. God, she was a scream, so she thought. ‘How far back do your records go?’
‘When a girl parts company with us, so does her CV.’
She was lying, of course, but it wasn’t yet showdown time. Diplomacy always had to be given a chance before going to war.
‘How long have you worked here, Jasmine?’
‘Five years, thereabouts.’
‘Who owns the business?’
Suddenly she wasn’t so comfortable, or so jasmine-sweet. Her eyes turned jumpy, as if spooked. ‘You want the name of my boss?’
‘No, I want the name of the proprietor.’
‘Same thing,’ she said, petulantly.
‘Do I have to?’ she said, weakly.
Now her discomfort was even more pronounced. ‘The information you’re asking for is confidential. I’m forbidden from releasing those details.’
‘With clients, maybe; but not with the police, I can assure you. No, I’ll
‘I’ll have to make a phone call.’
‘It’s your office and your phone,’ I said.
‘Would you mind stepping outside while I make this call?’
‘I would mind,’ I said, cementing my position in the chair.
Jasmine scowled effortlessly as she punched a number, going to ridiculous lengths to prevent my seeing the keys she was hitting. Didn’t she really realize that, with infinite ease, I could discover every number called, on any day, from this address?
A man answered. ‘Yes,
what is it?’ He spoke so loudly, I could hear clearly what he was saying, despite Jasmine swivelling away from me and pressing the receiver hard against her ear.
‘I have a cop here.’
‘What sort of cop, for fucksake? A traffic cop? A Keystone Cop?’
Jasmine smirked, suddenly pleased that her boss was shouting. ‘Plainclothes. Very
clothes. Some sort of inspector.’
‘He never said.’
‘So what’s he want?’
‘Me! Shit! What for?’
‘About one of our ex-girls.’
‘I don’t know. Ask him.’
‘Put him on.’
‘Here,’ she said, sulkily, handing me the phone.
As I introduced myself, oozing civility, I experienced the disorienting feeling of speaking in a vacuum or echo chamber.
‘I hope you haven’t got a problem with my agency?’ he said, his rancorous tone now dipped in sugary insincerity.
‘Not as far as I’m aware,’ I said, without menace.
‘So what’s this about a girl?’
‘She won’t be a
now. Tina Marlowe, working name Lolita. But that was thirty years ago.’
‘Hey, hey, wait a minute, did you say three-zero years ago?’ he guffawed, though still cagey.
An exhalation of relief blew down the line. ‘Well, that was long before my tenure began. I’ve had this business less than twenty years.’
‘And you are?’
‘You want my name?’ he said, as if I’d asked for a mortgage loan.
‘Just for the record.’
‘I don’t like being on records,’ he vacillated.
‘Lenny Diamond. My business is straight, understand? No rackets.’
‘Did I suggest otherwise?’
‘No, but I just wanted to make it clear. I know you people.’
us? Do you mean you’re a known item to us?’
‘No, I don’t,’ he protested, trenchantly. ‘I’m clean, that’s all I meant and nothing more.’
‘I believe you. So who did you buy this business from?’
with a name?’
‘And where can I find him now?’
‘How should I know? I’m not his keeper.’
‘It would help if you did know because then I’d walk right out of
life and into
Now he had a real incentive to co-operate.
‘He moved out of London. Went south, to the coast. Last I heard, he was living in Bournemouth.’
‘Maybe. We never kept in touch. We were never buddies. I didn’t even know him that well when I bought him out. I think he opened a bar and started some sort of girlie agency down there,