[This comes of reading spoilers for Big Finish's final Companion Chronicle,
/Second Chances./ If you want at some point to listen unspoiled to /SC/, you'd
probably do better not to read this.]
The young man who walked up to the door of Dunvworpin' was a career
criminal, who took his career seriously. His talents and ambitions lay in
the direction of fraud, and he hoped one day to gain fame -- or notoriety --
by the spectacular destruction of an investment bank or two. He was well
aware, though, that practice made perfect, and he hoped to hone his skills
on a gullible pensioner or two.
He looked up at the towering Victorian edifice. Originally a stately home,
it appeared to have borrowed some of its design from a railway terminus, some
from a prison, and some from Keble College, Oxford. Gargoyles leered down at
him, and on either side of the doorway niches held eroded granite angels,
their hands covering their faces.
He'd expected there to be an entryphone, or perhaps the door would have been
open and a receptionist would have been waiting just inside it. But all that
could be seen was an old-fashioned chain to one side of the door. He tugged on
the chain, and heard the dull boom of a bell somewhere inside the house. After
a short interval, unhurried footsteps and the tapping of a walking stick could
be heard, and then the door swung open.
The woman who answered was clearly not a nurse, receptionist or cleaner. On
the contrary: Her elaborate clothes, aristocratic bearing and silver-handled
cane would not have looked out of place on the set of /Downton Abbey/.
"Can I help you, young man?" she asked.
The man gave her a bright smile. "Hello," he said. "I'm Kevin Restarick.
I'm a financial advisor. I know money can be a problem when you're trying to
live on a fixed pension, and I can offer a range of financial instruments to
help you make the most of your resources."
"I see." She looked him up and down, and appeared to be favourably
impressed. "I suppose you had better come in."
She stepped aside, and indicated with her stick that he should enter. The
hall into which he walked was more of an atrium, that rose to the height of
the entire building and was topped by a glass dome. The walls, originally
panelled, were painted a faded cream colour. The main decoration appeared to
consist of freestanding flower pots containing dark, green, glossy trees of
no species Mr Restarick could identify.
"Wait here," the woman said. "I shall see if anybody would like to talk to
She swept away.
At no great distance from the hall was the room that, when Dunvworpin' had
been a stately home, had served as its library. To an extent, it still did,
though the choice of books on the shelves would definitely have puzzled the
original owner. If the original owner had ever existed, of course.
It was currently occupied by two elderly women. One of these, whose coloured
shawls and clinking bangles made her resemble a stage fortune teller, was
reading the day's newspaper. The other was seated in a wheelchair; her hair
was dyed a livid yellow, and her leopardskin dress was of fashionable cut. A
tablet computer lay unheeded in her lap.
"Anything in the papers, Dodo?" the woman in the wheelchair asked.
"It says in the /Daily Mail/ that homeopathic doses of mouldy cabbage may
protect against immigrants," Dodo said. "But according to the /Express/, it's
been suggested as possible factor in Princess Diana's death."
"I don't know why I bother. Why d'you read that rubbish, anyway?"
"I read it so you don't have to, Lucie."
"Load of nonsense, anyway. Hello, who's that?"
The door opened, revealing the aristocratic lady who had admitted Mr
Restarick to the building.
"It is I," she said.
"Oh. Victoria. What's up?"
"We have a visitor. A young man is waiting in the atrium."
"What does he want?" Dodo asked.
Victoria leaned on her cane. "He said he wanted to talk to someone about
financial instruments and pension funds. He was a very nice-looking young
man, I thought. He looks a bit like my grandson Arthur."
"I should just think he does look nice," Lucie said, pushing the joystick
to move her wheelchair forward a few feet. "You can't flog duff bonds to old
biddies if you don't look nice and remind them of their grandsons, can you?"
"You think he's a crook, then?" Dodo said.
"You read about it, all the time don't you? Some poor old granny gets
talking to a nice young man and the next thing you know he's got her life
savings. Well, that's not happening with me."
"Because you would not be taken in by his plausible manner?" Victoria asked.
"Because I already blew the lot on meself." Lucie patted her shoulder.
"Titanium ball-joint and all the trimmings. And I had all me teeth done.
Only way you can take it with you. Pity I didn't have enough for those bionic
legs I wanted. Anyway, what do we do with Mr Nice Suit out there?"
"We need to discover more about him," Victoria said. "Keep him talking for
as long as we can."
"That's exactly what he wants, isn't it?" said Dodo.
Lucie tapped her nose. "I didn't say we should be the ones doing the
The trio had decided that Lucie's chalet would be their best base of
operations, and were now gathered around the television set. Rather than a
soap opera or a cookery programme, it was displaying a monochrome image of
the atrium, shot from somewhere high up on the wall. The nice young man,
looking as if he was having difficulty maintaining his temper, was sitting
beside a very small, very neat, very precise old lady.
"Dear me," Zoe said, the TV speaker relaying her voice with excellent
clarity. "Now that is all very interesting. But you haven't explained about
the gentleman who reinvests the money. Do you think you could tell me a
little about him?"
"That's the fifth time she's asked that," Dodo said.
Victoria sighed. "I know."
"And it isn't like he isn't answering each time."
"Needs must, I fear, Miss Chaplet. Miss Heriot's unfortunate affliction is
our only advantage here."
"She isn't pretending, is she?" Dodo pulled one of her shawls tighter. "She
really doesn't remember asking before. I suppose when you get to that age
you start losing it."
"You are two years older than she is," Victoria pointed out.
Lucie put her finger to her lips. On the screen, the man had just reached
the end of his spiel.
"That was very interesting," Zoe said. "But do tell me, what are the
projected return rates over a five year period?"
It looked as if the nice young man had finally reached the end of his
patience. "I've told you those seven times, you daft old bat! Just sign on the
dotted line, can't you?!"
"In my young day, that was not considered an appropriate way to address a
lady," Zoe said. "And it might very well be my young day right now, you know."
Whatever answer Mr Restarick might have given, the words died on his lips
as he felt a blade pricking his back.
"Hands up," a Scottish-accented voice said. "No funny tricks. Turn around
Mr Restarick turned. Presumably, the figure he was facing, a red-headed
woman wearing improvised armour and wielding a katana, was another of the
"Why're you so keen for her to sign, anyway?" Amelia Williams asked.
"Because it's a Ponzi scheme," Zoe said, flipping through the papers.
"He needs to defraud enough subscribers to recoup his own investment."
Back in the chalet, Dodo gave the other two a baffled look. "How does she
know that? I thought she'd lost her mind."
"No," Lucie said. "She just forgets anything you tell her. She can still
remember bits and pieces from before."
"Before another nice young man came round and made her an offer she couldn't
resist." Lucie fixed her good eye on Dodo. "Only he was from Big Finish.
You've never done anything with them, have you?"
Dodo shook her head. "Nope."
"Very sensible," Victoria said. "I will say in defence of *this* rascal
that at least he only wanted to steal our money."
On the screen, Mr Restarick was seen taking a hurried leave, assisted on
his way by the flat of Amy's sword.
"Hey!" Amy called after him. "You left your briefcase... Never mind." She
shrugged, and returned to where Zoe was sitting. "Who put you up to this?"
"Put me up to what?" Zoe asked.
"Talking to that young scallywag, of course."
Zoe looked at her blankly. "There was a young scallywag here?"
Amy sheathed her sword. "Oh, give me strength."
Lucie tapped the remote control in the arm of her wheelchair. The television
"I suppose one of us had better talk to Mrs Williams later and explain,"
Lucie nodded. "Too right they should."
"Quite. Otherwise, if she were to continue her line of questioning, Matron
may get to hear of the matter. And then where would we be?"
"Right where we are now. But that's not the point." Lucie folded her arms.
"If there's any money in that briefcase I want me fair share. Those bionic
legs aren't gonna pay for themselves, you know."
[ The Round was created by Tyler Dion, Dunvworpin' by Daibhid Ceannaideach. ]
Thinks: This is what a nice clean life leads to. Hmm, why did I ever lead one?
-- Bluebottle, in the Goon Show