Blood Money (chapter eleven and twelve.)
At the same time that O’Hara was holding court at his Hyde Park mansion, Pauline Chaplin was parking her Fiat outside the flat of her brother, Dean in Camden Town. Schofield greeted her on his doorstep and kissed her on the cheek.
“Your tax is out of date,” she moaned, regarding the battered Ford Capri.
“So, my sister actually remembers where I live.”
“Hell, this place is a tip. When is the last time you dusted?” she groaned, running her fingers along his windowsill.”
“Coffee, tea or maybe a fancy cappuccino, eh?” mocked Schofield. “Shit, you are such a snob, sis.”
She removed the newspapers from his gaudy red sofa before sitting down. “Coffee will be fine and with real milk... What you need is a wife... A wife and a new career. A private detective indeed. When will you ever grow up?”
“Are you finished? I like my job and it pays well. Okay, so I lied about the last bit. So why are you here?”
Pauline fidgeted nervously. “It’s about Sam.”
“I’m worried about him, Dean... I discovered recently that he was in a great deal of debt and then...”
“Sam in debt?” Schofield tried to look concerned.
“If you‘ll just let me finish,” said Pauline, who was in the process of lighting up a cigarette. “The other evening, he took me out for a meal at China Tang’s and then on to see a show. He was spending money like he’d won the lottery. It just doesn’t make sense, Dean.”
Schofield mulled over what his sister was telling him. He passed over an ashtray before retreating into the kitchen. “When did he take you for this meal, Pauline?” he shouted.
“Last Wednesday... He was saying such strange things to me.”
Schofield returned with two mugs of coffee. “Such as?”
“He promised me that we would be rich very soon... Of course, I asked him to explain himself, but he told me he couldn’t.”
The private investigator coughed, wafted away the smoke and opened a window. “When did you start smoking again, sis?”
“Last Thursday... I read in the newspapers about this deal O’Hara offered to those three poor souls, and only then did I find out that Sam was responsible for the transactions. He told me he was to be well rewarded by his appointment.”
“That makes sense. O’Hara is a wealthy man.”
“But the way Sam was talking, you’d think that he was also to be offered a vast amount of money. No, it doesn’t make sense.”
Schofield blew on his hot coffee, his foot kicking the almost empty Jack Daniels bottle behind his chair. “Maybe Sam was exaggerating a little. Like I said, O’Hara is...”
“No! Sam would be paid as normal through his employers, Hector and Bullard. Christ, he even offered to buy me a yacht... I think he’s in trouble, Dean. I’ve never seen Sam so animated before.”
Schofield placed his mug of coffee on his stained table and grasped the cold hands of his sister. “What if O’Hara was paying Sam a gratis bonus for his services? Wouldn’t that make sense?”
“And why would he do that?” said Pauline, blowing her smoke towards the ceiling.
“I think you underestimate your husband’s skills as a solicitor. Why do you think O’Hara specifically asked for Sam?”
Pauline gazed quizzically at her brother. “Did he? How do you know this?”
“It would make sense... Listen, sis, do you recall Sam defending Jimmy Cochrane, the supposed IRA gunman?”
“Of course, but...”
“And I presume that you know about O’Hara’s alleged ties with the IRA?”
Pauline pondered. “Of course... My God, you don’t think that O’Hara is paying off Sam for successfully defending that animal do you?”
“Who knows, Pauline?.. Listen, I think you’re worrying over nothing. Sam is one of the good guys and there’s no way he’d do anything crooked. He’s simply an errand boy for O’Hara, who is trying to redeem himself in the eyes of the public... You haven’t mentioned this to anyone else have you?”
“No, of course not.”
“Good. Now go home to your husband and help him to spend his well-earned money.”
Schofield escorted his sister to the door and she turned to him and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you. By the way, you still make bloody awful coffee.”
Security was the chief concern of Schofield and Chaplin. Immediately after Pauline had left his flat, the private investigator had contacted his brother in law by text, to arrange a meeting in the congested Trafalgar Square.
Schofield strolled around the square three times before joining Chaplin, who was seated on the stone steps.
“Aren’t you overdoing the James Bond stuff a bit?” joked Chaplin, who shielded his eyes against the early afternoon sun, which had made a welcome appearance.
Schofield, who wore designer sunglasses to disguise his features as much as to protect him from the sun, as usual was attired in one of his sixties style suits. “You never can be too careful... How did the meeting go?”
Chaplin waited until a group of Japanese tourists passed before answering. “It went better than I expected. O’Hara is happy with our three boys... He doesn’t like Mukhtar, but I persuaded him otherwise... Christ, I almost shit my pants in there when he suggested that Mukhtar, Lance and myself could be out to fleece him.”
“He said that? Who’s Lance?”
Chaplin stamped his foot and scattered the gathering pigeons. “Bloody vermin... Lance Peebles, my friend from the Red Cross.”
“Oh, him,” muttered Schofield, his suspicious eyes searching the square. “Why would O’Hara suspect you, Sam?”
“Oh, he thinks it’s too much a coincidence that Lance happened to mention Mukhtar at such a convenient time.”
“And you trust this Peebles?”
“Of course. Lance knew nothing about O’Hara’s offer when he mentioned Mukhtar.”
“Are you certain?” probed Schofield.
Chaplin hesitated. “I may have asked him about the earthquake and queried about any heroic deeds he had heard of, but I swear, I never mentioned O’Hara.”
Two young Asian tourists, possibly Pakistan or Indian, sat beside Schofield and Chaplin and spoke in a language not known to them. Schofield regarded them suspiciously and spoke. “Could you tell me what time the National Gallery closes please?”
The two casually dressed foreigners, who were clicking away with their cameras at the famous monument ignored the question.
Again, Schofield spoke. “Excuse me. Do you speak English?”
The two young men shrugged their shoulders and said something unintelligible.
“Shit you don’t think they work for O’Hara do you?” laughed Chaplin.
“Pauline came to see me earlier today.”
The statement took the solicitor by surprise.
“W...What did she want?”
Again, Schofield gazed at the two Asian men, who were now giggling and eyeing up a couple of young girls.
“She’s worried about you.”
“You stupid bastard. Weren’t you the one who said we should discipline ourselves and keep our money in our pockets until things have blown over?”
“I don’t understand,” said Chaplin.
“Really? Okay, I’ll spell it out to you. You were spending money as though the world was going to end tomorrow, and you mentioned to Pauline that your money troubles would soon be over.”
“It wasn’t exactly...”
“Shut up! Have you been screwing me, Sam?”
“So where did this money come from?”
Chaplin held his head in his hands. “I used my credit card. I know I shouldn’t have told...”
“Fucking imbecile!” growled Schofield, checking on their two neighbours, who were now clicking away at the females on view. “How much expense money did O’Hara give you?”
“How much, Sam?”
“Thirty thousand? Even with the cost of the flights and hotel rooms for our three friends that would leave a sizable sum for you to pocket... I trusted you, Sam. We have to work on this together with no fucking secrets.”
A plump girl bounded up the steps towards the two men. She held out a camera. “Would you take our picture please?”
Schofield smiled and accepted the camera from the American girl. She retreated down the steps towards her male friend, who was standing beside the infamous lions.
“I suppose she works for O’Hara as well,” whispered Chaplin.
Schofield took the photograph and waited for the cheerful girl.
“Well thank you. Have a nice day now.”
Schofield once more turned towards his brother in law. “I think I’m entitled to a slice of that expense money. My stay in Jakarta cost me a packet... Should we say ten thousand pounds?”
“Ten thousand?” gasped Chaplin. “I think five will more than compensate for your trip.”
“Agreed,” said Schofield, “but don’t ever cross me again... So what happens now?”
This time it was the solicitor’s turn to look around. He glanced at one of the Asian men, who smiled at him. “Monday morning, O’Hara’s attending a press conference in Hyde Park would you believe? He wants to be photographed handing the cheques over.”
“Cheques? I thought you said O’Hara only deals in cash?”
“Exactly. The cheques will be tore up just as soon as our three heroes are on their way to the bank.”
“I don’t understand?” frowned Schofield.
“The money will already have been counted out and loaded into a van, waiting to take them to the bank.”
“That’s fucking risky isn’t it?”
“The Allied Irish Bank is only two to three minutes away in Berkeley Square, besides, nobody apart from us and O’Hara knows about the cash.”
The two Asian men jogged down the steps and frolicked with the two girls.
Schofield resumed his questioning. “So the money is deposited into their bank accounts and then what?”
“Then, Dean, our friends return to their own country and are free to spend the money at will, only at a prearranged time recommended by me, they will transfer between them two million, six hundred and fifty thousand to a Swiss bank account. When, and only when I consider it to be safe, I will transfer four hundred thousand into Jack’s account and one million, one hundred and twenty five thousand pounds into your account. Feel good?”
Schofield pondered. “I know we’ve been over this before, but if our heroes get greedy, then where do we stand? I mean, they’re free to spend their cut immediately right, so let’s say for instance that three months later, we ask for our money to be transferred. Now the three amigos will have acquired a taste for the high life, with perhaps the exception of Manaf. So they decide to keep all of the money for themselves. We can hardly go to the law now could we?”
“Everything’s taken care of. Granted, I admit it was a mistake to use genuine heroes, apart from Manaf, but we do have an influential safety margin in our favour. I’ve already notified them that O’Hara is involved with the IRA and it would be detrimental to their health if he ever found out that they had tricked him. I suggested that their benefactor would receive an anonymous letter if the money was not transferred.”
“And they fell for that?” moaned Schofield. “Get real, Sam, if we ever did that, we would be signing our own death warrant and I’m sure Mukhtar and Kannellakis are aware of that.”
Chaplin now struggled to his feet. “Well, if you can come up with a superior deterrent then please feel free to contribute. Fuck, Dean, we knew the risks before we started and nothing’s changed. Those three poor beggars had nothing before we met them, and for that they should be grateful. I believe that in this corrupt world today honour still exists. Yes, even honour amongst thieves. I discovered a way to change my life in a way that nobody gets hurt. O’Hara gets his publicity, our three heroes receive more money than they can have ever imagined, and we get to live it up like lords, Dean. Now you get real.”
Schofield walked away. “I hope you’re right, Sam, by God, I hope you’re right.”
Everything had gone well for Morris O’Hara during the press conference in Hyde Park. He had been photographed several times with his three beneficiaries and had answered questions humorously, even though some of the journalists had dared to suggest that this was merely a publicity stunt to atone for the death of Melissa Palmer.
The brazen Irishman had pulled off the interview favourably, expressing emotion that an actor would have been proud of. Yes, he had agreed that he was remorseful after the death of the young girl and that he had suffered greatly. His donation to the three heroes, he stressed, would no way atone for what he had done, but he begged forgiveness and pledged further donations to various charities.
O’Hara had again mentioned the compensation that had been rebuffed by Melissa’s parents, and hinted that the said sum was now being used to reward Manaf, Mukhtar and Kannellakis.
The media followed O’Hara, Chaplin and the three beneficiaries out of the park and towards a waiting Ford Transit, jumbo van. O’Hara sat beside his driver and ordered him to make his way to the Allied Irish Bank in Berkeley Square.
Turning back to the passengers, the Irishman looked well pleased with the proceedings. “I think that went down rather well, what do you think, Chaplin?”
“You excelled yourself, Mr O’Hara, but I thought that some of the questions were a bit suggestive.”
“Fucking journalists,” boomed O’Hara. “What do they want, blood?”
O’Hara’s expression changed and his features softened. “Those suitcases behind you, man, three million pounds. Isn’t it surprising how much six suitcases can carry?”
Chaplin glanced at the bulging suitcases. “I still think you’re taking one hell of a risk, Mr O’Hara.”
“Nonsense. Security guards will be waiting to offload the money once we reach the bank.”
The black transit van joined the chain of traffic along Park Lane. Following as expected was a convoy of reporters. They approached the traffic lights near the Dorchester Hotel and Chaplin gazed through the mirror at the driver’s dark, empty eyes. The brawny man was probably one of O’Hara’s minders, thought the solicitor, and maybe even had links with the IRA himself.
The van moved on slowly and turned right into Deanery Street, before they came to another set of traffic lights. Ahead of them was a white Renault Trafic van. The lights changed to green, but the Renault van remained stationary. Several impatient drivers including journalists sounded their horns, but still the van was inactive.
Two hooded men brandishing sawn off shotguns left the vehicle and ran towards the transit van. O’Hara’s driver reached into his glove compartment and the windscreen shattered with a deafening explosion. Blood from the driver’s ravaged chest splattered the startled occupants of the transit van, and all except O’Hara cowered on the floor.
The two gunmen were wearing Homer Simpson masks and one of them pointed his shotgun at O’Hara menacingly, while the other covered the following traffic. ”Open the fucking door!”
The stubborn Irishman snarled at the gunman. “Do you fucking know who I am?”
The masked man pointed his weapon towards Chaplin. “You, open the back doors.”
“He can’t,” insisted O’Hara.
The gunman sprinted towards the rear of the van and another blast was heard. The doors sprung open and the cowering passengers stared at the masked man.
“You four, carry a case each to my van. Now! Move it.”
Chaplin and his terrified companions were grateful that the suitcases were on wheels. They loaded the money into the Renault van and were ordered to return to their vehicle. Faraway sirens could be heard, amid the screams of witnessing pedestrians.
The assumed leader of the gunmen grasped the last suitcase and halted at the passenger door to speak to O’Hara. “Yes, I know who you fucking are and I’m going to enjoy spending your money. I ought to shoot you, but I think you’d suffer more knowing that you’ve been had. Cheers, Mr O’Hara.”
The masked man pulled the last remaining suitcase towards the Renault van and O’Hara reached into the glove compartment. He let off three rounds from the pistol and the gunman staggered forward. His companion helped him into the vehicle, before reaching for the suitcase. O’Hara climbed from the passenger seat and walked swiftly towards his attackers, his outstretched hand holding his weapon. He fired another four rounds and the Renault van sped away.
“I’ll get you! You’re fucking dead men, do you hear? Do you hear me, scum; you’re fucking dead?”
Chaplin smoked nervously, watching the detectives who eyed him suspiciously. After being taken to Paddington police station, O’Hara, Manaf, Mukhtar and Kannellakis were already being interviewed and the worried solicitor waited his turn. He had spoken to Pauline and assured her that he was unhurt.
The incident in Deanery Street was not what troubled Chaplin. Losing the money, he could accept, but his chief concern was what Manaf and the others would say under pressure. If his scheme was indeed unveiled, then O’Hara would no doubt be baying for his blood.
A middle-aged, pock-faced man approached; his greasy hair unruly. “Mr Chaplin, would you come with me please?”
They headed towards an interview room where they were joined by a younger black detective. Chaplin was invited to be seated and the pock-faced detective turned on the tape recorder and spoke.
“Monday, March 6th at 14-25, Detective Chief Inspector Bruce and DS Kinsella interviewing Samuel Chaplin... Relax, Mr Chaplin, I realise you’ve been through such a harrowing ordeal and we’ll try to be brief in our questioning. You work for solicitors, Hector and Bullard, is that correct?”
“It is, Chief Inspector.”
“Morris O’Hara approached your employers with a view to representing him, concerning the donation of funds to a Mukhtar Ahmed, Darius Kannellakis and a gentleman known only as Manaf. Am I correct so far?”
“Please speak for the recording, Mr Chaplin.”
“Yes, you are correct so far.”
The Chief Inspector continued. “Have you any idea why Morris O’Hara would ask for you specifically?”
Chaplin was surprised that Hector had divulged that information. “I apparently successfully defended a friend of Mr O’Hara’s.”
“Ah yes, Jimmy Cochrane... Tell me, Mr Chaplin, are you an IRA sympathiser?”
“No, of course not.”
DS Kinsella joined in. “How much was O’Hara paying you?”
“You’d better take that up with my employers... Look, is this relevant?”
“Perhaps,” said DCI Bruce.
“Am I a suspect?”
“Of course not. I just want to clarify your role in this operation... Who apart from yourself knew that the transit van was carrying three million pounds?”
Chaplin dabbed his forehead with his handkerchief. “Do you mind if I have a glass of water?”
DS Kinsella left the room.
“I guess only myself and of course Mr O’Hara knew about the money.”
The Chief Inspector leant back. “Ah yes, Mr O’Hara... Didn’t you find it strange that he demanded to carry such a large amount of money in cash? I mean, why not just issue cheques?”
“Morris O’Hara was adamant that the money was to be paid in cash.”
“But why? Okay, I’ll put a suggestion to you, and you being an educated man, feel free to comment on my theory… O’Hara gets his publicity and then stages the robbery. He gets his money back and he’s still the Good Samaritan in the eyes of the public.”
“And what about the man he shot?”
DS Kinsella returned and handed Chaplin a glass of water that he drank thirstily. “Thank you... Yes, as I was saying, if the robbery was staged, O’Hara would hardly shoot his own man now would he?”
The Chief Inspector offered Chaplin a cigarette and it was accepted.
“The blood incidentally was real, but it could have been anyone’s.”
Chaplin looked bemused. “Meaning?”
“Meaning, Mr Chaplin that O’Hara running after the gunmen would add another notch to his enhanced ego... What if the blood was taken from some innocent wretch who has no criminal record? You assume the rounds hit their intended target and that the blood comes from the gunman. These things can be easily faked.”
Chaplin took a drag on his cigarette. “It’s a bit extreme don’t you think, going to all of that trouble for publicity?”
DS Kinsella interrupted. “You recruited Manaf, Mukhtar and Kannellakis, did you not, Mr Chaplin?”
“I wouldn’t say recruited, but yes, I chose them as candidates for Mr O’Hara’s venture.”
Chaplin was now perspiring heavily. He removed his jacket and loosened his tie. “Darius Kannellakis I read about, Mukhtar...”
“Where did you read about Kannellakis?” asked Kinsella.
“I don’t recall. On the internet, I think.”
“Mukhtar was suggested to me by Lance Peebles, a friend of mine who works for the Red Cross.”
The Chief Inspector jotted down his name. “Do you know the address of this Lance Peebles?”
“Of course, but he’s working away in Pakistan.”
“What about Manaf?”
Chaplin took a deep breath. “I read about him also on the internet.”
DCI Bruce ground out his cigarette. “Okay, Mr Chaplin. I’ll put this as openly as I can… Morris O’Hara confirms that only you and himself knew about the money in the transit van. Are you certain nobody else knew?”
Chaplin smiled. “Of course... The security guards.”
“The security guards?”
“The ones who were waiting outside the bank.”
The two detectives looked to each other. It was the senior officer who spoke. “There were no security guards. O’Hara claims that he told you this to calm you. To have his three heroes walk into the bank pulling their suitcases full of money would add to the publicity stunt... About the gunmen. What can you tell me about them?“
“They wore masks... I’m not ashamed to say that I was on the floor of the van with the others when they approached.”
“What about their accents?” asked Kinsella.
“They said very little.”
“Mr O’Hara insists that they were foreign.”
“Perhaps, I don’t know.”
DCI Bruce took over. “You wheeled one of the suitcases to their van did you not?”
“And there’s nothing you can tell me about them? Their build, any tattoos perhaps?”
“Listen, I was crapping my pants. Their arms were covered and they wore gloves.”
“Mr Chaplin, are you well off financially?”
The nervous solicitor felt that his bowels were about to erupt. He could not help but to break wind. DS Kinsella opened the window.
“I’m comfortable, I suppose. Why do you ask?”
Chaplin felt the eyes of his two interrogators burning into him.
“Okay, Mr Chaplin, you can go. We’ll be in touch,” said the Chief Inspector.
The anxious solicitor, before he left the room turned to face the detectives. “How is the driver of Mr O’Hara’s van?”
“Dead, Mr Chaplin,” glared DCI Bruce. “The blighter’s dead.”