tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 58

No Future Ch. 58


Sinners, Poor and Wretched
Molly & Mark 2074

Was the long-hoped-for economic boom now faltering? Molly wasn't sure, although everyone she knew was terribly nervous that it might be. Mark was still working, thank God. The economy of Korea and all the other countries in the Far East never seemed to suffer as much as those in Europe and certainly not as much as that of the Kingdom of England. All the same, Molly wasn't as lucky as her husband. The demand for her secretarial skills had faded once all the assets of the reluctant emigrants had been repatriated. She now had to make a living as a social housing rent collector in the London Borough of Hackney.

In an ideal world, this would never have been the kind of job Molly would choose voluntarily. It might pay better than frying Krispy Kod or Happy Haddock, but there wasn't a day when she didn't have to endure a torrent of abuse from at least one of the tenants. She was plagued by the constant and very real fear of being mugged for the cash she had to carry. Fortunately, she didn't have to enter the council estates unaccompanied. Hackney Borough Council had no wish to see its employees mugged or murdered. Molly's companion on her rent rounds was a stout man of Nigerian origin who was more than able to handle dangerous situations. If his imposing presence and physical strength weren't enough, he was provided with several official issue weapons that would stun rather than kill and which seemed to be nothing more than toys in the palms of his huge hands.

Daniel Obasanjo had never been to Nigeria. In fact, he confessed to Molly, as the two of them toked on the quality grass that he brought with him and which they'd skinned up before entering the estates, the nearest he'd experienced to travelling abroad was a day-trip to Cardiff when he was a kid. And in those days the Welsh capital wasn't even in a foreign country. Daniel was in his element in the streets of Hackney, most specifically from Dalston Junction to London Fields. He seemed to know everyone even though there were very few he had a good word for. Molly at first assumed that it was his job as a rent collector for Hackney Borough Council that enabled him to get to know so many people, but she soon discovered that he had other jobs as well although he insisted they were just to make ends meet.

"I've got a wife and a girlfriend," he said as if it was just something he was burdened with. "Two women to feed and four kids. It's bloody hard work to keep them all fed and housed."

"Four children?" said Molly, who found just the one daughter enough of a handful.

"Well, four I've got to look after," Daniel admitted. "One's my girlfriend's, two are mine with my wife's and the last's a kid she'd had before I met her."

"So, you've got three children of your own," said Molly after she did the arithmetic.

"Not quite," said Daniel. "Those are just the ones I'm kind of obliged to take care of."

"Are there other children?"

"You don't want to know, darling."

Daniel was generally good-natured and his laugh was quite simply the loudest Molly had ever heard. It was as outsized as his hands and belly. But Molly was sufficiently to see that Daniel had a mean streak. Sometimes he was stern to the point of being aggressive, especially when Molly made comments that he considered to be just a bit too close to the edge.

"So, you work as a bouncer as well..." said Molly after Daniel described a fracas at a nightclub he'd had to deal with.

"What of it?" said Daniel whose eyes narrowed to caution Molly from enquiring further. It was one thing to admit that he did extra work. It was another to elaborate on exactly what it entailed. His other jobs appeared to involve travelling round London and delivering parcels, as well as frequenting night clubs and other possibly more shady establishments.

"I have to warn you about the next lady," said Daniel as they clambered up the stairwell to the fifteenth floor of the George Galloway Tower in the Mabley Green Estate. "She's nothing but trouble. She's always got an excuse for not paying her rent, but if you look inside her flat you can see she's got the readies."

"You can?"

"You don't get a TV like she's got without having some wedge. She says that all she's got is what she earns at the Work Experience Centre but that'd never pay enough to afford a telly like that."

"So how does she manage to afford it?"

"Don't ask."

"Why not?"

"You don't want to know," said Daniel, although at that moment this was precisely what Molly wanted.

She glanced at the piece of paper in her hand. The next person's name was Olga Ogden. Daniel was right about one thing. This tenant was now six months in arrears. It was good for her that the borough council didn't increase the penalty for non-payment by much more than the rate of inflation. If she'd had a private sector landlord she'd now be faced with a massive and unaffordable debt.

Daniel knocked on the door.

There was no answer.

Daniel pushed open the letter box and looked inside.

"Someone's in," he said. "I'm sure of it. There's no junk mail piled up by the door."

Molly sighed. She knew by now what Daniel's routine would be. For the next ten minutes he continued to bash on the door, ring the doorbell (which probably wasn't working), and yell through the letter box. The hope was that the resident would eventually relent and open the door, especially when Daniel's threats of repossession became ever more specific and his promises of Mrs Minchin giving the tenant a fair hearing became ever more tempting.

The door opened, but the person who opened it wasn't Ms Ogden. It was a girl of about fifteen or so years old whose jeans were cut-off at the knee. She wore a skimpy tee-shirt with a picture of an eagle and the word Osterreich in Gothic print. Her eyes were sleep-swollen and she was bare-foot.

"Who're you?" Daniel asked as the girl held the door ajar and peered through the gap.

"Olive," the girl answered.

Daniel glanced at the notes on his tablet that displayed Ms Ogden's family details. "Is your mother in?"

"No," said the girl. "At least I don't think so."

"You don't think so?"

"I dunno," Olive continued. "You made so much noise she'd have woken up if she was in and I've not seen her."

"Would you like to check, love?" said Molly reasonably. "It might be she's still in bed even though it's nearly eleven. We'll stay here, don't worry."

"You're from the Council, ain't you?"

"Yes we are, dear."

"Mum's got nothing against the Council. It's the other cunts she doesn't like," said the girl who seemed blissfully unaware that she'd uttered an obscenity. "I'll see if she's in bed, but don't hold your breath. Even Mum can't sleep through all the racket you just made."

Daniel and Molly waited at the door while the teenage girl wandered about the flat yelling for her mother. Within a few moments she returned to the door.

"She's not in," the girl announced.

"That's alright dear," said Molly, who was the more diplomatic of the two rent collectors. "When she comes home, could you leave her this note?"

She handed Olive an envelope that had been printed out before Daniel and she had left the housing office.

"What's this?" said the girl.

"It's for your mother to read," said Molly. "Please tell her that all she's got to do is contact us at the office and we'll help her sort things out."

"Sort out what?" said the girl aggressively. "I thought you were from the Council. You're not fucking Social Services are you? Or the Bill?"

"No, dear," said Molly. "We're just collecting rent for the flat and your mother's not paid for a very long time."

Olive looked alarmed. "You're not gonna fucking kick us out, are you? You cunts! What have we ever done to bother you?"

Before Molly could continue to reassure Olive that she needn't worry and that all would be well if her mother showed some inclination to pay back some of the rent she owed, Daniel, who'd been standing beside her and seemed rather impatient, interceded.

"It's your mum's final notice," he said. "But you'll see that when you open it after we've gone. When your mum gets home, you better tell her that we've been here and that she'd better pay up."

"Or what?" said Olive insolently. "What then?"

"Then you're fucked!" said Daniel.

Molly was alarmed. This wasn't the sort of language she'd expect from a fellow council employee in the pursuit of his duty.

"Fucked?" Olive echoed meekly.

"You'll be out on the street and it won't just be your mum who'll need to turn tricks. Then you'll both get slapped by your daddy. Don't think we're shitting you. We mean business."

"You're just bluffing, man."

"Don't fucking tempt me, sweetheart," said Daniel who turned round to signal that the conversation was over. He left Olive by the door with a stunned expression on her face.

Molly chased after her fellow rent collector. She didn't feel confident enough to criticise him, but she was sure he'd overstepped some line or other with regards to acceptable behaviour towards tenants.

"What was that about?" she asked as ingenuously as she could.

"That's the way to get the bloody tenants to pay rent," said Daniel in a reasonable voice. "It's just wasted effort otherwise. Unless Miss Ogden recognises the seriousness of her situation she won't do anything to pay the money she owes. Hopefully her daughter will now make that very clear to her."

"Won't she just complain to the council that you've been swearing to her daughter?"

"Believe me, that kind of layabout scum swear so much they don't even know they're doing it."

"But if she did..."

"Then nothing," Daniel assured her. "No one would believe her anyway. But let's be honest, you saw inside her flat didn't you? There's plenty of stuff she could pawn if she needs the cash. What's the alternative? If we don't make it clear to her, then she will be evicted and the streets of Hackney ain't exactly the best place to be."

"I guess not," said Molly, who couldn't help reflecting that this was also true of the council estates.

"Don't get upset," said Daniel with a comforting grin. "Look. D'you wanna toke? That'll calm things for you."

Molly looked at the ready-rolled spliff that Daniel was pulling out of one of the countless pockets of his expensive leather jacket.

"That might be just exactly what I need," she admitted.

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