“Alexa,” I called to the device, “Turn on Channel Four news.”
The Vid’Screen immediately went mute. That was my code word to override the licensing law software. ‘Turn on C4 news’ being something I was never going to say by accident. But would be picked up the monitoring stations as just metro-liberal people’s conversation. I wasn’t worried now that she might be from TV Licensing. She was someone far worse.
“Do you know of Bixby, Mr Malone?” She inquired of me.
“Sure I do.” I answered. “We go to Brixton, skittling together. First Sunday every month. The Leper’s Arms.”
“Marmon Bixby and you play skittles?” She asked incredulously. Seemed very surprised at such an unlikely event.
“Sure. Me and Marmy. First Sunday. We have team jackets and everything. The Marmosets,” I improvised.
More coldly she spoke now. Suspecting the tease.
“Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby, my husband, is the person I am seeking, Mr Malone.”
“Oh. I see. Then no. I only know the other one. The skittle guy.
He’s Duke Marmon Bixby. He’s not a real Duke though. It’s just that his first name is really Earl.”
She was looking quite confused. Which was good. Now I could begin. Defences breached and that.
So she was Vanessa Bixby. I recognised her a little now. She’d been some kind of high profile editor. Of Vogue or The Lady. Or maybe it was Nuts. Before that rag went under. A society girl. I’d seen her on Question Time I think. High profile enough for the BBC arts and media. Low profile enough for respectability.
I’m no good with women’s ages. I can never tell. But I knew they didn’t like it if they said guess my age and you replied, fifty-eight. So I usually took fifteen years off my first guess. But if I did that to Vanessa that would make her eleven. She was very beautiful in her pale blue dress.
“How long has he been missing, Lady Bixby?”
“Er..About two days. Maybe three.”
“That’s not long. Have you contacted the police?”
“I did. They said it wasn’t long. And they were very busy. Gay Pride march or something.”
“Resources are spread as thin as Liberal Democrat voters. Its the austerity, you know. ..Have you been to his places of business and leisure?”
“I contacted his work and business associates. And his clubs and favourite restaurants. The Scottish retreat and his French Villa. He hasn’t been seen. Nor by any colleagues or,…or political friends and members.”
I mental noted the pause before ‘political friends and members.’
“Is anything missing. Car. Clothes. Suitcases. Phones, tablets, Cash. Passport. EuroVisa?”
“As far as I know, nothing is missing.”
The EuroVisa was important. Bixby wasn’t just anybody. He was a somebody. An Elite somebody.
He’d been middle class. Good homes and averagely wealthy parents. Good enough to get him and his siblings into private education. He’d made some city money and city contacts. Then attached himself to New Labour and the Blairites. Sensing, like many did, opportunity for enrichment and advancement without needing to be one of the landed gentry or the old aristocracy. Can’t blame him. Many had seen that opportunity. I know I had.
Bixby had managed to get himself selected to some marginal-seat, northern, rust town, which he’d never heard of and never visited within 200 miles of before. His parachute opened and into it he pitched. He was all set to take the place from the super-wet Tory MP. Some chinless wonder babbbling on about saving the pound, while the public’s attention was instead on just how easy it was to borrow money for a holiday, paid for by house price inflation.
Unfortunately for Marmon, his by-election attempt coincided with one of new labour’s frequent electoral hiccups. You remember them? Gordon Brown selling off the nation’s gold for £80. Tobacco advertising at formula one being exempted from regulation for no real reason. Mrs Cherie Blair buying up half of Bristol with just an IOU. Sadly for Bixby, his ‘hiccup’ was the Iraq war. And so he narrowly lost to chinless.
Still, he was resourceful. And devious. And connected. So he thrived.
More than one way of skinning a cat. Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby had himself appointed to a raft of think tanks, policy units, and government Quangos. Parroting the party line at all times. Becoming one of ‘Blair’s Boys.’
Peter Mandelson. Clive Hollick. Michael Levy. Barry Townsley. Marmon Bixby. Tony’s Cronies.
He lent the labour party £1 million in cash. Secured on property he had obtained with money he made from financial share trading, under New Labour’s really-reallyrelaxed financial laws. And, in no way connected with this, no sir, not in any way at all, Bixby became a Life Peer. And soon after Minister for something or other that I can’t recall. Minister for downloads. Or Cat food. Or Jazz or some other made up jobs for the boys.. There were an awful lot of Life Peer ministers on Tony’s sofas.
But Bixby had done a little too much irregular share trading. And a little too much irregular property purchasing. He had 600% mortgages on multi-million pound London property. And that was back when £1 million pounds could buy more than just a one bed flat with iron exterior access staircase, above a kebab shop in Deptford. He’d got caught up in the cash for Honours scandal when he ‘deservedly’ became Lord Bixby. He had to give a whole string of excuses and reasons as to why he lent labour the money, and how the day after the cheque cleared he was made a Life Peer. They weren’t very convincing. Tough times for Lord Marmon.
He’d got away with it. He was now Elite, after all, so of course he would. He was lucky the Blair government had had the foresight to politicise the police before the scandal broke. So although times for New labour and friends, no charges ever were brought. For abuse of the Honours system.
But Bixby didn’t escape totally without reputation harm. He was tarnished when all his dodgy dealings came out in the papers. The money transfers abroad. Lady Bixby, if I recall, holding in her name, quite a large bank of shares in Lord Bixby’s companies that meant no tax was payable. The mass share sales from companies that bottomed up the following day. The pension funds that were quite legally, empty. With lifetime service ex-retail workers getting nothing from bankrupted department store chains.
‘Bad-By’ The Sun had called him. Pictured laughing on a yacht in Monaco. His flabby belly folding over his £500 swimming trunks. Next to the picture of some desperate pensioner who had lost her life savings in some property bubble pyramid he had some not-quite-proven connection to.
He’d got away without charges being made.
But had been distanced.
The Elite don’t mind what you do that’s dodgy or depraved. As long as no one finds out what you do. The Weinstein approach to making money and spending it selfishly.
Sadly for Bixby, for a while, everyone knew what he hadn’t been doing and hadn’t been investing in, as nothing was proven. But he was shunned.
You and me might have taken our millions and swanned off somewhere warm and welcoming. Dubai. St Kitts. Margate.
But Bixby was Elite. And the worst kind. He was New Elite. With a need to prove he was as good as, and better than, the actual old Elite. Craving their acceptance and desiring recognition of his wealth and privilege and status. I guess his chronic inferiority complex drove him to ride it out.
Unwisely he tried to blame the press. Implying they were making it all up in a vendetta against him because he had been rude about the Daily Mail.
The Mail responded by printing even more stories of Bixby’s properties. His country houses. Him being on the board of some dodgy Sheik’s sandfill company. Bixby in the House of Lords campaigning for more ‘Sandfill’ subsidy in the UK. That kind of thing.
It became too much for many of his former friends. The Islington diner party invites dried up and backs were turned at Henley and Ascot and even on the benches in the Lords. He being forced to sit with the senile old dodderers and £300 a day, sleepers. Poor Bix. I bet your heart bleeds. But don’t worry. Bix is Elite. So you know it’s all going to turn out sweet for him.
Bixby found a way to get back his respectability. And his status. Not only to get them back, but to surpass where he had been before.
Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby became the champion of REMAIN.
He spotted this liberal obsession right at the start. He figured if he backed The Elite, and all the sons and daughter of Elite, in their own personal crusade against the racist-little-Englander-ignorant types, they would embrace him again. And embrace him they did.
Bixby was everywhere. He was tireless. Attacking leavers on social media. Appearing on any political, social or news program. Day or night. Never ceasing to promote Remain and put down leave.
He became the darling of academia, business, media and science. The social sweetheart of actors, comedians, remain politicians, musicians and comedians. And of course the Remainstream media loved him too.
He was in the jungle yaking on about cliff edges . Locked in a house with ZZZ list celebrities boring on about hard borders.
He was good at it too. He was amiable. Didn’t look too Elite. So he could get onto ordinary shows without appearing too condescending.
He had a cameo in the Queen Vic to tell the drinkers there not to crash out at closing time. Was on Call the Midwife as the consultant calling for a European wide recognition of abortion issues.
Was memorably on Countdown trying to spell ‘R E F E R E N D U M.’
And ending up with ‘B U S.’
Touring and touting his way around the UK he won back the Elite’s affections and after the impasse of BrINO, their gratitude.
As Remoaners made new Bercow amendments in the Commons, Bixby championed them in the Lords.
He was the thwarter in chief.
Even when ‘The New Troubles’ began, that wasn’t seen by Remainers as Bixby’s fault. And the more he obstructed and derailed government business, the greater his fame and more socially desired he became.
So like I said, no need to feel sorry for old Bixby.
He was Elite again. Rich again. More famous and sought after than he ever was before his problems. And everything was coming up roses for him.
Except for right now.
When Lord Marmon-Herrington Bixby of Remain, was suddenly, and inexplicably, missing without trace.