CHAPTER 70: TIME TO ACT…TO LOOK…TO TALK...AND HOW HIGH?
TREEHOUSE – TUESDAY NIGHT
I'm looking at my sleeping lig. She's always been beautiful but even more so now that Bubble is percolating. I slowly lift her chemise to bare her stomach then look up to check she’s still sleeping.
“Hey Bubble. I'm so proud of you. You did an excellent job keeping mommy calm today.” Zee shifts slightly and I pause. “Now if you could just do it again on Thursday what you did today because mommy will need to be very calm. She loves Brian and Justin very much, like brothers, and the asshole who hurt them is most likely going to upset her. Like he upsets everyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. He upset, once again, one of my favourite women in the world; after you, mommy and my mama of course, and that's Jenny.”
I wipe my eyes. “Oh Bubble, let me tell you about our little Pitbull. Now don't worry when we call her that. She knows and is proud of it but she takes after your mommy in a way. The amount of times her ex-father has hurt her is a fucking disgrace. But each time, like your mommy, she's taken the blow, dealt with it and then broken down. If there is a person you should look up to its Jenny. Now don't try to become her, because you should be your own person, but try to emulate her strength, her integrity, courage, loyalty and sense of worth. I love that kid so much and…”
I look up as Zee sniffles and reaches for my hand. “How long?” I ask quietly and she gently wipes away a tear from my cheek.
“Am always awake for the night time nattering but you’ve never made me cry before...keep going.”
“Oh.” I clear my throat and Zee puts both our hands on Bubble and I settle my chin on top. “As I was saying. We love Jenny very much…”
NEW JERSEY SUPERIOR COURT – WEDNESDAY LATE MORNING
I can't believe she’s trying to get the agreement between her and Talon invalidated, saying she was under duress at the time.
When Talon got the papers she called me in a rage. Leda is right. She and Zee are the same; crush their enemies. So here we are, walking up to the court to get through the latest round of Lindsay Bullshit.
As we approach, I spot Lindsay and Nancy talking to who, I assume, is her attorney. I notice the subtle dig in her side by Nancy and suddenly Lindsay shudders and buries her head in Nancy’s shoulder. I just shake my head.
“Case of Lindsay Peterson vs Talon Kho.” The bailiff calls out. “Follow me.”
Talon glares at Lindsay’s back as we walk behind her. “Seriously, whatever did you see in that? Leda is a million times better.”
“In every way.” I say loud enough for Lindsay’s back to stiffen in annoyance and Nancy to tsk in disgust.
As we reach the front of the court, I start to snicker and Talon looks confused, but I shake my head. “Don’t sit.” I whisper.
“All rise for Judge Cooper.”
“Be seated.” She looks around the court and frowns slightly. “Ms Peterson, I believe you are the defendant correct?”
“Yes, your honour.” She whispers tearfully and Judge Cooper sighs and peers over her glasses at her.
“You’re on the wrong side. Considering the amount of times you’ve appeared in this courtroom, you should remember.”
Her attorney just looks at her in bewilderment and we swap sides.
“That’s better. Now I understand Ms Peterson that you want this agreement between yourself and Talon Kho invalidated because of the duress you were under at the time. Correct?”
“Yes your honour.” She wipes her eyes.
Judge Cooper leans her elbow on the desk and rests her chin on her hand and regards Lindsay with ill-disguised contempt. “Application rejected.”
Her attorney is up like a shot. “Your honour! I object; we haven’t presented our evidence yet.”
“Is this the first time you’ve met Ms Peterson...uh Mr…?”
“Raven, Carl Raven, your honour. And no, I’ve met her before to discuss the…”
“Yes obviously, Mr Raven. I meant have you read about Ms Peterson or did she simply tell you what she needed you to hear?”
“First out of the gate?”
“What? Yes this is my first pro bono case.” Raven nods. “Your honour.” He adds quickly.
“Well let me explain my reasoning for the rejection. Ms Peterson is incarcerated in one of our finest establishments for fraud. However, before you joined her cause, she was in Pittsburgh trying to be a character witness for a former friend of hers. What she didn’t anticipate was how eviscerated she would be on the stand when it came out…”
Ten minutes later, Raven is stalking down the aisle with Nancy running after him begging him to represent Lindsay and promising to be completely honest from this point on! And Lindsay is led out crying real tears this time.
“Come on I know a great cocktail bar in the city, and by city I mean New York.”
“Did you know that was going to happen?” Talon giggles as we get into the car and watch Nancy walk disconsolately back into the building.
“I knew the judge would throw it out but not this hard. When I saw the name, I couldn’t believe it. Judge Cooper has absolutely zero crap tolerance.
“Hence the ’don’t sit’.”
TREEHOUSE – THURSDAY MORNING
Seriously, what is taking Zee so long? Faal gets up and sighs.
“Lig! What are you doing?”
“Finding another shirt!” She yells back.
“What on earth for? Just come on, I’m sure what you’re wearing is fine!”
Finally, I hear her coming down the stairs. “You’ll think the shirt is fine but I’m pretty sure you won’t like anyone else thinking that.” She chuckles.
Faal shakes his head at me and heads to the fridge. Zee comes in and my eyebrows shoot up. “Woah!”
“Impressive, no?” She laughs.
“Good grief, have you always had them?!” Justin gasps.
“Had what?” Faal takes his head out of the fridge and turns round to face her. “Neuken.” He breathes and just stares.
“Yeah the Bubble Boobs are here!” Zee laughs at the incredulous expression on Faal’s face. “Seems after your little chat that she decided that daddy needed a distraction. Will they do?”
He puts down the bottle and shakes his head with his eyes closed and then opens them again. “Oh yeah! But you’re right, please go and put on my grey D&G from last fall and…”
“Look guys, can we get going?” Tucker comes back in. “I know that...Christ where did they come from?!” Tucker gasps.
“For goodness sake.” Jennifer grumbles from the door. “How hard can it be for you to ask them to hurry up Tuck?”
Tucker is silent and transfixed on Zee. Jennifer looks at Faal, who’s equally mesmerised, and clears her throat loudly. That gets both their attention.
“Tucker, look at Zee from the neck upwards, especially in front of your partner.” She teases him. “They’ve kicked in and then some haven’t they Faal?”
“Yeah.” He continues to stare dreamily before pulling himself out of it. “So my D&G shirt from last fall and the velvet tux jacket. Want me to help you get dressed?”
“I’ll help her get changed.” Jennifer states firmly and shepherds us out, laughing.
Ten minutes later, they’re finally in the coach and Zee kisses a pouting Faal. “We can go underwear shopping tonight, how about that?”
“Try the lingerie shop in Ross Park Mall, it’s where I get mine.” Debs calls back. “They cater for the well-endowed amongst us and according to Jen, you’re definitely that!”
“Thanks Debs.” Zee calls back before resting against Faal along the back seat and he wraps his arms around her stomach. “You get to hold the tape.”
“Great. Thank you Bubble!” He grins.
“Soon.” Justin whispers.
SUPREME JUSTICE RAUSCH
Every once in awhile, you get a person that is not intrinsically evil but is so calculating that it is frightening. And that is Novotny’s MO, he’s calculating.
As well as the cases that were recently assessed, I also went back on his previous cases with Lindsay Peterson and got the file on the assault case from NYC sent down. I don’t think he’s remembered that. I’ve heard about him wanting to appeal and that he wants to press excessive use of force charges against Guard Tony ‘Tank’ Williams and Guard Miles Crawford. Well that’s not going to happen. Not on my watch!
When, not if, he’s found guilty of that assault, he will serve his time in New York and not here. He needs to be as far away from this family as possible!
“Judge Rausch?” I look up and smile. Now if there was ever a genetic miracle, it’s this young lady. “Jenny how are you?” I tap the seat next to me and she sits down.
“Fine thank you. How about you, are you okay?”
“Yes.” She looks subdued. “Now where’s that young woman who persuaded me to let her jump over everyone to get on my intern programme?”
“Wishing she hadn’t opened her big mouth.” She sighs heavily and then gasps. “No, I don’t mean it like that! I can’t wait to start, it’s just…”
“Your dissertation. You don’t want to use what is essentially your life, even though he’s no longer legally your father?”
She nods and looks at the papers in front of me.
“What are they?” Her eyes go wide as she reads. “You know what, fuck that! I didn’t do this, he did. And people have to know that he’s not this, what did he call Uncle Justin one time? It’ll come back to me...wait ingénue that everyone thinks he is! Jesus! To think that I’m…” She looks up and me and blushes. “We weren’t allowed in the cases we weren’t going to give testimony in. Ooh if I had an ice rock right now, I’d let him have it!”
“You never heard this, okay?” She grins at me, just then Malcolm comes in.
“Oh sorry Supreme Justice. Jenny, I was just going to do my check through, I’ll come back.”
“No Malcolm wait, you’ll like this, I think. Do you mind if Malcolm stays?” She shakes her head. “But we mustn’t tell anyone, agreed?” Malcolm nods enthusiastically.
She goes on to tell us how when the adoptions were signed off that Justin was reading the papers and Michael came up to him and started to argue. But it was when he called Justin a cripple handed piece of blond boy ass that his nose got broken. He tried to blame Faal, his brother, Zee or Solomon but not Brian who was nearer to him and was holding Justin.
Malcolm and I almost have tears in our eyes. “So who threw it?”
“Client attorney privilege.” She replies, impishly. “Funny thing is he always says things without thinking, like at the anniversary party and…”
Suddenly she goes still and quiet. “Anniversary party… Oh my god, thank you Judge Rausch, thank you!” She stands up and then runs down the aisle. “Ephie! Meriam!”
“Do you know what you did?” Malcolm asks as we watch the doors close
“Not a clue but I suspect we’re going to find out.”
He has the most perfect mouth. I chuckle. “What’s amusing you?” He murmurs against my kiss bruised lips.
“Our first kiss.”
He pauses in mid-nip and looks up. “You were high and I was nervous. Not the greatest, I’ll admit.”
“I wasn’t high.” I look down suddenly shy as he jabs me gently in the ribs. “Had trail mix but hadn’t taken it. When you were talking about cereal, I realised how innocent you were. So I let you take the lead. You got better after rimming.”
“Do you remember the first time you said you love me? It was right after…”
“I came on our first night and then every night before I left the hospital. I stood at the door. I just couldn't stand by your bed and look down.”
He stares at me for a while. “I didn't imagine it?” I shake my head. “Did you hold my hand once?”
“Yes.” I stroke his hair, all thoughts of kissing gone. It is time to talk. “It was, I think, about four weeks afterwards. They said you’d had a shit day and had been getting angrier. So one of the nurses let me in and told me to talk to you…but I couldn’t so I just held your hand.”
We stand in silence just holding each other, the door opens quietly, and a throat clears.
“Guys.” It’s Ben. “You’ve got 5 minutes!”
“We’re coming...I mean, we were just talking, not fucking.” Silence. “He went quickly. Come on.”
We come out of the stall surprised to see Ben nibbling on his thumb. Worried looks are exchanged between Justin and me. “You okay, big guy?”
He sighs. “Witness list has been revised.”
“Who’s on it?” I look warily at him.
“Zee, David, Hunter...and Grady Holster.”
Why the fuck?! This cannot be good!
I take a good look at Novotny and it may be small but there is definitely a bump there. He glares back at me and I beam at him. He looks confused. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to messing with his brain.
“All rise for Judge Paal.”
She comes in and frowns. “Malcolm, a word for a moment.”
JUDGE PAAL’S CHAMBERS
“We’re having Supreme Justice Conway to adjudicate and I don’t see him.”
My eyebrows shoot upwards. “Let me get them reseated and I’ll see where he is.”
“Thanks. Did you see the witness revision?” I nod. “How many are his?”
“Did they change theirs before or after?”
“After.” She nods sagely and smiles. “Go find our errant judge. And I bet you he swears.”
“No takers on that bet. This fool and his money ain’t going to be parted!”
Ten minutes later, I locate him in Judge Carruthers’s office. “Your honour, we’re waiting to start.”
“Holy shitballs!” He gathers his things. “Sorry Malcolm. Martyn, I’ll catch up with you afterwards. Narda is going to have my balls for this! How late am I?”
I look at my watch as we head back to the courtroom. “Including now?” He winces then nods. “Twenty minutes.”
“How mad?” He smirks, he’s got that elder statesman twinkliness down pat and can wrap anyone around his fingers.
“She bet me you’d swear.”
“Oh not mad at all then, excellent!” He sweeps into the courtroom and I wait for him to settle just to the left of Novotny. But he’s too busy looking at the prosecution side to pay any attention.
“All rise for Judge Paal.”
“Ladies and gentlemen of the court, apologies for the delay. As was previously advised, today will see the cross-examination of the defendant. However, before that and before his statement is read, I will advise you of two things. One, from this point forward this trial will be adjudicated as well as recorded. Could Supreme Justice Conway make himself known to the court?” He stands solemnly. “Thank you Supreme Justice. Secondly, there are to be two more witnesses called before the prosecution start their cross. I understand that it is one from each side, correct?”
Charles stands up. “Yes your honour, we are calling a new witness.”
Novotny stands up smugly. “So am I.”
“With these two new witnesses, the cross examination of Mr Novotny will start tomorrow afternoon. Now let us begin. Defense to cross.”
Time to see the good doctor squirm. “I call to the stand David Cameron.”
He seems unruffled but when I show to the court what a liar he is, then he won’t be.
“Dr Cameron, you and I dated twice, correct?”
“Well the first time we dated yes and then we moved to Portland. You couldn’t cope without seeing Brian and refused to grow up so I sent you back home.”
“May I continue?” He looks at both judges. Judge Paal nods. “The 2nd time we, and I use the term loosely, dated was when we reconnected after you bumped into Hank, my son, in Portland.”
I grimace at his dismissive attitude over what we had. “After we reconnected, what happened, specifically from a monetary point of order?”
He smirks. ‘You mean view. From that point you gave me $50K to use as I saw fit and I used that money to…”
“What did you use that money for?”
“Mr Novotny, he was about to tell the court when you interrupted him.” Judge Paal points out and I smile tightly.
“Do continue, Dr Cameron.” I prompt, relishing that he can’t lie.
“I used it to pay off a fine and some living expenses after I got fined for insider trading. I admit that I came to Pittsburgh for the sole benefit of retrieving some share certificates that you and my son had invested in. But it worked out fine because the shares that you and my son invested in didn’t exist. My son tried to apologise and return your initial investment but you ripped up the check and the apology letter.”
“May I interrupt?” I look at the prosecution but they are all seated and then I realise it came from the other side of me. I look at the guy in surprise and then back to Judge Paal, who nods at him.
“How is any of this relevant?” He asks.
“Excuse me but who the fuck are you? And why are you interrupting my cross examination?”
“Mr Novotny…” She bangs her gavel.
“No, it’s quite alright Judge Paal. Who the fuck am I? I am Supreme Justice Conway, the adjudicator in your trial. As for why I am interrupting? I would like to know what this has to do with the trial. We are not here for a rehash down love’s labour lost. Explain the relevance or dismiss the witness.”
I can feel my face burning. “He is the reason I cashed in the policy.”
“Policy? What policy?”
“The Pearl Assurance Policy, Supreme Justice.” Judge Paal cuts across me. “And he’s already been convicted of that.”
“If you could, Supreme Justice, allow him to continue.” Echo stands up. “He’s being very helpful.”
“Oh yes. More than he knows Supreme Justice.”
“Thank you Supreme Justice. Continue Mr Novotny but watch your language and tone. And when the judges are addressing the court, you must listen. Supreme Justice Conway was introduced about half an hour ago.”
I grind my teeth in fury but again smile a tight smile. “Your honour. As you were saying Dr Cameron.”
“I’d finished saying it.” He replies.
I try to think what it was that he said. “Would you like us to read it back, Mr Novotny?”
I shake my head. “So after I broke up with you and asked for my money back, why didn’t you return it?”
He sighs. “One, you gave it to me and I had spent it as I said. And if it helps you to think that we ended whatever it was at your instigation, then fine…”
“You and I both know that…”
“Move on or dismiss, Mr Novotny!” Judge Paal barks.
“And thirdly.” David continues. “If I had stolen the money as you suggest, why did you settle the defamation of character case out of court for calling me a thief?”
“You settled a defamation case out of court for calling me a thief. If you believed that wasn’t the case, why settle?”
Shit! I had forgotten about that!
I grimace and lean against the stand. “No further questions. Your witness.”
“Dr Cameron, when did you and the defendant reconnect the second time, I mean the year?” Echo asks him.
“Thank you. No further questions.”
“Witness is dismissed.”
“I call to the stand Zaden Ugerstacht.” Echo calls out.
I can’t wait to cross examine her again!
I watch Malcolm’s eyes widen as Zee stands. He mouths ‘damn’ and looks admiringly at Faal. She was wearing a jacket when she came in but had taken it off. So when she put it back on, her shirt tightened showing Bubble amongst other things. Judge Paal does a double take and then smiles.
After she’s sworn in, Judge Paal asks if she’s comfortable and she looks sheepish. Faal clears his throat and to the amusement of the court, he stands up and holds up a cushion.
“Of course.” She looks across at Supreme Justice, who is smiling too. “But quickly.”
“Heads up lig.” Faal calls out and throws the cushion, Zee catches it and quickly gets herself comfortable.
“Thank you, your honours.” Zee blushes.
“Mrs Ugerstacht, how did the thefts come to light and how were you involved?”
“As stated in previous testimony, Talon Kho asked me to investigate once she found out about the other toys he had in his possession. They had an agreement that all his collection was forfeit should he fail to repay the loan.” She clears her throat and looks at Novotny scathingly. “She thought it odd that he had the means to pay but was resistant. Lucky for us.”
“So when it came to light about the car purchase, what did you do?”
She smiles smugly. “Between myself and my brothers, we went hunting but we didn't find the final piece of information.”
“Philip Archer, he’s Gus’s boyfriend…”
Novotny gasps and whips his head around to look across and then scowls.
“Young man, I’m sure the question you want to ask can wait, please lower your finger.” Supreme Justice calls out and Gus looks only a tiny bit guilty. Brian tries really hard not to look proud…he fails.
“Continue Mrs Ugerstacht.” I suppress my chuckle.
“He’s adorable. And an anime nutjob…”
“Anime?” Supreme Justice calls out.
“It’s an Asian form of animation, your honour.” Zee explains. “Less violent and sexist than say Manga…an example of anime would be Ghost in the Shell. Comic wise, a popular version seems to be Karda the Dragon King.”
“If you don’t mind.” Novotny interrupts standing up. “I am a comic book expert and Karda the Dragon King is one of the most popular versions. I happen to have several issues and…”
“Had.” I smirk.
“What?” He looks confused, as per usual.
“You no longer have a comic and toy collection. They are the property of Ms Talon Kho.” I point out. “And I do mind you interrupting my cross-examination to brag about your so called expertise, which has nothing to do with this case.”
He glowers at me and then looks at Judge Paal. “Sit down Mr Novotny.”
“So Mrs Ugerstacht, you mentioned your previous testimony that you investigated Mr Novotny at Ms Kho’s behest. But did any other member of your family do so?”
“Not investigated in the fullest sense of the word. My Uncle, Lucian Stark, investigated Lindsay Peterson for me and looked at Mr Novotny but didn’t investigate. If he had, then we would’ve discovered this a lot sooner.”
I spot the animated look on his face. It’s a cross between gotcha and fucked off.
Can’t wait for his cross examination to begin.
“When you say looked at? Do you mean followed?”
“Yes. And when we found out what we did, we left him alone.”
“What did Lucian Stark discover when he had Mr Novotny looked at?”
“That he paid Rita Montgomery, Hunter’s biological mother, to disrupt his job.”
“Objection, relevance!” He calls out.
“Will become clear during further cross-examination of following witnesses your honour. I suspect Mr Novotny is going to portray himself as an ingénue and we are seeking to disprove that.”
“And was that all?”
“Yes, it was, and this was just for background, when the custody cases were happening. As we were more concerned with what Lindsay Peterson was doing, he was merely following like the proverbial lapdog.”
“Thank you Mrs Ugerstacht. Your witness.”
“Do you have piles?”
“No the only pain in my ass is you.” She replies tartly, making the court laugh.
“Silence in court.” Judge Paal orders. “Mrs Ugerstacht has backache Mr Novotny as…”
“Um your honour.” Zee looks at her and she nods.
What’s that about?
“So you lied to the court?”
“You were asked if you investigated me before Talentless asked you to and you said no but your uncle investigated me…”
“Talentless?” Judge Paal starts to look through her papers. “Who’s that? I don’t see that name here.”
“It’s what I call Talon Kho. She’s not a witness so I can call…”
“No you can’t! I hold you Michael Charles Novotny in contempt. This is not a place for you to play childish point scoring, especially when the person you are talking about is not here! Conduct yourself as the counsel you purport to be. I…”
“I’m here.” A voice I know calls out and I flinch. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world!”
“Please stand Ms Kho.” Judge Paal ask and I just know what she’s going to say.
“Turn around Mr Novotny and sincerely apologise!”
“Sorry Ms Kho.” I swallow down the bile afterwards.
“Not accepted but let’s move on.” She glares at me then sits down.
“Continue your cross, Mr Novotny.”
“As I was saying before I was so rudely inter…”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Court is in recess!” Judge Paal shouts. “Remove Mr Novotny from my court immediately. Perhaps a couple of hours in the holding cell will cool his crass manner.”
I gape at her but before I can say anything, I am out the door.
JUDGE PAAL’S CHAMBERS
SUPREME JUSTICE CONWAY
I watch Narda rub her temples. “I lost it a bit there, didn’t I?”
“No.” I smile at her and Justice Rausch. “I would say you didn’t stop him soon enough. What do you say?”
“I concur.” He sips his water and then looks thoughtful. “You know about them right?”
I nod and Narda looks between us confused.
“That’s how he was caught so quickly?”
“Definitely.” He chuckles. “They are something, aren’t they? And is she pregnant?”
“Yes and yes.” I reply. “Right, I think we should grab some fresh air. You too Narda.”
Narda smiles tiredly. “I have no idea what you two were talking about and you’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“No we’re not my dear.” I grab her jacket and shake it enticingly. “Go buy those shoes Valda showed me. They are stunning…you know you want to.”
“You are incorrigible!” She laughs.
“I know!” I grin and hold the door open for her.
COURTROOM 1 – TWO HOURS LATER
Faal and I have been beating ourselves up ever since this came out, but it worked out. We had to tell Ephie, Meriam and Charles. At the weekend, we’ll tell Brian and Justin first and then the rest of the family. Not even Matt knows. But for now, time to be cross examined by the idiot.
“Mr Novotny, are you ready to restart?” Judge Paal asks coldly.
“Yes your honour.” He replies with all the good grace he could muster.
“You lied to the court Mrs Ugerstacht.”
“For about the third time, my uncle looked at you, not me until I was asked to by Ms Kho. So there was no lie.”
“You lied by omission.”
I just stare at him.
“Ah so you agree with me.” He smirks.
“No. I’m trying not to curse at your continued stupidity. I only investigated after I was asked to by Talon. It was a collaborative effort to bring you down by the family and you.”
“Yes. If you hadn’t replied to the email to confirm who you were, we would never have found out what we did.”
“Speaking of which, why did you buy the company?”
“Because it was the quickest way to get the information we wanted. So we offered enough money and he sold to us. And doing that got us you.”
“So you bribed him?”
There’s a groan around the courtroom.
“No. Jesus Christ, would you listen?!” I snap. “I legally bought the company and once it was mine, sorry I mean Hunter’s, it was ours to do with what we pleased.”
“What would’ve been the other way?”
“Getting a court order but that would’ve taken too long. Despite the clearance we have.”
“Clearance? What do you mean clearance?”
“Security clearance. We work in the security services, remember? But we have to wait a bit longer than everyone else and...”
“Why?” He asks and there’s another groan.
“Because, Mr Novotny, we would be scrutinised to be sure we aren't abusing our position.” I explain as patiently as I can. “So as I said before, to legally buy the company was quicker.”
He’s just staring at me so I stare back. After about a minute, still nothing.
“Mr Novotny? Do you have any further questions?”
“Are you pregnant?” He asks staring, incredulously.
I look at Judge Paal wearily. “Can I go please?”
“Prosecution to cross?”
“No your honour, right to recall.”
“Witness is dismissed.”
“Thank you, your honour.” I get up and walk back to my seat and he just stands there continuing to stare.
“Mr Novotny, what exactly are you doing?”
“Huh?” He slowly turns to face her. “N-nothing your honour. Lindsay is going to be so fucked off.”
“Ladies and gentlemen of the court, I think this is a good place to stop for the day. We reconvene at 0900 with one more witness and then with the cross examination of Michael Charles Novotny. Court is dismissed.”
We’re all quiet and waiting for Zee to get on. When she does, we wait for her to get settled. I turn round in the driver’s seat and clear my throat.
“So how high?” I ask.
She and Faal exchange looks and he shrugs. “We can tell everyone else and apologise to Blake at the weekend.” He nods.
“FBI. We’re not agents or anything like that but we have that level of clearance.”
“Wow.” Justin breathes. “Did you use your clearance for your dad or mine?”
“No. That was down to Xanthe and plain ole fashioned digging. Well, once we knew what we were looking for.”
“So do you know who dropped Copthorne in it?” Brian asks.
“Because it’s part of an ongoing investigation, we can’t say.” Faal grins impishly and taps his wedding ring.
“Seriously?!” Steve is incredulous.
“Why do you think I keep on lig’s good side?”
“So this clearance?” Brian starts and then frowns. “Hang on, is that how you knew about Concerned…?”
“Yep.” Zee smiles and seems to let out a breath when Brian smiles back.
“And Emily?” Justin is awestruck.
“Not with Emily. I just used a computer and got them to clear the back end.”
“Is Vince cleared to your level?” Brian asks and we go quiet.
“Yes.” Faal replies. “He knows what we know.”
“But he was on paternity leave. He wasn’t looking after…” Jennifer turns to look at them and gasps. “Are we all being…”
“Looked after?” Faal asks as Zee yawns and turns on her side. He pauses and watches her as she goes to sleep, smiling his thanks as Ben covers her up. “Between Stark and some friends in the industry, yes you all are. We protect our own and you are our own.”
“Fuck.” Steve breathes.
“Are you guys mad?” Faal looks round.
“God no!” Red laughs. “Just maybe you can get one of them to help me with the shopping next time!”
“Why do you need to apologise to Blake?” I ask and then start the engine.
“Ted looked so disappointed to not to be working the case that I called in a favour.” Faal calls back.
“Oh.” I laugh. “Yeah just saying sorry isn’t going to cut it. Ted was rampant. I suggest maybe a car!”