Read The Rodriguez Affair (1970) Online

Authors: James Pattinson

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The Rodriguez Affair (1970) (8 page)

BOOK: The Rodriguez Affair (1970)
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H
E HAD
almost reached the front door when he heard the gir’s voice.

“Mr. Cade.”

He turned. Delia Lindsay had changed her dress during his interview with Gomara; the one she was wearing now was of a colour to match her hair; it was very simple, very chic, very short; it had probably cost quite a deal of money; that kind of simplicity usually did. Cade guessed that she bought her clothes in Caracas; he doubted whether there was any shop in San Borja that would have suited her tastes.

“I’d like to have a talk with you,” she said.

Cade walked back towards her. “I’m always ready to have a talk with someone who looks as attractive as you, Miss Lindsay.”

She frowned slightly. “You don’t have to pull out the compliments for me. I’m not looking for flattery.”

“No flattery‚” Cade said.

“And you Can drop the Miss Lindsay. The name’s Della.”

“And mine’s Robert.”

“Okay, Robert. Let’s go in here.”

It was the room she had taken him into the previous day. Cade dropped his jacket on a table and sat down in one of the brocaded armchairs.

Della said: “So now you’ve seen Carlos. Are you satisfied?”

“I’m satisfied,” Cade said.

“What do you think of him?”

“I think he’s a very frightened man.”

She asked quickly : “Why do you say that?”

“Who but a frightened man would carry a gun in his hand when greeting a visitor?”

“Oh, that. Maybe he has reason to be careful.”

“Maybe he has.”

“What else did you think of him?”

“I think he is a very sick man.”

“It’s only the last year or so he’s been like that. When we came here he was very different.”

“I know,” Cade said.

She had been moving restlessly about the room. Now she sat down facing Cade. “You know who he is, don’t you?”

“Yes, I know who he is.”

“I expect Harry told you.”

“No, Harry didn’t tell me. I didn’t know until I saw him in there.”

“You recognised him?”

“Yes. I saw quite a lot of him in Buenos Aires. I was working on a newspaper.”

“Did he recognise you?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’d better hope he didn’t.”

“Why?”

“He’s not as helpless as he looks, and he can be mean as hell. He wouldn’t want you to go spreading the glad tidings that Carlos Rodriguez is holed up in Venezuela, would he?”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” Cade said.

She looked puzzled, a shade worried perhaps. “Look, Robert, you said you were Harry’s friend. Right?”

“Right.”

“A close friend.”

“You could say that”

“Then what I don’t understand is why he didn’t tell you about Carlos.”

“He didn’t have a lot of time.”

“Why not?”

Cade hesitated. He hated doing it; it was like hitting somebody who could not hit back. And yet she had to learn about it some time, and maybe it was best that she should hear it now.

“There’s something I’ve got to tell you, Delia. Harry is dead.”

He thought she was going to faint Her eyes went wide and her jaw sagged. She swayed a little and she looked sick, almost as sick as Gomara. She made little gasping sounds as though she were trying to speak and the words would not come. But at last she managed to say: “It’s not true. You’re lying. I don’t believe it. It can’t be.”

“It is true, Delia. I only wish it wasn’t But it is.”

“Oh, God,” she said. “How did it happen?”

“He was murdered.”

“By those two?”

“What two?”

“Lopez and Guzman.”

So she knew about them. It was to be expected that she would.

“Could have been. No absolute proof. They were still looking for the killers when I left England.”

“I warned him. I told him to be careful.”

“He was careful. That’s why he came to see me.”

“And a hell of a lot of good that did him.” She sounded resentful, as though blaming Cade for what had happened. Then suddenly a thought seemed to come into her mind. “Hey,” she said. “What did you mean by that?”

“By what?”

“What you said about him coming to you because he was being careful. You told me he asked you to bring me a message.”

“That wasn’t strictly true.”

“No? Then why did he come to see you?”

“He wanted me to look after a parcel for him.”

She seemed to stiffen. “A parcel?”

“That’s right. Brown paper. Sealed up. About so big.” He demonstrated with his hands.

There was a tenseness about her now. Her gaze was on Cade’s face, searching.

“Did you open the parcel?”

“After Harry was killed it seemed the logical thing to do.”

Her voice was so low that he could hardly catch the words; but he could have guessed the question anyway. “What was in it?”

“One hundred and forty thousand pounds’ worth of diamonds,” Cade said.

There was a long silence. Cade and the girl looked at each other. She had recovered from the shock and her colour had returned to normal. Whether she had been genuinely in love with Harry Banner or not, Cade was pretty sure that she was not the one to cry over him for long. In fact there was no suggestion of tears in Della Lindsay’s eyes. She would be thinking about herself, figuring out how to cut her losses.

As if to confirm his suspicions, she said : “The diamonds are mine now. They all belong to me.”

Cade smiled. “Now I wonder just how you’d set about trying to prove that to the judge in a court of law.”

“Are you aiming to hold on to them?”

“For the present, yes.”

She jumped up suddenly and slapped him on the cheek. “You damned thief. What right have you to them?”

She might have struck him again, but he gripped her wrists and held them. She was trembling with rage and there were tears in her eyes now; but they were not tears for Harry Banner; they were all for Della Lindsay.

“If it comes to that,” Cade said, “I wonder just what right you have to them?”

“Let me go,” she said, kicking at his shins.

“I will if you’ll promise to be calm.”

“What makes you think I’m not?” she asked, looking about as calm as a tornado. “Let me go.”

He released her and she seemed to be in two minds whether to lash out at him again, but she probably came
to the conclusion that in a contest of strength he had too much of the edge. She returned to her chair and sat there glowering at him and gnawing her lip.

“Before we go any further,” Cade said, “I think you’d better tell me about Lopez and Guzman. In fact it’d be a good idea if you told me the whole story— right from the beginning.”

She stared at him sullenly. “What is the beginning?”

“Well, let us say for argument when Harry turned up in San Borja.”

“Why should I tell you anything?”

“I’ve got the diamonds, remember? You want them. If you play your cards right you might still get them— some of them anyway. Who knows?”

He was watching her carefully and he saw that the hint had gone home. She stopped glowering and looked at Cade with a calculating eye.

“Harry didn’t tell you much then?”

“Very little. But I’ve found out that he came to San Borja with Lopez and Guzman. Then he got a job here. How did he work that?”

“I told you. He used the old Banner charm. You know what Harry was like. He could talk his way into anything.”

“Maybe you helped him get the job.”

“Well, maybe I did. I met up with him one day in San Borja. He was a fast worker.”

“He knew who Gomara was of course?”

“He had a pretty good idea. He and those other two had traced him here; don’t ask me how. But they couldn’t be dead certain they’d got the right man until Harry saw him.”

“What was their game—Lopez and Guzman?”

“The same as Harry’s of course—money. They knew Carlos had got away with plenty and they meant to lever it out of him. Harry told me they were all for making a raid on this place; that shows you what brains they have. Harry said no; he said Carlos would have more sense than to keep much in the house; he’d have it stashed away somewhere. So then they suggested kidnapping me and making Carlos cough up for my ransom. That one really made Harry laugh; the idea of Carlos Rodriguez handing out big money to get back a woman was just too rich. It’d be a whole lot cheaper to let the old one go and get a new one. Besides, the way he is now, what does he want a woman for?”

“Are you asking me?” Cade said.

She ignored the question. The hem of her dress had climbed up so high that Cade could see the lace trimming on her briefs; they were pale blue in colour. She pulled it down with an impatient tug of her hand.

“The next idea those bright boys came up with was to kidnap Carlos himself. That way they thought they would soon shake the shekels out of him.”

“But Harry didn’t like that either?”

“No. He said the easiest way of all was just to play on Garlos’s fears. Carlos knows there are plenty of people in Argentina who’d give their ears to find him. And some of them wouldn’t be above using a knife or a gun if they ever got near enough to him.”

“So Harry took the job just to get near Gomara, so that he could bring the pressure to bear? Is that it?”

“That’s it. Funny in a way. There was Carlos thinking he’d got a good strong-arm man to keep the wolves
at bay, and all the time the strong-arm man was a wolf himself.”

“Was José here then?”

“Yes. But Carlos never let José get as close to him as Harry. He really seemed to take to Harry—at first. It made José pretty mad. He’d been working for Carlos for years, and then Harry walks in and he’s the blue-eyed boy in a couple of shakes. Living in the house while José had to be content with bedding down in the old vaqueros’ quarters.”

“Did they ever quarrel?”

“José and Harry? You bet your sweet life they did. But Harry was tough; he could look after himself.”

“In the end he couldn’t.”

She gave a sigh that sounded genuine. “That’s true.”

“José looks tough too.”

“He is. And mean. He’s as mean as old boots. Well, he’s got where he wanted to be. He’s Carlos’s right hand man now.”

“How long was it before Harry showed his cards?”

“Two or three weeks. He was feeling out the ground.”

“Making sure of you too?”

“Well, yes, I guess so. Lopez and Guzman were getting impatient They wanted him to hurry things along. But he went at his own pace.”

“Intending all the time to double-cross them.”

Della shook her head. “Not at first. Only later, when he teamed up with me. He said there wouldn’t be enough to go round and two would have to be unlucky.”

“He was the unlucky one.”

“Oh God,” she said. “Do you have to remind me?”

“How did Gomara take it when Harry started to work on him?”

“How would you expect him to take it? He was mad as all hell. But he was scared too. He doesn’t want to die. Though what he has to live for now, goodness knows.”

“Why didn’t he kill Harry? Or get José to kill him. I should think José would have done it.”

“Sure he’d have done it. But Harry didn’t give him the chance.”

“How did the diamonds come into it?”

“Carlos had them in a bank in Caracas. He’s got money in other places too of course, but Harry thought the diamonds would be just right—easy to shift, always saleable, never likely to go down in value.”

“How did he know about them?”

“He didn’t until I told him. That was my idea really. Carlos used to talk to me about them sometimes. He used to ask if I liked diamonds, and then he’d say that if I was a good girl and did exactly what he told me maybe some day I’d have them.”

“You might have done better to wait for them to come to you that way.”

“They never would have. It was just talk. I know because there were other times when he told me I’d get nothing when he died. That was a way of making sure of me. He said he was worth more to me alive than dead and I’d better remember it.”

“So Harry went to Gomara and demanded the diamonds as payment for his silence?”

“Yes.”

“And Gomara gave way—just like that?”

“Not at once. It took a bit of time. But, like I told you, he’s scared. Harry knew the way to play on his fears and he was clever enough not to put the price too high. Carlos could afford that much and still be a rich man. Harry told him it was better to have a little less and be alive than keep it all and be dead. You can’t take it with you.”

“So I’ve heard,” Cade said. “Who fetched the diamonds from Caracas?”

“I did. Carlos gave me written authorisation and I flew to Caracas and drew them out of the bank.”

“You went alone?”

“Yes.”

“Harry was very trusting. You could have taken off from there and never come back.”

“Do you think I’m looking for trouble? I like to live.”

“So you came back, gave the diamonds to Gomara and he handed them over to Harry?”

“That’s right”

“Why didn’t you leave with Harry?”

“He said better not He said he’d let me know when and where to join him.”

“It didn’t occur to you that he might be double-crossing you too?”

She flared up again and seemed about to jump up from her chair and rush at Cade, but she decided against it “That’s a damned filthy suggestion,” she said. “He wouldn’t have done a thing like that. He loved me.”

“All right,” Cade said. “So maybe he did and maybe he wouldn’t. It’s an academic question now anyway. Do you think Gomara suspects you were in cahoots with Harry?”

“Oh God,” she said, “I hope not. But sometimes I wonder. He has a way of looking at me that makes me think sometimes he has suspicions. Hell, I wish I could get away from here, but now—” She gave another sigh. She seemed depressed and uneasy.

Cade got up from his chair. Della stood up too.

“What are you going to do now?” she asked.

“I’m going back to my hotel.”

“You know that isn’t what I meant. What are you going to do about the diamonds?”

“I haven’t decided.”

She moved up close to him and he could smell the scent that she used; it was probably the kind that came in fancy bottles and cost the world. There was a little golden down on her upper lip and she had long eyelashes that could have been her own.

BOOK: The Rodriguez Affair (1970)
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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