The Maltese Cat is officially a business consultant. In actuality, he has been involved in corporate espionage for most of his career. He targets corrupt businessmen and politicians and makes a handsome living out of correcting their inequities.
“Escheatment”, Book 1 in the Maltese Cat Book Series continues with new adventures. Enjoy:
Chapters 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10, Chapter 11,
Chapters 12 & 13, 14-16, 17, 18, Chapters 19 & 20,
Chapter 21, 22 & 23, 24, 25, 26, Chapters 27-29
Chapter 30, 31-32, 33-34, chapters 35 & 36,
Chapters 37-39, 40-41, chapters 42-43, 44-45, chapters 46-47
Chapters 48-49, 50-51.
The Boys Club Prepares for their Caribbean Trip
The fleet of five cars stormed into the covered parking garage at their private tennis club located in the Lower Pacific Heights District of the City. The cars included a Ferrari LaFerrari, a Maserati GT, a Mercedes 500, an Aston Martin Vanquish, all led by a black Lamborghini Aventador with James Van Houten at the wheel. They parked recklessly, ignoring the car space lines. This was their normal habit.
Inside, the boys found the lounge empty on this early afternoon, ordered their drinks from the bar and scattered themselves on couches near the television. When their drinks were brought to them and the waiter had retreated, James took the lead.
“Here’s to next week’s adventure!”
They all drank.
“I sent the captain off with the yacht. He should arrive with plenty of time to spare. We’ll pick it up in Montego Bay, sail up to the Turks & Caicos to check on our money, and then we’ll sail down to Montserrat. I’ve been looking at property down there.
“Who would have thought that in just two years we would be looking at retiring?” said Croyton.
James said, “Retiring is always an option now. At least we have that. I was kind of thinking of starting anew in another direction.”
No one took the bait. No one asked him what he had in mind.
“I could be happy just to sit back and enjoy the beaches for the rest of my life,” said Price.
“That will come soon enough. Let’s just finish out the year first.”
Azawi in Bern
The house was nondescript in a small street in Bern, Switzerland. No business sign was attached to the exterior – solely the number 17. To anyone passing by it was simply another residence.
A group of five men approached the entrance. The man leading the other four stepped up to the doorstep and rang the doorbell. A buzzer sounded as the door unlocked. All five men entered.
Upstairs on the first floor above ground level, the group entered the reception area. A small, mousy woman of about 60, her grey hair tied back in a bun, showed a look of surprise and of fright. The four men who had followed their leader were large, dangerous-looking men. They wore European clothes but it looked to her like they all had similar versions of black trainer jackets and trousers. Two were extremely tall. The other two were somewhat shorter but much broader in the torso. The man leading them looked small in comparison, although he was of average height. He was much older, with a full grey beard, and wrinkles in a face with a fuscous complexion that showed the weathering of time. He wore a combination of baggy, cotton trousers, a long tunic over the trousers and a large vest over the tunic. Had the woman been more aware of culturally diverse clothing, she would have recognized his garb as that worn by the Pashtun, an eastern Iranian people whose traditional homeland is south of the Hindukush mountains in Afghanistan and west of the Indus River in Pakistan. Most Pashtuns now live in Pakistan. The old man carried a satchel with him, slung over his shoulder by a strap, and his head was topped by a round skull cap. All five men looked distinctively foreign, perhaps Arab she thought. In her small office, they looked ominous and frightening. The old man spoke to her in accented English.
“We are here to see Herr Egli.”
“Do you have an appointment?” she queried, consulting her daytimer and seeing nothing.
“No, but he will want to see us.”
“I am sorry, sir,” she replied, “but without an appointment I am afraid you can’t…”
Her voice trailed off as one of the large men now nodded to the old man and then to a door marked Bernard Egli. The men ignored the receptionist and marched to the door.
“I’m sorry. You can’t go in there.”
But the old man already had his hand on the door handle. He turned it and entered the room, as did the other men. As the receptionist rushed to stop them, the last large man turned around and blocked her way with his immense body. From within the office she heard a voice say, “Heh! Was soll denn das?”
All five men entered the room and closed the door. The four large men stood in front of the door looking like steers defending their turf. The old man who just entered approached the middle-aged, Swiss banker, who was now standing behind his massive, impressive oak desk.
“Herr Egli,” the old man said, more of a statement than a question.
Egli spoke in halting, heavily Germanic English, “Who are you? And how dare you come in here like zis!”
The old man replied, “My name is Mr. Azawi, but that is not important. More important is the fact that you have been stealing money from our account.”
“Vat are you talking about? How dare you!”
Azawi shoved a piece of paper over the desk.
Egli looked at the document and was flustered.
“Who says zis is yours?”
“This is our account. It has been our account for years. It is an account of the Taliban. Check with your bank.”
Egli’s face turned ashen white when he heard the word Taliban. He grabbed his desk phone, punched in a number, and soon started speaking in German. Within a short while Egli was yelling, “Sind Sie wahnsinnig? Warum haben Sie dieses Konto nicht nachgecheckt?”
Egli was shocked to discover that what Azawi had claimed was true. “Ja, der ist hier, Du Blödmann!” He slammed down the receiver.
Azawi spoke, “I think you have confirmed our account.”
Egli said, “No, no. Zat is wrong. Your account vas closed. A new account vas opened wiz ze same number years after.”
Azawi spoke calmly, “No, Herr Egli. You are wrong. We never closed our account. You have been taking money out of it. Our money.”
“No, zeez were deposits made by a client of mine. Ve vizdrew ze money at his request.”
“Let me make myself perfectly clear. You have withdrawn money from our account. You must pay it now. If you don’t, we will take other measures.”
Egli became bold and said, “I am afraid zer iz nozzing I can do. Ze funds have been forvarded. I zink zat if you check viz a lawyer here in Switzerland, you vil find zer iz nozzing you can do.”
Azawi answered, “You still do not understand me.” He started to pull large photo prints out of his satchel.
“I believe you have two children, a nne-year old boy and an eight-year old girl.”
Egli nodded cautiously. Azawi threw the photos on the desk. Egli stared in shock at them. What he saw were the grisly remains of tortured women and children, dismembered. Egli’s face went from white to green and all shades in between. He felt his guts wrench and swiftly brought his hand up to his mouth. He rushed to a back door that opened to his own, private bathroom. The five men could hear him retch and wheeze in a sudden collapse of his system. After a few minutes he re-entered his office, looking years older.
Azawi said, “If you do not return the money, this is what will happen to your family as you watch. And then to you.” He said nothing more as Egli absorbed the situation.
Just then the intercom came to life. Egli punched a button for the loudspeaker. His receptionist said, “Ich hab’ die Polizei angerufen. Sie sind da!”
“Nein!” cried Egli. “Keine Polizei! Alles ist in Ordnung.”
His receptionist had called the police immediately after the men had forced their way into Egli’s office. They had arrived and were waiting. Egli wanted no police interference. These kinds of men had others who would come back for his family. No, he had to handle this himself. He told his receptionist to send the police away.
Azawi watched Egli, stoically, the entire time and did not say a word.
Now Egli spoke, “I don’t have your money.”
Azawi was aware that Egli had now said “your money.”
“Where is it?”
“I sent it to a bank in ze Turks and Caicos Islands.”
“I don’t know, I swear. I zink my client keeps it zere.”
“Good. Then I need all the bank numbers and dates. And I want your authority to withdraw it.”
“I don’t know if zey vill honor it,” Egli said in a frightened voice.
“Then see that they do. Otherwise…” His voice trailed off but his meaning was perfectly clear. He glanced at the scattered photos on the desk. Egli winced and understood its meaning.
“I vill try.”
Azawi said sternly, “No. You will do. You have no other choice.”
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