It was a quite pointed question – did they want Jodie and Julie to go?
‘No,’ said Jenny, that’s just it, we don’t want that, either of us, nor do you want. My job is to train up girls for the Patron. So they should be like a revolving door and no, Miles will not be bedding them, I would not have agreed to the request otherwise. I get female companionship, he has female beauty around, but it’s more than that … it’s domestic softness onboard after the rough life we lead, it’s a haven. Miles has other income but the boats are big money. That’s why they want him pushed out. The missions are nice money for us, less so for you. We must discuss it all.’
Said Julie: ‘Do you like singing songs?’
‘Great idea,’ said Jenny, relaxing. Let’s.’
Morning was for cleaning and getting the ship … er … shipshape … for about two hours, then cooking.
‘Actually,’ continued the Patron post-dessert, ‘lovely port by the way, Miles,’ Miles got up and refilled, ‘what I was going to talk to you about today …’
‘Was a mission.’
‘It’s like this. We each have our priorities, our aims, and while I’m always happy to support good causes like rescuing girls … and boys if necessary … it’s good for the reputation too … it’s more to keep our helpers happy, while my focus is on refilling the coffers. Just so we understand each other. Now, there’s a person getting a bit too uppity across the ditch and Jenny knows her. Just stands to reason Jenny would like to give her her comeuppance … Mara Hanssen.’
Jenny bristled, quietly, which was her at her most dangerous and the Patron knew that. ‘Thought so,’ he said. ‘We tapped in, last time, to the promissories, that paid the way for sometime, but now there’s a big one going down. Young smartarse has been promoted above his station on his big talk. We want a slice of that but it’s going to take quite some organisation, and it needs the assessment of certain people by Miles and Jenny, possibly a role for the two girls here.
We have to cover all details, such as the security of the harbour while we’re away, MIles has his fleet to think about … and so it goes. It all goes on the big board and we factor things in. These girls’ parents and families are another factor. Look, we have something going which can fall apart just like that because our projects are multitargetted as you know. They have to guess what we’re aiming to hit. We keep the heat off us by a number of methods.
One is to run very few projects in our own land, our special services aren’t all that interested in the Continental stuff, plus we do their job for them where they can’t at times, win-win. Over there, money talks too. I’d like all of us to have wins out of it … maybe Miles doesn’t directly this time but he gets a happy Jenny … that’s worth it, isn’t it Miles?’
‘Worth its weight in gold.’
‘As Miles could tell you, we need to work the girls into the mix and watch them operating. Ideally, I’d like to see Julie taking care of the home base here – communications, coordinating – protected of course. But I’ve been hearing rumblings and I don’t think it’s safe for her to be here during this. I’m thinking our heavy mob are required in thiis harbour. Julie would come with us.
Luke’s wife is about to join us from the sea – yes girls, wife, sorry to disappoint – plus another very special person from a different direction, a very wanted person on the Continent and we’re about to be told about a third heavy hitter noone’s heard about either but she’s in there hitting all right.
I get to pour continued funds into the coffers, Luke gets Mara off his wife’s back, permanently, the girls get their run and we get to see their value, Jenny gets her closure, we further tighten the security of this harbour and our special services are grateful for that,just quietly.
I’m going to disappear soon, best I’m not in the same place as these disreputable ladies, Luke will explain all. Thanks once again, crew of the Sarah Daniels.’
With that, he was up and off. Jenny replenished the coffee.
First boat to tie up alongside them, having come around the heads and stuck to the harbour rules, had the now emerging Gabby. Up the ladder and into the salon, her pre-prepared pizza was put under to do the last minutes, liquid was provided, she got straight down to it:
‘It’s disintegrating over where we are, from Latvia to Germany and Italy – the cabal has seized control, going cashless quickly, restrictions on travel, good thing we have our own methods. Enemy all over the place – could be your local shopkeeper.’
‘Similar here,’ said Miles. At this point, the second boat arrived and out stepped a stunning lady they were sure they knew … up the ladder, straight into Luke’s arms. ‘Well well well,’ said Miles, echoing their thoughts. And then, for good measure: ‘Well well well.’
She sat, got the treatment, grinning from ear to ear, then turned to Jenny. ‘Seems we have something in common after all, Jenny. That bitch Mara. I want her. You do too. She’s muscled in on the waterfront, over my dead body, backed by globo-system, globo-money. We do have a way to deal with her but I can’t be seen on the shore at that time. I’ll be close by though.’
Her glass was now refilled, she relaxed, looked about and liked. She liked all of it, from the harbour to the present company.
‘Jenny, the really spectacular part will be Livvi, she’s a good little actress, you’ve not met her yet. American, from the South, quite a character, it needs that, plus the ability to look non-dangerous, to look vulnerable, to conceal herself, shadowy, can face back into the shadows while you’re not watching. The intimidating part is when it comes to taking Mara – she first has to be enticed by Livvy blundering, she sees the chance, too good to miss.’
Jenny had just been gazing at her the while. ‘What Jenny, what?’
‘You are so beautiful. So is Gabby. So … beautiful.’
Romy almost choked, maybe for the first time in her life, Gabby looked away, blushing. Bereft of speech, the pair. Romy then smiled, ‘Same to you, and the girls, and the boys are pretty good too.’
Gabby took it up. ‘Thank you, Jenny, you never fail to surprise. Mara’s of no actual interest to the people she does these things for. The principals are protected you see, high castles and all that, pointless even trying. But she knows too much, way too much now, does Mara, and the ether will note much traffic that night after she’s taken – from, to, all the sudden traffic will be noted. That’s my job.
Our way, and the Patron’s, is to give them one chance, for example set them at sea in a dinghy, it’s up to them after that. Jenny and Livvi have to do the lift of Mara … it’s a soft lift shall we say. Also, the kids – they’re ours, we know them, we planted them and Mara will be too tempted. They’ll be on a boat seemingly ready to come over here. Mara will keep her distance, watching, noting, but when she knows something is happening at the boat and that one of the people is Jenny, she’ll be too sorely tempted to stay in hiding.
Your stunners, the guns I mean, can stun or kill, depending how you set them. So you need to get your consciences sorted now. Those we stun, those we dispatch.’
Mara Hanssen, in her upstairs apartment on the waterfront, had heard a funded group were moving in and this group had conned some kids into going, she knew the boat, she’d bribed the skipper to keep her in the loop. There were the other two scenarios though that same night, a chance for Mara to take out the special squad head, also a stitch up worth a fair amount of direct cash to her personally – trouble was, she’d need to be in three places at once and could only realistically be in two within minutes.
She’d heard on the grapevine that Jenny Daniels had crossed over and was in the area. She might be watching as well just now.
From her window, Mara could just take in the Haringbuis bobbing away there, even with the lamps it wasn’t easy, the skipper had given the wave, Ruud and crew were positioned 12 km out, and here now were the kids, en masse, heading for the ramp to the salon, she’d watch with great interest, the curtains were being drawn now by a couple of them, someone was in charge in there.
‘Fok,’ she cried out, five dark clad people, looked like guys, they’d swarmed onto the boat, now a shot inside the salon. ‘Wat?’ she shouted to Edda, her significant other, eyes straining, a girl, no, a small woman, now staggered out, blood pouring from her side, ‘Fok, she’s just gone over the side, here, Edda,’ she handed her the glasses, strode over and said to the two playing cards, ‘Komen!’ She checked her inside pocket for the knife, they ran for the door. ‘Keep an eye on them, Edda, call me!’ Piet first, then her, then Thijs followed her through.
Her own boys at the wharf made that gesture of WTF about the five who’d just stormed aboard, she watched. Carefully.
Some of the girls now came out and wandered about on the side deck, just chatting. ‘Bizar!’ muttered Mara, ‘bi-zar!’
She gave it another minute, some of the girls though were contemplating leaving, they were looking for ways off the boat which did not involve them dirtying their outfits, Mara smiled, she had to get onboard now and salvage this, she’d be right to get past the Hook, her guy was on duty, usual expenses. She could call the others off along the way.
The gangplank had been retracted but it wasn’t too hard jumping onto the SV Prins and across, usual look around. Piet through, then her, then Thijs, she suddenly switched to welcome smile and greetings.
‘Sorry, sorry,’ she smiled at the girls, ‘we’re late. We’re here now. We saw a terrible thing you know, do you know where that woman went, if she was hit badly?’ A couple of the girls pointed over the stern and Mara was instantly suspicious, how would they know, they weren’t on deck, she rushed to the wheelhouse and there was the skipper bound and gagged, she rushed back and both her boys were slumped on the floor, the girls had shrunk back along the wall, very frightened, WTF?
Now through the salon entrance came the bedraggled, ‘shot’ woman herself, maximum pathos, showing no signs of being shot except for the blood, she aimed at Mara, Mara felt a sharp needle or something else, she made moves for her knife and then collapsed.
Mara awoke and knew she was gone in a microsecond. In her mouth was the muzzle of a pistol and she knew that pistol, she also knew the unsmiling face a metre away from it. She slumped, completely lost it, shaking uncontrollably, aware that the boat was not at the wharf, in fact it was past the Hook, also aware she was securely tied.
Jenny took the muzzle out of Mara’s mouth and snarled, ‘Look at me, bitch.’
There were no words, none, which Mara could say, the girls were all seated around the sides, waiting for something. Now they got up and two by two, they walked up to her on the floor, one put her heel on Maras’s neck, the other slapped her face hard. then the next two, then the next two. What stunned them was there was no emotion from Mara, no crying, no foetal ball, all emotion had been drained long ago.
Now Jenny came up and knelt on the floor by Mara’s head. ‘Do it,’ begged Mara, ‘make it quick. Please?’
‘Quick, as with my sister, yes?’
Mara groaned. Jenny spoke. ‘I forgive you.’
This did not compute in Ms Hanssen’s brain. ‘Wat?’
‘I forgive you, I’m not going to kill you, nope, there’s something far worse for you.’
‘Please, at least tell me.’
‘But of course. Every girl in this room now has seen this compilation we made, they saw it at college, Gabby showed it to them.’
‘Gabby.’ She now just gave up. Could this get any worse? ‘You will sit up and watch this, Mara, every minute of the ten minutes, it’s not long, far shorter than what you did to such girls.’
Four girls came over and picked her up, threw her into a chair and held her there. It was one of those DVD players, Jenny placed it on a chair now put in front of Mara, and she had to watch it – lowlights of her career, including Sarah, including the snuff movie at the end. ‘Every major vlogger and blogger gets a copy, they can post it as they wish, the caption says you authorised this to save your own skin.’
Mara was now deep in shock, she looked left and right and two girls shot new darts into the thugs on the floor.
‘Now listen carefully, Mara, in your last minutes. You are going to be winched up into a helicopter in a few minutes, so are those two. The moment they wake up, hanging over the edge tied to one cable, you on the other, you can either fight and scream and we cut the cables from 500 metres … or else you’ll be good little people and do cling on tightly. There is one pack of juice to each of you, that’s all. When you are lowered to the water, you’ll untie each other and drop yourselves off the cable, you understand? Again, if you try anything at all, we just cut the cable, you got that?
Straight after you three drop into the water, we throw down an inflatable, it works fine, it inflates, no leaks, it gives you a sporting chance if you three can work together. You do really have a chance on this night, the sea’s not too bad. That bit’s ok, yes?’
Mara nodded, in shock. ‘Yes,’ continued Jenny, ‘the problem is not that part, as you know, the problem is that you talked, you spilled the beans on …’ and she read out eight names, Mara groaned. ‘Yes, not good for your health across Europe now, is it? Where will you three go? You have no food, no water. But at least you’re alive.’
‘Please, no. End it now.’
‘No. We don’t snuff victims, that’s your game, otherwise we’d just leave you in these girls’ hands, each as strong as you are. Do you know what these girls would do to you if I did not save you from them now?’
‘You’re a killer, do they know that?’ she nodded towards the girls.
‘Yes, they know, they were told.’
Wavelets were lapping against the Sarah Marie Daniels in the second harbour over from theirs.
‘The good part,’ said Gabby, ‘was that Romy stayed out of it altogether, she still has to work those wharfs, it was entirely us three. The naughty people know that the dirt on them goes viral the instant anything happens to you two, I’m still a shadow, we have a haven now in Czechia, not Brno, the fight goes on.’
Jenny got up, went around to Gabby and embraced her.
‘The overall targets, the aims of the project – did you achieve all?’ Miles asked.
‘Hell no, not a chance, we achieved maybe 60%, a good result.’
A helicopter approached, Miles got up and went out on deck, still in the protected area, down the cable came the Patron, landing not completely as in a movie.
‘Miles, I’ll save you the time, no lunch required, I’ve eaten but I know it must be near dessert time,’ he smiled.
They went in and Jenny had known exactly what he liked best, the Patron. Now he sat, large cloth serviette on knee, big smile, two girls fawning over him. Slight smile at the edges of Miles’ lips. He went and took care of other business.
Miles came back through, the Patron bade him sit down. ‘Another job in three weeks, still dangerous but different, your reputations go before you, Gabby and Jenny here … the other lads asked if I can hire you out. Luke can explain all when he gets here in a few hours, really have to go,’ they could hear the helicopter approaching.
Gabby was going with them this time, thanks and all the rest of it, Ciao.
‘You want to know about Livvi?’ Jenny brought up once they’d jumped into bed, just for the sake of it, to have a breather. The other two had gone to play cards in the guest cabin.
‘She can get very bloody and very wet very quickly.’
‘All right, I concede defeat.’
‘She has a good heart, is not all that athletic, has a cheeky smile and scary frown, she could be a true friend if we were in the same place working together. Good sense of humour … and you’re mine, don’t forget that.’
He grinned. ‘Right.’
‘There’s more. You do realise my shelf life’s not all that long? No blandishments between us … I heard you use that word once … no telling me rubbish, that I’ll live for years, that I might surprise people.’
‘I wasn’t going to.’
‘Good. My mother?’
‘I’d look after her.’
‘Huge ask. I’m not going to ask for her to be here, in my front cabin, this boat is about as secure as I am. I’m going to ask you to leave her in her secure place, she’s happy there, but keep an eye from a distance, the number’s in a file you’ll find.’
‘Provided I’m still alive myself.’
‘We’re both on borrowed time, Gabby too, so is Romy and now I fear … Livvi. Maybe the Patron and Luke not so much.’
‘Yep. Obviously your mother is to be looked after. If we leave the boat, we lose all livelihood from here, my other ventures are ok but not as secure. Things are changing, globally, they’re trying to kill off people’s independence. There’s the matter of fuel – that’s going to die with this green thing. So is currency. We’re not badly placed unless someone high really is gunning for us.’
Half an hour later, they came up for air, cleaned up and went to the salon. The girls came out.
‘Miles, Jenny, may we speak with you?’
‘So formal in the salon?’ said Jenny.
‘We want a more active role in the projects,’ said Julie.
‘Just as Jenny did … and Laura,’ said Jodi. ‘Please don’t misunderstand us, we’re not complaining, we’re both so very grateful for everything but please … not just as girls pampering the Patron.’
‘We’ll do that too though,’ quickly added Julie, ‘but really, we’re not Felice.’
‘Point taken,’ said Miles. ‘Problem is – Jodi’s trained, she’s been on one mission. And I agree she has to be brought into mission readiness again, right now, as of today, even with Gabby and Livvi about. I’m going to put that point firmly to Luke, that Jodi needs battle hardening and to compensate for Jenny’s … er … [cough] … maturity. Julie, I never said you’d be left behind here in the harbour, no one will be except the patroni circling the harbour in the skiffs, you’ll go with us, Julie, but into a more Gabby role this time. Next project you’ll take on more. I’m assuming you want to stay alive, yes?
‘Thank you. I hear you and that’s fine.’
Said Jenny: ‘We need you in the office of the target, just one of the other girls, projecting ‘good girl, industrious, dedicated’. a sweet girl, you’ll be approached, almost guaranteed by that type. If we put Jodi in there, she couldn’t do it, too powerful looking, too obviously a plant. We need you in there, wits about you, eyes noting, ears too, your risk is contacting us out of hours. And it is a risk too.’
She was happier. Which made Jodi happier. which made everyone happier. She noted the effect she had and that made her even happier. ‘Wanted and needed’.