Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Cracking of the Mirror by Mary Farrell

‘ Wunderkind’ the press had called him. How the paparazzi would love to see him now! He imagined the tabloid front pages. Hiding in a booth in a side-street eatery! He’d ignored his sixth sense jangling lately. Now after just a few short phone calls….. !

His meteoric rise had made headlines in the financial world. With an instinctive nose for over-extended companies about to crash, he’d buy them for a song, break them up and off-load the smaller units at great financial gain. The moniker no-one used to his face was ‘The Spare Parts Dealer’. His business team was nicknamed ‘The Foxhounds’, eager as they were for both the hunt and the kill.

His personal life too had had a successful upward curve. From a Council Estate in Barnsley, a scholarship to Oxford had smoothed out his accent. Marrying Louise, the granddaughter of an Earl, a month after his graduation, brought him connections with both the Tory Party and the English Peerage.

The Company he soon founded was sleekly promoted by her brother’s PR firm. Moving up through the labels of millionaire, multi- and then billionaire, an amicable divorce re-allocated his assets and their three children to everyone’s satisfaction. Louise got the children and Cotswold estate and he the South Bank penthouse.

Oiled by his annual profits, his years passed comfortably. Saint Moritz in January,

Rio at Easter, his Bahamian holiday home in August, and Australia each November for the Melbourne Cup formed the backdrop to his very satisfying London life. He regularly featured in the media with this season’s mistress, each as beautiful and intelligent as the last. He had the usual entourage of housekeeper, cook, and personal trainer as well as Season tickets for all the appropriate events both cultural and sporting. His Private Accountant and Personal Secretary were as discreet as they were efficient. His life purred smoothly.

Until Monday morning. Only yesterday!

Arriving at the office, he was surprised to find Elaine’s desk unoccupied. His Personal Secretary had been there at 8.30 sharp every morning for the last fifteen years.

Disconcerted he nonetheless began his day by ringing Charles, his Accountant, but was told that he too was not at work yet. How very curious! Speculation over this was interrupted by a call from his Chief Investments Banker. Why had he cancelled the monthly funding for the Coral Project? As he had done no such thing, he ordered the banker to his office immediately. A subsequent investigation revealed a long list of similarly cancelled payments.

The funds for them all had, over the weekend, been diverted to a Cayman Island account.

The afternoon brought more bad news. Huge deficits appeared right across the wide band of his investments and bank accounts. The revelations continued long after business hours. After far too few hours of sleep, he spent the morning with four different Bank Managers trying to quilt together a patchwork of borrowed funds to disguise the extent of his financial disarray.

Just before noon he phoned Louise. She would understand and help. She was indeed sympathetic but explained that all of her available assets were tied up in the various business ventures of their children. And there was certainly no point in approaching the children she went on to warn him. After all, he hadn’t helped them with any initial funding for their businesses when asked, giving them instead a lecture on self-sufficiency!

By mid-afternoon he could no longer continue to ignore that the absence of both Charles and Elaine had a related significance. As the skein had further unravelled over the day, it had become clear that their combined knowledge about his funds and personal habits had created this crisis. Charles had indeed been one of his best assets. No-one could even begin to follow the money trail, the tracks were so cleverly hidden. Over the weekend, they, and most of his money, had vanished without trace.

By close of business, he realised he’d barely eaten for two days. Booking a table at a down-market restaurant where he would be anonymous, he left a voicemail for Chrissie, his latest mistress, to meet him there. He left the office building by the back entrance. Maybe he was being paranoid but he could swear he saw some reporters in the Front Lobby. Not wanting to use his own car, he took a taxi to Fusion. Sliding into a back-booth, he ordered food, and a very good Chardonnay. He was in deep trouble, yes, but he could still turn this round. He knew he could!

He poured a glass for Chrissie. He needn’t have bothered. A short phone-call informed him that she would not be coming. Elaine had phoned her on Sunday night, hinting that she seek out another benefactor. A handsome Italian high-flyer in the City had been very welcoming last night when she’d moved from the apartment which he’d rented for her into Ernesto’s new townhouse in Chelsea. Yes, she and Elaine had become very friendly indeed over the last few months. He hadn’t known? He’d never asked!

He stared at the cooling food on his plate…thinking. When the phone rang again, he was tempted to ignore it, but a fatalistic curiosity took over. Yes, this was he. Whose office? Dr Fisher in Harley St? but he’d had his routine medical check last week for the Insurance Company. The full works - blood test, x-ray, even a sight and hearing test. The results? Sorry but he was too busy to attend to routine test results at the moment. What!

Could you repeat that please?

As he put the phone down with a shaking hand, an unfamiliar sensation uncurled behind his eyes. Without warning, tears began to stream. When actual drops began to fall onto his place mat, he covered his eyes with a pristine Henry Poole linen handkerchief.

Even those born without a silver spoon but who had fought hard to buy one, should never doubt the ability of the Fates to decide who keeps it!

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