Copyright© 2011 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.
I hadn’t long precipitated the conversation with the family about Stephanie when the phone rang again. Stella joked that it would be Steph again saying she’d coughed and the baby had popped out.
“Hi, Cathy, it’s Jim.”
“I was wondering when you’d come back to me.”
“I intended to as soon as I got some answers.”
“Does this mean I get my money back?”
“Afraid not, if anything it’s going to cost you more.”
“And pray tell me why that is?”
“No one appears to have ever heard of Irena Popova.”
“But you ran checks on her.”
“Yeah well all that tells us is if she’s known for anything criminal. She isn’t. I went to the flat and they’ve never heard of her. I checked with neighbours, even went down the local shop and library. No one recognised the photo nor the name.”
“So who was the woman who came here?”
“I have no idea.”
“Was she casing the joint?”
“I didn’t understand why the advert only brought one response.”
“Could have been arranged—contact on the local paper.”
“I don’t know, but I’d check your alarms are all working and count the children every morning.”
“D’you think someone could be planning an abduction.”
“They do happen, and you are plugged into a very wealthy family.”
“You’re beginning to scare me, Jim.”
“Good, I needed to. Now I’ve got two friends arriving, should be in five minutes, they’ll introduce themselves as Chas and Dave.”
“I take it that isn’t their real names?”
“You’d probably be about right. Do exactly what they tell you.”
“What are they, Jim—some sort of bodyguards?”
“Got it in one.”
“Are they armed?”
“Let’s just say they’ll be able to deal with most things.”
“I hope so.”
“I know so, so keep all doors and windows locked when not using them.”
“And it’s Chas and Dave?”
“Yeah, if I have the answers to the queries I’ve left in various places I hope to be there myself sometime tomorrow.”
“What if you haven’t?”
“Chas and Dave stay until I resolve this.”
“How much is this going to cost?” I began to wonder what I’d started.
“How much are your children worth?”
“Exactly. Be very careful taking them to school and back, don’t let them out of your sight when you take or collect them or when they’re home. Advise adults to hurry to and from their cars and to lock the doors at all times. Check boots and the back of cars when you get in them, every time you get in them. Don’t be tempted to do anything on your own away from home.”
“How am I supposed to do my shopping?”
“Do it online, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose deliver.”
“I’m going to go stir crazy.”
“Tough, but at least you’ll be alive.”
“I’d feel safer if you were here.”
“Chas and Dave are very good, you should be perfectly safe.”
“Should be?” I almost felt my hand shaking as held the phone.
“There are no certainties in this game, Cathy.”
“Okay, hope to see you tomorrow then?”
“I hope so too.”
“Who are we dealing with this time?”
“That’s the sixty four dollar question.”
“So you don’t know?”
“Let’s say not sure—I’m waiting on a return call from a friend in the CIA—it might tell me what I need to know.”
“Oh, okay—red alert then.”
“Nah—it’s amber—we only go to red if something starts.”
“That’s so reassuring.”
He rang off and I went back to the table and the assembled throng. “That was Jim.”
“Oh, what did he want?” asked Julie.
“It appears we have a situation.”
The adults looked at me in disbelief. “Okay, let’s have it.”
“The doors and windows...” I repeated the advice given to me by Jim.
“Does that mean I can stay home from school, Mum?”
“No, Danny, you eat too much.” He laughed and the others sniggered.
“Someone will have to take you to school tomorrow and bring you home.”
“Kewel,” he said and smirked.
“It won’t be if you get yourself abducted.”
“That won’t happen, I can run too fast.”
“Danny, we don’t know who we’re up against yet. If they’re professionals, you won’t outrun them or outfight them. Make sure you all have your mobile phones with you at all times.”
“We have swimmin’ tomorrow, Mummy.”
“Okay, but the rest of the time. Be aware of anyone acting suspiciously or if it looks like you’re being followed. And children, don’t go off with anyone you don’t know, no matter what they tell you.”
“We won’t do that anyway, Mummy.” Trish sounded confident.
“What if someone tells you they’re police and your mother or father has been hurt and for you to go with them to see them?”
“I wouldn’t go,” she said almost with bravado.
“They would sound very convincing. You could easily be fooled.”
“I won’t go, Mummy,” Mima said and I knew I could trust her to do exactly what I said, Trish was always a bit of a loose cannon. If she thought she could sort something she’d go off to try and do it.
“I won’t go either,” said Livvie.”
“I want you all to stick together when you’re not actually in class. If anyone claims to be police or anything, call me or Daddy. They might even be clever enough to fool the school, just double check with me or Daddy.”
“I feel frightened, Mummy.” Livvie looked quite pale.
“I’m sure we’ll be alright. Jim is sending two men to guard the house.”
“Where is he, shouldn’t he be here himself?”
“He’s trying to sort out a few things, hopes to be here tomorrow.”
“That girl was Latvian, is she involved in all this?” Stella had put two and two together.
“I don’t know, Jim can’t find any sign of her anywhere.”
“And she’s been all over the house,” Stella sounded very anxious. “For all we know she’s filmed it all, she could have had one of those mini video cameras.”
“So, they could access the plans of the house from the local council.”
“You seem to be taking this so calmly.”
“She doesn’t understand the full situation,” said Julie.
“No, the correct answer is: she doesn’t fully appreciate the situation.”
“I think I do, and I trust Jim, so these two blokes he’s sending should be kosher.”
“I don’t care what religion they are as long as they do their job properly.” Stella was going to nitpick everything I said, I hoped she’d be as diligent with locking and looking.
“I dinna understand any o’it,” Tom looked very tired and suddenly quite old.
“Neither do I, Daddy, but we have to take it seriously.”
“But we don’t even know if we’re at risk, do we?”
“Oh I think we’re at risk alright.” I was pretty sure of that.
“How d’you know?” Julie was challenging me.
“Because of the money that the family owns and the influence it has through the bank, we’re always potential targets.”
“Yeah, but why this time?” Julie didn’t seem convinced.
“I don’t know.”
“What if Jim is just taking you for a ride?” Julie was really challenging me.
“I don’t think he would.”
“You’re too trusting, Mummy.”
“Maybe, ah there’s a car driving up, our bodyguards I expect.”
I went to answer the door when the phone rang, Stella walked towards the door to open it for me. “Hello?” I said down the phone.
“It’s Jim, my boys have been held up an accident...” My blood ran cold.
“Shut the door, Stella, that’s not them.”
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