Investigator Joe Malone, on the trail of missing chief remainer, Lord Bixby, is about to leave Lady Bixby’s home for the Reform Club in London’s Pall Mall.
I looked at the diary page for today. RC. – ?? arranged~ Poss PM. NC.OR. AS. 8.00pm.
Gave us about an hour to get there.
“Vanessa? You need to put your frock back on. We are going to the Remain Club. Right now.”
Ch 12 – Old Friends
I was standing in the grand hallway of Lord Bixby’s home. Waiting for Lady Vanessa Bixby to change into her designer dress and sort her make-up for a trip to the Reform Club, Pall Mall. London’s finest haunt for serious Remainer’s and senior civil servants. Which were essentially the same people.
As I stood in the hallway, I saw headlights turn up into the driveway and come towards me. An expensive looking white car white with blue and yellow florescent panels came to a halt. A door opened and some words were passed between passenger and driver. Then I heard boots crunch purposefully up towards the house. No sirens sounded but a Blue emergency light atop this police vehicle flashed.
I could see the word POLICE on the side of the vehicle. And I knew who’s car this was. There weren’t many like it in the police force.
It belonged to the Chief Inspector of Advanced Cybersocial Enforcement.
A.C.E.as they liked to be known. ACE-holes as the rest of the police called them.
The ‘Twitter police,’ as the public knew them.
They were a powerful force. And because of their social justice role, immensely well connected at the Home Office and Justice.
And they were as humourless and as Politically Correct as a Puritan on a pilgrimage.
The budget for ACE was larger than that of all the regional police forces put together.
That was why this particular Police patrol car was a Rolls Royce Phantom.
The figure in the Inspector’s uniform reached the entrance to the house and pressed the doorbell. He was straightening his blue uniform. Getting neat and presentable for the good Lady Bixby.
I opened the door and said into his surprised face, “Hi’ya, Flatcock! Long time no see. How ya’ doing?”
The tall policeman’s eyes almost bulged out of his head as he saw who it was holding the door for him.
“You!” he spluttered. “what..what are you doing here?”
He was so surprised he hadn’t registered I’d used his nickname,’Flatcock’ instead of his real name, Flittock.
“Won’t you come in?” I opened the door wider for him.
He looked back to the driver of his Rolls Royce. To make sure they were alert. In case he needed a witness, Or needed someone to back up his version of whatever he said occurred. We had a little bit of history, Flatcock and I.
He faced me again. Hesitated a little longer, then came into the entrance hall. His cap under his arm. Formal. He looked around the room. “I’m calling on a matter of importance, Malone. I wish to speak with Lady Bixby. Is she here?”
“She’s up in the bedroom. She’s just putting her dress back on, She’ll be down in a minute.”
I saw his eyes bulge again, even more surprised. A trait he had. He looked up the staircase to the first floor.
“Her bedroom is the first door on the right,” I helpfully informed him. And his bug eyes pulsed a little more.
This was fun.
“Can I help you with something, ‘Gloria’?” I asked him. And then he snapped.
“Don’t call me Gloria, Malone! Why on earth are you here? You’d better not be involved in this..this..” And then he stopped. Realising that if I wasn’t involved, he was about to tell me something I didn’t know. But he was safe. Because I already did.
“You come about Marmy?” I quizzed. He set his lips to tight. Not wanting to say anything. “If you did, you had a wasted journey. We found him already. He was in the bog all along. Locked himself in by mistake. The silly old duffer.”
He raised a finger at me. “Don’t mess about with me Malone, or you will regret it.
You stay out of this. This is a police matter. Not a concern of gutter cops, or should I say, Ex-Cops, like you.”
I stepped forward so his finger was just a millimetre from my chest.
“I’m already involved, Gloria. Vanessa likes it when I’m on the job.”
There was a rustle of silk and satin behind us, interrupting the school yard testosterone. Lady Bixby, in her fabulous Beckham black dress was coming down the stairs. Flittock brushed passed me and stood at the foot of the steps, and explained his presence.
“Lady Bixby? I’m Willow Flittock. Chief Inspector Flittock. I ..er..I understand you might have need of my services..In a matter of some concern to you?” He eyed me suspiciously as he spoke. Trying to make sure he didn’t say anything helpful. Which wouldn’t be likely.
“You made a telephone call. Unfortunately the call went to a local office. And those officers didn’t respond as they should have.”
Vanessa Bixby finished descending the stairs and stood in front of Flittock. She folded her arms across her chest. Her nails flashed in the lamplight.
“I called to report a missing person,..Chief Inspector. I was told no one was available to assist me.”
“I do apologise M’lady. The Officers concerned had no idea who you were. Or that you were calling about a VIP. They mistook you for a ..an..ordinary.”
She arched an eyebrow. It was enough to unsettle Gloria. Who panicked at the best of times. He was someone who fawned over the Rich and Powerful. Had spent his entire career doing every crawl and kiss up the alimentary canal necessary to rise up the ranks. Common Purpose to the core.
“I..I..Came as soon as I saw the report. Please rest assured the offending officer will face censure. I have the resources of my force available to assist you, in any way I can. If you just allow me to take some details of the events, Lady Bixby..”
“That won’t be necessary, Chief Inspector. I have made other arrangements now.”
Flittock swallowed hard. His eyes bugged up again. What a sorry specimen he was.
“But Lady Bixby, this a matter of national importance. Once the press become aware..I mean..well..It will be a major, major event. Vid’Screens will be running it non-stop. A high profile case. The highest! It will be a hugely important matter of national significance.”
And promotion opportunity, I thought. Which was why he wanted in. Whoever had botched Vanessa’s call to the station would be on Friday night drunk duty in Deptford, for a year.
Lady Bixby was unmoved.
“Thank you Chief Inspector. On the time I had to reflect, when you failed to respond to my call, I decided to engage the services of Mr Malone. He is a Private Investigator.”
Flittock looked at me. “M’Lady,” he spluttered. Aware he was overstepping his social level by contradicting an Elite. Like Carson suddenly telling Lord Grantham he was really crap at pheasant shooting.
“I know this man. I would advise against employing him in any capacity. He looked peevishly at me. “He is not..not..one of us.”
I looked at Lady Bixby who looked back at me, with a smile.
“I admit it.” I said. “I’m not one of us.” and then with a mightily camp infection,
“I ’m one of them.”
Flittock looked ready to spring in to action. He had just witnessed a potentially homophobic comment. He could bring me before a night court for this.
But Vanessa laughed. “I don’t believe Mr Malone is one of them. He doesn’t seem the type.” And she smiled even more broadly, and with a knowing look towards me.
“From what…I’ve …experienced of him..so far.”
The deliberate sexual phrasing sent Gloria into a panic.
“I..I..only meant ..he..is ..a known..Leaver, Lady Bixby..” said Flittock. Backtracking quickly.
If someone of Lady Bixby’s stature was going to indulge in a homophobic, genderist, speech crime, he couldn’t arrest me, without arresting her also. Good girl.
“Well, nobody is perfect, Chief Inspector. Now, I’m afraid I am about to go out. I have an urgent engagement. And I haven’t finished getting ready. So if you would excuse us..”
She gave the faintest nod towards the door. A clear signal that Flittock grasped instantly. But he wasn’t quite prepared to let this golden opportunity slip by him.
“Lady Bixby. I must impress upon you the seriousness of this potential situation. I have resources and officers to put out a London wide operation of recovery.
Nationwide if necessary. This ..this…gumshoe..has no endowment at all.”
Lady Vanessa, gave her patrician smile and in her breathy voice, “Oh, I wouldn’t say he has …no..endowment..” And then she grinned directly at me. Playing the game.
She had now lost all earlier tipsiness. She was back in her rich person’s persona. The Elite don’t much like petty functionaries. Even their own ones.
“Chief..In..Spec ..Tor..” She now said coldly to him. “I have not requested your presence here. I have not reported any crime. Only that a person was missing. I was told that it was too soon to accept that as a fact. That seven days are required now before a person over seventeen can be considered absent.
Having had time to consider YOUR officer’s advice, I believe I agree. It is too soon.
So I wish for this matter to be investigated quietly and privately. For the very reason that I do not wish it to become a public spectacle. So if you do not mind, we shall discuss this no more.” And she turned and walked away down the hall, towards the rear staircase.
Flittock persisted, one last time, calling after her in his thin, pained voice.
“But Lady Bixby. YOU contacted US! You called us for assistance!”
He sounded confused. And, I thought, he had a point. She had contacted the proper authorities. And been rebuffed, sure. But now they were here and desperate to help, she wasn’t interested. She wanted me, instead.
Was my ‘gumshoe’ charm so irresistible? I’d worry about it later. Right now, it was time to get going to the Reform Club.
“Shove off, Gloria,” I told him. “We gotta go.”
I looked down the hallway. Vanessa was adjusting her stockings. And finishing her lipstick in the mirror down there.
“Goodbye Chief Inspector,” She called out to him. But without looking away from her lip painting. “And thank you for calling. That was very sweet of you.”
She said it indifferently. And it was unmistakeable she meant he should offity-fuck.
She picked up a tiny purse that matched her dress and looked inside for car keys.
“Ready Mr Malone?”
“Yes Ma’am,” I replied.Flittock turned to her and realising he was defeated said, “Then I wish you a good evening, Lady Bixby. And if I can be of any service to you..allow me to give you my personal number. Please call. Night or day. I will be here instantly.” He stretched out a hand to offer it to her as she walked up to us.
“I expect you would,” she told him. Took the card and dropped it into her purse.
“Goodnight.” She said, walking to a large cloakroom to fetch a coat.
“Goodnight, M’Lady’ said Flittock. And he gave a sort of low bow. He really was an insufferable arse-crawler. No wonder he had risen so far.
He straightened up, ramrod posture and marched out to his Rolls. Waving a hand for the driver to leap out and open the door for him. He would be fuming. The driver would have to listen to this all the way back to Hendon Central. And some poor constable was for the chop for not rushing to Lady Bixby’s aid when she first called.
Too bad. Advanced Cybersocial Enforcement were all tossers anyway.
I collected my AmaZrone gear and coat and followed Vanessa through the kitchen and utility room into a quadruple garage that held an Audi Q7.. Lord Bixby’s I guessed. I should have checked this earlier. See if he’d taken his car. I must be slipping. There was also a rather sporty looking white Mercedes. Which she unlocked and started with a flick of her slim Super-Fit_byte watch.
I got into the passenger seat and before the electric garage door was even two thirds up she had powered us down her driveway and onto the main road.
Heading south to the Reform Club.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file