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Strictly Illegal - Chapter 6

The Fiction of Donald William Thomasson
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VI

When he opened the door, Jimmy found a little man who looked uncomfortably battered. There was no major injury visible, but he was clearly in pain and could barely stand. Calling to Pat for help, Jimmy half carried the little man inside and laid him gently on the sofa. Geoff had taken cover in the kitchen in case his presence should prove awkward, but he now emerged. After one look at the unexpected visitor he took charge.

'Leave this to me. I'd say he's been beaten up, but not too badly. Poor little chap, he doesn't have much luck, does he?'

Pat asked who the man was and Jimmy explained that he was called Luciano Mori. 'He worked for the Colonel's outfit in Monaco, but only because he thought he was a murderer. He's one of us now.'

Having made a hasty examination, Geoff said that he felt they ought to call a doctor and gave Jimmy a number to ring. As Jimmy put the phone down, the little man seemed to recover a bit. He looked round, smiling at Jimmy, obviously puzzled by Pat and clearly glad to see Geoff.

He spoke with an effort. 'I will be...all right...I think. They thought I knew something. I didn't, but I found out quite a lot.'

He stopped, wincing, and Jimmy told him to take it easy. 'You'll be all right now. We'll look after you.'

Geoff put a gentle question. 'How did you get here? It may be important.'

'Yes. I came by car. A little way down the road. Not far. I was not sure how far I could walk.'

Finding the keys in the little man's pocket, Geoff asked what the car number was and would have gone out, but Pat stopped him. 'I'll do it. They don't know me by sight.'

'Be careful, then. Put it in a car park and come back by tube or bus. Keep your eyes open.'

When she had gone, Geoff turned back to Mori, who seemed more comfortable now and could talk coherently.

'You are a clever man, Mr Farnfield, always thinking of the possibilities. I am foolish and I did not. I had to find somewhere to go. It could not be my own home and they might look for me at Simon's house, so I could only think of Mr Ferguson.'

'How did you know where I lived?' Jimmy's eyes were worried and the little man reassured him.

'Simon told me. I had to telephone him, to warn him they might look for me there.' Jimmy and Geoff exchanged glances of relief.

Geoff led Jimmy into the kitchen. 'We'll let him rest for the moment, though I'm most anxious to hear his story. This is what I was afraid of. I should have sent someone more experienced. As it was, Mori seemed the ideal man for the job. I told him to go down to Uffington and see if he recognised anyone in the district. It looks as if someone recognised him instead.'

There was a queer rhythmic ring at the door bell. Geoff said it must be the doctor. Knowing the distance from the exchange area he had rung, Jimmy thought there had been too little time for the journey involved, but Geoff was right. A young and athletic looking man appeared and started to examine Mori immediately. When he had finished, he said that there seemed to be no serious damage.

'Bruising, of course, and considerable pain, but if we can put him to bed with a strong sedative he should be a lot better in the morning. If I know you, Mr Farnfield, you'll want to ask him questions. Let's get him as comfortable as we can and then you can ask questions while the drug takes effect.'

Pat returned as they were carrying Mori to the spare bedroom and soon earned the doctor's approbation for her knowledge of nursing. 'I can see he's going to be in good hands. He ought to stay in bed tomorrow. I'll look in towards evening to see how he's getting on. Now then, Mr Farnfield, you can have five minutes.'

Mori eyed Pat and the doctor doubtfully, but Geoff assured him he could speak freely in front of them. 'Don't bother about details. Just give me the outline of what happened.'

The little man nodded and paused to collect his thoughts. 'The place you wanted me to look for is called Greystones. It stands alone on a lane about five kilometres from the place where they are building the circuit. I would like to say that I found it, but what really happened was that the people living there found me.'

Moving a little, as if seeking a less painful position, he smiled sadly. 'You see, I forgot that they would be able to recognise me and that if I went about openly, they would probably see me before I saw them. It was foolish. I had left my car so that I could walk about looking at houses and the people in them. They caught me and took me to the house and asked me questions I could not answer.'

'Who was there?' Geoff's question was gentle.

'Markham. He seemed to be in charge. You remember he was Schuyster's personal assistant.'

'I remember.'

'And Moxton. He was one of the Colonel's men.'

The little man's voice was receding as the drug began to take effect. Geoff spoke a little more urgently. 'Did you tell them anything?'

'No. I had nothing to tell. They asked me how I had known they were there and I said I had not known until they showed themselves. That was true. They were annoyed, then. Not with me, with each other.'

'How did you get away?'

The voice was faint and sleepy now. 'They thought I would not be able to move. They left me alone for a little while. I got out of the window and found my car where I had left it.'

Urgently, Geoff asked one more question. 'Did they see your car?'

The answer was barely audible. 'No. It was hidden.'

And then Mori was asleep. The doctor put his hand on Geoff's arm. 'Let him rest. You got the main points, didn't you? Plucky little chap, driving here in that state.'

Geoff nodded and led the way back to the sitting room, where he faced the others grimly. 'He's plucky enough, but I wish he hadn't come here. He could have laid a clear trail direct to this flat. We may have been lucky again, but I can't be sure. I would have liked to find out what route he took, where he telephoned from, things like that.'

'I don't think anyone was watching the car.' Pat spoke thoughtfully. Geoff asked her to tell them what she had done.

'Well, I found the car easily enough. It was parked in a fairly dark spot, but the lights were still on. I walked past it and round the next corner, where I turned my coat inside out. It's a reversible one, with two different colours, so when I came back I must have looked quite different. I only turned towards the car at the last moment, so anyone watching would only have had a glimpse of me after they knew what I was going to do. I didn't see anyone about, though.'

Nodding approval, Geoff said that she had done very well. 'Where did you put the car?'

'I drove into Harrow and put it in the station car park. Then I caught a train back. Nobody else got off the train when I did.'

Jimmy said that seemed fairly safe. 'You know, Geoff, I agree we need to be careful, but I think there's no need to scare ourselves. It could have been bad, but I think we got away with it.'

The doctor, who had been listening to these exchanges with interest, said that they were obviously dealing with some very nasty people and he thought he'd go home before he got too involved. Geoff grinned and said that he was welcome to run away if he wanted to, but Jimmy might offer him a drink if he had the courage to stay for a few minutes.

When the drink and the doctor had both been disposed of, they all relaxed, but only for a few minutes.

Jimmy broke the peace, sitting up suddenly as an idea struck him. 'Why hasn't Simon rung? Wouldn't he want to find out whether Mori arrived safely?'

Geoff nodded, evidently sharing Jimmy's concern. 'Give him a call yourself. He may have thought it wiser not to ring.'

There was no reply from the Carter's number and Geoff grimaced. 'I'd better get some men out there right away. As Mori said, our friends know he's a friend of Carter's and may have gone there to look for him.'

'Shall we go over ourselves?' Jimmy felt he had to ask, though he knew what the answer would be.

'Certainly not! That would be playing into their hands. This is a job for the official team.'

Even as Geoff stretched his hand out to the telephone, however, the bell began to ring and he drew back. Jimmy took the call and was enormously relieved to hear Simon's voice.

'Jimmy? Is our worthy patron still with you? I want him to remove some rubbish that's cluttering up my house. Do you think he could arrange it?'

Laughing, Jimmy explained that they had been about to organise a relief expedition. 'How did you manage? We guessed there was something wrong when you didn't call to ask about Lucy. When you didn't answer my call we were certain.'

'Was that you? I wondered. It distracted attention long enough for me to practice my footwork. Susan made a marvellous catch in the slips, and... Well, one item of rubbish got a bit damaged.'

Laughing again, Jimmy asked, 'Seriously?'

'Not very. We'll have to have the carpet cleaned, but I think he'll live. How's Lucy?'

'Badly bruised, I'm afraid, but we hope he'll mend quickly. He did very well, all things considered. You'd better speak to Geoff. Hang on a tick.'

Turning to Geoff, he explained the position. 'Simon. I gather he managed to kick one of the visitors when my call disturbed their concentration. Susan caught the gun and shot the other one. They seem to have matters under control, but would like you to remove the bodies.'

'Bodies? Good God!' Grabbing the phone, Geoff was soon chuckling, his mind much relieved. When he rang off, he was still chuckling. 'And I once thought he needed bodyguards! He wouldn't be specific over the phone, but I gather he has two prisoners, both tied up, but still alive. It's no use, we'll have to take those two on to the strength of the department. We need them!'

'I thought he was too valuable in his regular job to be spared for this sort of thing.'

'He is, really, but he can probably do both. I'm not suggesting him as a full time man. I'd better arrange for the removal of his visitors.'

When this had been done, Jimmy asked whether the intrusion into Simon's home would make any difference. 'Those two men must have found out one or two useful facts, if only from our telephone conversation.'

Geoff smiled. 'They won't be able to use them. We can make sure of that. Fortunately, I have powers of detention at my disposal that aren't bedevilled by legal loopholes. If that was public knowledge, asinine do-gooders would scream their heads off about the sanctity of personal liberty, but they don't know, so I can make sure these men can't do any harm for now.'

'I wonder if they're the men who killed Sealey.' Pat spoke thoughtfully.

'They may be, but I don't propose to investigate the possibility. If I found that they were the guilty men, I'd be obliged to hand them over to the police and that would be fatal. They would be allowed visitors and might even be released, if they got a good lawyer. I'm no believer in police state methods, but there are times when they have to be used.'

'I've never thought of it in that way.' Pat was interested. 'I suppose the law can be a nuisance to you.'

'Very much so.' Geoff smiled wryly. I spend my life fighting people who have no respect for the law. If I had to confine myself to strictly legal methods I would get nowhere. It puts a heavy responsibility on me, one that the regular police don't have to face. If the Public Prosecutor tells them that the evidence in a given case isn't good enough to secure a conviction, they simply go on looking for more evidence. I often have to take a man into custody when there's no evidence at all, in a legal sense. It's my personal decision and I have to be very sure of my ground, but if no such action was taken, there would be chaos.'

Reflecting that he was learning a lot of things about Geoff that he had never even suspected, Jimmy asked whether the decision to detain a man was ever challenged.

Geoff grimaced. 'It happens. People think it's clever to interfere. Potty politicians out to catch votes are the worst. They get hold of the bare facts of the case, through someone's carelessness. They do untold harm by publicising the whole thing. The newspapers love people like that. In one such case I had to let my man go. A few weeks later, he shot the politician who had made me release him.'

Laughing, Jimmy said he had no doubt that Geoff had felt no regrets over the outcome.

'None at all. I knew it could happen. That was why I was holding the man in the first place, because he was a political assassin. But what could I do?'

'What you did. It solved the problem. Both problems, in fact, if I remember the case correctly.' Jimmy paused, suddenly visualising an uncomfortable possibility. 'Could the Colonel get a potty politician to help him in that sort of way?'

Geoff's face was suddenly a noncommittal mask. 'It could happen. The pressure might be indirect. The Colonel might apply pressure to, say, Brent Livingstone, who would apply pressure to the politician. It wouldn't be the first time.'

Taking a hint from Geoff's expression, Jimmy dropped the subject, but he remained vividly aware of the possible implications.

Just before he left them that night, Geoff made one further comment. 'You may have thought that I've been behaving rather oddly today. There have been reasons, though I can't tell you what they are. I have a feeling that this case is going to prove very important, far more important than it looks now. We may find ourselves pushed towards courses of action that we don't like. We could even find ourselves outside the law. I'm hoping it won't happen. If it does, you may have to make your own minds up about a number of things, because it won't simply be a matter of obeying orders. It could be a case of every man for himself. Goodnight.'

Left alone, Jimmy and Pat looked at each other with alarmed bewilderment. This was completely unlike the Geoff they had known and they were at a loss to understand what had brought about the change. However, they were firmly agreed on one point. Whatever Geoff might decide, he had their wholehearted support, their absolute trust. In an uncertain world, he was a point of stability, a reliable guide, a man of sure integrity.

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Mail me Keith Thomasson February 11th 2002