“Here now wait a minute. I’m just a wee guy in all of this. The rest of the story is no that interesting. Come on, you’ve already got some info on me…..” he pleaded, stepping back toward the window.
Keller smiled as the ski masks two friends approached Johnny. He took another step and now had his back against the window. Taking a look over his shoulder he tried to calculate if he could survive the drop and, thinking on his feet, made a dive for one of the chairs before being grabbed by the two balaclavas and forced back into his seat. As he was seated, he quickly slipped a hand into the pocket of one of the balaclavas and grabbed his phone before sitting on it.
Keller came and sat on the edge of the table next to Johnny,
“Come now, John. You don’t want to do that. As you said, you’re just a ‘wee guy’ in all of this. Finish the rest of your story. In fact, let me make it easier for you, all I require to know is where you got the briefcase from.”
Johnny fought to get out of his chair but failed. The ski mask moved closer and slammed the pliers on the table,
“I never said anything about a briefcase.” Spat Johnny, attempting to free himself,
“Ah, neither you did. There was a briefcase though, right?”
Unable to break free from the two men holding him down and eyeing the blow torch which the ski mask had just ignited, Johnny continued his struggle for freedom,
“Aye ok, ok. Call the goons off and I’ll tell ye what happened.”
The balaclavas removed their cuffs from Johnny. Keller looked at them and, making a small flicking motion with his wrist and two fingers, pointed towards the door. The would be winter clad torturer left, taking his decorations with him,
“I thought ye said I wasn’t a prisoner?” commented Johnny.
“I did, and you will be released, just not until you’ve told me about the briefcase.”
“How did you know about the briefcase?”
“I know many things, Johnny. Fortunately for you, it is of no consequence how I know about it. I just need to know that you were given one by this Ms. Wilkes character.”
“Alright then, I never saw her face at all. She left the briefcase at the lost and found in Glasgow Queen Street station and said to go ask for it, statin’ that it belonged to a ‘Howard Spencer’. I think the guy at the desk worked for her, ‘cause he handed it over without a word.”
“Mmm. And did you look inside?” Keller enquired, lifting himself from the edge of the table and into a chair next to Johnny’s.
“Aye. A did. Inside it was a thousand quid and a large bag of white power. I assumed it was cocaine. It was all very Quentin Tarentino, to ma mind.”
Keller was writing again. Johnny continued,
“A got a phone call later on that night” he reflected “and it was her. Tellin’ me that the grand was for ma services and that it was cocaine in the briefcase. She telt me that she found it in her boyfriends flat. She said she was a regular bleedin’ heart type, sayin’ that she had nae idea that her man was into that sort of thing. She said she’d no heard fae him in aboot a month. That nae one had. If ye ask me, that’s a better case right there but I never went into it. She simply said that she wanted rid of it cause she thought her ex was deed and that this briefcase was involved somehow.”
Keller looked up from his page,
“So what did you do?”
“She said to return it. I said aye, ok. I sorta recognised her voice. Sounded like one of the lassies that I’d known when I worked the doors for some clubs around Glasgow. I never asked aboot it, though. What I did say, though, was how did she know I wasn’t gonna fuck off wi the goods n try to sell it maself? She telt me it was uncut and that it wouldn’t be possible to punt it as it’d eventually lead back to me. I asked her what was in it for her n she just said her life n then hung up. Quite dramatic if ye ask me.”
Johnny rubbed his head where his lump was. His back ached from being slammed into a chair by the two balaclavas. The urge to escape still hadn’t subsided but he figured that he’d probably not walk away from jumping out of the window. Keller stood up and went to the window,
“Hmm. Didn’t you think this was odd? Some anonymous woman giving you a thousand pounds and asking you to return a bag of cocaine?”
“Aye a bit, but it was exciting. A thought, this would make a good book. Then I seen an opportunity. Instead of giving it back, mebbe I could sell it back to them and make a wee profit. Enough to fuck off out the country for a while n live somewhere else. Escape ma shite life.”
“Ah yes. I see. So I assume this is what lead to the fracas in the casino earlier on today?”
“Here by the way, I thought you only had ten minutes to have this conversation with me? Shouldn’t you be elsewhere? And how do you know about the casino?!”
Keller laughed “Quite. But this is much more interesting. How I know of the casino is irrelevant.”
“Aye, well. That’s what lead to the ‘fracas’ as ye say. They figured I was some kind of joker. I just said I was a Good Samaritan, but that I had to look out for myself. They thought I’d nicked it, so that’s when I legged it.”
“Strange that a security guard should have such contacts, how did you get involved with these people?”
“Through an acquaintance. Although, after that I guess he’d be an ex-acquaintance, eh?”
Mr. Keller got up and walked to the door,
“That’ll be all for the moment. I have something to return to you, however.”
Keller left the room and came back a moment later with another, brown briefcase,
“I believe this is yours.”
He placed the briefcase on the table in front of Johnny.
“How did ye get this?” proclaimed Johnny as he recognised the briefcase.
“Let’s just say that I know who it really belongs too.”
Johnny opened the briefcase to find a large bag of white powder in it,
“Is that what I think it is? I thought I’d lost it!” he exclaimed.
“Indeed. It wouldn’t have mattered much if you had, though. It’s just salt.”
Johnny inspected the briefcase and the bag.
“You switched it, right?” he said.
“Oh no. It’s fake. Didn’t you check it? Taste it?”
Keller looked at Johnny in amazement and shook his head,
“Dear dear. Bit of an oversight there, eh, John? Perhaps that was the reason you were chased out in the first place.”
“How did you get your hands on this?” exclaimed Johnny, thinking that there was more than a few things here that didn’t add up.
“Well, that’s the thing Johnny. We both had acquaintances in that room.”
“Listen mate. Something’s no right here. There’s a lot of things here that aren’t adding up. Any chance you could give me some answers before I’m ejected from here?”
Johnny was exacerbated. Keller seemed to know everything about him, his life and the events of that day,
“You’re not in a position to make those kinds of demands, John. But I shall humour you to a degree, if only to soothe your worries slightly.”
Keller crossed the room and sat back down at the other end of the table again.
“I have had my eye on you for some time. For a client of mine, you understand. The business that I’m in” Keller reached inside his jacket and pulled out a piece of card, Johnny thought he caught a glimpse of a gun in a holster, but he couldn’t be too sure. “requires a certain amount of tact.”
He passed the card along the table to Johnny. It read:
TEL. 07763 353621
Johnny pocketed it as Keller continued,
“So, Mr Hammitt, I have had you followed for some time. I had heard through sources of mine that some drugs had gone missing from a local crime lord. Similarly, I’d heard that someone wanted to sell them back to him. Naturally I made sure my source was in the room when you attempted to make the deal.”
Johnny drummed his fingers on the table and slowly took in what Keller said. It made some degree of sense to him, but much was left unanswered.
“That’s all very well n good, Keller. But ye still haven’t explained who yer client is or how you knew about the dead body or the arrival of the polis to ma flat.”
Keller checked his watch and stood up,
“Ah, I’m afraid I’m out of time. I’m already running late for an appointment. You are free to go now, John. Sadly, I cannot offer you a lift back to town.”
“Here, wait a minute. Ye cannae just leave me without an explanation. The polis’ll be after me now, for all I know!”
“I trust you shall do the right thing.”
And with these words, Keller left the room. Johnny got up and went to the window. A minute or so later he watched Keller, the ski mask and the balaclavas exit the house and drive off in their black Mercedes. Feeling the coast was clear; Johnny decided to leave the house too.
Once outside, Johnny took the phone he had pick pocketed from one of the balaclavas out and had a look through the numbers in it; two numbers, one for Keller and one entry for “Ballard Housing”. He checked for texts only to find there were none. Strange, he thought to himself, that a thug has a phone specifically for speaking to his boss. He turned the phone off and removed the SIM card, replacing it with the one from his own, dead phone, hoping that he saved some numbers onto it. Cycling through the contacts he found who he was looking for and dialled the number. Within seconds there was an answer,
“Johnny? Thank fuck that’s you. I’ve been trying to get a haud of ye aw day!” a voice from the phone exclaimed,
“Hugh! Aye, I’m fine. What’s up?”
“The polis mate. They’re looking all over for ye. They were at my door n everything. Fuckers nearly took it aff it’s hinges. Said they wanted to speak to ye about a deed body in yer hoose. Whit’s happened?!”
“Nothing man. I dunno what the hell is going on. The polis were comin’ to the flat an then I got this phone call from this mysterious guy named Keller who seemed to know a lot about ma current predicament. Anyway, long story short – I’m noo stuck in a half built housing estate and I’ve nae idea where I am.”
“A half built housing estate? Cannae be too many eh them aboot the place, eh?”
“Can ye come pick us up?”
“A need to know where ye are first, mate….”
“Right. I’ll phone ye back then.”
Johnny hung up and started walking to edge of the housing estate, in the distance he could see what looked like a huge sports complex under construction. He continued walking towards it as dusk settled in, the setting sun casting aggressive shadows over the half built houses and ominous empty homes. He quickened his pace, seeing his breath in the air and with the sun diving beyond the horizon behind him, the semi engineered housing estate started to resemble some dark prison. As he exited it, the street lights were all ablaze covering the empty street in their pale, yellow glow. Walking towards the broken velodrome, Johnny contemplated the events of the day. His need to escape had been amplified in reaction to each event the day had brought his way, and now, under the dark blue sky, with the stars crossed out by neon candles, the oppression of a housing development not yet brought to life echoed the feeling of incarceration that pursued him for years, the same feeling that lead him to seek a more exciting life as a P.I. Only now he was finding, to his dismay that this hobby had lead to murder, greed and a whole lot more mystery than he was comfortable with. Johnny figured that he needed to clear the situation up, starting with figuring out who planted the dead body in his bathtub.
Reaching the velodrome, Johnny took some time to catch his breath and called Hugh back,
“ Johnny? Did ye figure out where ye are yet?”
“Aye, I think I’m in the East End. I’m standing at the sports complex they’re building for the games in 2014. I think.”
“Right, cool. I know where that is. I’ll come get ye.”
Hugh hung up the phone. Johnny took a seat on the ground and realised he would be in for a very long night.