This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial in 1170 words.
Benny sat in the the taxi that was taking him to the small industrial estate in a back street not far from White City. He had decided not to use Leroy from the flats. The less people who knew wht he was doing, the better. The traffic was bad, but it gave him time to think. Mrs Hall had surprised him. He had never really taken that much notice of her in the past. With her rather masculine hairstyle and mumsy clothes, she was just ‘there’. But he was going to have to take the photos later, as he couldn’t risk her blocking Noddy from the operation. The potential money was huge, much more than he had expected. But hiding it, then getting at it was going to take a lot of work. He called upon the resources he had used when studying for his exams, trying to get his head around just how busy life was going to become, even with such a small cottage industry like the one they had started.
Lilian had been using the laptop most of the day. Benny had showed her what to do, and after a few stumbles, she had finally worked it out and got in the flow. The comments on the thread were all lovely, and it brought a tear to her eye to read how so many people had dedicated a part of their life to keeping her memory alive. Her comments in reply were natural, and appreciative, and the replies came thick and fast. She also read some very appreciative remarks about her new photos in the ‘Ask Betty’ section, and chuckled at the variety of requested poses and outfits. Despite the amount of really graphic and seedy stuff online, her fans just wanted to go back to the traditional stuff. Old-fashioned underwear, domestic settings, and blatant flashes. Nobody asked for anything extreme, not one of them.
Dolly Bright had finally got back to her, but none of the others had followed up. Dolly was married to someone a fair bit older, but he wasn’t well, and knew nothing about her past. Her real name had been Sophie Kingwell, and that had changed to Sophie Ward when she got married. She told Lilian that she would love to do some work on the site, as it would make a change from being in the house, and a little extra money never hurt. Her husband was in hospital now, on his way out, it seemed. And he would be going into a terminal care hospice soon, so she would have a lot of free time. They decided that she would be called Sophie Bright, and use the name ‘Aunt Sophie’ with her pictures.
He paid the cab fare, and walked over to the small industrial unit with the name ‘ZR Facilities’ on a small sign by the door. He had phoned and made an appointment to see the owner, Zafir. In a big sports bag, he was carrying twenty VHS tapes, and some photos of Nan. Inside, the place was smaller than he had expected. More or less a room full of machines on racks, and a tiny counter at the front. Zafir was a young Indian-looking guy, very smartly dressed, with a wicked haircut. “So you want some old films transferred to DVD, and these old wrappers and photos combined into inserts? How many are we talking about?” Benny had already been thinking of a number before arriving. “I was thinking fifty of each to start with, but it all depends how much they cost”. Zafir used a calculator on his phone to work out some figures, but didn’t immediately come up with a price. “The copying is no problem, we can do that by machine. But there is some work involved in getting the DVD inserts right. Then there is copy protection. You get a master that can be used to run off as many as you want, but if we don’t include that copy protection, someone will rip you off, and sell them on Ebay. That’s a software thing, and easy enough. But it adds cost. Then there are the cases, but they’re cheap enough. The main issue is the poor quality of the old VHS. I can have a look at some of the films, but I am betting we will need to upscale them, and that takes time and money. Basically, the more you buy, the cheaper it gets”.
Benny leaned on the counter, taking it all in. “Don’t get me wrong, Zafir, but how can I be sure that you won’t just copy the films, and sell them on?” The young man took no offence at the remark. “I have a business, Mr Fortune, and it’s a good one. If I started ripping off customers, I wouldn’t last too long. Then where would I be? I assure you I have no interest in your affairs, and I certainly have zero interest in this seedy crap you are hoping to sell. I only look at it from a technical aspect, and I hope to get repeat business if you are successful. Does that reassure you?” Benny nodded. “Sorry, but I had to ask. How long before you could get some films to me?” Zafir smiled. “How long before you can collect some, you mean. I don’t do deliveries, unless you want to pay some hefty courier fees. Let’s say two days for the masters and inserts, then I will run off the copies you requested overnight. You can collect one thousand DVDs in three days. But I want a big deposit now, and full payment on collection. If it was a bigger order, I might get the price down to two pounds fifty each, but for just a thousand it will have to be three quid each, so three thousand pounds. I want five hundred up front to cover the donkey work, then a telephone payment by card, or bring cash, before I let you have the films. And make sure you have a big car, or van. There will be a few cartons, and they will be heavy”.
The five hundred was paid using one of the cards that had arrived from the new bank accounts Noddy had set up. He waited as the payment went through, relieved that his mate had done his stuff. Zafir hadn’t cared that the name on the card was different, as long as he got his money. They shook hands, and he passed over a business card. “See you in three days. If any changes come to mind, then call me”.
Leaving the bag with him, he wandered back out onto the main road. After trying in vain to find a free cab, he eventually got on a bus to Paddington. from there he would easily get a taxi from the rank at the station. On the top deck, he relaxed and stared out of the window.
So much to do, but at least it was all coming together.
To be continued…