MARCH 2006: PALLION, SUNDERLAND, TYNE AND WEAR.
The river made its way through Pallion the way earth makes its way through a worm. A river where mighty ships were once built with pride and where the sights and sounds of heavy industry were once as prevalent and perpetual as the brown, opaque meanderings of the Wear, the only constant in an otherwise fickle urban landscape that some would mistakenly call progress. With all of the industry now gone - its still beating heart transplanted abroad by the bloody hands of Thatchers political surgeons - the only remaining signs of commercial enterprise were the small pockets of tenacious, residential development which protruded from the now redundant river banks like conspicuous plugs of artificial hair clinging to an ageing scalp in the aftermath of a failed hair transplant. But at least these sparse tufts of endeavour provided a temporary surge of hope for the lucky members of the local work force who had been fortunate enough to have found some form of employment within them. This type of short contract building work or the lottery win of a production line position at the Nissan factory a few miles away were the only life rafts of opportunity remaining in an increasingly disparate community languishing anxiously in the doldrums of a cold, grey sea of benefits. The fortunes of this once prosperous town had deteriorated rapidly in the past few decades. Until the end of the 1970's it had once been as easy here for a healthy fifteen year old lad to begin his long working life as an apprentice as it had been to turn the wheel of a heavily greased lathe or to light the first flame of a welders blow torch; now, the only wheels that turned were those of time - and at a stultifying pace at that - and the only flames that were lit belonged to a cheap, throwaway lighter as it payed homage to yet another illegally imported cigarette of dubious quality.
Lizzie Robson had been born in Pallion thirty two years before. She had lived there all of her life, her twin five year old girls were born there, she had never lived anywhere else and despite the somewhat bleak shadows cast by a long lamented industrial past, this was the place where everything made sense to her. This was her home. She lived in a compact, two bedroom, red brick cottage in Cossack Terrace. She had moved in five years before when her twin girls, Jeanie and Jilly had been born. Her parents had lived in Victory Terrace, three streets away and as a child this had been her home too, until her parents had passed away in 1990 - her mother of cancer aged only forty three and her father seven months later from a heart attack aged only forty four.
Lizzie had been an only child, as had both of her parents before her and this meant that all of the love and attention from three generations past were now focussed on her; "a beautiful bairn", full of love, full of life and carrying within her soul all of the hopes and dreams of the entire Robson family.
Lizzie was only sixteen years old - stuck in that nether world between adolescence and adulthood - when her parents died and she had been devastated by the loss. They had been the twin pillars of love and support upon which her entire existence had been built. Her paternal grand parents, both in their seventies and who still lived at the opposite end of Victory Terrace, took her in without pausing for breath and did whatever they could to ease her pain. The local community also rallied, as they always did at times like these and Lizzie was able to finish her teenage years surrounded by people who loved her, and this was enough, as it always is, to see her through.
She had first met James "Bungalow" Butterfiled at school and then again many years later in a bar in town. His eighties mullet had been replaced by a short, slick, flick and his once pale, scrawny frame had now filled out in all the right places. His arms were replete with tattoos, his skin was excessively tanned and his torso was topped off with a skin tight tee that made him look like an over inflated narcisist. He had been nicknamed "Bungalow" for obvious reasons and Lizzie had been fooled by his facade. They had embarked on a brief romantic encounter the end result of which had been Lizzie's pregnancy and the subsequent birth of her girls. The Bungalow turned out to be a quitter, "more of a mobile home" Lizzie had mused, as he left town rapidly, aided on his way by the steel toe cap of Lizzie's grand father's boot. She was twenty seven years old and she was ready to be a mother. It was not quite how she had expected it to be, "but life rarely is" she thought to herself with a mixture of sadness that her parents would not be around to see the birth of their grand children and excitement at the impending adventures of mother hood.
Four years after the birth of the twins, Lizzie's beloved Granny passed away, aged ninety one; her grand father had died the year before aged ninety. When her Grandmother's will had been read out Lizzie was astonished to find that she had been left the sum of twenty four thousand pounds; her grandparents entire life savings. But that was not all. Her Granny had also been an avid collector of pottery and porcelain and nestled inconspicuously between the predictable chintz of the Meissen and the more elegant designs of the Moorcroft had been a sixteenth century Chinese urn which had ultimately fetched in excess of twenty eight thousand pounds when it was sold at auction in London. So now Lizzie had money. Not a lot, but enough to set her thinking, enough to catalyse her dreams of a better life for her and for her girls.
Lizzie was not aspirational by nature but since her girls had been born she had been overwhelmed by a maternal sense of ambition to do whatever she could to make a more secure life for her children. This ambition had been fuelled during the first few years of mother hood by endless television shows about home makeovers, property development, relocation programmes and other forms of relentless media coverage reinforcing the idea that property ownership was now the key to a happy, fulfilled existence; Lizzie was hooked.
Once her children were in nursery, Lizzie began to look for a job and the property market seemed to be the place to be, the place where all of the action was to be found.
It seemed that entrepreneurs accross the country were converting any old empty slum into over priced apartments. She had no experience of working in the property sector but her enthusiasm, energy and probably her good looks had been sufficient to convince Jonny Slater, owner of Wearside Developments, to take her on as a P.A. Lizzie loved her job, especially when she was able to show potential buyers around the latest properties being offered for sale, this was when she really felt part of the game, part of the new property owning zeitgeist that promised so much. This new sense of optimism for the future gave Lizzie hope, hope that she would finally escape the economic doldrums that had becalmed the city of Sunderland for decades.
So now Lizzie had money, she had a job and she had hope. This was a potent combination and one that did not go un noticed by her boss.
"Lizzie, have you ever thought about buying one of our properties?"
This was a light bulb moment for Lizzie. Of course, it all made sense now. It was a win win situation. She would finally start to live her dream and she could also help the company that she worked for by taking one of their properties off the books. Lizzie always like to help others and if she could help herself at the same time, all the better.
"I hadn't really Jonny, but now that you mention it, aye, I think it sounds like a good idea."
"Why aye pet". Jonny was rocking now. "You know it makes sense. I can arrange for you to see one of the mortgage brokers that we use at the bank, they'll sort you out no problem. What about one of the new townhouses at Waterside Park? I'll do you a good discount."
Lizzie was ecstatic. The thought of living in a "Town House" conjured up grandiose images of a fabulous lifestyle fit for the pages of Hello Magazine.
"When can I see one of them?"
"Any time you like, here's the keys." Said Jonny with a smile on his face that was about as genuine as the mock Tudor facades of the houses he sold.
Saturdays were always busy days for Lizzie. Most people viewed properties at the weekend and Lizzie took the saturday shift whenever possible. Whenever she was at work and the girls were not at school, Jillie and Jeanie simply went next door to their aunty Violets. Violet wasn't their real aunty but she had been apart of Lizzie's life for as long as she could remember. Violet was married to Jimmy and Jimmy and Violet had been best friends of Lizzie's parents for decades. They were both in their sixties but despite the wrinkles and dowdy clothes their love of life remained undiminished. Lizzie loved Jimmy, he was a wise old fella. He read a lot of books, he knew a lot of long words. He told Lizzie that he had never been to school, that he was "an autodidactic". Lizzie had been to school but she didn't know what that meant.
"A'reet Lizzie, you see the match today?
"No Jimmy, I didn't. What was the score like?"
"They lost, three two. They was two nil up at half time, but this team, whey hinnie, they give away more leads than a philanthropic pet shop owner."
"Ha ha. You know I try me best, but football, most of it just goes over me head."
"Aye like most of the Sunderland teams passes… Ya oot th'night?" Asked Jimmy.
No, not th'night. I'm looking at colour schemes for the new house."
"What house is that pet?"
The one I'm going to buy."
Jimmy rolled his eyes. "Aye but where like, which house?"
"I've put an offer in for one of the houses in Waterside Park, our new development across the river."
"Waterside Park eh? Posh over there. Don't forget aboot us lot when your supping wine with them yuppies on yer terrace will ya?"
"Ah Jimmy pet, there's nee yuppies in Sunderland man and I'll never forget about you, how could I, you still owe us twenty quid."
"Twenty quid eh? Put it on the tab pet; there's plenty money round here, look at how much we owe."
"Aye, your right there."
"Just be careful pet."
"How's that like Jimmy?"
"Well, just divvent over stretch yersel, financially like."
"I'll not Jimmy, but just remember, we're in a boom. The whole countries gannin property daft. If I divvent get in now, I'll never get a foot on the ladder."
"Well, thats as maybe pet. But I've seen it all before. Just remember that boom follows bust, follows boom, follows bust; to paraphrase Herman Melville like."
"It doesn't matter pet. Just be careful, don't always believe what you want to believe just cause it suits your purpose at the time."
Lizzie smiled benevolently at her friend. "Aye Jimmy, I'll bear that in mind."
Several weeks later on a bright sunny morning Lizzie Robson was sitting on a bus reading a copy of the Sun. Half way down page four was a story about the discovery of a decomposed body of a child in the South of France, which, according to the journalist was linked to a pan european epidemic of satanic, child sacrifice potentially linked to several members of the European aristocracy. She began to read the article, but the idea of a child being murdered in such a horrible way was simply too much for her to deal with; she was sorry of course for the poor, unfortunate victim, but this had nothing to do with her and her world and so she turned the page and read instead about the exploits of a premiership footballer and a soap star, this was far more appealing to her sensibilities, especially today, the day when her mortgage would hopefully be approved and her fabulous new life would really begin.
"Please sit down Ms Robson"
Lizzie sat and looked across the desk at Mr Brian Armstrong, mortgage advisor at the Sunderland branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland; thirty years old and already inseparable from the corporate nipple of his employer. He had been with the bank since he had left sunderland College twelve years earlier with three, grade B, A levels, eked out of the state educational system like a sub Saharan farmer harvesting his grain in a drought. He had fought hard to win his place as a trainee with the bank and his devotion to the company that had nourished him ever since, was unflinching. To Brian Armstrong and many more like him, the companies and organisations that employed them had now superseded their families as the main focal point of their lives; their bosses provided parental support and their colleagues were the siblings with whom they rivalled.
Brian Armstrong smiled at his customer. It made him look as if rigour mortice had set in.
"So, Ms Robson, I'm pleased to inform you that the bank has approved your mortgage application. Now, let me see." He began to scan the documents on his desk. "The purchase price of the property s £149,950. You're seeking to borrow up to £101,685 which approximately equates to five times your salary of £19,937. With the funds already deposited from your late Grandmothers estate totalling £53, 872.21, you will be in a position to proceed with your purchase as soon as the solicitors can complete the legals."
Just looking at these figures, if you borrow the full £101,685, you will be left with a surplus of…….£5,607.21. Do you need to borrow the full amount?"
Lizzie looked nervous."Er, yes, if I can." In her mind she was already on the beach with her girls. They needed a holiday. This was the start of the good life, indeed, a week in Sorrento would be the perfect beginning to La Dolce Vita.
Brian Armstrong looked at his client and the rigour mortice returned. "Of course. Of course. It is, after all, your money now and the way property prices are going, in five years time God knows how much your home will be worth. I'd say take it all and enjoy it. We're glad to be able to help you." He continued to shuffle through the paperwork in front of him.
"So, you'e chosen an interest only mortgage product…..your monthly repayments for the first three years will be at the discounted APR of four point nine per cent, this equates to £412.54 per month. After that the APR will change to the Standard Variable Rate of six point seven five per cent. Of course, if the base rate alters, your APR will alter accordingly. Do you understand?"
Lizzie smiled. "Yes, I understand." She did not.
"Ok, great. Well, we are glad to have been able to help you Ms Robson. I'll wait to hear from your solicitor in due course."
In reality, Brian Armstrong was neither glad nor otherwise. He was simply doing as he had been ordered by his bosses: "Lend as much as you can; fuck the risk. We want to increase the Banks exposure to the residential property market at all costs. Your instructions are simple, lend, lend, lend and when you think you've lent enough, lend some more!". These were the orders that he had been given; imparted by the Bank through the incessant breast feeding of information to all employees, without exception. He knew that people like Lizzie Robson would be the first to struggle with repayments if the economy took a turn for the worse but to be blunt, he just did not give a shit.
Lizzie left the meeting and called her boss in a state of euphoric anticipation.
"Jonny? That's it, all arranged. When will the house be ready?"
"That's great Lizzie. It's ready now. Move in as soon as the money comes through."
SUMMER SOLSTICE 2006; THE FRENCH RIVIERA
He opened his eyes and for a split second the instinctive recollections from a thousand previous awakenings were sufficient to keep the horror at bay. For a cruel, all too fleeting moment he was somewhere else; in another place, with another life; a life of benevolence, shared with people who loved him and whom he loved in return. But then - as reality returned with its unremitting inevitability, as the intensity of his physical pain attached its prowess to the surging swell of terror in his mind and the scream that began as a desperate surge in the depths of his lungs and then hurtled upwards, gathering substance as it swarmed his vocal chords and was then brutally subdued by the filthy, canvas gag that had been stuffed into his mouth in haste and then secured remorselessly with duct tape - he knew then, without any shadow of doubt, that he was going to die. As this harrowing realisation dawned on the darkness of his mind, he began to struggle against his destiny with a pitiful futility; his eyes rolled frantically in their sockets as they desperately searched for a way out, for an escape, but within the sombre shadows of the room and the prostrate position of his predicament, face down on the cold, hard stone, with limbs restrained without hope, it was impossible for him to see anything beyond the prosaic, uniformity of the stonework of the four walls that held him.
Fear, that was all there was now… nothing but fear…every sinew in his body resonating terribly to its frequency… every synapse in his brain malignantly illuminated by it; fear… engulfing him completely like a tidal wave of ice cold sweat. He could taste it. He could hear it, dripping its acrid, toxic precipitation into his psyche like a sadistic psychopath dripping acid into the open wounds of a helplessly bound victim. This would have been too much for any man to endure, but for an eight year old boy…
And yet, just a stones throw away, a multitude of men and women, expensively and exquisitely clad in the finest of fabrics, swooped and shimmered through the voluminous, ornately carved arches of a magnificent double height ballroom, replete with crystal chandeliers, candelabras, ornate tapestries and gilt framed portraits and which for this evening at least, had been floored with roll after roll of a sumptuous, blood red carpet. In a raised minstrels gallery to the rear of the room, a quintet of young, blithely attractive musicians of incredible skill and dexterity offered up sublimely atmospheric renditions of Prokofiev sonatas for the pleasure of all those present. And who were they, these people present? They were the creme de la creme of the European elite, gathered together in splendid conglomeration on a balmy midsummers night in the South of France; more than two hundred and fifty billionaires, aristocrats and minor Royalty and interspersed amongst their number, a smattering of international bankers and financiers, sucking on the money like remora fish feeding on a predatory shiver of sharks. Apparently a shark can smell blood from over a mile from its source; bankers can smell money from anywhere in the world. Both move swiftly towards their prey and strike without remorse or hesitation.
This was Chateau Helios, a sprawling eighteenth century, rococo villa, conspicuously positioned high up in the hills above Cannes. It was one of many opulent properties owned by the Rothmans; the family of international bankers and financiers and tonight it was gloriously lit up, some might say illuminated, by a thousand flaming torches, each one casting a thousand flickering shadows across the decadence of the setting, adding a striking, visual profligacy to the collective lasciviousness of the guests who seemed to be be both simultaneously creating and feeding on, the dark, enigmatic magic of the warm mediterranean night.
Away from the ballroom, in the maize of ante rooms and boudoirs made available by the host, lines of white powder were being consumed faster than they could be formed and an army of hookers and gigolos were engaging in an unrestrained frenzy of sexual abandon whilst beckoning to the guests to join them. The voracity of the rich should never be under estimated and the combination of cocaine and sex was proving impossible to resist and as the high grade cocaine took immediate effect, some of Europe's most recognisable women were being bent over a Louis XVth chaise and fucked without mercy by a drug fuelled gigolo while their equally eminent husbands looked on, grinning licentiously, with white powder smeared across their faces and a ten thousand euro a night hooker sucking wildly on their viagra assisted erections.
Louis Rothman was the host for the evening. Louis Rothman was a monster. He didn't look like a monster, on the contrary, he had the appearance of a kindly, grey haired uncle; the sort who appeared to exude benevolence and generosity and then, when no one else was looking, slipped his hand surreptitiously into the pants of his unsuspecting nieces and nephews. At fifty eight years of age he was the oldest living member of the Rothman dynasty, his father Nathan Rothman having passed away the year before. He remained in good physical condition despite the impossibly tenacious paunch around his waist and the flaccidity of the skin under his rather weak jawline. But for a man of such remarkable power and wealth there was in fact nothing very remarkable about his rather conventional appearance and the only suggestion of any adherence to any personal vanity was the permanence of his deep, luxuriant sun tan and perhaps the overly coiffed, slightly receding, lustrous grey quiff that flowed softly back across his head like a delicate wave of quicksilver breaking softly on occasion on to the gentle furrows of his forehead. This veneer of benignly ageing geniality was further enhanced by a well practiced smile which showed a perfectly formed set of ultra white teeth, the glare of which which was usually sufficient to distract the recipient from the cold, black slits that apparently passed for eyes.
He moved through his Chateau with an air of supreme control. As he worked the ballroom he was the personification of charm; in the numerous boudoirs, where the definition of debauchery was being tested to the limits, his mere presence seemed to catalyse the protagonists into even more outrageous acts of depravity. All the guests present were aware of the "activities" on offer; some indulged, some did not, but all were complicit in the over whelming sensation of wanton self indulgence which, as the evening progressed, grew yet darker and more malevolent by the hour.
Despite his own voracious desire for cocaine and sex, Louis Rothman had so far managed to refrain from any form of indulgence, preferring to keep his mind focussed on what was for him and a select group of twelve disciples, the main purpose of the nights activities. He knew the boy was down there, trussed up like a Christmas turkey, and that was sufficient motivation for him to keep his focus in tact.
At exactly eleven thirty pm, he felt a small vibration in his breast pocket. He reached inside his dinner jacket and pulled out his Blackberry. The alarm had been set to give him enough time to prepare. He glanced at his diamond encrusted Rolex - a gift from the previous president of the USA for services rendered to the clandestine, financial machinations of Wall Street - and felt his resolve crystallise yet further like one of the numerous jewels that adorned its rather vulgar dial. He made his way swiftly back to the ballroom and began to traverse its opulent expanse in search of his cohorts, the six men and six women who would be joining him imminently in the cellars below.
One by one he caught their attention, a subtle nod to one followed by an imperceptible smile to the next and within minutes all thirteen participants in the impending ritual had made their surreptitious departure from the main throng of guests and had congregated in a small, dimly lit, ante room within a secluded section in the heart of the Chateau. Despite the pervasive silence, the collective communication among the group remained unhindered. They were bonded by their quietude and united en masse in their purpose. Louis Rothman then produced an ornate, silver candelabra and lit the three slender candles that it held with a solid gold Dunhill lighter, deftly produced from somewhere about his person. As he led the way down a narrow spiral of stairs at the rear of the small chamber, the darkness that rose up from the cellars below was palpable and provided a fitting corollary for the combined malignancy of this assemblage of evil as it descended into the bowels of the Chateau beneath them.
At the foot of the stairs was a heavy wooden door, replete with ornately carved, occult symbolism. On the wall to the left was a small electronic key pad. Louis Rothman dextrously entered a series of numbers and then pushed gently on the centre of the door. It swung open with ease, obviously assisted by a state of the art locking mechanism. He stepped forward into the darkness beyond, succeeded immediately by his followers.
Once inside, the heavy, ornate door closed silently behind them and once again Louis Rothman led the way, this time through a short, flagstoned corridor towards another heavy set, ornately carved wooden door of similar design to the first. This one however was unlocked and Louis Rothman opened it swiftly, ushering his followers across the thresh hold. Inside, was a large square cellar maybe twenty feet wide but almost fifty in length and with another doorway, identical yet again to the others, located in the far left hand corner of the room. As before, the floor was flagged and the walls were constructed of large, oblong blocks of stone which diminished in size as they rose up to meet the vaulted ceilings that arced above them in four perfect sections. Despite it's sepulchral design, there was no obvious evidence of dampness or decay. On the contrary, the room was well lit with numerous, yet subtle, electric wall lights and the air was temperate and dry. Along the far side of the room a number of wooden benches and hanging rails displayed a collection of crimson coloured robes and matching velvet slippers. The thirteen participants crossed the room in haste and immediately began to undress.
A few moments later and they were fully garbed in their conspicuous, scarlet attire, the luxurious fabric of which, rippled sadistically over their naked bodies like the blood red pelts of a thousand butchered minks languishing in the eternal darkness of their slaughter. Louis Rothman then moved across the room and punched in a sequence of numbers on a small electronic key pad adjacent to the second, still unopened door. Simultaneously, the lighting began to fade and a soft, rhythmic chanting began to fill the room. He pushed the door softly and it opened with ease. Above their heads, the musicians in the ballroom announced the imminence of the midnight hour and the subsequent zenith of the mid summer celebrations. In the boudoirs and ante rooms throughout the chateau, the intensity of the cocaine fuelled fucking seemed to reach a climatic peak and in the room adjacent to the disciples, the eight year old boy, abducted to order less than twenty four hours earlier, awaited his fate with a horrifying resignation. Louis Rothman then stepped silently across the thresh hold and a soft shard of light fell seductively across the bound, naked flesh of the boy. He began to make his way around the periphery of the chamber, lighting wall mounted candelabras as he went. Within seconds the small room had been illuminated by the warm, ochre flames of the candles and the disciples then took this as their cue. Once inside, the disciples all disrobed swiftly, discarding their cloaks in unison as they began to embrace one another, indulging each other at random in blatant acts of sexual fore play. Now that the room was illuminated, the young boy realised that he was in fact lying not on a stone floor, but rather, face up on a raised stone altar, his arms and legs tightly bound with broad leather straps. The cortisol levels in his blood stream were now so excessive that he had become tranquillised by his fear and he simply lay trembling, awaiting his fate with a completely detached sense of reality. Louis Rothman moved to the rear of the room, out of sight of his intended victim and picked up a black, ornately carved dagger from a small, wooden table; he ran the under side of his thumb along the razor sharp blade and smiled to himself as images of impending sacrifice flashed malevolently through his mind. Without hesitation, Louis Rothman then stepped forward towards the altar holding the dagger high above his head as the writhing mass of now intertwined bodies that surrounded him erupted in an orgy of sexual extravagance that seemed to meld the flesh of those involved into a single, contorted entity and plunged the dagger downwards, piercing the frantically beating heart of the boy with such force that it all but disintegrated, sending an arc of blood spurting violently from the wound in a scarlet rainbow of death. As the sound of chanting resonated in crescendo with the moans and groans of the sexually engrossed disciples, Louis Rothman withdrew the knife allowing the blood to gush from the wound with a grotesque inevitability , flowing down the pale skinned torso of the boy and onto the altar where it was subsequently channelled through a number of rivulets into a large golden chalice, accurately positioned to catch the sacrificial fluids of the victim. As the life force of the boy began to fade, the blood flow from the wound also began to diminish and all around the room, the sexually charged groans of the disciples filled the air in a unanimous mass of orgasmic release, their collective, sexual frenzy seemingly catalysed into an unbridled, unified peak by the violence of the sacrifice they had just witnessed.
Louis Rothman then lifted the chalice above his head and recanted the satanic oath - one he had been taught as a child - pausing theatrically for effect wherever necessary to deliver it's malicious intent with maximum impact; he then drank greedily from the gilded vessel before passing it to the nearest disciple who then followed his lead without hesitation.
Louis Rothman understood the power of sacrifice, something most people did not. He had been initiated into the satanic secrets of his family almost before he could read or write, attending his first human sacrifice aged seven; he had been well prepared for it by his father and he had not been afraid. On the contrary he had understood, even at such a tender age, that the power of sacrifice was integral to the continuing success of his family in a world that was fundamentally weak and ready to be exploited. While most seven year olds were being immersed in the love of their parents, the soul of Louis Rothman was being drowned in a sea of evil.
Less than an hour later Louis Rothman was seated at his desk, high up in one of the towers of Chateau Helios. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes for a moment as the newly accrued power surged through his veins like the finest cocaine. This was his drug, there was nothing better than the blood of a pure child. He had abstained all evening while his guests had indulged, now he was higher than any of them could ever imagine, he was kissing the sky of unlimited expectation and nothing could hold him now. He picked up his mobile phone and dialled a number with a central London area code.
"It's Louis. We're all done here, what about you?"
"Yes Louis. We're all done here too. It was a little messy, but we got there in the end."
"Good. You know as well as I do how necessary it is to keep the blood flowing." He chuckled as he spoke. It sounded like death. "It's just something that we need to do if we're to keep tipping the balance in our favour."
"I know Louis, I know." Ben did not sound so sure.
Louis Rothman continued, unperturbed. "We've been sacrificing their kind for centuries." He spat. "It's what they're bred for. They go to war when we tell them to in the name of some ridiculously contrived cause, this is no different. They're cattle, nothing more."
"Quite." Replied Ben, any hint of remorse now purged from his voice.
"Anyway, let's move on. I've been looking at the figures; we've been very successful Ben. We've managed to convince the entire fucking world that investing in property is, as they say "as safe as houses". We've been funding all of those shitty TV shows and tacky little marketing campaigns for the past ten years. It's all paid off, the whole fucking world's gone property crazy. Now it's time to pull the fucking plug." Louis Rothman spoke with the nonchalant tone of someone who was ordering a pizza. "Ben, you know what to do next. All of that debt; all of that toxic crap that we've been pushing into the sub prime sess pool; all those tawdry little mortgages that we've been stuffing down the throats of those fucking peasants for years; well now it's time to call it all in, move it on, the whole stinking, fucking caboodle. I want rid of it all. I want you to make like a fucking alchemist Ben; I want you to turn that shit into gold. I want you to convince every fucking derivatives buyer on the planet that this is the best fucking deal that they will ever have the privilege of getting involved in."
"It won't be easy Louis. That shit is really fucking toxic. It makes nuclear fucking waste smell like freshly baked bread."
"I don't give a shit. Just do it… do whatever it is you need to do; just do it. Package it up, spray it with gold and sell it on. "
"Ok, ok. I'll do what I can. You know Louis, in about two years time, when people realise what's gone on here, the markets are gonna fucking implode."
"I know Ben. I know. That's exactly what we want. Total financial collapse. Total fucking chaos. Hell on earth… for some. Sheer fucking paradise for us. You know Ben, we've been selling this shitty dream for years now, but you can only sell a dream to people that are sleeping. Now it's time to wake those fuckers up, it's time for those peasants to pay their fucking bill… We've sold the dream to those that sleep and now it's time to pay."
"Sounds like poetry to me Louis, sheer fucking poetry."
JUNE 2009. SUNDERLAND.
"So, Ms Robson, as you know, you haven't paid your mortgage for the past six months. We…"
Lizzie interrupted. "Yes, but you know that I lost my job last year when…"
Brian Armstrong interrupted in return." We know Ms Robson and of course we are sorry about that but when you took out your mortgage you made a commitment to the bank to maintain your monthly repayments. Because you have failed to make the necessary payments we have no alternative but to reposess your home."
Lizzie sat in her chair, she was a broken woman. Her dream had been shattered by the greed of people that she had never met; by people that she had never even heard of and by people that she had never imagined could ever effect her, Lizzie Robson, a modest, single mother living a simple life in Sunderland. She had been sold a dream and had ended up buying into a nightmare and there was nothing, absolutely nothing that she could do about it now. She had bought the property from her previous employers three years earlier at the hight of the boom. When the market crashed in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis, The Wearside Development Co was one of the first to go to the wall and with their demise came Lizzie's redundancy. She had received three months pay for services rendered and dreams expunged and that, as they say, was that.
Her mortgage payments , which had been discounted until last month had just increased by over a hundred pounds per month, despite the Bank of England base rate being at a historical low of 0.5 per cent. Lizzie's mortgage product analysis had not predicted this and she had signed up to an agreement that in hindsight seemed incredulous in the extreme.
"Why are you doing this?" Lizzie asked in desperation. Tears streaming down her face.
"We have no choice Ms Robson, we are simply doing our job. We are obviously very sorry that this has happened but we really have no choice."
"What will you do with it, the house?"
"We will probably be forced to sell it and unfortunately, due to the rapid decrease in property values, it will almost certainly be sold at auction at a considerable loss."
"Well that makes no sense. Why sell it for a loss. How will you get your money back if you make a loss?"
"Well, unfortunately, any money owing on the mortgage after the sale will have to be re paid by you."
"So, let me get this straight, you're going to take the house off me, sell it for a loss and then come after me for the balance?"
"Yes Ms Robson, that's exactly what we intend to do."
JUNE 2009. CHATEAU HELIOS. THE SOUTH OF FRANCE
"So, Louis, we did it."
"Yes Ben, we did. It's been a successful year and it's getting closer and closer."
"What is Louis"
"Come on Ben, you know what we want."
"What do you want Louis? You already have all of the money you could ever spend, what else do you want?"
"We want power, we want control. We want it all."
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