At least Lena hadn’t done a runner, nor did she seem to be having second thoughts, she had just lapsed into fatalistic passivity, as if having made this one big decision her life could continue without her steering it for a while.
She couldn’t tell how long it would last; the girl was deeply troubled after all. It could take them months, years even, to straighten her out, assuming that she actually went through with it. Well, she was moving on to another hotel tomorrow, a transient one by Heathrow airport for a night then on to another, further out west, inching her inexorably towards her true destination, distancing her from the ruinous temptations of the big city without her even realising it.
Best of all though, he was coming, maybe staying tonight, bringing her his news, checking up on her. She felt some guilt there, but well, she could discuss the girl with him, strays with hard luck stories were irresistible magnets for him. Besides, it was his final decision whether to get her through into the Pocket, although he’s never gainsaid you in the past. He trusts you, not in every way, in some things he’s hard with you… Time will melt him, you’ll see. That wasn’t the deal, it was agreed, you’ll spoil everything, all you really want. Get back in there, he’ll be here any minute.
Ten minutes later, there goes the front door buzzer. It’s him, don’t hang around, let him in. She looks again in the viewer, dressed normally for him, briefcase, overnight bag, heart skips, another larger holdall, looks heavy.
In he comes, that usual two minutes longer today, by a few seconds, it must be the heavy bag. Don’t leave the hall, wait for him. The doorbell rings, her hands fly to release the latch. There he is, he looks tired, almost stooping under the weight of the bags, been burning the midnight oil, but the smile is there.
“Can I come in or have you had a better offer this evening?”
“I’m sorry, I’m just… well, come in.”
Losing it already, you’ve got two big deals on the go, lawyers and accountants sucking up to you, and look at you now. Shut up! He hands her his overnight bag, smiling once more, and brings the others in while she closes and locks the front door. She motions to repeat their little hallway entrance routine. He gives her his coat, same familiar weight, a little more reassuring now, but he keeps the others. “Same room ok for you?” He nods. “Go through into the kitchen while I put these away.”
She enters shortly later; he’s standing there, just waiting for her.
“On the off-chance that you were too busy to call the man I suggested, I called him myself and he’s coming around at nine on Saturday morning, so you can enjoy a lie in, and whatever he recommends will be installed from eight on Monday morning, ok? Will you be able to square it with the other tenants, the landlord, or do you need me to have a word?”
I should be furious. “Sorry, I just didn’t get around to it, thanks. And no, I’m the landlord; I own the other two flats below.”
“I also took the liberty…” He opens the large holdall and pulls out a pistol and several boxes of ammunition. “I know you refused, but I insist, especially if I am going to be staying here. Don’t worry, the paperwork’s sorted. You can keep them in your safe. And this in your wardrobe…”
He pulled out a large black metal shotgun, followed by several boxes of cartridges, before she could react.
“Semi-automatic, I’ll show you how later, but easy and ideal for inside. I assume you can lock your wardrobe?”
She nodded, stunned, “But I’ve never had… don’t want such things. Perhaps the little one if you insist, but not that… thing, please?”
“It’s not something I play at, my life, perhaps you didn’t understand that. You told me you loved me in some way, that makes you vulnerable, means I have to take care of you, protect you, do you see?”
“But I don’t want all of this, just…”
“It comes with me, I’m sorry. It’s up to you. But if I thought you couldn’t handle it I wouldn’t even be here.”
“But I didn’t think…”
Just a smile.
“This isn’t a game, this is just the way it is. I thought you knew, I’m sorry. If it’s too much, I can go, cut my ties to keep you safe, or you can go, there, they would welcome you, you know, for what you’ve done, who you are.”
“What about you, wouldn’t you come too?”
A simple shake of his head.
“You know why.”
So, what do you really want? Are you like that girl, just wishing, hoping someone will solve all her problems for her, not have to take a decision? No, not like that, I chose him, all of him, whatever comes. So, when did you get all so romantic? You know when, besides, this is a lot more.
“Ok, then I’m staying too, you know why. If you insist on keeping those things here, go ahead, but in return you must promise to take a key, stay more than two nights whenever possible.”
Why not insist on more, don’t be so weak?
“I’m glad I don’t have to negotiate with you for a living, agreed.”
The door buzzer goes.
“That’s dinner, I’m sorry I didn’t have time to do anything else. Could you please?”
Later, microwave going, music on, extractor fan whirring.
“Those sticks you so cleverly deciphered for me, there’s so much there, some we can handle, but for some I may need your help, account numbers mainly. Can you find out who owns them, trace the funds in and out without exposing yourself to too much risk?”
He really didn’t understand her world at all did he? She smiled inwardly, just because she’s in finance, she must be a banker.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t have the access, you would need a clearing banker, someone in the Bank of England or payments agency, or a forensic accountant and even then…. Can’t you go through your channels?”
“Not without raising questions, leaving a trail. Oh well, we’ll just have to get it to the authorities anonymously along with some of the other things. The rest we’re looking into, I can’t thank you enough.”
You could you know.
“How did it go with the girl, the American?”
“She just about got there; I still have my doubts though. She only really trusts Sam, insists on it being him who takes her there.”
“Ok, I’ll try to arrange it.”
“Oh, and she’s black.”
“So? What’s that got to do with anything? There’s a Yazidi Kurd there at the moment, you know the brief. If she wants a new start, they can help her make the changes she needs, everyone changes there.”
“Would it change me?”
“And why would anyone, me especially, want to do that?”
“You say the nicest things sometimes.”
See, what did I say? That’s not what he meant! We’ll see.
Sam was outside the girl’s room when Martha came out on to the landing in the middle of the night. “Mum, she shouted out, and now she’s crying, what should we do?”
He looked at a complete loss, her capable, tough adopted son. She beckoned him back into his room and gently pushed the door to.
“My love, the evil she’s had to endure has to come out somehow, it’s no surprise it happens when she’s alone at night, it’s part of the healing process. It could take months, years. If we could talk to her, we could help her recover more quickly, but now we just have to keep showing her she’s safe, among friends. Perhaps Monday will help. Now get some sleep. If it gets too loud, leave it to me, you mustn’t go in, do you understand?”
© 1642again 2018