Shannon and Kilbane Architects, one of the most successful architectural companies in the country, is facing bankruptcy today. They are being prosecuted for issuing fraudulent documents pertaining to planning permissions. The matter is currently under investigation by the relevant authorities.
Shannon and Kilbane have not issued any statement in the matter.
I can still remember it – the day my whole life changed. And I mean that – my WHOLE life.
At thirty-two, I was happy, only at the time I didn’t realise how happy. I had a great husband and one lovely child – well, lovely except for the fact that he was completely mad – though that was even lovely.
It was nine-oh-five at night. Fanny the Fab Nanny was just starting up on the TV and to my delight she her hands full that night. She had to discipline three kids that were basically wrecking their parent’s house. One of them had just flung his toy train through the kitchen window and it had hit Fanny the Nanny on her face. Of course she had to pretend that she wasn’t bothered, but you could see that she was shook. I love parenting programmes like that. Anyway, there I was, watching it and at the same time flicking through the latest issue of Hello. Pete was upstairs, putting Billy – that’s our son – to bed and Billy was shouting out that he didn’t want to go to bed. In the end, I heard Pete slam Billy’s door and stomp down the stairs. It struck me as odd that Pete would do that, it wasn’t a Pete thing to do. He normally tried to be patient with Billy as we’d found that that was the best way to handle him, but the fact that Pete had done it went straight out of my head because the child on the TV had just told Fanny the Nanny that he’d put a laxative in her coffee. That was laugh. Pete came into the room and stood in the doorway, watching me. “Hey Pete,” I giggled, “you’ll never guess what this kid has just done.” I turned to him and saw that he wasn’t smiling back. Instead, he moved in beside me on the sofa, flicked off the TV and gently took my Hello out of my hands. Pete did everything gently, he was a quiet guy, really soft spoken who didn’t flare up unless he was really mad.
Anyway, he had a funny look on his face – sort of sombre, which is a word I don’t use very often as I haven’t had to deal with many sombre people. “Poppy,” Pete said in his sombre voice. “I don’t know how to tell you this.”
“Aw, don’t say you’ve gone and got Billy all upset,” I glanced to the ceiling but my son wasn’t doing his usual screaming bedtime routine.
He sort of laughed a little and rolled his eyes and muttered something that sounded like ‘I wish’. “Nope, it’s not that, it’s a little worse than that. ”
Now, I thought to myself, what could be worse than that? If Billy got upset, it took about three hours to settle him at night. “And it is?” I prompted.
He didn’t reply immediately, instead he took my hand in his and turned it this way and that way and eventually when he did look at me, he said, “The company has gone bust.”
I didn’t understand. Or maybe I didn’t want to. “Company? What company?”
He swallowed hard. “Mine and Adrian’s company. It’s gone bust.”
All I could do was stare at him.
“D’you remember Adrian’s apartment complex? The one I told you about?”
“Neither do I.” He gave a disbelieving laugh. “Anyway, it seems Adrian was working on a big project. A huge apartment complex.”
“It appears,” Pete swallowed hard and closed his eyes. “It appears, Poppy, that he never had planning permission for it. He forged a planning cert, got paid money for securing the permission and started work.”
“Oh Christ,” he half-laughed, only it wasn’t a laugh laugh. “I dunno . . .”
“Jesus.” My voice was a whisper. “What happens now? It’s not your fault.”
“It’s my company as well as his.”
Adrian was Pete’s partner and friend. They ’d met in college, been on the same wavelength design wise and decided ten years ago to set up in business together. It had been a bit of a struggle for them until they won an award for an extension they’d done. After that, their profile had risen and the biggest moment for them had come when they’d won a major shopping centre contract. Five years later and their design for the shopping centre was still brilliant.
“Yeah but -?”
Pete held up his hand. “You haven’t heard the best bit,” he muttered. “Apparently the development is illegal, the developer is losing money and he’s suing us.”
“What does Adrain say?” Jesus, my mind was spinning. This was like some awful dream.
“I dunno.” Another bitter laugh. “Adrian is gone.”
“Gone? What do you mean gone?”
“He’s done a bunk. His wife doesn’t know where he is.”
The SHOCK. And I wrote that in capitals because it was a major shock. Funny charming Adrian had absconded, leaving my husband and his friend to pick up the shit. Adrian who had been to our house for dinner, who had been at Billy’s first birthday party, who had given me the recipe for spaghetti bolognaise. OK, I still hadn’t managed to cook it, but it was a lovely recipe he’d made up himself. That Adrian, Pete’s friend, had done this, I couldn’t believe.
“Are you sure he’s gone?” I asked. “Maybe –”
Another hard swallow. “I found out he was gone last week.”
Pete shrugged. “Yeah. I probably should have told you before but –” His voice trailed off. He didn’t have to say anymore anyway. Pete and I understood each other. He never told me bad stuff, I think it was to protect me or something. I suppose at that moment, I should have known that this was really bad because he was talking about it. He continued haltingly, “It’s been in the papers today.” He handed me the copy that had been lying across the chair. I never read the newspapers – I’ve no concentration for anything like that. ‘Embezzlement’ was the headline.
“I’ve been with the cops most of the week Poppy and I kept hoping it’d just sort itself out or that there’d been a mistake.” He squeezed his hand in mine. “I’m sorry Poppy, I’m awful sorry.”
I squeezed his hand back. He moved in closer to me. He wrapped his arm about my shoulder.
“Adrian – our friend?”
He nodded. “With friends like those –ey?”
I gulped out a hysterical laugh. “So – what happens now?”
His grin faded. “The company is in shit, Poppy. I mean, we’re gone. This developer is going to settle out of court for a massive amount, according to our solicitors. The insurance won’t pay for that – Oh, yeah, not that we have insurance.”
“Adrian never paid the premiums apparently.”
“Three of our clients pulled out on us today. We’ve no more work lined up – they were major clients. And Poppy,” he sucked in his breath, “we’ve no savings.”
“Do we not?” Of course we didn’t. I knew that. Pete and I were not savers. Never had been. I’d had money all my life, I didn’t know how to save and Pete just had never had money so he just loved to spend it as it didn’t mean anything to him.
“Do you see what I’m saying to you? Do you see what this means?”
Call me stupid, but I didn’t. Apparently, we’d had a great eight years together and now according to Pete, it was over. He owed money. The firm owed money. We had had to sell up, relocate, downsize.
Yeah, for thirty-two years, nothing in my world had really changed. I’d gone from a nice comfortable home to another nice comfortable home. In the space of two hours, that night, my safe, cosy world had been rocked by what was only a forewarning of the earthquakes to come.