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Story: Egalitarian Deceit: 8-11 by ************

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  • Story: Egalitarian Deceit: 8-11 by ************

    Egalitarian Deceit: 8-11
    by ************

    8: 'Hard "G": my name is Gen'

    'Humans controlled through their perception;'
    'We see, we judge; we make decision.'

    'But introduce an altered state...'
    'like love or hate or fear or bait;'
    'Distract, Distort, use Misdirection,'
    'And warp, finessed, becomes illusion.'

    '"Dance my puppet, I'll weave your dreams,"'
    '"You'll trust my play is what it seems."


    "A stack of cash?" wonders Gen. "It's gotta be a scam, or counterfeit; nothing is free." Gen was hardened against life, but mostly people. "Everyone is a mark, it is all a scam," she thinks. But here, in a junk-filled alley, under a busted, rusted old radiator leaning against a brick building, it is there; a thick stack of cash. "I'd bet it is a drop, or payout, or maybe a trap. Curiosity is not worth the risk." She ignores the cash, pretending she didn't see it. She enjoys creating her own opportunities, and loves chance opportunity, but anything that is too easy is a trap. Continuing out to the street, she observes it is noon and time for lunch.

    As she heads towards a sandwich shop near the University, several blocks from the alley-cash, a familiar four-door sedan rolls up to the sidewalk. Getting out of the driver's seat, a middle-aged, 'investor,' of $80,000 into Gen's, 'company,' frantically walks up to her.

    "Any word? Will they recover and turn the company around?" asks this sweaty, nervous, fat, 'investor,' named Karl. Gen knows his name, but preferred to think of him as all the others: YAMs.. yet another mark.

    Gen turns to speak to her steamed YAM, "I just tried to go to work and found the business is closed. I can't even get a hold of any of them. They have $150,000 of my own money with them, and I can't find them!" replied Gen convincingly. "I'm a victim here, too!"

    "I needed that money! You guaranteed me that I would triple my money back! I.. I... I'm going to go to the cops! Maybe they can find out where my money went" Karl threatens.

    "I think about going to the police too, but I don't want to do any time for insider trading. Every time I think about going to the cops, I keep thinking about prison beatings, and guards harassing me, and who knows what kind of unspeakable sexual violations might exist in prison behind those steel bars when lights go out. And what about my family? What would my family do without me to protect them, earning money to keep a roof over their head, and bellies full? No sir! You can go to the police on your own, but know that I won't testify for you, and will not be your witness," warns Gen.

    Righteously duplicitous is Gen's mantra. Gen has no family to support. She knows there is no insider trading. She knows there is no embezzlement. Two things are true: this is her game, and every mark deserves to lose what they have no mind to keep safe. And now? Now she is the smoother; dissuading a mark from contacting law enforcement. She knows emotional people are not receptive to rational talk to sooth their state, but greater fear can counter lesser fear and defer thoughts of revenge. However, fear is a primal emotional and can lead to unpredictable and less than civilized behavior.

    Karl's face turns red, as fear and anger coalesce to change his body language. He feels himself being squeezed on all fronts. Passionate about his loss, losing control of his emotions, he swings hard his balled-up fist into Gen's unprepared abdomen. His fist hits just below her sternum tip, pushing into her chest cavity, lifting up her diaphragm, expelling most of the air from her lungs. Gasping for another breath, Gen falls to her knees, stopping her face from hitting concrete by stretching her hands forward to catch the advancing ground. Still angry, the investor tries to kick Gen, only to connect his shin with her side, causing a rib to evoke an unhealthy, "crunch." Gen instinctively curves her torso in the direction of this kick, and positions one arm to protect her side from another eminent attack as this investor draws back his foot in preparation for more effective strike.

    Some people feel a sensation of, "time slowing down," when their life is being threatened. Perhaps this is a side-effect of a brain being pushed by survival to think faster and focus mostly on the, 'here, and now.' Sensory inputs are given the highest priority, as the brain samples data faster than usual. The non-rational brain begins to make some decisions beyond any understanding or comprehension of the mind-- bypassing rational thoughts and decisions. The mind becomes a spectator, as the brain makes decisions based on animalistic and protective instinct. Gen is in this place. Her mind is a captive audience as it passively observes: Gen's world has slowed to a crawl. Her animal brain quickly addresses option and makes decisions :

    "Adrenaline. Stop damage. Need air. Fight or run? Lungs empty; run fail. Fight!"

    Rolling away from her attacker, Gen avoids a second attack. Karl's foot kicks only air, putting him off-balance, causing him to stumble backwards. Gen's extremities begin to feel warmer, her heart pounds faster, she rolls to an uneasy standing position, still gasping for air. Stumbling a few steps further away, she coughs a tiny pocket of air from her lungs for an in-rush of air. Too fast. She coughs some more. Breathing is shallow. She stumbles more but remains standing, inhales more deeply. Karl has recovered, and is ready to punish this *girl* for losing *his* money. Gen leans forward, her knees bend, legs crouch, tense, and extend as she rushes toward this angry, fat ball of disgusting sweat and suit. With force and resolve to push through his folds of flesh, she punches one fist up and into his groin causing him to retch and cough, sending his dental bridgework flying from his mouth to the sidewalk. With her other hand, she grabs behind his knee and yanks hard. The investor falling backwards stumbles several steps back, eventually slamming his back onto the front-right fender of his car. Gen stands up, jumping towards the felled investor, as her mind struggles to assert control and no longer be a spectator to instinctive action. The investor waives his hands in defense as he slumps to he knees, the anger in his face replaced with fear, as Gen's claw-poised thumb and index fingers are stiff and dart towards the investor's face. Ready to blind this YAM, Gen's instincts are questioned by her rational mind, wrestling for control for her body. Struggling to regain composure, adrenaline retards her ability to think clearly. Disorganized thoughts dull her otherwise sharpened language skills and mastery. Anger at herself for not seeing this, 'investor,' move so quickly to violence, and frustration at how little her normally persuasive smoothing put this investor at ease, both are ripe for being tapped. She will harness all of these. What would be physical becomes verbal.

    "F*ck you, you bastard!" yells Gen at the investor. "I lost more money than you, and you take this out on me?" Gen backs away , putting several feet between her and the investor.

    "Y-y-y-You... you thaid it was a thure-thing!" lisps the investor in weak, raspy, mumbled monotone as he moves his hands to cradle his groin and bows his head down to the curb in front of him. "It is your faulth!" he hisses. Karl tilts his head up as he vomits on the sidewalk, and the smell of booze pays witness to his liquid lunch.

    Fully composed, Gen scolds Karl, "there is always risk with investment, you a**hole! I've been nothing but a professional with you. I came to *YOU* to tell you when things went cattywampus-inside-out, and this is how you repay me? Well, F*ck you and your crazy self! I can't have investors with VC money for these great opportunities when they are as violent as you. You are off my sheet. Don't call me, as I won't be calling you, you crazy bastard!" Gen pulls out an address book, turns to an empty page, rips it out, tears it up into smaller pieces, and tosses it into a nearby trashcan. "You are out! No more for you!"

    "Waith! Pleathe! I need some way to earn back my money! Pleathe! I want to be part of the nexthed business!" pleads the investor as he crawls on the ground looking for his dental work.

    Gen walks away, rubbing her side and abdomen. She thinks, "lunch will have to wait; I need to see a doc." Nearly one block away from Karl, and 3 from the alley-cash, she turns to see her YAM's car completing a U-turn, speeding away.

    Spotting a rare thing to find in this modern era of cell phones, Gen finds a pay-phone. Gen formulates a new plan. Pulling out her cell phone, not a paper address book, she finds Karl's number, pulls out a pocket-full of coins, drops them into the pay-phone and calls his cell phone. While waiting, Gen thinks "who even uses paper address books anymore? Eh. Ripping paper is still dramatically effective. Thanks Grandpa Jack." Disguising her voice to sound exactly like the secretary from Alabama she played while working phones at the same, "business," she convinced this investor into donating their money, she is ready for conversation.

    Frustrated, Karl yells into his phone, "WHAT!?"

    "Hello? I found some of the money that our CFO embezzled from the company, and want to give it back to investors, but I don't want to be caught. If he finds out I am doing this, he'll kill me!" says Gen with a voice of the secretary role she played as part of this con. This calm, sweet Alabama accent sounds innocent to this investor. This voice and news quench his anger as he begins to feel hope.

    "You got my money?" asks the investor. These emotional swings of worry, fear, anger, fear, and now hope could cause this investor to feel empathy for women in menopause, but his greed denies such considerations from forming. It is his greed that was exploited to cause him to part with his cash. More than hope, it is his greed that calms him to listen.

    "I dropped some money in an alley, next to an old radiator resting up against a brick building in an alley." She continues to describe the exact location where Gen saw the stack of cash.

    "Well, it is about time! I was wondering when you jerks would get me my money back!" replies the investor. He hangs up the phone without a farewell. Gen can now hear the sound of tires screeching several blocks away, as the investor turns his car around once more, and drives back towards the alley.

    Gen smiles as she thinks to herself, "if it is a trap, it bites him. If it is legit, he'll invest in the next scam. He's my little fat sweaty, suited canary in the mine shaft; either way, I win."

    Gen, beginning to feel the pain of what is almost certainly a broken or cracked rib, crosses the street and begins to carefully and smoothly walk back towards the alley. Now every breath is uncomfortable, and the pain is beginning to get worse. Now less than two blocks away, she can see the investor's car drive into the alley. She can see him jump out of the car, and scramble towards the radiator, knocking over junk until he reaches down to pick up the cash. Back and side-doors of a nearby utility van, and the back door of freight trucks parked on either side of the alley entrance suddenly open, exposing police officers in dark black gear storming out towards the investor.

    "POLICE! STOP WHERE YOU ARE! KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!" yells one of the officers using the amplified sound of external speakers of the van. Officers continue yelling at Karl with command and authority as they swarm to cuff and arrest him.

    "Hah! *ow*." Gen laughs, and immediately groans as she grabs her side, and holds her side. She raises her other forearm and open hand out to an approaching car, "Taxi!" The car stops, she carefully steps inside, and says, "to the hospital." She continues to chuckle with pain and grab her side, as she rides away in the taxi.


    9: Patient Being Impatient

    'The Bears, The Bulls: they go to Market.'
    'The Pigs to slaughter. The Sheep to fleece.'

    'Hidden prices: Health care market'
    'HMO and PPO: Biggest piece.'


    At a hospital, Gen reviews IDs to find "Kim." Gen knows medical insurance billing is a con and one she wants to run; what other service industry provides no prices for work to be done? People don't ask, "how much will this cost," and seldom ask for a second opinion like they would for their car. Meanwhile, doctors submit insurance claims into a system as convoluted as the scammiest rebate services, which decline payment for any reason, real or imagined, and delay responses to make attempts at re-submission late. Gen *really* would like a piece of this action some day.

    ...

    "Can I help you, miss?" asks the hospital employee behind the glass, as she stares at a computer screen, occasionally typing a few keys. Gen can see they are playing Sudoku.

    "I am Kim, here to see Doctor Chang. I have an appointment."

    "Yes Kim, you can go through that door to room 976." The door handle buzzes, Gen pushes down the lever, and walks through, but the hospital employee never stops staring at the screen.

    ...

    "Hello Kim. I have the X-rays and am ready to show you the damage," said Doctor Chang. Doctor Chang is not Asian, as her name might imply. She claims her name was the name of her ex-husband, but she has never been married. Pointing to the X-ray images of Gen's ribs, Doctor Chang continues, "how did this damage occur?"

    Gen looks at Doctor Chang and says, "cut the crap. It is not domestic abuse. You know my work is rough, and I get results. I managed to get you a new identity and even as a doctor, when those, 'unfortunate events,' happened to you at your old practice. Just do your job, tell me what is wrong, how you'll fix it and get me back to work."

    "It is just that this is the fifth time you've been here in 1 year, and I am concerned."

    "Really? Will you really go to the police to notify them of, 'domestic abuse,' given that you process billing for a 45 year old woman, which I am clearly not? Each of us keeping the other's secrets keeps us free, and you make some money from insurance claims."

    Leaning back in in defeat, Doctor Chang slowly nods his head. "Right. In simple terms one of your ribs is cracked, and this has become disconnected here and here. You are looking at 8 weeks for recovery and no strenuous activities."

    "Too long."

    "If you helped me make surgery appear necessary, we could use dissolving bands to cut this to 3 weeks, but you would need to avoid strenuous activities. We would need you to take another X-ray, but from *this* angle. I am worried about this, 'growth' we will find." Doctor Chang pauses, waiting for disagreement, then smirks, lifts up Gen's shirt and attaches an irregular adhesive dot to her side, rubs it, then removes it. "Now you are ready for an X-ray."

    ...

    Doctor Chang looks over the new X-ray with his patient, Kim. "Just as I thought, see this discoloration on the X-ray? It is too bad we only took one X-ray." Doctor Chang places the previous X-rays into a medical waste bag. "We really should schedule you for exploratory surgery, and while we are there, apply these dissolving bands. We will make tiny incisions at these locations insert a camera and explore . More incisions will be placed here and here to insert and tighten the dissolving bands. The tightening of the bands requires painful pressure, so we would prefer to use general anesthetic. If you have no questions, we can proceed to prep and surgery within two hours."

    "No questions about the operation," answers Gen, "But I need to mail this package. Where is the nearest mail-drop?" Gen knew risks in hospitals are like those of motels; a small percent of staff will steal your stuff. Gen would rather trust the post office and her own P.O. box to hold her wallet and valuables and it is easy to mail things to herself.

    ...

    "Count backwards with me starting with ten, Kim," started the anesthesiologist. "Ten. Nine. Eight," and Gen was unconscious, and dreaming, remembering when she decided to run away from home.

    Looking out the window, Jen spots Tom across the street, rummaging through a garbage container in front of Jyl's old house. Maybe Tom will join her? Jen walks out to Tom with her torso slouched forward, and arms crossed, covering part of her abdomen. She quietly crouches down in front of a car, unfolding her arms to wrap them around her knees. Jen looks at the ground behind where Tom is standing, as he continues to pull papers out of the garbage.

    "Hey Tom," Jen says quietly.

    "I don't have any, 'lunch money,' so you'll have to go pick on someone else," scolded Tom as he looks over papers he has found.

    "I'm sorry about that, and *I* didn't take your lunch money," says Jen with defiance, slightly louder than before. "It was the other girls that beat you up and took your lunch money."

    "Yeah, but you were with them, and did nothing to stop them, and after that, you stayed with them," said Tom with disappointment. He continues to review papers.

    "She is in the hospital," said Jen. "On the way back from that vacation, there was some sort of car wreck. Her dad and brother died, then later her mom killed herself. Some lady has been cleaning up the house to make it ready for sale." Jen points to the, "For Sale," sign planted in the lawn. Tom sees this out of the corner of his eye, and looks at it. "Why can't we go back to the way they were? All three of us had so much fun. I even stopped hanging-out with those other girls a week after you moved away."

    Tom looks directly at Jen, and can see she has been crying. He takes his papers with him and sits next to her as he looks through them. "What does Jyl have to do with the Navy? What is this here about getting care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center? Some of these records are marked, 'Classified: Confidential,' but are here in a trash can? What does this mean? And look at this," demands Tom as he reads from one of the medical papers, "'use extra-cellular matrix as scaffold for nerve cells and axons and stimulated growth with...' whatever that is, it is a long word. And why did her mom fill out an organ donor card and paperwork only one day before she died?"

    "I'm going to run away from home," started Jen, "and I want you to come with me."

    "What does all of this mean?" asked Tom, holding up the papers.

    "Did you hear what I said?" asked Jen.

    "Yeah," replied Tom.

    "It would be easier if we could watch each others backs out there."

    "I don't want to run away; I like my new school. Sure mom and dad tell me to do chores, but they also dropped me off here to visit Jyl while they were back in town. Now I see why she never answered the phone, and nobody is in her home. As for running away, I couldn't afford rent, and who's gonna employ people our age? How would we pay for rent, food, and everything else?" asks Tom. "Your life sucks because you made it suck. I remember you got arrested for shoplifting, and vandalism at school. And what happened to those other girls you were with? Nothing."

    "But I didn't steal anything, and I didn't vandalize anything. Those girls put things in my backpack before we left that store, and that spray-paint in my locker just before they started searching lockers," contested Jen.

    "The truth does not matter; the only thing that matters is perception," answers Tom. He was now looking directly at Jen as he shoves the papers from the garbage into his backpack. "You hang with the bad girls, you look like a bad girl. Do these girls lie? Then you lie too. Who's fault is that? Who will ever believe you when they think you also lie?"

    "But my Aunt. She..." Jen stopped. Tightened her grip around her legs to make herself as small as possible, then she sobbed, "I told my parents, but they didn't believe me, either ." Jen was now crying, and she covered her face with her hands.

    Tom reached out to touch Jen's shoulder, and that touch caused Jen to jump to her feet. Her sadness was torn from her face, exposing only fear and worry. "Don't touch me!" she pleaded. Tom pulled away, stumbled on the curb and fell back into some bushes.

    Jen manages a small smile at Tom's misfortune, but reality quickly steals that glimmering moment of happiness as quickly as it arrived.

    Tom extricates himself from the bushes, grabs his backpack and stands up to look at Jen. Jen looks back at Tom and again says, "I'm going to run away from home with or without you. If we ever meet again, call me Gen, 'G', 'e', 'n'." She folds her arms to cover part of her abdomen and walks back home.

    "Why a hard, 'G' in Gen?" asked Tom. "Where will you go? What are you going to do?"

    Gen ignores these questions and walks back to her house to pack a few things before starting a new life.

    Gen is startled awake.

    "Hello Kim. I see you are awake," observes Doctor Chang.

    Groggy, but conscious, Gen tries to cough only to be reminded of the pain of injury, and stitches. "Did it work?" Gen asks.

    "It turns out the thing I saw on the X-ray was not really there," says Doctor Chang slyly. "The bands should dissolve in a few weeks. We need you here for 24 hours for observation after being under and then you should be able to go home." She hands Gen some pills and a glass of water. "Take these; it is a sedative." Gen takes the pills, and swallows them with the water. "While you were out, a police detective was at the hospital looking for patients with injuries to their chest." Gen was worried, but controlled her reaction. "He found several people, but didn't find you. Somehow your admission information showed you were here to inspect a strange growth on a rib, not an injury." Doctor Chang smiles. "See you tomorrow, Kim."


    10: Pros and Cons and sometimes both

    'For and against, A pro and con'
    'A person can't be both.'

    'Professional, confidence, pro and con'
    'A person can be both.'


    After Jen became Gen, life was difficult on the streets. She started out with food from her parents house, and had some money, but the food ran out weeks ago, and her cash is down from bills to coins. Soup kitchens and taking ramen noodles t a community center that provided free hot water helped to stretch her money. For sleep, a covered cardboard compactor had a small space behind it, too small for an adult, but perfect for Gen. The electrical system at the base kept this place warm at night. Only three months away from her parents house and the realities of life on the street have reduced her interest in the future; you can't dream about any future when you are worried about the present. She met other boys and girls her age. Some begged for hand-outs. Several had "jobs" when they needed money like dealing, stealing or prostitution. "How will I get my next meal when the money runs out?" is a question that burdens Gen.

    ...

    "What do you mean you don't deliver anymore?" asked a worn-out man wearing the standard white-collar uniform. It was 6pm, and this guy was tired. His tie is undone, the top button of his shirt is unbuttoned, and he is unhappy. "You delivered to our office last week, why can't you do it now?"

    "Our son is going to college, and we have nobody else," replies the older woman behind the cash register. A sidewalk Thai restaurant borders the sidewalk dividing it from "Dine in," restaurants. "We can't afford to pay anyone." The man in the business suit takes his order and walks away.

    "What would you pay for delivery?" Gen asks this business man as she walks with him.

    "What do you want?" asks the businessman.

    "Your stuff. Delivered. How much?" Gen asks again.

    "Ehh. Aren't you a bit young to be working?" asked the businessman.

    "Are you a bit young to be losing your hearing?" asked Gen.

    "Look. We gave the other guy 20% tip for delivery." said the businessman.

    "Deal," said Gen.

    "How do I know you won't just take my food or money?" asked the business man.

    "How do I know you will actually pay me?" asked Gen.

    "Fine. Here is my business card. Be at this office at 6:30pm tomorrow and bring us our order."

    And with that, Gen was a courier, and her business expanded. Most people would call in orders for specific places Gen served, pay with a credit card, she would pick up the order and deliver it, and they would tip her with cash. Priority was given to those that tipped the best, and the worst tippers were denied future service. Gen found and used coupons and pocketed the savings, passing on the full price to her customers, using receipts she manufactured. Everyone was happy, and she made more money.

    Making her evening rounds, she stops by a bar to drop off a dinner for a bartender and collect her wages, when an older man with gray hair at a table playing cards with a bunch of other gray haired older men asks Gen, "hey you! Girl! Are you taking orders?"

    "Ah, Jack, let her be," complains one of the older men.

    Gen looks at the men playing cards and can see poker chips on the table and replies, "sometimes."

    "Would you take an order for me?" asks Jack.

    "What, from where, and how much for my time?" replies Gen.

    "Oh ho!" laugh several of the men at the table. One of the men points a finger at Jack and says, "that cheapskate wouldn't pay a dime to save his own mother."

    "Girl? Do you know how to play cards?" asks Jack.

    "'Cards,' is not a game, now is it?" replied Gen, "but I've played games with cards."

    "Smarta**. I'll make a deal with you," starts Jack, "I've got here in my hand a $100 bill. You go get me a cheese-steak sandwich from Old Mel's downtown, and bring it back here. Then we each cut this deck of cards. If you get the high card, then I'll give you this $100 bill, but if I cut the highest card, then you pay for my sandwich."

    One of the other older men warns, "don't do it little girl, this guy could convince the Devil to give up his own soul and think it was a good idea," warns one of the other older men.

    "No thanks, Mr. Scammy McScam-Scam." laughs Gen.

    "Oooooohhhh!" yell out the other men at the table. One of the men yells out, "Jack McScam-Scam! I like the ring of that. Hey Jack! I think we're going to call you this from now on."

    Jack is no longer smiling. He stands up and yells, "Hey, Gen!" and holds out $20 as he walks over to Gen. "Take this and go get me my sandwich."

    Gen looks at Jack, and is looking for a trap, but does not see any.

    "She doesn't trust you, you dirty old man." Yells out one of the other men. As Jack turns away to comment, Gen grabs the $20 and runs out the door.

    "Hey! Come back here with my cash!" Yells Jack.

    "Hey Jack, if you leave now, you forfeit your hand," chides one of the men.

    "What is wrong with kids these days?" complains Jack as he heads back over to the table.

    ...

    Thirty minutes later, Gen returns to the bar with her backpack to find Jack is still at the table with one other man, and they are smoking cigars and drinking beer. Gen pulls some paper bags from her backpack and places them at the table in front of Jack.

    "Your sandwich. A plastic fork, knife and spoon, and I also picked up 2 of every one of the extras they have for sandwiches as sides if you want them: Onions, pickles, BBQ sauce, mustard, ketchup..." begins Gen.

    "Ketchup? Who would ruin a cheese-steak with ketchup? BBQ sauce? What the hell has happened to Mel's? Gack!" replies Jack. "You did good honey, and you got a sharp wit, but you should keep your damn mouth shut with customers." He makes eye contact with Gen, winks, then bites into his sandwich. "Awww yeah. This is good. It has been years since I had one of these." Talking with his mouth full, he continues, "you're a quick one, and did me a solid. You ever want to make some real money, I got job for you."

    Gen thinks to herself, "Solid? This guy is old." She looks at Jack and asks, "how do I know you'll to pay me? Your own friends talk trash about you, to your face, and you don't even argue."

    "Ah yeah. Good point. See, we're a bunch of old farts that worked together before fire was invented. We get together to talk about old times, but lately, I've got an itch under my skin I want to scratch and get some cash, but most of these walking dead are not up to it anymore. I've got 2 other guys, and we'd be willing to give you 10% of what we make while we split the 90% that remains, three ways between the rest of us, after expenses. Are you interested?"

    "I'm still here. Details?" asks Gen

    "Well, the thing is, there is no such thing as the truth, it is all about human perception. Yah know what I mean? What people think they see, they believe. What they believe is true becomes true, even if it isn't. Get with us, and you won't have to be a sucker again; you'll manufacture truth like criminals make license plates!"

    "Yeah, I've heard that before. Details. Got any?" asks Gen again as she hoists her backpack over her shoulder, preparing to leave.

    "Ah, we'd need you to act and talk about how something is worth a lot of money. Maybe get one of those smarty-pants cell phones that can get on the Intarweb and show the results of an auction to someone. Be excited about it and convincing, and you get 10% of what we take, after expenses."

    Yeah, but 10% of nothing is nothing. How much would I make.

    "Perceptive, isn't she?" Jack asks his buddies. "I can't get nothing by her. Fine, I'll give you $20 after expenses, even if we make nothing, but the more we make, the more you'll earn."

    "Little girl, we do give it Jack an awful time, but he is being genuine here with this offer. He might steal your eyes and sell them to a blind man, but right now, he is talking business, and he really does mean it."

    Jack continues, "you will have to ride with us to Las Vegas, Nevada, and the rest I can say on the way there. I am Jack, and this is Harry. You'd meet John tomorrow morning when we get there. See, um, it is Friday night. We leave tonight, and will be back here on Sunday night. Do what you want, but be back here at 8pm."

    "Right. Get in a car with two old guys, and ride to Las Vegas for $20. I'd bet your social network is on that Megan's Law website," scoffs Gen.

    The bartender speaks up and says, "naw, the first and last time my dad Jack paid any attention to any women was 9 months before I was born. He has other interests now." The bartender turns his head to look at Harry, and raises one eyebrow. Harry turns to lean towards Jack and smiles.

    Jack pulls away and whispers scoldingly, "not in public." Jack turns back to Gen, "what about this. $100 or 10% after expenses, whichever is greater."

    Gen turns to the bartender, "Is this guy really your dad?"

    The bartender replies, "yeah. He is a cheap jerk, a bastard of a dad, he lies, he cheats, and can be persuasive, but he's never gone after any kids."

    Jack repeats the offer, "If you are in, meet us back here in an hour, and we ride to Vegas."

    ..

    From the driver's side, Harry turns to the side to see Gen in the backseat and asks, "Gen? What we are looking for are really cheap forgeries. People bring their crap to be appraised, and some of it is junk. What we want is junk that looks like it could be the real thing."

    "How is this going to make us money?" asks Gen.

    Jack sighs and says, "John is in LA, and has been at Pawn shops, looking for well done, but worthless forgeries to buy them for almost nothing. He spends time to try to make them look even better, then we all play as actors, and let people take advantage of us by paying a small percent of what they think these are worth. See? The money in their pocket is ours, they just don't know it yet. Oh yeah, they will think they are a big shot, wheeler, dealer, but they're just marks. When they go to get the purchase authenticated, they didn't pay the going rate, and get told how anyone could make a mistake on such a good forgery and how it could be an honest mistake. They don't feel totally scammed, because they didn't pay full price, and the person they bought it from, they think was clueless about the value. They can only blame their own decision."

    "So, you are scammers," decides Gen.

    Jack turns back to look at Gen, alone in the back seat. Anger is in his eyes and he says, "Girl! Stop calling me a scammer! Scammers got no skill. They lie, cheat and steal, leaving their victim angry, and ready to rush to the cops. We are actors like those people on stage, and entertain. Our marks hurry to pay us, and when we do it right, not mad at *us*, and sometimes pay to attend repeat performances. We're artists!"

    "Artists? I thought you said you were actors," Gen says with a half smile.

    "Good actors, are artists," replies Jack as he winks, "and cash is the only applause I'll ever need." Jack Smiles, holds up his hands as though saying, "thank you," to cheering fans. "Thank you, Thank you. Don't hold-back your $50 and $100 bills." says Jack. He then turns back to look at Gen again and says, "When we get to Vegas, our jobs will be to scout out the hotels for conventions where people have fat wads of cash. You'll go with me, and I'll show you how to spot them."

    Las Vegas is really hot. Without air conditioning, this older car felt like a furnace. Rolled-down windows didn't help but convert the car from inferno into an broiler. After picking up John, with proper introductions, all four rode the strip. Jack and Gen are dropped at a casino, while Harry and John drive to their own Casinos with conventions. Jack says to Gen, "here is our thing. Your name is Kim. You are my grand daughter. I am Jack, your grandfather. We're on vacation, and that is all they need to know. If anyone asks you something beyond that, you just say, 'granddad says I'm not supposed to talk to strangers,' and let me do the talking."

    "What are we looking for?" asks Gen.

    "Bodies, and cash. Look at the slots, and the tables, and see how many people are here? There are not many, and very little cash on the tables. Count the working employees and compare the the number of gamblers. It looks like the convention is something called, 'DEF CON,' probably some sort of convention for sales of hearing aids or a military thing. Anyway, the tables are empty. This place gets low marks. Casino gamblers in Vegas are the kinds of people that make good marks. The math says building skyscrapers in the middle of a desert isn't cheap, so who pays for them? All these suckers at the tables, and slots, and private rooms." Walking towards the convention space, Jack and Gen spot a long line of people several years older than Gen and several years younger than Jack. "See that? All these people are paying Cash, but notice how only a few show signs of money with their clothes? This would not be a good place to score." Gen and jack head out to the parking structure. "Look at the cars. Many are rentals, but you can see a small number are luxury cars from our-of-state. See inside that car? Those papers? That is part of a pay-stub from the federal government. You see this sticker? This is a military guys car, so maybe DEF CON is for Defense Contractors. Walking back through the Casino, Gen spots a small booklet that reads, "DEF CON Program," unattended at a table, and as she walks by, picks it up and shoves it in her pocket.

    ...

    Harry and John find better opportunities, all four in this crew play their parts to make the cash flow. In one weekend, repeating the same con at different locations, Gen's 10% was more than all of the money she would have made in one year as a courier. She is hooked.

    Gen reads through the DEF CON Program to find out it is an annual Hacker Conference with contests. Some of these contests involved using skills she was learning with her crew. And there were presentations, mostly about computers and networks. "A lock-picking village?" thought Gen. "What. The. Hell?" She secretly decided that she would return next year. With the money she was now earning, she afford it, but would find a way to avoid paying.

    For 6 more years, Jack Harry and sometimes John or other people ran cons as they traveled to different cities. Every year, Gen returned to DEF CON to learn new skills and practice existing skills, meet some talented people and eventually source her own crew with modern, white-collar con jobs. Many attendees were talented, a small number were, "opportunists with dynamic morality and ethics," and of those, a smaller number could earn enough trust to be in a crew; it's not easy to find a talented, trust-worthy liars, anywhere.


    11: Risks of Exposure


    'There are no words, Which are not lies.'
    'The context, framing; change, implies'
    'A lie is a truth, once negated,'
    'But only one is castigated.'


    "Oh good. You are awake. You are under arrest for insurance fraud. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you...", the police detective continued.

    "What was this?" thought Gen. Waking up in her hospital room, she can feel the stitches under the padding where her rib was damaged. A police detective and two uniformed officers are in the room mashing buttons on the TV remote control, while Gen is handcuffed to her hospital bed.

    "... Do you understand your rights as they've been read to you?" asks the detective.

    Gen thinks, "How much do they know? What kind of insurance fraud? Did Doctor Chang give me up? No, she has more to lose than me. They won't fall for any of my acts; they've already decided that I am the bad girl, and the bad girl will say whatever they can to get away. My hand is better. Poker face. Time to bet." Gen opens her mouth and says, "I understand," as the two uniformed police officers seem to agree to watch the news on the TV, with the volume muted.

    The police detective smiles. "Are you one of 'those' kinds of people? You know what I mean? They can't speak their minds, or even have their own independent thoughts. Sheep. Followers. Like the pieces of garbage we find on the street every day, milking the system while us hard-working people invest our blood, sweat and tears into the future of this great nation."

    Gen recognizes this for what it is; an attempt to use fear to antagonize her into saying something, defending her position, asserting her independence, or soothing her ego. She's been on the other side of this skill for nearly a decade, and is humorous to see it done so poorly. She wants to comment about this, and tell him how his skills are craptastic and not even good enough to be an Internet troll, but even that would leak personal information.

    "I am homeless; give me my lawyer." says Gen quietly. This was true. She was homeless. Claiming to be homeless implies being unable to afford a lawyer, which the detective will assume. She lived on the road, traveling from city to city, earning her income. Certainly, she could easily afford a lawyer, but being a homeless young adult will work to her advantage with the jury if this ever goes to court, and why pay for something that suckers pay for, unless your appointed lawyer is really bad at their job. It is easy to deceive when you believe your own lies.

    "Yeah, I thought so. A sheep. A follower. Someone that can't even speak for herself. Your only opinion is what you are told to have. Yeah-yeah. You'll get your lawyer, and be the new meat in jail; those women will do unspeakable things to you, unless you are smart and talk to us. Maybe you can make a deal and go home today? Maybe..."

    By now, Gen was staring at the TV, feigning disinterest in anything the detective said. Without volume, she could only read the captions and lips for some of the words spoken by the anchorman about an explosion at a local university, followed by the story of the murder of a wealthy landlord at an apartment complex. Gen thinks to herself, "why don't these jerks go after those criminals and leave professionals like me alone?"

    ...

    "Hello, I am Sharon, your court appointed attorney. I will be working your case," begins Sharon. "First thing we need to know is your name. The police were unable to find any identification on you, or in your room, and found no hits after running your fingerprints. Your doctor says you were here to examine an abnormal growth, which turned out to be benign. So, I am Sharon, what is your name?"

    "Do we have attorney-client confidentiality?" asks Gen. Sharon nods. "Okay. My name is Kim, but I am not the Kim that my medical records say I am. I found that Kim's identification and insurance information, and used it to get medical care. My doctor found a growth, operated, and removed it. I don't have any identification, because homeless don't need IDs. I ran away from home many years ago, and found identifications were not required at soup kitchens, or for working odd jobs. I don't like breaking laws, but without medical care, what would happen to me?" Kim looks down, pretending to be remorseful.

    "Here is where we stand," starts Sharon. "You were wise to say nothing to police. The police have no evidence that you were the person that claimed to be this other Kim. They found no identifications, or personal information about you in any of your personal items. They haven't yet found any people working on the day you were admitted, which remember you, or could identify you, except your Doctor, but she never asked for or looked at any ID. Your doctor said she didn't even notice your age on the forms, claiming she only looks at age when age could play a role in diagnosis or care. If this goes to trial, you will likely evoke sympathy from the Jury, being a runaway, and homeless, and this will work in our favor. The District Attorney may not even want to prosecute this case, and even if they claim they want to, may choose to do so only to get you to plea bargain and admit to to committing this crime in exchange for compensation, and immediate probation with no time in jail. However, if it comes to bail, the DA will push for denying bail, because you are homeless and a flight risk."

    "How long will I be stuck in this hospital?" asks Gen, holding up her arm which is cuffed to the bed."

    "Trust me; this is better than jail. Stay here as long as you can. If you end up in jail for some reason, try to get your doctor to specify that you require hospitalization, and they may just move you to the county hospital, where they take other prisoners for medical care."

    ...

    "Kim? What do you think of the county hospital?" asks Sharon.

    "It is cold, has worse food, and I feel like a cow in a herd of cattle," replies Gen.

    "It is better than jail," reassures Sharon. "I've just been talking with someone from the DA's office handling your case. They say they want to go to trial. I think it is not genuine. They are offering you a plea bargain of six months community service to pay for your crime and one year probation, where you can't leave this state and have weekly meetings with a probation officer. If that does not interest you, they said they could agree to $10,000 bail and set a trial date. This is your decision. Take the sure-thing, or gamble with a trial. I think our chances are pretty good, for winning, but only you can decide which way you want to go."

    "Let's go with a trial," replies Gen.

    "But at $10,000 bail, being homeless you can't afford that. You will end up in jail," replied Sharon.

    "I have friends who are like family to me; they will help me," counters Gen.

    "Kim? Isn't that interesting; a homeless woman, allegedly involved in insurance fraud has friends willing and able to pay $10,000 for bail. Maybe those friends should give me that money so I can go on record as being the person paying the bail. We do not want any documentation associating you with your, "friends," to interfere with our defense. We need you to stay away from law enforcement, and the public, just in case they plan to build a case of circumstances based on guilt by your associations. You can stay at my cabin with my niece and another client of mine, but no phone calls and no visitors. There is enough food for a week, and we can see if they have decided to watch what you will do with hopes they will uncover a conspiracy."

    "You trust me enough to let me stay at your cabin?" asks Gen. "You don't even know me?"

    Sharon looks directly at Gen, pauses, smiles, and says, "we all have our secrets, Jen."
    "Haters, gonna hate"
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