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Chapter 17

I HAVE NEVER before worked so hard on an article. Never.

Mind you, I’ve never before been asked to write one so quickly. AtSuccessful Saving , we get a whole month to write our articles—and we complain about that. When Eric Foreman said, “Can you do it by tomorrow?” I thought he was joking at first. I jauntily replied, “Of course!” and nearly added, “In fact, I’ll have it with you in five minutes’ time!” Then, just in time, I realized he was serious. Crikey.

So I’m round at Martin and Janice’s first thing the next morn-ing with a Dictaphone, writing down exactly all the information on their investment and trying to get in lots of heart-wrenching details as advised by Eric.

“We need human interest,” he told me over the phone. “None of your dull financial reporting here. Make us feel sorry for them. Make us weep. A hardworking, ordinary couple, who thought they could rely on a few savings to see them through their old age. Ripped off by the fat cats. What kind of house do these people live in?”

“Ahmm . . . a four-bedroom detached house in Surrey.”

“Well, for Christ’s sake don’t put that in!” he boomed. “I wanthonest, poor, and proud. Never demanded a penny off the state, saved to provide for themselves. Trusted a respectable financial institution. And all it did was kick them in the face.” He paused, and it sounded as if he might be picking his teeth. “That kind of thing. Think you can manage it?”

“I . . . ahm . . . yes! Of course!” I stuttered.

Oh God, I thought as I put down the phone. What have I got myself into?

But it’s too late to change my mind now. So the next thing is to persuade Janice and Martin that they don’t mind appearing inThe Daily World. The trouble is, it’s not exactlyThe Financial Times, is it? Or even the normalTimes. (Still, it could be a lot worse. It could beThe Sun —and they’d end up sandwiched between a topless model and a blurred paparazzi shot of Posh Spice.)

Luckily, however, they’re so bowled over that I’m making all this effort on their behalf, they don’t seem to care which news-paper I’m writing for. And when they hear that a photographer’s coming over at midday to take their picture, you’d think the queen was coming to visit.

“My hair!” says Janice in dismay, staring into the mirror. “Have I time to get Maureen in to give me a blow-dry?”

“Not really. And it looks lovely,” I say reassuringly. “Anyway, they want you as natural as possible. Just . . . honest, ordinary people.” I glance around the living room, trying to pick up poignant details to put into my article.

An anniversary card from their son stands proudly on the well-polished mantelpiece. But there will be no celebration this year for Martin and Janice Webster.

“I must phone Phyllis!” says Janice. “She won’t believe it!”

“You weren’t ever a soldier, or anything?” I say thoughtfully to Martin. “Or a . . . a fireman? Anything like that. Before you became a travel agent.”

“Not really, love,” says Martin, wrinkling his brow. “Just the Cadets at school.”

“Oh, right,” I say, brightening. “That might do.”

Martin Webster fingers the Cadet badge he was so proud to wear as a youth. His life has been one of hard work and service for others. Now, in his retirement years, he should be enjoying the rewards he deserves.

But the fat cats have conned him out of his nest egg.The Daily World asks . . .

“I’ve photocopied all the documents for you,” says Martin. “All the paperwork. I don’t know if it’ll be any use . . .”

“Oh thanks,” I say, taking the pile of pages from him. “I’ll have a good read through these.”

When honest Martin Webster received a letter from Flagstaff Life, inviting him to switchinvestment funds, he trusted the money men to know what was best for him.

Two weeks later he discovered they had tricked him out of a £20,000 windfall.

“My wife is ill as a result of all this,” he said. “I’m so worried.”


“Janice?” I say, looking up casually. “Do you feel all right? Not . . . unwell, or anything?”

“A bit nervous, to be honest, dear,” she says, looking round from the mirror. “I’m never very good at having my picture taken.”

“My nerves are shot to pieces,” said Mrs. Webster in a ragged voice. “I’ve never felt so betrayed in all my life.”

“Well, I think I’ve got enough now,” I say, getting up and switching off my Dictaphone. “I might have toslightly digress from what’s on the tape—just to make the story work. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not!” says Janice. “You write what you like, Becky! We trust you.”

I look at her soft, friendly face and feel a sudden shot of determination. This time I’ll get it right.


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