1: One was enough
It was the rapping on the downstairs window which woke them.
‘Kids,’ murmured Laura, ‘Expecting anyone?’
His dumbfounded look answered that but he snapped out of it. ‘You take the backdoor, I’ll cover you once I can find the ammo. He nearly fell downstairs, took the shotgun from the cabinet, then rummaged above the wall unit for the rounds.
‘Well look what the cat dragged in, it’s Jenny,’ called Laura, already at the backdoor and he gave up the task.
The mini tsunami came through, same catwoman outfit as Laura called it, but she was anything but her usual assured self and the words ‘most normal people, Jenny, try the door’ froze on her lips.
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 threw 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, opening the drinks cupboard. ‘Still like Drambuie?’
Yes please, a Drambuie if he had one.
The view from the helicopter was almost non-existent, it was a cold night, through the breaking cloud cover they could see an almost new moon, the air was wet this late October night and Jenny was shivering as they descended by the cable they’d been hauled up by, the helicopter hovering over the forecourt of the 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 closefitting worksuit she favoured, deja vu from that night of Amelie’s death, 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 came to, looked at the scene, Miles asked, ‘How long do we have?’
‘A day, depends where we are. Might have longer.’
‘Sleep now, we’ll talk tomorrow.’
He’d done the honours with the scrambled eggs and bits and pieces, they’d brought the last of the salmon with them. The girl 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.
‘You were always into all that cloak and dagger, Laura, insinuating your way in, slow build, making sure, striking and disappearing. Me? I need to be clear on what’s expected, plan it, get in, do the job, get out.’
‘Six Gun Jenny.’
‘No, just the two, plus the knife – you know me.’
‘We took three guns out last night,’ smiled Laura. ‘Anyway, it’s just an expression.’
‘Oh, I see. You left them in my pack.’
‘Yes … we did. You did good things exposing Neil Joseph, your stocks are pretty high with a few people.’
‘I thought we’d nailed the last of them. Naive, eh?’
‘Jenny?’ asked Miles. ‘Why did you not wake up for so long, you were on that case for two years.’
‘I don’t know, really I don’t. Just a blank spot I suppose, just a feeling it could not have been what it was. The mind rejects things like that.’
‘Pizzagate,’ mused Miles.
‘What made you say that?’ She was curious.
‘That’s the current one doing the rounds in the media, seemed logical. Why us now and not earlier?’
‘Sanctuary. A haven. Your security earlier.’
‘Is there someone special?’ asked Laura.
‘We both admire you but you have to admit you’re an acquired taste. There’ll be another Dave.’
‘You still look the goods though,’ he tried to compensate, Laura glanced across, distant early warning, ‘dark hair, short cropped, compact frame, ‘you know who you remind me of?’
‘That German leader, Frauke Petry. You’re smaller though, more powerful.’
‘Should I take that as a compliment?’
‘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 -’
‘Just as in Hollywood, just as anywhere.’
‘Yes but you never get into a position unless they have you in that hold, they must have you in that hold. I know Haas was in one but he also didn’t ask for any promotion. He got wise -’
‘But not quickly enough.’
‘And there’s a really nasty side too.’
‘Drug, mind splitting, all that?’
‘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 bullshit, 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 but was careless, arm got in the way.’
‘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 after that. 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 will be longer but still not long term, we have to work out a long term solution. You know that.’
‘Yes. Are you happy, Laura, with the fishing and married life and all that?’
‘That’s out of order,’ said Laura. ‘All right, granted, I needed the variety and the excitement and then found out, as Miles did, as you have now, that we’ve been played. Now you say someone still wants us … or are they after you, for something you did? Just what did you do this time?’
‘Pushed the envelop again, thought there might have been a couple had gone back into the woodwork. It’s enough with them … isn’t it. I’m worried you two might have lost your physical edge, your reactions. Seems to me we’re going to need those soon.’
It had been two days. The best time for the two of them to talk was when their companion was in the shower and she was there now. Miles was not so sure now about it – that wound, well it was self-inflicted, wasn’t it? Only issue was – deliberately or accidentally?
They only really had her word something was wrong, they’d been bunnies to run so quickly with someone they hadn’t seen for months. He still believed her but it was not cut and dried by any means.
The logical person to contact now was DI Young whose second house they were still renting but dare they use mobile roaming? They decided yes, Miles would phone and those two went to the kitchen to start lunch.
When they came back, he 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. So, the question was whether to return and take their chances or go to the second safe place now? Were Jenny not on the level, well, they were giving her a guided tour of their escape route.
‘We need to talk, Jenny,’ said Laura. ‘The two of us.’
‘I’ll go to the yard, that lounge.’ 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?’
‘Just the P320 – someone has to cover you if you’re using that thing but better 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 first 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 being even slightly off were far too great. And again it was her left arm, this time nastier, the bone had needed resetting. 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?’
Said Laura, ‘They left us some wonderful gear, the owner was delighted a copter happened by. Couple of days again we have, 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.’ More recovery. ‘Turn it … do that with the other corner.’
‘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 with the Man.’
A restful eight days into their stay, Laura repeated the obvious.
‘We can’t stay here, you can’t stay here, we have a business to run, it’s time to collect dues and we can’t live without them, so we’re sending you to the redoubt we used to draw Johanssen out – remember him? Did we tell you?’
She nodded and reassured them, ‘I half expected that.’
‘You’ll be there with Jan de Vries. All right with that?’
‘I’ll survive. And you?’
‘We’ll be at a land-based redoubt belonging to one of the patrons.’
Their patron did it well. They’d gone separately by van, first Laura, then him, finally Jenny and two phone exchanges midway said things had gone as well as could have been hoped.
The van Miles was in the back of stopped and picked Laura up, she made herself as comfortable as she could, they spoke. ‘Even that attack on Jenny was inconclusive,’ said Miles, ‘just more of the same, she’s not off the hook by any means yet. I need to call them at the redoubt too.’
‘I thought there was no signal out there.’
‘Three months ago they extended the coverage but our patron knows a man in the company – her roaming’s had a hiccup.’
The centre of Jenny’s redoubt was dominated by the pool, a quite large pool with fold out screen, the mod cons, the bars. As it had been for Laura, it was a golden cage for Jenny just now.
And this one now, Jan, she’d done the standard once over and the fact that she could see no negatives so far was a worry in itself. Everyone has negatives. Fisherman, eh? Seemed far too careful, too much of a thinker … too much of a charmer, without laying on the charm. Heaven knows what he thought of her.
Maybe 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, too many anecdotes from various parts of the world for a fisherman.
One more thing no one had mentioned – money. She had no livelihood any more, there was £7000 in the bank and that was that. And she was alone. And she did have principles, of a kind. And she felt so alone.
She might have been taking government coin but it was freelance work, contractual, the contract was now over with Haas, and this new offer she was meant to see Reynolds about – it smelt. She had no work, no one would employ her, she was starting to eat into her capital. No credit card though, that was a blessing at least.
She went to her room and looked in the mirror – still in good nick, body of a young woman, compact but hard, quite a hard face, heartshaped though it was.
Going out to the sun lounge, it was quite warm through that glass roof, she looked at him doing laps – nothing special but everything in working order, he seemed a nice guy but sharp, 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.’
‘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 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, in my twenties, 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 the mobile on the other side of the pool startled her, how could that happen? She’d tried while being lowered to the redoubt – she watched as he dived in, emerged the other side and took his mobile from his robe pocket on the sun lounge.
‘Yes sir.’ She strained one ear to hear on the other side.
‘Jan,’ said the other end, ‘are you alone?’
‘You know I’m not.’
‘Say who you’re with.’ He did. Miles continued, ‘Well isn’t that interesting. As a matter of fact, is her arm in a sling?
‘No, she just swam across the pool.’
‘In what state of undress is she?’
‘Check between her legs, left leg, towards the back, slight discolouration to the skin. You’ve already told me about the arm, just check this other place on her. By the way, how did she take this call coming through to you?’
‘Just as a matter of interest, describe the roof of the pool area.’
He did in some detail, Miles thanked him and said good night.
‘Night sir.’ He closed the phone and put it back in the robe. Jenny had wandered around the end of the pool and went to put her robe on. He threw his off and came up to her, taking hers off too.
She turned and smiled – finally, she thought.
Mobile rang, Miles walked over and answered.
‘I know, good. Did you?’
‘That’s a bit personal,’ he joked. ‘Yes, we did. I saw it too.’
‘She has something like a birthmark, oval, where you said.’
‘Isn’t that interesting. Give me a moment, there’s someone I’d like you to speak with on the phone, we’ve had a visitor.’
He buzzed Laura, who now brought their guest up from below, through the mobile, he 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 our life?’
‘Given what I’ve lost, it’s more than enough, I thought it would just be an office but you want me to investigate things? And you a fisherman?’
‘We have other ventures, as you know. Is the pay all right? Nothing like what you had before.’
‘It’s fine, Miles, I’m happy … thank you both.’
‘And now …’ He coughed and Laura looked down at the floor.
‘Ah, right, goodnight, you two.’ She made her way down the stairs, they heard her bumbling about as they did.
In bed, he dropped to a whisper near her ear. ‘What we have here is different people knowing different things. Jan was with a girl just now as well.’
‘He sneaked a lover in once he knew Jenny wasn’t going?’
‘Yes, he did. Her name’s Jenny.’
‘So let’s run through it again. You were in a separate van, she called me, saying she wasn’t going to the redoubt, I told you when we met up, the guy would drop her here at our redoubt, I double checked with my patron and he confirmed it. She arrived as per schedule, we let her in, no mystery in that.’
‘Right … but?
‘My error was to not check with Jan at the redoubt itself, I took the patron’s word as gospel. Plus I didn’t check which redoubt.’
‘Which redoubt?’ she still whispered. ‘You mean they’re not at ours?’
‘No, they’re at Patron 2’s, different roof.’
‘Hold on one moment. If there are therefore two Jennys and your patron had our Jenny’s roaming blocked, that leaves the other’s roaming still working, does her phone work?’
‘We don’t know, it probably does, it’s just that ours has not called her, as ours can’t reach such numbers. I’d say the man dropping them informed both that there was no phone access inside the redoubt -’
‘And that Jenny bought that without checking, nor did our Jenny check. I can see that Jenny, most likely, putting her phone away or on her bedside table or whatever.’
‘And the only reason ours felt it safe to come here was because she believed there was a block on all calls. But when she found I was talking to Jan just now, she must have freaked out inside.’
‘But decided to play it out. She’ll spend much of the night working out why you’d bought the two Jennys, she might even try her mobile but it won’t connect.’
‘I’m trying to remember – when you came up to the top floor with her to speak with Jan – no one mentioned the second Jenny there. She knew of course that that was so but she might have thought it hadn’t registered with me and she was still safe.’
‘Two Jennys! Changes the whole game as well, doesn’t it, changes everything.’
‘It does. You noticed when we undressed her that night of Amelie, she had a birthmark on her left leg -’
‘Ah, yes. And you were double checking when we got her into bed a few days ago, purely for strategic reasons, I’m sure.’
‘Well OK, she’s not hard to look at – her birthmark this time seemed lighter, which was another error of mine -s not asking Jan to describe his Jenny’s mark in more detail. Look, just to keep from getting confused, may we call the one we have now Jenny B and the one Jan has Jenny A.? Which one was with us the night of Amelie?’
‘Behaviour wise, I’d say our one now, Jenny B.’
‘And the birthmark?’
‘Ah, well, that’s not difficult cosmetically you know.’
‘Fine, so we can’t rely on that. We have to look at overall body shape, face, expressions and character, disposition.’
‘You’d know better than I would,’ said Miles, ‘I’d go for twins. High risk though for them … sooner or later we’d have had our stories together..’
‘After Jan was dead … or we were.’
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?’
Jenny was looking at Jan curiously. She was bold. ‘What did Miles want?’
‘Checking in, doesn’t choose his times well.’
‘I needed this tonight.’
‘You and me both.’
‘I don’t just mean the sex.’
‘Nor do I … you were tender, I have to say I didn’t expect it.’
‘Can we sleep now? I’m tired.’
He kissed her.
Miles’s and Laura’s redoubt in the forest was effective, like rocky outcrops emerging from hillocks, the penalty for that being artificial light below.
They woke in what they thought was morning, at least the clock said so, got up, did the doings and met Jenny for breakfast.
Laura opened. ‘How did you ever think you could get away with it, Jenny?’
Realizing they’d been rumbled, she did what both had always agreed to do – opt for the straight truth. ‘I thought the phones weren’t working.’
‘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 thnking now. She likes Jan and yet you’ve given me the job.’
‘Why did you think you could get away with the birthmark?’
‘Yes, thought you’d notice that.’
‘How were you actually going to resolve it? Was she going to snuff Jan out or were you going to take us out or was it all of us for the chop?’
‘No, no, no, it wasn’t anything like that, it wasn’t.’ She was in terror, a very interesting thing with one normally that bold.
‘Sometimes it’s best to come out and say it. If you’re under their control, maybe we, above all people, can help.’
‘No, I’m not. Sis is.’
‘Who? 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.
‘All right,’ said Miles, ‘one of you is in real trouble. The other, being the twin, is covering and suffering for her. Are they aware there are two Jennys?’
‘Not everyone was, strange but there it was. I’d say Joseph wasn’t – sometimes it’s simply that it never comes up. You’re suspicious because I’m close to you and you’ve heard by phone how sis acts. No damaged arm too I suppose.’
‘Of course. Now look, no need for our patrons to know yet, they might wake up themselves, they might not. We have to get out of here ourselves, get back home, and we have to get her out of there, you’ll just do a disappearing act from here by yourself. She get’s dropped onto one of my boats, you wait at the dock, concealed and when we come in, you come out and join us. You know her triggers?’
‘Some, always by phone and I don’t hear everything. One thing I did hear once was ‘work of ages’.’
‘Right, let’s get off that. How did you manage to swap? You went from us and were heading for the redoubt with Jan, then came your call. When did the swap take place?’
‘There never was a swap. You remember how we went outside, we took it in turns to go through and get in the van, it was that simple – who was last? That’s right. I never went through, sis did, I’d let her in the front door. The drivers didn’t know about the arm, that’s the sort of detail we discuss.’
‘Because I never told my patron,’ rued Miles. ‘But what a risk for you, what if I’d told my patron and the men in the car had seen the wrong one coming?’
‘I’d play it by ear but if it was clear they’d tumbled, I’d have shot them.’
‘Oh great, knowing what would happen? And did you give it any thought at all that Jan was walking into a trap with her, that you allowed him to go into that?’
‘I did, I do care but … well, you know.’
‘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. She’s the one who was with Haas, went to Glendinning’s office, she’s the one who stood and shot Amelie.’
‘Why did she not put the gun down immediately and put her hands on her head?’
‘She did. She told me. That test was poor, Miles.’
‘Are you straight’ asked Laura, ‘AC/DC or some other way?’
‘Let’s say I could share a bed with you, sis is straight. She genuinely wants it from this Jan.’
‘And your name is?’
‘Ah, I was waiting for that. All right … it’s Sarah. But call me Jenny B, I quite like that.
‘Glad we could finally meet,’ said DI Young in the living room of their current 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.’
‘If anything, it affords us some safety – they can see all our dealings.’
‘Records not in the house? What does that prove? You have a fleet – more than one department is interested in that.’
‘And they’ve been through them, many times. Who were these people and what were they hoping for?’
‘Off the record? Dirt of course, same old. Did you find anything planted? Anything online perhaps?’
‘Not as far as we can tell.’
‘What did Jenny and my brother have,’ asked Young, ‘which could interest our betters?’
‘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. ‘Not this one? Nor this?’ He pointed, 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. ‘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 this department, that’s off the record for now. 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. This is how it’s 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 as are also in this organization.’ He showed the Inspector the 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 in any library. It’s there. That is what we’re up against.’
‘Who are they exactly?’