“So,” Joseph Staines barked into the telephone receiver as his anger mounted, “I’ve been trying to get in touch with you the entire morning, and only now, well into the afternoon, you decide to switch your fucking phone on!”


Frederick Rice couldn’t have stressed his apologies enough. “I’m sorry, buddy. But working on Wall Street as a trader and a major investor for Brice and Company can be quite taxing, and I barely have enough time in the day to so much as shit or piss, never mind speak on the phone to you. I’m sorry—okay—I’m sorry!”


In his penthouse in Leicester Square in London, Staines paced the lounge floor as Maria, a local hooker, snorted line after line of cocaine which formed short white streaks on the black-tinted glass coffee-table in the middle of the room. She was completely naked, except for bright red lipstick and the faux fox-fur casually draped over her shoulders, whilst the pretty, blonde twenty-something was as drunk as a skunk due to a heavy drinking session with her rich client, thirty-five-year-old bachelor Joseph Staines.


But just money wasn’t enough for thin, rakish singleton Joseph, since he forever craved and worked towards surmounting more and more, day by day, hour by hour, because more was always better, and indeed, better than the dribs and drabs his interactive brokers in New York and Japan brought in day in day out, hour by hour. He wanted more. Joseph Staines would kill for more.


“Listen,” Joseph told Frederick over the phone, “I invested a good two mill this morning in crude, followed by one mill into the hawkish Fed, and by all standards it was a pitifully woeful overall experience since my broker now informs me overnight banking yields were not forthcoming and the entire three million pounds sterling has been squandered!”


“Shit, man,” Frederick said, “I feel for you. But it’s not like you’ll miss it, my friend. After all, only last Tuesday I heard you bought out a subsidiary of that famous Chinese toymaker for thirty million, and stocks in that firm just went sky-high yesterday and rocketed through the goddamned roof!”


“Oh, I know, I know... but as my father used to say... and even on his death bed before he slipped away...  ‘Son, always treat every penny as a prisoner!’”


Frederick chuckled, “Strange thing to say on your deathbed. Unrelenting to the very end, I’d say, eh Joseph? As far as I know Joseph Staines, he sticks by that philosophy. I wish my old dad gave me those words of advice. How old were you at the time?”


“Eleven, so what? Stop changing the subject. I need you to gather stock information, withdraw at least five or six mill from my HSBC account, and invest, invest, invest until I get a winner, then invest more in the same stock until I switch on my broker app and see stimulus in the investment itself, as well as in my fucking bank account!”


Stumped, Frederick said, “No one is yielding right now, my friend. The big money isn’t buying stocks or shares. The money lies in buying brands, companies and property, or splashing out on a new invention of some sort, which to be honest just isn’t happening. I suggest, though, you check out the tech market...  Germany and Japan.”


“I tried them this morning. They fucking suck.”


Behind him, Joseph turned to look around as Marie summoned him to come hither. He waved her off, annoyed with his call being disturbed. Chicks like Marie were ten a penny on the market, and having her here now dumfounded him somewhat, since the hooker was a not very cost-effective addict snorting all his coke.


Marie said, “Come over here to Marie, darling. I want to do beautiful things to you. Please, Joseph, please...” and she juggled her tits playfully.


Frederick said, “Have you got a chick there with you, you sly old devil?”


“Never mind, doesn’t matter... you have my thoughts, so go adapt and generate seismic income, and in return I don’t tell your wife about the seven-year-old girl in Tunisia last summer...”


There was an uncomfortable silence on the phone. Frederick finally said, “You wouldn’t dare. Joseph... that would be my ruination... surely not...”


Joseph giggled maliciously. “I want fifty-five income deposited by midnight, or else I send the wolves out looking for you. It won’t be pretty, Frederick.”


“You bastard...”


“I want the money, fifty-five million pounds sterling, or else you know what. And you know I’m a man of his word, and respect the power money can buy daily. Don’t make me do it, Frederick.”


Frederick assured him, “You’ll get it somehow. You’ll get it even if I have to pay it myself...” He paused and cleared his throat, adding, “and I thought you were my friend. One of my best friends, in fact... I would never have guessed... of all people...”


“There are no friends in business, Frederick—of all people, you and I should subscribe to that theory.”


After a pause, the man at Wall Street said, “I suppose that theory proves it is right every time. Shit, I’m stunned...” He paused again, as Joseph looked at the receiver and grinned like a greedy, hungry Cheshire cat, “You do realize something, Joseph? One day, your love of money will kill you. And when it comes like the Grim Reaper to your penthouse door, you will not expect or recognize it.” The line went dead as Frederick hung up and went back to work.


Frederick was gone. A friend was lost and greed was to blame.


Joseph turned to Marie. “Where is your purse, bitch?” He noticed the small black purse on the leather settee, moved in and snatched it up. He opened it and extracted a thick wad of notes, quickly taking them and lining his wallet one ten-pound note after another until it bulged and he glowed with glee.


But he noticed something scary. Marie was lying there on the lounge floor of the towering London penthouse, naked, unconscious and bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. “Shit...” Joseph said, heading into all-out panic. He began to storm around like a headless chicken running from the chopper, “Please... please... my reputation is on the line... don’t do this to me...”


On his watch, a beautiful young woman was presumably deceased in his home and all he could do was think of his tarnished reputation. So much for that Oxford education, that time dedicated to monetary values ... all for sweet nothing at the end of the day and in an atmosphere where he might even go to prison for the murder of a prostitute. The scandal of it would ruin him. Fuck prison—prison would be a piece of piss—keeping in mind he had enough millions to endure a soft cell.


Then, Hell broke loose...


He stared at the walls of the lounge as they moved nearer and nearer. But the walls were not ordinary penthouse walls—not the ones he knew and peppered with modern cult artwork and modern classics. The walls were now made of pound notes, plastered from corner to corner, floor to ceiling. He surveyed the place in disbelief, looked around in fear and tried to cry out, but the horror was enough to choke him and put him in perpetual silent panic-mode.


There was nothing he could do to hinder the shifting paper-strewn walls closing in, and he knew—this was it, just like Frederick said, the Grim Reaper, in a disguise he never expected the Reaper to adopt to see out all those poor, money-loving, doomed individuals for their greed and worship of quick profit—attaining more and more dollar bills and pound notes. There was a lesson here for everyone. The love of money was a love cursed and bedraggled with agony and pain.


He ran to the vast window and looked outside across the skyline for perhaps the final time. But the City had turned into money. The tall buildings which littered the landscape had turned to cash, as well as every one of the tenements and houses, now constructed of paper, killer British pounds, only these notes grew much bigger as they rapidly moved like phantoms or god-like creatures towards his spot in the City.


For once, he hated money. It took this incident—this predicament—for Joseph Staines to loathe and detest all that he once loved and worshipped in the Temple of Profit and Wealth. If he could have reversed matters, he certainly would have now—he would have worked for nothing, donated money to the poor, to charities... yes indeed he would have been a better and more giving and generous person.


Money would be the death of many, of course. This included Joseph Staines whose life and soul was hopelessly devoted to monetary gain and a healthy profit margin.



At Wall Street in New York, when he heard the news, a surprised Frederick would laugh into his Nero coffee cup and lament the man he once believed was a solid, good friend and business colleague.


As he drained the polystyrene cup, he shrugged and muttered with a sly smile. “Money does make the world go round...” and headed towards the crowded Exchange arena, going back to work.



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