So we all sipped our drinks. And stared at each other and said nothing.
Until I decided that seeing as I had the gun, I should probably lead the discussion.
So I said to Sir Alan,”I’ll give you ten seconds to begin telling me everything you know, and if you don’t, I’ll kill you all.”
Ch 48 – Grifters
He wasn’t phased. Wasn’t even alarmed.
He sat back in his chair. Smiled at everyone. Said ‘Cheers’ and raised his glass. He swirled the grape in his mouth and made a very satisfied face, and I remembered that he was a connoisseur.
“Excellent,” he said. “Just excellent, Marmon. You do have such wonderful vintages. Won’t you try some, Joe? It really is a superior quality. Cavoletto Borolo?”
“When did you set up this..Whatever it is..This scheme?” I asked him.
He set his wine down on a side table, looking a little sad at having to do so, and settled back on the sofa, crossing his legs.
“It was a scheme that I thought up a few years ago.”
“A few years ago?” I was surprised. I’d thought he was going to say a week ago.
They had had me in their sights for a few years?
“Yes. A few years back. In a sort of testicle state, you understand? Not a fully fledged plan. More a collection of ideas. Sort of sperm swimming in the tubes. A big ball bag full. Waiting for one to ejaculate out. Blow the load, once ready. Sorry Vanessa. Bit crude of me. Just explaining to Joe here. Awfully sorry.”
She said nothing. Just finally got her e-cig going and took a great inhale and held it for the long exhale. The cloud settled around her in the still air. Strawberry and salted caramel.
Sir Alan wasn’t being mildly vulgar for no reason. He was friendship building.
Bonding. He was going to be my buddy. We were best mates, he and I. Not so very different.
Both in ‘service.’ Me in the police. He in politics. Both with difficult and often stupid masters to contend with. And the ungrateful, bloody public too, eh?
It was why he was calling me by my first name. Only those you know use your first name. It was why he was using some mildly coarse imagery. That’s how he expected cops would talk. Though he was way off. Probably only knew Chief Inspectors. And they all spoke like him.
He wanted to use our language. Or a close enough approximation that I might warm to him. He’d feel his way as we talked. Pick up my idioms and my slang. Use it himself. He was very good at that. The persona mimic.
It was why he had said ‘sorry’ to Vanessa for using vaguely off-colour language.
Even though it wasn’t that vulgar and she would use a lot worse herself. She was a magazine editor by profession. Who had strict, immovable, deadlines to meet.
For now he just wanted to put her on one side of the language. And myself and him on the other. We understood, you see. We were buddies..
He was a master manipulator. Using his engaging personality to impress others.
If I had had a loaded gun I’d have been wise to shoot him right now.
But I didn’t. So I simply said, “Go on.”
“Well. I suppose it began right back about the time of those riots. The ones you were so badly caught up in. Terrible business. Terrible. And what the authorities did to you afterwards, eh? A bad business that, Joe. Not standing by you. You getting some blame, though you hadn’t done anything to deserve censure. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Could of happened to anyone. Any innocent. Just caught up in the..the ..mismanagement of a crisis situation. That couldn’t have been easy for you to have to deal with. Must have been unpleasant for you.”
Sympathy now. For my plight. Poor, hard working Joe. Ground down by ‘The System.’
“Get on with it,” I told him.
“Yes. Indeed. Well. It’s just that after you left The Department, with all that publicity, I began to think you might have some future use for us. Not because of anything you had done, you understand,” he said hurriedly. Wanting to make sure I knew he was still on my side. “But simply because of your new branding. Your public exposure. Your name recognition, as we might say in my line. The public would recognise who you were. And, more importantly, who you were associated with.”
“Tommy Robinson,” said Bixby. “That was the association that was helpful to us.”
“But I wasn’t associated with him,” I told them. Genuinely surprised that they had said this. “I never even met him. I was just part of an arrest detail. Not even really a part of it. I was a sound monitoring agent. A backup team to get him arrested for noise polluting decibels if the original hate crime charges didn’t stick. I was nothing to do with him. Or any ‘Sons of Tommy’ organisation.”
“Oh yes. Well, we know that,” said Sir Alan, positively beaming now. He picked up his glass and drank a large swallow as Vanessa’s fragrant clouds floated up by the ceiling.
“But the public. They don’t pay much attention to the ins and outs, do they? Tell them that the NHS is going to be sold to Trump, and they don’t think it through.
Don’t ask exactly what will be sold? The ambulances? The patients? The hospitals?
They don’t even care to think for a second how likely something is. But because you’ve already told them hundreds of times before that Trump is bad. They just naturally assume anything he is connected to, must also be bad. That’s all that matters.”
He shook his head in wonderment. At the gullibility of the Top Gear class.
“I tell you, I’ve got files and files on how people react. How the C2DEs are very easily moved by possessive article arguments. OUR this. And YOUR that. I’ve hundreds of documents just on pronouns and adjectives that can sway a certain segment.
For instance, Lady Vanessa here, is more likely to be influenced by the words that give a fine sense of team belonging. Of a nurturing and solidarity nature. Links back to her days at private school and the House Mistresses speeches, see. And all working to shared House goals. Evoke those ideals to win over ‘The Elite,’ eh?”
He was doing his buddy routine again. SHE was THE ELITE. Private School. Not like you Joe. Not like us.
I would have to remember to be careful. It was easy to ignore his attempts at friendship and easement. I knew what he was up to, so it wasn’t hard. Just as long as I recognised what he was doing. But only a fool would not realise that if you ceased recognising what he was trying to do, it would be because it was working.
“So, just having your name associated with the Sons of Tommy, would remind people you were involved, in some way, with a far-right, hate fascist.”
“But I wasn’t,” I insisted. “I was nothing to do with any far right group. I’d never even heard of this Sons of Tommy outfit before you showed me that letter with their name on it.”
“No. Well. You wouldn’t have heard of it.” Said Sir Alan.
“Because we made them up,” said Lord Bixby.
There was a silence. Sir Alan didn’t like silence. by the slight frown on his features Didn’t much like the way Bixby was spilling too many beans either. He wanted to carry on being my buddy. Not my persecutor.
I would have to remember that anything he told me could well be totally untrue. He was a liar by profession.
“It was just an idle idea, really,” he said. “We..decided..that if there could be a farright group of neo-Nazi political terrorists, then ..Well.. It would be easier to make people see that the whole Brexit idea was fuelling hatred and division.”
“Make Brexit the cause of the unrest,” added Bixby. “The cause of rising crime. Of lack of investment. Late trains. Shortages. Poor acts on Britain’s Got Talent.
Whatever. Didn’t matter. Just make sure that Brexit was blamed.”
He drank some of his wine.
This was awfully civilised. I was used to being in interrogation room. Shouting and accusations. Sweating the suspect out. The foul air adding to the despair.
Here, we were only missing some finger foods, and it could be good friends having a chat.
“Negative association,” explained Sir Alan. “Anything bad is because of Brexit. Any bad news at all. From any source.. blame it on Brexit.”
“I know how it works,” I informed them. Getting more angry. “I do have a Vid’Screen. I do have to watch BBCNEWS24 by law, like everyone else. I understand how you spin the news. Jaguar-Audi can’t sell cars because they can only be battery powered, and there aren’t even a tenth of the chargers that are required.
But that’s the fault of Brexit.
Can’t get to see a doctor? That’s overseas doctors not wanting to work in the UK, even for a massive salary, because of racist Brexit.
Nothing to do with the millions of extra patients each year. I understand spin, Sir Alan. You may be an expert at it. But the concept has been around since your mentor, insisted crime rates in 1999 were the lowest ever recorded. But neglected to say that was because 95% of crime was no longer recorded at all.”
“Joe..I wasn’t trying to patronise you. I was simply trying to explain our thinking.”
“Then get on with it.” I took another sip of beer. And did a little Berretta wave.
“Of course, of course…May I stand up, please? It helps me to think if I move about.”
“Right. Well..” Sir Stuart took a breath. Then explained. “The feeling was Brexit must be blamed for everything and anything. However, that wasn’t enough. It moved votes, but not by enough to get us to a position where we could revoke Brexit. As you must know, the second referendum was 49.5 % to 50.5% for leave.
That was high water mark. We fell back after that. After the losses labour suffered in the 2019 election. And then the 2021 one. The fear was, even with Brexit trade talks stalled in a treacle of Eurotape, people were actually hardening their stance on leave.
And we wanted to move them to Remain.”
“For the good of the country, Joe. Brexit would destroy jobs and trade. We’d all be worse off. The poorest most of all.”
It was Vanessa who spoke. The first time she had since she had sat down. She looked quite earnest as she said the words. As a true believer would. I said nothing.
Heard it all before. A thousand times.
“With the vote coming up for the second reading..”
“The third referendum bill..” Lord Bixby added helpfully. In case I didn’t know. In case I was as dumb as the people who actually ordered their drone flown Chinese takeaway food from Mr Virus.
“Yes,” continued Sir Alan. “With the second vote on the bill imminent, we felt that just a little push to remain would secure the ‘People’s Grand children’s Vote. With that in the bag, the final, final push for Revoke would begin. But it was the last gamble. We couldn’t take the risk of losing another Remainer vote. Couldn’t lose six in a row. If we had, then not even the Joylon, Irish court cases and Scottish judges could prevent the UK giving up on remaining in the EU. We had to win, Joe. And so, well, and I’m very sorry about this now, but we thought, we’d draft you into helping us.”
“Yes..perhaps a tad unwillingly. But, you would be helping our cause.”
“That’s big of me. How?”
“You know how, Joe. You aren’t stupid. You are very intelligent. So you know what was planned. Although, what has occurred is actually Plan B.”
“Plan B? What was Plan A?”
“Plan A, was to implicate you, in a love affair with a leading Remainer.”
“Which one?” I asked them “Not Gina Miller? Come on! There is a limit!”
“With me.” She said it quietly. Vanessa. Her blonde hair framing her cheek. “I’m sorry Joe. I really am. It wasn’t going to be..” She trailed off.
I looked over to Bixby. He was pimping his wife? He would whore her out for Remain? Bercow, and his slag wife, I could believe. They’d do it and sell the Blu-ray afterwards. But Vanessa?
He didn’t look upset. Not in the least. He now explained why he wasn’t.
“It was just going to be a media story, Malone.”
I saw Sir Alan wince at Bixby using my last name. Undoing his carefully constructed camaraderie.
“Vanessa was only to give you a kiss. Just one that would appear on some obscure internet blog. Guy Fawkes or something like that. Maybe that Far-Right Puffin one.”
Vanessa was looking down at her hands again. Avoiding everyone’s eyes. Smoke rising from her e-cig.
Sir Alan continued for Bixby. Interrupted him, really. Wanting to smooth this story for me. Sugar it before I swallowed it.
“The picture would be released. Lady Vanessa in an embrace. And the accompanying story would be that Lord Bixby, heroically campaigning for Remain, all hours, night and day, had neglected his beautiful wife. And she, lonely, despite her own campaign for Remain, had fallen under the spell of a charming Leaver. And, a ‘friendship,’ had blossomed.
“But just the one kiss…That would be all that was admitted too,” Bixby interjected.
Keen to make the point clear. “Isn’t that right, Alan?”
“Oh…Erm..Yes..Yes, of course. Just a kiss. That would be all the press would be told…”
He didn’t look like he meant it. And he wouldn’t. A PR guru like him would release whatever he thought would sell. Whatever would get the story out. If he thought it would be viewed far wider as a ‘posh porno’ that the British workplace might sneak a peek at, he’d get it out there.
Titillation for The Mirror. Tits for The Sun. And a Full On, Smoking Hot, Banned in Ten USA States, Animal Monkey Sex, for Mumsnet.
He would have a Photoshopped porn video on the internet that would have made even Sally of the Alley blush. A carnal, sheet ripping, hot and sticky, fifty shades, nymph mount.
He was a mass manipulator. And was as brilliant as he was amoral.
He would apologise afterwards. Pretend he had nothing to do with it. Unscrupulous editors had betrayed him. ‘Sorry Bixby..but you know how these awful gutter reporters are.’
He carried on explaining. “The story leaked would be just that. A love story. A poor, impressionable, young lady, caught in a conflict. Lonely and starved of attention. For very good reasons, mind! And under the influence of alcohol. And under pressure from a persistent, but handsome and engaging man..She made a minor, marital error.
The public would have nothing but sympathy for both Lady Vanessa and Lord Marmon. Him, dedicated to Remain. Consumed by his work. But work in a noble cause. For a noble outcome.”
Sir Alan was waving his arms about excitedly. Had a bit of a Swinson thing going on with them. He was proud of this plan and made a whirlpool flourish with his finger as he expanded on it.
“Her! Emotionally torn. Feeling abandoned and alone. In a Europe that was now in terrible crisis. Finding comfort, briefly, in the arms of a colourful rogue. A rugged but charming and, even though flawed, an honest, individual.
Both thrown together due to the historic events changing their lives. All our lives! A blameless act for everyone. But one that would be seen by the public, as a romantic tale.
A sympathetic outcome would be arranged for all. In the end, Vanessa returns willingly and gratefully to Lord Bixby. Who pleads an end to this constant Brexit turmoil. That has damaged not just his, but all our relationships.
And the tough-guy cop, lets her go. As he realises that Marmon’s desire for a new Europe with the UK at its heart, is more important than his own desire for Vanessa Bixby, or for Leave.”
Sir Alan smiled a wide smile and opened his palms as he finished. Obviously very happy with the plan he had concocted.
“Casablanca. You’re talking about Casablanca.”
“Exactly!” And he clapped his hands in delight. And almost stood up. Before he saw the gun was still pointed at him and remembered that I’d told him to sit down.
“Exactly,” he said again. Still enjoying the retelling of the plot. “A love triangle. A woman who does the right thing. Men who do the right thing, in the end. It should be enough to garner enough sympathetic news coverage to pick up the two votes required for the third referendum, eh?”
He really was very pleased with himself. As well he might be.
“Very clever.” I told them.
Sir Alan nodded his head at my appreciation. Bixby looked pleased too. Pleased I hadn’t started kicking off. Vanessa was still looking at her hands in her lap. Twisting her mountainous engagement ring.
“Just one thing?” I asked of Sir Alan. “How does this scenario end up with Lord Bixby murdered in my office building?”
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file