“This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.” That’s all Adam Burlingham could say when the City of London police, acting on a directive from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, came in and shut down his brokerage firm.
“Be careful, you oafs,” he shouted as two men grabbed the antique stock ticker, the one his father had given him, complete with its walnut base and protective glass globe. His father. What would he think of these events? Adam was sickened by the thought. His ailing father, almost ninety and half-blind, would not understand how his namesake and the sole heir of the brokerage he’d worked so hard to make successful, had gotten himself mixed up in criminal activity.
Adam stared out of the window of the unmarked police car and thought back to the day that Maximilian Muir had strolled with such authority into his offices. Muir, so young and confident, with a silver tongue that could convince almost anybody of anything, including Adam, of course. Why hadn’t he seen the obvious sociopathic nature lurking right below that smooth and well-groomed exterior? And to think, Muir was now long-gone while he, the Chief Executive Officer of the brokerage, was sitting hand-cuffed, his only real guilt, the naive trust he had placed in the young imposter.
How could he have been such a prat? He wasn’t a complete idiot when it came to people. If fact, Lillian often pronounced him a bit overly suspicious. Oh, sweet Lillian. At least, God had taken her to her reward. She was a frail thing under the best of circumstances. A public scandal of this magnitude would have sent her straight to her bed for weeks.
A public scandal. Oh, dear. The children. William and Penelope would be humiliated. They could never speak to him again he was sure. Why would they? He deserved to be thrown in prison straight away and left to die there. Besides, he would never be able to face his clients. He was actually happy that it was over and he could begin the punishment phase of his life. God knows he needed to pay penance for all of his stupidity and blind trust. Muir was indeed a first-rate criminal, but he, Adam Burlingham, was guilty of far worse: abject need. Yes, that was the truth. Why else would he have allowed such a young upstart so much control over his accounts? He had to face that deep in his soul he had been needy – not for money, he had plenty of that – but for that young man’s love and adoration.
Adam’s eyes filled with tears. How perfectly disgraceful. Worse than bilking his clients out of millions, worse than embarrassing his family, the hard truth was that he had been conned because he’d been foolish enough to think Muir was capable of love. Love for him. As the police car made its way through the London streets, he felt stricken, as if some virulent strain of influenza had taken over his body. He was happy to go now and suffer. He deserved it for being such a complete and utter fool.