Private Investigator Joe Malone is at the house of Lady Bixby, in North London. He is investigating the disappearance of lead remain campaigner and founder, Lord Marmon-Herrinton Bixby. Lady Bixby has been surprisingly flirtatious as they examined lord Bixby’s correspondence and safe contents. Joe suggested they check the other, more secret safe.
“Shall we look in the good one now? The real safe?” I asked Lady Bixby.
“Ok. Follow me Joe.”
She walked out of the office, in her fabulous dress and on her fabulous heels. I followed along, gazing at her firm behind.. As all women suspect all men do,. And as all men really, actually do.
Instead of heading into the library, that was my guess for the second safe, she began ascending the winged staircase.
“We going to the loft?” I asked her.
“No.” She looked back over her shoulder at me, her long blonde hair covering half of her beautiful face.
“To the bedroom.”
Chapter 9 – Private people.
Vanessa ascended the spiral metal staircase, and I followed her up. It was that very light, silvery colour, like much of the walls and furniture, that was popular again with people who had no kids or pets, or had maids to spot clean it all day long.
The landing ran entirely around the first floor, leading to another only slightly less grand staircase going up to the second floor, that usually was for games rooms, gym, cinema or guest areas. Or a second office space. She turned into the first of the many doors on this first level.
I followed her in.
The Bixby bedroom was a huge affair. Large enough for the super king size, low height bed. The obligatory Vid’Screen hung opposite on the wall. The bed was covered in the same posh silver and grey soft furnishings as everything else in her house. Faint chocolate brown flecks and swirls in the pattern, and the tie backs, broke up the silver and gunmetal swish of the curtains. I’d have chosen bronze. The Cadbury’s colour looked like someone had been too late and had an accident with the drapes.
Side table, dressing table and ornament table were all that mirrored glass that had also made a comeback. The dressing table was tiny. She must have a walk in dressing room off of here. Maybe one of the closed doors at the end.
The door nearest to me led to a bathroom and shower room. I could see actual fine, yellow sand in the shower. Someone would have to put fresh in there after each shower as the swirling plug would have taken the original away.
There were also large, Caribbean sea shells on the floor of the shower. And in one corner a giant turtle shell. The room also had painted clouds on the ceiling.
The fancy towel rail looked like a door off a wooden slat, shanty shack of a beachcomber. Someone really liked the seaside.
I couldn’t see into the mirrored cabinet, but on the shelves and the sink were hair dyes and skincare products. Sprays and soaps. Lotions and liquids and brushes.
Tissues, lipsticks, cotton buds, and perfumes.
“This must be Lord Bixby’s bathroom,” I said.
“I thought you were supposed to be a detective?” She lightly mocked me.
“Investigator. I’m an investigator.” I reminded her, noting the towels were that deep, deep pile type that the finest spas have.
She walked over to her small dressing table and opened a drawer and took out an Ecig.
“His bathroom is through there.” She nodded at the furthest door. I walked down there and opened it.
A very functional bathroom. Large electric glass weight scales and body monitor, connected to a mini video screen. A med-doc system. Measured all your vitals. Blood, heart, fat, liver, breathing,. And even made doctor’s appointments for you if it found anything of concern. Not NHS, of course. NHS appointments these days were so hard to come by that the Health Lottery had given up issuing cash prizes and instead had instant GP appointments as the jackpot.
“Are you investigating his deodorant habits?” Vanessa called from the bedroom.
“I just want to see what shaver he uses. He always looks so well groomed on the TV.”
Actually I could see his hand razor. Gillette. The best a Lib can get.
Figures. The big girl’s blouse.
What I really wanted to see was the medicine cabinet. And the other door.
The cabinet was in fact mostly deodorant and toothpaste. The drawer of the sink had medicine. But nothing I recognised. Nothing for heart or liver that he might need urgently and should have had with him.
I opened the opposite door to the one I’d come through. It revealed a men’s changing area and dressing room. Open fronted cupboards of suits and shirts hung neatly in lines. Polished shoes were conveniently displayed on slanted racks, beside an appropriate suit.
I picked up a dark brown lace up.
John Stimpson’s of Bond Street. Size 5.
The man knew what he liked.
There was another door at the far end of this dressing room. I walked by his hanging club ties and the open drawers of neatly arranged cuff links and handkerchiefs and went through it.
As I expected it was another bedroom. Double bed. Similar soft silver and gunsmoke furnishings. Vid’Screen. Chair and table.
The Times newspaper lay upon it. Dated the two days ago. A pair of slippers were beside the bed. Blue. Sheepskin. I looked inside for a label.
John Stimpson’s of Bond Street. Size 5.
Those shoemakers sure had a good customer in Bixby.
A rather garish, Chinese looking, silk dressing gown, of yellows and greens and blues, hung on the far door.
I shouldn’t judge. My brown dressing gown has a deep hood and a picture of Yoda on the back. He probably liked the Mandarin look. Being a Mandarin of sorts himself.
I walked back through to Lady Vanessa. Wondering how long they had had had their separate beds for.
She was seated on the foot of her big bed. Smoking now. I couldn’t place the liquid.
Peach and something? ..Guava?
“What did you want to show me?” I asked. And instantly regretted the choice of words. I could see the empty wine glass, loose in her hand.
She gave me an inviting smile. And slowly leaned back onto her elbows, on the mattress. She uncrossed her legs and parted them just a little. The tight fitting black dress showing all her curves in all the right places. As it was supposed to.
This isn’t the first time I’d been in this situation. But the first when the client asked me to find her husband.
The time before had been a wife, who didn’t want to be found out in her affair with her husband’s business partner. When she knew I had the photos she’d come on to me big time, in an attempt to get them back.
“I thought you might like to see something…Something that’s usually hidden. And very private.” She smiled suggestively. “Fancy a peek?”
And she widened her legs just a shade more.
“I might, if is it something relevant to your husband’s disappearance?”
I thought this might be the best way to play it. As if I was a total idiot who couldn’t spot any non verbal signals. Not the greatest recommendation for a top Investigator, I grant you. But what else could I do?
The taut black dress had been cut to just below the knee. But as she had leaned back on the bed, it had partially risen up her thighs. The up-lighters caused some dimness in this room. In the shadow made between her lean thighs I could just see the beginning of the silver lace trim of her hold-ups. The view was appealing to my Basic Instinct.
“Oh, Joe, “She sighed. “Come and lie next to me, for a second.” She patted the bed with her palm. Come on. Don’t be shy.”
She flipped her blonde hair back and left her head on her shoulder, her delicate neck exposed. If I remembered my Cosmopolitan ‘top ten flirting tips’ correctly, these were numbers seven and nine. The dress tightly drawn across her bust.
This would be a good time to leave. Wine sloshed and tipsy or not, this wasn’t the behaviour of a worried and concerned spouse. She was either emotionally drained and a bit drunk, or she was a fast worker with a running motor. Either way I should make some sensitive excuses and fly back home. That would be the most prudent option.
I lay down beside her on the bed. Same position. Face up. Resting on elbows. Legs off the edge. I looked at her directly. “Now what?”
She extended her arm straight ahead, and pointed her finger with the Eiffel Tower sized diamond engagement ring, at the Vid’Screen. She closed one eye. As if she were sighting down a handgun.
“See.” She asked me.
I turned to face the wall and followed her outstretched arm and saw she was pointing to a very, very small and discrete security camera, just under the frame of the Vid’Screen. Beside it was a retina and biometric scanner.
“I promised you something secret..and very, very private,” She said in a comic, sexual, breathy voice. And she laughed out loud.
I turned back to ask her a question but as I faced her she put her hand on my chest, then leaned forward, and kissed me, lightly on the lips.
Then she sat up and spun her legs to the side of the bed. Her back and shoulders towards me.
“Unzip me, will you Joe? I want to get changed out of this dress. Into something more comfortable.”
“Is something more comfortable, code for nothing?” I decided I better just come out and ask her. This was getting ludicrous.
She laughed again. “Heavens no. I’m a married woman, Mr Detective. All I want is to slip into are some jeans and a top. And all I want you to examine… is the safe.”
I also sat up alongside her now.. And lifted her soft, thick blonde mane from the top of her dress, so I could unzip it. The new zip on the new dress was stiff. Which wasn’t the only stiff thing in this bedroom.
‘Think of Theresa May naked. Think of Theresa May naked,’ I told myself.
Vanessa stood up. The dress slipping from her shoulders as she walked, hips swaying, towards the Vid’Screen. Reaching it she bent her face to the screen and placed a finger on a scanner under the console table beneath it. Giving me a fantastic view of her own Fiona Bruce award.
‘‘Think of Theresa May naked. Doing her dance. Think of Theresa May naked, doing the dance’ I told myself more urgently. That was working. Little Joe was in full retreat.
The machines checked her iris, face print, and DNA, and then the Vid’Screen slid open. As it did so, the large safe behind it whirled. Numbers on the digipad spun on the digital counter then stopped. And the safe unlocked and the door popped open a few centimetres.
She stood up again. Pleased with herself.
“I thought a big Detective like you would have spotted that safe instantly,” she said.
“Inspector,” I corrected her. Again. “And I was ..erm..preoccupied with looking at other things.”
She smiled warmly at me. Pleased she had had her desired effect.
“I’m going to get changed, and get some more wine. You ..help…yourself..to whatever you fancy..” she was being deliberately flirtatious again. But less so than before. I wondered if she was just a married woman who liked being desired? Wanted some attention. She would never have to do very much to get it.
But why a kiss, however perfunctory? That was beyond weird.
Who the hell knew with women. It was hard enough to try figure out the normal ones. Never mind these rich Elite types. This could be everyday pleasantries and happy socialism solidarity for them.. Who knew?
I got off the bed and walked over to the safe as Vanessa glided past me, towards her dressing room.
“I won’t be a moment,” she called, disappearing into the room.
I walked over to the safe, opened the door all the way, and peered in.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file