Blood Money (chapters twenty five and twenty six.)
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK.
Embarking from the greyhound bus, Schofield wearily trundled through the late afternoon drizzle towards the cafe, his meagre possessions contained in his holdall. It had been a long, tedious ride, but his recollection of the brochure on the dressing table of Peebles had prompted his journey.
Having fled through a bathroom window of the British Embassy, Schofield felt safe, having left the state of Florida. He doubted that De Vries would render him significant enough to divert his quest for the two Asians.
On entering the near deserted café, he was greeted by a pretty, smiling waitress. “Good afternoon, Sir. Take a seat and I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Schofield sat at the bar and watched the slim waitress, serving soft drinks to the four pool-playing youths, accompanied by the music of Linkin Park. He could not but help gaze at her long, slender legs.
Unanimous portraits of baseball stars adorned the cream walls, along with several posters, depicting the sites of New York.
The smiling waitress returned. “Sorry about that. Now what’s it to be?”
“You have bacon and eggs?”
“Sure we do. Sunny side up?”
Schofield nodded. “And coffee.”
“Coming right up... Say, you’re not from around here are you?”
“Wow! Well welcome to Brooklyn, Sir... Bacon and eggs coming up.”
Schofield noticed that the pretty redhead’s blue eyes were occasionally locked on him in an amorous sort of way. Although he felt flattered that this girl, who couldn’t have been more than eighteen was making eyes at him, he also suspected that she acted this way with the majority of the customers.
She returned with the bacon, eggs and coffee and leant on the bar. “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you here? I mean, here in Brooklyn?”
The hungry Englishman shovelled a mouthful of bacon into his mouth. “I’m looking for friends.”
The girl fluttered her eyelashes and giggled. “I’ll be your friend.”
Schofield returned the smile.
“So where do your friends live?” quizzed the waitress.
Schofield swallowed a mouthful of the coffee. “That’s just it, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know where they live? Gee, maybe I could help.”
“I doubt it,” said Schofield.
“So what’s your friend’s names?”
Schofield searched his mind, again, recalling the name used to hire the car in Florida. “Singh.”
“Singh? He’s Indian?”
“No, well not... Forget it,” sighed Schofield, resuming his assault on his food.
“Probably lives in Midwood,” offered the waitress.”
Schofield pushed away his plate. “Midwood?”
“That’s where the majority of the Asian community lives, along with the Jews of course.”
Schofield, trying to avoid staring at her ample cleavage took in the name on her tag. “Jessica, how do I get to Midwood?”
“I’ll draw you a map... Odds are your friend probably lives on Coney Island Avenue or Avenue H.”
Schofield, even though he wasn’t even sure if Mukhtar and Rasheed were on this continent, felt an adrenalin rush. He thanked Jessica, as she passed him the directions to Midwood. He climbed from his stool and reached down for his holdall.
“So where are you staying?” asked the curious waitress.
Schofield, realising that he had no plans, once more settled down on the stool. “Do you know any cheap hotels around here?”
Jessica admired his sixties style Italian suit. “With those threads, buddy, you certainly don’t look cheap.”
“I could make a call, or you do have another alternative.”
“I don’t want to sound forward, but I live alone in a spacious apartment, and I’m offering to do my bit for Anglo-American relations.”
Jessica shook her head. “Guess I scared him away... So what do you say?”
“I accept, just as long as you let me pay my way.”
“Deal,” grinned the girl, offering her pert hand. “Jesus, I don’t even know your name.”
“Welcome to America, Dean... I’m off in another half-hour… More coffee?”
Schofield nodded. Jessica served another customer, and Schofield turned to watch the youths playing pool. He left his stool and sauntered towards them. They regarded him as if he was from another planet and mumbled sarcastic remarks.
The obvious ringleader, who was heavily tattooed and wearing a denim waistcoat and bandana squared up to the stranger. “You got a problem, dude?”
Jessica watched anxiously from the bar and shouted, “Dean, is everything okay?”
“I’m fine,” he returned. He whispered into the ear of the youth. “Can you get me a gun and twenty rounds?”
The ringleader stepped back. “You a cop?”
“No, I am not.”
“Hey, he’s a limey,” remarked another of the youths.
“You got money? I mean, real money?” asked the leader.
“I can get it... How much are we talking here?”
The group huddled up and conferred. “Three hundred dollars.”
“Try again,” suggested Schofield.
“Hey, man, you trying to get us on the cheap?” asked one of the gang.
“I’ll give you two hundred dollars, take it or leave it.”
Again, the group whispered amongst themselves. The leader faced up to Schofield. “Okay, let’s see the colour of your money.”
“The gun first.”
“Lou here will return with the gun. Finish your coffee, limey.”
Jessica’s face was etched with disappointment when Schofield returned to the bar. “What was that all about? You don’t want to mix with them; they’re fucking vermin, Dean.”
“Jessica, is there a cash machine nearby?”
“Sure, there’s one outside on the right.”
“Two minutes,” said Schofield. He left the cafe and felt the cold wind and drizzle against his face. He checked to see if he was alone before entering his credit card into the cash machine. He realised that he could now be traced, but he had no choice. With the loss of the money he stole from Peebles, he was now dependent on his credit card.
As promised, Lou returned shortly and made his way towards his friends. Schofield ignored the protests of Jessica and loped towards them. The leader motioned for him to follow him into the rest room. He removed a pistol from his pocket and handed it to Schofield. The private investigator examined the wares to see it was a Glock 17.
“This is police issue?”
“Does it fucking matter, buddy? Well, do you want it?”
Schofield checked the mechanism before handing over the money.
“Been nice doing business with you, limey. Need anymore, you know where to come. Have a nice day now.”
Jessica was putting on her coat when Schofield returned to the bar. The relief waitress eyed up the Englishman, enviously. The couple departed and Jessica led Schofield towards her white Volkswagen. She sat there motionless for a moment before speaking.
“You’re not a junkie are you, Dean?”
“No, of course not... Listen, I swear to you that I’m not a deranged killer or a drugged up rapist. What went on in there, I’ll explain to you later... Now do you want me to leave or does your offer still stand?”
Jessica started the engine and the vehicle moved off, the driver apprehensive about her decision.
The sombre look on the unshaven face of De Vries gave away his mood. He motioned for Holly to accompany him to the captain’s office. Griffiths was occupied, drooling over a large doughnut, his mouth smeared with raspberry jam. The embarrassed detective swiftly disposed of his morning treat and dabbed at his mouth with a napkin.
“I never heard you knock, Jan,” he moaned.
De Vries ignored him as he leaned over the desk, inviting Holly to be seated.
“There’s been a serious development... I received an urgent phone call early this morning, informing me that Fazal Malik is in Florida.”
The captain shrugged his shoulders.
“Fazal Malik is the fixer that SSP call for when their need is urgent.”
“So,” moaned Griffiths. “Didn’t you already tell us to expect someone from SSP?”
“Someone, yes, but not Fazal Malik... Let me elaborate shall I? Malik, we suspect is responsible for several high-profile assassinations and bombings worldwide. In London, two years ago, he masterminded a plot to plant a bomb during a test match between England and India. We were able to intercept the bomb, owing to us having an undercover agent in the SSP.”
“And this same agent has informed you that this Malik is here in Florida?” asked Holly.
“So we know where he’s staying?” quizzed the captain.
De Vries sighed deeply. “Malik tells nobody of his whereabouts. He is one of the most elusive and dangerous terrorists on this planet. Apparently, he is also a genius and a master of disguise. He was educated in Cambridge University and somehow mixed with the wrong circles. He was eventually recruited by Sipah-e-Sahaba, Pakistan.”
“So how do we catch him?”
De Vries turned to Holly. “It will be difficult. We don’t even know what he looks like. Malik changes his appearance as often as you change your underwear... To do a check on every Asian passport will be a long process, and besides, he’s probably already changed his identity again.”
“How about we check out the hotels again?” asked Captain Griffiths.
“Do we have the manpower?”
“No, but have you any other suggestions?”
The Dutchman stroked his stubble. “Check out the hire car firms, the taxi companies and the local prostitutes.”
“Prostitutes?” echoed Holly.
De Vries smiled. “One thing we do know about Malik is that he likes the girls... Any news on Mukhtar and Rasheed?”
The captain drained his coffee cup. “Vanished into thin air. They’ve either taken a private plane, boat, or are still here in the States... Oh, incidentally, I’m getting grief from upstairs about your ingenious suggestion to let Schofield go. Jumping from a bathroom window is hardly the action of an innocent man... The jerk has used his credit card again though, outside some cafe in Brooklyn. ”
“Forget Schofield,” demanded De Vries. “He’s after the money, and if he finds it, then he’s done our job for us. I’m not here to return the money to O’Hara, but to ensure it doesn’t fall into the hands of the SSP.”
Captain Griffiths slipped on his jacket. “I’ll brief the men immediately.”
He left the office, leaving De Vries and Holly alone.
“Shouldn’t we make a start on the hotels?” asked Holly.
“Holly, my Mexican beauty, I don’t believe for one minute that Malik is staying in a hotel... SSP suspect that they have a mole, and he wouldn’t take that chance.”
“So where would he stay?”
“You know, I’ve studied his methods, and my guess is that he’s already found accommodation, shacked up with some girl... Tonight, we’ll trawl the strip clubs in Miami.”
“Malik’s weakness, Holly.”
“And you failed to mention this to the captain... Jan, you’re not a team player are you? You’re on a one-man masquerade and your stubbornness could jeopardise lives.”
“Listen, Sergeant goody two shoes. I didn’t ask for you to be my partner. I work alone, but I’ve been overruled, so I’ve got to make the best of it. If you’re with me, you do it my way, okay?”
Holly licked her lips. “Yes, master; permission to scratch my crutch, master?”
The face of the Dutch detective softened. “Holly, you’re not going to get to sleep with me, adopting that attitude.”
He left the room, leaving the pretty detective open-mouthed.
Malik cringed, feeling the hand of the driver climbing up his leg. The assassin felt cheated that the young homosexual had made advances to him in the cafe. The scenario was not planned meticulously, and that infuriated the Asian. Only by chance, had this opportunity arisen to obtain temporary accommodation.
Gone was the beard, to be replaced by designer stubble. Malik’s hair was cut immaculately and his crooked teeth had been capped. His menacing, dark eyes were now blue, courtesy of coloured contact lenses. He wore an expensive black suit, silk shirt and tie, and his shoes were of the finest Italian leather.
Malik bit his lip, resenting the intrusive hand that was now massaging his penis. He seized the hand and gently moved it away from his groin.
“You are impatient, Steven... How much further to your home?”
“Almost there, Hussain. Man, am I hot?”
It was a quiet, secluded neighbourhood, an area that suited Malik’s needs. The car pulled into the side of the road and Malik gazed at the shabby apartment block. He followed the eager American into his humble abode and was immediately overcome by the stale stench.
“Okay, Hussain, would you like a drink? Only got Bud I’m afraid.” .
“No, I don’t think so.”
Steven opened up the refrigerator and turned to his guest, holding out a bottle of the beer. “Take it, Hussain. It‘s cold.”
Steven smiled and his yellowing teeth repulsed Malik.
“How about a joint, or maybe something stronger?” asked Stephen.
“I don’t think so,” said Malik, wandering around the squalid room and pulling down the blinds.
“Shit, you are horny, Hussain… The bedroom’s through there.”
Malik stood his ground and Steven moved closer, looking up at the towering Asian. He placed his hand behind Malik’s head and brought it towards his own. He kissed his guest softly and once more reached for his groin. “Shit, you’ve got fucking onion breath, Hussain, but the taste of my cock will get rid of that.”
Steven hesitated and saw a change of expression from his guest. “Is something wrong?”
Malik grasped the offending hand and squeezed powerfully.
“Ahhh! Shit, Hussain, you’re breaking my fucking hand.”
“You infidel!” growled Malik, forcing Steven to his knees. The killer removed a dagger with a sharp serrated blade from his pocket and held it against his host’s forehead.
“Please don’t!” screamed Steven.
Malik exerted a little pressure and a trickle of blood ran down Steven's face. “Are you expecting any visitors in the foreseeable future, Steven?”
“N...N...No... What do you want? I have no...”
“Shut up! Do you know, Steven, that I usually dispose of filth with a bullet to the head, but for you, I’ll make an exception... You are religious are you not?”
“What faith are you, Steven?”
Malik lowered the frightened homosexual onto his back; the dagger still pressed firmly against his forehead. “And does your faith allow you to practise such unholy acts?”
“Turn over, Stephen.”
“Fucking turn over!”
Malik recited words. “When the hypocrite comes to you, they say; we bear witness that you are most surely Allah’s apostle; and Allah knows that you are most surely his apostle, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars.”
“I’m so sorry, please,” sobbed Steven.
“So you like objects rammed up your arse do you?”
Stephen whimpered and attempted to turn his head. He felt the pain, as Malik inserted the dagger into his scrotum.
Malik clenched his teeth and pushed harder, until only the hilt of the dagger was visible.
“Ahhh! Please, nooo!”
The killer thrust viciously, again and again, his hand covered with the warm blood. Steven fell silent and Malik turned him over. He brought his blade across the throat of his victim before strolling to the washbasin. He calmly cleaned his weapon, whilst reciting another passage from the Koran. “They make their oaths a shelter, and thus turn away from Allah’s way; surely evil is what they do.”
He picked up Steven’s opened beer bottle and drank thirstily. Settling down in a dusty armchair, Malik dialled a number on his cell phone. “The serpents are rampant,” he said. He listened attentively, before scribbling in his notebook. “Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.”
Schofield opened his eyes, and slowly the memories of the night before came back to him. The lingering cigarette smoke and the reek of alcohol helped to rekindle his memory.
He looked across at the naked Jessica, her red hair matted, yet perfect. Their lovemaking had been satisfying, without being intimate. The actual bonding was something that both parties had missed and welcomed.
The clock showed seven-fifty and Schofield sat up, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, his mouth stale and dry. On the bedroom dresser, sat an almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels; a friendship rekindled.
After shaving and showering, Schofield returned to the bedroom and unashamedly foraged through the handbag of his hostess. He located her car keys, and as an afterthought, he scribbled down a note, explaining that he had borrowed her car and would return soon.
It was a fine mid April morning and Schofield rummaged through his holdall, opting for a more casual choice of garb. A navy blue sweatshirt, jeans and trainers were his selection. He tucked his pistol into his waistband, kissed his lover on the forehead and left the apartment.
Although Jessica’s directions were vague, he had no trouble finding Midwood. The district was a concrete jungle of travel agents, kebab houses, and restaurants. The majority of the residents in Midwood were a mixture of orthodox Jews and Asians. The glimpse of a synagogue and a mosque were evidence of the mixed cultures.
Schofield parked the Volkswagen and loped along the sidewalk, witnessing the early morning shopkeepers preparing to open up for business. He halted at a fruit and vegetable shop and smiled at the shopkeeper, who was stocking his stall.
“Excuse me. I was wondering if you could help me?”
“Do I detect an English accent?” grinned the elderly Asian.
“I thought so... I have visited London, a wonderful city, but so bloody expensive. What can I do for you, friend? I have some wonderful ripe tomatoes, or perhaps some fresh water melon?”
Schofield picked up a peach and examined it. “This will be fine.”
The shopkeeper accepted the foreigner’s money and counted out the change.
“That’s okay,” said Schofield.
“That’s very kind of you, Sir.”
Schofield bit into the ripe peach. “I’m looking for a couple of friends who have moved here recently.”
“All I know is that they arrived here in Midwood within the last few days.”
The shopkeeper eyed him suspiciously. “And they never left you their address?”
Schofield shook his head. “Well, actually I’ve told a little white lie... One of these men has made my sister pregnant, and she’s so unhappy. You see, my father is so old-fashioned. Although he denies being a racist, the thought of Pauline marrying a Pakistani has brought the worst out of him. He threatened her boyfriend, and so he left. My sister is broken-hearted, and so I traced Mukhtar to here. You see, she’s willing to go against my father’s wishes and wants to marry him.”
“Mukhtar you say?” The old man stroked his grey beard.
“Yes, Mukhtar Ahmed.”
“I don’t know of anyone moving here recently.”
“He may have changed his name to Singh.”
“Singh? Why would he do that?”
“I think he’s afraid of my father... He was travelling with a companion; a man going by the name of Rasheed.”
The old man put on his spectacles and examined the face of the stranger. “These names are most common, but I have not heard of anyone new in this area recently... I could make enquiries and contact you later.”
“I don’t think so... Thank you for your time.”
Schofield walked on and heard the shout from behind. “If I do manage to contact your friend, where shall I tell them you’re staying?”
Schofield ignored the question. The last thing he needed was for Mukhtar and Rasheed to know that he was in New York. He regretted asking the old shopkeeper for information, but he was impatient.
Schofield drove down Coney Island Avenue. He again asked various people if they had seen Mukhtar or Rasheed, but with the same result. Desperation prompted him to consider setting himself up as bait. After another two hours of fruitless enquiries, he made his decision.
Returning to the greengrocer’s shop, Schofield was greeted by the old man. “You have come for more of my peaches?” he beamed.
“No, actually, I’ve come to reconsider your kind offer.”
“You want me to make enquiries?”
Schofield removed his wallet from his inside pocket and counted out one hundred dollars.
“What is this?” asked the old man.
“My name is John Reagan, and if you do find out anything, I want you to call me on this number.” He jotted down his cell phone number.
“You insult me, John. I do not want your money. Your sister’s happiness is my reward.”
The two men shook hands and Schofield departed. Sitting behind the steering wheel, his phone chimed. Without hesitation, he responded. “Yes.”
“A good morning to you, Deano.”
Schofield recognised the voice of De Vries. How could he have been so careless as not to have replaced his phone? He was usually so meticulous. “That was rather inconsiderate of you to do a runner on me.”
“Goodbye, De Vries; I have nothing to say to you.”
“Wait! Don’t hang up... I know you’re still going after Mukhtar and Rasheed, but there’s something you’ve got to know... SSP have sent an accomplished assassin to Florida. You’re now a minnow, swimming in a shark tank, Deano. Where the fuck are you?”
“Shit, Inspector. I’m flattered by your concern, but I can take care of myself... Incidentally, I’ve had time to do some serious thinking. What I cannot understand is why you’re so concerned about me... First of all, you drop the charges and release me, and then you contact me here to warn me about this killer. Even when you interviewed me in England, I got the impression that you were feeding me restricted information, but why? Could it be that you want me to reach Mukhtar and Rasheed before SSP do?”
“Don’t be absurd, Schofield. Do you honestly think that an incompetent two-bit private dick could compete with Interpol? I’m merely trying to save your arse, though I don’t know why... Now where are you?”
Schofield cut him off. He started the engine and drove away, eagerly awaiting the call from the old man, that would surely come.