Chapter 24

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The shriek of Riley's ringtone woke him. Kitty startled and he managed to tighten his arm over her waist to stop her falling off the couch.

"My phone," he said. "Sorry."

She lay back down as he reached over his head to the side table to pick up his phone. Koffa's name on the screen under the time kindled dread in his gut. Seven a.m. was generally the time Koffa called with bad news from overnight. He tapped the answer button.

"Koffa," Riley said. "What's up?"

Kitty stiffened and propped herself up on her elbows.

"Sorry to call so early, but I've got good news for a change. Is Kitty there? Can you put me on speaker?"

"She is. Hang on a sec." Riley lowered the phone from his ear and tapped the speaker button. "Okay, you've got us both on speaker."

"I thought you'd like to know that if you can get yourselves out early, you could have a whole day unsurveilled."

"What?" Kitty said. "How?"

"Wemusa's instructions from last night. He sent links to three houses in Lakes' Entrance for Henri to choose from and he's being sent to check them out in person, today and send his own photos."

"That's a five-hour drive one way," Riley said.

"Exactly."

Kitty beamed and Riley gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.

"Ten hours return, that's more than a day clear, surely?" Kitty said.

"Sorry, no." Koffa said. "Wemusa tried to get a couple of days off you guys but Henri still wants an a.m. and a p.m. shot of you today, so he's got to do the round trip in one day."

"My heart bleeds," Kitty said.

"Still, that's at least ten hours free and clear," Riley said.

"Yep. The sooner you get out and give him his morning photo-shoot, the sooner he leaves."

"Is he out there now?" Riley asked.

"Since five, as always."

"Okay then," Kitty said. "Better get ready. Thanks Steve."

"You're most welcome."

She launched herself from the couch and bounced into the bathroom. Riley tapped the speaker button as he heard the shower start.

"This means we're getting close, doesn't it?" he said.

"Closer, yes." Koffa said. "Renting the house is a milestone, but we don't know when Henri will make an appearance."

"You're definitely on top of all his communications?"

"Yes. There's only one internet cafe Wemusa can afford to go to. We got clearance for surveillance on their computers yesterday. We're getting email and chat records within an hour."

Riley allowed himself a breath of relief. "So, a whole day clear?"

"Except for Poletti who I'll leave with you guys, yes. I'll be following Wemusa myself, so if he turns back you'll hear it straight away. Relax. Enjoy yourselves as much as you can."

"Cheers, Steve." Riley hung up, wondering how he was going to stop himself from seeing the day as one long goodbye.

They drove into town, then walked up Vincent Street to the restaurant Riley had taken a liking to when they'd first driven through town. He hadn't suggested it yet because he didn't want to drink while they were under surveillance, and what was the point of going to a restaurant called "Breakfast and Beer" and not having a beer? Even on a Wednesday, the place was filling but they were seated quickly and had barely opened the menus when Riley's phone beeped.

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