Chapter Twenty Six
Of course there was never any doubt that he’d come. She’d sent the gilt invitation in the classy black envelope to his office so that suspicions wouldn’t be aroused at home. He’d been selected at random…blah, blah, blah. She knew that the five hundred pound gift voucher, redeemable for chips, would bring him like a child to the Pied Piper, and just like the fable of Hamlet, she would make Violet’s children follow wherever she damned well led.
She was already at the roulette table. He took a seat three stools away from hers. He looked nervous; a thin line of perspiration moistened his upper lip, his hands rolled the top chip repeatedly across his palm as he studied the board. The ball was spinning through the game in progress. He stared at it greedily, eyes dancing, body tense. The wheel slowed dropped into number eighteen. The croupier dollied the losing bets home and a Japanese businessman collected his winnings. His friends chuckled animatedly in Japanese and jumped up and down like an annoyance of furbies. They chittered away from the table heading for the bandits.
She was sitting the next few spins out. That’s what separated a seasoned player from a stag party. She watched the board, scrutinised the other players. Of the five players left on the game she knew which were the chancers, playing straight up, thirty-five to one, and who was playing it safe with outside bets. She had John Woods pegged for a rouge-noir initially, leading to four corners when he started losing. He’d be a big man in the bookies, playing bravado on the gee-gees, but put him in a situation where the stakes were lethal and his bollocks would drop like a ten-year old in a rugby scrum, he’d play evens bets.
He played two spins betting rouge-noir, and oods-even she knew he would. Ten pound stakes and he lost both. He upped the ante adding a second twelve, making his next bet thirty pounds instead of twenty. She was aware of him staring over at her when he thought she wasn’t looking. She didn’t even have to put in any effort. He wanted her, simple as that. He wouldn’t have the balls to make a move though, he knew in the first glance that she was out of his league. It was time to be noticed. She felt his eyes rest on her. It was only ever a matter of time. Gambling and women were his two vices and he couldn’t concentrate on one to the exclusion of the other. Although it wasn’t necessary, she stood up to place a three hundred pound straight-up bet. His eyes were on her legs. She posed for him for a second before resuming her seat. She heard his intake of breath. Three hundred on a thirty-five to one shot was ridiculous money. She lost with a matter-of-fact shrug of her shoulders. When the croupier had cleared her chips, she placed five hundred on the same number. She lost.
She had drawn the attention of every man at the table. She was the only woman, and was playing a suicidal game. A debonair suit on the other side of the table walked around and indicated the seat next to her. She had to get rid of him.
‘Do you mind? Lady, I can’t help but be impressed by a woman so stuck on her lucky number that she can lose big and not cry.’
John glared at him. The look was not lost on her. She knew that the brash man with the American Accent had just done what he would never have the balls to attempt.
He put his chips on the table and went to sit down. Consuela pointedly placed her hand on the chair to stop him moving in. She glared at the American; her expression froze him in his tracks.
‘I mind,’ she said in a heavily accented voice.
‘Jeez, sorry Ma’am,’ he tipped an imaginary hat, gathered his chips, and walked away, shaking his head.
Consuela turned to look at John Woods. He was caught in the trap of her stare like a naughty boy caught starting into the girl’s changing rooms during PE lesson. He quickly lowered his gaze.
‘Won’t you join me?’
She knew he’d heard her, but he kept his eyes on the board, playing with his chips, focussing pointedly on the spinning wheel and the ball blurring in front of his eyes. She knew him well, the husk in her voice was probably enough to give him a boner. She cleared her throat to get his attention. She was waiting for a response, looking at him with an open expression. He raised his head, feeling the weight of her gaze penetrating his.
‘Come. Sit next to me. Keep the wild dogs at bay.’
He might as well have done the comedic Stan Laurel gesture of pointing at himself and looking around to see if she was really talking to him, he couldn’t have looked any more ridiculous. In his own environment he was a peacock. He was brash and confident wooing the local girls, and the guests in his parent’s hotel. He bedded plenty, and flirted with more. Here, he was like a child thrust into an adult environment. He didn’t belong and his bravado fell to his feet, while his dinner jacket suffocated him and his tie pinched at the collar.
‘Maria Callas.’ She held out her hand palm downwards. He clearly had no idea whether she intended for him to shake her hand, or kiss it. In his confusion he clasped her fingertips and then didn’t know what to do.
‘John Woods,’ he introduced himself and just a hint of his swagger returned as he realised that the other men, croupier included, saw that he had just pulled the most beautiful, and probably the richest woman in the room. ‘You’re very beautiful,’ he added, attempting his killer smile.
‘And you are very,’ small is what she wanted to say, but she amended her words, ‘kind,’ She finished, removing her hand from his.
They played three more rounds. Consuela lost all three. He won two of them; modest fifty-percent chance wins, barely worthy of note.’
‘You’re lucky for me.’ He asked her to kiss his next chips. She obliged and then laughed as though he amused her. He lost, but she had emboldened him. He wanted to show off. He collected all of his meagre stash of remaining chips, three hundred and eighty pounds, small change in a place like this. He placed them all on his next bet, Two eighty on black, one hundred on evens, fifty-fifty all or nothing.
The ball spun and he sweated. His eyes bore into the spinning wheel willing the ball to land on black. He’d chosen it, he said, for the colour of her hair. They were playing La Partage rules, zero was the devil’s rut. The ball spun. He didn’t want it to stop. Once that little sphere of luck, either good or bad, came to rest, he’d either be puffing his chest like a peacock or he’d have to retreat to the cashier for more chips. He’d be drawing on his credit card. It was already overdrawn. He may well have to face the embarrassment of it being refused. If that were the case he’d walk away humiliated. He needed to impress this woman. He wanted to bed her. He already owed big to Monty Wheeler, the bookie, Beth was breathing down his neck, breaking his balls and if he didn’t win big, soon, several other guys from town, big guys with bats, were likely to be calling. All of his balls were up in the air at once and soon he’d be out of his depth again. Soon Mother would have to bail him out—again. Tonight he just wanted to forget. He needed Lady Luck to smile down on him with favour. The ball stopped spinning. It landed on number four. Black and Even, two wins. He’d just doubled his money. Consuela lost her stake and told him she was bored of losing and was sitting the next game out.
The croupier dollied her chips away and passed his over to him. John piled them neatly in front of him. He held the top one, a hundred chip, in front of Consuela’s lips for her to kiss before sliding the lot onto black again. The croupier span the wheel and dropped the ball, ‘No more bets, please.’ The ball spun and John felt dizzy with excitement. He closed his eyes waiting for the click, click, click of the ball settling, willing it to fall into a black slot.
Clcik, click, click, ‘Ten black,’ the croupier said. John let his breath out and opened his eyes.
Consuela smiled seductively. ‘You are having good luck, my friend. I like to surround myself with lucky people.’
In two spins he had just won one thousand, five-hundred and twenty pounds. He should take his money, walk away. But he was a fool. A wise man walks in the middle of a winning streak, a fool continues. He pushed his winnings across the board. This time he put his entire stake on the second twelve. 2 to 1 odds, for every pound he bet, if he won, he would take back two pounds, but winning was harder. To take the money the ball had to land in any slot between number thirteen and twenty-four.
Consuela purred like a cat, ‘So daring, so reckless.’ She ran a red talon along the inside of his wrist and he shivered under her touch. There was twice as much chance of him losing as winning this time. He felt sick. The night was working like a dream for him; everything about it was surreal. From him winning the mystery gift that brought him here, to the cat woman—he’d forgotten her name almost as quickly as she’d told it to him—picking him over the American smoothy, to his suddenly getting luckier than he’d been in a long time of gambling. Just a couple more spins in his favour and he’d be getting into some serious money. It was just a case of having the balls, just being able to hold your nerve long enough. The ball was spinning. Consuela made a huge show of becoming bored with the wheel. She took a nail file form her purse and filed her nails. John was strung out, the adrenaline flowing through his body was causing the equivalent of a sugar high and he couldn’t stand still. Sweat had broken out on his forehead.
The ball stopped and he heard Conseula gasp before opening his eyes. Number twenty one. Number fucking twenty one. He’d won again. Four thousand eight-hundred-fucking quid. One more spin and he’d be walking away with twelve grand. If he could hold his nerve for two more runs he could leave the table with thirty six thousand pounds that would go a long way to clearing his debts. Two more spins. Two more wins and he’d quit while he was ahead.
He was counting up his chips, piling them to move onto the board. He’d had better wins, but this wasn’t a bad night’s work at all and the way things were looking there may even be the promise of a shag at the end of it.
As he moved his arm to place the bet, Consuela laid a cool hand on top of it. He looked up at her. ‘I’m bored.’
‘Well you run along and be bored somewhere else, sweetheart, and I’ll catch you up in a few minutes. I’m on a roll here?’ Stay or leave, gambling was the woman turning his head at that moment and Consuela was invisible to him. He didn’t care what she did.
‘You’re a fool is what you are.’
He pulled his arm back and looked at her. How come she wasn’t impressed? ‘You said I was daring, a minute ago.’ He sounded like a sulky twelve year old.
‘A minute ago you were playing the game, now you are the desperate man, your eyes are flashing green, the colour of money and the table has it’s hold on you. If you walk away now, you leave a winner. The next spin you will lose everything because the table knows it has you in its power. At first you bet for the fun in it. Now you are betting in desperation and that is an ugly thing to watch in any man.’
She was talking bollocks, but she had a point about the possibility of him losing. She took hold of his super-human confidence in her palm, and shook it. He was hesitating now, unsure. He’d won nearly five grand it was an awful lot of money to lose.
She shrugged and turned away from the table. She knew that he’d follow.
‘Hey, wait. Lady, hang on, I’ll come with you.’ After stuffing his pockets with his winning chips, he regained some of his composure. This way he had some good winnings and might still get that shag, whichever way you looked at it, that could only be a win. ‘Let me buy you a drink for bringing me luck.’ He made to walk in the direction of the bar. Consuela hooked her arm into his elbow and led him in the direction of the exit.
She kicked her shoes off as he closed the door behind them. Looking around the room he whistled, ‘Wow, this is some hotel room, you’ve got.’ It was actually a suite comprising a bedroom, bathroom, dining room cum lounge and balcony. They were standing in the lounge area and she motioned him onto the sofa. A golden hostess trolley was laid with a bottle of champagne on ice and several lead crystal decanters filled with amber liquids. ‘Champagne?’ she asked, lifting the dripping bottle from the bucket,’ or would you prefer whiskey? Brandy?’
What he wanted was a long cold beer and to get back to that lucky table in town. ‘Er, whiskey, please Maria, that’ll be great.’
She poured him a large one, a smaller one for herself and sat at the other end of the sofa curling her feet up underneath her. He had his arm stretched across the back of his seat and she reached over and stroked him gently, making his arms tingle and clearing all thoughts of gambling from his mind in an instant as his other primal desire took over again.
The telephone on the side table rang. She reached over to answer it. ‘Who can this be, ringing me at such an hour? I’m not expecting a call. Excuse me.’ She put the phone to her ear. ‘Si, Senora Callas? Si?’ She spoke for a moment in Spanish before breaking into English, ‘Thomas, my darling,’ She rolled her tongue around the R and spoke in a richly accented voice. ‘Of course I was going to answer your call; you know how busy I’ve been.’ She motioned to get John’s attention, in a show of good manners he’d picked up a magazine on the table when Consuela had answered the phone. She cupped the handset and spoke to him,’ Please excuse me one moment, I, must take this, it’s business.’
John made to rise. ‘Do you want me to go, I’ll—’
‘No, please wait. Make yourself comfortable. I won’t be long. She walked into the bedroom, pushing the door carefully behind her, it remained ajar.
‘Now Thomas, you vieja cabra, what is the great urgency?’ She saw John’s shadow fall across the room. As she had planned it, he was listening at the door.
‘Thomas, it is not a problem. Si, let me put up all of the money—oh you are stubborn, Cabrio, the goat. Why won’t you let me? We don’t need the third person. What does it matter that my interest will be greater than yours? Does that not just mean that I will protect our combined interest’s better—okay, you win? I have a friend. I will talk to him. I’ll get back to you with an answer by tomorrow night—Si, I know it’s a perfect deal, five million turnover? Are you sure? And that’s guaranteed? Yes, yes. I know all that. Now go, I am busy; this is no time for talk of business. Chao, chao, caro mia.’ She rang off and stabbed a new telephone number in to the telephone handset before quietly putting her finger on the disconnection bar before the connection was made.
‘Hola, Gregory? Darling it is I, Maria, you have missed me, Si?—I know it is very late and I’m so sorry but this can’t wait. Time is running out on this deal and I have a proposition for you that cannot wait even until the morning. Do you remember Thomas Barrington? –that’s right, one squiffy eye that doesn’t know where it’s looking and the other eyeing up any tottie that’s around’ The person on the other end of the phone said something funny and she laughed. ‘The thing is Greg, we need an investor—that’s right the Faquad account. The one I told you about. Yes, it’s a massive payout but the thing is, we have to move quickly. I need an answer now—that’s the good part. Twenty down and two million return by the end of the month, guaranteed—you will? Oh that’s wonderful. Will you do a bank transfer?—Oh that’s going to be a problem. You see, I can’t get back to Spain in the next couple of days—Darling, you cannot afford to lose out on this. Oil prices are through the roof, we cannot fail—Si, I understand, but that’s no good, it has to be immediate— Okay. Si, we will have to leave it, this time. Now don’t you worry about it, there’ll be other deals. I’ll speak to you soon, kiss kiss.’ She sighed loudly, giving John plenty of time to get away from the door before she walked into the lounge area. She sat on the sofa and picked up her glass, her brow furrowed. She clicked her long nails on the side of her glass, distractedly. ‘I’m sorry about that, a small business problem that I had to deal with.’
John moved forward in his seat and smiled at her, ‘All sorted out now?’
She sighed again, ‘No, sadly, it looks as though it’s fallen through. It was a lucrative deal as well.’
John laughed, ‘I’ve got nearly five grand if it’ll help you.’
Consuela laughed too, ‘Unfortunately, my friend, that’s not quite enough. The stupid thing is that I don’t need much more than that to make up the investment. It’s not the money that’s the issue. It’s having another person on board to even the assets. My business partner insists on having a third investor to balance the scale, so that neither one of us has equal or majority share. All I need is somebody to put in a measly twenty thousand and they would be assured a two million return by the end of the month. It’s so stupid. Anyway, that’s just my boring business problems. I don’t want to talk about it any more and I’m sure you’ve got something far more interesting in mind.’ She slugged off her whiskey in one swallow and moved cat-like over to the trolley to pour them a second glass.
John’s mind was working fast. He could get twenty grand. It would be risky, but he was pretty sure that he could get access to the old lady’s accounts. He could borrow from the hotel and have the money paid back before anybody noticed that there was a deficit. The accounts weren’t tallied until month’s end. It would just be a simple loan. Maria was kissing his neck but all he could think about was clearing two million pounds in less than two weeks. ‘Do you like that, Jonny; she asked, trailing her lips across his neck and onto his cheek.’ Nobody had ever called him Jonny before. He liked the way the name dropped from her lips in a husky Spanish accent. She was probably the sexiest woman that he’d ever pulled. He tried to concentrate. He turned his head and covered her mouth with his. She tasted of whiskey and lipstick and all things woman. Her hand dropped onto his chest and stroked its way up until she was undoing his shirt buttons. His cock should have been like a rod of steel by now but he couldn’t get those two million pounds out of his head. He pushed her away and looked earnestly into her eyes. ‘Let me invest, Maria. I can help you.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
‘Why not, you want an investor and I’ve got the money.’
‘Darling, I’ve already told you, I need twenty thousand, not five.’
‘I can get it. You want a bank transfer’ he didn’t care that he’d just given away his snooping. ‘I can have the money in your account by open of business in the morning. I’m a sound investment. I own a large hotel in Windermere. Twenty grand is nothing.’
‘It’s out of the question. I don’t know you. I might take you to my bed for a little pre-dawn workout, but I don’t conduct my business with strangers. You have me all wrong Jonny boy.’
‘My name is John Woods; I’m a major shareholder in the Halcyon Woods Hotel in Windermere. Check me out. I’m good for it.’
‘My business partner would never go for it, it’s absurd. Out of the question. No I’m sorry; I should never have even mentioned it.’
‘I want in. What do I have to do, Maria? Tell me and I’ll do it.’
She screwed up her eyes in thought, as though she was considering her options.
‘I’ll think about it. Go now, it is late.’ She all but shoved him out of the door. He leaned in to kiss her and after a brief peck, she pulled away. She had him wriggling on the line now. She didn’t have to tolerate him slobbering all over her.
‘How will I know, shall I call you tomorrow? Can you give me a number?’
No, come to my room at six; a banker’s draft will not prove to me that your claim is a valid one. We have no business history so I’m afraid that it will have to be cash. Will that be a problem?’ He shook his head. ‘I will speak to my partner. Bring the money, but I am promising nothing. He may well refuse your offer. We’ll see.’
‘You’re promising nothing except that the two million is guaranteed if we do go ahead? Right?’
‘Jonny, my darling, I thought you were a businessman. Surely you understand that there are no guarantees where money is concerned. But oil is liquid gold, prices have never been better, and we have the deeds of passage. Your two million is merely a beginning dividend in the first month, after that it will rise and nobody knows when the balloon will burst. Once you’re in, you can reclaim your original investment in the first week or two as agreed, and let your profits accumulate for as long as you please, or you can withdraw completely with one clean deal.’
He kissed her again before she got him out of the flat and she tasted a sour tinge on his breath. Shutting the door behind him, she rested her back against it. A smile played around the corners of her mouth.
Violet looked at Graham Bradson with her mouth open. ‘Don’t be preposterous. That’s impossible.’
Bradson looked uncomfortably at SP. The accusation was clear from his expression. ‘I’m sorry Violet, but I’ve been through the books a dozen times. There is nothing to account for that money going missing. On the fifteenth of the month, it was a Friday; you signed for an open banker’s draft, at nine forty-six in the morning. That was then processed and rerouted to the hotels cash flow where it was taken from the safe on the same day in cash. The balance in the safe was correct, because the banker’s draft had covered the shortfall.’
‘I did not. I did not, I tell you.’
‘Well somebody did, they used the password'—he stopped short of repeating it in front of her son. 'They used your user name and password and had your mother’s maiden name to pass through security.’
‘It could have been any one of a dozen people,’ SP was angry, ‘Her password’s The Old Rugged Cross. We all know it. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the girls on reception have been told. Knowing mother, she’s probably given her details to one of the guest’s brats and asked them to draw money out for her so that Ros doesn’t find out about it. Are you aware that she donated three hundred pounds to The Sister’s of Mercy’s raffle, last month?’
‘Quite, quite,’ Bradson looked uncomfortable.
‘Now maybe you can see why I wanted power of attorney. It’s for her own good, she’s becoming a liability. I knew it was just a matter of time until something like this happened.’
‘I am here, you know,’ Violet said, in her most refined voice. She took a small sip of her sherry and began to hum, O sacred heart, O love burning.
The police were brought in to investigate. It was a far cry from when the boys were young and impervious to blame. Apart from the youngest, the rest all had police record’s by this point. Violet’s sons, and SP especially, were instantly under suspicion. This had his previous form all over it. Despite being questioned and scrutinised, probed and deeply investigated, SP came out of it squeaky clean,but one of the other boys appeared on the radar. He was taken to the station for questioning. His fingerprints had appeared on the company safe. The dabs were recent. He could come up with no plausible excuse as to why he had been in the office, let alone the actual safe. He appeared on the CCTV cameras at the bank when he went in to collect the banker’s draft. His crime was strictly amateur. He hadn’t thought it out well.
Fergusson, the investigating officer peered at him across the Formica table. The only sound in the room was the hypnotic whirring of the tape machine recording the interview. ‘I ask you again, Mr Woods. Why did you steal the money?’
‘Come on now, stop playing games, we’ve got you on camera at the bank. For the purpose of the tape I am passing over two colour photographs for Mr Woods to look at. ’ He slid the A4 sized photographs across to John. They showed him striding out of the bank with a stupid grin on his face. ‘Why don’t you just save us all some time and tell the truth?’
Okay. Okay. I took it. But you’re wrong, I didn’t steal it. I borrowed it. It was a loan. I was going to put it back before anybody even noticed that it was gone.’ He rubbed his sweaty palms on his leg.
‘Taking money without the owner’s consent is hardly akin to taking out a loan, Mr Woods. I take it your mother didn’t give you permission to go into the company’s private safe and help yourself to the money?’
‘Define, “Not exactly” for us, sir.’
‘No, no she didn’t know.’
‘You didn’t consult her?’
John looked at the table, ashamed, ‘No.’
‘So you stole twenty thousand pounds from the family business and then—’
Fergusson sighed, ‘We’ve already established that, in the eyes of the law, sir, it was theft. What did you do with the money?’
John squirmed in his seat. ‘There was a woman,’
Mark Fergusson and his partner, Pete Johnson, exchanged a look. If they had a pound for every time a perp’ confessed that a woman was at the root of their problems, they would be very rich men, indeed. ‘Go on,’ Fergusson said.
‘Look, I’m a married man. Gaynor, my wife, she wouldn’t understand. I have children. If I tell you what happened, please, can we keep it away from my wife,’ he looked at the whirring tape machine.’
‘Indeed,’ Fergusson said,’ women, eh, they very rarely do understand. However, this is a police investigation, sir. We have no interest in your inability to keep it in your pants. We just want to know the facts.’
Johnson spoke for the first time. ‘Just tell us what you know, Mr Woods, and we’ll do your best to decide what’s relevant to the case and what doesn’t have to become public property, so to speak. Just start at the beginning and, trust me, you’ll feel better for getting it off your chest.’
‘Two weeks ago,’
‘What date,’ Fergusson asked.
‘I don’t know exactly, sometime at the beginning of the month, I’d just renewed the car tax and insurance, so probably about the second or third, I received a letter through the post. Elegant, you know? Not your usual bill demand in a brown envelope—’ He went on to tell them how he came to be at the casino that night and about his meeting with the Spanish woman.
‘What was her name?
‘Maria. Maria Callas.’
‘The famous opera singer?’ Johnson smirked.’ I thought she was dead.’
‘What? What are you talking about?’ John looked confused.
Fergusson chuckled. ‘Did you meet Maria Callas, the opera singer?’
‘No, well I don’t think so, she didn’t say anything about opera, but she was rich. Look, a lot of people are probably called Maria Callas; I didn’t give it a second thought. It might be a popular name in Spain, like Smith.’
Both policemen were laughing now. Johnson composed himself and wiped at the corner of his eye. ‘I think you’ve been duped, my old son. She saw you coming a mile away.’ John continued to tell his story. The story sounded ridiculous to his own ears when spoken out loud.
‘And that was it?’ asked Fergusson. You handed over the hotel’s money and never saw her again?’
‘I was supposed to meet her again, two nights after I paid.’ He shifted uncomfortably on his seat and felt the heat rising in his face. ‘She never turned up.’ John was bright red. ‘She had invited me to a party. Said she wanted to introduce me to the other business partner in an informal setting. Said that there would be lots of contacts there. That it would be good business for the hotel. I wanted to do it for the old lady. You know, because I’d taken the money without asking. If I brought some business in, money people, I’d be doing something right for once.’
The police officer’s exchanged a look. ‘Go on.’
‘The party was taking place at the Adelphi Hotel.’ He reddened further and dropped his voice. ‘She told me that it was a fancy dress party. Said she was going as Jane, wanted me to go as Tarzan, like a couple, like, you know. Security threw me out.’
The policemen were laughing again, ‘There was no fancy dress party?’ guessed Fergusson. John shook his head.
The investigation was conducted properly over the following weeks. Violet, on discovering that her son had stolen the money, instantly tried to drop the case, but the police overruled her and said that they had enough evidence to bring their own case to court.
The croupier on duty that night had been paid off. He remembered seeing the gentleman, but had no recollection of a lady, Spanish or otherwise. Consuela’s money had bought her silence. The hotel checked their records and found that the gentleman was mistaken; room 703 was not occupied on the night in question. The police searched their computer’s data for a businessman under the name of Thomas Barrington. They found a Thomas Barrington the III living in a nursing home in Suffolk, but he was addled with dementia and made even less sense than John Woods did.
Fergusson, who had taken a dislike to Woods, made a point of interviewing his wife. She had no information to give, except to confirm that her husband had gone out that evening and hadn’t returned until the early hours.
Gaynor commenced divorce proceedings the following day. She was used to his affairs, but stealing from his mother was something that she couldn’t overlook. The brothers turned against him, though there was not one of them who hadn’t swindled money form their mother in one way or another. His children refused to talk to him. Gaynor threw him out of his house. He rented a dingy bedsit on the wrong side of town and resigned himself to the fact that, when his case came to trial, he would be going to prison for at least three years. Before his backside ever touched a jail-cell bunk, his creditor’s got to him first, mean men who didn’t stake their claim through a court of law. He was beaten, left for dead in an alley and found by youth walking his Staffordshire bull terrier. John recovered in hospital, his family didn’t visit, even Violet couldn’t stand to look at him. He continued his recuperation at home and three weeks after coming out of hospital, two weeks before the date of his trial, John Woods’ flat was burned to the ground. A family in the flat above escaped with minor smoke inhalation and were taken to hospital. John Woods’ body was wheeled out on a stretcher and taken straight to the morgue. The warning had not been enough. John had no money to give and so, the men that he owed vast sums of money to had returned to make an example of him.
Violet was inconsolable, she blamed herself for not visiting him in his hour of need. She never forgave herself. A verdict of Murder by arson was carried at the inquest and the perpetrators of the crime were never brought to book. For thirty pieces of silver Violet could have paid off her son’s debts for him again. She always had before. If she had bailed him out this time, he wouldn’t be dead now. She roamed the corridors of the hotel at night calling out his name and disturbing the sleep of the paying guests. Ros left the marital bed and took to sleeping in the guest room in Violet’s suite to keep an eye on her.