Daddy's Here(6)By: Lucy Wild
“That was stupid, wasn’t it?” I said, bending his arm a little further. “How much cooking can you do with a broken arm, Alberto?”
I was in the car with the money in a paper bag exactly three minutes later. That’s the problem with all the newcomers to this business, they listen to any old excuse, they let people get away with anything. Let them walk all over you and they’ll do that forever. You just need to be firm with people. Don’t take shit from anyone.
Normally, I’d head back to Matteo after a job like this, but not this time. This time I swung onto the road and headed out of town, the phone call had changed my plans.
I didn’t know a huge amount about Jonathan Fleming. I knew he was a lawyer, who didn’t? I knew he’d done some work for the Matteo family in the past, though what work that was, I had no idea. Legal stuff didn’t interest me, that was for far bigger crooks than me.
The Fleming house was so famous even I’d heard of it, one of the biggest estates in the county. There was no mistaking it as I approached, the huge wrought iron gates painted blue and green, the rolling lawns beyond, the massive house on top of the hill overlooking the surrounding landscape.
I’d not been inside before and I had no idea what was waiting for me when I got there. I could only guess that Matteo owed him a favour and that’s why I was waiting for the intercom to respond to me, my engine grumbling at being forced to stand still for so long.
“Yes,” a voice snapped from the tinny speaker at last.
“Mr Matteo sent me.”
There was no reply but a second later the gates swung open and I drove slowly up the drive towards the house. I wouldn’t say my heart raced, it never did. But I did feel a slight feathery tension, the same thing I felt before every big job. I got the feeling someone needed taking care of and I was going to have to do it. Turned out, I was right, someone did need taking care of, just not in the way I’d imagined.
The front door opened as I approached it and I was greeted by a balding man in his fifties. The cut of his suit and the haughty manner with which he held the door told me I was facing the man of the house. His arrogance was belied by anxiety though, an anxiety that showed itself in the way his eyes fixed on mine like a drowning man stares at a life ring. What was wrong with him?
“You’ve got to help me,” he said, grabbing my arm and tugging me into the house. “Please, tell me you can help me.”
“All right,” I replied, yanking my arm loose and passing into the hallway. “Just calm down.”
“Calm down, he says,” he replied, breaking into a nervous laugh. “Tony Matteo is going to kill me and he says calm down. That’s funny.”
Tony was going to kill him? What had he done? Tony never killed anyone himself. I frowned. “Talk.”
“Talk, right, right. Sorry. God, where do I begin?”
“At the beginning is usually best.”
“We haven’t got time for that, she could be anywhere by now.”
I’d run out of patience. I grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him through the nearest doorway. I found a chair and shoved him down into it. Scraping another chair across the varnished wood, I sat opposite him and folded my arms. “Talk.”
“You’ve got to help me. My daughter’s gone missing.”
“And what’s that got to do with me?”
“She’s supposed to be marrying Kingsley Matteo.”
“I see.” Now it made sense. Kingsley was Tony’s only son. So that was why Matteo had rung me. He’d set Kingsley up with Fleming’s daughter and she’d taken the eminently sensible step of running away. But why choose me? I didn’t find people. I disappeared people.
“When you say gone missing, do you mean someone’s taken her?”
“I don’t know,” he said, a flash of anger mixed in with the sorrow in his voice. “All I know is that she’s gone. She’s not answering her phone, there’s no one at her place. She’s just gone.”
I took a deep breath before answering. This wasn’t me, this wasn’t my job. But for whatever reason, Matteo had chosen me to track her down. What choice did I have? If I turned the job down, it’d be me who’d be disappearing. Permanently.
“Will you help me?” he asked, leaning forwards in his chair.
“This isn’t what I normally do, have you gone to the police?”
“Tony said you were better than them. He said you’d find her, tell me you can find her.”
“I need somewhere to start, any idea where she’d go?”
“Not a clue.”