The Last Members of The Print Works Fishing Club.
They gazed into each other’s eyes, their hands almost touching. The guard at the side of the room coughed a polite reminder they were not to make contact. She shook her head and sighed. “Whatever did you think you were doing?” Amanda asked.
“We never though it would come to this,” Mick replied, “not twenty years anyway.”
“That’s partly made worse for telling the judge he had never done a hard days work in his life, or if he had he was too old to remember.” She said, “But where did this silly caper start?”
“It started with us being made redundant four months before I was due to retire. I felt cheated, they were organising a presentation, and there would be stories from my forty eight years of loyal service. They were having a collection; it was going to be my finest hour. Instead they made us redundant four months before so I lost out.”
She sighed sympathetically and nodded her head.
“I met the others at the fishing club that weekend and we decided to go to the auction to buy some mementos of the company. I saw the watercolour paper marked up and thought it would do me for the rest of my life. I could spend my retirement either fishing or painting. But Alf Higgins saw me looking at it and he had decided he wanted it so he swapped the lot numbers. I was elated when I thought I had bought it for fifty quid, only to discover I had been cheated…again. Forty reams of A2 Bible paper, what was I going to do with that; useless for watercolours. Andy bought the prismatic copier, he only paid four hundred for it, they’re twenty grand to buy new. He said he was going to start a small graphic design and print company on his own. Ted Mitcham bought his P.C.
Then we discovered we had been cheated out of our redundancy money and our pensions had been stolen. That weekend at the fishing club we were desolate. We were sure they would come to reclaim the fishing club building and grounds around the lake but they never did. We weren’t going to tell them so the three of us; the last members of the print works fishing club just carried on using it. We stored the paper and Andy’s printer there. We felt the world had cheated us out of our last few breaths.” He paused and sighed.
“Did it never occur to you that you could go to prison?” Amanda asked.
Mick continued with his story. “We never thought we’d get caught, we kind of got carried away. Ted realised that he had been cheated as well, and that instead of his almost new computer he had been sold one from the print room.
It was Andy that put things together. It turned out that he did his apprenticeship at the royal mint. He realised that the software on Ted’s computer linked to his printer, then he looked at my paper and realised that it was exactly the same Turkish cotton that was used for making twenties and when he put two sheets together it was the right weight. While our backs were turned he knocked one up just to see if he could. He took two sheets of my paper and photocopied either side of a twenty on each. He does his own bit of magic to put in the foil with the hologram and then bonds the two together with an adhesive film, which was when he put the watermark in. We couldn’t tell it from the real one. Then Ted calculated how much we could make with the amount of paper we had, and then things got really out of hand.”
“So how much did you make?” Amanda asked.
“Four point two million give or take a twenty.”
“And what were you planning to do with it?”
“Well that was the thing; I said we can’t just deposit it in a bank because they would know. Then Ted blew us all away. He knew how to launder it. We were amazed he knew all the details. It turns out he reads a lot of crime novels.”
“So how do you launder it?”
“Well you go into a newsagent for example. He had it all figured out, you need one with a long queue and you make sure you only have a twenty on you. You buy a paper for fifty pence and say sorry all I have is this. They give you nineteen pounds fifty change in clean money; it’s as simple as that. But it was hard work doing it a twenty at a time so we went to a casino and took in two grand each, we played for a few hours never risking much and then cashed in our chips and they gave us good money back.” A smile crossed his face as he remembered. I really enjoyed that night, it was my first night in a casino. Ted figured out a system, he’s good with maths, and he turned an extra three grand that night so we came away with nearly nine grand in clean money. We almost had to drag him away from the table.
We had fishing tours to Cornwall and Norfolk we changed four grand a day for two weeks on each trip; a hundred and twelve grand, not bad for a months work.”
“So how did you get caught?”
“It was silly really. Well it turned out that Andy had scanned the images of the twenties in to the computer for extra clarity and so that he could put consecutive numbers on all the notes, but he got carried away and changed the chief cashiers name for his own on a few grands worth of notes; I think it was a power thing. By the time we realised we were passing off twenties with his name on, it was too late and the law was on to us. So now we have twenty years each.
“Well Cynthia, Ted’s wife and Andy’s wife Michelle and I have always been close but this has brought us closer. So we are supporting each other. Now I just have a few documents for you to sign.” Amanda held the pen and documents up high for the guard to see; she had already cleared the signing with him.
“What’s this about? I’ve left my reading glasses in my cell.”
“Oh just sign where I point. It’s just so that we can claim benefits whilst you are inside.”
Mick duly signed where she pointed on all the documents, and immediately her attitude changed.
“All the time you were doing this you never thought of investigating why nobody had come to repossess the fishing club.”
“Well no, we had our mind on other things. We had to use a trouser press to heat-seal the notes together, and then they had to be cut accurately with a guillotine. It’s a lot of work forging four million quid.”
“You never thought of looking through that pile of documents in the garage that you insist I can’t throw away because as you put it, “it’s a complete archive of the history of the fishing club and some day it will be of socio-historic importance”. Well it turns out that when old man Mortimer, the founder of the print works, bought the land and built the club. He gave it to the club and signed over ownership to it. The club is a charity. In the constitution it states that if the club is wound up the assets are to be sold off and divided up between all the people who have been members for the last five years. You three are the only people who have been members for the past six years. The land amounts to three acres of waterfront property with fishing rights naturally, backing onto a forest, adjacent to a nature reserve and in an area of outstanding natural beauty. With your signatures on these documents the other girls and I now have power of attorney over your estates. We have wound up the fishing club formally, and have sold the land to a developer who is keen to build a hotel complex. The agreed sale price is four and a half million. Three hundred thousand more than your forging caper would have made, and it’s all legal. We’ve been very patient and long suffering with you three for decades, we find visiting this place very depressing and the climate here is not good for us, so you won’t be seeing us for some time. In twenty years time you’ll be eighty five, though I doubt if you’ll survive. You’re looking rather peaky already. We are buying a huge villa in Spain with a beautiful swimming pool, massive grounds and a lovely, fit, young maintenance man thrown in. So you may never see us again, but when we move in we’ll raise a toast to the last members of the print works fishing club.”