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Authors: R D Ronald

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BOOK: The Elephant Tree
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He recognised the concierge on duty as Eddie. Eddie was mid-thirties, had short brown hair, was close shaven to the point that it looked to irritate his skin and wore the standard blue uniform and cap. They’d chatted a couple of times previously when Scott had visited. Eddie let him go straight up while he buzzed ahead to announce his imminent arrival. Scott crossed the polished marble floor of the foyer in the direction of the bank of lifts. He moved his hand over the sensor to summon one just as the doors to his left sprang open. As he turned to enter, a young woman in a sharp grey suit, carrying an attaché case, stepped off and walked past him before Scott recognised that it was Stephanie.

‘Hey Steph, small world,’ he called after her. ‘Are you here on business or pleasure?’

Stephanie stopped and turned to face him.

‘Hello Scott,’ she said, with a minor reshaping of her lips that could perhaps be interpreted as a smile. ‘Either there’s only room for business these days or the two have become one and the same. Sometimes it’s hard to remember.’

‘Angela was expecting to see you out last night.’

‘I had hoped to get away but then there was someone I had to see unexpectedly,’ she said, and briefly looked genuinely sorry.

‘I didn’t realise you knew Jack.’

‘I’ve been personal assistant to the manager at Aura’s for the last few months, so our paths have crossed, yes.’

‘You look a lot different to Angela’s friend with the braided hair I used to see out clubbing at Blitz years back,’ he said grinning.

‘Yes, well the braids don’t really go with the suit,’ she said stiffly. ‘Nice to see you again Scott, but I have to be going.’ He watched as she cut across the foyer towards the revolving door, the tock-tock-tock from her departing heels echoing around the marble foyer like the inside a giant clock. Eddie seemed to recognise her and tipped his cap as she passed by, making Scott wonder if she was a regular visitor to the building.

Slightly surprised by her presence, but more so by her sharp attitude in their exchange, he turned back and entered the lift. Scott pressed for the top floor and made the smooth ascent in silence, trying not to look directly at the polished chrome in the elevator that reflected the high intensity lighting as brightly as the inside of a jewellers window. His eyes still felt overly sensitive following the previous night of excessive consumption.

The lift doors opened out onto a wide carpeted hallway that seemed to glow from recessed lighting hidden away in the ceiling. Taking in a deep breath of the alpine scented, warmly conditioned air, Scott walked around to the door of his brother’s penthouse apartment; one of eight on the uppermost floor of the Walker building. The name had always struck Scott as fairly ironic, the Walker building. No doubt named after the architect who designed the structure or whoever financed it. Placement of the 30-storey smoked glass and chrome monolithic structure was so central in Garden Heights, that any desirable location could be arrived at in no time on foot, but any resident who could afford to live within those exclusive walls would certainly never be seen to arrive in such a fashion. Jack himself drove a black, convertible Lexus that spent the majority of its life swapping one security patrolled underground car park in the city for another. At least that’s what he drove the last time Scott saw him. Cars were replaced almost as frequently as girlfriends, so by now both of those positions had probably been refilled.

Arriving at the front door Scott found it had been left ajar, no doubt in expectation of his arrival. He entered and as there was no sign of Jack in the open plan living area, he walked across the polished, French oak floor (so he’d been informed by one of Jack’s previous girlfriends) to look into the kitchen, but glancing across the balcony he saw his brother outside taking a phone call. Judging by his animated body language and stern expression, Scott decided not to interrupt and instead took a seat on one of four white sofas arranged around a spotless square black glass table in the centre of the room. He resisted the urge to put his feet up on the table and light a cigarette.

A few minutes later the sliding glass door whispered as Jack eased it open and came in from the balcony.

‘Hey Scott,’ he said, his deadpan expression giving no clue as to the intention of their meeting, and walked over to a decanter on a small granite table by the far wall. ‘You want one of these?’

‘Yeah thanks I will,’ Scott replied, and Jack poured a few fingers into each of their glasses. Swallowing a mouthful from one, he topped it up again and brought the glasses over and put them down on the table Scott had avoided putting his feet up on. Jack settled into the sofa opposite with a sigh and again reached for his glass.

‘So how are things with you, little brother?’ Jack asked, this time taking only a sip from his glass. Not being much of a whiskey drinker, Scott also took a drink and resisted the urge to wince as the golden liquid slid down his throat leaving behind a trail of fire. His brother would no doubt take offence as this was bound to be some impeccable vintage single malt, so Scott faked an expression of impressed surprise, which appeared to please Jack, before answering.

‘Pretty much the same as ever, really. Same shit, different day,’ Scott said with a grin. ‘I heard you on the radio last week, good show.’

‘Thanks. The shows are being syndicated now so they’ll go out to most of the country.’

‘Your celebrity status being etched into the minds of the listening public far and wide,’ Scott quipped, but his attempt at humour washed over Jack leaving no trace of an impression.

‘Listen Scott,’ Jack said leaning forward, ‘there was an incident in the club last night.’

Scott guessed from the look on his brother’s face that this was going to be something to do with the reason he’d wanted to see him today.

‘OK, well it was a Friday night, I expect that’s not so unusual. So what happened?’

‘A guy was shot in the club,’ his brother said, ‘so yeah it was pretty unusual. Maybe that sort of thing happens at those seedy fucking rock bars you hang out at, but not where I work, Scott,’ he said, putting his glass back down hard enough for some of its contents to slop over onto the pristine table.

‘OK Jack, calm down, I get it’s a big deal but what’s this got to do with me?’

‘Your friend was in, with that Dominic thug.’

‘Who, you mean Twinkle?’

‘Yeah.’

‘That hardly means anything, there were probably three thousand other people there too. Why is Twinkle being there a problem?’

‘The shooting happened in an area just out of the cover of the closed circuit cameras,’ he said and paused, holding Scott’s gaze looking for a reaction.

‘I still don’t get it, Jack. What are you trying to tell me, or ask me or whatever it is you’re doing?’

‘Everyone goes through the archway, you know the metal detector, coming into the club so there’s no way to get a gun in undetected.’

‘Right yeah, it’s the same pretty much everywhere these days, so?’

‘So someone got one in and managed to use it to good effect avoiding cover of the cameras. There’s no way that could be done without help from at least one person from the club, presumably the door staff. It’s no secret that Dominic is at close quarters with Paul McBlane, and has been known to get his hands dirty when it’s needed. The door staff at Aura and half of the other bars and clubs in the city are employed through McBlane’s security company, and nothing ever happens on one of his patches without serious consequences.’

‘So you’re saying it couldn’t have had anything to do with Twink and Dominic?’

‘No, I’m saying it very much looks like they were involved, and with McBlane’s blessing.’

‘But why would he be involved if it’s gonna make his security company seem inept? No-one would want to use them if that’s the case.’

‘Some of Garden Heights more high profile venues have been sold on to outside investors recently, and the rumoured amounts involved are a long way short of what you’d expect. No names have been mentioned as the investors buying in are doing it through offshore holding companies. McBlane’s made no secret in the past of wanting to be more involved in the business than just minding the door while the owners get rich.’

Scott thought he could now see where his brother was going with this but kept quiet and allowed him to continue. Jack finished the contents of his glass and sat back on the sofa, exhaling heavily through his nose.

‘The guy who was shot last night was the owner’s brother, Scott. The circumstances surrounding the attack and the target can’t have been a coincidence. I know what you get up to, and I know you’re pretty close with that Twinkle guy, so I want to know if you knew anything about it.’

‘No, I still have my doubts that Twink would get mixed up in something like this, even if it is true,’ Scott said, although he didn’t know how much of the statement he believed himself. With the wrong company, and the right drugs, Scott had no idea how far Twinkle could be manipulated. Maybe he had been right to worry last night when he’d seen Twinkle and Dominic out drinking together. ‘Whether I’m right about this or not, you’d do well to distance yourself from these people. There can be no happy ending for someone like you in all of this.’

‘Alright Jack, I appreciate the heads up, but really, don’t worry about me. I’ll check with Twinkle next time I see him but I doubt he’d be that stupid,’ Scott said, and drank the remaining whiskey from his glass, this time making no effort to mask his distaste. ‘I have to go,’ he said, standing.

Jack got up too, still holding Scott’s gaze. This time it didn’t look like suspicion in his brother’s eyes, but Scott couldn’t tell what it was.

‘What I’ve told you here goes no further, Scott. Understand? If I’m even half right about this then the information alone is dangerous. I just told you my suspicions to persuade you to back off.’

Walking towards the lift, Scott pulled out his phone and started to text Neil. He wouldn’t say any of this over a phone call or a text, but he made it clear he needed to see his friend at home before they went back into the city that night.

Moving through the revolving doors from the warm interior of the lobby into the cold street outside felt like making the transition from summer straight into winter. The temperature seemed to have dropped dramatically during his short visit, but Scott wasn’t sure if it was the weather or the news he’d received that had chilled him the most.

Chapter 5

T
he sex had been good but unfulfilling. Jack obviously knew what he was doing and was far more experienced than she was but the whole act had seemed pretty methodical to Angela. Very different from the first fumbling encounter when she’d lost her virginity, but equally as unsatisfying.

After Jack had finished they lay in bed and talked for a few minutes before he fell asleep. That’s when he’d made the promise to call her. Angela had expected he would ask her to get dressed and leave, maybe offer her some cab fare that she’d be too proud to take, but he hadn’t.

She lay awake a while listening to the rhythmic rise and fall of his breathing as he fell into a deeper sleep, thinking how different the night had ended up from the one she had nervously envisioned while getting ready to meet up with Scott.

Angela ran her fingertips over the white cotton sheets on Jack’s bed feeling how soft and smooth the material was. She knew there was no chance of her falling asleep here and didn’t think it would be such a good idea even if she could. Jack had begun to snore quietly, his breath exhaling in a soft hiss. She swung her legs slowly out of the bed and began to dress, being careful not to wake him. Angela stepped lightly into her panties and then slid on her dress and shoes and shook out her hair with both hands so it wouldn’t look so obvious that she’d just climbed out of someone’s bed. She picked up her bag then made her way out of the apartment.

Angela hadn’t expected much more than memories from her chance encounter with Jack. She certainly hadn’t expected him to call like he’d promised to, and was surprised when he did.

She hadn’t told Stephanie about her intended meeting with Scott so there’d been no reason to confess that she’d been stood up. Stephanie’s brutal line of questioning after she’d heard that Angela had possibly just had her first one night stand was more than she could handle anyway.

‘What were you doing there in the first place?’ Stephanie asked suspiciously after Angela told her where she’d met Jack.

‘I just decided to go out for a few drinks and ended up there,’ she lied, trying to dampen the flames of Stephanie’s curiosity. Steph had had more than the occasional one night stand over the years, and was more than willing to share all of the details with Angela the next day irrespective of her reluctance to hear them.

Jack took Angela out fairly regularly over the next few weeks. He would call her on nights he wasn’t working and they’d go out to an expensive restaurant; she presumed they were expensive, anyway. No prices were listed on the menu and he always insisted on taking care of the bill. They’d go for a few drinks afterwards and then back to his place, where inevitably they’d end up having sex. After Jack fell asleep Angela would get dressed and leave the apartment. It was the kind of relationship that her friend Stephanie would have killed for. There were no strings, he spoiled her and when they were together she received nothing but first class treatment wherever they went. Jack was attractive and very charming, and there were no uncomfortable silences to fill in their conversations during meals. He had no end of stories to tell and anecdotes to share that never failed to make her laugh, but none of it seemed particularly personal. She never felt that Jack was seeing other women on the nights they weren’t together, and fidelity had never been discussed anyway, so she didn’t really feel like she had a right to bring it up. But she felt the whole scenario could play out exactly the same with any other girl in her position; there was no depth of emotion or bond to really tie them together. On occasion when Angela would mention this, or try to discover a little more about his personal life, family or friends outside of work, Jack would withdraw a little, and the atmosphere between them would noticeably cool.

BOOK: The Elephant Tree
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