Larry was perched on Jinnie’s garden office desk watching Jason and Gary trying to sort out the electronics that worked the door in the wall between his garden and Nigel’s garden next door. Larry was quite happy, he was nice and warm and dry, his favourite human, Jinnie, was busy working at her computers and occasionally talking to and stroking him. Meanwhile it was cold and damp outside and he was enjoying watching Jason and Gary struggling. Well, Gary was struggling more than Jason, he was just waving a plastic card over a reader while Gary was messing with the wiring and talking on his mobile to someone who Larry guessed was in the new house somewhere.
Larry was enjoying seeing Jason getting increasingly ratty when the system suddenly worked and the door’s multipoint lock worked and the door sprung open. Larry giggled internally when Gary high-fived Jason. Behind him Larry heard Jinnie say, “About time too,” and realised she too had been watching. ‘What is going on now,’ thought Larry as Jason dropped to his knees and waved about what he thought was a cat collar. As he watched Jinnie said, “He’s testing your new collar, Larry. Can you see the cat flap in the door well? it opens that so you can go and see Nigel whenever you want. It’s really a very clever collar, it will open all the cat flaps you use, when you need them. No more swapping collars when we visit Mum, this one will do that cat flap, the one to the kitchen, the one to this office and the one to Nigel’s house. He has even put one in his pool house door so you can visit him there.” Larry shuddered, he could imagine nothing worse than going swimming and getting his fur soaked.
Jason tapped on the office door and Jinnie called, “Come in Jason, it’s open.” Jason walked over to Jinnie said, “Hello,” and then said, “So this is the famous Larry the Cat,” and stroked him. Larry warmed to him. He then said to Jinnie, “Here is your card for the door. There is a reader which you can wave it over and it works like your bank card, but I am told it is more powerful and can work if it is still in your pocket or bag. It will open the gate and turn off the alarms along the path to the house, but not on the grass on either side. It will also let you into the poolhouse. I understand that you will have to buzz the back doorbell to be let into the house.”
“What about Larry?” Jinnie asked. “He can come and go as he likes,” said Jason. “This collar will open all the house’s cat flaps, I have tried it and it works. Oh yes, he is too small to trigger any of the alarms, Gary says they will ignore anything the size of a fox or smaller. With all the wildlife round here that is important.” Jason handed over the new collar and Jinnie swapped it for the one Larry was wearing. It had a Union Flag pattern that Larry, being a patriotic cat, rather liked. Jinnie looked at Larry and said to him, “Now that is rather smart, I understand Nigel chose it for you personally.” Larry meowed and rubbed his head against Jinnie.
After lunch, with the twins napping, and Lucia & Jinnie enjoying their after-lunch coffee and chat, Belinda and Brian arrived at the front door. Brian had a suit carrier and Belinda a dress in a dry cleaner’s bag. Jinnie suggested they hang them on the coat hooks in the hall as the children were still asleep upstairs. Lucia made them fresh coffee and they sat down to chat while they prepared for the sign-off meeting with Nigel at two thirty. As they chatted, Larry came into the room and after looking around he decided that Belinda was going to be graced with his company and jumped into her lap. Belinda said, “Hello Larry. My that is a lovely new collar you have on. Is it new?” Jinnie replied, “Yes, it is a new one that opens every cat flap he needs to go through, including into my mum’s kitchen. I understand that Gary sourced it.”
Penny answered her mobile saying, “Hello,” not recognising the number and the caller said, “Hello Ma’am, it’s Sergeant O’Connell. I just wanted to check with you if the lights in the field had stopped.” Penny replied, ” Yes, thank you, they seem to have stopped.” “That’s good,” said O’Connell, “I had a word with the farmer and he tells me he is going on a short break and he says the dog is in the kennel this weekend.” “Oh good”, replied Penny, “We should not be bothered until at least next week then.” “If you have any more trouble, please call me and I’ll pop round again.”
Once she had rung off Penny called, “Les, that was the call. It’s on this weekend. I guess we should be ready for both Saturday and Sunday morning, but there’s no knowing if he’ll go riding this weekend. We might have to wait until next time.” “I hope it is this weekend,” replied Les. Another fortnight takes it too close to Christmas for my liking. My brother and his wife have invited me to their house and I have been looking forward to seeing my nephew and niece.”
“I guess we make sure all the equipment is clean and working” said Penny “I even have new Duracells for the scopes.” “I’m getting the cleaning kit out for my pistol right know.” said Les. “Let me know when your done” replied Penny “I don’t want use both to have our guns in bits at the same time. Better safe than sorry.”
Belinda asked Jinnie if she wanted to join her on the walk round saying, “You are, of course, the company’s MD, I’m only a divisional director. It might look better if you sign it off.” “I’d love to,” said Jinnie, “I can try my pass for the gate in the wall and check that it turns off the alarms on the path. What are you going to do Brian?” “Stay here and play with the kids when they wake up, if that’s OK with you?” he answered. “Of course,” said Jinnie, “I don’t expect we will be long, there can’t be much wrong with the house.”
Jinnie and Belinda accompanied by Larry set off for the house five minutes before the arranged meeting time. The drizzle had stopped and Larry kept up with them determined not to be fooled into going the wrong way. Jinnie didn’t have to get the card out of her pocket, because as Jason had told her, as she neared the reader the door clicked open and they all stepped through into Nigel’s garden and the closer shut the door behind them. Belinda and Jinnie walked on the path but Larry walked on the grass. No alarms sounded, no lights flashed and no security men appeared.
Nigel and Jason were waiting for them on the patio and Jason opened the Kitchen door and let them (including Larry) in. With the worktops installed and the vinyl floor down Jinnie was impressed. Even Larry seemed impressed by the underfloor heating and rolled around at Nigel’s feet who laughed and said, “It looks like Larry approves.” Belinda walked around looking for snags but found nothing in the room and nodded approvingly to Jason. The inspection party continued to visit all the ground floor rooms which were now finished in a luxurious grey carpet. Nigel said, “I hadn’t realised the rooms were so big. My little bit of furniture from the No 10 flat is going to look lost. Didn’t Melissa and Andrew do some fully furnished images?” “Yes,” said Belinda, “but knowing them I bet they chose really expensive things to illustrate what could be done.” “Can you put them in touch?” Nigel asked. “They are dining with us tonight, so you can speak to them then.” “Excellent,” said Nigel.
The rest of the house tour went well and only a couple of very minor things found their way into Belinda’s notebook. The next stop was the poolhouse and the pool had filled. Nigel crouched and put his hand in the water saying, “That’s still a bit chilly.” Jason explained, “It only finished filling a few hours ago and the experts who supplied the heating and filtration equipment say it needs at least 24 hours to warm up. It should be just right if you move in on Monday as planned.”
As they were exiting the pool house Jinnie said, “Has anyone seen Larry he seems to have gone missing?” “He wasn’t with us in the pool house,” replied Belinda. Nigel said, “You know how he hates water, I bet he is still in the house.” And of course he was, curled up snoozing in a corner on the warm kitchen floor. “I can see I will have to get you a cat basket for that corner,” said Nigel. “You know he already has two,” said Jinnie but Larry just flicked an ear.
Belinda pulled a sheaf of paperwork from her bag and she, Nigel and Jinnie signed it off as satisfactory. Nigel then phoned his solicitor and told her he was happy with the house and she could complete the purchase and transfer the remaining payment. Jinnie asked if they would like tea and cake before getting ready for the evening and Nigel said he would love to if he could see the twins, but first he needed to give the removals company the go-ahead for Monday. He said, “You go ahead and I get my driver to bring me round to the front door when I’ve sorted out the move and spoken to the security services about the move.”
Jason asked if it would be OK to drive his company van around as he had his stuff for the evening in it. Besides, he needed to give Nigel his key cards and show him how to set the house alarms when he left the house. Jinnie, Belinda and Larry strolled down the connecting path and Jinnie was delighted when once again the door in the wall opened without Jinnie having to reach for the card.
Brian was sitting on the living room floor reading a picture storybook to the twins who were engrossed as he was doing a selection of voices for the different characters. The twins ignored their mother and when Brian paused his tale to greet his wife and Belinda there were cries of ‘more’ and ‘più’. When the story concluded the twins acknowledged their mother and Belinda who was delighted when they called her ‘Zia’. Jinnie was surprised, as to her knowledge it was a new word she had never heard them use before. Lucia, who had just appeared with a tray of cups and saucers and a big chocolate cake, explained that she had been teaching them ‘Zia’ and ‘Zio’ for Penny and Daniel.
Nigel and Jason arrived within seconds of each other laughing heartily. Nigel explained that Jason had been trying to gain entry to Jinnie’s driveway but the ex-PM’s security wouldn’t let him through. Things had changed rapidly when Nigel had arrived and called them “Silly arses.” Jinnie was pleased to see Jason had changed his scruffy work boots for a pair of black shoes and was holding an M&S suit carrier. They were soon all seated with tea and cake watching Lucia trying to stop the twins shoving handfuls of cake into their mouths and getting it all over their faces.
After an hour or so Nigel left for his hotel and the newly appointed Zio, Jason, was presented with a book by Millie, who Jinnie noticed was increasingly taking the lead, and he had to read to them. Unfortunately, his voices weren’t as good as Zio Brian and they were soon sat either side of him on a sofa while he read ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to them. Belinda took the opportunity to update Jinnie on the progress of her project. The East Croydon sandwich shop was virtually finished and she understood that Alberto had staff and it was ready to commence staff training just as soon as she could hand it over. As for Trattoria Trevi Windsor, Belinda said with a huge smile, “We are running two weeks ahead of programme. It really is time you paid it another visit, instead of devoting so much time to DKL and the events business.”
The meal in Trattoria Trevi was fabulous, Alberto pulled out all the stops, the food had been cooked to perfection and the service immaculate as you would expect for a table hosting an ex-prime minister, two company directors and another director from a company that Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) owned 50% of. Of course the other customers that evening recognised Nigel as soon as he walked in and hundreds of eyes followed him to his seat between Jinnie and Belinda as a hush descended on the room. But as soon as he had been seated, his crisp white napkin placed in his lap and a pint of bitter positioned in front of him conversation resumed.
Nigel drained his second cup of coffee, refused a third and turning to Jinnie said, “I really don’t know why this restaurant still only has one Michelin Star, I have been to two and three-star establishments that are not a patch on this.” Belinda joined in saying, “He’s right you know. I think the answer is twofold, it is not in Central London and you don’t have a classically trained French head chef.” “You are absolutely right,” said Nigel, “Basically it’s snobbery! I understand there are several reporters waiting outside in the hope that I will say a few words on my way out. I think tonight I will talk to them, instead of ignoring them and tell them that this is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best restaurant in London and the Home Counties and deserving of a higher Michelin grade and their inspectors are useless!”
Turning to Melissa Nigel asked, “Are you and Steven marrying in the spring when he finishes his officer training?” “Yes, Sir,” she replied. “We intend to marry in early April, when Steven has a month’s leave, before taking up the post in Madrid.” “That’s enough of this ‘Sir’ business, we are all friends here and so it’s Nigel to you all. Have you made all the arrangements yet?” “Well, I have handed it all over to my sister, who as I’m sure you know is the MD of TTEvents. I understand the church is booked, and the reception is going to be at Trattoria Trevi Turners Hill for about 200. Of course, mum and Brian are paying and I am sure they have got special rates as Brian is a director. I really want to ask you to come as it is thanks to you that Steven and I are getting married and setting off on a new life together.” Nigel said, “There is nothing I would like more. Of course I will be there and I would love to see the Turners Hill restaurant, I haven’t visited there yet.”
Penny and Les were thankful for the warm ghillie suits, it was chilly and misty in the reeds at the river’s edge. They had arrived early that Saturday morning, while it was still quite dark and had rigged a hide under a German Army issue thermal shield. As the sun peeped up over the distant field a small party mounted on horses appeared out of the mist and stopped close to the copse they had dismissed hiding in earlier. The riders slide to the ground, three equipped with long guns (Penny couldn’t determine the type) and disappeared into the trees while the remaining two readied a small four-propeller drone.
The drone was soon circling, firstly over the copse and then in wider circles over the fields and over the near bank of the river. With the drone at its furthest point from them, Penny whispered, “This is it, I reckon this circuit will take it straight over us. Now we find out how good the German equipment is.” The drone flew straight over them and completed its circuit before returning to the riders.” Les whispered, “I would have pushed out another circuit if I had been flying that thing,” and Penny replied, “But you know how far this rifle can shoot, I suspect they have no idea.”
Penny and Les remained in the hide until the sun had burnt off the mist and they heard a church clock strike ten somewhere in the distance. Penny said, “Come on let’s go and get a late breakfast, he is not coming today. Reports say he is always much earlier than this and normally on a Sunday, before he goes to early morning Mass.” Carefully checking they were alone they stripped off the ghillie suits and returned them to their bags and strolled off to their car.
Twenty minutes later they were tucking into eggs and bacon when Sgt O’Connell arrived at the kitchen door. He accepted a mug of tea and then told them he had just read the report of the special protection team that had done the search of the copse that morning. The only thing of note that had been spotted was a discarded sheet of aluminium foil that forensic analysis had determined had once held a cheese and pickle sandwich. It was a particular favourite of farmer O’Malley, who farmed the land for the PM and fingerprints had determined it had once held his lunch. O’Connell said if the reconnaissance team had been out that morning he fully expected the taoiseach to go riding the following morning. He had warned his constable and she would be ready with a car for them to travel back to Dublin in. She would take their car and leave it near the harbour and a fishing boat was ready to be ‘stolen’.
O’Connell said that they were to meet the team from Cork at the same place they had swapped cars previously and drop it off in the hotel car park for collection. The car was paid for, but the hire company had a credit card number to charge to if they invented any ‘extras’. He added that the village was alive with rumours that a submarine was operating just out to sea. There was much speculation as to whether it was British, American or German.
Early on Sunday morning Penny and Les were back in their hide. Today the mist was swirling in on the breeze then clearing and thickening. It was neither one thing or another, Penny just hoped it would clear long enough for her to get an accurate shot off. She didn’t want to have to stay until the next time the taoiseach went riding. She really wanted to be home in time for Christmas.
In a break in the mist, Les nudged her and indicated a party on horseback coming across the fields. However, the mist swirled back in before Penny was able to identify the rider the other mounted men seem to be shielding. Penny controlled her breathing and checked her equipment, she was as ready as she would ever be. As quickly as the mist had arrived it parted and Penny had a perfect shot lined up on the taoiseach, she squeezed the trigger and watched as his head exploded and his horse bolted, galloping away across the field dragging the dead body of the late taoiseach who’s right foot was in stuck in a stirrup. The security detail to a man chased after the bolting horse and disappeared into the mist that was again gathering.
Penny gathered up her equipment but deliberately left the eject cartridge case where it had fallen. Together they slipped from under their hide and, hidden by the mist, strolled back to their car. They had cleared up the cottage the previous afternoon and evening and were confident that anything they had left in the house pointed to their German IDs. As they approached the house they saw the female constable waiting for them in a Nissan Qashqai. As they approached she opened the hatch and told them to put their luggage in. She handed them the car keys and took the house keys and the ghillie suits from them. She said the sniper rifle was to be returned to London in the diplomatic bag, it was too valuable to risk losing.
They quickly turned the Nissan east towards Limerick and the motorway to Dublin, while the Garda drove off in the direction of the harbour. They had gone a few miles before Penny switched on the car radio and tune it to RTE 1. She wasn’t interested in the music but it had a reputation for being fast with breaking news. They were well on their way up the motorway when the announcer broke into the music to say that reports were coming in of an attempted attack on the taoiseach, no details were yet available but to stay tuned as they would be broadcast just as soon as they had them.
By the time they had switched cars, a little more was being broadcast. The Taoiseach had been shot and a manhunt was underway in the area surrounding his farm in the far west of the country. As they approached the outskirts of Dublin the radio switched to somber music and the announcement of the taoiseach’s death was made. Apparently, he had been pronounced dead at the Limerick University Hospital where he had been flown by helicopter after being shot while out riding. Penny said to Les, “Why they couldn’t announce him dead on the spot I have no idea, the complete side of his head was missing and his brain was all over the field.”
They parked in the underground car park and grabbed a cab to the station. The cabbie had the car radio tuned into the BBC and commented that if he wanted to know what was happening in the world it was pointless listening to or watching RTE. They replied saying what awful news, and RTE were reporting that it was an assassination. The cabbie grunted and said the BBC were reporting the Garda were looking for a German couple who had been staying locally. People boarding The Enterprise to Belfast were all having their IDs checked and Les and Penny’s U.K. passports raised no suspicion. The officer said he hoped they had enjoyed their say in Dublin and Penny wasted no time in trotting out the cover story that they had actually been in Cork researching her father and mother’s family trees.
When the train crossed the border into Ulster, Penny sighed inwardly and said to Les, “With any luck we will be able to catch a Gatwick flight this evening.” The taxi driver who took them to the airport had Radio Ulster on and he was only too happy to tell them that the taoiseach’s death had brought delight to the Protestant side of Belfast. That it was well known in Belfast that he had been an IRA supporter and had been funding them. The couple were easily in time for the Gatwick flight and as they settled in the lounge to watch the news on the TV screen, the BBC were reporting that the assassin’s car had been found at Portmagee and it was believed they had got away on a stolen fishing boat. Penny whispered to Les the cover story was looking good but perhaps the SIS should have had someone in Belfast talking to the Ulster Loyalists as they seemed well informed.
Penny was not in the slightest surprised when the BA cabin manager bent over them and said discretely, “I have instructions to deplane you first and to tell you a car is waiting to take you to London.”
In Chapter 27 – Christmas is coming
© WorthingGooner 2023