Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions


The Storyteller

The Final Episode of our Crime Thriller set in the world of property

Following the deaths of property tycoon Charles Rudd and his CEO Nick O’Keeffe in a sailing accident in Liverpool Bay, insurance investigator William Rohm travelled north to sign-off their big-money life policy claims. Even though he discovered that organised crime were involved in a deal Rudd was working on, Rohm had to accept that there was no provable link to the men’s deaths. Back in London, he is on the point of closing the case when he learns that O’Keeffe’s Rolex watch has mysteriously turned up on the Isle of Man.  

The next day, Rohm was awake early to get the eight-fifty flight from London City airport. His boss, Jo Stet, had given the trip her blessing but mollifying Kate, his wife, had been a different matter. He’d told her all about the Rudd case and tried to be reassuring but she’d been just a tad concerned at the thought of him being anywhere near death-threatening international gangsters. 

“I’ll be fine,” he’d said with a cheery smile, “since Leighton’s Assurance was founded in 1895, relatively few of its employees have actually been murdered whilst on company business.” 

She’d forced a smile but stayed unhappy all through the evening and over breakfast and on the doorstep as she kissed him goodbye. 

Arriving at the Isle of Man’s Ronaldsway Airport, it seemed that he’d travelled back in time. A single strip of tarmac laid down in the middle of green fields, a couple of small planes waiting at their stands and inside the terminal building, no more than a dozen people quietly milled around. This was old fashioned aviation – air travel as it would have been enjoyed by the privileged few before the era of the package holiday, cheap flights and long queues. It must have been nice. 

The twenty-minute drive into town was on a fast country road across a landscape of farmland, low stone walls and signposts with Manx-Gaelic names like Ballabeg, Braaid and Strang and at points along the way, cloud-swathed hills could be glimpsed on the western horizon running along the spine of the island. The capital, Douglas, was a town of thirty thousand, but now, out of season, its streets were quiet. Rohm checked-in to the Sefton, one of the many grand, stuccoed Victorian hotels on the seafront, went up to his room and regrouped. Ten minutes later, he was ready to call the Manx cops, go over their plan and firm-up the arrangements to meet. Their quarry, John Cain, had either found the Rolex after O’Keeffe’s body had washed-up somewhere or he had killed both Rudd and O’Keeffe then grabbed the watch before escaping the sinking boat in Liverpool Bay. Whatever had happened and whoever he was, he’d be cornered and unpredictable. 

Will Rohm walked into the Mermaid Café at two o’clock to find the place empty apart from the two cops sitting at a table in a corner. They’d all exchanged profile photos before he’d left London so no introductions were needed. His hosts stayed staring at their smartphones as Rohm sat down and traded cold handshakes and staccato hellos. They couldn’t have made it clearer that he wasn’t part of the team. 

“We can’t see the front of the shop from here,” said Rohm as he craned his neck around, trying in vain to look past the café’s columns, window mullions and door frames blocking his view.

“Relax. If we can’t see him, he can’t see us,” said Detective Inspector Rusty Steele curtly. “Sergeant Torque is in the back of the store. As soon as Cain arrives, he’ll message us and we’ll move in.” 

Rusty Steele delivered her lines with an authentic cool. She was in her early thirties and her eyes were sharp and bright. They wouldn’t miss much thought Rohm. At least her phone was showing what Rohm took to be work emails. From what he could see, her colleague, the thick-necked Sergeant Steve Tenon, was reading the sports pages.

“We’ve got almost an hour before Cain is due,” said Rohm. “What shall we talk about?”

“Nothing?” suggested Tenon with a snarl.

Rohm ignored the man’s crude machismo and pitched his next question straight at Rusty. 

“So before I called you yesterday, you hadn’t tried to trace Rudd even though it was his name on the Rolex database?” 

“The watch hadn’t been reported stolen and we were waiting to see what Cain had to say for himself,” said Rusty, her eyes still fixed on her phone. “Don’t you have some work to do Mr Rohm, I’m kind of busy here.” 

Now Rohm shrugged and gave up trying to make conversation. He fixed his gaze on the little he could see of the jewellery shop. People walked by, cars pulled away leaving spaces for other cars to park-up. Ten minutes went past followed by another ten. Nothing happened. 

Then Rusty Steele’s phone bleeped a message and everything changed.

“Christ…” she said, standing up as she looked at the screen on her phone“…he’s there.”

Rohm’s first thoughts were that Cain had suspected something or that his instincts had told him to do the unexpected. The two cops hurried out of the café, across the road and into the store with Rohm in tow. Inside, the jeweller was standing behind his counter, looking anxiously at the two men in front of him. One was medium height, wearing an overcoat, jumbo cords and a wide-brimmed hat. The other stood a good six inches taller and had raised his hand to acknowledge the arrival of Steele and Tenon.

“Mr Cain?” said Rusty as she walked up to the man and showed him her police ID. “We understand that you brought a watch into this shop for repair. Your name isn’t the one on the Rolex database – can you explain that please?”

“The watch belongs to a friend of mine,” said the man in a steady voice. 

The police glanced sceptically at each other.

“And who might that be?” asked Tenon.

“Charles Rudd. I’ve known him for years.”

“Then you’ll also know that Mr Rudd drowned in sailing accident last December – how did you come into possession of his watch?” 

The man didn’t answer. His eyes darted towards the door. 

“Perhaps I can help,” said Rohm. “In a manner of speaking he’s right – he’s known Charles Rudd for years. This is Charles Rudd, founder and chairman of the Seafarer Group and he does own the watch. Well, he’s the one who paid for it.”

Rudd turned on Rohm. His steel-blue eyes glared angrily and for a second he looked like he might shake Rohm warmly by the throat. Rusty Steele’s poker-face expression didn’t change.

“You’re meant to be dead Mr Rudd,” she said. 

Rudd took off his hat as he spat his words in Rohm’s direction. 

“And who the hell are you?” 

“Leighton’s Assurance.”

Rudd curled a lip at Will for two seconds then looked dismissively away. To a man like him, Rohm was just another middle-management paper-pusher.

“So what now?” said Rudd looking at Rusty. 

“So now you’re under arrest. I believe you have committed a number of offences including misleading the Coroner’s court and being party to insurance fraud.”

“I changed the watches and disappeared because someone was going to kill me. I needed to get them off my back and hide away for a while.” 

“We’ll get to that later,” said Steele. 

“And meanwhile you’ll be able to keep me safe? Those gangsters are still out there. They can get to anyone, anywhere.”

“Please go with my colleagues,” said Steele. “They’ll take you to our Headquarters – no one can harm you there.” 

“You better make sure they don’t,” said Rudd, jabbing his finger at Rusty. “If anything happens to me it’ll be your job alright? My people will see to it.”

“I have to warn you that threatening behaviour is also a criminal offence and could be added to your already lengthy list of charges,” said Rusty coldly. “Is there anything else you’d like to say at this time?” Rudd reigned-in his anger and kept silent but he stayed eyeballing the detective. He wasn’t used to someone biting him back.  

After Rusty had read him his rights, Rudd was taken away. As he disappeared out through the door, he stole the briefest of glances back at Rohm. It was as if he’d suddenly realised that it was Rohm, not the cops who had done this to him. 

“I knew you’d come in handy,” said Rusty as soon as they were outside, the smallest of smiles playing at the corners of her mouth. “Why don’t you come with me to the station? Once I’ve interviewed your friend Rudd, I’ll help you fill-in the missing pieces so you can write-up your report.”

Her message was clear. He should tidy-up the loose ends, recover his company’s money then leave the rest to the police. It was their gig now, not his. Although young for a senior detective, Rusty Steele already seemed like an experienced cop. ‘I bet she was always like this’ Rohm thought to himself – that even as a child, she’d appeared older and smarter than the other kids around her. With some people, wisdom comes as standard. 

Rohm messaged his office to let them know about the drama of Charles Rudd’s re-appearance then walked to the detective’s car and drove with her to Douglas police headquarters.  

“Did you see that coming?” she said after a couple of minutes. 

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