Chapter 22 Sultry
In the game of life the cards dealt at birth can be varied and sometimes definitive. In fact not just sometimes but nearly always they determine what you can and cannot achieve in life. Some fortunate people can play a very limited hand with amazing skill and come out on top but for many people just conserving what they have is the best that can be hoped for. Many enter this world with nothing and conserve it so well, they leave with nothing.
It does not help that at birth you cannot see what cards are in your hand and sometimes you may go through a whole lifetime and never know you had an ace sitting there all along. So it was with Brenda Barnes at the age of 10. At that age she lost her father. He was a weak ineffectual man who could not cope with a boring yet stressful factory job while supporting a child and a domineering wife. The result was a high bridge at 8 am in the morning and an awful lot of frustrated drivers trying to work out why the traffic was so bad.
His widow was on the face of it not in the least perturbed by her loss for she had a child to bring up and therefore could not dwell on the sentimental things in life. True, financially the family suffered, even though she had a job, but she felt doing without would be good for the child and herself. Hence it was a meagre existence and Brenda looked at the cards given to her at birth and thought it a shitty hand.
Why could she not be born to Royalty and all the wealth and privilege bestowed upon them by an adoring if bamboozled public. Hanging up a sheet on a washing line with a gusty wind determined to rip it free she pondered if the Queen had ever done any laundry. The sheet tore itself free and her mother tore into her for letting such a thing happen. She was 12 years of age and never forgot the incident.
Then at the age of 14 another lousy card came out of the pack when her mother took up a form of spiritualism. Weighed down by the grind of life her mother sort guidance from the spirits. At first they were the spirits with Scottish names such a White McKay and Johnny Walker but she soon abandoned these favourites for less salubrious company which were cheap, with a very mean streak.
Unfortunately for Brenda living in a poor area meant another lousy card in her hand was the schools she was given. Each school from aged five to her teenage years failed her in every department.
Poor teachers, disruptive ,often violent pupils, and a system crafted by modern vogue ideas meant one child went through the educational system unchanged, unnoticed and decidedly on her own. One constant threat during this time was that of the State threatening to step in and take over the role of parent. Everyone agreed this would be the worse outcome possible, the State being the worse parent a child could have.
Help came in the form of an aunt. Some 12 years older than her mother Brenda found her Aunt Gayle a woman of the world who had a very seedy past but was chock full of common sense. “Common Sense is not at all common these days” she would say and Brenda soon learnt the value of thinking for oneself and using ‘common sense.’
And so it was a little after her 16th birthday, clutching a forged birth certificate she secured a job in a bar. For the first time she had money in her purse and from the very beginning Aunt Gayle taught her the value of money, the value of smart clothes and how to be sexy without being ‘common’ has her Aunt called. For at this time one of her hidden ace cards began to show. Mother nature gave a her fine hour glass figure and Aunt Gayle set about polishing and nurturing it into something of value.
So it came to pass Brenda found herself behind a bar in a strip club owned by a man called Olivetti.
She was soon persuaded by the pursuit of money to step from behind the bar to the stage.
While her aunt invested her money Brenda became increasingly expert at parting men from their money without too much involvement. It was her role of a hostess, talking and entertaining Mr Olivetti’s clients and business partners that the real ace of cards in God’s gift to her began to show.
One day Mr Olivetti, a man with a shrewd sense of a man or woman’s worth and a man who knew the real value having good personnel, notice she was conversing with three Japanese customers with great ease. Not only was she laughing at their jokes but also contributing jokes of her own.
He caught her in a corridor near the staff toilets,
“Where did you learn to speak Japanese?”
“Here” she replied taken aback by the big man himself.
“Here?” he said surprised, “you have time to study while working here!”
“Oh, no I just listen and pick it up. It is very easy, ” she said, “A lot of it is tone, saying the same word with different volume and emphasis , I love it. Chinese, much harder.”
“What else? What other languages I mean.”
“Polish, lot of Poles in here, and Italian of course.”
Mr Olivetti looked at her as if seeing her for the first time.
“I want you, ” he said slowly, “to leave the shop floor and work for me on my management team.”
“But I already work for you.” she pointed out.
“No, working for my management team is completely different.”
And so the job interview, by the toilets was to prove a turning point for Brenda or to use her stage name Sultry.
Mr Olivetti’s business empire consisted of 3 restaurants, two night clubs, four betting shops and several houses in various states of collapse. He moved white powder on a modest scale but never touched human traffic directly. His dilapidated houses he rented out to people who did deal in people, mainly females. Washing his linen as he called the cycle of crime to money to clean money required the restaurants and the night clubs.
However, when one restaurant was losing so much money he feared an inspection from either the Inland revenue or the drug squad he sent Sultry to turn it around. With her he sent Carlo to be her enforcer and to provide protection. She amazed him by producing a substantial legitimate profit within nine months. After that she was at his right hand side on many a business transactions. Her pay rose with her value after all crime is a business like any other.
Hence it was no surprise when she sat at his side talking to two strange females who wanted to hire the Olivetti organization to find one old woman and one man.
“Why not go to the police or a private detective?” Olivetti asked.
A small neat creature dressed in all black and with the shortest haircut ever seen explained.
“We may need information extraction from reluctant sources. We believe you have to tools to extract such information.”
“And payment, how would we be paid, assuming we undertook such extraction?”
The two visitors to his club exchanges words but they were words Sultry could not place. They were strange deep utterance which she guessed were conveyed at great speed.
Mr Olivetti looked at her with a quizzical , ‘what are they saying look.’ she shrugged her shoulders.
Soon the smaller of the two opened her bag, producing one sparkling gem. Placing it very carefully on the front of Mr Olivetti desk she said, “we will pay you in these.”
He was no expert but he was certain, as he picked it up, it was genuine.
“A diamond” he said “I will have to get it valued.”
There was silence as the boss man examined it then he asked,
“How many more of these to do the job?”
“First you get it valued then we settled on a number.” his strange guest said.
Despite thinking it odd his guest did not already know the value he went along with the offer.
He handed the gem to Sultry, “Make sure the blind man gets this soon.” he said.
Sultry nodded and studied the gem close up. She could tell it was top quality.
Again the two females broke into a private conversation before they stood up in total unison.
“We call back, two days, same time.”
Mr Olivetti rose and shook hands saying “Two days.” then added a little incredulous
“You trust me with this?”
The taller of the two women said something to the younger one and they both appeared to laugh.
“Mr Olivetti of course we trust you. You want more, we have more and besides, we could wipe you off this planet in the blink of an eye and neither of us really want that, do we?”
The words were delivered in a dead pan way, as a statement of fact, like ’it is raining , you will get wet.” They left leaving a baffling unspoken sound in the room as if the karma had been disturbed by some unseen force.
The Italian knew deep down this had been no idle threat issued by the strange women. He looked at Sultry as if to say, ‘Get anything?’
“No language I have ever heard.” she answered his unspoken question
“How do you feel about getting in bed with the devil?” he asked.
She did not answer the question directly but said
“Tell me you got them on tape.”
She was standing in an alley way close to ‘The White Witch’ several months after the first encounter with the two females. During that time they had got very close to capturing the old woman but each time luck was against them. Now after the episode on the bridge when their quarry had ‘disappeared’ and after the incident with the detective that afternoon she was on edge.
Anxiety coursed through her veins like alcohol causing her foot to tap the cobbled stones making a soft irritating sound. This anxiety had been there for some weeks but now with the one they called Fen34 demonstrating her dislike for the detective and the way they had intercepted her that afternoon, she had little doubt trouble was afoot. Sultry because of her background was a girl of the street and although she did not know who Proust was or even quote Shakespeare, she sure as hell could smell that animal called mayhem when it was on the prowl.
“This is going to end badly.” she said in a soft low voice to herself. So many questions did not have answers, for example why did they want this male and why had he been valuable? Now they wanted him dead. Why was killing the male so important? She said the words, “Killing the Male” in that same low voice and began to see something. They , Olivetti’s clients , in all their dealings had never referred to their quarry has ‘man’ only ever as ‘the Male’. She began to suspect this was highly significant. Yet the significance eluded her.
Slowly she shifted her position in the alley so as to get a better view of the pub entrance. Her plan was the ambush of the detective before he went inside to meet her. This was purely because since her clients had ambushed her and insisted they attended the afternoon meeting with the detective who they appeared to know all about. So, she reasoned they had inside information. Her fear was they may already be in The White Witch waiting for them. No she would divert him before he entered.
Reaching into her bag for her phone, she realized she had left it, deliberately, at her flat. Her phone was one way of tracking her and listening to her conversation. Instead she dabbed around in her bag for a man’s wrist watch. Finding it she got the time , “The bastard’s late.” she said to the night.
Just then a man ambled towards her from her left. He had a slow elderly gait. Sultry stepped back into the shadows to avoid any detection. As he got closer the street light lit his countenance. He was about late sixties, a grey stubble for a chin with unkempt hair and dirty workman clothes. She decided he had all the appeal of a used tea bag.
Hence she was a little alarmed when he stopped close to her position. Looking around as if making sure no one was watching he spoke in a furtive voice.
“Mr Tent is in the white van down to your left. He ain’t going into the White Witch for same reason as you.”
With that he turned, retracing his steps.
Watching him all the way she saw him climb into the drivers seat of an old white van, a Ford she thought. It took her a minute to decide this was probably genuine before she stepped out into the street and set sail for the white van. Looking around she desperately sought out a dark shadow on the opposite side of the road. Carlo was keeping a watching brief for her safety, as always.
As she approached the van the wizen creature at the wheel flicked his head indicating the sliding side door which was open. Inside the Detective looked down on her.
He pointed inside and said, “Your minder as well.”
Sultry beckoned Carlo to approach and soon found herself perched on an upturned blue plastic crate while her host sat on a similar crate which was green. A pale jaundiced light lit the interior. Poor Carlo squatted on a dirty floor which had the remains of countless trips with countless types of cargo. Empty plastic bottles of unknown origin like that found any beach, littered the floor.
They, the Detective on one side, Sultry on the other sat looking at each other waiting for a move. Leaning forward, his elbows supporting his knees, the Detective asked in a calm measured voice,
“Well, young Lady what the fuck have you got me into?”
“I was coming to see you alone, honestly.” she protested, “They ambushed me.”
“We think they used her phone to track her.” put in Carlo.
Both looked at him as if to say, ‘Butt out this is private.’
“That one, the one that attacked me. She is a trained killer.” stated the Detective leaning back against the van side, “The speed she moved, wow.” He shook his head in disbelief.
“I agree ” smiled Sultry now learning towards him trying a little to charm him.
“And?” he said posing it either as a serious question or as a prompt.
The young woman took her time in answering, leaning back to mimic his pose. ‘How much should I tell him?’ she thought, ‘The bare essentials or the details.’ she pondered this for a minute at least, everyone silent; an uncomfortable silence broken only by a car passing by outside.
“Some time ago” she started, “The one K-Kay and another came to us, well to see Mr Olivetti, offering a lot of money to find an old woman and what I think is her son. We nearly found the old woman at the Bridge last December, but she disappeared, literally in front of our eyes. We fouled up basically.” She stole a looked at Carlo as if to say it was his fault.
“And?” repeated the Detective.
“Well, having fouled up they sent the other female, Fen34 the killer and said they now wanted the male dead and between you and I, were not very surprised at the old woman disappearing.”
“Why is that?” asked the detective.
“Because they half expected it.”
“They expected you to foul up?” her host shifted on his makeshift seat
“No, expected her to vanish if we fouled up. Anyway,” Sultry now sounded irritated being reminded of failure, “The current position is the Nurse, this Eva was at the bridge and she may well know where the male is.”
“This is not military, state military, government, spooks or anything?” the Detective sounded more puzzled than when he started.
“I don’t think so but they...” she stopped about to tell him of the vest they had lent her which she had ‘lost’ but decided against it, “they do have training. Can you see a government agency wanting or needing the help of someone like Olivetti?”
“Fair point.” he conceded then turned to Carlo, “Do you think they are military, ex or otherwise.”
Carlo shuffled as if pleased to be consulted, “Nope, they are free agents making things up as they go along. Very loose chain of command, if any.”
“I see.” said their host pondering this.
“Another thing” Carlo having been consulted could not resist joining in ,“They speak a strange language. Sultry here is very good at languages and understand them a little . But says their speech is almost alien.”
“Where are they from?” posed the Detective and by the look Sultry shot at Carlo he knew he had said too much. ‘Time to change the subject.’ thought Sultry.
Sultry leaned forward bringing her considerable sex appeal to bear upon her target “Can you find the nurse?” she asked in low teasing voice as if challenging him to prove his manhood.
“Oh yes” he said candidly then added as an afterthought “but it will take time.”
“But ” the woman leaned forward even more as if almost wanting to touch him, “she is in a mobile home, the clue to the difficulty of this is in the word ‘mobile’. She could be anywhere.”
He let out a low peel of laughter, “But my dear”, he said teasing her back, “that is her weakness.”
“How come?” put in Carlo clearly fascinated as well as puzzled by this line of logic.
Without looking at Carlo the detective looked deep into the young woman’s eyes thinking ‘what a little minx you are’.
“Why ” he said, “because that is no ordinary mobile home, it is custom made. An ordinary camper costs a fortune this one cost the earth. Someone made it. Someone has records of its service history, someone has an address of some sort , even if it is only the c/o ‘Public Park, Sodding-somewhere.’”
Both Carlo and the ex stripper smiled with the gleam of hope and recognition of the thought process the detective had brought to bear on the problem.
“Find her” said the woman, her voice seductively soft but firm.