The swindler

“He’s cleaned us out!  All the money from the private clients’ accounts has been wiped out!  It’s all gone!”  George Worthington looked up from his mahogany desk.  “Slow down, Howard, what’s happened?”

Howard Evans sank into the well-upholstered leather chair with a sigh, facing his business partner and friend, across the desk.  “Your bloody whiz-kid, Simon, he’s somehow managed to transfer everything out of our private clients’ accounts…and he’s gone!”

How do you know all this?  Everything was fine yesterday.  I had lunch with Simon at the club, for heaven’s sake.”  George peered across the gleaming, polished wood at Howard.  “Well…?”

“Look at this.” Howard pushed an email print out across the desk, “It’s from Simon.  It’s…well, it’s kind of a threat.  Says he’s used the new computerised authorisation system to transfer the money from the clients’ accounts to an off-shore account…and you and I are shown confirming the transactions.  So it looks as if we’ve authorised the funds transfer.  It will look on the system as if we have simply siphoned off the cash!

George put on his glasses and regarded the flimsy piece of paper.  “When did this arrive?”  “First thing this morning; I’ve been checking through the system with Holly to see if we can’t cancel the transfers or reverse the money back or something.”  Howard’s voice was taut; sweat was beading on his forehead.  “I don’t know what we’re going to do!”

We should call the police – the fraud squad – explain what’s happened and get them to go after him, get our money back.  Thieving scoundrel!  The private clients’ accounts; that’s over half the business!  After all, it’s not as if we’ve done anything wrong.  Have we?

There was a knock at the door and Holly Richardson’s anxious face appeared.  “Can I come in?”  Holly was the partnership’s ‘safe pair of hands’.  Highly professional and competent, she was the firm’s most experienced dealer.  The only person who had surpassed her performance had been Simon Lestrade, erstwhile golden boy, and George’s protégé.

Simon Lestrade had arrived just over a year ago and from the start, he had impressed.  His appearance exuded good breeding and confidence.  He arrived for an ‘informal interview’ (prior to George appointing him that afternoon) dressed in an extravagant and immaculate pin-striped suit in an attractive shade of dark blue, with a pale blue shirt which exactly matched the narrow, contrasting stripe of his suit.  His tie had been somewhat flamboyant, more suited to the world of advertising than austere financial circles, but this was deemed to be an indication of an ability to innovate and take calculated risks.  His CV had been even more impressive, but most importantly, he came highly recommended by Rupert Churchill, George’s old friend and fellow club member.

Lestrade’s performance had been better than good; it had exceeded all expectations and in the first six months he had grown the private clients’ side of the business by over a third, with an even more significant profit attached to that growth.  There had been tensions though, particularly between him and Holly, who undoubtedly resented his success although she had concealed this well, consummate professional that she was.

Holly would have been the first to admit that he was a smooth operator, sometimes a bit too smooth, “in a creepy sort of way”, she had described to her female friends.  ‘Never trust a man in white shoes’ was her maxim, so when he graced the Christmas bash in pressed denim complemented by off-white loafers, it confirmed her prejudice.  His manner of dress might have been an indication of future felony, but that was hardly an issue now.

At George’s nod she entered the room, closing the door softly behind her.  “It’s bad.  He’s stitched us up and there’s no way out.  I’ve checked the system; he’s in the clear, but it looks like both of you have committed a huge fraud.  I can’t trace the overseas account.  The money’s gone and you’re implicated!  And if you go down, so does the firm.”

“Does anyone else know about this, Holly?”

“No, George, and they won’t.  We’ll just have to make the money back.  Beg, steal or borrow.  Well, beg and borrow at least.  If we put the clients’ money back before they notice, at least you’ll stay out of prison.”

“But we haven’t done anything wrong,” lamented Howard, “it’s Lestrade who should be locked up.  Not sunning himself on some beach on our hard earned profits, even if he did make most of them.  It’s not as if he wasn’t very well paid…with bonuses.”

“No doubt about that.” said Holly, tight lipped.  “However, we need to come up with a strategy and we need to make sure that no-one finds out about the missing money until we’ve fixed things.  We’re good at what we do.  We’re very good.  We just need to work hard, maybe get some good extra help?  Someone reliable, a dealer with a sound track record.”

“I admire your loyalty, Holly, but I don’t think it’s going to be that simple,” said George heavily.  “Talent to redeem a loss of this size doesn’t grow on trees.”

“Actually, there is someone.  She’s a friend of mine who’s been working out in the States.  She’s just moved back to London and is looking for a position.  She’s one of the best in her field.  We’d be lucky to get her, but I’m sure we can persuade her.”

“As long as she doesn’t want to look at the books,” said George ruefully.  “Anyway, who is she?  Can we trust her?”

“Well, Julia left her former firm with glowing references, not the family silver.  I’ve known her since University, lost touch for a while, but she’s sound…and sharp.”

“Worth a try, if she’ll give it a shot, George.”  Howard squared his shoulders and sat up in his seat.  “What have we to lose anyway?”

*

Julia Deakin picked up the phone in her smart new Docklands apartment and dialled.  A man answered.  “Rupert, thank you so much for putting me back in touch with Holly.  She’s found me just what I need – and they sound very keen.  I owe you one!”

Rupert Churchill replaced the phone and smiled as he crossed one pale leather brogue over the other.  What Julia didn’t know was that he had certain photographs of her, involving illegal substances and compromising positions.  She’d find out just what she owed him and how what she’d need to do to repay him.

©2018 Chris Hall

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