Blood Money (chapters thirty three and thirty four.)
Pauline watched with disgust when Morris O’Hara picked up the young girl and kissed her on the cheek, amid a salvo of camera flashes. The Irishman gloated over the attention, as he attended the grand opening of his impressive superstore in Fulham. The multi-millionaire had shrewdly made several cameo appearances on TV shows and hogged the limelight, in order to dilute the unwanted publicity that followed the robbery.
That he was photographed shooting at the armed robbers had won him praise and admiration from the public. Others preferred to believe what they read in the newspapers about his possible relationship with terrorists. Nevertheless, business in his supermarkets was now stable, the vast majority of the shoppers remaining loyal to the reasonably priced supermarkets.
Pauline waited until the ceremony was over and followed O’Hara outside. He headed for his waiting limousine, some of the journalists still snapping away.
“O’Hara. Morris O’Hara, you murdering scum,” snarled Pauline.
The unruffled man turned to face the angry woman and retained his smile for the cameras. He eyed the protestor, and no signs of recognition were imminent.
“You don’t even know who I am do you?”
O’Hara whispered into her ear. “Fuck off, you stupid woman.”
“Don’t you even know who I am?”
O’Hara was grateful that the photographers were out of earshot. “So enlighten me. Who are you?”
“I’m the wife of Sam Chaplin... Oh, so now I do have your undivided and precious attention do I? We need to talk.”
“I’m so sorry about your husband’s death, and I did send flowers to his funeral. Now if you’ll...”
“I have evidence that could put you away for a long time, O’Hara.”
O’Hara hesitated before opening the door of the limousine for the irritable woman. “We’ll talk in private.”
O’Hara stared hard at Pauline as the limousine pulled away. “Just what the fuck is this all about?”
“You’re going to pay me one million pounds, O’Hara, and it will be publicised. You see, you’ll tell the media that you now feel remorse for Sam taking his own life and have decided to donate one million pounds to his widow. You could use the good publicity.”
O’Hara snipped the tip from a giant Cuban cigar. “Now why would I do that?”
“Because, my husband told me that you hired him to stage the robbery, in order for you to save on paying out the three donations.”
“That is a lie and you know it.”
“Yes, it is, but I’m certain I can convince the police to believe me.”
O’Hara turned and blew smoke into the face of Pauline. “My dear, you haven’t thought this out at all have you? First of all, would I shoot at the armed robbers if I had hired them? Secondly, the police know that my money was genuinely stolen. God damn it, they’ve chased this gang half way around the world and even recovered some of the money. And thirdly, it would be your word against mine... Fergal, stop at the corner will you?”
Pauline smiled confidentially. “The shooting could easily have been faked. Under your orders, my husband hired Mukhtar and his merry men to stage the robbery, but Sam was unaware that they had links to SSP.”
“You know about SSP? How?”
Pauline ignored the question. “So Mukhtar and his gang betray you and decide to pass on the money to SSP. That doesn’t change the fact that you hired my husband to stage the robbery. You murdered my husband to cover your tracks and made it look like suicide.”
“Shall I open the door, Mr O’Hara?” asked the driver.
Pauline gloated. “And there’s the matter of the money that you paid my husband for staging the robbery.”
O‘Hara recalled the hush hush money, he paid Chaplin for his services in setting up the donations. “No, drive on.” O’Hara puffed thoughtfully on his cigar. “You’re a deceivingly, dishonest woman, Mrs Chaplin, but will your lies stand up against a skilful attorney? I doubt it...Listen, lady, I assume you’ve heard the rumours about my past?”
“About your close links to the IRA? Of course.”
“And pray tell me why I won’t have you killed?”
Pauline opened up the walnut cabinet and helped herself to a cold bottle of beer. “Because, I have security... My brother, Dean Schofield will verify my story.”
“Schofield! Listen, honey, he’s a wanted fugitive and is hardly likely to come forward now is he?”
“But that’s where you’re wrong, O’Hara. Dean is willing to come forward and testify against you, on condition that he receives a lenient sentence.”
“And that’s your security? Bollocks, lady, utter bollocks.”
Pauline was on a roll. “I left a letter with my late husband’s firm, Hector and Bullard, only to be opened in the event of my death. The letter contains information accusing you of hiring my husband and of subsequently murdering him.”
The Irishman was silent for a few minutes before reaching his decision. “I’m certain that your bullshit wouldn’t hold up in court, but a long drawn out trial, I could do without... Okay, lady, I have a proposition to put to you... Your brother has money belonging to me; a great deal of money in fact. Two million pounds to be exact. I’m willing to spare his life, and he can keep the money if you drop this charade. For that, you have my word.”
For a moment Pauline was in a trance. She was confused. Two million pounds? Dean warned her that O’Hara would try to negotiate his way out of trouble. The man, whatever his fragilities was a sharp card. She swigged from her beer bottle. “No deal... You’ve heard my terms.”
“You, dear are a very difficult woman... What’s to stop you coming back for more if I did agree to pay you?”
“One million pounds will offer enough financial security for David and I. You have my word.”
“How can I contact you?”
“There’s something else,” added Pauline.
She looked into the eyes of O’Hara. “I want the man who murdered my husband, dead.”
“I know nothing about...”
“Don’t!” yelled Pauline. “I know. I know... Father Blake saw the man who chased my husband into the church. Yes, you threatened him and he did not testify, but I visited the good priest... He sympathised with me, but still swore that he would not testify against the killer. It seems that you threatened his family too… I asked him for one wish; that he would confirm to me the identity of the killer, if his death ever appeared in a newspaper. He swore on the Holy Mother… So, Mr O’Hara; when I read about the death of my husband’s killer and receive the money, then our business will be concluded.”
“And if I did agree to your demands, how could I be so sure that the killer’s death would end up in the newspapers?”
“I’m sure you’ll think of a way... You can drop me off here, Fergal,” insisted Pauline. She left her telephone number and exited the limousine. She watched as it pulled away.
Pauline noticed that she was perspiring
heavily and her long legs were wavering uncontrollably. Never had she been so frightened in her life.
The motorcycle pulled up beside her and Schofield raised his visor. “Are you okay, sis?”
She lit up a cigarette with trembling hands. “No, I almost shit myself in there.”
“Well? How did it go?” asked Schofield.
A smile spread across the pretty face of the woman. “I think he’s going to pay.”
Trellick Tower in Notting Hill dominates the West London skyline. Once regarded a home for the criminal fraternity, the impressive tower block had now assumed a reputation of respectability in both its residents and its appearance.
Terry Keenan had awaited his opportunity and slipped past the elderly concierge, who was deep in conversation with one the residents. He lowered his baseball cap and donned his sunglasses, even though it was just after seven in the evening. The CCTV cameras prompted his concealment.
Content that he was alone, he reached the rooftop and welcomed the cooling breeze. He ambled towards the edge of the roof and admired the view of the London landmarks.
Hello, Terry,” came the voice from behind.
Keenan removed his sunglasses and faced his old colleague; his respect for Jimmy Cochrane none existent. They had been united in their fight against the British government and had been on several missions together, but inwardly, Keenan detested Cochrane.
The hatred stemmed from 1993, when they were ordered to assassinate a young up and coming politician in Dublin. The anti IRA stalwart was watching television with his three year old daughter on his lap, when the gunmen burst into the room.
Keenan shot the politician between the eyes and the child stirred, but was barely awake. This did not stop Cochrane from shooting the child, much to the dismay of his partner.
Cochrane, looking down the barrel of Keenan’s 9mm Browning had insisted that the child would have recognised them. Keenan refrained from shooting his colleague and has experienced nightmares ever since that fateful evening. Keenan maintained ethical values in his bloody trade; yes, he had slaughtered the elderly and even women, but he drew the line at killing children and his beloved animals.
“Something troubling you, pal?”
Keenan grimaced. Gone was the black beard of Cochrane, but the dark foreboding eyes had not changed. “You’re late.”
“So, dock me... Anyway, what’s the fucking score, Keenan? O’Hara said to meet you here and you’d brief me. Who’s the hit?”
“He never told you?”
Cochrane looked past Keenan and his eyes settled on the London Eye. “What a fucking eyesore. That’s Brit architecture for you... So what are we waiting for?”
“What indeed?” whispered Keenan. He removed a small stun gun from his belt and held it against Cochrane. The big Irishman shouted out and lost his balance, his passive and confused condition rendering him helpless. He lost control of his legs and fell to the ground.
“You fuck! What is this, Keenan?”
The younger man squatted down and grinned at Cochrane’s apparent predicament. “Surprise, surprise, Jimmy, you’re the hit.”
“You’re out of your fucking mind. O’Hara will skin you alive.”
Keenan enjoyed his sadistic streak and once more he stunned Cochrane.
“Old Morris has ordered your execution, Jimmy and a spectacular one it will be.”
Cochrane attempted to scramble to his feet, but the signal sent from his brain to his muscles was invalid.
“Here, let me help you.” Keenan seized the ineffectual man and helped him to his feet. “On your way down, Jimmy, spare a thought for poor Jenny.”
“The wee girl you slaughtered, you cunt!”
Keenan ran forward, dragging the protesting Cochrane with him. Close to the edge of the roof, Keenan thrust with all of his might and watched the helpless torso of Cochrane disappear into the night air.
Keenan’s face lit up and he laughed hysterically, watching Jenny’s killer plummet towards the ground, his arms flailing the air.
“Fly, Jimmy, fly!”
Keenan grimaced as the body slammed into the ground. He heard the screaming of the witnesses and gloated at the pool of blood that was now surrounding the body of the IRA hitman. He composed himself, put on his sunglasses and unwrapped one of his lollypops. This execution more than any other had been most fulfilling.
Father Blake was in the process of rearranging hymns for the following morning’s service when he spotted Pauline, who was seated in the aisle. He deserted his work and sat beside her.
“Hello, Pauline. I didn’t realise you were a worshipper.”
“I’m not, Father... Can’t you guess why I’m here?”
The priest frowned and looked genuinely bemused. “You’ve come to make a donation perhaps? I’ve heard about your good fortune. Mr O’Hara must have been very fond of your husband.”
Pauline sighed. “No, no. Don’t you read the newspapers?”
“Ah, the newspapers. I must admit that I’ve not gotten around to it this fine morning. So much death and destruction, I’m not sure I enjoy reading the tabloids anymore.”
Pauline handed over her newspaper and pointed at an article. The priest put on his spectacles and read.
“The poor man. Who could have...”
Father Blake stared at the familiar face. “So now I know why you’re here, child.”
“The man who chased your husband into the church is that man. I have no doubt that he is at this moment keeping the devil himself company.”
The priest looked sad and so distant. “I’m ashamed of my actions. Although I’m a servant of the almighty, I am a mere mortal, susceptible to temptation and even threats. This...This monster told me that he would burn my sisters if I testified against him... Yes, I have prayed for forgiveness, but if you forgave me, then it would relieve my burden.”
“Father, I understand, and do forgive you. Would it help if I told you that I also covered up the murder of my husband because I was threatened? A couple of right Judas’s we are, eh?”
The priest smiled. “Pauline, I sense all is not as it should be... O’Hara donates to you one million pounds and your husband’s killer is found dead at the foot of a tower block... The confession box is vacant, Pauline if you feel the need to talk.”
Pauline rose from her pew. “Father, I feel fine and my conscience is clear, besides, I’m a Protestant... Good morning, Father.”
The priest watched the woman depart and crossed himself. “God forgive you child.”
Simon Hector sipped his wine and waited patiently for Morris O’Hara to turn up for their meeting at the Dorchester Hotel. His junior partner, John Bullard had once more voiced his disapproval but conceded, and suggested that Hector would make the rendezvous with the Irishman. O’Hara had not revealed the nature of the business meeting, but he never did.
Hector, although a confident and proficient barrister who had interviewed countless murderers, always managed to feel uncomfortably at ease in the presence of O’Hara. Bullard had expressed his objections long ago to Hector about representing the controversial, O’Hara, but the senior partner had been persuasive, putting his argument across skilfully. “An association with O’Hara would prove to be most beneficial in the long run, financially and commercially.” Of course, he had his reasons for wanting to represent the Irishman; notably to protect his personal life and his appointments with rent boys. Defending Jimmy Cochrane successfully actually projected the firm into the limelight, and notorious criminals were soon queuing up to acquire the services of Sam Chaplin.
O’Hara made his entrance, leaving a cloud of cigar smoke in his wake. He dismissed the attention of the grovelling waiter and sat opposite the nervous barrister. His handshake was firm, his stare, icy and menacing.
“Good afternoon, Simon and how are you this fine day?”
“I’m fine, Mr O’Hara, and yourself?”
O’Hara ignored the question. “I think I will have a drink after all. “Waiter!”
It was the manager who approached the table. “A good afternoon, Mr O’Hara, it’s always a pleasure to see you in our establishment. The usual, Sir?”
“Aye, a double brandy will tickle my tonsils.”
“Are you eating now, Mr O’Hara?”
He waited until the manager had left before addressing the barrister. “How’s business, Simon?”
“Oh, picking up... May I say, that we found your donation to Mrs Chaplin a most generous and sympathetic gesture.”
“Indeed... Speaking of Mrs Chaplin, during my meeting with her, I got the impression that she had fallen on hard times. I found that hard to believe, seeing as her husband worked for such a prominent and renowned firm such as yours.”
Hector reddened. “You didn’t know?”
The manager returned with the brandy and O’Hara raised his hand to temporarily curb the conversation.
“Your brandy, Mr O’Hara... Just let Francis know when you’re ready to order, Sir.”
The manager departed.
“I didn’t know what, Simon?”
“We had no choice but to terminate Sam’s employment.”
O’Hara almost choked on his drink. His eyes were bulging. “What? When?”
“Unfortunately, it was on the day that he died... Sam was generating bad publicity and our business was subsequently suffering. You do understand, Mr O’Hara. I more than anyone felt such remorse and regret after hearing of Sam’s suicide.”
“But obviously not enough remorse and regret to compensate Mrs Chaplin for her husband’s service?”
“Sam was being accused of being involved in an armed robbery. Also, he was becoming incompetent... Being a businessman yourself, Mr O’Hara, you must understand the implications that his publicity was bringing.”
“Sam was no armed robber,” growled O’Hara.”
“Probably not, but...”
Again, O’Hara raised his hand. He was deep in thought. He sipped his brandy and took a long draw on his cigar. “I don’t understand... You fired Mrs Chaplin’s husband, yet she still retained your service?”
The barrister looked bemused. “Retained our service? I’m sorry, Mr O’Hara, I don’t follow.”
“The letter that you hold for her... The letter that must only be opened in the event of her death.”
Hector pursed his lips and shook his head. “I assure you, Mr O’Hara, no such document exists.”
“Perhaps Bullard dealt with the matter.”
“I don’t think so. I am the senior partner and he would have notified me... Perhaps she employed the services of another solicitor?”
O’Hara gripped the edge of the table, the veins in his bull-like neck protruding. He recalled Pauline's words. “I left a letter with my late husband’s firm, Hector and Bullard, only to be opened in the event of my death. The letter contains information accusing you of hiring my husband and of subsequently murdering him.”
O’Hara glared at the unsettled barrister. “You’re absolutely certain about this?”
O’Hara rose from the table and the waiter marched towards him. “Go away!”
The waiter retreated.
“I have to go,” said O’Hara.
“But our unfinished business, Mr O’Hara,”
“It can wait, man... It can wait.”