WHERE HAVE YOU GONE?! …….. PIET MONDRIAN, chapter 20
Another good night of sleep. I was starting to make a habit of it. Good thing, too. I needed to be alert and stay that way. Relying on coffee meant that I was a strung-out alert and that wasn't the same.
I rolled a cigarette and did the toilet routine coughing my way through each step. Damn, this wasn't any fun anymore. I lazed around my apartment longer than I normally did. I'd left Sassy get into the day and then make my grand entry. I picked up the McCorkle whodunnit and tried to project on whodunnit. I felt I had a better chance with this mystery than the real one I was dealing with.
At one, I made my way to the office. Since I was in no hurry, I decided on walking through the park. It was actually warm. And it felt as if it would get more warm. Summer at last? Well, as long as it didn't get too hot or, if it did, as long as it didn't last too long, I thought I could handle it. I was actually sweating when I reached the Leidsekade. I saw the one tail but couldn't locate the other. That made me uneasy, Vic was in position and I gave him the prearranged signal as to where the one person was. Vic had come up with a clever plan of selling kids inflated balloons as ruse for his hanging around the bridge at the end of the Leidsekade. The only problem with the plan was that the police might ask to see his permit to sell on the street. But there were lots of tourist in town so they were probably paying attention to other things.
Sassy greeted me nicely enough, though not as exuberantly as yesterday. I didn't hold back for a moment and said even before she made coffee that there was good news and bad news. Which did she want first? "The one where I get the raise!"
"Well, that's the good news part ... There is money to be made with the diamonds ... Lots of money---"
"And the bad news?"
"Yeah, the bad news. Well, it's complicated. Very complicated. I am beginning to think I'm not playing with a full deck---"
"A full deck? Is that another one of your American expressions?"
"Yes, indeed. It certainly is. It comes from playing a game of cards, like gin rummy, and you are waiting for one card. But it just doesn't come up. It doesn't come up because it has been lost. It isn't in the deck. You're not playing with a full deck? Comprehend?"
"I got it! But what card is missing?" she asked most seriously.
"Well, Sassy, I am beginning to think it isn't one card. It could be a series of cards. Like all the aces. In fact, I am beginning to think that there is more than one or two Jokers in the deck as well. Nothing seems to be Kosher about this diamond thing; and, I don't know, now, which case is the more incomprehensible: the diamond one or the Mondrian affair."
She then told me I had had one call from a Meneer Pol. Did I know him? she asked.
"Sure I do. He's the one I call De Vet." I had decided last night that I should call him today. I gave it a little more thought and came to the opinion that now was as good a time as any. I asked Sassy to dial for me. I get off on the luxury of being able to have other people do a simple task like this for me. That might mean that I had the makings of a good millionaire. Everything was possible. Being a millionaire and being a good millionaire. That's what the diamonds could buy.
Sassy punched in the numbers for the man and, moments later, talked to De Vet secretary and De Vet's secretary contacted De Vet with the news that I was calling and after all the bullshit hierarchy had been worked out we said hello to each other. De Vet got right to business, what was new about the diamonds? I told him that I had seen a sample. I said they looked good and that we had arranged another meeting. I gave him the overall view and said that we were at the point that we were taking it slow. Feeling our way. He said, "Mozhe shitou guo he." I asked, "What was that, Chinese?" He said it was and it meant, "The way you cross a stream is by feeling with your feet for the rocks ahead." I replied, that that was as good of a saying as any I could think of and certainly applied to the circumstances. Leave it to the Dutch; they are all natural born linguist. I said I would be in touch! De Vet said, "Ciao."
Next, I asked Sassy to call Mendocina. Once I had her on the phone, I asked immediately if anything unusual had happened the night before? Nothing out of the ordinary, she replied. She asked if I had talked with Bas. I said that there had already been a meeting. I told her that the diamonds were real and that there was money to be made. But I also said that, at this point, it was touch and go. I asked her if she considered this Bas to be a dumb-bell and she answered, "No more than any other man." Touché. She went on to say she thought him a simple person, but he did have his own business so he couldn't be dumb. I asked if she knew were the shop was? "No idea!" Did she know what kind of shop it was? She answered, she may have asked during their pillow talk conversations, but, well, she didn't recall. "It wasn't anything that got my attention, I guess." I said, I understood that. I ended the call by saying I was setting up another meeting with Bas and would call her with the details of that meeting afterwards.
Then I had Sassy dial the number I had for Bas. He answered simply with, "Bas." No last name. No shop name. I couldn't even check out the central registry to learn his address without his family name or shop name. Unlike America, European countries kept close tabs on its citizens. Everyone had to be registered at the town hall. In my business, that was not a good idea. So I had long ago worked out a way to go by the rules while following my own rules. I had registered my living space with my office address. My flat was not classified as a "residence" but as a "business space," therefore there was never a question as to who lived at the address because no one did ... except little ol' me. I asked Bas when we could meet and he said anytime. I suggested Saturday, at the same time and at the same place. "Okay," was the reply. Done! Hey, that was easy.
I checked my watch and saw that it was close to the time for Vic and me to perform the great illusionist sleight of hand. Then the phone rang. Sassy answered and motioned to my extension and said, "Vic." I picked-up. "Well, Cord, I haven't located a second bloke. He doesn't seem to be here. What do you want to do?"
I thought for a minute and finally said, "We'll play it through. I don't like that the other guy isn't visible, but, well, maybe he'll flush out when I get on the scene---"
"Okay by me. When?"
"Where are you now?"
"At the pay phones in front of the Hirsch building. Just 60 or so feet from the Leidsekade."
"Five minutes ... Hey, where are you goin' stash the balloons?"
"Blimy, mate, they're filled with helium. All I gotta do is let go and they're airborn. They'll be on the moon this time tomorrow."
I told Sassy I was leaving for the day. I went to the gate, caught my breath and opened it. I walked around the Lido's back entrance and onto the Leidsekade. At the corner, I turned right and walked to the tram stops. There were four, one on each side of the street for each street; and since the Leidseplein was a major intersection, there were about five or more tram lines that transversed it. My plan was very simple, I would hop the first tram I came to just as the doors closed. And that's what I did. Once on the tram, I looked out the window and saw my tail who was looking very unhappy. I scanned the area, but couldn't see his back-up. I really didn't like that. Were they on to the fact that I was on to them? I could only hope not.
I took the tram to the Dam. Exited and went to a cafe. I needed a drink. I had time to kill before meeting with Vic. And even more time to kill before Vic and I met with the Hog. I thought I should have brought the book I was reading. I find it difficult to just kill time. If I had thought to bring along the Herald, I could have done the crossword puzzle. Having done neither, I sat on the terrace of the cafe, in the late afternoon sun, and watched all the girls go by. Short skirts topped with tight t-shirts and a few---instead of wearing summer-ware sandals---strutted on their well tailored legs in high boots. Sexy! "These boots are made for walkin' and their goin' walk all over you." Do it to me, baby. Which reminded me, I had been celibate for a few weeks, maybe more than a few weeks. Since my last relationship had ended, I had been reluctant to jump into another. In a way, I felt that I was avoiding women for fear of being seduced into one. Masturbation was less trouble, not to mention, sometimes more satisfying then the real thing. Hey, women's lib, put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Then it was time to go. The meet with Vic was at De Pels. He was at the bar when I entered and sucking on a beer. I joined him and ordered a beer for myself. He looked at me dourly and said, "I followed the bloke to the Israelian consulate office."
I nearly shit in my pants and recovered just enough to blurt out, "Israelian...? Mossad? Why ...? No, can't be! These guys are good, but not that good! No way they can be Mossad ... and, more to the point, why? What is it about these two cases that I have trouble answering the why's?" Vic just sat there staring at me. Was he even listening to what I was saying? I didn't like the calm on his face it made him look like he was walking around in a fog or like one of those cement gnomes you see in an English garden. Scary.
"Look, Mossad is a real gung-ho and ruthless intelligence agency ... Yeah, these guys do have swagger. Just what you would expect ... No doubt about that. But their competency is lacking ... Maybe their trainees ...? Did you finally see the other one?"
"Now, mate, that is the question, innit? I had this feeling that I was being watched. You know what I mean? I got the feeling that they might be exchanging signals back and forth. This got me to thinkin' that they were leading me somewhere...You know?" He started in on his knuckles; and I thought it a good time to twiddle my thumbs.
"Why would they be interested in me---?"
"Why indeed?" He just sat there staring at his beer and cracking his knuckles, then suddenly blurted out "... Bloody blimy hell ... They're interested in you because of the fuckin' diamonds! Who controls the industry? The Jews. That's who. Amsterdam, Antwerp, London, New York and Tel Aviv! That's gotta be the connection ... and I bloody hell don't like being mixed up with anything these guys might think of as their business ... of all the frigging luck ... What the fuck should we do?"
We sat and pondered the situation. Not much was said and the next thing I knew was I was saying, "Hey, look at the time. We have to meet with the Hog."
He was where he said he would be, but, of course, he was always here. Couldn't help but wonder about his marital relationship. I seem to recall that, in the Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade was having an affair with his partner's----Archer was it?---wife. Maybe that was something for me, Hog's wife. A married woman. No commitments. Clandestine meetings two or three times a week. True, the Hog wasn't my partner; only an associate. But that was close enough, I guess.
The Hog must have seen the long faces that both Vic and I were wearing because he said, "What's wrong?"
I ran it through for Bert. When I had finished he said, "This is not good!"
Vic and I responded in chorus, "No it's not!" And I threw in for good measure, "It couldn't be worse!" I think I heard an "Amen" from Vic on that.
"What are we to do?" Suddenly, I flashed back to when I was a kid and watching a segment of The Three Stooges series where Curly---or was it Moe---would come up with the "perfect solution," but, of course, it never was and, in fact, only made things worse. That's all I could think of, things getting worse. I mean, the Mossad played for keeps. But I didn't know if they were Mossad. I could always hope that they weren't. Yeah, there's always hope.
This new wrinkle only confused what approach we could make with Bas, the guy with the diamonds. We came up with no new ideas on that subject. I told them I had scheduled the next meeting for Saturday. We would go ahead with the meeting, but we would stall it was decided. We broke up our little meeting at midnight. We would all meet at the antique shop at 18:00 in two days. The Hog said he would relieve his wife about five and have her out of the way by the time we arrived. We would all try and think on the latest development.
I caught one of the last trams to the Leidseplein so I could get my bike. I did a thorough surveillance of the perimeter around the office before approaching it. Either side of the gate would be a perfect place for these two to corner me. I didn't like my chances of going up against them. Hell, I was still smarting from my little friskiness with Mendocina and she was only a girl. Or was she?
I didn’t sleep much that night.