Ch 62 – The Castle of the Eagles.
Traffic was light. Vanessa guided the Mercedes, with considerable skill, around the heavy goods vehicles, and the few other private cars on the road. Timing her overtaking run-ups with precision, so she avoided being caught by the myriad of speed cameras. Carefully easing alongside the juggernauts, so her Mercedes was masked by their liveries.
She cut in from the ‘Zil Lane.’ The third lane, the old ‘fast lane.’ The ‘Islington Express way,’ wasn’t officially only reserved for the Elite of London. But might as well have been. The Toll payment for its use was too high for ordinary citizens. It took a salary of something approaching that of a Senior Consultant Neurosurgeon of a prestigious, specialist Hospital, or a Junior Diversity and Equality Assistant at the local council, to have the income to afford these charges.
Vanessa misjudged the closing speed as she came up too quickly upon a rotor mounted, fast-tracking, speed detector camera, slung under a gantry. She pulled in too sharply, across the front of a large, cab-over Semi-Trailer truck. Causing the driver to sound their horn. That activated a neon message that appeared on a screen mounted on the roof of the cab. The fluorescent lighting was written in reverse so any vehicle in front could read it in their mirror. I couldn’t see properly using the side door mirror, but it looked something like, ‘Whooshey’ or ‘Washey’, or something, says,
“Learn to Drive¬BITCH!!”
“Charming,” Vanessa said to herself, as she pulled out once more and sped up the outside lane. This whole stretch of the A406 was variable speed. But I had seen the image scrambler activate with the Sat-Nav start up. And this particular AME-Sportz-E-Wagen used the same body curving, dampening tiles and radar reflective paint, as the F-19 Stealth Fighter.
Anyway, blondes never get speeding tickets.
I had been talking with Bixby. He had managed to repeat what I’d told him to say.
But he hadn’t sounded very convincing. Mostly because he hadn’t been convinced by it himself. The stuff about being knocked on the head by a Leaver, he could do. Being left in a lock-up. So forth. But wandering back to his home, without contacting anyone, well, he didn’t like it.
I sensed he was seeing that by denying a Leaver had killed him, in a Jo Cox murder frenzy, he was removing perhaps the last possibility ReJoin had, for forcing through a People’s Grand children’s Vote. Ensuring that the Third Referendum Amendment was automatically added to any EU exit deal.
I glanced at Vanessa. She looked good with the London city lights behind her. As she had in the picture in her dresser. The one with the cityscape backdrop. She photographed well.
“Bix,” I asked. “Are you getting all this? You only remember being stopped by a street guy. Someone asking for directions. Then, you remember nothing. Until you arrived back at you home. Don’t let people try and press you on details. Which street?
What time? Say as little as possible. You ‘don’t remember’ is all you need to say.
That way you can’t slip up, and say something contradictory, OK?”
He said nothing. And for a moment I was concerned he’d drifted off again. Gone into his JoBBy world of make believe. But from his place in the back seat he answered,
“OK. I suppose. But why didn’t I call the police? Immediately I remembered? Why did I go to the BBC? Instead of the police? That sounds daft to me.”
“It does to me too,” Vanessa interjected. “I lied to Police Chief Flittock. I told him a load of garbage about how Marmon has a Will that prevents police access to his phone. All that nonsense. I lied to a Police Chief! Bigly!” Her voice was slightly panicky. And lying to Flittock was the least of her worries. She had been part of an attempt to falsely accuse a person of murder. And to try and falsely influence a democratic vote on the future of the nation.
I attempted to reassure them. We would be at the BBC soon. And needed to be a united team.
“First off, you never lied to him. Flittock won’t have been able to divine half of that Phoney Blair’s lawyers and EU diplomatic crap you gave him. He won’t even yet have had time to check on the bits he did understand. He wouldn’t have even begun checking the actual reality against what you told him. He will still be waking up Heads of Heads of Heads of different Divisions. Trying to seek CPS advice at that highest level. Once Bixby shows up fine and well, all investigation into his actual Last Will and Testament, is over. He’s alive. So no one cares any more about what happens when he isn’t actually dead. And even if they did, your legal people will never agree to show anyone any document that confirms or disproves anything either way.”
“Why didn’t I simply go to the police, Joe? It makes no sense. Why didn’t Marmon come with me?”
“yes, why?” added Bixby. I turned my head to speak to Lord Bixby and felt the muscles in my neck send out a warning. I’d been keeping my damaged arm locked beside me. It was causing cramp all across my torso. “You should say Vanessa wanted you to contact the police, instantly. Right at once. But you wouldn’t allow it. You saw the news reports about your death and my being wanted for a murder. You realised a tragic miscarriage of justice had occurred.
You say Vanessa had given you your medicine. Your thoughts cleared. You saw the news. You know you are alive. But if you go to the police, they will want all sorts of information. So you preferred to stop the story cold. By showing you are alive, and instantly getting onto the TV. You say that you knew this would also instantly alert the police. That you know they will be waiting to speak with you, as soon as you finish the broadcast.”
“It’s weak, Joe. Very weak,” Vanessa said. Slowing for the sudden dip at the turn off for Wembley Stadium.
Yeah. It was only getting harder. That’s the trouble with lying about events. The actual truth is always out there. And most times makes far more sense than the made up explanation. Its why, at ‘The Department,’ the number of cases opened and then eventually sent to trial is very high. Because lies don’t stack up.
It’s at the lawyer and sentencing stage our cases used to fall to pieces.
Which reminded me. Vanessa and Marmon did have some advantages over any regular criminals at a trial. They knew people. Professional people. Elite people.
“Yes, I get that it’s weak. You have a better idea?”
She nodded. “I do. I think I do, anyway. If we say you spoke with Marmon. You told him what you were talking about earlier. How you were shot at. By the police. In your office? You saw them. They fired at you. You presume, for this mistaken identity. Everyone knows the Metropolitan Police was Pro-Remain. Some angry officers thought you were the killer of ReJoiner, Lord Bixby. And thought they’d save the courts the bother of a trial. So now, you tell Marmon you don’t trust the police. You want the media to have the story first. So you know you will be safe.”
“How do I get to be at your place? At the exact moment a suddenly returned, old Lord Bixby walks into his house?” I asked her.
“I don’t know. How did you actually get to be talking to a young, Lady Bixby, in HER house? You did actually just appear, Joe. None of us were expecting you to pitch up.”
“It’s a long story,” I answered. Thinking of Gill and his smuggling lorry.
“Good,” Vanessa said. “You’ll be able to tell it to the police. You said to stick to actual facts. So tell them what happened. All that matters for now, is you arrived at our place. Let’s say, you were afraid of the police and wanted to explain to me that you never killed my husband. It’s all a horrific mistake. When you got there, Marmon has arrived. Or just arrives, soon after. And so I believe you, obviously. And we go to the media. That works.” She smiled. Pleased she had a solution.
“It doesn’t,” I said. But before her face fell with disappointment, I added, “But it does work, just enough that we could get away with it. Anyway, the point of this briefing to the media,” I reminded her, “Is to remove any difficult issues. And that’s done. Bixby is alive and neither I, nor you, killed him. So we are clear. That’s the hardest part for the police investigation. Proving something dodgy was going on. You and he, and me, are all fine. And none of us is going to tell a story that’s any different from each other. So that’s dealt with. The Law may never believe a word of anything else we tell them. But they will have to prove we were lying like the Chinese scientist who dropped the vial in the Bio-Lab. We, my friends, are going to be the coincidence kids. That’s all it will be. Coincidence.” Cracked it. It was my turn to smile.
Vanessa wiped it.
“What about the body in the crusher. In your office? Who is that?”
But I had already thought about it. “The robber, who stole Lord Bixby’s possessions, is later accidentally killed in a tragic industrial accident. Reason unknown. Probably committing more crime. However, the unfortunate Lord Bixby has been found. That’s all anyone cares about. Bixby was missing, because he was attacked. He is a purely innocent party to all that has gone on. In fact. he was only thought to have been dead in the first place, because of the possessions discovered on that dead mugger. Possessions that bad mugger stole from Bixby.
That’s the link between them. Marmon being robbed explains why the dead person has his personal items. The almost unidentifiable body was only thought to be Lord Bixby because of his clothes and watch and phone. We have explained that some crazed Puffin took Bixby’s shoes and coat and other items. That body is only discovered because of a totally separate terror related incident. Reported to police.
That occurs at the scene of the industrial accident in my office block. Sir Alan told us he called in a terror raid on my building. That’s why the Anti-Terror team arrive. A string of increasingly unlikely, but possible events. That’s all we need.
Your lawyers can do the rest. If Marmon can make his part convincing, we’ll walk away from this one.” I rested the back of my head on the cushioned seat. Very comfortable these were. With the enormous fee I was going to put in to the Bixby’s I might be able to afford one. I closed my eyes. The street lights and oncoming beams were bringing back that migraine.
“Joe? Are you awake?” It was Vanessa. I looked out the window. Alperton. I must have dozed off. Not more than a minute.
“What?” I asked.
“I said, “Why does the robber go to your building? Does he have some connection.”
My mouth was dry. And head hurt. The white-out spirals were covering my eyeballs.
“Just coincidence?” Marmon asked.
“No. Can’t be,” I explained. “We have too many of them already. Why don’t we let Marmon say he believes this man was the terrorist that the police were called to investigate. Say..You remember your attacker was Islamic. In fact, why not say you thought when he first came to talk to you, you suspected he might be a suicide bomber? The mugger was an Islamic terrorist? Out getting cash for his ISIS activities? That way, no member of the public is ever going to be bothered about finding about them.”
“… And he tried to hide from them. In the compactor. And ..uhh-oh.” Vanessa said “He accidentally activated it and died.”
“He pressed to impress.” I closed my eyes again. “This story is getting too complicated for Marmon. Marmon!” I called to him over my shoulder. Head too painful to turn now. “Just say you have no idea if the dead bloke was the same Islamic looking gentleman who attacked you. But the police could and should look into that. Let them worry about it.”
I felt the car jerk as it switched lanes again. A horn sounded once more. I didn’t bother to open my eyes.
“Why were you at my house?” Vanessa asked.
“I just told you! I was coming to inform you I hadn’t bumped off your old man. I was coming to get you to get onto the police and say I had nothing to do with his murder. Now, let me get a few minutes sleep, would you?”
“No,” she said, insistently “Why were you at my house before? I don’t mean tonight. I mean yesterday. When Flittock came. He saw you at the house. With me. You spoke to him. You had a testosterone spat with him, remember that, tough guy? Impressing the ladies? He knows we know each other.”
She was right. That was the hardest bit to explain. Well, not the hardest maybe. But it made the unlikely into the damn improbable.
I gave it some thought. But couldn’t come up with anything better than what I’d already decided to use. I spun it to them both.
“You will tell Flittock that I am your regular private detective. I work for your magazine, Le Mizzz. On a freelance basis. You use me to get stories on celebs and such. We’ll do the same story with you, Lord Bixby. You also pay me to seek out information on prominent leavers. On Kippers and Faragists and 1922 types. I have a stack of genuine invoices for ‘Client X.’ Dacia can knock up anything else should we need to produce it. Bix always pays me cash. And the invoices I will use are genuine payments into my business. Made out to anonymous clients. I will just say ‘Madame Lavender Foxtrot,’ for instance, is Bixby. He pays cash. We only need to match dates to payments. It’s Bixby’s money. He can spend it on what he pleases. And if what pleases him is digging up unflattering information on Leavers, for use in The House of Lords, that’s his business.
Flittock has no idea how long we have all known each other. We can say its been years. In fact, better if we do say that. That way, it is natural, that when Lord Bixby went missing, you called me up. I’m your guy.”
I let out a massive and involuntary yawn. Even danger wasn’t going to keep me awake much longer. I was almost finished. I longed to sleep. Anywhere would do.
The image of Vanessa’s naked breasts dripping with the bathwater, was the vision trying to get to the head of the dream queue. They did look a particularly soft place to rest my aching skull.
Vanessa was still talking. I forced myself to concentrate for this last piece.
“If you are our informant, why don’t we say that Marmon had just met with you. The morning of the day he disappeared. So he had on his person an invoice. An e-ceipt. With the time and date. Just paid to Joe Malone. Some really extravagant Europound amount. Paid in cash. The mugger-terrorist sees it and thinks, they’ll go to this place. The Joe Malone Detective Agency. See if they can’t steal this sum of monies. That much better explains why he might have gone there. To your building.”
I couldn’t open my eyes. “Better than anything I came up with,” I told her. “We’ll use it. You got all this Lord Bixby? I met with you just before the mugging. You paid me cash. Just say it was a large sum. Reason..You don’t recall right now. I’ll find some information you can have. Dacey will sort the paperwork and digital footprints. It’s her speciality.”
I wondered if Dacia was OK. I would need to call her soon. I’d do it from inside the BBC. She was an excellent assistant. Terrific at dealing with the digital stuff that left me completely baffled. But she was a young girl. And did stupid, young girl, things. I wasn’t her dad or anything. But I’d been looking out for her for a good few years now. I didn’t want her staying mixed up in anything bad. I hoped that very soon I’d be able to phone her and give her the all clear codeword.
Just as soon as I could see which way everything was going to go for us, with this BBC thing. If it went as we hoped, I’d meet up with Dacia again, very soon. And we’d drink a pair of the largest glasses they could make, of those ridiculous cocktails, that she so adored. Then I’d find a park bench and sleep until the Mayor’s Solving-Homelessness enforcers moved me on.
Vanessa was still talking. But I was barely awake. And by the sounds of her latest idea it was getting complicated again. Probably too complicated for Bixby. Probably too complex even for me and her. We’d have to take some of the harder, less likely bits out. Vanessa could smooth him out before he went on the TV. We would still have some time once we arrived. Us turning up at the Beeb would be like Eastwood and Burton turning up at the Schloss Adler. A lot of explosions were going to happen.
And we were going to drive a snowploughed bus through their news agenda. It would be like the time they ran scurrying from that other bus. Teh Buss. The three fifty million a week one.
It went quiet again. Just the gentle rocking of the suspension. These E-cars made almost no road noise. I was drifting down. I could feel it. That falling sensation. I could feel myself slipping down the well. Into the blackness. Into sleep. I forced myself to speak. Using all the very last reserves of strength I had, I made myself ask Vanessa a question. Hoping dialogue would keep me awake.
“Strange…” I said to her. A puzzled expression creeping over the charming smile I had been presenting to her. I flicked a piece of lint from my immaculately tailored, black, Boss uniform jacket. “I seem to remember… that the cathedral was on the other side of the square?”
“Well..Yes… perhaps..”Vanessa gave a very nervous half laugh. I widened my smile to better engage her. She dashed some more schnapps into her mouth.
Gulping the drink down quickly. As she put the glass down on the table top. I placed my own hand over hers. Feeling the warmth of her soft skin. But also seeking the pulse that runs through the thumb. I turned my head upwards lightly, so the brim of my black, Gestapo cap didn’t hide my eyes. I wanted her to be reassured by just how very friendly I was.
She should know I was just your everyday, professional, charming, good looking, randy, Aryan, Gestapo Major. A young man out on the pull. Attracted to this Vanessa. Cousin of Heidi. I showed my very white teeth and let a twinkle appear in my bright blue eyes.
But Also, I waited.
Waited for her to respond.
“Perhaps you are right..” She said haltingly. “It is a very long time since have been home to Düsseldorf…And I’m very tired. It was such a long journey.”
“Of course, how silly of me, Cousin Vanessa,” I signalled the barmaid to write on the tab. “I will escort you back to your rooms in the castle, at once.
And perhaps, you will permit me to see you again, on another occasion?”
She smiled back. Regaining her poise. “But of course Major. Another time, of course. I would be delighted.”
I stood and put on my leather greatcoat. It would protect me from the chill wind and keep out the freezing, alpine snow. I fetched her own coat from the hat stand by the thick, wooden door. Walking back across to our table I saw her black beret had fallen to the ground. I bent very low, almost a gentleman’s bow, to scoop it up for her. Arising to hold hat and coat out gallantly, like a true officer of the Reich.
She was wearing only some shorts and a thin servant’s shirt. She would freeze in the cable car if she didn’t put hat and coat on.
“Major? Major?” Some fool was calling from behind me. “Major?” louder and more insistent this time. It sounded like that Abwher traitor, Colonel Kramer. I looked behind me, expecting to see him standing in his military grey uniform. So ramrod erect, in that ridiculous Prussian manner he had. But there was no one else in the tavern. They had all disappeared. When I turned back to Vanessa, we were standing outside her rooms in the domestic quarters of the castle. Stone steps led up to the communications tower and the Funkraum, holding one of the most powerful radio transmitters in Europe. She was stood in front of the solid door to her bedchamber. I was in front of her. Still holding out her beret and heavy winter coat.
“I don’t need those, Malone Von Hapen,” Vanessa said in her husky, peasant girl voice. “I’m already much too hot as it is. There is a roaring fire lit in the fireplace. Come inside and feel the warmth.”
She put her hands to the hem of her top and gripped the fabric. “Come inside and feel everything,.. Joe..”
She turned slightly, so she was side on to me. So I could better see her shape She began raising her arms above her head.
“Are you awake, Malone?” Colonel Kramer’s voice. Just how did that devious Valkyrie plotter manage to get up here?
“Malone?..Malone?..Good Lord, Is he asleep, Vanessa?”
I heard her say she thought I was. She was very nearly right. I had dropped into the sleep-dream cycle.
“Should we wake the man up? He’s supposed to be briefing me. I understand the plan Vanessa.. But do you really think it will convince the BBC? Or Chief Flittock?”
“That’s what our ridiculously expensive lawyers will be for. We tell the story. They make it that our version, becomes the official one.
Anyway. Who will be wanting to say anything different? Not us. You, my Darling, House of Lords Marmon-Herrington Bixby, are alive. Some Bethnal Green, Abu Hamza type, that no one gives a toss about, is dead. That’s the end of it. No murder.
No mystery. Just the accidental death, of some narwhal tusk dodging, street stabber.
Do you think anyone will want to pursue this?”
There was silence as he thought about it, briefly. Before saying, “No. They won’t.” Adding, “Sir Alan can stop any meddlers that do. He needs to avoid the truth more than anyone. He will be all right in the car boot, won’t he? I hope he doesn’t kick about. Do any more damage to Bessie!”
He was right about Sir Alan.
Once he had seen the BBC were running with our version of the story, he would swing in behind it. He might lose this battle for ReJoin. Might have lost his votes for the Starmer intervention for the additional referendum vote. But he would still have Lord Bixby. Decorated Hero of the European Union. Commander of the Blue and Gold Banner Army. If he backed us up, he would live to fight another day. That would do for him, once he recognised that if the real story came out, of killing an innocent to force a vote, it would be fatal to ReJoin. For him and all his other friends like the Bixby’s the Brexit War would never be over. They would regroup. And plan another holding or delaying or wrecking action. At least the next time, it would be nothing to do with me.
Bixby whimpered again. It must have been the mention of the Aston Martin. He really loved that car. And I’d stabbed her with a screwdriver like an ISIS apprentice.
He would hate me for that. It had probably been a mistake. But I was tired and angry and had wanted to lock Sir Alan up somewhere that wasn’t as easy to flee from as the Bixby’s conservatory. It was the car boot or the freezer.
“Listen, Malone. It would surely be better to phone the police now. Let them come and meet us outside the BBC. Meet us all together. You would feel safe at the BBC.”
Bixby was forcing me to pay attention. I opened an eye. Couldn’t see anything. I’d almost fallen into the foot well. That sinking feeling had been real then. I’d been sliding down the seat. I slowly heaved myself back up.
“Sir Alan will go along,” continued Bixby. “He won’t have a choice. And he will add weight to our story. Getting Flittock to meet us means Vanessa will be complying with police requests. Surely that would be better than going straight to the media as a first choice? Like we were Meghan Markle?”
“No.” I said, grumpily. I rubbed my eyes.
“But Joe, listen to Marmon. I agree with him,” Vanessa said. “It would be …”
“No!” I said. More firmly. Opening my eyes as fully as I could manage, but having to squint against the glare of the road lights. Hangar Lane roundabout. New BBC was about ten minutes away. They had built their studios on Ealing Common.
Vanessa was studying my face. Seeing the determination.
“Why not?” She said it with a trace of apprehension Suddenly worried what I might say. “Why not get the police to meet us before we go in?”
I studied her beautiful form. It would be fantastic to just sit here and watch her drive. Darting in and out of the big trucks. Far better to be able to tip the seat right back and fall asleep for a day. Better than what I was going to have to do. What I needed to do.
“Once you are at the BBC you will be safe, Joe. Why not have the police join us there?”
“I’m already safe,” I informed her. “Bixby is alive. So I couldn’t have killed him. If I tell the truth, I’m safe. Because I am the only one of you not involved in this scheme to promote ReJoin. All I’m doing now by going along with these lies, is getting you and Marmon and Alan off the hook for your.. ‘Poor life choices.’ But I want something in return.”
She didn’t want to ask. I could see that. The fall of her breasts as she let out the breath she had been holding.
“What do you want?”
“I want to bring down ReJoin. And I want you to help me.”
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file