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This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART TWENTY-THREE – TROUBLE AHEAD
The following morning they set to work. Andy inquired after the owners of the site, trying to find out what they had paid for it initially, and at what price they might be willing to let it go. Tamsyn contacted her various banks to figure out how much money she had available in liquid assets. Both inquiries took up most of the morning, and they took stock over lunch.
“Land in Somerset tends to be pretty dear,” Andy stated while Tamsyn picked at her food. “It’s not quite as sought after as Devon or Cornwall, but it’s still popular with wealthy people who want a second home in the south. We’re talking between two-fifty and three hundred thousand per acre.”
“Okay, and how big is our site?”
Tamsyn winced. “So that makes what, four to five million quid?”
“Give or take a few,” Andy confirmed with a shrug. “How much have you got?”
“Seven million easy access. I could probably free up more if I had to, but seven should suffice, surely?”
Andy pulled a face. “They’re being… difficult.”
“How do you mean, ‘difficult’?”
“Well, to start with, they’re not happy that the work has stopped. They’ve demanded a full explanation and are threatening to take us to court. Every day I delay that explanation they’ll be less willing to deal with us.”
“What excuse did you use to shut it down anyway?”
“I kept it as vague as I could, told them some soil samples had come back with anomalies that had to be tested in the lab first.” He made an apologetic gesture. “I had to improvise at very short notice and under extreme emotional stress. I was frantic about you, Tam.”
Tamsyn patted his hand. “Do you think they’ll be more amenable to dealing with me? Let’s face it, they probably think you’re only some flunky I’ve thrown at them because I couldn’t be arsed to talk to them myself.”
“It might be worth a try,” Andy conceded. “I told everyone that you’d gone on a very short notice trip and would be unavailable for a while.”
Tamsyn sighed. “I suppose I’d better reassure the board of directors that I’m still alive. In the meantime, can you please arrange a meeting with the site owners? And who are they, by the way?”
Andy coughed. “Um, that’s the bit I haven’t told you yet. It’s owned by the Donnan brothers.”
Tamsyn went rigid. “The Donnan brothers,” she repeated flatly, and Andy held up his hands in defence.
“Sorry, it wasn’t my fault.”
“Just to be sure,” Tamsyn said, rubbing her temples, “these are the same Donnan brothers who complained about every last brick, support beam, roof tile and window-frame we used to build their row of houses in Wiltshire? The same Donnan brothers whom we had to take to court to get our money out of them?”
“Yep, the very same.”
“Right, then I have three questions. One: which fucker thought it was a good idea to tender for another contract from them? Two: why did those Donnan arseholes even want to accept our tender, and three: why the fuck did no one tell me this? If I’d known about this it would have happened over my dead fucking body!”
“One: that would be Jim McMurphy. Two: fuck knows, and three: I didn’t actually find out until today, so all I can assume is that Jim managed to convince the board that neither of us needed to know about this.”
“Jim Mc… what?” Tamsyn stammered, taken aback. “I don’t understand, he always was my father’s closest friend and supporter!”
“Your father’s, yes,” Andy said. “I’m not so sure now whether that was transferred to you when Paddy died.”
Tamsyn sank into a chair. “Please tell me this isn’t to do with the fact that I’m young, female and good-looking?”
Andy sat down next to her. “I couldn’t tell you, Tam, only Jim can. But if we consider the track record of all the white, fifty-something, chauvinistic men we’ve encountered in this business…” He trailed off, but Tamsyn didn’t need him to finish the thought. She felt a sudden, aching desire to be back in the Shire, back with Perry and Esme and Faramir. Maybe they didn’t place any high demands on her, but at least they had never casually ignored her abilities, or brushed them aside, and they had taken her at face value.
“Okay, fine,” she said, trying to shake off her melancholy mood. “Forget about meeting those Donnan twats, just offer them five million for the site. I don’t care what reason you give them for wanting to buy it. You can tell them I want to breed puppies for all I care, as long as they sell me that site. Then we’re going back to London, because I have some choice words for my board of directors.”
“And what about him?” Andy cocked a thumb towards Radagast.
“He’ll have to come with us. He won’t wake up for at least another day, and even then he’ll need a few more days before he’s good for anything.”
They borrowed the wheelchair again and loaded the wizard into the car, and during the three-hour journey back to London they spoke little. Tamsyn’s mood worsened by the minute, and when they finally reached her London penthouse, the main thing that hit her as she got out of the car was the incredible, all-permeating stink of the city, so strong that she nearly gagged on it. It was such a shock to her lungs after the clean, wholesome air of the Shire that she wasn’t sure she could ever get used to it again. She tried to remember what Perry smelled like, but of all the senses, smell was the most elusive, and she soon gave it up as impossible.
Once they had Radagast continuing his rest in her guest bedroom, Tamsyn left a jug of water and a pack of biscuits on his nightstand, then went to the living room and sat on the window-sill for a while, looking out the window but too lost in thought to see anything.
She startled when Andy put a hand on her shoulder. “They’ve refused,” he said, and for a moment she was at a complete loss as to what he was talking about. Then understanding dawned, and she frowned.
“The Donnans? Offer them five and a half,” she snapped, then turned back to the window.
“I already did,” Andy said quietly, and Tamsyn realised she was taking her bad mood out on him.
“I’m sorry, Andy, I’m being a cow,” she said, feeling contrite. “Come, sit with me, you’re a miracle. Just offer them that, and if they refuse again keep going up until you hit seven.”
He pulled up a low, comfy seat and sat down, then fixed his serious gaze on her. “And what if they refuse seven as well? Because I have a feeling that they will.”
“Then… then I don’t know,” Tamsyn admitted. “I’ll have to start selling things, I suppose.”
“And how much would you sell?”
“Everything, if I must.” When he continued to give her that serious stare she shrugged. “Nothing I own, nothing, is more important than keeping Perry safe. It’s that simple.”
He nodded. “I may have thought of a different way.”
Tamsyn sat up, instantly interested. “Tell me.”
“Make it a nature reserve.”
Her eyes widened. “Andy, that’s genius! But I’d still need to own it first.”
“Not necessarily. We can force their hand.”
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m still not certain of this, but I believe that if you can prove that that site in Somerset contains an endangered species, the site itself almost automatically becomes protected. Then we could buy it on the cheap and convert it into a nature reserve, hopefully in perpetuity.”
“Okay, so we need to check if it has an endangered species.” She bit her lip thoughtfully, then added, “Bit of a long shot, really.”
Andy stared at her for a second, then started laughing. At her indignant stare he laughed even louder, then shook his head at her fondly. “Tam, love really has addled your brains, hasn’t it? I would have expected you to work this out for yourself.”
She still looked confused, so he indicated the guest bedroom door with his chin. “What have you got in there? A wizard. And not just any wizard, no, you have the wizard who abandoned the war against Sauron to look after the birds, animals and plants of Middle-Earth. If anyone can rustle us up some endangered plants or beasties, it’s Radagast.”
When it clicked with her, she produced the first true smile Andy had seen from her since she’d returned. “Oh, you beauty, I love you!” she said, grabbing his face and kissing his forehead. “I knew I could count on you to finally give me some good news!”
“That bad, is it? Have you spoken to the board yet?”
Tamsyn pulled a face. “I’ve called a meeting tomorrow at ten.”
“On a Friday? When most of them can’t be arsed to come in? Bet they liked that.”
“Yeah well, they had no choice. I’m their chief executive and I pay their wages,” she replied with a steely look.
“You’re not going to tell them what happened, I hope?”
Tamsyn raised an eyebrow at him. “I thought we’d established that I’m not crazy?”
“Fine, I just had to ask,” he said, raising his hands. “Just have your cover story ready, they’ve been bugging me all week about where you were.”
“Mmm,” Tamsyn said, sagging back against the window frame. “I’m torn between making up an urgent business deal and saying I needed a holiday.”
“I’d go with the holiday,” Andy said, scratching his chin. “It’s easier to claim that you nipped to Majorca for five days than to make up a business deal that doesn’t exist. Especially since the latter means that you failed to secure it on your own.”
“Good point. Holiday it is.” She yawned and stretched, then slumped back again. “Now I just need to get through the evening. Maybe I’ll just go to bed,” she said morosely.
“What? Tam, it’s barely seven o’clock. Have you even eaten yet?”
She shook her head. “I’m not hungry.”
Andy sighed and put a hand on her shoulder. “You have to eat. You can’t just go on like this. I know you miss Perry, but you have to get over him and start living again. Every time when you don’t have anything to do, all I’ve seen you do is stare out the window.”
“I know.” Tamsyn lowered her eyes. “It’s too fresh still, Andy. I can’t bring up any enthusiasm for anything. I know I need to go and shout at my board members tomorrow, but part of me just wants to say ‘fuck it, who cares?’ Think of it: if Jim hadn’t bypassed me like that, I’d never have gone to Somerset, I’d never have met Radagast and I’d never have met Perry.”
“And wouldn’t that have been better?”
“No,” Tamsyn said, shaking her head emphatically. “It hurts, but I’m with Tennyson on this one: it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”
“Considering how upset you told me that Perry was when you left, are you sure he would agree?” He met her stricken eyes, then pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. Come, I’ll cook you your favourite Thai curry and then we’ll watch a film, okay?”
She nodded and followed him to the kitchen, then went to the supermarket to fetch some coconut milk and chicken when they discovered there was none in the house.
Fifteen minutes later she returned and met a bemused Andy in the hallway. “Did you just go to the supermarket without shoes?” he asked.
Tamsyn looked down, then shrugged. “Apparently so.”
“It’s ten degrees out and the rain feels like ice, and you didn’t notice you weren’t wearing shoes?”
She shrugged again. “No, but I guess it explains why everyone was giving me weird looks.”
Andy shook his head. “People are going to think you’re crazy, you know. You can’t go around walking on bare feet.”
“Can’t I?” She lifted her chin and gave him that steely stare again, so he threw up his hands.
“Fine, be a hobbit. You’re rich, I suppose you’ll be eccentric rather than crazy.”
He went back to his food preparations, but while Tamsyn dutifully ate the fare and sat down to watch the film with him, every time he looked at her she had a faraway look in her eyes.
He had always been as close to her as a brother, but she had moved beyond his reach now, and he wasn’t sure he could ever get her back.
What will happen at Tamsyn’s board meeting? Find out in part twenty-four!