The Last Magus

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Get thee behind Me Jolly...

Joe smiled weakly he was sure that Mr Jolly would, he stepped out of the way to allow the next customer up to Natalie’s window, his feet dragged like they were made of lead. For the few minutes he had been in Natalie’s company he was getting a feeling that he would fall in love with her unless he was careful. He looked down at the chairs that were available, all identical and all cheap! He chose one of the cheap plastic chairs, it was upholstered with leatherette and looked very professional, all colour matched and everything to the bank’s colour scheme…but it was still decidedly cheap! It creaked alarmingly as he sat, he absent mindedly looked at the magazines, just the usual garbage of how you could throw good money after bad to benefit someone else, someone like Jolly, but rarely yourself. He mused about Natalie, looking up at her as she served the next customer with another warm smile, had she really been coming on to him? She had to be less than half his age and she said she wanted to go to college so she must be early twenties? But he had to admit she was one hell of a good looking young woman, to call her beautiful was somehow a vast understatement. He unconsciously called up a mental picture of her dressed like the girl in the travel agent’s advert, wearing a next to nothing micro bikini as her skin turned a subtle golden brown in the sun. Joe coughed a little as he heard her asking him to be a sweetie and rub some more tanning oil into her back. He rapidly pushed those thoughts away, not that he didn’t want to enjoy them, it was just the thought of walking into Jolly’s office with an uncomfortable half erection in progress might need some explanations. But Joe’s eyes drifted back to her again, Natalie was the first woman in his entire life that had shown a trace of interest. Maybe, he thought reflectively, it was something linked to the new found magic made him unusual or gave him an air about him.
Joe looked at the manager’s office door. Walnut veneer and shut tight, he wished it could stay that way…having to talk to Mr Jolly! Joe hated having to talk to Mr Jolly; he was anything but Jolly. With a name like Jolly you expected smiles and laughter a man who could be described as a friend to all. But with the branch manager you got…

“Winstanton? Come in please!” The door stood open and Franklin Moffett Jolly stood at his door and beckoned...no he summoned, and his summons was very definite. In his world the mountain most definitely came to Mohammed and woe betide the mountain when it got there, there was not one single hint of joy or laughter! In fact Joe wondered about the last time a smile had crossed the man’s face, had it in fact decided halfway across that the effort wasn’t worth the return after all? What you got with Mr Jolly was a short man, maybe five foot nothing in his socks, rather fat at the waist, he called it middle aged spread…Joe just thought of it as fat. He looked like an over inflated beach ball on short legs! Jolly’s demeanour was decidedly icy, hell Arctic temperatures didn’t have a patch on his demeanour. His voice was gruff bordering on the threatening. He was pompous, arrogant and always let you know that you were somehow beneath his contempt. Maybe it was just Joe’s financial position that made him that way with Joe, but then Joe remembered Natalie’s comment…creepy!

Jolly tapped on the door impatiently with a fingernail making a clicking sound like a clock, as if emphasising that time to him was money! Joe looked momentarily out the front door and wondered briefly if he could make a run for it, being outside in the freezing cold might be a little more welcoming than being in Jolly’s office. “Hell’s teeth, desolate Siberian tundra at sixty degrees below zero in the dark of the Arctic night was more welcoming than Jolly’s office!” Joe thought with a grimace.

“Winstanton…I haven’t got all day man! We need to talk!” With a grunt Joe drew his attention back and struggled to extract himself from the chair, his leather jacket and the leatherette cover to the seat felt bonded together. He managed to wrench himself free and then stiffly crossed the floor to the office door. Visions of schooldays and seeing the headmaster filled his mind, but his headmaster had been more sympathetic to his situation than Jolly ever could be. As Joe approached he extended a hand in greeting. Mr Jolly just looked down at it with a contemptuous gaze, as if Joe had suddenly offered him a dead fish! He turned smartly from the door and stalked back into his office not even waiting to let Joe in.

“Great!” Joe thought, “this is going to go really well I can see!”

Mr Jolly’s office was a typical bank office, perhaps more ostentatious thankfully than the glass sided interview cubicles they had outside but an office nonetheless. A glass topped metal frame desk dominated the room and Jolly seated himself with some difficulty in a leather bound office chair. It was the sort with arms that could revolve on a five legged mount. All very expensive, designed solely to impress to say here was a man of importance. To Joe it just emphasised the words pompous git! The walls were decorated in a sickly cream coffee colour and liberally coated with framed certificates and reproductions of Jackson Pollock paintings, nothing but random paint splodges and tracks. His window looked out onto the high street, though a plastic Venetian blind was pulled down to obscure the view at the moment. A few papers and a gold ballpoint pen were spread on the desk and sitting on top of them was a tablet computer. Joe recognised the thing as one of the latest models.
For the customer’s called to this place of financial torture there was another cheap plastic chair like the ones outside. Joe wondered briefly where Jolly kept the rack and thumb screws and would he be using the heated poker today? He wanted to be anywhere else but here! In his mind he wanted to call, no scream to Draco for help, just grow to full size and come in, but he resisted. Thanks to a deliberate height differential, something that Jolly had read about in a magazine, he had the chairs set in such a way that he inevitably put the customer or subordinate member of staff at a lower seating level, emphasising their inferiority to himself, the great man! Normally of course it would work and be very intimidating, but with Jolly being the short fat, pompous individual he was he had had to raise his seat almost to the point he required a step ladder to sit in it, it was that or have the customer or subordinate seated on the floor. He therefore normally had trouble seating himself in his own chair, it was impossibly high for him and would press the tops of his knees against the underside of the glass of his desk, while the arms restricted the sideways space and thus his ability to get his rounded bulk into it properly. Jolly shifted uncomfortably trying to find his position.

“Still it makes the pompous ass feel important!” Joe thought.

“Winstanton…sit!” Jolly pointed at the cheap chair, Joe felt he wanted to bark in response, every time he came in here Jolly treated him like a disobedient dog. Sit! Roll Over! Play Dead! Give me all your money!

“Now I need to discuss your finances with you…” Jolly never used first names, it was part of what really upset Joe about him. He always felt that the man lacked any sense of common decency or courtesy. Joe half expected to see a scar on his face from the operation that had cut out his humanity before joining the bank.

But this morning, Joe knew he had the upper hand and he was going to make this pompous, arrogant man spin in the wind for it…payback was said to be a bitch and this morning she just came back in heat!

“What do you want to talk to me about?” Joe asked innocently as he sat, “Is there anything wrong?”

“Wrong? Winstanton…in all the years I have been here at this bank...” His voice trailed into a long drone that Joe felt like mentally switching off to. “You have been a decidedly poor customer to this bank. Despite numerous warnings and letters your financial resources have progressively depleted. You took out some rather sizeable loans to cover expenditures and yet your finances have continued their deplorable downward spiral. So as of nine o’clock this morning, Winstanton, I believe the common parlance is you are flat broke! You have no money in your account man…a zero balance. As my brother’s vernacular would put it you have not got a pot to piss in! Though I detest such phraseology intensely. As a result Winstanton I’d like to know how you intend to meet your fiduciary commitments…”

Joe grimaced a smile, debts they were debts not fiduciary commitments. But Jolly was like that, why use one word when six or more made you sound like a pompous self inflated ass! The truth was that Joe had tried desperately to make his mother’s last years the best he could…and had paid for it with finance deals…but then he had had a job at the time and that meant an income. Now redundant and out of work his income was at best absolute minimum subsistence level.

Joe sighed and hung his head, then half lifted it with a secret smile, “There must be some mistake Mr Jolly. I’m not flat broke! Money has been tight that’s true enough, but I’m sure my balance is anything other than zero! Perhaps you’d like to look at my account again…”

Mr Jolly huffed and reached for his tablet computer. As he swiped a finger across the screen he half sat back in his chair, the leather creaked as it adjusted. Joe smiled wanly, those tablets were the bane of his existence, everything these days was convenience but it made people lazy! What was wrong with a good keyboard and mouse? Or even old fashioned pen and paper? Jolly stroked his fingers over the screen, he didn’t have to demean himself to this, he knew Joe was broke and that was that! How did he know? Why hadn’t he done his best to set it up that way? Jolly was a man with a plan…

But let the insect have his moment, with a sense of self inflated pride he, Franklin Moffett Jolly, was going to show Joe what he meant, when he said flat broke he meant flat broke!

Franklin Moffett Jolly was a man with conviction, in fact truth be told a string of convictions that no one had bothered to check on. He was not averse to fraud, embezzlement, lying, deceit, counterfeiting and money laundering regarding anything that made a profit as good business, no matter how shady or criminal that business might be. In the past couple of years he had been deliberately embezzling Joe’s money, steadily with arbitrary admin charges, late processing of payments in and early processing of payments out. Then applying more charges for the overdraft, he’d imposed artificially high interest rates on loans that would have had loan sharks begging for mercy. But Jolly hid it all in legal double talk and phrasing that he knew would have people switching off. Jolly, however, for all of his wrongdoings was a man with a dream and his dream was simple, he wanted Joseph Winstanton and his ugly little house obliterated! He wanted people to not even have a memory of Joe and his house, particularly his house! With a gruff half cough and a grinding of his teeth he called up Joe’s account details. He settled further back into his chair, which creaked again. Jolly was going to savour this moment, his moment of victory, the moment when he forced Joe to hand over his ugly little house! After a brief pause Joe’s details appeared on the screen. “Good wireless connection, but is it secure?” Joe thought absently. Text and figures flooded across the screen and Jolly tapped a control to show the balance on the account. Joe almost laughed as he saw an immediate change in Jolly’s face. The pompous bastard was wrong for once! Joe had just stuck a pin into the over inflated balloon that was Jolly’s self image and boy did it feel damn good! Jolly’s jaw dropped open and he gaped like a freshly caught fish gasping for breath. “I don’t understand…this says an available balance of fifteen hundred pounds…with a pending balance of almost three hundred thousand, but that’s impossible, you had nothing man!”

“Yes…well looks like you may have made a mistake.” Joe smiled, as he thought “got you you fat bastard!”

“There must be some mistake in the bank’s system, a computer glitch…” Jolly feverishly tapped controls but the figures stubbornly remained.

“No, no mistake! If you look I paid the money in just prior to you asking to see me. Fifteen hundred in crisp fifties.”

“But…” Jolly blustered, inwardly he was fuming. The bank auditors were due in the next couple of days, there was no way he could delay the cheque being processed and three hundred thousand was not a figure that could be conveniently misplaced. “Where in the hell did you get fifteen hundred pounds may I ask?”

“A friend of mine!” Joe smiled as Jolly squirmed uncomfortably in his chair, “he is buying a coin from me. It proved somewhat rarer than I thought so you’ll find there’s a cheque pending for the balance of his payment.”

Jolly looked at the screen again, “Yes I see Two hundred and ninety eight thousand pounds? There must be some mistake…no coin is worth that much!”

“No again, no mistake.” Joe replied simply, he kept himself composed and relaxed, this pompous man was going to have a hard time riling him now.

“But that’s…”

“Just short of three hundred thousand yes. In fact he paid me three hundred grand but I kept back five hundred quid as I have some shopping to do in town. Like I said things have been tight so my cupboards are a tad bare.”

“Well that must have been some coin!”

“Oh yes, solid gold, weighed a fair amount and according to my friend possibly six thousand years old, oriental…had a square hole through the centre you know.” Joe made an O shape with his left hand and poked his right index finger through it, smiling broadly. He was having a hard time hiding his sense of achievement at having pricked Jolly’s pomposity.

“I see…” Jolly was completely stunned. All of the arguments he had prepared in his mind for this meeting were now moot. It was as if the floor had been stolen out from under him and he was floating in space. With some obvious effort he struggled to regain his composure. His chair creaked and groaned as he shifted in it, suddenly his comfortable leather wasn’t so comfortable any more. Jolly steepled his fingers as if in thought, “Are there likely to be any further such fiduciary transactions?”

“Payments you mean? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. Rare coins are by their very name rare so not easily come by. I guess I got lucky with this one. Anyway three hundred thousand gets me off the hook doesn’t it?”

“Err yes…”

“And then some I’d say…So let me ask you seriously Mr Jolly, do you want ketchup with that helping of crow?”

Jolly’s face reacted like a thermometer as a red level crept up his neck flushing over his face. “How dare…” Jolly gaped, he had expected to be in the superior position in this meeting, he had expected to be the one turning the screws. He had manipulated Joe’s account to that bankrupt state over the past months and had expected to walk away with Joe’s signature on a promissory note that he would offer him. That note Jolly would then conveniently lose, forgetting to file it or misfiling it, thus translating the debt into the need for a charging order on Joe’s house. All of Joe’s debt was unsecured so Jolly intended to make it secured. It mattered little to him whether it was legal or not, laws were there for other people, he was above the law here in his domain. Then he, Franklin Moffett Jolly, would personally see that the charging order became a compulsory purchase order as soon as he possibly could, he even had the document already drawn up thanks to an unscrupulous solicitor friend, a member of his club. With the purchase order in hand he would then demand possession of Joe’s house, foreclosing and evicting him…to hell with the thirty days too! Jolly had everything ready to go so once chucked out he would have that unsightly archaic place demolished! Flattened! Obliterated! The blot on his perfect view would be removed...Oh yes he knew Joe’s house, he had lived opposite Joe all these years and therefore had had to see it every morning when he left for work. Franklin Jolly felt a deep sense of physical disgust at it every single time, it was an eyesore, old fashioned, outdated, dishevelled and it needed to be removed as soon as possible!

But something this morning had gone drastically wrong. Joseph Winstanton, one of life’s born losers; everyone knew that he was naturally unlucky…had inexplicably become a winner! The fact that Jolly wasn’t in the superior role here meant he didn’t have the agreement, and worse there was a very imminent danger of the debt being paid off altogether…which would kill the whole land deal stone dead! There were investors, but Jolly intended to run like the hounds of hell were on his heels if they came asking, no refunds was a guiding principle in Jolly’s life. But he’d have to continue seeing that eyesore little house every blessed morning. Franklin Moffett Jolly mopped his brow with a handkerchief, he was sweating and he needed to think. Things were happening too fast for his comfort. Suddenly being in the subordinate position to Joe, this failure of a man; why he looked like he should be a bloody vagrant already! The very fact that Joe had trounced him, made him feel uncomfortable…very uncomfortable!

Jolly fidgeted with his tie, fiddled with his tablet computer hoping it was some glitch after all, mopped his brow repeatedly. But Joe’s account details with every screen refresh stubbornly refused to change. Actual balance = two hundred and ninety nine thousand five hundred pounds…Available balance = one thousand five hundred pounds. Joseph Winstanton, a man who had had little to no money during his whole time with the bank, who had never so much as got his account into four figures; thanks primarily to the vampyric hold of Jolly’s acts of embezzlement and outright theft as much as Joe’s own bad luck. A man who had put his whole life in hock for the sake of his mother, the old witch!

…now had almost three hundred thousand pounds in his account where Jolly had engineered there to be nothing. This was too much. With a huge sigh and a look of thunder on his face Jolly tossed the computer to the desktop with such force that it skittered towards Joe. In a reflex catch Joe lightly caught the tablet and set it back on the desk. Jolly just sat staring at Joe, unseeing with his mouth hanging open, he was lost for words! Visions of his dream landscape appeared in front of his eyes and dead centre Joe’s hideous little bungalow house. It was all just too much…too much! Years of planning and hard work gone up in smoke because of one bloody gold coin!

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