The voice sounded familiar. I had a quick look over my shoulder. The sound was coming from the Hallway. It was the speaker by the door. The buzz had been for the gate. Someone was pressing the button on the gate entrance intercom. A voice came through the speaker.
“Lady Bixby? This is Chief Inspector Flittock. Would you open this gate please. I would like to come in and have a word with you.”
Ch 54 – Come on in.
All their faces looked surprised. Mine must have too. We weren’t expecting anyone to come calling tonight. Certainly not the Metropolitan Police.
“Its Flittock. He’s outside,” Lady Vanessa said unnecessarily, as we had all heard him on the entry phone. She looked at me, afraid. Afraid at what this turn of events might mean for all their safety.
Flittock couldn’t have known I was here. He wouldn’t have rung the bloody doorbell if he had. He wasn’t particularly gifted at police work. More of a greasy pole crawler. As obsequious as a BBC Royal Correspondent. But he was not totally stupid.
He couldn’t know Lord Bixby was in here. Or he wouldn’t be asking permission to come in. He’d be doing his full ‘Allow access to His Majesty’s Constabulary,’ routine.
Sir Alan didn’t look as pleased as he should have, either. I surmised that ‘Gloria’ Flittock wasn’t part of his plan. He didn’t know about any of this set-up. Stuart wasn’t keen to have to try and explain the reappearance of the deceased Lord Bixby to a Chief Inspector of the Metropolitan Police.
But he also wasn’t that keen on being held here at gunpoint by a vengeful Joe Malone. So Sir Alan might prefer to take his chances with Flittock.
He’d reason that Flittock wouldn’t shoot him. But I just might.
“Hello?” Voice from the entry speaker. Then a very long buzz of the entry tone. “Is this working? I’m note sure it is. Here.. Sergeant! You try.”
Another long buzz. None of us moved. I was still trying to think what to do. I couldn’t watch all of them if we moved from this sitting room. But we would have too. The room was in clear view through the glass of the large front door. I didn’t want to split them up where I couldn’t see them. But what use was wanting something?
I didn’t want Flittock here either. He hated me. He’d never believe anything I could say over anything the others would.
“Anything happening, Sergeant?” The voice a little metallic from the effect of the entryphone.
“No Sir. Can’t see anything. There are some cars in the driveway. A white car, I can see. And lights are on in the house. Of course that doesn’t mean Lady Bixby is here, Sir.”
“I suppose. But I was told she was.” There was a clang. He must have knocked his shoe against the railing or something.
That fool Flittock had pressed the talk button so hard he’d jammed it in. We could hear all they were saying. And it didn’t sound like a 7th cavalry rescue. Arriving in the nick of time, the boys in blue.
It sounded like Gloria messing it all up as usual.
I wondered if I could get Vanessa to get rid of him. If he was only looking for her, it would be all right if he found only her here. If I let her speak with him, it would be a huge gamble. She’d have to believe she was safer staying here, in a hostage situation with me her captor. Than she would be is she simply told the Police that the man everyone in the United Kingdom was looking for was just this minute having a beer on her sofa.
“Have you got an infra-red scope in the boot, Sergeant?”
“I believe I do, Sir.” Footsteps sound. Moving away. A door or a boot of a car opening. Footsteps noise on cement pathway, returning.
“Yes Sir. I do have one. Shall I charge up the Drone?”
That decided me. I didn’t want them flying a surveillance drone about. Finding the four of us sitting here like we were having a tea party. I motioned to the blonde.
“Vanessa. Go and ask him what he wants. Say only that ‘What do you want, Inspector?’ That alone, OK. I’ll be listening.”
She stood. Unbalanced on her one shoe. She bent forward and low. Revealing a glimpse of her fine cleavage as she leaned down and scrabbled around with her hand for the other shoe. Locating it she sat again and hurriedly pulled it on.
Before moving, with clicking steps, to the door.
I kept the gun on Sir Alan. Lord Bixby was still humming. A different tune. ‘Abide with me’ now. He wasn’t a threat.
Vanessa pressed the talk button on her side of the intercom system.“Who is it?” She asked.
There was a momentary pause before a voice replied, “Ahh..Hello..It ..it This is Chief Inspector Flittock, your Ladyship. I ..I would like very much for just a moment of your time.”
“What is it about, Inspector?” Just the right hint of coldness in her voice. A young woman, in terrible and tragic personal circumstances, being bothered by the powers that be.
“Well..it is..I really think I should discuss this with you inside, Lady Bixby. It is a matter of some concern.”
She took her finger off the microphone talk button and turned to look at me. Arching one micro bladed eyebrow as she spoke.
“Well?” She asked.
I tried to think. But nothing came to me. She had to reply to him now he knew he was here. But I couldn’t think of anything to tell her. So I simply said,
“Get rid of him.”
She didn’t hesitate. Pressed the button again and said very coolly, “Now is not the best time, Inspector. As you may be aware, I have somewhat unexpectedly and quite horrifically, just become a widow.”
You could almost here Gloria blush with the embarrassment.
“Erm..Yes of course..My deepest condolences, Lady Bixby. But it is actually about that very matter that I must speak with you. I am involved in the investigation. And I must ask you some questions.”
“Can’t this wait, Inspector? Until the morning? I have just taken a sedative. I won’t be able to stay awake much longer.”
“I am so sorry, Lady Bixby. But this is of the utmost urgency. So please, Lady Bixby. Might I come in for a few minutes?”
She looked at me again for instructions. There was no choice. I warily nodded assent.
Flittock’s few minutes could mean anything. All Law Enforcement always suggested that whatever they wanted would be of a short duration and of no bother.
It was lot easier getting cooperation from people if you said you’d only be as long as it took to make a cup of tea. Rather than six hours of non stop questions.
“Just a minute Inspector.” Vanessa said into the mic. “I need to get dressed. Please wait.”
Good girl. Buying us a little time.
“Take Marmon upstairs,” I instructed her as she walked back over to where we were seated on the sofas. “Put him in his bathroom. Tell him to stay there. Not to make any noise.”
It was the furthest room I knew of from the main door. “Then come back here. You will have to speak to Flittock. To get rid of him.”
She nodded. Went across to Lord Bixby and gently took his arm. Tugging it until he stood up. “Come Along Marmon. Time to brush your teeth. Let’s go upstairs.”
“Fine..Fine..bedtime..I am a bit sleepy,” he answered her. Like a small child rather than a grown man. She took him up the stairs.
“You,” I said to Alan Stuart, pointing the pistol at him. “You come upstairs with me. Any sound out of you and your ribs take a bullet. Stand on the landing. Don’t move.
Don’t do anything.”
I stood up and he stood with me. I motioned for him to go in front and ascended the staircase, with me behind. Covering him with the pistol.
We could still hear the police at the gate.
“We won’t be needing the drone now sergeant.”
“Very good Sir. Just as well, really. I can’t seem to find the charging cable. This one is for a PanaSamsung. But this drone is PsiTech. The other one must be in the other car, Sir.”
“I do have a Search-beam, Sir. I could illuminate the garden. It is very powerful.
Would easily reach to those pots over there by the door.”
“Hill Flavery’s.” A different voice now. Not the Sergeant.
“Which Hill?” Asked Flittock.
“Hill Flavery’s! Them is Hill Flavery, reinforced steel belt, concrete sculptures.”
A silence out there, as there was in here. Flittock was as baffled as me.
“Beg your pardon?” Flittock said eventually. Giving up waiting for the man to speak again.
“Those pots up by the door ain’t pots. Them’s sculptured shrub urns. By American architect Hill Flavery. He ‘s a very famous 1920’s American architect, Sir. Art Deco and the like.”
He got no response from either his Chief or the Sergeant. So added, “They’s worth ‘bout thirty thousand old pounds, a pot. ‘S ‘hobby of mine is architecture. And Hill.
He designed every detail. Right down to the Grecian urns that flanked a pond or a pathway.”
Which at least elicited an ‘Ahh..’ from somebody out there at the foot of the driveway.
It’s not just a professional rivalry and inter service jealousies, that causes friction between ‘The Department’ and ‘The Met.’ It’s more that every day is Clownworld down at the Met. I kid you not.
I put a hand on Sir Alan’s big frame.
“Stand over there.” I pushed him so he moved across to a console unit by the wall.
Put your hands in your pockets. Say nothing.”
He did as I had commanded. Lady Vanessa came back from securing Marmon in the bathroom. I took her arm by the wrist and pulled her close so she could look into my eyes as I spoke to her.
“Get rid of the Chief Inspector! Don’t tell him anything. Don’t mention anything.
You might be tempted to tell him everything. To get him and his men in here.
It won’t go the way you think it will.
Sir Alan will convince them to arrest me. And you and your husband will end up very dead, very soon. He was never going to let Marmon live. You know that now. If you tell Flittock, that policeman will just become a part of the plan. Sir Alan will convince him I kidnapped you all. Marmon, and probably you, will end up killed in the ensuing shoot-out.
Don’t involve Flittock. Just get rid of him. For everyone’s safety!”
I looked into her beautiful, pale blue eyes. She was very frightened. Looked very uncertain. She didn’t know who to trust.
“I have a way out for us,” I told her. “I can make this stop. And we can all come out clean. All of us. We will all be in the clear.”
“Vanessa. I haven’t time to explain now. You have to trust me.”
I could see that she didn’t.
She had been leaning towards my side for a while, back there in the lounge. But it now seemed that Sir Alan’s last bit of ‘powerful allies’ reasoning had won her around.
His powers of persuasion had seduced her back to the Dark Side.
“Vanessa. You know I could have killed you all already, if I really wanted too.. You know for sure that I had NO involvement in any of this. That it was ME set up. By YOU.
You know this! And you must know that Sir Alan was lying to you. That Marmon could never be brought back from the dead. He is a martyr for ReJoin. He is to be the Horst Wessel of Starmer’s Storm troopers. Whatever Sir Alan promises you, you know that he needs a dead Lord Bixby, far more than he wants a live one. He planned Marmon’s death from the very beginning. He was going to kill him. all along.”
Her eyes were even more frightened. I needed her as cool as she had ever been. Not some frightened Deer.
“I can get us all away. All in the clear. But you have to trust me! And you have to get rid of Flittock, right now.”
I heard Sir Alan give a little snort of derision behind me. The buzzer sounded again from downstairs. Gloria calling.
“Lady Bixby? Could you please open the gate now?”
She was looking into my eyes. I had a day’s stubble and eyes encased in black rings as I hadn’t slept for a day and a half. I hoped I looked trustworthy. Though I doubted it.
“I don’t.. I….don’t..know, Joe! I don’t know who to believe, any more.” She balled her hands and held her little fists over her stomach.
The buzzer sounded once more. I didn’t have any more time left to try and use seductive words to convince her I was telling the truth. We were all out of time.
So I puled her very closer to me. Close enough that I could feel the heat of her through my shirt. I put the hand without the pistol behind her hair. And even though that was my fractured wrist arm, I had just enough strength within it to pull her head to mine. I pressed a hard, firm kiss onto her soft lips. Her eyes widened in surprise. I moved my lips to her ear and whispered imploringly, “Trust me.” Then Pulled back and let her go.
She glided down the stairs. Turned at the landing step and looked back quizzically at me. Ran her tongue over the edge of her bottom lip. Then turned away and went down the last few stairs.
At the bottom she adjusted her hem. Smoothed her dress down with her palms.
Flicked her hair back behind her shoulders and went to the door and spoke into the microphone.
“I’m ready now. You had better come up Inspector.” She pressed a button in the panel 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 have access to her home.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file