Jay Gets a Shock
Mark Williamson was sitting with Yvonne, watching a film when the telephone rang.
“I’ll get it,” Yvonne said as she stretched and got up, walking out to answer the phone. She came back into the room a few minutes later, handing the phone to her husband.
“Who is it,” Mark said as he took the handset, an eyebrow raised.
“It’s Brian,” Yvonne said, Mark nodding as he put the handset to his ear. “Brian – how’s the weather in Maine?”
“Hot,” a male Australian voice said.
“And the twins?”
“Bigger already. Listen Mark – we’re going to need your help.”
“I’m listening,” Mark said as he nodded to Yvonne. As she went to get a pen and paper, Brian said “Some of my associates are investigating a certain businessman – they suspect him of dealing in arms with countries that really don’t need the conflict. They need to get details of the dealings he has had with certain other companies – including one based in the UK.”
“Oh,” Mark said, “what’s the company?”
As Brian named it, Mark let out a low whistle. “That’s one of the bigger brokerages – they even have a branch here in Holderness.”
“I know – which is why we need the help of Jay and Mrs McPhee. We want them to target one of the managers of the Holderness branch, and slip a little something into their systems. Something that might edge the investigation in the right direction.”
“Understood. And who is the lucky person?”
“I’ll send you the details and the file we need transferring by encrypted e-mail. And thanks again Mark – this is a good thing you’re doing?”
“I’ll let you know when we’re ready to move,” Mark said as he ended the call, and sat back.
Mark nodded. “Yeah – local businessman. I’ll find out some things, and we can discuss it tomorrow.”
Two days later, Mark and Yvonne sat round the kitchen table, as Lisa and Charlie were in their beds.
“So, the target is?” Yvonne said as she handed him a glass of wine. Mark passed her over a picture of a tall, well built man in a dark suit, entering the Holderness branch of the business.
“This is Andrew Cottrell, the Senior Accounts Manager at the Holderness branch,” Mark said quietly. “He grew up round here, then moved away, got married, worked his way up in the company. He came back early last September when his father passed away, and he inherited his farm.”
“Where was he before that?”
“Head office in London, leading one of their investment teams. When he announced he was returning here, they transferred him to the senior position in the local branch instead – his work record speaks for itself.”
He handed Yvonne a printout which she looked down, nodding as she did so.
“They obviously did not want to lose him, which speaks volumes – one way or the other.”
“Do you think he’s involved in whatever Brian is looking into?”
“Actually, I don’t – he doesn’t seem to be that sort of person, and he certainly does not need the money. He’s making a success of the farm as well as the branch, with the help of his wife and kids.”
He handed Yvonne a picture of him with a dark haired woman, both dressed formally.
“Linda Cottrell – grew up in Northumberland, but met Andrew in London. Married for sixteen years, and a farmer’s daughter as well. When they came back up last September, she decided to manage the farm rather than going back to work. They’ve been supplying the local farmer’s market for six months now.”
“Oh yes – I’ve seen her at the stall,” Yvonne said. “Organic veg, eggs and milk.”
“So despite their casual appearance, they are quite a wealthy family. They just don’t flaunt it.”
“What about family?”
“Three boys – 14, 12 and 10.”
“All boys? First time for everything,” Yvonne said as she looked at their pictures. “I recognise the older boy – he was at Alicia Bowden’s birthday party.”
Mark nodded. “He’s not a friend of the family as such though, so I think we’re good on that count.” As he looked back over Andrew’s career transcript, he said “You know, if Brian’s right, and this firm comes crashing down, Andrew’s going to have a big problem.”
“In what way,” Yvonne said as she looked over the table.
“A firm this big, when it goes down, all the senior managers get tarred with the same brush – even if they had nothing to do with whatever caused the downfall. Collective responsibility, if you will. At any rate, they tend to become persona non grata – and I don’t want that to happen to him if he’s really innocent.”
“So what are you thinking of doing?”
“Testing him – that way, if he is innocent, we may have a position for him at our firm.”
Yvonne nodded as she looked at the picture of the youngest boy. “I think Mrs McPhee needs to come along – keep an eye on the younger ones?”
Yvonne nodded. “A different challenge, if you will?”
“All right then – we need to sort out a date, select the staff, and prepare the stick with Brian’s little present. I’ll call him once I have the date sorted out.”
“What about the kids?”
“Mum can come over and watch them for the night – she hasn’t seen them for a while.”
“She’ll like that,” Yvonne said as she poured some more wine into the glasses.
“Don’t worry – they’ll be fine with me. You go and enjoy the evening.”
“Thanks mum,” Mark said as he waved at her and Charlie, and then drove off, Yvonne sitting next to him.
“You were late,” she said as they turned the corner.
“Not my fault – the assistant at the show store kept bringing the wrong pair out. Still, no harm done – Andrew Cottrell doesn’t normally leave work before five, so we should be able to secure the family in plenty of time. Right now, we need to get ready and pick up the other two.”
Thirty minutes later, a non-descript grey van pulled up in a car park on the outskirts of town, two men getting out of their cars and getting in the back before they drove off, pulling their woollen caps down over their heads before they got in.
“Afternoon Boys,” Mrs McPhee said in her soft Scottish accent, “Sorry we’re late.”
“Not a problem, Mrs M,” one of the men said. “So what’s the target today Jay?”
“Mother and three boys – but no rough housing. We go in, secure, and do everything by the book, all right?”
The other two nodded as they made their way around the ring road, eventually turning off and arriving at a farmhouse. Jay drove the van round so that it sat behind a barn, the four getting out as the two men carried a bag each, and all four had a gun in their hands.
“Ready,” Jay said quietly, all four nodding as they opened the front door of the farmhouse and walked in. They could hear voices in the front room, and as Jay put his gloved hand on the door handle he nodded, and then opened the door.
“You’re welcome, and please feel free to…” Mrs Cottrell said as they walked in, taken aback by what they found.
expected to find Linda Cottrell, and one or maybe two of the boys, but instead
there she was, and the middle son, but also four girls – and two of them were
Cassie Craig and Lisa! He also recognised Patty, and thought he knew the fourth
“Well, this is an unfortunate surprise,” he eventually said in his Geordie accent. “We have got to stop meeting like this, young Cassie.”
Cassie looked back at him, smiling as she said “Not again Mr Edwards.”
“I really am sorry about this – I had promised I would never do this again, but we just keep crossing paths. With regret, it means we must once again…”
“Play the hostage game,” Patty said, the entire group taken by surprise by her. “It’s all right,” she said as she looked at Louise, who was staring straight ahead, “This is the man who played that weekend game with all of us.”
Mrs McPhee smiled as she said “Jay, do you know these girls?”
“Unfortunately yes – Mrs McPhee, may I present Cassie Craig, Lisa Williamson and Patty Pickering – and you are?”
“Louise Hobson,” she said quietly.
“Louise – very pleased to meet you all,” she said, keeping her voice calm and reassuring, even as she felt her stomach churning inside.
“As I was saying,” Jay continued, “with regret, I will need to keep you hostage here with Mrs Cottrell and her son. Isn’t that right, Mrs Cottrell?”
They looked at Linda, who had stared at them the whole time, before she slowly nodded and said “Yes, it’s a game, and we’re going to play along, all right Eric.”
Jay heard Eric agree, before he said “None of us are going to hurt you so long as you behave,” Jay said. “Cassie, would you come with me for a moment please?”
“Sure,” Cassie said as she went out with Jay, and the two of them went up to a bedroom. Closing the door, Jay said “sit down Cassie.”
“It’s all right, Mr Edwards,” she said as she sat down, “I know you won’t hurt us.”
“Look, I’m sorry Cassie,” Jay said as he sat next to her, “this is the fourth time we’ve met – it’s becoming something of an occupational hazard. Honestly, if I had known you or Lisa or Patty were here, I would not have come.”
“It’s all right,” Cassie said with a smile, “how were you to know we would be here? I know you’re a bad man because you steal things, but you’ve never hurt us, and I don’t think you’re going to start now.”
“No, no I’m not,” Jay said with a smile. “But even so, I made a promise, and I’ve broken it.”
Cassie nodded as she said “Listen – I know it’s not a game, so does Lisa, and even possibly Patty, but for Louise’s sake, can we please pretend it is a game? I don’t want her to be scared.”
“Of course we will – you help us keep Louise and the others calm?”
“Sure – but Lisa. She… She had a really bad experience – her, her brother and mother, and Jenny and me. A man called John Smith kidnapped us all and threatened to kill us.”
“Oh my,” Jay said quietly, “you were rescued though?”
Cassie nodded, before she said “but she was really scared, so please – be gentle with her. In fact, I know a way you can make it less scary for her.”
“Well, as it’s you, I’m open to suggestions,” Jay said with a smile.
“Get Eric to tie her up.”
“Eric? The young lad? He looks more scared that she is.”
“I know, but – can you keep a secret?”
“Well, I like to think I can,” Jay said with a smile.
“I think Lisa has a crush on him – we met a few days ago, and she goes all red and giggly when she thinks of him. I think if he does it, she’ll be more comfortable, and it may help her as well as him. I think he’s cute on her as well, so he’ll be very gentle. If he copies me, it will be as tight as you need it, but they will both be happier.”
Jay looked at her for a minute, and then said “All right, but Mrs McPhee or I will be watching.”
“Sure,” Cassie said with a smile. “I’ll do something in return – get the girls to phone their parents later and say we’re sleeping over at each other’s house. That way our parents won’t get worried and call the police.”
“You have a deal,” he said as he held out his gloved hand, and shook Cassie’s hand, before they walked back downstairs.
As they went back into the front room, Cassie sat down next to Lisa and held her hand as Jay said “now, while we check nobody else is home, I want you all to give my friend your mobile phones. You, check the main phone and internet are disconnected.”
They left one of the associates in the room as the second one headed to the back room, and Jay and Mrs McPhee headed up stairs. As he closed the bedroom door, Yvonne whispered “oh God Mark – what are we going to do? Bad enough we know them, but our own daughter?”
“I know, I know,” Mark whispered back, “I’ve no idea what they are doing here either.”
“Mark, I don’t know if I can do this, not after that John Smith business.”
“How do you think I feel? It’s the fourth time I’ve met Cassie, never mind the others.” Mark wiped his head before he said “but we made a promise to Brian and Sarah. If we abandon now, we never get another chance to bring the real bad guys down.”
“So what do we do?”
Taking out the mobile phone he used as Jay, Mark said “we talk to them,” and dialled a US number.
“Brian, it’s Mark – is Sarah there with you?”
“Doing feeding duty,” Sarah said, “what’s the problem?”
“We are doing the little job you asked us to do, but there’s a problem.”
“What sort of problem?”
“The kind called Cassie Craig, Lisa Williamson and Patty Pickering – they and one other girl were here when we got to work.”
There was silence for a moment, before Sarah said “You are kidding right?”
“I wish we were,” Yvonne said, “but we are going to have to hold them hostage as well as the son and wife.”
“Brian, do we abort?”
“No,” Brian eventually said. “I understand if you feel you cannot do it for Lisa’s sake, but the objective is far too important for me to tell you to abort. I have every confidence you will treat them all very well, and I’m sorry that this is going to give you cause for concern, but I’m hoping you can work through it.”
Mark and Yvonne looked at each other, as Yvonne gripped his hand. “All right,” Mark eventually said, “we continue, and I’m sorry we broke the promise.”
Yvonne nodded as Brian said “You could not have foreseen this – if you had, I know you would have delayed. Do your best, and good luck.”
“Thanks,” Mark said as he ended the call and looked at Yvonne.
“Next time, we make damn sure they’re not at the target house,” Yvonne said. “What is she doing here anyway?”
“What did Cassie tell you Mark?”
“That our Lisa has a crush on the boy sitting downstairs.”
It was Yvonne’s turn to open her eyes in shock, before she shook her head. “We need to have a serious talk with our kids when this is done,” she eventually said. “Come on – let’s get back to work.”
They went back to the front room, as Jay said “Now then, this is a hostage game, so we need to make sure none of you can move about for a while. So we’re going to tie you up, and I am going to need your help.” He then pointed at Eric, who started shaking and said “Do I have to?”
“Yes you do – come here please Eric.”
“How do you know my name?”
The boy looked at Lisa and Louise, and then stood up, saying “what do you want me to do?”
“My friend here is going to tie your mother up, and you are going to tie the girls up.”
“But I don’t know how to do that!”
“That’s all right,” Patty shouted out, “Cassie can teach you!”
“All right,” Jay said with a smile, “you tie Patty up, and Eric can copy you on one of the others.”
Jay and Mrs McPhee watched as one of the two associates bound Linda, Cassie took care of Patty, and Eric of Lisa. They watched Lisa closely, especially the way she reacted as Eric touched her and then bound her hand and foot, then looked at each other. They also saw how Eric was shaking and sweating, and kept apologising, Lisa trying to keep him calm.
Once all six were secured, Mrs McPhee took a Trivial Pursuit set out and they started to play a game, while Jay took the two associates to the kitchen and spoke to them. An hour or so later, he went back in, and took Patty, Lisa and Linda to the toilet.
When he returned, Cassie and Eric were holding some sponges, as Mrs McPhee said “Make a fist while holding these, and we’ll do all three of you at the same time.”
Jay took Louise to the toilet, coming back and watching as they first three were tied tightly, sat down and then gagged with the cloth, knotted strip and tape. He could see Lisa shiver at Eric’s touch, and then blush as he was bound and sat next to her.
Once the five children were tightly bound and gagged, Jay said “Mrs McPhee will look after you, but Mum needs to rest.” He picked Linda up in his arms, carried her to the master bedroom, and then laid her on the bed, pulling her ankles back and tying them to her chest ropes.
“The kids will be fine,” he said as he brushed her black hair from her eyes, “you trust me, don’t you?” She nodded as he said “good, nor try to relax. When your husband gets home, you will be released.”
She nodded again as he left her there, and then headed downstairs.
A short while later, Jay went and stood by the door, the five children watching and listening as the front door opened and closed.
“Linda, Eric, where are…”
Mr Cottrell stopped in the doorway, eyes wide as he looked at us.
“What on earth…” he stammered as he saw all five children sitting there, tightly bound and with white tape round our mouths, as Eric said “msreeddd.”
“Good afternoon Mr Cottrell,” Jay said as he stepped in front of us. “My name is Jay Edwards – perhaps you have heard of me?”
“Jay… But I’m just a farmer, surely you can see that?”
“Indeed – a farmer who has very good taste in antique furniture, and who is also a highly placed stockbroker,” Jay said with a smile. “As you can see, we have your son and his friends safely secured, and your wife is upstairs. I strongly advise you continue to play the game, understood?”
He looked at us all, before saying “Have they hurt you Eric?”
The young boy shook his head, while Mrs McPhee said “They haven’t been hurt Mr Cottrell. Just do as we say, and everyone will be just fine.”
“I want to see my wife.”
“Of course – Mrs McPhee, keep them company while we talk?”
Jay took Mr Cottrell by the arm, and walked him up the stairs, into the master bedroom where one of the masked men was standing guard over Linda.
“Hmgddndrrww” she mumbled as she looked up.
“All right, all right,” he said quietly, “who are the four girls down stairs?”
“Friends of the family, I believe,” Jay said as he signalled to the masked man. “Now, we’re going to unite your wife and she will go and prepare dinner, while you and I have a nice little chat, all right Andrew?”
“All right – just don’t hurt them,” he said as he watched his wife being released, Linda hugging him as soon as she could.
“I’m sorry Andrew – they appeared at lunchtime, and held us hostage. Eric and the girls, are they…”
“They’re fine – but who are they?”
“Friends of Eric and Frank. I’ll introduce you to them later.” Linda kissed her husband before she was led off.
“I swear of you harm one hair on their heads…”
“Calm yourself, Andrew,” Jay said with a smile, “I have no intention of harming them unless you do something stupid.”
“I’ve heard of you – you want me to steal from my company, don’t you?”
“That would be the general intention, but the question is, how much and where from? After all, your brokerage has many accounts in many areas – pharmaceuticals, agriculture, retail, arms manufacturing…”
“I beg your pardon? I know who you work for, Andrew Cottrell, and I know the deals they have been making.”
“We don’t deal in arms – I should know. I see the transactions and that does not happen.”
“Are you sure – a vast conglomerate such as yours.”
“If we were, I would know, and I would blow the whistle on it. Look, you’re going to rob the company, and I know your reputation – I’m not going to put my family in danger. But we do not trade in arms.”
“Well, if you say so. You strike me as an intelligent man, Andrew, and a hard working one – this farm could easily occupy you full time, yet you do both jobs.”
“And as I say, cope very well. I like you Andrew, so I’m going to make you an offer.”
“Hear me out,” Jay said as he held his hand up. “yes, we will rob your company, using your access privileges – but you could benefit from it as well.”
Jay was actually pleased when Andrew looked at him in anger.
“I could cut you a percentage of the take, completely untraceable, all for you. You were forced to do what you will do – so why not take some of the profit from it for yourself?”
“I don’t make deals with crooks,” Andrew replied as he stood up. “I can’t stop you stealing from my company, but I cannot and will not take any willing part or anything at all from it. I trust you understand me.”
Jay looked Andrew in the eye, then smiled and nodded. “It is so rarely I meet a man of integrity. Very well – then let me explain. We will stay here, and later you will go with an associate to your offices. There you will do exactly what he says, while we hold your family and their friends hostage here. Only when we hear everything has been done satisfactorily will we leave, and you will remain at your office. Do anything we say not to, or try to alert the authorities, and it is them who pay the price, understand?”
Andrew nodded as Jay said “All right – why don’t we go and join your wife, and you can talk to her.” He led Andrew down the stairs and into the kitchen, saying “watch them” to the masked man.
As he went into the front room, he saw the five children watching television, before saying “I think you can remove the tape now.”
As they were ungagged, Eric said quietly “I need to go to the toilet.”
Jay nodded to his other associate, who untied Eric and took him out of the room.
“Now,” Mrs McPhee said to the four girls, “you are going to be staying here tonight, but we’ll make it like a slumber party and sleepover. You’ll need to let your parents know however.”
“I’ll do it first,” Cassie said as she looked at us, “just tell them you’re staying with one of us. We’ve done it before, and I don’t think they’ll object. It also means they won’t worry about us.”
The others nodded as Mrs McPhee said “Which phone is yours Cassie?”
“The blue one,” she said, watching as Mrs McPhee found the phone, dialled a number and then put it next to Cassie’s cheek.
“Mum? Listen, is it all right if I sleep over at Lisa’s place tonight? We really got into a game and we want to see it through to the end.
“Yeah, I’ll be careful. Thanks Mum – I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She nodded to show Mrs McPhee she was finished, before she looked at Lisa and said “You next.” Jay watched as Mrs McPhee found the phone and put it to her ear.
“Granny? Hi it’s Lisa. Listen, I know you’ve come to watch us, but is it all right if I sleep over with Cassie Craig tonight?
“Yeah, that’s right my friend from across the road. We went to see a film and she’s asked me round for tea.
“All right, I’ll wait for you to call back.” As the call ended, Jay stood up and left the room, going upstairs. He took out his own mobile phone and waited for it to start ringing.
As it did, he put it to his ear and said “Hello Mark Williamson” in his usual voice.
“Oh hi Mum – what’s up? Charlie and Lisa behaving themselves?”
“Charlie’s fine – but Lisa rang a few minutes ago, asking if she could stay at Cassie Craig’s overnight?
“An unscheduled sleepover eh? Well, you know the Craigs – I went to school with their dad. I don’t think there’s a big problem with that.”
“I didn’t think there would be, but I wanted to check. When do you go to the dinner?”
“In a couple of hours. See you tomorrow Mum.”
As he ended the call, Mark smiled and went back down, in time to hear Lisa say “That’s great – I’ll see you in the morning.”
Once the other two girls made their calls, Louise was released and went upstairs with the second associate.
“You are all incredibly brave girls, to make this a game for her.” Mrs McPhee smiled as Jay nodded in agreement.
“It worked for me last time,” Patty said with a smile, “so I imagined it would work for her as well.”
“Oh come on Cassie,” Patty said as she looked at us, “I’m not that stupid. I know this is a real robbery, I know these are real criminals. Mum eventually told me what really happened that weekend.” She then smiled and said “Having said which, you are both very nice and kind people, Mrs McPhee. If I am going to be held hostage, I’m glad it’s by Jay and you and the others.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment – and thank you,” Mrs McPhee said. “How do you feel Lisa?”
“Not nearly as scared as I did when you walked in,” Lisa said with a smile. “Thank you for being so gentle with us.”
“You’re welcome,” she said as Louise walked past us. “Your turn Patty.”
As they came through from the dinner table, their wrists pinned behind their backs with zip ties, Jay and Mrs McPhee watched them closely, until Jay took Andrew out.
“When you get to the offices,” Jay said as he handed the masked man a USB stick, “you will log into your systems, and my friend will insert that stick into your computer. Follow his instructions, and your family will be unharmed.”
“I have your word?”
“You have my word.”
Andrew nodded as Jay turned to the man. “Inform me when all is completed and you have vacated the premises,” he said, the man nodding before they both went out.
Returning to the front room, he said “They are perfectly safe with me,” as Mrs McPhee took Linda to change and find some pyjamas for the girls. When she came down, they went up two at a time, Jay trying not to smile when he saw Lisa in the blue pyjamas.
Once they had all had their supper, he said “Time to go to bed,” standing up as they went to the bedrooms. He and Mrs McPhee made sure Patty and Louise were secured and silenced, before he and the other man took the remaining group to Eric’s bedroom.
As he tied Cassie up, he watched Lisa from the corner of his eye, trying not to smile as she seemed to be enjoying the fact it was Eric who was securing her. The boy was actually quite good at tying knots, and not as nervous as he had been earlier, as he laid both girls on the mattress and secured their ankles to the foot of the bed.
“Come with me,” he said as he led Eric and Linda to the master bedroom. “Both of you hold these now,” he said as he handed them the sponges, and taped their fists over.
“You can stay with your mother, or go to your older brother’s room,” he said to Eric. The boy nodded and looked at his mum, before saying “if Mum’s all right with it, I want to stay with her, keep her company.”
“I’d like that,” she said as Jay smiled.
“Very well then, turn and put your hands behind your backs,” he said, and he started to bind their wrists, and then their arms – around the stomach and upper chest for Eric, then above and below her chest for Linda.
“You were very good with the girls,” Linda said as they sat on the bed, and Jay bound their ankles and legs, pulling the skirt of her nightdress around her legs as he did so.
“Yeah – I didn’t want them to be scared like I was,” Eric admitted.
Eric blushed as Jay stood up. “Time to be quiet,” he said, both of them nodding as he put the cloths in their mouths, then cleave and tape gagged them. Laying them on their sides on the bed, he put them both in a loose hogtie, before turning the light off and closing the door.
“Keep an eye on them,” he said to the associate as he looked in on Cassie and Lisa, smiling as she saw them sleeping.
“The other two are out as well,” Mrs McPhee said as she came in and looked at them.
“Good – let’s clear up downstairs,” he said as they walked out.
“Good – destroy the stick, and I’ll be in touch with payment in due course.”
“All done,” Mrs McPhee said as they stood up.
“It is – lights off and move out,” Jay said as they left the farmhouse, and drove off into the night. Dropping the associate at the car park, they then went to a lock up and drove in, Yvonne removing her mask as Mark closed the doors.
“Please God, never let that happen again,” she said as Mark pulled off his mask and rubbed his hair.
“Tell me about it, but we’ll need to go home instead of the hotel – we’ll just say we wanted our own beds,” Mark said as he dialled a number.
“Brian, it’s Mark. Mission accomplished.”
“And for yourself?”
“One million. I’ll make a substantial donation to war charities for my penance.”
“Believe me, you’ve done far more than that Mark. I’ll let my contacts know – and thank you. I know this could not have been easy.”
“You have no idea,” Mark said as he looked at Yvonne. “We’ll talk again in a few days.”
“Of course, and thanks again,” Brian said as the line went dead.
“Right, let’s go home,” Mark said, “and wait for the inevitable.”
“Good morning – when did you two get back?”
“Early hours – the hotel wasn’t great Mum,” Mark said as he and Yvonne came into the kitchen. Mark’s mother was standing by the stove, whisking some eggs, milk and butter together.
“Scrambled eggs for breakfast, Sheila,” Yvonne said as she looked over.
“Yup – Charlie asked if he could have them,” she said as Charlie came in, saying “morning Granny” as he sat at the table.
She cracked some more eggs in the bowl and kept whisking as Mark said “Did you hear back from Lisa last night?”
“Nope – after I called her and told her she could stay the rest was silence.”
“Well, maybe I can call round to John’s and collect her in a little while,” Yvonne said as Sheila cooked the eggs, put them on thick slices of white bread and then handed them round.
“Thanks, Granny,” Charlie said as they started eating, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door.
“I wonder who that is,” Mark said as he stood up, wiping his mouth as he walked to the front door. Opening it, he was surprised to see John Craig standing there.
“Oh hi John – what brings you over?”
“I just came to collect Cassie – we have to take her into town today.”
“Collect Cassie? I was going to come over to your place to collect Lisa from you. She called last night to ask if she could stay at your place.”
John looked at Mark, before saying “Cassie called and asked if she could stay at your place. But if they’re not here, where are they?”
“What’s wrong,” Yvonne said as she came to the door.
“The girls lied to us,” John said, “have you any idea where…”
“Mister Williamson, Mister Craig?”
All three turned to see the police officer standing behind John.
“We need you to come with us – I’m afraid your daughters have been involved in a hostage situation.”
John and Mark looked at each other, before Yvonne said “are they…”
“They’re fine, but you need to come with us.”
“We’ll take my car,” Mark said as John ran back across the road. “Yvonne?”
“I’ll tell your mum and get the keys,” she said as she ran back in.
The car stopped outside the farmhouse, two police cars and an ambulance outside, and all three ran into the house. As they went into the front room, they saw Lisa, Cassie, Patty and Louise sitting with a young boy, as a woman said “Linda Cottrell – and this is my husband Andrew.”
Louise’s dad shook the hand of the man as he said “I can only imagine what this was like for you.”
“Hi Dad,” Cassie said as John hugged her, while Lisa ran over and hugged her parents.
“You have got to stop doing this, young lady,” John said, “who was it?”
Cassie made a strange face and said “Jay Edwards?”
“Again! What is it with you and him?”
“What on earth were you doing here anyway,” Yvonne said as she kissed Lisa’s forehead.
Mrs Pickering came in and picked Patty off the floor as a police officer came in.
“We need to talk to Mrs Cottrell and the children,” he said quietly, “before you take them home. A paramedic also needs to check them over, but I don’t think they’ve been harmed physically. Apparently three of the girls have met this man before?”
“Sadly, yes,” John said, “can we stay with them?”
He nodded as Mr Cottrell said “Let me get some drinks for all of you.”
“Mr Cottrell, how are you,” Lisa asked.
“As sore as the rest of you,” he said with a sigh. “Drinks first.”
Sometime later, Andrew and Linda Cottrell were standing in the kitchen with John, Mark and Yvonne.
“You’ve both been victims of this man then,” Andrew said as he looked at them.
“Twice in my case,” John said, “and once for you Mark?”
“That’s right – he took substantial amounts from our businesses as well. How much from you?”
“One million,” Andrew said quietly, “I think. The forensic accountants will let me know soon enough. Once he was done, he bound and gagged me in the office, and then just left. It was six this morning before a cleaner found me and freed me.”
“Sounds familiar,” John said with a groan. “The one saving grace is they never really harmed the kids as such.”
“I’m just glad Frank wasn’t here – oh god Frank and Mark!”
“Mum? Why are the police here? What happened?”
They looked at Mark as he stood in the doorway, his younger brother hiding behind him.
“Andrew, what’s going on?”
“Well, we had a bit of an incident here last night Ted – I’ll tell you about it later.”
The police officer came in and said “We’re finished now – you can take the girls home.”
“Thanks,” Yvonne said as she put her mug down. “Look, if you want to talk about what happened some time, let me know – Jennifer Craig and I know what it’s like.”
“Thanks,” Linda said as the girls were collected and taken out to the cars.
When Mark returned to his home, John took Cassie to her house, while he and Yvonne took Lisa inside.
“Thank god you’re all right,” Sheila said as she gave Lisa a hug, and she looked at Charlie.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked you to…”
“Mum, thanks for sticking around,” John said as he hugged Sheila, “you helped a great deal.”
“Come on Mark,” she said in her soft West Country voice, “I wanted to be sure she was fine. But I do need to get going.”
“I’ll see you out,” Yvonne said as Sheila hugged and kissed Lisa again. John looked at both of them and said “sit down, both of you – we need to have a talk.”
The two children looked at each other and sat down before their mother came back in.
“We had a chat with Mr and Mrs Cottrell before we brought Lisa home,” Mark said, “so we know you’ve been going round there for the last couple of weeks Charlie. We also know now that you’d been round there before yesterday Lisa. The question we have to ask you is, why didn’t you tell me or your mother where you were?”
Charlie looked at Lisa before he said “I’m sorry Dad – I met Frank, their youngest son, when I was exploring in the woods, and we became friends, but he’s incredibly shy, and he made me promise not to tell anyone that we were friends.”
“And you agreed because,” Yvonne said as she sat back.
“Well, when I say incredibly shy, I mean he runs away if he sees someone he doesn’t know – he did when you first met him, didn’t he Lisa?”
“That’s right Dad – he ran straight into the house when Cassie and I went there with Eric and Brian…”
Mark and Yvonne had to stop themselves from smiling when they saw how their daughter blushed as she mentioned his name. “And you met him because?” Mark said.
“Well, Cassie and I wanted to know where Charlie was sneaking off to, so we followed him to the farmhouse, only Brian Hammond and Eric surprised us as well. The two of us became friend with Eric and Frank, but we wanted to protect Frank as well.”
“I see,” Mark said, “so yesterday?”
“Yesterday, Charlie asked if I would take a book round to Frank, but I didn’t tell you because we were keeping it a secret – for Frank’s sake. Cassie came with me, and then Patty and Louise joined us. We got there, stayed for a sandwich, and – well, you heard me tell the policeman what happened after that.”
“Well, having met Frank today,” Mark said, “I can see just how shy he is. So I understand why you did it, but in future you need to tell us if you are visiting again, all right?”
“Right, I’ll start tea,” Yvonne said as she left the room, Mark following behind her. In the kitchen, they had to put their hands over their mouths to stop themselves laughing.
“Now this is a very serious moment,” Mark whispered, “our daughter likes a boy, and we must be mature about it.”
“Oh of course,” Yvonne said as they hugged each other.
Two days later, Mark returned from work and sat at the dining table, looking over some papers he had received.
“What’s that,” Yvonne said as she sat down.
“Fallout – apparently Andrew Cottrell’s firm has crashed and ceased trading.”
“Oh dear,” Yvonne said, “what happened?”
“The forensic accountants he mentioned? They chanced upon some illegal deals on Wall Street, with a company that has just been closed down by the IRS for tax evasion and illicit deals with banned countries.”
“And Andrew’s firm?”
“The City has suspended their licence to trade, the board have been arrested, and the company shut down. Poor guy’s out of a job.”
“For how long?”
Mark looked at his watch. “Until two o’clock tomorrow with any luck.”
“Mister Williamson? Mister Cottrell to see you?”
“Andrew – come right in,” he said as he shook Andrew’s hand. “Coffee for two please. Come in, sit down.”
“Thanks,” Andrew said as he sat down. “How’s your daughter?”
“Lisa? She’s fine – sad to say it’s not the first time we’ve encountered Jay Edwards.”
“So I heard – a very brave young girl. They all were.”
“What about your wife and son?”
“Coping – they’re more worried about what we’re going to do next.”
“Ah yes – I heard in the financial news. A bad business – a very bad business.”
“Yeah, that’s one way of putting it,” Andrew said. “My firm gone, the one they were dealing with in the US gone. The entire board under arrest, all the senior managers…”
“But not you?”
“No – for all the good it will do Mr Williamson.”
“Call me Mark,” he said as the coffee came in. Pouring it, he handed it over and said “Andrew, as I hear it you have nothing to worry about in this crisis – you seem to be one of those at a senior level who knew nothing.”
“Doesn’t matter Mark – mud sticks. I’ll need to move away – and I don’t want to uproot the family again. This is my hometown, and the farm is my family home – I don’t want to lose that.”
“Forgive me,” Mark said as he picked up a sheet, “but I did a little digging into you and your background. It hardly seems fair that someone of your skills and expertise should have to suffer because of this.”
“Well, unless you know a way to get that mark off me…”
“I don’t care about it – and I have an opening that might interest you.”
Andrew looked over his cup, then lowered it and said “Say that again?”
“I have an opening for a new head of personal taxation – it’s a different position, but It comes with a package I think you’ll find attractive, and you report directly to me. Interested?”
Mark sipped his coffee as Andrew sat there, dumbfounded.
“I… I genuinely don’t know what to say.”
“Yes would be a good start. We can discuss the details – Yvonne would love to get to know your wife better.”
Andrew stood up and said “then I say Yes – and if you are free tomorrow, then come round for lunch, and we can discuss terms then.”
“That sounds like a plan – so tell me about yourself and your family,” Mark said as they sat down.
An hour later, Andrew and Mark shook hands, and as Andrew left Mark went back to his desk and called Yvonne.
“He took the job – and we’re invited round for lunch tomorrow. I don’t think the kids will mind, do you?”
“Where are we going, Dad,” Charlie said as he sat next to Lisa in the back of the car.
“Well,” Mark said, “I know you don’t read the papers, so you may not have heard that the firm that Mr Cottrell worked for has collapsed, and he has had to look for a new job. Fortunately, he did not have to look very far for one.”
“Oh,” Lisa said, “where did he get a new job?”
“Working for me,” Mark said as they stopped outside, Andrew and Linda waiting at the front door.
“Hello Mark,” Andrew said as he shook Mark’s hand, “thanks for coming round for lunch today.”
“Thank you for inviting us,” Mark said as we went in. As they went into the front room, their three sons were sitting there waiting for them.
“Why don’t we go through and eat,” Linda said, “and then the boys can take you somewhere while we talk.”
They all sat down as Linda served up sausages and mash with onion gravy, and sponge pudding for dessert. Once they had eaten, and the boys had taken Charlie and Lisa somewhere, the four adults went and sat in the main room, Linda bringing trough coffee.
“They’re nice boys,” Yvonne said, “but Frank seems to be very shy.”
“He is,” Linda said, “but hopefully he’ll grow out of it.”
“Listen,” Andrew said, “I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for us. I really thought I was over in my career.”
“I can understand that – but talent like yours, as I said yesterday, “does not deserve to be tarred with that brush. And you get to stay here, on the farm.”
“There is that,” Linda said, “and we do like it here. So thank you, thank you so much.”
“Anyway,” Mark said as he took an envelope out and handed it to Andrew,” for you to read and consider.”
As he opened the letter and looked at it, Andrew glanced over at Mark and Yvonne, then showed it to his wife.
“That’s far too generous Mark – my last job was well paid, but…”
“But this is an honest appraisal of what I think you are worth,” Mark said quietly. “Of course, if you want to haggle for a higher wage, then…”
“No, no – I accept, but you must let me do something for you in return. I can give you wholesale on eggs, milk, anything you want…”
“No you won’t,” Mark said, “but I will pay full retail to you. The last thing you need is anything approaching bribery, right?”
“True,” Andrew said with a smile.
“On the other hand, my caterer would be willing to discuss milk supply with you, and I won’t say no to a steady supply of fresh eggs.”
“Deal,” Andrew said as they shook hands, “when do I start?”
“Take a few weeks – I’m taking the family on holiday next week for a fortnight anyway. Call round tomorrow and I’ll have the employment contract and other paperwork ready for you to sign.”
“Tell me,” Yvonne said as she looked at Linda, “would you be interested in a trip into London one day?”
“Well, I’m glad that worked out in the end,” Brian said as Mark and Yvonne talked to them on the phone later that night.
“How are things at your end?”
“The chain is broken, and a lot of people will sleep more easily in their beds now. Still, on to other matters – when will you arrive over here?”
“Wednesday next week – Alex and Alicia are on the same flight as us.”
“Good – we’ll contact you after you get settled. We need your help out here Mark – time for Jay Edwards to visit the US.”