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What's Good for the Grifter

"When small-time crook Marcus Diamond runs into an old classmate, he may just be in over his head."
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My name is Marcus Diamond. Some people ask if that's my real name, and I just tell them sure it is, if I want it to be. See, there are two kinds of people in the world - those with, and those without. I was born without. But you just watch. I'm going to be with someday. So my name suits me, even if nobody knows it yet. I'm a diamond in the rough.

I've been on the grift since I was twelve years old. My old man taught me. He used to tell me, "Marcus," he used to say, "Don't ever bite off more than you can chew." He started me off small, conning twenty bucks here and there out of confused cashiers, and we moved up to bigger and bigger cons as I got older, but never anything that would get our asses shot if it went sour. Anyway, what did he know? He was an old man spouting clichés between puffs of smoke. He died of lung cancer before I finished high school. I'd say that was biting off more than he could chew, wouldn't you? But I learned a lot from the guy. Another thing he used to say to me is "Marcus," he would say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with your brains because you don't got enough. Stick with being a smooth talker. Don't try to get fancy." Sometimes he wasn't the brightest guy himself, but that one stuck, and mostly now I con old ladies into putting me up for awhile. Eventually they get sick of me, and that's cool. I can't get tied down too long anyway.

Today I'm sitting outside a coffee shop waiting for a girl. No, not that kind of girl. This one ain't much to look at. Not that I wouldn't give her the time of day, but that's not what I'm here for. See, I grew up with this girl. Mandy Bastion. In school, she was all bleeding heart, trying to help everybody, always volunteering at homeless shelters and what not. The hippie type, long skirts and sandals. I never knew much else about her. Well, the other day, she calls me up out of the blue. Says she's got a job for me. "What kind of job?" I say. "The kind you're good at," she says back. Well, that got me interested, and here I am at four minutes to two o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon with nothing better to do than wait to hear what kind of job Mandy Bastion would have for me. And here she is, looking not too much different from high school, except for a few gray hairs, riding a bicycle with a big goofy grin on her face, and ringing a little bell.

"Marcus Slope," she says, with that stupid grin.

"It ain't Slope anymore. It's Diamond now." I get up to shake her hand and she waves it away and gives me a hug. She smells like patchouli.

"Marcus Diamond, then. How have you been?”

"I’ve been okay. I was a little surprised to hear from you Mandy. What kind of job you got for me?"

What she says next nearly knocks me on my ass. That grinning little hippie looks me right in the face and says, "I want you to help me steal a million dollars."

Well, I almost spit my cafe' ole' all over her hemp smock. And then she launches into some sob story about how her grandpa's in Croatia, and he's sick, and she wants to move there and take care of him. I tell her wait, slow down and start over, and then she pulls an envelope out of her giant floppy purse and puts a picture of this woman in front of me.

"Who's she?" I ask.

"Her name is Lana Eareckson, and she's the one who's going to give us the money."

"And why is she going to do that?"

"Because she's looking to give a million dollars to charity, and we're going to give her a charity to give it to. And you, Marcus, are going to give her a little push in our direction."

So Mandy goes over it all with me. She says how we're going to convince this Lana Eareckson that we're building a soup kitchen, and how it's going to be called the Lana Eareckson house. How she's been working with homeless shelters and soup kitchens for so long that this lady will never think anything's fishy. And she says how I'm going to romance this lady into giving us the money. I ask her how I know she won't just take the whole million and move to Croatia, and she tells me that the money is going into a special account at the bank set up for charities, and both our names go on the account as joint trustees. She says the only way to get the money out is either by spending it on stuff in the charity's name, or else we both gotta be there to sign for it. Well, everything sounds copacetic, so I decide to go for it. I mean, it's $500,000. What? Would you turn it down?

I ask Mandy how come she can't just go ask the lady for the money herself. She tells me that for the past 8 years, the only people who are able to get money out of Lana Eareckson are men, and usually they end up romantically involved with her, at least until the next year, when she finds some other sap with a sob story. She says with my experience getting money out of old ladies, this'll be a breeze.

And it is. It worked like a charm. A couple of dinners, a few sweet words, and this lady hands over a check written to the Lana Eareckson House, which is supposed to be a soup kitchen. Only, half of this soup kitchen is going to Croatia, and the other half is going straight into my pocket.

Thirty days pass, and Mandy gives me an address to go meet her so we can collect our mil. So, I knock on the door and an old man answers. "Hello, there," he says. "You must be Marcus. My granddaughter said you'd be by. She said to tell you she'd be at 531 Main Street, and she has a surprise for you." He starts to close the door, and I start to panic. I stick my foot in, and ask why he's not in Croatia. The old man just shakes his head and chuckles.

I haul ass to get to this address, and there she is, standing there in the middle of the Lana Eareckson House with that big old grin on her face, serving soup to some old lady.

I storm in there, and she says with a shrug, "Sorry Marcus. She wouldn't give the money to a woman."

"Give me one reason I shouldn't break your neck, you sneaky little..."

"Oh, come on Marcus. You were due a grift of your own."

Well, I may not be the brightest bulb in the bunch, but I know when to admit I've been had and call it quits. I guess what's good for the shmuck is good for the grifter, too.

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