Peaky Blinders … the show that made me permanently mimic the awesome haircuts.
A lot of people don’t really consider being a criminal a career option.
Being obsessed with crime, ever since I read my first crime novel (what it was, I cannot remember), I remember thinking to myself, that if you were clever, ruthless and charismatic, you could easily get into the world of crime and making a living.
Of course those traits, are applicable to any fraternity or organisation in the world, legal or otherwise. They are universally good virtues to have in any leaders.
My own idea of criminality is idealistic. Naive. It’s a dream that has been influenced by thousands of crime books, hundreds of episodes and countless other pop culture references. It’s a romance about crime, not the actual truth.
And the truth is, I don’t know anything about crime. Just the books, news articles, documentaries and films I’ve seen. I don’t know anyone who is a criminal, unless you count speeding offenders as one.
So this What If? is probably going to be as fanciful as it gets.
Damocles the Broker
I always imagined myself as a broker. The middleman that would organise heists and be responsible for procuring items of rare and expensive quality.
I would never be directly involved in the crime itself, except perhaps on occasions of extremely rare and high importance, like the theft of expensive artwork.
This way, I could pretend that I had nothing to do with the actual work, and also protect the client as well. Layers of security, against potential leaks and a convenient fall-guy (me) if things went really sideways.
I suppose, this would be highly similar to how I would operate a spy-ring in an enemy state. Have crews, and trusted members in each that would be able to do the tasks I delegate to them, whether it’ll be procuring dirty money, stolen artwork, valuable intelligence or the sale of black market medication.
Then I would move and ship that cargo off to the client that demanded my services or to the highest bidder, in shadow auctions.
I would never deal in arms, drugs, organs, women, gambling or animals. Those were too risky, and admittedly, I would like to have some sort of conscience in the criminal game.
I don’t like to fuel addiction, no matter the sort.
Besides, those were too old school and business was already booming in them.
So, in an ideal criminal enterprise, I would only deal with high-end sales of rare and valuable items. A daring theft from someone’s private collection and vault …. the return of classified intelligence to friendly countries … the delivery of much-needed medication to a desperate family.
Those sort of things.
It would be like any properly run business, only illicit and underground.
The primary issue with such an enterprise is how I would get started. What would make a billionaire be enticed to hire my services to continue his private art collection?
I would have to have a fearsome reputation as a collector and a thief.
The best way to start, is by showcasing my skills to them directly.
Breaking into their security and getting away clean. If that doesn’t get to their fragile egos, then nothing else will.
Because you don’t get incredibly rich and powerful and not have an ego the size of a dinosaur.
An instance where a random stranger defeats your high-end and expensive security systems. Any violation of your home demands that you deal with this problem, with the gravity it deserves.
I would probably become an obsession for the billionaire. The man who dared to reach up and touch “God.” Not only touch him, but bought him down to Earth and showed that even for all his accumulated wealth and power, he could still be subject to a home invasion.
I would have his undivided attention and eventually, to placate him, I would return what I stole and offer my services.
But in order to do all of that, I need skills.
No one studies to be a master criminal. If I had fallen astray in my younger years, then that is exactly what I would have done.
I would have invested hundred of study hours dedicated to IT, coding and gaining rudimentary knowledge of hacking.
I would have put aside laboratory experiments in chemistry to understand simple mechanics and how certain elements react to each other.
I also would have placed a lot of stock into psychology, to better understand my target and learn to ask certain therapeutic questions that doubled as interrogation techniques to gain valuable information.
And of course, I would study criminology. What better way to avoid the police, than to pretend I want to be one? I would learn from my own fallen criminal peers and their mistakes, and the law enforcement techniques, to make sure I don’t fall for them or have solutions ready to address such issues.
Then, in university, I would advance all of those things while putting them into practice.
Buying myself a safe, and practice safe-cracking, and seeing what liquid nitrogen does to certain metals, hinges and pins.
I would attempt to seduce my fellow students, understanding women, men, desires, wants, needs, and insecurities to probe their psyche and see what it reveals about them.
I would work hard in forensics, to make sure I found counter-measures for anything I learnt.
Hours would be spent on the computer trying to fool and bypass bio-metrics security measures and seeing how best to use apps on phones to devise my own app and get pass security measures.
Finally, I would test myself by putting all of these skills into action, by breaking into the university itself and seeing what I can get away with …. turning off security cameras here, stealing chemical compounds from the labs there, and observing security guard patterns and avoiding them all.
After all, universities present the perfect stepping stone to a criminal’s career. They have adequate security measures, plenty of excellent resources and can be an incredible learning ground for mistakes that will not be repeated in the future.
I can practice sneaking around campus, getting access to buildings outside of working hours, dodging and avoiding campus security and understanding response times when I mess up.
There are thousands of options to practice on-campus. Banks, restaurants, convenience stores, large buildings, small laboratories, greenery, roof-access, basements, key-card access, time-locks, dormitories, safes, a myriad of different security cameras and all of this … guarded by campus security, who are generally unarmed and stretched thin across a huge university space.
And I have the perfect cover …. “a student who lost his way and overslept in class” or “a student who was trying to sneak away from an angry boyfriend, whose girlfriend he had just slept with” or “a student desperate for a midnight snack.”
No-one would be particularly the wiser.
With all that experience, my graduation out of the way, as a forensic science major, I would then take it up a notch and enter the big boys leagues.
Three methods would be practiced …. the first being loud, brash and aggressive robberies on banks with a willing crew.
The second; clever disguised cons that swindle high-class families into revealing where they stash their valuables and security information.
The last would be entirely stealthy affairs, breaking and entering into large company buildings, and getting away with experimental equipment or supplies.
Each of these methods would allow me enough experience to avoid common pitfalls and actually break into the criminal underworld. These will help get my creativity going, how I formulate plans around each method, get accustomed to violence, desensitized to it and get comfortable with executing plans and anticipating unforeseen problems.
Only then, once I mastered the basic three types of crimes executed, then I will attempt to establish my reputation as a high-end career criminal and bring down the 1% a notch and see if they too will bleed like the rest of us.
Whilst, of course, providing a service for them.
The goal being, if I sow enough discord among them, stealing from one man, providing for one woman, selling this to a lonely bachelor, while profiting off another family … I will never be out of a job, because they will all be too busy trying to one-up each other with displays of their collection.
A Cezanne appearing in a Saint Tropez mansion, will soon be trumped by a lovely Roman marble bust in a Bahamas resort.
And the cycle goes on and on, as their obsession grows and I simply employ either a loud, a con or a stealth technique to feed this machine, I will have either entered or grown organically.
Constant refinement of each type of heist will be conducted, and probably due to my university education, I will be scientific in how I approach each crime.
But I would have finally gotten to the point where I can ask people to do the crime and the time, if they got caught. I would no longer have to participate in every heist, now able to relax and do jobs at my whim and pleasure.
In a lot of ways, the Criminal Damocles will be of a similar type to the Soldier Damocles. Focused, will-driven, ruthless and efficient. After all, if I had gotten it into my head, to be a career criminal, it is not something you half-ass.
You go all the way in and you don’t deviate from the course, because to do so, would mean you’re either dead or in jail.
On the whole, I suspect, I would make a decent criminal. It takes a certain … mind, to think of things from a criminal perspective.
Even during this current COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t help but think about how it easy it would to break into shops and businesses with most of their staff away at home and police stretched thin, monitoring people for breaking quarantine.
You didn’t even have to be subtle about it … if you timed your break-in well, and were aware of police response time … it could be a simple affair as reversing your pick up truck through a shop front, smashing and grabbing everything and speeding away in a matter of minutes.
Crime happens all the time, and a lot of it goes unpunished.
Study to be a criminal and I suspect you got a good chance of never being caught.
So Damocles … why didn’t you become one? I hear you ask.
My parents would be my concise answer.
They raised me too well, instilled in me too strong of a moral compass and I grew up idolising soldiers and men in uniforms, not sociopaths in masks.
Although, of course, as an adult, I realise, they aren’t too dissimilar to each other, depending on which gun is being pointed at your face.
But that is how I think I would be become a criminal, and the type of criminal I would be. Psychologically, I doubt there would be much difference between the Soldier version of me and the Criminal type.
Both I can see, committing 100% to their roles and being studious, creative and ruthless in how they execute their jobs.
I think the only point of contention, would be that the Criminal Damocles would be a lonelier soul. Without comrades in arms, and of course, unable to properly connect with people, because he too often consider them tools or objects to manipulate.
He would be unwillingly to use the same heist crew more than twice, because to do so, would mean there is a greater chance of betrayal and compromise in how effectively a crime could be pulled off.
He would probably be richer too. But lose a lot more hours of sleep.
I doubt I would be willing to do all the things he would do.
I suppose I should be thankful for that.
But a big part of me, still wonder What If?