Darren was a ticket forger and his speciality was rail passes. He would project forward where he would be caught and how it would happen but it never seemed inevitable, until it was.
A certain ammount of luck was required to start, that and the skill he picked up as a photo-retoucher for a fashion magazine. Instead of making cosmetic models appear to have silky smooth skin or removing the odd blemish, Darren used his abilities to remove almost six hundred pounds a month from his household expenses, with the slides of his electronic pen across his electronic tablet.
The cause of his debt, the one that ultimately drove him to steal from Southern and Eastern Railways was an addiction to lingerie, women’s black lingerie. This addiction coincided with the death of his wife Isobel. She had gone after a short battle with ovarian cancer. They hadn’t managed to produce any children which, despite the agony of his wife Isobel’s despair at being unable to procreate, meant at least, Darren didn’t have extra mouths to feed. He was thirty seven and alone. Now he had an huge debt to pay, not just one red ball of misery but several, including the bank, a credit card company, the mortgage and utilities. He simply didn’t have enough money every month. As he fed the angry gaping mouth of the credit card, the mortgage company’s mouth opened and as the debt grew so did the mountain of lingerie.
The spare room was difficult to navigate now, towers of stockings, knickers, bras, basks and teddies in factory sealed packets stood on the floor, bed and small piles on every surface. He had woken to the grim realisation of how his life had spiralled out of control, how this once innocent occasional gift giving, when his wife was alive, had completely supplemented his grief. One day he found a photo of Isobel in a lingerie set that he had touched up on his computer.
Seeing a digital image of her in a magazine pose had finally broken the spell, the blank rage he had held off descended and he howled in grief for two days. He sought to bring his life in order by paying his debts off. Hence the forgery.
The spark for this fraud happened when Darren found a spill of unprinted tickets, one day, nearby a ticket machine at St Pancras. From a neat pile he had stored at home of all the weekly and monthly rail passes he had accumulated he was able to scan dates and numbers and able to create new weekly tickets.
Then he was caught and it was nothing like he’d imagined. He thought it might happen on the train and he would rapidly consume the evidence but that was not the way events unfolded.
One evening at St Pancras an officious ticket inspector grabbed his pass from him as he waved it, requesting to be let through the barrier. Whilst Darren could print the correct date on the front of the ticket the rear magnet strip was beyond his knowledge and equipment. Instead of being able to slip his ticket into the barrier and watch it magically open, he had to feign surprise or resignation that the ticket failed to work and be let through by the inspector.
Not this time.
He had been led off the concours in handcuffs and into a police van that had a stuffy caged compartment at the rear. None of the rest of it played out like the already imagined script in his head. There was no time to swallow the ticket unless he jumped up and bit the hand of the inspector at the gate. The police were polite, not rude or brutish and Darren suplicated to them and the situation. It was a short ride to the British Transport Police station.
Once he had started crying he found it hard to stop. Blubbing whilst being swabbed for DNA, photographed and fingerprinted, he finally stopped when he was told to by Eileen, who brought him up sharpish. Eileen was a no nonsense legal aid solicitor who instantly made him feel like a five year old for crying. It was like a sobering splash of cold water in the face. She told Darren to answer no comment to everything appart from admitting the single charge of false representation.
Whilst waiting for the police woman to arrive in the interview room and start questioning Darren, Eileen had discussed Darren’s career in fashion and photography. Eileen, it turned out, had done a couple of modelling jobs but had been set on acting. Eileen was very pretty, but not Vogue pretty. He had noticed a mole on her cheek and forehead that ordinarily he would be asked to remove. The legal aid had developed for Eileen out of long periods of “resting”, the actor’s euphemism for being unemployed. Darren’s urge to confess had been kept in check by Eileen and he suddenly found himself on the street at midnight released with a caution, Eileen’s business card and his other belongings returned. He wondered how on earth to get home. He found the thought of waiting at the station to take a train home filled him with fear and remorse. He had to wait for the office to be opened by the cleaner and he caught a couple of hours under his desk. It took him five hours to get to his front doorstep by thumbing lifts when the train took 45 minutes. He stated crying again when he saw the picture of his wife in her wedding dress on the mantle piece.
It took him a year to sell most of the lingerie on the internet. He bought a moped with the money he had earnt from a lodger in the spare room. It took a couple of hours to get into London now and he felt liberated by having the strictures of the railway timetable not governing his life anymore.
One year on he cleared some of his debt, having gone from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and taken their prescribed course of action.
He felt free again. So much so, that one day he dug out Eileen’s business card from the sideboard drawer and decided to call her.