* * *
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - Explanations
Sometime in the early hours of the following morning I left Dover to return to the Elms. Suzette, Bruce and Hulk were with me. My job was finished and no doubt I had a seething Anthea to pacify.
I left Harry Bell at the Garden Centre. I'd never seen him so happy.
He told me I'd get a glowing report. I didn't object. At the last count he'd found drugs to a street value in excess of five million pounds, and that figure was rising by the minute. It seemed that every plant pot his men emptied held a little something beneath the roots.
We stopped at a motorway services on our way back. I for one needed some coffee to keep awake. The time was something like four o'clock in the morning yet the service area bustled with activity. I paid for four very expensive cups of coffee then joined Suzette at a table. The two men we sent away to another table. We needed to speak in private and I think they understood.
We then got to talking. I think a lot of explanations were in order.
"Well Woody, how about filling me in with what's been going on?" asked Suzette, "I've got a report to type as soon as I get back. Somehow I've got to justify all this to my superiors and I haven't a clue where to start or what to tell them."
I looked to Suzette. She raised an eyebrow and gave a little bemused smile. I could see that explanations were in order so I collected my thoughts. There was a lot to relate and this seemed like the best time and place to put the record straight.
I cleared my throat and began my tale.
"First of all Suzette, you've got to see this as two Agents, Fernando and Pierre, both not being very honest with us," I started.
"They were both into some underhand activities of their own, but both very different activities that normally wouldn't clash. Fernando was into the smuggling of women for the Submissive Trade, and Pierre into a drug running operation based in Amsterdam.
"Fernando's route was long and complicated. This was from Barcelona to Dundee, whilst Pierre's was much more direct. This was from Amsterdam to Dover and ultimately London. The common link in all this is the port of Dunkirk. This is where both routes crossed, and this, in the end, proved to be their downfall.
"I'll explain why and how as I go on, perhaps then it'll all become a little clearer. Let's start with Pierre and Fernando and their relationship shall we?
"Both men knew of each other's activities and both men tolerated each other since neither encroached on the other man's territory. In fact there might even have been some co-operation between them over the years. I also suspect this association went back a very long way. I know for a fact that Pierre spent time in Paris and Barcelona perfecting his stage act. He didn't get that good working as a Government Agent. So I guess it was through both men's association with various BDSM clubs in the Barcelona area that they first got to learn of one another, and after that a professional relationship developed.
"So basically Suzette, there you have the answer... We had Pierre and Fernando both running their separate operations... with everything going smoothly and both men on a good little money earner... furthermore, there was no way either men were going to be found out, since both were working for their respective governments, and both assigned to investigate themselves.
"It was only when Fatima came on the scene did things start to go wrong, and even then the problem didn't seem insurmountable. In fact Fatima had very little to report. She'd been kept locked away in a container for most of the journey and basically hadn't a clue where she was or where she was going.
"Then by chance, Fatima, looking through an air-hole in the side of the container, spotted a group of men on the dockside; and even that wouldn't have amounted to much until Pierre showed up at Hendry's, because Pierre was one of those men on the dockside. The irony is however, Pierre wasn't there to oversee the smuggling of women, he was there looking after his own interests in the drug trade. However, Fatima was not to know this. You see, this sighting was at Dunkirk where both routes crossed.
"Anyway, Fatima informed Fernando of her sighting at the first opportunity which was probably not long after Pierre turned up at Hendry's. But with it being a Saturday and with a show scheduled for that evening it was decided to wait until it was all over before doing something positive about it.
"This gave Fernando and Pierre a little breathing space. Basically Fatima had to disappear, and disappear quickly, so they hatched a plan. They would put out the word that she was about to reveal the identity of Mr. Big in the hope that she would get herself kidnapped again. That was the story they told us anyway. The truth was, they were going to kidnap her themselves and make it look like someone else had done it. To achieve this, Fernando was going to do the kidnapping whilst Pierre provide and alibi.
"Fernando was going to waylay Fatima on her way to the Ladies Changing Room, knock her out using chloroform, then bind her with packing tape and dump her into the boot of his own car which was parked out in the road somewhere. He would then drive a short distance down the road, leave his car there and walk back. It's quite possible to get around the back of the house using the cover of the bushes and not be seen from the door. Finally, when the show was over, Fernando planned to drive to his secret address in Wimbledon and keep Fatima there until the two men decided what best to do with her.
"The important thing to note here is that the kidnapping had to be seen and reported, and for this they used Hulk. He was set up to be the witness and the person who reported the crime. More importantly he was told that at no stage should he intervene. This was Pierre's specific instruction to the big man, and it was Pierre's intention to be behind the bar when it happened. Pierre gave Hulk one further instruction. He told him to telephone the bar immediately he sees something suspicious happening.
"Then, having received that call Pierre would immediately phone up to Fernando's office. But this would be a fake call. In reality Fernando would not be there. However, the girls behind the bar would not know this, since Fernando had shortly beforehand informed them that he was going up to his office. Therefore, when the phone calls were being made, the timing would be such, that at the exact moment in time when Fatima was being taken from the premises, Pierre was behind the bar talking to Fernando on the phone in his office. Pierre would make sure that both Claudette and Sadie were aware of this and in doing so provide the perfect alibi for them both.
At this point I stopped to take a sip of my coffee. I looked to Suzette. I think she was too busy assimilating what she'd just heard to ask questions, so I continued:
"Their plan was fine and would have gone without a hitch, except for one thing... they hadn't reckoned on Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee being around... he was the one spanner in the works.
"Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee was nothing more than a common thief. When everyone's attention was turned to the show he took advantage and applied his trade.
"He sneaked out of the room and made his way up the stairs. He gained access to Fernando's office using a secret door from an adjoining room. Inside the office he found a pair of diamond studded cufflinks belonging to Fernando. I think his eyes must have lit up when he found them, since they were very expensive cufflinks. Anyway, he would have considered this a good evening's work and decided to call it a day. He then returned down the back stairs. At this point he was disturbed.
"Let me remind you of the sequence here. Fernando was first to walk through that door from the bar. This was followed by Pierre a couple of minutes later, then Fatima not long after that. I think Pierre wanted to be there in case anything went wrong and make sure Fatima was overpowered without any hitch before making for the bar and setting up the alibi.
"Anyway, Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee altered all that. Fernando spotted him acting suspiciously in the corridor and chased him out of the Emergency Exit. A fight then ensued. At this point Pierre walked through the door to see the struggle going on and he too got involved. I think after that the two of them must have managed to overpower the burglar. Fernando held him down whilst Pierre got himself up to deal with Fatima who was about to come through the door.
"Pierre stood in the doorway waiting for Fatima to come through from the bar. He knew that she was only seconds behind him. He must have got the chloroform and roll of tape from Fernando's pocket. On seeing Fatima he called her over to join him, probably on the pretence that a fight was really taking place.
"At this point Fatima was naked and carrying her clothes in her arms. She also had Pierre's baton with her. He'd left the baton on stage presumably in a hurry to get away. On reaching the Emergency Exit Fatima was grabbed by Pierre and he applied the chloroform. The clothes and baton fell to the ground just outside the door. This gave the burglar a lifeline. He must have stretched out a hand and grabbed the baton. He then struck Fernando on the head, stunning him, if not actually knocking him out for a few seconds.
"In the meantime, Pierre was winning the battle against Fatima. As she dropped to the ground he released her and went swiftly to the aid of Fernando. Pierre wrestled away the baton from the burglar and struck him on the head several times. These blows proved fatal and as a result Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee lay dead.
"Well, as you can well imagine the plan had all gone wrong. Pierre helped Fernando to sit up against the door and could see that he was in no fit state to carry Fatima to his car. So Pierre took it on himself to complete the task. Basically the plan was the same. The only difference being, it would be Pierre that did the carrying, and Pierre's car that would be used.
At this point Suzette intervened. "But Pierre didn't have a car?... He was collected from the airport," she pointed out.
I nodded my head.
"That's very true Suzette. But I was going to come on to Claudette and the roll she played in all this. You see she loaned Pierre her mobile phone and the use of her car. She gave him the keys to her car and told him he could use it whilst over here in England. And I guess that's one of the things that gave it all away. You gave me the clues when you said you'd been through Pierre's things whilst he was up on stage. You mentioned car keys and a mobile phone, so he must have got them from somewhere," I explained.
"But let me continue with what happened next, and then perhaps you'll understand a little better?
"Pierre was forced to leave Fernando in the doorway. Obviously he's still groggy and going nowhere, so Pierre drags the body of Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee into the bushes, wipes the baton clean and tosses it away. He then makes things up as he goes along. For one thing Pierre is wearing an Army Uniform. This will never do, so he swaps his jacket for the one on the dead body and hopes that in the darkness he can get away with it. He also uses a hood to cover his face. I think Fernando must have had one ready for the same purpose, but equally it could have been Jimmy's. But exactly who's hood it was doesn't really matter here. What matters is, as soon as he's ready Pierre picks up Fatima and sets off around the house, down the drive and across the road to his car.
"After dumping Fatima in the boot of his car, Pierre drives a short distance down the road. Just as he's pulling up his mobile rings. I don't think he was expecting this, but he answers anyway. It's Hulk telling him he's just seen Fatima being carried across the road and driven away in a car. The delay is because Hulk phoned the bar first as instructed, only to discover that Pierre's not there. Hulk then uses his initiative. He knows that Pierre has Claudette's mobile phone so he dials that number next.
"Pierre receives the call, thanks Hulk then switches off his mobile. Being quick now, he gets out of the car and moves to the rear. He looks around. All is quiet. He then does a proper restraining job on Fatima. He hogties her, using the roll of tape. He also uses it to gag and blindfold her. When he's done he tosses the borrowed jacket and hood inside the car, closes down the boot, locks everything up and heads quickly back to the club.
"He returns to the club keeping to the bushes to get past Hulk. He then goes round to the back of the house only to find Fernando no longer there. I think at this stage his plan was to discover Fernando in the doorway and raise the alarm. Remember both men were looking for an alibi and what better than for one man to say he'd found someone lying unconscious in the doorway, and the other to say that he'd been hit on the head by the abductor in an effort to stop him getting away? After all, Fernando did have the scars to prove it, and it was all for real.
"However, he'd not reckoned on me turning up and I guess this threw another spanner in the works. You see, in the intervening period I'd discovered Fernando lying in the doorway and taken him into the Ladies Changing Room. Pierre therefore continues to make things up as he goes along. With Fernando now missing any plan he did have would have gone right out of the window, so he's left with very little choice. He's finds a key to the emergency door on Claudette's car key ring. All the staff have these keys, so he gets in that way.
"He then needs an excuse for what he's been doing whilst all this has been going on. He decides to do a quick change. This would indicate that he was down in the Men's Changing Room when all this was happening, and he's probably got blood on his trousers anyway so he needs to change. So he runs downstairs, puts on a fresh pair of trousers and shirt, then shoots back up the stairs. He arrives outside the Ladies Changing Room with the tracking device in his hand. The receiver is indicating that Fatima's shoe is still in the room, so he bursts in through the door. The rest you know since you were there in the room with me when it happened."
Suzette smiled. "That's amazing Woody!" she exclaimed. "How on Earth did you figure all that out?"
I think I blushed.
"It wasn't easy," I told her and trying to sound modest. "It was a matter of piecing a lot of loose ends together. But I guess it was little things like the cufflink; the Wimbledon address; the clues I found there; the fact that Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee was nothing more than a common thief; Hulk's second telephone call to Pierre; the kidnap car being a left-hand drive; the secret door into Fernando's office; Fernando's reluctance to reveal the true owners of the chain of BDSM clubs since he was one himself; and I think most of all Claudette. I think the fact that she didn't fit into my jigsaw, no matter how hard I tried, made it all make sense in the end."
Suzette looked puzzled. "You were going to tell me about Claudette?" she reminded me.
I smiled. "Yes, so I was," I replied.
I drank more coffee before continuing.
"I think you'll find Claudette is another Government Agent, and she was sent here with the specific assignment to infiltrate Fernando's organisation," I suggested.
"I'm sure someone in authority must have had prior suspicions about Fernando... and possibly Pierre too,... since that would explain why he was sent here to assist Fernando... To catch them both together sort of thing!
"Anyway, it was Claudette's brief to get intimate with Fernando... even go as far as marriage if the need arose; thus their engagement. She also took it upon herself to become super friendly with Pierre the moment he arrived. She leant him her car and mobile phone, and also trotted off to Paris with him at a minute's notice.
"It must have been in Paris when something went badly wrong. Pierre obviously got wind of Claudette. Possibly someone at the Container Depot spotted her and knew her for what she really was. Anyway, after that Claudette had to be disposed of quickly, and Pierre once more needed an alibi, so he organised for two of his men from Dunkirk to deal with her whilst he quickly made tracks back to England.
"Pierre also had another problem. He knew that Fernando and Claudette were engaged to be married. He therefore wasn't quite sure about Claudette. It was possible that she was a double agent, but he couldn't take the chance, so he organised for her to get shipped back to England. He was already holding Fatima. He'd taken her off Fernando's hands when the going got tough and was holding her at Dover. He proposed to keep the two together and talk it over with Fernando before deciding on both girls' fate.
"The trouble with this plan was the timing. Pierre wasn't aware that whilst he was making a hasty return to England, Fernando was rushing off in the opposite direction. Pierre wanted to get back to Hendry's and explain, but on learning that Fernando had gone to Paris a meeting in Dover was quickly arranged. And that is were we found them and the two girls. They were all at Pierre's Garden Centre. The drug syndicate's distribution point at Dover."
Suzette gave a little applause. "Brilliant Woody!" she said. "Just brilliant!"
I took another drink of coffee. "Any more questions?" I asked. "Can you write that report now?"
Suzette thought for moment and sipped at her own coffee before speaking.
"I think I understand everything Woody!" she replied thoughtfully. "But tell me, there is one thing I'd really like to know?... What made you take up this case in the first place?... I got the impression from Fernando that you weren't really interested, and he'd even offered you money and you'd refused."
I shrugged my shoulders. "It was just something that grew on me," I offered as an excuse.
Suzette looked me in the eyes. "But you must have had an inkling that something untoward was going on, otherwise you wouldn't have got yourself involved in the first place," she suggested.
I nodded my head. "I think you're right there Suzette," I agreed. "I was suspicious right from the very start. I guess it's knowing when people are telling me lies, or at least not being completely honest with me."
"So that got you started?" she said. "Knowing that people were telling lies?... And I guess by that you mean Fernando?"
I nodded my head. "Yes, that, and finding a few clues lying about," I told her.
Suzette raised an eyebrow. "Clues such as what?" she asked.
I cleared my thoughts. Telling her how I did it proved to be a lot harder than relating what actually happened, but I guess explanations were in order.
"Suzette, as far as the investigation went," I started and speaking slowly as I collected my thoughts, "for me it must have been the discovery of the diamond studded cufflink that started it all off. That was my first clue and the thing that led me to Fatima.
"Think back to what happened on the night of Fatima's abduction. In the melee between Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee and Fernando, a vital clue got left behind. A diamond studded cufflink was left lying on the ground. It was one of a pair that Jimmy `The Fiddler' Lee had stolen from Fernando's office. I found that cufflink on the path outside and it subsequently lead me to a London Jewellers and thereafter to a Wimbledon address; which, on investigation proved to be the nerve centre for Fernando's smuggling operation, and the place where Fatima was being held.
"I was thrown at first by this... I was certain there was a French connection here. There were reports of a person with a French accent leasing the place. But then I remembered my first encounter with Fernando in the Ladies Changing Room and with you present. He spoke perfect French to Pierre. And that's what pulled it all together.
"Let's return to Wimbledon for a moment shall we? Fernando made two vital mistakes here to set the ball rolling... One; like I've already said, he gave his Wimbledon address to his Jewellers, and this led me to Fatima and the clues... But more importantly, within half an hour of me telling him where Fatima could be found, he told me that he'd turned up only to find Fatima missing and the place completely closed down."Anyway, it was from this address the real trail began... I picked up two further clues from Wimbledon... I discovered part of a telephone number on a note pad and also a name written on a calendar. These clues led me to Dundee. Whilst in Scotland I was able to establish a connection between a chain of BDSM clubs previously owned by Hendry and a certain European Container Transport company. This then led me on to Paris. But a bit more about that later.
"Now that just didn't seem possible to me. It was too quick. Far too quick. Remember, I'd seen the place and it was too big. You couldn't just unload everything that was there in just thirty minutes. It would take lorry loads and two to three hours minimum. I suspect Fernando went about it quickly, but only informed his colleagues of my findings once the place had been cleared. I didn't actually phone him back until much later, and by then the address had been raided and the place found empty. I think the thirty minutes was just a lie to me to put me off the trail. Instead it just increased my suspicions."
Suzette nodded her head slowly. "I can see what happened here over on this side of the channel," she said, "but what about Paris? What did you find out there? You were going to tell me about it."
I collected my thoughts. I continued: "I went to Paris initially to check on a certain Container Company. I think at this stage I knew of the people doing the transporting, but very little else.
"On my first night I paid a visit to a night club in the Pigalle red-light district. It was here I found out something about Pierre's background. I found out about his stage experience and his move to Barcelona. That got me to thinking about a possible connection with Fernando. But it was nothing more than that at this stage.
"I guess after that I was more interested in establishing the smuggling route from Barcelona to Dundee. After all, that was what I'd gone to Paris to find out. But then along comes Pierre and Claudette, and this really took me by surprise. It was something I just wasn't expecting. And then this was suddenly followed by Claudette's abduction. Then the plot really did start to thicken.
"As luck had it I picked up a clue in the courtyard behind the night club. Pierre's men had driven to Paris in a delivery van owned by a Flower Shop in Dunkirk. I found that shop, and the men, and Claudette, and got to see her crated up and dispatched to England. I then contacted Harry Bell on my return, and the rest you know. We all ended up in Dover and the case became solved."
Suzette gave a wry smile. "Woody, you make it all sound so very easy. But in my report I'll tell my bosses what I really think," she said and sounding very serious. "It was all down to you and some very clever detective work, and for that you require the highest praise possible, and that's the truth."
I nodded my head. The irony was, I knew the real truth.
Most of the time I'd spent stumbling across one clue after another. I considered myself very fortunate. I'd never have found the London jewellers if I hadn't previously purchased an identical pair of cufflinks myself. And I wouldn't have gone to Dundee if it wasn't for Bruce and his little black book.
And there were a lot more incidents like this along the way. How about Anthea's twenty-five percent share in a string of BDSM clubs? Or Fernando copying Hendry by registering his own share in the clubs under Claudette's name? Or coming across Pierre's old photograph outside that Paris night club? Or even seeing the statue of Jean Bart in the town square at Dunkirk?
Yes, on reflection, I guess I can say I was very fortunate. But I didn't want to spoil the illusion. Suzette could write what she liked, and with Harry Bell also giving me a glowing report, praise in any form, I could take in plenty.
* * *
Whilst we were away, Sandy released Anthea from the operating table, and, along with Jenny, they all went back to the Elms. For the record Anthea got Jenny a double room at my expense.
On our return Bruce and I slept until lunch time.
In the afternoon and after a decent meal at the hotel, the five of us decided to walk to Hendry's. That's Bruce, Jenny, Anthea, Sandy and myself. Anthea had the keys to the club and wanted to get things ready for the evening, so we all agreed to go with her.
None of the regular staff was there - Sadie and Hulk had not yet arrived; Suzette was away typing her report; Fernando and Pierre were under arrest and unlikely to ever return again; and Claudette and Fatima remained in hospital - so no one was around and we had the club to ourselves.
I guess this was like a red rag to a bull for Bruce. "Well folks, why don't we have one big last farewell party?" he suggested and rubbing his hands together in eager anticipation. "We can go down to the dungeon and have ourselves a ball."
As Bruce spoke, four of us were seated at the bar and with Anthea on the other side serving. I didn't like the way she was booking everything to my account. I thought I deserved at least one free round on the house. So I told her so, or at least enquired politely. I didn't want to rile her too much, not after last night's little debacle when I left her strapped to the operating table. She'd not actually kicked me in the balls as yet, but I was still very wary of her.
"Anthea, don't we deserve at least one free round on the house?" I asked politely.
Anthea shook her head. She then turned serious. I'd not seen her look like this before. "Woody I've been thinking," she said. "I'm getting on in life... I'm in my thirties now and I want something more out of life than just being someone's sex slave."
She then waved her arms about the room. "This is my place Woody... I own it and I intend to see it keeps running as a business. Fernando's no longer in charge, Hendry's got another nineteen and a half years in jail. So what's going to happen to this place if no one's willing to run it?"
I could see her point and I gave a little nod. "I guess someone's got to do it," I agreed.
Anthea gave me hard stare. I'd never seen her so serious. "Woody, I'm going to leave you," she announced. "You go back to your nice little cottage in the country with Sandy. You're a lovely couple, made for each other, and I only keep getting in the way. I see it now. This is my place. This is were I intend to stay. I hope you don't mind?"
I put my arm across the bar and held her hand. "Anthea, of course I understand. You must do what you think is best," I said and trying my best to comfort her.
Bruce had been listening. They all were, and I think our sombre mood had got to everyone. "Heh! Come on you guys! Cheer up! This is a time to celebrate, not spend contemplating the future," Bruce declared to us all.
However, Anthea remained sombre. She addressed us all. "Look everyone, I've got washing-up to do," she said, "I've got shelves to re-stock, barrels to change and members due in shortly. So you four go and enjoy yourselves. Go and use the dungeon... It's free and I'll stop anyone else coming down."
I was still holding her hand and I squeezed it more tightly for comfort. Anthea turned to me and smiled. "Woody, I love you, you know that," she told me, "but I'm meant to be your sister, remember? Sandy's your wife! Why don't you go with Bruce and Jenny, and have one big happy wife swapping session together? You don't want me hanging around and playing gooseberry all the time, do you now?"
I squeezed her hand even more tightly. "Anthea, you're a wonderful kid," I told her, "truly wonderful." I think I had tears in my eyes.
* * *
And that my friends is how I must leave you. I'm back at my cottage now writing up this account of what happened.
The villains, Fernando and Pierre remain under arrest; their trials come up shortly.
Suzette is off on another secret assignment somewhere. I don't think I'll ever hear from her again.
Claudette and Fatima are out of hospital and have returned to their respective Countries.
Bruce and Jenny are back in Australia. I got a postcard from them yesterday.
Anthea's doing a very fine job running Hendry's. I'm told the membership has trebled since she took over.
And Sandy continues to live with me in Lower Clunley, and one never knows, perhaps someday we'll tie the knot. She does keep dropping hints.
In the meantime BDSM continues to play a big part in our lives. My three crates from Meubles d'Erotique finally arrived and I've got everything fixed up down in my old cider cellar.
Sandy's down there now. I've only got a few more lines to write and I'll go and release her.
So, unless in the future I find myself on another assignment. It's goodbye from me, and goodbye from Sandy and all my friends.
End of Story