It was just another Friday morning at Bankstone News. I fixed myself a coffee and fired up Post Mag’s video news wrap. Which poor sap’s blinking at the lens this week, I wondered.

Then – boom – there she was. I was looking at some kind of angel. Jagged pixelation couldn’t stop me falling into those warm dark auto-cueing eyes.

Then reality pulled me back with a jerk. What was she saying?

Barbon on the rocks. Broker hit with massive fine. Fraud. Scandal. I blinked. I reeled. I clicked pause in a hurry.

This was no ordinary Friday. I needed more coffee. I fixed it strong.

Back at the screen, I tried again. “I’m Amy Ellis,” she purred, those gorgeous lips only slightly out of sync. My senses began to swim.

But then – wham – there it was again. The High Court has found Barbon Insurance liable to pay £8m, plus costs, plus interest, relating to an alleged mortgage fraud case involving Nationwide Building Society back in 2006.

This one needed looking into. But first I needed a coffee. Make that a double.

I hit the archives. Barbon Insurance. The Windscale of insurance broking. Formerly known as Erinaceous Group. So where’d they get that Barbon tag?

I dusted down another volume. Dr Nicholas Barbon aka Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone (sic). Picked up the crazy name from his old man, some kind of religious nut. Set up as a quack doc over in Holland. Got into property back in London. Set up some insurance company in the 1600s. Figures, I thought.

But Erinaceous? I let the pages fall through my fingers. C, D, E. Erinaceous: adjective, zoology: of the hedgehog kind or family. A picture began to form. It didn’t look pretty.

I had to find a way of warning Amy what she was getting into. But first I needed coffee. A lot of coffee.


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