Sunday, 8 September 2013

Yippee Ki Yay Mr Customer


I poured her a glass of wine, but before she could take it from my hand I jumped back almost spilling it, she was startled to say the least, I’m not sure what startled her the most, the fact that I had jumped back like a lunatic, or that she thought that she wasn’t going to get the wine, I explained the incident without going into too much detail, my explanation was "Sorry, it’s just that a gang of crooks have threatened to kill me, I saw a red dot on my chest in the mirror and I thought it was a laser sited firearm aimed at my heart” I could tell by her expression that wasn't really what she wanted to hear, I tried to make light of the situation, sat back down on the settee and carried on watching the TV as if it was an every day occurrence in my life, and hoping she would forget.

It wasn’t a sniper about to pull the trigger it was just a shaft of light refracting off the bezel of my Rolex and through the glass of Merlot  that I was about to pass her, my explanation seemed to do the trick as she was pretty quiet for the rest of the night, but she did drink more than her fair share of Merlot.  

I'm pretty sure she just thought I had watched too many movies, which in fairness I had, but that didn't mean I wasn't telling the truth. I hadn't known her very long so I thought it was better not to go into too much detail and scare her off there and then, I would just let matters take their natural course as it usually took at least a couple of months before they got fed up of me, this incident wouldn’t help matters at all but over the years I hadn't changed for the better in any way what so ever, so the chances that it this one would turn into a long term relationship were slim to zero, after all I was getting on a bit and none of my previous ones had. 

Later that night it was my turn to be startled by her, when she let out a piercing scream and jumped out of bed, for reasons best known unto herself she had put her arm under my pillow, and felt the cold steel of my Beretta, nope that’s not a euphemism it’s actually an Italian made semi automatic pistol, and in my opinion, it is to hand guns, what Ferrari is to super cars.

I tried to calm her down by telling her it was the same gun that Mel Gibson used in Lethal Weapon, the gun overshadowed his acting and was the real star of the film, all the gun shops in America sold out within a few hours of the movies release,  when I saw Mel unload a full clip and take out a Sniper, I just had to have one too, however when she had mumbled “why”, apparently what she had actually meant was, why did I sleep with a loaded gun under my pillow, not why had I bought it in the first place, she also added “You Moron” through gritted teeth, I thought that was very brave of her, particularly as I was now holding a loaded gun in my hand, nothing but the full story was now going to shut her up.
 


I would like to stress that this was an extreme measure, I am a law abiding person, but I was genuinely in fear for my life, if they were going to come after me,  I wasn't just going to roll over and die. I held a valid Firearms Certificate, and I am a very good shot. When not being transported to and from the gun club where I practiced Combat shooting (Pop Up Targets), technically my Stainless Steel Beretta 92 FS should have been locked up in my gun cabinet, and not where it actually was when I was in bed, under my pillow, cocked and locked with, 15 x 9mm Parabellum bullets in the magazine, and another one up the spout (in the firing chamber), but a gang had really threatened to kill me and I had taken their threat very seriously indeed.

When I was outside of my house I would be a sitting duck, but to get at me inside my home, first of all they would have to find where I lived, and that would mean following me home from the garage, I was always very careful to make sure I wasn't being followed, I went to great lengths, driving home via different routes, different directions, different times, in different cars, always keeping an eye on the cars behind me.

If they did manage to find where I lived, to get me they would have to defeat my security system and get up my creaky stairs, avoiding the step with the hidden pressure pad, then get through my security locked bedroom door, without waking me, if they woke me, I had a panic button by my bed, if that didn't frighten them off and they got through the door, then I'm afraid they would need to be bullet proof, because there would be 16 high velocity Parabellum rounds heading in their direction, it was a last resort, but as I said I did take their threat very seriously indeed.

You're probably thinking that I would have had time to get my gun out If I heard an intruder downstairs, true, my gun safe was concealed in my bedroom, but it was not easy to get my gun out as I had made sure that no one would be able to steal a weapon of mine and use it to commit a crime, I would never be able to forgive myself if that had happened.  My gun was kept in a safe, within a safe, it was also wired to my house alarms "Tamper" circuit, which meant that even if my house alarm wasn't  armed, the klaxon would sound immediately the safe was opened, or if someone tried to remove it from the wall, the only way to open it was by entering first the alarm code, then the special engineers code to take the system completely off line.

I had contacted the Police to ask for help and advice but the desk Sergeants response was something like "Oh Dear, that's not good is it, but what do you expect me to do ? I took it from his attitude that putting me in the witness protection program was not something the Walton Le Dale Police force were familiar with, and my request for a new identity and relocation to a Safe House in Miami with Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs guarding me fell on deaf ears.

(Parabellum loosely translated means "prepare for war" ) I'm a Parabellum kind of guy, I prefer a quiet life, but if it’s a war you want, I’m prepared for it!  

(Back to my explanation)

It briefly crossed my mind to use the excuse that a friend of mine used to avoid any potentially awkward "We need to Talk's"  with his girlfriend,  early on in their relationship he had confided in her that he was in the SAS (Special Air Service) and there would be times when he was called away at a moments notice,  whenever she suspected that he’d been up to no good, he would say that "He had been on a Top Secret Mission, he could tell her about it, but then he would have to kill her”, his excuse worked for a short while until she realised that it was unlikely he would come home smelling of alcohol, perfume and be covered in lipstick if he had actually been sent on a mission to dispatch a few terrorists. 

 

It was clear that my Girlfriend was absolutely horrified, I'm not a very good liar as I havent had much practice, so I couldn’t pretend that I was in the SAS, and anyway it was my mates wife who had introduced us, she knew everything about me including that I was an above average dyed in the wool car salesman, not an elite die in a combat zone killing machine,  she had already warned my girlfriend not to get too attached to me or she’d only end up being disappointed.

After discovering my gun, my soon to be Ex now thought that I was involved in the seedier side of the Car Business and that I was some type of Gangster, it was clear that she wasn't going to let the matter drop, forget about it, or think that she had been dreaming,  so before I could go back to sleep myself, I had to explain  everything in great detail. 

I began my story with "You will laugh at this" it all started when I advertised my Rolex for sale" I was wrong she didn't laugh!  

Would my story convince you?  

When I want something I can’t rest until I’ve got it, but when I’ve got it I lose interest immediately and I don't really want it any more, I’ve always been the same, I had saved every penny till I could afford to buy a Rolex, when I got it after I'd worn it a few times I didn't want it anymore, I scratched it the on the garage doors the first day I got it and the last straw was when I wore it on a night out in Preston with my mates. 

After last orders I left to make my way home I usually walked which gave me chance to get some fresh air and sober up a little, although I was a bit tipsy I noticed that a guy who had been staring at my wrist all night had followed me out of the pub, he either fancied me or he wanted my watch for himself, I could see his reflection in the shop windows, he was about 30 feet behind me and I knew he was biding his time till he could jump me I found myself hoping it was my watch he was after. 

I satisfied myself that he was actually following me and I wasn't being paranoid, by going out of my way in the wrong direction, cutting up a side street then doubling back on myself, he wasn't very good at following people, he mustn't have realised that I was on to him and he probably thought that I was very drunk and would be easy prey. 

Ahead of me I saw a shop called Past Times which was undergoing a refit, the builders had left all the bits which they had ripped out of the shop on the floor outside, as I turned the corner I saw a big piece of wood, I picked it up and stood it against the wall within arm’s reach just in case the guy was carrying a concealed weapon, and then I waited. 

I had turned off the main road and on to a dimly lit side street, the would-be mugger realised that this would be his best chance to get me, he had quickened his pace and he came round the corner almost running, but he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw me waiting for him, steadying himself with his arms as he almost overbalanced and fell forward, he looked as though he was balancing and trying not to tip over the precipice of a cliff. 

I asked him "what time it was", the penny dropped and he realised I was on to him,  it was "time" for him to get his ass out of there, let’s just say he wasn't as keen to attack me from the front when he realised that I had sobered up quickly and I was expecting it. 
I realised that being able to tell the time in Gold and Diamonds was just asking for trouble, I was fed up of having the watch, it was a Perpetual Motion self winding model and would only self wind due to the motion of your wrist, the state of peoples driving in England meant that it was in constant danger of being over wound when I was wearing it. 

I couldn't wear it to work as it would get ruined, and the conditions of my insurance specified that if it wasn't on my wrist it had to be locked away in my safe, which coincidentally was where I kept my gun, every time I took the bloody thing off for more than 12 hours it would stop, and then it would take me at least half an hour to reset the Day, Date and time it was becoming too much aggravation, I had bought a special box which actually had an electric motor that replicated the movement of your wrist and kept the watch wound, but it wouldn’t fit in my safe when my gun was in there. It was just too much hassle I didn't want the watch anymore so I decided to sell it. 

A couple of days after the magazine that it was advertised in hit the newsagents shelves, I got a call from a Liverpudlian, after qualifying him ( Sales Speak for asking questions, ) I had a feeling that he wasn't being entirely honest with me, my heart sank "here we go again" I thought! I realised that a prospective thief would also think that anyone stupid enough to spend that amount on something that just tells the time, would more than likely have a few other valuable possessions, so instead of inviting him to my home where he could possibly check out my security from inside only to return later and rob me, I arranged to meet him at 2 o'clock the next day at the garage where I worked. 

I was waiting at the front of the showroom when he arrived, and although he said he was coming from Manchester, I had seen him walking down the road but there was no sign of a car, this just didn't seem right at all, it got worse, he had a Mullet haircut, I didn't like him at all, I didn't believe a word he was saying and pretty much called him a liar, he probably thought that I was the worlds worst salesman and I finished my pitch by telling him that I had been in the car job a long time and had seen pretty much every scam and con there is, so if he was thinking of trying one on me, he would come off worse.

I couldn’t have made my mistrust any clearer and anyone who wasn't a Con Man would have been insulted and told me where to stick my watch, I gave him every opportunity to abandon the con which I suspected he was going to attempt, but he didn't, he was convinced that he could outsmart me, or he took my words as a challenge instead of a warning, the game was on!  

He had just looked at my watch in the box and I saw that he was careful not to touch it with his finger tips, he may as well have worn a stripey t shirt, a mask and and a bag with "Swag" written on draped over his shoulder, I took my watch out of its presentation box and handed it to him, in a way that he couldn't refuse,  now I would have his fingerprints too, he knew he would either have to buy back the evidence with real money or come up with a very convincing con.

We agreed a price and he went off to draw the cash out, saying that he would return before the close of business, I walked with him to the front of the showroom and watched as he walked up the road, he kept turning round to see if I was still watching him, every time he turned round his stupid mullet haircut swirled from side to side like the girls in the Harmony Hair Spray advert, that annoyed me more than thinking he was trying to con me, so I walked back inside, but then when I was out of his sight I ran round the back of the garage, jumped over the wall and watched him through the gaps in our fence.

When he was satisfied that I was no longer watching, I saw him signal to someone, then a car pulled out of the pub car park up the road, there were 3 other occupants, and the guy who thought he was going to get a free Rolex got into the front seat, I could see they were all laughing as they drove away, I was laughing too as  I wrote down their registration number, Finger prints and his car registration number, I knew I had them bang to rights now if they did try to Con me. 

He didn't return that day but about 4.30 pm he rang to say he was having trouble drawing out the money at the building society, they wouldn't release that amount in cash (which I knew was often the case) but they would give him a building society cheque (same as a Bankers Draft, guaranteed funds) which would be as good as cash and it would be made out directly to me. 

I knew he was lying, but just to confirm my suspicions I used an old pre “Caller Display” Salesman's trick, I told him that I was dealing with a customer in my office so I would need to call him back in a few minutes when I was finished, I asked him what telephone number he was calling from, he wasn't expecting that, if he gave me the number I would have a means to trace him, he lost his composure, clearly flustered, there was silence then he blurted out "Eeerrr,  I’m calling from my mates house and we’re just going out, I'll call you back in 15 minutes, my in built Bullshit detector jumped into the red, I now knew for definite that he was going through with his plan to Con me. 

The phone rang 15 minutes later, there was no pips as the call connected so he was still in the same place and not ringing from a call box, we had a quick chat, I played along with him and agreed to take a Building Society cheque, but asked him which Building Society he used, we made arrangements for him to come and pick my watch up at 2 O'clock the next day, this would allow me to ring the Branch from where the cheque was issued while they were still open  and see if it was real, I was still clinging on to the slim hope that he was going to relieve me of my watch by paying me for it with real money. 

As soon as I put the phone down I rang the building societies Head Office, I explained that I thought someone was trying to defraud me and the girl described in detail, the size, colour, watermarks, and every detail of how the cheque should be printed, signed and counter signed, she also told me that a number of blank cheques had been stolen from one of their branches.  

At 2 o clock I was ready and waiting, I had telephoned the local Police station to pre warn them that I would need their services, I had primed our mechanic to be on standby and to make sure he got the make, model and registration number of the vehicle the "Buyer" turned up in, but the buyer was a no show. 

I thought he had decided that it would be too risky to try and get one over on me and had abandoned his plan. At about 5 O’clock I was sat reading the paper when my office door opened and in walked a guy who looked like he belonged on a wanted poster, he threw a brown envelope down on the desk, and said I've come to pick the watch up for D#####, I didn’t like the first guy, but this guy was even more obnoxious, all the Building Society cheques I had ever been given before, and have been given since have been in White good quality self seal envelopes, not thin, cheap brown ones that require licking to stick down. 

It was without doubt an attempted con! But it was amateur hour, when I tore open the envelope the cheque looked genuine, but my name and the amount of money it was made out for looked like it had been done with a pen and a children’s stencil set, not machine printed. I asked Mr Mug shot to wait outside while I made a quick phone call, It was too late to ring the Building Society but I didn't need to, only a complete idiot would have been taken in by this pathetic forgery, It was obvious D##### didn’t have a very high opinion of me, and it was going to cost him dearly. I put the cheque in our photocopier and printed off a couple of copies, then I put it on my desk, picked the phone up and dialled the cops. 

As usual they weren't answering their phone, and as I cursed them under my breath “Mug shot” ran in to the office, he grabbed the cheque, and ran out of the showroom, our mechanic followed him up the road to the pub car park and made a note of the registration number of the car he'd come in, when the cops eventually answered I gave them all the details. 

A few days later I was contacted by the CID, it transpired that the gang had committed thousands and thousands of pounds worth of fraudulent transactions up and down the country, buying hard to trace high value watches and antiques using forged cheques. 

Like the old joke, “Someone had stolen the toilet from the Police Station. A Spokesman said at the moment the Cops had nothing to go on” 

I was the only one who had a lead to the perpetrators, I had his finger prints on my Rolex,  and I had gotten the registration numbers of their cars, all the other victims had let their valuables go, and were just left with a forged cheque and an invoice with a fictitious name and address on, they couldn't even claim on their insurance as the items weren't stolen, they had willingly handed them over, and the only way they could pursue their monies was through a civil court, but they didn’t know who to pursue. I was also the only one who hadn't fallen for the con, the Police set up surveillance on the cars that I had identified and pretty soon they apprehended all except one of the gang, he had managed to keep one step ahead of the posse and skip the country, I hadn't realised the scale of their operation, or the amount of criminals involved in the scam, I had severely pissed off a lot of the underworld.

I can’t be certain, ( I have some strange mates, and they would go to unbelievable lengths (and have done) to wind me up)  but I'm assuming it was him who rang me a couple of nights later, I knew the caller was phoning from abroad by the beeps when I answered the phone, his message was simple and to the point, he said " We know where you work, you're a fu#### dead man ! if it was D##### it was the first thing he had said to me that had a ring of truth to it!

Never being one to know when to keep my mouth shut, or putting on a foreign accent and saying "Sorry, I think you've got the wrong number, I replied "Dont say I didn't warn you, bye the way "Have you seen that new film Die Hard? that’s exactly what Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) said to John McClain (Bruce Willis) and look how well that turned out for him!” (Incidentally Bruce Willis used a Beretta too) 

Just in case he ignored that warning too, I ran upstairs, got my Beretta out of the safe, and put it in my shoulder holster! 

Yep, it’s official I do watch too much TV

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