Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Journeyman - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

 The troubles hadn’t reached Pat or Brian, yet. They were only too pleased to see Joanna and get her cryptic message explained.

We’d given ourselves the day off, having decided we were getting practice rusty in all but the areas we couldn’t practice in, namely the treatment works. For those we’d checked each works from every approach at two hourly intervals and paid an Edinburgh cartographers’ exorbitant price for aerial photographs that included the treatment plants. The GPS systems had been tested and proved as accurate as the makers claimed. Electric outboards gave us four hours running time at four knots from the one battery and each inflatable was fitted with three. Using two for the outboard the other for the GPS had given us six hours running against a choppy tide and race round the headland of the Helford River. Reservoirs would be still water in comparison allowing the working time to be extended.

Routes and emergency escapes had been selected, rehearsed and timed before being entered into the master plan. We eliminated twelve reservoirs when checks revealed they were feeders into main reservoirs. Our one imponderable, other than chance, were the stacks of crates containing two hundred and forty six cans.

‘Run that by me again Joanna.’ My reaction was one of incredulity. During our American trip, when the scheme was no more than embryonic, always the question of what we would use and how we’d manage to handle it was the niggling doubt- the querulous question- the unknown hic-cup that burps everything flat. I’d taken on board all Joanna’s concerns on the protective gear and the handling risks but needed the chemicals potential confirmed.
‘You really mean this boffin reckons one can is enough to not only make the water toxic but it’ll write off the reservoir as well.’
‘He’s absolutely certain Brian. Drains, pipes, sewers any part of the system it touches would be polluted, including the Thames or wherever the waste runs into would be hazardous for more years than I care to think about. In short, they’d probably have to build a completely new system. He’s worried about getting rid of the cans he’s got.’
‘What do you think Pat? If you can get them back here Joanna, we could make them Thames problem. Least we can do.’
Pat didn’t look so elated, something that Joanna was pleased to notice. ‘We could have metrocide, or whatever it’s called on our hands.’
‘C’mon Pat. How many times have we been down to the unit since they arrived? We’ve to be careful and we’ll have to make doubly sure there won’t be any accidents once they’re in place. At least, not until they’re the responsibility of the authorities. Look at it this way, simpler handling means safer handling and the amount we have allows for six in each reservoir with more than enough left over to do the treatment works. I reckon we’ll manage to do four reservoirs a night.’
‘You’ll have to go some to convince me their safe.’
‘Pat, we’re on a role with this stuff we can’t blow it.’
‘For now I’m thinking it’s more likely to blow us.’
‘All right, let’s get Mike across and lay it on him. And if we come up with nothing to make handling it safer we pack it in.’
Joanna asked, ‘Who’s Mike?’
When things are happening fast, you have to think even quicker. We had calculated on not having to inform John or Joanna of Mike’s involvement, though Joanna’s continuing role as intermediary should have warned us that that position was untenable. I gave Pat a look to say it was his job to de-bag that cat.
‘He was our instructor in the States. We decided we didn’t know enough about explosives so we invited him in.’ Catching the look in Joanna’s eyes Pat quickly added, ‘He knows nothing or nobody other than the two of us are involved. And with his knowledge and expertise we considered the handling and removal would be safer.’
I nodded, ‘Provided they’ve paid for the master plan.’
‘You should, on the bases of trust, have cleared it with John but it probably makes sense. And while we’re at it there are some details John thinks you should know and something he wants you to do for him.’

I wasn’t too happy about involving Huntington’s daughter just to return the report. Though learning of Hopkins position with ICP, its ownership of the chemical and his connection with Huntington did raise possibilities. My concern was pragmatic. Should we inform her of the chemicals potency for her to try and get Hopkins to confirm it? Had she the contacts. And if she had and the potency was confirmed, did ICP already have an antidote that would render it harmless? Anything else was too far off our stage for us to control. And, for there to be an “us” I’d to get Pat believing we could handle the bloody cans, I’d need time and inspiration to achieve that. ‘Right Joanna we’ll try for some idea’s on the Jane Huntington front, though my feeling is John’s and our priorities have a different set to them now. Will you leave Pat and me to discuss this and give you our answer in the morning?’

Joanna felt the tinge of fear returning. Nothing tangible, just the knowing that two ordinary blokes had grown cold blooded about the risks and single minded on their objectives. ‘All right but remember this, John isn’t playing politics. He might have two issues to contend with and asking you to help with the one is no more than he’s due. We simply want to get the most out of an opportunity that you Brian, by pure chance, have given us. Other than that I’ve to tell you the boxes are on the way to the three houses and there are four of them so one house will have two. You can tell me in the morning if you want the two in any particular address.’

When Joanna made her way upstairs Pat got up and poured us both a drink. ‘You're being hard on her. Nobody could have been more helpful than they have been and by my reckoning they’re taking more chances with us than they normally do.’
‘I know that Pat, but you can’t deny things have changed a lot since Friday. We need to be careful how we handle, or at least appear to be handling, them.’
‘Brian that’s nothing but air. They have the bloody report and we’re not in a position to do anything with it or about it. All they’re asking is for us to find a way to replace the thing from wherever the Huntington dame got it. What can it mean more than delivering it to her?’

‘I agree, but she knows Troward, who knows Joanna and has met me or at least Bill. Do I need to go on it’s all linked and we’re not in control without bringing in the elimination factor.’
‘There you go again - the elimination factor-who by John and Joanna’s lot,
or us? I thought you got over that up in Cumbria.’
‘It could be us that’s wiped out.’
‘That might make sense if we were dealing with smelly macks and dingy pub brigade. Christ Brian we’ve been to their home, socialised with and used them. I don’t have the feeling we’re being abused; used maybe, but in truth probably less than we’re using them.’
‘O.K leave that. What about the can problem?’
‘That’s your real problem, and I’m going to take some convincing. Better you concentrate on that.’
‘All right, I’ll make my apologies to Joanna in the morning. For now let’s see if we can get any benefits out of the developments. If we can get the schedule into some semblance of sense I think we should give Mike a call And tell him exactly what we’re handling.’

We had another two hours before we agreed a way of handling the Huntington complication and Joanna was the key to setting it up. Getting back to the positive mode I suggested we put the twelve feeders back on our agenda and one other location that Pat wasn’t too happy about. I argued that against the danger of the cans were the ease of handling them which could be done quicker thereby exposing us less and leaving more time to make them safer to handle. But we needed to know Mike was with us now before we could make any moves.
Getting up from his chair Pat grabbed his coat and the Saab’s keys, ‘I’ll ring him.’
‘Okay, I’ll wait to hear before I turn in.’ I tried to use the time constructively while Pat was gone and, perhaps, having fallen asleep I did. The car door closing woke me up and allowed the woes of doom to creep in.- maybe Mike had second thoughts- a better offer-leprosy-maybe Pat hadn’t got through.
‘He’ll be here Friday. I gave him the works number and told him to ring as soon as he landed and one of us will pick him up.’

‘Rebecca, it’s Joanna.’ Wednesday morning promised a clear November day, a condition that seemed to pervade all three of us. Joanna, who seemed equally determined to be rid of the tensions, cast my apology aside. Pat outlined the methods we thought of for the return. To get Troward to agree and entice Jane Huntington to return the report was the reason behind the phone call. Joanna’s raised thumb looked an incongruous gesture for her, ‘No we have a copy here, done in the same paper as the original. Things like that could be important if anybody checks. Could you give… Jane is it, a call and ask if we can get in contact with her?’
Rebecca chuckled, ‘No need she’s here. Hold on a second till I explain what you want.’
Thirty seconds later, ‘Hello Jane Huntington here.’
‘Jane have you a London address or can we book you into a hotel and could you be down tonight. We would prefer to give you a explanation face to face rather than over the phone and provided you agree we need to act as quickly as possible.’
I leaned forward to read the address Joanna was scribbling, ‘Appreciate your help Jane. Expect us round about eight and thank Rebecca for me. Oh and tell her I’ll ring late on tomorrow.’ Handing the note to me, Joanna said, ‘There you are Brian, it’s in trendy Chelsea.’
Stretching across Pat snatched the note out of my hand. ‘We decided trendy Jane would be my job. Who knows I might even get a night on the town away from this slave driver.’
Joanna smiled, ‘John’s not due back till four, why don’t we all collect him then on to our hotel. It will give you a chance to discuss the issues that are bothering you Brian, and you can tell him about the American. I’ve a feeling he’ll be less than happy over that.’
Brian shrugged, ‘Perhaps he won’t, but he’s less of a risk than the thing you’re asking us to do and if the stuffs as potent as you say it’s even more critical there’s no slip ups.’
‘I agree, he’ll probably be annoyed you didn’t tell him sooner. But if he gets difficult I’ll help you handle him.’
Her comment cheered me up, it made Joanna’s position obvious and my doubts on John less tenable; or maybe that was only what I wanted or was expected to think.
As it happened John wasn’t at all fazed when we told him of Mike’s involvement while we were having drinks in their Claridge’s suite. He even apologised for not thinking of the possibility of there being some antidote to the chemical. Though he pointed out that at the time he didn’t know of Hopkins involvement adding, ‘By the time you have to make that decision we may know more about it and it will be left to you whether you tell or leave them guessing.
Now while the two of you are here I’d like to take the opportunity of collecting your fingerprints.’ and started rummaging through his brief case.
I glanced at Joanna, ‘Why fingerprints John, I gave a lot of thought to these developments last night and you must admit everyone of them increases the possibilities of our exposure. I can’t speak for Pat, but as far as I know my prints are on nobody’s file and I’d like to keep it like that.’
‘Brian I’m not going to send them with details of who they belong to. The purpose is for Pat and your prints, along with Joanna’s, mine, and Trowards to be removed. The laboratory won’t even know the identity of the prints we want left. I don’t want Joanna’s or my prints floating around any more than you do.’
Pat started rolling his glass between his two palms said, ‘you don’t need mine. I haven’t seen it let alone touched it.’
John nodded in an affable way, ‘Fair enough, Brian?’
You guarantee no records?’
Before John could answer Pat interrupted, ‘I’d better be going or I’ll be late for the Huntington dame so I’ll need the copy.’
I didn’t see who did it, but as Pat left I noticed the glass he’d used was gone.
John poured me another round of drinks before I got an answer. ‘Brian you have to appreciate the game your in. We can’t set you up for the authorities, both you and Pat know too much. If this scheme of yours failed you could probably make an immunity deal in exchange for the information you already have. But, if we start that game and stop trusting each other paranoia will take over and we’ll end up trying to eliminate every possibility our neurosis can think of instead of getting the job done.
That’s when we become a danger to ourselves and everybody else. An added problem is damage limitation usually errs on too much rather than too little, and I don’t intend for Joanna or me to be under that consideration.’
‘What about the glass then?’
John looked at Joanna as though I’d taken the step from sanity to lobotomy, ‘Sorry Brian, I’m not with you?’
‘The glass Pat was using is gone. Now why do that when he say’s he hasn’t touched it and, as far as I can remember, I tend to agree with him.’
‘We haven’t got the glass Brian.’ This time it was Joanna adding her pennyworth.
John sighed, ‘No Brian I haven’t. Besides it would be no use to us the way Pat was handling it as soon as I mentioned prints. I was hoping to persuade both of you to give some thought to collecting sample prints from Huntington and his associates, including the daughter. ’
‘John I can understand your warning about getting neurotic and its less than comforting implications, but the report has changed things.’
‘Of course it has Brian but it’s too early yet to say whether for the good or bad.’
That was the crunch, I was arguing against reason with only gut conviction. Easing out of the chair to go, I kept my eyes on John. ‘Believe me the last thing I want is to queer our pitch, but if I were to say or act differently that’s all it would be, an act. We’re due to meet on Saturday if you decide this conversations changed anything let us know then.’
Walking to the lift, I felt as though my brain was threatening to explode my skull. I thought of going back, apologising, anything to ease the tension.

On the way back to Ascot I tried to reconstruct the feelings that had divorced me from my family and them from me. All the warm caring loving eroding through demands constant grind. Damn it, I wasn’t going to fail, not them or me, theirs were the only terms I’d yield to.

The house was empty forcing me to wait for Pat so I could tell him of the developments and ask him about the glass. By half three, the combination of whisky combined with the realisation of Pat not coming back lulled me into sleep My last thoughts were on the additional cylinders and protection suits we’d to collect and on the fact that chance meant I hadn’t lied to Rebecca Troward when I said the report was being studied by an American.

Neil was awake at three thirty that Wednesday morning. Unlike Brian, he’d chosen to wake at that time. His dinner conversation with George had highlighted the problem into a position where he’d to do something about it now. His normal day was promised to his Father and Jessie to visit a grave. That, he knew would leave him empty.

Dialling he got an unrecognisable sleepy voice. Only when he heard the extension begin to ring did he realise he’d got through to a switchboard, probably his clubs.
‘John, it’s Neil. Sorry about the ungodly hour but it’s necessary we have a talk. Would you agree to getting a cab and collecting me from home?’
It was just over the hour when Neil quietly closed his front door and joined Sir John Dickson in the cab. ‘Sorry about the cloak and dagger stuff.’ Leaning forward Neil rapped on the partition, ‘Head back for the city then just drive around until we tell you to stop.’ Neil waited until the cab had done a U before sliding the privacy screen shut and settling in his seat. ‘I understand you’re about to be approached by Uniclor to provide partial funding on a major acquisition?’
‘Neil what’s this all about. Not the early call and the intrigue, that’s always welcome at my time of life. But any business the bank may or may not have with Uniclor is entirely its affair. You know the rules; normal business handled normally, otherwise we risk becoming exposed.’
‘All I need to know John is whether you intend to commit funds or not. If you say no, there’s no need to say anything further. But if you are and I don’t it could drastically weaken our position.’
‘Then we have been approached, it is being considered, and no, we are not yet committed.’
Neil nodded. ‘The plants Uniclor are trying to raise the finance on are eighteen of ours.’
John’s reaction pleased Neil it clearly indicated the secrecy hadn’t been breached. ‘The deals for eight billion, ten percent we’re taking in stock with no restrictions with a further ten on loan through our American bank. We have very good terms on the loan and don’t foresee any problems divesting it or the stock quickly.’
‘So this is what you meant when you told me to expect a sharp upturn in Midshires liquidity. Surely Neil it’s going to be detrimental to ICP’ earnings…No something as obvious as that I couldn’t see you doing. Perhaps I should just listen.’
Neil lowered his voice, ‘Early next year the world is going to find out these plants and every one like them are as redundant as the dinosaurs. Any money in them will be lucky to have the cover of their scrap value and the products they produce will have to be marketed at less than the cost of production. If I said nothing your bank would be amongst the losers. But, working together we will turn what initially look like a major blunder into a resounding success. I believe a serious step forward to achieving the position we need.’
John Dickinson unbuttoned his coat as the cabs heater finally overcame the filthy November morning and raised a quizzical eyebrow, ‘Carry on Neil, excitement, intrigue and profit are a rear combination for a banker.’
Their only interruption during Neil’s explanation was the driver asking if they’d mind him stopping for a cup of tea. Saying they wouldn’t, he showed his appreciation by treating them to mugs delivered to his cab. Six fifteen on a dank November morning, Sir John Dickson’s eyes were twinkling as he listened to the outline of one of the biggest and most audacious deals the western world would ever see. If Neil pulled this off he’d be immortalised, they’d probably call any similar move in future a Hopkins. By eight he was sitting behind his desk still with his coat on, drumming his fingers against the wood just to confirm he was awake.

By nine thirty as the bank began to hum with bodies, Sir John having churned through the information and the proposal settled himself to accept his conclusion was unchanged. Deerbruckers position was well known, give or take a couple of percent he’d forty percent still to raise. Three thousand two hundred million and he knew now Deerbrucker had a month to raise it. Knowing the British banks avarice for dollars Deerbrucker would, after his trip to Japan and Europe, come back here and get three of the big four scrabbling for the last drops at the least rates. It was the manipulation of those interests that would have to be carefully orchestrated. Asking his secretary to tell Nicholsen the investment director to come to his office, Sir John allowed himself the placebo of him not really forcing anything, simply allowing the other two to gravitate towards whatever was predominant in them. What he didn’t want was either of them biting off more than they could spew.’

Nicholsen knocked and getting no reply, let himself in. The half smile, combined with the faraway look in his chairman’s eyes, convinced him he’d caught Sir John daydreaming, giving himself a mental memo on the advance of senility. Sir John seemed to come to with a start, and the smile immediately widened to a welcome. ‘Ah Robert, good of you to make some time for me. What do we know on this Uniclor deal? No doubt you’re the one with his ear to the ground so I’d appreciate your thoughts.’
Nicholsen’s reaction was to form. First he was told the facts everybody knew, then the corollaries of gossip that had seeped from them and became 'the know' by the shoals of manipulators. John continued to look attentive while he was favoured by Nicholsen judgement on the validity and earnings ratio of any possible investment.
‘As you say, and I’ve no reason to suppose differently, only Standard and Californian have taken options to loan any extra if there’s a short fall. That may fall in line with a piece of information that I’ve got hold of. Do you know if Deerbruckers approached Midshire?’
Nicholsen could be seen to preen, ‘He has, but very discreetly. Davidson and Carter went out to Cologne to meet him.’
‘Hardly high level if they sent those two?’
‘Granted, and it has been whispered that the Mid’s not interested. They want hefty guarantees and they’re talking of a take up of three percent max. What puzzles me is why they should adopt this position when it’s known Esquiden has been meeting Deerbrucker two three times a week for the last six weeks. Supposedly he practically instructed Californian they’d be picking up ten and he insisted on the option. Mind you he did get terrific rates. Standard demanded the same deal when they got to hear about it and as his main bank it didn’t leave Deerbrucker with much option. If they didn’t commit funds, who would?’
‘So Uniclor is willing to pay a high premium and still it’s aggressively raising the funding?’
‘That how it’s going down John.’
‘Do you think Deerbrucker could have used Esquiden. I mean gave him the good terms in order to get the Standard sniffing?’
‘My thoughts were along those lines.’
John Dickson lapsed into what he hoped looked like concentrated thought before setting the bait. ‘Your sources are certainly impressive Robert which only adds to the intrigue. First we have an American bank, which, to all intent and purpose, is owned by ICP committing major funds and demanding an option to commit more. Now you tell me this has been handled by Esquiden who is not on the board of Californian but is on Midshire’s, where they’ve practically gave Uniclor the brush off.’
Nicholsen interrupted precisely on cue. ‘Not quite John. They have a meeting with Deerbrucker scheduled for the twelfth.’
‘Have they indeed. You know Robert the more I reverse the obvious the more a snippet of information I’ve been given makes sense. I’ve been told Hopkins is setting up a bid for Uniclor the minute the deals boxed up. Or perhaps, if Deerbrucker fails to raise the funds he’d use that to bid cheaper. Yes, the sly fox,’ Sir John lapsed back to his thinking pose, before stating, as though confirming to himself. ‘Yes he could do it either way. He’d get Uniclor on the hop, create confusion, bid on the cheap and, re-negotiate the loans. He’d be in the driving seat and we’d be getting minimum returns on a sizeable chunk of our loan capital.’
Nicholsen, the grand master of sophistry, was worried by not being able to see done to himself what he’d perfected doing to others. ‘Jesus, I heard a rumour it was some ICP plants they were raising the cash to buy?’ Stopping for a reaction and getting none, he continued. ‘Course I couldn’t see it myself. Though I did wonder why the Mid was so negative, especially now that their liquidity is strong enough to consider it.’
‘Think on this scenario Robert.’ He’d sow the possibility allowing it to form into the bud of probability, ‘Just for consideration, you know the ins and outs better than I do, so I’ll leave the strategy to you. This meeting in Cologne with those two seems to be the worst kept secret…’
‘I wouldn’t say that Sir John. My sources are very reliable.’ The interruption irked, typical bloody Peacock with and ego bigger than the body let alone the brain. ‘Granted Robert, but suppose we’re not the only ones to know of the Mids reaction. To all intents they’re a subsidiary to ICP and perhaps they want to create the impression of knowing something we don’t. That could make the rest of us wary and cause us to limit our commitment. For instance what have you considered to be reasonable for us to fund?’
Nicholsen shifted in his seat, ‘I should think, mind you I haven’t finalised this yet; round the eight hundred would be the max. Perhaps a little more if we can get the terms and the dollar’s riding well against the pound.’
‘How would you feel if it was ICP backing the loan?’
‘I suppose we could go higher, but it wouldn’t be at such attractive rates.’
‘I agree Robert. . Now if we were to call Hopkins bluff and move in at the last minute with twenty or twenty five percent we would have the cover to get the rates we wanted whether ICP take over or not.’
‘Let me gather all the data Sir John. It’s certainly a strategy worth considering though anything that size will need full board approval and clearance from the Old Lady.’
‘I’ve set up the board meeting for tomorrow Robert. Hopefully we won’t be bothered by the non-execs, so you can present it and get it through quickly. Then it’s ready when we need to act. I’ll see the Governor once we know it’s going our way. Any thing else?’
Nicholsen left, unsure whether he’d been instructed, consulted, advised or implicated. Whatever happened Uniclor stock would only go one way and that was something the quicker he moved on the better.

Asking his secretary for a line John Dickson waited until he was connected to Donald Fraser of Fraser Mackenzie and Stewart. An independent firm of stock brokers with a long-standing association with the bank, they discreetly handled transactions without exposing their clients. Donald Fraser had connections with Sir John that covered his lifetime, now almost as long as his friendship had been with Donald’s father.

’Donald, I’ve just had a meeting with Nicholsen, tell me if he uses his usual method to buy Uniclor. In fact keep me informed of anything he invests in during the next few weeks.’
‘Consider it done. I’ve heard rumblings on Uniclor, are they worth a flutter?’
‘Provided you sell when I tell you.’
‘Has that information to be passed to Nicholsen?’
‘Definitely not.’
‘Right oh, but while you’re on I’ll remind you on Thursday next your goddaughter will be two and your attendance is demanded.’
‘It’s already doubly underlined in my diary. I’ll add another line and if it’s all right I’ll stay the night.’
‘That’s as it should be, see you then.’

Giving a sigh John dialled another number. This call was less pleasant, yet he was pleased when he recognised the voice. ‘Good morning, it’s Mr Gordon here; we have a subject you have handled before. Can we meet at the usual place? A time of four thirty was suggested as convenient
‘Still no reply.’ Pat replaced the phone and adding conviction to his third promise to himself, swung his legs out of the bed. ‘Nothing else for it I’ve got to get back.’
‘Why, I was hoping we could have lunch here.’ Jane sat crossed legged on the bed, her hair veiling her breasts, presenting him with the most persuasive argument he’d encountered for a long time. Without really understanding why, he knew neither of them wanted their meeting to end.
After he’d shyly introduced himself, she’d liked him in an easy, non-cynical way. Now her concern was how he felt about her. Dates were usually easily handled whether they ended up in bed or not. But with James there was something solid and straight, not just a walking veneer of rebellious or conformist fashion slavering for a quick shag. Even when he’d asked if she would like to go to dinner, there was hesitancy as though surprised he was in a position to ask. And there had been none of the usual codswallop of “knowing a super little place” He’d made her laugh when he studied the menu asking if it was written in English, French or Urdu, or perhaps a code known only to the waiters. The platters with their artistic arrangements and whirls of sauces raised his eyebrows and the question “is this what they call minimalism?” By the time they left Jane had to accept she was enjoying herself and wanting to extend the evening suggested they drove down to Bramshott and return the report. The drive down had been more of the same, no innuendo, no hand on thigh or arm casually draped so the hand could brush her breast.

At Bramshott she’d rang the bell in a continuous ring till a sleepy Bert let them in. ‘No I’m not in the least annoyed. We knew who it would be.’ He told them, beginning to smile till he realised he hadn’t his teeth in.
Jane apologised. ‘You get back to bed. We’re going to raid Fathers brandy, there’s none in the flat.’ Adding on impulse, ‘James this is Bert Neetcham. I put up with him because he’s had the good sense to marry Noonoo my best friend and he puts up with me because she makes him.’ She’d explained because James was looking awkward at weakening the house. Trawling him through to the study she handed him the decanter of Brandy while she slipped the copy into the desks only unlocked drawer.

Perhaps she should have had the sense when he’d asked where he was sleeping to have taken him to one of the guest rooms. Played it coy and not put her arms round him. Balls she’d have been more dishonest playing it like that than she was when she’d let it happen and it meant nothing to her. This time she could call it lovemaking. No poetic absurdities of crashing storm waves or randy haemorrhaging heaven. Their climaxes had been the natural culmination of pleasure. But for the first time she knew all her emotions had been pleasant and her partner’s pleasure as stimulating as her own.
‘I’ll ring Noonoo and ask if she can rustle up something before we leave and see if Bert can lend you a razor.’
‘Who or what’s Noonoo?’
Almost blushing Jane explained.
Pat laughed, ‘I can see you’ll never allow her to be plain Mrs Neetcham.’
‘You haven’t met her yet.’
‘I take it your Father wasn’t home last night?’
‘No, but it wouldn’t have made any difference if he was.’ Jane bit her lip, meant as confirmation of her independence, instead it sounded tarty.

Pat’s complications were different from Jane’s not least of which was whether he’d be tormented by memories. On the drive back he decided against asking her to drop him off near Ascot, a taxi from her place could sever if need be all connections. In the gloaming of late afternoon he paid off the taxi at the racecourses southern end and walked the twenty minutes to the house. Everything helped to obscure links between faces and areas. The return had been done which should please John; Jane had agreed to find out whether its removal had been noticed. Which meant he’d a reason to see her again. Switching the kettle on he found himself whistling.

Chapters 1 - 14 links can be viewed at the end of Chapter 15 here.


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