“You had better come up Inspector.” Then she pressed the button and even from up on the landing Sir Alan and I could hear the electric motor begin to turn the chains to pull open the heavy gates to let the police in to her home.
Ch 55 – May contain scenes of violence and brief public nudity.
The Police car advanced up the driveway. Its lights illuminating the other cars parked out there. The Bixby’s had a lot of cars. Though I supposed one of them must belong to Sir Alan.
Suddenly, without warning or reason, Vanessa left her position at the door and ran up the stairs towards Sir Alan and me.
“What the hell are you doing? I told you to let them in!” I yelled at her.
“I will..I will..” But she skittered into her bedroom. Pulling her plum coloured, lace dress, over her head as she did so. She moved towards her dressing room.
“Vanessa..! For God’s sake..They are here!” I cried.
Her head, and bare shoulders, momentarily reappeared in the doorway.” I’m getting changed,” she said. Her head disappeared again.
What was she thinking! What was she playing at. Flittock couldn’t care less what she was wearing!
“Wait here!” I told Sir Alan. And I went into Vanessa’s bedroom, prepared to drag her out by force, if necessary. But my anger dissipated as quickly as it had risen. As she had known it would.
She was standing in her dressing room between rails that held her many clothes.
Looking at a hanger that held a navy dress, that looked very sheer. She was illuminated by the automatic spot lights that had come on when she opened the door to the dressing room.
And she was a Goddess.
Breathing hard from the running and the tension she momentarily stopped her clothes choosing to speak to me.
Standing with one hand on her hip, breasts rising and falling, she said, “I will distract them Joe. I know how. I’ve been a grown woman for a long time. I know what to do.” She turned back to the wardrobe and pulled open a low drawer. She rummaged about inside it, scattering purses and evening bags.
“Vanessa! They are here! They are at the bloody door! Right now”
“I only need a minute! They’ll wait. Go outside. I’ll be sixty seconds.”
I’d studied fashion when I was at college. I’d been around beautiful women getting changed more often than most men. And I had also been married myself, once. So I knew that a captivating woman’s ‘sixty seconds,’ could be multiplied by her beauty factor on the one to ten scale, to give anything from two minutes, to a wait of an hour and a half.
And Vanessa, was a Ten.
But what could I do? Put the lingerie clad woman over my shoulder and carry her to the front door?
Her excuse for leaving the police waiting at the gate had been that she was getting dressed. Even a dummy like Chief inspector Flittock would consider it unusual if she opened the door in only her stockings and knickers.
I went back to the landing. Sir Alan hadn’t appeared to have moved. I looked out of the window. The police car was halted up by the door. A uniformed officer climbed out of the passenger side out and hurried around to open the rear passenger door for his Chief.
‘Gloria’ Flittock stepped out, taking a look around as he did so. He was in full blue uniform. All braid and buttons. As grand as a European Defence Force Admiral. He carefully put on his peaked cap and bent to adjust it in the wing mirror.
I watched from the upstairs landing window as the police driver also got out of the car. That meant three of them. And meant trouble. If ‘Gloria’ really had only wanted just a chat, the driver would have waited in the vehicle.
“Vanessa!” I hissed at her again. But there was no reply. Only a sound I recognised from having had repeated exposure too. A sound that was simultaneously hard and soft. Loud and quiet. The sound of a woman rapidly discarding her shoes choices.
Chief Inspector Flittock and the two other uniformed officers, one on each side of him, moved up to the main door.
I was about to call Vanessa again, when she flew passed me. A rustle of silk as she bounded down the stairs. Only pausing at the very bottom to quickly pull on the dark, high heeled shoes she carried.
She was wearing a short, navy, cocktail dress. Thin shoulder straps and a glitter effect over her cups. It was very thin. Quite see-through with some light behind her. She wasn’t naked. But she was ‘a hint of naked.’
Flittock had pressed the doorbell. I’d seen him do it. It hadn’t rung in here. Either she had it turned off, or it wasn’t working. Or Flittock hadn’t pressed it hard enough. He couldn’t see inside too well. The front door was glass heavy. But it was a semifrosted glass. Easier to see out through, than in from.
Vanessa stood, wriggling into her left stiletto. Fluffed her hair with one hand’s fingers and then took a deep breath. Steadying herself for what was to come.
Flittock put out a hand himself. He was about to use the large iron knocker, but Vanessa opened the door before he could touch it. She walked out onto the stone porch where the plants in ornate pots lined the steps.
All I heard her say, in her best Audrey Forbes-Hamilton. Lady of the Manor, upper class tones, before she stepped out was, “What is it you want, Chief Inspector?”
But she pulled the door almost closed behind her.
Not a good sign. Now I couldn’t properly hear what she was saying or if she was signalling some ‘help me,’ message to the police.
Sir Alan had noticed that too. It emboldened him to move away from the wall where I’d told him to stay put, and come and stand beside me. He knew I couldn’t shoot him. Not now. Not with the police here.
“Good try Malone. But she’s a clever girl. She’s explaining it right now. A damsel in distress act that even Flittock wouldn’t miss.”
Seemed his opinion of Gloria wasn’t much higher than mine.
“Vanessa is letting them know you are here, Joe. The target of their manhunt. Flittock will wet himself with panic. But he will call in every available man and woman and man/woman. This building will soon be besieged by the police and military. The SAS might even fancy an Iranian Embassy re-run. You know you wouldn’t survive a hostage rescue, don’t you, Joe?
You should never have come here. You should have fled. Would have been better all round.
In fact, why don’t you do it now? Go into the rear garden and escape the back way?
You’ll have a head start. You could evade Flittock and his office cops, I’m sure you could! I won’t tell them you’ve gone. I’ll say I thought you went into the attic. That will delay them for an hour or more while they get a team of thermal hunters out here. You could be long gone by then.”
I said nothing. Though I had been thinking very similar thoughts. It was unnerving how often Sir Alan was able to guess what I had in mind.
It was also unnerving how I was more afraid of the police than he was.
He was the actual villain here. He had arranged the fake death of Bixby. And the real death of some luckless #FF-Rentboy.
He had made false allegations of terror and murder plots. Been heavily involved in concealing crimes and hiding witnesses. He was going down for a thirty year to life stretch. Which even the liberal courts couldn’t commute less than ten years.
While I was completely innocent of everything except breaking and entering the Bixby household. And I hadn’t even done that as the back door had been unlocked.
The man I’d supposedly killed was now in a bathroom not a few feet from where I stood. I could produce him right now, and walk free.
Yet I was the one who was worried by a police visit. Because Sir Alan would never let them simply arrest me. Even now he must be using his evil mind powers to think up something. Though, whatever it was, it wasn’t as guaranteed as he’d like just yet.
So instead, he was trying to talk me into leaving.
Sir Alan was speaking in a low voice, so we wouldn’t be heard. Soothing me with his words.
“Vanessa won’t get rid of them, Joe. She will tell them you are here. And holding us captive. She trusts me to hide Lord Bixby from them. So once they have you under arrest, I can spirit him away to a safe location. And you can rant all you like about being a patsy. But you know you’ll only look like Oswald did. A guilty man trying to claim he wasn’t.”
“Be quiet.” I said to him.
I was angling my head so I could see the people outside in the reflection of the windscreen of Flittock’s Police Bentley. It didn’t show me much. Other than there were hall of mirrors type people standing on the porch step.
Vanessa should have invited them in. It would be the normal thing to do. Instead she had gone outside so I couldn’t hear what she was saying. She didn’t trust me. Didn’t believe that Sir Alan was a bigger threat to her than I was.
Sir Alan continued his low talking. Ignoring that I’d told him to be silent. Aware I wouldn’t raise my voice and risk the police asking who else was inside.
“Vanessa knows I will protect both her and him. I have the ability to do that for them. While you?…You can’t even protect yourself. You only managed to avoid death in that basement by the smallest of margins and the largest slice of luck. How long before that luck runs out, Joe? I’m betting Vanessa has been thinking about that.
And concluded, “Not very long.”
“I said, be quiet,” I told him again. Again he ignored me. I thought he would and should have been silent myself. Each time he ignored my commands and did nothing, it weakened what little, fragile, authority I might have had. I had about as much authority now as Theresa May.
“What do you think she’s telling them, Joe? I’m thinking, if she is as clever as I know she can be, that she says there is a prowler, loose in the house. An armed prowler.
That threatened to rape her.”
He was still on his chess game. Plotting moves for Vanessa like the Grand Master he was. Still planning his three moves ahead. I suppose he’d started fabricating this idea the moment he heard Flittock at the door.
He was so much better at this mind games, media spinning and twisting than I was. I knew that if I continued allowing him time to scheme and contrive, he would eventually out think me. He’d trip me up or confuse or tempt me somehow. And I would be done for. So for my own safety I really should just kick him in the balls, right now. Leave him puking over this deep pile, carpet.
It was tempting. Even if only for the few minutes peace that would bring from his dark spinning.
“You think about it, Joe. She’s stepped outside and is mouthing, ‘Help me!’
One of those police persons will eventually twig, and give her a SamsungApple she can write on. So you can’t hear.
“Help – Rapist inside! Knows I am a lone, rich widow! Broke in. Said he’d kill me!
Something along those lines, I’d say, wouldn’t you, Joe?”
I made no sign. No movement. I was very still.
Inwardly, I suspected he was absolutely correct. And that is what was happening outside, right now.
“Once those police think a rapist, killer, robber is inside, its curtains for you, Joe.
You do realise why they are here, don’t you Joe?” He asked me. A hint of a sneer.
“They haven’t just turned up for a chat. Or because they were in the neighbourhood and wanted to borrow some toilet roll.
The alarm company has alerted them. From when you opened her bedroom safe and set the bells off! The alarm company told The Met that Lady Bixby, of very recent Lord Bixby murder fame, has an intruder.”
He turned to look through the open landing doorway, opposite us, into her bedroom.
The open safe was clearly visible even though no lights were on in there.
“What do you think they will do, Joe? What would you do, as an Ex-Department member? What would you have done, whilst still on the payroll?”
He took a few steps as he talked. Probably liked to pace as he thought. I was like that myself. On lectures at universities I had had to tie a piece of elastic from my ankle to the podium so I didn’t wander too far.
“Stand still!” I said quietly, but sharply. And he did. So my authority over him wasn’t all gone. I had moved from Theresa May all the way up to John Major levels of respect.
Though in truth he had probably only stopped moving as he realised he was doing so subconsciously.
He didn’t want the police to see movement any more than I did.
He didn’t really want them to find me here at all.
“Joe. I want you to think about this. I’m going to suggest something. And I don’t want you to react in a negative way, just because I am the one suggesting it. But think about it please. At least consider it.” He watched my reaction as he spoke.
“I can have one million Europounds paid into your bank account. I can have that done in a matter of hours. All you need to do is to keep ahead of the law enforcement, and get across a border into Scotland or over to America, and you will be a very rich man. One million Europounds should make any escape much easier, don’t you think?
I don’t know what your plans for evading this manhunt are. But I believe you know you would need to get out of the United Kingdom. One Million Europounds could make that task so much easier. You could leave now. Leave this house, this moment, before those police persons come in here and find you. You would be well on your way to a real life of luxury, in some other country.”
“Just like that?” I asked him. “I would disappear, just like that? Leave behind everyone I know and all I own. Just like that?”
“Why not, Joe? No disrespect intended here. But what do you really have to regret leaving behind? A divorced wife from your broken marriage? A bunch of cops who you considered your friends. But who weren’t there for you when the Tommy Affair was raging? A hand to mouth existence as a window peeping, Private Investigator?
Digging up dirt like a gutter journalist. An Eastern European secretary, who you found as a street punkette? Is she worth hanging around here for? When you could be basking on the Scottish Riviera of Dundee? Or enjoying the quiet life of a colonial ex-pat in one of those Lucky Onion, African countries. You’d be rich. Rich enough to play local politics. Rich enough to be the chief of Police, if you wished.
One million EuroPounds would let you purchase any identity documents you need for cross border travel. A former member of The Department, such as yourself, must have multiple contacts who could arrange that for you? For a price. A price you could now easily afford to pay.”
I considered it. One million EuroPounds. About twenty years pay, tax free, equivalent. I could set myself up with a bar in Boston. A security firm in Seattle. Or just stare out of my Luxury Penthouse, Aberdeen apartment window all day, doing nothing. A mighty tempting offer.
With just the one rather obvious issue.
“How could I ever trust you, Sir Alan?”
“How could I know that you wouldn’t just wait for me to leave this house. Then tell the Chief Inspector, I just left? Even if you didn’t. How could I know you would actually deposit money into my accounts? That it wouldn’t be frozen. That I could ever get it out?”
He beamed at me. Happy to see I was thinking over his offer.
“Of course, there would have to be trust. That’s what I was trying to explain earlier.
We are all in a difficult situation. Trust is required. If we are to all prosper in the future.”
I asked him straight. “How could I trust someone who has openly admitted lying and using the very people who trusted him the most? Lady Bixby and her husband being just two, in a very long list of people who have had reason to regret ever meeting you.”
He started his pacing again. His thinking steps. In a moment he said, “You would have to trust me, because what other choices do you have? Stay here and be discovered? And hope to talk your way out of being arrested instantly. And hoping that the police will listen to you, over me. What’s that for a bet? Fifty-fifty I’d suggest.
Or, you can hope Vanessa makes the police leave. But then what? Phone the newspapers and hope they expose the whole plot? Can you see The Guardian, the most principled paper of Remain, ever writing a story that damaged ReJoin? Do you think the BBC will give you an objective hearing?
That’s assuming you even survive long enough to tell anyone. You must know I have my own people. They are searching for you too. You must know, at some point, I’m going tell them you are here.
Or are you going to just take off on your own, without the promised Million Europounds? And hope for the best against the entire force of the establishment? I don’t think so. You know you have to trust me, Joe.”
He switched to his most reasonable tones.
“Anyway. Even if I were lying, what’s the worst that could happen?
You leave this house. If you don’t get your money in two hours, you simply come back.”
“You won’t be here,” I told him. “No one will. No evidence will either.”
“True. But you found us once. You could easily do it again. We aren’t going to go into lock-down. We can’t. The voting is now. We all need to be on the television, right now. Vanessa needs to be the publicly grieving widow. I have to be advising my House of Lords colleagues.
By leaving now, and waiting for the money. all you would have lost, if it never appeared, is a few hours. Big deal! But of course, if I was telling the truth, you would be one Million Europounds better off.”
It was very tempting. He had sold it like the professional political timeshare selling merchant he was.
“What would I have to do?” I asked. He was delighted!
“Just leave the way you came? However that was. Just leave, right now. Vanessa and I will take care of the police. Tell them there has been a break in. Do the insurance stuff. That’s all. No mention of you ever being here.
You can begin your new life of luxury. Away from this somewhat squalid, semi-Brexit country.”
“Just forget about the whole thing, huh? Pretend it never happened. Make it some one else’s problem?”
He stopped his mini pacing. Showed his palms in a gesture of openness.
“Why not? It was never your affair before I drew you in. Now I am giving you a way to leave. Why not take it?”
“Just walk away?”
“Correct. Leave. Right now.”
“Right now? And you won’t immediately tell the police which way I just left?”
“Of course not! I don’t want them poking around here, any more than you do. I want them gone. Until this Bixby thing has played out. Just leave immediately, Joe. And you will be a very rich man. And, as soon as Lord Bixby reappears, in a few days time. You will be very rich and very innocent.
You could even stay in London, if you really wanted. Hide up for a mere matter of days now. Then later, come out and resume your old life. With one million extra noughts to your current account. How does that sound?”
It really was a very tempting offer. One I might even have seriously considered.
If I hadn’t now been certain Sir Alan was going to kill Vanessa Bixby and pin that murder onto me.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file