I put my bad arm around Marmon’s throat. Cutting off his mumblings and pulled him very close. My good hand was getting the Beretta out. we were going to have a little stand-off. I’d react to whatever the police did. I was as mentally prepared and poised and physically ready for whoever came through that front door as I could possibly be.
Except I wasn’t.
I blinked in surprise as the satin blue dress came through the door. Lady Vanessa Bixby looked at us.
“What on earth are you doing, Joe? Let my husband go!”
Ch 58 – Brothers in arms.
“What..? I thought you’d gone! With Willow Flittock?’
Again she said firmly, “Let Marmon go, Joe. He’s going red.”
I released him, and he staggered forward. She put out her arms and pulled him to her.
Giving him a hug and a squeeze. Then held him at arms length and looked into his eyes. Looking for something within them as she spoke soothingly to him.
“You’re fine, Marmon. Just fine. Joe was just playing a game. Its all finished with now.”
“Bloody rough game.” he rubbed his throat. But it couldn’t be hurting. I’d only had him in a grip for few seconds. He was a bigger Drama Queen than Owen Jones.
“Why were you strangling him?” She demanded. Very annoyed now. Eyes narrowing and tone hard.
“I’m sorry..I thought you were the police.” I don’t know why I was apologising.
“He’s unwell. And not so young. Don’t keep bullying him.”
“I..I’m..I..” Then I remembered the important thing. “Where are the police? At the gates? Why are you here?”
She continued looking at Lord Bixby.
“I’m fine. I’m fine,” he said to her. “I’m feeling much better. I’ve had the Khloroquine tablets. I’m much better now.”
“Excuse me, Matron,” I said to her. “But where exactly, are the police?”
She dropped her arms to her sides and came over to me. Stopped just in front and looked at me defiantly.
“I got rid of them. Like you told me too! They’ve gone.”
“Gone? Where have they gone?”
“How should I bloody well know! You’re the sodding Detective! You tell me where the police go! Once they’ve finished their investigations! To get a pizza? A strip club?
Beat up some black kids with their stop and search powers?
They’ve gone! What do you need their itinerary for?”
“What did you tell them?” I saw the anger rising in her eyes again. She didn’t much like being questioned. And I had been questioning all of them for over an hour. At gunpoint.
So I added more soothingly, “It’s important, Vanessa. I need to know what they are thinking, right now. Why they just went away. Without you going with them.”
“Why would I go with them?” She asked, genuinely surprised. I realised she had no idea that I suspected ‘Gloria’ Flittock had thought she was a hostage. One of the thin shoulder straps of her dress had fallen down revealing a generous amount of top breast. She must have instinctively felt my gaze, because she casually pulled the strap back up.
“I saw you get into the car.” I said. “I thought they were taking you away from here.
They believed you were under threat. Why did you get into their car? Why did they come in the first place, if they just went away without checking anything?”
“Because..I explained to….Where are my bloody cigarettes?” She opened her purse.
None there. She went into the room by the door, opposite the office, and checked the table for vapes. “Bloody Hell!” She exclaimed, having found none.
She searched the worktop counter until she found one of those metal boxes she had in the sitting room. Opened the metal box and took out an E-cig. Coming back to the hall as she explained.
“They left, Mr Malone, because I asked them too. They were here because of the digi-safe alarm, that YOU set off. They were here to make sure all was well. I told them it was a mistake. I had forgotten the code. And had accidentally made it ring. I told them I had put in the correct code afterwards. And the security company should have registered it as a false alarm.”
She walked and turned as she spoke. It really was a very beautiful dress. Over her very beautiful body. Such terrible thoughts. And with her old man just feet away.
Now wasn’t really the best time for such ideas.
But, that’s the trouble with being a man. Libido don’t care.
She continued her recounting of what had happened outside as she got her smoke going.
“Chief Inspector Flittock explained that they were just checking. He felt so bad about not responding properly when I first reported Marmon missing. He also wanted to go over some of the details of that report.” She took a long draw. And blew out the flavoured cloud to the ceiling. She ran her tongue over her lips. And said with a half smile,
“He also wanted to know why you were here. Yesterday. When he called. He really wanted to know about that.” She held that, thin impish smile. Some of anger had gone. Dissipated with the first in-breath of nicotine. She was a serious addict.
Unusual for the Elite. They usually liked to promote their body fitness and their good health to virtue-signal their own natural superiority.
She might have psychobiological nicotine issues. Like some people had with blood glucose, low sugar. And stress always causes higher tendency to rage.
It was why The Department ignored public health regulations and allowed suspects in the interrogation room, to have access to E-cigs.
“What did you tell him?” I repeated.
“I told him it was exactly as what he had seen. That I had hired you to investigate the disappearance. That I had picked you out of a Euoogle search engine. Had never met you before. Never even heard of you. Before yesterday.”
“And he just believed you? Just believed that coincidence? The P.I. you employed to find your husband ends up as the prime suspect in his murder?”
She stepped close again. Close enough I caught her perfume scent, even above the e-cig. I might have been wrong about that nicotine calming idea, because she looked pretty damn annoyed again now.
“He did not.” She said with that ice tone she had. The Snow Queen one.
“He asked me if he might come in. And I said he could not. So he said he needed to ask me some questions. Police questions. About timings and places and people. So I told him that Cherie Blair’s Omina Strategy LLP is my law firm. He should ask for my lawyer, Joylon Foxbasher.
He then asked me if I would allow him to come in to examine Lord Bixby’s recent digital records and correspondence. I told him he could not. He said if I didn’t allow him just the tiniest access, it would appear very odd behaviour. For a widow. And he would have to get a warrant.
I told him he could seek one if he thought it would be of any use to him. But that on Lord Bixby’s death, in accordance with his last will and testament, along with his mortal remains, this entire estate was bequeathed to the European Union.
For use as a Diplomatic Embassy for that political entity. And that a warrant signed by a United Kingdom Magistrate would have no legal standing. I told him that he needed to first seek out a commissaire du gouvernement from Lord Bixby’s Paris address. In the 8th Arrondissement, naturally.”
“Naturally,” I replied. Though I had no clue what she was talking about. Though the French accent she used on the froggy words sounded very sexy.
“That he should also seek out an ordre judiciaire, an official of the Court of Justice.
To authorise any access onto EU territory.
Though that might also, be first subject to formal agreement, by the all the other European Union member states as well. I wasn’t sure. And he best check with Interpol anyway. Before he did anything. He didn’t want to provoke an International Incident, after all.”
More cigarette. More clouds. More perfume. She was intoxicating. I think it was the anger. The way her eyes flashed and sparkled as she told me what was what. I bet she was a terror during her magazine editing conferences. And..during other more private..even more passionate encounters.
“The Chief Inspector pointed out that a UK police investigation into murder, would, eventually, take precedence. Once the ‘Grieve Clause’ was found invalid by an English High Court. As it would be in a case of murder.
He asked me to say in writing that I was refusing to speak to a member of His Majesty’s Police Force. That I was refusing him access, on diplomatic grounds. And that I was not willing, at this stage, to share files and or papers of the deceased, that I claimed were the property of the European Union.”
She took a step back. And added a little gruffly, “Is that satisfactory, Detective Malone? Have I covered it all thoroughly enough for you?”
A hint of a grin over her annoyance with me. She strove to keep her lips from smiling. She was pleased with herself. As she should be.
Foreign powers. EU jurisdictional legal mumbo-jumbo. Lords and Ladies. Even mentioning the ‘Blairs.’
Every area that a careerist like Flittock would instinctively shy away from. He would pass that up the chain for approval before he did anything more.
There was a problem, however. So I asked, “And is any of that true?”
“Not a word of it.”
“So he’ll be back. Quite soon. And he’ll want to know why you lied to him.” It came out a little raw. I’d spoken aloud what I was thinking. It sounded accusatory. Which I had hadn’t meant it to. But it set her anger off again. She walked up closer again and pointed her finger at me.
She spoke very slowly. Emphasising her words.
“You told me to get rid of him. So I got rid of him. I got into his car to sign papers that said I had refused access. They have a little table in the back seat of a Bentley.
Like an airline seat-tray. Did you know that they have those?”
I said I didn’t.
“Then you don’t know everything do you, Detective Sherlock!? I signed a load of bullshit, made up claims and horrendous lies, to get rid of Flittock and his men.
Wrote my name to documents that will get me sent to some God awful women’s prison, for ten years. Where I will have to share a tiny cell, with some criminal, former bare knuckle boxer from Bootle. Who was called ‘Big Steve.’ But is now calling himself Sharon so he can get into a women’s Nick. And her knickers!”
She jabbed her manicured finger into my chest. Hard.
She caught me on a bad bruise and I winced and took a step back.
“You said, get rid of them. So I did. And I only did it because you promised me you had some big plan to get us all out this mess.
So..Mr Detective. I got shot of them. So where’s the brilliant plan?” Another heavy prod of the finger. To go with her heavy sarcasm.
“It’s Inspector. Not Detective.” I automatically, yet unwisely, corrected her. “And I’m working on it.” I said.
“Yeah? Working on it? Really? Well, maybe we should go back to Alan’s plan because at least he knows….” She looked around. Realising that he wasn’t with us.
“Where is Sir Alan?”
“He’s having a rest.”
She stopped her movement. A surprised expression on her face. That tuned to disbelief. “A rest?”
“I think Malone punched him out.” Lord Bixby chipped in. The Grass.
“He’s on the floor. Outside of your bedroom. He’s got blood in his mouth.” Then he
hurriedly added, “I didn’t do it.”
She threw up her arms in despair. “For God’s sake, Joe! You can’t just go around hitting people! What kind of Investigator are you? Is he badly hurt?” And she turned and rushed up the stairs. Marmon shrugged at me. In a gesture of resigned,‘Oh well,’ he followed after her. I followed him.
She was kneeling on the carpet outside of her bedroom, beside Stuart. Thumbing his eyes to check for concussion. She put a hand under his jaw and opened it a little.
“I think his tongue is badly cut.”
“He’s lucky it wasn’t his throat,” I told her. “This is all his damn fault. All of this. He deserved a smack. I’d have given him one even if I hadn’t needed him out of the way for a while.”
“Stop it!” She hissed. “Stop this macho bullshit! Please!”
“I don’t trust him.”
She tapped his cheeks with her palm. Trying to get his eyes to flicker with the sensation. Good luck with that. I’d really belted him.
“He is Sir Alan Stuart! No-one trusts him,” Vanessa said to me. Infuriated by my punching out action. “Not trusting him is no reason to beat him up.”
“I didn’t want him walking around.”
“Then tie him up! You don’t smash people in the face just to stop them walking around, do you?”
She was forgetting I was ‘The Department.’ That’s exactly what we did.
“You could have just told him to sit still, couldn’t you?”
“I could have. But I don’t trust him. And more importantly. I don’t like him.”
“For God’s sake!” She exclaimed, standing up once more. “Don’t hurt him. He’s the very top of the establishment.” She took her small steps over to stand in front of me, once more. She had a lot of fire in her. A lot of spirit. She wasn’t afraid of me now.
Deciding we were allies. And all in it together. She’d thrown her lot in with me. So now she wanted to be an equal partner.
I had news for her. That wasn’t happening.
She continued lecturing me. Still furious with me. But trying to keep a calm and measured tone. As a parent might use on a toddler found sticking jam into an electrical outlet. Wanting to coax them gently to a place of safety and away from danger. Before Going Postal!
“When you said you had a plan to get us all into the clear, it means Alan, too. We are going to need all of his friends and confidants, in the Highest of High Castles, to get us out of this one. Understand, Joe?”
I said nothing. So she jabbed me again. But missed a bruise this time so I stood my ground easily.
“Do you understand, Joe? He is important to us. So don’t hurt him.
Tie him up. Whatever. But don’t hit him again. Understand? We need him You need him. You, even more than us.
You could have turned us all in to the police just now. But you didn’t. Because you knew he would stop you. You wouldn’t get a fair hearing. Wouldn’t get a chance to explain, before some misfortune befell you. You know he has contacts all the way to the top. Political. Judicial. Media, Criminal. I just hope your plan will neuter him.
Not wipe him out. We need him and his power. To make this go away. Forever.”
Bollocks to this. Time to reassert myself, I thought.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Miss. I’ll tell you.”
“No!” She yelled. “No. You won’t. Because you aren’t thinking properly. You are emotional. And dangerous.”
Which was a bit rich coming from her right now.
“You need to listen to me for a minute. Stop worrying about what has happened.
And start thinking about what will happen. Start behaving like Joe Malone. The Inspector from ‘The Department.’ The one with the medals and citations.
She tapped the small glass case my medal was displayed in. “The PR. …With Silver Leaves.” She peered to read the citation. But I could tell she already knew it.
“Supreme Efficiency and Personal Responsibility.”
She turned to look at me. “With Silver leaves,” she added again. Like the leaves were a big deal. Which they were.
She had called me by my correct ex-rank. Inspector. I realised now that she had been calling me Detective on purpose. A put-down of hers, I supposed A wind-up.
“OK. OK,” I agreed. Making sure to keep my tone gentle. “Let’s all be cool. I won’t touch him. We’ll just leave him here. You and Marmon, come with me. We’ll take your car. Get Marmon into the back and we’ll leave here now.”
“What?” She asked, incredulous. “What did you say?”“I said..We are leaving. And you are driving. This place is a trap. We need to leave it. Right now! So hurry up.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you, right now. Not until you tell me what this plan you have in mind, actually entails.”
“Look. There isn’t much time. Not enough to have a conference call about it. I have an outline plan. I thought of it when Sir Alan was making his explanation for Marmon reappearing. It’s not totally synced. It has a lot of rough edges. But I think we can work it through, together. Get it straight. However, the main thing is to get Lord Bixby onto the TV. Into the media spotlight.”
“You want to show him to the world? But without a credible explanation for how he’s arisen from the dead? You can’t be serious.”
“Vanessa. I want to let everyone know he’s alive. For two very good reasons. The first, and most important, is it gets me in the clear for a murder I had nothing to do with. Or, at least partially clear. They will still have the body of the victim in the crusher. But it will make it a lot harder to just gun me down for resisting arrest.
The second is for Marmon. Same reason. If we show everyone he’s alive. Then the reasons to kill him, disappear.”
Lord Bixby suddenly spoke up. “I don’t follow your logic, there Malone,” he said looking puzzled. “Surely, if I appear on the television. The people who you claim wish to make sure I remain deceased, the ones who planned all of this. Well they won’t allow that. And If I tell the world what happened. They will want to silence me? Before I say too much more. Before any trial, say? I’d end up like Doctor Kelly.”
This is why I had to hurry. To stop us getting bogged down in explanations. We’d be here until daylight.
However, I thought his was a legitimate concern. So I explained it to him.
“If you are presumed dead. Identified as dead. But then turn up alive. That is a Media Mystery. Something of interest only until something of greater interest comes along.
If you are presumed dead. Identified as dead. Turn up alive. Then suddenly become dead again. That is a Media Conspiracy. Which remains a thing of importance no matter what happens. It gets Grenfelled. Whether people want to hear about it or not.
The media want to report on it. As often as they can.
Only Putin can get away with not giving a shit about who thinks they know something about something. ReJoin will not want a conspiracy. They have enough Dodgy Dossiers as it is.”
“So what do I do,” Marmon asked. “Walk down the street until someone recognises me? Ask them to take me to a police station?”
“No. I mean, that would be best. But we don’t have the time to set that up so it goes our way. So no. What we are going to do, is you are going to telephone the BBC.
Then we are all going to head to the BBC studios and get you onto the television.
You’re going to be a celebrity, Marmon.”
“I’m already a celebrity,” he reminded me.
“Yeah. I know. But this time you are going to be a celebrity for the Good Guys.”
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file