Thursday, April 05, 2012

BLEAK SPOUSE: Chapter 6 – Our Dead Banker

AT THE OFFICES of Messrs. Venal & Grabbit, Solicitors. Edgar Venal is sitting at his desk perusing some documents that his client has 'acquired' from her husband's safe, when his mobile phone launches into his favourite ringtone, Money (That's What I Want). He sees that it is Steve Jobby. He glances up to make sure his office door is shut, and takes the call.

"What news Mr Jobby?" He asks.

"We've got a result, Mr Venal." Replies Jobby. "A name, and even an address."

"Excellent." Says Edgar, picking up his Conway Stewart Limited Edition Professional Series pen (Lawyer's Edition, of course). "Go on."

"Our man BigWad123 is one Larry Lizzard." Says Jobby. "Apparently, used to be a big-shot banker in the City, but now fallen on hard times."

The name rings a bell with Edgar. "And where does Mr Lizzard live?" He asks.

"Dilapidated House." Replies Jobby. "Block of flats owned by one Mr Crooked."

Edgar wonders how Jobby could have found the address, but knows better than to ask. "Good work, Mr Jobby." He says. "I'll see that you receive a proper reward for this, via the usual channel."

Edgar hangs up, grabs his Burberry trench coat, and leaves his office.

*            *            *

As Edgar enters the flats he hears a raised voice somewhere above him. He climbs the graffiti-decorated stairs (trying to ignore the slight odour of urine), and comes across a shady-looking man standing on the landing, shouting through a closed flat front-door.

"If I don't 'ave me rent by first fing tomorra, I'll send me boys rahnd!" Screams the man. "They'll make yer wish you 'ad paid!"

At that point the man noticed Edgar approaching. He looks round warily, his expression a mixture of anger and guilt. "Who're you?" He asks. "And whaddaya want 'ere?"

Edgar gives the man a withering look. The anger disappears from the man's face, and the guilt takes over.

"You wouldn't by any chance be Mr Crooked, the landlord of this establishment, would you?" Edgar asks calmly, but with a hint of menace.

The man now looks worried. "W-who w-wants ter know?" He stammers.

"Never mind that," replies Edgar, "do you have a Larry Lizzard living here?"

"M-might 'ave." Replies Mr Crooked suspiciously.

"Look, Mr Crooked," says Edgar sternly, "I'm a lawyer. I've seen your - shall we say - ‘unorthodox landlord methods’" - he points towards the door Mr Crooked has been shouting at - "you help me and I'll not tell the local authority what you get up to. Now, which is Lizzard's flat?"

Mr Crooked reluctantly points to the other door across the landing.

Edgar notices that the door is ajar. He pushes it open, and is hit by an overpowering smell of decay and putrefaction. He enters the flat. Mr Crooked follows.

The flat is completely dark, the curtains drawn. Edgar tries a light switch, but nothing happens. The electricity meter must be empty, thinks Edgar. "Mr Lizzard!" He calls out.

No reply.

As Edgar's eyes adjust to the darkness, he manages to pick his way across to a window, and pulls the curtain. The curtain and rail holding it fall to the floor in a cloud of dust. As that clears, a scene of devastation appears. The flat is a complete shambles, with rubbish, rotting food and God knows what scattered everywhere.

"Oh shit!" Cries Mr Crooked.

Edgar follows his gaze, and sees the body of a man slumped in an old chair in the corner, surrounded by what Edgar recognises as the paraphernalia of a drug addict.

Crooked grabs the man's wrist. "Nuffin." He says. "I fink 'es dead."

Silence. Edgar and Mr Crooked stare at the forlorn figure of Larry Lizzard. For a brief moment, Edgar is actually moved. He soon pulls himself together, however, and tells Mr Crooked to call an ambulance.

"I can do betta than that," says Mr Crooked, "there's a quack next door. I'll get'im." He rushes from the room, and returns a few minutes later with a young be-suited man in tow, who identifies himself as Allan Plastic, GP.

As Dr Plastic attends the corpse, Mr Crooked mumbles something about losing the housing benefit he has been getting for Larry, and starts rooting around the flat. Edgar sees him surreptitiously slip the only item of any possible value under his overcoat, an old laptop.

Edgar says nothing - Mr Crooked is, after all, considerably bigger than him.

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