Kill Chase

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Guy cradled his cell phone to an ear as the black cab navigated a parked red double-decker blocking Piccadilly Circus. He stared up at the aluminium statue of Eros, waiting for the Commissioner. Henrietta meticulously polished her 105mm lens. As the disembodied voice boomed into Guy’s ear she tried to listen.

“Royce! What in blazes are you doing out there?”

Guy blanched, gauging his mood. “I’m after the father’s ID, that’s what you want, don’t you?”

“Father?” Chambers snarled. “What’s that got to do with anything? I want her killer, dammit. Get digging or I’ll put someone else on it.”

And he knew who it would be. That snotty kid fast tracked into SO14 from the University of somewhere or other.

Chambers continued. “What have you got?”

“Word is she was pregnant by an American movie mogul.”

What! I can’t tell Barclay that. Where did you get that from?”

Guy looked across to Henrietta. “Er, from an underworld contact.”

She grimaced as the Commissioner went on. “Christ! The PM’s in pieces already. I don’t know how he’s going to continue, to be frank. I can’t tell him that. You better be sure on this American, Royce. Better it was a crazy star stalker. Y’know, Sharon Tate and Charles Manson sort of thing?”

“Sorry, boss. That’s where the lead is taking me. It’s California.”

There was a grunt on the line. “All right. Do what you have to, but keep it quiet, Royce. Just you and me. I want results. You get my point? The Met’s under a lot of pressure financially. Decisions must be made. Some could be pounding the beat on the Outer Hebrides. Get moving.”

Guy peered into his cell long after his caller had gone. “The Commissioner’s in his Evil Empire mode, Henri. I name the mystery father or I’m dead, too.”

But Guy treasured his last words. “Do what you have to.” That was fine by him.

He was back on his cell. “Winston? Guy Royce, SO14 here. I need an urgent credit card check. Are you at the terminal?”

A deep, Anglo West Indian voice lowered in reply. “Hello, Inspector Royce. I can do it for you, man. Who you lookin´ for?”

“Marie Montague. Last three months. USA only please, Winston.”

“Number Ten Marie? You know she’s dead, man? Just bin on the radio. The chick was murdered.”

“Yes, Winston. I’m a copper, I know. What I don’t know is the card type. She lived in Chelsea.”

“It don’t matter. All billings come through this credit agency. Wait on. Only three in Chelsea. Platinum Visa. Fifteen-K limit. Fourteen K spent. Knew how to spend it, this girl–”

Guy interrupted him. “–What about America. Any dollar spends?”

“Yup. Two. One to British Airways. The second’s a hotel bill.”

“Which one, Winston?”

“The big one. Beverly Hills Hotel. 9641 Sunset Boulevard. Just over two thousand dollars.”

Guy scribbled in his notebook. “February ninth and tenth.”

Henrietta raised an eyebrow. She shifted in her seat to face him. “That puts her in Hollywood. What now?”

Guy grinned. Do what you have to? Okay, Commissioner, you got it.

“Subtefuge, Henri. My boss wants it undercover.”

He keyed another call. “My name’s John Roder from Roder Security in London, England.”

Henrietta’s eyes widened. A bright American voice replied. “Good morning to you, Mr Roder. I am Candice. Welcome to the Beverly Hills Hotel. What can I assist you with?”

“I represent Miss Marie Montague. She stayed with you ninth and tenth of February. She lost a very valuable gold ring. It was her grandmother’s. She had it when she arrived but not when she left. I hope you’ve had a ring handed in by housekeeping, Candice?”

“Hold the line, Mr Roder. I’ll check with lost property.”

Henrietta watched a squadron of the Queen’s Life Guards ride past the windscreen, their cuirasses clanking, silver breastplates glinting in the weak shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds. They turned, perfectly aligned in twos heading for St James’s Palace.

“Mr Roder? I’m sorry to tell you, no such item has been handed in. Could Miss Montague have lost it elsewhere in Beverly Hills?”

“That’s most regrettable, Candice,” Guy responded. “You’ve found her booking?”

“Yes, it’s here. Room twenty-five hundred. Ninth and tenth of February.”

Guy fished. “Did her companion stay the weekend, Candice?”

“Why, Mr Roder, Miss Montague would know that.” The voice was tinged with suspicion. He quickly changed direction. “Yes, of course. Maybe she dropped it in the hire car. Give me the number of your company please.”

“She requested Hollywood Heights Limousines.”

Henrietta said. “What are you hoping for, Guy? Surely her lover wouldn’t stay in the hotel with her? Too public.”

He grinned to Henrietta. “Yeah, it was just a hope. I’ll try them, anyway.”

He rang the limousine company. “I believe you chauffeured her on the ninth and tenth?”

Walt, the Mid West voice on the line, drawled in reply. “Chauffeuse, Mr Roder. We only use female drivers, sir. I remember the lady well. Some looker, eh? A ring you say? No, sir. No ring handed in by my ladies.”

“Did she take many trips, Walt?”

“I gotten in the day book one from LA International to the Beverly Hills. Two more. Then back to the airport. No lost-and-found from those drivers, Mr Roder.”

Guy probed. “Two trips going where?”

The mellow voice paused. “Six mile round trip up Sunset Boulevard and back on Rodeo Drive on the Saturday. That’s shopping. It took five hours. Then twenty miles to Beach Plaza.”

“Give me the Beach Plaza address.”

“Beach Plaza Tower. Luxury apartment of Sol Coniff Jr.”

Guy punched the air. “How do you know he lives there?”

“Not only lives there, Mr Roder, he owns the block. And a lot of other real estate in these parts. Folks say he’s a billionaire. I wouldn’t know. Bit out of my league.”

“Thank you, Walt. I’ll try Mr Coniff for the ring.”

Henrietta slapped his arm. “Guy, you are, without doubt, the most devious bastard.”

He said. “The Commissioner wants it on the hush-hush, he’s got it.”

He didn’t want to add, because he’s trying to save his own skin from the wrath of Marcus Barclay.

He searched Henrietta’s eyes, startling her into looking away. She pulled at an earlobe. He was surprised how much he liked it when she got flustered. “Thank you for calling me a bastard. If Sol Coniff Jr is the real father of Marie’s child, why on earth would he want to kill her and kill his own baby?”

Henrietta turned in her seat. “You don’t think he did it?”

“Who’s to know? I’ll have to see him.”

“But you’re not sure?”

Guy scratched the fine scar on his cheek. He was never sure till the perpetrator coughed up a confession. Time had taught him that. He had earned his OBE from the Queen despite naming the wrong man in an assassination attempt at the royal wedding of William and Kate. Better to keep an open mind. (Murder at the Royal Wedding by Ron Morgans.)

“Who told you Marie was pregnant, Henri?”

“Lewis Cuttner on the Morning Graphic. He got it from Lady Elizabeth Irewood.”

“I must see her, too.”

Henrietta gave him her sly stare. “You can’t. The Commissioner, remember? Hush hush?”

Guy had to admit, she was right on the button. Interviewing Her Ladyship would get straight back to Scotland Yard or worse, Number Ten. What would he talk to her about without letting the skunk out of the sack? The weather?

She went on, “but I can. Lewis Cuttner will fix it for me.”

Guy held her attention. “Look, I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, Henri, but I must be there. Tell him to fix it for us.”

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