Graeme went still. “I’d like you to send Penny back.” He frowned at Jemma’s expression. “Things are too serious. Or the two of you have to leave New Zealand.”
“Don’t go on about giving her back, Grae. I can’t bear it right now. I just can’t give her up.”
Graeme pushed his toast and marmalade to the centre of the table. “We’re coming close to crunch time – the time when you can’t just contact the Winchesters and expect no consequences. No, probably we’re there now.” He cleared his throat. “I am listening to you, Jemma. You’re nothing but consistent. You want to keep Penny, come what may.”
She nodded, wary.
“If you keep her, there are plans to be made.”
Jemma felt some relief. He was listening to her. “The biggest problem is the nanny,” she said slowly, “and her being accused of kidnapping. I know I’ve gone on and on about her being careless with the baby in the big carriage but she doesn’t deserve to be had up for kidnapping. You promised: tell me how we’re going to take the heat off the nanny What has your curly little mind figured out?”
He stood up and piled the plates together. “We send a message to the newspapers.” He put the dirty dishes onto the side and picked up the papers. “How does this sound? ‘We have the baby. She is beside me as I write, happily playing with a rattle, looking lovely with her golden curls and long eye-lashes.’” He looked up. “The important part is the golden curls bit.”
“Good idea,” Jemma said. This man was clever, even if he’d taken ages to accept she would never, ever give up her baby again.
“Okay, where was I? Oh yes, ‘She is doing all the age-related behaviours appropriate to an eight-month old child and is the delight of all who meet her.’ I was trying here to be erudite, That’s the main point. This is a letter from an educated person to be a contrast to the woman you’ve described to me. Not a letter from the nanny.”
“Graeme, no! It would point the finger directly at me,” Jemma said.
“We have a choice: ordinary, uneducated with grammatical errors or hoity-toity, big words, show-off, educated. They’ll have experts tear it to bits and then put it all together again. That should prevent any finger pointing. They’ll have to be my words, not yours. And you must be seen doing student-y activities sans bébé.”
“French? You speak French?”
“I was brought up bilingual,” he said. “But you’re the only person in New Zealand who knows that. Actually, we could do the whole thing in French.”
“Hidden talents, Grae,” she said. “But if they do find out you know French, the finger will be firmly placed towards you. Nope, too risky. Besides it’s over the top.”
“Uneducated is pointing the finger at the nanny and away from you.”
“So erudite it is, then? Stuck-up erudite?”
“It should keep the finger pointing well away from the nanny and from you too.”
“Graeme, are you insinuating I’m not erudite?” Jemma asked, just a slight frown creasing her brow.
“Posh pommy accent but definitely ordinary, not show-off erudite,” he said.
“Harumph,” she said with a grin. “Okay. I agree. I definitely don’t talk or write like that. Come on, get on with it, young man. I want to hear the end.” She smiled at him.
“How about this? ‘She loves her bottle, the one with the green band that holds the rubber nipple in place. Another missive will follow. Rest assured she is being given the best of care.’”
“Nipple? That’s rude. Rubber teat.”
Graeme laughed. “You sure? Calling a nipple a teat is rude where I was brought up. But, I’ll change it. Or should I? Calling it a nipple gives the letter another cosmopolitan touch.”
“I like the bit that describes the bottle she had when we first found her. Clever. Sort of identifying we really do have her.”
“They should have no doubts now. We describe her hair even though there have been no pictures in the paper, and then the bottle.”
“But I don’t like the ‘nipple’ bit, Grae.”
“And ‘teat’ is any better? That’s a word we wrote on toilet walls where I come from.”
Jemma laughed. “Okay, you probably should leave the nipple bit in.”
“What are we going to do with the letter, Grae? How do you get it to the papers without giving ourselves away?”
“By mail,” he said and she smiled when she deliberately didn’t bother correcting ‘mail’ to ‘post’. “I can stick cut-out letters onto a sheet of paper. Using gloves, of course.”
Jemma shook her head. “Cut out letters and erudite language? Funny combo.”
“No choice,” he said. “Unless you can think of something better.”
Her face darkened. She sat heavily onto the chair opposite Graeme. “It feels much more important now, doesn’t it?”
“It is, kiddo. As soon as you’ve written your exam today, I think you need to do some hard thinking before coming back here to relieve Mrs Hussey. We’re involved in things both dangerous and very illegal. I’ve supported you up till now but I still think you should call the Winchesters before we do anything more.”
Jemma hung her head. “I can’t imagine a few more hours are going to make me change my mind.”
Graeme gathered all the papers together and hid them out of sight on top of the kitchen cupboard. “I’d better catch that bus. Good luck with the exam.” He bent down and kissed the baby’s head, then did the same to Jemma’s. She looked up, surprised. He grinned.
“Thanks, Grae. You’re a brick. I don’t know what I’d do….” But what was this kissing bit? It was slightly worrying.
“I’m away. See you tonight. Hopefully, you’ll be bouncing because you aced the exam.”
As soon as she heard the front door close, she said to Penny, “You’re a lucky little girl because today you’re going to hear me review what I know about revolutions, starting with the French. Now this particular revolution….” The baby gurgled and smiled before bending yet again to pick up little cubes of bread from the tray of her high chair.
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