11.47 Thursday 29th September 2005, Maya
Still not a believer? Hang on a second – was this your card?
The real magic isn’t always what you see. Let me show you the tricks behind the magic, starting with my team. Matt, you’ve already met, although you didn’t see him shine. He has that innocent good boy look about him with his short cut hair, crisp shirt and jeans. Well, don’t be fooled – he’s a master of divination (his ‘predictions’ are based on an intoxicating mix of mathematical conundrum and strategic thinking). Matt was a mathematical prodigy, who landed a place at Cambridge at the age of fifteen. I met him at the bookies – I was trying my own mathematical modelling skills by calculating the horse to bet on using data from previous races (such as rider, horse, track and weather). Matt came to my attention when the bookies refused to let him place a bet accusing him of cheating – apparently he’d never lost a bet in his life. Despite being a genius, his intelligence doesn’t always come through but is often shaded by Matt-isms. For instance, when we moved into this place he insisted on checking the waterproof televisions in each shower were 100% waterproof and fit for purpose – logical yes, but the need to check them within minutes of stepping through the front door, fully clothed and then proceeding to leave a water trail on the solid wood flooring between the rooms was slightly overzealous.
Riley has a full command of all the magic words and can hack into any security system he’s faced with. Despite having the oddest dress sense – usually dressing in brown cords, oddly patterned shirts and a corduroy top hat, he’s a charmer through and through and can pull anyone within a hundred yard radius. Fortunately, I met Riley online but not in the conventional way. We were both trying to hack into the same bank, using the same security flaws – Riley contacted me and flagged up my shortcomings that almost got both of us caught.
Last but not least Walter, the elder of our ‘family’ has spent a lifetime perfecting his own act – mentalism and working the long con (a con where you send your client away to return with more cash). Back in the day he was considered the Picasso of the conning world, but things have changed a little since then. Walter’s a habitual gambler, who has more than once changed the course of his life on the toss of a coin – having lost the love of his life, Emily, after one such coin toss. He had had to make a heart-breaking decision to donate part of his liver and a kidney to his dying brother. Having no healthcare insurance or money to pay for surgery in this country, Walter and his brother opted to get the surgery done on the black market abroad. The country, surgeon and decision to tell Emily were all based on sequential coin tosses. When he returned, after the surgery, Emily had left. Walter always tells me that people introduce the largest degree of uncertainty, compared to that a coin toss is certainty.
And me – Jack of all trades, master of none. A common phrase in my house when I was a kid had been ‘jihdy koti vech dani heh auhdy kmly bi siany he’ (in the house where there is grain, there the fools are also wise). Perhaps it was meant to be inspirational – it bloody worked. I am now in a line of work that is only concerned with making money. Well, conning money would be a more accurate description. Besides, I’m a people person and it seemed like a damn shame to waste those skills. Working the long con seemed like a natural progression, allowing me to use my previously acquired skills. It’s lucrative enough, but not always easy – we live the high life in penthouse suites, but it comes at the cost of letting everything that matters go. My life is the con, my main relationships are with the clients – it’s a life that I can control, a life that is less painful than one with real meaningful relationships.
Considering our successful con, the suite was oddly quiet – it was perhaps a little early in the day to be cracking open the champagne. I loved looking out the floor to ceiling windows in the lounge. The views of the city were transcendent and had a grounding effect. In a blink everything changed, the suite had gone. I tried desperately to look around, but was only able to stare at a ceramic basin into which there was a fountain of water propelling seamlessly from the tiles above, washing familiar hands that were not mine. I felt something minty in my mouth swilling around to and fro, which was beginning to make me nauseous. I could hear a thought ‘it doesn’t make sense’. I tried to move but couldn’t. Then I felt my mouth open out of which fell a small swilling brush, little bigger than a capsule, propelling out small fading jets of cloudy water. Within a second I was once more stood back by my window and the world seemed oblivious to my movements.
‘That’s quite a view,’ Riley said joining me.
‘Nothing quite like the buzz of a city,’ I answered regaining my bearings.
‘I guess so, but that’s not the view I was referring to.’
‘Matt and Walter around? We should go and grab some lunch,’ I suggested, changing the topic. Mixing business with pleasure was a recipe for disaster.