There was a moment of hesitation a
moment of abstract panic. He took a deep breath then exhaled slowly before
raising his right fist to knock on the door of Richard Knight’s study.
“Come on in” Richard barked from inside the study. Benjamin opened the door and stepped inside. He was immediately greeted by the strong stench of expensive cigars. Richard sat back comfortably in a brown leather armchair that looked more like a throne than a regular office chair. It was the first time Benjamin was seeing him wearing anything either than his semi-formal wear. Today he’d replaced his shirt and blazer with a burgundy sweater. “Benjamin just the man I wanted to see please take a sit” he said peering at Benjamin over the newspaper he was reading.
Even though it was only eight o'clock in the morning it was clear that Richard was already well into his day. A pile of papers he'd already read lay on his desk. Richard signaled for him to take a sit. Katherine had warned him that he'd be summoned to the study sooner rather than later now that he was living on an almost permanent basis with the Knights. That did nothing to ease his concerns.
“The newspapers this morning say I’m the third richest man in the country. Can you believe it? That’s not even half of what I’m worth” Richard said as he folded the newspaper neatly and put it on top of the others “Sun Tzu says that when one is strong they should act weak and when they’re weak they should act strong for that is the art of war. I say when rich one should act broke when broke one should act rich. That is the art of wealth.” Richard reached for a bottle of whisky on his desk and poured a glass for himself and one for Benjamin.
Benjamin took a sip and took some time to appreciate the rich quality of the beverage. He hadn't had whiskey this good in years. "That's good whisky tastes like a Glenfiddich single malt. I'm guessing thirty-year-old?" Benjamin commented trying to take control of the situation and calm his nerves. There was no telling where this conversation would lead.
Richard smirked before gulping the glass down in one go "Fifty-five-year-old Glenfiddich old single malt Scotch. A friend got it for me as a gift one of the few that I've kept and appreciated. When you’re at the point where I am in life not many things impress you and not many people do either" Richard said "I see you're familiar with your whisky. That says something about your character Benjamin. If you're lucky and stick around long enough I might pour you a glass of the Macallan sixty-two-year-old."
Benjamin raised his eyebrows "Sixty-two-year-old Macallan? Must've cost an arm and a leg even for you."
"Cost me forty-five thousand US dollars I'll let you do the math. But do you know why it cost so much? Why does such a small bottle have to cost almost a million Rands?"
"Because it's old and matured. Therefore it's smoother and tastes better" Benjamin said. The whisky topic was his comfort zone but he knew Richard enough to know that it wasn't just small talk he was going somewhere with it.
"Yes there's that but what's the main reason old Scotch whisky is so expensive? Think about it the answer is right in front of you."
Benjamin couldn't help but feel condescended by that last statement but he kept his cool. After all he had no choice. He was sitting across the most powerful man he'd ever been in the presence of and he didn't take that for granted. It's one of the things that made him so uncomfortable around Richard Knight. He was unaccustomed to being the subject of inferiority to be around a man who neither feared nor respected him a man who could crush him like nothing at any moment. Whenever he was around Richard he felt like he was staring right into his future. Wealth status power and respect the man was everything he knew he'd be. "Angel's tax. It's expensive because of Angel's tax. It evaporates over time in other words old Scotch whisky is expensive not because it's old but because it's rare. A lot of what a distillery starts with doesn't make it into a bottle."
Richard wagged his little finger like a math professor who was proud of a student who'd solved a math problem that others couldn't "Rarity Benjamin. That's what makes a small bottle worth forty-five thousand dollars. And it's also why you're sitting here in front of me today in a seat that many men would kill to seat in. I sat in that seat and I looked into my father's eyes as he spoke to me like I'm speaking to you now. And he sat in that seat listening to his father. So you see Benjamin it's quite a big deal to sit in that seat. Do you follow me?"
"I'd be lying if I said I did" Benjamin replied.
Richard reached for Benjamin’s glass and refilled it "The purpose of sitting in that chair is for me to gauge you as a man and decide whether or not you're worthy of being part of my family. I've made some mistakes over the years and misjudged men like Lamar and my own son Maxwell. They were disappointments those two but I think there's still hope for Maxwell pity I can't say the same for Lamar. But I digress today is all about you Benjamin it's your turn. It's always a proud moment for a father when their daughters get married it's a huge occasion. But it seems my daughters are not very good at choosing their suitors. Take Miracle for instance she was married for eight years to a man she didn't know. He just showed her the side she wanted to see and told her what she wanted to hear. He hid many things from her dark things from his past life. But I accepted those things because he was a rare breed and just like whisky even though he came at a high price I appreciated his rarity. His name was Patrick Diale or at least that's what he led us to believe for years. You might remember him he was here with that female detective McCarthy I believe was her name" he paused then took another gulp of the whisky. "For all his faults Patrick was a very capable fellow very resourceful. He knew how to get things done. When I gave him a task he completed it without question. He was what you might call a fixer. But alas all good things must come to an end. In a way you remind me of Patrick Benjamin."
"Do I now? How so?". Benjamin said trying to conceal anything that might give him away.
"Just like Patrick there are more question marks than answers around you. I must confess I ran a background check on you and it revealed nothing it's almost like you were born this year. Which is odd because you don’t look like a toddler. Just like Patrick you have a past and it’s not a pretty one. You have something to hide something big something dark something you don't want people to know about” Richard paused and stared at Benjamin looking for anything he might give away but he was a closed book. “What is it? What are you hiding Benjamin?"
So this was where the talk about whisky was going Benjamin thought. If Richard wanted him gone he would've got rid of him a long time ago but the fact that he'd been invited to his study meant that Richard believed he had value something to bring to the table. Benjamin's mind worked at the speed of light in a matter of seconds as he attempted to read Richard's mind and what his end game was. He knew fully well that whatever answer he gave would determine his future with the Knights "The Colosseum was built by slaves and has a bloody history of death and cruelty. Yet today it is regarded as a marvel a historical structure. The same can be said for the pyramids of Egypt. The Great Wall of China. The same can be said for the generational wealth that your family has acquired. You didn't become wealthy because you worked hard you became wealthy on the blood sweat and death of slaves. Yet today you're regarded as one of the wealthiest man in Africa. I guess what I'm trying to say is that to acquire peace you need to prepare for war. To get to heaven you need to go through hell. To acquire greatness you need to break the rules dig some graves and dance with the devil. Just like the Colosseum and the pyramids of Egypt I have a bloody and dark past. But that doesn't matter because it's the price every man has to pay for greatness. It's the same price your family had to pay to get to where you are. Blood sweat and tears."
"I see. Is that why you murdered Lamar Benjamin? Was he also a price to acquire greatness?"
Benjamin was immediately taken aback. The conversation had taken a turn he didn't anticipate. Richard Knight was clearly a master at playing his cards right but Benjamin maintained his composure. "Katherine told you?"
"Katherine is my daughter and she knows that as her father I will do anything to protect her. She tells me a lot of things. Why did you kill Lamar?"
"He thought I was having an affair with –"
"No no no Benjamin. That's the story Katherine told me I don't buy it
Richard Knight glanced at his watch "Take your time it's not even ten o'clock yet. We have the whole day to ourselves just you and I."
"Hypothetically speaking if I did kill Lamar I would’ve killed him because he threatened me and he was standing in my way."
"What did he threaten you with? Hypothetically speaking."
"Hypothetically speaking he might have had some information about me information that he wasn't supposed to have."
"The history of the Colosseum?" Richard asked.
"The history of the Colosseum."
"Lamar is very good at acquiring information that he's not supposed to have and using it to his advantage. It's the only reason why he was alive while he abused my daughter and cheated on her while he was under my roof. My hands were tied because he had information but you fixed that problem for me and for that I'm grateful. Do you love Katherine?"
"Good because you're going to marry her as soon as possible. I cannot have her cohabitating under my roof with a boyfriend that's not how we do things. Secondly you're going to pledge your loyalty to this family after your marriage of course. You’re going to be one of us now. You're going to do things how we do them. You're going to protect this family name with everything. And you're going to treat my daughter like a God. I don't like to make threats but I feel they are sometimes necessary to get a point across. That dark history that you spoke of? I have one too and you will witness it first hand if you hurt my daughter. Do I make myself clear Benjamin?"
"Crystal" Benjamin said.
"And as a sign of my gratitude for getting rid of Lamar. I'm going to give you an opportunity to ask me for anything right here and now."
"I said anything didn't I?"
"I want you to make Lamar's murder case go away. It wasn’t a clean job and it’s only a matter of time before some evidence comes to light. Those detectives are giving me sleepless nights." Benjamin had some good news to celebrate for a change the last thing he needed was Patrick and McCarthy breathing down his neck.
Richard gave a devilish smirk “As luck would have it I’m playing golf with Colonel Sebe this weekend. I’ll have a word with him. It won’t be easy he’s a man of principle but I’m sure we can reach a gentlemen’s agreement on the golf course.”
Benjamin felt a sense of relief for the first time in a while. Things were coming together in a way he had not anticipated and this time he was going to make sure they stayed that way. “That’s all I ask for.”
Richard rose from his chair and towered above Benjamin "A toast then to greatness." He raised his glass and the two men toasted.
Colonel Sebe glanced at his watch with mixed feelings of impatience and irritation. "I thought I made myself explicitly clear when I said we are to meet at my office at ten o'clock McCarthy. Not half-past not eleven but ten o'clock. Didn't I?"
McCarthy cleared her throat "You did Colonel but I –"
"I thought I made myself pretty clear when I laid out the terms and conditions of Patrick working here. Didn't I McCarthy?"
"You did Colonel" McCarthy said sensing one of Sebe's one-sided shouting contests on its way. Patrick was more than thirty minutes late after she had practically begged him to be on time. She didn't even know where he was because he slept wherever the night led him. She was hoping the colonel wouldn't ask her about his whereabouts.
"Then where the hell is that hooligan? A man has been murdered. A man who belongs to a very influential family that just so happens to be the same family that can ruin the reputation of this station. The media is breathing down our necks. Yet the two of you are carrying on with the same flippancy and carelessness that made Thomas Reeves slip out of your fingers. Where is Patrick?"
"I'm sure he's on his way."
"How is he on his way? Does he have a car?"
"Don't just say no call him" Sebe demanded.
"He doesn't have a cellphone Colonel. He usually uses mine or Lukhasi's."
“He doesn’t have a cellphone? What does he have apart from a bottle of whisky?” Colonel Sebe stared at McCarthy in amazement "For the life of me I don't know why God gave Patrick that brain of his. Of all the people he could make smart he chose that drunkard. Let's just start without where are you with the investigation?" Sebe sipped his already lukewarm coffee.
"We're still waiting on forensics to confirm the results of the evidence that was extracted at the crime scene. The guys at the lab confirmed to me yesterday that there was blood on Lamar’s jacket that didn't match Lamar's DNA. We’re optimistic that if we can find a match for the other DNA it’ll lead us to our killer. There was also a partial footprint we managed to confirm the size and make of the shoe. At this point we know that a male about the same weight and height as Lamar who was attending Miracle's homecoming party was involved in Lamar's murder."
"Do you have suspects? Names?"
"At this point everyone within the Knight family is a suspect. But Patrick had some theories that we were looking into. As soon as the DNA results from the lab come back we'll get a warrant and pay the Knights another visit" McCarthy said. She could tell Sebe still wasn't satisfied "I made sure those tests were made top priority. We should have those results by the end of today or early tomorrow morning."
Sebe nodded. Losing Thomas Reeves was a media circus. The station took a knock and it desperately needed a win. She'd brought McCarthy out of suspension because he knew that with or without Patrick she was the best at her job. "Inform me as soon as you get those lab results and I'll get the warrant myself. We need to close this case McCarthy. I don't want the people of Loneville to start losing faith in us again. We worked too hard to –"
The fast knock on the door was followed by Patrick's face poking his head in "Is it safe to come in?"
"You're late again" Sebe said.
Patrick tip-toed into the office and took a seat next to McCarthy. He was still dressed in the same clothes from the previous day. His grey waistcoat was unbuttoned his grey pants were wrinkled and his white shirt rolled at the sleeves had red lipstick on the collar. "Being early is overrated. Time is not what matters what matters is that I am here." He reached for the colonel's coffee.
"Don't you dare boy. Jesus Christ you wreak of cheap alcohol did you even take a shower before you came here?"
"First of all I don't drink cheap alcohol. I always tell kids if you're going to be an alcoholic do it with class. Which brings me to my second point I skipped the shower because I value your time I didn't want to be late."
"You are already late dammit!"
"Colonel look at the bright side I skipped a shower for you. That should make you feel special. Anyways are you angry because I’m late or because your wife is angry at you?"
“It’s your wife then why is she angry at you?”
The colonel turned to McCarthy then back to Patrick “How did you know…?”
"Your shoes are not polished. Your shirt is not ironed to perfection your lunchbox is not on your table and your stress levels are higher than normal because you forgot your pills at home. Correct me if I'm wrong; you woke up late today because your wife didn't wake you up. You spent so much time trying to iron your own shirt like she does because she didn't bother ironing it last night. By the time you were done ironing you didn’t have time to polish your own shoes and that almost made you late for this meeting. You left your house in a hurry thus forgetting your pills. All these things happened because she's mad at you why?"
"Get the hell out of my office."
McCarthy rose from her chair "Let's go" she said to Patrick.
"Does that mean I'm correct colonel?" Patrick pressed taunting the colonel with his broad smile.
"You know if you put that brain of yours to more use instead of cracking stupid jokes and sleeping around you would save more lives. You're off the case..."
"Colonel please" McCarthy pleaded for Patrick.
"Don’t worry McCarthy I'm not off the case" Patrick said.
"Is that so? Do you mind sharing what makes you think you have the balls to tell me that?" Sebe demanded.
"Because I know who killed Lamar and if you want to catch him you'll need my help. I'm late because I was having a conversation with one of the security guards who were on duty on the day of Lamar's murder. I managed to convince him to show me the security footage for that day and he obliged."
Colonel Sebe sat back on his chair "You were not supposed to go there without a warrant."
"McCarthy was not supposed to go there without a warrant. I'm not a cop I don’t need a warrant to go anywhere" Patrick retorted.
"Last time we asked him to show us the tapes he refused. How did you get him to show you the footage?"
"We go to the same exclusive gay club. When I saw that he was wearing a ring on his finger well... I had to remind him how his wife would feel if she found out he went to gay clubs."
"What were you doing at a gay club?" A confused McCarthy asked.
"Free expensive alcohol I sometimes go to exclusive gay clubs when I'm broke to get free alcohol."
The colonel turned to McCarthy at the same time that McCarthy turned to him. McCarthy shrugged her shoulders. "You pretend to be gay for alcohol?"
"Yeah what do you want me to do stay sober? I’d rather die. It's not like I sleep with them and most of them are successful businessmen. How do you think I knew Lukhasi was gay? I saw him there and he wasn't pretending. Anyways that's not the point he showed me the footage and somethings struck me as odd. One Miracle’s party was cut short for reasons unknown. In fact according to the gay guard some of the guests were only arriving when the others were living. Which means something happened during that party something that we need to find out because it happened after Lamar’s death. Secondly the camera’s at the gate show Benjamin driving in wearing a burgundy suit but an hour later cameras in the house show him wearing a different suit. Same goes for Katherine she was wearing a red dress earlier but was wearing a different dress at the function."
"Where are you going with this?" Colonel Sebe asked.
McCarthy was already on the same wavelength as Patrick "If they changed what they were wearing before Lamar was killed... Oh my God."
"When we find the clothes that Benjamin and Katherine were wearing we'll find our killer. And that Colonel Sebe is why I was late and why I have the balls to tell you that I'm not off the case" Patrick said as he reached for the Colonel's coffee and gulped it down "Oh that does magic for the hangover. Please be a star and get us that warrant Colonel."
"Get out of my office" Sebe said but this time it was in a calm and neutral voice with a suppressed smile. Patrick Diale was everything he couldn’t stand but his sharp mind was good for the station and Sebe was willing to tolerate him for that. If they were to fight crime they needed a man like Patrick in their corner regardless of what he was.