LAURUS

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Only one man is Barnes.

Submitted: August 18, 2017

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Submitted: August 18, 2017

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LAURUS

The body was found in a remote part of the Azores.  It had lain there for several days.  The Portugal law found the DNA was of a British man.  So the man from Scotland Yard arrived.  Former detective Barnes was on a long vacation.  It had been two years since he had been finished.  Cruising around the Med and African coast had been his thing for several months.  Spending most of his severance pay. 

 

The sight of the naked man made him sick.  It was not the dead body, but the bloody state left by the Azores coroner.  Old habits were used by Barnes.  Noticing clues found on the body and the garments left ignorantly on a table.  The male was white.  Slim figure.  With no markings like tattoos or piercing.  Or murder wounds.  The mild looking ex-cop expected it to be a poisoning and the victim left to decay.

 

Still something was wrong with his mouth.  Barnes borrowed medical tweezers from the small shabby clinic come morgue.  The bronzed ex-cop pulled thick green leaves.  They were blocking the victim’s windpipe.  The holiday island death, had become a mysteriously stylish murder.  At least that was what lead and only detective thought.

*

A distant call rang on the latest Samsung.  The deep tones of one the Chiefs of Scotland Yard spoke.  ‘How is the case going, Barnes?’

The moderate voice returned,  ‘this is one heck of  job.’

‘What do you make of it.’ Breathed the man in London.

‘I only just got here and started.  All these third rate places are blocking my way.  The Azores is far away from Britain.  I am assuming you know something I don’t.  That the victim is from the UK.’

 

‘Maybe, Barnes,’ whispered the caller.

‘Then text me what you can, and let me get on with it.’

 

The phone cut off.  As the fat ex-cop rubbed his face.  He needed a drink.  For an hour, he left the morgue.  And took the case notes with him.  It told him where the body was found.  And more details.  It was in Portuguese.  But had been translated with English footnotes. 

 

The several bottles of Stella went down well, in the heat of the Atlantic hot spot.  The Tapas bar was used.  Holiday makers kept away from the bar nearest he cop shop.  It was useful for Barnes to read and forget his boat and ex-cop troubles.  It was a relief to be on a case.  After so long away.

*

The highest volcano in the Azores attracted many tourists and selfie hunters.  At night though the area becomes a black desert.  The bushes below hide birds and insects.  The odd mammal from mouse to pig.  They scatter at the smell of humans.  That was what happened when Digger Brown walked his dog in the night. 

 

He was telling Detective Barnes his story.  As truthful as possible.  But the aging Aussie was good at wording out old yarns.  The explanation seemed to go on and on.  Still the fat cop listened.  He had to.  Seemed like he was the only one in the Azores interested in the dead man.  And the only one being paid something to work it out.  Yet he doubted that he would see a big cheque.  A grand in most currencies was what he used to get when overseas.

 

Grey haired Digger remembering something.  His dog Skip carried something in his mouth.  When his master called him, a wallet fell.  Not much was in it.  But the name of a hotel in the city.  He tried to tell the local cops.  They ignored the half drunk from down under.  Barnes thanked the witness.  And left the island hut of the island bum.  The only witness was all that was needed.  The ex-cop grinned at a hotel card in his hand.  It had a casino. 

* * *

The sound of music filled the room.  The chink sound of casino chips found the ears of every gambler.  The card dealers smiled.  Dreaming of seeing the boss smile like a Cheshire Cat.  The drone died near a door marked private.  This was for special people.  Notably the rich and famous.  Saturday night was the perfect time.  To win a million.  In the popular hotel of the Azores, The Kasbah. 

 

The big flat wheel turned, again and again.  Onlookers stared, mesmerised.  Gamers placed two blue chips on lucky numbers.  As the teller asked, place your bet, for the last time.  One man passing by dropped one red bead on thirteen.  Unlucky, most minds thought.  The large bald lug strode by and waited at the private room. 

 

Just as two black men, dressed in sweaty suits, moved the stranger away.  Cheers and boos rang out.  The caller shouted thirteen.  At that two fast arms karate chopped the henchmen.  Met training came to good use again, for the ex-cop.  He haled to the table, to give him five minutes.  The lucky man smoothly entered the den of sin.  This was the poker room.  That cheque better arrive soon, smiled Barnes - to himself.

*

The heat in the hotel and casino was all controlled.  Even in the poker room.  Yet four men perspired like baked Alaska.  Barnes could tell one dude was losing massively.  His head steamed like the proverbial chimney.  The loser was fatter than the newcomer.  The Spaniard cried, fold.  He gave the table all his money then barged out the only way in. 

 

Three pairs of steely eyes looked into next victims soul.  What do you want? Signalled the obvious leader.  A man dressed in a very white clean cotton suit, smiled from ear to ear.  Barnes shouted the ajar single door, to the roulette table.  His winnings momentarily arrived, as more chips.  At least a grand in Euros were placed at the loser’s seat.  The ex-cop sat down and leered around the wooden circle.  Room for one more?

 

The red walls matched the red veins that pulsated.  Gin was poured profusely by the invisible waiter.  The shuffled cards were spittoon fed to all four players.  The fifth man at the table was the Dealer.  The shiny teeth of a smooth black man stared hard at Barnes.  The cop noticed a flower in the lapel of the brown suit.  Was his luck growing thin?  His senses told him he was in the right place.  But looking at the wrong man.  The game was on, coughed Barnes, as he looked at his poker hand.

 

In his palm lay five cards, two were aces.  If only he had two more.  He was not there for the money.  Still he did like to see a hard man cry.  Being in the Met made Detective Barnes strong and wise.  The ex-cop in faded but dapper denim, kept his cards close.  The other man next to him, wore bling and a dazzling Nike outfit.  With matching trainers.  This was the Rapper Dizzy Dee.  Known to be a friend of Fifty Cent. 

 

Around his neck was a solid gold chain.  His brown fingers each kept fisted nuggets of yellow rings.  No flower or clue showed on this man.  The dude waved his cards around.  His headphones made ticking sounds.  The rapper stared, waiting for his cut.  From his winning hands.  But the detectives senses expected Dee to fold.

 

The main man and owner of the Casino sipped his neat gin.  Smiling like he had four Kings.  Him being the king of his castle.  The silky white man wore a black Armani suit.  In his lapel drooped a flower local to the Azores.  The mind of Barnes recognised the blooming fragrance of the man and the room.  It was Laurus lupus.  To the green gardener it was the bay leaf plant used in cooking.  The Brain of Barnes shouted to himself, get out.  It is a trap.  And ‘house’ at the same time.  The game was truly afoot.

* * *

The Man at the Met, spoke to his dark colleague.  One nod was enough.  The sniper and bodyguard had his orders.  To go and protect former Detective Barnes.  At all costs.  The military perfectionist smiled a menacing understanding.  The black suited officer vamoosed like a shadowy cloud of vapour.  Thank god he is on our side, thought the Man.

 

Many miles away, the ex-cop was in a dilemma.  He had just won at poker.  After winning on the roulette.  His luck was running out.  A small conversation was had.  ‘Are you the manager here?’

The leader lit a black cigarette and puffed like a train, ‘Sure, I own the place.  Have I seen you before?’

Barnes took a deep gulp of good gin, ‘I was here on a business trip.  And could not find my contact.’  Barnes gave the description of the murder victim.  He noticed the leader’s pupils dilate.  That was another trick of the trade.

 

The casino owner touched the flower in his lapel.  ‘Do you know how people disappear in the Azores?’  Barnes shook his head.  ‘Deep in the night,’ breathed out the cold mannered manager. 

 

The silent victim lay motionless, still on the metal slab of the Azores morgue.  A pale white hand dropped the cloth that was covering the body.  The lone man returned his hand and trigger finger, back into his black cosy glove.  He had already been told about the deceased.  The former informant had been blabbing his mouth.  And threatening the Portuguese gang lords.  They had noticed and caught him.  Gambling away his latest reward for revealing lots of cocaine.

 

The dark man disappeared into the Azores atmosphere.  Slithering among the city streets.  Finding the location of Detective Barnes.  The experience in him noticed the waiter throwing away empty bottles of gin.  The best brands.  It took seconds for the silencer to find the target.  Then the bodyguard became the invisible servant.

*

Was the end coming for the sacked ex-cop Barnes.  Or would his guardian angel appear.  His trusty cosh found his fingers, from in his right denim pocket.  His mouth spoke.  ‘I have recently seen a body.  The mouth had leaves that came off plants that match your flower there.  Why do you guys do that?’

 

Black smoke explained, ‘I am Carlos Santos.  I kill all my enemies that way.  Specially those that like to talk.  And spread rumours.  The only good grass is a dead one.  Amigo.’

 

From the shadows of the room, three black men appeared.  Pistols and knives ready to demise the blundering ex-cop.  What a stupid guy?  That was what Barnes expected they were thinking.  His mind wound back the years for a few seconds.  Back to when he was trained to kill kids.  Ones that had dealt drugs on the streets of London.  He and his colleagues often went undercover.  To crush the drug empires.

 

The last case included a drug addicts toddler.  It had pushed him over the edge.  He and his men did the dirty jobs.  And got paid a grand for every death.  On top of a wage packet.  So Barnes left the Met after striking a superior.  Maiming the big headed boss.  So the debunked cop fled to the Med.  For an easier life. 

 

The human mind returned to its senses.  Several men loitered.  Waiting for Santos to give the order.  The smooth leader lifted the flower to his nostrils and grimaced.  Then growled, while moving from his chair to his office door.  ‘Same as the last, guys.  And no more clues, this time.’ 

* * *

A snipers life was all about stealth.  Barnes knew that, but did not expect it.  From behind the curtain a bullet spat into one black monster.  It was enough for Barnes to whack another with his bludgeon.  Two of the three henchmen lay dead in a second.  Before the ex-cop could push away the last killer.  An invisible hand shot again.  A man in black and bandana winked at the lucky gambler.

 

Fat man Barnes blurted to the other man, ‘The Met?’

Blue eyes winked again.  Thank god, thought the gambler.

‘Did you hear everything?’

The saviour nodded.

‘Good, will you help me take Santos?’

 

The pair crashed into owners office.  The leader had fled into his awaiting four wheeler.  The black beast sped into the night.  Both men jumped into Barnes’s hired car.  It was a wreck, but he was used to chasing thugs in undercover work.  Barnes half smiled, when the sniper informed.  Santos was wanted dead or alive.  And that the Met and Interpol wanted the drug lord stopped.  The victim was a lucky break for police all over Europe.  Now it was two against two.  As the leader had a driver/bodyguard.

* * *

Pico Island is not the main island of the Azores.  It is one the prettiest.  With fields of vineyards and foliage, scattered around domineering volcano.  This giant.  Oversaw everything.  Life and death dwelled beneath its silent mouth.  Madalena was not a city at all.  Still it was the most focal settlement.  Its history was quite colourful and interesting.

 

Several hotels were spread in the place.  Not too far from Pico Airport.  Wine was the major industry on the island.  That and incognito drug barons.  It was handy for private jets and lavish boats.  With the Americas way over the Atlantic.  And Africa and Europe in the East.  It was a good place to find wanted men.

 

In the foothills of Mount Pico, a black machine raced and roared, among the trees and dirt tracks.  A ledge that was part of the volcano was the favoured death trap.  For Carlos Santos.  And other villainous crime lords.  Who had cunning ways to kill a foe.  Or troublemaker.  Most of all, these guys hated a cheapskate grass.  The black rocky outcrop was a good spot to drop a fool, to his death.  Or leave him to die, with no limbs to walk or crawl with.  Santos sometimes wore the small improper flower of a Laurus Lupus, in his lapel or top pocket. 

 

The red or yellow bulbous bloom, with thick green, sweet smelling bay leaves.  The last victim died with the plant matter in his mouth.  When lying on the dirt, it would attracted insects and vermin.  Some creatures would eat the fatally flawed find.  The leaf was also a message to others.  It was luck and a good nose for trouble, that found Santos.

 

And an ex-cop almost ready to go back to the crime scene.  You can spend a lifetime at sea.  Or live a life, saving a good guy, now and then.  That was what played around the mind of Barnes.  He did not want to die in the Azores.  Or in the grime of London.  But if could merge both.  That would suit him.  Someone like the invisible sniper, was an echo from his previous vivacity.

 

The black crust that was Mount Pico was the darkness beneath the stars.  Eyesight soon adjusted when cop and hit man left the beaten car behind.  The pair split up.  Barnes headed straight for the two desperate men.  The calm criminals were also pretty nervous.  They had never seen Barnes before that night.  Yet they could sense he was the police.  And most police knew how to take down a lawbreaker.  The sniper had vanished again, into the night.  Stealth was the ex-cops secret weapon.  Even to him.

*

Corky was a sleazy man from Morocco.  All he wanted was to drive rich men around.  And to sponge of their success.  When Mr Carlos was not around.  The driver showed off the Beast to women and men.  Speeding through the towns of the Azores was fun, when no cops were around.  The cop chasing him though, was a different kind.  Most Portuguese police slept in the hot climate.  Ignoring the hard work of arresting a racing local.

 

The big man behind him caught up.  Something smashed into the back of his head.  It was so fast, Corky fell down in a silent heap.  No more driving for me, was his last thought.  Barnes picked up his trusty cosh.  Then he darted the best he could, to the awaiting gangster.  This would be the moment.  The crux of the murder of the man from the UK.  Even a super-grass had an avenging angel.  A fat one at that.

 

From behind the RV Carlos waited.  Smelling his Laurus leaves.  Ready to stuff it down the throat of the troublesome cop.  Then put several slugs into his heart.  This cop had to die.  Time though was not on his side.  Barnes fell, scrambling up a black lava wall.  One bullet hit his side.  A painless side, forced him to tumble before the 4 wheel drive, Beast.

 

It was just as the drug king bent over the doomed hero.  A whispering nail hit his temple.  But the villain had been stooping.  And the missile grazed his temple and pieced the stem of the Laurus Lupus.  It was not a long flower.  Leafy fronds scattered the ash ground of the volcano.  The snipers bullet had found the major vessel from its top and out onto the ground. 

 

As Detective Barnes crawled to his feet.  Carlos was stumped over, by the right wheel rim of the Beast.  Thwarted by the invisible waiter.  Mr Stealth.  Sirens wailed at the rise of the sun.  The local police found the gringo cop smoking a black cigarette.  As the men in blue approached, Barnes said to a moving branch of shrub.  ‘I think I may start my old bad habits again.  Smoking these damn things may not kill me after all.’

 

* * *

 

It mostly likely will be a wayward bullet.  After a second big puff, the sniper was gone.  And so were the bodies.  The Man in the Met phoned Barnes, in the bar near the Police Station.  As he downed some beer.  Good work, was the tone of a voice.  Barnes retorted on the mobile, ‘I liked the dude you sent to protect me.’

‘What guy?’

The ex-cop laughed.  For the first time in ages. 

‘We have another case for you, if your interested?’

‘Sure, why not.  And allow my invisible friend to hang around.’

‘Maybe.  You know I cannot answer that right?’

Barnes finished, ‘long as there are no more flowers.  I get hay fever you know.’

 

*

Hours later, local fishermen saw an ugly boat set off to the neighbouring island, in the Azores.  And something dark in the water, drifting alongside.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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