…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…
Lehuby was sipping a coffee in the cafe where Noemi, Emma and Jose had once spent such an effort in finding Lehuby. They knew he was there because they had just spoken to Gustavus who indicated it was where Lehuby spent his time recently – looking for tips on where he might find willing settlers. When Emma and Noemi entered the cafe, they scoured the room to find Lehuby. Having been such a time since they last saw him and because of the story they had built up in their heads about him, they expected something that looked a touch more evil. He was just the same, standard, French gentleman though. Drinking coffee whilst checking the shipping news. Emma and Noemi looked at each other as if in hesitation as to what they were about to do, but decided there was no point hesitating.
They approached him and Emma smiled saying, “could we have a moment of your time, Mr. Lehuby?”
He put down his coffee cup and peered up at them, uncertain at first of who it was that stood in front of him. The quizzical look hung painted on his face for long enough that Emma was going to explain, but then all became clear in his mind. “Ah yes, wasn’t their third musketeer around as well? I thought you always came as a package.”
“My brother is currently occupied,” replied Noemi, “It’s actual part of what we’d like to discuss with you.”
Time was something that Lehuby felt he had plenty of and he rather liked to keep it that way. He didn’t feel any immediate desire to indulge in a discussion with these two now that he was dealing with MacGregor and his secretary, Gustavus.
“I’m not sure I have the time, I’m afraid.”
Emma and Noemi looked at each other and then Emma continued, “You will want to hear what we have to say. I don’t think you want us to say it out in the open here though.”
His ears pricked up. What could they possibly have that would warrant words such as those. Irritating as it was, he thought it best to at least hear them out. He certainly wasn’t going to move though.
“Go on,” he said, as he picked up his coffee up and took a sip.
“Should we just do it here?” Noemi asked Emma. A comment that annoyed Lehuby. Why would they think it was OK to speak in front of him and not include him. Outrageous.
“Yes, it was just for his benefit in case someone overheard. May I start?” Emma replied.
“Sure, but I’ll chime in.”
Looking at Lehuby, Emma began, “It isn’t a secret that the Poyais scheme that you are running is a complete scam.”
“Preposterous, you were there. You are involved. Of course it’s not a scam!”
“Two little women like us? No, we’re not involved. No one will ever believe it, that’s for sure. We do have information, however, and we are not afraid to use it.”
“You wouldn’t! Besides, you don’t have anything.”
Noemi smiled, “That’s not entirely true. We know that you purchased the ‘land’ from MacGregor and we have seen copies of those documents. We know the details of the money you agreed to pay MacGregor and, there was one other thing, what was it Emma?”
“Well, name, address, company details. Oh, and we know that you were in London recently and it’s not possible that you could have missed all of the press around the Poyais scandal. Especially as it was at just the time when it was at it’s highest news coverage.”
“Yes, thank you Emma. So, as you can see, we have all of the vital information. The question is whether we will use it and when.”
Lehuby did not appear backed in a corner. He simply continued drinking is coffee and observing the people who were threatening him, if ever so politely. The initial grin on his face had been removed, but that was it.
“For a moment, let’s say I believe you. What exactly is it that you will be doing for me and at what price?
“What price is easy. We want the money that you’re supposed to hand over to MacGregor,” Emma began.
Lehuby laughed a low laugh that cut off Emma’s flow.
“In return for that, we will decide not to inform the authorities of this scam of yours. So at the very least you can make off with some money and avoid jail,” Emma finished with a wry smile, to Lehuby’s complete dissatisfaction.
“How dare you?” He said in his best shout that was incredibly low in volume, “You threaten me? Outrageous. I won’t give you any money because you’ll never do anything. You have nothing.”
He was becoming slightly erratic. Despite the words, sweat dripped from his brow and his pupils were wide with adrenaline. Fighting would get him nowhere as for all he knew (which was the case) they could have already told the authorities. Half standing up he made a threatening pose.
Noemi quickly parried with some words, “You can’t possibly believe that it is an accident that my brother is not here, can you?”
The third musketeer. Not something he had fully considered in the conversation. So he stood dumbstruck unsure of what to do next.
“I didn’t think so. Well, just in case it helps you make your decision, he’s at the Foreign office to tell them that the passport applications they recently received are for a country that doesn’t exist and that he knows exactly who has been selling the scheme to these poor people.”
“Nonsense,” Lehuby perked up, “there’s no conceivable reason for any of these people to apply for a passport.”
Emma smiled to Lehuby’s disappointment, “ordinarily, no, but when a friendly face like mine came around and urged as many people as I could find who had bought a tract of land in the settlement scheme, they duly complied. I made it quite easy for them seeing as I had a nice little form letter ready to go.”
It was the final brick that completed the wall. Lehuby could go no further without their help. He saw that, but his mind raced to still decide if he should slide into the proverbial fight or flight reaction. Neither seemed too appealing which is what gave him so much difficulty. Never before that he encountered the no-win scenario. It was excoriating. Both Emma and Noemi greatly enjoyed this privileged man going through it with such agony.
“What will it be, Mr. Lehuby?”
After a final moment, he sat down and then conceded, “I shall give you some of what I have collected and is due to MacGregor, but you must tell me if you do plan to tell the French foreign office.”
“We will. Where is the money?”
“I have been keeping it in a lockbox nearby. We can go there now. Well, as soon as I have paid for this coffee.”
They waited around while Lehuby signalled the waiter and calmly took his time in settling his bill. His entire demeanour at switched in a split second. It was almost as if the tension of the decision was worse for him than the actual outcome. After he settled up, he lead them out of the coffee shop and down the road towards his merchant bank.
This was not one of the major institutions, but rather a slightly obscure branch of a foreign owned firm that was clearly suited to the loose morals of men like Lehuby, who wanted to succeed regardless of the cost to others. They entered along with Lehuby and got to his lockbox. It was unclear how much money there was in there, but it didn’t matter much at this point. They were getting something.
“So,” said Lehuby, “I owed MacGregor £400,000. I’ve already paid him £100,000 directly. Despite what we agreed, I came up with a phased approach. So far, I’ve sold about three quarters of the land. So, that would be £200,000 for you. Acceptable.”
There was no doubt that he was swindling them, but it was plenty. They didn’t need more than that and so they simply nodded.
Lehuby neatly counted out the amount and placed it in front of the two women so they could place it in their bags. He smiled an annoying smile. There was again no doubt in their mind that he had undercounted. It didn’t matter.
“You may show yourselves out, but remember, you must tell me.”
Emma and Noemi wandered towards the door and then stopped to look at each other. Part of them very much did not want to tell this snake what was coming. It was for the best though. MacGregor wouldn’t remember them, but Lehuby would. So, Emma turned at looked at him until he acknowledged her.
“Yes,” he scowled, “what else can I help you with.”
“Well,” said Emma, “I thought that it would be useful for you to pack the rest of that cash in this bag here.”
She threw an empty bag she had been carrying as she had no idea how big or small a few hundred thousand pounds sterling would look like.
“What’s this for. Why would I want to pack it up.”
“Ah, well, I must admit that I thought you would be smarter than that. I will spell it out clear, just as we promised though. Jose is at the French foreign office today and he will be advising them all about this Second Poyais scheme, and also handing over all of the evidence we have. So, I do very much think that it would make sense for you to pack up and leave town. Leaving the country is probably even safer.”
Noemi smiled as they turned and left Lehuby staring at his pile of money in dismay, “Best of luck, sir.”
It was the last they ever saw of each other, but the image of those two women was burned into Lehuby’s mind until his dying days. Emma and Noemi forgot him that afternoon after they told Jose about their day.