A saga of everyday life in the Big L and a wry look at contemporary culture
By Tony Carden
Dancy moved across the conference room to take a seat where he could see the screen on the wall. Rocco smiled at him as he sat down. ‘Good ta see yah, boy.’
‘You know Switzerland. It’s not like London. Great chocolate but no making noises on a Sunday morning.’ He laughed. As if! I can’t imagine a city without noises, even in the middle of the night—even if it is simply a siren in the distance.
‘Chalk and cheese, eh?’
‘Whad ya do you mean, chalk and cheese? You limey’s make me belly laugh, you do, with your funny words.’ You know, two things that are just about as different as they could be.
‘Well, Zug is really a very different place to London.’
‘Yeah, they drive proper like, on the right side of the road.’ He chuckled. He sat down opposite him. ‘So, let’s see about these A-rabs, shall we?’
‘I’ve updated the numbers of the Abu Dhabi account.’ He pulled up a spreadsheet on the screen.
‘Yeah. They don’t look fabulous.’ What? They’re ahead. That’s good isn’t it? Rocco turned and looked out the window. ‘Was hoping that for their first quarter we’d get ‘em about fifty basis points over the S&P.’
‘I can’t see how we can do that now. There’s barely six weeks left.’ We got the money into the market just as soon as it hit the account; what more do you want?
‘But we have ta. You see, we deliver with these guys and they’ll pull us some more dough. And their friends. That’s how it works.’
‘They’re ahead of the index. That should please them.’
‘Sure, sure. I see the numbers; but it’s not enough. They’re our first A-rab money, Dancy, the gateway to all that oil money.’ He rubbed his thumb onto his fingers. ‘With crude now bumping up to seventy, think how much those A-rabs will have to play with.’ Well, sure, the price of oil’s up and all that. That means more from their output, sure. But I can’t magic up twenty basis points of returns, Rocco, you know that.
‘Thirty is a good performance, Rocco.’
‘Nah, not good enough. We gotta finesse the numbers.’ What? What are you suggesting?
‘There’s a few short-term plays we could make. Risky, of course, but they could deliver a bit in the coming month.’
‘Yeah, we’ll do some of that. We’ll put a bit into Argentina. That should help. But…,’ he looked at Dancy and his expression darkened, ‘…we gotta be creative here.’ Sorry?
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Which of our clients is doing best right now?’
Dancy flipped to another part of the system where clients’ performance was held. He clicked on the league table. Their client list popped up ranked from top to bottom. He spotted their best performer. ‘That would be the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana. Their money is well up.’
‘Right. Yeah, they made good choices back in ’16, didn’t they?’ He got up and went over to the window and gazed out over the cityscape. You do that when you’re about to ask me something difficult, don’t you? Shite, what can it be this time? Another trip to the Middle East? New York? What will I tell Quinn? ‘We just need the Dhabi money to earn a million and a bit more this quarter, no?’ One million two hundred and forty-three thousand to be exact. You asked me for the shortfall.
‘One point two four million. I ran the numbers, as you asked. I sent them to you.’ What’s he getting at?
Rocco raised his right hand in a flippant gesture. ‘Loose change, really, eh?’
‘I can’t magic that into the Dhabi account.’ Perhaps we should have a whip-round the office, is that it?
Rocco turned and gazed intently at Dancy. ‘That’s where you’re wrong.’ Uh?
‘I don’t understand.’
‘That’s because you’ve only been in this business a short time. Back in NYC, we did it all the time. Shift a bit from the successful guys to the less good ‘uns to make ‘em look better. The winners never look closely at how they’re doing.’ That’s illegal, isn’t it? What about client account segregation?
‘I’m not sure I can do that, Rocco.’ Tell me you’re not really thinking what I’m thinking?
‘It’s only for this quarter. We’ll push it back to the TRSL next quarter.’ He sniggered. ‘We don’t want ‘em to lose out.’ I’ve got to challenge this.
‘Isn’t this illegal?’
‘Regulators won’t know, if that’s what’s worrying you. Besides, they see it all the time. An admin slip-up. It happens. We’ll make good afterwards. There’s nothing to worry about.’ He smiled.
‘I’m not sure we should, Rocco.’
‘Don’t worry about it. We make the A-rabs look good this quarter and I guarantee you we’ll get a s**t load of new money coming from them. Think of the bonus, eh?’ Well, if you’re sure…
‘What should I do?’
‘Get that gal, of yours, you know, the one who came to the dinner with those A-rabs.’
‘That’s her, get her to switch a bit from the TRSL to the Dhabi account.’
‘I don’t follow you?’
‘Look. Do I have to spell it out? You’re the numbers guy, ain’t yah?’ Dancy nodded. ‘Well, work out which of the TRSL’s investments did best and tell that hot Frenchie chick that there’s been a screw-up and some of the holding should have gone to the Dhabi account. Just enough to give us the million we need. Got that?’
‘And we do the reverse next quarter, is that it, so they don’t lose out?’
‘You’re learning kiddo.’ He patted Dancy’s hand. ‘You think you can manage that?’
‘If you’re sure?’
‘Heck, I’m sure. Think. If we hit it big with the Dhabi crowd can you imagine just how big SilverRock will get and the s**t-loads of money we’ll make.’
‘I’ll do the numbers and get Françoise to change the record.’
‘Just don’t let those guys in compliance get involved, right? It’ll screw things up. We’re just making a small adjustment to make things appear better than they are. Think of it as an investment in our marketing.’
‘It makes sense when you put it like that.’
‘Shit, Dancy, of course it makes sense. Haven’t I held your hand, you limey greenhorn, since you got here? There’s a lot more to this business than you learn at school.’ Well, yes, I suppose so. You’ve been in money management a long time, so I guess you know what you’re doing.
‘You’ve been very good to me.’
‘Damn right, I have!’
* * *
‘Ahmed. Ahmed.’ He felt himself being shaken. What’s going on?
‘What is it?’
‘It’s your turn.’ Fatima pointed at the surgery’s open door. I didn’t hear my name being called.
‘Must have nodded off.’ He climbed to his feet and headed for the consulting room. The doctor held the door as he went in before closing it behind them, ushering him to a seat and then taking a seat at his desk. A keyboard and computer screen in front of him and a piled-up in-tray were the only items on it.
‘How are we today?’ You can see how I am. On my feet and here for the appointment. You know, the one you asked me to make.
‘Feeling great, doctor, and ready to get back to work.’
‘You may have to wait a little longer. The tests show you have a disc herniation in your neck; it’s most likely due to the whiplash.’
‘But I feel fine. I’m ready to get back behind the wheel.’ Come on, doc, what’s a little disc-thingy got to do with it?
‘Have the headaches gone?’
‘Well, I still get them at times.’ Like every bloody morning. ‘But it’s nothing.’ I need to get to work, don’t you understand?
‘Um! I might have expected these to have gone completely by now. And your vision?’
‘Seems OK to me.’
‘Still, I would like to get that tested out. You may have damaged your eyes in the accident.’ You’re saying I still can’t drive, ain’t yah? ‘We’ll get you an appointment at the Eye Clinic, just to be sure.’
‘But I can start back, can’t I?’ Com’ on, doc!
‘Sorry. We can’t have you driving around not seeing straight now, can we?’ That’s fine for you, doc. You don’t earn your dosh driving a taxi. You know; out on the road, like. Look at this place. It’s a bloody office. You sit at a desk and tell people—me—what we ain’t allowed to do. A petty god, that’s you.
‘How long before I get to work, doc?’
‘Well, it’s only been three weeks since the accident and, given your symptoms, you are still affected by the injury. But don’t worry. Your recovery is taking some time but that’s not unusual. You’re doing well. A bad case of whiplash is usually over in two to three months at most. I just want to be sure that your fine before giving you the all clear. So don’t worry.’ Don’t worry, you say? Don’t f-king worry? I gotta get some dosh, don’t yah see that?
‘You’ll give me a sick note, then? I need one to get me benefits.’ I f-king need some money, that’s what I nned. You should know that.
‘Of course.’ He tapped at his keyboard for a moment. ‘Pick it up at the reception on the way out.’ Perhaps they’ll now start paying me, eh!
‘Thanks, doc.’ No, you’ve shafted me, guv.
‘You’ll receive an appointment for your eye test in the post. Before we know your sight is fine, no driving. Is that understood?’
‘I get you, doc.’ You don’t effing care whether I can drive or not. I’m just one of the people you see every day. Shite!
He got up and left the surgery. Fatima spotted him coming out and got to her feet.
‘He says I’m still sick. I’m not to go back to work.’ She gave him a worried look. Well, what did yah expect? You’re working with him, ain’t yah?
He headed over to the reception. ‘Should be a sick note for me. Ibrahim.’ The bored receptionist shuffled around but couldn’t find anything.
‘Doc just printed it, he said.’
The receptionist got up and wandered over to a printer. She pulled off a stack of pages before riffling through them. After a moment, she returned holding a sheet. ‘Here it is.’
He took it. Fatima grabbed his arm. ‘Let’s go home.’ Sure. When we get back, you’ll sit there and look at me with a sullen face. It’s the money, ain’t it?
‘After I’ve gone ‘round to the bookie.’ Maybe I’ll be in luck. Lady Luck owes me big time. Time to pay up, gal.
‘No, Ahmed, no; you mustn’t.’
‘A tenner. That’s all.’
‘We’ve got no money, remember.’
‘Yeah, but if I win, eh? We’ll be quid’s in.’
‘No, Ahmed. Please don’t.’ I feel lucky, I do. The Lady’s smiling at me.
‘You don’t understand.’ He brushed her aside and strode off, heading for the door. He didn’t look back.
The street was usual London busy. He marched up the pavement towards the betting shop. In the distance, a car honked. He heard a woman talking to another one but couldn’t make out what they were saying. He spotted his destination ahead. Outside, he turned to check on Fatima. She wasn’t there. What the…? He searched the way he had come. Musta gone home, eh! I’ll be having words with yah, later. He stomped into the bookies.
Entering the Ladbrokes, he made his way to the counter. ‘Yes?’
‘A tenner on…,’ Ahmed gazed at the various bets highlighted on the screen, ‘…on…’ On what? I haven’t a clue. He spotted a bet on the screen. England v. Nigeria. ‘How about the English match?’
‘Sure. England to win?’
He looked at the odds again. England win: 4/9; draw 16/5; Nigeria win 7/1. ‘Nigeria—to win.’
‘Sure mate.’ He took the tenner and passed over a ticket. ‘Good luck.’ There you go, my Lady.
Ahmed emerged onto the high street and looked left and right. No Fatima. I ain’t going to go searching for yah. He made his way to the Job Centre Plus, which was up the road a bit and then down a side street.
Entering, he was met by a burly woman. ‘Do you have an appointment?’ Since when?
‘I’m sorry to say, there’s no one available to see you; you should have made an appointment.’ What the f—k. I wasn’t told I had to make an appointment.
‘I’ve got this sick note, you see, it’s about me benefits.’ All I want is for you to give it to the case guy, lady.
‘I cannot handle documentation. You’ll have to make an appointment to see an advisor. They deal with documentation.’ Stop being such a scrubber. Just take the f—king thing.
‘But all I want is me benefits and I’ve got the doctor’s note now…’ He tried to pass the note to her. Here you munker.
‘I cannot accept that. As I said, make an appointment with your advisor. Then you can discuss your claim to allowances.’ Why are you treating me like this?
‘But…’ Oh f—king ‘ell. Will no one listen to me!
‘May I suggest you go home and either use the website to book online or phone to make an appointment.’ Stop giving me this s**te.
‘I want to see someone!’ It’s my right, ain’t it?
‘Lower your voice. There is no reason to shout. If you are unruly, I will have you escorted off the premises.’
‘Just effing try.’ He raised a fisted hand at her. At this, the woman pressed at a communicator on her belt.
‘You had better calm down. I’ve called security. They will see you out.’ What? I’m only asking for help. F—king wanker.
‘Why you…!’ He lunged at her. She dodged. A moment later, two men appeared and, seeing what he was doing, rushed over. They tried to grab him.
‘F—king c**ts, I’ll show you.’ He swung at the nearest man. His fist contacted his chest.
The other tried to grab him.
He kicked out. ‘Knob off, you wanker.’
‘Why you…’ The security guard folded under the effect of Ahmed’s kick.
‘You’re a complete nutter.’ It’s you, matey.
He lashed out at the other man. It struck home.
‘Argh!’ The man collapsed on the floor.
An alarm bell sounded.
Ahmed spun round.
The woman had retreated.
He found he was breathing hard.
One of the men groaned. Oh s**te.
He made for the door.
He banged it open and staggered out into the street.
A police car, blue lights flashing, screamed around the corner. The driver gunned the engine before screeching to a stop at the entrance. Ahmed had hardly moved in the time it took the two men to tumble out.
He turned to see the woman had come out after him. She was pointing in his direction.
The two officers made for him. ‘Police.’
One of the officers gestured. ‘OK, matey, easy does it.’ Shite, gotta get out of this.
Ahmed turned to run away.
‘Stay where you are.’
He ignored the order and headed down the street.
‘Stop. Or we’ll shoot.’ You gotta be kidding.
He ran on.
Next thing he knew he was on the ground, writhing in pain. His arms and legs spasmed. He could hardly breathe.
‘Stupid git.’ A foot nudged him.
To be continued…
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.