Four weeks ago

         Six thousand bucks.  That’s all he had.  Rent was due and two G’s he owed Fat Pauley would eat right through it.  He needed a score.  Something big, enough to keep him fat and out of hock.  He had to pay Fat Pauley.  The bookie wouldn’t wait for his money.  If Al tried to buy more time Jerzy, Pauley’s driver would visit leaving behind broken thumbs or worse.  He had to think.  This was something Al Ferrante was good at.  He could come up with a scam in no time.  The problem was, he thougth small and dreamed big.  He’d burned almost everybody he came in contact with.  People ran when he showed up.  He paced around his three room apartment trying to dredge up something he hadn’t pulled already.  He popped open a beer and sat down in front of the TV.  After two hours and another beer he was sure people would fall for anything.  Infomercials proved that.  He watched missing lunch and falling asleep.

          He woke up.  It was dark out and somehow he was watching CNBC.  A show about scams.  He began to pay attention.  Some guy in Minnesota pulled off a mortgage scam and got himself twelve to twenty for his troubles.  He could do that, without the jail time.  His brain began to turn the idea over and over.  The guy on TV used banks.  They were worse than the bookie.  If you owed them, they never gave up.  He would scale it down.  There were enough small outfits who made mortgages for those who couldn’t hack it with the banks.  A notepad opened in his mind.  He wrote down what he needed.  First, a new ID, then two, maybe three brokers, a house on the market and finally a broad to act as a cut out and part-time wife.  He celebrated with another beer and two slices of cold pizza.  He undressed, took a shower and crashed.  He slept the sleep of the innocent.

        The next morning he dressed and drove to the library.  They had phone books and computers.  When he settled in front of a keyboard he typed in the information he needed to get a birth certificate, social and listings for three mortgage companies.  He checked them out on-line and found out that his choices were Goldilocks companies.  Not too big, not too small, they were just right.  He could’ve used death notices for a name to use to get ID but the Internet connected all the town clerks.  He needed a live one.  He knew just where to look.  He spent the afternoon thinking up and making a Commission for the Homeless.

        On Tuesday he dressed in gray slacks, light blue button down shirt, navy sport coat and gray topcoat.  He looked official.  He pulled a clipboard out of his dresser and clipped down a sheaf of papers.  He drove to the bank and withdrew fifty in fives, seed money.  The loading docks behind Newbrite Plaza was hangout for winos and those without a place to stay.  He’d swoop in dazzle them with BS, get what he needed and split.  He didn’t need anybody to remember him.  He parked near the edge of the strip mall.  He walked around back and hit the jackpot.  His ability to pick a mark payed off.  There was one bum, sitting alone and nodding.  He walked up to him.

        “Hi, I’m Pete Costas from the Mayor’s Comission for the Homeless.  I need to ask you some questions for a survey.  Can I have your name?”


          “Your name.”

          More mumbles.

          “Okay, you don’t want to cooperate.”

          He moved on.  The next two choices were hostile and the fourth lied outright.  He heard someone hollering off to the right.  He didn’t hear what was being broadcast but he knew it couldn’t be good.  He finally made out what was being yelled.

        “You’re Al Ferrante.  You owe me for them bogus raffle tickets I sold for you.”

         The voice was coming closer.  It was coming from a collection of rags that was stumbling toward him.  He ran.  He got to his car a length ahead of his pursuer.  He keyed the door and got the car going.  He pulled out, almost running over the wino.  He drove back to his apartment.  Tomorrow he’d try Hartford.