Christmas - Bah humbug!
The chill counting house is dim
Money made within
©David L Atkinson December 2012
After the heat of Italy and the extreme humidity of Osaka the Yorkshire air was like a cool stream running over my skin. I opened my eyes and looked round my bedroom. It seemed like I had been away for months but it was less than a fortnight. I got up slowly, made coffee and started to wade through my post. The flat was tidy enough because my cleaner has a key and she had put the post on the coffee table in the lounge. She’d even looked after the bonsai trees although they were ready for some pinching out! It must have been warm while I had been away.
There was nothing spectacular in the mail, just circulars and the odd bill. I decided I needed some exercise so put on my jogging gear and did half an hour, finishing at my warehouse. I was shocked when I got in. The place was stocked with gym equipment and the living quarters had been set up although left undecorated. All the machinery and furniture was Japanese. Sumisu! A note in the office said that if anything was not to my taste or if I needed anything else I had to ring a phone number, which had a Huddersfield dialling code! They think of everything. As they had installed rowing machine, cross trainer, rolling road and bicycle as well as weight machines, I couldn’t think of anything else I would need.
The office had computer, desk and a water machine. The living quarters were truly Japanese with a bath alongside the shower, a futon in the bedroom and a small kitchen with the essential kettle and some green tea, no coffee, I don’t think that Sumisu approves! I booted up the system in the office and found it was ‘state of the art’ as I should have expected. I turned it off again. This is great but I am not prepared to be pushed into work straight away. I needed to reset my compass and take back some control over my life. The last few days felt as if I had been driven like a car. I didn’t like not being in control and I needed to get that back. I walked the half a mile back up to the flat, showered and put on my smart casual office clothes. I had checked my bank accounts and found that I was overdrawn in my domestic accounts and worth a fortune in the Swiss account. I carried out a transfer of a quarter of a million pounds and then strolled into town and went into the local branch of my bank. I had never been received with such courtesy! I made an investment that would give enough interest to pay my bills if I was ever to be away for more than a few days.
That evening I went to the pub to see my buddies. I told them where I had been, indirectly! Explained it had been a business trip extended into a holiday. It was a good evening and I probably drank more than I should have but along with the alcohol and the jetlag I slept for another 14 hours.
The following day I started with my usual routine to maintain my fitness and finished at my personal gym! Guess who was waiting for me? Sumisu san had not intruded by being inside the building but was stood outside. He was the picture of calmness, statuesque in his charcoal grey business suit, and at peace. What followed was a very intensive Aikido training session after which we started looking at the accounts of Jim Thompson and Jacomo Torino. Thompson’s was straight forward, as I knew exactly where to go. There was nothing obvious but when I went into his portfolio and started looking more closely I realised that there were a number of transfers going to other banks! After an hour’s work I had followed almost £15k being transferred out to three other accounts in the three or four weeks since I had a word with him. It would seem that ‘out of sight is, as far as JT is concerned, out of mind’. He would be my first port of call. Seems a talking to is insufficient so a good smacking may be necessary!
Torino’s accounts were a different matter. I had some of the paperwork from my original piece of research and started probing through them to discover what I could. Not much is the short answer! I fiddled about for another 2 hours but got no further. There was a salary going into a bank account paid for by the Scottish construction firm but, apart from what looked like ‘normal’ behaviours, there was nothing to pursue. Spookily, Sumisu san just sat motionless while I worked. At noon he coughed quietly and stood up.
“Patrick san, are you making progress?” he asked.
There was no hint of criticism, simple curiosity.
“I have hit a dead end Sumisu san. I need a link to his other accounts,” I explained. “The activity on the account I have found would seem to be normal but it is abnormally so. There must be other accounts because even an innocent man from a foreign country would be sending money home or requesting funds!”
“I see. May I suggest I have the accountants in our organisation look from the Italian side and get back to us?” he smiled deferentially.
“Certainly, Sumisu san, and then I can go back up to the north east and speak to Thompson,” I concurred.
The following day, after a run and some stretches I was in my new, but still inconspicuous, family car, a Renault Megane with a gutsy engine. There was no rush; I was not planning to contact Thompson. I wanted to visit the building site and then the Thompson family home. It was only about a month since I was last there, but a lot can happen in that time. I chose the A19 for a change and was at the Seaburn Hotel by lunchtime. I checked in for a couple of nights and then set off up to Gateshead with just the ‘tools’ of my trade in the car. I was dressed casually but had my knife strapped to my ankle and the Glock was in the holder pressing into the small of my back.
Half an hour later I was parked up in the housing estate on the edge of the park about 100 yards away from the sports centre. I strolled up the street where the entrance was and casually examined the progress. To all intents and purposes it looked complete although there was no access and the car parking area was still storage for the construction materials. The site huts were still there and there were one or two workers moving around inside. It was lunch hour! I think that starts around 11.30am and goes on till about 2.00pm! I walked to the top of the street and looked at a couple of houses that were still up for sale. I even knocked on one of the doors ostensibly to ask if I could arrange an appointment to view. There was no reply. While I was in the front garden looking through the windows I was also observing the site opposite.
“Can I help you?” this from Mrs Nosy Neighbour.
“Yes,” I replied with a smile. “I want to make an appointment to have a look round. Thought if there was someone in it would save time ringing the estate agent.”
“Oh I see,” she said. “They have already moved away so you will have to ring the agent.”
“Ok. Thanks. I will just have a glance round the back before I go, may save time later.”
The rear garden was untended and wild as a result. There was a conservatory, a shed, a greenhouse and a garage, as well as some borders around a small lawn surrounded by some very tall Leylandii. The conservatory would be my way in – I had planned to do a bit of observation first thing in the morning. I left again and was under observation from the neighbour the whole time. I gave her a cheery wave and strolled back down the road keeping my gaze on the houses but surreptitiously watching the sports facility. Once I got back to the car I sat and thought about what I needed from the visit. Did I need to stay and see a limping Jacomo Torino? Would it be better for me to visit Jim? What was I trying to achieve? The short answer to the last question was – a lead to whoever was pulling the strings of the Torino’s – remarkably similar to what they wanted of me!
I started the car and headed for The Ramside for a late lunch. I ate leisurely and then went for a stroll in the grounds before heading back towards the Thompson’s estate. As the nights were very light at this time of year, concealment would be an issue! I had to work out my best approach. Maybe there was an empty house nearby! Perhaps I would have to park up and walk further than previously. Maybe I should knock on the door and pretend to carry out a survey – No! Nobody falls for that anymore. I decided to try the empty house approach. It offers more safety and allows an assessment of the family over a period of time - from a distance. I have always found around 7pm to be a quiet time so I went for a drive towards the coast and then headed to the hotel. I changed into my dark clothes and headed back to the grandly named Doxford Park, where Jim and his family live. There is a small shopping precinct with a supermarket and the inevitable anonymous car park. I parked up and strolled into the estate where my quarry lives. It was teatime most folk were home from work so the roads were quiet.
I was looking for house sale signs and overgrown gardens. There were quite a number! Times were hard and people were defaulting on mortgages, marriages were breaking up and jobs were coming to an end. I found two houses that could have offered a front view of the Thompson house, and one directly behind. I decided the one at the back. It would give me the greatest safety from observation and allow me access to the back of their property under cover of darkness, without appearing in their street. I went back to the car to wait. I decided to find a village pub and have some supper. That pushed time on until it was dusk, which meant most curtains, and blinds were closed and I walked from the shopping precinct to my target house. I strode purposefully and didn’t bump into anyone and I just walked straight down the side of the house into the back garden, which was separated by a gate that was unlocked. I checked back behind me and no one was watching so I eased in and stood by the gate for a full five minutes without moving. Not a sound or a curtain twitched in the houses at the back. I made my way slowly round to the rear. No conservatory. Just some rather plain ordinary windows! Double-glazed and not easy to get into! I set to work on the door lock using my picks and lots of patience in the process, but I managed after about 15 sweaty minutes. The house was empty of everything. Even the water was turned off but I found the stop tap. I moved around very quietly and went upstairs to the back bedroom. I could see across the fence to Thompson’s little castle. The designs of these houses varied in the number of bedrooms but were substantively identical in all other respects. The house I was in was a three bedroom whereas Thompson had four, but the kitchen was in the same place. The back of their house was in darkness, so I settled down to watch.