art by Unitas Quick
Read from Chapter One
“Superman don’t need no seat belt.” – Muhammad Ali
As Richard made his way back to his offices at Snow Hill, right next door to the Serious Fraud Office, he smiled to himself thinking of all those number drones at their desks. What would they think if they knew lawyers like him were right on their doorstep? It was that “wasp” mentality (white Anglo-Saxon pricks), that saved him from detection. They always picked on immigrants and people with foreign-sounding names much more than their own kind. His mobile phone kept bleeping. He had already missed twenty-seven calls. Could it be work related? The number looked familiar.
He checked his messages. Some of them were from his uncle Marvin who owned a gold shop in Hatton Garden not far from where he worked. He dialled the number wearily. (He would respond to the other messages afterwards; they were all from the same demanding wealthy client Seymour of Deer Hurst).
“Hi, Uncle Marvin. It’s me, Richie,” but it was his aunt who answered the phone.
“Oh Ritchie Bubblie, come over come over now, we’ve been robbed!”
“Don’t worry I’ll be round straight away.”
The thief had escaped with some of his personal items, including a gold Rolex watch and an envelope with his name on it. Richard’s heart missed one two three beats. Fuck the gold Rolli. That isn’t fucking important, he thought. He immediately called Eva at the office and told her he would be back late. Then he called his uncle again and told him not to report the theft to the “old bill,” at least not the loss of his items anyway.
Marvin was sceptical the insurance wouldn’t cough up the money to replace the stock if the theft wasn’t reported and he couldn’t afford to lose such a huge amount of money. Anyway, he had already reported most of the items to the police, but not Richard’s. They were kept separately in a smaller safe deposit box. Richard sighed; at least the “the old bill” had no idea of what was missing. He had to make some urgent calls and find Poncho Khan’s missing key and paper note with the encrypted figures or else they were all for the chop.
After speaking with his uncle, Richard called Seymour back, and put on a confident professional voice to reassure him that his legal work would be done. Ashen-faced and trembling with his skin tags more visible than ever, he hailed a black cab for the short ride to Hatton Garden. This was bad, very bad. His knees were buckling under him. What the fuck was he going to do? The cab driver was irritatingly chatty. He had dozens and dozens of pictures of his two children in the car and was talking about golf, and how bad Man City was doing. Why put so many shots of your children in a cab, thought Richard. Stuck in groaning lunchtime traffic, the car inched along like a crawling centipede stuck in a mud pool. He had moved twenty feet in as many minutes. He stopped the cab driver,
“Listen mate can I get out?”
“What we’ll be there soon now I’ll have to turn around now,” Snarked, the cabbie.
“No you won’t just stop and pull up here you always hog up bus lanes and yellow lines anyway,” groused Richie under his breath.
Reluctantly the cab driver parked up and Richie paid him, then began walking the rest of the distance to his uncle’s shop. After about ten minutes, he arrived, greeted by his aunt Esther, a sprightly woman of around sixty-five, accompanied by one of her daughters, Rebecca. They looked tired and worn out like a heap of un-ironed washing. Esther potted around, making tea. She asked Rebecca to go and get some salt beef sandwiches from the Nosherie down the road. Richard tried to protest at this blitz of food, weighed down with more urgent things, but Rebecca was sent anyway.
Marvin, was a short, well fed, typically Semitic looking man, with an Israeli tan and a mass of thick unruly hair that he half covered under his yarmulke. To complete the look he wore a gold signet ring and chunky curve bracelet on his podgy hand. He stared angrily at Richard as if he were the cause of all his mishap.
“Come upstairs, Ritchie, come on let’s talk upstairs” He shook his head: “Gold Breitling, John Lobb shoes, Kilgur shirt top of the range shmutter, you certainly look the part, Ritchie.”
Richard dragged his feet up the stairs like two blocks of concrete. He knew that surly, flat tone, used dozens of times before when Uncle Marvin had to bail him out of trouble over and over again; he always used that same cranky voice. He was noticeably uneasy and took a long, deep breath before entering the small office.
“Now, Ritchie,” continued his uncle, “I’m your father’s brother and when he died I became responsible for you as if you were my own boy. So, tell me what this shit is about. Who have you been messing around with this time, Ritchie?”
Richard was out of his depth with his uncle who was a straight shooter and spoke bluntly without unnecessary sentiment. He never fucked about with small talk.
“Look, Uncle Marvin I’m really sorry about what’s happened, but I swear to you, I don’t know who’s behind this. You’ll have to trust me, Uncle, what’s important now is I get those documents and that key back, that’s all that matters now“
“Twenty years this shop has been here, twenty years never any trouble. No one around here has ever been robbed. You’re keeping something from me, Ritchie. We’ll have to leave this one to the “old bill,” they can sort it out. It’s too dangerous for you to get involved in. You’re a solicitor, for fuck’s sake.”
“No, Uncle Marvin, don’t involve the police any more than you have to. They’ll just nose around, file and bin it anyway. End of. Some faceless bird in blue will have us spewing out all the details, filling in the forms, then they’ll start nosing around ’cause they ’avent got anything better t’ do and they’ll find something for sure, like dodgy stock or some crap,” Richard continued, “All I want is for you to forget you ever saw those papers or even had them in your shop. Just forget about it.”
Marvin stared hard at Richard. It was the face of disappointment and worry. Esther came into the room with a tray of sandwiches and pot of hot tea.
“There we are, dears. Here, get something inside you.” Richard looked up and half smiled at his aunt while Marvin shooed her out of the room with a broad sweep of his hand.
“For God’s sake, Esther, can’t you see we’re talking? Please just leave that on the side there.”
Esther nonchalantly did as she was told but gave Richard a comforting look anyway as she walked slowly down the stairs.
Richard, now desperate to leave, turned to his uncle to assure him that everything would be all right. He apologized once more and nervously hugged him while Marvin forced a wad of fifty’s and twenty’s into his hand. “There’s only a monkey there, but it will get you through the weekend,” he said generously. Richard, embarrassed by the gesture, took the cash anyway. He made his way back to Hatton Garden and walked around towards the Holborn Viaduct.
As his pace quickened, he became acutely aware of the pressure on him to find the stolen bond. How the fuck was he going to get out of this one? The “old bill” would love to know about the “salubrious” Poncho Khan, on the surface a wholesome respectable Property Tycoon, Investment Banker, and Bollywood Film Financer, but in reality one of the most wanted and ruthless drug barons in the world. How exactly was Richard going to tell Poncho that he had lost his Bearer Bond and a Swiss safety deposit key that allowed his client access to millions of pounds?
Sweating profusely with severe heart palpitations, Richard decided to stop by The Old Monk pub. He needed a drink to settle his nerves and make him lucid. He decided on a double Vodka and Red Bull. The bar tender, a pretty, blonde Australian in her early twenties, was someone Richard would ordinarily chat up, but now everything seemed futile and all he could think of was the long list of criminal charges Poncho had been indicted for in his former South East Asian homeland: extortion, racketeering blackmail, unlawful killing, robbery, the list went on, false imprisonment, even threats to administer poison. Richard wished he had done a more detailed investigation of Poncho’s background before he took him on as a client, but by then it was too late, and anyway, Poncho always had an excuse, a plausible explanation citing political ill will and corruption as just two of the reasons for what he claimed were bogus charges. He had a string of aliases that all checked out, too, and was able to travel freely almost anywhere in the world. How could Richard possibly know what he was really like?
By the time Richard had discovered his unsavoury past, his law firm was being paid a handsome retainer of one hundred thousand per month and he himself was creaming off a further thirty thousand a month for unrelated, “private,” work that never showed up on the firm’s accounts. Besides, Poncho was not a man to whom you could say no or even maybe to, you always said yes to Poncho.
Two Croatian twins had joined T’s payroll, they had all the qualifications they needed to make excellent debt collectors. They could cross their legs a la Sharon Stone, wear six-inch stilettos without falling over, and most importantly, could pout on demand. Fresh from a daring raid on one of Europe’s most luxurious department stores the two had been acquitted of robbery because of the magic of their matching DNA. Now notorious and trading on their celebrity tag they were the perfect cover up for T’s expanding bizzo. Recruited to collect debts from property owners, private debtors and assigned company losses, Bernie however, didn’t like them or trust them he wanted them off the scene.
With their platinum blond hair and Jean Harlow smiles they had the perfect cool façade to dupe everyone into thinking they were playing fair; but the twins were hatching a swindle of their own. As part of an Eastern European crime gang they were using T’s contacts to target on-line betting businesses, squeezing them for cash by threatening them with cyber attacks if they refused to pay up. “blackmail by internet” was their hustle.
Bernie sent them off to Hatton Garden to make a visit on an elderly accountant who was five months in the red with a personal debt. Christina spoke first she was diva cool wearing sequins and black leather with a fake fur wrap. Her hair was “bed head” loose and she wore heavy kohl eyeliner and pink blush.
“Hello Mr. Davis, Bernie has sent us.”
“I see,” he looked at them with a dead lust in his eye.
“Well, I- I’ll have to go to the bank I don’t keep money here,” he stammered.
“That’s fine Mr. Davis we’ll wait,” replied Nadja her twin, they wore identical clothes and both spoke with the same dominatrix strum.
“We can’t leave without some payment,” Christina replied.
“Please, both of you, can you please – both of you – can you wait outside?” He pleaded.
They answered together.
“To be honest and perfectly frank I — I don’t want my clients seeing you you’re dressed in very revealing, quite inappropriate clothes and my wife will be meeting me here for lunch – please I, I need some time just give me an hour or two?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Davies – perhaps you can put us in a waiting room or somewhere a little more discreet until you’ve seen your wife and your clients but we can’t leave without payment, you owe us money.” asserted Nadja.
Mr. Davis was a middle class tremble of a man worried about an unseemly display and his Jerry Springer moment. He was cash stumped; all his assets in hock and on the trading floor. He had borrowed £10,000 from a private lender and the debt had now been assigned to T for collection. He was being hammered with interest and unable to keep up with the payments due to the elaborate lie he was leading, faking respectability and financial security. Bernie knew he had a joint bank account with his wife and that he could get his hands on money fast but was refusing to cough up so the twins were piling on the pressure. Bernie was banking on his middle class veneration and artifice to choke it out of him.
“I- I‘d like to renegotiate the terms of the loan,” he blustered.
“You have to deal with Bernie for that, but today is very simple we take some money and then we leave.”
Their presence in the office was like a smothering wind ready to strangle the prayers out of him. It was sordid.
“What time is your wife expected,” asked Christine with cold scorn.
“Not long, look I’m writing a cheque now I’ll be back in twenty minutes,” he answered with crumbling fatigue. He looked at them again this time with pure hate, the kind of boiled hate that wolfs a man from inside forcing him to kill all that is good and all that is right.
Spooked they waited for him to return in silence.
While the twins were out of the way, Bernie had time to do some in-house sleuthing of his own. He went to the room they shared and started rifling through their belongings and contact numbers. He found a small lap top hidden underneath some clothes in a wall drawer. He started it up. Once the code had been hacked, he found several internet businesses and what appeared to be a cyclostyle blackmail threat that had been sent to all of them. This was high-risk crime something Bernie felt would put T and the crew under intense police scrutiny. Then he found the “smoking gun” to get rid of the girls for good. They were planning a cyber hit on one of T’s regulars a family owned betting shop that had recently started trading on-line. Bernie would put the kibosh on their slippery scheme and throw them out. He waited for them to return from the Davis drop.
“Christina, Nadja come here — you were hired to do a job.”
“Yah,” they looked blankly at each other and then at him.
“I thought you could be trusted.”
“Yah,” they answered in unison.
“I want you to leave. You’re not good for bizzo and I can’t have you creating rifts with people we do business with.”
“What?” Asked Nadja
“Blackmailing bookies on-line is just like stealing from the boss when you know, that bookie is one we have agreements with now get your stuff and clear off you’re fucking trouble and double the trouble just ain’t worth it.” Bernie was impressed by his put down line and felt vindicated by asking them to leave but gave them £1000 out of what they collected anyway. He never cheated “family.”
The sound of a muzzled clock could be heard ticking in Christian’s head. It was like the freezing hum of an egg timer: the same tedious beat scoring his soul. He felt trapped and paralyzed in a coke bubble. He was losing it. His only piece of blue sky was Estevez the guy he had been seeing without realizing Bernie knew all about it. When Christian first popped up on the London party scene, he was alive with ideas and the pulse of excitement. He had baby-faced ambition and a head of cool:
I would wake everyday and think of my moment out there on stage with a real band and hordes of fans waiting to hear me sing I used to have a wake up and get the world feeling now after nine weeks as a coke joke all I have is a flake out – no hope feeling.
He couldn’t shake it; he was on the head start to nowhere. In his real life, away from the acid vibrations of the drug infused world he occupied, he had a family who cared about him. They lived on the Gold coast of Australia and owned plots of land. They were country people, simple decent- no frills- kind of people. They never knew about the dope, or the cheap sex he traded for rent money. All they knew was that Christian could sing that he was a placid, good boy. A proper son, who called home every week, gave them extra cash when they needed it and remembered their birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. He did it all. Now, Christian was slapped up on coke and close to giving up. He needed to start over.
…to be continued…
Copyright © 2012 by Saira Viola
All rights reserved.