The Rent Man

Swansea is just one British port in the grip of the ruthless Rent Man Gang. Police and Customs are baffled by the fear and secrecy which surrounds their international drugs and male prostitution racket. Charlie Llewellyn is a local sculptor with a shaky Cash flow, a taste for the beer and a divorce battle with the Bitch from Hell. But who are the men behind this brutal gang and why has Charlie really moved back to Swansea? When a young male prostitute is murdered and Charlie commits suicide, the scene is set for one of the most original and gripping thrillers in years. At times hilarious, at times terrifying, The Rent Man draws us through the trials and tribulations of everyday life and into the dark, psychotic world of the Rent Man Gang. The Rent Man is riven with deliciously black humour and the almost touchable caustic atmosphere of decaying urban Wales. The author’s ability to create rounded characters makes his book, despite its dark subject matter, a breath of fresh air.


7. Barry Naylor

Barry Naylor awoke late that morning and headed straight for the newsagents. A grin of satisfaction twisted his rat-like features as he scanned across the page bearing his story. He bought a bag of crisps for breakfast and pointed his car in the direction he had followed the night before.

                He was heading up the Gower Rd towards the turn-off for the Close when he spotted the crowd of hacks outside the house. He pulled in and got out. He strolled back to the entrance of the drive noting the number of the house. He recognised Arwel Jones from the Llanelli Star.

                ‘So whose place is this then, Arwel?’ He called out above the general babble.

                ‘Find out for yourself you thieving cunt!’ came the less-than-friendly reply. Naylor remembered scooping young Arwel on a story the reporter had been naive enough to share with him over a pint in the Tav. He obviously hadn’t found it in his heart to forgive and forget as yet. He shrugged and made his way over to an outside broadcast unit. A heavily made-up piece with big hair was just getting ready for her next bulletin. She raised the microphone and spoke to camera:

                ‘Thank you Glyn. I’m standing outside the home of Mr Charles Llewellyn, the man named in today’s shocking revelations regarding misuse of Police resources in Swansea. We are hoping to talk to Mr Llewellyn shortly to see if he can shed some light on the events of last night.’

                Fine. That was all he needed. He’d got the man’s name. He headed back to the Orion. No-one in his right mind was going to turn up with those twats camped outside his front door. They could sit there all day on someone else’s payroll. Naylor had to get results to earn a living. He sat in the car and thought for a moment. A house with a drive but no vehicle on it; a well-to-do area and a pathetic bus service; so where was the car? Nobody relied on public transport in Swansea if they could help it. Naylor opened his laptop and Googled the name and address. He found a website advertising Charlie Llewellyn as an Architectural Mason and Sculptor. From the look of the double garage at the top of the drive he ran the business from home. He knew Evans had photographed the bloke sometime after closing time and there was no car outside the Close. So he’d walked there or got a cab. It was common enough to leave your car outside a pub if you were over the limit.

                Naylor knew that the majority of affairs happen amongst friends and acquaintances – work colleagues, old friends, brides and best men, bridegrooms and bridesmaids; Naylor’s mind turned to some interesting DVDs he had seen on the subject. These were two local people. It was possible, even likely, that the local pub was their common ground. He started the car and drove off looking for a place to turn, then headed down the hill and pulled into the car park of the Railway Inn. It was just after ten.

                He parked in a corner and looked around. There were three vehicles that looked like they had spent the night there. On closer inspection, the first looked like it had spent the last six months there. It was covered in that mixture of guano, leaves, grime and twigs unique to cars that have stood under trees for a considerable time. He eliminated that. The second was a possibility, as was the third, a white van.

                He dug his laptop out again. He got Hotmail up and typed in the registration numbers of both the car and the van. He added a request for details of the owners’ driving licenses. He typed in the address of a contact at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Morriston and sent it. The screen showed a confirmation. He glanced at his watch. The lazy twat should be in work by now. Still, he’d need a few moments to call up the details and get his mate in the licence section to do a search too. Against his better nature Naylor sat back to wait. A few minutes later he had mail. He opened the message and read:


Hi Barry,

Sorry to nag but you owe for July and August. I’ll trust you on this one, but you’re getting nothing else until you square me up. Gary.


                Cheeky bastard! Who did he think he was, flogging confidential DVLA info to friends and acquaintances then putting people on stop credit? What a fucking nerve! Naylor ran a brief fantasy about grassing Gary up to his boss, but it was only a fantasy. His access to the DVLA database was too valuable. He made a mental note to pay him something and returned to the email and opened the usual attachment.

                Bingo! The white van was registered to a Mr Charles Llewellyn living on the Gower Road. He turned to the details on Llewellyn’s driving licence. The man was born on the third of April 1965; that made him...forty-seven. Good, this was real progress. Naylor shut the laptop down again. He fished out his mobile and scrolled down his list of credit vetting agencies. Money Vet was good, but ironically he owed them cash and they were getting funny about his habit of contesting every bill they sent him, bastards! He selected Penny Wise. The girl at the other end took the details and ran a check. There was no mortgage on the property and no CCJ’s or blacklisting’s. According to the electoral register, the subject was married to a Juliet Llewellyn. There was one other resident in the house, a teenage boy called Gareth. Naylor closed the connection and sat back deep in thought.

                Okay, so things weren’t exactly hunky-dory in the Llewellyn household. The husband was shagging around and the wife wasn’t answering the door, or she wasn’t there. Gone back to her mother’s with the kids? If she’d been in, she’d have called the police to clear that posse of piss-artists off her drive. Furthermore, Evans had her old man under surveillance and someone had put him up to it. Who more likely than herself, the injured party? But that begged a bigger question: what was a member of the CID doing involved in a domestic? It could be a personal favour, but Evans had never done anyone a favour in his life as far as Naylor was aware. Had he been ordered to snoop on Llewellyn by someone higher up? He decided to dig further into the husband’s background.

                He phoned a contact in the Benefits Agency. Ten minutes later she phoned back to say Llewellyn had claimed sickness benefit from 2003 to mid-2007, when he had moved to Swansea. He had left the army in 1991 following an injury in the Gulf War. She read out his National Insurance number. Naylor agreed to meet her for a drink the following week. She was no oil painting, but then he hadn’t had a leg over in ages, so what the hell.

                He went back to his laptop and Googled the British Army manning records in Glasgow. He explained to the girl that he was searching for his elder brother. They had lost contact when their parents had split up and Charlie had run off and enlisted. He believed he had joined the Army and seen action in the Gulf. She took his National Insurance number and came back shortly. Yes, a Charles Llewellyn had joined up in 1989 at the age of eighteen. She gave him an army number and a regiment – the Welsh Guards currently based in Aldershot. She even had their phone number.

                The records clerk in Aldershot swore it was more than her job was worth to give out information like that, but Naylor pleaded. He was a squaddie himself and he had some leave due. If he could track down his brother after all these years, he could come up to Aldershot in a fortnight’s time for a reunion.

                Alright, she’d take a little look, but mum’s the word, okay? He promised on his word of honour.

                She came back puzzled. He was a member of the Guards until August 1991, but he couldn’t have seen action in the Gulf – the Guards weren’t out there. It was possible he had left for health reasons, but she could shed no more light than that. There was no forwarding address. Naylor thanked her and rang off. This was getting more and more intriguing. There were some odd little gaps in Mr Charlie Llewellyn’s military history and peeping through gaps was how he made his living.

                He let his thoughts drift back to Juliet Llewellyn and her tame policeman. Who would she know who could pull those sorts of strings in Swansea? There were people with that sort of clout, but how did she connect to them? That was not something he was likely to find out sitting in the car park of the Railway Inn he decided.




                As he was about to start the engine, a movement caught his eye. A man was emerging from the shade of the trees overhanging the cycle path. He was wearing a green parka with the hood up, which obscured his face. There was something about him which gave him the air of a fugitive. Naylor was not surprised when he made straight for the van. Had he found Mr Charlie Llewellyn? The man got in and started the engine. He reversed and drove up the hill to the entrance of the car park. Only then did the journalist start the engine of his own car.

                The van turned right onto the Gower road and headed towards town. Naylor let him get well ahead before following. By the time they reached Killay Square he was three cars behind. The van was an easy target, so he maintained this distance until he reached the Uplands. The van turned left into St James’ Crescent and suddenly pulled into a parking space. Naylor glanced round hurriedly for somewhere to stop. His luck was out, so he watched Llewellyn park in the only available space and walk up the steps of an imposing Georgian building, then he drove up the hill to Ffynone Road, found a space and walked back.

                The brass plaque on the wall announced that these were the offices of Semple, Tucker and Preece, Solicitors. It seemed he couldn’t put a foot wrong this morning. If he was looking for someone with real clout to connect to Juliet Llewellyn, he couldn’t have chosen a better address.

                He recalled more optimistic days some fifteen years ago. He was making a name for himself on the Post and needed one big story to send him up the M4 to Fleet Street.

                He had followed up a piece about an unmarried mother in Clase who had had her front door removed by a rent collector in the middle of winter because she was a month behind with her payments. He tailed the man and began to pick up reports of intimidation from other tenants. Some people were too afraid to talk and all were very nervous. He set about tracking down the landlord and, according to the Land Registry these properties were in the name of a solicitor called Ivor Semple who worked for the firm of Semple, Tucker and Preece. The word was that Semple was a yes-man and that Preece was the real force to be reckoned with. And boy, did he turn out to be a real force.

                Naylor recalled the naiveté with which he had handed in his copy to his editor. When nothing appeared the following day, or the day after, he knocked on his office door and demanded to know why. He was invited to sit down and calm down. Given the seriousness of the implications and the risk of a libel action, Mr Preece had been phoned personally by the editor and asked to comment on Naylor’s allegations.

                Preece acknowledged that his partner owned some property from which he derived rental income, and yes, as far as he was aware, Mr Semple employed the services of a professional collection agency. However, he was quite sure that his colleague would never countenance abuse or intimidation of his tenants. He would bring the matter to Mr Semple’s attention immediately and he was sure that it would be looked into without delay. In the meanwhile would he thank Mr, er?

                Mr Naylor.

                Yes, would he thank Mr Naylor for bringing this to their attention?

                The police stopped him eight times that week. They did him for a bald tyre, speeding and running a red light. They went over his car with a magnifying glass. They were so thorough that it sailed through its MOT two months later. He blew into a breathalyser so often that he began to get dizzy spells. He was getting panicky and sent a memo to his editor complaining that he was being harassed. Something was done because the police backed off, but the story stayed spiked and no-one seemed interested in taking up the cudgels on his behalf. And that was that.

Now he had fifteen years of cobbling together shite stories to look back on and his dreams of Fleet Street in tatters, simply because he’d got on the wrong side of Councillor Preece. Barry Naylor had tasted Preece’s displeasure and the taste lingered.

                Now, either it was an extraordinary coincidence, or it would appear Preece was somehow involved in this business, presumably on the wife’s side. Perhaps Llewellyn was intending to thrash out some sort of private agreement. Having experienced a taste of Preece’s methods, Naylor did not envy him. He noticed a man from the apartments in the middle of the Crescent was about to drive off, so he hurried back up the hill to collect the Orion.




                The imposing portraits of some of Swansea’s greatest legal minds gazed down from the oak-panelled walls of the waiting room. For generations these people had devoted their energies to helping Swansea’s richest residents get richer. The City was still cleaning up the pollution and landscaping the slagheaps created by contracts and deeds that these great minds had drafted. From each portrait dark, soulless eyes gazed down on him contemptuously.

                Charlie was beginning to find the wait irritating when a woman’s voice interrupted his reverie.

                ‘Mr Semple will see you now Mr Llewellyn,’ the severe features of the company’s receptionist were peering round the door at him. ‘Up the stairs to the first floor and it’s the first door you come to. There’s a name plaque on the door.’

                ‘Thank you,’ he nodded. He rose, irritated by her supercilious manner. This was not part of the plot.  He wasn’t interested in being kept waiting while a minion played mind games. He wanted an argument with the organ grinder, not his monkey. Still, with Gareth in trouble, he needed to get on with it. Thoughtfully, he climbed the long Victorian staircases that led to the first-floor offices.




                Charlie had only partly guessed the reason for the delay. Ivor Semple was, in fact, in the process of adjusting to the effects of the generous line of cocaine he had snorted twenty minutes earlier. He had meant to stay clean until after the interview, but that had proved more difficult than he had hoped. It wasn’t just the addiction – though Christ knows that was bad enough - it was his overall dependence. Hywel told him to do this; Hywel told him to do that. Hywel told him to do every fucking thing and, if he didn’t like it, Hywel would tell him to fuck off or, worse still, let O’Leary have a chat with him. He had no clients, no briefs, and no instructions. He only bothered to carry a briefcase because Hywel told him to. All he did all day was sit around snorting coke, cooking the books and laundering cash while Hywel ran everything with an iron fist. There was the occasional meeting, like today’s, when Hywel ordered him to kick some silly fucker’s arse for incurring Hywel’s wrath. Jesus! Forty-five years of age and this was all he had to show for it.

                The coke was beginning to hit when the hatchet-faced hag from reception buzzed through to say Llewellyn had arrived. Typical! Ten minutes earlier and he would still have been struggling with temptation. Now he was coked-up and more likely to fall in love with the bloke than nail his bollocks to the anvil! He couldn’t see him in this state; that was for certain. He lit a cigarette to steady himself. He needed time to get used to the hit. He pulled a bottle of sherry from the bottom drawer of his desk. He unscrewed the cap and took a long pull. That steadied him a bit more. The initial rush began to subside after about ten minutes and he suddenly found himself feeling supremely confident. Better sort this business out for Hywel, he decided. After all, he paid the pennies that paid for the powder. He buzzed down to Mrs Lewis to send up his visitor and read over Hywel’s instructions again.




                ‘Come in Mr Llewellyn, please have a seat.’

                Charlie eyed the lawyer with ill-concealed suspicion, but he sat down. Bit old for a ponytail and there was something unnaturally bright about his eyes, he decided. He struck him as a weak, amoral man; the sort who would push a child out of a lifeboat to save his own skin. That fact that he wished to appear friendly made Charlie even more suspicious.

                ‘Right, well thank you for calling by,’ Semple began. ‘I imagine that you have some idea why Mr Preece has asked me to talk to you...’

                ‘Why doesn’t he want to talk to me personally?’

                ‘Ah, well that’s just Hywel’s way, you see. Perhaps he feels that, under the circumstances, a third party might serve to keep matters on a more business-like footing. Silly dragging personalities into a thing like this...’

                ‘Not if you’re one of the personalities.’

                Semple eyed him for a moment, and then shrugged.

                ‘Mr Llewellyn,’ he continued, ‘you are aware that your son Gareth is in serious trouble with the police and I am sure you know by now that we have a water-tight case against you for adultery. It was never intended that this business should reach the ears of the press. That seems to have been a bizarre blunder by the man who was carrying out the, er, surveillance. However, if you had not been committing adultery, the blunder would not have occurred.’

                ‘Okay, I don’t need a lecture from the likes of you. I want to know what you are proposing and what is happening to Gareth.’

                Again the stare and then the shrug.

                ‘Nothing will happen to your son if you accept our terms. At present he is being held by the police in connection with an incident on Monday afternoon when a couple of joy-riders held up an off-licence. The police have witnesses to say your son was one of the culprits...’

                ‘Yes, well Gareth left a message for me saying he had nothing to do with it and I believe him.’

                ‘I’m sure you do, but the question of his guilt or innocence is not at issue here.’

                ‘What d’you mean?’

                ‘Well, the police need not charge him. Hywel has some powerful connections amongst the top brass and it appears that Gareth could walk out of the police station this afternoon if Hywel was minded to make the right phone call. Obviously, if you intend to fight over your forthcoming divorce settlement, he is unlikely to do that.

                ‘If Gareth is innocent, a good lawyer will sort it out.’

                ‘Perhaps, but can you afford a good lawyer? I understand that there will be no more contributions into your joint account from your wife’s side. Furthermore, mud sticks. Believe me, I know. Even if your son is found not guilty, tongues will still wag and fingers will still be pointed. These allegations could do a young man’s career prospects no end of harm. On the other hand, we can get an uncontested divorce hearing into court before the CPS has even begun to draft the outline of a case against Gareth.’

                It was Charlie’s turn to stare.

                ‘So that’s what this is all about,’ he muttered, finally. You’ve set my son up to ensure I don’t end up with any of Juliet’s money in a divorce settlement?’ His voice rose. ‘You’ve deliberately buggered about with a young man’s whole future, just to score a few extra points in a battle that has nothing to do with him!’ Suddenly, Charlie was on his feet leaning across the desk. His knuckles were white as they pressed down on Semple’s blotter. The solicitor glanced around wildly for an escape route, but Charlie was between him and the door.

                ‘Listen,’ he babbled, ‘I had nothing to do with this. I’m just the messenger-boy. Getting aggressive won’t alter your position; it’ll just make it worse. Look, why don’t you sit down and listen to Hywel’s proposal. I won’t pretend you’re going to like it, but at least then you’ll know where you stand.’

Charlie hesitated, and then slowly resumed his seat. Semple pulled open the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out the bottle of sherry again, this time with the two glasses.

                ‘Here, why don’t we have a drink and discuss this like gentlemen?’

                ‘You’re not a gentleman and I wouldn’t accept a drink from you if my mouth was on fire.’

                Semple shrugged again.

                ‘Don’t mind if I do, do you?’

                ‘It’s your office.’

                Semple poured himself a glassful and knocked it back in one. After a moment, he resumed.

                ‘Have you seen the paper?’ Charlie shook his head. Semple opened another drawer, pulled out a newspaper that had been folded open and pushed it across the desk. As Charlie glanced at it, Semple sat back with a faint leer.

                ‘Let’s be frank,’ he continued, ‘with that sort of publicity, the situation with your son is now a matter of overkill. You’d be lucky to be granted the cost of a cup of tea.’

                Charlie glanced at the paper again. The man had a point.

‘Alright,’ he said, finally, ‘what’s the deal?’

Semple cleared his throat.

                ‘As I said, you’re not going to like it, but given that you are not exactly in the best bargaining...’

‘Get on with it!’

‘Well, basically, you to fuck off really.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, just that, you bugger off and don’t come back. Go west. Start afresh. Turn over a new leaf, etcetera.’

‘But what about my house, my business? I’ve got commitments!’

‘People walk out on their commitments all the time; who gives a shit? Hywel’s a rich man and you haven’t got a pot to piss in. Obviously, there will be expenses involved if you are going to put any distance between yourself and here; Hywel has authorised me to make you a cash payment of ten thousand pounds to help you on your way.’ He withdrew a bulky white envelope from the inside pocket of the jacket slung over the back of his chair.

‘That’s surprisingly generous’

Semple ignored the irony.

‘Not really. We don’t want you back. I hear America’s a damn sight better than Swansea on the job front these days...’

‘What if I take the money and come back anyway?’

‘Then the gloves come back off and stay off. Anyhow, you’d only agree to go in order to save your son, so you’re hardly going to change your mind. You can count the money if you like.’

‘No thanks, I’ll trust you.’ Charlie leant forward and picked up the envelope. His irony seemed lost on the man.

‘Before you go...’ Semple was holding out a document.

‘Oh yes, I forgot. You wouldn’t be a lawyer if you didn’t have some bullshit document for me to sign. What is it?’

‘It’s merely a formal agreement whereby you agree not to oppose Mrs Llewellyn’s petition for divorce on the grounds of adultery. You also waive rights of access to your son. Here, you ought to read it. Hywel has made financial arrangements for Gareth to finish his studies, so you won’t be missed.’

Charlie accepted the sheet of paper.

‘Pass me a pen,’ he muttered. He signed the document and pushed it back across the table. Without another word he rose, picked up the money, and left the room. He made his way down the long, Victorian stair case that led from the prestigious, first floor offices of Semple, Tucker and Preece, St James Crescent, The Uplands, Swansea

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