"Dear friend, my letter may come to you as a surprise. Though I know that a transaction
of this magnitude will make anyone apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that
all will be well at the end of the day."
"Oh, god," Mickey Bricks says, and makes his newspaper more like a wall than usual.
Danny is, of course, unrepentant, smirking at his borrowed laptop and continuing to read.
"We are top official of the federal government contract review panel who are interested
in importation of goods into our country with funds which are presently trapped in
Nigeria. In order to commence this business we solicit your assistance to enable us
transfer into your account the said trapped funds."
He sighs behind the international edition of the Times. "Not this again..."
This works about as well as it usually does on Daniel - that is to say, not at all. "But we
stand to make thirty five to sixty percent of eleven point five million dollars, after hotel
bills and expenses! What do you say? I think the good Mrs. Oluwa Matumbo at least
deserves the honor of our reply, the old dear."
Mickey puts down his paper and draws himself up to his full seated height. "Don't bait
the Nigerians, Danny, they can't help that they're hopelessly incompetent."
I shake my head and go back to reading the society page. Do you see what I have to put
The most important rule of the con, as our Mickey can - and will - tell you, is that you
can't cheat an honest man. You can't do it. It simply won't work. A con works best when
the other fellow thinks he's in on the game, or better still, when he thinks that he's
conning you. No one can be as stupid as a man who is sure that he's being clever, and
there's no one as easy to slip something by as someone with a very big secret of his own.
Which leads to the question, of course, of who do they think they're fooling?
If you haven't figured it out by now - and I doubt this is the case - allow me to explain. I
am speaking of my own dear protege, Mickey Bricks, and *his* protege, Danny Blue.
Regardless of my bluff man-about-town exterior, I assure you, I am not without some
experience in matters of the heart.
Instead of taking full advantage of the wide range of varied and dubious pleasures Dubai
can offer, two young and temporarily rich men are spending yet another afternoon
drinking coffee and reading 419 scams. One needn't be an expert to see there is more
here than meets the unwary eye.
Personally, I blame myself.
When Michael Stone alias Mickey Bricks, my student and partner in crime, was getting
out of prison, I decided to give him a gift. Two years of hard time are hardly easy at the
best of times and his marriage was obviously ending, a bad business. I admit, I was afraid
it might have taken its toll upon him and lead him to some rash decisions. Going straight
was never in Mickey's nature, not in any sense of the word, no matter how tempting the
lovely and faithless Rachel Stone might be. As a good mentor, I naturally wanted only
the best for him, which Rachel quite clearly was not. Therefore, I logically made some
inquiries for a suitable replacement.
Nothing gladdens a grifter's heart so much as an able student - teaching lends spice to the
con, gives you a renewed sense of the excitement of it all. Taking Mickey on was the best
decision of my life, and I've never regretted it. Con artists such as ourselves tend to be
something of an incestuous bunch, your crew is your family and your world, and no one
else really understands. Mickey has always been like a son to me, but that's hardly the
only kind of relationship that is possible. I admit, I was trying to get him back into the
game, so killing two birds with one stone only made sense.
Danny Blue was every reason anyone would need not to go straight, in any sense of the
word. The minute I saw him, playing short cons and loving every minute of it, I knew he
was perfect. He was just admiring enough to make Mickey feel like a big fish, but enough
of his own man to be interesting and actually good at the game. Huge trusting eyes and
style to spare, in his own rough sort of way. His little authority issues actually served to
make him a better fit - I'm sure you're not surprised that my protege has an equal and
opposite set of personal foibles, sure to lend a certain frisson. True, Danny chased
everything in a skirt, but he never bothered to keep what he caught, and on closer
inspection there were other indications. Suffice to say that not all of his prior liaisons
were entirely discreet.
Being a straightforward man myself, I arranged Danny's entrance into our little den of
crime and thought matters would take care of themselves. I entirely failed to take into
account the natural ability of high strung young men such as they to complicate even the
simplest of human arrangements. The fact that both men in question were highly skilled
professional liars only made things worse.
If you're looking for some more concrete examples, I need only look at the past few days.
Having quit our criminal haunts in London and the charming confines of Eddie's Bar in, I
admit, a less than leisurely manner, a certain amount of shopping was unavoidable upon
reaching the sunny climes of Jumireh Beach. Hence exhibit A, the Bricks/Blue fashion
Daniel waves an unremarkable blue and white striped swimming suit, still attached to the
hanger, in Mickey's face. "What do you think of these swim trunks, eh?"
For his part, Mickey doesn't pause in his own inspection of the racks or need a second
look, to make a flat assessment of the garment. "They're dreadful and they'll fall off your
hips." This is said with such assurance that there can be very little doubt that when the
suit is actually tried on, he will be proven right.
For the record, it *was* dreadful and *did* fall off his hips, but back to our lads.
Danny stares, momentarily thrown, as well he might be. Mickey, of course, appears bored
and perfectly unperturbed.
He shakes his head and raises his eyebrows. "How many times have I outfitted you for a
job? I must know your measurements better than your tailor."
I have to hand it to Michael, there isn't a better excuse possible for knowing another
man's hips quite that well. Why, it might even have been true - except for the fact that, of
course, it wasn't.
Of course, these little misdirections are hardly a one-way proposition. Take, for example,
exhibit B - the other night when we had all retired to a bar. Mickey was allowing himself
to be chatted up by a perfectly lovely and perfectly boring young vacationing broker.
He smiles that reserved little smile as he swirls his wine around his glass. "I never
imagined commodities trading was so interesting," Mickey says to her with an absolutely
This is precisely when Danny comes steaming over to the bar, drink in hand, and
practically throws himself between them. "Mickey, mate, there you are! And who is this
absolutely gorgeous bird? Far too good for you, isn't she?" He grins at her and the poor
girl is dazzled. "Here, what's your name, have I seen you somewhere?"
"Sheila," she manages to say, before he grabs her hand and starts shaking it vigorously.
Danny claps her on the shoulder, pressing his glass into her hand. "Listen, Sheila, it's
been real. Sadly, Mick here and me, we've got some business to discuss, yeah? So you
take this drink, I haven't touched it, and we'll see you around, okay?"
Mickey, like any good member of a grifting crew, knows when to play along. This
doesn't stop him, as well it shouldn't from turning on Danny as soon as they're a safe
distance away. "What, exactly, do you think you're you doing?"
He snaps to the defensive."Hey, what was that about being low profile? I thought we
were on vacation 'til the heat wears off? The last thing we need is for you to get back in
the game because some financial mastermind in a cocktail dress gives you an idea too
good to resist."
Yes, of course Danny was worried about her *financial* incentives. Really, he was.
Although, to be honest, it would have been far more likely than what he actual feared -
Mickey had had that acquisitive look in his eye, you can't miss it.
And then, of course, there are the times when they're both fooling each other at the same
time, in something of a tour de force of youthful stupidity. Exhibit c, yesterday afternoon
when Mickey was out.
"I need to get something for Mickey, on account of my Nan," Danny says, out of
nowhere, in the middle of a hand of poker. It's certainly a novel way of starting a
I, of course, have to ask. "Forgive me, but on account of your grandmother, how?"
He shrugs and stares at his cards. "He brought her tickets to Tom Jones the day before we
left. You know, 'It's not unusual' and all that stuff. Right in the middle of the con and
everything, said it was from me. This, in fact, happened to be a life-saver, because her
birthday is this week, and you know how fast we left and all. Said he won 'em off
someone and thought Nan might like them."
Not one of Danny's brighter moments. Tom Jones tickets don't grow on trees,
particularly the week before someone's grandmother's birthday. If Mickey won them off
of someone, it was a ticket scalper who he specifically targeted. But wait, it gets better.
Stacie beams at him. Smart girl."Oh, Danny, how sweet of him! Of course you have to
get him something. A bottle of something good, perhaps?" She looks at Ash, who rightly
takes this as a cue to lend his experience.
Ash shrugs. "I've always found a nice bit of Johnnie Walker green label does nicely,
Danny scowls at his cards harder. "I dunno. I was thinking more, something. You know.
Special. It's Mickey, isn't it?"
We all share a highly significant look. You can't hide things from your crew for very
long, in this game.
Danny looks up, earnestly. "And my Nan. I mean, nothing's too good for that, right?"
The younger generation, honestly. I suppose there's nothing for it. If you want something
done right, do it yourself.
There's something to be said for the power of suggestion. Hmm. Call me psychic, but
when we get back to Britain, I feel a sudden need coming for a new variation on the
wedding scam. Something more in line with the times, perhaps?