The Big Sweep

Jack Alibi knew how to work. He also knew how to work a scam. Sure, going legit was good, but it took time. Lack of time was something Alibi had plenty of.

The Big SweepHe knew from the wire that the local school was being rebuilt, and that they were looking to put in a heap of technology. As far as Alibi was concerned, selling computers was like a licence to print money.

He staked out the school and got to know the movements of the big cheese, a classy dish who barely looked old enough to have left school, let alone run one. One night he waited in a doorway for her to pass.

As she did he started walking and brought himself up alongside her.

"Hey, honey", he grinned. "How about a little coffee?"

She didn't respond, except maybe her pace stepped up a notch.

Alibi went into phase two of his plan.

"I hear you're looking for high tech stuff. Maybe I can cut you a sweet deal."

She ignored him, but he continued.

"That stuff costs a lot of lettuce. That means less to spend on a fancy office and all the trimmings. Maybe I can help out."

She stopped and glared at him.

"Oh yeah?", she said. "And why would you wanna be helping someone you don't even know?"

"On account that I'm community-minded. Besides, I'd hate to see a classy dame like you being taken for a ride. I can get what you need at a whole lot less."

She remained motionless, but a quick glint in her eye let Alibi know she was interested.

"OK", she said. "Let's suppose I'm interested, which I ain't. But let's be hypothetical. What are you offering, and what's your rake-off?"

Alibi was ready for that: he'd done his homework.

"I get all the tech you need, on a no questions asked basis. Hypothetically. As for me, I work on commission, 5% of the value of the merchandise. That hardly pays my rent. But Like I said, I'm community-minded."

She looked at him like he was something that was tossed out in the garbage the night before.

"Yeah, I can see you're all heart. OK, muscle head, you talk big, but maybe that's all you do? Talk, I mean. My guess is that this ‘merchandise' is old cast-off junk, right? That ain't no use to me. I just took over running this joint, see? I'm the new broom around here, and there's gonna be one hell of a big sweep. No jackass like you is gonna louse things up for me."

"OK, sister, I get the picture, but you got me all wrong. I tell ya, lady, this stuff is so new it uses technology that ain't even been invented yet."

She reached inside her bag. Alibi's hand went instinctively to inside his coat. She pulled out a packet of gaspers, put one to her lips. He lit it for her.

"I tell you what I'm gonna do", she purred. "I'm gonna think about it."

She drew on the butt and let out a plume of smoke.

"Well, I thought about it. No."

"No? How come?"

"Well, Buster, I just remembered the advice my daddy gave me when I was knee-high to a cricket."

"Oh yeah? And what might that be?"

"Never accept suites from strangers."

Thanks to William Denton for his Dictionary of Hardboiled Slang.

This story originally appeared in the September 2009 edition of Computers in Classrooms.