“Is that the letter?” Lady Vanessa asked him. She had been very quiet. But suddenly sat forwards and peered at the envelope.
To Sir Marmon-Herrington Bixby esq.
Which was normal enough.
Though the word, WANKPUPPET 0406 printed in bold capitals on the back, was less so.
“0406?” I said to Vanessa. I thought I wouldn’t mention the Wankpuppet bit in the present company. She suddenly looked even more pale.
Her eyes widened and she replied, “Yes. That’s his PIN number. For our joint account. 0406. It’s also the day and month of my birthday.”
Ch 20 – Traitor Scum
“Yes,” Sir Alan confirmed. Addressing me, and not her. “This is the letter. And it could be the reason that Lord Bixby has suddenly disappeared.”
The envelope had never been sealed. Just the flap tucked in. The gum was unused and the envelope wasn’t torn anywhere.
I opened the envelope and took out the contents.
The neat handwriting on the outside was not repeated on the inside. It was a crime scene of a letter. A bloody murder committed in ink. The pen is mightier than the sore. Whoever had written this had been very sore indeed.
The ink was gel pens. In green and red and black, the words stabbed onto the page.
Wank-Puppet of our enemies.
The Sons of Tommy will see you squashed like a bug under a Nazi boot
Lord Bixby TRAITOR SCUM
AvenGe the riot deths.
And then there was a Sharpie load of red. Pools of fibre red pen ink blood. Splashed around the note. And a symbol at the bottom. Carefully drawn. Some kind of interlocking triangle symbols, that I didn’t recognise, had been printed onto the page too.
“Do you think it might be something, Detective Rosewood?” Asked Sir Alan, puffing up his bear’s chest. “Might be connected to Marmon’s …absence? I do hope nothing…has occurred to him,” he added.
“It might,” I said, turning the letter over. Nothing on the back. Plain paper. The venom was for the front only. “It might have no bearing. Might just be some random hate mail. However I shall get my people to do some forensics on it. Prints and inks.
Paper origin. Maybe some drone traces. Other contaminates. That kind of thing.”
‘My people’ meant me. I would run the scans myself. But it would show up as ‘technical assistance’ in the list of expenses heading to Lady Bixby.
“Shouldn’t we give this to the police?” Asked Vanessa Bixby. And was immediately cut off by Lord Peter and Sir Alan simultaneously saying, “No!”
Vanessa looked startled at their joint emphatic cry. Sir Peter soothed her with “..I just mean..That while Mr Rosewood is already here, he should have it. I’m sure he can move right away. Speed up the process. You know how dreadfully slow our esteemed police can be. That’s why you called on his services in the first place wasn’t it,
Then he addressed me. “And if this is important, you will inform Lady Bixby…and the proper authorities, won’t you, Mr Rosewood?”
I said I would and took the letter and put it in my pocket. Too late for evidence bags. Anyway, half of London had touched it already.
A waiter reappeared, anxious to take orders.
“You will be joining us won’t you Vanessa…And you too, of course, Mr Rosewood.
The food here is so very good.” Peter leaned back and the waiter bent down to listen.
Mandelson was pointing at something in his menu and asking a question.
Sir Alan leaned in towards me. “They have excellent steaks here, you know,” he told me. “No Vegan-meat ban days here. The Reform Club has a special exemption.”
I did know. It had been made part of the estate of the Palace of Westminster when some of the more insane foody-ban laws had come into effect. MPs and civil servants, anxious to avoid being victims of their own nannying, had made sure that their own favourite or subsidised restaurants had had an exemption from the limited fats and cholesterol count days. Though even parliament could do nothing about their own Health & Safety laws. Which is why everyone, and I mean everyone, was afraid of The Department.
“You can get anything you want, almost. It’s like Borough Market used to be before they stopped selling all that delicious food and drink,” continued Sir Alan, as he looked down the menu. He was well known for the delight he took in his food. Diner at his place was said to be a feast that people would talk in wonder at for the rest of their days.
Borough Market hadn’t ‘stopped’ selling anything. The hipster’s choice for fresh produce. The Vegan’s Mecca, had slowly been forced to close down their stalls because of the endless regulations on size, weight, fat, calories, salt, sugar, alcoholic content and colourings that had made almost everything illegal or restricted to the point of being unprofitable.
Only the Oliveology and pea and peppercorn pasta types had managed to keep going.
Charging the outrageous prices that only the truly goateed and beret types would pay.
Even many of them were gone now. Ever since The Mayor had instructed the market to be a meeting point.
During the Trump visit The Mayor was so keen to demonstrate his anti-Trump credentials, he’d actually arranged ‘riot points’ for the activists to meet.
But he forgot to separate the ‘Vegans’ from the plain old ‘Vegetarians.’ An argument developed into who was the more virtuous, and once the ‘cyclists against chlorinated chicken’ turned up, the ensuing riot devastated most of Southwark. Including all of the Market.
Ironically all the regulation and damage had made the poor Elephant and Castle residents rich.
The black market was everywhere now. The dodgy drug dealers had ditched the highs and lows of heroin for the easier to manage, even more profitable food and drink. Brexit was semi-happening in a permanent limbo. Not in nor out. Not trading with the EU nor free from it, so almost everything in the UK was either illegal.
Banned. Compulsory, or unobtainable.
Llama milk. White asparagus. Marcona almonds. Danish, dry cured bacon.
McCoy’s ruffled paprika crisps. Wrigley’s spearmint gum. Advocaat. Whatever you wanted, you could have. For a price.
Some of the Elite in this very room would have a regular ‘dealer’ on the site of the now demolished Elephant & Castle shopping centre.
That was another of the Mayor’s ‘successes.’ The centre had been bought by a developer. For new retail and housing development. The old Shopping centre was already demolished when the riots happened there. But the images of violent vegans and Vicious vegetarians had ensured no one wanted to live there anymore. The company went bust. So now the site was just a massive wasteland in the centre of South London.
‘Little Lucky,’ as the Mayor was known, just declared the huge empty space a ‘modern urban park.’ He’d called it Hyde park South. And he had got away with it. It was a lot more Jekyll than Hyde Park. With all the open tunnels for the pipes and holes for foundations still visible. Scrap metal and all the wreckage from the Trump and Brexit riots dumped there. But the dealers didn’t mind. They were making a fortune. This was the new age of Prohibition. Produce Prohibition. And as long as the stabbings and shootings were confined to a minority of dealers, everyone turned a blind eye.
I looked at sir Alan. He peered up from his menu and winked at me. “It all looks so good doesn’t it?” And he actually liked his lips that were always so red, everyone assumed he wore lipstick.
“I heard they have Zebra steaks here,” I said to Sir Alan.
“Oh yes. Delicious with lemon potato slices. The genuine things, those steaks. Not like some of the masquerades you find these days. People sell all kinds of rubbish and pretend it’s authentic.”
“They do, “I agreed. “In some places the stripes are only painted on.”
Sir Alan chuckled. “Well, you would be the one to know! In your line of work, eh Inspector?” And he barked out a throaty laugh.
“Shall we stay?” Vanessa asked me. Her cat’s eyes looking apprehensive. She didn’t appear to want too. The letter had unnerved her.
“You stay with your companions, Lady Bixby,” I told her. “I believe that I now have some definite leads. Thanks to Lord Peter and Sir Alan. If you will please excuse me everyone, I would like to make a start on them. Right away.”
“Of course, of course,” Lord Mandelson said. Standing himself, as I stood up, to shake my hand. “And you will keep Lady Vanessa informed? And if we think of anything else, we can let her know, is that alight, Detective Rosewood?”
“Perfectly.” I shook Sir Alan’s hand too. His eyes above his big beaming face were far more neutral than his smile. I turned to Vanessa. “Good night Lady Bixby.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” She asked me. “I might be of some use?”
“If I have anything I need to clarify, I will simply call you. Or Fit_byte you direct. If I come across anything I will let you know immediately. And if I don’t, then it will be up to you if you to decide if you wish to take up Flittock’s offer of official assistance.”
She had almost called me Joe. Corrected herself just in time. Running the J.
“Oh do stay, Vanessa!” Sir Alan said to her. “You are looking a little peaky. Some food will do you a great deal of good. Snacking is all you’ve been doing, I shouldn’t wonder? Hmmm? No. A good, hot dish will be marvellous. And you can tell us just how you came to find the mysterious Detective Rosewood and what you and he have discovered so far, eh? Will help to let you decide if you talk it all through with friends, isn’t that so Detective?”
“Indeed. I think that’s an excellent idea.” I told her.
“I was hoping not to have too. To keep it all private. In case..he was..with someone else.” She trailed off as she said it.
“Well, I will make a start on what I have now. And maybe make enough progress that I have some information so you can make a decision in the morning.”
She still looked uncertain so I turned to the two men and said “Thank you for this information, gentlemen. I’m sure it will be useful. Good evening.” And then to Vanessa, I said again, “Good night Lady Bixby. You know where to reach me…if you need anything.” And I turned from the table and headed towards the exit, leaving them to it.
I made my way up the flight of steps to the main entrance hall. Henshaw, the concierge, was attending to a group of well known Remainers. Who, from some inexplicable failure of his carefully planned scheduling, had found themselves booked without a table. C.B.I. members I guessed. Henshaw was bent so low in his obsequious posture of apology, he didn’t see me go by.
I retrieved my coat and AmaZrone bag from the coat check girl and made my way out onto the dark London street.
I could get a drone home. Or walk. The Underground at Green Park would take me home. The one at Charing Cross would take me to the office.
I decided to walk all the way to my office, which wasn’t too far away from where I was now on Pall Mall. Thirty minutes would see me there easily. It wasn’t cold and unusually, wasn’t raining. I liked the city at night. More so than in the day. It looked like old London in the darkness.
Anyway, a walk would do me good. It would allow me to think and to better arrange these currently jumbled thoughts.
And to try to figure out just why Vanessa, Lord Peter and Sir Alan had gone to such lengths to tell me such a concocted pack of lies.
* * *
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file