32. Table Top Tabletop

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Valerie handed her phone to Lorne so he could read the email. "This might help in linking Broughton to the posts."

Lorne nodded as he read. "Yeah, and get Scotland Yard involved."

Valerie pursed her lips as she slowly shook her head. "Don't know if we want to do that yet. Maybe dig a little deeper into this."

"How so?"

"She has approached me, so it appears she wants to help." Valerie took the phone as Lorne handed it back. "First, we need to confirm she's legitimate. Not a ruse."

"I was just thinking that. I'll leave you to it." Lorne pointed to his phone. "I need to finish this and send it off."

Chloe sat quietly watching the interaction, then she turned and looked out the window at the view of Cape Town and the South Atlantic spread out a thousand metres below. Valerie snuggled beside her. "We'll be only a few minutes, Sweetheart, then we can go looking for dassies."

"I'm happy just to be all together. The three of us. Doesn't matter at all what we do."

Oh, God, child. Valerie wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Yeah. Being together." She caught Lorne's eyes and blew him a kiss, then she turned to her phone and quickly composed a reply.

      Have Security investigate her background.
      Confirm she's not a 
crank or a reporter with
    a creative approach. If she's clean, set up 
a
      meeting. A neutral spot to suit her, but have
    Security okay it 
before confirming. Friday if
it works, even Saturday or Sunday.             

She read the completed text, nodded to herself then pressed Send. After switching off her phone, she scooted along the banquette and put her arm around Chloe's shoulders, letting out a sigh.

"Was that a happy sigh, Mummy?"

"Yes, Sweetheart. Very happy." They snuggled together and looked out at the view.

" They snuggled together and looked out at the view

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After gazing quietly for a while, Chloe asked. "So, what was that about?"

"It's about... Hmmm... It's about a woman telling me a photographer mixed us up." Oh, God. Even that's too much information for Miss Chloelock Holmes.

"Mixed you up? How? Why would she want to tell you that?"

"It's complex, Sweetheart." Valerie lifted her arm and pointed to the airport. "That's where we landed. Let's see if we can trace the route we took from there."

"That doesn't work anymore, Mummy."

"No, I guess it doesn't." She pulled Chloe tighter to her side. "You're growing-up quickly."

"I know. So, why?"

"Do you know what Photoshop is?"

"Of course, I do. It's a programme used to manipulate digital pictures. We played with it in school, making funny animals with cut and paste. I put a swan's head and neck onto a dog."

"Yeah, that's the programme."

"So, is this about the Photoshopped images you and Daddy discussed the other night?"

"Yeah."

"You sound sad, Mummy. They aren't nice pictures, are they?"

"No, they're not, Sweetheart. My head has been pasted onto a variety of bodies in lewd poses."

"Oh!" Chloe grimaced, curling her lip. "Like showing everything? That's why you said cunt the other night, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

"So that's the mix-up, then. The body belongs to the woman in the email, doesn't it?"

Valerie nodded. "Yes, she says it does. I'm having Security make sure she is who she says she is, and not a crank or a conniving reporter."

"Then what?"

"Meet with her and see how we can help each other." Valerie caught motion in the corner of her eye, and she looked up as Lorne stood. Oh, thank God. A reprieve. "Have you sent it?"

"Edited and sent." He put his phone in a pocket, zipped it closed, then zipped the flap over it. "Let's go find some dassies."

Lorne led them across to the self-service counter and took three bottles of water from the cooler before moving along to the cashier's queue. "It's more expensive in here than in most shops, but we've used their space and their wifi."

Chloe looked up at him with a big smile. "You do that as well? Mummy always does."

"Does what, Sweetheart?"

"Supports the small merchants." She giggled. "And always thinks about the price."

Lorne tightened his hug around Valerie's waist as he leaned to kiss her cheek. "Two more reasons to love her." After he had paid for the drinks, he led them outside. "Dassies often gather around the cafe, scavenging orts from tourists, but let's go find some in a more natural setting."

"What are orts, Daddy?"

"Table scraps or leftovers." He pointed to the discarded food containers and packaging as they walked away from the lift buildings. "Here, it's more like careless disregard."

Chloe giggled. "They ort to know better." She looked up into Lorne's eyes. "They really should, though."

"Yes, Sweetheart." He squeezed both women's hands and nodded along the broad trail. "Let's find a more pristine area. Most of the ignorant people don't stray too far from here."

Chloe frowned. "That's being judgemental, isn't it?"

"It could be if I had used ignorant in its passive sense. But consider the active meaning, To ignore what they know is proper. Inbred ignorance is fully excusable, but active ignorance shows a disregard for others."

"And for the environment."

"Exactly."

As the trio continued along the compacted rock track winding through the low shrubbery, Lorne explained, "This leads to Maclear's Beacon at the eastern end of the mountaintop, the highest point on the Cape Peninsula."

"Can we go to it? How high is the climb? How long does it take?"

Lorne chuckled at Chloe's enthusiasm as he released her hand to swing his arm in a broad arc. "Of course, we can. The mountain is named for its summit which is like a table top. See how flat it is. The difference in height from one end to the other less than twenty metres."

"So, how long will it take us?"

"It's just under a mile, so an easy forty minutes there and back." He glanced at his watch. "We've plenty of time to explore along the way, and if we're quiet, we may spot a dassie."

They had the mid-morning sun on their cheeks as they quietly walked hand in hand in hand. Then after a few minutes, Chloe broke the silence. "Mummy?"

"Yes, Sweetheart?"

"Would it be proper to tell Daddy I love him?"

Oh, God. Now two of them doing it. "Yes, that would be very proper."

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