maandag 11 mei 2015

The Woman in Red: Chapter 27

27. The man with the gloves

           By the indications from Katarina, Cecile had brought her sister and Jean-Pierre to the place of the rendezvous. They had agreed that Cecile would wait in the car as a lookout if any suspicious individuals or even the police knew about their activities.
            Katarina was very nervous. She had consulted her mobile many times, despite she hadn’t received a signal. She didn’t know where to put her hands. She also had bitten upon her fingernails in at the end she had nestled herself against Jean-Pierre and was playing absent-mindedly with the fingers of his left hand.
            Why had Beatrice chosen this place to meet? The night club - ‘Pretty Men and Women’ - was one of Beatrice’s properties herself. Katarina didn’t find it a good choice because of the fact the police knew all this locations and could watch the neighborhood. Nonetheless the risk, they hadn’t been able to hold her away to proceed with the appointment.
            ‘Thanks, Cecile, for all you have done. I owe you one, a great one.’ Katarina smiled warmly at her sister and got it returned too.
            ‘Don’t mention it, you’re my sister; it’s the least I can do. For my mother… that’s a whole different matter,’ Cecile added with a sneer on her face.
            Katarina and Jean-Pierre went hand in hand to the entrance of the building where the night club was established. Nothing pointed to any danger and still both of them were looking around if they could be ambushed any moment.
            Jean-Pierre touched the door handle and didn’t find resistance. The door was open, they obviously expected company. Through a dark corridor, they came to a bad lightened stairway that lead to a cellar. According to Katarina the bar and the club were situated there. The door that led to this space wasn’t locked either.
            Jean-Pierre went first and peeped around the door. He didn’t see a thing. There was nobody at the bar nor in the part that served as the night club.
            ‘Maybe she couldn’t come, and she’ll let us know something,’ he suggested without believing it himself.
            They suddenly heard some stumbling behind the curtains of a little podium at the end of the night club. Two men with the Baroness between them came from behind the heavy curtains of the podium. The Baroness was gagged and looked dazzled, but when she recognized Katarina, her eyes drew wide open, and there was fear in them. They pushed rather roughly in a chair, and the taller of the two pointed to Jean-Pierre and Katarina and then at two other chairs. Obviously, these gorillas couldn’t talk.
            At first Jean-Pierre wouldn’t obey, but when the smallest of them drew a weapon they had to accept this unfriendly proposition.
            ‘What is all this, who are you?’ Katarina’s voice sounded shrill and metallic in this big space that was empty except for them. Katarina had noticed that her mother had a bandage on her hand. That would explain the blood in the room of the Courthouse. Obviously the wound wasn’t life-threatening since her mother could walk into the room by herself.
            Without the two bulls had opened their mouth, a distinguished gentleman entered the same way as his accomplices. He was dressed in a three-piece suit, and it attracted Jean-Pierre’s attention he wore gloves. Probably he didn’t like to have dirty hands and had appealed to the two gangsters who flanked the Baroness for the moment.
            ‘I suppose you’re Katarina since you have accepted the invitation, but I don’t have the pleasure to know this man.’ His cold eyes looked at Jean-Pierre from head to toes. He inspected him and obviously didn’t like it.
            ‘He’s a good friend of mine who… has driven me,’ Katarina answered, ‘he knows everything.’
            The man suddenly laughed very hard. ‘Everything… what’s everything, my child? You don’t know what you’re speaking of. If you knew everything, you would say so. You… you don’t know anything. And for your own well-being, let’s keep it that way.’ He signaled to the closest helper, and he removed the gag of the Baroness.
            She was retching while the man released her from the dirty gag they had put in her mouth. ‘Katarina…!’ Her voice faltered and tears flowed soundless along her face.
            The gentlemen made some rounds around the chair where the Baroness was sitting on, without them losing out of sight. ‘The thing is, my dear Katarina. Your mother thought she could make some extra money, and she has crossed a certain border. Such a fact normally has to be punished. But my employer is very broadminded and in certain conditions he can forget and forgive.’
            Katarina and Jean-Pierre listened with growing surprise at the monolog of this parvenu. They looked, full of incomprehension at the Baroness, who, meanwhile, sat there in silence with her head bent and dwindled in the chair. The woman was clearly broken by fatigue and fear.
            ‘It’ll be not strange to you, in the circumstances that are called normal at the Chateau, there are a lot of important gentlemen and women visiting. My employer is someone you can count to this category of people. Unfortunately, I have to confess he can be indiscreet when he has drunk a bit and enjoys the presence of female beauty. Madame seems to have the habit to record some conversations and used to trade them for pecuniary gain. I am the first to applaud entrepreneurship and to stimulate it, but when it concerns my employer then it’s a whole other matter. His connections with our organization can’t be public knowledge. We have worked too long to have a piece of the pie if I may use this playful comparison.’
            The man obviously loved to hear himself talking. He accompanied his argument with wide gestures just like a famous lawyer who was arguing in favor of his client. Once in a while he stood still and put his hand on the shoulder of the Baroness. Every time she shrunk still more fearing him.
            ‘The tapes…! Yes, we know there are three of them, but we have a little problem. Madame the Baroness, unfortunately, don’t want to say where they are. But now that her daughter is here, I presume she can be persuaded, that for the common welfare, she better think again. In a few steps, he stood next to Katarina and grabbed her by the neck.
            Jean-Pierre jumped from his chair, but was pushed by one of the accomplices. He fell backward over it and stayed on the ground because the man pointed his pistol at him, and he was afraid to move and get a bullet through his head.
            ‘Lady, Madam, if you prefer,’ the leader spoke,’ you have exactly five seconds to tell me where the tapes are otherwise…’ He also had taken his pistol out of his holster and significant held it against the side of Katarina’s face.
            ‘One… two… three… four…!’

© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere

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