Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Con-man Visits an Old Woman who Lives in a Rent-Controlled Apartment …in at least 350 Words

Reginald Spalding was a tall man, about six-three, and he was wearing his favorite fedora.
He wore this whenever he was out on a job. The marks were always trusting of a man in a hat. It wasn’t quite as inexplicable as that single sentence made it sound, though. Think of it. Santa wears a hat. The Pope wears a hat. In all of the pictures of the Easter Bunny where he is looking his most trustworthy, he is wearing a colorful hat.

Reginald Spalding wore a hat. His was grey with a warped brim.

His be-hatted frame tiptoed lightly up the porch steps of the big brownstone monolith that hulked over the corner of 4th and Henninga. His narrow, spidery hand rang the buzzer for Apartment 3B. He read the name above the button. Bannister. He waited.

“Yes? Hello? Yes?” came the response. A woman. She sounded old.  Perhaps in her late 70s, if she wasn’t a smoker, her 40s if she was. Reginald Spalding was in his 40s, so perhaps 40 wasn’t old. Reginald didn’t smoke. Not when he was on a job.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Bannister!” he said in his most cheerful, harmless voice. “May I have a few moments of your time?”

“What are you selling?”

Shit. This one wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought. She was careful. Reginald hated the careful ones.

“Why, I represent a…”

Fuck! Think, man! Think!

“…a concern,” he said, and smiled. Yes, that ought to do the trick. That ought to work just fine. “Yes, a concern,” he continued, still smiling, the smile forcing his voice to take on a clean, brassy timbre, “that deals in only the finest services imaginable. In no way would this concern seek to con you out of your considerable investments, Ms. Bannister.”

“How did you get my name?” the voice crackled from the intercom speaker.


“A list!” Reginald chirped. Ha. Perfect.

“Look, sir,” Ms. Bannister said. Her voice dipped an octave when she said sir, dusting it with a fine layer of stank. “I live in a rent-controlled apartment. I’m pretty sure you know what that means.”
Reginald’s mind raced. He shifted his empty briefcase from one hand to the other. Suddenly, it seemed foolish to be wearing a fedora. It was too hot out today for a hat.

“If you would just give me a second to prove, ma’am, that I am not a con man in any sense of the word!” he ejaculated. “I am, in fact, entirely harmless!” he added. He smirked. That was a good bit, there.

“Get off my rent-controlled steps before I drop a rent-controlled air-conditioner on you, sonny.” The voice practically punched its way through the speaker grille.

Fine, thought Reginald. He skipped lightly out onto the sidewalk and merged smoothly into the flow of pedestrians. He’d be back tomorrow with a different colored hat. The old woman would be a tough nut to crack, but Reginald had a lot of time and a lot of hats.