"Kirsten." Joe said, softly smiling, palms held up before him. His supplication did nothing so deflect or reduce the dark brown Oriental fury that was emanating from Kirsten's eyes.
The left hand rose to indicate the lounge door. The right arm lowered a bemused Anneka to the ground. The thin brown lips gave only slightly to issue Annie an instruction.
"Go find Silja."
Upstairs, Silja was rinsing Finny's pants in the sink while Finny sat in a chair resplendent in a pair of Silja's PJ bottoms sullenly nursing a pet lip.
The bathroom door was pushed open, and Anni meekly toddled in.
"Momma sended me upstairs."
Downstairs, the lounge door slammed as the storm began. Anni looked up at Silja shamefaced as if she was the reason for the storm. Silja smiled and beckoned
"Come and sit next to Finny."
Kirsten leaned back on the recently slammed door and folded her arms.
"What the hell is going on! First of all, you troop around my house like a brigade, into every room. Even our bedroom! Then you're setting bombs off in the cellar.
Finny wet herself! What next? If it's not the Police kicking my doors down, it's the nanny getting arrested. Or you making explosions near Our Daughter!!"
Joe's mouth moved, as he took in a breath to speak, but the words didn't get anywhere near his lips.
"And why is Finny mooching around in our cellar wearing X-ray goggles?"
"Night vision goggles."
"Whatever goggles! What if Anneka got hurt with your stupid bangs hmm? And Finny, you could have blind... deafened... hurt... Her too?"
Joe stepped forward, intending to Hug and apologise to Kirsten, but the offered hand was briskly fended away.
Kirsten stormed past him on her way to stand in front of the ornate marble fireplace. Joe looked up at the ceiling for inspiration. It came, all though not as a complete vindication.
"I was preparing her for...." Joe offered, but the flash of fury in Kirsten's face indicated he had to do better. "Erm, training..."
"Training!" Kirsten yelled. "Training what? A damned Bomb Technician?!"
Joe was definitely on the ropes. A myriad of different excuses battered at the several doors into Joe's consciousness like a bunch of piss poor salesmen with equally piss poor ideas.
Kirsten was so furious she could no longer find the words, so she turned and placed her hands on the mantel, showing her back to Joe.
The pause allowed Joe a few seconds to think, and finally, the master salesman burst into Joe's mind with the master idea. The Truth. Truth with added humility.
Joe's upbringing had schooled him in the mindset of the time. When it comes to more shady dealings 'Er indoors is better left out of it, what she dun't know won't hurt 'er'.
Old dog Joe was still realising that even at this stage of life that new tricks were needed, especially around Kirsten. He was learning, slowly.
He sat in the large, well-appointed sofa. It's bright shiny sky blue, and gold softness contrasted sharply with the more classical chesterfields in his study.
Indeed, the contrasting furniture sharply demonstrated Kirsten's different outlook on life compared to Joe's. Yet somehow, they all belonged together under the same roof.
Joe sat forward as Kirsten turned to face him.
"Look. Finny is the only hope Silja's got."
Kirsten's brow furrowed at the change of tack.
"If I don't get to the bottom of all this, the police are going to tighten up their case against Silja, and she'll be 'banged up in chokey' for the rest of her days,
and for a clone those are many. I can't let that happen. Nor can you hmm?"
Kirsten shook her head fractionally; Joe took the chance.
He offered his hand, Kirsten reluctantly took it and settled beside him on the sofa, albeit with straight back and knees together, hands placed on her lap.
She was giving Joe his chance to put everything out in the open, as it should be.
Joe didn't hesitate. He explained everything he knew. About the dossier. How the police were keeping tabs on them.
And how Finny was the only person whom he could trust who had anything like the required skills.
"But she's only eight." Kirsten's maternal instincts were still a barrier to her giving unconditional support to Joe's scheme.
"Eight going on eighteen. Me ol' duck. She reminds me of Silja."
Joe's smirk elicited a welcome smile from Kirsten. Joe relaxed.
"I am not a duck!"
Dinner was eaten in silence.
Finny found herself being the guest of honour and was more than a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. The room, the tablecloth, the cutlery, even the food.
Nobody grabbing, no need to guard your plate and a remarkable lack of mid-air food scraps.
As her trousers still hadn't dried by the time it came for her and Joe to leave, Finny found herself wearing an old pair of Silja's jeans, legs rolled up to half their length,
and the waist pulled in tight with a belt that was so long that the end of the strap dangled down about her knees.
Unexpectedly, Finny found herself enveloped in a perfumed hug when Kirsten bent down and just gathered her up.
"You be careful, you hear?"
Finny's whole body went rigid while her hands automatically became fists, and it took an effort of will to make herself relax in this sudden and far from normal intimacy.
The embrace showed no sign of ending any time soon so Finny reasoned that a response was probably needed.
"Umm, I will. I promise."
Kirsten slowly stood up, releasing Finny from the hug. She smiled down.
"Make sure you do. Don't let Joe bully you."
Wondering if Kirsten understood the concept of Joe being her boss, Finny followed Joe out the door and down the steps to the waiting car.
Across the road, a pair of neighbourhood watchmen were giving someone in the dark doorway a hard time but Joe didn't pay it no never-mind, so Finny didn't either.
Then the car sped off towards The Borough and Finny's promised new suit.
The 'suit' was black and fastened up the front all the way to the neck. The thick collar was actually a rolled-up hood-come-mask which hid everything except the wearer's eyes and mouth.
Finny wasn't a fan of the hood and rolled it back into its collar form.
The material of the suit was strange and the tailor explained to her that, between the inner and outer layers was something called 'non-Newtonian gel'.
In response to the little girl's screwed up expression of total lack of understanding, Fingal held up the suit and invited her to punch it. Finny shrugged and did so.
She pulled back her hand and examined her red knuckles. Then she looked at the suit and wondered if the old man had hidden a brick behind it.
"The gel responds to being hit by turning into a solid. Think of it, my dear, as a kind of instant shell. It will protect you to some extent from falls and punches, but it isn't bulletproof.
" He shrugged his skeletal shoulders. "You get shot, you are shot. Deal with it." Fingal signalled one of the two women from earlier. "Go with Nancy, she'll show you how to put it on."
When Finny and the seamstress returned a couple of minutes later, Finny looked like a four-foot wrinkled black sausage. Joe's eyebrows crept upwards. Fingal smiled.
"Growing room, my dear."
Joe nodded. It made sense.
Finny scowled. The suit felt weird. Fingal stared at her, the tip of his tongue flicking out to moisten his cracked lips.
"It will be skin tight by the time she is sixteen."
Joe's eyes narrowed, but he let it go. He tossed a bag of cash onto the table.
"Good work as usual Fingal, ladies." Joe checked his watch and gestured to Finny, who was trying to pull the wrinkles into some sort of order. "Come on Finn."
They were almost out of the door before Nancy caught up with them. She pressed the bundle that was Finny's clothes onto Joe.
Then Nancy bent down so that her lips were on a level with the little girl's ear.
"Don't do anything to make Bill angry." She whispered, and then stood upright, smiling nervously. "Okay, sweetie?"
Finny didn't get a chance to answer as Joe bundled her out into the night.