The Woman in Red: 27. The man with the gloves
Through the indications from Katarina, Cecile had brought her sister and Jean-Pierre to the place of the rendezvous. They had agreed that Cecile would wait in the car as a lookout if any suspicious individuals or even the police knew about their activities.
Katarina was very nervous. She had consulted her mobile many times, despite she hadn’t received a signal. She didn’t know where to put her hands. She also had bitten upon her fingernails, in the end she had nestled herself against Jean-Pierre and was playing absent-mindedly with the fingers of his left hand.
Why had Beatrice chosen this place to meet? The night club - ‘Pretty Men and Women’ - was one of Beatrice’s properties herself. Katarina didn’t find it a good choice because the police knew all this locations and could watch the neighborhood. Nonetheless the risk, they hadn’t been able to hold her away to go through with the appointment.
‘Thanks, Cecile, for all you have done. I owe you one, a big one.’ Katarina smiled warmly at her sister and got it returned too.
‘Don’t mention it, you’re my sister; it’s the least I can do. For my mother…, that’s a whole different matter,’ Cecile added with a sneer on her face.
Katarina and Jean-Pierre went hand in hand to the entrance of the building where the nightclub was. Nothing pointed to whatever danger, but both of them were still looking around as if they would be attacked any moment now.
Jean-Pierre touched the door handle and didn’t find resistance. It seemed the door was open, it was obvious they expected company. Through a dark corridor, they arrived at a bad lightened stairway leading to a cellar. According to Katarina the bar and the club were situated there. The door leading to this space also wasn't locked.
Jean-Pierre went first and peeped around the corner. He saw nothing. There was nobody at the bar nor in the part that served as the nightclub.
‘Maybe she couldn’t come, and she’ll let us know something,’ he suggested without believing it himself.
They suddenly heard a stumbling behind the curtains of the little podium at the end of the nightclub. Two men holding the Baroness between them appeared from behind the large podium curtains. The Baroness had a gag in her mouth was looking a bit dazzled, but when she recognized Katarina, her eyes drew wide open, and there was fear in them. They pushed her roughly in a chair, and the taller one of the two guys pointed to Jean-Pierre and Katarina and then at the two other chairs. These gorillas apparently couldn't talk.
At first Jean-Pierre wouldn’t obey, but when the smallest of them drew a weapon they had to accept this unfriendly proposition.
‘What is all this, who are you?’ Katarina’s voice sounded shrill and metallic in this big space that was empty except for them. Katarina had noticed her mother had a bandage on her hand. That would explain the blood in the room of the Courthouse. Obviously the wound wasn’t life-threatening since her mother could walk into the room by herself.
Without anyone of the two bulls had opened their mouth, a distinguished gentleman entered the same way his accomplices had done. He was dressed up in a three-piece suit, and it attracted Jean-Pierre's attention he wore gloves. Probably he didn't like having dirty hands and had appealed to the two gangsters who were flanking the Baroness at this moment.
‘I suppose you’re Katarina since you have accepted the invitation, but I don’t have the pleasure to know this man.’ His cold eyes looked at Jean-Pierre from head to toes. He inspected him and obviously didn’t like it.
‘He’s a good friend of mine who…, has driven me,’ Katarina answered, ‘he knows everything.’
The man suddenly laughed very hard. ‘Everything…, what’s everything, my child? You don’t know what you're saying. If you knew everything that I know, you wouldn't talk like that. You…, you don’t know anything. And for your well-being, let’s keep it that way.’ He made a sign at the closest helper who removed the gag from The Baroness.
She was retching while the man released her from the dirty rag they had put in her mouth. 'Katarina...!' Her voice stammered and tears were running down her face.
The gentleman made some rounds around the chair where the Baroness was sitting on, without losing them out of sight. ‘The thing is, my dear Katarina, your mother thought she could make some extra money, and by doing that she has crossed a border. Such a fact usually has to be punished. But my employer is very broadminded so that in certain conditions he can forget and forgive.'
Katarina and Jean-Pierre listened with growing surprise at the monolog of this parvenu. They looked, full of incomprehension at the Baroness, who, meanwhile, sat there in silence with her head bent and dwindled in the chair. The woman was apparently broken being exhausted and full of fear.
‘It’ll be not strange to you, in the circumstances that are called normal at the Chateau, there are a lot of influential gentleman and women visiting. My employer is someone you can count to this category of people. Unfortunately, I have to confess he can be indiscreet when he has drunk a bit and is enjoying the presence of female beauty. Madame seems to have the habit to record some conversations and used to trade them for pecuniary gain. I am the first to applaud any entrepreneurship and to stimulate it, but when it concerns my employer, it’s a whole other matter. His connections with our organization can’t be public knowledge. We have worked too long to have a piece of the pie if I may use this playful comparison.’
The man apparently loved to hear himself talking. He accompanied his argument with broad gestures like a famous lawyer who argued in favor for his client. Once in a while he stood still putting his hand on the shoulder of the Baroness. Every time she shrunk even more in fear for him.
‘The tapes...? Yes, we know there are three tape-recordings, but we have a small problem. Madame the Baroness, unfortunately, don’t want to say where they are. But now that her daughter is her, I'm sure she can be convinced, for the common welfare she would better think again. In a few steps, he stood next to Katarina and grabbed her by the neck.
Jean-Pierre jumped off his chair but was pushed by one of the accomplices. He fell backward over it and stayed on the ground because the man pointed his pistol at him, and he was afraid to move and get a bullet through his head.
‘Lady, Madam, if you prefer,’ the leader spoke,’ you have exactly five seconds to tell me where the tapes are, otherwise…’ He also had taken his pistol out of his holster and significantly held it against the side of Katarina’s face.
‘One…, two…, three…, four…!’