Thursday 2 – Sunday 5 July 2015
‘You can’t be serious? They’re Barlow’s guys?’ Phillipa shook her head in disbelief. ‘Mr. White and Mr. Black are agents as well?’
Duncan Stirling nodded. ‘Yep.’
‘How long have they been working Monroe?’ Phillipa demanded. She turned to the two goons from the gallery and asked again, ‘How long have you two been working him?’
Mr. Black replied, ‘About eighteen months. Hineman and I went undercover, infiltrated Monroe’s organisation, set ourselves up as part of his hired muscle, and we’re currently considered a couple of his best heavies.’
‘This is insane. There’s already an undercover team working the Monroe angle? How did this happen, boss?’ Darcy asked.
Stirling rubbed his forehead, then worked his fingers into his temples. The throbbing in his head wasn’t going away despite having consumed more painkillers than he probably should have. He felt like this whole operation was precariously balancing on a pinhead.
‘I don’t know, Darcy, I don’t know.’
Hineman answered Darcy’s question. ‘We’ve come to an impasse. Barlow put out an S.O.S., a mayday if you will, to get some assistance. Apparently, Moore and I’ve become a bit too good at our roles, and it’s drawing unnecessary attention to us. We needed agents to come in and take that attention away. Sorry to say, but you two are doing wonderfully at that. Have either of you done much undercover work?’
‘Hey, it’s our art knowledge that’s questionable, not our undercover work,’ Darcy snapped.
Moore and Hineman gave each other a look, and snickered at Darcy’s reply.
‘That’s highly debatable, mate,’ said Hineman.
‘For Christ’s sake,’ begged Stirling, ‘can you stop the pissing contest, please? We have to sort something out here.’ He rubbed his temples more vigorously.
‘Can we get access to a couple of giant chunks of cash, boss?’ Phillipa’s voice cut through the insanity of Darcy and Barlow’s men arguing.
‘What for, Pip?’ asked Stirling.
‘To keep out covers. Not knowing that these two were on our side, I had to bluff. Told Monroe that we were heading out to our banks to pick up cash in order to make our purchases. So, is there any way, any way at all that we can get our hands on two relatively large sums of cash, and it needs to be done quickly.’
Stirling sighed, the throbbing pounding out a Samba in his head. Was it possible to get hold of quick cash? Probably not through legitimate agency channels.
‘Not without a lot of questions, and certainly not all that quickly. However, I do have a few favours that I could call in.’
‘Then get calling, boss.’ Phillipa shot Stirling a smile, and motioned to the cell phone to his left. Ten minutes later, Darcy, Phillipa, and Barlow’s two guys were heading out to a pick up point west of the gallery, and way out of Albert Monroe’s reach.
Confidently striding back into the gallery with Barlow’s men flanking them, Phillipa and Darcy made their way to Monroe.
‘Remember,’ Hineman whispered on the way, ‘you need to maintain an air of confidence. Don’t let him think he can get the better of you, and for God’s sake, don’t give him any more reasons to think that you’re Feds.’
Phillipa positioned herself directly behind Monroe. ‘Now, Mr. Monroe, how about we discuss a little business?’
Startled, Monroe swivelled to face her. ‘You surprised me, Mrs. Entwhistle. I honestly didn’t think that you and your husband would be back.’
‘I do so apologise for the length of time we took to collect the capital. It seems our banks needed a little persuasion, shall we say.’
‘You really did go to a bank?’ Monroe smirked.
‘Ah, when I say ‘bank’, Mr. Monroe, I’m referring more to a particular person in our respective organisations rather than actual banks. As it turned out, we employed some people to watch over our finances, and they took the position somewhat more literally than either my husband or I anticipated. Honestly, if you’d seen his face, you’d have thought that we were telling the man to give us his personal finances. Isn’t that right, darling?’
‘Indeed it is. Admirable as our employees’ dedication and commitment to us is, I think that perhaps a couple of positions in our finance departments might be opening up tomorrow,’ Darcy replied, relying on his past corporate banking experience to make him sound at least moderately knowledgeable.
Monroe ushered Phillipa and Darcy to his office.
‘Before we begin, you won’t mind showing me that you have enough fund to complete the transaction.’ Monroe dropped down into his chair, and wrapped his right hand around a crystal tumbler of Scotch.
‘Actually, Mr. Monroe,’ Phillipa quickly replied, ‘I do mind showing you our funds. You seem to have focussed upon my husband and I, and you appear to be implying that you find us suspicious and untrustworthy.’ She paused, allowing him time to attempt to construct a reply that would calm the situation.
‘Well, I –’ he started.
‘I don’t believe that’s an entirely acceptable base for a potentially long-lasting business relationship. Perhaps you’d rather that my husband and I take our business elsewhere? Or perhaps it’s better that you prove to us that your artwork is indeed one hundred percent legitimate, and genuine. How do we know that you’re not dealing in wonderfully reproduced fakes?’
She had Monroe on the back foot, his lips flapping as he desperately tried to regain control of the encounter.
‘You don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot, do you, Mr. Monroe? So, I suggest that a little more respect is given to my husband and I if you really are concerned with cultivating a potentially lucrative business relationship.’
Monroe nodded like a schoolboy who had been caught creating mischief, and scolded by the headmaster.
‘Yes, yes, I do sincerely apologise for my lack of faith in the characters of yourself and your husband. Do please accept my humble apologies.’
‘Done. Now, on to business,’ said Phillipa, knowing that after just having reeled Monroe in, she had him ready to eat out of her palm.
. . . To be continued . . .