PLAY THE GAME will be published on 29th November by Diamond Crime. Coincidentally, 29th
November is also Gail B Williams’ birthday!
“I need a library.”
What Elaine actually needed was a bibliothèque. It was one of the few French words that had stuck in her mind, mostly because it had sounded a lot more fun than any discotheque could.
Unfortunately, her French was extremely limited. She could ask “où est la bibliothèque?”, and she did, several times. The problem was, she didn’t understand a word of the answers and relied on hand signals instead. This would be so much easier if she could just Google it, but she had to avoid being traced, which meant having to do things the non-electronic way. The battery wasn’t even in her phone right now, just in case.
Which all added to why it took an hour to get to the library that was, had she known the route, only about ten minutes from where she’d been when she’d first thought about finding one.
The worst thing was that hour had given her far too much time to think. Thinking about her situation didn’t improve it. Exactly one week ago she had discovered that her husband, Jason, had lied to her for the entire twenty-five years that they had known one another. She’d long ago come to terms with the fact that the man she’d married for security was, in fact, a manipulative, controlling, abuser, but she hadn’t realised how consummate a liar he was. It took his death for her to find out what he did for a living. He was a spy. It wasn’t as glamourous as it sounded.
In keeping with her appalling luck, it turned out that he might even be a double agent. Jason was supposed to have had evidence that a lot of people wanted, people from all sides. The problem was, all those people now thought Elaine had that evidence. She didn’t. She didn’t even know what the evidence was.
The mistake they had made was trying to use one of her foster-children against her. Lazlo Zakis. He’d come to her as a scared little boy, ten years old and totally out of his depth. She’d taken him in and loved him, tried to help him in every way she could. He hadn’t been terribly receptive, but she hadn’t expected him to be the kind to stab her in back either. Which is what had happened. She didn’t have the evidence, but she had found what she supposed to be the key to finding it.
So, when Lazlo indicated he was in trouble, she’d been ready to do whatever it took to free him. And that included leaving her home and all the security she thought she had, travelling to Paris, figuring out that Lazlo was a turncoat, faking the evidence to have something to pass over, and then having to fight for her life not to be captured by the people Lazlo was clearly working for.
And somehow the most terrifying thing about all that, was that her get away was achieved about seventy minutes ago.
Still, she was at the library now, things to do.
She stepped inside.
The next question was where to start. A librarian took pity on her looking lost and since the hipster young man spoke flawless English, she explained what she was doing, asked him the question and thus got the answer much faster than expected.
Elaine blinked at him. “Switzerland?” How on earth did Switzerland get abbreviated to CH? She could probably find out, but it was one of those interesting but not important questions. She’d expected to find the answer by trawling through books. This was much easier. She had got lucky – again. Just as Ladderman had accused her. Ladderman, the British secret agent who had been on her tail since she left home. She’d lost him for now, which avoided him trying to send her home, as that was the last place she wanted to go. But he had turned up to help in that final confrontation, and she kind of missed him already, although she wasn’t sure she could trust even him. Too much of her life was built on lies, and what else could a spy do but lie to her more? She pushed thoughts of him aside and looked at the librarian again.
“Any idea how I can find out what a bank code is within an IBAN code?”
“Do you have a code?”
“That part is C-O-U-T.”
Again, he didn’t need to check. “Probably Coutts Bank.”
Of course! If she’d had her brain switched on, she probably could have figured that one out for herself. Though in her defence, until about an hour ago, she was pretty much fully occupied with trying to stay alive. Something to think about later. Right now, she needed to focus.
“I think,” the librarian said, “it’s either based in Geneva or just has a well-known branch there. Do you want me to double check?”
Given how much sense the answer made when added to everything else she knew, that felt unnecessary. She thanked the man in English, then German, then remembered where she was and reached French as she left the library. At least she knew where she was going now.