Knowing what lay ahead of us for the next few weeks the trip to Glasgow then the drive back down to the lakes felt almost like a break.
If John or Joanna had any second thoughts, they didn’t expose them. For my part I played it light. Both seemed suitably impressed by the concept of the bombs, though Joanna insisted on referring to them as units. John thought the simplicity of the design had eased his supply problems though when I told him our schedule he asked Joanna to arrange a flight for him to Dublin. She was out of the room when I told John of a couple of changes I wanted him to consider.
John’s first concern was on the crates. Three mythical American middle execs had rented the houses in the Wirral and Chester and the crates contained their personal knick-knack’s to make their stay more homely. It was important these had passed the rigours of customs before their transfer to Belfast.
‘Couldn’t we have the others made without all the sophistication?’ I asked, ‘We’d be stupid to let something like boxes stop us.’
‘I’ll get them done Brian, even if we have to send them on a tour of Europe. If I can’t get the sensors fitted you’ll have to check the cases with the one that has before filling them.’
‘Good on you, it’ll mean the suitcases will have to be doubled and I’ve already calculated the extra will fit into the vans. It’s a bit tight so we’ll give them a strict packing order. My other worry was the laundering.’
John shook his head. ‘Ten or twenty makes no difference, we’ll know if we have a problem when we test. But tell me Brian, why come up with this now?’
‘Opportunity, when you mentioned the stuff came from ICP.’
‘Believe it or not Brian we told you all we knew.’
‘I know you did John, but I think there’s something going on between the five and when I dreamt this up I picked a figure I thought could be covered by Thames. Now we have ICP in the frame with a chemical I assume hasn’t been sourced on the open market?’
‘You could say that.’
‘Yet there’s been nothing about its theft. Not so much because of its value, but its supposed potency and the danger it presents and I’d like to know why not. Either they haven’t noticed the loss, which would obliterate my theory; or for their own reasons they don’t want the loss known?’
‘I can help you a bit there Brian. They know the loads been hijacked and it is being investigated. Interestingly enough when applied to your theory, it’s not by the police but by a security firm headed by and ex policeman called Hamilton, but the firms real owner is Hopkins.’
‘This Hopkins keeps turning up and covering up is too strong an indication to waste.’
‘Maybe so Brian but twenty million’s a lot even for these people Brian. Transactions of that size are merely figures shuffled round the system, raising it in cash could be beyond them.’
It’s opportunity John. I was going to raise the anti to ten each until I realised we’d have to change the vans to wagons and the logistical nightmares that went with it, so I compromised.’
I watched the crows feet by John eyes become pronounced, ‘You’re thinking they’ll adopt a one for all and all for one approach? If they did, that would be interesting. On the other hand you could be jeopardising everything by forcing it out of their control. If they pass it to the authorities the public stance will be one of no negotiation.’
‘After Thursday night John I’m restricting my thinking to the probabilities we can control.’
Joanna returned with a tray of sandwiches and told John, Exec Air expected him at Carlisle by five.
Glancing at Joanna, John asked, ‘The explosive Durham’s asked for, if its not available has he stated any alternatives?’
‘He said the type would make clear the alternatives. Same applies to the detonators and the breakers. My second request I’ve drawn out though god knows if you’ll get the amount we need. But if you can they’ll save us a lot of problems.’
Studying the sketch John gave a nod, ‘I’ve got the basic idea and we’ll give it a go. Can hardly refuse can I now that you’ve doubled our consultancy fee. I take it you were going to double it?’
‘Of course John, it’s the only debit entry I’ve made.’
I offered to drive John to Carlisle but Joanna claimed priority, I was told to make myself comfortable and stay the night because there were minor details to be settled and in view of our schedule little time to do them. Waiving them off I lit a cigarette and waited for my night vision to kick in before making my way to the boathouse. Pat and myself would each position three cans in each location; there would be nothing simpler than me placing my cans in a different sequence to that of the master layout.
Sometimes insurance is the only way to leave a legacy.
Joanna and I had a couple of drinks while we sorted out the four yacht brokers offers. We selected one each in Spain, Greece the Azores and Antigua, she would send letters confirming my interest and schedule seven days for each starting on January the first. I told her, ‘Pat and I have agreed neither of us should know the others travel arrangements. He’s thought of one additional refinement, if the news is disastrous add another S to the initials and we’ll know we’re on our own. There’s one more thing Joanna. Thanks for all the help, that’s from Pat as well.’
‘Brian you’re both welcome. My only hope is they pay and don’t force you into being something your not.’
We had a nightcap and went to our separate beds. I knew we would, but hope’s a tenacious bugger.
Deerbrucker's hangover couldn’t depress his jubilation. Damnit, but these sons of bitches bankers had drawn more than sweat. Damn near a week he’d spent between Frankfurt and Tokyo getting peanuts offered then suddenly he’s dish of the week with only eight percent to wrangle for in the UK and that was tied up yesterday. Now he could relax, listen to Nicholson’s proposal before informing him nicely to stick it where the monkey puts its nuts. Tomorrow he’d be Stateside, days away from announcing the biggest chemical deal ever. Walk on water, hell he could skate on acid. Only these marketing and distribution rights, Hopkins hadn’t given an inch and that worried him. Shit they would control production and any bullshit from Hopkins and he could use the contracts to wipe his ass.
Finished in the bathroom he reached for the phone and rang Esquiden. ‘Morning George, you can tell your boss it’s all set.’ He smiled when Esquiden asked the question he’d expected. ‘Got it in one George, we don’t need the option or a meet with Midshire. Just you give me a call in the States tomorrow and I’ll give you the itinerary for the nineteenth. You better tell the man to look his best because this little deals going global.’
Adding his congratulations, George broke the connection and rang Neil and got a reaction equal to a cat being hit by a ping-pong ball. ‘Fine George, make whatever arrangements he wants as long as it’s over within two hours.’ It was Neil’s turn to ring John Dickson, ‘Morning John, it seems your ploy has been swallowed whole. The National and Principality have picked up no more than eight percent between them, the rests gone abroad. I should imagine Mr Deerbrucker is going to be pretty intolerable this morning.’
‘Oh I think we’ll manage to handle that.’ Sir John chuckled at the prospect, ‘I also think it’s time we advised Gerald and Reginald. We don’t want them wasting money on the Uniclor euphoria.’
Neil consulted his diary. ‘Best time for me would be the evening of the fourteenth?’
‘I’ll make it for then. If you pick me up early I can introduce you to the man who can rid you of your Uniclor shares. He isn’t far out of our way.’
If John Dickson were a vindictive man he’d have been ecstatic by the look on Nicholsen’s face. Once the usual pleasantries were finished Nicholsen had launched a cocksure outline of Uniclor’s position. Deerbrucker smiling and expansive agreed it had been their position. Nicholsen, preening, was about to launch their offer when Duffy the General Manager stopped him.
‘You said Mr Deerbrucker –“had been your position”- can I take it it’s not your position now?’
‘I came this morning to thank you for your consideration Sir John. Mr Nicholsen’s figures were accurate until last night when I was offered the last of the funding at very good rates. I thought it only manners to tell you to your face.’
Sir John allowed a flicker of disappointment, ‘Then I can only express my regret and congratulate you on your efforts. Would I be right in assuming there was only UK capital involved?’
‘I’m not at liberty to say Sir John but I can tell you it was a UK source that made the funding possible. We’ll be making the announcement on the nineteenth, you could do worse than investing in some of our shares.’
Sir John offered Deerbrucker his hand, ‘That would be quite improper, certainly for anybody concerned with this bank. Robert will you be good enough to accompany Mr Deerbrucker out.’
As the door closed behind them Duffy lit his pipe, ‘I don’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed. It was a lot of money to tie up with Uniclor, yet I’m annoyed we’ve been caught flat footed.’
‘I know Duffy, it’s going to make us look duffers.’ Sir John smiled, ‘Better if we adopt an attitude of only ever considering around five percent.’ Nicholsen returned just as he finished talking.
‘We don’t have to bother about Midshire. He’s told me there’s only Californian involved of ICP’s lot. He’s pleased to have kept their involvement to a minimum.’
Sir John nodded, ‘Understandable, what we should be concentrating on Robert is not that our plan misfired, that’s always a possibility. But how did he know not to hear our terms. We can only assume we’ve someone in this bank that’s either a stupid or malicious carrier of tales. Whoever it is, it’s your responsibility Robert to have him flushed out and got rid of.’
‘I’ll give security a full list of everybody involved.’
Typical – pass the buck-Nicholsen. ‘You do that Robert and include all of us, we don’t want loose ends because of position.’ As Nicholsen left Sir John thought there was something sad about a man setting up to prove his own guilt.
Sir Reginald Huntington was courting and conscious of his physique. Enough at any rate to pull in his stomach prior to slipping on his dressing gown and answering the phone with an acidic, ‘Huntington.’ His tone changed when Sir John identified himself, told him of the meeting for the fourteenth and asked if they could use Bramshott.
‘Of course John. Matter of fact I’m having a few days at home with a guest. I’m sure she’ll excuse me for one evening and I’ll make arrangements for dinner.’
‘I wouldn’t bother Reginald, we won’t have time for socialising.’
‘Right I’ll arrange a buffet, then it’s there for anybody that wants it.’ No question as to the purpose of the meeting. A fact that didn’t go unnoticed by Sir John.
Contemplating his profile in the shower Huntington made a mental note to join one of these fitness places. Well, why not, there was nothing of Jane’s mother in this one.’ Eight days now since she’d plonked herself unceremoniously in his car outside Coutts. Immediately aware of her mistake she’d gone to get out. ‘I’m terribly sorry; I asked the bank to arrange a car and just assumed this was it. You must excuse me.’
Some cavalier whim forced out a smile, an introduction and the offer to drop her wherever she wished. The hotel she gave nurtured his interest, its exclusivity was for the unconsciously rich who were unaware there was any other way to be. Her offer of coffee was eagerly accepted then used to invite her to dinner, which extended to lunches or dinner for the rest of the week. Friday last had been her scheduled return home. An arrangement she’d laughingly agreed to change when he told her he’d take a week off and follow her wherever “home” was. Regretfully the hotel couldn’t extend her booking, it was then he suggested the visit to Bramshott and spending the week playing golf and exercising the horses. The arrangement had been delayed by her shopping for suitable clothes.
Dressed in blazer and flannels he made up the breakfast tray and whistling softly eased the champagne from its cork. He was conscious of the immanent arrival of Mrs Abrams his daily while his guest was in the flats only bed. In some perverse way the cleaner’s presence dictated his actions. Ruth Dellows turned as though the clink of a glass had penetrated her sleep. Pulling herself up she bunched the pillows, and managed a, ‘Good morning Reggie.’ Before she was awkwardly kissed, while the tray mangled her breast.
‘Sorry Ruth, bit ham-fisted at this sort of thing, thought we could have a light breakfast and be on our way before we’re inundated with hoover noises.’
An hour later and still without any sign of Mrs Abram, Huntington was sliding the Bentley’s nose into the Mall traffic. Ruth looked chic and composed without a hint of her inner feelings, she’d made a personal wager that in three months he’d start calling her Old Girl.
Dick Stark couldn’t think straight, not after three nights when even snatches of sleep had him wakening soaked with cooling sweat. Hamilton was on to him, he knew by the eyes that looked through him while the mouth traced up in what could be a smile or a sneer. He’d told him everything, everything except the phone call and the copies. He’d nothing else to tell and still he came, everyday now, unannounced, and “just wanting to go through this, “or” remind me of this Dick He wanted out, pensioned, secured, just him, he deserved it, told his contact that when he rang him.
Starks phone call had closed the triangle for Frank. He hadn’t been able to tell Pat anything other than connecting in his own mind his delivery of four cans with those that went to Slough and Pat querying how they’d got on to it and was it connected with a company called ICP? Now Stark had confirmed it. Panic wasn’t something you could handle over the phone. You had to give specific instructions. A route, a schedule, contact positions that reassured by their complexity, told them they were valued, their future your responsibility. Stark was given his instructions, he’d to leave his car at Heathrow, make his way to Euston Underground for the Kings Cross connection, specific time, specific spot. He’d be met, handed funds, from Kings Cross by train to Sheffield where he’d be told the details that took him to the Isle of Man. He wasn’t to worry they’d have him sight all the way. He was told to repeat his instructions, not to write them down.
Stark started out full of hope that only relief can bring. On the way into Euston he looked for the flicker of recognition, the imperceptible nod that said he was doing all right. But nothing happened till he heard his name just as his connection was coming in. He was handed a bag and told not to look at him. The train hardly felt him, the rush hour crowd failed to notice him, his killer was one of them.
© Eoin Taylor
Links to previous chapters are at the end of Chapter 17.