only funded for one issue? Everything closed down after they printed the lot.’
‘Oh, these.’ She reached in and pulled out the manilla envelope, handing it across. ‘I know you were young, you needed the money.’
‘And here was the guest list for one of those evenings.’ She handed that over. ‘Interesting, eh?’
‘You have a project in the pipeline, you’re an upstanding citizen for charity. Society admires you.’
‘You won’t get out of here alive, bitch.’
‘Yes I will.’ She opened her suit and there was the microphone bud. She removed it and placed it on the desk in front of the woman. ‘I want your ex husband off my sister’s back, as of now. You can do that, can’t you?’
With that, she stood and as she approached the door, pulled a mask out of her holdall, the woman furiously pressing the floor buzzer to no avail.
Jenny opened the door, stepped over the two torpedoes and the dozen other staff, the gas poured through the door, she went out via the fire escape, removed the mask and some twenty two minutes later met her sister in a cafe in a nearby town, Mrs. Harrison collapsing to the welcome mat.