About a week before the news became public, rumours had begun to circulate of trouble at Regal Mortgage. Innuendos about problems at the vainglorious lender of last resort headed by Sir Murray St Clair were whispered in the boardrooms and clubs where the well connected met to trade in finance and gossip. Several of the large insurance companies, institutional investors with impeccable reputations, were the first to react. As they quietly withdrew their support, the stories spread further into the financial establishment and more large depositors abandoned Regal Mortgage.
Lying in bed listening to the early morning radio news, Dean Thomas heard of the financial trouble at Regal Mortgage for the first time. The newsreader quoted a front page article in the morning newspaper about mismanagement at the company and its imminent collapse. This was followed by a live report from the front of the Regal Mortgage head office where a journalist described the growing queue of small depositors, all wishing to withdraw their savings.
“Bloody hell! Jumping jellybeans!” Dean shouted as he sat bolt upright.
Dean Thomas had heard enough. He leapt out of bed, hurriedly pulled a track suit on over his pyjamas and rushed off to join the queue.
Ray Purvis also heard about the situation at Regal Mortgage for the first time that morning, clearly he wasn’t part of the financial “old school”. Dressed only in his green and gold underpants with the boxing kangaroo logo, Ray stood frozen in front of the master bedroom television as Kochie and Mel outlined the latest news. Ray was worried, he knew the collapse of Regal Mortgage could be a disaster for his latest shopping centre project, which Regal had agreed to underwrite. Ray snatched up his mobile phone from the bedside table and hit one of the preset numbers as he walked out of the room.
Ralph Fly, in pyjamas with a fish pattern, was feeding the blue tang when his mobile buzzed. Ralph picked up the phone, saw the call was from his boss and pushed the green answer button.
“Ralph! Have you seen the morning news?” Purvis demanded.
“I don’t have a TV Mr Purvis …,”
“Well go and get one!” Purvis shouted down the phone.
“But, it’s early…,” Ralph started to reply.
“Jesus Christ! Not now! I’ll see you in the office in twenty minutes. Regal’s buggered and that bastard Biggles is probably going to do a runner.”
Ralph hung up the phone and returned to feeding his fish. “Looks like the Captain’s in a bit of trouble again,” Ralph told his aquatic friends. “Here you are Jaws,” he said sprinkling a few more flakes into the large reef tank.
The atmosphere in the executive suite at Purvis Holdings was tense. Ray Purvis, in a state of extreme anxiety was flapping around like a fish out of water as his young assistant Ralph Fly phoned a few mates in the media.
“Not good Mr Purvis,” Ralph said as he hung up the phone. “It looks like the institutions and a few big investors have already got their money out. It seems there might have been a whisper a few days ago.”
“That’d be right!” Purvis shouted as he slapped the table with his hand. “The bloody old boys club. That toffee-nosed twit St Clair won’t get away with this.”
Purvis dropped down into his chair and picked up the phone hand piece. “He’s already got four point five mill,” Purvis said has he dialled a number. “Hello, I’d like to speak to Sir Murray St …”
Helen, Sir Murray St Clair’s personal assistant, smoothly interrupted Ray Purvis, “I’m afraid Sir Murray is unable to take any calls.”
Regal Mortgage was in lock-down, with the queue of depositors out the front growing by the minute. On the top floor Sir Murray was ensconced in his office, while Helen in the adjoining room was effectively doing the gate-keeping duties expected of her.
“He’ll speak to me, so why don’t you try darling. This is Ray Purvis.”
“Would you please hold Mr Purvis,” Helen curtly replied, and then pushed a couple of buttons on her phone. “I’m sorry Sir Murray. It’s Ray Purvis; he insists you’ll speak to him.”
“The hell I will,” Sir Murray barked back. “He can piss off. I told you no calls!”
“Yes Sir Murray.” Helen passed on the meaning of Sir Murray’s response to Ray Purvis, although the words used were not precisely the same.
Ray Purvis hung up the phone fully aware that he was being left to swing in the breeze.
In the next episode, “Falling Man”, there is an echo of 1929 at Regal Mortgage and the news for the Thomas family is particularly bad.