Blood Money (chapter thirteen and fourteen.)
Five days had past since the robbery had occurred and various scenarios had been conjured up by the media. O’Hara had been interviewed on a live chat show and did not take too kindly, when the presenter mentioned the rumours that the Irishman may have staged the robbery himself.
Manaf, Mukhtar and Kannellakis had returned home after extensive questioning by CID, and O’Hara had promised the trio that when the money was recovered it would be forwarded to them.
The Renault Trafic van used in the robbery was found burnt out in a disused garage close to Victoria train station. Derelict warehouses were searched within a twenty miles span of central London without success. Although all the docks in the area were checked, it was believed that the money was now probably out of the country.
The serial numbers of the three million pounds that was made up of fifty and twenty-pound notes had not been recorded, such was the confidence of O’Hara. After all, who would dare to rob him?
Chaplin, on his way to a meeting with Schofield and Pepper had driven around Camden Town at least four times, checking his mirror for unwanted surveillance. He had now become a paranoid wreck, believing that the police had checked out his financial status, and he was convinced that either O’Hara or the law was following him. Parking two streets from his brother in law’s flat, the suspicious solicitor walked to his rendezvous, viewing every pedestrian as a potential policeman or terrorist.
Schofield and Pepper were waiting for him when he finally arrived, some forty minutes late. Schofield, as usual was clutching a glass of his beloved Jack Daniels, even though it was just after eight-forty am.
“Glad you could make it, Sam,” said Schofield, with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
Chaplin edged towards the window and peered through the dirty window. “I shouldn’t have come.”
“And why not?” asked Pepper, joining his host in a glass of whiskey.
“Someone is following me.”
Pepper joined him at the window. “Shit, Sam, are you sure? I mean who?..”
“I don’t know. The bloody police, or maybe one of O’Hara’s thugs.”
“Aren’t you being just a little cautious, Sam?” asked Schofield, topping up his drink.
“No, I am not... The police, I’m certain think I had something to do with the robbery, and God knows what O’Hara thinks. I only pray that he did stage the whole fiasco.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have come here,” fretted Pepper. “I can’t believe that I let you talk me into this hair-brained scheme, Deano… Remember our agreement? You leave me out of this.”
Chaplin settled down in an armchair, lit up a cigarette and held his aching head in his hands. “Forget the bloody scheme, Jack, that’s the last of our worries.”
“Our worries?” probed the redheaded journalist. “Surely, they can’t really suspect you of masterminding that robbery. I mean...”
“Shut up the both of you,” ordered Schofield. “I think you’re both missing the point here... Somebody has stolen our money. Yes, our money, but who?… Pardon me for my boldness, Sam, but I agree that you wouldn’t have the balls to set up this robbery; after all, it was your money too. I don’t buy the story that O’Hara is behind this either, and that is our main concern.”
Pepper again glanced out of the window. “Surely, O’Hara wouldn’t dare have you topped, Sam. If anything happened to you, then the media would crucify him.”
“So who took the money?” interrupted Schofield. “With a degree of confidence I would eliminate Manaf, so who does that leave? Kannallakis and our arrogant friend, Mukhtar. But how would they know about the money? As far as they were concerned, they were to receive a cheque.”
Chaplin and Pepper were paralysed with fright when the door to the lounge opened. A pretty, blonde girl, clad only in a red silk dressing gown ignored the guests and helped herself to one of Chaplin’s cigarettes. Her long mane was tousled and her feline eyes were half-open.
“What time is it, Deano?” she asked.
“It’s not yet nine 'o'clock. Go back to bed, Gemma.”
The girl sat on Schofield’s knee and poured herself a glass of Jack Daniels. “Shouldn’t you be at the office, Deano?”
“That’s one of the reasons I left the army, I don’t like early mornings. I’m my own boss now, Gemma.”
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?” she asked.
Chaplin was conscious that he was staring at her long, slender legs. Schofield noticed Pepper’s seemingly lack of interest towards the girl, and that added fuel to the rumour that he did indeed prefer men.
“Go back to bed ,honey, it’s just men’s talk. I’ll wake you at ten-thirty, I promise,” ordered Schofield.
The girl kissed him on the lips and reluctantly left the room.
“Shit, Dean, are you crazy or what?” moaned Chaplin. “She might have heard everything.”
“Relax, Sam. You could have told her the whole set up and it would have gone over Gemma’s head. She’s not playing with a full deck.”
Pepper resumed the debate. “Would the Greek or the paki have the resources for such an organised job?”
“Organised,” countered Chaplin. “I hardly think it was organised... The robbery didn’t warrant being organised. O’Hara, in his stubbornness refused to mention to the authorities that the van was carrying three million grand. If he had, then we would have been escorted to the bank by the police. Security was non existent and whoever robbed us knew that.”
Schofield picked up the morning newspaper off his table. “O’Hara must be suffering. The tabloids are crucifying him. They’ve even revived old stories about his possible links with the IRA.”
Pepper drained his glass. “Well, that’s it. I’m out of here. Shit happens and gentlemen, we have been dumped on big style. May I suggest that you do not contact me again?”
“Sit down, Jack,” threatened Schofield. “Someone has stolen our money and I aim to do something about it.”
The reporter smirked. “Like what? What exactly are you fucking going to do, Deano? Grow up man, it’s about time you took a reality check. You’re not Rambo, and Perry Mason here has been reduced to a bumbling wreck. Even if you were competent at your job, which incidentally you are not, where would you start? The entire force of London CID can’t find out who was responsible for the robbery, but you can? Do me a favour and forget about the money and forget about me. Good fucking morning.”
Schofield waited until the reporter had gone before whispering, “dickhead... So where do you stand, Sam?”
“Where do I stand? I’m being investigated by CID and there may be a psycho Paddy waiting to blow me away, and you ask me where I stand? Do you know, Pauline, I’m certain even suspects me of being involved with the robbery? We’ve even had to keep David off school because he was being teased about his old man being a potential armed robber. Where I stand, Dean is in a puddle of shit about six feet deep and I’m sinking fast.”
“Do you know any good solicitors?”
“It’s not funny, Dean... Everything’s such a bloody joke with you isn’t it?“
“Okay, so I’ll do this alone. I’ll get our money back without your help.”
Chaplin laughed out loud. “So let’s suppose that by some miracle that you did get back the money, where would that leave us? I for one wouldn’t be able to spend a penny of it, and you? I wouldn’t be surprised if CID and O’Hara have you under surveillance.”
“Do you have the address of Mukhtar?”
Chaplin assumed a more solemn stance. “You are serious aren’t you? Yes, I have his address, but God willing the money is closer to home, hopefully in bloody Belfast.”
The solicitor wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to Schofield. “Whatever you decide to do I want nothing more to do with it. The only way out of this as far as I can see is if O’Hara somehow gets his money back and then keeps his promise to donate it to the three appointed beneficiaries. Perhaps then, we might be able to collect our share... Don’t you see, Dean; this is our only way out of this mess?”
Schofield listened with interest to what his brother in law was saying. “That makes sense, but not everything is rainbows and butterflies. Just suppose I did find out who took the money. I could send an anonymous letter to O’Hara and let him take over. I’m merely assisting him in his search for the thieves, only he doesn’t know it.”
“You do whatever you have to, but I think it best if we didn’t see each other again for a while.”
“Jesus, Sam, you’re my brother in law. The police would be more suspicious if we stopped seeing each other.”
Chaplin opened the front door and checked for any suspicious characters. “Please don’t come to my home, Dean, I think it’s for the best. Good morning and good luck.”
The troubled solicitor walked swiftly along the road, unaware of the driver of the black BMW that was parked opposite Schofield’s flat. The driver removed his sunglasses and spoke into his cell phone. He joined the Saturday morning traffic, satisfied with his morning’s work.
Terry Keenan leant on the balcony of the Athens, Acropil hotel and looked down at the busy street below. The bare-chested Irishman sucked on his lemon lollipop and basked in the welcome Greek sunshine. Although the temperature at that time of the year was not sweltering, the climate was pleasant and warm.
Keenan was a cautious man; the false passport he had used to enter Greece was a natural precaution to protect his identity. To hand over his passport to the desk clerk was the usual procedure in Greece, and Keenan was confident that the fake document would survive a thorough inspection.
He rummaged through his drawers and selected a black, baggy tee shirt. He placed his 9mm Browning in the waistband of his shorts and the tee shirt conveniently hid the bulge. A black baseball cap and a pair of designer sunglasses completed his get up.
The Irishman had left nothing to chance and was as immaculate as ever in his planning. He had purchased a map and had visited the local Internet cafe to find the location he sought, rather than to ask for directions.
Passing through the hotel foyer, the desk clerk waved to him. “Have a nice day, Mr Riley.”
Keenan mounted his rented scooter and kicked it into action. The scooter, he reckoned was more convenient for the streets of Athens and easier to manoeuvre between the traffic if need be. He merged with the chaotic lanes of traffic and inhaled the fragrant flora and the strong stench of fish.
Ten minutes later, and Keenan joined the Akti Miaoli Street that borders the harbour. He parked his scooter at the side of the road and walked along the harbour front, occasionally glancing at the flat-capped fishermen who were fixing their nets. A fleet of cargo and passenger ships were moored in the port of Piraeus, but Keenan was not here for the sightseeing.
He came across several seafront establishments and quickly located the Vlassis Taverna. The taverna was partly covered with a thatched roof and several tables were pitched outdoors close to the waterfront. Enormous wine barrels lined the walls and the red and white checked tablecloths looked tacky, but typical of a Greek taverna. The music of bouzouki’s serenaded the diners.
Only a handful of holidaymakers occupied the interior of the taverna, and four local fishermen were engaged in a game of cards. Nobody paid Keenan much attention as he sat at a table facing the staircase, his baseball cap and sunglasses still intact.
It was ten minutes before a small, stocky man, wearing an apron approached his table. “Parakalo. You are English, yes?”
“Close... I’ll have the grilled octopus with salad and a cup of coffee please.”
“Grilled octopus, eh? Nescafe or Greek coffee, Sir?”
“Greek will be fine.”
Another ten minutes passed before Keenan was served with bread and coffee. Leaving his table, the Irishman walked towards the staircase. He took the steps two at a time and was ignored by the fishermen, who were squabbling over their cards.
Keenan passed three apartments on the first floor before advancing to the second storey. He focused on the number five, hanging lopsided on the paint-flaked door. Reaching towards his shorts, he crept towards the door.
Keenan swung round and faced the man who had taken his order downstairs.
“I’m looking for the bog... The toilet... WC?”
“Ah, the WC. Downstairs my friend. Come, I will show you.”
It was another fifteen minutes before the octopus was served. Keenan had tasted better, but it was edible and not too rubbery. He was now growing impatient and checked his wristwatch.
The proprietor sat beside him. “The octopus, eet is good eh?”
“The octopus is fine... Could I trouble you for a large lager please?”
“Eet is on the house friend. Vlassis is happy if his customers are happy.”
Keenan sipped his lager and focused on an old gypsy woman, who was carrying bunches of flowers. He tipped the old lady and then realised his mistake as she sat beside him, muttering something incomprehensible. She grasped his hand and Vlassis quickly appeared on the scene. He chased away the woman and settled down once more beside Keenan. In his hands was a bottle of raki and two glasses.
“Fucking Albanians,” he growled. “Ignore her.” He proceeded to pour out two glasses of the potent liquid. “Yamas.”
“Yamas.” The Irishman grimaced as he tasted the strong ouzo.
The sound of footsteps descending the staircase held Keenan’s interest. The face was familiar and there could be no mistake. Keenan recalled the man’s features from the newspaper cutting.
The new arrival, who had a cigarette clenched between his teeth was beckoned towards the fishermen and a long conversation took place. Although Keenan was not fluent in Greek, the name Darius was all the confirmation he needed.
Darius nodded at Vlassis as he exited the establishment, and Keenan swallowed the remainder of his raki.
“You like, eh?” smiled Vlassis. “Another?”
Keenan held up a hand and rose from the table. “No thanks, I’m driving. Thanks for the meal, Vlassis.”
The proprietor shrugged his shoulders and returned to his bar.
Stepping into the pleasant sunshine, Keenan jogged after Kannellakis. He followed him across the busy road, ignoring the furious drivers, who sounded their horns and cursed him.
Keenan reached into the pocket of his shorts and unwrapped a strawberry lollypop. Kannellakis turned down a side street and Keenan was thankful for the shade. They passed several shipping company offices, before the Greek turned into a blacked out building without windows.
Keenan waited a few minutes before sliding open the door. Kannellakis, who was bent over the bonnet of a car turned to face the intruder, and in his hand, he brandished a spanner.
“Darius Kannallakis?” queried Keenan.
Kannellakis studied the face of the stranger, his cigarette still dangling from his lips. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Keenan ignored the question and whistled after recognising the car. “A Ford Mustang? Shit, I haven’t seen one of these for years.”
Kannellakis relaxed. “The 1974 version, 2.3 litre engine and...”
“Aren’t you supposed to be underprivileged, Darius? This motor must be worth a fortune.”
“The car was given to me many years ago by an American friend who has a house here. It was not in working order when he gave it to me, but I’m close to restoring it... Again, I ask, who are you?”
Keenan removed his sunglasses and tossed his lollypop stick to the ground. “A friend sent me.”
“A friend? You are English, no?”
“Fuck!” snarled the Irishman. “Are you Greeks obsessed with the English? I’m fucking Irish, Darius, Irish.”
“Mr O’Hara sent you?”
“Correct, Darius, only he isn’t feeling too charitable at this time... Okay, I’ll put this as blunt as I can. What do you know about the robbery in London?”
“You think that I had something to do with that?”
Keenan removed his pistol from the waistband of his shorts. “Please don’t fuck me about. I’m knackered and this damned heat is pissing me off... Who stole Mr O’Hara’s money?”
The frightened man retreated behind the car. “I swear I had nothing to do with it.”
“Get in the car, Darius.”
“Get in the fucking car!”
Kannellakis obeyed him and Keenan opened the garage, door before climbing in beside him.
“Let’s go for a drive. I fancy taking in a bit of your wonderful scenery.”
“The car is not yet ready to drive.”
“Well, we’ll see shall we?” said Keenan; his weapon still aimed at the frightened driver. “Move it.”
The red Ford Mustang came to life and Kannellakis steered it into the street. He looked nervously across at his passenger. “Where do you want me to drive?”
“Somewhere quiet, above the harbour will do, Darius.”
Fifteen minutes had passed and they were now driving along a narrow road high above Piraeus. Keenan ordered his hostage to turn off the road onto a grassy clearing.
“You’ve excelled yourself, Darius. The motor ran like a baby... Now get out of the car.”
Keenan shepherded Kannellakis into a grove of trees.
“Do you know what I hate about my job, Darius? I hate it when I have to kill someone who may be innocent. Actually, I quite like you and that makes my job just a little harder... After the deed is done, I think that perhaps I won’t be able to sleep at night, but I always do... Does that make me a bad person, Darius?”
The trembling Greek shook his head.
“Are you pissing yourself, Darius? I expected better coming from a real life hero... Don’t you think it ironic that you come through that fated flight only to die like this? Kismet I suppose.”
“You must listen to me,” sobbed Kannellakis. “One of the others must have robbed Mr O’Hara. I swear, I’m...”
“Who Darius! Who?”
Keenan aimed his pistol at the distraught man’s left knee and squeezed the trigger. Kannellakis screamed and collapsed to the ground.
“See what you made me do, Darius? Just tell me what you know and I’ll drop you off at the hospital.”
The stricken man was clutching his bloody knee. “Why would I rob Mr O’Hara? One hundred thousand pounds is more than enough for me.”
Kannellakis realised his mistake. “Perhaps Mukhtar or Manaf planned the robbery but not me.”
Keenan held his pistol against the right knee of Kannellakis. “What did you mean by one hundred thousand pounds?”
“I am confused,” pleaded the wounded man.
Keenan again pulled the trigger and the right kneecap of Kannellakis exploded.
“Don‘t make me angry? Shit, I don’t want to see you suffer. Now talk.”
The crippled Greek spit into the face of his torturer.
The irate Irishman knelt down beside his victim and pressed the butt of his pistol against his ravaged left knee.
“Ahhhh! Please, no!”
“Talk to me, Darius. Fucking talk to me!”
Keenan asserted more pressure onto his weapon and Kannellakis let out an agonising scream.
“You’ve got balls, I grant you that, Darius.”
The Irishman smiled and directed the muzzle of his weapon at the groin of the wounded man. “I’m not fucking with you. Tell me what I want to hear or I swear, I’ll blow your bollocks off and leave you here for the vultures.”
“C...C...Chaplin. I…It was Chaplin.”
Keenan moved closer. “Chaplin robbed Mr O’Hara?”
“Ahh. No, he was going to pay us one hundred thousand pounds each.”
“All three of you?”
Keenan rose to his feet and pondered. “Let me get this right. Chaplin was going to pocket the rest of the money?”
“Was Chaplin working alone?”
“I don’t know.”
Keenan placed his hands around the throat of the tortured man and squeezed. Satisfied that Kannellakis was dead, he walked swiftly towards the car. Driving over the rough terrain towards the body, the Irishman lifted him into the passenger seat. He drove slowly back onto the coast road and halted when he came to a gap in the safety railing.
Keenan checked that the road was clear before pushing the corpse into the driver’s seat. He released the handbrake and pushed with all of his might. The car vanished over the steep cliff and Keenan scrambled to the edge, to see the crumpled vehicle disappear beneath the waves.
Noticing that his tee shirt was bloodstained, Keenan removed it and buried it beneath a sand dune. He tossed the pistol into the sea and began to jog downhill to Piraeus. The sunrays against his naked torso would do him good. Yes, he would sleep well tonight.