The kid is ambitious, Albert has to give him that. Not many people have the balls to try a 'Max Miller' over tea and fancy cakes at Flemings. It's more the sort of job you'd work in the Pimms and jam tart tent at a church social. The type of con that depends on the gullibility of the aspiring middle classes, not the more sophisticated stupidity of the chinless wonders which the English so excel at and who regularly frequent the lounge of this slightly stuffy hotel.
And, no matter what the event or the location you wouldn't choose 'The Bishop' as your mark. That is more than ambitious; it's suicidally reckless. The man has a formidable reputation, even here in the posher parts of London.
Alexander Fitzpatrick, Scottish entrepreneur and career criminal. Known as The Bishop for his money laundering business cleaning dirty money through church charities, is, to put it politely, and for all his religious affiliations, a very unforgiving man. It's said, though of course never legally proven, that he once fried every one of his accountant's precious Koi Carp in a light beer batter simply because the man misplaced a decimal point in a VAT claim for stationery. Of course, he's as greedy as the next mark but he isn't stupid. Nor is he unfamiliar with the short con. Perhaps that was why the boy is trying a scam which hasn't been played with any seriousness since before the War.
With a three man crew, a fair wind and a pretty girl on your team, it'd be a shoe in. But, one grifter, working alone, however attractive, and the boy is that, with his shock of blond hair and electric blue eyes, one grifter can't possibly pull it off.
Or can he? Albert watches the rope with interest and waits for the sale.
"Can I get you anything else, sir?"
The waiter's name tag said his name is Simon and judging from the way he's been flaunting himself round the tables of well-heeled older men, some of the things he's was selling aren't strictly on the menu. Most likely queer as a three dollar bill, but not nearly as green. He is certainly displaying his assets to their best advantage in those regulation tight black trousers.
He repeats the question, obviously used to patrons who are a little hard of hearing.
Albert slips a twenty into the pocket of the aforementioned trousers, making sure to add an obvious and slightly clumsy grope. The sort an older gentleman of a certain persuasion might use to make a very unsubtle offer.
"Is that a retainer? I’m worth a bit more than that." Looking at him, Albert doesn't find that hard to believe. The waiter is pretty without being fey and works out just enough to be toned rather than muscled.
"I'm sure you are. But at the moment, I’m just after some information."
The boy pouts.
"Perhaps we can discuss other options later." Albert smiles and lets his hand brush the boy’s thigh.
Mollified, the boy tosses him a sly grin. "OK, shoot."
"The young blond-haired man with Mr Fitzpatrick. Do you know him by any chance?"
Simon sneers. "That’s Danny Blue and he’s not going to get anywhere with your Mr F. I should know. Strictly into the better upholstered older woman that one. And Danny's has not got the legs for a frock."
Albert slides his hand up the boys leg making the note in his pocket crackle.
"Anything else you can tell me?"
"Lives out Hoxton way, plays a good hand of poker and drinks in Eddie's Bar in the City. You looking to make him an offer too, because I’m open to a bit of teamwork." His hip tilt becomes a little more pronounced.
"Oh no, this is an entirely different proposition," he watched as Danny Blue executes a perfect lift. "A business proposition."
Two days later, on the Embankment and Albert is watching a Japanese tourist being taken for a hundred in a showy game of three card monte. The man seems to be enjoying himself so much the he probably won't realise he's been conned until he gets back to his hotel.
Blue has quick hands and an eye for a opportunity. But there's more to him than a short con or a successful dip. The lad has talent, the sort you don't see every day. Albert's old drinking pal, George Oaks says as much. Says Danny Blue could be a major league long con player, but. There's always a but. Blue is confident, quick, clever, all the things that'd put him up there. Half the con is confidence after all. But, and here it comes, he's got the ego of a rock star and the recklessness of Tottenham fan shouting the odds outside Highbury. Oh, and he's not known for taking advice from his elders and betters. While they aren't insurmountable, Albert's not sure he has the pace or the stamina to take on the job at his time of life.
He's been here before. He's given a few talented youngsters a leg up into the Premiership. But it's hard work and if there's one thing playing the cons has taught him if stops being fun then you should look for another profession. But he knows someone who does need a challenge, someone who has reached the top of his profession and is getting more than a little jaded.
Now, Michael Stone may not want a bolshie apprentice but hey, as Mick says 'You can't always get what you want'. Albert thinks it'll do him no harm at all. But, first Blue has one more test to pass.
On Saturday the crowds swarm down the Embankment like ants. Even on the quieter stretches you can barely move for mime artists, ice cream salesmen, hawkers and jugglers.
Danny Blue lifts his wallet just outside the Tower of London.
It's time to have a word in the ear of certain barman.