January 11th, 2007

International Kittens of Mystery

Crime and Poetry: Part Two (Why didn't we invest it all in Mouse Futures!)

It's September 1995 again. We'd just survived eight months in France and then this happened. Someone had stolen my identity and grabbed our life savings.

We hung around the phone for the next hour in shock. How and who and why hadn't someone told us? The same questions repeated over and over again.

Then the phone rang, it was Simon. Mutual Friendly had been informed, they were starting an investigation. He'd had their verbal assurance that no money had been paid out but we'd have to write to them for the written confirmation. And we'd also have to make an official request for compensation as the bond had been encashed. All the unit trusts had been liquidated and Mutual Friendly were holding the proceeds.

"How much?"

"They wouldn't say. That's another thing you'll have to ask in your letter."

We were given the name and address of the manager to write to. And could Simon have a copy for his files. And what about the gendarmes? Would we be contacting them?

I didn't particularly want to. With our track record of making ourselves understood in French police stations, we'd probably be arrested on the spot as accomplices.

But there was that hotel in Boulogne. They could always check that out.

"Have you got the full address of the hotel in Boulogne?"

"Yes, it's..." He paused for a while, "I'd better spell it." Which he did - the Hotel du Midi, Boulogne sur Save.

Boulogne sur Save? I couldn't believe it. I was there last month playing football!

This was no longer a quick ferry trip from England to set up an address for correspondence - this was someone coming to within fifteen miles of our home.

"Is the letter from the hotel dated?" If we knew the dates, the gendarmes could check the hotel register. Maybe they left a forwarding address or a car registration number?

More riffling of paper and then, "I have a copy of a fax here. Let me see ... it's addressed from the hotel on the 29th May and ... sent at 14:37."

But was the fax sent from the hotel? Just because someone writes Boulogne sur Save at the top of a fax, it doesn't mean that's where it came from.

"Was there a fax number for the hotel?"

There was. And that was something else for the gendarmes to check.

The rest of the day swept by in a daze. Stunned silences followed by animated discussions of who, what, why and how. Our lives had rarely been touched by crime. We'd had a car stolen and that was it. But now I'd been impersonated. Someone was out there - pretending to be me - staying at hotels, setting up bank accounts, cancelling bonds and doing God knows what else.

The end of Shelagh's tether, never particularly distant since our arrival in France, was now in plain sight. We should never have come to France, it had been a huge mistake, let's put the house on the market and take the next flight home.

Which brought us back to quarantine, horse transport and a picture of hell that we were only too well acquainted with.

Which brought on another cycle of stunned silence and subsequent who, what, why and hows.

The night didn't get any better. I couldn't sleep. I found myself going over and over everything that had happened and all the things that should have happened.

Why had I felt compelled to entrust all our money to the stock market? Why hadn't I left it in the building society or buried it in the back garden?

Or listened to Gally when he'd suggested we invest it all in mouse futures?

The answer was, of course, the dream.

(next instalment: the dream)