It was six minutes to Midnight and Tony’s luck had just run out just as Paolo’s had come up trumps. It didn’t matter if there actually was a mobile signal because Tony’s belief was that there wasn’t, and that was enough to ensure that the Midnight cancellation deadline would be missed and all that that meant.
It had been such a close thing for Paolo, but with that spot of luck, he was both in the clear as far as Tony would be concerned and in the money too!
There was now just the rather tricky issue of the police...
Tony couldn’t have escaped by swerving right as he’d go straight into a field and to the left was the river. The police arrived at both sides of the SUV and indicated to Tony and Paolo to lower the windows, which Tony reluctantly did, slowly, buying time while Paolo continued to fiddle with the phone. The police wanted to suss out if the two were armed before ordering them out of the car.
“Hand me the phone please sir,” instructed an officer on the passenger side, adding, “whoever you’re calling, you’ll be lucky to get a signal round here anyway!”
Tony reckoned he was getting away from the pursuing police car, but his hopes were dashed when ahead he spotted more flashing blue lights and another police car acrossways, blocking the narrow road. He had no option but to step on the brakes and stop. They’d been caught in a pincer movement as the police knew the connecting road system much better than Tony.
The game was up as the police, wearing body armour, came up to the car from both directions. Tony sat where he was in the driver’s seat while, for effect, Paolo was fiddling with Tony’s mobile...
Tony was driving in earnest and at speed. He realised it would seem suspicious, so he determined that he must shake off the police car. There wasn't much else on the dead straight Hundred Foot Bank, beside the New Bedford River, Terry's resting place.
So fast and erratically was Tony driving that Paolo was fearing a little for his own life as he was thrown around. He could hear the police siren behind and wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing... for him. The area was so remote that he continued the deception concerning the mobile coverage.
“No network here Tony, We’ve gotta find some coverage!” Paolo was taking a real chance here that Tony would catch him out in his lie. However, Tony was wound so tight that he didn’t think anything through and merely focused on getting into an area of mobile coverage fast.
Tony put his right foot to the floor, accelerating away so fast down the straight road that he drew the attention of the police, who set off in pursuit. Tony was so mixed up mentally and emotionally and driven by the determination to save his money that he didn’t care.
Tony still crawled past the scene, then barked at Paolo “Cancel that fucking transfer NOW! We’ve been double-fucking-crossed!”
This was where Paolo’s timing calculations were weakest. Realistically there had to be some timing leeway otherwise Tony wouldn’t have agreed to paying the ransom without some chance to abort things if he didn’t get Terry back. Paolo couldn't be seen to be delaying the transfer cancellation for fear of giving himself away. He suggested waiting to see what the kidnappers had to say about current developments.
“Fuck waiting!... Cancel the fucking transfer!”
“I can’t Tony... there’s no network coverage!”
As they approached their destination at speed, Paolo suddenly shouted “Watch out Tony, looks like the place is crawling with cops. Some fucker must have tipped them off! Don’t slow down, it might look suspicious in a remote place like this. Drive past normally. I’ll text the kidnappers and see what’s happening.”
Tony ignored Paolo, slowing down as he passed the police cars at the side of the road, next to what looked like a river or canal. He checked out what was going on. A policeman at the roadside angrily beckoned him to move on.
Tony thought he understood...
Tony’s mad driving had meant that they were approaching the destination earlier than the route finder had predicted. This didn’t quite fit with Paolo’s careful planning. It was in fact the weak spot in the plan. This could blow the transfer of the ransom and Paolo’s get-rich-quick scheme.
“I would slow down a bit Tony if I were you. You could easily draw attention to us in a place like this.” Paolo’s attempt at reason prompted a simple response.
“Well you fucking ain’t me!” Tony was determined.
Tony sped on. Paolo’s warnings were pointless. He stayed quiet until...
The language in the car was blue and the hooting and fist shaking was regular. Tony didn't seem to understand the concept of not standing out. Paolo's efforts at calming him didn't work.
After the end of the M11, they headed on to Ely and then beyond.
"Where the fuck are they sending us!" shouted Tony, to nobody in particular.
Tony's mind was racing as they seemed to be going out into the middle of nowhere. It was flat as a pancake and wasn't anywhere he was familiar with.
"Who the fuck would want to come here?"
"Us, Tony, us!"
Tony had a German car “I want reliability, not Italian flashiness” he’d said, when he bought the luxury SUV. He drove it like one possessed, jumping more than one set of traffic lights. Not sensible, but he was on a mission to save his brother and his money. However, they weren't stopped on the way.
Tony reckoned that at that time of night he could improve on the online journey estimate but, inevitably, he lost time on the M11 where there was an extended 50mph limit and closures to a single lane for road improvements.... and an obedient driver ahead.
Paolo helped Tony schedule a payment of £400,000 in Bitcoin currency to the kidnappers' account via an app he'd downloaded to the mobile phone. The payment would be approved at exactly 10pm to be transferred at Midnight, with the intervening 2 hours a 'cooling off' period in which it could be cancelled.
At 10pm exactly, sitting in Tony's car ready for the off, they received a text with the coordinates of the location, which Paolo quickly entered into Tony's satnav. Then they raced off. Tony was driving his own car for more control and gave Paolo charge of his mobile.
Tony talked through his plans with Paolo. It was 7.45pm. Midnight was the deadline. The kidnappers would send the coordinates at 10.00pm and the journey would be 1 hour 50 minutes, leaving 10 minutes to get Terry and cancel the transfer. But where would take that time? He asked Paolo.
"It could be anywhere, but why does it matter Tony?"
"Of course it fucking matters because if we get a head start we can catch them unawares, get Terry and cancel the transfer!"
"Your call Boss, but get it wrong and we're fucked... as it is we'll have 10 minutes.
The return text following Tony's concerns of money transfer and Terry transfer was a turning point. He knew he had to pay up and was now convinced that the kidnappers held all the cards. The articulate, almost polite nature of their texts and notes convinced him that these people were real professionals. Everything precise and well-timed. He had little option but to pay up if he wanted to see Terry again. £400,000 would hurt, but the business was cash-rich, and consequently, so was he... but rather mean.
He would pay up and find and kill the bastards later.
“I need a body,” Livia had said on the phone the night Sofia visited Paolo. He was confused and slightly flustered by the simultaneous ‘presence’ of two women. His immediate thought was ‘Why on earth? You’ve a wonderful body’ and immediately thought of the other wonderful body he had just enjoyed. From his manner, Livia had detected that there might be another body present with Paolo.
“I’ll need Terry’s body to get the life insurance payout.”
“Well I’m not sure what state it’ll be in” Paolo said softly.
“Dental records and even DNA is all they’ll need.”
Paolo had a plan. It relied upon careful timing.
Tony received a text:
‘Mr Monelli. We understand your caution and propose the following. Your brother’s location is 1hour 50minutes from the East End. It should be possible to schedule your payment two hours in advance with the option to cancel any time up until the scheduled transfer time, latest Midnight tonight. One of your associates should be able to help. We will be able to verify the payment details and will send you immediately the coordinates for your satnav in order to reunite you with your brother. Your move now.’
Paolo was a smart guy, blessed with a natural cunning that had served him well so far, but this was going to be difficult. In his earlier planning, and without Livia there to direct him, he hadn't thought things through properly. He was going to need a lot of resourcefulness and quite a bit of luck to deal with Tony's latest demand.
"I'll text them to see what they have in mind," Paolo said, "they must have thought of that." What a lie that was, but texting gave him time to come up with his plan. It might just work...
Having been lulled into thinking he could exert powerful influence on Tony, that last utterance shook Paolo.
“What’ve I missed or misunderstood Tony?” he asked.
“You missed the most important fucking thing Paolo. What are the arrangements for getting Terry back, that’s what!” Tony rasped. “The handover Paolo, how can we be sure the bastards will hand him over? They can’t exactly do it by Bitcoin transfer, although the fuckers are sending him in bits right now!”
“We have to trust them I guess.” was all Paolo could suggest.
“No fucking way! Find a way that works Paolo! Fucking now!”
“Should I cough up tonight Paolo? What do you say?” asked Tony.
This was Paolo’s chance, but to make his answer seem considered, he avoided giving Tony a straight ‘yes’.
“Well, they’re obviously pretty ruthless, and I’ve no doubt that if you don’t pay tonight there will be another finger on its way tomorrow. Taking his eyes out and cutting his bollocks off seem extreme and they may just be trying to scare you, but if it was me, it would work! So I would probably pay up as soon as I could.”
“Then you’d be a fucking idiot Paolo!”
The response, supposedly from Terry, was enough on its own to convince Tony. It didn’t make him happy though that the kidnappers had raised the ransom by £50,000.
The whole message was sheer chutzpah on the part of Paolo, who had realised he would need a kind of diversionary tactic to get him off the hook for not being able to showcase the living Terry. Upping the ante was inspired, particularly as it raised the stakes quickly, which would be important if he planned to persuade Tony to pay up tonight.
But Tony wasn’t quite ready to concede, not yet.
The text read:
‘Mr Monelli, your brother won’t be able to speak to you now. He’s currently sedated as his hand is in considerable pain. Before our paramedic saw him we were however able to ask him about his first dog. The question seemed to irritate him. I quote, “What a fucking stupid question to ask given I’ve never had a dog. I’m allergic to them and I won’t have one in the fucking house.”
I’m afraid this has caused us extra work, which we must pass on to you. Your account now stands at £400,000, payment deadline, Midnight tonight.’