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Friday, 8 June 2018

Theresa, The Brothers Krov and the Next Election

105 Victoria Street, Westminster

Jeremy, the new Foreign Minister, has called me to his office and I am sat waiting as he deals with a phone call, in which he listens and someone the other end appears to be speaking most emphatically. Eventually he puts the phone down and massages his head and then his chin. He looks as though he's just had a conversation with a severe Head Mistress.
Ah, Bryggs. Um. I have a task for you which must be handled with great care, secrecy, circumspection, and for your eyes only, as it were.”
No problem, Minister.”
Good. It's a property deal.”
Wouldn't an estate agent be more suitable?” I ask. I really need a change from selling bricks and mortar.
Oh no. Indeed, no. Security is paramount. And you must sign a confidentiality agreement, before leaving this office. But I want to get the ball rolling so I will give you the brief. No note taking, of course.”
He gets up and makes sure his office door is shut.
Now, It has come to our notice that the owner of the leasehold on 105 Victoria Street, Westminster, is thinking of disposing of it and realising some cash. I want you to arrange matters so that a new owner – whom we shall specify - is fully advised of what's happening, and buys it. We do not wish to be involved in any way whatsoever. You have been chosen to consummate this delicate task.”
You want me to advise a chosen buyer to step up and buy the lease. Why me?”
Because you are trusted, dear boy, to be circumspect.”
Uh huh.”
Who is this prospective purchaser?
Alexei Krov.”
He never does anything without his brother involved.”
Bravo, Jason! You are clearly capable of this task. Mr. Krov is an important man and needs careful handling. As does his unusual brother.”
I met them once.”
Even better. What did you think of them?”
I wouldn't like to meet either of them in an alley on a dark night.”
He laughs for at least half a minute. I smile stiffly.
Good. Very good,” he says. “Go and see STAYPUT the people who handle the leasehold for its current owner. Get what info you can. And then see the brothers Krov. Can do?”
I'll give it my best shot.”
Excellent. Report back in three days. Act fast, please. We don't want to miss this opportunity.”

What opportunity? What is our new Foreign Minister up to here? Or is the emphatic person on the phone driving this 'task'?

I go and see STAYPUT, the property investment management company. What lot of po-faces. They asked me to sign a compliance document before they'd even let me take the lift. They looked at me as though I was something that had crawled out from under a brick of one of their properties. Until I mentioned Boris. Now it's all sweet as pie. Why is it that in England everybody in the real estate business are such jerks? Anyway, they gave me a fat file.
This is the pertinent dossier for your task, Mr.Bryggs,” said the fat one in a pin-stripe suit (70s? 80s?). The next time someone uses the word 'task' to my face, I'll thump him.
I hope it's complete. Call me a cab, would you?” I say.

I phoned Alexei Krov, whose home number I still have, although I've never been there. In fact, I don't even know his origins, except he's not Russian. There's nothing on the web about his life before he arrived in London and he didn't share such info with me when we met last year. It was at a cocktail party given by one of my clients. I accidentally spilt bourbon on his remarkable girlfriend's dress. I expected something nasty as a result. I could see that his brother was clenching his fists. But Alexei seemed amused.
Is not a problem, young man,” he said. “Ekaterina has many dresses. I shall send for one now.”
Ekaterina, the usual statuesque blonde you see with these guys, looked like she couldn't care either.
Is no problem,” she said to Alexei. “I can go myself.”
And off she went, deliberately slinking, it seemed to me.
Young man, tell me your name. You have precipitated what was already beginning to happen.”
Jason Bryggs. What was going to happen?”
We are bored with each other. Just looking for a way to finish the relationship, you know. And you spilling the bourbon did the business.”
Well, that's a relief.”
Now, Jason. First, I get you a bourbon. Second, feel free to call me if ever you need. Here is my card.”

He invited me meet him at his penthouse. So that's where I am now, having been shown in by an old crone in a black overall. The room I'm in appears to be a very large living-room, lounge of some sort. It glitters. Every piece of furniture is gilded. Armchairs, side tables, drinks cabinet, even a foot-stool. The carpets seem to have gilt threads, the curtains too. One wall is completely glass with a very wide view over London's skyscrapers. I pick up a cushion and examine the design. A design picked out in gilt. It seems to be a rampant lion with a motto underneath 'Noli me tangere.'
It means don't touch me,” says a voice over my shoulder.
It's Alexei's brother, Yassili, or Yasso as he's called. He has crept up behind me soundlessly. He has very pale blue eyes, long crimped red hair onto his shoulders, and is tall and thin. Dressed in black leather as though he was about to get on a Harley.
Oh, hallo,” I say cheerfully.
He says nothing and just walks away. Then Alexei comes in, all smiles and affability.
Long time no see, Jason. How are you? Busy with your new job, I suppose. Coffee?”
Yes please. And how are you?”
Fine. Fine.” He presses a gilded button on the wall.
Come and look at the view.”
I go to the window again and look out across London. Then I look down and see a swimming pool with what appears to be a small wave slowly moving across it.
My latest addition. On the floor below.”
A girl in a gilded dress and no shoes walks in carrying a gilded tray with the coffee. The cups and saucers have gilded rims.
Jason, this is Valerie. Valerie, this is Jason, a friend who did me a favour last year.”
And has no doubt come to be recompensed,” says Yasso, creeping up behind us.
Pleased to meet yew,” says Valerie with a perfect Essex accent. I notice she has gilded highlights to her hair.
Enjoy your coffee,” she says and walks off, glancing back at Alexei with a tilt of her head. Then she sees Yasso is looking at her, and shudders.
There is no doubt that your English girls are very beautiful., says Alexei.
Pah!” says Yasso.
So, Jason. To business. I understand you have a proposition for me.”
So I tell him about 105 Victoria Street, Westminster. And the asking price.
Rubbish price!” says Yasso.
Alexei nods his head and walks up and down the room, hands behind his back like Napoleon. He turns and looks at me.
Somewhat small, isn't it? Not enough storeys to get what Yasso and I consider is an adequate return. Does your portfolio say if more storeys can be added?”
    Damn. I hadn't thought of that. But then I never imagined you could add storeys to an existing
    building. Odd.
I'm not sure. Let me find out for you,” I say.
Better profits Kensington,” says Yasso.
Do that, Jason, and call me tomorrow. Yasso will take you back to your office.”
What? No thanks.
No. please don't bother. I can get a cab.”
Yasso would be very disappointed,” says Alexei, pointedly.
So we take the lift down to the parking basement. He's got a Harley.
    “On,” he says. I get on the rear seat.
    “Hat,” he says, handing me a helmet.
    He accelerates up the ramp, roars out on to the street, zooms between the traffic, the cabs, the    
    buses, the cyclists, and skids to a halt outside my office.
Many thanks,” I say. “Most enjoyable.”
He roars off, making the most of his enhanced exhaust.

I call Jeremy and tell him about the Krov brothers' reactions.
H'm. How many storeys has it got?”
Can it be built on further?”
I doubt it. Anyway, frankly, I think they're just playing games. Either to get the price down, which will depend on the owner. Or to get something out of you, that they want.”
Well. I mean the government.”
I see. Like what?”
I haven't a clue.”
Well, ask them then.”

So now I'm walking into the penthouse again, led by the old crone in the black overall. The brothers Krov are there, talking animatedly in a language I cannot discern.
Ah, Jason. Welcome. You have met my mother, of course. Mama this is Jason Bryggs, a friend.”
This old crone is his mother? I give her a slight bow, thinking this might be the right thing to do. She is clearly pleased and shakes my hand vigourously.
So, Mama. We'll see you later,” says Alexei, firmly. Yasso kisses her cheek tenderly and she leaves.
       I tell them that my government is keen to complete the transaction in view and wonders if  
      anything specific can be done to reach this goal. Yasso is watching me.
Yes, there is, actually, Jason.” He pauses.
I'm sure whatever it is will have the P.M.'s closest consideration.”
Good. So this is the deal clincher. Yasso wants a Lordship. He wants to be made a Lord.”
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. If I laugh, Yasso will probably get nasty. So I keep a straight face. Come to think of it, why shouldn't he be made a Lord? Him and Alexei give enough to the P.M.s' party. And the last prime minister gave honours to all his mates and helpers – including even his wife's hairdresser I believe.
Alexei, my personal opinion is that it should not be a problem. Just allow me to refer back to my masters.”
Yasso is actually smiling. Sort of.
Excellent, Jason,” says Alexei, patting Yasso on the back. “My brother will be very pleased. And he will carry out all his lordly duties with great zeal.”
Yasso nods his head violently.
I leave, bowing slightly to the old crone. Back in my office, I can no longer hold in the laughter. One of the girls opens the door.
Everything alright, Jason?”
My laughter is because I am imagining the scene when Yasso, stary eyes and crimped red hair to his shoulders, turns up for the first time at the House of Lords. Maybe with his Mama. But on second thoughts the other Lords are pretty weird too, judging by the BBC Parliament TV programme. And all of them picking up £300 a day of tax-payers' money. Good job there's only 900 of them or the country would be truly skint.
     I call Jeremy to tell him the good news.
I shouldn't think the PM would have a problem with making him a Lord,” he says.
So I ask the key question.
What's so important about 105, Victoria Street?”
Ah. Well. Um. It houses the national headquarters of the Labour Party.  Strictly between us, the PM will ask the Krovs to terminate the Labour Party's lease just before the next election. Which will certainly cause chaos for them and entirely mess up their electioneering. That's her plan.”
Not quite the sort of thing we'd approve of at Chaterhouse and Oxford.”
Needless to say, Yasso soon got his much-desired Lordship.