Private Inspector Joe Malone, is investigating the disappearance of the husband of Lady Bixby. He is at her fabulous home in Stanmore, North London. Lady Bixby has been tipsy and flirtatious. But helpful and apparently honest in her responses.
She has just opened the bedroom safe for Joe to examine the contents on a search for any clues as to the whereabouts of Lord Bixby, who is one of the chief remainers of the UK.
“I’m going to get changed, and get some more wine,” Lady Bixby said, rising up from her EMPEROR sized bed. Her black dress parting to reveal the soft, pale skin of her back and shoulders.
“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 at all to get it. But why did she kiss me, 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 socialist 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 inside.
I opened the safe door all the way and peered in.
Ch 10 – Diamonds are forever.
The first thing I noticed as I peered into Lady Bixby’s safe was the pistol.
A 9mm Beretta 92.
I took it out to have a better look.
This was a replica conversion. Guns were still hard to obtain in the UK. One area of the law where all the ridiculous regulation and bureaucratic hoop jumping actually made people safer. Even replicas were hard to get. Even for criminals.
The magazine was the standard one, not extended, and it was empty.
This wasn’t a woman’s choice of pistol. The Beretta was a police and military weapon. The U.S. LAPD and U.S. military had it as their side arm.
As did the Twitter Police Scotland. CyberNat hate crime being so very violent since their fourth referendum to leave the UK had failed by a whisker.
Police Scotland Online were now always armed. And, of course, we had this type at The Department as our standard issue.
Bixby must have it here, to potentially frighten off any thieves who had forced him or her to open the safe. As long as those thieves weren’t armed themselves. It was not much use for anything else without ammunition. But it meant Lord Bixby had something worth defending in his safe.
Which was what I found next.
Boxes of jewellery. Velvet cases held diamond necklaces and gold and emerald rings.
Earrings, bracelets, chokers, pendants of ruby and sapphires and diamonds.
Underneath the main case was another black velvet box. Deep. About 15cm x 15cm.
I opened it.
It was full of diamonds.
Nothing illegal necessarily, about having a box full of multi-carat diamonds. With the none too distant Corbynista scares in the memory. When Corbyn and his coalition of the mad had failed to become the government by just two MPs, plenty of people would have transferred assets to portability status.
I know for a fact that a leading, long serving, labour supporting, Guardian columnist, had a solid gold car chassis. So they could drive to their European villa in the event of the wrong kind of socialism.
So, not unheard of. Though designer jewels were far more likely than polished stones. The jewellery could be catalogued. Photographed. Insured. Secured and borrowed against. And more importantly, hung on pretty little things like Lady Vanessa Bixby, for a night at the Opera. Or for a charity fund-raiser. Where hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of jewels were required, in order to raise hundreds for the starving Sunderlanders. Maybe she just wore them to the latest Avengers movie at the Cinemax, or wherever the hell the Elite went.
A box of diamonds was not so good. Not so subtle. And although not their official advertising campaign.
“Nothing says “I’m about to flee to Argentina like a Nazi” as a box of De Beers.”
it was understood by all to be one of the major selling points.
There were a lot here. This wasn’t Marathon Man. Maybe only a quarter of Olivier’s “White Angel’s” old band aid, tin box. But enough. No wonder they had the CCTV right in and above this safe.
And she’d left me here alone.
She must have mistaken me for some kind of honest ex-cop.
She had left her dressing room door ajar. She sounded like was still putting on some garments. Silky ones. I could peer into her dressing room through the reflection of her full length mirror in this one. She wasn’t watching me. She was getting changed. Leaving me to it. I had a nice view. I could see her, with her dancer’s leg raised and tiny foot pointed like a ballerina. Rolling the top of a stocking up her thigh.
There was some cash too. Not a ton. But a good few thousands of the Europounds, that were acceptable in GB and the UK. And compulsory in Scotland. And illegal in Northern Ireland.
Some keys. Old fashioned and elaborate. Probably originals to his foreign homes.
Spare car keys. A House of Lords pass. HMG security pass. American express cards.
In date. He had the whole colour palette too.
The green, silver, gold, red and black of the ‘that’ll do nicely’ range. I took phone shots of all of them.
And also of the passport and EuroVisa for Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby.
If he had gone to Europe, he hadn’t done so on his real passport.
Vanessa’s was here too. Renewed five years ago. Stamped all over the world. Australia. And New Zealand too. Even though those countries were both currently well out of favour with the Remain set. Trying to muscle into EU business with their Federation of Nations trading block.
I photographed the passports and then phoned up Dacia, my Eastern European assistant.
“Hello?” The background music was mega-loud. Blaring Dance-Trance like, thumping bass and symphonic rising chords.
“Dacia? You hear me, “I yelled into the phone. “Where the hell are you? In a club?”
“Not yet. Is early. I go later with Aelita. I in bathroom. Fix make-up.. Hold now.”
Then “Alexa” and ..something something spikey in Latvian. Then the music level dropped away to just a low pounding beat. She must be loved by her neighbours.
“Yes? You need?”
“Yes. I need, Dacia. Track down these credit cards for me. I want Lord Bixby’s most recent purchases.”
I Instagemapped the pictures I’d taken of his Amex cards over to her. Front and back photos. Obviously he wasn’t using these ones. They were in his safe. But Dacia could trawl the PPI databanks. Get scans of all Bixby’s cards. I waited as she opened up what I’d sent her.
“OK I have. I use ‘You-Got-Data.’
‘You-Got-Data.’ had purchased all of the entire PPI scam data. Bank and finance records that each individual had ticked the box on. The one allowing free transfer and sharing of their personal banking details. Now all the total UK’s bank details could be accessed for a price from one handy cloud. Financial data was the most secure of all.
Laws restricted its transfer and sharing to a ridiculous degree, nowadays. ‘You-Got-Data’ had the records of anyone who had ever claimed PPI. Which was almost everyone. And they had the right to sell it on. They become a huge company almost overnight.
“You pay express charge?” Dacia asked. She sounded like her mouth wasn’t working.
Assume she was doing her lipstick.
“Yes. Just get them fast.”
She should be able to pin him down. Last pay place. Cash was almost extinct. Card location was a useful law enforcement tool. Especially as all cards were fingerprint encoded. So wherever they were used was where Bixby was. Or someone using fakefingerprint-3dprints of his hands.
I also asked Dacia to check those visits to Oz. Vanessa had gone and Marmon hadn’t. Might be something, but they could easily have a valid reason for separate holidays and business trips.
Dacia would find out if there were at the same time she was away, business related events for him, elsewhere, connected to the dates.
There usually was for the wealthy. They mooched their holidays by spending a half hour Q&A at some locally based, global charity, HQ. Then got free flights and accommodation for a fortnight in exchange.
“Ok. I will,” she said. “And Joe, see if he has Super-Fit_Byte or Falaxy_Sensieheiser.”
“He does have Super-Fit_Byte. I know he does. So does she. Why?”
“Can do search. Like, for friend’s Vibrator.”
“You can do what, now?”
“Fit_byte. Joe. Like one you have. Can locate. Do Vibrate. And you can do handshake. Get me data, Joe.”
I knew what she meant now. The Super-Fit_Byte series automatically took all the data from anyone else’s Super-Fit_Byte when you shook hands with them. A Handshake using your Fit_Byte arm, made them instantly one of your contacts.
Whenever they were nearby, your watch would vibrate to alert you of a ‘friend’ in the vicinity. A useful feature to greet your loved ones and flee hurriedly away from the proximity of painful acquaintance bores. The tracker from that system might help her locate Lord Bixby. It wouldn’t hurt to see if it could be used.
Good thinking, Dacia. Only problem, my watch was in my office drawer. I told her that.
“Why you so unmillenial? Low tech, Joe? Always you is. Wear the damned watch, eh?”
This was a bit of an insult. From someone who’s country, just thirty years before had thought blue jeans so decadent they were banned, on pain of Gulag.
“I send you patch-up App. To phone, Ok? Make sure you download, right fast. Then next time you see..you shake woman hand, with Super-Fit_Byte watch on her. Send me upload. I scan. And send to your Fit-Byte. Then you have contact and minisignal.”
“Ok genius. I’ll do that. I’m at her place right now.”
“Ah. I see. You in many hurry to be meet her. She is pretty, no?”
“How would you know?”
“I already do search for you. I see her pictures. She is very pretty, yes?” she asked.
With a bit of a tease in her tone.
“And very rich, yes?”
This was the most expensively furnished home I’d ever been in. And I already knew they had more than just this one.
“I know what you like Joe. Be careful. Remember. She kill husband.”
“Why do you say that, Dacia?”
“Because you tell me. All times, when we at The Department. ‘The wife done it.’ you say. All times.”
“Dacey! I was getting a divorce at that time. I may have been ever so slightly prejudiced. The wife didn’t always do it.”
Only about 70% of the time, I thought.
“Now can you please get on with the other stuff too,” I asked her.
“Yes. I fix hair then get over it.”
I knew what she meant. The music level rose rapidly from her end, so I cut my phone.
There was nothing else in the safe. Except at the back the manufacturer’s metal plate and the model serial code.
Harland and Wolff. White Star Super Deluxe. 19A451c+.
Useful. So I photographed that too. Because I knew this company and how they worked.
I heard Vanessa coming back into the bedroom, behind me. Moving to her dressing table.
I took another look into the safe, brushed some papers aside but found nothing more of interest in there. So I turned to face her. She hadn’t gone with the jeans after all.
Instead a cream blouse and navy skirt.
She was putting on her shoes. Giving me a generous view.
“Did you see everything you wanted?” She asked me.
She smiled. “Good. Then let’s go back down, shall we? More comfortable in the living room. I will find Marmon’s diary that you asked for. It has all his appointments, I’m sure of it.”
I thought her flirtatiousness had dialled itself down a degree now she had changed outfits. Probably remembered she was a married woman with a single man, a stranger, in her bedroom. Looking at her unmentionables.
Diamond and gun metal unmentionables.
We left her bedroom and went down the spiral staircase. To search through Lord Bixby’s diary. To see just what the old fox had been getting up to.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file