Sunday Serial LX

Anna tucked her hand into his and the three of them went back to the kitchen where Patsy and Jim awaited them. Patsy gave Anna a very shrewd look.
“Better?”
“Yeah. Sorry. Over reaction.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Whichever. I take my hat off to Sam. I was wondering how the heck anyone was going to reach you. Then he swans in, picks you up and takes you away. I was waiting for the screams, but they never came. Now here you are: sorted. Respect.”
Anna laughed ruefully.
“You’ll make him big-headed if you keep on. He can’t take all the credit – his dad was a psychiatrist so he learned how to handle madwomen at his father’s knee.”
Sam laughed and pulled her into a hug.
“Whatever. And you aren’t a madwoman, you are just a bit fragile sometimes. I’m only happy that you’re back and you’ve promised not to leave me.”
Anna turned in his embrace; her face was stark and her voice was a thread of a whisper.
“Are you sure I’m not following in my mother’s footsteps?”
“Oh yes. Positive,” he replied. “I stomped all over medical ethics and called in some favours from friends of my Dad’s to find out your mother’s story. She was an abused child, and that was the root of her trouble. Her father abused her sexually and her mother abused her physically and mentally. Your father knew, and was very careful with you and Danny. According to what I was told, the knife incident almost broke his heart. But that isn’t what you wanted to know. This is. Your mother’s mental health problems were down to her childhood traumas and the alcohol abuse she indulged in to numb the pain of her memories. Those problems aren’t the sort that can be passed on genetically.”
“If you only knew what a relief that is… Does Danny know?”
“Didn’t. Does now. Sorry I didn’t tell you before, but I’ve  been putting it off because it’s such a hard, sad story. I didn’t want to cloud your happiness.”
She lifted a hand to his face.
“Oh. I do love you Sam.”
Jim scrubbed his hand over his chin, and you could hear the bristles scrape.
“Christ, that’s sick. But it does explain a lot about your Ma.”
Anna went over to him and patted his shoulder.
“Thanks Jim, and I’m sorry. I never thought about you. You must be beside yourself with worry and I was being an asshole.”
“S’okay. I know how hard it hit you. As long as you are back now. We’ll be fine. I do need the assistance of your magic hands, though.”
“You have it. Tell me.”
“I’ve been told to expect a phone call. Mobile. I need you to work a bit of magic. I need to know who is behind this…”
“We need to know,” Anna said firmly. “I’ve got this new thing I’ve been working on. Now seems a good time to test it. Gimme your phone. Sam, can you get my laptop, the red hard drive, and the small blue box of tricks, please.”
Sam ran to obey, and when he got back Anna connected the hard drive to her laptop, and Jim’s iPhone, plus a scruffy old Nokia, to the hard drive. Then she booted up the laptop and did various incomprehensible things.
“Okay. Jim I need twenty seconds when your phone rings before you pick it up. Then if you can keep whoever talking for one minute we’ve got the bastard. Everything in his phone’s memory, plus everyone he calls, and everyone who calls him, after he has talked to you.” Her eyes sparkled and she rubbed her hands together. “There is nothing,” she said meditatively “that cheers up your day like finding out you aren’t necessarily going to go mad. Add in a spot of electronic jiggery-pokery and Anna’s back firing on all cylinders. Apologies to all for the unnecessary drama. Is anybody hungry?”
“Not yet,” Patsy said tensely. “But I reckon I will be once we’ve had this fucking call.” Then she held out her hand to her husband. “You have my permission to be as unpleasant as you like. Somebody went after my kids. Now they are safe at their grandparents’ house I’ve got time to be fucking furious.”
Jim looped a huge arm around her.
“Me too. And I’m still a bit churned up inside. Jeez. The fuckers threatened my mother, my children, my wife, and my friends. I really want blood. You wouldn’t consider sitting on my lap for a mo, would you?”
She nodded and he pushed his chair back, pulling her onto his lap. He buried his face in her neck and she cradled his head.
“Soft bastard,” she crooned. “We’re all fine. Might have a bit of trouble reining the twins in, after they kicked the shit out of that scroat who tried to grab them, but your mum’s on it.”

Just then the phone rang. Jim glanced at the screen and nodded. Anna pressed four keys on her laptop, then waited a few seconds. A message came up on the screen and she gave Jim a nod. She put her finger to her lips to indicate that everyone else should remain silent. Jim picked up his phone.
“Cracksman.”
The voice that filled the room was rough, and definitely Glaswegian, and the face on Anna’s laptop looked hard and determined. Sam made a camera with his hands and Anna looked puzzled, but nodded.
“Cracksman. I’m not amused by the state you sent my boys back in.”
“No? The next one comes back in a body bag.”
“I don’t think so somehow. Not the kindly law-abiding Mister Cracksman.”
Jim laughed and the sound wasn’t pleasant.
“I’ll tell you a thing about the kindly law-abiding Mister Cracksman. Where his family is concerned, kindly and law-abiding can go fuck itself. Send anyone else after anybody I care about and I’m coming after you. And there won’t be a hole deep enough for you to hide in.”
The voice was less sure of itself now.
“Don’t threaten me.”
“I ain’t. That’s not a threat, it’s just a statement of fact. Me and my baseball bat will find you, and when we’ve finished even your mammy won’t recognise you. Now. Did you have a reason for calling?”
“I have a message for you. There are some people who are mightily displeased by the decrease in their income since the police got informed about certain small medical irregularities. They want you told to back off and keep your nose out of their business. Or else.”
“Or else what?”
“Next time the boys come with shooters.”
“They better be good shots and even better runners then. And you better practice hiding. Now fuck off, and tell whoever is paying you that he’s the one needs to back off. If I have to come look for him I will be so pissed off.”
He looked a question at Anna, who nodded, so he ended the call with a grim face.

Jane Jago

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