58. Back in London

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Valerie sighed at the rain-splattered window and the featureless overcast beyond as the Bombardier taxied to a stop in front of the Private Jet Centre. "Welcome back to London's version of February."

"Yeah. A good reason to do business farther south this time of year." Lorne stood and offered his hand. "We've brollies at the door."

As Lorne led Valerie, Chloe and Clyde into the centre's small reception lounge, Valerie asked, "This is an exclusive service, isn't it?"

"It's set up to handle private jets and small operators. Everything from on-site Immigration and Customs to ground-handling. They even offer optional refuelling, cleaning and catering." He pointed to a door marked Crew Lounge. "Weather briefings, flight planning and arranging arrival and departure slots."

"Expensive?"

"Last I looked it was about three thousand per landing." He shrugged. "Plus the food, fuel and so on. But, I've an annual contract."

"Hmmm."

After a quick clearance by the Customs officer, they moved into to the passenger lounge where Jason greeted them. "Welcome back, Sir."

"Thank you. We'll drop Clyde off at his flat first, then head home."

The traffic was light, well ahead of the morning commute, and shortly before seven, Lorne unlocked the door and ushered Valerie and Chloe in. Chianti galloped into the foyer and reared up on her hind legs, front paws on Lorne's shoulders and tongue lapping his beard. Mrs Wilkins called from the kitchen, "Welcome home. Coffee?"

"Please, Penny. And rooibos for Chloe."

After they had settled around the kitchen island, Valerie asked. "Did the beds arrive?"

Chloe snickered, and Valerie gave her a glare, receiving a big, toothy grin in return.

"Yes, both from Savoir and from Chester Square." She picked a small envelope from the counter and handed it to Valerie. "And this was in the post box when I retrieved this morning's Times."

"Oh, God!" Valerie clapped her hand to her mouth as she read the blue scribbled Miss Redburn. "The press now know where we are." She showed the address to Lorne.

"It was only a matter of time. Open it."

Valerie stuck a finger in the gap at the end of the flap and used it as a letter opener, then she pulled out the contents, a single calling card. "Fuck!" She closed her eyes and shuddered. "Sorry, Sweetheart, but this is another occasion which requires that word." She laid the card on the granite slab in front of Lorne.

" She laid the card on the granite slab in front of Lorne

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He read it and nodded. "Followed the remover's lorry."

"But he's not been seen in the room since he took it."

"Set up as an address for the registry. He likely has another over there. Maybe even closer. There are so many flatshares through this area."

"Yeah. The development restrictions on listed properties. So many huge houses." She stared at the card. "Even in this square?"

Lorne nodded and turned to Penny. "When was the lorry here?"

"Yesterday noon."

"Not time for him to find one — yet." He raked his fingers through his curls. "Any unusual people in the square? When you walked Chianti?"

Penny pursed her lips, then shook her head. "No, but I wasn't looking."

"Now that he's announced himself, he's not likely to come near." Lorne pointed to the card. "This is a scare tactic. To taunt and to intimidate."

Valerie circled her forefinger at her temple. "No, he's deranged. When he petitioned the second time, claiming I was unfit to be a mother, he confirmed his instability. There's no predicting what he might do."

"We could apply for a police patrol. Surveillance."

"Easier to use my own. More professional and dependable."

Lorne nodded. "Yeah, they could watch the square from the dining room windows, and up on the first floor."

"Yeah, my thought. And from a car parked out front."

"You've a description of him? Recent photos?"

"It'll all be in his registry file. I'm sure Lydia will have ordered the full dossier on him."

"And if he's spotted?"

"Apprehend him. By now there should be a warrant for his arrest for violating the offender registry. Lydia told me she had applied."

Penny set cups of espresso in front of Valerie and Lorne and poured Chloe's tea. "He'll soon be caught and back in prison."

Valerie nodded. "Yeah."

Chloe craned her neck, trying to read the card. "What's it say, Daddy?"

Lorne turned the card face down and handed it to Valerie. "Just the scribblings of a delusional stalker."

"What's delusional?"

"When someone has idiosyncratic beliefs which contradict rationality. Often it's a symptom of mental disorder."

"Yeah, I saw Mummy twirl her finger. So, what's it say?"

"Hmmm." Valerie took a sip from her cup. "This is delicious coffee."

"Mummy! You're diverting again."

"Yeah, I am." Can she handle this? Will it stir interest? "It's heavy stuff, Sweetheart."

"I can handle heavy."

"Yeah." Valerie fumbled with the card, debating. Then she handed it to her daughter.

Chloe stared at the blue scribble in silence for a short while, then she curled her lip and said, "He's not my daddy. He's only the sperm source. Daddies are much more than that." 

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