Palmer Ch. 03byhal_tee©
Grateful thanks go to the best editor in the world – thesoundandfury. And check out his new novel – Models and Super Spies. Thanks Ken, not only for your editing, but also for the constant encouragement, suggestions, and for helping me to become a better writer.
Chapter 3: The Shoot
Palmer used a company car to pick up Taffy Boyd, a top of the range BMW. That made sense in view of their destination. Anything else would look out of place in Mayfair.
Wilson and Goodwin sat in the back, letting the smoke from their cigarettes curl through the open rear windows and disappear into the early morning London air. For some reason, they both looked bushed, as if they'd been partying all night.
Palmer smiled at the thought of Goodwin being at an all night rave. It didn't quite fit the image. Maybe it was just the early hour?
But then, he was tired, too. Kelli had been away last night, travelling to Edinburgh for her modelling assignment. He'd used the alone time to go over every single piece of information on the case. Even on paper, this Roxanne seemed special, a little different to Brooke or Savannah. Classier somehow.
And her photograph! The soft, wavy, red hair. Her perfect face, with her soft green eyes, and full, red lips. He'd met a few classy broads in the line of duty, but this one was getting into his psyche.
What was it about her?
"How long are we going to have to hang around?" Goodwin asked. He'd been cantankerous ever since getting into the car.
"Patience, Grasshopper," Palmer joked. "Something crawled up your ass last night?"
Wilson silently chuckled. At some time, in their early morning fucking, it had been the other way around.
In the rear view mirror, Palmer caught the smile Goodwin and Wilson exchanged. Perhaps they had been partying, after all?
"Just tired, I guess," Goodwin grumbled. "And I don't like those shits in narcotics. How long's this guy been with 'em?"
"Long enough," Palmer replied, catching Goodwin's eyes in the mirror.
The tired looking older man shot back a reluctant smile. Then he grunted. Goodwin often grunted. It was his stock in trade.
When Palmer realised that was as positive a reaction as he was likely to get, he reassuringly added, "But he's a good guy. We grew up together and I'd trust him with my life."
"He knows what he's doing?" Sandra Wilson asked.
Palmer nodded, tilting his head so that he could see both his colleagues in the mirror. "The best wireman you're ever likely to meet. Though I doubt you'll have met one like Taffy Boyd." He gave a soft laugh and nodded over at the entrance to the building opposite them.
Three pairs of eyes homed in on the short, overweight Welshman. He looked almost as scruffy as Webster. The faded blue jeans were two sizes too big, and whereas the grubby black shirt was tucked in at the front, the tail was flapping in the strong breeze. Typical Taffy.
"He looks more like Mr. Magoo," Wilson laughed, referring to the thick glasses. "This is our wireman?"
Goodwin joined in. "You're shitting me, Palmer?"
Palmer laughed out loud. Taffy Boyd was the opposite of the archetypical wireman and regularly provoked this kind of initial reaction.
It had been that way since they were kids. When he thought of the number of fights he'd become involved in when the young Taffy was picked on. Moving to England when he was so young had seen the Welshman bullied because of either his appearance or accent. Palmer had looked after him.
"Geez," Goodwin gasped, interrupting the childhood recollections. He was watching the overweight man waddle over to the car, carrying a big, black, tool chest. "He looks worse than Webster. When did he last have a haircut? And look at those dirty, brown suede shoes. With blue jeans!"
Even Wilson laughed at that one. Alex Goodwin wasn't exactly noted for his own sartorial elegance.
"Though for someone from narcs," the snow-white haired man grudgingly conceded, "I gotta say he looks almost human."
Then Taffy Boyd was leaning against the car door, puffing heavily. "Jack, boyo, how's it going?"
"Good, Taffy," Palmer replied, getting out to stow the toolbox in the boot. "Get away okay?"
"Not a problem," he panted. Opening the passenger door, he crawled into the front beside Palmer. "Chilton's on holiday this week, so the bastard can't cause any problems. Your timing's perfect."
Goodwin laughed. It was the first time since he'd got in the car at the crack of dawn. "Hey buddy," he said, slapping the Welshman on his back. "If you agree that Chilton's a shit, you'll do for me."
"They've a few shits in narcs, boyo," the newcomer added. "But, then, every department is much the same."
"Not us," Sandra Wilson responded with a laugh, lighting another cigarette and lowering the window again as Palmer started the engine and glided into the already heavy traffic. "How'd you get involved with narcs anyway?"
Boyd pulled a King Size chocolate bar from his pocket and took a large bite. "My first meal today," he explained, showing a mouthful of goo. "Well, Chilton heard of my reputation. He borrowed me for a job similar to this. Wired up a politician's house they'd heard was supporting a terrorist cell."
"Jackson Kumar? Shit, you were involved with that bust?"
Picking a piece of chocolate from his teeth and giving it the once over before swallowing it, Boyd nodded. "Yup. He ordered a new surround sound system and that gave an excuse to get me in. I wired the whole place from top to bottom."
He gave a weird, machine gun rattling laugh as he took another large bite.
"And?" Wilson urged.
Boyd took off his Magoo style glasses and struggled to remove a sliver of chocolate that was stuck to the right lens. "It gave us everything we needed. Enough ammunition to put him away for years. And fucked up his brother-in-law too."
"His brother-in-law?" Goodwin mumbled. "Didn't he turn up dead?"
"Yes, boyo," the Welshman replied, dropping the chocolate wrapper onto the floor as he finished the bar. "He was a nastier piece of work than Kumar. Involved in all kinds of unpleasant business. Responsible for more murders in London than the rest combined."
Sandra Wilson's voice was uncertain this time. "So you guys had him rubbed out?"
The machine gun rattling laugh got louder. "No! The tapping showed he was fucking Kumar's wife and his daughter. We got that information to Kumar a day before we picked him up. It was enough for him to take care of his brother-in-law for us."
"No shit," Goodwin muttered, exchanging glances with Wilson.
"Yes, boyo," Boyd giggled, somehow smudging the chocolate sliver right across the lens. He decided to clean it on the front of his shirt. "After that, Chilton had me transferred to his team. Said he couldn't do without the wonderful Welshman."
The two cops in the back nodded, thinking back to the media furore that surrounded the whole Kumar case.
It was Palmer who broke the silence. "And I think that's a new world record..."
"What's that, Jack?" the overweight wireman asked.
"You ate the whole of that King Size in four point two seconds..."
"Very funny, boyo," Boyd groaned, then added with a grin, "But then, I get plenty of practice. That's why I'm so fit. By the way, where're we headed?"
The Welshman whistled through his teeth. "We're going upmarket?"
"You bet," Sandra Wilson offered. "We're after a high class hooker involved in an extortion scam. Think you can wire up her apartment so we can hear her eat breakfast?"
"Oh, yes. Not a problem, little lady. I can do anything. What kind of apartment?"
The attractive female cop shrugged her shoulders. "Dunno, Taffy, but we got the one next to hers rented out. Palmer here is the lucky playboy who's posing as the tenant. That's why he's dressed so smart today. Impress the neighbours."
The Welsh wireman laughed. He glanced across at Palmer. With his black, crinkled hair and square jaw, he looked more like Superman than ever. People had often drawn that comparison, but those who knew the twenty-five year old detective were well aware not to mention the fact in his presence. Boyd never had. "Palmer's dressed smart ever since I've known him," he contented himself by saying. "You'd think we were twins."
"Yeah, right," Goodwin grinned. "Twins. That's a good one."
"The building only has four floors. We're on the top," Wilson continued. "There's a secured gate activated by a code-card, and a security guard inside the building."
"How do you know she's not at her flat right now?"
"I've been ringing her number for the last hour," Goodwin interrupted, holding up his cell phone. "No answer. But if she is there, we'll wait in Palmer's flat 'til she leaves, then do the job."
"Palmer's flat! I like the sound of that!" Palmer grinned, glancing over his shoulder at Wilson and Goodwin.
"Yeah," Goodwin mumbled. "It's alright for some. Don't know where the Department gets the money. Try getting anything more than a free cup of coffee and you've no chance."
The dark haired female cop tapped Palmer on the shoulder. "That's us on the left."
Smoothly pulling to a halt, the wavy haired detective used his key card to open the gates. They swung open without a hitch. Observing the five-mile per hour limit, he edged into his allocated parking space.
Boyd went to the boot and flipped open his toolbox. In direct contrast to his appearance, it was meticulously arranged inside.
"Geez," Goodwin grunted. "I don't know what half of those things are, but they sure look impressive."
The Welshman laughed. "Is that right, boyo? You didn't expect a scruffy, fat Welshman to be so organised, eh?"
Kelli looked back at The Howard. She somehow felt important as the early morning limo sent to collect her glided away from the intimate and discreet 5-star hotel. Occupying three Georgian townhouses in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town, Kelli had never before experienced such luxury.
Jack had never taken her to anywhere as extravagent as this. She marvelled at the character of the building. They'd used rich fabrics, oil paintings and opulent furnishings inside to enhance that character.
And her suite! The Abercromby had consisted of a huge, richly-textured bedroom with a luxury king-size four-poster bed, a separate living room and a marble bathroom with two basins. This was a different world!
From her suite windows she could see Great King Street. It was a classic example of a wide, cobblestoned, New Town street and when she'd awoken at a ridiculously early time that morning, she'd gone outside and wandered around for an hour.
She'd taken in her surroundings like a tourist, although she certainly hadn't felt like one. She felt alive. Energized. A star in the making. And if this was an example of the sort of perks that awaited, she'd do everything she could to make her dream come true. She wanted more.
Palmer locked the car and ran a hand through his black, crinkled hair as he addressed the others.
"Okay," he said, his voice adopting the same serious tone as his face conveyed. He glanced at Wilson and Goodwin. "You've both seen Roxanne. I need one of you to stay around here and keep an eye on the entrance. We've gotta know if she returns when we're up there."
"That's you," Wilson grinned, nodding at Goodwin. "I'm needed to add some finesse upstairs."
Palmer ignored the joke. He was focused. Anxious to get the job done. "Okay. Let's go."
Using the key card again to gain entrance to the building, the three cops bounded up the short flight of stairs from the garage area to reception. A painfully thin guard greeted them, seventy if he was a day.
"Jack Palmer," the detective introduced himself, shaking the older gentleman's hand. "I'm renting number fifty."
The guard's look of suspicion immediately vanished, replaced by a soft smile. He gave a welcoming nod, running a couple of arthritic fingers across his grey, pencil moustache. It was as thin as his hair.
"Your name is?"
"Jobson, sir," the elderly guard answered, almost clicking his heels. "Ted Jobson."
Palmer smiled warmly. "Good to meet you, Ted. These are three of my friends. We're just going to look around. I thought I'd show off the place."
Jobson grinned. He looked like he'd collapse if you blew on him. "Nicest apartments in Mayfair, sir. You'll love it here. Very quiet, too."
"Great," Palmer smiled. "What about the neighbours? Anyone interesting?"
The old man's eyes twinkled. "Miss Roxanne has the flat next to yours, sir. You'll love her. A real beauty, and a real classy lady, too."
"Sounds good," Palmer grinned. "I could use some feminine company. Is she married?"
"Oh, no, sir," Jobson answered, putting a hand on Palmer's arm as he leant in confidentially. "But she entertains the occasional male friend." He gave a knowing wink.
"Is that right?" Palmer responded, smiling warmly into the old man's twinkling eyes. "Is she in? I might introduce myself."
The grey-haired guard shook his head. "No, sir. Went out some time ago. Can't say when she'll be back."
Palmer put on a disappointed look. "Well, perhaps some other time then. Tell me, Ted, what time are you here until?"
"Six o'clock, sir. Then the night guard takes over. I'll tell him all about you, sir."
"I'd appreciate that, Ted," Palmer responded, leading Wilson and Boyd towards the elevator. "Catch up with you later."
"Satisfactory? It was wonderful. I've never stayed anywhere as beautiful. And I just loved that massage you arranged last night."
Erin DeVere smiled at Kelli. She'd caught the early morning flight from London and arrived not more than half an hour ago. Her original plan had been to fly up with her newest model, but her afterthought to give the tall and willowy blonde a taste of decadence had paid dividends.
All the better to lull her into the web she was weaving.
"Absolutely," came the immediate response. "But so excited, too. I can't believe you arranged a shoot so quickly, Erin."
The sophisticated American woman laughed. "I haven't just arranged the shoot, Kelli. I've just replaced the model I intended to use. You're perfect for what we have in mind. No problem escaping from your husband for two days?"
Erin led the young model into the opulent mansion on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It had once been the summer home for some minor royalty, she'd heard. She'd used it for shoots before, and it was perfect for Kelli's first one.
"Not at all," the blonde responded as Erin opened the front door. Kelli's phone call to Jack had been brief and to the point. She'd be working on a two-day shoot. And as he was engrossed in his new case, she didn't expect she'd be seeing much of him anyway. Perhaps an uncalled for jibe, but true nevertheless.
The Agency Head smiled, the corners of her mouth crinkling in what was becoming a familiar way. "Good! I have big plans for you, Kelli. As long as you keep following instructions, the sky's the limit."
The naïve blonde nodded. She'd do anything to pursue her dream.
"Have you ever shot with another woman?" Erin asked, smiling as the young model gulped and shook her head. "Well, Brooke's easy to work with. You'll love her. Come on."
She led the excited girl through the house to the luxurious living room, where the shoot would be conducted. As they passed the hall mirror, she studied her latest 'acquisition' quickly. Kelli's long, blonde hair fell in loose waves around her bare shoulders, and the way her strapless top hugged her round breasts was delicious. The low-rise skinny jeans were designer, which was good. Her girls needed to present themselves with a certain standard.
"Kelli, I'd like you to meet the photographer, Chad. He's one of the best in the business."
The Billy Zane look-alike was hurrying out the living room, adjusting the long lens of his sleek black camera. Why was it so many bald men felt they needed to wear caps? Though she had to admit, even back to front, this one added to the short, muscular man's sexiness. Kelli shook his hand with a "good to meet you."
"Just running out to my car for a few more pieces of equipment. But we should be ready to start shooting shortly."
"Wonderful. Brooke's here?" The man nodded, then hurried past them.
The vaulted ceilings and tall, pained windows made this place perfect for photoshoots. Even on rainy days, the lighting in here remained perfect. Gauzy drapes that hung from the high tops of each window softened the sunlight, and the crystal chandelier that dominated the centre of the room sparkled whenever it shifted in airy space.
Chad had already finished most of the set-up. He'd erected his flashbulbs and draped a couple areas of the room - one in front of those old-worldy sofas, the other near one of the deep windowsills. He'd set up his cameras and light meters on the cherry wood console table on the darker side of the room.
A short, curvy model was standing with her back to Erin and Kelli as they entered, fiddling with something next to all the equipment. She was barely dressed in a lacy pair of black, boy-short panties and a matching bra.
"Brooke, I'd like you to meet Kelli, the latest to join Erin's Models," the older woman introduced.
The raven-haired beauty turned, her smile bright enough to compete with the photographer's lamps, and set something down on the table before striding across to them.
As she moved, the pocket dynamo threw her hips like she was walking a runway. Her lean, tanned body could have been right out of Playboy. The black bra seemed to struggle with firm, ripe breasts. Her bust coupled with her narrow waist and wide hips gave a new definition to the term 'hour-glass.'
When her eyes eventually made her way back to Brooke's face, Kelli realised that the young model had been basking in her gaze. She calmly raised a manicured eyebrow. "Hot, eh, babe? I'm Brooke." She held out her hand, and Kelli nervously shook it. "Your palms are sweaty. I like that." She winked at Erin.
"I'm sorry. It's just... this is all so beautiful." The blonde looked around, concentrating on studying the lavish home in a feeble attempt to shift the attention off her.
Brooke chuckled, turning away and strolling back to the table she'd been standing at. "Do you own this place?" Kelli asked Erin.
The Agency Head gave a soft laugh. If this girl got any more nervous, she'd have a heart attack.
"We rent it for shoots such as this," she said smoothly, reaching out to touch the girl's bare arm. Her soft skin shivered beneath her fingers. "Come this way, darling." She tightened her grip on Kelli's arm just enough to guide her over to Brooke. "I've produced three supermodels from Europe so far. You could be the fourth."
Kelli nodded enthusiastically, but her response died as soon as she realized what Brooke was doing. Erin felt the naïve girl stiffen as the raven-haired beauty finished carving a third line of white powder.
"Erin..." Kelli began, glancing across at her. Her words caught in her throat when Brooke rolled up a bill and did a quick line.
The Agency Head flashed a smile. Erin understood what the susceptible Kelli must have been feeling. Why, the poor girl had actually begun to shake! But there was no escape. She'd left her nowhere to go. "This'll cure your nervousness, darling."
Brooke handed Erin the note and she quickly did her own line. She sniffed sharply, rubbing her nose and licking her lips. When she handed the bill to Kelli, her eyes closely watched the blonde's reaction.
It was everything she wanted. Her fingers quivered a little. Her saucer-wide brown eyes bounced from Erin to Brooke to the remaining coke on the circular mirror.
Seemingly against all her better instincts, the young woman took the bill, leant forward and snorted the remaining line of cocaine.