Mark tried to open the front door as quietly as possible but Pluto was already on the other side of it, tail wagging furiously. Rachel wasn’t far behind, and Mark couldn’t help smiling at the sight of her. Pigtails, old navy cotton nightshirt, and spectacles perched on the end of her nose.
He tugged one of her pigtails and pulled her close. “I’ll take Pluto out for a wee now, and then you can get into bed.”
“No way! I took him out about an hour ago so he can hang on while you tell me what’s happened.”
Rachel pulled Mark into the living room and sat herself down on the sofa while he kicked off his shoes and wriggled his toes. Not content with having Rachel sat next to him, he pulled her onto his lap and buried his nose into the softness of her neck. “Okay. The guy, whose name is Jason by the way, had arranged to meet up with Pete with money for the heroin, but Pete didn’t show because he had been beaten up by the smugglers when he couldn’t pay them. He’d managed to hide the drugs, which is why we found them when he turned up here after being on the run. Although we have the Portuguese end of the smuggling ring under lock and key, Jason is our link to the people buying and distributing the drugs. They are not going to be happy about having lost their money as well as the drugs. Jason is absolutely terrified and singing like a bird in exchange for protection. He’s in a bad state and needs some legal medication to keep him alive. We will provide it, but the tentacles of these organisations spread throughout the penal system, as well as quiet country villages like this one. We can keep him safe until he testifies but once the court case is over, we can’t guarantee anything.”
“Will you have to go back to work now?” asked Rachel, a little sadly.
“No.” said Mark, pulling her even closer. “This is a really big case that is already being dealt with by the Met. They are grateful to us for giving them another piece of the jigsaw but this is their area of speciality, and I for one, am very happy to hand it over. This won’t be the last time though Rachel. The job I do isn’t very safe; apparently, with my colouring, I have the knack of blending in rather than looking too obviously like a copper. It also means that you might have to put up with long hair, designer stubble, a beard, a moustache or even both. Can you deal with that?”
“I may need to wear my spectacles more often, and buy some new flowing scarves. Can you cope with me when I have a deadline to meet, and I need to shut myself away?”
“If you can cope, then so will I. Perhaps you could wear that green scarf that I saw in the wardrobe?”
“Just the green scarf?”
“Rachel, you are most definitely not the shy girl my little sister took under her wing at Uni. What’s else has been going on in our part of our world?”
“Mrs K and I had a drink after you left; we have put the world to rights one way or another. She approves of pale peach for our bedroom and will be scrubbing the walls and wardrobes with sugar soap while we are out shopping in the morning. I had to Google sugar soap so that I’d know what she was talking about. I have also spent some time looking at the merits of gloss and emulsion, masking tape and whether brushes are better than rollers and paint pads. It’s complicated.”
“What else did the two of you talk about?”
“The funeral, bright clothes for the girls…”
“And babies. Don’t tell me that you avoided talking about babies?”
Rachel shook her head. “I tried, but you know what she’s like when she puts her mind to things.”
“And her opinion is?”
“Leave it to fate. If we are meant to have children, then we will, and if we aren’t, we’ll still have Lou and the girls. Oh, and she said you should stick to wearing boxer shorts and avoid tight jeans. Much better for male fertility apparently. I Googled that as well, and she may have a point.”
“Time to put Pluto and the laptop to bed. It sounds as if we might be a bit busy in the morning. Mrs K is a very light sleeper though, and always knows when I come in late, so with any luck she won’t be tapping at the bedroom door with a pail and some sugar soap.”
“I’ll go and get my dressing gown; better to be prepared. Mrs K doesn’t think that this nightshirt is particularly attractive.”
“That nightshirt and those pigtails are making me feeling wide awake again.”
Rachel ran down the corridor to collect the dressing gown that she had left on the bed that morning. Mrs K had hung it up on the back of the door of course, as well as vacuuming the space where the dressing table used to stand. Mark had settled Pluto down and was waiting for her in the corridor. He smiled and picked her up in his arms; a move reminiscent of the early days of their relationship when he had to carry her to the bathroom and back, every day. This time was different; this time she held on very tightly and kissed him as he pushed open the door with his foot, and then shut it very firmly behind them.
“Talking about babies…” he said, as he laid Rachel very gently down on the bed.