In my last blog, I mentioned how what we come across in our day to day lives can be a great inspiration for stories. Time to put my money where my mouth is and give another example.
I recently finished and am editing my way through my horror novel Bad Credit and wanted to include the first chapter which (as you may have guessed) happened to someone I knew. Now as I often do, I exaggerated it a bit, making it a crucial meeting rather than a night out with some work buddies but the story was a great one to use. I don’t think I could have totally came up with it in a vacuum. Needless to say I have had my fair share of gaffes and mistakes on the front lines haha.
The main thrust of the novel is Tom ends up in debt to a supernatural debt collector, Mr Rox, who wont take no for an answer.
Hope you enjoy it!
Dinner On Me
Tom sat with his three clients in the restaurant, laughing and leaning back comfortably, appearing the epitome of a suave Edinburgh businessman on his way up. A black Hugo Boss suit, white shirt and silver tie, neatly combed hair, a chunky, very visible watch. He oozed wealth.
His three guests, important business people in their own right and a few decades older than the bright young man in his thirties, looked almost shabby by comparison. He had dazzled them with a meal, he had even taken the liberty of ordering for them. He was a one man event committee, able to wine and dine without missing a beat. Each one of them felt like Tom was totally focused on them alone.
The Discerning Thistle was not the most exclusive restaurant in Edinburgh but it was smack bang in the middle of the city, very visible and fairly expensive, exactly what Tom needed for tonight. There were a dozen circular tables, each full, were crammed with well-dressed men and women chatting away and enjoying the glass front of the restaurant which allowed them to look out at the busy street. It felt like a place to do business, to strike deals, that was the vibe Tom wanted to create.
“Just the bill please,” Tom said in a firm but polite tone to the waiter almost the same age as him. Nights like this made Tom feel powerful, important. He could have flopped out, given up, spent his days taking orders with a nice little bow tie. Not him, not Tom Laing, he was a success. That word was always on his mind, red and glowing with fireworks around it, driving him forward.
“Now folks,” he said in his carefully learned posh accent, “I don’t need the dotted line signed tonight. I’m telling you though that this deal won’t hang around forever. That’s the nature of the markets, you have to hit hard and fast or you might as well not bother. It’s a sprint and if we aren’t first, we’re last.”
Tom was fond of sports metaphors when it came to investing, it seemed anyone could grasp them. A knockout punch when dumping stock to hurt an opponent. A marathon when the investments weren’t turning the sort of profit he was expecting and he had to buy time. A football team to encourage a sense of teamwork and unity. They were simple but they worked.
“We all have things to do, yourselves included. Just man to man, and woman to man of course Sally, are you happy with this?”
“We are,” conceded Jack McGovern, of McGovern Buses.
“With you at the helm Tom, we feel good about this,” smiled Sally, CEO of AC Construction, “I’m not normally the investing type but this seems the right thing to do.”
Bobbing his massive head that sat atop a tartan ascot, Mark, ever the quiet one said nothing. He was a trust fund kid with deep pockets but little business acumen, being at a meeting like this was no doubt his idea of an adventure.
Ensuring business meetings about investments were a bit theatrical was all part of the game. Most investing is done in evenly lit, bland offices over a period of weeks or months. A candle lit restaurant, greasing palms, talking about making a fortune is what people wanted, especially people like Mark who had never worked a day in their life. The illusion had to be maintained.
Moments like this made Tom beam with pride. Here he was, rubbish education, no connections, no one to help him but he had clawed his way through ability and guile for these St Andrews educated twats to regards him as one of them.
Appearances when dealing with these people meant more than raw ability, he had learned that the hard way. Although his title of investment banker at Hagen & Co sounded grandiose, he was on 100% commission, no different than someone working at a telesales centre. He ate what he killed as they said in the office. Landing these clients who were trusting him to invest part of their company funds on safe, low yield choices was exactly what we needed. He would create a brand new portfolio with these three clients, it would see a nice healthy margin and he would get part of that. Everyone wins.
Trust was the key part though. When it came to investments, people had to trust you, to feel that their money was safe with you. Tom knew he had hit that objective, they were eating out the palm of his hand after just a few calls and one pricey dinner. Like shooting classy fish in an expensive barrel.
The waiter came over with a card reader, which he handed to Tom. He quickly punched in his PIN without a second thought and went to turn to the others.
A red light.
“Sorry sir, there seems to be a problem,” smiled the waiter.
“What problem exactly?”
“I think we should talk about this away from your guests,” the young man arched his eyebrows, his eyes worried, but the smile never left his face.
Tom knew he had to quash this and fast, he was losing his audience, “spit it out man, come on.”
“You have insufficient funds on your card.”
His guests looked puzzled at the comment, not sure what to say, and some nosy folk at nearby tables were giving sideways glances, tittering to themselves.
Tom rolled his eyes jokingly at them before turning back to the waiter, whispering in a low growl, clenching the man’s wrist.
“I planned this meal in advance, it comes to £200. I have that on my card, I checked this morning. Your stupid machine isn’t working.”
Perhaps it was stress, Tom hated toffs who put on airs, but he sounded every bit the snide public school boy he wasn’t when he spoke to the waiter.
“Mr McGovern ordered an extra coke between courses. It’s £201.50.”
Tom was dumbfounded. He hadn’t thought anyone would order anything extra, he had ordered everything in advance so he knew his dismal finances could handle it, not because he was a good host as he had pretended. When he left for the restroom in the middle of the meal, someone had ordered an addition.
“If you pay the remaining £1.50 in cash, that will be fine and you can save face,” the waiters voice dripped with a condescending, almost mockingly tone. Clearly he was enjoying this reversal of fortunes.
“I can’t,” hissed Tom, sweat trickling down the sides of his well shaven face.
“Then I will have to call the police. Everyone pays their bills here and we take maximum penalties against those who do not.”
Bright red, Tom turned to his guests.
“Does anyone have one fifty I can borrow?”
Needless to say none of them called him the next day to manage their finances.