My Life as a Major Criminal
- 2009 Jul 23
(As some of you know, I'm in the beginning stages of writing a novel. Part of that is determining the best narrative voice for the story I want to tell. Below is a passage I spent this week writing in a voice that, alas, I won't be using.)
It was a plan of monumental audacity. Its success would bring to its knees the all-powerful institution that existed for no reason but to systematically crush our spirits. Its failure would leave me so scre[***] I’d have to change my name to Flathead Phillips.
It was absurd to think a crime so vast and intricate could succeed. In order to pull it off twenty-four people, twenty-one of whom had never been involved in any but the most trifling criminal activity, had to perform flawlessly. The crew’s four veterans had needed limited to no coaching. To the others, one by one, I had carefully explained everything---until in the eyes of each I was grateful and relieved to see the light turn on that told me they got it, understood, wanted in. Over the two weeks after that I made sure that each of my new recruits had these thoughts thoroughly drilled into them:
1. Before execution remain calm. Act natural. Above all draw no attention to yourself.
2. Timing is everything. Your window to act won’t be more than thirty seconds. Within that thirty second window the actual doing of your task should take three seconds, max.
3. At the moment of perpetration you’ll be surrounded by many people, any of whom is likely to immediately rat you out if they spot what you’re doing. Keep your movements short, quick, and sure. And as far as possible, use your body to block sight of your actions.
4. Once you’ve committed to the action of your crime, relax into how long those three seconds will seem, and simply finish. It’s true what they say: He who hesitates is lost.
5. Be aware at all times of where in the room your partner is, and what he or she is doing. But do not let that be a distraction to you. Your partner has their job. You have yours. Do yours.
6. If you get caught the entire operation ceases. To the authority on the scene say what you’ve been trained to, get out, and alert at least one person further up the chain that you’ve been compromised and the plan is aborted. Then disappear.
7. You were screened, selected, and recruited for this job specifically for the qualities you bring to it. You are the person for this job. The chain of which you’re now part has no link in it more vital than you.
8. Your participation in this landmark event and your reward for that participation must be one in the same. No matter how long after the fact you might do it, sharing with anyone your knowledge of what we did will destroy all of what we did as surely as if you’d ratted us out at the beginning. For every person privileged to play a role in it, this event comprises two equally colossal challenges: to see that it goes off without a hitch, and if it does to forever shut-up about it. Never forget: Virtue is its own reward. Besides, inevitably we’ll find out if you tell. And for what possible reason would you make enemies of those to whom this event so permanently and gloriously bonds you?
I figured that covered it.
The implementation of my plan was scheduled to begin at five seconds after 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, 1968. At 2:45 p.m. that day, in hopes of preserving my sanity, I released into the ether the last vestige of my hope that it would work. I wouldn’t. It couldn’t. Such things didn’t.
It was a good effort, though. I’d had fun trying. Met lots of interesting people.
(I'll run the concluding second half next time. Cuz even this half, I know, is too long for a blog post.)