The coco pinchard boxset.., p.33
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.33

           Robert Bryndza
 

  Thursday 30th December 14.08

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  On our last night in Bratislava we got dressed up and went to the UFO. It’s a huge circular restaurant which sits high above Bratislava on top of a bridge. The waiter, at first, said we couldn’t come in with a dog, but I pretended I was the wife of the British Ambassador and Marika pulled out her Slovak I.D. card and pretended she was the sister of Dara Rolincova (a famous singer in Slovakia who shares her surname).

  “Here’s to 2011 being the most incredible year,” said Marika, when we were sat looking out over a panoramic view of the city.

  “Where we move forward successfully, you away from teaching,” I said.

  “And you away from Adam,” said Marika. “You’ll have to get over him sometime, Cokes, so better to do it now than waste more of your life.”

  I took a deep breath and we toasted the future. We’re about to start the long drive home. We should be back tomorrow afternoon, will you be back from the Ice Hotel?

  Coco x

  Friday 31st December 15.43

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  Me and Marika are home. We’re going to have a sleep and then do you want to come over and bring in the New Year?

  P.S You’ll also need to bring some booze.

  January 2011

  Monday 3rd January 08.28

  TO: angie.langford@thebmxliteraryagency.biz

  Happy New Year! I’m full of beans at the thought of a fresh start, new challenges, and moving forward. I spent New Year’s Eve with Chris and Marika, and we agreed to make big changes to our lives.

  Chris had a rather spiritual Christmas at the Ice Hotel. He was deeply moved by the Northern Lights, which appeared several times during his stay. On his last night, he saw a vivid image of Judi Dench’s face amongst the aurora. He’s convinced this means great things are in his future as a theatre director.

  On New Year’s Eve, we stayed in and watched the movie In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. This has inspired Marika to change career direction completely, and become a dog walker. She’s moving into my spare room and is out now tramping the streets of Marylebone distributing leaflets.

  I am going to channel all my energy into forgetting about Adam, and concentrate on my career and the launch of Agent Fergie. This year is all about moving forward!

  Coco x

  Monday 3rd January 09.11

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I was putting down an old sheet of newspaper for Rocco to pee on, when I noticed this article:

  LOCAL MAN CHARGED WITH FRAUD. Metropolitan Police last night arrested and charged an NW1 resident in connection to a £200,000 business fraud. Police questioned Adam Rickard, 38, of Baker Street for several hours before releasing him on bail, pending a court appearance. The fraud pertains to an eleven-month period Mr. Rickard spent working at XYZ Event Management as a Health & Safety Officer.

  The article is from The Marylebone Comet, dated November 17th last year — the same time Adam ended our relationship.

  Monday 3rd January 11.12

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I have more news. Rosencrantz popped in on his way to an audition and found me staring at the newspaper article.

  “Jeez Mum, this is huge!” he said.

  I told him I had been trying Adam’s phone number, but it seems to be disconnected.

  “You want me to help you find him?” offered Rosencrantz.

  “What about your audition?” I said.

  “I can be late,” he said, taking off his coat and booting up my laptop. “It’s only for a corporate video about the dangers of asbestos inhalation…”

  It took Rosencrantz a mere thirty-seven minutes to track down Adam’s whereabouts. He followed Adam’s daughter Holly on Twitter. She’s on a gap year in America. (A gap from what? The last I heard she was doing a two-week cake decorating course at Watford College.) Anyway, it seems money talks and when we suggested paying her a hundred pounds via PayPal, she sang like a canary.

  I stood over Rosencrantz's shoulder whilst we waited for Holly to direct message the address.

  “Is this a good idea, Mum?” he said. “What if Adam is guilty? He dumped you, and he’s guilty?”

  “I can't imagine Adam would steal two hundred thousand pounds.”

  “Spoken like a true naive woman.”

  “I’m not naive!”

  “You thought butter wouldn't melt in Dad's mouth, then you caught him in bed with his mouth…”

  “Rosencrantz!”

  “Just saying…”

  “No. I have to go and see him. I need to talk to him, if only to get closure.”

  “Oh I see,” said Rosencrantz. “That’s what you’re calling it, closure. Well, don’t get carried away and let him put his closure in your mouth.”

  “Rosencrantz! I’m not one of your friends you can talk to that way,” I said.

  Then there was a little plinking noise as Holly’s message came through.

  “Hurry, open it!” I said.

  Rosencrantz clicked on the message, and the following address popped up:

  27 The Street

  Rochester

  Kent

  ME1 6BV

  “What? What’s he doing in Rochester?” I said.

  “Where is Rochester?” asked Rosencrantz.

  “Couple of hours outside London… Why would he be there?”

  “Holly says she would be willing to give you a full breakdown of her father’s movements for another two hundred,” said Rosencrantz, reading off the screen.

  “She’s a money-grubbing little minx,” I said. “But I’ll bear it in mind. First, I’m going to drive to Rochester. Attempt the element of surprise. Can you look after Rocco?”

  He was curled up asleep on Rosencrantz’s lap.

  “Yes, my asbestos inhalation role can wait! And Mum…”

  “What?”

  “Don’t do anything stupid.”

  Rocco opened one little eye, as if in agreement with Rosencrantz. I just nodded and grabbed the car keys.

  By some miracle, I’ve cracked how to work the built-in GPS screen in the Land Cruiser, but I’m stuck in a long line of traffic on the M25.

  Ooh, the traffic is moving, better go…

  Tuesday 4th January 10.12

  TO: chris@christophercheshire.com

  I made it to Rochester by lunchtime. It was a world away from London with a cobbled high street and several antique showrooms. An old man with a twirly moustache doffed his Panama as I passed. How did Adam end up here?

  I found the address, a terraced house on a lane running parallel to the high street. Smoke curled from a chimney as I opened the gate. A low shiny black door confronted me at the end of the path. My heart climbed into my throat as I reached out for the huge knocker, but the door opened and there stood Adam.

  There was an awkward silence. It went on and on, and we just stared at each other. He was thinner with big bags under his eyes, but my heart skipped along a little faster at the sight of him. I finally blurted out, “So, Rochester. It’s quite historical.”

  “Yeah,” said Adam. “I haven’t been to the castle yet.”

  Then I punched him in the face.

  “Ahhh!” he yelled, clutching at his face with one wide, shocked eye showing. “What did you do that for?”

  “What do you think? For everything. For not telling me!” I shouted. “And now you’ve busted my hand…”

  “Your hand, what about my face? And how did you find me?”

  “Holly. I bribed her with a hundred quid.”

  “Bloody hell! Why would she do that?” he said.

  I wanted to say “Because she’s a conniving, lazy daughter,” but I kept my mouth shut.

  “Are you going to invite me in?” I said.

  “Are you gonna punch me again?” he said, checking his lip for blood.

  “I haven’t decided yet…”

  He regarded
me for a minute, and then led me through a low hallway to a sitting room. It was very frilly and flowery with pictures of cats in teacups and a couple of those Anne Geddes babies dressed up as bumble bees.

  “Is this your house?”

  “Why would it be my house?” he said.

  “I don’t know. It seems I don’t know anything about you. Is your name really Adam?”

  “The house belongs to Serena, my boss from my old job in the Civil Service.”

  “I thought Serena was a lesbian?” I said.

  “She is,” he said, clearing some papers off a chintz sofa so I could sit. “Should she have pictures of Ellen and KD Lang?”

  “No… Is she here?”

  “No, she’s on holiday with her girlfriend.”

  I looked around again and then sat down.

  “Adam. What’s going on?” I said. “Please.”

  Over coffee, he told me everything. Last summer his employer, XYZ Event Management, hired an outside company to do a cost effectiveness audit. The company discovered that two hundred thousand pounds was missing. The money had been siphoned off through hundreds of fake taxi invoices.

  On November 16th last year, he was called into his boss’ office where three police officers from the Fraud Squad were waiting. They told him he was being arrested for fraud. Adam thought at first that it was a joke. Then the Senior Officer produced bank statements from a savings account in Adam’s name. The statements showed that over a period of eleven months, £200,000 had been claimed through fake taxi invoices in Adam’s name.

  “But that’s a huge amount for taxi journeys?” I said.

  “It’s a huge swanky events company. Every day scores of employees are cruising round London in taxis,” he said. “The fake invoices were for a few hundred pounds every day. The money was paid into my savings account, then every day withdrawn from a cash machine.”

  “How did you not know this was happening to your bank account?” I asked.

  “It was an old savings account I never check. I thought it only had a few quid in it. All I can think is that someone at the company stole my identity.”

  “How? Even I don’t know your PIN numbers.”

  Adam paused.

  “What, Adam?”

  “Do you remember when I first got the job and I left my wallet at the office over the weekend?”

  “Yes, but it was still there on the Monday when you went back to work.”

  “I never told you, but I had all of my PIN numbers and internet banking codes written on bits of paper in my wallet. This whole fraud thing started shortly after I left my wallet at work.”

  “So you think another work colleague has done this?”

  “It must be.”

  “Who?”

  “I don’t know. It’s an open plan office with a hundred employees. They forged my name on the invoices. They accessed the bank account online at the office. They even ordered a new cash card in my name.”

  “What about the cash machine where the money was withdrawn? Don’t they have cameras?”

  “Whoever it was located an old cash machine without a camera. It also happens to be on my daily route to work.”

  “What’s happening now?” I said.

  “I’ve been charged, and I’m on bail for a court appearance later in February.”

  “Have you got anyone representing you?”

  “Yes.”

  “And what does he or she say?”

  “He keeps saying he's not having much luck…”

  “That doesn't sound good enough,” I said.

  I went to the window. It was already starting to get dark. Adam got up and turned on the light. We both winced at the brightness.

  “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?” I said.

  “I wanted to protect you. You’ve been building your dream. Agent Fergie is coming out soon, and I know it’s going to be huge. Daniel almost derailed your career when you split up. I didn’t want to do that to you again. You have an amazing future.”

  “Yeah well, an amazing future isn’t much fun without an amazing guy to share it with,” I said.

  “So I’m amazing enough for you to smack in the gob?” he said.

  Under the light, I could see his face was swelling up. I took him through to Serena’s kitchen where I found some ice and wrapped it in a tea towel. I pressed it gently on the bruise forming under his eye.

  “I have to ask you this,” I said. “And I need to hear the truth. Did you do it? Did you steal the money?”

  “No,” said Adam. “No, I didn't do it.”

  There was something in his eyes; I knew he was telling the truth. I took a deep breath.

  “Okay,” I said. “I believe you. Now you need to get your things together. You're coming home.”

  It was the first time I ever saw Adam cry and I didn't think any less of him for it. I held him for a long time, and then he went to kiss me. I remembered what Rosencrantz said and started packing his suitcase, which was on the floor by the sofa. Then we drove home.

  I didn’t say much during the journey. Part of me was overjoyed, part in a blind panic thinking, “What happens now?”

  It was snowing again when we arrived back in London. When we turned the corner to my road, I could see a huge van in the driveway, its back doors open and jutting out onto the pavement. I parked by the kerb as Oscar emerged from the van heaving a giant mattress.

  “Hello, Mrs P,” he smiled, resting the edge of the mattress to catch his breath.

  “What’s going on?” I asked, getting out of the car.

  “We’re helping Marika move her stuff in,” he said.

  A muffled voice came from the back of the van saying, “Why have you stopped, bitch?”

  Wayne appeared round the other side of the mattress lugging a headboard.

  “Hello Mrs P!” he said.

  Then Adam got out of the car. The boys looked him up and down with a practised glance, like scanning a bar code. I almost heard the beep as they registered that Adam is hot.

  “Is this…?” whispered Oscar.

  “Yeah, it is. Hi, I’m Adam,” said Adam, holding out his hand.

  Oscar shook it, his fair complexion turning red.

  “Hello,” said Wayne proffering his hand. “And here I was, thinking there was no one around who could work an Allen key.”

  Poor Adam didn’t know how to respond to that. Rosencrantz and Marika emerged from the house, followed by Rocco who came running up, yipping and yapping through the snow. Their faces lit up when they saw me. When they saw Adam, they went quiet.

  Rosencrantz stopped for a moment than rushed forward and gave him a big hug. There were tears in his eyes.

  “Are you okay?” he said.

  Adam nodded. Marika held back.

  “I’ll need an explanation before I start hugging,” she said.

  “It’s okay,” said Adam. “If I can come inside, I’ll tell you what’s going on.”

  An hour and a couple of bottles of red wine later, Adam finished telling the story. I had quietly bustled around in the background as he talked, making salad, heating up a couple of frozen pizzas and trying to organise my thoughts about Adam being back in my life.

  “Jeez,” said Rosencrantz. “I’m so sorry.”

  He poured Adam more wine.

  “Hang on, hang on,” said Marika. “Isn’t your mortgage around two hundred grand?”

  “Marika!” I shrieked, as I used a pizza wheel to divide a deep crust pepperoni.

  “What? You’ve got to think of these things, Coco,” she said, regarding Adam warily.

  “I promise,” said Adam, “I didn't take this money.”

  “Would you be willing to take a lie detector test?” asked Marika.

  “Ooh, this is like the Jeremy Kyle Show,” said Wayne.

  I put the pizzas down on the middle of the table and gave him a look.

  “Sorry Mrs P. I appreciate this is serious.”

  “It is serious,” I said.

&
nbsp; “I just think it would eliminate any doubt,” said Marika. “It’s the doubt that will eat away at you, Coco, if you take him back.”

  “But he left Mum to protect her,” said Rosencrantz.

  I could see Adam looking round at everyone’s faces.

  “But he jumped in the car back here pretty quickly,” said Marika.

  “I’ve only just met you, and you seem cool to me,” said Oscar.

  “And you got to smack him in the gob,” said Wayne, indicating the bruise on Adam’s face.

  “Hey, hey, hey,” I said. “I appreciate everyone’s opinion but this is my house and I have decided Adam is going to be here with me.”

  “What does that mean? ‘Be here’?” said Marika.

  “It means that I’m not asking for anyone’s permission. Adam is here. So get used to it.”

  “And what about me?” said Marika.

  “You’re welcome here too, for however long you need. That hasn’t changed.” I reached out and squeezed her hand.

  “If I found someone who'd do a lie detector test, would you take it?” said Marika to Adam.

  “Yes, I would take it,” he said seriously.

  There was a very awkward moment of silence.

  “Okay,” she said.

  She held out her glass to Adam. He picked his up and they clinked.

  “Can we eat now?” pleaded Rosencrantz.

  “Yes, dig in,” I said.

  “Thank God for that,” said Wayne as everyone reached for the pizza. “I could eat a nun’s arse through the convent railings.”

  After pizza, the boys and Adam helped Marika move the rest of her stuff up to the spare room. I went on a mission for spare blankets, unsure of what the sleeping arrangements would be. I was dying to climb into bed with Adam, but a little faint voice in my head was saying I should play hard to get. I decided to have a bath and hope the voice would get a bit louder. When I came out an hour later, all clean and moisturised in a towel, Adam wasn’t in my room. I went and knocked on the spare room door. Marika, Wayne, and Oscar were all trying to put her bed back together.

 
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