Billie Pascoe is determined to escape from her past mistakes, her present job, and her very uncertain future. Attempting to flee her problems, she opens a warehouse on the edge of a run-down air field ? despite not knowing a thing about how to run a business. Her status as the world?s biggest areophobe doesn?t help either, but the biggest problem of all takes the form of Jonah Sullivan, the gorgeous pilot and plane-owner who walks into her life at the worst possible moment. Billie soon discovers exactly what Jonah has mind for her warehouse ? and while she?s not exactly sold by the idea of becoming a wing-walker, she soon learns how far her courage extends for love...
Release date: November 3, 2014
Publisher: Accent Press
Print pages: 467
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Walking on Air
‘Whiteacres Industrial Estate please, dear.’ The taxi’s rear door was yanked open by a plump figure wearing khaki shorts. ‘You do know where it is, dear, don’t you?’
Billie Pascoe, jolted from some serious daydreaming in the driving seat, did her customary customer eye-meet, which was slightly hampered on this occasion by sunglasses, through the rear-view mirror. ‘Yes, of course. Oh, would you like me to put your luggage in the boot?’
‘No thanks, dear. It’s only a few bits and bobs, and anyway you really don’t look strong enough to be humping baggage.’
The woman, who could have been anywhere between forty and seventy, was accompanied by various carrier bags, a shocking pink sombrero, and a small vanity case. After an indecisive tussle with the sombrero, she rammed it on her head and thumped heavily onto the rear seat.
She beamed kindly at Billie through the driving mirror. ‘I always like to get a cab with a female driver because you can’t be too careful, if you know what I mean, dear, but to be honest, I thought you were someone’s child. You simply don’t look old enough to be driving a taxi …’
Billie grinned as she moved the Granada smoothly away from the Spicer Centre taxi rank and into Amberley Hill’s mid-morning traffic. She’d heard the same remarks at least three times a week every week for the year and a half that she’d been driving for Reuben’s Cabs. Being a smidgen over five feet tall, weighing a smidgen over seven stone, and with layers of short blonde hair, she’d probably pass for Zoe Ball on an off-day.
She’d never felt it necessary to reassure her passengers that she was all of twenty-six and a half, and having been brought up on a farm she’d been shifting sacks of sheep feed and hay bales since she was old enough to walk, and therefore stowing the average weekly shop or holiday suitcase in the Granada’s boot would pose her no problems whatsoever.
Leaving the town, and heading for the bypass which linked Amberley Hill to Whiteacres, Billie glanced again in the mirror. Her passenger was now nursing the sombrero, gazing out of the window and showing no inclination to chat, which suited Billie fine. There were things she needed to think about. Things that needed mulling over … things like changing direction, taking stock, getting a grip … things like jacking in the taxi driving and being in control of her own destiny. Again.
‘Lovely day, isn’t it?’ The lady suddenly loomed forward, interrupting Billie’s mental letter of resignation to Reuben Wainwright, proprietor of Reuben’s Cabs, slimeball, and long-term bane of her life. ‘Flaming June with a vengeance. It always makes one yearn for silver sands and transparent turquoise seas on days like these, doesn’t it?’
Billie nodded as she overtook a string of lorries heading for the retail village and inhaled vast quantities of toxic fumes through the open window. ‘Not much chance of that round here, though. We’re totally land-locked.’
Away from Amberley Hill, with its gently undulating roads and quiet crescents of greystone houses, the countryside had quickly become flat and barren. It was a grimly desolate area, commandeered in the sixties for London overspill housing and providing just that. Whiteacres, with its industrial estate, retail village, and scrubby airfield, was as far removed from bucolic bliss as it was possible to get.
Her passenger beamed. ‘Physically, yes – but I’m a great believer in dreams, dear. In wish fulfilment. If we want something badly enough I believe we all have the power to achieve it.’
Billie wasn’t sure. She was pretty convinced that however much her passenger may long for seaside splendours, all the wishing in the world wasn’t going to bring coastal erosion galloping across the county to engulf the urban wasteland of Whiteacres.
Anyway, she’d had the sea, and the sand, and the glorious countryside at home in Devon, and she’d left it, because … well, because, among other reasons, at twenty-five she’d thought that by moving away from the cosiness of the farm, and her undemanding post as the most junior reporter on the Devon Argus, she could prove that she was a person in her own right, and could stand or fall alone. Oh, and because of Kieran Squires, of course, but she’d rather not think about that … No, she’d thought that London was going to provide everything she’d ever wanted. London had lasted for four short, amazing, exciting, heart-breaking weeks.
She shook her head sadly at the foolishness of that long-ago innocence as she indicated to turn the Granada onto the Whiteacres slip road. There had been so many dreams – most of them, she admitted miserably, connected with Kieran Squires – and they’d all turned spectacularly to dust.
Still, at least now with the small inheritance left by Granny Pascoe, and the careful stashing away of her cab tips and her overtime payments, she had a reasonable sum of money to invest in her future, which was, she thought, a big step forward from last time. Last time she’d left London with nothing but the clothes she was wearing; last time she’d arrived in Amberley Hill without even the price of a hot meal or a cup of tea; last time she’d made every mistake it was possible to make. This time there would be no mistakes; this time she’d do things properly.
‘Oh, my God!’
A tiny plane had suddenly slithered low overhead, dipping its wings, it seemed, almost onto the Granada’s bonnet as it skimmed the slip road. The sun burnished it with dazzling silver stars as it tipped sideways and made its approach to Whiteacres airfield. Billie, her hands damp on the steering wheel, instinctively waited for the crash.
‘Made you jump, did it?’ Her passenger scrabbled her way free of the sombrero. ‘You get used to them round here. Such pretty little things, aren’t they? I love to watch them and imagine where they’re going. I do so envy people who can fly away, don’t you?’
Billie didn’t. Flying, as far as Billie was concerned, if it had to be undertaken at all, should be done in semiconscious comfort with at least four hundred other passengers, a nail-biting Nicolas Cage film, intravenous gin and tonics, and a scorching resort waiting at the end of the terror. Flying had absolutely nothing to do with these flimsy airborne sofas enclosed in Perspex and fuelled by Calor gas.
‘Um – I’m a bit of an aerophobe, actually,’ Billie smiled shakily into the mirror. ‘I think if I was going to make my escape it would have to be on foot.’
Settling the Granada into the tailback of traffic heading for the industrial estate, Billie sighed. What exactly had she got to show for nearly two years’ independence? The London disaster, followed by humiliation – and now a job she disliked, a boss she disliked even more, and a share in an Amberley Hill basement flat with Miranda the man-eater. She also had predicable social life – yo-yoing as she did with the rest of the girls between Mulligan’s Genuine Irish Ale House and Bazooka’s Nite Spot – and no man, which was understandable after the debacle with Kieran Squires, and no prospects of anything happening to change the pattern.
Even if she gave up driving for Reuben’s Cabs, what on earth was she going to do? She was hardly qualified for anything. Driving, at least, gave her some freedom.
Maybe she’d start up her own minicab firm if Reuben’s reference wasn’t too damning … She’d employ lady drivers to take children to school, and OAPs to out-patients, and harassed mothers to Tesco. Or maybe – just maybe – she’d become a proper chauffeur … hired by the rich and famous to sweep up to the palatial porticoes of the Savoy or the Dorchester …
Her passenger slid forward again. ‘Turn in here, dear. Just through those gates on the airfield’s perimeter fence. It’s the back way into the units and much quicker. Just drive on past Arrivals and Departures and follow the road round.’
Billie turned, sweeping beneath the archway that proclaimed they were now entering Whiteacres Airport – a grand misnomer, she felt, for the small airfield with two tarmacked runways, a couple of grass landing strips, and the sort of ramshackle outbuildings that should have Kenneth More stomping about with a white scarf. Not even the perfect blue sky and spiralling June sunshine could quite relieve the look of neglect. Notice boards slapped dismally backwards and forwards against flaking paintwork, the light bulbs illuminating the signs had gone out, the buildings were all decorated in sepia shades, and everything had an air of desperate desolation as small clumps of whey-faced people clutched hand luggage and looked understandably apprehensive. The various planes dotted around on the scrubby grass appeared to belong to the post-war era, and probably seated two people at a push. Who, Billie wondered, issued the passengers with their helmets and goggles?
‘Just here, dear. Stop anywhere. I want the second one along from the far end.’
The industrial units were in a towering row behind the airfield’s perimeter lights. Each one was the size of a large aeroplane hangar, and built uncompromisingly from grey breeze blocks with sky-high corrugated iron roofs. There were six in all, and they cast massive sombre shadows across the brilliance of the morning. Billie pulled the Granada to a halt on the parking area of unevenly slabbed concrete, just managing to avoid the carcasses of two burned-out hatchbacks which seemed to provide the only spot of light artistic relief.
‘Lovely, dear. Thank you so much.’ The plump lady started to scramble from the back of the taxi, collecting her scattered belongings as she did so. ‘Now, how much do I owe you?’
Billie told her, gazing at the surrounding ugliness. How could anyone bear to work here? ‘Oh, no,’ she looked down at the wodge of notes in her hand. ‘I can’t take this much.’
‘Of course you can,’ her passenger beamed. ‘You’ve given me a lovely ride – and to be honest, if I hadn’t seen you sitting there on the rank, I might not have had the courage to do this.’
‘Sorry?’ Billie furrowed her brow. ‘I don’t understand – Oh, not again!’
Another two-seater plane suddenly spurted into life on one of the runways, bounced a bit, then hurled itself into the sky at a suicidal angle. Billie held her breath, waiting for it to plummet earthwards, but with a sputtering roar it vanished into the steely grey clouds. Her palms were sweating with second-hand terror.
‘Goodness – you really don’t like aeroplanes, do you?’ Her passenger laughed kindly. ‘Look, dear, unless you have to dash off, why don’t you come in and have a cup of tea? You look like your nerves could do with calming … I’m Sylvia, by the way.’
There were strict rules that Reuben’s Cabs drivers never, ever, on pain of death, accepted hospitality from customers … Oh, sod Reuben and his rules! ‘I’m Billie Pascoe. And a cup of tea would be lovely. I’ll just radio into the office and tell them where I am …’
She did, speaking to Veronica, Reuben’s radio operator, explaining that she’d just dropped off at Whiteacres and would be available to pick up a return fare at the airport or the retail village in about half an hour.
‘All sorted?’ Sylvia, wearing the sombrero and a pair of Chloe diamante sunglasses, tugged her double doors open.
‘Good-oh. Welcome to paradise.’
Billie stepped through the doors. Although it was scorchingly hot outside, inside Sylvia’s unit the temperature was throbbing at equatorial. Verdant palm trees fronded into plastic pools of ludicrous blue, a fountain trickled into a turquoise waterfall, and every inch of the warehouse was vibrating with spicy colour. Vivid pinks and oranges, scalding yellow and searing red: every inch of the walls was awash with tropical splendour. Two plastic parrots and an evilly grinning monkey swung listlessly from a tangle of vines. Billie wouldn’t have been at all surprised to spot David Attenborough.
Totally bemused, she smiled warily. ‘I, um, seem to have wandered into a parallel universe …’
‘Bit of a stunner, isn’t it?’ Sylvia picked her way through a maze of polythene-wrapped bundles and lodged the sombrero on a raffia-roofed cocktail bar. ‘Watch where you step, dear. I’m a bit overcrowded. I could do with more space, really.’ She waved at a lull display of highly coloured bottles behind the bar. ‘Pina colada? Small chartreuse? No? I suppose not if you’re driving. We’d better stick with a cuppa …’
As Sylvia rattled through a multi-coloured bead curtain, Billie had to make an effort not to pinch herself. She’d probably wake up in a moment in the flat, with her Winnie-the-Pooh pyjamas all of a tangle, and find Miranda with her early morning bug-eyes raiding her dressing table in search of a stale Marlboro Light.
‘There now,’’ Sylvia said, her head on one side through the beads like an inquisitive budgie. ‘That’s got the kettle on. Now let me explain, dear … I’d had a bit of a row with Douglas, my husband. I’d flounced out of the house all full of burning indignation, like you do, saying that I was going to work and not to wait up.’ She indicated the vanity case. ‘I’d even made a big show of packing a few things to make him think I was leaving. But my courage had almost deserted me by the time I’d reached the taxi rank. And, you see, if you’d been a man, I wouldn’t have got into the cab, and I’d have slunk home again, and Douglas would have won. But it was you, and I’m here, and I haven’t lost face. So, it was fate, don’t you think?’
‘Er, well, yes, maybe … So, have you? Left him, I mean?’
Sylvia shook her head. ‘I haven’t got the guts, dear, sadly. No, I’ll just hang on here for a while and hope that when there’s no meal on the table this evening he might miss me. Then I’ll go home and we’ll spend three days not speaking … It’s all a bit of a bugger, to be honest.’
Billie, feeling nothing but sympathy, squeezed herself between the packages, staring at huge posters for Goa and the Maldives and the Florida Keys. ‘What exactly do you do here? Are you some sort of travel agent?’
‘Only in my fevered imagination.’ Sylvia smiled ruefully. ‘But I do so like playing the part. No, my dear, it’s far more mundane. I’m a sorter, packer, and distributor of dreams for the travel industry.’ She looked at the bewilderment on Billie’s face. ‘I send out the brochures to the shops, dear.’
Billie followed Sylvia to a revolving dais in the centre of the room. Stacks of brochures were piled on the floor, and Sylvia expertly flipped up half a dozen from each to make a complete set as the rotunda revolved.
‘Simple,’ she said, ‘and deadly dull. So, I spice things up a bit. I’ll never go to any of the places I see in these little beauties,’ she tapped the highly coloured glossy brochures ‘so I made my own resort here. The guys who do the deliveries and collections all think I’m bonkers – but who cares, eh?’
Billie shook her head in admiration. ‘So the brochures come from the printers, and you sort them and bag them into mixed lots and then …’
‘They go off to the travel agents. About ten from each tour company in every batch. I even do my own shrink- wrapping. These travel shops don’t have storage facilities for the hundreds of brochures that are issued, so it’s nonstop work for me. All year round. It was a gap in the market, you see. They pensioned me off from the civil service and I was out of my mind with boredom. My Douglas told me he’d divorce me if I wasted my endowment – but I thought balls, Douglas, it’s my money. So I approached all the big holiday companies and put myself forward as a brochure co-ordinator – and well, here we are. He’s never forgiven me for being successful. Oh, that sounds like the kettle. Excuse me a sec …’
Sylvia’s scheme was so simple – and dead clever. Billie stared at the tropical splendour in admiration. If only she could do something half so inventive. If only she had the nous to tell Reuben that she was definitely leaving the taxis, and plunge Granny Pascoe’s few thousand into a similar plan … A plan that would bring independence and some self-respect … She sat down next to the waterfall. Could she do something like this? Obviously, yes – as long as she had the premises, the idea, and a ton of courage. Billie knew she didn’t have the first, definitely didn’t have the second, and was feeling rather doubtful about the third.
‘There we are.’ Sylvia handed her a mug and sat beside her. ‘Nothing like a cup of tea, even on the hottest day, is there?’
Sylvia suddenly sounded so much like Billie’s mother that she felt desperately homesick. Next weekend she was going home to Devon for a special family party. She wished fervently that it was now, that she could hijack the Granada and belt off down the A303 and never have to make another decision as long as she lived.
She sipped her tea, trying to wipe out images of the farm, and her parents, and her brothers, and how uncomplicated life had been before she’d attempted to be grown-up. ‘Er, and all these warehouses? They’re all owned by small businesses like you, are they?’
‘God, no!’ Sylvia looked shocked. ‘Not owned, dear. Leased. From Maynard and Pollock in Amberley Hill. Five-year leases, with fairly stringent clauses attached, but worth it in the long run. If you had more time I’d introduce you to the others. A nice little crowd we’ve got here now. Chummy, you know?’
Billie could imagine. Chummy had been sadly lacking in her life in the last couple of years. Oh, Miranda had become a good friend, and Miranda’s friends had become hers, and most of the taxi-drivers were OK – but she had no sense of belonging to Amberley Hill. No identity. No roots.
‘So,’ Sylvia swallowed her tea with an appreciative murmur, ‘you know all about me. What about you? I mean, you don’t look like a cabby, dear. In those navy trousers and the Aertex shirt you look like a schoolgirl. What made you want to do this for a living?’
Billie stared into her mug, playing for time. The real reason was appalling; the often-repeated fictional version somehow no longer rang true. She shrugged. ‘Oh, you know. It was something I just drifted into … It’s not what I really want to do with the rest of my life … Actually, I’m just planning a change of direction …’
‘Good for you. Any particular direction?’
‘Not really. Maybe running my own car hire firm or chauffeuring.’
‘Go for it then,’ Sylvia beamed. ‘You’ve got so many advantages, dear. Being young, free, and single – oh, I mean, you are single, I suppose?’
‘Very single.’ Billie finished her tea and stood up, smiling at Sylvia. ‘Thanks so much for showing me your unit. I really admire you for doing this – and, you’ll be all right, will you? With your husband and everything?’
Sylvia stood up, straightened her T-shirt, and shrugged as she followed Billie to the door. ‘God knows, dear. Douglas is a man. Who knows where the hell you stand with men? I’m damn sure I don’t.’
And neither, Billie thought, blinking outside in the searing sunshine, do I.
Having collected a rather bilious-looking family from Whiteacres Airport and deposited them at the Four Pillars Hotel in Amberley Hill, Billie pulled the Granada back onto the taxi rank outside the Spicer Centre, still unable to shake the ingenuity of Sylvia’s tropical paradise from her mind.
The sun spiralled down across the tops of the grimy advertising hoardings, hitting the ground, sparkling on rainbow pools of oil, and glinting from shards of broken glass in the gutter. Billie stared at the beauty springing unbidden from the detritus. That was exactly how it had been at the industrial estate. Huge grey buildings, looking dank and cold and uninviting, and yet hiding all manner of dreams.
Several of Reuben’s drivers in front of her on the Spicer Centre rank ambled over and leaned companionably against the Granada in the sun. The talk was idle, like the day. Soporific and sleepy, Amberley Hill dozed in the midday heat. An Elizabethan market town, it had clung on to most of its half-timbered buildings, glorious small churches, and the touristy things like the crumbling Guild Hall. Having been built slap bang in the middle of all this historical splendour, The Spicer Centre – with its chrome and glass shops, fibre-optic fountains, Mulligan’s Genuine Irish Ale House, and Bazooka’s Nite Spot – was considered something of a carbuncle by the older residents. Billie, who had never known Amberley Hill any other way, rather liked it.
Only half listening to the salacious gossip going on around her, her head still filled with dreams, Billie leaned back in the sun-hot driving seat and gazed up at the advertising hoardings. Most of them seemed to have buxom women in jacked-up bras. No wonder Reuben Wainwright had picked this spot for his taxis. One of the elevated chests had a ‘For Lease’ notice slapped across the cleavage. Billie grinned, imagining Reuben taking up squatter’s rights.
For lease … property … Whiteacres … industrial units with office space … parking … contact Maynard and Pollock …
Billie frowned. Where had she heard the name before …? Of course! They were the leasing agents for Sylvia’s unit, weren’t they? So were these the same units? The same chummy community that had saved Sylvia from the boorish Douglas and given birth to her Utopia?
She reached for her mobile phone. OK, so it was crazy, but if she didn’t try, she’d never know … and of course it was horrifically close to the airfield, but she wasn’t going to be involved with the planes, was she? She could afford to rent a similar building to Sylvia’s with her savings, surely?
And then … She paused in punching out the number. Ah, yes. First stumbling block. And do what, exactly? Still, there was plenty of time to think about that later. It wasn’t as if she was actually going to lease the unit today, was it? She wasn’t that impulsive. She was only going to look.
The voice that answered at Maynard and Pollock was totally noncommittal. It immediately put her on hold and played ‘Greensleeves’. Billie, trying to keep calm, drummed out the rhythm on the steering wheel.
‘Greensleeves’ came to an abrupt halt. ‘Simon Maynard. And how may I be of assistance?’
Pulling shut the door on the gaggle of taxi drivers, Billie explained about seeing the premises for lease at Whiteacres and asked if she could make an appointment to view.
Simon Maynard only barely kept the boredom out of his voice. ‘I have a window available in my schedule for later this afternoon. Four thirty? Of course the vacant lots have been empty for some time so you may not see the units at their best. Do you want to meet at my office, or shall we touch base at Whiteacres?’
Having agreed on Whiteacres, Billie rolled down her window and smiled at her fellow cabbies. ‘Doesn’t look as though there’s much going on here. I think I’ll pop back to the office and see if Vee needs a hand.’
As a man they unpeeled themselves from the Granada and moved in a clump to the next cab along. Billie, still wearing an ear-to-ear grin of delight because she’d actually done something, switched on the engine and headed for the office.
Reuben Wainwright was knocking back antihistamines and looking suicidal. ‘You habbn’t fidished?’
Billie shook her head, trying not to beam. ‘Just having a breather. The rank’s full. You look terrible, by the way, and the pollen count forecast is way up. Why don’t you go home?’
‘And hab you lot skive the middit my back’s turd? Dot a bloody chance.’
Veronica herumphed loudly over her radio. Billie perched on the edge of Reuben’s desk. ‘Reuben, can we talk? Well, can I talk and can you listen without shouting? You know I said a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to leave, well –’
‘You’re dot leabing.’ Reuben wiped his nose and his eyes.
‘If you dink you’re leabing you’re mad. What do you dink you’re going to do?’ He sneezed violently. ‘Oh, bugger. Cad we talk about dis later? Wed I feel better?’
‘Sure.’ Billie felt almost sorry for him. After all, unpleasant or not, he lived alone in a rather dismal bedsit. It was pretty sad to think that, when he felt ill, Reuben could find more comfort at work than in staying at home. ‘But I am going to leave, and,’’ she leaned perilously close to him, considering the power of his sneezes, ‘there’s nothing you can do to make me change my mind.’
‘We’ll see about dat.’ Reuben snuffled. ‘Dote count your chickens – or your centre forwards.’
Billie winced. Still, later this afternoon she’d know whether or not Whiteacres was an option. And if it was, then she’d be able to tell Reuben that his hold over her was finished.
Until she pulled onto the cracked concrete for the second time that day, and parked behind the burned-out hatch- backs, Billie had hoped that she’d be able to have a quick word with Sylvia, but the desert island unit’s double doors were closed. Maybe her Douglas had arrived, beating his manly chest, and carried Sylvia, kicking and screaming, back to suburbia. Billie sincerely hoped not.
Simon Maynard was waiting for her and looked even more depressing than his warehouses. Also bunged up with the seasonal malaise, he was tall and thin and his glasses were lopsided.
‘Going like hot cakes, these premises,’ Simon Maynard said, wrestling with the keys at number three, immediately contradicting what he’d said earlier about the units being empty for a while. ‘Very popular venue, of course. And ideal for export. Are you intending to export?’
Billie presumed he meant via the airstrip. Did the planes really make huge cargo runs to Dusseldorf and Bruges, then? They looked as though they’d be lucky to get to Southampton.
‘Er, no … well, not immediately … In fact, this is just a first step. I mean, I’m not seriously intending to sign up for one of these today or anything. I just wanted to have a look.’
Simon had managed to get the key to turn and was ineffectually tugging at the door. Billie, feeling sorry for him, helped. It scraped open suddenly, catapulting them both inside.
‘Christ!’ Billie clapped her hands to her nose in the darkness. ‘What’s that smell?’
‘I can’t smell anything.’ Simon Maynard fumbled for the light switches. ‘But then I have got a touch of hay fever.’
The lights all faltered into candle glow brightness. Simon looked hopefully at her. ‘There! Now what do you think?’
Billie’s first thought was that Granny Pascoe would be hovering overhead urging her only granddaughter to take the money and run to the nearest car dealership and buy herself something sporty, or have a good holiday, or update her wardrobe, or all three.
She gazed around the acres of cold, damp space with a sinking heart. Girders soared away into the dark unknown and despite the heat of the day a piercing wind whistled through the gaps in the door frame. ‘Um, well … it’s difficult to say … but, oh God. Could we just find out what the smell is, please?’
Simon referred to his clipboard. ‘You’ve got full services. Still all connected. A kitchenette and lavatorial facilities. It may be something from there …’
Great, Billie, thought, snuggling deeper into her uniform Aertex shirt. The thought of staying at Reuben’s seemed really quite attractive. She trotted behind Simon’s gaunt figure in the shadowy light. She kept bumping into things and somewhere she could hear water dripping.
‘The facilities,’ Simon threw open a peeling cream door and stood back to let her through in what Billie considered to be an act of total cowardice.
Kitchenette and lavatorial facilities really should have Maynard and Pollock sued under the Trade Descriptions Act, she thought, as the bile rose in her throat. There were probably rats. No, on second thoughts, any self-respecting rat would have deserted this particular sinking vessel many moons ago.
‘There is a bit of a whiff,’ Simon acknowledged, pulling a handkerchief from the recesses of his Daks and wrapping it protectively round the lower part of his face. ‘Nothing that a good clean-up couldn’t cure though, I’m sure. Our other lessees have worked wonders. Now, would you like to see the office?’
The office looked as though it had been recently hit by a Scud missile.
‘Plenty of room for all your hardware,’ Simon said briskly. ‘Be lovely after a lick of paint. Now are there any questions?’
“Can I go home please” was top of the list. Billie shivered. Still, being reasonable, this had to be it at its absolute worst, didn’t it? She rattled off the few things she’d decided she ought to ask. Simon Maynard had obviously been asked them all before by the way he churned out the answers. Just the sneezing and nose-blowing added variation.
‘A five-year lease, non-negotiable. No livestock, no cooking, no subletting. OK so far?’ Billie nodded. He continued with, ‘no HGV vehicles without prior permission from the airfield authority, no high-frequency radio ditto, no fumes, gases, or noxious substances. Still, OK?’ Billie nodded dutifully for the second time.
She cleared her throat. ‘And the money?’
Simon Maynard muttered
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