The Free House
Kirkup and Ford were outside The Free House at eight o’clock that same evening. The Free House was one of a kind, though there were many pale imitations. The proprietors Miss Louise and Miss Suzanne Bamber were twins, born into a wealthy theatrical family. They had no interest in acting but loved the after show parties and started to host parties themselves as soon as they came of age. This quickly evolved to become what the Free House represented a place to party where anything was available, all you had to do was ask and be willing to pay of course. This free for all led to a number of attempted takeovers by various criminal organizations and closures by the police. Unfortunately for the criminals and police alike they had come up against some very smart and ruthless women.
They utilized all the resources available to them, politicians, famous people and other crooks. Putting all their knowledge and skills together they were able to neutralize all threats to themselves and even come out ahead. This created the theory that they are at the centre of a very new and dangerous criminal network, ranging from prostitution and drugs to arms dealing and any form of useful information. Anything from someone’s dark history to insider knowledge of a multinational corporation was for sale.
The establishment had been checked numerous times by the regular police, but they found it was too important a source of criminal information, and to close it down would only drive the organisation deeper, below a level that they would not be able to monitor it, so leaving it in operation where they could keep and eye on it was the best option. Or they had been bribed by the twins not to close down the establishment but this was not much aired except in very low places. This was the first time U Branch had any dealing with the notorious Twins.
Kirkup let Ford drive up and park in front of a grand four-story building. A beautiful building that had once belonged to some rich aristocrat in the not to distant past. They headed up the grand marble steps up to the portico entrance and asked the bouncer to let them in to see the Twins. They were forced to wait a moment while the bouncer did his job by ejecting old drunken reprobate from the establishment, how he had got in the first place was a mystery to the two security officers considering the trouble they were having getting in.
Kirkup easily identified the bouncer from the Security files he had quickly skimmed before heading out. The bouncer, Richard Eborn, the son of wealthy middle class family, good connections and would have been swimming with the big fish in the rich areas of the city except he liked to practice his martial arts on people rather than in the dojo. He was tall and unusually thin for a bouncer and extremely well dressed in a black tuxedo, he had the classic look of a dandy but a dangerous one. The file also said he was fanatically loyal to the twins. They had taken him in when he was in desperate need of help when no one else would touch him. He was also probably in love with one or both of them, Pete thought. He gave Eborn a polite nod, which said, “I can take you so be careful!” Eborn give him an open smile which said, “Any time Please.” as he escorted them into the building.
They were shown into a well-furnished reception room in the old African colonial style of well-padded armchairs and dark wooden furniture and grim portraits. After an excessive wait, (the inhabitants of The Free House did not seem to have the same fear of the Security Service as everyone else), Kirkup and Ford were shown up a wide sweeping polished staircase down a plush corridor decorated in the latest style with famous modern painting artistically placed down the length of the corridor and into another plush apartment room at the rear of the building. Everyone could not help but like the Twins; they had an effusive quality of friendliness and naivety. Which enabled them to disarm even the most antagonistic intruder. Distinguishing between the pair was next to impossible; they looked, dressed and acted alike.
“How may we be of assistance to you, gentlemen?” queried one of the ladies coyly. Kirkup pondered his reply as he looked over the apartment they had been shown in to. The twins sat behind a beautiful low Chinese lacquered coffee table that would have cost both his and Fords salary for a year and a large chunk more.
He went for the direct approach. He never had been any good where subtlety was involved.
“Do you know these people?” he asked, handing a sheaf of photographs to one of the ladies. Louise examined the pictures carefully while Suzanne smiled and asked,
“Would either of you like a drink?”
“A cider would be pleasant, thank you.” Kirkup answered grinning. Ford declined the cider but asked for a cup of tea. As the drinks were brought in and the two men were seated into comfortable chairs brought into the room and placed in front of the table, the twins passed the photos between themselves, quietly discussing them at same time. The conversation seemed to revolve around the clothes the corpses were wearing and the poor state they were in. It was only after Kirkup and Ford had made a dent in their drinks did the twins show any knowledge of the deceased.
“We know them, though not intimately of course…” Suzanne said demurely. Louise giggled politely at the joke but saying nothing just sipping her cocktail. Kirkup stared intently at Suzanne waiting for her to continue. Silence was just as useful a weapon in interrogations as shouting and banging your fist on the table. People always felt they had to fill the silence.
“They were members of a RIP group, Rapid Insertion Patrol, now ex-military, they were based in Birmingham. They were originally formed during the Pollevy War in ’41. They were a crack commando retrieval squad for the Army trained near Hereford I believe. You should have classified files on them somewhere; I am surprised their fingerprints did not throw up a red flag somewhere!
From what we can remember they were given dishonourable discharges for the Nelson Scandal in which they were accused of directly causing the deaths of five hostages, which included a number of Empire Liberal Faction (ELF) politicians.
Recently they have been associated with the Free Democratic Movement (Freedom), who as you know have been trying to de-stabilise the Empire for the last thirty years since end of the Great War in 1920. From what we can gather they have split with the Freedom with whom they have be allied, over access to various intelligence sources.”
“So how many are there in this so called squad?” Asked Ford scribbling furiously in his notebook.
“There are fourteen active members, though I am sure they could find help if they needed it.” Louise stated as she swirled her cocktail.
“Fourteen plus six” pondered Kirkup, “hey that’s more like a platoon than a squad. If there had been twenty soldiers it would have made a formidable team.
“We don’t organise the military.” Suzanne quipped, smiling. “We just relate the information you ask for.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know their mission code?” Ford asked politely hoping they would be able to inform him of the Militaries code reference for the group.
“Of course my dear, reference number 4U12S103AY code name Metal Gnomes.” Suzanne came back sweetly, with a flirty smile. Ford blushed and Kirkup grinned and remarked after pause to dig out an elusive memory,
“I’ve heard of them, I thought the Nelson Scandal was familiar.” His eyeballs rolled up as he tried to remember more of the details.
“Do not stress yourself.” Louise chirped brightly, “You can retrieve all the data from your nice Security database.”
“Speaking of data, you wouldn’t happen to know what is on the disks they want decoded?” Kirkup inquired in his own subtle way. The Twins glanced at each other and Louise oozed,
“No, but we can find out if you want? Of course Mulholland will not be revealing any information so it may take a little time.”
“Mulholland! What do you know about him?” Ford blurted looking up from his tea.
“Oh only that his life insurance is just about to be paid out.” Suzanne replied still looking in Kirkups' direction.
“Are you saying what I think your saying?” Kirkup queried leaning forward in his chair and staring hard at Suzanne.
“I don’t know, are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“If you carry on like this I probably won’t be thinking at all.” Kirkup smiled at his own warped style of logic. Suzanne frowned and said slowly,
“Mr. Mulholland was killed approximately thirty minutes ago!” Checking her gold oyster Rolex watch.
“How!” spluttered Ford astounded.
“An large explosion demolished his shop and home and severely damaged the surrounding area.” Explained Louise patiently to Ford.
“What a way to go, one good bang and its all over!” smirked Kirkup softly, Ford gave his partner a quizzical stare.
“As always.” Suzanne replied wryly, Louise then stood up.
“If you ever need our services again please drop by, you are always welcome.” She said with here famous come back again smile.
“I may take you up on that.” Kirkup said rising from his chair. A thought occurred to him as the two security officers reached the door.
“You wouldn’t happen to know of anyone who has had any dealing with any of these people we can talk too?” Kirkup asked turning back from the door looking back toward the twins.
“As a matter of fact we may, ask Rich at the door for the whereabouts of “Cat”, he’ll point you in the right direction.” Suzanne responded after a brief pause and an enigmatic smile. Kirkup was sure she knew more than she had told and that it affected him personally.
Kirkup and Ford strolled back through the Free House going via the main rooms for a quick look before heading back to the front door, getting the occasional glance from a range of important people. If it had not been for the overwhelming number of beautiful women swarming over every male customer in the place it could have put Cairo’s to shame, the hottest club going in Broom Hills. Ford asked, “How did they know what questions we were going to ask?
Kirkup smiled, “Sub vocal computer net.”
“Eh! What!” Ford queried.
There is a computer screen on the wall by the door behind where we were sitting and the Ladies, bless them, had sub vocal microphones which allowed them to request information from their own database which was then displayed behind us. They then read it off to us. That was why it took so long for them to tell us anything about the photos, they had to be scanned and then a search performed to find any info relating to them.” Kirkup replied easily.
“The table is computer similar to one we saw at Mulholland’ but with a scanner built into it. Of course they had to have access to secure hidden military files, which we have not been privy. So the information was all military and not what they have been doing in the last few weeks. No matter, now we know where to start we can find out all we want.” Kirkup finished with a determined expression.
There was a bit of ruckus at the door as they waited for Rich to eject an old deadbeat from the establishment with the familiar words, “And I don’t want to see your ugly face round here again!” Kirkup sent Ford on ahead to get the car and on to find out about Mulholland, was he dead or what? While he had quiet a chat to Rich about Cats present whereabouts.