A Story of Love, Intrigue and the Underworld on the Costa del Sol
LA VILLA BLANCA, MARBELLA, 1995
Teresa was lying on her back on the bed breathing deeply with a wide grin on her face next to her boss, John, who, at sixty-five had taken far too much punishment in life to be able to take an active rôle in making passionate love himself. He liked her to swear as she pleasured them both, but it did not come naturally to her, so she usually forgot to in the heat of the moment. Teresa was forty-two and proud to have John as her lover. In fact, she had loved him for years despite the large age gap. She had first been attracted to the distinguished Englishman when he had used to come to buy things from her in Fuengirola market, and had fallen in love with him since almost the first day he had taken her on as his cook and housekeeper. Little did she know at the time that his frequent visits to the market had been excuses to see her.
“That was great, Teri, girl… Oh, yes… You’re enough to make a grown man cry”.
Teresa rolled over towards her lover onto his waiting right arm. She put her right arm across his chest as they kissed.
“You are the best”, he said to her.
“It is easy for me to make you happy, Johnny, because I love you. You are my hero and my saviour”, she replied, as she frequently did.
An explosion sounded as a muffled crump from outside. The phone rang as John was reaching out for it. It was the person he had been about to call just as he knew that it would be.
“What was that, Tony?” he asked without a trace of anxiety in his voice.
“I’m not sure yet, boss, but we haven’t been hit…” He was interrupted by a second explosion similar to the first and then a third of a different kind. “It’s coming from down the road some way off. I think it’s the O’Leary’s place judging by the plumes of smoke. I’m going outside now to get a better look”. Tony was a big man, the shape of a door with a bald head on it. He was John’s chief of security and had been with him for ten years.
John could hear him running over the phone, not breathing heavily at all, and then stop. “I’m about two hundred yards from their front gate now. It looks like the house has been hit, and the front gate… and there are bits of motorcycle everywhere… Two men are down… on fire… Oh! I think they have just been offed with a single baseball bat strike to the back of their necks. Looks like a drive-by with RPG’s to me. I’m coming back in. I don’t want to be nabbed as a witness to this”.
“No, of course not. Come back and play dumb, but see what you can find out on the QT. Appraise me later”. He rang off.
Five minutes later, John had fallen asleep, as he frequently did, and Teresa quietly got up, dressed and went back to work – it was time to arrange her employer’s dinner.
During the meal, Tony gave John his verbal report of the bombing.
“This is not official, boss, but I got it from one of O’Leary’s lads, so I reckon that it’s as near the truth as we are ever going to get. It was a drive-by and they did use rocket-propelled grenades. Apparently, they fired the first one as they passed by. It went through the railings of the gate and hit the house. The gatekeeper, who was probably counting his lucky stars that he wasn’t blown up got a few shots off.
“The riders then came back past the gate and fired again, but the tail-fire from the RPG must have ignited fuel leaking from a bullet hole in the petrol tank and it blew up. The second grenade did strike the gate, as the first one was probably meant to, and blew it in. When the bike exploded and the riders came back to Earth on fire. O’Leary’s men broke their necks with baseball bats so there would be no loose ends”.
“Who was responsible, do they reckon, Tony?”
“He said they don’t know, but when I suggested that it was a rival Irish gang from back home, he didn’t say that it wasn’t”.
“Anyone else besides the riders hurt, was there?”
“The gatekeeper is in a bad way. He’s got shrapnel wounds and those big wrought iron gates gave him quite a whack when they blew in, but he’ll probably live. A cleaner got some splinters of glass in her arris, but she’s all right. The O’Leary’s were around the back near the pool, so they are all OK too.
“Did the police get there? I heard some sirens, I think, but I was asleep by then and could have been dreaming”.
“No, they got there all right… and the fire brigade and the ambulance, after it was all over. The O’Leary’s had even put the gatekeeper and the cleaner in the Range Rover and taken them both to hospital by then. The ambulance took away the riders’ bodies; the fire brigade sprayed the smoking wreckage then checked the house for structural damage and the police cordoned off the area. There’s still a load of them out there now trying to look concerned and busy.
“They asked me if I’d seen anything and I said only the smoke. They don’t really give a monkey’s as long as there are no Spanish involved”.
“No, you’re right. Well, thanks for that, Tony. Well done, as always. Do you think that we’re in any danger?”
“No, boss, it was just the Micks, er, sorry, boss, the Irish, having a turf war. Nothing to do with us. I’ve brought a couple of extra hands in though, just to be sure”.
“Good. Have you eaten yet?” he asked motioning to a chair.
“No, but there’ll be something waiting for me in the office when I get back. Thanks”.
“If you’re sure, Tony. You’re always welcome, you know that. OK, up to you, don’t let me keep you from your grub. I’ll see you later on my rounds”. John liked to walk around the gardens near the house twice before going to bed as part of his exercise regimen.
John Baltimore had first moved to Marbella twenty years before when he was forty-five, but it was only on a part-time basis, although his periods of stay gradually lengthened. He hadn’t fled there as many had before him, but he had made and inherited enough money to make him think that it was probably a good idea to get out of the UK before people, meaning the police, the Inland Revenue and the press started asking questions. If enough stones were overturned, something would eventually lead to him, so he had emigrated, although both he and his father before him had had property in Andalucía for decades.
The press had dubbed the coast of the province of Malaga, the Costa del Crime, but there was more truth to that than most people, meaning the general British public, knew. It was quite an apt description as far as concerned a sizeable British minority in the area. Many of the British Mafia had moved to the Costa del Sol with the intention of giving up their old life of crime, but became bored and went back to it. Some simply ran their old operations in Britain remotely, and others tried to muscle in on the local community, which the Spanish and others resisted. It often led to violence; sometimes the Brits won, and sometimes they didn’t.
John had given up everything in Britain, but had a string of profitable businesses in Spain, which he was gradually losing interest in, although, being a workaholic and not having an heir or even a wife any longer, he had to just keep going. He had been married three times and had had many affairs. Some of his lovers had claimed to be bearing his child, but he had never accepted responsibility, because he had expected to have a legitimate heir one day. However, that day had never come and, at his age, he had given up hope that it ever would long ago.
He had plans to make Teresa comfortable for life, as he had his ‘real’ wives, and he was toying with the idea of leaving the rest to a charity for women who had fallen on hard times. He and his father had had a hand in putting many women in that predicament, so it only seemed fair.
John’s father, after whom he had been named, although his father had originally been called Sean, had been sent by his mother to London from Dublin to prevent him from becoming involved in an uprising proposed by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, rumours about which had started to spread amongst people in the know from late 1914. They planned to take advantage of Britain’s heavy involvement in the First World War, and Germany had offered them weapons if they could organise some sort of a revolt. She had become frightened for his safety after a friend told her that John was becoming serious about joining ‘The Cause’ – to reunite Ireland and rid it of Westminster’s influence.
He had been a petty criminal in London’s East End in the first year of the First World War, but had lived in a room in a house where female Belgian refugees had been billeted. There were hundreds of thousands of Belgian refugees in the UK, most of whom were women and children. He had noticed that many of them had to go on the game to support themselves, so he had shrewdly borrowed enough money from a loan shark to rent a house, which he had used as a brothel. He had ten young Belgian women and girls living and working there around the clock within a week, and had a dozen such ‘businesses’ within a year. Within five years, he had owned the houses outright.
The first thing that he had done when he started to make money was call his younger brothers over to help him run his new, increasingly complicated affairs.
He was a millionaire before he was thirty, which he was particularly proud of, since he had arrived in London in 1914 with less than a pound to his name.
John junior was the product of one of the many liaisons with one of the working girls, but not one with the man he had called father, his adoptive father, because his own parents had been killed by his own family in two separate gun fights. John senior had adopted John junior, because he was ashamed of what his brother had done, and of how his offspring had wreaked their revenge. It was also rumoured that a low sperm count ran in the family and John junior had always thought that he followed in the tradition of his male antecedents.
Two months later, after another session of lovemaking, but before John drifted off to sleep, Teresa whispered in her boss’s ear:
“Johnny, my darling hero, you are going to become a father…”
“Eh? What are you talking about, Teri? I can’t have children… I’ve never had any and I’m certainly too old now! Anyway, you told me that you had passed through the menopause, so you can’t have any either”.
“That is what I thought, so this baby is a gift from God for us, Johnny…”
“A bloody miracle, if it’s true. Have you been to see a doctor yet?”
“No, not yet, but a woman knows these things; she doesn’t need a doctor to tell her”.
“Maybe not, but a man does, so you go and find out for sure tomorrow, my girl”.
“But what if it is true, Johnny, what will you say then?”
“It simply can’t be true. I cannot, and you cannot have a baby!”
“But, what if it is true?”
“Rubbish, it can’t be. You’ve got wind… or you’re putting on weight. That’s what it is, you’ve put on weight”.
“No, Johnny, our baby is only the size of a peanut! I am not bigger because of that. In fact, I am the same weight as always: fifty-two kilos, but I am with child. Impossible as it may seem, I am pregnant. I remember the feeling from before, but I will check with the doctor tomorrow”.
“Good! You do that and you will see that I am right”.
Seconds later, he was asleep and Teresa was going about the business of ensuring her beloved’s comfort.
When John heard the news that he was to be the father of a child before the year was out, he didn’t know how to react. It all seemed to be happening so fast, but he was secretly overjoyed, although the hard man in him won over, so he insisted on a DNA test. When the amniocentesis test at ten weeks proved him to be a parent, he offered to marry Teresa, but was disappointed when she seemed reluctant.
“I thought you would have liked to marry me, Teri”, he said.
“I would have,” she admitted dolefully “but not just because I’m carrying your baby. I would have liked you to ask me to marry you because you love me”.
“But I do love you, Teri, you know that. I’m just not very good at saying things like that, but I thought you knew it”.
“A woman likes to hear it as well, Johnny…”
“I suppose a man does as well, my dear, I will admit to you that I do, ‘though if you ever tell anyone I said it, I’ll deny it”.
“You silly macho men”, she mocked him gently as she lay in the crook of his arm. “You want to hear it, but you don’t want to give the same pleasure to the people you love. That is selfish, is it not?”
He didn’t answer for several minutes, but Teresa was willing to wait.
“Yes, I suppose it is”, he finally admitted. “I am so sorry that I have not told you before that I love you. I have never said it to anyone in my whole life, except perhaps to my mother. I don’t remember. Have I ever told you about her?
“Her name was Fleur and she came from Belgium, but we won’t talk about her any more for now. Will you, please, marry me, Teri? It will make me the happiest man in the world, and I know that that sounds corny, but I am a man of action, not words… I think you know that already too”.
“It does not sound corny, Johnny, they are beautiful words…” Her eyes filled with tears. “I will marry you, Johnny. I have always loved you, but I want you to promise me that you will look after our child. I don’t care about myself, but our baby must be taken care of, or it would be better if I left now”.
“My dearest Teresa, if you will only marry me, our baby, boy or girl, will inherit everything that I own”.
“In that case, Johnny, I accept. I will marry you”.
John wanted the marriage ceremony to take place within a week, but Teresa insisted on planning and doing everything properly, except that she did not ask John to convert to Catholicism and she didn’t ask that the baby be brought up a Catholic either.
At fourteen weeks, after the huge wedding, Teresa told John that they were expecting a girl. She was worried that John might be disappointed, but she couldn’t detect any sign of it.
John, for his part, thought that he should have been disappointed, but was surprised to find that he wasn’t.
“What name should we give her?” asked Teresa one morning in bed.
“Could we call her Daisy?” he asked.
“Of course”, she mused. “Daisy… Margarita in Spanish… a pearl… a hidden gem. It is the perfect name for our daughter, our gift from God, who should never have been”.
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