The grass is always greener

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

 The grass is always greener.


Rachel had rehearsed the meeting in her head a dozen times; she’d met him twice already and there was no doubt she fancied him. He was the kind of man most women fall for; not  good looking but tall and rugged, he exuded confidence; and had the  air of the cheeky schoolboy. About her own age, he was intelligent with a self effacing manner that seemed to add to his attraction.  But today’s date was not about pleasures of the flesh it was business. She needed his help; she needed to know that what she’d been told about him was true. Would he accept the risk? Did he have the backing and connections to finance the operation?On the meetings outcome rested a very lucrative opportunity.

Rachel had taken a long time selecting her outfit that morning, she needed to impress but not overpower. She still didn’t know if, when she actually explained her reasons for the meeting that he wouldn’t just report her to the authorities; she’d have to be careful. Rachel dressed with care; understated yet elegant, distinctive but not obvious; she always tried to look feminine. It was a conscious effort to deflect the casual observer from noticing the trim muscular figure that sat easily under the silk Armani suit that shimmered in the June sunshine. The Gucci shoes, small Louis Vuitton hand bag and platinum Rolex all blended to make Rachel Abigail Piper a picture of the well healed female drone. Known to her friends as Rap, Rachel took great pleasure in cultivating the image of a dizzy, decadent, somewhat distracted “do gooder“. Her day job was heading the P.R department of a successful children’s charity, not well paid but she enjoyed it. Thoughts tumbled into her brain as she hurried across the pavement. It was a little over nine years  since she  joined the charity, she remembered exactly because it was just after she’d liberated those exquisite emeralds from the dowager Lady Mountford. Her heart skipped a beat as she recalled the climb up to the second floor, and the narrow escape she’d had with the security guards, she’d learned a lot from that exercise.

Until three weeks ago Rachel had led something of a charmed life. Left school at sixteen and joined the family security business. She’d worked in the shop during her school holidays and found that locks safes and burglar alarms held a fascination that she couldn’t explain.  The business had been started by her grandfather, who by all accounts was a master locksmith. Her father had steered the company into security surveillance and electronic detection equipment. Rachel had just grown up in the business and she loved it!  At the end of what she liked to call her “apprenticeship” she knew more about locks, safes and security systems than all the other staff put together. At about the time she was ready to join the board, her father sold the company. Being an only daughter it had long been assumed that Rachel would carry on the business but after much discussion she’d agreed that the opportunity was too good to miss. She’d been swayed by the thought that her father would pay her a large six figure sum as part of her special redundancy package. And so it happened, at 21 she'd been able to buy a penthouse flat and have enough spare cash to live for six months without being unduly worried.But inevitably, after a week or so of doing nothing she was bored. She’d been looking round for something that would interest her, and almost by accident, an idea that had been floating round in her head suddenly found a facilitator. She’d met Hugo Brand at a party; he was an antiques dealer, much older than Rachel, but fun to be with. After a late dinner date, one evening, they’d gone back to his apartment where he’d proceeded to get very drunk. He rambled on about his business and how well it was doing; and trying to impress Rachel he told her all about his connections with the underworld. The antiques business apparently gave him the opportunity to buy stolen goods and make huge profits. According to Hugo he only fenced top quality gear and he paid top dollar. Thinking about the evening much later Rachel felt she’d had a lucky escape. Hugo had passed out at about midnight and Rachel had taken a taxi home. But the talk about fencing quality merchandise had set Rachel thinking. The next day when Rachel met Hugo for lunch, she reminded him of his dubious connections; he was sheepish and perhaps a bit hung over; but told Rachel in no uncertain terms that he knew people and if she said too much he’d make her life very difficult. But Rachel, with a smile, suggested she may have a couple of items that required his more specialised services. She remembered the look on his face; what sort of items he’d asked? Top quality jewellery she said.

Always a bit of a fire brand, Rachel had been thinking about it for some time! There were a great many people in the world who were too rich for their own good; some of the most unsavoury,  people seemed to have more than their fair share!  The thought had been crystallised  by a newspaper article which had printed details of an obnoxious Russian Oligarch who’d bought his girl friend a matching diamond necklace  and earrings worth half a million pounds. There were the usual pictures and details of his ostentatious Surrey mansion. Rachel couldn’t resist; two weeks later she broke in and stole the necklace and ear rings, and Hugo paid her a hundred thousand pounds, so everyone, apart from the Oligarch and his girl friend was happy.  For a week or so the newspapers ran fantastic stories about how the daring raid had been carried out, a cat burglar had managed to bypass the sophisticated security system and open the state of the art safe. There was great speculation about his identity and the police admitted they were baffled. Rachel remembered chuckling when she read the stories. That was nine years ago.  Soon after she had liberated the Mountford emeralds and joined the children’s charity, she’d arranged for the charity to receive fifty thousand pounds and so by happy accident she’d established a new life.

During the intervening years Rachel carried out two or three projects a year, in various parts of Europe. Each time the charity received a significant boost and the police got no nearer to catching the thief. Life was good; Rachel had become wealthy and independent. She wasn’t sure if it was planning jobs, or the adrenalin rush she got carrying them out, that gave her the biggest buzz, but she certainly loved her work.  Unfortunately, three weeks ago, fate lobbed an hand grenade into her well organised life.  The headline had made her drop her morning coffee on the kitchen floor. Every newspaper carried the story, “Fence arrested for putting stolen antiques into a public auction” what a prat. According to the newspapers, items stolen in Cumbria had turned up at an auction in Dorset and the fence, one Hugo Brand had been arrested soon afterwards. He was on remand at Brixton and likely, if the papers were correct to receive a three to five year jail sentence.  Who in future would buy her liberated jewellery? There was no point in relieving the ungodly of their valuable trinkets if they couldn’t be fenced. Rachel had always marvelled at the way serendipity had thrown her and Hugo together, without Hugo’s help her life as a successful burglar wouldn’t even have got off the ground. Over the years she’d often thought that without criminal connections making money from crime would be difficult if not impossible, and with Hugo in prison she had no connections! Who else could she trust?

At first Rachel told herself, fate had intervened and that Hugo’s stupidity meant she’d have to give up on the Vandenberg diamonds, they’re worth fifteen million but if you can’t sell them what’s the point. She’d put a lot of work into the project during the last six months and the thought of throwing it all away was depressing. After much soul searching, Rachel plucked up courage and visited Hugo in Brixton, she’d posed as his daughter, track suit, trainers and baseball cap, she looked a mess, and Hugo hadn’t even been pleased to see her. It had been a nervous, bad tempered meeting; Hugo went into panic mode when she suggested that she couldn’t do business with a fence who was banged up for three or four years. He’d been very reluctant to suggest a contact that could accommodate the kind of merchandise she provided; it was like getting blood from a stone; in the end he did give her a name. Charles Richmond. According to Hugo Richmond owned a pawnbrokers in the Mile End road and a small estate in Essex, but Hugo had no contact details, and they hadn’t done business for a long time; he wasn’t even sure if Charlie Three balls was still in the business.

It was only a small step forward, but at least Rachel had a name, but who was he? How would she approach him and above all could he be trusted. A few days later Rachel tracked Charles Richmond down through company’s house, he was the registered owner of “Straight Money” pawnbrokers, the address wasn’t in the Mile End Road but it was at least a contact.

The letter Rachel sent Richmond was designed by her and her colleagues at the Charity to prick the social conscience of wealthy business men and women. It described the charities work and requested the opportunity of a follow up meeting to discuss possible support. It was Rachel’s job to turn that follow up meeting into hard cash, to win pledges and donations. Over the years Rachel had enjoyed squeezing the wealthy, she’d raised millions for a good cause. But sending the letter to Richmond was a very different matter, would he even reply, could she scrape the acquaintance she needed.  To her surprise it had only taken one more phone call by Rachel’s office to secure the follow up meeting. She was in!  Their first meeting had been uneventful, he’d flirted, been friendly, had insisted on being called Charlie, and had listened attentively to her spiel about the charity. Rachel had invited him to a fund raising lunch the following week at the Dorchester hotel and he’d accepted; so far so good. At the lunch he proved quite a hit, chatted to everyone and even made a small but significant donation to the charity. Could Hugo have made a mistake, Charlie seemed too ordinary, too clean cut to have criminal connections. Today’s meeting at one of London’s more exclusive restaurants was the water shed.  In only four weeks time the Vandenberg Diamonds would be in Brussels; they were going on public display, before being returned to U.S.A. Rachel was certain her plan to steal them was foolproof, but could she fence them?

Charlie seemed pleased to see her, and all through lunch Rachel tried to steer the conversation, but each time she got close, Charlie made her laugh or changed the subject. Her heart sank as she began waving goodbye to six months planning and perhaps enough cash to contemplate retirement and full time charity work. Coffee arrived in silence; but Charlie who was looking into a large glass of port suddenly looked directly into her eyes and said, what’s your game? I work for the charity she said slowly, yes, he said but that’s not it; how did you get my name. You’re a business man and my charity needs support said Rachel, but he’d noticed the flicker in her eyes and the slight movement she made in her chair. Who are you, he said again, your sharp, but not quite what you should be, and you don’t dress like the “old bill”. At least I do something right she said with a smile.  Hugo Brand gave me your name she said, looking him straight in the eye. He took a sip of his port and moved closer to the table. In a split second his whole demeanour changed, she could almost see his brain working. Haven’t done business with Hugo for a long time he said; understand he’s been a bit of a naughty boy. More like a stupid boy said Rachel quietly. There’s only one reason Hugo might have mentioned my name he said, but why would you need; he stopped in mid sentence. I need to know where I can dispose of some very valuable very “hot” jewellery said Rachel, setting fire to the only boat she had left. There was a pause, and he gave her a quizzical look; if, I was interested and if, I could provide the service, I’d need to know whether it was worth my while he said. The Vandenberg diamonds she said quietly. She saw his Adams apple move and his eyes widen as he gulped at the port. Not possible he said, she tilted her head and pursed her lips, their worth; I know how much their worth,he said cutting her short. He shot a glance at the room outside the private both they were sitting in. For a moment, he sat bolt upright in his chair and looked at her with a mixture of surprise and disbelief. There’s no way you can get your hands on the Vandenberg diamonds he repeated. Rachel quickly explained that Theodor Vandenberg would be staying at the Steinberger Grand Hotel in Brussels and the diamonds would be with him overnight. The following day the diamonds go on public display at the Museum of the National Bank of Belgium. They’ll never reach the Museum said Rachel. I intend removing them from the Steinberger Grand; securities old fashioned and they’ll be relying on security guards. Charlie Richmond’s face was a picture as he listened to Rachel’s plans for stealing fifteen million pounds worth of diamonds. Finally, he said “and if you do pull it off, how much do you expect the job to be worth. I need three million said Rachel softly, dream on said Charlie, best I could do would be two point five, done said Rachel. Three hours later after Charlie left her apartment, she punched the air. It had been quite an afternoon. 

The first Euro Star of the day left Brussels Midi on time at 6.57 am; Rachel sat quietly going over her exit strategy, trying to remember if she’d missed anything. Breaking in had been easier than expected, she abseiled down from the roof, to the balcony of the Presidential Suite, and in through the French windows.  There’d been little or no security in the suite itself and the old fashioned wall safe had only taken her about ten minutes to crack. Inside the hotel there had been a number of security guards and one armed guard outside the door of the suite, it was complacent security she thought. Rachel relocked the safe and departed the way she came.

As the train gathered speed, Rachel looked up at the black holdall containing the Vandenberg diamonds in the rack above her head -- time for breakfast.

At about the time Rachel was pulling in to St Pancras, transport had arrived at the Steinberger Grand to take the Vandenberg Diamonds to the Museum of the National Bank of Belgium.  Soon afterwards all hell broke loose and a country wide man hunt was under way. The robbery missed the morning editions but it was all over the internet when Rachel arrived at her flat.  Charlie had suggested she bring the diamonds out to his house in Essex, it was quiet, and he’d given his housekeeper and her husband the day off, they could enjoy a celebratory lunch.

Rachel had expected Charlie’s house to be modern, and a bit flash, but she was surprised. Standing in six acres, it looked more like the house of a wealthy stockbroker, it was well back from the road and Rachel got the feeling of quality as she made her way up the long drive. As she swung the Porsche around in front of the house she could see Charlie waiting for her at the front door. As she got out of the car, carrying the black holdall, Charlie walked over and kissed her gently on the lips, that’s a bonus he said. Cheeky sod thought Rachel. Charlie led her through the house to a large conservatory that over looked a magnificent garden which ran down to a huge ornamental lake. He offered her a glass of the Bollinger which she’d seen on the small table in front of her, he handed her the glass and made a lazy grab for the holdall. Not so fast, my flash friend said Rachel you haven’t mentioned money yet. Don’t you trust me said Charlie spreading his hands in mock surprise? Not yet she said, pulling the bag towards her. Charlie smiled; “as you requested one million in Guernsey and one million in the Cayman Islands, you can check“; don’t worry I will said Rachel taking her hand off the bag. Just a minute, said Rachel what about the five hundred K to my charity, Charlie laughed, think I am going to like you; you don’t trust anybody, my accountants dealing with it, and that’s the best bit its tax deductible. Charlie opened the holdall and began spreading the magnificent diamond collection over the coffee table. Rachel sat back in her chair and looked out onto the garden; she picked up the glass of Bollinger and started to giggle. What’s so funny said Charlie with an uneasy look, nothing said Rachel but I know what they mean; and as she gazed over his shoulder, to the rolling lawn that curved down to the lake,  she said “I’m sure the grass will always look greener on this side of my fence“!


3033 Words

Submitted: July 01, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Peter Piper. All rights reserved.

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