My Last Big Score
To become a criminal mastermind is an arduous process; one must work up from the custodianís closet of petty thievery through the mailroom of burglary and past the cubicle of liquor-store stickups before reaching the plush corner office of mastermindery. I didnít suddenly wake up one day as the greatest criminal genius of the Twentieth Century. I had to work my way up from scams to hustles to grifts to short-cons to swindles to long-cons to heists to inside jobs to stings to capers to scores.
The sophisticated gentlemen prefers capers.
Iíve spent decades perfecting my craft, and nowadays I knock over international banks like children knock over dominos. Iíve amassed a fortune in fat offshore bank accounts, little velvet bags of diamonds, untraceable bond certificates, Nazi gold, priceless works of art, and the arks of various and sundry covenants. Iíve got more money than the worldís most decadent sultans, but even after all my big scores I still cherish the little crimes. I still get a kick out of running from restaurants without paying. My heart still races when I loiter. I canít get enough of openly endorsing a candidate mere feet from the polling place. I feed the bears, and no man can stop me.
I build ruthless teams of experienced thugs, hand-picking the finest and most capable neíer-do-wells from around the world. Some penny-ante, dime-store masterminds think a team of three or four people is enough. Theyíll settle for a safecracker/demolition guy, a token black computer expert, and a thug or two. Despite the higher overhead, I often assemble teams of upwards of two dozen specialists. My last job, a jewelry heist in Brussels, involved three stake-out guys, two thugs, three goons, a safecracker and a demolition guy (two separate guys, thank you very much!), a token black computer expert, a corrupt politician, two inside guys, an ex-special-forces psycho presumed dead by the government, a squirrelly comic relief man, a gadget guy, and two out-of-work actors.
That was one of my lighter operations, and although I felt under-staffed, the low headcount meant that I got to walk away with almost 8% of the net score, after expenses.
I sometimes feel that I could keep up my life of crime forever, but I know the odds are against me. Those who donít retire early always get caught, and for every mastermind who retires to the Bahamas, ten more get thrown in prison after biting off a bigger score than they can chew. The rate of tropical mastermind retirement would be far higher, I think, if we didnít all pine so deeply for a Last Big Score. To retire without attempting the crime of the century would leave a criminal genius with a maddening irritation, not unlike the phantom itch of an amputated leg. Even if failure is almost certain, even if I plan to rob the sun with guns made of wax, I know that I have to take a stab at it. I know that my vanity will doom me, but Iím not getting any younger. Itís time to start making big plans.
My Last Big Score must not only be a historic heist, but it must also stick it to the man. Thatís why Iíve decided to go after the governmentís bloated coffers. Almost every mastermind has dreamed of knocking over Fort Knox or the Treasury, but Iíve set my sights on a subtler and less secure target: the Department of Transportation. Did you know that the DOT has funding of over $54 billion dollars? Imagine it: all the funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the ultimate cash cow, the Federal Highway Administration, all sitting in one place, ripe for the picking. While the DOTís funding is not at its all-time peakóby dragging my heels in 2001, I missed my shot at a legendary $67 billion scoreóknocking over the DOTís current budget would still represent one of the most lucrative criminal windfalls of all time.
The Department of Transportation looms like a minotaur before me.
Due to the complicated politics of funding disbursement, itís difficult to anticipate exactly where the money is at any given time. Norman Y. Minetaís strongbox may be full of steaming green lucre one day and empty as a vacuumed tortoise the next; heís constantly doling out money to the various agencies of the DOT, so the funds diminish as the year wears on. Luckily, weíre only two months into the governmentís fiscal year, so I would estimate that Mineta is still sitting on $45 billion dollars of unallocated funding.
I have considered several methods of robbing the Department of Transportation. My first idea was to hire a team of expert disguise artists to pose as a stretch of highway that had fallen into disrepair. This method had the advantage of being a direct way to stick our hands in the Federal Highway Administrationís deep pockets. The main problem with this, aside from the expense of creating convincing highway costumes, is that Norman Y. Mineta is an extremely suspicious and vengeful man, and often elects to burn entire miles-long expanses of highway to the ground if he has any inkling that theyíre attempting to cheat him. Another problem is that highway repair crews often spend the money allocated to them on things like tar and asphalt, rather than giving money directly to the highway (another example of big governmentís nanny-goating milk-teat bureaucracy).
The problems posed by the highway disguise method suggested a more subtle, high-tech method. I have in my employ several token black computer experts, like those seen in the films Die Hard, Sneakers, and Extreme Prejudice, so why not put them to use? Perhaps one of my computer guys could illegally access (or ďhackĒ) the Department of Transportationís computer network and create an entirely fictional sub-agency of the Federal Highway Administration, called something like ďthe National Highway Rest Stop System Transit Maintenance Agency.Ē I, posing as director of this agency, could appeal to Norman Y. Mineta for increased funding. I could avoid suspicion by chipping away at him little by little: requesting a new five-million-dollar headquarters building here, a two-billion-dollar highway rest stop renovation project there, et cetera. The obvious drawback to this scheme is that, barring extraordinary circumstances, the funding for a minor sub-agency like the NHRSSTMA would not be likely to exceed a few billion dollars. The problems go deeper than that: not that I underestimate my abilities as a confidence man, but pulling the wool over Minetaís eyes is like dancing with a hungry jaguar.
Iíve come to realize that only one method could satisfy me. Nothing less than a direct robbery could truly fulfill my lust for a Last Big Score, even if it would end in certain death. Marching into the Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington DC would be a daring flourish. It would bring me back to my criminal roots and culminate my career; it would remind me how I climbed from muggings to stick-ups to hold-ups to armed robbery to the grandest of larceny. I could forego the computer hackers and high-tech recon operatives and burst into the place with a classic, rock-solid team of thugs, gunmen, and safecrackers. Best of all, it would bring me face-to-face with a canny opponent. According to the Department of Transportation Website, Norman Y. Mineta designed the DOT building as an impenetrable labyrinth of traps, holograms, and mirrors; by my estimates, it could take up to a week of guerrilla skirmishes and sleepless camp-outs in the winding halls of the DOT building before we could penetrate Minetaís inner sphere.
As I entered Minetaís office and demanded that he hand over the Department of Transportationís funding for the 2006 fiscal year, he would almost certainly spring some devious trap on me, driving pristine ivory spikes through my ribs like skewers through raw pork, or dropping an airtight glass box full of wolf spiders on me from above. I would stare into his sightless eyes as he produced a pan pipe from his desk drawer and played the whispering melody of my death, slowly dancing backward without moving.
As my vision faded, I would remember rerouting the pneumatic tubes in a Moroccan bank so that glass cylinders full of bearer bonds came flying up through the roof, where I caught them in a silk net, designed by Christo, draped from a helicopter. I would remember picking up a bank in Luxembourg with an enormous crane, and shaking it from on high; I would remember combing through the broken bodies and picking up bags of money stained with black fluid from the deepest wells of the human corpus.
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