Chapter 2: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend… but for what purpose?

1 Sep

Audio version

Carver returned on the mid-morning Eurostar and went straight to his apartment on the river front at Battersea.  Two answerphone messages were waiting for him: one from Helen, a young woman in her early thirties he had met at Brinkley’s in Little Chelsea two weeks before, the other from a Jakob Van Neekirk. Carver pressed the button to listen to the message again. The speaker’s strong South African accent  marked him as an Afrikaner, probably from Natal.  It was difficult to be sure, the accent had softened, most likely from time resident or working in Europe and the States. “Mr Carver, you don’t know me.  My name is Jakob Van Neekirk. I work with Bornwall Ngaleka from time to time.  He briefed me on your meeting in Chiswick. I’d like to talk to you.  Call me on Area code (212)  221 1942.” Carver recognised the New York dialling code, quickly searched Google to see if it threw up anything for the telephone number and noted that the number was registered to the offices of  Tri-SecNY Inc., a specialist security services firm.  The website gave little information apart from revealing that the firm were specialists in fraud, counter industrial espionage and covert surveillance.  Carver made himself an espresso in his Gaggia Classic, a device which gave him more pleasure in the operating than the results he managed to achieve with it, and checking the time in New York – it was 7.30 am – dialled the number. “Tri-Sec, good morning.”  The clipped professional greeting not unexpected. “I’d like to speak to Jakob Van Neekirk, please” “Putting you through, please hold.” “Van Kneekirk.” “Good morning, Mr Van Kneekirk.  Mungo Carver.  You suggested that I call you.” “Mr Carver, thanks for calling back.  Let me explain that I am ex-Company.  I did some work for them eleven years ago in Zambia with James Phiri’s unit. Langley were working closely with Phiri on dirty diamonds from Zimbabwe which they believed were funding Al-Qaeda insurgency in Somalia and Yemen. 9/11 had not happened but you may recall the  Luxor massacre of November 17, 1997 which we believe was funded by Bin Laden. Van Heerden, all those years ago before his demise wasn’t just involved in gun-running.  He was involved in dirty diamonds from Southern Rhodesia, what is now Zimbabwe.  When Bornwall mentioned the name Sheila du Plessis on the phone, I immediately made the connection with Van Heerden.  I was one of the team that checked Sheila du Plessis out when she joined the agency, a particularly thorough check given that her father was Van Heerden. We took the view that she had not known her father.  She was three when he died and her Mother, Elaine McFarlane, bland middle class background and a graduate of Syracuse, was a US citizen and we had zilch on her.  She was clean. In April 2008, du Plessis suddenly resigned from The Company on the pretext that she wanted to have a family.  I was tasked with looking into that pretext a bit more closely.  I discovered that she had made several recent trips to Lusaka and, more significantly, to Harare in Zimbabwe.  There was little obvious reason for an American women of 40, about to have a family, to go to that shithole of a country under Mugabe.  It isn’t exactly a holiday resort.”  Van Neekirk paused for a moment. “Connections are easy to draw… in this case dirty diamonds… but, in this case, impossible to prove and it was decided higher up that the file should be left open but no further action taken. My own view, for what it is worth to you, is that du Plessis was and may still be  up to her tits in dirty diamonds. Why, in terms of specifics, I don’t know, but I have a hunch, a strong hunch that she is working with a group of fairly extreme white expatriate Rhodesians who moved from Zim to Zambia when things got too hot for them and the locals started shooting white farmers to get the land.  I suspect, that Elaine McFarlane knew more than we thought about her lover’s activities and she was living with him at the time he died.  Elaine McFarlane was killed in a car crash in 2006.  We have no information.  The car crash was on the road between Victoria Falls and Harare. What the fuck, I ask myself, was she doing out there in 2006? Ngaleka and Phiri, Ngaleka tells me, do not think my hunch is off the wall.  If I am right, then Ms du Plessis, who does not how much you or Phiri  know about her father,  will want to close off that loose end. Remember, her mother bought a picture of you and Phiri from the driver after you and Phiri took Van Heerden away from the game. Phiri didn’t know anything about Van Heerden’s dirty diamond interests.  He was only concerned then, as you, with the incursions into Zambia from the north and the gun-running.  Ms du Plessis doesn’t know how little you and Phiri knew.  It is only conjecture, but I think it is conjecture you should take into account in assessing the potential threat.” Carver didn’t take any notes.  He didn’t need to.  He had recorded the entire conversation on Skype with Call Recorder.  Carver asked a few questions to focus in on the dirty diamond trade in Zimbabwe.  “OK Jakob, thanks for this, where do I send the fee?” Van Neekirk replied firmly “Already taken care of.  Good luck.”

***

“So…”  Carver said out loud, sitting back in the chair at his desk “I appear to have a potentially psychotic ex CIA diamond smuggler, whose father we took down, who wants more than a hot date at Brinkley’s in Chelsea. Ha!  Well… this could bring a bit of spice into my life” Carver picked up his Samsung and dialled.  “Helen… Hi…Mungo…. I’ve been on a business strip….  Just got back.  Fancy a bit of late nosebag? …. Excellent….. meet me at The Bluebird on the King’s Road…. half an hour suit you?”

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