A chance online game, the promise of romance, then silence.

Could this be anyway linked to two murders, drug trafficking and a conspiracy to de-stabilise Cuba?

Rosa Peres, Canadian Private Investigator would need all her skills to solve this International intrigue and stay alive herself.


1. Chapter 1

Another damp Wednesday in Birmingham, despite it being summer. The hotel room was the usual box. But, because Mark was such a frequent visitor to the Royal Court Hotel, they at least tried to make it as hospitable as possible for him. A few flowers in a vase, a basket of fruit, bananas now turning a bit brown and the complimentary newspaper. A double bed, possibly Queen size, he thought, desk, two chairs and an oversize television in one corner. At least the en-suite bathroom had the advantage of a Jacuzzi and the recent refurbishment was an improvement.

An attractive old hotel with spacious and well landscaped gardens. Obviously ideal for wedding receptions based on the amount of confetti that laid on the paths and sweeping driveways. Mark didn’t watch too much television. The work hours were long and there were many dinners with clients. Those Japanese sure liked to let their hair down. How did they survive on so little sleep?

Still in his early forties, Mark had managed to keep his tall frame fairly slim despite living away from home so much and eating out. He took pride in his appearance and still retained his  youthful good looks and always found time to keep his dark brown hair well groomed. The lack of sufficient sleep gave him a drawn look and his blue eyes looked tired but, overall, he was quite handsome.

One in the morning and he was still awake. He started to flick through the television channels. Nothing to amuse him. He checked out the porno channel but ‘Lay Ladies Laid’ didn’t have the same appeal as the first time he’d watched it.

He switched on his laptop. The Wi-Fi worked perfectly. Mark scrolled through his e-mails. So boring, all work. None from his sons, Jimmy and Peter, and he so wanted to hear from them. Usual thing with divorces. Collect them for a weekend, start to relax with them and it’s time to take them back to their mum. Then off on another business trip. And, the older they got, the more they wanted to be with their friends, not hanging out with their father. Mark got bored playing Spider Solitaire. Perhaps there would be some other free games on the internet he could try to pass some time until he could fall asleep for a few hours. Mark typed ‘free games’ into Google. He was surprised to see hundreds of sites quickly appear. One struck him as intriguing ─ Yahoo Cribbage.

It had been ages since he last played crib at his local pub. Mark worked out that it must have been at least twenty years ago that he played with Mary, his close friend at the time.

Mary was a petite girl. Long, wavy auburn hair and beautiful brown eyes. Mark’s initial impression of Mary was that she was very attractive. She was a quiet girl and sipped her cider slowly. Always polite and, obviously to Mark, very intelligent. Mark learned that she was a nurse at the nearby Stoke Mandeville hospital. He was always disappointed when he went to the pub and she wasn’t there. Fortunately for Mark, her night shifts were few and far between so he did see her often. An advantage of her working for one of the trial clinics.

Mark and Mary met at the ‘local’, strange term because it wasn’t particularly local to either of them. The Ferry Boat was a drinker’s pub in the middle of the Chiltern Hills in leafy Buckinghamshire. Mark lived a good twenty minutes drive from the pub, Mary could walk home in fifteen minutes. They both had a good reason for choosing it. They went there for the beer, the company but mainly because all the crib teams were league winners. No one went there for the food. The only food came out at crib matches and was pretty basic stuff. And, enough smoke to cure ham. That was when smoking was still allowed in public places.

Mark first met Mary there when they were partners in the Ferry Boat third team and they sometimes got a game if other members failed to show. They ended up chatting a lot waiting to play and, when they did get a game, they were always on last.

It was the final game of the season, nearer to Christmas than most people wished it to be, and the drinks were flowing freely. Mark didn’t usually drink and drive, he knew it wasn’t very sensible and he would also lose his job as a sales rep if he lost his driving license. He’d already had one too many when he and Mary were asked to play out the last game.

“No pressure, Mark,” said Bryan the captain, “but if we win this, we win the league.” Best of three games, but Mary and Mark rarely made it to the third one. They always seemed to go down two-nil.

As usual, they lost the first game. There were loud groans or comments from the other team members behind them. “You missed one point in your pegging, Mark,” or, “What horrible hands, you two,” as if that really mattered with a thirty point deficit.

The second leg was not going much better than the first. They were already a long way behind and Mark’s cards were rubbish, two fours and two sixes. His only hope was on the cut of the cards. A five would take his hand from poor to spectacular.

He couldn’t believe his luck, a five. He anxiously watched as the pegging progressed. The look on his opponents face said it all as they watched Mark play out his hand. They could see that he had the cards to match the five that was cut. They knew they weren’t holding enough to win. Mark put his hand down, a pleased grin on his face, and counted slowly relishing every second as his opponents saw the runs, pairs and the fifteens that his hand added up to. “Twenty four points, I think,” said Mark. “Oh, excellent hand, Mark,” said Mary, beaming at him. With Mark’s score and hers, they had enough to win the game and tie the match to one game for each team.

The third game was an anti climax. The stuffing had been knocked out of the two players from The Rising Sun team. They seemed totally despondent and Mark and Mary’s good cards continued. It was the easiest leg Mark and Mary had ever won and, as is customary, their opponents bought the victors a drink.

Mary gave Mark such a hug and a kiss that he thought he'd won the lottery not just the league title. More congratulations, more drinks and then reality struck. No way could he drive home safely. He’d had far too much to drink. Mary saw the sudden change in his expression.

“What’s the matter, Mark?” Mary asked him.

“I shouldn’t drive, Mary. I’ve had too many drinks. It’s okay, though, I’ll call a taxi,” he told her, his words a bit slurred.

Mary quickly had an idea and said enthusiastically. “My mum has a spare room. Would you like to come back with me? It’ll save you getting a taxi. Besides, you’ll need your car tomorrow.

Leave it here in the pub car park and collect it in the morning.”

Mark remembered all this with fond memories. He shut down his laptop, turned off the light and fell quickly into a deep sleep until five when he was woken by the bin lorries taking away the trash. He was now wide awake. The best option was to get up, take a quick shower, a cup of that dreadful packet coffee, dress and he could be away by five forty-five.

It took Mark only fifteen minutes to drive to the National Exhibition Centre on the edge of Birmingham at that time of the morning. Fortunately, he didn’t have to drive through Birmingham itself. It was a pity that it was more famous for its ‘spaghetti junction’ of intertwining Motorway connections and traffic jams than its bustling city life. Being the second largest city in England, it had regenerated itself several times but could never quite match the attractions of London.

One reason that Mark chose the hotel was its rural location. Some of the roads were a bit narrow but the oak and ash trees along the road sides were far more attractive than street lighting. He liked to see the farms and open countryside even though he was occasionally held up by a tractor pulling a trailer.

Whilst he could treat himself to a relaxing drive through the countryside, he was not completely alone on the roads. Even at that time of the morning, the lanes were getting busy. Have they no lives? he thought, then smiled to himself. He could talk, that had been his way of life for the last ten years or so; early mornings, late nights, always away from home, just one function or exhibition after another. This time it was the Gardeners World Live Garden Show.

June, still drizzling and cold. The forecast was not optimistic either. He had never been so far behind with a project before. Mark’s job was to ensure that the Bank of Tokyo Japanese Life Garden came to fruition. He had no hand in its design but, when the sponsor chips in £300,000, someone needs to manage it.

Mark worked as European manager of Worldexor, the largest organiser of exhibitions and functions in the UK. He laughed to himself as he drove along the A45. European manager, he thought. He spent as much time in the USA and Japan as he did in continental Europe. But, he knew he had to have a title and others in the company needed their egos boosting.

Passing through the security barrier, he showed his pass even though the guard knew him well. George was in his early sixties. Round smiling face, more head showing than his silver hair and a tummy developed from years of drinking beer and eating fatty foods.

Mark said, “Good morning, George. Another wet one, by the look of it.”

“Yes, Mr. McManus, but the forecast looks good.” “I’ll believe you, George, but thousands wouldn’t,” Mark joked. They both laughed. Mark then remembered that George’s wife had been ill.

“How’s your wife doing, George? It’s Pearl isn’t it?” Mark queried.

“Yes, it is sir, and thank you for asking. She’s not too good at the moment, though. I’m trying to get her a break at a respite home.” George replied, the worry obvious on his face.

“Please send her my best wishes, won’t you, George,” Mark offered.

“I will sir, and thank you,” George said, the smile returning, at Mark’s kind words.

George knew all the regular visitors by their names, was always optimistic about the weather but scrutinised Mark’s pass, and all others, without exception. A real trustworthy guy, Mark thought, not quite like the gang on his job.

Mark considered this as he drove unhindered onto the main exhibition site. As he continued across acres of tarmac-covered car parks, it was like an ocean of emptiness. Mark thought to himself that, in a few days, these vast areas would be covered in cars and driving through them would become difficult, never mind finding a spot to park. For the exhibition to be a success, it needed lots of visitors. But the irony was that Mark hated crowds. With luck, he’d shortly be off on another project.

He drove towards the front of the main exhibition building and found the man he was looking for. Alan, the self-elected site foreman for this project was the typical builder. He was hard looking, in his late forties, earrings, tattoos and a chain smoker of roll-ups - the thin ones. Only a few strands of tobacco, a piece of card as a filter, the way prison convicts roll. Recently divorced from June, he now spent more time than was healthy drinking. He knew building work inside out and every scam known and many unknown to most. His close cropped hair and clean white tee shirt, when the weather allowed, seemed to emphasise his dark tanned skin. Working outdoors all the time gave him the benefit of whatever sun there was. But, Alan’s tan was not obtained in England this summer with its constant rain. More like Florida or the Seychelles. His loyal band of workers had been with him for years. None drove what might be considered flashy cars but they seemed able to afford the occasional exotic holiday and were able to spend the majority of their spare time in the pubs. One day Mark would catch them at their tricks. Put an end to them skimming off project money. But, for now, he just wanted them to get on with the work and turned a blind eye.

As Mark wound down the window of his Jeep, Alan and his crew looked at him as if to say, what the fuck does he want?

“Ah, Mr. McManus, sir,” said Alan, with false respect, “and what can we be doing you for?”

Mark hated that expression but just half smiled and said, “Just thought I’d drive by to see how things are going and if you need anything.”

Checking up, thought Alan, but kept his opinion to himself.

“We could do with some extra workers. This weather is putting us behind, sir,” adding the sir in a tone that was obviously mocking. He always asked for extra labourers. Like British Rail’s excuses of old. There was always a weather reason for any delay, never that the crews needed to work harder.

“The rain’s too soft, I suppose,” said Mark sarcastically, but no one laughed. Mark wound up his window and drove on further. The National Exhibition Centre, known to all as the NEC, was a massive complex surrounded by its ample car parking. It was situated just a few miles from Birmingham City centre and close to the Airport. The centre had been built in the late seventies as an alternative to the London Exhibition halls and attracted all kinds of shows. Although it wasn’t new, the design gave the appearance of a modern building. Apart from the Arena being an ideal venue for concerts, its main advantage was its flexibility of use. There could be many small exhibitions or one very large exhibition at any time. The outdoor spaces were also frequently used.

The Garden Show used up about half of the total available indoor space and a good part of the outdoor area as well. It had become a regular fixture. Very popular now that the British  Broadcasting Corporation had decided to screen it during peak viewing slots.

Mark parked within easy walking distance of the hospitality area and got out. It was still very early but the parked limousines showed that the representatives of the Bank of Tokyo were already there. He’d been called to a meeting with them this Thursday morning but no time had been set. Mark was always on-site early so it wasn’t a problem for him to be on standby. He could work until he was summoned. As Mark walked towards his temporary office, he passed the chauffeurs who stood in a huddle. They nodded to Mark as he walked by. He was probably imagining it but it did seem like a sympathetic gesture. As he approached his temporary office, he was met by Mr. Yoneda.

“Good morning, Mr. McManus,” Mr. Yoneda said, bowing. Oxford University, Mark thought to himself.

Mr. Yoneda, was the personal assistant to the group. Secretary, trouble shooter, coffee fetcher, he did it all. In England, it was more likely he’d be a woman, the Miss Moneypenny to M in the James Bond films.

“Good morning, Mr. Yoneda,” Mark replied, also bowing as a sign of respect for the Japanese custom.

“Would you please come along to the board room and wait. They will see you shortly.”

They exchanged pleasantries and Mr. Yoneda departed into the meeting room. It was now 7 a.m. and, from recent experiences, Mark knew he could be made to wait a long time. No chance of a coffee until he was in with them. He opened his laptop and was reminded of his internet search of the previous night. He must look into this on-line crib game but, for now, he would content himself with opening a game of solitaire. He didn’t usually waste his time like this but felt slightly rebellious. He was pissed off at being kept waiting. He didn’t actually play. He was tired and just stared at the screen, lost in thought.

The laptop went to standby and pictures from his extensive photo gallery displayed randomly. He’d set the pictures as a screen saver as he liked the unpredictability of suddenly seeing one of his son’s faces appear on the screen. He knew he should have removed many of the photographs but, for some reason, had even kept the ones of Mary, long after they had divorced. She appeared, smiling at him, for a few seconds.

He thought back to that night when she walked him back to her mum’s house. It was a smallish semi-detached house about a mile from the pub. It was drizzling with rain then as well so they huddled together under her small umbrella and scurried along laughing all the time. They reached the house neither realising it was approaching midnight. They stood close, Mark now holding the umbrella so that Mary could get her front door key from her bag. She was just about to do so when they looked at each other and, purely on impulse, leaned toward each other and kissed.

Mark was suddenly brought back to reality. It was still only 7.30 a.m. when he was summoned into the makeshift boardroom to meet his clients. Bows, greetings and superfluous pleasantries done, Mark was invited to sit and offered coffee, which he gratefully accepted. He felt more like an interviewee for a job than someone providing a progress report.

Five clients ranged in a horse-shoe pattern, with Mr. Yoneda taking notes. Mark was positioned almost inside the nearly enclosed ring. He felt really uncomfortable and began to edge his chair backwards but the scraping noise made everyone look at him.

“Mr. McManus,” said the man sitting directly in front of him, “I’m sorry but we’re deeply disappointed with you.” That got his attention and his stomach sank.

“Disappointed, sir?” he almost choked on his words.

“Yes, we’re not satisfied with the progress of our display garden. And, your handling of this project seems to be far from what we would expect from a company of your reputation.” Mark thought he would blame the weather, after all, it was always Alan’s excuse. But, no, he’d say nothing. Just listen.

His client continued, “We’ve asked your Managing Director to come here this morning to discuss it with him but he’s delayed. So, we thought we would tell you first as you’re here.”

Mark started to make an excuse about the long drive from Surrey but was interrupted.

“Yes, of course. But there are only five days to go and we believe that we’ll be made laughing stock,” continued the one Mark knew to be the leader of this group.

They speak such good English, Mark thought to himself, but they never got it quite right. At their last meeting, he remembered one of them saying, “It’s like looking for a needle in a hayloft.” He let his mind wander and suddenly smiled. He was remembering the one and only time he was given a bollocking from Raymond his boss.

He recalled that it was soon after he’d started at Worldexor. On that occasion, Mark had capitulated to Alan the site foreman’s request to hire more labour. In a similar situation, the project had fallen well behind and the additional labour costs had eaten up all the profit on that project. Raymond had summoned Mark to head office to have a strip torn off. Mark took it all on the chin.

Even though he was then in the wrong, he couldn’t help but smile to himself at the memory of Raymond who got more and more animated and continued to walk round and round the office. Circling Mark like a wolf after its prey. Raymond was very proud of his expensive designer suits. But, he was a middle aged man, balding andwith a spreading waist line. Raymond would never admit though that he was getting overweight. The trousers had lost the fight and the backside was splitting under the strain. And, his shirt pulled tightly across his bulging belly. It was hard to take him seriously, he looked so comical.

Back in the board room, the clients started to talk amongst themselves for what seemed an age. And, to make it worse, they spoke in Japanese. Mark only had their expressions and intonation to try and figure out what they were saying.

The man directly in front of him eventually spoke to Mark. “We want to know what your company will do to ensure our satisfaction?”

Before Mark could answer, the group began to speak to each other again and he was once more left out of the conversation. Finally, Mr. Yoneda closed his laptop with a loud click and stood up. Mark watched him walk slowly around the table until he was directly behind his chair. He placed his hand on Mark’s shoulder and bent down slightly, speaking quietly into his ear.

“You had better leave now, please”, he said and, unceremoniously, escorted Mark from the room. The door closed and he felt totally gutted. He walked down a corridor and stood alone staring into the great empty exhibition halls that made the National Exhibition Centre so famous. “Hi, Mark, how’s it going, mate?” a voice behind him said.

Mark turned to see Raymond, his boss, standing there, arriving following his being summoned by their client.

“Hi, Raymond. I was told that you were coming here this morning. Wasn’t expecting to see you here so early, “Mark said.

Mark actually reverted to his boyhood stutter and just got out the words, “Itts nnnot good nnnews Rrraymond.” In school, Mark had always stuttered. It was caused by nerves but his classmates were relentless in their derision of him. They always asked him to say his name and he never got past Mark, let alone McManus. His so-called friends used to call him mmm as if echoing his stutter. He suddenly felt like he was back at school, friendless and very alone. “Tell me later, Mark. I’d better let them know I’m here first. And, wait here for me, will you?” Raymond spoke, sounding rather annoyed.

Raymond turned and moved toward the door, knocked and moved into the room, following Mr Yoneda.

Mark waited for over an hour. He knew he had to hang around ust to find out the worst. This time he opened Solitaire and played it. He needed to lose himself in the mindless game.

Raymond came out, his face like thunder and asked Mark to follow him. Mark did like a dog being dragged home, not a word spoken and Mark staying well behind Raymond.

They reached the car park and within earshot of the chauffeurs, the row started. Not really a row, more of a one-sided tirade of abuse from Raymond. Mark refused to enter into a war of words and just stood, arms crossed and listened.

Raymond had guaranteed to the clients that the project would be completed on time. Cost was no longer a priority. The financial penalties negotiated by the Japanese for breach of contract would cripple the company. Failure to complete the project on time was not an option. They had to meet their commitment.

Eventually, Raymond had said all he wanted to and barked, “There’s only one thing for it, Mark. You’ll have to stay on site here until the job is complete. And, for God’s sake, get those lazy bastards working harder and faster.”

The thought of working twelve hour days did not thrill Mark. Especially as he’d have to work the weekend. Fortunately, it wasn’t his weekend to see his sons. And, he didn’t really have anything else but work to help him pass the time. Yet, further nights in the same hotel and more restaurant food, didn’t fill him with pleasure. There was also the prospect of constant battles with Alan, the site foreman. Mark was okay dealing with awkward people, but some just frightened him.

The day seemed to last forever. No progress seemed possible, the rain falling harder. Mud was now everywhere and an atmosphere you could cut with a knife. At six pm it was pointless continuing. Mark returned to his hotel, booked another five nights and retired to his room. Too early to eat, he turned on his laptop and entered, Yahoo games, cribbage. He registered his on-line identity as mmm. He didn’t know why but it seemed like a good idea at that moment. Perhaps the reappearance of his stuttering was still in his mind and the impact of it greater than he realized. Entering one of the cribbage rooms, he looked at all of the tables that were set up and the movement of people.

Then a box appeared. He had been invited to a game of singles by Alexis2346.

Press accept or decline

Mark accepted with a strange feeling of excitement. He had mostly played only doubles before.

hi gl appeared.

Mark wasn’t into texting shorthand but thought he had fathomed this out as hi good luck.

Hi he replied

He soon worked out how to play Yahoo Cribbage, but did ask Alexi2346 to be patient as he was new to the online version of the game. As the game progressed, wufrom came on the screen. Mark understood this to be where you from?

Tring he typed

what Appeared. That threw him. Everyone knew where Tring was, surely.

He typed in, Where are you from


This came as a bit of a surprise to Mark. He’d assumed he was playing someone local. He didn’t realize that people from around the world would play on the site. No wonder Tring didn’t sound too informative, he laughed to himself.

Oh sorry, I’m from England

He lost the first game hopelessly. He wasn’t sure how, but a new game started. He wasn’t really interested in playing but liked chatting to some one on-line. Too many lonely hours in a hotel room.

I’m Mark he entered

But the response he hoped for wasn’t forthcoming. The game continued but no more words appeared on the screen. In desperation, he typed 

Sorry, have I done something wrong? But, again, no reply.

After a long pause, Alexis2346 replied

sorry mark gtg gg ty bye

Mark was so disappointed. After thinking about the acronyms, he gathered Alexis2346 had said got to go, good game, thank you. But he couldn’t figure out why Alexis had gone so abruptly. It was only an online game of crib but he felt strangely disappointed at her sudden departure. Had he done something to make her leave? Was it his playing, lack of experience online? He typed

Goodbye Alexis. I hope we can play again. Bye, Mark

Try as he might he couldn’t get another game after Alexis had gone. He ordered a snack from room service and ate it. It was ten thirty. He took a beer from the mini bar and got ready for bed. For the first time in ages, he fell asleep before midnight. Unusually, he had forgotten his problems and could only think of his short connection with Alexis. He was again woken early, got ready and was back at the site by 6.30 am. Four days to go and Mark and Alan were already at loggerheads as Mark put the pressure on Alan and his crew to pick up the pace. It nearly came to blows but Mark stood his ground. He knew his job was on the line.

“You’ll get these men to work in the rain or you’re off the site,” Mark told him, in no uncertain terms.

“Listen, you bastard” Alan told Mark, all pretence of respect gone, “don’t fucking talk to me like that.”

And with that, he and his men walked off the site. Now Mark had no problems talking to his men. He had no men. Normally, Mark didn’t get stressed when problems arose but, this time, it was very different. He began to panic. He could think of no answer to this dilemma. No men, no work, he was finished. He walked slowly around the site thinking about what to do. Eventually, he got back to his car, soaked by the rain. Two slashed tyres and scratches down the doors of his metallic grey Jeep. His day just seemed to get worse and he wouldn’t have thought it possible.

“That bastard, Alan,” he thought to himself. He had no doubt who was responsible. He phoned the local Jeep dealership on his cell phone and walked over to the security barrier. He told George what had happened and that a crew from that garage would need to enter the site to fix his tyres. George invited him into his booth and made him a coffee, which Mark really appreciated.

“So, you think it was that site foreman of yours then, do you?” George asked him.

“Pretty sure, George. But, I have no proof. One day, I’ll get even, though,” Mark replied They chatted for a while, Mark telling him about his predicament. To his utter amazement and relief, George seemed to have a solution. His brother, Ronnie, might really be able to help.

“But, George, I need someone today and over the weekend,” he said with a note of desperation adding, “and it’s Friday today.”

“Let me phone him, Mr. McManus. Give me an hour or so and I’ll see what I can do.”

Mark thanked him and went back to his car to wait for the repairs feeling his biggest problem might have a solution. Two mechanics turned up and took his wheels away to have new tyres fitted. So with no work being done and nothing else to do, Mark wandered back over to see George.

“Any luck with your brother, George?” He asked, sounding as desperate as he felt.

“Yes, sir. It’ll be okay but he has a couple of stipulations.”

“Okay George, shoot.” Mark was prepared to agree to almost anything.

“Well, my brother will need cash up front, and a considerable amount. No questions asked, if you get my drift.”

He had no option but to agree. Getting cash was not too much of a problem. But, what was he letting himself into? He’d worry about that later. Right now, he needed workers.

“If you agree, then my brother will be here in an hour with enough people to sort you out, sir,” George informed him.

“George, you’re my saviour. Go ahead. Won’t there be a problem getting them security clearance to be on site?” he asked.

Laughing, George replied, “What, with me running security?”

Mark suddenly saw the rule-following George in a new light.

The preparation work for the garden wasn’t massive. Just some soil removal, hard landscaping and then over to the designer and planters.

The designer was due in tomorrow. He demanded three days to do his stuff, as he put it. Pompous, arrogant git, Mark thought. Been on the TV and thinks he’s God. His only saving grace was the fact that he was well used to working with such tight deadlines.

Mark knew that the designer and his team could work alongside the landscapers without too many problems. The designers work could follow the landscapers as they completed their part. Shortly, two large white vans turned up at the same time as the repair vehicle to fix Mark’s tyres. Twenty men got out of the Transits. None looked capable of an hours work, let alone a full day. It didn’t take Mark long to realise that they were all Eastern European as they spoke amongst each other.

“This is my brother, Ronnie,” said George, as Mark shook Ronnie’s hand, “and he needs the cash soon please, sir.”

Mark was a tallish man but even he had to look up to Ronnie. Well over six feet tall and built like a heavyweight boxer. His face would be best described as rugged. If Ronnie had won half the scrapes he had obviously got into then God help his opponents.

“Oh, yes, of course, how much again, Ronnie?” Mark asked, still considering this imposing figure in front of him.

“Five grand will be a good starter, Mark, and this afternoon is best.”

“Of course I’ll need to get to the bank. Be back within the hour.” With that, Mark hurried off expecting Ronnie and his team to wait for his return with the money before beginning to work. Ronnie wasn’t bothered; he never doubted that Mark would pay up. No one owed Ronnie money. They wouldn’t dare.

He looked at the site plans, shouted a few orders and the men scurried off. Despite the heavy rain the men carried out their tasks. It didn’t seem to matter to them that they were drenched to the skin.

Fortunately the garage had quickly repaired his tyres. He settled their bill and drove off site. As he passed the garden Mark was relieved to see such quick action from Ronnie. He left feeling much better already about his new crew.

When Mark returned he was pleased to see how much progress had already been made. Things were working out beautifully. It was strangely obvious that this group of men knew what they had to do. If only he realised what he’d really let himself in for.

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