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The Namedropper

Brian Freemantle

Author’s Note

Divorce legislation differs from state to state in the USA. In a minority of states there still exists on statute books claims, not just for alienation of affection, but also for engaging in criminal conversation – shy, early American nice speak for adultery. North Carolina is one such state. Others include Hawaii, Utah, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico and South Dakota. If a divorce court jury in such states can be persuaded that a spouse’s affections were alienated by he or she engaging in criminal conversation with a cited defendant, that defendant is liable for financial damages, sometimes punitive, that in recent years have exceeded a million dollars.

There are many law enforcement agencies that consider the phrase ‘identity theft’ to be nice speak for today’s fastest growing crime in the developed world; dismissed by those who have not yet been affected by it to be a victimless crime because banks and financial institutions most often bear the cost of those against whom the fraud is committed. The US Federal Trade Commission has estimated the annual profit of identity thieves in America to be $53 billion a year. British fraud protection services dismiss as a gross underestimate a 2002 Cabinet Office study estimating the UK cost at?1.3 billion a year.

One

Harvey Jordan always chose an aisle seat, disinterested in looking out at ploughed clouds at 35,000 feet, so it wasn’t until the plane banked over the sea for its customary descent into Nice that he got his first sight of the boat-sailed-and-propeller-spumed Mediterranean and, coming rapidly closer, the regimented squads of private jets parked at ease on their parade ground. As always on his arrival in such a familiar, welcoming environment, in which he could, unusually, be Harvey Jordan, there was the immediate and professional recognition of the easy and openly available opportunities spread out before him even before getting off the aircraft. Just as quickly came the objective refusal. As Harvey Jordan, the genuine name by which he had been christened and officially registered in St Michael and All Angels in Paddington forty years ago, this was forbidden ground, a positively prohibited working zone. He was legally – and therefore necessarily above suspicion – Harvey Jordan. And this was a vacation, even though he considered what he now did for a living more a permanent holiday than work.

But it was work and the living had been good, very good indeed. So far this year Jordan had operated twice in New York, once in Los Angeles and three times in London. Currently the profit was nudging ?600,000 – with no irritating pre or after tax qualifications – and he’d already planned three new hits when he got back from France, which should comfortably take his income beyond the million. The only uncertainty was whether to try to fit in something else after that, which couldn’t be decided until he got to the end of his carefully calculated schedule.

Jordan ignored the scrambling-to-stand bustle behind the business class separation the moment the plane stopped, smiling his thanks at the flight attendant’s approach with his carry-on luggage, and instinctively allowed three of the other passengers in the section to disembark ahead of him. Just as instinctively he isolated the CCTV cameras inside the terminal, again immersing himself among the concealment of preceding arrival passengers. With no checked-in luggage to collect Jordan passed unchallenged through the customs hall, smiling expectantly at the time-consuming melee around the car rental desks. The Nice city bus left within minutes of his boarding and it cost a ten Euro tip for the driver to make an unscheduled stop directly outside the Negresco hotel.

The concierge smiled in recognition at Jordan’s entry, took his luggage and assured him the pre-booked hire car was waiting in its parking space. The primed duty manager was already at the reception desk by the time Jordan reached it, the registration only needing Jordan’s unaccustomed but genuine signature.

‘Only staying two nights this time, Mr Jordan?’ said the duty manager.

‘Moving around, as always. I might ask to come back while I’m in the area,’ said Jordan, who rarely made any long term commitment.

‘There’s always accommodation available for regular guests,’ smiled the man in reply.

‘I know,’ Jordan said and smiled back. It was refreshing, and the purpose of his vacations, to be able to relax and be recognized for who he really was and not to have to constantly remember and react to the identity he had assumed.

Two

That afternoon, as he always did upon relocating to different towns or cities no matter how well he already knew them, Jordan set out to re-orientate himself. Jordan operated to a number of self-invented and imposed rules, one of which was never to take anything for granted, no matter how familiar or predictable the situation or surroundings. Before quitting the hotel he put the intrusion traps in place in his sea-fronting suite, hanging his clothes with pocket flaps and trouser lengths arranged in such a way, and shirts in such an order in partially withdrawn or fully closed drawers, that he would have known instantly if they had been disturbed during his absence. Downstairs at the caisse he rented a safe deposit facility for the bulk of his money, genuine passport, standby Letter of Credit and emergencies-only – again genuine – credit cards: like most successful professional thieves, Harvey Jordan took the greatest care protecting his own finances and possessions. He’d lost everything, including a wife, once and was determined never to do so again.

The most necessary and basic essentials put into force, Jordan strolled into the town as far as the railway station, reestablishing its layout in his mind and isolating new constructions and shops since his last visit. He walked in a gradual familiarizing loop via the park to a corner cafe he’d enjoyed during a previous visit for coffee and pastries. Gazing out over the sun-starred water he calculated that it would only take three months – four at the most – for his last victim, a flamboyant, frequently gossip-columned London investment banker, to restore his credit rating. Harvey Jordan prided himself upon his Robin Hood integrity, always establishing the financial resources of those whose identity he stole and used. Another working rule was that, with only ever one exception, he never stripped them to the monetary bone, as he had been stripped with pirhrana-like efficiency. It had taken Harvey Jordan two years, after crawling almost literally out of the vomit-ridden gutter, to discover the identity of the man who had first stolen his identity and along with it his legitimate computer programming business. Then it took a further year, using the man’s genuine identity, to recover financially everything, and more, of what had been taken from him. He hadn’t, of course, been able to recover Rebecca. Or the bankrupt business. It was a matter of integrity, he reassured himself, that, having personally learned it the hardest way imaginable, he provided a very necessary lesson to those from whom he stole to never again be so careless with their personal details and information. It wouldn’t, Jordan knew, be a defence if he were ever caught – which he was equally determined never to be – but he considered the money he took not so much illegally obtained as justifiable and well-earned tuition fees. If he didn’t do it who else was there to teach them?

In the early evening Jordan drove the anonymous rented Renault to Monaco and ate at one of his favourite restaurants in the principality, a specialist fish bistro overlooking the harbour and the pink-painted royal palace, and afterwards climbed the hill for coffee and brandy on the Hotel de Paris terrace, watching the early arrivals at the casino. Jordan himself crossed the square just after ten and bought?5,000 worth of chips; on holiday, just as when he was following his chosen profession, tax exempting casino winning receipts legally proved his income legitimately came from gambling. He started out with chemin de fer, and at the end of an hour he was showing a profit of?1,500, which he much more quickly quadrupled at the roulette table.

Throughout Jordan remained constantly alert to everything and everyone around him, twice moving to a

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