The International Writers Magazine: ZAPATEADO - A Thriller in Progress
Chapter One of Zapateado here
ZAPATEADO - Chapter Two – The Bottom of the Ninth
Leonard woke to find Jan gone. This was a new development. It was the tree. She was paying him back for the bloody tree. He thought she must have been damn quiet about it, but nothing more than that. He breakfasted. She’d be gone until he’d left to see his father. He knew they mutually loathed each other but he had to see him, needed his signature. He amused himself with the thought that Jan would be hiding at the coffee shop on the high street until he left. She’d camp out at Café Nero reading for hours. She hated him arranging anything on those days. Stupid little job she had that paid bugger all. Still, he reflected, she had better hang onto it because she was going to need the money when he left.
He dressed thinking about his ‘little surprise’. He was going to shock a lot of people with his sudden retirement. They’d be some unhappy faces, some recriminations. His father was right, you had to get out whilst everyone felt rich, before the real problems started. And there were a lot of problems ahead. Time to get the money out of the UK before it became impossible. Four days and he’d be gone and they’ll not find him. He’d made sure of that. He shrugged. Jan wouldn’t miss him. He certainly wasn’t going to miss her. Mistake marrying her, but at the time he’d thought he’d needed it. He made a mental note to make sure he got her to sign release papers too. Best she didn’t know anything. She wouldn’t miss what she didn’t know.
He was about to leave when he remembered the tree. He hated that tree. Time to finish it for good.
He went over to the balcony sized it by the thin trunk and yanked it out of the pot. He knew just the place for the damn thing.
Thirty minutes later he watched the tree sink off Richmond Bridge with a sense of satisfaction. There’d be no more bloody trees in his apartment. He got back into his Jag and carried on towards the A3 and Woking relishing the argument he’d be having later than night when Jan got home. If he’d wanted to live in a bloody forest he’d have bought a tree house.
‘The dog’s off colour,’ Freddie, his father told him when he got to Hook Heath. ‘Her nose is dry.’
The old man’s Labrador lay in a corner and half-heartedly wagged it’s tail when Leonard got down to rub its head. The dog was old. Like his Dad. "Probably something you fed it. I told you he shouldn’t be eating rich food now. Just the biscuits.’
The dog and the old man were looking at the door.
‘She’s bored Len. She hates coming here, doesn’t like me. Let her go son.’
‘She’s perfectly happy. Stressed probably.’
‘Bored, she’s been bored with you since you married. You told her yet?’
‘That we’re going to Spain.’
‘You’re going to Spain, Dad, you’ve got that place there. I’m going to Florida. There’s a hotel I’ve invested in. It’s in the right spot, needs some work, but it’s exclusive. Burt Reynolds used to stay there and Jackie Gleason. There’s a golf course a mile away they use for pro-am tournaments.’
The old man moved towards the bar in the living room and wrestled with a bottle of gin. ‘Florida’s old hat. It was old hat when Capone used to live there. Spain’s got culture and history.’
Leonard shook his head and laughed, following his father into the cavernous living room with its Russian pine ceiling and walls. His old man had built this like a Californian log cabin back in the eighties when he’d retired. It had matured well, but his Dad was looking old. ‘When was the last time you ever did anything that smacked of culture, eh? Don’t you tell me Florida hasn’t got culture. They've got Museums, everything.'
The old man poured two gins and fumbled with the tonic. He felt aggrieved. "I read, I play golf, I even paint. When did you do anything except count your money, Len?’
Leonard shrugged. It was true. But what of it? He was worth millions now and he’d soon be leaving. Four days. ‘I’ll play golf in Florida. I’ll sail. Its got its own dock, did I mention that? I’ll take up shark fishing, or whatever people do there.’
His father chuckled. ‘Jan will be upset. Your going off to Florida, me off to Spain. You never once took her abroad.’
‘Jan’s history. You know I couldn’t go. That was the deal.’
‘Come on son. Come to Spain. The weather’s better, the foods tasty and the wine is wonderful.’
‘Spain is bankrupt. You haven’t even seen the place you bought. You don’t even know if it’s legal.’
‘I promised your mother I wouldn’t go until... you know. I’m going. I’m going.’
His father handed Leonard the gin and tonic. ‘Well, maybe I’ll send Jan there myself. What you going to do about her, son?’
Leonard moved to the wall and righted a picture, knocking back his drink a moment. ‘I’m sorting her out. She’ll get a fair share. I’ll just leave her a note, she won’t be sad when she sees how much I leave her.’
‘She’ll be sad. Wasting five years of her life with a cold fish like you. Let me tell you I loved your mother, she was a good woman.’
Leonard sighed. He hated talking about his mother. Her dying of cancer like that and no amount of money helping.
‘Something’s troubling you son. I know it. I’ve seen that look many times.’
Leonard sighed. ‘There’s something wrong. Something I’m missing.’
‘You sure you’ve done everything right? I mean. You’re clean, right?’
‘Just a feeling’ He looked at his Dad and made a decision. ‘I think I should go home.’
The old man looked disappointed. ‘Just a quick walk. You know how Lucky likes to walk on the course.’
Leonard shook his head. ‘Dad they probably know. It’s their business to know. They know everything about us. You think they’d let me handle the money if they didn’t.’
‘They aren’t going to touch you, Len. I mean that would be stupid. They couldn’t get to their money if you were gone. Touch you and they’d break the chain. You always told me that they’d end up with nothing. That’s what’s kept you alive all these years.’
Walking on the golf course behind the wheezing dog, Leonard realised it was true. No one could get at the money without him. The curious thing was, now he thought about it, he hadn’t heard from the Katz brothers in the last ten days either. The longest time. They were usually calling him with crackpot investments they wanted to make.
‘Why don’t you call Henry. He’s always got his ear to the ground. He’ll tell you what’s happening.’
‘Henry’s old. He retired years ago.’
‘I’m not calling Henry, Dad. If I call him they’ll know I’m rattled. You know how Henry likes to stir.’
‘Suit yourself Len, but you’re just adding things up wrong, that’s all.’
They walked over the back nine. It was a pleasant stroll and the dog plagued them to throw the stick, faithfully returning it and dropping it at his master’s feet. Leonard always enjoyed this, the dog was a comforting reminder of an orderly life. His dad was getting frail, but he’d last a few more years. He felt he was right to get out now and enjoy the money. All too many people hung on too long and then were too old to enjoy anything.
The air was cool and it began to drizzle. Few golfers were out playing. They approached a clump of trees. A tweed jacket had been left by a bench. ‘Going to spoil in this weather.’
‘Don’t touch it Dad. Leave it alone.’
Leonard threw the stick into the woods and the dog bounded after it. A stranger in shirtsleeves approached them, a putter in one hand, his other in his back pocket. Neither Leonard or his father recognised him.
‘Knew I’d left my jacket somewhere,’ the man said smiling and bent down to retrieve it.
Leonard and his father walked on a few more paces, his father calling the dog, worried the dog looked a bit tired. Suddenly Leonard remembered that face; his heart did a backflip. He abruptly turned to his father. ‘Henry. He had a son. Right?’
‘Right’. A voice said behind them, ‘and Henry says goodbye.’
Henry’s son shot them both in the head, the old man sideways on, the sound of the explosions muffled by the jacket. He dragged both men into the undergrowth and casually withdrew a plastic bag from his pocket and stuffed the jacket into it. He strolled away, back towards the clubhouse car park, tossing the jacket into the boot of Leonard’s car. He opened up the Jaguar XFR and sat for a moment savouring the leather trim. He’d fancied driving one of these Jags for sometime now.
An hour later the bodies were found by another walker who’d spotted a black labrador that seemed distressed. Katherine Dundas who was so shocked and disturbed by what she saw, she had a mild stroke whilst reporting the incident – which confused police and ambulance men alike. When they eventually located the bodies it was seven o’clock in the evening.
Chapter Three - JOE
Joe impatiently sat on the tarmac in the hot aircraft at the airport. He reflected on the vagaries of life. He’d been on his way to see Chelsea play, got tickets in a private box with some pretty respectable businessmen he’d been angling to get close to for some time and they’d pulled him out. Sent him to Holland Park. He’d had to sidestep the tabloid boys who’d been dogging the place for a couple of days. It was still a big story for them. Millionaire husband and father-in-law murdered by the wife. Plain, meek as a mouse wife, who disappeared right after. The papers were full of the handgun in the freezer with her prints on it. No one seemed to have noticed the gun wasn’t the weapon of use. Then there was the big house in Hook Heath, both of the men worth millions. She’d not see any of that if caught and convicted. Of course there was speculation that she’d already collected the money.
He’d visited the apartment. Found it had been ransacked. Everywhere he looked he could see heavy handed stupidity. The local force no doubt. He cursed Jim, who normally covered Europe and had connections in Costa Brava. He was off sick. Joe could speak a little Spanish, Joe could go. Joe’s Spanish amounted to ordering a ‘cafe con leche por favor’, but that didn’t seem to matter to Bryan. Bryan wanted the matter sorted and Joe got results. Joe was senior to Jim and he had a track record for finding people. Joe hated his job and he knew Bryan knew that. That is why Bryan kept offering more money. Joe had a conscience and a seriously old fashioned notion of keeping one’s word. Something Bryan would have great difficulty with. Bryan was confident that Joe would find her and bring her back to face justice. It seemed everyone and his dog was sure she’d topped her husband and his Dad and Bryan wasn’t going to disabuse them.
There was one snag, as far as Joe was concerned. He knew very little about this woman. One photograph, nothing recent. She didn’t seem to have any bad habits, no sign of any hobbies. Did she travel light? Or did she take as much as she could? He had someone working on her bank details. She owed nothing. No riches, no debts.
There were a lot of unanswered questions. He instinctively knew she hadn’t rubbed her old man out. It was a classic contract killing. The tabloids were just trying to tart it all up to sell papers. Runaway housewife was better story for them. Particularly with that psychic woman claiming she’d seen it all beforehand and warned the wrong party. The Mirror had gone to town on her. Served her right for going public with it. Still, he’d made a mental note to talk to her first chance he got.
The thing was, was it just luck she wasn’t with her husband when he was rubbed out? Bryan told him she was supposed to have been with her husband according to his diary (conveniently filched by an enterprising copper who’d needed a ‘bit of cash for his holiday’).
Lunch with him and her father-in-law at his Hook Heath house. Yet this time, this very particular time, she’d gone to Gatwick and flown to Spain using her maiden name.
Had they had a row? Something planned?
The psychic woman said that they had a row about a tree, but he’d not seen one in the apartment. Had she known that her husband was about to get hit? Had the contractor made contact? Done a little side deal perhaps? That kind of thing happened if the money wasn’t big enough.
There were a lot of angles to explore. Spain was a very big country. He’d need a month, or a lot of luck.
It wasn’t so bad. Spain agreed with him. Just wish he’d seen the match, that’s all. Lucky shot in the first half apparently and an own goal in the second at that. Nothing worse than an own goal.
‘We have clearance for take-off...at last", the Pilot told them, unable to disguise the frustration in his voice. ‘We’re third in line, so we will be on our way in a few minutes.’
Joe settled into his seat. Outside the plane it began to rain. Probably rain for the next four months. He’d try to spin this one out. Spain wasn’t such a bad deal after all.
Chapter Four next month or go to Sam North.com
Chapter One of Zapateado here