Private Investigator Joe Malone is down in the basement of his office building.
Checking on a strange noise.
As my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw an even bigger safety code violation.
A waste compactor chuntering away.
Crushing, squeezing, packing and attempting to auto-tie a bundle of assorted waste card and paper.
Only a bundle with a human arm sticking out of it.
Ch 26 – A death in the family.
Well, this was a surprise.
For a number of reasons.
The first of which was I had no idea that an auto baler was in place in the basement of this building. I supposed it must have been here from back when the office block adjacent had been part of this one. The two had been a light industrial unit, back in the 1990s.
The baler didn’t look that old. Though it was hard to estimate its age.
What with all the blood and guts splattered over it.
That was the second, bigger, surprise. A body having been crushed within it. I could see a human arm sticking out of the sodden and bloody packaging. You don’t see that every day. There was a man’s formal, black shoe loose on the floor. Remarkably free of blood and gore. Must have come off right at the start of whatever went on here.
The third surprising thing of the night was that the crusher was switched on and functioning. Someone was here very recently. I hadn’t heard the machine running when I came in to the building earlier to go up to my office. It wasn’t very noisy in itself. I could see an EU kite mark. The three snowflake symbol.
That meant this machine had passed the sensitive ears tests. That was reassuring for some hard pressed janitor, having to operate noisy, heavy machinery, day in, day out.
The comforting knowledge that it wouldn’t cause hearing damage to their unprotected ears.
Less reassuring was the fact it had actually scrunched someone to death. Overriding all the myriad of safety protocols designed to prevent any accidental loss of life whilst the user was recycling and saving the planet for Greta.
This was my specific area. Health and Safety and the laws pertaining. I walked over to the baler. The top part was still crushing down. The door half open. That open door should have automatically prevented the machine operating. The big compactor was malfunctioning, and I was worried it could catch fire.
Avoiding a pool of very dark, black blood, I shuffled around and pressed the red button of the automatic override. The circuit breaker that should have shut all power.
Nothing happened. It had been bypassed.
I looked for the main power cable. It was loose on the floor. Not cemented beneath, as it should have been. It snaked off into the gloom of the room’s corner. Where it looked like it connected to a portable generator. That was interesting. That shouldn’t be here. A machine like this should be hard-wired in to the main power supply. I would look at that little portable in a minute.
There was an EU directive that insisted any machinery like this had a reverse switch built in. I could see the panel. But the plate over it was metal and didn’t slide as it should have when I tried to pull it with my fingers. Grime and accumulated grease had locked it in place.
I couldn’t see anything with which to prise the panel open. So I picked up the shoe from the floor and used the heel to whack at it.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Crime Scene dummy! But I had only put my fist inside it. And I had a genuine reason for doing it. As I had a genuine reason for being here. I worked here. And I had an alibi for tonight. I had spent the evening with two of the most notorious spin doctors to have ever walked the earth. And the wife of the crushed Lord Bixby.
But I was in a hurry. A fire would destroy far more evidence than the remote chance some killer had left his DNA and fingerprints on the inside of the shoe.
The case cover flipped open on its spring, and I just puled the lever inside and there was a bang that blew every fuse in the thing. It shut itself down with a wheezing sigh.
I put the shoe down carefully, about where it had been. Something looked odd about it.
I picked it up again. Because it was clearly a man’s shoe. But it was tiny. I turned it over and looked at the sole. And saw what I had feared.
John Stimpson’s of Bond Street.
I could see the arm sticking out of the bundle. It had been partially baled up with plastic belting. The sleeve of a dark suit had been pulled up. A watch was visible on the blood covered wrist. A Super-Fit_byte 3000. The same as mine. Only in white.
“That beeping from your drawer. It sounds like a Super-Fit_byte 3000…” Vanessa took a pull on her E-cig. Letting the vapour roll across her rouged lips. “I know because I have the 5000XD model. Marmon has the 3000 still..Only his is in white.”
Vanessa had told me that just a few floors up above me, in my office, what seemed like weeks ago. But wasn’t even twenty four hours ago.
I looked at my Super-Fit-byte. The circle for how close the friend was, was bold and in the very centre of the face.
BIXBY…M standing out in those gold digital letters above it.
I carefully lifted the semi bundled arm of the body so I could see it better. The case of his watch was cracked but not smashed. It was still working. This one too had the circle, large in the centre. With MALONE… J over it.
This was poor old Bix here all right. Bundled up in the cardboard. I could see now I was closer that the waste paper being compacted along with his flesh and bones was leaflets. One had stuck to my heel. I lifted my foot and peeled it off. It was a Tigg-Dem campaign leaflet.
“Support amendment 84 to make London the 14th metropolitan region of France. We can have a better future by looking to the past. Support the Entente Cordiale II legislation.”
There was picture of Chukka Umunna and Dominic Grieve shaking hands with Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby. The smiling figures framed by a crescent of EU stars, against a Paris skyline, backdrop.
I dropped the leaflet
Remain had just lost a great ally.
Someone had had a great sense of irony. Someone, maybe the Sons of Tommy group, had seen the irony of tying Lord Bixby to Europe.
“Its what he would have wanted,” I murmured to myself.
Now. What to do about this situation. I should call someone. But who first? Vanessa?
Or Flittock, the Met chief? Yes. Probably him first. Tell him Lord Bixby of Remain had been killed. He’d crap himself at that. Knowing he had some involvement. Even though he was in the clear. Lady Bixby herself had told him to buzz off.
I’d take a look at the generator and then I’d call ‘Gloria’ Flittock. Tell him he had a probable murder. And he had seventeen point four million potential suspects to interview.
Then I would tell Vanessa that her husband was dead.
I would have liked to have seen her face when I told. Seen if her captivatingly beautiful eyes revealed anything but shock.
Not that she would have been able to squash him all up in this compactor herself.
Drugged him maybe. But getting him down here would be beyond her strength.
But she might have known who did.
It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. She’d been acting oddly and inconsistently the entire time I’d known her.
But I’d have to stay here. At the scene. Flittock would demand it as he fired up his
Bentley and rushed down here.
I thought of some of the other cases and investigations I’d worked.
Not all were the open and shut, pants down, photos taken, divorce papers served, that
were my daily income generators.
Illicit office romances.
Facebook friendships that went too far.
Some had a darker side.
One involving a Russian diplomat and the American wife or one of most senior Treasury Officials had threatened to become a real scandal.
She was trying to talk him into taking her to Moscow with him. He didn’t want anyone to find out about his horizontal workout rendezvous. And he certainly didn’t want her showing up in Moscow. Not when this diplomat was already married to one of Putin’s most senior advisor’s sisters.
The mistress had been getting noisy, careless and unbalanced. And he had been getting desperate.
Then, unexpectedly, one day my fees was settled in full with a very generous bonus, and a note saying, cease all activities and hand over all documents, tapes and photographs, to my client. The American wife. Which I did. It’s her property.
A day later, seems the Russian FSB goons had taken out their man. Folded him up into a holdall and left him in lost luggage at Legoland.
I could have informed the authorities, I suppose. About what I knew. But it was no concern of mine. I was just hired to find people or evidence. Not to settle domestics. Or bring to justice or conviction. And I had no proof the man with the fingerless hands, and the orange wedged into his dead, toothless mouth, was folded neatly up, because he had been shagging the official’s wife.
M.I.5. had immediately said it was suicide anyway. And who am I to disagree with the spooks?
“Headbanger!” the press had called it. The bag being a HEAD sports bag. And the occupant being the banger of Mrs Treasury. The Sun loved it.
I wondered what they’d call this one?
A senior member of the House of Lords compacted in the basement of a lowly business dwelling in South London. Discovered by the very person hired to find him?
That ‘all publicity is good publicity’ saying was going to get a real test.
I knew I was in for a long grilling in the interview rooms, no matter what. So before I made the call I needed to get Dacia round here fast. So she could take some of the more illegal items to our secret storage container at Yellow, Big, Safe, and, No Questions! over in Vauxhall.
There was an almighty thump from upstairs in the entrance hall. Then a loud crack.
Sounding like the splintering of wood. A crash of broken glass followed. Then another tremendous bang and the high pitched building security entrance alarm, went off.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file