Deal 1257: Way post TSA

The room had a hard durable floor, but even so the feet of many people had etched clear pathways across it. The walls and ceilings were painted some neutral inoffensive color that was almost offensive in effect, a typical public space institutional color. THere must have been lights, but without power, they were not obvious.

The room was divided by a row of doorways standing independently across the center. At one time, people would line up to take turns to use the doorway. Which was a bit odd, considering that there were no doors.

Each doorway had a light on top, and a niche that seemed like a good place to stand alongside and watch. Also near each doorway was a huge piece of machinery with conveyor belts running in and out. Aside from those obvious features, there was little to hint at what used to flow on those belts.


Deal 1189: The next big con

The telephone has revolutionized the art of the big con. Once upon a time, a con man had to travel from place to place, then spend time to establish their identity and gain the confidence of some key figures in a community. All as the precursor to even beginning to think about starting a long con. It meant that a true long con really did take a long time to execute.

The telephone changed all that.

Suddenly it was possible to visit people in their homes or offices, almost without their even knowing they had invited you in.

Since a large part of the early effort is spent just to establish the trust needed to be invited in, the long con got significantly easier to play.

Of course, you still need to have a mark, a tale, and a payoff. And you probably can’t play it all solo.

But if you can master the art of sounding sincere on the phone, you can play the game without leaving your home.

You can even play more than one mark at a time, taking turns to advance each tale.

How could it ever get easier?

Then I got the letter.

“Dear most noble sir,” it began, “Greetings from the rightful heirs of the minister for imaginary trade outside of my country, who died unexpectedly in a most tragic and horrific fashion, with a sum of not less than ten million US dollars on deposit in an imaginary bank in your country. Which I know I can count on your help to return to its rightful owners. Accepting a generous fee for your services, naturally….”

I wonder what strange and wonderful technology will come next that advance the art of the con?

I can barely wait.


Deal 1177: Lamp rubbing

“New lamps for old” was the cry heard around the neighborhood.

It was easy to dismiss as just an attempt by a merchant’s brat to gain entry to our household for nefarious purposes. But we also had a number of old lamps gathering dust and tarnish. We could let the worst of those go in exchange for something new. Let him have all the joy he can find in polishing up the odd bits of junk.

But first, we must make sure we aren’t giving away something more valuable than it appears.

Our oldest and dirtiest lamp was duly sent for, and proved to be even worse than I remembered. It had been neglected in an unused storage room, and developed a considerable patina of corrosion, tarnish, cobwebs, and soot.

A few minutes later, the youth was ushered into the room. His eyes scanned the shelves and tables, and fairly lit up when he saw the lamp sitting in a pool of its own dust on my table. At that point, I was sure there was something specific he was looking for, and that we had missed.

While he watched in horrified fascination, I had my butler polish the lamp, and stand by to fill and light the lamp after.

On the third rub, smoke billowed from the lamp and filled the room. A voice rang out: “Who dares disturb the sleep of the Djinn of the Lamp? Step forth and suffer the consequences.”

Moving in a rare example of unchoreographed grace, my entire household staff took a step backwards, leaving the butler standing alone and holding the lamp and a very dirty rag in his hands.

The Djinn faced the butler and glared. The butler quaked but stood his ground.

A moment later, the smoke was clearing, the butler had vanished, and the lamp fell to the ground.

Broken free of his shock, the youth fled screaming into the night.

Neither the youth nor the butler were heard from again. I had the lamp returned to storage, this time to sit on a note that warned of further handling.