Sweet Revenge Served Hot

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I'm not proud of it, but he deserved it...

Submitted: December 21, 2011

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Submitted: December 21, 2011



In the winter of 1990 I was working in real estate in London with my business partner Steve Collins. We were representing some high-end properties on behalf of some very wealthy individuals, and we spent a great deal of time and money traveling around London showing potential clients the multi-million pound properties we had on our books. If you are old enough to remember the 80s financial crisis, you will already be shaking your head while reading this and muttering under your breath... “What kind of idiot was in real estate in London in 1990..?” Yeah well, we live and learn.

One of our clients, an wealthy Indian named Jamal J., entrusted us with the sale of nine houses in Hampstead, and we put a lot of effort into showing the properties to potential investors. Eventually we sold the houses and after the transaction was completed we went to see Jamal in his office to arrange for our commission payment. Times were hard due to the crisis, and to say that we REALLY needed the money would be a huge understatement. We sat in front of Jamal’s desk and waited impatiently for him to arrive. He owed us the equivalent of about US$60,000 and all our problems were solved. We could pay our rent for another year, pay off our overdraft and have enough money left for some decent food (yes, it was that bad) and a modest celebration (a few beers each). Eventually Jamal arrived, resplendent in silk suit and tie, and took his position in the huge chair behind his desk. We smiled at him, expecting him to pour praise upon us for selling his houses so quickly in such unfavourable economic conditions, but his opening words stunned us. “I’m not going to waste your time gentlemen” he said, “the bottom line is, I’m not going to pay you.” Steve and I looked at each other. “Why not?” Steve asked when he had recovered sufficiently from the shock. “Because I don’t have to” he said, “what will you do about it?” We looked at each other again. “But... we have a contract...” I stuttered. Jamal smiled smugly. “I know all about the contract. Get yourselves a good lawyer and sue me if you can afford it. Now if you don’t mind I have a meeting...” He stood up, walked over to the door and opened it. Outside there were two very large Indian men waiting to escort us from the building. Everything became a blur as my head span with the shock and it felt like I was watching myself in slow motion in a scene from a very bad movie. Surreal.

Next thing I knew we were on the street outside in the freezing cold, without even enough money for a cab fare home. Many and varied expletives escaped our lips as we came to terms with what had just happened. We looked at Jamal’s Bentley parked across the street. I wanted to smash the windows and set fire to it but Steve calmed me down. “You’ll just get yourself arrested. Let’s make him pay some other way” he said grimly, and produced a handful of letters from inside his jacket. “We know where he lives.” I grabbed the letters and inspected them. Somehow, at some point during our ejection from Jamal’s office, Steve had found the time and the presence of mind to grab the pile of letters that had been sitting on the desk. All bills and credit card statements, some personal, some business. “We’ll have the last laugh” he said. “I don’t know how, but we’ll get him in the end.” I took some solace in the thought of revenge as we bowed our heads into the howling wind and started the long cold walk to the tube station.

As a result of Jamal’s refusal to pay us we were forced to leave our nice four bedroom rented house in Uxbridge in north London and prise the boards off the windows of Steve’s previously repossessed two bedroom townhouse in Bethnal Green in the east end of London. We moved in and officially became squatters, with no electricity, no gas, no phone and no hope. We had sold our cars many months before to buy food and pay bills and now we were stuck in Bethnal Green in a damp and neglected house, wrapped in blankets against the fierce cold and eating nothing but baked beans on toast cooked on a borrowed camping stove outside the back door. It was miserable to say the least, with only candles for light and heat, and the bitterness I felt towards Jamal almost consumed my soul. One night one of Steve’s old neighbours from across the street came over and gave us a bottle of whisky to cheer us up (and warm us up). We got horribly drunk and discussed many alternatives for getting our revenge on Jamal, all of which were far-fetched and never likely to materialise. But in his drunken stupor Steve did formulate the germ of an idea that was going to make me feel a whole lot better about the situation.

Next day we woke up about midday and Steve, the genius, had perfected his plan while he slept. Using the letters he had taken on impulse from Jamal’s desk as proof of ID, we would get all the utilities, electricity, gas, phone, switched on in his name and rack up some enormous bills for him until everything finally got cut off. It wouldn’t get us any of the money we were owed, but at least we would know that his cheating us had cost him a considerable amount of money, plus we would have a warm place to stay until we got back on our feet.

In those days all utilities were handled through the General Post Office, so, because I was the most likely of the two of us to pass as a “Jamal”, I went there and applied for everything to be switched on in “my new second home”. I used ”my” good standing as a customer at “my” office address and “other home” address as references and proved “my” good standing with “my” previous bills. Everything went smoothly, and a few days later we had every light in the house on round the clock, an electric bar fire on full blast in the living room, the central heating on max, every burner on the gas stove burning brightly, plus gas oven on full and oven door open. It was like a sauna in that house for weeks, so much so that we slept with the windows open even though it was the middle of winter (though it still wasn’t easy to sleep with all the lights on). As planned everything eventually got cut off for non payment of bills, and as the final coup de gras, every night for a week before we left the house a few steps ahead of the bailiffs, we called gay sex chat lines in the US and left the phone of the hook all night. I had a wonderful vision of the future, with Jamal standing in court, frantically denying that he had anything to do with the bills, while at the same time trying to convince his family that he didn’t have a secret and tawdry gay life in a run-down east London townhouse. I don’t know if we cost him anywhere near US$60,000, but I bet it was close. I wish I could tell you I hope the “gay” thing didn’t cost him his marriage, but I can’t. It’s Karma baby, and he deserved everything he got. He nearly cost us everything.

A week later I was lodging with my sister and driving a delivery van to make ends meet. Steve went back to his previous life as a professional DJ and got posted to a night club in Hong Kong. A year later I received a letter (yes, a “letter”... you remember those) from Steve telling me he had been transferred to Shanghai and that I should join him as fast as I could because “Mate, this place is fantastic!” I did, and I have never looked back. So Jamal’s treachery was effectively my first step towards where I am now. In retrospect, well worth US$60,000!

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