Miles turned to the older man but he knew no English. The young man now took Miles aside and quietly hinted about the custom around these parts for this sort of … service.
Miles peeled some off the roll until the young man smiled, curt bow, the youth asked about the boat after that.
‘Would you like to use her for the remainder of the season? No fee.’
The young man spoke to the older, both were much obliged, Miles warned again about the bombs, the younger repeated what he’d said, leave taken.
They both sat on the bed, Laura spoke.
‘Miles, I don’t like it. I think they’re in danger.’
‘Yes, I agree. I think if they say the older one is an expert, what can we say? And what of the police?’
‘This is upping the ante, Miles, to see what level we can play at. I want out.’
He held her close, she then relented. ‘What am I saying? Of course I’m not out – you’d get yourself killed.’
About 7 p.m., the night sky in Bergen lit up and the most enormous boom filled the air, it seemed to have come from around the dock area. The obvious thought went through both their minds and it was time to vacate this B&B, leaving sufficient, plus a misleading note, they took their bags and waited until they saw the lady go out to the nearby shop, they skipped downstairs, left their keys on the hall table and closed the door behind them, feeling sorry for her.
The woods had two extra night creatures this night, huddled together in a hollow, the subject of some interest to animal eyes but no humans. The text was sent – eight hours to wait.
‘Penny Dalshiel? Right. Send her through – go for a walk, Jenny.’
When Gerald Haas suggested a walk, his PA always thought it a good idea to go immediately. She gathered her papers, put them in the drawer, went over to the cupboard, took her bag, checked her keys and hurried out.
She even forgot to ask Ms Dalshiel to go through, much to the latter’s amusement. Never mind, Ms Dalshiel went through anyway and didn’t wait to ask to be seated on the other side of the monstrously dark desk with the turned legs.
‘What do you have, Ms Dalshiel?’
Silently, she handed the file across. Haas turned side on to catch the light better, skimmed through, then went back again, reading this page and that.
It took some eight minutes but eventually he was done. He turned to Ms Dalshiel. ‘And the bottom line, Ms Dalshiel?’
‘I should have thought that was obvious. My firm mines it, for a minute consideration.’
‘MoD has it.’
‘Oh , Sir Gerald.’
He looked through the file again, noting certain points, nodded and turned back to her. ‘I can’t see there’ll be any issue with this, I’ll see what I can do by tomorrow, close of play.’
‘I thought you might be kind enough to oblige me now … I’ve prepared these.’ She handed two sheets across. ‘I’ve marked the spot with a cross in each case.’
‘Most thorough.’ Taking up his pen, he signed where indicated, took the two sheets, tapped them into order on the desk, then handed them across. ‘Don’t come back to this office, Ms Dalshiel.’
‘I’d say the likelihood of that is rather remote.’
‘Yes. I’d agree.’
They both got up, she departed, he went round the back of Jenny’s desk and watched Dalshiel walk out to the flagstoned footpath, went into the kitchenette to make a coffee, then sat in his chair, thinking.
About seven minutes later, Jenny returned and the two of them went through the disc they’d recorded. ‘Is it enough?’ she asked.
‘Oh it’s more than enough but it still doesn’t stop her doing her worst first.’
‘Not everyone out there loves our Ms Dalshiel, I wonder how much older she’ll get.’
‘Jenny, promise me you won’t do anything.’
‘Me? It won’t be me, I can assure you. I just have acute hearing and heard some little birds talking.’
That night in the woods had not been a whole lot of fun but they were now back in home waters, on their own boat. Her phone went, it was Amelie’s text. Miles went to prepare the breakfast.
She came out to the galley. ‘Miles, brace yourself, it’s Penny – fished out the same way. Not the Shad Thames this time, closer to her home – no rape, no violence other than having lost her balance, fallen and cracked her head on a concrete block, then rolled into the canal.’
The silence was deafening.
Eventually she said, ‘Amelie’s too close to all this now, these people are no respecters of anyone, look at your boat in Bergen, they’ll hardly stop at Sis. I texted her, a text came back but it was noncommittal in a way she’s not been with me before.’
‘What’s your chief fear for her?’
‘That she’s being used, that she’s in too deep, that she’s loving the cloak and dagger. She sees herself as the femme-fatale spy, she’s right into it, she’s loved every bit of what we’ve done and I know her – she can say yes to things and then finds herself up to her neck in it.’
‘And you’ve always bailed her out?’
‘Sometimes the other way. I’ve slipped up too and she’s been in the shadows. Giving all my secrets away now but I never operated alone. If I was in some village, she was always close by. She was in the Travellers too, by the way, easy enough to keep out of sight, went for a wander, had a coffee. You never asked where I went after reaching the lower fence. Actually, you never asked how I reached the lower fence. She’d hired a car.’
‘You crossed the roof. Can you actually operate without her?’
‘I could at first with just you – but you can’t take her place in the shadows the way she did, you don’t have her instinct, also when I need a double, which used to be often … well …’
‘If I disappeared from the scene now, could you get back into that again?’
‘I doubt it. This thing with you now has driven in a wedge and she’s essentially adrift and at a loss. I was able to keep her focussed but I’m not there now, she’s susceptible to those elements who see this. Don’t think I’m blaming you, our partnership had to be.’
‘No buts. The work I used to do always had an end date – I knew it but Amelie lives in a world where the good things keep on going. I’d like to get her in, get her to me and talk but I do fear she may be in their camp by now. I’ve another question out of the blue, Miles.’ He nodded. ‘If someone were to sink all your boats, could you replace them?’
‘I could replace those which were mine but there’d not be much cash left over. As for the entire fleet, well most of those belong to those skippers, so though I’d be angry and would lose those 5%s, that wouldn’t cripple me in itself. The one in Bergen was my own boat, as is this one we’re on now.’
‘Don’t frighten me. Should we get off the boat now?’
‘Unlike the one in Bergen, this is my own crew and they know to have at least one on board at all times. Every day starts with the same checks and they are thorough, knowing this is exactly what we’re looking for. Two hours a day are spent just on checks. That wasn’t the case in Bergen – the boat was just docked, we did the checks ourselves.’
‘But we could be shot at, blasted out of the water.’
‘True and it’s getting to be more than a worry. But it could also happen at any street address we were at, anywhere we went. There are ways – how we anchor, who’s around, that sort of thing, have people looking out at a distance, patrolling. Depends how much we spend. You slowly starting to think of moving on from me to someone who can afford it?’
‘That’s a fair question and the fact that I think that means I’ve thought about it. Answer is no, I like your model best – small incremental amounts from many sources, staying our own bosses, replacing what we need to, when we need to. Speaking totally self-centredly, this seems the best compromise position with the best chance of a good life. Speaking less self-centredly, I love you, Miles and couldn’t leave you.’
‘Goes without saying that I do too … er … love you I mean.’
‘Miles?!’ He almost jumped out of his skin. ‘I’ve suddenly had a thought, nothing to do with this matter. We’ve had so much on the mind, I never thought to ask you about the sheep. I mean, I know they just munch on grass and have the wool cover them in winter and all that and they roam freely but did you – um, did you make any long term provision?’
‘That ship which was approaching the island was an old troop vessel, there were a dozen men with shotguns, farmers. You know the gite walkway down to the shore …’
‘That’s no walkway, it’s just rubble.’
‘Yes but sheep can get down there, the 93 we had left went down and were sold.’
‘Who tried to kill us? I have my ideas, I want to hear yours.’
‘You won’t like them.’
‘You’re going to suggest Amelie, aren’t you?’ There was no reply. ‘You’re observing from a distance, that’s a fair conclusion. I can’t see it, I can see her succumbing to them but to deliberately blow us up?’
‘We don’t know what hold they really have, Laura, I’m not pushing the idea, you asked me what I thought. It could easily be Jan de Vries, it could be any of that lot in London, it could be this Jenny.’
‘I fear it might be. That’s difficult to get the head around.’
‘I know,’ he sympathised.
Paul Glendinning had left for home. Amelie watched him down below, heading his usual route home, she went to the phone, then hesitated.
She was starting to become uneasy with Haas, with his little references. She’d need to disappear but not the way others may have in mind. Even now it would be nice to get back with Laura but she knew Sis and her suspicious nature. She could really have done with Laura now.
First, the filing cabinets. She unlocked the one which looked the most nondescript, the one which would least house any key information.
Nothing. All right, the computer. She knew yesterday’s word and hoped it hadn’t changed. She typed in the word, looked at the screen and clicked.
Ah, second word needed. Enormous chance – what about Laura or Emma? She typed in Emma.
Nothing. She typed in Laura.
She was in.
File on desktop with Janine’s name on it. Letter to her. If she was reading this, so was Haas’s office, delete everything now, shut down, get out of the office, make yourself scarce.
She shut down and got out of the office.
Jenny Daniels, twelve minutes after she saw Glendinning leave and not return, ditto Amelie Janine, walked up the stairs, let herself into his office and started methodically going through the filing cabinets.
She found what she needed on Glendinning, also on Janine, the one on Haas was what she’d expected. None of them needed copying.
On the train, she removed her gloves and put them in her bag.
There were two messages on Laura’s phone. Sis, with news of Haas – he’d almost made it home to his wife – knifed on the gravel path just outside the small gate. A second, from Paul Glendinning, asked to meet both, urgently.
She thought it through, then ran it past Miles.
‘We’re running out of miscreants, love. My money is on Jenny for now, but Dave doesn’t read her that way and I respect his opinion. There’s always Paul Glendinning of course. And then … well …’
‘Yes I know, it could be any of them. You know what it looks like to me, Miles – everyone has done something naughty, therefore blackmail is always on … but this is cross-blackmail. And so the process continues without end. Someone gets the top job, the 2IC has the dirt … what a life.’
‘I’m sure that’s how it is.’
‘Let’s set up a meeting with Paul, as he wants, but on a boat of ours, we put into shore somewhere and I’ll have arranged for Amelie to be there. I’d lay odds this Jenny will also be there.’
‘Too dangerous,’ said he. ‘That’s how you used to do it when you had backup, this time there’s no one with weapons covering us.’
‘We have friends, we have just enough to take care of all our main players, one or two with a van.’
‘I like the idea of forcing things but I’m also getting protective of you.’
‘So am I of you. We have to forget that for now and do what’s kept us alive so far. We have to trust the other, we have to remember there are two of us now, double-trouble. We have to be bold but careful, Miles – that’s what will win the day and if it doesn’t, then I’d rather go out that way. This business of boarding boats where there are bombs waiting for us – that would follow us the rest of our lives – we have to be proactive on this.’
‘What can I say?’
The morning silence, broken by the gulls, was now further broken by a phone call. Paul Glendinning was on his way, he gave his ETA, he’d have eaten.
Spring had sprung all right and it was that time of budding flowers, leaves on trees, sunshine in bursts, followed by heavy downpours.
Glendinning arrived, two of the crew did the security, he had no weapon, bar his mobile. Yes, he’d love a drink. The boat pulled out and quickly reached the choppy part of the river.
‘Saw your unobtrusive people, Emma. You need to come in you know, you can’t keep running.’
‘How are you situated with Mrs. Glendinning? Is she expecting you back today?’
‘I’ll need to call.’
‘Fine but as we explained,’ said Laura, ‘we’re coming into a secure zone now – so you’d need to phone your wife now. Not your people, only someone close, to say you got here and we’ve left the dock, same applies to us.’
‘I do … er … have to make some calls along the way to ensure my safety – it’s on a no-call, come in and rescue me basis.’
‘I’m sorry,’ smiled Glendinning, looking from one to the other, ‘I’m not kidding about the support. I need to check in.’
‘No, we’re sorry, Paul. You can call now and then again at the other end. You knew what the terms were.’
He was in a pickle. To be fair, with all the deaths, he might well have thought he was next, they could see the cogs turning, his hands clasped and unclasped. ‘One call you say?’
They smiled. ‘To your wife,’ said Miles.
The man was cornered.
Glendinning stared and realised there was no choice. Well – he did still have one way.
He brought out his mobile, there was a good signal in these parts, he made the call, there was a lot of no can do, no, don’t do that and there were no terms of endearment at the end.
The instant he was about to shut it off, Laura sprang, snatched the phone from his hands and threw it to Miles, Glendinning leapt at him, he threw it back to Laura who disappeared below, locking the door behind her.
Glendinning was furious but Miles said, ‘You can stop that now, she needs to know. You know the way it goes, Paul … you knew this whole trip was about people being killed and we have to eliminate the suspects one by one. In fact, we’re doing your job for you.’
Glendinning sat down, scowling. The skipper was oblivious at the wheel.
They heard the door unlocked, up came Laura, she now dialled a number and gave the person two phone numbers which Glendinning knew implicitly, he went white.
They all waited and then came the return call, not a text. ‘Uh-huh, uh-huh, cheers.’ They were all seated. ‘Well, isn’t this jolly,’ tried Miles, Glendinning scowled.
‘Paul,’ soothed Laura, ‘please see the situation we’re in. Someone tried to blow us up in Bergen. Do you think we did that to ourselves? Then they actually did blow up the boat and both boys were killed, so we’re told. Cornell, Penny, Haas – all of them are killed, Amelie goes strange on me, goes AWOL. Would you not accept that there’s something rotten in the State of Denmark? That there’s a killer on the loose?’
Miles took it up. ‘Late afternoon, where we’re going now, we have to judge the tide exactly, and it’s a long journey. Only the skipper can access the radio, it’s on lock.’
‘You’re truly maniacs,’ said Glendinning. Don’t you understand that by bringing all these parties together – and yes, when you named them, of course I’d have to be there – bringing them together is going to have someone killed? I’m sorry about what happened in Bergen but that was a rogue element …’
‘And we’re bringing all the rogue elements together to bring this thing to its conclusion, that’s all.’
‘You’re maniacs, both of you.’
‘And loving it!’ retorted Miles, though the reference to that 60s US spy sitcom would probably not have registered with anyone else on the boat.
Correction, the skipper now turned and smiled, ‘The old ‘bring the maniacs together ploy’ eh, ninety-nine? Better check him for his shoephone.’
‘I’ll explain later,’ Miles said aside to her. ‘although we really should have checked for shoephones.’ She just stared at him, wondering if Glendinning might have had a point.
Paul had behaved, they’d eaten, no one was seasick, they’d each caught some kip. The lights were approaching in the late afternoon gloom, the water was still reasonable, a fishing boat came alongside, his gunwhale above theirs, Miles went outside, there was a thud, another, and another.
‘Evenin’,’ acknowledged the rough customer who came through with his pack as the skipper departed with his pack. The two nodded to each other.
‘Paul, meet Calum.’ Calum nodded and grunted. He went to the wheel, opened the throttle just a little and the boat began to chug slowly ahead.
Miles explained. ‘He can’t go any faster, meaning he must not – river regs – it will take us a couple of hours, he has to watch even today’s news on the state of the river, it’s always tricky, this bit. Best we can do is relax and have a drink.’
Laura sprang into action and asked what Paul would like. Whisky. She knew what Calum would have – tea.
The instant Paul took his whisky, he threw it in Laura’s face, ran for the door, lifted his leg and extracted a stiletto from his shoe, Calum took two strides and a massive blow came down on Glendinning’s hand, Calum now lifted the man on his shoulders, went outside and threw Glendinning over the side, Miles leapt through the door after him, lifted the life ring and flung it upstream of Glendinning who was last seen by them floating on his back, the ring not having made its way to him yet. There was the start of a fair old tide.
Calum returned to the wheel as if nothing had happened, Miles patted him appreciatively on the shoulder, Laura was in shock, not a common occurrence for her. ‘You’ve killed him.’
‘Three hundred yards from shore? Nah, he’s a better than even chance, love, especially if he grabs that ring. True, the tide will carry him for now but it does eventually return him to shore. We might have to deal with Paul further down the track.’