The Long Chron – Online Edition – Chapter One

“Alright, kid,” he says.  His smirk turns into that sickly sweet smile I’ve already learned to dread in our short time together.  “Just one more test before you’re ready to give it a go.”

“Okay,” I say softly, yet confident I’ve learned all he can teach me.

“That’s my girl.”  His smirk grows larger while he looks out over the second floor balcony we’re seated on.  “Step one,” he says, gesturing to the hordes of people walking along on the sidewalk below, “choose your mark.”

“Easy.” I stand and immediately point to the short fat man in the three piece suit sitting at a table in front of the coffee shop across the street.  “Him.”  I look at Griff and smile broadly, trusting my instincts have once again proven true.

“You mean George Costanza over there?” he chuckles.

“Who?”

“Never mind.” His smile fades.  “Before your time, I guess.”

“So, what do you think?”

“Not so fast, kid.  First, tell me why you picked him.  Because you think he has money?”

“Why else?” I grin inwardly.  “He’s wearing a suit to a coffee shop on a Wednesday morning.  Look at the way he’s slowly sipping on his drink.  That’s not a man who’s in a rush to get to his 9 to 5, that’s a self-made man, relaxed, during rush hour, in New York.  You don’t come across many of them around here.”

“Very observant.” Griff’s smile returns.  “Rule #38: A man in a suit always has something to lose.”

“Exactly,” I say, bouncing in excitement.

“And you’re certain this is the guy you’re going for?”

“It’s my final answer.”

“Okay,” he beams.  “Well, first, I’ll point you to Rule #27: The shoes make the man.  Not only is this guy wearing brown loafers with a black suit, but those things look like they’ve seen the better part of the last century.  Are you sure you want to continue?”

“I saw the shoes,” I respond, still confident, still bouncing.

“Fine.  Next, like you said, it’s a Wednesday morning and he’s lounging around sipping on a cup of coffee.  It could say rich, but it could also tell us he’s too rich. Rule #42: A well-fed man is not a hungry man.”

“But the shoes,” I disagree.

“Of course, the shoes,” Griff says sarcastically.  “You’ve, no doubt, noticed he’s sitting there alone.”

“No doubt,” I say in a mocking tone.

“And that doesn’t bother you?  Why would a man be dressed so well to just sit alone at the coffee shop?”

“Because he’s waiting for something.”

“Perhaps,” Griff says, tapping the balcony’s safety rail.  “Or someone?”

“Come on already, are you going to tell me if I’m right or not?”

“Hey, this is your mark.  You should be convincing me why you think it’s the right guy.  Unless you think you might want to change your answer.”

“I’m not changing my answer.”

“What about his drink?” Griff has now directed his attention away from the man and is staring me down, reading my reaction to what he must believe is a great question.

“It looks like regular black coffee to me.  I haven’t even seen him put in any cream or sugar.”

“Exactly.  This isn’t a man who’s using his money for comfort or luxury.  He’s been drinking the same cheap black coffee for the past three hours.  How much do you want to bet those refills are free?”

“So?”

“And look at his reading material.  That’s not the business section of the newspaper he’s reading.”

“Oh, I know.” I smile, deciding now is the time to make my case.  “It’s the classified ads.”

“You think he’s looking for a new loft apartment on Park Avenue?”  The sarcasm is now dripping from his lips.

“I think he’s looking at the job section.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep.” I sit back, losing sight of the man.  “The only reason I can see someone sitting in front of the same coffee shop for three hours in a suit is that he’s here for a job interview.”

“Why wouldn’t he just stay at home until it’s time to leave?”

“He’s from out of town.  Probably just flew in this morning.  You can see his luggage hiding under the table.  It’s still too early to check into the hotel, which is also why he’s wearing those ugly shoes.  No one wants to wear a pair of shiny new shoes on a plane.  You want a comfy, reliable pair.”

“Good deductions, kid.  Still don’t see why you think he’d be a good mark.  If he’s here for a job interview, doesn’t that mean he’s out of a job?”

“If you assume he’s here because he needs the job.”

“Yeah?” Griff asks.

“If the man came into town for an interview, why would he be looking for other job openings?”

“Because he needs a job,” Griff answers simply, knowing he’s leading me to my next point.

“In New York, in this economy?  If you’re not living here, there’s absolutely no reason you’d want to be living here if you didn’t have to.  You know, unless you’re some stupid artist wanting to make a name for yourself or, of course, if there’s a really good job offer on the table.  He’s too old to try making his way as an artist.  No, he’s a man who likes to live comfortably and reasonably, made obvious by his shoes and his drink choice.”

“I’m sorry kid, you’ve lost me.  Why’s he looking at the classifieds if he’s not trying to find other jobs to interview for?”

“Because he’s not the one looking for a job, he’s the guy hiring for one.”

“Oh?” Griff says.  He cocks his head to the side.  “And what makes you think that?”

I laugh in reply.

“Come on now, kid.  You can’t get this far in and not lead me to the finish line.”

I laugh.  “Have you ever known that coffee shop to serve people at their outside tables?”

“No,” Griff frowns.  “Of course, we haven’t been here that long, so it’s possi—“

“And the way the barista is checking on him constantly even though he’s only got the black coffee.  Either she is the best server this city has ever seen, or she finds it in her best interest to keep this guy happy.”

“Maybe she just noticed the same thing you did, that he’s got money to give.”

“For three hours?” I laugh.  “I don’t care what kind of tip she thinks he’s giving, she’d give up well before those three hours were up.”

“So,” Griff says, waving his hand to urge me to continue.

“So, he owns the shop.  Well, maybe not just the shop, the chain.  And maybe not owns, but is definitely high up on the pay scale, someone the employees know to take care of.  He’s here, probably to hire someone new to run this actual store.  He’s not only got money, he’s got tons of it.”

“That still doesn’t explain why he’s looking at the classified ads.”

“I’ll admit that threw me off at first, too.  Then I realized that if your job is to get quality people to work for you, one of the things which might be of most interest to you is to see how other companies are listing their open jobs.”

“Hmmm,” Griff says while stroking his chin.  “That’s not a bad conclusion.  I mean, a little weak at points, but not bad.”

“There’s one more thing I can tell you about him.”

“Yeah?”

“He’s totally trying to pick up chicks.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Why else would he be sitting outside a coffee shop, one he holds a vested interest in, no less, on a windy day like today reading a newspaper?”

“He’s from Chicago and misses home?” Griff laughs.

I give a light smile in return before pressing for an answer.  “So?”

“So what?”

“So, am I right?  Is he a good mark?”

Griff stands and looks out over the balcony again.

“I am right, aren’t I?” I ask, feeling agitated that he’s stretching this out for so long.

“Kid,” he says, looking over his shoulder to me, “I think you’re ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“I don’t want to ruin the surprise,” he grins wider.  “Come on.”

“Wait,” I say after he disappears within the hotel room.  “Was I right?”

Go to Chapter Two

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