The Boarder Chapter 1
Tim had never thought that, at 27 years of age and with a half decade of business success behind him, he’d ever find himself without a roof over his head, yet here he was, alone in London, with barely the clothes he stood up in, standing in the rain outside a corner shop scanning the various bits of paper stuck to the inside of the window advertising bicycles, lounge suites and accomodation.
Tim shook his head. 200 pounds a week. 195 pounds. 160!
The city deserved its reputation, he thought, and shivered, shifting his feet in the shallow, icy slush covering the footpath. Damn London, he thought.
It had started well enough. Lex Grabbit and Run Awa was one of the agile new investment companies that had started up after the Global Financial Crisis. Tim was one of the smart young operators who had taken the company’s bait, he remembered with a feeling of quiet anger. Lex and Run promoted themselves as ‘Just two young guys with an unerring eye for a way to make an easy quid.’
Tim had thought that sounded honest and straightforward enough, and had got an interview with Lex and Run in the subdued luxury of their discreet office in St James.
‘Tim,’ they’d promised him.‘In a couple of months, you’ll be living a completely changed lifestyle.’
Lex had winked at Tim and Tim smiled and nodded slightly back. He had realised that he had now made some serious progress. Some of the smaller new companies operated almost under the radar, and some of them were making quite obscene amounts of money. He had lit up the Romeo y Julieta Lex had offered him and agreed to start the next Monday.
The first month had been fabulous. His first fortnightly pay was 1000 pounds, which was in addition to the 200 quid Lex had pressed into his hand as Tim had left the narrow old oak door into Jermyn Street.
‘Get yourself a decent tie, old man, and no offence, lose the fedora,’ Lex had said.
Tim didn’t mind. He took the money and headed off into the wan greyness of the late winter afternoon. He strode off, feeling well pleased with himself. He walked through the park to the Thames, and walked east along he embankment. He stopped after a while, and threw his expensive hat into the swirling river.
The next day, Tim bought a new silk tie, and on the Monday following, he began work at Lex Grabbit and Run Awa.
There were a few other young businessmen at Grabbit Awa, as the firm was known to those lucky enough to be business insiders.
The business traded on the a special ‘dark web’ run by a group called Orlin Owse. Orlins approached ‘suitable’ clients, and offered them the chance to trade on its LANSCAM trading board, on which certain companies, listed only by number, traded off balance sheet shares for cash. Sometimes, once a company started such a practice, not only were they outlaws to the tax office, but they found the value of their shares mushrooming, and started trading in the millions of pounds. The spin off for the investment whizzkids at Grabbit Awa was a generous percentage per trade, in and out, since the buyers were also the company’s clients. The young traders would often discuss how ingenious it all was.
The first three months had been unbelievable. Tim made almost 5000 pounds, and hit a 1000 pound performance bonus.
Tim had brought it up, over a fine tokay after lunch at the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Pall Mall. He had access to around 100,000 pounds of family money, and felt honoured when Lex, after a moment’s reflection, accepted the funds and picked up the tab.
Tim’s investment would go into loans to buyers on the LANSCAM trading board. The security was the borrowing company’s own shares.
‘And worth every penny,’ Lex had assured Tim as they walked back through the Burlington Arcade. Tim grinned as he realised that he could now actually buy most of the luxury items in the windows they passed.
A few months later Tim and other staff members had turned up one Monday morning to find the oak door locked, with a notice taped to the door advising that Lex Grabbitt and Run Awa was in fecivership with debts of over 12,000,000 pounds.
Worse, when Tim returned to his comfortable Pimlico flat, he found it locked, his goods distrained - according the the letter pinned to his door - and his beautiful leased Aston clamped in the basement car park, awaiting a tow truck.
The series of court cases had been a disaster for the greedy young traders of Lex Grabbit and Run Awa. The company’s fat QC got the two directors off, eventually, on appeal. Lex and Run’s successful ground of appeal was truth; the court considered that the pair had not lied when they said they had an eye for a scheme to make easy money, and they had invested Tim’s money, and a lot of other people’s money, exactly where they had said they would, with the collateral precisely as described. Tim and the others had signed up with no duress.
Tim had been stunned. LANSCAM had turned out to be a fake, in house setup, and Orlin Owse was a phoney outfit actually operated by Lex and Run, who also made up the supposed trading board. The numbered companies were figments, with all funds invested going into the pockets of the duo. Even the entity which paid the young traders’ salaries, Pond Sea Plc, was paying the men with money from their own investments.
Tim had been devastated by the court’s decision. If only there had been a clue to what was going on. The cunning of it all, he thought.
Most of the other rich young patsies had slunk home to their crumbling piles, but Tim couldn’t face what there was of his family, who were not even in the country anyway, and with whom he had limited contact and that mostly through his accountant.
It had taken Tim only a week to run through the cash he had had in his wallet. Ever one to keep up appearances, he had paid his last week’s rent in full, and had left, announcing that he had the chance to move somewhere ‘more suited to his lifestyle.’
‘Luggage, Mr Osborne?’ the concierge of the flats had asked as Tim turned to go.
‘Ear, no,’ said Tim, and continued towards the big glass doors.
‘I see,’ replied the concierge. ‘Good luck.’
Now Tim stood on the street with exactly nineteen pounds and a few coins to his name. He was looking at a carefully written card which looked like an invitation to a fancy wedding, or christening.
The postcard-sized note offered ‘comfortable, full board accommodation’ for the right boarder. ‘Help around the house’ in return for some rent. It also stated that their were ‘two kindly landladies’.
Tim smiled. He could just imagine two motherly old ducks, catering to his every need in return for changing a few light bulbs. Every cloud, he thought to himself.
It was almost dark when he reached the large, neat looking Ruislip terrace. Tim had got the Tube at Ruislip not for any particular reason. He’d just been wandering, slowly, around London since leaving his old flat, and his new cashed-up lifestyle, behind. Ruislip had seemed good enough.
Miami and Sue were younger than he expected. Both in their late 30s, he thought. Mimi was the more talkative one. She had explained the terms and introduced Sue.
‘Everyone calls me "Aunty Sue,’ Sue had said with a laugh, shaking Tim’s hand. ‘Even our big boy boarders,’ Sue had added.
She was a buxom woman, with a warm laugh and friendly eyes. Well-built but a little plump, Sue seemed oblivious of her large breasts, swelling under the thin knitted top she wore over a pair of close-fitting jeans. Tim occasionally visited ‘cameltoe’ soft porn websites, and was an admirer of the exciting feature visible on ladies in tight pants. ‘Aunty’ Sue’s broad cameltoe, bulging gently under her blue jeans, did her proud, thought Tim.
Mimi was more formally dressed, in a black skirt, a white blouse with a stunning double string of pearls around her neck, and black high heeled shoes. She was full figured too, but not quite as chubby as Aunty Sue.
‘I’ll show you your bedroom and just go through a few last things,’ Mimi had told Tim as she led him by the hand upstairs after their conversation over a delicious cup of hot chocolate.
‘A nice touch,’ thought Tim as he followed his new landlady up the mustard carpet of the stairs and into a short passageway.
He felt quite at home already.
Mimi had explained a few details about the hours she and Aunty Sue liked to keep, then looked Tim as they sat together on the big, soft bed in the room.
‘Now, what about bed-wetting?’ she asked.
Tim could only blink back at her. My God, he thought. Mimi had just put her finger on a very sensitive area of Tim’s personal life. He had wet the bed regularly until his early teens. So regularly that his mother had him in diapers every night. He had been put in pullups for long car trips, and had even soiled himself on occasion when he had not been able to reach a toilet in time. The last time he had wet his bed was… a week ago, he thought with shame. It was an accident, of course, because he was so worried about his future. He had stayed in his flat all day, moving the fan heater around on the wet mattress trying to make sure there was no tell-tale stain. Not that it mattered, he thought. He’d never darken that doorstep again.
‘Well?’ asked Mimi.
Tim’s focus returned to the present.
‘Erm,’ he said, ‘It was, I think, last, I mean it was in…’
‘No matter,’ said Mimi with a smile. ‘Our younger boarders are often a long way from home in a strange city, just like you. That can have its implications.’
Mimi smiled at Tim.
‘There’s plastic sheet on the bed anyway. I’ll leave it there just in case. Now, I’m going to go downstairs and talk to Aunty Sue. I didn’t see you bring much in the way of belongings, so you can wear a pair of pyjamas from the third drawer of that chest of drawers over there,’ Mimi said, indicating a large Victorian duchess chest against the far wall.
‘It’s getting late, so why don’t you hop into your jarmies then pop down and say goodnight to us before you get into bed?’ she added.
Tim wasn’t sure what to say. It wasn’t that late, he thought. He used his company phone, which was no longer connected, as a watch, but it was in his pocket and he didn’t want to appear difficult by taking it out and looking at it. He could look at it later but he supposed he would have to get changed into pyjamas. And go down and say goodnight to his landladies before he went to bed. Still, it’s a good place, he thought, even if this was a bit of a weird start. He had told Mimi his approximate position, and she had been kind enough to not expect rent for three months in return for Tim helping around the house. It was a bit more than changing lightbulbs, however. Tim had agreed to help clean and cook, as well as do the laundry. Still, he could look for a job in his time off, he thought. There must be some places where people didn’t snigger when they saw that he had been part of the crew at Grabbits. The story, with the names of the individuals concerned, had shot around the financial services community, and Tim realised that his reputation, in the City at least, was in tatters.
After Mimi had left the room, Tim opened the third drawer. All the pyjamas were soft, furry flannel, with long legs, long arms and either pastel colours or cartoon prints. Jesus Christ,Tim had thought. He wondered how old the previous boarders had been. It was odd. The clothes seemed large enough, although Tim was slightly built, if carrying a little condition at the moment. Good living, he told himself.
The least objectionable pair of pyjamas was in a pale yellow. Tim put them on reluctantly. There was no fly, he noticed. No drawstring, either, just a soft but effective elasticated waist. Tim rolled his eyes and sat back on the bed for a while before venturing downstairs. He could hear the rustle of plastic sheet on as he stood up in his pastel pyjamas.
Well, he thought. I’d better go and say goodnight to Mimi and Aunty Sue.
To be continued. (It doesn’t stay as dry as this )