Making a Fortune, A Playstory by John Atkins
It's the late 70's, things are tough, except for those who know how to bend the rules...
Dave Martin speaks:
I'm what is known these days as an honest villain. That is to say, I break the law, but as everyone knows, the law is an ass. Therefore breaking the law is breaking an ass, which is scarcely a crime. Of course, if you're American it's something different but we'll let that parss - I mean pass.
Also the law is unjust. A rich man can play it better than a poor man. Or, as our ancestors put it, there's one ass for the rich and another for the poor. So I, being poor, kick it. Get it? I'm a villain because I break the law. I'm honest because I obey high moral standards.
It wasn't until the inflation rate exceeded 20% that I said to myself: "Dave, there's only one thing that will keep your head above water, and that's crime". By that I meant honest crime. Not knocking old ladies on the head or anything contemptible. Also, about that time I got tired of work.
My ma used to say to me, "Dave, hard work never hurt nobody". No, I thought, but it makes you damn tired. There must be easier ways of earning a living. A living? Why not a fortune, now we're about it?
By the way, have you noticed that? If you work you just make a living. If you break the law you make a fortune. Food for thought there.
When I started looking into it there seemed a positive jungle of opportunities. So many, I didn't know where to start. I even felt faintly depressed. They ranged from simple shop-lifting jobs - oh, by the way, did you know that shop-lifting has now been renamed thieving? - yes, they range from shop-lifting to highly sophisticated methods of transferring funds from someone else's account to your own.
He takes a newspaper from his pocket
How here's a good one. There were these fellows smuggling horses in vans out of the Irish Republic into England -Northern Ireland, actually - to evade payment of VAT. Now that's something, isn't it ? VAT runs at 15%. That means VAT means ha ha ha - get it? - Every time you make £85 you really get a hundred,.
He looks puzzled
Is that right? Anyway, that's what they were doing, and they wouldn't do it for nothing, would they? Living the life of Reilly, you bet. Look, I'll read what it says:
"Cross-border smuggling of horses, pigs and cattle is lucrative business in Ireland because of VAT, the strength of the pound, and EEC subsidies." Incidentally, that's why I support membership of the EEC. We honest villains never had it so good!
Ah, but I'm running ahead, aren't I ? You want to know how I started honest villainy. Of course you do. You want to know my area of operation.
Well, I'll tell you. All that stuff about horses and pigs set me thinking about animals.
I worked out a system. I needed three assistants.
You know, my Uncle Albert once put an ad in the local paper for a general handyman in his little business at trade-union approved rates, and nary an answer did he get.
I put it around that I needed three assistants for a bit of honest villainy and I got 300 applicants. Phone never stopped ringing.
Well, after three days of solid interviewing - and believe me, that was hard work -the very thing I was trying to avoid! Marvellous, innit? After three days I found my assistants. I'll introduce them. First there's Andy, the leg-man.
Andy steps forward
Dave: Andy, just a few words about your qualifications.
Andy: Five years as a bookie - all the tracks - Epsom, Goodwood, Ascot, Doncaster, York - you name it.
Dave: What's your speciality, then?
Andy: Quick getaway, of course.
Dave: That's right. Andy fitted the bill perfectly. Then there was Alice. Alice had to be good on rousing sympathy. Alice?
Alice steps forward
Your training, Alice ?
Alice: I worked British Rail with a con-gang. My job was to soften up the victims before the boys moved in.
Dave: I bet you did it well, too. Look, she's got a very sympathetic face. Smile, Alice.
See what I mean? Sort of engulfs you, donit? Now a bit of eyework.
Alice rolls her eyes
See? You know what fools men are. Why, even I feel a bit disturbed in me solar plexus when she does that, and I'm reckoned a hard case.
Now we come to the Third Man - we ought to call him Harry Lime but actually he was named Ferguson. D'you know why ? Cos his father was. [Groans.] Well, Fergy, where are you ?
Ferguson steps forward
And your speciality?
Fergy: I worked on an exchange in a big hotel.
Dave: Now come off it, Fergy. That's not how you managed to run a Jaguar and an exotic mistress?
Fergy: Well, it was arm-twisting really.
Dave: You mean blackmail?
Fergy: Call it that if you want to be crude. Stands to reason, donit? I mean, anyone who works on an exchange in a big hotel and don't make something on the side needs his head examined.
Dave: On the side? Did you hear that? That's the measure of Fergy's modesty. All the same, Fergy, I was a bit surprised. Every time I ring up a hotel there's a girl answers.
Fergy: Ah well, I was always in drag.
Dave: OK. Now we come to details, then.
Dogs; I said. I'd done a bit of research.
The difference between the successful honest villain and the unsuccessful honest villain is research.
I chose me track. It was the Watford track.
Everything was set up for us there - the exit and the telephone box. Well, we did a dry run first, and to help you understand we'll go through the motions now.
Just imagine a race is being run. The dogs panting round the track and the little bunny pissing along like a disturbed lover.
Now watch Andy, Andy's got a good view of the race - and he's standing by a gap in the fence which we've cunningly enlarged by a few millimetres. Now then, watch carefully. The race is over - The Mobster has won - Andy's through that gap and haring round the corner. Just watch.
Andy watches the race eagerly, turns, clambers through the gap and runs hard - on the spot.
Just round the corner there's a phone box. Alice is half in, half out. She's got the receiver in her hand, she's already dialled and got the number.
Andy rounds the corner, still running on the spot, and shouts.
Andy: Mobster !
And Alice speaks quietly into the phone;
Dave: Fergy's in another box, near the betting shop. He takes the message. Now comes the clever bit. Fergy's got a walkie-talkie and he speaks on it to - me!
Dave: For now, you see, I'm sitting in the betting shop with, me own walkie-talkie under me coat, and a little earpiece hidden by me woolly cap. Anyway, I can pretend it's a deaf aid. if anyone gets curious.
Having got the message I simply goes up to the clerk and lays a cool hundred quid on The Mobster at fifteen to one. Thirty seconds later the news comes through on the buzzer that Mobster's won and I collect. Course, the clerk gives me an odd look but there's nothing he can do about it. I haven't broken the law, have I?
Now we'll just go through the whole thing once more, quick-like, for your benefit. OK fellers, gather round.
Andy, Alice and Fergy gather round
Everything depends on Andy and his getaway speed.
Andy grins and runs on spot furiously
Now Alice. I mentioned your lovely smile. Tell the ladies and gentlemen why it's important.
Alice: Well, it can happen that someone's in the phone box when I need it. So I dash up, fling the door open and cry out, "Oh my God, the phone, quick!" or something like that. Or if it's an impressionable young man I smile like this [she smiles hugely] and say, "Sweetheart, it's a matter of life and death" - and just take the receiver from him.
That kind never mind.
Dave: Good, good. And Fergy?
Fergy: Well, I have the same kind of trouble sometimes. Not having a smile like Alice I use stickers - I plaster em on the box. They say "Out of order".
Dave: And Fergy supplied the walkie-talkies.
Fergy: The joke is I won em from the fuzz.
Dave: Won em from the fuzz! Can you beat that!
Andy/Alice: Just imagine - from under their very noses!
Dave: So that's how it works. Couldn't be easier. If everyone did this there wouldn't be no economic problem. We'll just do a quick run through, then we'll start our next job. Back to your posts, fellers.
Andy, Alice and Fergy go back to their positions. Andy cranes his neck, turns, squeezes through the fence, runs, turns and shouts -
Andy: The Ayatollah!
Alice: (gently) The Ayatollah.
Fergy: The Ayatollah.
Dave: One hundred thousand quid on The Ayatollah.
Well, now we're ready for the real thing. It's the 8.30 and everyone's in his place. Just sit back, everyone, and watch us make a fortune.
Andy watches the race, turns, squeezes through the gap, turns corner, running on spot, and shouts to Alice.
Andy: Ronald Biggs!
Alice speaks into phone
Alice: It's Ronald Biggs, Fergy.
Fergy: (into phone) OK dear. (into walkie-talkie) Quick, Dave. There's been a balls-up. Meet me at the phone box - quick as you can!
Dave: Blimey! Now what's gone wrong!
He runs furiously on the spot and eventually meets Fergy.
What is it, Fergy ?
Fergy produces a card and waves it at Dave.
Fergy: I think you'd better come along to the station, Mr Martin.
Dave: Ere, are you a bleeding copper?
Fergy: That's right - I'm a bleedin copper.
Dave: I thought you had a nasty dishonest look about you.
He turns and starts running furiously, and is confronted by Andy and Alice.
Quick, you two, scarper. We been betrayed. Fergy's a copper.
But they merely lay hands on him.
Fergy: May I introduce you to Police Constable Andrew Orwell and Policewoman Alice Murdoch.
Dave: You too!
He shudders in frustration.
Fergy: 'Sright. Andy holds the hundred metres Metropolitan Police record. Alice, give Mr. Martin one of your dazzling smiles.
Dave: You wouldn't think people could be so disloyal would you ?
Fergy: I told you I got those walkie-talkies from the police, you just treated it as a joke.
Come along then. Shall we walk - or run ?
Dave is led away.
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