She turned to go in, but he stopped her with a long arm. ‘I need a favour.’
‘Oh yeah? Like what?’
‘Will you come to Seattle with me? It’s Angus and Maggie’s fortieth wedding anniversary day after tomorrow. They heard I was in the States. Big family bash.’
‘Sure. Why not?’
‘Oh. A hundred and one reasons. Not least the third degree about why we are brat-less.’
Mike laughed. ‘That’s OK. Just tell them you have no balls. They won’t believe it, but it’ll shut them up.’
He looked at her narrowly for a minute then grinned. ‘That’ he said with some surprise ‘is the closest we’ve come to making a joke about my little problem.’
‘Is that good or bad?’
‘The joke is good. It’s maybe bad it has taken so long. Now I’d better book us some flights, and then we can sort out two big wardrobes.’
‘And your mother’s clothes.’
After twenty-four hours of frantic sorting, Mike was only too glad to collapse into her seat for the six-hour flight to Seattle.
‘Remind me never to ride to your assistance again.’
Leo sniggered and pulled her into a friendly half-hug. ‘You just shut up and go to sleep.’
They touched down at 6am local time and soon cleared immigration. Having only carry-on luggage, they bypassed the carousels and were about to enter the arrivals area when Leo balked like a jibbing horse. He was striding ahead of Mike, with both their bags in one hand, when he stopped dead. She all but walked into his back, and was about to give him what for when she felt the tension in his long body.
‘Just move behind this pillar’ he spoke without turning his head.
She obeyed, curious as to what had disturbed him.
‘We, or rather you, seem to be awaited’ his voice was taut. ‘And this is a problem because?’
‘Because I don’t recognise any of the three big blokes who are holding a placard reading ‘Michaela Johnson’.
‘Yeah. OK. That’s just plain wrong. What’d we do?’
‘Leo, it’s six o’clock in the morning.’
She gave in and sat on the floor while he made a brief call.
‘We need to move back from the doorway. Airport security won’t bother us. Then we wait for Angus himself. We don’t go with anyone else. He’ll be about a half hour.’
They pulled back from the doorway and a security guard moved towards them, then he stopped and put a hand to his earpiece before sheering off to harass a group of holidaymakers who looked as if they may have imbibed a little too freely on their flight. Moving even further away from the door, Mike sat on the floor and she and Leo composed themselves to wait. For what seemed to be ages, nothing happened, and the three hard men stayed put carefully watching arrivals. Just as Mike was about to nod off some even larger men surrounded the trio and marched them off. She got up and snuggled under Leo’s arm, in time to see a bulky figure marching across the concourse towards them. Angus Johnson clapped his half brother on the shoulder and enveloped Mike in a bear hug.
‘Fine welcome to Seattle that was’ he rumbled in his gravelly tones. ‘We know that lot. I’m sure they will be only too delighted to tell us who sent them. We’ll ask them very nicely.’ He smiled a smile of surprising charm. ‘Shall we go home? Maggie’s cooking breakfast.’