Bougainvillea Heights

Bougainvillea Heights by Chris Green

As she opens the front door, Angel hears the shower running in the upstairs bathroom. That’s odd, she thinks as she unzips her boots. Jason is never home at this time of day. Still, it is a pleasant surprise. Since he took up his post as CEO of Dozier and Coons, Jason never seems to be home. Their love life has become almost non-existent. If he is having a shower now, perhaps he has plans to put this right. A little afternoon delight, she thinks, exactly what a girl needs, now and then. Angel was forty-two last month. While she works out and keeps herself in shape, she needs reassurance that she is still desirable. She drops her keys in the Art Deco dish by the hat-stand, throws her suit jacket over the bannister and after a quick check in the hall mirror, heads upstairs.

Jay,’ she calls out. ‘Jay, I’m home.’

There is no reply.

Jay,’ she calls again, at the top of the stairs. She has undone the top button of her blouse.

Jason doesn’t answer. He can’t have heard her above the powerful pounding of the shower.

The bathroom door is ajar a few inches and steam is billowing out. Her fingers reach out to push the door open. From behind, an arm reaches out and grabs her around the neck. She looks down to see a gloved hand. It is not Jason’s hand.

Jason Love leaves the car park at Dozier and Coons in his new Audi A5. He phones Angel on the hands-free to say he will be late. There is no reply. She must be in the shower, he thinks. He leaves a short message. He slips Mozart’s Don Giovanni into the player to listen to while he drives along the short stretch of motorway to the turnoff to Dakota’s. The traffic is light for early evening.

Jason sees Dakota three or four times a week, depending on his workload. Dakota is the only escort he has found at Elite Escorts, who entertains clients at home. He used to visit once a week, but Angel’s affections seem to have dropped off lately. Ten years is a long time. None of his friends has been married this long.

Dakota is preparing for Jason’s arrival. He likes her to surprise him with different coloured lingerie each time he visits. Today she is going to treat him to lilac. Dakota has been with Elite Escorts for five years. Because Jason is such a regular, she wonders if she should give up the agency and just see him and perhaps one or two others regulars on a private basis. She would have more than enough income to live comfortably. Perhaps she should just see Jason. He is a very generous man. Ah, that will be him now. She sprays the room with Occidental, makes a final adjustment to her skirt, puts on her heels and goes to the door to greet him.

Russ Buchanan joined the force from school. He stood out among the new recruits and was moved over to CID, where he moved rapidly through the ranks to Inspector. He has been called away from his skittles evening because his colleague D.I. Slack is off sick. When he arrives at Bougainvillea Heights, the crime scene investigators are already there going over the prints in the bathroom where Angel Love’s mutilated body was found. Jason Love is not answering his phone and his whereabouts is unknown.

What have we got, Constable?’ he asks.

P.C. Hogg, the first to arrive on the scene, says that he has spoken to Mrs Schneider who reported the disturbance and Mrs Bradley who also lives opposite.

It was just after Angel Love arrived home that they heard the screams, sir,’ he says. ‘They called right away. Mr Love, as you may have guessed, was not home.’

Was he not?’ Buchanan says. ‘You know that, do you?’ The key to being a good detective is to rule nothing out.

He is hardly ever there, apparently,’ Hogg continues. ‘Neither Mrs Schneider nor Mrs Bradley saw anyone apart from Angel Love arrive at the house and no one has seen anyone leave.’

Then the murderer would still be inside, Hogg. And clearly, he isn’t, because you and Constable Peacey and the crime scene boys have all been over the house. What about Mr Schneider and Mr Bradley?

Mr Schneider is in Germany and Mr Bradley is at a conference in Canary Wharf.’

You’ve checked, have you?’

Peacey’s checking now, sir.’

No little Bradleys or Schneiders?’

Rosalind and Jemima are at university and Horst is at boarding school.’

None of the other neighbours saw anything?’

There are no other neighbours, sir,’ Hogg says. ‘As you can see, it’s pretty exclusive up here.’

Russ Buchanan can see from the body in the bathroom that Angel Love did not take her own life. People cannot slash their own torsos at those angles with such force. What could possibly be the motive for such a vicious attack on a beautiful woman in these prosperous preserves? While this does not have the hallmarks of a crime of passion, somebody must have held a hell of a grudge to make their point so powerfully. Hardened he might be by watching snuff films with fellow officers at the Lights Out club, but he feels physically sick at the sight of the carnage before him. This is not the kind of case that officers in the Home Counties are often asked to investigate. But it represents an ideal opportunity to take on the mantle of higher office and the post of Chief Inspector is being advertised. With another baby on the way, he is sure that Trudi would be glad of the extra salary.

What have we got from REX,’ he says? REX is the affectionate name for the new police computer. No one knows for sure the explanation, but it is believed to come from Recs, records. There appears to be a singular lack of imagination in the creative department of crime prevention.

She seems squeaky clean,’ Hogg says.

Not her, you fool, the husband. Go and check on the husband and bring him in.’

We haven’t been able to get hold of Mr Love, sir.’

Just do it, will you, Hogg.’

Russ Buchanan has a variation on good cop, bad cop, he even has a variation on bad cop, bad cop. It is bad cop, bad cop, better cop, where he is the better cop who extracts a confession from the by now terrified suspect. It always works. He has secured endless convictions by this method.

He calls up Division and asks them to send over Noriega and Suggs for bad cop duties.

Jason Love arrives home from Dakota’s about nine-thirty. The area around the house is by now completely sealed off and the barrage of blue flashing lights is blinding.

Burly cops pull Jason roughly from his Audi, where a smiling D.I. Buchanan greets him.

We’ve been trying to contact you, Mr Love,’ he says. ‘I expect you’ve got a good explanation for where you have been for the last four hours.’

I’m not at liberty to say,’ Jason says. ‘Perhaps you would like to tell me what’s going on.’

I think it would be a good idea for you to answer our questions,’ D.I. Buchanan says. ‘What do you think, Noriega?’

Noriega delivers a hefty blow to the stomach.

Further protests are greeted with further blows. Noriega and Suggs guide him, kicking and screaming, to the gruesome crime scene.

You surely don’t think I did this,’ Jason splutters, holding back a surge of vomit. ‘What kind of animal do you think I am? You think I would slash my own wife to death?’

Perhaps you’d like to tell us where you were at around five o’clock this afternoon. I think that might be your best plan,’ Buchanan says. ‘What do you think, Suggs?’

A million thoughts simultaneously run through Jason’s head. While he is sickened by what he is seeing, he must try to get a grip. Nothing is going to bring his wife back. And, after all, he does have an alibi. He can disclose his earlier whereabouts to the officers. He does not want to do this, but Dakota will understand. There are other considerations. There is a lot at stake in commerce. He has important interests to protect. In his line of work, the potential for misunderstanding is large. Those with, or even without vested interests are easily upset. Butchering his wife may be their way of getting their message through to him. The people we are likely to be talking about here are anything but subtle.

Can you get his phone from the car, Hogg,’ Buchanan shouts. ‘We’ll soon find out what is going on around here.’

Jason has a moment of panic, but, yes, he does have the device in his pocket. He presses the emergency button. The phone will now be completely wiped. There will be no record that the phone ever existed. Even the spooks from the spy base would now have difficulty retrieving the information. His Iranian contact said that it might come in useful one day. Of course, he has a backup copy of his data at the bank, but he is not going to volunteer this information in a hurry.

Dakota is surprised by the visit. People don’t usually knock so vigorously at the door at 2 a.m. A look out of the window is enough to confirm her suspicions that it is the police. At least, it gives her the opportunity to flush the coke down the toilet. The interrogation ensues. Although Noriega and Suggs are champing at the bit, not even Buchanan can stoop low enough to use the bad cop, bad cop, better cop with someone as feminine and attractive as Dakota.

Yes, she tells them, she does know Jason. Yes, she did see him. Yes, she knew Jason was married. No, he never talked about her. She doesn’t even know his wife’s name. Oh, Angel, that’s a pretty name. Oh my God! No one deserves that. I expect it was one of those psychopaths you read about in the Sunday papers. No, she never took money from Jason for sex. She’s not that kind of girl. He might have bought her the odd present. He was a kind and generous man. No, she doesn’t work for an agency. No, of course, she isn’t a prostitute.

Dakota is a seasoned professional. She lives in a world where it pays to be discreet. She has also watched enough crime dramas on television to know what is the best course of action here, both to protect herself and not to incriminate her client. To avoid being taken downtown, she makes a statement, but she offers the minimum amount of information about Jason and their meeting earlier. She leaves out all personal details and makes no mention of previous assignations. Detective Inspector Buchanan leaves disappointed.

Jason’s solicitor, Milton Chance, the senior partner at Gallagher, Dreamer and Shed, arrives at the police station at 7 a.m. Jason is in a detention cell. He has the look of a broken man. Milton knows all about this look. Most of his clients have this look when he meets them. It’s his job to get rid of this look. He is good at his job. This is how he is able to afford to live at Bougainvillea Heights. He is not sure how Jason is able to afford to live at Bougainvillea Heights. There is an air of mystery surrounding Dozier and Coons. He has heard rumours about what they might do in the huge complex at West Park, but no one seems to know for certain. He drives past it sometimes and he can’t help but notice the heavy security at the gates. He has more than an inkling that there might be something that Jason is not telling him. From experience, he finds this is the case with a majority of his clients. A defence solicitor today sees it as the duty of modern justice to be able to accommodate secrets and lies.

Why do you think that are they keeping you here if they are not going to charge you,’ he says?

I think they just want to give me another going over,’ Jason says. ‘That bastard Buchanan seems to have it in for me.’

I’ve come across him before,’ Milton says. ‘Nasty piece of work. A real shitbag. Don’t worry! I’ll get you out of here. But! If there is anything I need to know, you had better tell me so that I am in a position to react appropriately.’

Jason feels it is too early to share any big secrets about Dozier and Coons business. ‘We sell information,’ he says. ‘Some of it could be considered to be sensitive. It depends on your viewpoint.’

I think I get the picture,’ Milton says.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Databases are traded for profit the world over. It would be difficult to pretend that it is a virtuous line of business. Jason does not spell out that Dozier and Coons have access to the same transatlantic data traffic as the listening centre. The same traffic that Edward Snowden got all hot and bothered about. But, in contrast to the listening centre who just monitor the data, Dozier and Coons decrypt it, package it by category and sell it on to interested parties. He does not confide that the interested parties are likely to use the data to exploit or undermine others, or worse. Nor does he confide that Dozier and Coons have a crack paramilitary enforcement team at their disposal.

What is Buchanan likely to know?’

He would be able to find out that Dozier and Coons are in the information business. He could find out that much with Google. But he could burrow around in TOR all day and still would not be able to find out the specifics of our operation and certainly nothing regarding our client list. We are a very security-conscious organisation.’

He will be back here soon, probably with his goons. You could be in for a tough day,’ Milton says. ‘So, as you’re paying me well, I’m going to stay with you until the twenty-four hours are up. I’ve brought us lunch.’

Jason Love never imagined in all his nightmares that he was putting those close to him in such danger. He has been a fool. He was earning good money with DataBroker. He didn’t need to take up the position at Dozier and Coons. Angel had not wanted him to. A slideshow of memories floods his consciousness; small but precious moments from their life together, the stolen kiss at the turn of a mile in his coupé on their first date, watching the waves roll in as the summer sun was setting over the ocean at Positano, Angel trying to capture the shifting light across the bay at Juan Les Pins for an impressionist painting, the night-time sleigh ride to see the northern lights in Nova Scotia, watching spellbound as Lang Lang effortlessly gilded the Liszt Piano Concerto No.1 at The Proms, the month spent touring Spain in the hired Winnebago last year, or was it the year before.

He remembers the moment Angel told him she was pregnant just months ago after they had been trying for years, and the heartbreak of the miscarriage, knowing also that the biological clock was ticking. Was his inattention to her needs the result of this? Consciously or unconsciously, was he blaming her?

Angel didn’t deserve to die,’ he blubs, head in hands. ‘It should have been me. Goddammit! I wish it had been me. I feel as if I killed her.’

Milton Chance has seen many grown men cry before. To be a successful criminal lawyer requires suitably accessible shoulders, and sometimes a little pick-me-up to help the client. He does not know what is in the cocktail he administers, but more often than not, it seems to do the job.

The lawyer’s continued presence throughout the day frustrates D.I. Buchanan. He likes his detainees to be more vulnerable. Having to abandon his bad cop, bad cop, better cop strategy, he cannot make any significant progress on the investigation. All his fellow officers’ reports throughout the day about the activities of Dozier and Coons also come up with nothing. Little by little, he sees his promotion prospects dwindle.

Jason is released without charge at 4 p.m. He is just in time to pick up the duplicate phone from the bank vault. Clever stuff, he is thinking. He can access his information, but others can’t. Now he can get onto what needs to be done.

As soon as he is on the steps outside the bank, the phone gives out its Rondo Alla Turca ringtone.

Dakota’s a pretty girl, isn’t she, Mr Love?’ a foreign-sounding voice says. He pronounces his name as Meester Lov. Jason cannot place the accent. His best guess is Middle-Eastern, but cannot narrow it down further.

Who is this?’

It would be a pity if she ended up the same way as Angel, wouldn’t it?’

Who is this?’ Jason repeats. He has the feeling he has heard the voice before. Perhaps it was a week or two ago. Someone with similar phrasing called. He has a vague recollection of the voice saying something about a friendly warning. He did not take much notice at the time. Some days can be quite full on at Dozier and Coons.

I imagine you found the place a bit of a mess. All that blood and the sight of your dearly beloved lying there amongst it must have been shocking.’

What do you want?’

It is what we do not want, Mr Love,’ the voice says. ‘We do not want your organisation to have such close links with third parties in Iran. We do not want to see propaganda supporting Hamas. We do not want to see Palestine as a member of the UN that is a sovereign state in its own right. I think that might give you an idea of who we represent.’

But ….. your people buy information from us too,’ Jason says.

Precisely, Mr Love. And we intend to continue this arrangement, but your …… other arrangements will be cancelled forthwith. Or, it’s goodbye pretty little Miss Dakota. I think that’s clear enough. I think that you understand me.’

………..……..…………….………….

I usually get The Times for my news coverage,’ Kurt Schneider says. ‘But the tabloids can be a bit of a hoot with a story like this. It says here, after brutally butchering his sexy wife, Angel, Jason Love was taken out by a team of crack marksmen.’’

The red-tops are basically comics, Kurt,’ Dexter Bradley says.

This one has him being shot at point-blank range,’ Kurt says. ‘And a hooded figure being seen running from the house. No source of the information, of course.’

The Express says that armed Israeli soldiers stormed the house,’ Dexter says. ‘They have a mock-up of what armed Israeli soldiers might look like storming a house. Tomorrow, they’ll probably blame Love’s death on an Arab suicide bomber,’

Do they just make it up?’ Kurt says.

Anything to sell papers. Best not to let facts get in the way of a good story. All they seem to have to go on is that Jason Love is dead.’

They may not even know for sure that he’s dead, Dex. For all they know, he might just be missing.’

I think they have probably established that he’s dead, Kurt, but that’s about all.’

Strange we haven’t heard from Inspector Buchanan, though, isn’t it? Assuming he was happy we didn’t kill Angel Love, you would have still thought he would have wanted to talk to us about Jason Love’s demise.’

Odd, isn’t it? Even if Buchanan doesn’t suspect we are personally responsible for his murder, you’d would have thought he might have a few questions about our connection to those that were, wouldn’t you?’

For sure, under the circumstances. Given the IT capability the police have these days, it would be unforgivable if one of their officers hadn’t discovered our involvement in data trading.’

Exactly. Or our links to the Middle East. You really don’t have to dig too deep.’

But if they are that incompetent, let’s be thankful. It looks like we are in the clear.’

Maybe, as wealthy, respectable citizens living in Bougainvillea Heights, we are seen as beyond reproach, Kurt. People of high standing are still considered to be trustworthy in this country.’

It’s almost an insult that we are not even seen as suspects, though, don’t you think?’

Don’t look now, Kurt. But it looks like there’s a squad car pulling up outside. ….. No wait, make that two squad cars pulling up outside.’

Copyright © Chris Green, 2022: All rights reserved

 

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