“Wakey, wakey rise and shine Mr Lodge” Becky said prodding tony in the side “it’s your big day so get ready to surprise the world” she told him with a smile.
Tony couldn’t believe it had been almost 12 months since she moved in with him. They met at a mutual friend’s birthday party 2 years ago and hit it off instantly. They started as friends, and then dated for 12 months before making the commitment to move in together. Becky was reluctant at first when she found out tony had not long split up from his partner of 10 years, Lucy Palmer, and had a two and a half year old daughter.
“Rebecca Doyle” his friends told him was single, but a hard nut to crack. Many had tried but she was having none of it. An Irish girl originally from county Antrim, and as stubborn as a mule.
Tony put his arms around her and pulled Becky towards him. His lips were puckered ready for a nice soft kiss “SHOWER….NOW” she said pushing him away “there will be none of that this morning Tony Lodge”.
She was making him a special breakfast to prepare him for the first day in his new job.
“Quick shower then we eat” Becky said pointing towards the bathroom.
Becky was so different from his ex-girlfriend. Becky had long straight dark hair, Lucy had short blonde. Becky was tall with nice long legs; Lucy was short with chunky legs. Becky always looked and dressed sexy; Lucy looked frumpy and dressed like a woman older than her age. Becky was 25 and Lucy 28. Becky took pride in her appearance; Lucy took pride in bringing up her daughter Mellissa.
Tony always thought that maybe he saw one as being the “love” and one as being the “lust” but he hadn’t decided which was which, he is a 34 year old man with high testosterone.
When he arrived downstairs there was a fantastic breakfast on the dining room table, bacon (2) sausage (2) eggs (2) hash browns (2) mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and toast. There was a pot of tea waiting to wash this feast down if or when he managed to eat it.
“Wow” he gasped “how do you expect me to concentrate on my work after eating all this, it will take me all day to digest it” but still managed to eat the lot apart from a hash brown and a few beans.
It had arrived, Tony’s first day on the “fraud squad” as it was known. After two really difficult interviews where he was put through the mill, he was offered the job. He had worked for the department of work and pensions for 10 years in different roles in different offices. Working his way from admin clerk, into a supervisory role. This was the one he had been waiting for, the elite part of the department that always worked behind closed doors, now he was in. He would be working out of the main office based in Edinburgh and couldn’t wait.
He had attended an induction course 3 days earlier on the Friday and was given a folder containing 3 live cases to look at over the weekend. They consisted of the following:-
A single parent claiming benefits is reported to having a long term partner living with them. The partner is allegedly in full time employment and they have 2 children together. The partner has been living at the address for over 5 years and the claimant started on benefits over 12 months previous.
A male claimant receiving incapacity benefit has been reported to be working on a local building site climbing ladders and carrying materials around the site. The informant suggests that they are also being paid cash in hand by the contractor.
A claimant receiving housing benefit is allegedly sub-letting the property on a contractual basis to a tenant whilst working in a hotel as a live in kitchen assistant.
“If you had the choice which one of the three would you opt for” Becky asked
“If it was up to me I would choose case number three” he replied “I think there could be more to investigate in that one”
“Me too” she said with a smile
After 10 years working for the department he hadn’t been as excited as he was today. Tony was told to be at the Edinburgh office no later than 08:30 on Monday morning, but he arrived before 8 o’clock to settle himself in and miss the traffic.
The three other members of the fraud team, who he had met briefly on Friday, were already there. Iain Logan, Julie Moore and his ex-girlfriends brother Lance Palmer. Lance was 2 years older than his sister, which made him the big 3, 0 – 30, and the other two looked to be in there early thirties according to tony. Lance was always pleasant and friendly when they met but tony put that down to Lance being his daughter Mellissa’s uncle and godfather.
They were all led into a room at the end of a long corridor by site security. It reminded him of an old classroom at school. It had rows of tables and chairs in fours and a blackboard at the back of the room with chalk and a duster. The walls were littered with posters with statistics all related to fraud over the past 5 years, he was very impressed.
The fraud department manager “Heather Mooney” walked into the room. She was closely followed by 2 men dressed like they had just walked out of an x files movie. They wore black suits, bright white shirts, black ties and black shoes and socks. All that was missing was the sun glasses, but they were indoors so it would have looked out of place, not that they didn’t already. One of them was carrying a briefcase, black of course.
Heather had been with the DWP since leaving school, if you wanted to know anything about anything she was your girl. Strict but fair was the rumour in camp, but don’t get on the wrong side of her they said.
“Okay let’s get started” she said tapping the desk with her keys “I would like to welcome Tony Lodge; he’s been working in the department in a number of various roles for the last 10 years. I’m sure his experience and expertise in certain areas will bring added benefit to the fraud team”
“Thank you heather” tony acknowledged nodding his head
“I hope you studied the cases over the weekend” she said looking around the room “it’s important to be prepared”
They all mumbled and raised their eyes, which Heather took to be a yes.
“Iain you’re on case one, Julie case two and Lance you’re on case number three. Collect your things guys and let’s get this show on the road” heather said escorting them to the door. “Let’s Go”
When the last one left heather closed the door and turned the key in the lock.
“Tony, meet Chris Higgins and Samuel Wong from the Special Investigations Department, SID for short” Heather said sitting down at the desk “I bet your wondering why your still here and not on one of those cases?”
“Slightly yes, but I’m sure you will enlighten me” tony smiled
“We received a phone call on the fraud office answering machine early on Friday evening” Chris told him “a message was left by an anonymous caller asking the fraud department to investigate one of our top senior managers”
“Luckily someone was still in the office when the caller left the message and they contacted me straight away” heather confirmed “I contacted SID and asked for their advice. Chris and Sam were sent to meet me at the office on Saturday morning. After listening to the message several times we had to decide if we needed to take further action”
“I presume that’s the reason we’re here? ” tony asked
“Yes tony” Sam replied “as heather said we had to make a decision on our next step”
“And?” tony asked curiously
“Instead of going in with all guns blazing and putting our top officers on the case” heather explained “we decided to go with caution and take it slowly to start with”
“That’s where you come in tony” Chris told him “you’re the new kid on the block so it won’t arouse suspicion if you’re floating around asking questions”
“Under what proviso?” tony asked
“We’ve extracted a copy of the conversation” heather told him “lets listen to the tape and see what you think first”
Sam clicked open the briefcase and took out a CD player and cd. He plugged it into the wall and heather leant over and switched it on.
“This is a message for your National Fraud Manager. Investigate Raymond Hessler, especially his past and family members. It’s too risky for me to identify myself at the moment, it’s important that this is resolved as soon as possible. Don’t ignore this call it’s NOT a hoax”
The caller then hung up.
“What do you think?” heather asked
“First impressions I would say the caller was serious, but I would have to listen to it a few more times” tony said
“Have you heard of Raymond Hessler?” Chris asked
“Of course, he’s one of our chiefs in the Carlisle branch. Been with the department for 20 years or so”
“24 to be exact” Sam told them “it will be 25 years in January 2018”
“Even I didn’t know that” heather chuckled “I thought I was the only one that spent her life at DWP”
“What do you think then Mr Lodge” Chris asked him
“I’m game” he replied “not bad for my first assignment in the fraud department” he smiled
“What do you need to get started?” heather asked him
“I’ve got transport so maybe a quiet office somewhere that has a link with all the DWP databases” tony asked “as well as a printer, telephone, administration tools and hopefully a coffee machine to keep me awake”
“Okay I will see what I can organise” heather said
“Just to let you know” Sam added “the higher archy think this is a hoax and would prefer it to be dealt with as a matter of urgency”
“No pressure then” tony joked
“take the cd with you and spend the rest of the day at home formulising a plan” heather told him “it’s easier to concentrate somewhere comfortable and quiet, so I’m sure you would be more comfortable working from home”
“Just one more thing” Sam told him “this is classified as top secret so you’re not allowed to discuss it with anyone apart from the 4 of us in this office”
Heather passed him a folder.
“You will find a copy of the cd, a bogus case to study in case anyone asks what you are doing and my direct office and home number in case you need to discuss anything”
“There are also mine and Samuels’s numbers in there as well” Chris said
“Happy days” tony replied with a nervous grin
The journey from the Edinburgh office to his house would normally take him around 25 minutes, but he couldn’t remember any of it. The case was going over in his mind the whole time “senior management fraud” “formalise a plan” “top secret don’t tell anyone, not even Becky he thought”
It was just before 10am when he walked through his front door. Who would have thought he would have been given a case like this as his first assignment and be at home before 10 0clock in the morning, definitely not him that’s for sure.
He placed the CD in the main sound system in his lounge and played it over and over again until he could almost recite it word for word. The caller was a middle aged woman with what sounded like an exaggerated “scouse” accent. The caller was definitely not from Liverpool tony thought; you can’t mistake one of these girls when they talk to you. “Nice try but you can’t fool me” he smirked
Tony was on his way to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich when his mobile rang, it was Becky.
“Can you talk?”
“Yeah, I’m just on my break” tony lied “just about to have a sandwich” he couldn’t tell her he was at home it would raise too many questions.
“Which one of the cases did you get?”
“None of them sweetheart, I’m getting mine this afternoon after lunch”
It’s been 2 years since they got together and during all this time tony had never lied to her, he didn’t feel comfortable. Becky worked as a personal assistant for a well-known solicitors firm; he could trust her with his life. He will have to talk to heather when the time was right, Becky wouldn’t tell a sole.
“See you later Mr Lodge, love you lots” Becky said blowing him a kiss over the phone
“Love you too miss Doyle, you spoil me” he said blowing her a kiss back.
His phone rang again 10 minutes later; it was his ex-Lucy palmer.
“Hello handsome” she said
“Hi Lucy what’s wrong?” tony asked
“Nothing I was just checking it was still okay for you to have Mellissa on Friday as arranged?”
“Of course it is I wouldn’t let my baby down”
“How’s the new job going?”
“Crikey give me chance” he snapped “it’s only lunchtime on my first day”
“I hear you weren’t given a case this morning” she commented “and you were left in the room with your boss and 2 bouncer lookalikes”
“Lance doesn’t waste much time” tony said annoyed
“I was just checking everything was okay”
“Yes Lucy its fine” tony said “tell your brother the 2 bouncers as he called them are also new recruits from a different department and heather has been asked to show them the ropes”
“And also tell him I will have my case this afternoon if he’s interested and I will let him know what it is the next time I see him”
I think this frightened her off as she said her farewells and told him that she would see him at 6 o’clock on Friday.
Tony enjoyed spending time with his daughter, Mellissa and Becky got on really well too. Becky treats her like her own and she loves it, lots of affection and more presents on special occasions.
Lance shouldn’t be discussing his or Tony’s work with his sister, even though it was their father that got tony the job in the first place 10 years ago. Lance followed him into DWP 5 years later, but he went straight into the fraud department without any previous experience, lucky Lance.
The next call was from Heather, she had found him an office in Gretna Green, approximately 20 miles from Carlisle. It was last used 12 months previously when they were training staff after the benefits were amalgamated into one when Universal Credits were introduced. It was ideal; it was in a quiet area with ample parking for up to 20 vehicles and could accommodate at least 15 staff inside.
Heather told him the key would be sent via courier the following morning arriving no later than 10am. She had also taken the liberty of booking him into a private hotel in Gretna until Friday. It saved him travelling between offices and made more sense on this occasion due to time restraints. The big boys upstairs wanted this episode sorted, and quick.
Tony pressed the play button again this time he was armed with a pen and paper and wrote the conversation down in sections so he could analyse it when he got to his make shift office in Gretna in the morning.
“This is a message for your National Fraud Manager”.
“Investigate Raymond Hessler, especially his past and family members”
” It’s too risky for me to identify myself at the moment”
“It’s important that this is resolved as soon as possible”
“Don’t ignore this call it’s NOT a hoax”
“All ready to rock” tony thought
They had lived together now for 12 months and hadn’t spent even one night apart, now he had to break the news that he was going away for at least three, he wasn’t looking forward to it. Becky had made him a special breakfast, now he had the time on his hands to make her a special dinner – her favourite.
Spaghetti Bolognese with lots of mushrooms and just one garlic clove. Her Nan had given her the recipe when she was a teenager and showed her how to cook it from scratch. Cook the mince she told her until all the excess fat was removed etc., etc. Becky had shown tony many times over the past 2 years, but more frequently since they moved in together. His spaghetti Bolognese was almost as good as her Nan used to make, she told him. Tony never told her but he used to add at least half a glass of Chianti to the sauce when it was cooking; it gave the flavour an extra bite.
He was really out to impress this time, out came the linen table cloth and place mats, table mats, the silver cutlery and condiment set, the expensive wine glasses.
Becky almost had a heart attack when she came home from work “what the……” she didn’t have time to finish her sentence before Tony had removed her coat and shoes and sat her at the table.
“Dinner is served madam” he said with a massive grim on his face.
Dinner was excellent as usual and was complimented with a couple of glasses of red wine. Becky was full to the brim and couldn’t eat anymore even though tony had prepared her favourite pudding apple strudel with custard. This could be eaten hot or cold on another day they decided as tony went upstairs and ran her a hot bath. While she soaked, Tony finished off the washing up so she could relax when she came downstairs. He had washed, dried and put everything away in their rightful places by the time Becky walked back into the lounge.
“Okay Mr Lodge what’s going on?” she asked
Tony explained that he had to go away until Friday with his work. He told her that the Carlisle office had the best record of solved fraud cases for the past 5 years, and new starters were sent there to train with what they deemed to be the best. It all sounded good but as tony knew it was a load of baloney.
“That’s not a problem” Becky told him “it will give me chance to visit my parents for a few days”
Becky’s parents moved over from Northern Ireland when she was a baby because of her dads work commitments. He was a hydraulic engineer with a company in Dundee and had now worked his way into the managing director’s role. They lived in a beautiful cottage in “the bridge of earn” that they bought as a retirement home a few years earlier.
“It will give me chance to play catch up with my mum” she said “I haven’t seen her for a couple of months”
“Good at least I know you won’t be on your own” tony said relieved
“Is this stopping away lark going to become a habit?”
“I shouldn’t think so my dear it’s only a training exercise” tony said crossing his fingers.
“Let’s hope so” she said giving him a stare
“Feet” tony gestured “give them here”
Becky loved to have her feet massaged, it was so relaxing. After 10 minutes she was snoring her head off like a pig. Tony managed to sneak past her as she slept and get a couple of things ready for the morning.
She was still fast asleep when he came back downstairs so he picked her up and carried her upstairs like a baby, she was only petite. Just as he laid her down on the bed she woke up.
“Make love to me tony lodge” she said
So he did, for over an hour, it was just like the time when they first made love almost 2 years ago.
Tony remembered the first time he made love to Lucy. She was only 17 and a virgin, they learned how to please each other day by day, week by week and month by month. Sex was excellent and frequent he remembered, until Mellissa was born then it all changed.
Now Becky was his lover and she knew what he liked and vice versa, it was wonderful. He rolled off and gave her a hug and a kiss on the top of the head. Becky was no pushover, it took him a couple of months to get her into his bed, she only had 2 serious relationships before him. She had to be sure this time, it had to be right.
She had her first boyfriend when she was 18 at senior school.
Most of her friends had been caught and were mothers before there 18th birthday, so she swore she would wait until she was married.
However curiosity got the better of her and she eventually gave in. She split up with him not long after due to him losing interest as he got what he wanted and Becky wondering what all the fuss was about, she wasn’t impressed.
Her second relationship was a bad one; she ended up in an abusive relationship when she was 19.
She lived with Robert Cowie for 12 months and he used to keep her locked in the house, only letting her out to visit her family.
He wouldn’t let her go to work in case she talked to someone from the opposite sex. When they went shopping and he thought she had looked in someone’s direction he used to beat her when they got back home.
It was her mum that finally reported him to the police and got him arrested.
When she moved back with her parents she found out she was pregnant. After many discussions and buckets of tears she decided to have a termination.
Maybe one day they would have a child of their own. Tony loved this girl so much; nobody was ever going to hurt her again especially when he was around.
Tony woke up in the morning just as Becky was coming out of the bathroom after a shower.
“What a beautiful sight” he thought “your one lucky guy”
“Good morning sleepy head” Becky said
“You must have been tired last night you never even moved”
“Excited I think about my new job”
“Don’t forget to call me, you’re not on holiday” she said laughing
“I won’t don’t worry” he assured her “I don’t have to leave here until about 10 o’clock”
“Lucky you. Have a wonderful day” Becky said kissing him on the lips as she walked out the door to work.
The doorbell rang at 09:32 exactly. Tony was looking at the “Pulsar Watch” his daughter had bought him for father’s day.
The postman greeted him with a smile, a package and a clipboard to sign. Inside the package were the key, and a map with directions to the office in Gretna Green.
It took him an hour and twenty minutes from door to door and he arrived with the key in hand.
The door was already open.
“Hello” he shouted “is there anybody in here”
“In the back office” a young female voice responded
Tony walked through and found a young girl at a desk with cables everywhere.
“Hi” he said “I’m tony lodge”
“Monica” she replied “Monica Lawrence from the I.T. department in Carlisle”
“Hopefully you were expecting me” tony said
“I was, but they said you were due about 3 o’clock”
“I’m a keen bird, I’m eager to get started”
“Well it won’t be for at least half an hour or so” she told him “but they asked me to fit the coffee machine in the front office and that was my first job. So help yourself and I will give you a shout when I’m finished”
“Lovely” tony said “would you like a drink?”
“Not unless you want it all over your computer and keyboard” she smirked “I will have one when I’ve finished”
Tony had a coffee then unloaded his car.
He put the main bulk of his things in the office where Monica was working and decided to use the front office with the coffee machine for his quiet room.
He put the CD player he borrowed from his house along with CD and notepad etc. in the quiet room.
“Ready when you are” Monica said
He sat down and she went through the procedures on accessing the databases without having to log out of one into the other, this would save time.
He had a master code that would allow him to access any of the databases 24 hrs a day.
“Even I haven’t got that level of access ” Monica said “you must be important”
“Not really” he said “just a man on a mission”
Monica left her emergency number,
“just in case” she told him, but she assured him he wouldn’t have to use it.
He was impressed by her confidence, let’s hope she was right.
He had a quick look around the office to familiarise himself where everything was.
Front entrance and lobby, 3 offices on the right hand side of the building, toilet and bath/shower room on left hand side next to the rather large kitchen and dining area.
Very cosy and smart, he thought.
He then sat at his desk in the back office, logged into the system, poured himself a cup of coffee and prepared to start his first assignment as fraud officer for the department of work and pensions.