Blood Money (chapters thirty one and thirty two.)
Inspector De Vries surveyed the baby-faced teenager through the one-way glass. He puffed on his cigarette, finding it difficult to believe that this skinny kid had achieved what Interpol had had failed to do, in terminating the life of a notorious assassin.
“We can’t hold him for much longer,” stated Captain Howard of the New York Police Department.
De Vries sighed. “Yes, it was self-defence, but let me talk to him again.”
“To what purpose, Inspector? Your armed robbers are dead and so is Malik... You’ve no reason to stay in New York now.”
De Vries stubbed out his cigarette. “You found the body of Rasheed in the river, but no sign of Mukhtar. And you assume that the man lying in that loft is Malik, but I’m not so sure... Also, there’s a little matter of what’s happened to O’Hara’s money. We can assume that the money Peebles deposited in his bank account was part of the proceeds of the robbery, but what about the rest? You, yourself have checked all major transactions in the last month and found nothing. No, Mukhtar and Rasheed stashed their share, but where?”
The captain smiled smugly. “Who was this guy that your suspects met by the river?”
“I don’t know,” lied De Vries. He had no intention of divulging anymore restricted information to the local cops about Schofield. “Well, can I see him?”
“Be my guest, Inspector, but I’m releasing him afterwards.”
Farooq appeared nervous when De Vries entered the room. The youngster was nibbling his fingernails.
“Cigarette?” offered De Vries, pulling up a chair and sitting opposite Farooq.
“I’ve already told you, I don’t smoke.”
“So you have.” De Vries stared incessantly at the youth, an action that unsettled him.
“Look, I’ve told you everything that I know. That bastard killed...”
“I know what you told me, Farooq... Listen, this is strictly off the record, no recording okay? Do you recall when I told you that your cousin and Mukhtar were involved with SSP?”
“Well they did something stupid Farooq; something really stupid. They owed SSP money, but decided not to pay. You see, that man who you beat to death with a baseball bat was an assassin sent from SSP to kill your cousin.”
De Vries smiled and shook his head. “Afraid not, Farooq. And my guess is that SSP will send someone else to New York, and they won’t take too kindly to one of their top men being killed.”
“What bullshit is this, man? That gorilla murdered my father.”
“Yes, and why was he in your loft, Farooq? Have you ever given that some thought?”
“I’ve told you, I came home from bowling and...”
“Yeah, yeah. Who’s bullshitting who now, Farooq? Malik had torn several floorboards from your loft, why? What was he looking for, Farooq? Are you blushing?”
“Fuck you, cop. I have witnesses who saw him chasing me down the road. He shot the old Jew and would have shot me if his gun hadn’t jammed. I killed him in self-defence.”
“Perhaps,” butted in De Vries, “but his death is not why I’m questioning you. To be quite honest, you did me a big favour by taking Malik out. You must be one lucky bastard. Either that, or Malik was losing it big time. The top assassin for SSP is usually so thorough, and certainly wouldn’t allow for a gun jam.”
“Can I go?” moaned Farooq.
“Where is the money?”
“The money. The fucking money that was beneath your floorboards.”
The teenager grinned. “I know nothing about any money.”
De Vries narrowed his eyes and stroked his stubble. “Malik was in your loft for a reason, and I’m damn sure that he had information that the money was beneath the floorboards.”
“I have nothing to say.”
“I suppose that seeing as this is off the record, I can confide in you... Two days ago, a charred body was found at a farmhouse, not too far from here. Strange thing was that the hands had been severed. My guess is that the body was that of Mukhtar. Dental records will eventually bear this out... Are you still with me?”
“Being gifted with such competent skills of detection, I would hazard a guess that Malik had tortured the poor bastard and discovered the whereabouts of their share of the money, two million pounds.”
The blood drained from the face of Farooq. “Two million?”
De Vries nodded. “So where is the money, Farooq? Malik, if he had stashed it wouldn’t have been in your loft when you arrived home now would he? And so that points to you... I’m a reasonable man, and I admit that I’m here merely to ensure that the money does not fall into the hands of SSP. Now if I turn a blind eye to your windfall, then there’s more than a ninety per cent chance that they’ll hunt you down and take the money from you. Do you see my predicament?”
De Vries could see that the youth was deep in thought.
“Like I said, I’m a reasonable man. Tell me where the money is and I’ll fabricate a story for the newspapers that will leave you in the clear. We’ll tell the press that the two million was found in the loft. SSP would then abandon their quest for the money, and I doubt they would send a man here to seek you out. They grow assassins in the trees in Pakistan.”
“And I would be free to go?” whispered Farooq.
“You have my word... You’ll have to appear in court of course, but anyone can see it was self defence... Of course, we’ll overlook the part about you stealing the money.”
Farooq hesitated, a look of suspicion clearly etched on his face. “It was nine hundred and seventy five thousand pounds in Sterling.”
“Your figures are wrong, Inspector.”
“Are you fucking with me, kid?”
“No! It’s the truth.”
The Dutchman held his head in his hands and was silent for a minute. “Schofield,” he muttered.
“What?” asked a bemused Farooq.
“Never mind... Where is the money?”
“Beneath the floorboards in my bedroom.”
The face of De Vries lit up. “Okay, this is how we play it. You tell nobody about the money, okay, and I mean nobody, not even the cops. If you want me to get you out of this mess, you’ve got to trust me.”
“No problem... Can I go now?”
“Go and bury your father, son; and oh, I’ll be in touch.”
De Vries had demanded privacy, to call his headquarters in Lyon, France. His wish was granted and he waited anxiously to be patched through to the Secretary General.
“De Vries? What is your location, Inspector?”
The question was delivered in a broken French accent.
“I’m still in New York, Sir. There have been some rather interesting developments. Fazal Malik, I believe is dead.”
“You believe? Is he dead or not?”
“As you’re aware, Sir, we have no way of identifying Malik, but you yourself said he was in Florida. I believe that he traced Mukhtar and Rasheed to New York.”
“You believe, you believe. Jan, our results are achieved by facts not belief.”
“If you’ll allow me to finish, Sir... I told you that Mukhtar and Rasheed were killed when their car crashed into the river, but only the body of Rasheed was found. Two days ago, a charred body was found at a farmhouse, minus his hands. What we do know about Malik is that he is sadistic and metes out justice according to Islam law.”
“Again, a presumption, Inspector. I assume that the body was confirmed to be that of Mukhtar?”
“No sir, forensics have been unable to come up with anything apart from the dentistry. It appears that Mukhtar was not a regular visitor to the dentists... It is my assumption that Malik tortured Mukhtar, in order to learn where their share of the money was. Mukhtar obviously lied to his torturer.”
“I don’t follow, Jan.”
“Sir, Malik murdered the householder at an address in Midwood New York, who happened to be the uncle of Rasheed. He then ripped up the floorboards in his loft, but was interrupted by the owner’s son. It was the son who killed Malik in self-defence.”
“Very interesting. And this son; how did he terminate the life of the great Fazal Malik?”
“With a baseball bat... I know, I could hardly believe it myself, but I’m certain that it was Malik.”
“And the money?”
De Vries hesitated and lit up a cigarette. “There was no sign of the money, Sir. We pulled up the floorboards, but nothing. If Schofield was the man who met them by the river, then there’s a good chance that he has the remainder of the money.”
“But what hold could he possibly have on them for them to give up the entire proceeds of the robbery?”
“I cannot answer that, Sir. All precautions have been taken to ensure that Schofield does not leave the country... Incidentally, I have some good news. Almost seven hundred thousand pounds has been recovered from the bank account of Peebles. Something else that may put a smile on your face, Sir. Until we can prove conclusively that Peebles was involved in the robbery, then O’Hara won’t receive a penny of it.”
“So if your assumptions are correct, the operation has been a success. That is of course, just as long as SSP don’t catch up with Schofield.”
“I have a suggestion, Sir, that could prove most convenient to us... We could issue a press release, stating that the remaining proceeds of the robbery had been recovered in the apartment. SSP would then surely abandon their quest for the money.”
I like it, Jan, but aren’t you forgetting something? O’Hara will expect his money to be returned.”
De Vries smiled satisfactorily. Everything was falling into place splendidly and he would soon be nine hundred and seventy five thousand pounds better off. True, his ambition at the outset of his mission was to prevent the money falling into the hands of SSP, but avarice is a powerful attraction that had bewitched him. Besides, he was fulfilling an element of his duty, by ensuring the money was not to be used to fund arms. He had given his loyalty, blood, and risked his life numerous times during his ten years with Interpol. Now it was payback time.
“Jan, are you still there? Jan?”
De Vries hovered back to reality. “Yes, Sir... We tell O’Hara the truth. We tell him we concocted the story about the money being recovered in order to ward off SSP, therefore offering us a greater opportunity to recover his money. I’m sure, he’ll see it our way.”
“Okay, Jan. Take a holiday. You’ve deserved it.”
The Dutchman frowned. “But what about Schofield?”
“Who cares? The money has not fallen into the hands of Sipah-e-Sahaba and so you have succeeded in your mission. Let the local police worry about Schofield.”
“I don’t think that would be wise, Sir.”
“And why not?”
“First of all, we cannot be certain that SSP will fall for our story. What if they already know about Schofield and are on his tail? Also, it will be most embarrassing for us if Schofield is apprehended with two million pounds in his possession.”
The Secretary General pondered. “What do you suggest?”
“I’ll find Schofield, Sir. Let me continue in my pursuit and I promise you that I’ll find him.”
“Very well, Jan... I realise how obsessive and committed you are to your work, but to refuse an offer of a holiday? I’ll never understand you young men nowadays. Keep in touch. I’ll talk to the authorities in New York and order them to assist you in your investigation. As far as they will be concerned, Schofield is a suspected-armed robber.”
“Thank you, Sir. As you know, I am committed and always follow my case through to its conclusion. Only when Schofield is apprehended will I be able to relax. I’ll be in touch... Oh, one more thing, Sir. Our undercover man in SSP. I think you should pull him out. Holly did not know the name of...”
“Jan. He‘s missing. We’ve had no communication with him now for one week.”
De Vries replaced the receiver and leant back in his chair with his hands on his head. He laughed loudly, imagining the enjoyment that his bounty would bring. The offer of leave was tempting, but he had other, more personal motives for catching Schofield. One million of them.
The police car parked in front of Central Park and the burly officer fixed his rodent-like eyes on the man who was seated on a bench. Keenan, who was wearing a green combat jacket folded away his newspaper and ambled towards the vehicle. He climbed into the passenger seat beside the nervous-looking officer.
“Well?” asked Keenan.
“The two Pakis are dead, and word is that they met someone at the river, who did a bunk,”
mumbled the officer in a distinctive Irish brogue.
“Fuck, that was Schofield. Tell me something that I don’t already know. I could have read that in the newspapers.”
“I only know what I heard. Schofield, it seems was one of the gang.”
Keenan sucked on his lollypop. “Why wasn’t I contacted earlier? The Paki’s must have been in New York for a week and nobody noticed.”
“Give me a break. Mr O’Hara didn’t exactly advertise the fact that he was looking for them... What I can tell you is that some Dutch cop from Interpol is deemed important enough to have the run of the precinct.”
“Dutch? What does he look like?”
“Blonde, handsome bastard. You know him?”
Keenan ashamedly recalled the stranger who had saved his life in Pakistan. “Maybe.”
The Irish policeman scratched his head. “So why are you still interested in Schofield? The money has been recovered and no doubt been returned to Mr O’Hara.”
“O’Hara doesn’t like to be fucked about, and besides, if word got out that Schofield fleeced him, then that wouldn’t do at all would it? The Brit must be punished accordingly.”
The killer’s last statement had been partly delivered untruthfully. O’Hara had been informed that his money in fact had not been recovered and it was likely that Schofield was in possession of the cash. The Dutchman was a complication that Keenan could so without.
“Where could Schofield hide?” sighed Keenan.
“The Big Apple’s a big place, fella. We’ve got all the airports and the seaports covered, and strict border checks in place.”
Keenan glowered at the policeman, and without warning, stuck his lollypop to the forehead of the lawman. “Now you look like the imbecile you appear to be. You’ve wasted my fucking time. You’ve told me nothing that I already knew, apart from the Dutchman being here. Next time you call me, you’d better have something more substantial or I’ll do you, I swear... Have a good day now.”
The policeman waited until Keenan had left his vehicle before passing wind. He had never been so scared in his life, and the former IRA gunman had generated pure evil in his presence. He removed the lollypop from his head and whispered, “pussy.”
Two months had passed since the deaths of Mukhtar and Rasheed, and London was basking in a heatwave. Even for June, the temperatures were abnormally high, and the scientists and doom mongers were apportioning the blame to global warming.
Pauline and young David were standing at Sam’s grave, the widow rearranging flowers and the boy more interested in his toy aeroplane. Pauline’s long hair was tied up and she wore a white tee shirt and cut off denims; an outfit suitable for the climate, and not a cemetery. Large designer sunglasses helped to hide the crow’s feet that had developed after the death of Sam.
Pauline straightened up, and ensuring her son was out of earshot, spoke softly. “I love you, Sam and I miss you. We both do... I hope you like the roses. I know you...”
Her words dwindled, as she squinted, her tired eyes focusing on the scruffy-looking man who was standing beneath an oak tree. He was watching them.
“David! David, come here.”
The young boy ignored his mother’s order and continued to enact his dogfight..
“David!” The voice assumed more urgency when she saw the stranger approaching. He sported a beard and his hair was shoulder length. Wearing sunglasses, a denim jacket and jeans, he assumed the appearance of a sixties flower child. Slung over his shoulder was a rucksack.
Pauline clutched the hand of her son and looked around the spacious grounds for assistance if it was needed. She was in shouting distance of other mourners, who had come to bury their loved one, and she suddenly felt safe.
“Pauline. How are you?”
She opened her mouth in disbelief. The voice was familiar and so were the unmistakable piercing, grey eyes. “Dean. Shit, it is you, Dean.”
Schofield looked around casually, before smiling. The two embraced. “Sorry about the threads, but it’s my new image. The Italian suits are history, sis.” He edged forward towards the grave and bowed his head. “Nice headstone.”
“Dean. You’re not safe here. The police are looking for you.”
The smile disappeared. “It’s not the police that I’m worried about.” He crouched down and ruffled the hair of David. “How are you, Davy boy? Christ you don’t recognise your Uncle Dean, do you? He looks so much like his father.”
“Where have you been?” quizzed Pauline, removing her sunglasses. “The newspapers say that you’re in America.”
“I was... I bribed some old merchant sea captain into letting me sail with him. We eventually reached Aberdeen, and well, here I am.”
“They think that you were involved with the robbery, Dean, and you’re suspected of murdering Peebles. Please tell me it isn’t true.”
“Shit, of course it’s not true. Yes, I travelled to America, to take what was rightly ours.”
“I don’t understand.”
Schofield caressed his sister’s hand. “Sam was not the meek, reticent man that you thought you knew. He came up with an ingenious scheme, in which we would relieve O’Hara of his three million, without bloodshed or violence. Everything was going sweet, until Mukhtar got greedy and staged the robbery, under the influence of Sam’s so-called loyal friend, Lance Peebles.”
“And so you foolishly went after the money?” asked Pauline.
Schofield nodded. “As you already suspect, Sam’s death was no suicide. I reckon that O’Hara suspected Sam of being involved with the robbery and then had him killed, making it look like suicide. In fact, one of O‘Hara’s henchmen as good as verified this.”
“So who killed Peebles?”
“Mukhtar and Rasheed.” Schofield surveyed the surroundings cautiously. He acknowledged that the police could still have his sister under surveillance.
“David and I are moving in with man and dad, Dean.”
“What? But why?”
“Why? I can’t keep up the mortgage payments on the house.”
“They don’t pay out on suicides.”
“Pension? Surely, Hector and Bullard paid you adequate compensation?”
“No... On the day Sam died, he received a letter from Hector and Bullard. We had an argument and he didn’t even open the letter. They fired him, Dean.”
Schofield once more checked around him before removing his rucksack from his shoulder. He straightened up and held it out towards his sister.
“Here, Pauline. Sam would have wanted you to have this.”
Pauline hesitated. “What is it?”
“A quarter of a million pounds.”
At first, her face assumed a mask of amusement, and then she adopted a more solemn look. “That’s not funny, Dean.”
“It’s not meant to be. I’m serious. Here take it.”
Pauline put her hands up in defence. “You actually recovered the money?”
“Not all of it. I managed to retrieve one million. I gave some to a girl who helped me in New York, and I’m hoping to pass on a sizable fee to Manaf, so that he can help rebuild his village.”
“But the papers said...”
“That is was recovered? I’m not sure why they released that story.”
The emotional woman was bemused. “I can’t take this; it’s blood money. How many people have died because of it?”
Calculating roughly, Schofield counted at least seven. In reality, the number was nearer nineteen. He placed the knapsack on the bench. “Take it, Pauline. Sam died for it so that you could have a better life.”
Pauline looked towards her late husband’s final resting place and tears welled up in her puffy eyes. “What are you going to do, Dean? Where will you go?”
He slumped onto the bench and his sister joined him. David continued to play with his toy aeroplane.
“I plan to disappear, sis. Do you recall that farm in Wales that I was infatuated with as a child?”
“Oh, that farm. Yes, of course.”
“Well, maybe I’ll make the old farmer an offer he can’t refuse.”
Pauline lightened up. “Are you sure it was only one million that you stole?”
Schofield continued the daydream. “I wouldn’t need much money, once I purchased the farm. I’d live off the land, marry a buxom Welsh girl and tend to my livestock. Maybe a dozen cattle, and not forgetting the horses.”
Pauline stared at the rucksack. “How do I explain my sudden financial solvency?”
“You don’t... Do not put the money into a bank; well not immediately. Pay off your missed instalments on the house and don’t spend extravagantly, attracting undue attention.”
Pauline examined the face of her troubled brother, and even with the beard, he could not disguise his unhappiness.
“There’s something you aren’t telling me isn’t there, Dean?”
He opened his mouth as if to speak, and then had a change of heart. “Forget it.”
“Please, I want to know.”
Schofield chewed on a fingernail, a habit he had picked up after giving up the cigarettes. “I cannot put this on you.”
“Damn it, Dean, I want to know what’s on your mind.”
Schofield took in an influx of fresh air before speaking. “I had plenty of time to think on my long voyage home from the States. I came up with a scheme that would offer us financial security for the rest of our lives, and more importantly, would avenge Sam’s death.”
“Go on,” urged Pauline.
“I’m not sure. The risk is too great, but it would be worth it just to see O’Hara’s smug face.”
“Are you going to tell me your scheme?”
Schofield looked towards David. “Are you sure you want to hear it?”
“Amuse me, brother, like you did with your absurd made up fairy tales you told me as a child. Fire away.”
For a few minutes their troubles were forgotten and their active minds stimulated. They sat by the graveside until the brilliant sunshine was no more, replaced by a spectacular orange night sky.
Waiting in the office of Secretary General Dupont, De Vries feared the worst. Unable to locate Schofield, his mission would be seen as a failure in the eyes of the arrogant French commander. Allowing a colleague from the lower ranks to fester in his office for a given time was a habitual party trick of the Secretary General. The headquarters of Interpol in Lyons was his domain, and he was the supreme ruler, and he ensured that everyone under his command recognized the situation.
Nearing his seventieth birthday, Dupont was an obstinate man, who refused to retire. His stubbornness and strict disciplinary manner were inherited from his days in the French Foreign Legion. The short, stocky man made his grand entrance, his face severe and unsmiling; his bald head adding to his intimidating appearance. He sat opposite the Dutchman and rested his thick tree trunk-like forearms on the desk.
“Good morning, Jan. I trust you had a comfortable flight?”
“I wouldn’t call economy class comfortable, Sir.”
The older man flashed a rare smile. “You know how it is. Besides, I wouldn’t want my agents to go soft now would I? Now, fly a bullet-riddled chopper across the battlefield of Algiers and you’ll know what a rough ride is.”
De Vries felt like a naughty schoolboy about to be punished by his master. Such was the aura generated by Dupont. “Why have I been summoned here, Sir?”
“Relax, Jan. Don’t look so worried. I appreciate what a great job you’ve done, but I’m calling time on this case. You’ve achieved your objective, as we have reliable information that SSP have aborted their efforts to gain possession of O’Hara’s loot. I want to congratulate you. Your suggestion concerning the press release seems to have been successful and I commend you.”
A mere opportunist,” interrupted Dupont. “Forget Schofield, he is a petty thief and does not warrant the attentions of Interpol. In fact, I find it amusing that he’s out there somewhere spending the money of that hypocrite, O’Hara... No, Jan, your mission is concluded. Return to Amsterdam with your head held high. There may even be a promotion in this for you.”
There was a prolonged silence, and De Vries felt uncomfortable with the eyes of his superior burning into his.
“Nice suit, Jan. We must be paying you well.”
The Inspector blushed, realising how foolish he had been to wear such a lavish and expensive suit. He had greedily dipped into his ill-gotten gains, unable to resist the temptation. He did not regret his decision to not bank the money. To explain his sudden influx of funds was a predicament he could do without.
“I think is would be in our best interests to pursue Schofield, Sir.”
“Oh, and why is this?”
“You claim that he is merely a petty thief. Aren’t you forgetting the murder of Lance Peebles, Sir?”
“We cannot prove that he had anything to do with the murder. Even you reported to me that it was highly unlikely that Schofield murdered Peebles... Go back to Holland, Jan and take that break... My decision to offer you this assignment was the correct one. I will no doubt call on your services again. Good morning, Jan.”