For quite some time, the four stared in the direction of the stairs, probably wondering why security weren’t charging in to rescue them from this madman. It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that would have been one of the first adjustments Dexter made to arrangements when he arrived on site this morning. He allowed them a few more moments to realise they were very much on their own. A couple of them started awkwardly loosening their collars. One reached for his glass of water.

“Um,” said the bald one at last. “Hello. I’m – ”

“Theo P, yes. You live at 53 Affluent Way, Balding, Berks, with Mrs P and the three children, two dogs and a parakeet although you still wonder why on earth you bought the thing and have to contend on a daily basis with the kids’ reluctance to take turns at feeding it.”

“Um, yes, quite. Well, listen, setting aside your dubious methods and the, ah, few attitude problems which Duncan highlighted for us, I have to say I admire your ingenuity. You’re smart and well-presented and you have a lot going for you. But if I’m going to part with my kids’ inheritance -”

Dexter sighed. “I just knew that was going to come up. Can I just say right now if you mention it again, they’ll inherit sooner than they expect.”

Theo swallowed. “Um, right. Well, okay, if we must run with this scenario… I can’t help feeling that drug-dealing is a bit ordinary. Isn’t everyone out there doing that? What’s your USP?”

“Ah,” said Dexter. “Now that’s a fair question, Theo, and I’m glad you asked. As I said, these are no ordinary drugs. They are of the highest grade. And of course it’s our intention to cut these drugs to greatly enhance distribution and inflate profit margins. But by a curious quirk of chemistry when you combine this stuff with a specific blend of talcum powder and icing sugar its narcotic properties increase dramatically, making it more addictive as well as profitable. In this way we can actually outstrip the market for the original drug etc. etc. Well I don’t need to tell you, you’re smart businessmen.”

“And a woman,” pointed out a slightly needled Debra.

“I suppose,” conceded Dexter.

“You really are a vile, insidious individual,” she told him.

“Thank you. Does that mean you’re out?” Dexter set his thumb hovering over the remote.

“No, I didn’t say that. I’m – thinking about it.” She went to work on a few sums in her notepad. That or a spot of intense doodling.

“Look,” said Theo, hands raised in placatory manner, “I like you, I do. There’s a lot to admire. And I’d love to invest in you. But – and I’m taking great care not to mention their inheritance – I beg you to think of the kids. What would they think of their dear old dad if he got mixed up in drugs and all sorts of other criminal activities? Think of Mrs P. She’d never forgive me. So, um, for that reason – ” He glanced either side of him, searching for support. Somehow he couldn’t quite find the words.

“You’re out?” Dexter helped him along.

Theo winced. And gave a pained nod.

“That’s fine, Theo. I didn’t rig your chair.” The man sagged and tugged at his collar, apparently suffering under the heat of the studio lights. Dexter smiled. “However, I have high hopes that you will reconsider. Ah, is it all right if I bring in a colleague?”

James gestured his approval. Peter shrugged, as though just grateful to be moving away from the interview’s many irregularities towards normality. Dexter took a few steps towards the head of the stairs and called down. “Mr Knucks, if you would kindly step up here.”

“Righto, boss!”

Mr Knucks was a short while ascending the stairs as the item he was carrying would insist on struggling. A rather futile effort against the strength of Mr Knucks’ cybernetic arms, but most hostages, in Dexter’s experience, showed a bit of spirit. This exhibit had been rather hastily packaged in advance of the presentation, with a sack over her head and plenty of gags. She was a slight little thing and was borne with ease in a fireman’s lift. (Knucks, if given the opportunity, would inform the Dragons that he had once been a fireman, but had been drummed out of the service after his unit responded to a few too many fires in banks. Nothing was ever proven, mind you, since all the evidence was consumed in an arson attack on the fire station.)

“Mmmm rrrrr mmm!” said the hostage. And she kicked and thrashed a bit more over Mr Knucks’ shoulder.

“Gentlemen and – lady,” said Dexter, “allow me to introduce my colleague, Mr Knucks, and the not-all-that-elusive-as-it-turns out Mrs P.”

“What?!” Now Theo was sitting up. As were all the remaining Dragons. “This is outrageous!”

“You’ll never get away with this!” declared a furious Peter, with a superior scowl. If anything now he was even more aloof and ready to hand down his judgment from on high.

“Oh, you know what,” said Dexter. He tapped the remote. And Peter was duly dumped through his trap door. “You’re out.”

“Everyone stay calm,” urged James a touch nervously. “I’m sure we can talk this through and there’s no need for anyone – anyone else – to get hurt. In fact,” he added, “let me tell you where I am. I’m in. I’m very much in. I’d love to invest in you. So I would like to offer the full amount – two hundred and fifty thousand credits for five percent of your company. Tell you what, let’s call it two-point-five percent. Heck, no, let’s round that down and call it two.”

Dexter flexed an eyebrow. “It’s an interesting offer. Anyone else care to top that?”

“Look we’ll all match that, all right?” pleaded Debra. “Two hundred and fifty thousand for two percent. That’ll be seven hundred and fifty thousand. Triple what you came in for.”

“For two percent,” clarified Theo. “We’ll split the two percent between us. And we’ll take a very hands-off approach. You won’t hear a squeak out of us as business partners.”

“Business partners?” Dexter traded glances with Knucks. He cracked a grin. “Who said anything about business partners? Five percent of my company. Today, I said. Two percent now. That’s just a little short of half an hour.” He checked his watch. “You’ve already had sixteen minutes. So we have twelve minutes and a veritable plethora of seconds to play with, so if any of you would care to join me downstairs for a quick cocktail, you’re very welcome.”

The three Dragons stared, non-plussed. If they had any objections, they appeared unable to voice them.

“What? Nobody?” Dexter feigned disappointment, keeping his feigning entirely transparent.

“Boss,” hissed Knucks and he tugged at Dexter’s sleeve.


Knucks jerked his head to one side.

“Ah.” Dexter turned to address the Dragons. “Would it be all right if my colleague and I stepped to the back of the room to confer?”

“Take all the time you need,” allowed Theo. “But please, leave Mrs P.”

“Not just yet, chum,” said Knucks and he winked, before carting Mrs P off to the back. Dexter walked with him and conferred quietly, not the least bit put off by having an eavesdropper leaning over his colleague’s shoulder. The fact that she had her head in a sack, coupled with the fact that she was a nobody, enabled him to pretend she wasn’t there.

Dexter continued to nod and cast glances at the Dragons for some time after he’d finished listening to Mr Knucks’ suggestion, making them sweat some more. He liked it. He liked it a lot. He only didn’t like that he hadn’t thought of it himself, but that minor irk would be more than outweighed by the satisfaction he was about to feel.

He spread it all over his face as he turned and approached the Dragons once more.

“Well now,” he announced, “my colleague has very sensibly pointed out that our Triphetaminion suppliers wouldn’t know a fake credit if it was right under their noses or if they wiped their butts with one. Which, if you know the Triphetaminions at all, are as close to being the same thing as makes no difference.” Knucks walked up past Dexter, while Dexter continued, “By the time they’ve figured they’ve been had, we will be long gone.”

Knucks dumped Mrs P at Theo’s feet. “So if you don’t mind…” he said. And he went along the row scooping up the stacks of pretend cash from every table. “We’ll take your Monopoly money and be off. Oh and boss, we’re a bit short on time – I’m parked on a double.”

“Thank you, Mr Knucks.” Dexter inspected his watch and tutted. “Dear oh dear. We must cut our cocktail time short. If it’s any consolation, my socialising with you would have been at least as fake as the money we’re stealing from you.”

Knucks had stuffed his jacket full with the wads of fake cash. “Ready to go, boss?”

“One moment.” Dexter raised a finger. He favoured the Dragons with a tissue-paper smile, single-ply. “I don’t like any of you. We have what we came for. We have a drug deal to conclude and, apparently, we’re illegally parked. So for those reasons,” he concluded, gesturing at himself and the waiting Mr Knucks, “we are out.”

And they were.



SAF 2009

1 Comment

  1. Lol @ Dexter in the Den, giving those dragons a run for their money. Bloody brilliant, particularly Duncan’s early demise. Never liked him.

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