Death by Parking - Chapter 23 - The Scene Moves to London
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Was taking my old lieutenant down financially enough? It looked like we were moving in that direction. We had a cast of thousands working on this project and Smith and my lieutenant, Cosner was his name, were circling the hook.
“Ah, yes, the overdressed Americans. I can’t imagine why you are here.”
The goal was to have Smith and Cosner buy a nonexistent British bank and then use the resulting money to shore up a failing bank and continue to support a major development on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Heading the operation was my uncle Richie. He was a con man with the experience, and the resources needed to pull off something of this scale. And he loved a challenge. His support team mostly came from the Magic Castle, a clubhouse for Magicians in Hollywood. After all, what were magicians other than conmen who used misdirection to pull the wool over the eyes of a willing audience?
Richie outdid himself. The leader of our little group was a Brit who called himself St. John Smythe (pronounced singin’ smythe). He literally stepped out of central casting with his entourage and was perfect for picking Smith and Cosner clean. We set up a branch of the British bank in a high rise in the Los Angeles Financial District. We were able to rent the former offices of a private bank that had moved out of the city and with it all the accoutrements necessary to pull off that part of the con.
We dangled the hook at a party held at the palatial home of Maryann Leyman, the “L” in S and L, the developers of the Wilshire high rise. She was also the money behind the project.
After Smith and Cosner were allowed to overhear just enough to whet their appetites for the sale of the bank, the party began to wind down. By midnight everyone was gone.
We met the next day at the bank’s “offices” to plan the next move. I felt everything was going swimmingly when Veronica and Josh arrived. They were our main contacts with Smith and Cosner. The looks on their faces did not bode well.
“Smith wants to go to London and see our operation there.” I felt sick.
Richie held up his hand and addressed us with a smile on his face.
“We thought that might be a problem and we have a contingency plan for just such an event. Josh and Veronica will escort him and we have just the group in the UK that should satisfy his curiosity.
I took Richie aside and said that I should go, too. He was adamant. “No, Paul, you cannot be seen in London, it will blow the entire deal. Fifteen minutes in our headquarters will satisfy Smith, especially after what we have planned for him the night before.” I had to trust Richie, but I wasn’t happy.
Veronica told Smith that we would be glad to show him our headquarters in London, however she wasn’t sure exactly why. Smith had mumbled something about wanting to get to know us better. We had no objection to that. However, we thought it might be a good idea if Smith dropped by our offices here in LA for a chat, just so there was no misunderstanding. He was happy to do that. We set the meet for the next day.
Veronica and Josh picked up Smith and Cosner in a limo and brought them to our offices in downtown LA. The outer office was humming with “banking” activity. They strolled through the bullpens and then into the inner sanctum which, after the doors closed, was as quiet as a British Gentlemen’s Club. Smith and Cosner were offered a libation, then sat around a conference table. Josh engaged them in ‘small talk’ and then asked Smith just why they were there.
Smith began a pitch about wanting to know more about the bank and he was interrupted when the door opened and St. John Smythe entered the room. He stood at the head of the table, stopped all conversation in the room, and said: Smith and Cosner were stunned. However, Smith is a good actor and told Josh that they would be in London the following Monday and looked forward to seeing the rest of our operation.
As they walked out, they passed a small group of bank employees. Veronica dropped her notebook and stopped just long enough for Smith to hear: “…I tell you those folks from Dubai weren’t here to take the waters. They were doing their due diligence. This sale is moving fast…” at which point Veronica cleared her throat, the conversation stopped and she, Josh, Smith and Cosner headed for the elevators. As they returned to the limo, she smiled at Smith and said they would meet him in London. She knew a place for dinner that should start their tour of the bank’s UK operations perfectly.
When Josh and Veronica returned to the office they were smiling. “The look on his face was perfect. After he ‘overheard’ the conversation on the way to the elevator, he was even more sure that the bank was for sale. St. John Smythe’s little speech notwithstanding. We will ensure that after his UK trip he knows exactly what the Arabs are offering.”
I still wasn’t comfortable with the plan. We had only a few days to set up a banking operation in London that was more extensive than the one in LA. We didn’t have the boots on the ground or the money to make that happen.
“Don’t worry, Paul, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. In addition to Josh and Veronica’s plans for dinner, what Smith doesn’t know is that Monday is a ‘bank holiday’ in the UK. A perfect time to borrow a bank for a few hours.”
If Richie was that confident, why shouldn’t I be? We shall see what the next week brings.
To be Continued. Return to the Summary Page - click here