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That one may smile and smile, and be a villain (William Shakespeare)

By Jennifer Hurley

Sunlight streamed through the ornate stained glass window, bathing him in a saintly glow. He was sitting in a pew halfway up the church, head bent, his hands moving feverishly over a well-worn string of rosary beads as he mouthed the familiar prayers. H e appeared to be completely absorbed in his reflection, but the astute observer would have noticed him glance discreetly at a slightly unkempt man seated uncomfortably at the back of the church. And if you had a particularly well-trained eye, you would have seen the faint smile that played briefly across his lips when he saw that the man was still there.

Having completed his daily half-hour of contemplation and prayer, Alex Granger rose and genuflected ostentatiously. As he strode down the aisle, he inclined his head politely towards the man at the back of the church, by way of a greeting. "You always do that?" the man asked as they emerged into the harsh daylight of the church car park "Or was it just for my benefit?"

"On the contrary, Mr. Porter. I pray every morning. I believe that we have to get in touch regularly with the Divine so that we can stay grounded in reality and remember that we are but the Lord's humble servants." Alex replied sanctimoniously.

Jack Porter took down this profound thought in a small notepad. He was a reporter by profession and had recently been given the assignment of writing an in-depth article on 'pillar-of-the-community", small town solicitor Alex Grange. Jack's eyes were bloodshot and were ringed with dark circles. H e had been doing a little digging into the 'real' Alexander Granger until the early hours of the morning. So far, he had unearthed some pretty interesting, if uncorroborated information.

"I have a block of time free at eleven o'clock", Alex observed after consulting a black, palm-top electronic diary. "Okay, eleven sounds good." Jack answered.

At the designated hour, the reporter showed up at the office, equipped with a tape recorder and several notepads. A mechanically polite secretary showed him into Granger's office. Alex gestured for him to take a seat as he finished a heated telephone conversation. " Sorry about that," he smiled apologetically, " but you know how it is" Jack didn't , but he intended to find out. " Now, what is it that you would like to know?" Alex asked, as he made himself more comfortable in the plush leather chair. Everything was plush about Alex's life these days it seemed, Jack reflected bitterly.

Porter put the sleek tape recorder on the imposing mahogany desk and pressed the orange record button. He started with some run-of-the-mill questions left over from yesterday's interview before he really go down to business. Alex was articulate and calm as he answered; his deep voice was a mixture of smooth earnestness and a hint of subtle arrogance, only barely detectable.

After jotting down some mundane details about Granger's climb from the gutter and about his cherubic children, Porter decided that it was time to get to the heart of the matter at hand. And to get even. HE had done quite a lot of delving into Granger's personal finances and some discrepancies were looking him in the face. He looked squarely back and began to fire facts and accusations at Alex hard and fast. He wasn't afraid to make Granger squirm. In fact, he admitted to himself, he quite enjoyed it.

"Correct me if I'm wrong Mr. Granger," the intrepid reporter began, "but you have seven residences. Two in this country and five abroad in various tax havens." Alex started to interject but Porter was determined to continue with his interrogation. "According to my sources, each of these dwelling belonged to clients of former clients of yours, I think and this is quite unusual." Jack said, looking up from this notes with an expression of feigned puzzlement on his face. " Some of the houses were bought at an unexpectedly low price. Another and various other valuable commodities were willed specifically to you by your clients. This too is rather odd, as they had only minimal contact with you and had previously promised these assets to close family members."

As the minutes ticked by, the cornered solicitor grew more and more unresponsive until finally, the only sound audible in the room was the soft mechanical whirr of the tape recorder. For Jack, Granger's silence and total absence of any denial, validated and damning evidence that he had accumulated.

Porter knew that he had gotten some good material. He also knew that, with a little police investigation, Granger could be 'put away' for tax fraud, bogus property deals and for will forgery.

He slipped a mobile phone out of his jacket pocket and pressed speed dial three. The old woman answered. "We got him Mrs. Flanagan." The five words he uttered put a smile on her recently widowed face. Porter grinned happily to himself as he strolled down the street. Maybe the hard-hitting story would win him a prize after it hit the presses. Did they give the Pulitzer to reporters, he wondered? He hoped so.

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