Blood Money (chapter seventeen and eighteen.)
Wearing a garish, yellow and orange flowered shirt, Jack Pepper was almost invisible to the London public, such is the tolerant fashion sense of the capital population. Unusually for March it was a stiflingly hot day and the community had shed their winter wear.
He puffed on his pipe nervously and sipped his second glass of Jack Daniels, an extreme stimulant, given that it was just after noon. The redheaded reporter lounged in the beer garden situated in Soho, checking his wristwatch constantly. Every sun-worshipper that caught his eye was regarded with a suspicious eye.
Schofield, dressed casually in denims, tee shirt and sunglasses, sauntered towards the nervous journalist. He settled at his table and unscrewed the top from his bottled water. After swallowing a mouthful of the refreshing liquid, he regarded Pepper.
“A bit early to be hitting the hard stuff isn’t it, Jack?”
“Are you certain nobody followed you?”
“Relax,” whispered Schofield, swatting away a pesky fly. “Christ, that sun is hot. Is it really only March?”
“Didn’t I tell you that I didn’t want to see you ever again?” moaned Pepper. “I’m certain they’re watching me.”
“Who’s watching you, Jack? Shit, chill out will you.”
“Chill out? Sam didn’t kill himself did he? Do you think he talked?”
Schofield snarled at his companion. “You pathetic, selfish arsehole. You’re only worried about yourself aren’t you? What about poor Sam?”
Pepper waited until a pretty girl passed by before answering. “O’Hara thinks that Sam ripped him off. It was no suicide... Our lives could be in danger, Dean.”
“I know who took the money.”
Pepper almost choked on his drink. “What?”
“Mukhtar, with a little help from his friends staged the robbery.”
“How do you know this?”
“I just do... Two of his accomplices overheard me and Sam talking in Trafalgar Square.”
“You spoke about the money?”
Schofield nodded. “What I can’t understand though, is why they were watching us? I mean, as far as Mukhtar knew, he was being paid by cheque, so why would he appoint two men to listen in to our conversation?”
Pepper rattled his now empty glass; the sound of the ice cubes irritating Schofield. “Wasn’t one hundred grand enough for Mukhtar?”
“It seems not,” replied Schofield... “Mukhtar must have picked up on the fact that O’Hara deals in hard cash, and maybe that’s why his cronies followed us. He must have known that O’Hara would confide in me. Seems they needed confirmation before they set up the robbery.”
The reporter puffed pensively on his pipe. “So now what?”
“Now, Jack, I find a way of getting our money back.”
“Are you serious? Even if Mukhtar did take the money, how would you find him? I hardly think he’s returned to his address in Pakistan... Why don’t you just tell O‘Hara who’s got his money.”
“Are you crazy? Perhaps I would have before, but now… O’Hara had Sam killed and I aim to hurt the Paddy where it hurts; in his pocket... Don‘t even think about tipping O‘Hara off anonymously, Jack, or I swear I’ll tell him the whole scam was your idea.”
Schofield examined the early afternoon drinkers carefully. Who was in the employment of CID? The middle-aged businessman perhaps, who was checking the FTSE index, or maybe the scruffy man who was attempting to pick out the winner in the two-fifteen at Sandown? “I’ve got to reach Mukhtar before O’Hara’s monkeys find him.”
Pepper rose from the table. “That’s it, Deano, we’re through, okay? I want nothing to do with you ever again.”
“And if I retrieve our money?”
“Keep it... Keep the fucking money. And, Deano; it was never our money. We had a dream, nothing more.”
“Whatever... When I do get the money, Pauline will receive Sam’s share and I’ll make sure Manaf and Kannelakis gets what’s owing to them.”
Pepper leaned over the table and placed his face close to Schofield’s. “I trust you’ll keep my name out of this, just on the chance that O’Hara comes calling.”
“Although I’ll be tempted to give your name, I’m no grass. Goodbye, Jack.”
Schofield now fully realised just how much he hated Pepper. He watched the reporter jogging across the busy road towards his car. In his short time as a private detective, Schofield had become competently adept in the art of surveillance, unlike the young woman who occasionally caught his eye. Her awkward glance, he was sure was not a flirting gesture; therefore, she was working for either O’Hara or Chief Inspector Bruce. He suspected the latter. If O’Hara suspected him of being involved with the robbery, then surely he would now be lying in a grave adjacent to his brother in law.
Schofield playfully winked at the pretty detective, grinning satisfactorily at her obvious discomfort at being made. His body convulsed, when the deafening blast reached his ears. Sporadic screaming followed the horror, and a mixture of petrol and burnt plastic penetrated his nostrils.
The female detective talked hysterically into her radio, ignoring Schofield, who passed her. Black smoke spiralled towards the once blue sky and Schofield could just make out the remains of the devastated coffee shop. He looked to where Pepper’s Peugeot had been parked and saw nothing but remnants of blue plastic and a million splinters of glass.
Wandering trance-like across the road, he witnessed the carnage. The injured were being helped by pedestrians, and the not so fortunate souls were scattered on the ground, limbless and bloody. Several cars were ablaze, their drivers past helping.
The tears that streamed down Schofield’s eyes were not for Jack Pepper, but for the innocent who were caught up in this bloodbath. O‘Hara had today demonstrated his ruthlessness and apathy towards mankind. To eliminate Jack Pepper, he had shown total disregard for the innocent.
Schofield stooped down and reached out for something that had caught his eye. Pepper’s pipe was intact; its owner not so lucky.
Chief Inspector Bruce and Sergeant Kinsella watched with optimism as the priest surveyed the identity parade. Father Blake had appeared confident that he could pick out Chaplin’s Irish tormentor. DCI Bruce’s expectation floundered when the priest moved on, ignoring the imposing figure of Jimmy Cochrane.
“Come on, come on,” whispered Bruce.
Father Blake turned to the detectives. “I’m sorry, Chief Inspector. The man I saw in church is not there.”
Bruce’s investigative instincts told him that the priest was lying. The holy man avoided eye contact; an obvious tell to the experienced detective.
“Please, Father, take another look.”
“I don’t need to... The man is not in that line up.”
The disappointed detective mustered a smile. “Okay, Father, you can go.”
Sergeant Kinsella waited until the priest left the room before speaking. “He’s lying. He’s been got at.”
“Of course he’s been got at, Sherlock,”
offered DCI Bruce. “Can you blame the poor bastard? Every witness who voluntarily came forward has failed to incriminate Cochrane.”
Kinsella began to whistle the Van Der Valk tune with the appearance of Inspector De Vries.
“I thought you’d left,” said the Chief Inspector.
The Dutchman stared hostilely at DS Kinsella. “Has anyone ever told you, Sergeant, you’re tone deaf?.. Don’t tell me that you weren’t surprised, Chief Inspector, about the priest’s silence.”
“Yesterday, he seemed so reassuring... Anyway, why are Interpol so interested with the death of Sam Chaplin? I thought it was Mukhtar that you were after.”
The three men ambled along the corridor and stopped at a coffee machine. De Vries proceeded to feed the machine with an assortment of coins. “Mukhtar, we’re still unable to locate. Also, Lance Peebles has gone AWOL... Chief Inspector, O’Hara obviously believed that this Jack Pepper had something to do with the robbery. I gather you’ve put Schofield under surveillance?”
DCI Bruce reddened and glanced at DS Kinsella. “At this moment in time, we don’t know the whereabouts of Schofield.”
De Vries blew on his hot coffee. “You’ve lost him?”
“Yes, we’ve lost him,” responded Bruce.
The man from Interpol smirked. “What a fucking mess... Now as I see it, there are three scenarios that I’d like to put to you. One, Schofield was involved with Mukhtar and helped to mastermind the robbery. He could have gotten the information from his brother in law, who it seemed like to boast about his good fortune.... Two, Schofield is merely out for revenge and is foolishly going after O’Hara.”
“And the third scenario?” asked DCI Bruce.
De Vries grimaced at the bitter tasting coffee. “Maybe Schofield is innocent and O’Hara’s fed him to his pigs... I’m swaying towards my first suggestion... Schofield has probably left the country with a false passport and has met up with Peebles and Mukhtar.”
“But Schofield was screwing some whore at the time of the robbery,” quizzed DS Kinsella.
De Vries nodded. “Convenient, eh? What if Peebles is the mastermind behind this? Chaplin no doubt asked him if he knew any heroes in the making.”
“Slow down, Inspector,” broke in DCI Bruce. “It would make sense that Peebles suggested Mukhtar as one of O’Hara’s beneficiaries, but where does Schofield come into this?”
“Who knows? Chaplin could have boasted when in drink about their plot, and Schofield then could have resorted to blackmail in order to wheedle his way into the gang. Or maybe, Peebles needed an extra pair of hands.”
“Aren’t you forgetting Pepper?” asked DS Kinsella. “Why would they need him?”
De Vries shrugged his shoulders. “He works for the Daily Mirror. Maybe he manufactured a story about Mukhtar’s heroic deeds, or perhaps he is innocent.”
The trio entered the operation’s room. De Vries turned towards the men from CID. “Listen, I won‘t bullshit you. “I don’t give a fuck about O‘Hara and his bloody exploits. Gross incompetence is what I’ve come to expect from the British police force... What I do care about is where the three million has gone. If as I believe the money is to help fund the SSP, then Schofield is a dead man walking... I aim to track down Peebles, Mukhtar and his entire gang. My job would be a lot easier if I didn’t have some fanatical Irishmen for company.”
“Are you finished?” growled DCI Bruce. “We didn’t want you here, and just in case it’s escaped your immaculate attention; weren’t you supposed to be tracking Peebles and Mukhtar? Now leave me to do my job and stick your fucking daffodils up your smug Dutch arse. A good day to you.”
De Vries glared at the sergeant. “Do you think I’ve upset him?”
Exiting the lift on the tenth floor of Westminster Tower, Schofield saw the sign that pointed him in the direction of the Red Cross department. Now sporting blonde, cropped hair and wearing tinted spectacles, the private investigator deemed the disguise necessary to evade both the police, and more worryingly, O’Hara’s band of killers.
As he entered the office, he went unchallenged and asked directions to the girl he sought. The plump, bespectacled relief worker smiled coyly when he approached her desk.
“Julie? Julie Chrysler?”
“You must be Dean Chaplin,” she said, offering her hand.
“I’m sorry about the loss of your brother, Mr Chaplin.”
“Please call me Dean... As I told you on the telephone, my brother and Lance Peebles were very close.”
Schofield displayed his sexiest smile. The lies he told the girl were minor and his need to contact Peebles was great.
“As I said, Dean, Lance has not been seen for several days and he’s not answering his phone... Incidentally, his house was burgled over the weekend.”
Schofield guessed who was responsible for the break in. “Has anyone ever told you that you resemble, Catherine Zeta Jones?” Another white lie.
The girl blushed. “Lance of course spent a lot of time in Pakistan, but our colleagues over there have not been able to contact him. The police have been notified of course, but at this early stage, they seemed unconcerned... You do know of course that he has no immediate family?”
Schofield realised his opportunity. “It’s imperative that I contact Lance. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but my business with him concerns my brother. You do know of course that they were lovers?”
Julie listened, mouth agape. “Lovers? Lance and... I never would have guessed.”
“I understand, Julie... It’s probably something he wouldn’t want to advertise... Anyway, Sam left a few things for Lance, sentimental things you understand.”
“I see... I’m sorry I can’t help you, Dean. I have no idea where he is.”
Schofield pondered. “Did Lance have a PC?”
The girl’s eyes motioned towards a monitor close to hers. “That’s Lance’s PC.”
“Would I be too presumptuous in asking if we could access his data?”
“Sorry, but I don’t know his password... There is his desk drawer of course.”
“Yes. I have a key to his drawer. Lance was always forgetting things and he kept a spare key with me.”
Schofield’s eyes sparkled. “Could we take a look?”
The shy girl checked around the office to see that they were alone. “I suppose so, but I don’t know how that will help.”
Julie opened up the drawer and stepped aside. Schofield expertly rummaged through the contents, inspecting the clutter of newssheets and photographs. His eyes settled on a photograph of a tall, blonde man, his glass eye preventing him being classed as handsome.
“Is this Lance?”
He turned his attention to a travel brochure for Florida. Leafing through the magazine, he came across some luxury apartments and found one of them had been ringed with a red pen. He reached into his inside pocket for his pad and scribbled down the details.
“Have you found something?” asked Julie.
“No, nothing at all,” he lied. “Do you mind if I borrow one of these photographs of Lance?”
“I suppose it will be okay.”
Schofield kissed the girl on the cheek and she giggled. “I may be back for you girl; I may be back.” He was grateful that he was not a Catholic. An awful lot of time would have been spent in the confession box.
Acting out the role of a typical tourist, Schofield skirted the perimeter of the exclusive luxury villa. He felt a little envious, viewing the rented home, complete with a one hundred-foot dock and swimming pool. He was filled with renewed enthusiasm, realising that he was here so that he too could perhaps rent or possibly own such a palace.
Leaving the shores of England had proved not so difficult, giving his years of experience as a sleuth. On of his trade benefits was mixing with the unsavoury characters; the shit of London town as he liked to call them. With the help of one of the shits, a shady thief and forger named Lenny Buxton, Schofield had managed to acquire a false passport and visa.
Schofield, attired in a beige tee shirt, shorts and baseball cap had waited in the shadows of the tall palm trees in the lush tropical garden, his patience at last proving rewarding.
He clicked away with his camera, focusing on the tall, spindly man, donning swimming trunks, who had conveniently left his elegant abode and was pacing towards the swimming pool. Schofield removed his sunglasses and concentrated fully on the man. He studied the photograph of Lance Peebles and smiled, a satisfactorily smile.
Although the surrounding gardens were pungent with the aromatic fragrance of exotic plants and shrubs, the tropical paradise failed to gratify the Englishman. He struggled to breathe, his previous forgotten bouts of asthma when he was a child now fresh in his memory. He swatted away the biting mosquitoes and cursed his foolishness for not purchasing insect repellent. Swallowing a liberal mouthful of tepid water, Schofield watched Peebles jealously, wishing that he too were cooling himself in the refreshing swimming pool.
The annoying banter of the crazy frog ended the tranquillity, and Peebles climbed from the pool and wiped himself down before answering the call. Schofield smiled smugly. A person’s personal ring tone could reveal much about the owner of the phone. Immediately, Schofield recognised the relief worker as a geek, who probably hated soccer, watched those infernal American comedies and owned a collection of Star Trek DVDs.
Schofield was too far away to hear the conversation and his curiosity compelled him to advance. Crouching low, he moved closer to the swimming pool, until he was within earshot of the one-eyed relief worker.
“I’m not liking what I’m hearing,” moaned Peebles.
Peebles listened patiently and lit up a cigarette. “Yes, I know I said everything is working according to plan, but before I discarded my phone, I received a message. The fucking dumb Irishman has burgled my house and...”
Again, Peebles listened. “Who the hell could it have been if it wasn’t O’Hara? Okay, this is how I see it. O’Hara took the bait, thinking Chaplin was responsible for the robbery, but now it seems the big spud muncher is looking for Sam’s accomplices, and guess who tops his list?”
Peebles took a long draw on his cigarette and listened. “Can’t you get it into your fucking head, Mukhtar, that if O’Hara is looking for me, then you can be sure he’s also hunting your arse... Shit, Sam must have mentioned to O’Hara that I proposed you.”
Schofield liked what he was hearing. He now had confirmation that Peebles and Mukhtar had pulled off the robbery.
Peebles continued with his conversation. “This brother in law of Sam’s, Schofield. We can safely assume that he was the man plotting with Sam in Trafalgar Square. Rasheed and Tariq heard them talk about his sister.”
Peebles stubbed out his cigarette and reached for his bloody Mary. “Schofield presents no problem? How can you be so sure? I mean, he’s bound to be pissed off, having three million snatched from his grasp... No, no, Mukhtar. If we know about Schofield, then we can safely assume that O’Hara knows about him... It wouldn’t surprise me if Schofield is embedded in concrete beneath the M1.”
Again there was a long pause as Peebles listened. “Hear what I’m saying, Mukhtar. Schofield is a two-bit private eye who couldn’t find us even if we drew him a map, besides, there’s no way he could suspect me. I’m not worried about him. O’Hara, now he is worth worrying about... Hopefully, my friends and colleagues will assume that I’m dead, but O’Hara?”
Schofield was now perspiring heavily. He swigged another mouthful of the warm water and swatted yet another mosquito.
Peebles ambled towards his swimming pool and settled down with his hot feet immersed in the water. “No, Mukhtar! Most definitely not. I’m grateful that your friends supplied us with new identities and credible documents, but they were paid well. You had to tell them didn’t you? They want a bigger cut, then you and Rasheed donate a slice of your fee... Yes, I know who they are and what they represent, but don’t forget, we know a little about them too... We made a generous donation to the SSP and that’s it as far as I’m concerned.”
The mention of SSP stunned Schofield. He had heard about the Sunni sectarian group and acknowledged that they could prove as fearsome as O’Hara and his ex IRA gunmen.
Peebles continued. “Listen, Mukhtar; we have new identities and a shitful load of money to spend. Relax and forget about SSP. I’m certain that we covered our tracks, and so even if O’Hara was looking for us, he couldn’t possibly find us. Even so, we must be vigilant. If it puts your mind at ease, we’ll move on. With our money, we can create another identity and be rid of SSP forever.”
“What you want, mister?” The voice was female.
Schofield looked across at a slim, dark woman, who was wearing an apron. He smiled hopelessly and shrugged his shoulders.
Peebles heard the interruption. “I’ll see you when you arrive, Mukhtar. I have to go.”
The curious relief worker tucked a pistol into the waistband of his trunks and paced towards his hired cleaner. The Mexican woman motioned towards the intruder. “He was watching you, Mr Jennings.”
Peebles dismissed the woman and confronted Schofield, who was shielded by a tall palm tree. “Who are you? Don’t you know that this is private property?”
“Gee, I’m sorry,” said Schofield, mimicking a poor American accent. “I’m on vacation here and just had to photograph your wonderful home.”
Peebles approached the stranger. “You had to photograph my home?”
“Sure, I’m an architect back home in Tennessee, and I was shamefully eyeing the design of your beautiful home.”
Schofield was now saturated in sweat and the mosquito bites irritated him. He felt the piercing blue eyes of Peebles scrutinising him suspiciously.
“Can I see some identification?”
Schofield smiled. “Gee, I don’t have any with me... Now if you let me...”
“Let me see your camera,” insisted Peebles.
Schofield hesitated, his discomfort obvious to Peebles. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Schofield focused on the pistol that was pointing at his midriff.
“The camera, please.”
Schofield conceded and passed over his digital camera. Peebles ushered the intruder towards his villa. Once inside, the host settled in a cane chair opposite Schofield, who was invited to sit on a barstool. Peebles awkwardly browsed through the snapshots, his pistol still aimed at Schofield.
“It seems you’re more interested in me than my home, Mr...”
“Bell... Ian Bell..”
Peebles grinned and stared at the bottle of Bells whiskey that was standing on the bar. “Not very clever are you, whoever you are? Who sent you? O‘Hara?”
Schofield saw an opportunity. His accent quickly turned to Irish. “You fucked up big time, Peebles... Mr O’Hara wants his money back and to be quite frank, he wants your head on a platter. Did you really think that you could get away with this?”
Schofield smiled satisfactorily, noticing that it was Peebles who was now perspiring. The man in the swimming trunks mopped his brow with his hand.
“So how did you find me?”
“It wasn’t difficult. A bit clumsy of you to leave this place underlined in a travel brochure, don’t you think?”
“Shit... You broke into my desk?”
“That’s another story,” smirked Schofield.
“Put your hands in the air,” threatened the worried Peebles. ”Now put your gun on the table.”
Schofield smirked. “So what’s it to be? Put my hands in the air or put my gun on the table?”
“The gun,” snarled the red-faced Peebles.
Schofield carefully placed his firearm onto the table. He felt relief now that he had purchased the less than elegant looking weapon from some bum in down town Fort Lauderdale. On closer inspection, a weapons expert would no doubt determine that the ancient pistol would not be the choice of an experienced IRA gunman, but Peebles was no expert.
“Why are you smiling? I have a gun aimed at your gut and you’re smiling?”
“Because, Peebles, it matters not what happens to me. Mr O’Hara knows where you are and he’s coming to get you.... Now, I have a proposition to make... You hand over the proceeds of the robbery and I’ll call Mr O’Hara and plead your case for clemency.”
“Are you mad?” growled Peebles, again wiping away the perspiration from his face. “What’s to stop me from shooting you?”
Schofield lowered his hands. “You won’t shoot me, you fucking snivelling, pathetic cunt. You haven’t the balls, Peebles... Think about my proposition. It’s the only way you’ll get out of this alive.”
Peebles was now confused. He mulled over the intruder’s words.
“You know, you’ll...”
“Shut up! Shut the fuck up,” screamed Peebles... “O’Hara will kill me regardless... I’ll take my chance and...”
“I’ll tell you what,” interrupted Schofield. “O’Hara pays me well, but not well enough. Now how about if you give me say, half a million? I tell O’Hara that you’re not in Florida and you live happily ever after.”
Peebles touched his brow, his clammy hands having difficulty gripping his pistol. “Do you think I’m stupid? Even if I agreed to your proposal, how could I possibly trust you?”
Schofield removed his sunglasses and baseball cap. “The way I see it, you have no choice but to trust me... For what it’s worth, you have my word that once you hand me half a million pounds, you or O’Hara will never hear from me again... Of course, you could shoot me, but that would only prolong your death. O’Hara will hunt you down, no matter where you go. This way and you’ll be a free and rich man. How much does half a million pounds million mean to you? Is it worth your life?”
Peebles, with his gun still trained on Schofield, walked towards the bar and reached for the whiskey bottle. He poured out two large measures and handed Schofield one.
“I need to think this over. How can I contact you?”
Schofield scribbled down his cell phone number on a piece of paper. “Don’t take too long over your decision, Peebles. O’Hara will start to get suspicious if I don’t contact him soon.”
“I don’t trust you, Mr Bell, or whatever your name is, but, I guess I have little choice. You’ll have your answer by this evening.”
“That’s fine... I’m sure Mukhtar will see sense and agree.”
Peebles looked surprised. “You know about Mukhtar?”
“Of course. Rasheed, who you spoke of, I assume was one of the men involved in the robbery. Then of course there was his partner in the robbery.”
“Tariq was unfortunately shot dead by your employer... I’ll speak to them and you’ll have your answer... Now please leave.”
Schofield felt relief as he was allowed to leave the villa. He was delighted at his ability to ad-lib, and everything seemed to fall into place perfectly. Of course, he had no intention of accepting the half a million pounds, although it was a tidy sum.
“One more thing, Mr Bell.”
Schofield turned towards the angry-looking Peebles. “Personally, I think you’re bullshitting me... I believe you to be loyal to O’Hara, but we’ll be prepared for you. I’m not a violent man, but as you probably heard, I have powerful friends. If I agree to deal with you, then so be it, but if you’re lying, then it is not only my body that will be riddled with gunshot wounds... A good day to you Mr Bell.”