When two businessmen are drowned in a sailing accident in Liverpool Bay, Insurance Investigator William Rohm is sent north to sign-off the claims. It should be routine. But as one of the dead men is multi-millionaire Charles Rudd, a property tycoon with a line of enemies as long as the Forbes Rich List, this case will be anything but straightforward.
Rohm has arrived at the HQ of Rudd’s Company, the Seafarer Group and been shown into the boardroom. The Company Secretary, Guy Danvers, has just walked in.
“So this was Nick O’Keeffe?” said Rohm, pointing at the photograph on the boardroom wall. He’d remembered the man’s face from the news reports. Rudd and O’Keeffe even looked like brothers. The same red hair, same height, same build. It was a little weird.
“Yes – and he’s much missed around here…they both are. Did Evie offer you a drink of something?”
“She did but I’m fine. Thanks.”
Rohm put his briefcase on the boardroom table and took out his laptop.
“You have to do much of this sort of thing?” said Guy Danvers as he sat down. “Settling Life Insurance claims must be harrowing work. All that grief to deal with.”
“I’ve handled a few. You get used to it. My background was property claims but an account manager has to be a Jack of all trades.”
Danvers stopped smiling, frowned for a moment then nodded sympathetically.
“So how’s it looking?” he said, his easy charm now fully restored.
Rohm opened his Dell and began to scroll down through the case files.
“Although the Coroner confirmed the deaths as misadventure, we can now sign everything off.”
“It’s been a long wait. Our company needed that insurance money,” said Danvers.
He wasn’t looking for a fight, just calmly stating the facts. Rohm was apologetic.
“Sorry but we had to have the official cause – some verdicts invalidate these types of policy. And then there was the complication of only Mr Rudd’s body being found…”
Danvers looked at him without blinking.
“As I said in my email, we’re fine with most of what you’ve asked for,” said Rohm. “Our Underwriters have okayed the Death in Service claims, including the payments to the wives. We accept the boat was a business asset and we’ll replace that on an as-new basis. Our marine insurance people think they’ll get something for the vessel’s motor but otherwise its salvage value only. It was too badly damaged.”
Rohm and Danvers paused for a few thoughtful seconds as a mark of respect for the two souls, lost at sea.
“We can’t agree to the additional two-hundred and eighty thousand for Mr Rudd’s Key Person compensation”, continued Rohm, “but you’ll be paid the sum set-out in the policy. And we can’t cover any dispute contingency connected to the sale of the marinas…The Blue Havens chain sold to Euparal Leisure,” he said, double-checking the names on his laptop.
“If it ends up in court, you can claim under your Professional Indemnity insurance if one of your consultants was negligent. I know you’re saying that without Mr Rudd’s special knowledge of the deal, you’re going to incur extra costs but you’ll just have to take the hit.”
“That isn’t the only project in trouble,” said Danvers. He leaned forward, quietening his voice to a couple of notches above a whisper. “He kept everything in his head you see. All the pieces of the jigsaw; ownerships, options, overseas investments…he was the only one who knew how it all fitted together.”
“You’re the Company Secretary and you don’t know how your own business works?”
“You have to understand, Charlie Rudd was a difficult man,” confided Danvers. “He didn’t trust anyone enough to know what he knew. To him, people were either enemies or slaves. Even O’Keeffe was locked out of most of it.”
Danvers paused and leaned back in his chair. “The company needs that money or things could unravel,” He was getting agitated but still smiling.
“And we have a fiduciary duty to our investors. I’ll talk to Head Office but I’m not optimistic.”
Will Rohm registered Danvers’ shrug of disappointment then stood up to leave.
“I’m seeing Mrs Rudd later. How’s she taking it?”
“When you see so little of your husband, perhaps it isn’t much of a loss. I’m sure the insurance money will go some way to easing her pain.”
Rohm frowned disapprovingly but let the comment pass.
“You’re not seeing Ruby O’Keeffe?” said Danvers.
“Her husband’s life policy wasn’t with us,” said Rohm as he moved towards the door. “One last thing. Mr Rudd’s Life Insurance was taken out at the same time as your company policies. All the premiums look light to me. You know any of the background?”
Danvers shook his head. “Charlie would finesse all manner of side-deals and add-ons when someone wanted his company’s business. He loved doing deals as much as the money he made from them. Every deal was a battle he had to win,” he said with a chuckle, as if trying to distance himself from the whole Rudd project.
Guy Danvers hadn’t stopped smiling throughout the entire meeting. Rohm recalled what his mother once told him; ‘never trust someone who smiles all the time – no one can be that happy.’