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An excerpt from my Marion Grace novel THE GODMOTHER, as yet unrevised and unedited.


It had been Jack’s salvation that he was cunning with words. Who cared whether the literal and spiritual truth were poles apart? You judged a book by its cover. Readers were scarce, and if they gave up on the contents, the cover remained intact, its value undiminished. He had been solid enough to have enlisted the faith of his personal banker in the past, when the business was on a roll and there were umpteen cogent reasons for expanding at short notice.

The day after the dispute with Bel saw him painting an intrepid view of the future tinctured with rosy hues.

"It's a vista, rather than a panorama, Jack," said the zealous young man labelled Declan whose Rugby frame demurred at the constrictions of his city suit. Jack bristled at the manipulative use of the forename. To think the nation's economy was influenced by these jumped-up whippersnappers, just down from uni and still wet behind the ears! It had been the heyday of Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon when Jack was that age. There were Branch Managers with moustaches who fitted their pinstripes to a tee and drove modest Rovers and had wives in the WI. The rush hour was predictable and had not spread to the whole of the day! None of your Chardonnay and cappuccinos on the pavement while you tapped on your laptop and mingled with agents from MI5.

"I've had twenty years experience in this game," Jack told him, "and times have never been chancier. But I reckon I've got a good nose. And clout in the trade."

"Unfortunately," said Declan, swivelling from side to side in his executive chair, "that’s not nearly enough. The vagaries of the property market are bound to have a knock-on effect."

"There's still money around if you know how to pitch your wares. That's where experience comes into its own."

"Do you have a regular client base?"

"Well, no, not precisely. It's not that kind of business, is it?"

"An outfit such as yours will be sensitive to the random fortunes of the cash-in-hand merchant, I suspect."

"That doesn't follow!"

"Then perhaps you can give me a profile of your typical customer. Landed gentry? Retired services? The lawyer and stockbroker? Dinkies?"

"Dinkies?" repeated Jack vacantly, having visions of miniature tractors furrowing the oyster-beige carpets of childhood. Business jargon made him seethe. This self-important minion needed putting in the picture. "Actually, scrap metal dealers and market stall fruiterers would be nearer the mark!"

"Really?" said Declan. "Interesting. I...er...see from your records that you set up Lovelace Bygones after a period of unemployment."

"Bloody Nora, that was in the seventies! I wanted to be my own boss. Deskbound's not who I am."

"Not your forte?" The corner of Declan's mouth emitted a horrible squeak. "Let's take a look for a minute at this happy projection. Upon what do you base your optimism? What's different?"

"I've drawn my horns in. I’m considering doing my own books. I've sourced cheaper suppliers in Holland, Germany, Denmark. There, you can find pieces of character furniture, dressers, wardrobes, that kind of thing, which will go a bomb over here, particularly on the American air bases."

"Mm. I've a colonial ancestor myself - escaped the potato famine in Cork in the eighteen forties.”

"You'll know, then..."

"What's that?" asked Declan, absently scanning the file on his desk in a desperate search for closure.

"The appeal of olde worlde. Jogs the tribal memory."

"So much for the bought ledger, what about the sales ledger? Any new markets lined up. Niche opportunities?"

"I've just explained...."

"Look, Jack, until you've regained a steady stream of buyers, until your income outstrips your overheads by a fair margin, you're not in the driving seat. It's the politics of the victim at play. There’s not an atom of incentivisation!"

"What the bright blue blazes would I want a loan for in that case?" Jack cried, pinched white with anger.

"Without a concrete proposal for investment, I don't know, frankly. As things stand, the bank would have to lean heavily on your own property.”

Jack hadn't dare draw attention to the fact that he was mortgaged up to the eyebrows. "Collateral?"

"Exactly! Sorry Jack! Your only hope is to identify a gap in the market and turn your sales around pronto to keep the bailiffs from your door!"

Jack could not grasp the way fate had begun to deny him the favours that had naturally accrued at his feet over the years. He had gone home and had mindlessly eaten shepherd's pie, then settled down to a western, a suitable them-and-us tale of sheriffs and outlaws involving superhuman heroism.