A Long Con?

Written for the fun of it

Santiago and Sebastian Cardoso were brothers. Santiago was presumed to be the elder, although there was some question about that. The brothers were identical twins. Their mother admitted she often confused the two, and Santiago might have been Sebastian or vice versa. Who knew?

Mama told them that there was only eighteen minutes between them and that just wasn’t enough time to quibble over. Her view was it didn’t matter who was who. They were brothers. They were identical, and they would often swap places when it suited them.

The boys grew up rough on the Southwest side of a Texas border town. They drifted towards crime and grift as a way of life. It was probably fourth grade when they partnered up with a classmate. In school, she was called Estrella, which means ‘Star.’ Outside of school, she would choose a different name every day.

She said, “Names have power, like magic spells.” She told the boys that a Disney Princess had taught her that and that it was true. Her favourite aliases included ‘Esme,’ ‘Dia,’ ‘Noemi,’ ‘Mija,’ ‘Dulce,’ and sometimes ‘Soledad.’ She liked Soledad because it sounded old fashioned.

Being cute, Trella was an easy distraction in a convenience store.  She could draw the clerks attention while the Cardoso boys stole candies, sodas, dirty magazines, and beer. The team was successful, and they never got caught. Over time the scams grew more sophisticated and the trio more successful.

Flash forward twenty years. The team was still working together. The stakes were higher. Trella and the boys would travel the world and run the Peking Watch Game, Lost Heir Scams, and all types of Romance Hustles. Foreign Lottery Scams were their bread and butter in the States because no face to face interaction with the marks was required. The whole game could be played by email, or better yet, registered mail.

They were particularly successful running the Barros Luco shakedown (or, as Santiago and Sebastian called it, The Dead Hooker). They worked this in Switzerland, Barbados, Spain, and Italy – plenty of times in Italy. The most successful time was just outside Prato against an easy mark. An hotelier with a jealous wife who had a well-connected father.

It all ended when they were running a Badger Game in Florida. The mark was a wealthy Real Estate Developer named Luke Mccann. The brothers got arrested, tried and convicted. Trella, who had been playing the hooker and was known to Mccann as Itzel, got away.

At  Marianna Camp, Sebastian would often stare at the ceiling of his cell and wonder if he and Santiago were not as clever as they had believed.  Had they been played since the fourth grade?

Étude Florale en Noir

Written for the fun of it

I met Valerie at a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ meeting in Tulsa. The meeting was at Jimmy Youngbird’s house. Jimmy was the head of the watch group, and an officer, of some sort, in the H.O.A.

I know now what happened, but I had no idea at the time. I won’t try to explain it here, but suffice to say that I believe I was bewitched and wound up going to Valerie’s house for a glass of wine after the meeting. She lived in a red brick ranch on Quapaw Crescent. It was within easy walking distance of Jimmy’s house, where we had met.

The first thing I noticed as I came in through the front door was how nice the house smelled; sweet, floral, subtle and somehow familiar. I knew the smell but couldn’t quite place it. The second thing I noticed was the oil painting that hung in the entryway. The canvas showed interwoven colours, with countless shades of pastel greens. There were faint pinks and a crisp, saturated blue without any purple undertones. A colour that I would call a galaxy blue. There was marbling of white throughout the background. The foreground was done in obsidian black by an artist skilled with a palette knife. I immediately recognized the image. It was a depiction of common milkweed, such as blooms during the summer in the sandy soils of Oklahoma.

That’s what the aroma was; I recognized it as the fragrance produced by the clusters of pink-purple flowers of common milkweed.

I commented on the painting.

“Thank you, said Valerie, “my grandmother did it. She was a healer. Her role was to secure the help of the spirit world, especially the ‘Creator’ for the benefit of others. She painted this for me. The piece has powers. Can you smell it?”

“Yeah, I can,” I said. “Are you telling me that the floral fragrance comes from the painting?”

She smiled and headed towards the kitchen, “Red or white?” she asked.

Betcha didn’t think I could do that?

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