Valerie listened to more details before she ended her phone call with Lydia, then she rejoined Lorne and Chloe on the davenport, smiling as she sat. "We can all take Chianti out for a walk before dinner." She leant and kissed Lorne's cheek.
"He's been arrested?"
"No, not yet. But he's been located, and he's under close surveillance."
"With him still on the loose, it's not yet safe for you to be out there."
"He's living in his flat on Jersey — in Saint Helier, and Lydia has our three senior hands from Security watching his every move. She's sent three more of the team to the island, and they were due to arrive before dark."
"I like Lydia's style." He kissed Valerie, then as he rose, he asked in a slightly elevated voice, "Chianti, walk?"
Chianti sprung to her feet and bounded back and forth between Lorne and the stairs, her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth, her tail pompom a blur.
Chloe giggled as she stood and headed toward the staircase. "Looks like she's saying yes." The poodle bolted down the steps, and she was sitting at the door with her leash in her mouth when Valerie, Lorne and Chloe reached the ground floor foyer.
As Valerie wrapped a scarf around Chloe's neck and helped her into her peacoat, Lorne grabbed two plastic bags from the box and lifted a torch off the armoire shelf. "I'll have to get two more; we've only this one."
Valerie looked through the slim frosted glass panels beside the door. "The street lamps make it rather light out there. We won't need them."
Lorne chuckled. "Chianti doesn't always choose well-lit places."
Once outside, Chianti led them across the street and into the park where she made a circuit, sniffing the shrubs, tree trunks and bench legs. They sauntered along behind her, watching the ritual in silence until Lorne said, "She's checking her pee-mails."
Chloe giggled. "That's funny, Daddy. Did you just think that one up?"
"A long time ago, Sweetheart, but I've not had anyone with whom to share it until now."
Valerie squeezed his hand and hummed a sigh. Yeah, sharing. Adds so much to... She popped out of her musings when she heard Lorne's voice again.
"So, what else did Lydia have to report?"
"Broughton had visited six banks by the time of the last report. Seems to be focused on safe deposit boxes and bullion."
"Likely scrambling to reduce the reportable deposits." Lorne chuckled. "Too late for that now. The banks are obliged to report the 2014 and 2015 year-end balances."
"Or maybe he had converted a lot of his holdings to gold when he saw the likelihood of losing his suit."
"Good thought. I scrambled to convert as much as possible into bullion or bullion-based holdings when gold rose through two hundred and fifty pounds the ounce in the autumn of 2005."
Valerie nodded. "Yeah, that's where I placed most of the settlements from him and Harrods. Didn't get in at the beginning, but near enough. That's how I rode through the 2008 crash." Valerie chuckled. "That and buying companies and properties at the bottom."
"So, if he had converted to bullion in 2005, his holdings would have nearly quadrupled to now. Lydia's calculation of fifteen million hidden would now be in excess of fifty."
"And the Court order states it's mine. I've been thinking of establishing a foundation to assist the victims of rape and abuse. And to educate women about the dangers."
"Noble. That would be a great use of the funds."
"And ironic. His money used to fight cads like him."
Chloe pointed to the façade beside them. "Shouldn't the author of James Bond warrant a historical plaque?"
"He has one, but it's over in Ebury Street." Lorne pointed. "We can go see it if you wish; it's only a few hundred yards from here."
"Oh! So, that's where he wrote? I thought it was in the tower here."
"No, he began his first novel there, but he had moved here to 16 Victoria Square while he was still preparing it for publication. He wrote his other thirteen Bond novels here, and this is where he died."
"So, why is the plaque there instead of here?"
Lorne pointed. "This is the house intended to receive the blue plaque, but unfortunately, his widow had sold the property, and the new owner refused permission to install it. It was instead mounted on his Ebury Street residence, where he had drafted his first novel."
"Oh! That's not very bright. The blue plaque would add to the property value, wouldn't it?"
"In most cases today, yes. But that was nearly half a century ago, and values have changed since then. With the ease of information access on the internet, most prospective buyers today would learn the real story."
Lorne guided Valerie while Chloe and Chianti followed along Victoria Square to Beeston Place and then to Grosvenor Gardens. "This is where we usually do our short walks." He pointed to a narrow passage across the road. "That leads into the cul-de-sac at the end of Ebury, and the blue plaque is not much more than a hundred yards along from there."
A few minutes later, they paused in front of the plaque and Chloe said, "I bet this is among the least visited because people know the real James Bond house. Wow, he was young when he died."
"He was a life-long heavy smoker, and he died from the effects. It's one of the many reasons to never smoke."
Valerie hummed a sigh as she squeezed Lorne's hand. "You're a natural with this; adding sage advice. I'm amazed by your ease with Chloe."
"I've spent a lot of time volunteering."
"Yeah. I know about the soup kitchen and the palliative care, but with youth?"
"Helping youth was my earliest volunteering. I designed a climbing wall and had it installed in my old community centre in Brixton, and I ran a climbing programme to give kids something to keep them from getting into trouble and to help them find direction and focus. It quickly expanded to other poor boroughs south of the river, and we now have a large network of leaders and instructors."
"Hmmm. After Gwen?"
"Yeah, to help me find my own direction and focus."
"I can see that. How had you become interested in climbing?"
"Dad had taken us hiking and climbing in the Harz Mountains every summer since I was old enough to carry a pack. Many weekends, too."
"That's right; you grew up in Germany, didn't you?"
"Yeah, my first eight years. He built a climbing wall in our back garden, and we practised on it most evenings."
Valerie nodded. We've gotten into emotionally triggering stuff. Need to change the topic. To what —
Lorne stopped and pulled Valerie and Chloe into a hug. "This reminds me of our evening dog walks after it had become too dark to climb. Been craving this feeling of family for two dozen years."
YOU ARE READING
Set in an environment of extreme wealth in contemporary London, this is a story of tender new love trying to flourish while a tragic past conspires to destroy. As Valentine's Day approaches, two lonely people begin breaking out of their social shell...