Diving In

Submitted into Contest #164 in response to: Write a story about coming of age in a big city.... view prompt

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Coming of Age Crime Contemporary


The road in and out was always dusty. At least, that’s how she remembered it. Dry and dusty. Just like the township – if you could call the straggling collection of houses that made up Fairtown a township. Growing up, it had been Daisy’s world. A small, simple world, but her world. Not like the city, a sum of overlapping worlds. Work. Friends. Neighborhood. And now, a darker world, a world that threatened to consume her.

She remembered when it had started. She had first met Bella in the lobby of her apartment block – inner-city, a bit more than she could really afford. A polite nod, an awkward “you go first” dance at the door and that was it. Then a chance meeting at the crowded corner coffee shop – “Anyone sitting here?” From there it had seemed an easy progression – a regular coffee, a night out at the local pub, a pizza in her flat. They had gotten on well – Bella, with her head-on attitude to life fascinated Daisy, who approached everything more like a swimmer who hesitantly dips her toes into cold water. And the water seemed, if not always cold, at least needing to be checked. Bella was more the plunge straight into the deep end type that Daisy had always wanted to be. The closest she had come to diving into the deep end had been when she had left Fairtown and moved to the city. She had kept afloat there - just.

Now the water was getting deeper.

It had started at the party. She had gone with Bella – “We’ll get an uber – might have a few drinks” – not really knowing what to expect. She had upped her fashion game since moving to the city and had thought that her job was teaching her to deal with people who were different to those she was accustomed to, but, at the party, she certainly hadn’t had the feeling of fitting in. She had noticed the cars parked around the house when she arrived – not so many European imports at the parties she was used to in Fairtown - and felt apart from the other guests, with their easy familiarity and banter about their latest overseas trip or that new restaurant an absolutely brilliant chef had just opened in a part of the city that was sure to be the next big thing. She also knew that the effortlessly casual look of the women around her reflected money, not thrift. She could do the thrift bit - not so much the money.

She hadn’t exactly sat in a corner alone, but once Bella had decided that the executive-looking type she had met was better company, Daisy hadn’t been overwhelmed with attention. She had been drifting aimlessly around the room when she became aware of someone standing next to her. She looked round. The man who stood there was tall – well-dressed with a look that made him fit well. She took in the carefully timed stubble, the leather loafers – Italian of course – and the jacket that probably cost three times more than her father had ever spent on a whole suit. A phrase she had heard somewhere came to mind – contrived casual.

He was looking at her.

“Hi. I’m Lucas. I saw you come in with Bella. Known her long?”

“Oh … Daisy. Hi. Uh, not long. We live in the same apartments.”

“Ah! So …”

The conversation drifted along predictable paths – Bella, their neighborhood, jobs. Lucas did something in corporate finance that Daisy didn’t quite understand, though it sounded important. He fetched them both drinks. More chat. A few more drinks.

The night went on. Daisy didn’t exactly feel drunk but she knew she wasn’t quite on the ball. Some of the things Lucas was saying didn’t seem to add up. How much did he make last month? Did he just say he could show her how to make that sort of money? Easily? And what was that about 20% interest on something. Daisy was not particularly good with money – she budgeted carefully and paid her bills without much left over, but didn’t really understand all that stuff about share dividends and return on investment except in a very general way. She knew enough to know that 20% sounded amazingly good – yes, another wine … thanks – but who got that sort of money? Oh, Lucas apparently.

People started to drift away and the night wound down. Bella’s interest in the executive type had seemed to wane with further conversation and she eventually steered Daisy to the door and a waiting uber. Daisy and Lucas had been talking for an hour or so by then – he had alluded a few times to the “really good thing” he had discovered in his work. Daisy was interested in a general way but didn’t really understand much of what he was he was saying – derivatives? short-term yields? He dropped a few hints that he could let other people – her? – in on what he called a “moron-proof” way to make money. It sounded good and, of course, who wouldn’t be interested in some extra money but a couple of wines had turned into more than a couple by then and Daisy wasn’t really following all of what he was saying. Goodbyes were said, numbers exchanged and a vague promise made to catch up soon – maybe a coffee or a meal. They left.

Later that night, restless, she thought about money. She was getting reasonable money for her work at the personnel company but she knew it wasn’t enough to let her reach the holy grail of buying a place in the city. And, of course, there was her father. His illness wasn’t terminal but it wasn’t far off and the medical bills kept coming. He had never had health insurance and he had virtually no savings – week-to-week would be a generous summary of his situation. Some extra dollars would go a long way with him.   

Later she couldn’t recall exactly when Lucas got back in touch. A few days? A week? What did it matter anyway? But he did. Said it’d be nice to catch up - for dinner perhaps. She had thought about him quite a bit since the party – had to admit he was intriguing. Attractive. She said yes and it was arranged. The next evening, he turned up at her flat – a demure peck on the cheek, a look around the living room – “Wow, I love that print!” – then a twenty-minute stroll to a restaurant she didn’t know – “you’ll love it – contemporary with a hint of Italian”. Growing up, Daisy’s idea of dining out had been the local Chinese –the city had lifted her tastes but she rarely went to places like this – not flashy she thought, but they may as well have had a discreet sign in the window – “Don’t bother if you haven’t got a lot of money.” She knew it would cost way more than she would ever spend on a meal. They worked their way through the courses, each one a subtle but engaging blend of flavors - most new to her. A final glass of wine. He leaned over.

Daisy realized later that this was the point where things changed. This was where an attraction to Lucas became something more compelling, where he became someone she was really listening to. Where the vague comments at the party about “lots of money” morphed into something definite. Where, by a process she didn’t quite grasp, she found herself nodding as the thought of paying her father’s bills and buying her own place assumed form, became something her mind started to shape as a possible reality. Because he made it sound real. She hadn’t really noticed his eyes the first time but as the night wore on they seemed to develop a quality she couldn’t quite name but which drew her to him. What was the name of that old movie? Fatal Attraction? When she thought about things later, that was the phrase that came to mind, hating though she did the fact that it was such a cliché. But it seemed to work. Worked to the point that the night ended, seemingly inevitably, in her bed. To the point that the next morning in the warm glow of good sex and a spring sun coming through the window it seemed perfectly natural to be lying there believing that she could make twenty or thirty thousand extra that year. And after that – who knew?

Looking back later, she realized that, like all good fraudsters he had played her like a fish on a line. He had apparent sincerity to burn and she had fallen for it. The money bit followed. Buying a house, helping her dad. And what he asked to do wasn’t so much was it? Not at first. Just some client information from the database at work. Hell, half the teenagers in the city could probably have hacked in and got that. Not such a big deal. It became a bigger deal when the requests stepped up – account details, personal stuff and more. At first, she said no but then he casually mentioned that her bosses – and maybe the police – wouldn’t be too happy about the information she had already leaked. He said every keyboard stroke was traceable these days. The engagement in the eyes suddenly seemed to have been replaced by something else, something menacing, something she hadn’t seen at the party or the restaurant. Something which explained why she now felt so afraid.

It was a few weeks before someone asked her what was wrong. She knew she was behaving differently at work – distracted, making mistakes, raising the odd eyebrow. But it was only when Bella insisted that they go for a drink that it all came out. Bella had a way of cutting through everything and her “What’s wrong?” demanded an answer. It all came out.

“That shit! I saw you together at the party. He knows my brother but Paul doesn’t want a bar of him now – he’s a crook. What you just said doesn’t surprise me. The question is – what are we going to do about it. Let me think about it.”

When people at work said, “Let me think about it” to Daisy she immediately thought of things being fobbed off, decisions avoided. That’s what her boss did when he said that. When Bella said it, she felt a stirring of hope, of daring to think that something might work out. They talked for an hour, with Bella getting every detail and saying she’d “talk to a few people” as they left.      

It was a week before Bella saw her again. A week of endless self-analysis and regret, of sleepless nights and fobbing off Lucas and his latest demands. They met at the pub again, taking the spot in the corner which seemed to have become their usual choice. Bella looked at her. Spoke.

“I can help you – maybe. I haven’t mentioned it but my best friend – from school – is a cop. I spoke to her –. She’s tight with a someone in their fraud unit – we all met. Didn’t mention your name but gave her enough to go on with. They seemed to be very interested in Lucas. Looks like he’s been on the radar for a while. They want to meet you and make a deal. You give them everything you can on him – if it leads them to a big bust on him they’ll do their best to keep you out of it. But no guarantees. If some gung-ho prosecutor gets the case they could come after you. If it works out, no-one needs to know. Your boss, your family … If it goes pear-shaped, it all comes out. If you don’t want to take the chance, I don’t know – leave town, get a new job somewhere else, ignore Lucas, hope it all goes away over time. Your call Daisy.”

Her call. A picture formed in her mind. The deep end. On the diving tower. Inching to the end of the board. Looking back to safety. On the edge, toes curled over.

She looked at Bella.


September 22, 2022 22:37

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1 comment

T. S. Memory
07:59 Sep 30, 2022

Nice story, keep writing Gregory Struck! :)


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