From: 5 010102 100015 <>
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Every time.
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 19:57:22 +0000
Organization: Bunch of flowers. In your face, bitch.
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Ninety times in my life have I walked down this street. Today, I do so

Every time that I have stood here, I have thought back to the day that
first I came here. I stand today 'neath the same tree. The light dapples
down through the leaves. I look across the street to the same small
café. I watch the waitors sashé between the tables, their hands aloft
supporting the worn silver tray laden with comestibles.

It is the old man that I have come to watch.

I don't know his name, I merely know who he is. He sits contentedly
sipping his coffee from a miniscule cup. His newspaper lies folded
on the white slatted table before him. He pulls a cigarette from a
crumpled packet on the table. I see him look up. He is looking for
a victim.

I have watched him look for a victim many times. He always
manages a different scheme. I have watched the map incident.
I have seen the tourist scam. I watch for his magic today.

The victim, ignorant of their fate, approaches. The old man jumps
falteringly to his feet and stumbles into the victim. He is a young
man in an expensive suit. Coffee flies and the old man gets covered.
He allows himself to fall to the ground. He is a master.

The young man helps him to his feet, pulls up a chair. They sit down
as the young man shouts for service. His apology is profuse. The old
man allows a gleam to appear in his eye momentarily. Coffee is
fetched for the pair. They become immersed in conversation.

"You're a coin collector?"
"A numismatist. Yes."
"But that's fantastic. I'm a coin dealer."
"A coin dealer that spills coffee over old men."
"Ha ha, yes I'm sorry about that. But perhaps I can help you out in
 return. I was just in the area selling to a few dealers, but everyone
 seems to be stocked up. I was going to return to Paris, but maybe I
 could offer you something first."
"Well, I'm just an old man. I haven't much money."
"Ah but here's the beauty of it. I have some coins here today. What I
 can do is to let you see them. And the way it works is that you pay
 a small deposit today and then my company will send you a full
 selection for you to view on approval."
"Hmmph. Well I don't have any money on me."
"That's okay. I don't have to return for a few hours yet. We could
 always meet later on."
"Well, I'm going home now."
"Let me show you these now then."

The young man pulls his valise onto the table. I watch as he spins his
art in front of the old man. He can sense an easy touch. He cannot tell
that he is in the presence of a true master. I watch the two of them
depart. I follow from a discreet distance.

They wander up an old lane towards a small cottage. The old man fumbles
through his pockets for his keys, but seems unable to find them. He
leads the young man round the back. I creep through the undergrowth
breathless with excitement.

"Damnation. I've locked the back door too. Give me a hand here. Pick up
 that rock."
I watch as the old man taps ineffectually at the glass in the door.
"Here, let me. You're trying to break the glass right?"
"Hmmph yes."
There's a tinkle of glass and he reaches in to open the door latch.

I watch them enter the house as I creep around to gain a better vantage
point. The old man wanders absently round the kitchen.

"I have the money here somewhere. Oh now where did I put it?"
He pulls tins down from shelves and rakes through them until he stops
with an old tea caddy. He pulls a bundle of notes from it.
"Here you go young man. Now how much was it you wanted?"
"Well, the initial payment is 500 francs and then when the coins
 arrive you decide which ones you'd like and only pay the balance
I watch as the old man thrusts a pile of worn notes towards our
young trickster before stuffing the rest in his pocket.
"Now my son. Let me get you a cup of tea. Would you like some cake
 to go with it?"
"Ah yes please. It's very kind of you."
"Think nothing of it. It is you who have done me the favour. I can't
 wait to get sent those wonderful coins."
"As soon as I get back to Paris, I'll have them sent immediately."
"Hmmph. Well I'll go and get the cake from the pantry."

I watch the old man shamble out of the room. The young man sits back and
lights up a cigarette. He flicks ash elegently into a small ashtray in
front of him. He smiles broadly with the thought of the 500 francs that
he has conned. There is no company. There are no coins other than the
samples that he carries. 

He is so secure in himself, that it is fully five minutes before he
realises that the old man has not returned. He gets to his feet and
calls out. There is no response. He leaves the kitchen to look for him.
I move around to the front of the house to better observe him. After a
while he comes out of the front door looking very confused. He strides
down the lane to be met by a gendarme.

"Looking for Monsieur Alphonse sir?"
"Monsieur Alphonse? No. Who's he?"
"He's the owner of the house you just left."
"But that was Monsieur Broche. I was just with him."
"No sir. Monsieur Alphonse has owned that house for as long as I
 can remember. I think we'd better have a chat."

I watch, barely able to contain my mirth as the policeman takes the
young conman back up to the house. I almost laugh aloud at his attempts
to explain the broken glass, the forced entry. Monsieur Alphonse arrives
back shortly afterwards and confirms that several hundred francs are
missing from a tin in his kitchen. The young man does his best to
explain, but his best is not good enough. Eventually, a police car pulls
up at the door and the young victim is taken away.

People often wonder why there are no old conmen. It isn't true. There
aren't many, that much is certain, for those who are not masters of
their art get greedy and get caught. Our friend is a true master of the
art. He has never got caught. And now that he is old, he is never

I will return again to the café another day. To watch. And learn.

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