Regards, Oluwa Matumbo
by Grey Bard
Written for: Andraste in the Yuletide 2005 Challenge
"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
"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
I shake my head and go back to reading the society page. Do you see what I
have to put up with?
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 protégé, Mickey
Bricks, and his protégé,
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 protégé 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 parade.
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
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 straight face.
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
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 conversation.
I, of course, have to ask. "Forgive me, but on account of your
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, myself."
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?