It was a cold, bleak February afternoon in London. For the majority of it I'd been stuck in the office and liaising with clients, trying to clinch a sale on a substantial property in the West End. The potential buyer — an arrogant prick with more money than sense — was being particularly difficult, demanding that various items be left in the house before he'd commit to buy. So when the phone rang for the umpteenth time that day and he requested that the hallway mirror be a part of the deal, I almost felt like buying him one myself, just to get the deal in the bag. It had been a week of stupid, unnecessary negotiations and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. I called the seller, an attractive middle aged divorcee, and told her the news.
"He wants the hallway mirror"
"If he gets the mirror it's a done deal, Mrs Evans."
I shifted in my chair and threw some letters into my out tray. I could hear her on the end of the phone taking a long drag from her cigarette and pondering the proposition. A part of me knew she was enjoying this; enjoying the control. There were moments throughout the week when I actually thought she had no intention of selling at all and was just enjoying the attention I was giving her. I'd seen it all before and couldn't help but wonder what kind of a wanker she'd been married to.
"It's just a mirror," I told her, taking her file from the drawer.
"But a rather nice one, don't you think?" She took another drag of her cigarette and I clenched my fist, willing it to be over.
"I guess it depends who's looking into it." I flipped through the paperwork, found the prick's phone number and keyed it into the phone. "I think a mirror is only as beautiful as its beholder."
She chuckled, but said nothing.
"He has another appointment with us tomorrow," I lied. "A similar property, just around the corner from you, actually. It's a beautiful place." I tapped my fingers on the desk as Justin, my colleague, tossed his coat over his shoulder. "Mrs Evans," I said, rolling my eyes at Justin, "I really need to give him your decision now. If you lose him it could be…"
"Ok, ok," she interrupted. "He can have the bloody mirror."
"Finally!" I said, hanging up the phone. "I didn't think the cow was gonna crack!"
"Well done, mate, "Justin said, striding over to my desk with his hand in the air. I high-fived him with a grin firmly fixed on my face.
"Worked out the commission yet?" he said, heading for the door. Then he laughed. "That was a bloody stupid question, wasn't it? Come on, how much?"
"Five grand, give or take a few quid." It was a great day's work and I couldn't help but smile.
Before I left the office I called Roger, my boss, to tell him the news.
"Well done, Dave," he said. "Good work! Now get the hell out of there and get yourself a pint. You deserve it."
"I'm half way there already," I said, picking up my jacket.
"Well enjoy it." But don't go getting yourself hammered; you've got two more to settle tomorrow."
Half an hour later, I was at The Horse and Crown for a well- deserved pint. It was a small place, but substantially cheaper and more welcoming than its sister pub on the main road, which always attracted the tourists.
I was half way through my pint when Michael slapped me firmly on the back.
"Good to see you mate!" he said, slinging his jacket over the bar stool.
Mike was a good friend and a previous work colleague. We'd met several years ago when London was new to us both; when we were desperately trying to carve out our careers amongst the hardened property executives in the capital. Our grit and determination had paid off though; Mike was now a Business Development Executive with a top London firm and after three promotions I was in a very comfortable place in the same firm we had initially met.
Mike rolled up his shirt sleeves, loosened his tie and took a swig of his beer.
"So, how's life in the fast lane, mate?"
"Can't complain," I said. "Closed on a great deal just now. It took all bloody week — cute owner, prick of a buyer — but just under five k in my pocket."
"Nice one. Tonight's on you then, Dave!"
"Well, I haven't got it yet," I laughed. "I've been running around like a blue-arse fly. I've got two girls off sick so I've been covering their asses as well."
"Fucking morning sickness."
Mike shook his head. "Man, you're so fucking soft. Didn't I tell you not to hire women?"
The banter continued throughout the evening and as it had been a good few months since we'd last got together, we spent quite a while in the bar chatting about work, who made the most money from our property deals and who'd had the most recent sexual encounters. It must have been after our fourth or fifth pint that we headed off somewhat inebriated to a local Indian.
We ordered our meal and a bottle of red and then proceeded to converse with a couple of girls sitting at the adjoining table. They were sisters as it turned out — Mandy and Jane — and during the course of the meal the conversation became rather flirtatious. At one point Mandy reached over and helped herself to my naan bread, and it wasn't long after that they joined us at our table. The sisters, both young, attractive girls, were like chalk and cheese. Jane was wearing a pin striped skirt suit and had her hair twisted up in a loose bun. She looked every part the PR executive she was. Mandy, on the other hand — a girl running the family horse stabling business in the West Country — was casually dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, with her long hair cascading messily over her shoulders. It was a thrown together look but it worked, and of the two, she was the one I focused my attention on. I liked her; I liked her arrogance and her 'couldn't give a shit' attitude.
The girls ate their meal — and half of ours — and when the bill had been paid it was mutually agreed that we'd head to a bar for a late night drink. As the girls had their car with them too, and had chosen a venue unknown to me, we decided to follow them in mine.
Everything was fine for the first ten minutes of the journey; we were nose to tail for pretty much most of the way, but when Mike rolled a joint and the effects of it had taken their toll, we somehow managed to lose them in the heavy, night-time traffic. We tried to find them and looked everywhere, but eventually admitted defeat. So, with little else to do, and with no desire to end the evening, Mike rolled another joint, cranked up the music and we drove around the streets of West London without a care in the world.
It must have been about half an hour later when I turned into a council estate car park. Feeling pretty invincible by then, I stupidly decided to use the car park as a Formula One racing track. Mike was far too stoned to even acknowledge where we were or what the hell I was doing; he was slumped in the passenger seat with an almighty grin on his face and just enjoying the ride. George Michael was belting out from the stereo, the windows were wound down and a cool, city breeze was keeping me alert.
I'd been driving recklessly around the car park for quite a while when two police cars with sirens and flashing lights headed towards me, stopping me in my tracks. It didn't take a genius to work out that a local resident had obviously called them, not too happy about the roaring engine and wheel spins I'd submitted them to. I quickly put my foot on the brake, turned off the music and held my breath as three coppers got out of their cars and walked towards me. One of them opened my car door and told me to get out. I obliged, and he took me to one side. I looked back at Mike but he was oblivious to it all.
The copper asked for my name, my license and then questioned what I was doing driving so recklessly in a residential area after midnight with a very real possibility of endangering someone.
What could I say? I was stoned, I was drunk. I wanted some fun. He obviously smelt alcohol on my breath because he asked if I'd been drinking.
"Just the two," I lied.
With that, he produced a breathalyser and told me to blow into the tube, and with some hesitation — as I knew I was over the limit and thinking of the consequences that would follow — I took a deep breath and did as he'd asked. After twenty seconds or so I withdrew and waited for the results with my heart skipping a beat. I was sweating profusely and sobered up quickly — very quickly. I was already regretting the night, wishing I was at home. I felt like a complete idiot.
It was just one minute later that my life turned completely upside down. The result was positive.
Almost immediately I was handcuffed, arrested, told my rights and pushed into the back seat of the police car. The drive to the station was spent sandwiched between two of them and from what I can recall I did nothing more than stare into my lap for the entire journey. Upon arrival at the station they took my belongings, fingerprinted me and then led me into a cell. I had no idea what they'd done with Mike, but to be honest, at that point he was the farthest thing from my mind.
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