It was dark and quiet in the basement cellar of the office block with just the murmur of the air conditioning unit. A mouse scampered across the floor then stopped, all nerves trembling because it could smell cheese and was hungry enough to risk anything. Carefully and quietly it crept nearer first for a sniff or two - yes, it smelt good and with a quick nibble and then another it got bolder. The steel spring snapped the lever down instantly breaking the back of the mouse. It was dead. Jimmy Peters had been an errand boy for some ten months now. This was just another ordinary delivery, the last one before the weekend, to the offices of Penh and Ah Hi Co Ltd Refrigeration where Julie, his girlfriend, worked. They? been dating three months and it was a relationship that he hoped would continue. ?Hello Jimmy" "What are you doing here?" ?Got a delivery for Mrs M Penh, ain't I" said Jimmy. "I've got to deliver it personally, like" "OK" ?OK, Jimmy "I'm not suppose to let anyone in who hasn't got an appointment, or that isn't known."But I know you, so I suppose that it will be alright." "Take the lift to the 3rd floor, take the first turning left, and you will find her office there." "Be careful, though" "She's a wicked old cow!? ?O.K". "Ta!" Whereupon the lad took the bulky envelope and rode the lift up to the 3rd floor. Murielle Penh was having a meeting with her head of security and in a vile mood. "One failure after another failure!"?"Well will have no more of it." "The subject must" - "I repeat must" - "be eliminated." ?Turning to glower at her employee she noticed the errand boy standing at the door. "Who the hell are you" she screamed. ? And how long have you been standing there" Murielle Penh was born of a North Korean father and a French mother, parents who divorced after a string of affairs by her father. He was assassinated just two months after she and her mother departed for France. In Paris her mother raised Murielle as a strong-willed but rather precocious child. For many reasons Ms Penh became a very successful businesswoman, tough and unscrupulous, and she was used to getting her own way. Slim and beautifully formed, with the figure of a model, she was also the partner of Peter Ah Hi and ran their London office on the fringe of the city. Her violent temper was as widely renowned as her business acumen. Tuesday, late afternoon, she was sitting at her desk when her secretary rang through: "Madam Penh,"?????????? "I have a gentleman by the name of Mr Nicholas Alum on the phone,"?? "He would like to make an appointment to see you.? Madam Penh snapped? "Then make it girl!"
Nick was slightly early for his appointment on Wednesday at 11.45am at the offices of Penh & Ah Hi Ltd. The reception area was quite busy: two men were questioning the young male receptionist. I am sorry the young man was saying, "I really can't tell you anything"- "You see, only started here this morning!? One of the interrogators turned and, seeing Nick, declared "Well hello, Mr Alum"- "Fancy seeing you here!"?? "I don't know if you recognise me, Sir," "but I? Was the uniformed officer called in by that hotel manager who thought you were missing a short while back?? Of course" said Nick."I thought your face was familiar". ? Plain clothes now I see, or are you not on duty?? ?Oh, yes Sir, the officer affirmed."? "I? am now a Detective Constable."?" A sort of promotion, you might say.? Leading Nick to the side of the room he continued, "Do you know these people, Sir?" "Have you had any dealings with them before today?? ?No, officer, this is my first visit to these offices."?"I have an appointment with Madam Penh." "Why do you ask," ?"is there anything wrong? ?Well, Sir it's like this you see." "It appears that a young messenger boy has gone missing since last Friday." "This company was his last delivery." "The funny thing is, the young lady receptionist that has been dating him,"?? "She has gone missing as well"."If it had not been for the lad's employers reporting the van missing," "I doubt if we would be involved." "You see, the young girl lives alone," "but she isn't at her flat." "As far as the boy is concerned,"? "his mother says that he goes away some times without telling her where he is going," "nor where he has been." "Storm in a teacup, if you ask me," "But we will keep digging," "because that's our job sir" After bidding the officer goodbye Nick was shown into the office of Madam Penh and met with a rather abrupt businesslike but courteous greeting. "Now Mr Alum,"? "what can I do for you?" "I am extremely busy, and have been put behind by these policemen ferreting about asking questions over two silly young people."?? "Is there something wrong with the Bankers draft that we paid for the recovery of that document?"
The meeting with Ms Penh was similar to the ones Nick had experienced with van Reeve and Ah Hi. After he confirmed that the draft was OK, Alum asked the same question that he had? Put to the others, and received the same response. ? Now, if you don't mind," Ms Penh retorted,?"I have things to do." She walked him to the office door, where he passed the police officer coming in with a tall man. Nick noticed the second man was smoking a long thin cigar. Nick returned to the pub and after a discussion with Eve he decided, on her advice, to take things easy as his shoulder and arm were still giving him quite a bit of trouble and the dressing were showing a lot of leakage of blood and some pus. ?It's no wonder the way you've been running around," she scolded, but with the hint of a smile as she looked into his eyes. Did he read more than the interest and concern of a friend or was he mistaken? They spent the next month looking after her father, with Nick occupying the spare bedroom in Eve? Flat. Both were enjoying each otherís company, spending a lot of time together at dinners and the theatre. The attraction they felt for one another seemed to grow in spite of? Few years? age difference. It had been a long time since Nick felt such happiness. But he would NOT be really content until he found the people that had ordered the attack on him. They returned one night after an evening at the theatre. Eve decided to look in on her dad. When she came back into the flat she told Nick that he was much better and was sitting up in bed. He wanted to speak to Nick.
It transpired that one evening, whilst he was away, Harry and Dave came across some information regarding the attack on Nick. An anonymous phone call took the two of them down to Wapping Docks. It was a set-up, an ambush that left Harry with a bullet in the abdomen, fortunately missing his vital organs. Dave had been grazed across the temple, which left him stunned for a while. Two lucky but also very angry men. Harry acquainted Nick with the situation: Dave came to see him that afternoon to let him know he was going to follow up some more information that had? Come to light. This time from a different location. Dave departed for Switzerland with two of Mr Harry's? young but trusted employees. A week later they received a phone call from one of the young men accompanying Dave: Paul reported that they'd been attacked that afternoon. Dave was taken captive after a massive struggle. The third member of their group was on his way home after being wounded, hurt but able to travel; he would need time to recuperate. Paul himself was also slightly hurt during the encounter: he had been knocked silly but recovered quickly enough to follow the attacker's car. ?Do you know where they've taken him" asked Nick. The answer came back that he followed them to a warehouse on the outskirts of Zurich airport. OK!" "Now, listen." Nick instructed him to be at Zurich airport for the first flight from London in the morning, and not to move until they arrived. He then made three phone calls and went to pack. Before retiring to his room, he phoned his Customs officer friend in Paris to arrange for a case of goods to be delivered at Zurich. His pal assured him this would be done. TO BE CONTINUED!