He looked at Magnam whose arms and feet were shackled to large wall hooks, and Ron who had been stripped and was lying down strapped full length on a heavy marble table with a metal drain hatch underneath. A hosepipe was gurgling into the drain. Neither of them looked particularly comfortable.
“Ok,” said Lai. “I’ll leave them in your caring hands. I am sure they will enjoy the meal.”
Le Chef, dressed for a surgical operation, turned off the hosepipe tap and then offered Ron some Chiri soup.
“I am sorry I cannot release you, but I will help you to swallow. It is very delicious, and my clientele’s favourite,” he said, as he forcefully spoon-fed Ron. He looked at Magnam. “Maybe you would like to tell me about the Nigerian syndicate,” he said. “No hurry, we have plenty of time.”
The Chiri soup had an immediate effect, as Le Chef knew it would. Ron looked sick and terrified. His chest began to pulsate, as he despairingly strained against his fastenings. His eyes bulged and he tried to scream, but could not.
Le Chef then explained to them both that a few of his inner circle of clientele were very fond of a rare meat dish, for which he was renowned.
“The human population is seven billion give or take a few. Most of my preparation work can be done with a few simple tools: sharp, clean short and long bladed knives, a cleaver or hatchet, and a hacksaw.”
He pointed to his collection lined up neatly on a small marble table, and mused. “Tonight, the long-bladed knife, I think. I’ll start at one corner of the jaw and make a deep ‘ear-to-ear’ cut through the neck and larynx to the opposite side. This will sever the internal and external carotid arteries, the major blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the head, face, and brain.” He smiled and looked over at Magnam. “Our friend, having imbibed Chiri soup will thank me for releasing him. Well that is, he would if he could talk.”
Le Chef paused and sipped at a glass of Petrus ’61. “This is a really good vintage, even better than the '28.”
He looked down at his client. Ron was now finding it difficult to breathe, his face was contorted and he wept silently. A rank smell permeated the room. Magnam had lost his composure and his bowels.
“Well,” said Le Chef. “Tell me about the Nigerian syndicate.” He listened while Magnam rapidly told him everything he knew about the Nigerian scam. That it was a police trap to capture and imprison the Chinese crime syndicate. An ex-soldier called Vince Rennie was leading the crew. The black men were just criminals.
“Ahh,” said Le Chef, when Magnam had finished. “That is good, but my clientele are hungry.” Magnam pleaded with Le Chef to let them go but Le Chef just laughed and picked up the long-bladed knife and caressed it gently. He turned towards Ron. “Trouble is; there’s always a lot of blood.”
Magnam looked on in horror as Le Chef performed the operation on Ron. He looked at Magnam.
“You don’t look too good, maybe you should try some soup…or if you have time, I can prepare a fresh tender steak. Do you like it rare?”
The man in black had followed them from Lucky-Nine. All the way to the famous Cantaloupe Club, managed by Le Chef. He sheltered under a lofty Tamarind tree until the Chinese gang had driven away and it was all quiet, before trying to break into the club’s back door. He picked the lock. Fortunately, the heavy rain deadened the noise of his entrance, and he was relieved to find the alarm not activated. He looked at his watch. Damn, that had taken up some ten minutes and he hadn’t yet located where Ron and Magnam were held captive. Once his eyes were accustomed to the gloom, he began his search.
Le Chef watched Magnam as his client started to tremble and began to gasp for breath. Either he was more resilient or the soup had taken longer to work its poisonous effect. Le Chef told him to pay attention and explained some finer points of etiquette.
“As you can see the upper leg is now ready for anything; most especially some beautiful, thick round steaks, marinated in coconut milk, pineapple juice and chopped lemon grass. The steak tastes like rich pork but then by adding saffron and grilled in a Chinese wood fired oven; it gives the meat an extraordinary subtle, mellow taste.” Le Chef paused and drained his glass of Petrus ’61. He looked around. “Let’s see, the hacksaw, I think.”
The man in black listened, and waved the torch around that he had found next to the electricity meter. He heard a faint scraping noise, which seemed to come from under his feet. Ah that would explain it, he thought. Le Cantaloupe club had been built in colonial times and would certainly have a basement and cellar, maybe at one time, even lodgings for a servant. The problem was finding the entrance, and then being able to descend the stairs without being seen. Maybe there was another way in.
He went back outside into the rain and round to one side of the restaurant. Sheets of lightening lit up a rusty iron staircase, now half hidden beneath overgrown foliage. At the bottom of the stairs was a heavy metal door, which unlike the stairs, seemed to be fairly new. He picked the lock and opened the door, which led into a large wine cellar.
Dusty bottles filled dozens of racks, and glimmered in the torch beam. He saw a shimmer of light at the top of the far wall, where the bricks had not met the ceiling. He picked up a magnum bottle of red wine, crossed the room and listened against the door. The scraping sounds were more distinct, and a man was talking.
“Perhaps you would like some spare ribs as an entree,” said Le Chef to Magnam. “Please try and keep attentive, so that you can enjoy the cuisine.”
Magnam sobbed silently. His face contorted as he tried to move his arms and legs, and his breathing was laboured.
Le Chef grinned. “I agree. This is thirsty work.” He put down the hacksaw. “Time for a refill.” He crossed the room and opened the door to the cellar.
Tiffany phoned Sam. “Your asshole director is involved in an undercover operation right now. An hour ago, he sanctioned a wet hit. Seems like it’s on a need to know basis, and at the moment you don’t need to know.”
Sam grimaced. This was typical of Langley. Mushroom the locals until the shit hits the fan and then cry for help. “Perhaps I ought to go see him,” he said.
Tiffany told him he was resting from his latest exertions, which didn’t exactly improve Sam’s mood.
“Look you can give your legs a rest, go visit your mother or something,” he said. “I’ll call you in a few days time.” He clicked off the call, and then thought hard. He was missing a big slice of the blueberry pie and then some, but could not put his finger on it. Maybe it would come to him later.
The man in black used his discretion. For the famous Le Chef, disembowelment seemed the most appropriate option. He surveyed the carnage. The floor was covered with bits of flesh and bone and the walls were splattered in blood. “Tell me what you know,” he said to Le Chef who was now strapped to the table nursing a headache from the smashed magnum bottle, “And I’ll make it quick.” He picked up the meat cleaver and looked at it appraisingly.
Le Chef told him to go fuck himself, which wasn’t the most diplomatic given his predicament. The man in black put down the cleaver and picked up a long bladed knife, with a serrated edge.
“Well perhaps this will change your mind,” he said as he thrust it into Le Chef’s stomach and began to twist. Le Chef gave a loud scream that gradually turned to a low groan as he watched his intestines spill out.
Wilbur Bruce apologised to Sam. “I could have handled it better,” he said. “However, I now need your help, big time.”
Sam swivelled his Executive chair to face the asshole perched on the edge of his desk. He played dumb Now wasn’t the time. It could wait. “What happened?”
The director told him and rattled off his requirements: A safe house with a mobile hospital respirator and doctor; a cleaning team sent out to Le Cantaloupe club, Soi 38 Sukhumvit, pronto.” He wiped a sweaty hand across his forehead and looked a bit guilty. “There are two bodies, or rather pieces of two bodies, and a very sick Thai man in a basement room, so my contact tells me. If the Thai man makes it through, he must be kept protected for a week or two. No outside contact apart from me.” He stopped as if trying to make up his mind. “Oh, and by the way, my contact stays undercover, he won’t be there.”
Sam nodded and smiled. Pieces of pie were falling into place. Coming from a Langley director, this was indeed a climb down. “I’ll get on to it right away,” he said. “We can use the Guantanamo bay hunting lodge opposite the Cuban embassy enclave.”
Wilbur Bruce raised an eyelid, but did not comment.