Blood Money (Chapters twenty seven and twenty eight.)
The bouncers on the door of the Blue Heaven strip club in Miami, reluctantly admitted the two detectives into the premises, free of charge. This was the seventh club that they had visited that evening without luck.
Whilst De Vries ordered their drinks from the bar, Holly looked towards the floor dancers, trying not to show her revulsion. Unknown to her colleagues and friends, Holly’s younger sister, Nancy had been duped into working as a stripper, with promises of a modelling career and financial rewards.
Holly had covertly visited her sister in San Francisco, and witnessed for herself the degradation that her sibling routinely faced. Holly had followed Nancy and her appointed customer into a private booth. The middle-aged man wasted no time in groping between her legs, an action that provoked Holly into slapping the stunned man. An almighty quarrel followed, and the two sisters have not spoken to one another since that day, two years ago.
The girls mirrored the other exotic dancers from the other clubs they had visited; some too old, and others wearing excessive make up. Unlike most of the other clubs, these girls performed their dance fully naked.
The Blue Heaven was bathed in pink decor, glittering, twirling globes and colourful spotlights illuminating the stage. The serving staff was smartly attired in maroon uniforms, performing their duties effectively by keeping the thirsty customers supplied with expensive alcohol.
De Vries joined Holly, two non-alcoholic drinks in his hands. “Well, spotted any potential assassins?”
Holly, who was wearing a smart green dress shrugged her shoulders.
The Dutchman led his associate to an empty table. They acted out their roles perfectly, as a horny couple looking for sexual adventure in this amorous playground. The blonde dancer smiled at the newcomers and wiggled her bosom as a welcoming.
De Vries inconspicuously scrutinized the dark interior of the club with a trained eye. The establishment was barely half full, with several of the dancers entertaining the punters at their tables. The more adventurous of the clients escorted their artiste to a private room for a more privileged performance.
Holly sipped her orange juice and grimaced. “There’s more soft drinks than just orange juice, Jan. I’ll be pissing pips until next Sunday.”
“Very ladylike,” commented De Vries. “How about him?”
“The punter wearing the white safari jacket... Does he look Asian to you?”
Holly squinted. “And you have no idea what Malik looks like?”
“No, I’ve already...”
“Hi, need some company,” smiled the blonde dancer.
“No,” spat Holly.
“It’ll be our pleasure,” countered De Vries.
Holly glared at her partner, who winked back. The topless girl gyrated sexily in front of them, her hands behind her head and her hips thrusting slowly.
“What’s your name?” asked De Vries, raising his voice above the loud music of Tom Jones.
“Mystique. And you?”
“I’m Jan and this is Holly... Please join us.”
The girl sat between the couple, and closer scrutiny revealed that she was fast approaching forty. Her overuse of mascara and lipstick helped to disguise her age.
“I have to have a drink,” she moaned. “House rules.”
De Vries beckoned over the waiter and Mystique ordered champagne.
“A glass not a bottle,” insisted the miffed detective... “Listen Mystique, how would you like to earn one hundred dollars extra?”
The stripper eyed the stranger suspiciously. “I only dance; no fucking or sex toys; and definitely no macho-sadism.”
Holly laughed, watching the face of her colleague turn a shade of crimson.
“See that man over there? The one wearing the white safari suit?”
“Sure, I see him.”
“I want you to dance for him.”
Mystique swivelled her blue eyes. “Let me get this right; you’re going to pay me one hundred bucks to dance for that man? Is he a buddy of yours?”
De Vries moved closer. “I want you to find out his name and as much information as you can from him. After your conversation, you meet us back here. Do you understand?”
“Are you cops?”
“No,” lied De Vries, realising that she would not perform the task if it put her at risk. “I think it’s the man who dumped my sister, but I cannot be sure.”
Mystique held out her hand. “I want the money up front.”
De Vries counted out the money and the dancer left.
“What do you aim to achieve by sending Dotty Daydream over there?” moaned Holly. “He’s not exactly going to tell her his real name and occupation if it is Malik, now is he?”
“She could find out where he’s staying, and if he goes with her, then even better,” explained De Vries.
They watched Mystique getting acquainted with the suspect, and after fifteen minutes, they walked hand in hand towards a spiral staircase. De Vries rose from his seat and ushered over a waitress.
“Excuse me, where does that staircase lead?”
The pretty waitress grinned. “If you haven’t used it, you can’t afford it, fella.”
The Dutchman discretely produced his ID. “Where does it lead?”
“The more opulent gentleman would escort one of the girls to the select rooms, if you get my meaning.”
The two detectives walked swiftly across the lavish carpeting and ascended the staircase. They almost bumped into one of the girls, who had just vacated a room.
“Mystique? Where did she go?” quizzed Holly.
The girl licked her lips provocatively. “I can do anything Mystique can, and I’m ten years younger, honey.”
De Vries smiled at his partner’s embarrassment.
“Which fucking room?” snarled Holly, showing off her firearm.
“The Roman room.”
The detectives advanced along the dimly lit corridor, checking the ornate nameplates on each door. Holly stopped and motioned with her head, waiting for De Vries, who was now brandishing his pistol.
De Vries opened the door slowly and heard the groans. Four white marble pillars were standing at the summit of three steps, and two statues flanked the lavish four-poster bed. Through the transparent drapes, the detectives could see their suspect lying naked on his back with Mystique’s head buried in his groin.
“The show’s over,” said De Vries, his weapon covering the Asian man.
Mystique rose from the bed and wiped her mouth with her hand.
“We said question him, not blow him,“ mouthed De Vries.
Mystique put on her bra. “You never said anything about earning on the job, did you? Incidentally I want paying.” The question was directed at the bemused punter.
“Don’t push it,” butted in Holly. “Now fuck off, before I bust your arse for prostitution.”
De Vries ordered Holly to cover the suspect, as he went through his pockets. “Before you go, sugar, what did you learn?”
Mystique was standing with her hands on her hips. “I learnt he’s an insurance salesman called Abdul, who’s married and out of town. Oh, and he’s got a tiny pecker.”
De Vries dismissed the girl and checked the suspect’s credentials.
The naked man covered his genitals with his hands. “Please, I did not know it was an offence to sleep with one of the dancers in this state. My wife will not have to know will she?”
De Vries tossed the embarrassed man’s trousers to him. “Put your pants on, Abdul and go home to your family... Oh, if you want to avoid Mystique, I’d use the back door.”
Holly waited until the grateful man had departed before speaking. “How do you know that wasn’t Malik?”
“If that was Malik, he would have been armed, besides, I know that he’s a master of disguise, but I doubt even he could lose four inches in height.”
“And you never noticed his height downstairs?”
“There were distractions,” smiled De Vries.
The detectives descended the spiral staircase, and De Vries, who led the way, halted suddenly. His eyes focused on a tall, dark man, who was standing by the entrance to the club. The smartly dressed man was grinning at them and slowly drew his index finger across his throat.
“Fuck!” yelled De Vries. “It’s him!”
De Vries and Holly sprinted across the floor of the club, waving their pistols and screaming for the revellers to hit the ground. De Vries, crouched into a firing position and trained his weapon on Malik, who was mockingly dancing behind a waitress, he had seized.
“Hold your fire, Holly,” ordered the Inspector. “It’s too risky.”
Amid the screaming, Malik backed away and cuffed a bouncer across the face with his pistol. He pushed the waitress to the ground and fled into the night.
De Vries reached the exit first. “Which way?” he screamed at one of the bouncers. He leapt down the steps and proceeded to run in the direction indicated.
“Holly, call for back up,” he ordered.
She obeyed, before deciding to join the chase.
Passing an alleyway, she heard the rattling of a can. She melted against the wall and peered into the darkness. She advanced slowly, her pistol at the ready. “Come on out with your hands raised.” The words were delivered without conviction. Probably an alley cat, she hoped.
Again, she heard the sound of a can hitting the ground and she froze, pointing the weapon into the obscurity. “Police officer; show yourself.”
Malik leapt from the ladder, surprising Holly, who was seized from behind. She felt the cold steel of the blade against her throat.
“Throw away the gun, pretty lady or I will cut your throat, believe me.”
The reek of his onion breath was evident. Holly did as she was told. The voice from the radio intruded. “Holly, where are you over? I repeat, where are you?”
The sound of police sirens were little comfort for the frightened girl. With any run of the mill criminal, she would have applied her police combat procedure, but Malik, she acknowledged was a professional killer.
“There’s no escape, Malik, you’re surrounded,” she said.
More pressure was applied on the blade. “Your perfume is so alluring... How do you know my name?”
“We know everything about you, Malik... Give yourself up and...”
Malik yanked at her hair. “How do you know my name, bitch?”
Holly gasped. “In America, we check all visitor’s passports.”
“Holly for God’s sake,” came the voice of De Vries over the radio. “Confirm your position over.”
Malik whispered. “I will ask you this one more time. “How do you know my name?”
Holly closed her eyes, realising that her life was soon to be terminated. Visions of her family inappropriately flashed through her mind, especially those of her estranged sister, Nancy. She did not know the identity of the agent who had infiltrated the ranks of SSP, but if she did, she would give him up. It was at this moment, when she realised how precious life was.
“Goodbye, pretty lady,” croaked Malik.
Holly gurgled, tasting the warm blood flooding her mouth. The pain in her throat was forgotten as she collapsed to the ground.
Malik wiped his bloody blade on the jacket of the dead detective, before picking up the radio.
“Holly, confirm your position. I repeat, confirm your position.”
“Jan De Vries, Holly, I’m afraid is no more. I promise you that the next time that we meet, you will suffer as she did.”
“Malik you murdering bastard! Face me. Just you and me, Malik, man to man.”
“Tut, tut Inspector. Such impatience. That day will come, and I’ll take great pleasure in cutting your throat... Goodness, Holly is such a bleeder.”
“Malik! You’re a dead man! A dead man do you hear me? I swear to you that you’ll not do time in some cushy prison. I swear I’ll...”
The transmission was cut short. Mailk, once more spoke. “Before Holly died, she conveniently told me about the informer. Such incompetence, De Vries. His blood will also be on your hands.”
Captain Griffiths faced De Vries, his face full of hate. “I should have let you carry on with the transmission. Your foolish remarks would surely have condemned you to be kicked off the force... Why, Jan, why? You broke every regulation by not telling me about your romp around the strip joints, and it no doubt cost Holly her life. Why didn’t you inform me ”
The eyes of the Dutchman were glazed. His mind was addled; the odour of fresh bread wafting from a nearby bakery seeming so out of place. “I must pull out our man before Malik contacts SSP.”
The burly captain slammed De Vries against the wall. “You fucking heartless piece of crap! Holly is dead and all you can think about is your undercover man... For your information, Sherlock, Holly would not tell Malik about the informant. He’s bluffing... This is not your personal fucking masquerade, De Vries.”
“So how does he know?” snarled De Vries. “Holly must have talked.”
The captain released De Vries, allowing him to slump to the ground. Several patrol cars arrived, their blue lights illuminating the blackness.
Captain Griffiths, his eyes now welled up with tears once more faced De Vries. “Do you know, Jan; I hope that you get your wish and that one-day you do face Malik... I hope he makes you suffer, so help me God, I do.”
De Vries was left alone; his memories of Holly contributing towards his hatred of Malik.
The pleasant afternoon sunshine encouraged the jubilant New Yorkers to take a dip in the Sunlite pool in Coney Island Park. Schofield, again checked his wristwatch, to confirm that Mukhtar and Rasheed were indeed ten minutes late.
Schofield had recognised the voice of Mukhtar immediately, and at the Englishman’s request, a meeting in Coney Island Park was arranged. His vantage point, overlooking the pool allowed him to survey the crowd without any danger of any approach from behind. He acknowledged that he had put himself in great danger, and that the possibility of Mukhtar and Rasheed being armed and with reinforcements was probable.
He spotted the two Asian men, meandering their way through the crowd, nervously looking around. Schofield raised his hand and they approached.
“Nice of you to turn up,” scoffed Schofield.
Mukhtar frowned. “We were on time, Schofield, but our instinct naturally was to survey the area. I trust you have come alone?”
“Of course. And you?”
“We’re alone... You’re becoming a very greedy man, Dean. Wasn’t the money you robbed from Peebles enough?”
“There were complications, and now the police have that money.”
“The police?” spluttered Rasheed. “But how?”
“It’s a long story.”
“How did you find us?” quizzed Mukhtar.
Schofield noticed that the hands of his two visitors were tucked into the deep pockets of their combat jackets. His hand too was wrapped around the trigger guard of his pistol.
“You’re an amateur, Mukhtar. It was rather foolish of Peebles to leave a Greyhound bus timetable in his room with the destination Brooklyn underlined... This was so clumsy for a SSP freedom fighter.”
The mention of SSP clearly shocked the pair.
“What do you know about SSP?”
Schofield took satisfaction in their discomfort. “Did you really think that you could get away with not paying SSP? What I do know is that they have sent an assassin to hunt you down.”
“You’re lying,” growled Mukhtar.
“How could you know this?” questioned Rasheed.
“I have my sources.”
The two Asians quarrelled, Rasheed, blaming his friend for refusing to pay SSP.
“I suggest we walk on gentlemen,” said Schofield, now more confident that he would not be shot in the back. He headed towards the funfair, delighting in the argument that was becoming more heated.
Schofield led the pair towards the ferris wheel, which overlooked Lake Como.
“Wait, Schofield!” demanded Mukhtar. He lowered his tone. “So what do you want? How much?”
Schofield smiled. “You know, I’ve always fancied a ride on one of these... Rasheed, you wait here, and you can take your finger off the trigger now.”
Schofield and Mukhtar mounted the ferris wheel and paid their fare. The ride was in motion when the Englishman spoke. “I want one million pounds in cash.”
“You’re mad! How much do you....”
“That still leaves you and your friend with a million between you, give or take a few pounds.”
“And why should we pay you?”
“Because, Mukhtar my friend, with my detective skills, I can trace you wherever you hide, and I’m immorally inclined to receive that money by whatever means.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What I mean, Mukhtar, is that I’m certain SSP or O’Hara would pay generously for information regarding your whereabouts.”
Mukhtar, for a few minutes sat in silence; the funfair music not enhancing his mood. “I would need time to get the money together.”
“Twenty-four hours. You’ve got twenty-four hours before my offer closes.”
The ride terminated and the three men strolled towards the exit. Mukhtar and Rasheed reached their parked car.
“And what if we have you gunned down, Schofield?” grinned Mukhtar. “I only have to blink and you’re a dead man.”
Schofield smirked. “I doubt it. You’re small time, Mukhtar. You think you’re some hard-faced terrorist, but you’re merely a pussycat. Okay, so you had the balls to pull off this robbery, but that was hardly a professional job now was it? You two came alone, which tells me that you haven’t told anyone about your sudden wealth of riches. Now, how I see it, you have two options. You can pay me and disappear again, this time without me hounding you, or you can take your chances with SSP and the paddies.”
The two antagonists clambered into their vehicle. “So if we agree to your terms, where do we meet, Schofield?” quizzed Mukhtar.
Schofield sat behind the two men and swiftly produced his pistol, holding it against the nape of Mukhtar. “We don’t.”
“What the fuck!”
“Rasheed, slowly remove your weapon from your pocket and toss it over the back to me, there’s a good boy.”
Mukhtar nodded and Rasheed obeyed.
“Now you too, Mukhtar, carefully.”
“What is this?” asked Mukhtar.
“It’s called the element of surprise... I lulled you into my trap and now the rules have changed.”
“But why are...”
“Shut up! I’m impatient; so fucking impatient. My reckoning is that there’s more than an even money chance that you two will do a runner, and I’m just so fucking pissed off with chasing you... Enough of the nicey, nicey, tactics. Rasheed, you’ll bring me the one million pounds in cash or I’ll blow your friend away. You have until three 'o'clock tomorrow afternoon to deliver.”
Rasheed looked back. “And why do you believe that I will turn up? Do you believe our friendship to be so intimate?”
“Let’s just say that I’ve a better chance of getting the money with your pal here as hostage. That apart, I perceive you to be a man who values his life, you see, I was not lying about the assassin.”
Mukhtar seized his partner by his lapels. “You come back, Rasheed do you hear me? You bring the money back here.”
“Not here,” intervened Schofield. “Give me a contact number and I’ll notify you where we’ll meet. Oh, and come alone, Rasheed, or I’ll have no hesitation in blowing your friend’s brains out. No more mister nice guy.”
Schofield motioned for his hostage to leave the car. With his pistol now in his pocket, but still trained on Mukhtar, they headed towards Jessica’s Volkswagen, leaving Rasheed to ponder over the situation.
The old man smiled and welcomed a potential new customer into his greengrocers. The stranger was smartly attired in a fashionable, grey suit.
De Vries was not interested in the ripe fruit on offer and had ordered his driver to remain in the car. Owing to the telephone conversation between the detective and his prey, with the help of the telecommunications supplier, they were able to pinpoint Schofield’s previous position to within a matter of metres. After questioning several members of the public in the vicinity, De Vries had called at the greengrocers.
The old man rubbed his hands, watching De Vries reach for his inside pocket. He displayed his ID.
“Inspector De Vries from Interpol. Nothing to be worried about, Sir; we’re making enquiries in this area relating to this man. Have you ever seen him before, Sir?”
The old greengrocer squinted and put on his spectacles. “Yes, I have seen this man. This is John.”
“John?” enthused De Vries.
“Yes, he called at my shop three days, no it was two days ago. I know, because I had a delivery for my watermelons. My watermelons are...”
“What did he want?”
“He was looking for two men. One of these men, he told me was about to marry his sister, but his father forbade it and threatened him. He told me that he had traced the man here.”
“Did he mention any names?”
“Mukhtar, Singh and Rasheed. He offered me one hundred dollars for information, but of course, I declined his offer... I did make enquiries of course, and a friend of a friend asked me for John’s phone number.”
“You have his number?”
The old man ambled towards his till and produced a piece of paper. “This is John’s number.”
De Vries smiled, realising that it was indeed the phone number belonging to Schofield. “This friend of a friend, where can I find him?”
The old man wrote down a name and address. “What has John done?”
De Vries ignored the question. “Thank you, Sir, you’ve been a great help.”.
Schofield was in the process of cleaning his Glock 17, when he heard the Volkswagen pulling up outside the apartment. He quickly hid the weapon in his jacket pocket before greeting Jessica at the door with a kiss.
“I got off early... Everything okay, Dean?” she asked coyly.
“Of course. Why shouldn’t it be?”
“I don’t know. You just seem so uptight.”
Schofield took her coat and hastily changed the subject. “How about I take you out for a meal tonight?”
The smiling girl sat on the lap of her lover. “Ooh, you English are so romantic... I’ve had a shit of a day. Do you know, that cow Davina actually...What was that?”
Schofield kissed her again and Jessica got to her feet. “Who is in the spare bedroom?”
She walked briskly towards the source of the noise and Schofield followed her. She stared in disbelief at the blindfolded man on her bed, who was securely tied up. “What the hell’s going on, Dean? Who is this?”
“I’m sorry, I had to bring him here, Jessie, but I had no choice.”
“You haven’t answered my question. Who is this?”
Schofield hesitated before speaking. “That man stole some money from me and I aim to get it back.”
Jessica backed away, running her fingers through her red locks. “Who the fuck are you, Dean and how dare you bring this man into to my home?”
“I’m sorry, Jessica, but there was no other way... By this afternoon, I will have my money, and I’ll see to it that you’re well rewarded.”
The tearful girl advanced towards Schofield and slapped him. “You bastard! You heartless bastard. You only used me because I owned an apartment that was convenient for your criminal purposes, didn’t you? I should have known. You’re just like...”
“No, Jessica. I took up your offer of accommodation because I was attracted to you. Yes, I’m here in New York to track down him and his friend, and didn’t want to complicate things by telling you.”
“But you have complicated things haven’t you? This criminal you have brought into my home now knows where I live, or do you intend to kill him?”
“Now you’re being absurd, Jessie. He‘s blindfolded.”
“Am I? I don’t know you. In fact, I’m calling the cops right now.”
Schofield seized her wrists. “I can’t let you do that, Jessie... Mukhtar here has no qualms with you, and believe me, he has more urgent matters to attend to. I have a hold on him and his friend, and your safety is guaranteed. Isn’t that right, Mukhtar?” he asked, facing the trussed up Asian.
“You have nothing to fear from us,” he assured.
Jessica regarded the hostage. “Is what Dean said true? Did you steal his money?”
“I stole money, yes, but not from your boyfriend. He’s bitter because he planned to steal the money first.”
“Is this true, Dean?”
“It’s complicated, Jessie. One thing Mukhtar failed to mention to you was the death of my brother in law.”
“That was nothing to do with me,” insisted Mukhtar, who was struggling.
“I want you out of my home, Dean.”
Schofield kissed her on the head. “I’m so sorry, I really am. I need to borrow your car.”
She threw the car keys at him. “There, now get out and don’t come back.”
Schofield made to embrace the girl, but she shuddered and backed away. “Go, please.”
Schofield helped Mukhtar to his feet and they advanced towards the front door. He again looked towards Jessica, who now had tears streaming down her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
After checking that the vicinity was clear, he bundled his hostage towards the car and helped him into the back seat. He once more looked towards Jessica, wondering if she would call the police. He drove away, his prospect of potential wealth, diluted by the sadness of his lover.