A secret assignation
Maybe she should have taken the later train. But as the 17.30 pulled out, she reflected that perhaps it was better she keep to the arrangement. The woman would still be waiting at the appointed station. And so it proved. Carol saw her waiting, in the shadows, half hidden behind a hoarding. The woman saw her, nodded slightly and moved towards the cafe.
Carol passed the W.H.Smith's and entered the large cafe. It was noisy and crowded, even at this hour. From the counter, the coffee machine hissed and steamed as it dispensed liquid. From various tables, people's voices added to the volume. Good - it meant they wouldn't be heard. Carrying an unwanted coffee, Carol walked over to the woman's table. 'Sorry, the cafe's full. Mind if I sit here?'
Under the anonymity of noise, Miranda asked, 'Did anyone see you? Were you followed?' Despite the noise, Carol heard her soft voice and shook her head and sat down.
'No, to both questions.' Carol sipped the bitter coffee. It was a blend that made her wish she still took sugar, a substance she'd quit in tea and coffee too many years ago to count. She put the slender case on the table.
Miranda seemed to relax slightly. 'Is that - the item?' Her words were nearly lost under the announcement of a train on the crackling Tannoy.
Carol's left hand touched the zippered case and nudged it over. Miranda nudged it back. 'Keep it for the moment,' she hissed. 'We can switch later, where no-one can see.'
After a moment, Carol nodded. She finished her coffee. 'Let's go then,' said Miranda, standing up and walking out. After a couple of minutes, Carol also left. She looked around and after a few moments, saw Miranda standing by the exit.
'No car?' Carol asked.
'Too traceable. Come on, let's go.' Miranda made for another platform. There was a train there, ready to depart. They got on and sat at separate seats, where they could see each other. Carol gripped the slim case more tightly.
After a journey of just two stops, Miranda arose. After a slight pause, Carol also rose and stood by the train door. It looked to anyone who might be looking their way, that they were two strangers.
It was fully dark now. The new dim street lights cast many shadows. Miranda led the way through a maze of side streets, all looking each other. In a row of semi-detached houses, Walking up to one, Miranda produced a key and unlocked it. They went in, Miranda securely locking the door behind her. Carol sighed with relief.
'Right.' Miranda was businesslike now, brisk and brusque. 'Have you got everything?' She pointed to the case Carol was clutching.
'Any chance of a drink?' Carol parried. She felt parched.
Miranda nodded. 'Come through and I'll see what there is.' They went through to the kitchen. It was small. Miranda switched on the light over the oven, It cast sinister shadows. 'Hmm, there's gin, rum, with mixers. Or white wine. Carol chose a rum.
Carol set the case on the little table. Miranda put the drinks down on it. Carol sipped her drink. 'Right,' she said. 'The papers you want are all in the main section. The photos are in the side pocket.' She withdrew everything. As Miranda went through everything, Carol sipped her drink.
'Are you sure no-one saw you take this stuff?'
'Relax.' For the first time, Carol offered a small smile. 'My cover as a researcher was perfect. As his assistant, I was able to access and copy all the relevant files. They are all the proof you need to show the minister's embezzlement of money, to line his own pocket. Very profitably, as you can see from that statement, there.' She pointed.
Miranda nodded. She looked again at the final balance at the bottom of the page. It made for interesting reading, an eye-widening amount. 'Brilliant,' she said. 'And well done. The authorities will be very interested in all this. It should definitely be enough to bring the minister down. Is there anything else?'
Feeling proud of herself, Carol unzipped the inner pocket of the case and withdrew a small cassette. 'On this, the minister himself boasts of what he's done. There's also this.' Carol paused for effect.'There's something else. We - I - suspected whilst working for the minister that someone else was working with the minister. He had an accomplice, you see. We always wandered who it was and now we know. You can watch this on a computer. It shows the minister - well, watch and see for yourself. It was the honey trap that nailed the minister and - well, again, you'll see for yourself who it nails.'
Miranda switched on the laptop in the corner of the room. The disc was inserted and Miranda set it playing. Carol had seen it before, but she still raised her eyebrows at the scenes unfolding. Miranda pursed her mouth and frowned heavily.
The minister was sitting in an armchair, facing the hidden camera. He was talking to someone. It was difficult to see who it was, for all that showed on camera was the edge of a skirt and a leg, encased in sheer black tights. As the minister talked, the woman raised her hand. The nails were painted a bright scarlet and a diamond ring glittered on one of the fingers. Carol turned her head and watched as Miranda reached into her pocket for a tissue. Her scarlet nails were immaculate, the ring glittered, even in this low light.
'This is all very - interesting.' Miranda tried a laugh. It came out a bit shaky. 'But what-?'
'Watch and wait, my dear,' Carol replied. The woman never faced the camera, but her voice could be heard, discussing with the minister how they would spend the money coming to them. Even though the woman had made her voice sound more posh, grander, Carol could recognise it.
And then the minster got up suddenly and approached the woman. He grabbed her roughly, hauled her to her feet and kissed her hard. A glimpse of the woman's - Miranda's - black hair could be seen. The minister said, in a low voice, 'My dear, do you really think I'm going to share the money with you? My wife is waiting for me at home.' On tape, Miranda snarled and made to slap the minister. He grabbed her wrist. Painfully hard, by the look of it.
Carol turned to face Miranda. She looked angry. 'Well, men have affairs all the time. And he wasn't going to-' Miranda checked herself. 'The woman on that tape could be anyone.'
'So it could,' Carol said drily.
'But you recognised me, didn't you?' Miranda said dully.
'The nails and ring did rather give it away. Just regard all this as my insurance.'
'Not if I take it with me.'
Carol shook her head. 'It doesn't matter. All of these are copies.'
Miranda ground her teeth. 'What do you want?'
'To expose the minister. His - little affair - with you and the tape it's on, we'll keep private. And your part in the minister's plot, we'll keep secret if-'
'If - what?'Miranda asked after a short pause.
'If you admit that you and I - well, let's say that you and I were a little closer than two women should be.'
Miranda laughed. 'In this day and age that's no scandal any more. Nor is it a crime. Who cares, beyond a few salacious lines in the gutter press what two women get up to with each other in the bedroom.'
Carol shook her head. 'I'm not talking about that, as well you know. What we want you to do is repay back the money the minister's already siphoned off to you.' Carol leaned forward. 'All five hundred thousand of it.'
'We?' Miranda queried. She then stood back as Carol remained silent. 'Oh I get it,' she snarled. 'You've involved the authorities, haven't you?' Suddenly, Miranda pulled a length of rope from somewhere and before Carol could react, she was tied to the chair. Struggle as she might, Carol could not move. Nor could she use her mobile phone, for Miranda took it and pocketed herself.
Walking over to the television, Miranda switched it on. 'You'll have to endure some banal TV for an hour or so. Then the story will break. My story, that is.' Miranda gave Carol a vicious, tight smile. She picked up the case, ready to leave.
Carol watched her. 'They're only copies,' she reminded Miranda again.
'Doesn't matter. Anyway, when I destroy this disc, no-one will be able to identify me. I'll get rid of this nail varnish.' Miranda began stuffing everything back in the case She was well,prepared, Carol thought cynically as she watched. When Miranda was finished, she faced Carol. 'Enjoy your little incarceration. I'll let the someone know you are here. You shouldn't be alone for more than an hour or so. Then some knight in shining armour will set you free,' With that, Miranda left the room. A moment later, Carol heard the front door click shut and then the sound of the key locking it.
Carol was left in the kitchen. She tried manoeuvring the ropes, but they were very tight. Meanwhile, the television droned on. Then the programme was interrupted by a news flash. A well-known, well-respected newsreader was on screen, reporting the theft of a huge amount of money by a well-known cabinet minister. A picture of the harried looking minister appeared on screen. Reporters were crowding him with questions, cameras were being shoved in his face. Then the scene switched back to the newsreader. 'Police are also looking for this woman - Miranda Terry..' A picture of her flashed up on screen. 'Anyone with any information of the mystery of the whereabouts of Miss Terry are advised to call the police on this number.'
© 2017 Alice Dancer