The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 57 – Cheap Tricks

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Meanwhile down at the dock…

Chapter 57 – Cheap Tricks

Troy was right, the Imperial arrived at the docks without incident. He walked around the car and peremptorily kicked each tyre. ‘They’re fine.’

‘Check the spare, please, and bring the sack from the boot,’ Koponen said.

Tim stepped out onto the Southampton docks. The evening air felt warm compared to the chill of the Chrysler’s interior. Twenty yards away Foxy stood beside the Mercedes with Imelda Marchpane close beside her.

Who knew how those devious and aggressive women had been treating Foxy? He had to help her and to do that he needed to get away. This might be his last chance before embarkation.

He looked around for a customs officer or security guard – anyone. The docks were deserted. Grey and yellow painted gantries and cranes loomed silently against the evening sky in the empty spaces between high stacks of shipping containers. Cargo ships lay tied up at berth all along the quay. Most were in darkness but the one nearest to them, a medium-sized vessel with a rust-stained white superstructure, showed a few lights.

Troy Jarglebaum swung up the lid of the Imperial’s boot.

‘Boo!’ Persistent Smith shouted up at him.

‘Jesus!’ Jarglebaum jumped back, actually stepping out of one of his shoes. ‘My God, it’s you.’

Jarglebaum’s shout brought Markus Koponen and Tim hurrying round.

Smith waved his empty bottle. ‘Can I use your toilet?’

Markus Koponen paled under his white hat. ‘Who the devil are you?’

Jarglebaum danced on one foot as he pulled on his shoe. ‘I don’t bloody believe it. This is Derek Smith, missing person. I interviewed his parents yesterday.’

His finger stabbed down at the grinning Smith. ‘Stay right where you are, pal.’ Jarglebaum reached into the boot and hauled out the sack.

Koponen slammed the boot lid shut and turned on Jarglebaum. ‘What the hell is he doing in my trunk?’

Jarglebaum bridled right back. ‘I haven’t a bloody clue. I don’t go around locking people in car boots.’

‘Then let me make it very clear to you, Mr Jarglebaum, neither do I.’

Jarglebaum pointed at the boot. ‘You just did.’

‘That’s different.’

‘So what’s he doing in there?’

Nice technique Troy, Tim thought, as astonished by Smith’s presence as anyone. Jarglebaum had neatly turned the conversation round. Now it was him who was questioning Koponen.

Koponen grew exasperated. ‘I told you. I don’t know!’

‘It’s your car. You keep it locked in your car park.’

‘Yes, but who is he?’ Koponen said.

‘He works for me,’ Tim said.

‘What?’ Koponen exclaimed.

Jarglebaum simply laughed.

‘He works for me. When Dolores hired me to look for the car I hired him to help.’

Koponen exhaled in relief. ‘I take my hat off to you, Mr Wassiter. I really do. What resource, what enterprise.’

‘That guy in the boot is a fruitcake.’ Jarglebaum tapped the side of his head. ‘You know, firing on three cylinders. Or five.’

‘And yet he not only found my car, he ended up inside it without our knowledge.’

‘Yeah, right. So what are we going to do with him?’

Koponen came to a decision. ‘I’m not going to take him with us, and we can’t let him go. He’ll have to stay where he is.’

‘Jesus, aren’t you even going to let the poor guy take a leak?’ Jarglebaum said.

Koponen waved away the question. ‘There’s no time. I notice he has a bottle, he can use that. I’ve arranged for the cars to be collected tomorrow morning. Leave the keys in the tailpipe. I’ll tell the drivers what to expect. They can drive Mr Smith back to Brighton and buy him breakfast.’

Cold and beautiful, Electra Vaughan made her way from the Mercedes towards Markus Koponen. The uneven surface of concrete-patched old stone and new tarmac was no obstacle to her high, elegant heels. Both Koponen and Jarglebaum assessed her languorous walk.

It’s now, or never, Tim decided. He hesitated, torn between making a dash for it, taking his chances against Koponen and his gun, or staying with Foxy. He was confident of being able to outrun the men, but the muscular and athletic Imelda was another matter. An encounter with her alone in the empty docklands was not a pleasant prospect. Tim steeled himself, he had to try. All he could hope for was enough of a head start to evade her.

Heavy hands gripped his shoulders. ‘Hold on, son,’ Troy Jarglebaum said. ‘Where do you think you’re going?’

‘Get your hands off me.’ Tim ducked out from under Jarglebaum’s grip.

Jarglebaum took a step back and tugged down his jacket. ‘Mr Koponen would be disappointed if I let you go now.’

Tim knew he was outclassed. Troy Jarglebaum was a bruiser, an old-style cop, perfectly happy to use his fists and his physical bulk if the situation required. Right now Tim wanted nothing more than to bury his fist deep in his old partner’s smug, jowly, middle-aged face.

Troy dropped into a half-crouch, balanced on the balls of his feet, arms splayed. ‘Cool it, chum,’ he laughed. ‘This is Troy Jarglebaum remember? Your old pal.’

‘What are you doing with these people, Troy? You’re an intelligent man, despite everything I do believe that. Koponen’s turned you into hired muscle.’

Jarglebaum beckoned Tim closer. ‘It’s not that easy, mate,’ he whispered. ‘The police service has been good to me but I’m not getting any younger. It’s time to move on.’

‘To this?’

Somehow Jarglebaum looked bashful. ‘Look, there’s this girl. I met her on a case, she’s younger than me but we get along. I admit it, I’m sweet on her. Me, can you imagine it? Well, it’s true. Koponen’s all right, he’s very concerned with the environment. An employer like that can impress the younger generation and he pays well.’

‘I’m happy for you, Troy, really I am,’ Tim said bitterly. ‘But right over there is my friend and she’s being held against her will by that same OK guy who, I might also point out, also kidnapped me at gunpoint and locked another of my friends in the boot of his car.’

‘Excuse me.’ Markus Koponen turned away from Electra. ‘I do apologise for that deception, Mr Wassiter. As I’m sure Mr Jarglebaum will confirm, I do not even own a gun.’ Koponen stuck his finger into his pocket and aimed it at Tim. ‘Nothing but a cheap trick copied from the cinema. I simply wanted to speed things up and acted on impulse. I really was quite surprised when it worked. Guns and people form a deadly kind of synergy and I will have nothing to do with it.’

‘What about Foxy?’

‘My girls talked to Ms Bolivia and she has agreed to come along. Dolores and Imelda are helping her aboard as we speak. I hope you will allow Electra to do the same for you.’

‘Foxy, you don’t have to do this,’ Tim called out.

Preceded by Dolores and with Imelda behind her, Foxy was already halfway up the gangplank and gave no reply.

Electra’s arm slipped through Tim’s, her other hand gripped his elbow like a vice. ‘Shall we, Mr Wassiter?’

‘For God’s sake, Troy, help me. You’re a cop!’ Tim cried.

Jarglebaum couldn’t meet his eye. ‘Part-time, semi-retired. It’s more of a consultancy these days.’

‘I’ll see you in my cabin in a few minutes,’ Koponen called out as Electra led Tim away. ‘Welcome aboard the Sea Cucumber.’

With Foxy aboard Tim had no option and allowed Electra to steer him towards the gangplank.

One hundred and eighty metres long, Sea Cucumber had a three-storey superstructure at the rear and cargo cranes fore and aft of the main hold. As Tim stepped aboard the ship shuddered as the engine rumbled into life. A steady stream of rust-orange bilge water slopped from the stern into the harbour. Four crew members, swarthy, muscular men in dark trousers and jackets, unhitched the heavy hawsers from the dockside bollards at the bows and stern.

Down on the dock Troy Jarglebaum slung the sack over his shoulder and faced Markus Koponen. ’This is my advice – Imelda should not be left alone with Foxy Bolivia.’

‘We agreed that subject was closed. Ms Bolivia will be fine. Now, get on board and do your job.’

To be continued…

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