In the back of Sydney’s cab, Emily sat with both hands on the straps of her oversized bag. She wore a classic English print summer dress and sensible sandals, but the oversized blue/green mirrored sunglasses and scattered patches of smudgy, dyed red hair ruined the fille ordinaire look. She didn’t care. She’d grabbed the glasses when she fled the apartment to avoid another encounter with Mrs. Flintstone, and thank God she did because the flashing light and shadows through the window of the moving car were making her sick.
“Can we stop for coffee, Sydney?”
Sydney had recognized something was wrong the second Emily got into the car, but he also knew that there were times when the best thing to do was keep quiet and let the problem come to you. So he continued driving to nowhere (Emily hadn’t given him a destination) with one eye on a likely spot to get her a coffee. On the other hand, Emily didn’t really know what she was doing there. She’d called Sydney to cover up getting caught breaking into Sinclair’s desk, and it had turned into a convenient way out of the flat. But now what? She couldn’t just hide in the back of Sydney’s taxi forever – although, at that moment, the idea certainly appealed to her. She felt alone. She could also feel the leather case she’d taken from Sinclair’s desk in her bag — the heavy can’t-go-back weight of it. She remembered Christopher Martin in the evil red neon night – giving her no choice. And thought about Dreyfus, halfway around the world, unaware that the wheels of power were turning against him. Right here, right now, Sydney was the closest thing to trust she was ever going to get. Out of options, she made up her mind.
“Who do you work for, Sydney?”
It was a strange question, and Sydney glanced back at Emily in the rearview mirror.
“How do you mean? I work for you and Mr. Sinclair,” he said.
“No, who do you really work for?”
Sydney thought about it.
“Who pays you?”
“That’s a little more difficult, ma’am. We’re a family business sort of thing, so I don’t actually get paid. It’s hard to explain.”
“Maybe you don’t get any money, but somebody pays somebody, Sydney. You’re not a charity. You don’t look after us out of the goodness of your heart.”
Sydney could hear the irritation in Emily’s voice. He knew he needed to be careful. “It’s a family business. My father and uncle handle that; I just do my job. I don’t know anything about what they do.”
Sydney wasn’t actually telling the truth. He knew a lot about the family business. He’d been hearing the family history (ad infinitum) since before he was old enough to understand and knew it by heart. And as an adult, he was slowly but steadily learning what it took to be a Khatri because, as Harbir Kharti Singh’s youngest son, he would eventually be the Khatri. And as much as he took a personal interest in the well-being of Lady Perry-Turner, he was not about to discuss all that with her.
“Why does it matter?”
“I need to know. I need to know who your boss is. Who do you report to?”
“Nobody.” Sydney laughed, “As long as there aren’t any complaints, nobody wants to hear what I have to say.” He looked directly at Emily’s sunglasses in the rearview mirror, “So I don’t say anything … to anybody.”
Emily hesitated. She could still go back, except she knew she couldn’t. There was only one way out of this mess. Christopher Martin had made that clear. Then, suddenly, it was just time to do something — even if it was wrong.
“I have to give somebody something, and I don’t want anyone to know about it.”
“Easy peasy, ma’am! Give it to me. It’s as good as done.”
“No, I have to do it myself, and no one can ever know I did. No one — not even Sinclair. It can never be traced back to me. And … I … I don’t know how to do it.”
Sydney immediately caught the “never be traced back to me.” It was an alarm bell that meant some kind of an investigation, which usually meant … But that didn’t bother him. What he didn’t like was the ‘not even Sinclair’ part. But he could hear the desperation in Emily’s voice, so he decided he would decide about that later.
“That’s right up my street, ma’am. Here, we’ll stop and I’ll get you your coffee, and then you can tell me what you want to do, and I’ll take care of it.”
Sydney stopped the car and wheeled in backwards into a parking spot. Emily wasn’t sure about this, but she had no choice.
“Come in with me, Sydney?” She asked.
The coffee kiosk was one of the many scattered along the river walk. It had a couple of wooden picnic- style tables and large Heineken umbrellas. The sun was already hot, and Emily sat in the shade while Sydney negotiated coffee. He came back with two familiar green and white paper cups.
“Thank you, Sydney.”
Sydney sat down opposite and dipped at his teabag. He was willing to wait. Emily took off her sunglasses. She’d come this far ….
“Be honest with me, Sydney,” she said. “I need to do this, but if it’s … if you can’t, or you think it too difficult or if there’s something you … I don’t know – uh — I? Just tell me.”
“It’s no problem, ma’am. This is what I do.”
Actually, it wasn’t. Sydney knew the rules. Yes, Dreyfus Sinclair was an important client, and he was Sydney’s responsibility 24/7 — no exceptions. But — and that but was written large and underlined –“We do not get involved, Sajinder. This man is out of our jurisdiction.” Of course, Sydney had crossed that line a few times and had carefully covered his tracks (from the parents) when he did, but this was different. Lady Perry-Turner was a Primrose, a Muggle – definitely not part of the business – and Sydney had no business dealing with her at all. However, ever since he had carried her, blood-soaked and crying, out of a construction site one cold December night, there had been an affinity between them, and so …
“But I’ll need some information.”
“I can’t …” It was a plea.
Sydney raised his hand and moved it slightly, palm down.
“How big is the item?”
For a second, Emily was tempted to take the case out of her bag and show him, but instead she measured it out in the air.
“And how long will it take you to give it to him? Is it an exchange? Is he going to have to examine the contents?”
Emily thought about that. She hadn’t actually thought about that — the doing of it. From the beginning, it had been the coldest, clearest part of the problem, but she hadn’t considered the mechanics.
“No,” she said, seeing it in her mind, “No exchange. And it will take less than a minute.”
“Where and when? Has that been arranged?”
Emily shook her head. “No, but I need to do this quickly. Tomorrow? Sunday?”
Sydney brightened. His world just got a little better. Sydney knew London. Aside from Las Vegas, it was the most watched city in the world, and an anonymous transfer would not be anonymous for very long — especially if there was some sort of an investigation. But now that he controlled the where and the when, the CCTV system would work in his favour. All he had to do was convince the machines that Lady Perry-Turner was somewhere else when she delivered her package, and unless there was some direct connection he didn’t know about, no one would ever come calling.
“No worries, ma’am. I’ll take care of this. Let me make a couple of telephone calls.” Sydney stood up and pulled his telephone out of his pocket. “One minute,” he said, scrolling the screen and walking away.
Emily looked around. It was late morning London: young people, old people, mothers with their buggies, tourists with their telephones, a couple of suits laughing and a woman complaining to her friend about … who knows what? But ordinary made Emily feel better. Sydney made Emily feel better. She wasn’t alone anymore, and that made her feel a lot better.
Sydney came back to the table.
“I’m going to set this up for Sunday?” It wasn’t really a question, but Emily nodded anyway. ‘We need to work out the details. Are you alright to do that now?”
Emily nodded again, but opened her hand and looked uncertain. Was this really the place for secrets?
Sydney laughed, “It’s alright. We’re just two people having coffee, ma’am. Now, can you still handle a motorbike?”
The question caught Emily off-guard, and it showed.
“Like the one I got for you in Paris?”
Emily smiled for the first time, remembering Paris. “Yes,” she said.
“Good” Sydney smiled back. He liked to see Emily smile.