56. Slippery Stalker

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Valerie and Lorne sat snuggling side-by-side on the couch in a quiet conversation, when he paused and said, "You seem tense."

"Broughton keeps popping into my mind. Still thinking of what Lydia had written."

"What was that?"

"The sex offender registry. The address on record was amended to a flat-share in a terrace in Chester Square."

"Coincidence?"

"I don't think so. Lydia says it's across the street and along twenty or thirty yards."

"So, he'd been watching you."

"Not sure. We moved to the hotel Christmas week, after his first application for parental responsibility."

"When had he been released from prison?"

"The end of November. He took the room the first week of January. Lydia sent Security to investigate yesterday. The owner says Broughton hasn't been there since mid-January, though he still pays the fortnightly rent."

"So, he's duping the offender registry."

"It appears so. His mail is being forwarded to a box at the UPS Store in Wilton Road. Lydia has now filed a notice of failure to report his movements and address changes."

"What's the penalty for that?" Lorne tapped the back of her hand. "A wrist slap and a tut-tut, naught-naughty?"

Valerie shook her head and pointed to her closed computer. "Lydia said it's five years in prison."

"Wow! I had no idea it's taken so seriously. I'm pleased."

"But it works only if they're caught. He likely learned the latest evasion tactics while he was in The Scrubs."

"Yeah, I'm sure. The system needs to be tightened."

"It has been. Besides reporting all address and employment changes, they're now required to register all bank accounts, credit cards and passports, and they must inform the police in advance of any foreign travel."

"Nothing to prevent forwarding mail or opening another bank account or getting additional credit or debit cards. Seems like an honour system for those who wish to comply — and he's flaunting it."

"Security is now trying to trace him through the Mail Boxes Etc shop."

"Hmmm."

"I love that."

"What?"

"Your hum."

Lorne chuckled. "Told you yours is endearing."

"And addicting, it seems."

"So, what's the next step?"

Valerie lifted her head from Lorne's shoulder and nodded along the aisle toward Patrick raising the table to its dining height. "Appears it'll be dinner. I need to stop thinking about him."

"You could think about dessert."

"Hmmm." She snuggled closer. "What are we doing about the sleeping arrangements? With Walter and Wendell staying behind, Chloe could take a forward berth."

Lorne chuckled. "Still concerned about your ability to remain quiet?"

"Seems so easy in theory, but I lose myself in the intensity." She shook her head. "They must all have heard me in the shower."

"You managed to stifle most of it. All but the first hoot."

"Because you smothered the rest with your kiss. The moans were still loud."

"Echoing in the small space. Besides, there's a solid bulkhead between there and here."

"Enough to deaden the sound?"

"I could ask Chloe." He tilted his head along the aisle. "Here she is now."

"What? No, don't you..." She giggled and poked him in the ribs when she saw his grin. Then she turned to Chloe. "Learnt everything about helicopters yet, Sweetheart?"

"We switched to talking about Daddy's plane. Patrick and Garth gave me a tour of the cockpit. Showed me all the pre-flight checks and everything. Even let me sit in the left seat and start the second engine."

Valerie smiled as she listened. Hope that was while I was singing in the shower. "Lots of learning. What about your school work?"

Chloe pointed forward. "That's what I've been doing since we took off. I've only the maths problems to finish; twenty minutes, max. I'll do them after dinner, then I'll go back into the cockpit."

"Hmmm. Won't you be in the way?"

"Garth invited me so I can see what it's like in the dark."

"Okay, but don't..." Valerie paused as her phone pinged. "That's Lydia's email sound. I should." She shook her head. "No, later."

"She's working late, Val. You should look."

"Yeah." She picked up her phone, thumbed in and tapped the email icon, and a smile spread across her face as she read. "One of the Security team duped a clerk at the Mail Boxes Etc store to get a forwarding address. It's in Saint Helier on Jersey."

Lorne nodded. "As I had suggested he might do."

"Lydia says this adds strength to her request to HMRC for the offshore reporting data. She's drafting an update to the request." Valerie read in silence for a while, then said, "She's started a search through his family to see if they have any property or business holdings in the Islands."

"Smart. Good chance there are. A check through the Home Office, the Border Agency, would show his movement to and from."

"They've been renamed Immigration Enforcement, but that's moot. Passports aren't required for travel between here — between the UK and the Crown Dependencies."

"Hmmm."

"Yeah, hmmm indeed. Not only slippery, but also well aware."

"I wonder whether he was aware of the crackdown on undeclared offshore assets. Surely his bankers would have advised him that the period of leniency was to expire at the end of December."

"We're assuming he has offshore assets."

Lorne shrugged. "Too much points toward this to ignore.

"Yeah. And if he reported his potential tax liabilities to avoid penalties, his assets would be easy to verify — and he'd be easier to track."

"And if he hadn't disclosed them, the financial institutions are now forced to report them."

"Caught either way."

"Unless he..." Valerie paused as Patrick approached. "Dinner in five minutes, Sir."

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