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The Fiction of Don Thomasson
The Bent Wheel - Chapter 11

The Fiction of Donald William Thomasson
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After a very late breakfast, Jimmy drove Pat over to Dorchester next morning for a conference with Henry Lessor. Little was said during the journey, and the atmosphere could have been described as rather strained.

Pat was annoyed with herself. She knew only too well that it had been idiotic to go off on her own without telling Jimmy, but she had wanted to prove that she could manage without him. When the men had appeared out of the darkness to surround her, and she knew that she had foolishly walked into a trap, her first thought was that Jimmy would come to her aid. That was a further blow to her pride, and when he did appear she had been so humiliated that she had greeted him with a near insult, something she now regretted deeply. He had been so silent ever since that she was afraid that he was seriously offended.

The reasons for Jimmy's silence were more complicated. Understanding perfectly why Pat had spoken so rudely, he had welcomed the rudeness as an indication that she had come to no lasting harm. The danger now was that he might start to tell her how he had felt about her disappearance, and show his true feelings too clearly. It would be only too easy to say too much. If she thought he was trying to persuade her to give up her job and leave danger to the stronger sex there would certainly be a storm.

It was a dull day, with cloudy skies and a persistent drizzle that made the roads glisten dangerously, but in his preoccupation Jimmy began to slide his corners stylishly in a way that would have horrified Sam Williams. Abruptly coming to his sense, he was relieved to see that Pat appeared to be enjoying the experience.

Henry Lessor, on the other hand, did not appear to be enjoying anything. 'We should have broken down the door immediately, but the police insisted on knocking first. As it is, those two got clean away, cutting across to the New Barn road somehow, and then doubling back through Rodden to Portesham. We had a road block there, but they didn't bother about a car coming from the south west. Can't blame them, I suppose, but it's annoying.'

'Does it matter?' Jimmy shrugged his shoulders. 'Even if the fat man was the boss, we wouldn't have got very far by questioning him. The run tomorrow night could tell us a lot more.'

'That's probably true.' Lessor grinned suddenly. 'I was feeling sore as a matter of professional pride. You did your bit, but I let you down. If you hadn't gone in alone, they would probably have taken Pat with them.'

'Which would have served me right.' Pat was firm. 'I was stupid. Because of that, we've wasted a whole day. Let's get on with the arrangements for tomorrow.'

Jimmy and Henry bent over the large scale map spread out in front of them, avoiding each other's eyes. They knew Pat was furious with herself, but there was little they could do about that. Henry Lessor broke the silence first. 'Suppose we start with the road blocks. You guessed where we put them last time. Care to explain your reasoning in more detail?'

Running his finger over the map to emphasise what he was saying, Jimmy responded briskly. 'Start from the Bristol Channel, following the River Parrett. Apart from two bridges in Bridgewater, the only main road crossing points are at Burrow Bridge, and a bridge by Langport station. Then the Yeo carries on, offering two bridges below Ilchester. The rivers form a natural defence line. Further south, there are relatively few east-west main roads, and you could cover them at Osmington, Dorchester and Yeovil. But there are lots of back routes in between.'

Lessor nodded. 'I'll buy that. But we can't picket all the lanes.'

'You don't need to. The list of map references gives a good indication of the ones likely to be used.'

'They must be highly organised.' Lessor shook his head, but Pat had the apt comment.

'Highly disorganised, sometimes. If Kellberg had caught us with his dope, there wouldn't have been any need to leave that note for me.'

'I've been thinking about that.' Jimmy spoke warily. 'It's clear that the fat man left the message, though it seems to have come earlier than I would have expected. When he found out what Kellberg was up to, he didn't want to cancel the trap, because that could have looked suspicious. I must admit that there seems to be something screwy about the whole business, but I can't put my finger on it.'

Lessor, noting a slight relaxation in the tension, tried to change the subject. 'So what do we do next?'

'What we really need is some way of tracing these cars wherever they go.' Jimmy spoke thoughtfully, but Pat gave a sudden chuckle.

'Simple, my dear James. All you have to do is put a homing device in each car, tune your radio to it, and you can follow them anywhere.'

'Very funny.' Without quite knowing why, Jimmy was irritated by this. 'You've got the wrong James. I wouldn't know where to start looking for a homing device, and I'm not at all sure that such a thing really exists. And I'm damned if I know how you expect me to follow twelve cars going in twelve different directions at once.'

Dismayed by his tone, Pat touched his arm and apologised. Jimmy covered her hand with his own, and they stared at each other solemnly for a moment. Then they both grinned, and the tension between them vanished. Henry Lessor heaved a sigh of relief. Perhaps Jimmy would be able to start producing miracles again now that he and Pat had reached a new understanding.

Jimmy, however, showed no immediate hint of genius. 'If my theory's right, and it may be nothing of the sort, I just can't see how to tackle the problem. I assume we want to trace the cars from the Bent Wheel, through the checkpoints, and on to their final destinations, so that the eventual customers can be identified. And none of the drivers must be aware they are being followed, or else they may pack up and go home.'

'I have a thought.' Henry's forehead drew into a frown of concentration. 'I doubt if the diamonds are paid for by credit card. Hard cash would be required, so there must be a return route for money.'

'True.' Jimmy considered this. 'If we only knew how they overcome the navigation problem... Hey! Was there anything unusual in the car that crashed as Swindon?'

'Not that I know of.' Henry's frown deepened. 'I'll check on that. Meanwhile, I think you two ought to take things easy. Keep out of sight, if you can. We know these people are dangerous.'

Jimmy stood up and stretched. 'I still say we're missing something. Consider Saturday. I suspect that Peter Mays killed Carson, but he would have needed help. Perhaps Kellberg supplied that. At much the same time, someone was dealing with Calvin Weston in Monckton. That wasn't our fat friend. He knew Farnfield was unlikely to arrive, so there was no urgency where Weston was concerned. That means there's another man, one we haven't identified yet.'

Henry nodded, but he still looked worried. 'It also means that the Weslake isn't safe. It wasn't safe for Weston. You'd better look round for somewhere else.'

'You have a point.' Jimmy's lips twitched. 'Maybe we could rent a cottage somewhere, if Pat doesn't consider that too domestic. But there's still that car of mine. Wherever we go, it's likely to be recognised. Let's hang on at the Weslake tonight. They'll be too busy with other things tomorrow to worry about us.'

This was agreed, rather doubtfully on Henry's part, and the meeting was about to break up when the telephone rang. Lessor listened for a moment, then smiled broadly.

'Geoff! Good to hear your voice. On the mend? Fine. We haven't been standing still, thanks mainly to a young man called Ferguson. Oh, you know about him, do you? Like to talk to him? He's right here.'

Jimmy took the phone and heard Geoff Farnfield's voice for the first time. It was cheerful, with an underlying hint of steel, light in tone yet wholly authoritative.

'Ah, Mr Ferguson. I gather you've been running into all sorts of trouble intended for me. Sorry we couldn't continue out run together. I was enjoying it. Now, tell me how you see the situation, from your own point of view.'

Taking a deep breath, Jimmy gathered his wits together. He felt he might need them. 'Well, I've simply done whatever seemed necessary, with no real chance to sit back and consider consequences or implications. I gather you know certain things about me which would suggest that I'm not exactly a greenhorn.'

'Anything but.' The voice was dryly amused. 'I'm not doubting your qualifications. I'm not doubting your motives, either, though I'd be interested to know what they are.'

'Oh...' Jimmy was disconcerted. 'Well, I was annoyed about the destruction of your car. I wanted to have a go at the people who did that. Later...'

Jimmy paused uncertainly, and the dry voice asked, 'Is Miss Hale with you?'

'Yes.' Jimmy was puzzled.

'Is that why you're reluctant to state a secondary motive?'

'Well, yes.' Understanding at last, Jimmy chuckled. 'That expresses it very well, though I'm finding the whole business very interesting. I hope we can tidy it up by the end of the week.'

'You think so?' The dry voice sounded gently amused. 'I think that's a little optimistic.'

Suddenly emboldened, Jimmy laughed. 'If it isn't sorted out by the end of the week, I doubt if it ever will be. Tomorrow night will be crucial. If we can find a way to trace the deliveries, you should have most of what you want. It might mean calling out three quarters of every police force in southern England, but it could be done.'

'I see. You wouldn't like the Army to lend a hand, I suppose?'

'Possibly. The RAF might be better, but there could be problems. The services take so long to get organised, and they tend to want to take control.'

'True. Very true.' For the first time, Geoff Farnfield sounded a little disconcerted. 'Well, I think I can regularise your position to some extent, but don't start calling out Aldershot Command without telling me first. And look after yourself. These people are tricky. Keep an eye on Miss Hale, too. I'd hate to lose her.'

'So would I.' The words were emphatic, and the distant voice was amused.

'I'm not altogether surprised. You seem to have a similar outlook on life. You can tell me all about that when we meet, if you survive that long. Let me have a word with the young lady, will you?'

Handing the phone to Pat, Jimmy felt that this brief conversation with Geoff Farnfield was one he would remember for a long time. Even as a disembodied voice, the personality of the man had come over clearly. It was forceful, frighteningly intelligent, yet completely controlled. This was a man to be reckoned with.

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Mail me Keith Thomasson February 11th 2002