Beryl Eichenberger

False hopes
 
The walls of his office were bathed in soft light, creating confidence and warmth on this cold winter’s evening. The leather couch looked inviting as he motioned me to sit. I sank into the soft folds and accepted the drink he offered, feeling safe and cosseted.
 
It was good to be with this old and trusted friend. Suave and sophisticated, he was the epitome of success – immaculately dressed, perfectly coiffed – he came from an image-conscious generation – the mask of good looks never slipping.
 
My mind drifted back to the early years of my business when he had helped and cajoled, advised and offered his accounting skills to see me through those first confusing years.
Now we were both well established and had remained friends rather than business associates as we had moved on our separate paths.
 
The sharp, wheaty smell of the whisky lingered in my nostrils and stung the back of my throat as we toasted to successes past – and future enterprises!

“ I have an interesting business proposition,” he said.  “I need your advice.”

A jab of caution made me hesitate, but as he proceeded to tell me about this new investment opportunity, his enthusiasm infected me. By the time he had finished I was hooked, leaning towards him with all the eagerness of a child not wanting to miss out.
 
The plan was made – I rallied our friends around and suggested they also get involved – we were excited at the future prospects. What did we have to lose? It was a surefire investment – we pictured how comfortable we would be in the future – maybe a new car, invest in a property – a good holiday….the ideas flowed as we dreamt of how to spend our wealth.
 
A month later a phone call sent a sliver of ice through my heart!

Our money had gone straight into his pocket – there was no “investment” he had stolen from all of us – his trusting friends.
 
If only my commonsense had prevailed when that quicksilver, intuitive flash swept over me on that fateful night.

So perfectly staged – so seemingly innocent, who would not have fallen for this smooth operator and his silken promises of riches to come.

If I had listened to my inner voice I could have saved myself money, anger and fear!
 
Ah, but revenge is sweet.
 
He had reckoned without our numerous resources and the fact that amongst the circle of friends he had chosen to infiltrate, a number of lawyers held sway.
 
Within days we had sequestrated our former ‘friend’s estate’, bringing him to his knees and his fraudulent dealings to an end.
 
Our money restored, but our pride still rather battered – how could we, as intelligent, highly educated people, have fallen for this scam – we waited impatiently for the court date to be announced.
 
En masse we entered the courtroom.

The prisoner looked up nervously as we took our seats.

No longer was this the man we had known. Dishevelled, badly shaven and rake thin – his pallor had all the signs of long days of being confined.
 
A twinge of pity crossed my heart – to be quickly dismissed.
 
A simple case of fraud was entered and with short shrift the case was heard and judgment was given.
 
We watched, like brooding vultures, as he was led down to begin his prison sentence – justice had prevailed and this man would not menace our society with his games for many years.

As we walked away, jubilant in our victory, I felt the angry waves that had assailed me since hearing how I had been duped, wash away into a calm, slow moving tide.

A sense of warmth enveloped me – there was justice after all – and, like a safe harbour after the storm, my pride regained its place.
 
I raised the glass of whisky with my friends, savouring the smoothness, enjoying the warmth.
 

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