The coco pinchard boxset.., p.49
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.49

           Robert Bryndza
 

  We believe that Sabrina Jones could be moving £200,000 today. The problem is we have only vague details. We know she has booked a ferry ticket to Jersey, via Portsmouth tomorrow, well, today. We don’t know what time the ferry leaves.

  We hatched a plan yesterday to follow her. It seems rather far-fetched now Rosencrantz and myself are trundling along the A3 in my Smart Car, but we have nothing to lose. I’d rather go on a wild goose chase to free Adam than see him stuck in prison for something he didn’t do.

  The first ferry out of Portsmouth this morning is at 5.30 am. Therefore, we are planning to get there by 4.30. The roads are completely empty and we are making good time.

  Wayne and Oscar are staying at my flat. They have access to the Internet, phone and they’re looking after Rocco. Wayne is the one who is friends with Sabrina (online friend) so he will be keeping us up to date with anything she posts or tweets.

  Thursday 11th August 04.28

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk, chris@christophercheshire.com

  We have arrived at Portsmouth Harbour. There is no sign of anyone or anything. It’s also very cold. The seagulls are cawing in the pitch black, and we can see the sea rolling below the cliff in the moonlight. It feels ominous. We are counting down the minutes to 6am when we can get a McDonald’s breakfast.

  Thursday 11th August 06.40

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk, chris@christophercheshire.com

  We are a little sated; the sun is up and I’m on my second McDonald’s breakfast. The world looks a little better. We are still sitting in the car and looking out at the sea twinkling in the morning sun. ‘Price Tag’ by Jessie J just came on the radio and we were singing as loud as we could. I love the song, but as we sang I started to listen to the words, and by the end, I was very scared.

  Thursday 11th August 10.15

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk, chris@christophercheshire.com

  Wayne phoned. Sabrina has just posted something on her Facebook wall: Morning just woke up. Big life changing day!

  The stupid cow is still at home in her pyjamas! We are going to go down to the beach for a bit.

  Thursday 11th August 12.12

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk, chris@christophercheshire.com

  I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes whilst we stared out to sea. The beach isn’t really much to write home about. It’s not really a beach, just a strip of shingle in the shadow of the port, but it’s calming to sit and be lulled by the waves.

  I was suddenly seized with fear.

  “Are you friends with Sabrina on Facebook and Twitter?” I asked. “Pinchard is quite an unusual name. She might twig something!”

  “Relax Mum, Wayne’s friends with her,” he said. “And he’s using our fake profile, Liam McCluskey.”

  “Who is Liam McCluskey?” I said.

  “He the fake profile we use to check out stuff. He Likes pages we wouldn’t dare admit liking. He’s duped cheating boyfriends into admitting their infidelity, and he’s spied on Sabrina. Liam McCluskey has been good to us…”

  Just then, his phone rang. It was Wayne.

  “She’s on her way!” I heard him shrill excitedly. “I repeat, she’s on her way! She just checked into a rest stop on the A3, and posted a picture of herself with a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato.”

  Wayne estimates she is thirty minutes away. She is travelling by car. We don’t know if she’s going to board the ferry on foot, or drive on.

  I’ve made my way back up to the car. Rosencrantz has gone to get some refreshments. I’m terrified.

  Thursday 11th August 21.51

  TO: marikarolincova@hotmail.co.uk, chris@christophercheshire.com

  I was in the car waiting for Rosencrantz to come back, when a Fiat pulled up beside. It was old and battered, and out climbed Sabrina! She was so close that when she got out, her arse clad in tracksuit bottoms actually pressed against my window. I ducked down pretending to search through my bag, but she didn't notice. She was with a rather mean-looking guy who had a buzz cut and was also wearing a tracksuit. They were arguing as he went to the boot and took out two huge suitcases, setting them down and slamming it shut. They pulled up the handles and trudged off across the car park dragging them behind.

  As they got smaller in the rear view mirror, I quickly phoned Rosencrantz.

  “She’s just arrived! She’s with a bloke. They’re heading for the ferry terminal!” I said.

  “It’s okay, Mum. They must be on the two o’clock,” he said. “I’ll buy the tickets, you lock the car and bring our stuff.”

  I began to shake all over. I took a deep breath and flopped down the mirror. I applied some lipstick, which made me feel a tiny bit better. I straightened my hair and grabbed Rosencrantz’s rucksack and my handbag. I locked the car and started to walk across the wide expanse of the car park toward the terminal.

  Suddenly my phone rang.

  “Mum! Watch out,” said Rosencrantz. “They’re coming back your way!”

  “I thought they’d already bought tickets?” I said.

  “I think they only came to collect them.”

  I spied them heading towards me pulling the suitcases.

  “Act normal Mum, but don’t let her see you!” said Rosencrantz, and he hung up.

  I looked around. The section of the car park we were crossing was a wide empty expanse. It would look weirder if I didn’t keep walking towards them. I fumbled with my bag to open it and put the phone inside.

  I kept walking, pretending I was enjoying the sea view. The wind was helping, blowing my hair across my face. We moved closer together, closer. Then the wind ceased, leaving my face exposed! We were a few feet apart when Rosencrantz’s rucksack slipped off my shoulder, pushing my handbag, hooked on the same shoulder, with it. My phone, wallet, make-up, and loose change clattered out and skidded across the tarmac. I bent down to pick it up, keeping my head down.

  A pair of white trainers halted beside me.

  “You need a hand?” said a smooth cockney voice.

  “Oh, no it’s fine,” I said softly.

  A pair of smaller pink trainers appeared too. I didn’t look up. I carried on gathering up my things… seconds ticked by.

  “Here, let me help,” he said.

  I saw him crouch down and begin gathering up the contents of my makeup bag that had skidded the furthest away.

  “I’ll be at the car, Simon,” said Sabrina’s bored voice.

  Simon! I thought. When I overheard her conversation all those months ago, she was talking to a Simon!

  My heart beat even faster. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sabrina’s pink trainers shift as she struggled to get her suitcase going. She moved past and out of my field of vision. Only then I dared to look up (because I don’t think Simon has seen me before). He had beautiful brown eyes. He smiled and handed me my nail polish and lipstick.

  “You’ve got a whole makeup counter in there!” he joked.

  I let out a squeaky little titter. He turned to pick up some loose change, and I noticed his suitcase. It was parked inches from my leg. It was dark blue and covered in padlocks, four or five in total. As the wind blew across the car park from the sea, they clinked and jingled.

  “Here you go,” he said, handing me my change. I saw his name written on the tag: Simon Milner.

  “Thanks,” I said taking it.

  My brain was whirring thinking… thinking… what could I do? Grab it and wheel it away? Too heavy. Rip it open with my nail scissors? They were in the bottom of my handbag in one of those little cases with a popper fastener. Moreover, the car park was deserted. If I attempted anything, he’d probably hit me over the head and they’d speed off in the car.

  Then the moment had gone. He was grinning, I was saying thanks in a breathy damsel-in-distress fashion, which he seemed to like. Then he tipped the suitcase back on its wheels and moved off under its weight back to his car. I walked quickly to the Ferry Terminal and didn’t look back until I went through the autom
atic doors where Rosencrantz was waiting.

  “What happened there?” he said. “Are you okay? What did he say to you?”

  I told him about the encounter, then we saw their little Fiat move off toward the exit.

  “Shit!” I said. “We’ve got to follow them.”

  “Hang on, Mum,” he said. We watched as they left the car park. The toy-sized car in the distance joined a slip road, which ran beside the terminal. They passed us, then further down took a turn, and doubled back toward to the ferry.

  “They’re taking their car on the ferry!”

  “Should I change our tickets? So we can drive?” said Rosencrantz.

  “No,” I said. “Whatever it is we do, we need to do it on the boat. It’s an enclosed space.”

  We walked shakily towards the ferry. It was small, old, and grubby. Cars were lining up to board via a ramp and foot passengers were milling toward a little bridge.

  We kept our heads down and walked up the ramp. Once on board we found ourselves in a little carpeted staircase which stunk of coffee, cigarettes, and fuel.

  “Come on Mum, let’s go up to the top deck,” said Rosencrantz.

  It was warm and sunny on deck and we went to the railing on the side looking out to sea. There was a view down onto the lower deck where cars were pulling up to park in rows. I spied the Fiat with Sabrina and Simon pulling into the second row of cars from the stern of the ferry.

  “Crap,” said Rosencrantz.

  “What?”

  “If we need to break into their car, then everyone up on this deck will see us.”

  “Whoa, hang on,” I said. “What do you think we’re going to do?”

  “Grab the money!”

  “It’s in a locked bag. Well, we think it is. What if they haven’t got the money?”

  “They have to have the money,” said Rosencrantz. “Everything that’s happened in the last few months has led us to this moment.”

  We both jumped as ferry’s horn blared. Slowly the side of the dock began to move away from us. We turned and the open sea beckoned. Rosencrantz flicked his cigarette into the choppy water below. We watched as Sabrina and Simon emerged from the Fiat and unloaded the suitcases. They dragged them slowly across the car deck.

  “Man. Those are big suitcases,” said Rosencrantz quietly.

  “How much space do you think two hundred grand takes up?” I said.

  Rosencrantz Googled it on his phone.

  “Well, if it’s in tens and twenties it could be twenty or thirty kilos… If it’s in fifties it would be around five kilos. Of course they could be packing to emigrate too,” he said.

  “Who emigrates to Jersey?”

  “Bergerac did…”

  “This is stupid. We don’t know anything for sure.”

  Sabrina and Simon disappeared through the doors and off the car deck.

  “What if they come up here?” I realised, in a panic.

  “I don’t think they will with those cases. I’ll go and check.” Rosencrantz went off and came back a few minutes later.

  “They’re sat with the bags on the bottom deck,” he said. “It’s closed in with rows of seating.”

  “You don’t think they’ll dump them overboard?” I said.

  “And do what?”

  “They could have someone waiting in a dinghy?”

  “Don’t be stupid, Mum. They’re gonna risk it in their car. They hardly ever search cars on the Jersey border. They’ll pretend to be holidaymakers. I bet they are going to bank the cash somewhere quiet. Jersey is the perfect place to make money vanish.”

  All this “I think” and “I bet” was making me nervous.

  “I should call Natasha,” I said. “Leave a message about what’s going on here. If we’re really going to do something stupid, we might need a lawyer.”

  I dialled her office at Spencer & Spencer and left a message with her secretary, who didn’t seem too fazed with what I was telling her.

  “I must remind you, Miss Hamilton is taking a holiday in the Maldives,” she said.

  “Please just tell her, it’s important,” I said.

  The secretary reluctantly said she would.

  Then my phone rang. It was Wayne.

  “Which boat did you get on, Mrs P?”

  I told him it was the 2pm to St. Helier.

  “That’s a ten-hour crossing!”

  “I thought it was four hours?”

  “No, we’ve made a mistake, that’s the one from Poole,” he said. “At least you have time to finalise your plans… What is your plan?”

  “I have no idea,” I said.

  “Well, I can help as much as I can, but your phone signal is probably about to run out at sea. If you need me to call the A-Team let me know soon,” he joked.

  We found a bench and spent the next few hours debating what to do. There were no police on board, only at the other end when we got to the Jersey border. If we left it too late Sabrina and Simon could zoom down the exit ramp and escape.

  We debated stealing their car keys (tricky, illegal), or locking them in the toilet then calling the police (also tricky as there was only one toilet on the boat with a constant queue outside). We also thought about tipping off the Jersey police (but as the ferry chugged onwards we realised we didn’t have a mobile phone signal).

  We decided to have a break and went to get some food from the café; jacket potatoes with cheese and beans. We were looking out to sea when I told Rosencrantz about Wayne’s comment, about calling the A-Team.

  There was a clatter as Rosencrantz dropped his plastic fork.

  “That’s it!” he said.

  “What?”

  “The A-Team! When they were in a sticky situation, they used what they had, they used things lying around.”

  “Well, they had an awful lot of stuff in the back of their van,” I said.

  “It’s the simplest things,” said Rosencrantz. He grabbed his jacket potato. “What if we shoved this potato up their exhaust pipe?”

  “Don’t be silly.”

  “It’s perfect! It means their car won’t start… They won’t know what the problem is. All the other cars will pull away. They’ll be sitting ducks!”

  Before I could say anything, he put the potato in the box and darted off. He vanished and re-appeared on the car deck. Quick as a flash he nipped across, weaving through the cars and stopped by the Fiat, pretending to do up his shoelace. He was back within minutes.

  “Mischief managed,” he grinned. “The car was also unlocked. I opened the boot a fraction and wedged a little piece of polystyrene in the lock, so it won’t close properly…”

  “What do we do now?” I said.

  “We wait.”

  We had been awake for around twenty hours when we drew up in the port of St. Helier, Jersey. It was ten forty-five and dusk was falling. The engines droned as the ferry powered its way into a gap by the quay between a larger, more attractive ship. A rope was flung deftly out and caught by a young lad on the pier side. The engines cut out, and the ringing silence was filled with voices as they made their way toward the exit.

  We stayed put in our spot and surveyed the people climbing back into their vehicles on the car deck. A clank signalled that the passenger ramp was down and foot passengers began to file off the ferry. This was followed by a deeper clang as the car ramp moved into place. A chorus of engines starting up roared into the summer night, and when the gates opened the first cars started to move off.

  “What if their car starts?” I said anxiously.

  “It won’t,” said Rosencrantz.

  Although, he didn’t sound too sure.

  There was a lot of exhaust smoke to begin with, and all of the cars seemed to be moving. Then we heard it; the high-pitched rih rih rih rih rihrihrihrih of an engine failing to start. More cars moved off and now the Fiat was an obstruction. A chorus of horns and shouting began. Sabrina’s window opened and her lethally manicured middle finger extended gracelessly into the air.

/>   “Let’s go NOW!” said Rosencrantz.

  We darted across the deck and down the central staircase, emerging out onto the half-empty car deck. The beeping, shouting and exhaust smoke seemed to mask the madness of what we were doing long enough for us to reach the boot of the Fiat. Rosencrantz wrenched it open (the polystyrene had worked). Without a second thought, I grabbed at one of the suitcases and heaved it out onto the deck. Rosencrantz pulled out the second one. My nail scissors were ready in my hand. I dug them into a corner of the material and dragged them along, tearing the whole case open. I pulled at the contents, searching for cash, but all that tumbled out was clothes.

  Sabrina and Simon flew out of the Fiat. I reached into the ragged tear of the suitcase desperately, but all I was pulling out was jeans and shoes.

  “What the fuck are you doing?” shouted Simon.

  I seemed to go deaf and cold all at the same time as panic swept through me. He raised his arm to hit me…

  Then it began to rain down on us, like ticker tape at the end of a concert. Money. Fifty-pound notes were flying through the air. Slowly my hearing came back and I could hear screaming and shouting. People had stopped and were watching in amazement as money rained down around us. Simon was watching too, his arm frozen mid-air. Rosencrantz had got into the other suitcase! He was managing to hold Sabrina away from him, pull out handfuls of cash, and throw it into the air.

  “POLICE!” he shouted. “THIS WOMAN HAS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN CASH! SHE’S A CRIMINAL!”

  Sabrina broke free of his grip and clawed her nails down Rosencrantz’s face. I lunged at her, grabbing a chunk of her blonde hair and yanked hard. It came away in my hand and I realised I’d pulled out her hair extensions.

  Simon saw what was happening and ran for it, darting and weaving through the remaining cars and people who had got out and were trying to catch the money as it flew across the deck.

  “STOP HIM!” I shouted.

 
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