I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
An unlikely ally?
The bar in the hotel was tucked away in a small area behind the dining room, or perhaps it was part of the dining room, I wasn’t quite sure. There were indoor shrubs blocking the view from the front entrance, so we could feel safe enough, and less strenuous in watching the continuous comings and goings of the hotel’s guests and their friends.
For a small hotel, it was quite busy.
We were lucky it was not yet dinner time, so the restaurant was still being set up for the evening dinner service. I had a look at one of the menus, and the Shepherd’s Pie looked good. It was mostly hearty British staples like Bangers and Mask and Toad in the Hole. I guess by calling sausages by their real name sausages, no one really wanted them.
Three drinks down, and looking for the restroom, it ended up an exploration of the passage that led to a rear door, one that could be used by guests, but was mostly used by smoking staff. When I went outside, there were two housekeepers and a concierge boy talking about the couple in 506. I hope Jan and I were not labeled an ‘interesting couple’.
“Let’s go outside and make some calls.” She finished her drink and slid off the barstool.
I joined her and we went out the back entrance, along an alley to the next main street, then along the busy road to an underground station. There were two other hotels I noticed along the way, so we would not be making it easy for them if they could track us.
I called Nobbin first using the card he left under the name Wilson, leaving the phone on speaker.
“Yes.” There was no ring on the other end of the line.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“Sam Jackson. You said to call you if anything happened. I have managed to track down an address for O’Connell. I went there and found two women, one named Josephine, who was definitely not a resident or his friend as she claimed. Then I met another, whose name I can’t remember, but I suspect she’s not who she said she was, nor a friend.”
“Were they looking for the USB?”
“I don’t know. One was on the floor when I arrived, and I assumed she had been rendered unconscious by someone else. I roused her, but she had nothing conclusive to say. I think she was one of your operatives.”
Silence, then, “Why would you say that?”
“I followed her out onto the street.”
More silence, then, “She was asked to search the flat.”
“Anything that would be useful in telling us what he was doing.”
“I’m sure I told you that Severin was after a USB, so I thoroughly searched O’Connell’s flat and didn’t find it, or anything else.”
“Neither did she, which is unfortunate, but not unexpected. O’Connell must have been worried about the information he’d uncovered, enough to not be carrying it with him.”
“Well, I don’t think it was his primary residence. Still too many price tags on the furniture. He had somewhere else to go, and that might be where the USB is. I’m surprised you don’t seem to know very much about him or what he was doing given he was one of your operatives. Unless, of course, he went off-book.”
“I assure you that isn’t the case, and O’Connell’s activities were on a need to know basis. All I can say is that he was using a Journalist cover, investigating cyber currency being used to purchase weapons. We were scheduled to meet for a report on his progress late afternoon on the day he was killed. Are you sure there was no one else near the alley where he was killed?”
“It was empty except for Severin and Maury.
“Are you implying that I took it?”
“No, but there’s a compelling case that might fit you in the frame. Do you know who the other woman was in O’Connell’s flat?”
“No. Like I said, she gave me a name, but I don’t think it was real. She claimed to be his neighbor, but so did Josephine, so it’s likely she wasn’t. Other than that, she could be anyone. If he had another place, you might want to try and find out where it was. I’m going to take up the search tomorrow morning.”
“Are you sure there was nothing to point you in that direction lying around in the flat?”
“The man was a neatness freak. I doubt it. And now he’s dead. The only possibility I can see is that he found out what Severin and Maury are about to do, and by now they will be far more desperate to find it. We need to get to it first, so perhaps if you have some analysts looking for something to do, see if they can find that second residence. I’m sure you can get a hold of any CCTV there is. You might be able to find him that way. If you do and you get an address, let me know and I’ll go straight there.”
“Yes, of course. Keep in touch.”
The line went dead.
“Interesting man,” Jan said, “but not a trustworthy one. You listen to the modulation of his voice. That’s a man who wouldn’t know the truth even if he fell over it. And if he does find that address, you will not be the first person he calls.”
I shrugged. “Probably not. As for Nobbin, isn’t that the very nature of our business, to tell endless lies in order to get to the truth?”
“Remind me, one day, to tell you about pathological liars.”
© Charles Heath 2019-2020