France was a cockup. Joe did not realize he’d applied a slang he acquired from his British friends and associates. He walked briskly in the late evening rain using back streets. He needed to put distance between him and the hotel and lose anyone who might be following.
From the start, he should have recognized that dinner with Caminski and Bilko was frivolous. Non-essential. Caminski could have said all that nonsense in London. Returning to his hotel room paid for by the ‘company,’ he found a subtle change though only a slight repositioning of his travel bag on the bed. Joe searched through it. Marked and sequential thirty-thousand US dollars wrapped in foil lay under his shirts. A frame to ensnare him to get him out of the way using treason and taking bribes from anyone of the USA’s enemies. Russia, China, Iran, it wouldn’t matter which.
Joe dumped his company phone in the bathroom trash and grabbed a towel. On the bed he took the money out of his travel bag, stacked and wrapped it in the towel and stuffed it into his tumbled leather briefcase he’d carried with him to the meeting in the hotel dining room. One last glance around Joe picked up his briefcase and left the hotel by the back staircase.
First chance Joe got he ducked into a sports store, grabbed a blue rain jacket, a black baseball cap, paid cash and put them on. Down the block was a convenience shop where Joe bought a pre-paid phone. While walking the mile to the auto repair shop and car rental service which a drinking buddy of his, Raulf owned Joe phoned him. Joe plan was to rent a car but Raulf insisted on driving him with no explanation professing that if Joe needed to get out of France that’s enough for him.
Joe found himself focusing on the rain pelting the car’s windows mulling over what happened and why. It was half-past eight in the evening on a warm Saturday night for October and people on the streets, some under umbrellas, were hurrying to their destination. What happened had everything to do with Caminski and what was done to Rener in Istanbul. Joe guessed Caminski was haunted by Mark Rener’s death four years earlier and Ginnie Mira’s imprisonment for it. And now with her getting a new trial Caminski wanted loose ends tied up. Joe knew he was that loose end. All this time Joe could only surmise that Caminski shot Rener. Joe heard a shot, and raced to the end of the building, maybe three seconds, and there was Rener on the ground and Caminski was standing over him, his back to Joe. Caminski turned and seeing Joe said he, himself had just arrived and asked had Joe seen anything. Joe stated he had not. But clearly, Caminski feared Joe had seen him do the killing.
Joe left Istanbul that night on a scheduled flight to Japan to work with the PSIA, Public Security Intelligence Agency Japan intelligence agency on a newly forming terrorist group. By the time his part in the operation in Japan was over, Ginnie Mira was tried and convicted for murder as a star-crossed lover. So he had to be deft with in Caminski’s view. What better way than to frame him for treason to discredit him.
Why haven’t I seen this coming, Joe grimaced glancing at his briefcase at his feet? The thirty thousand dollars inside had to be hidden. He decided on a safe place.
While they drove toward the outskirts of Paris he phoned Aeton Drakos. Aeton agreed to leave right away from his home in Greece to meet Joe once Raulf got him into Austria. Few people would do what he was asking of Raulf and Aeton. This was going to be a straight run, a long road trip for all of them.
Joe hated calling in favors but he had no choice here. Aeton would do anything to help him after Joe, Cyril Jones and Meka Hebib, another detective from the Rimble’s Detective Service tracked the child traffickers who had taken Aeton’s three-year-old daughter from Aeton’s mistress’ house five years back.
Next, Joe spent some time going over his plan. When the Central Intelligent Agency recruited him from the Marines, Joe made up several scenarios and an end game for each including something like this happening. All he had to do now was make it foolproof. But his mind turned to the woman he met at the bar the other night. The wish he had to know more about Danie Torderelli shocked him. Then another thought followed. Joe phoned the Rimble’s Detective Service emergency phone. Seven rings, hang up and wait.
Cyril heard the burner phone ring placed on his night table and hopped out of bed, got his trousers from the chair and hopped into them. Donning his shirt, socks, and shoes he raced down the stairs to the office. Once dressed Cyril slipped the emergency phone kept in his locked deck into a pocket and headed for the back door. Out in the pouring rain, Cyril put as many blocks between him and the office as he could so the phone would not show up on the CIA’s radar. His umbrella fought the wind and rain along the way passed a second cell tower before Cyril stopped in front of a house where leaves of a large tree overhung an iron fence. He hit call on the phone and leaned against the fence letting the leaves shelter him like a canopy.
Joe answered on the first ring. “Cyril, the worst has happened.”
“Good heavens, I was hoping this wasn’t it,” Cyril replied.
“Get everything out of the house, all traces of me, to a safe place as soon as you can. Especially my desk computer, the outer drive, and files the way we planned it. They’ve decided on a frame using espionage. It’s over what happened with Rener’s death and Ginnie Mira. I called Aeton. He’ll get to me in a few hours I should think. Guard this burn phone, Cyril. This is how we’ll communicate.”
“I will. I’ll get it all done right away. Were you followed?”
“No, I’m sure I made it without a tail. I assume they are looking for me, or they will be soon. And they’ll have the word out.”
“I’ll tell them you’ve moved,” Cyril asked. “Can you tell me what went down?”
“I came back from that imbecilic meeting in the hotel dining room and found marked thirty thousand US dollars planted in my travel bag,” Joe said. “Can you call your greek banker friend and ask for a safe deposit box account to store the money in?”
“Will do,” Cyril denoted. “Stay safe. Ah, I looked into that woman. Though, I suppose it can wait now.”
“Go ahead. What’d you find?”
“Sure, her full name is Geordana Catherine Torderelli. There are two brothers who she was caring for, parents both are recently dead. Her mother’s family sued her for custody of the brothers and Danie lost. The three kids were left about three hundred thousand dollars each and split the money from the sale of their family house worth half a mill. Get this, she lives off the dividends and interest from her own money. It’s most in index funds, CD and some stocks. She’s a smart cookie”
“Is she still at the Pondham Hotel?” Joe asked.
Cyril did not miss his friend’s interest. “I don’t know. Is that where you met her?”
“At the bar next door, will you see if she is still there?”
“So this is personal!” Cyril added with a smirk.
“No!” Joe denied with strenuous force half dreading Cyril’s teasing. But he scoffed at himself. Why not admit it? He added before ending the call, “Yeah, it is. I’ll call next when I can.”
Still smiling, Cyril didn’t bother with the umbrella in the pouring rain and trotted home to get to work.
After working the rest of the night to erase all signs of Joe from the house, the following morning Cyril set a tail on Danie. Meka Hebib would do mornings, he, himself, would take the afternoons while Marcus Crandell-Jones would work nights.
This morning a realtor drove Danie out to the view a couple of quaint thatched country-style cottages in the iconic Cotswolds about an hour and a half from London.
At noon she was shopping on Oxford Street and bought a green stripe dress and four-inch heels and then took another taxi and was now looking at computers nearer to the Rimble’s office in the Nottinghill. If she keeps spending money this way she’d be using her investment’s principle soon, Cyril predicted while walking up to the same display the young woman stood in front. She was eyeing two of the latest models. The weather was warm for late October and Cyril was carrying his coat. He sat the outer drive he this moment decided to purchase on the counter. He said to the neatly attired junior clerk stocking a cabinet, “Can I pay for this here?”
“Certainly, sir.” The clerk took Cyril’s money and walked away.
Danie glanced at the middle-aged man with thick black glasses to her left immediately concluding he could be someone’s butler dressed as he was in a neat dark suit, white shirt and black tie. The man carried his coat over one arm and she realized she was warm also.
She took off her green leather trench coat weighting the price of the desktop that fit her allotted budget for the purchase. Now her problem was how to get it to the hotel if the shop doesn’t deliver. Her belongings, ten suitcases full arrived this morning but she still couldn’t find a place to live so Reilly could join her. She missed him and everyone and everything she’d left behind. Danie angrily wiped at her nose. You’d think I’d be done crying by now, she berated herself. She began to think this was a mistake to come to England and start over.
The cottages she looked at were nice. However, she couldn’t decide on one let alone afford to pay for them outright. She hoped her share of the money from the sale of their family home would cover a new house. But lord knows when the house will get sold.
Seeing the woman was upset Cyril took that moment to state, “I have that one you’re looking at. It’s very reliable.”
Danie smiled. “That’s good to know. Thank you.”
The clerk bagged Cyril’s purchase and handed it over the counter with his change. “Thank you, Sir.”
With a grin Cyril took it then glanced at Danie.
Danie was asking the clerk while searching in her handbag, “Can I get this computer delivered to my hotel?”
“Yes, we can deliver it,” the man said, as Danie handed him a bank card and then mopped her nose with a tissue.
Oh dear! Cyril groaned she’s crying.
The clerk gave Cyril a forlorn sympathizing look for her as Danie mumbled the hotel’s address and then sobbed.
Cyril leaned down and whispered, “You seem awful distressed. Can I buy you a coffee? There’s a shop across the way. I’m Cyril Jones.”
That was it, Danie sobbed again, it was kind people who always make her more vulnerable. Danie grabbed at her dignity with a few deep breaths and nodded.
Cyril took her arm and steered Danie outside mindlessly chatting about the area’s history to the distressed younger woman.
In the Starbucks, they ordered and went out into the courtyard and set in the warm breeze even though it looked like it could rain at any moment.
After she took a sip, Danie said feeling embarrassed, “I’m Danie Torderelli. Sorry, I’m so emotional and it fell on you.”
“No problem, really. I was overdue for coffee anyway,” Cyril said. “Do you feel better?”
“Yes, I do. Thanks to you,” Danie added with a warm smile. “Do you live around here?”
“Not far. Do I understand you live at the Pondham Hotel?” Cyril said and took out his leather business card holder from his suit jacket. Slipping a card out of it he passed it to her.
Danie nodded and looked at the card. “Oh!” she inserted, “I have one from someone already.”
“Really,” he exclaimed. Why hadn’t he thought about that? Joe would have given her his card. “Who from, Marcus Crandell-Jones? He’s my nephew. How did you meet?” Cyril elaborated on the fairy tale.
“No, a young man with gray air at his temples,” she told him while turning over the card to read Cyril Jones on the back. “We met at the bar next to the hotel.”
“Joe Graydon you must mean. Yes, he’s a punter there,” he put in and sipped his coffee.
Danie smiled. “Oh, he goes there often? This is a coincidence, meeting both of you in only a few days. I haven’t seen him since.”
Danie went back to the bar last night hoping to see him again. It was a let down she had to admit when he wasn’t there. Until now she had no interest in men and grimaced. Not since Ben decided they should ‘just be friends.’ Her only serious relationship was with Ben who she knew from grade school. There would be no one else, she had thought, for the rest of her life until that day. That was last year. Devastated and in despair at first, but when her mother began to die, that all dissolved. Caring for her mother was more important, and after some time she believed Ben was right. And it turned out that he would help her when no one else would through the coming ordeal.
Cyril changed the subject. “Are you visit from America?” That was when Danie began to talk about her troubles. Cyril knew it all but Danie needed to talk and he let her. When she started talking about her dog, Reilly, Cyril found he couldn’t stop himself from adding offhand while pointed at the card in Danie’s hand. “Why not let your dog stay with us at the office. It’s a house, you see. There’s a walled yard in back and you can come and take care of him there until you find a place. We can stop at the office and you can see what you think,” he finished with a sense of satisfaction which he believed might meet with Joe’s approval. And if not, well, Danie would find a place of her own in the future, he told himself.
Danie was grinning now. “Okay, yes let’s go if you have time now? I do.”
“Certainly,” Cyril said getting up. “Where do you want to settle in London?’
“I was thinking of the Cotswolds, actually.”
“I love that area myself,” he added. “I have friends who have a cottage in South Cotswolds. I can ask them any questions you might have if you like.”
“That would be great. It probably sounds silly but I read about it in a mystery series,” Danie said as they walked to a car park along the road.
“You don’t mean the Agatha Raisin series?” Cyril put in.
“Yes, have you read those books?” she asked.
“I have. I love M.C. Beaton! Though I wish Agatha would end up with Sir Charles Fraith,” Cyril conceded.
“Me, too. James is so, oh, I don’t know, hard to deal with,” Danie said, falling into step with her friend.
“I agree. And bad for Aggie,” Cyril said leading her to his newly refurbed black nineteen-sixty-two, 4-door Austin complete with ‘bunny-eared’ roof-mounted turn signals. It was minus the taxi roof sign and advertisements which helps little with the odd unaware persons trying to hale him for a ride. He then added, “You’ll like the house. It’s a townhouse really.”
Copyright by J.D. Holiday 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Living In The Backup Plan: Part 1 at: https://cerealauthors.wordpress.com/2019/05/17/living-in-the-backup-plan-part-1/