Villa Plot, Counterplot, page 1
VILLA PLOT, COUNTERPLOT
© Douglas Stewart 1981
Douglas Stewart has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in 1981 by Robert Hale Ltd.
This edition published in 2017 by Endeavour Press Ltd.
Table of Contents
BRISTOL—2nd NOVEMBER 1979
TRING—29th OCTOBER 1979
BATH—9th JANUARY 1980
TRING—31st JANUARY 1980
BRISTOL—31st JANUARY 1980
LONDON, W.1.—1st FEBRUARY
BATH—6th FEBRUARY 1980
GATWICK—8th FEBRUARY 1980
GENEVA – 10th FEBRUARY
LONDON, W.C.1.—28th FEBRUARY
VIRGINIA WATER—SURREY—5th MARCH
LONDON, W.C.1.—6th MARCH
ASTON CLINTON—6th MARCH
LE THOLONET, PROVENCE—11th MARCH
LE THOLONET—12th MARCH
LE THOLONET—12th MARCH
AIX - 14th MARCH
OLD GLOUCESTER STREET, LONDON—16th MAY 1980
CARACAS, VENEZUELA—9th MAY 1980
Among the many people who have helped me, I am particularly indebted to Nicholas Arrow and Terry Pizzala for their invaluable advice on the world of stamps and to the management and staff of a well-known bank who have extended more than the usual facilities.
I am also delighted to acknowledge the assistance of an expert in Spanish Law who must, of necessity, remain anonymous.
My thanks also go to Valerie Stockham and my wife, Penny, who, between them, spent many hours typing this book.
The incessant clack-clack of the castanets accompanied the whirling colour of the flamenco dancers at Benidorm’s Juanita Nightclub. In the shadows, half-watching the floor show, were eight men, their faces reddened more by an excess of Sangria than by the warmth of the Spanish sun.
Seven of the men, all English, were celebrating their agreement to buy villa plots, enjoying magnificent views across the nearby fishing port of Calpe. Building work would start in April and, within twelve months, the scrubland would contain seven architect-designed villas of superior quality. Or so they had been promised by the eighth man, who currently called himself Patrick Bellamy. It was through his agency, Padon Intercontinental, that he’d effected the sales. Bellamy, too, was celebrating but, more importantly, he was keeping the drinks flowing, keeping the purchasers’ minds blurred.
“Come on, Martin,” he encouraged a publican from Bath. “Drink up!”
“More of the same,” came the slurred reply. He leered round the room. “But what I really want is a Señorita.”
“Plenty about, my friend. What’s stopping you?” Bellamy chided. “Shy, are you?”
“Me!” Martin Harper roared his denial. “Come on, let’s get stuck into those birds over there.”
Delighted, Bellamy watched the bumptious, empty-barrelled publican lead the others in a mating-dance ritual with a party of English girls across the room. Much better that than worrying about the agreements he’d conned them into signing that afternoon.
Born in 1939, the son of a Harley Street neurosurgeon, the silver scalpel of his childhood had seen him through Public School but, even then, his instinct for the easy get-out, the corner-cutting, had been spotted. But a suspicion of cheating in exams had never been proved. Instinctively, he was a loner, a man whose every move was carefully planned and whose words were often calculated to mislead. Yet those who thought they knew him would have described him as affable, charming, a man of quick and ready wit.
As Bellamy watched his party of philanderers jump and jive around the floor, he noted with disdain that even Colonel O’Brien, ret’d, was behaving like a man half his age. Thanks be to Spanish brandy! To Bellamy, they looked just the fools they were; fools for signing his spurious contract, fools to pay £70,000 with so little thought. And this was just the start! The prospects of the frauds to come were so exciting that he found himself drumming his fingers in time with the music. It was quite out of character, for the antics on the dance floor filled him with disgust.
Bellamy had broken with his parents after leaving school. Spurning the chance of a university place or the opportunity to use his delicately slender fingers as an artist or in architecture, he preferred to drift through a hotch-potch of jobs in London’s West End. Nothing lasted.
Patrick Kyle Simmond, aged twenty (for only later was it essential to change to Bellamy), flitted around Knightsbridge, supported by a family trust. In a shared flat, behind Harrods, he’d seduced brainless girls with little more effort than a half-smile or a few moments’ careless patter. Silverstone, Brands Hatch and the famous circuits of Europe were his playgrounds.
Hoping for free expression, he’d drifted into advertising but, by twenty-five, he’d become disillusioned by too many meetings full of meaningful and purposive hot air. Even now, he could recall the clamp of depression from the hours of double talk.
Martin Harper’s whoop of joy brought him back to the sweaty reality of the Juanita. He was blundering around the spotlit dance floor, doing a closing time version of the Pasadoble. Whisky-laden olés filled the air. English coach parties in the audience loved it, whilst Germans looked on, puzzled but polite.
Bellamy forced himself into a flurry of hand clapping and a wave of encouragement. The nastiness of the cheap wine and belch-laden vulgarity of the audience were a far cry from the Château Cheval Blanc and the Feuilleté de Caneton enjoyed in the more discreet restaurants of Mayfair.
So it was that, in 1964, he’d become a criminal. It wasn’t just the money; it wasn’t just the dash of excitement. It was the opportunity to prove to himself that he was smarter than the rest. With trips to Tangier, Marseilles and New York, the job at the Advertising Agency proved to be ideal cover for his sideline of fake passports for illegal immigrants and inter
Unfortunately, a posse of Pakistanis, holed up in Ostend with British passports, had led to his arrest. To the Old Bailey Judge, any immigrant was a black bastard. For the defendant, Simmond, to bring them in illegally was akin to treason. The sentence reflected the Judge’s views and it wasn’t until 1974 that he’d been released.
He’d spurned his old haunts and taken digs in Shepherd’s Bush. One day his landlady found the room empty. Patrick Simmond had vanished, never to reappear. That same day, Patrick Bellamy arrived in Birmingham.
In 1978 he was well established in the Design Department of a firm of speculative builders. Mandy Williams, a secretary in the company, came to live with him in the same year. She was then aged twenty-four and combined the realities of a broken home with beguiling looks. Her shoulder length, blonde hair capped an oval face, with deep green eyes and lashes of seemingly infinite length. Bellamy had been quick to appreciate the subtleness of her sexual experience but, more importantly, had noticed her quickness of brain and her own desire for easy riches. After a lengthy flirtation, he’d determined that she would be ideal for his next fraudulent venture.
The Knees-Up-Mother-Brown made him cringe and as his eyes shut and he slumped deeper into the bottom-polished velvet, he thought about Mandy, slumming it in the grubby, flat-cum-office in Tring, from where Padon Intercontinental traded.
Suddenly the lights were up and the music stopped. Thank God for that. It was nearly three o’clock as his happy clients lurched uncertainly back to the table.
“If my wife could see me now . . .” the publican sniggered.
“Hear no evil, see no evil,” Bellamy winked in collusion. Harper’s steaming figure stood before him, whilst Monica, his eighteen year-old hairdresser from Portsmouth, mopped his brow with a scented hankie. In stretching up, her unfashionable mini-skirt rose alarmingly. Monica was not alarmed. Bystanders were impressed.
“Time to go then,” roared Harper, slapping Monica’s backside heartily. It was a cue for everyone and they drifted off back to the hotel. Monica and two of her friends decided to abandon their own hotel for the night. Bellamy was delighted. Martin, Reggie and Bob were the lucky ones. Or so they thought.
Alone in his room, Bellamy collected his camera and flash. Don’t call it blackmail, he told himself. Just a little insurance. Five minutes passed. He gave it ten. He gave it fifteen. O.K. Time to go.
At Reggie’s room there was no light showing. In a trice he was inside and, after a click and a flash, he was out again. Reggie, fully clothed—except for one shoe, had collapsed by the bed. His gangling girl companion, reduced to her underwear, was sitting on the bed, wondering whether to abandon all hope and return to her own hotel. The camera had caught the startled look on her face but she’d made no attempt to move.
Bob Maw had been sensible enough to lock his door.
That left Harper. The door wasn’t locked and he entered silently. He pointed the camera at the grunting, which reminded him of a pig looking for truffles. The flash revealed Harper’s face, half-turned, as he straddled the naked Monica, her eyes closed, her long hair aflame across the pillow.
“Who the hell’s that?” shouted Harper, losing impetus. But there was no reply—just the click as the door closed. Patrick Bellamy scurried to the safety of his own room and, armed with a vodka, went on to the balcony.
Just a little insurance, he laughed to himself.
Benidorm was at its silent best. The streets were empty as this urbane-looking man gazed down. He had the air of a city gent and, from any standpoint, was an attraction to the ladies. It was said that it was his eyes and smile. But it wasn’t that type of smile that he was smiling now. It was a wolfish smile, with sucked-in cheeks and narrowed eyes. It was the smile of a man who was an evil bastard.
BRISTOL—2nd NOVEMBER 1979
Alistair Duncan leant towards his witness. “Hand in your tax returns and business accounts please.” The Chairman of the Industrial Tribunal looked interested for the first time that day.
“They’re not here.” Martin Harper tried to sound brazen.
“Not here?” The lawyer’s clear, articulate and classless voice was raised. “You were ordered to produce them.” The accusation was enforced by an arm stabbed out, revealing a blue cuff on the solicitor’s shirt. Bets in his office that both he and his laundry would go to pieces after his wife had left him had proved wrong. Duncan’s career and private life had progressed unchanged with determined single-mindedness.
“I don’t see their relevance.” Harper twiddled a Biro.
“That is for me to judge,” snapped the Chairman. “You will produce the documents at 2.00 p.m. If they are not available, I shall take a certain course of action.”
A few moments later, from the Respondent’s Waiting Room came sounds of an altercation between publican and wife. Maureen Harper’s voice predominated—lyrical as a rasp.
“What a bloody mess! You make me sick!”
“That’s rich! We only fired the barman because of your scheme to beat the taxman. Now we’ll have to settle, no choice. If that solicitor gets his teeth into our books we’ll end up behind bars. And that’s not a bad prospect. At least I’d be in a separate prison!” He strode into the corridor, his generous sideboards almost ablaze with rage. His overweight face was puce with the heat from distended blood vessels. He was met almost at once by the cool, unruffled features of Alistair Duncan who, with immaculate timing, just happened to emerge from the room next door.
“Have you a moment?” he enquired.
“Yes.” Hesitant. Uncertain. The publican’s small eyes narrowed beneath bushy eyebrows.
“It’s never too late to settle, Mr Harper. It’s your decision. But, I’ll tell you this: after lunch, the Press are going to report every word of cross-examination. Headlines tonight, I’ve no doubt.” Alistair Duncan leant against the wall and studiously lit his Dunhill, all the while assessing the mental stress on the man’s face. “The Revenue read the papers, y’know,” he concluded, underplaying his dominant position.
“Come again?” said the publican.
“Window dressing to confuse the Revenue! That’s what you’ve been up to! No! Don’t deny it. My client and his two unfortunate predecessors were scapegoats, sacked so that you could blame them for the poor profits. The Revenue were restless about your low profitability—that’s right, isn’t it?” Duncan watched as his rich, country tobacco burned enthusiastically. “You’ve been creaming off cash, tax-free!” He gazed up, his greyish eyes meeting those of Harper. “Believe me. I shall prove all this today. I have the evidence on tap. On draught, if you prefer it!”
The publican’s mouth opened and shut like a carp’s. No sound emerged. Instead, Maureen Harper came out of the Waiting Room, all red mouth and tightly curled black hair. She watched her husband with crow’s eyes. “How much to settle?” she heard him say.
“£1,500,” came the reply.
“Robbery!” It was Mrs Harper with her harsh, Walsall accent.
“Suit yourselves. My figure is not negotiable. £1,500, or we spend the afternoon looking into your tax affairs. See you at 2.00 p.m. Don’t forget to bring the accounts.” Duncan started to walk down the corridor, his massive shoulders almost rubbing the walls on either side.
“No! Wait! £1,500 it is then,” said Harper, ignoring his wife. “Let’s go in here and sort out the details.” He followed the solicitor into the Robing Room, where Duncan perched on the formica-topped table. He smiled at the publican. The distant formality could thaw somewhat.
“Make the cheque payable to my firm, Wyatt, Hebditch and Co., can you, please?”
“Right!” Harper looked over his shoulder and pushed the d
“Cut it there! I don’t want to know. I’m not the Parish Priest in mufti.” The tone was friendly, the smile genuine. The solicitor exuded the confidence which he felt. “I’ll write down the terms to hand in to the Chairman.”
“My two mistakes,” continued Harper, “were listening to that dragon out there and not having a good solicitor. D’you know? Our family solicitor was still drawing Grandad’s Will long after the old boy was six feet under. As for her . . . words fail me!”
“Want some free advice?”
“Yes. What is it?”
“Why not divorce her and marry a pretty young solicitor instead. There’s plenty about.”
“I like it! I like it!” Harper’s whiskery face lit up. “Look; I don’t mind admitting it. I don’t want to be cross-examined by you again. I’d rather have you on my side. Can I regard you as my solicitor in future, please? I’ve heard your reputation.”
“Don’t be too hasty! But why not? Thanks.” At that moment Maureen Harper crashed into the room.
“What’s all this? The Old Pals’ Act?” she sneered.
“It’s all settled and you can meet my new solicitor.”
“Converted quicker than Paul on the way to Damascus,” she scoffed. “He must recognise a fool when he sees one. Mind you, it is pretty obvious!” She turned to Duncan. “He’ll make you rich alright. That man’s an idiot. D’you know, he’s just bought a Spanish villa plot. He’ll need your help. He’s been taken for a ride.”
Duncan did not reply. “I’ll get these details before the Chairman. He’ll want to get off to golf. His tee shots have been a bit erratic recently. Too many hard-fought cases and not enough settlements.”
A few moments later it was all over. Harper’s footsteps and his wife’s tongue could be heard descending the staircase.
Alistair Duncan returned to his antique-filled office in Queen Square where he booked dinner for two at Thornbury Castle. Then he dialled again. Since his wife had walked out, over five years before, he’d learnt a hard lesson and had learnt well. With no children to confuse issues, the break had been clean, absolute and for ever.