“Only thing is, “I said to them, “It wasn’t just a pretend death, was it?. The person I saw in the basement had once been a human being. Before someone put them in a compactor and crushed their skull, smashed their ribs, and squeezed the life from them.”
Ch 51 – Die Hards.
“I swear I didn’t know, Joe. They never told me they switched plans.” Vanessa speaking. Looking like a guileless beauty you just had to believe.
“I had no idea. I only thought I was going to be a scarlet women for a while. That was all. Just a dalliance for the papers. A gossip column piece! Just enough to win the few votes we needed. I didn’t know anything about the pretend killing. I had no idea.
Marmon never said. It..just.. sort of.. happened.”
Sort of happened? They changed a Honey Trap to a Frame-Up for a gruesome murder. And she expected me to believe that ‘ Just.. sort of.. happened?’
“I don’t believe you,” I declared to her. “I don’t believe any of you. I think it’s time to make some phone calls.” I looked straight at the sliding Lord Bixby. He was sinking ever lower in his chair. Velour and leather a bad combination? Or was he still dazed?
“Do you know any good lawyers among your House of Lords buddies?” I asked him It hadn’t been a question that warranted any real answer. Just a throw out line to hurry them along. But Bixby answered it.
“Oh, yes. I know several very good lawyers.”
“Really? Any that aren’t Euro-loving, Remainers?”
He was answering because I’d asked. The blow to his jaw must have knocked some of the sense from him. He’d jumped in to the conversation before. Telling me some detail that Sir Alan hadn’t wanted to reveal.
He was a very smart man. He should know to listen first, speak later. I wondered again what was wrong with him.
Vanessa had cried out when I’d whacked him.
“Why did you do that?” she asked. Shocked and angry. “He’s a sick man. He has a condition!”
Perhaps he was on medication. Though the Med-Doc hadn’t indicated anything other some mild allergies. I’d ask her later.
“It is true, Joe. Vanessa didn’t know. About Plan B.”
Sir Alan swapped his crossed legs over. He was a big man. Lady Vanessa’s discerning, Interior Designer approved, narrow base sofas, were uncomfortable for him. He was more a Bavarian Gasthaus type. Sturdy alpine pine tables and a solid wood chair. Carved from an oak trunk, by his own battle axe. This minimalist, Swedish needlepoint, muesli furniture, was too irresolute for his bulky frame.
“How could she not know? Marmon is right here. She must have known.” I turned to her. Looking at her slight frame as she curled on the chair.
“You must have!” I said looking into her eyes that were near to tears.
“She really didn’t.” Sir Stuart said. “It was me that changed the dynamic. I rebooted the Matrix on the proposals. It was my call to press the reset option,”
“Use English, please, Sir Alan.”.
“I changed the plan. I never told Vanessa. Not until after it was set in motion.”
“When was that?”
“While you were at the Reform club.”
That was a surprise. As late as that he had done the switch. Not even thirty six hours ago.
“How did you know I would go there? To, The Reform Club?”
When I had first come to this house, a day ago, I had seen an entry in Bixby’s office diary. For an appointment.
Do you know what RC means. Its here in his diary as an appointment for the evening of the tenth.” I turned the book towards her so she could see Bixby’s rather small and neat writing. But she didn’t look. She just said,
“The RC is the old Reform Club on Pall Mall.”
“The Remain Club?”
“That’s what it is now. Though they still call it the Reform Club. The members just call it RC. The Remain Club. The Heart of Darkness.
I could have missed it in his book. The timing was tight and we’d only just got there in time, as it was. Anyway, I might not have asked for his desk diary.
But then I suppose she would have just brought it to me In any event. Saying, “I thought this might be useful,” or something similar.
“I left you some clues, Joe. You wouldn’t be much of a private detective if you couldn’t follow a trail, now would you? I knew you’d come to the Reform Club. And I would give the Sons of Tommy letter to you.
If you hadn’t come, I’d have had Vanessa call you to collect it from her. Either way you’d be keen to examine it in detail. So you’d go to your office. And I could find you there.”
“I might not have,” I said to him. A little annoyed that he’d played me so well. He was so very good at planning it all out. Thinking the steps through. The chess player.
Looking three moves ahead.
He was world class at this game. A Garry Kasparov.
While I hadn’t even been aware I was supposed to be playing.
“Of course you would, Joe. You would be very keen to fingerprint and identify. Your office has the equipment. You might have even got Dacia in to assist you. Her online skills being considerably superior to yours.”
He was letting me know that he knew all about me. All about my business. My People. That he hadn’t just EuGooled “Need Private Eye. Not too expensive,’ to find me. Letting me know he had plenty of operatives working for him. That he wasn’t some lone, one man band.
I took some more beer. The bottle was now only a third full. I shouldn’t have any more, really. But what the hell. I wasn’t driving. And I might be dead in a minute.
And it was a good beer.
“I didn’t know, Joe.” Vanessa again.
“I did!” Marmon. Speaking up brightly. Smiling like a child. I wondered if he was on some sort of medication. Alan ignored him. Vanessa told him to hush. As she might have to a child. She spoke again, to me.
“I didn’t know about the plan to pretend Marmon was murdered. I only agreed to..to..the first plan. The romance.”
“You were happy to go along with murder, though?” I told her.
Lord Bixby looked at me. Incomprehension on his face. “What murder,” he asked.
His features creased in genuine bafflement. She looked the same. Innocence in her eyes. “What murder?”
“The murder of whoever was in the basement of the Swarbrick building,” I replied to them. “All crumpled up like a crash test dummy that has had a bad day.”
“Oh,” Bixby murmured. “That.” And then he smiled a superior smile. The one he liked to use on interviews when he was about to respond to a question about the EU’s record on unemployment or corruption. The smile that seemed to condescendingly say ‘My dear, dear, chap..you are so poorly informed,’ even before he spoke.
“That wasn’t a real person in the crusher in your basement. That was just a corpse.
From the morgue. Wasn’t it, Sir Stuart?”
Sir Alan Stuart nodded back at him. “Well of course it was.”
But when he looked at me I could see the conviction of his words hadn’t travelled as far as his eyes. He saw me studying him, and his long years of media training kicked in. He was too old a dog to do anything so obvious as turn his gaze away. This man had spent the best part of twenty years lying for a living. Mostly on camera. He knew a few hundred tricks.
Sir Alan rubbed the tip of his nose and fished a handkerchief from his pocket. An excuse, no doubt well practised, to cover his mouth for a second. Lest it betray him.
“Just a corpse, Malone,” Said Lord Bixby. Happy to have had confirmation again from Stuart. “No murder. Just a body from a London Hospital, to use in our little charade. That’s all.”
I’d seen Bixby on the media. Many times. He was a head campaigner for Remain, and now for ReJoin. He was the darling of the BBc, Channel 4 and Sky. Beth Rigby in particular had the hots for him. Touching his arm or thigh if she thought she get away with it.
Hot pants Beff was like that sometimes. With her favourites. It was rumoured Rory Stewart had had to use his military training to escape her apartment via knotted bedsheets.
Bixby was charming. Articulate. Popular. He’d always seemed well educated and well briefed. Had made much of himself during his life. A rich and successful man.
But he’d also sometimes seemed to me to be like many of the ultra ReJoiners. Very, very gullible. Willing to only accept just what they wanted too. Unable to engage their critical thoughts towards any information that didn’t already fit in with what they wanted to believe.
If Bixby had spent even a few minutes thinking about it, he’d realise that the risks involved in obtaining a very fresh body from a hospital were significant. Even for the deep pockets and vast connections of The Elite.
Doctors were mostly for ReJoin, for sure. But supplying a body? On demand? The paperwork alone was enough to prevent it happening. The NHS had become a lot more careful since all the Shipman copycats.
It would have to be someone who had died from obvious, natural causes so the coroner could sign them off without autopsy.
It could only be a corpse from someone who had no family. No one to claim it.
Should be of a similar height and age and colour as Bixby. Would have to be transported and carried into the Swarbrick building.
Sure, it could be done. Taken from a freezer as soon as Sir Alan had said I was heading back to that office, once I’d left the Reform Club.
But it could have just as easily, even more easily in many ways, been some homeless rough sleeper, who no one would ever miss.
Someone who could be enticed with a little food and drink, from one of Stuart’s paid agents, to attend some warehouse where they could be drugged until needed. Or left to drink themselves into a sleep. Until they were required to be crushed.
Or just had their head bashed in as soon as they arrived.. And then be put into a vehicle and taken to the compactor in the basement to await my discovery.
The victim could even have been talked into going into the basement voluntarily. A Soho Rent Boy handed bundles of cash and told there was an orgy they should attend at a washing machine sales showroom, south of the river.
Anything was possible for these die-hard ReJoiners.
Bixby had discounted one option, simply because he didn’t believe it.
I’d have to make him see that it could have happened that way. Could have been murder. I’d need him to grasp the implications if that was so. If the plan now forming in my mind was going to have even a ghost of a chance of success.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file