Author's Note: New story! More at the bottom.
The Confidence Man
Prologue: Who Am I?
"Who are you?"
I fixed the bottom button on my polo shirt; it was dark blue and too tight. "I'm Paul Johnston, a girl's guy. She needs a new best friend and that'll be me." I smiled at my boss, warm, friendly, and open. My hair was cut shorter than normal and dyed a flat brown; my clothes were new, expensive. I wore brown contact lenses and glasses with plano lenses.
He didn't smile, but his eyes showed it anyway. "And who's the target?"
"Angela Weber, twenty five, heiress to her Uncle Thomas' fortune. Beginning to think people only want to be around her because of what she can do for them." I grinned a little at this.
"And how are you different?" His posture was ruler straight, but relaxing at the edges. This was the game we played at; he knew I had it all down, but enjoyed testing me. I enjoyed it as well; it was the only tradition in my life.
"Common background, I'm begrudgingly rich too. I hate the scene and I'm searching for something genuine, which I'll find in Angela's friendship."
"Very well," his demeanor changed, signaling the game was finished. "You have the apartment keys?"
"Yep." I pat my left pocket automatically.
He put his hand on my shoulder congenially, almost like I imagined a father would. "Best of luck to you." He always said this, or a variation of this, before I went on a job.
I nodded and turned to leave as Paul Johnston.
"Who are you?" He crossed his arms over his expensive suit.
I spoke with a thick French accent. "My name is Daniel Barrineau. I'm a struggling artist who will help a wife – cope – with her loveless marriage." My clothes today were a mix of formally wealthy and starving painter; I even had a few blue paint spots on my fingernails. My hair was different, forced down and a little greasy. My contacts made my eyes look almost black. I felt like the great unwashed.
"And the target?" He kept his arms crossed, this job was important.
"Lauren Mallory, wife to Sebastian Jacobs – real estate mogul. As I said, loveless marriage."
"How will you get in?"
This one was almost laughably easy. "She's bored, just waiting for someone younger and better to come walking by. She wants romance and foreign languages and promises to run away together – that's me."
"Did you get all the canvasses? And the studio space, you've set it up already, right?" He asked, knowing very well that I had.
This job had proved to be difficult. Her husband, who was sharper than Lauren, caught the two of us together. I let him get one good shot in, to prove to Lauren that I was willing to be put through anything for her. That fucker loosened one of my teeth; I had to explain to the dentist who fixed me up that I'd been in a bar fight.
But it all worked out in the end.
"Who are you?" My boss had on an all black suit. It made him look formidable, which he was. Even I didn't know just how far his reach went. He looked tense today, though he knew I was more than ready. This job was big, the biggest I'd ever been involved in – a long con. And I was right at the center; it was all up to me. If I failed, he failed.
"My name is Anthony Masen. I'm a graduate student, studying psychology. She's mousy, lonely; I'll open up the whole world to her." For this one I'd let my hair do whatever it wanted and I washed the dye from the last job out. I wore brown-gold colored contacts and shaved my face that morning.
"The target?" His eyes studied me carefully.
"Isabella Swan, fellow graduate student. Came into a fortune when her mother died, she doesn't seem to care to do anything with it. Quiet, shy, just waiting for The One. I'll be everything she wants me to be." I grinned; this was going to be fun.
"How will you get in?"
"I'm going to save her life."
"James has the address, twelve o'clock in the D lot. If you're late, he might actually hit her." He, very slightly, rolled his eyes. "You know how he gets."
"You have the apartment keys? All your school supplies?"
"Yeah," I gestured toward the backpack in the foyer. It was my actual bag from high school; it was easier than buying a new one and then properly wearing it down.
"Alright," he grabbed my shoulder in a gesture that was both parental and intimidating this time around. "Best of luck to you…Anthony."
I tried not to let my expression fall; I should have been used to it. Rarely did he ever call me by my real name. I was beginning to think I didn't have one. I was Anthony, Paul, Daniel, Christopher, and Michael. I was an artist, an heir, a student.
I was whoever I needed to be. And I was the best. I got it all. Every single time.
Edit (5/20/10): There's a little confusion for some people about the title; "confidence man" is long for "con man". That should give you guys a better idea of what "Anthony" is doing with all these women. If you want to read more about it, there's a blog on my homepage that explains everything more in depth without giving anything away. You can get to it via my profile.
Author's Note: This wasn't the story I was originally going to post, actually it wasn't even second on the list of things I was going to post. But then, during my mini posting hiatus - writer's block. I couldn't get anything going at all, it was ridiculously frustrating. And then I was washing my face the other night and this whole story unfolded in my head. I'd mentioned it very briefly during an interview (the link is in my profile), but I hadn't thought of it since then. I'm really excited about it; it's a departure from my usual style, but not a major one.
Also, I found out this morning that I won an Indie Twific Award :) I won for my story Reality and Other Inconveniences in the category - Judges Awards for Special Merit. So a huge thank you to the judges and to everyone that read and promoted the story; I heart you!
Quick notes about this story - yes, it'll be a big multi-chapter affair and with luck (and if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars) I'll do regular Thursday postings starting this Thursday. I just couldn't wait that long to get the prologue out.