Nikos …

March 25th, 2005

… tells me that quite a few deluded heathen tourists imagine it is Easter weekend. The Orthodox Easter isn’t until the beginning of May. He doesn’t object, however, to the increase in trade from the pale masses of (mostly) Brits, and even provides traditional hard-boiled eggs, delicately dyed in hues from saffron to maroon by wrapping them in onion skins held in place with rubber bands before boiling them.

This morning I was actually still at breakfast in my pyjamas when the cleaning team arrived. I have to confess it was nearly ten o’clock. One of the ramshackle Japanese pickups that do sterling service in the islands arrived, driven by a cheerful middle-aged man with terminal designer stubble. Eleni, carrying a vast bag, and her mother, clutching a baby, climbed out before the pickup rushed away honking without obvious reason. Eleni is a plump girl of around twenty with a sunny disposition and no English, dressed in floral frock with a heavy sweater. Her mother, encased in black, looks at least seventy, and smiles only reluctantly.

I retreated to my bedroom to dress in shorts and shirt, and emerged to discover Eleni unloading my clean clothes from her bag onto the table. Mother’s duties appeared to be foreman, child-minder and chaperone, as she occupied the bench seat by the window, issuing curt orders to Eleni, juggling the sweet-natured baby, and glancing suspiciously at me. I made my apologies, picked up my book (Kazantzakis’ Freedom and Death – one of the few readable offerings from the local “supermarket”) and rode down to Nikos’ to complete my breakfast with a cup of coffee (Greek, metrio) and a glass of water.

And so the history…

March 26th, 2005

… continues.

The Making of a Fugitive – Episode Three
So here we are. Fired from one job and prosecuted for hacking, I was now in the middle of another potential outrage, this one being much more serious. I have to say that I gave little thought to Melancthe in what followed. As far as I was concerned, she had placed me in a very difficult situation. What had seemed like generosity and a spot of innocent rule-flouting to get me a job had evolved into a plot to involve me in some serious felony. According to Melancthe’s frenzied outpourings, I had turned out to be the answer to a prolonged attempt to penetrate The Lyonesse Bank’s systems.

By the morning, I knew what I had to do. I had to stop it all right here. It wasn’t too late. Unfortunately, the Bank would not be able to deal sensibly with this kind of threat. Their own security would be uppermost in their minds, and they’d be keen for the story not to get out. There have been innumerable bank frauds that never saw the light of day, for fear that customers would lose confidence. The Bank, I was certain, would do very little other than hold an internal investigation. I would lose out again, and probably never again work in computing. The only solution was to go to the police, presenting myself as the hero of the hour, and tell them everything.

This proved easier than I expected. The police unit in charge of my previous case was easily contactable. I called in sick to the Bank and spilled the beans to the police the same day. At first, they didn’t believe me. I had no proof, after all. Once they began to believe me, they had this brilliant idea. Melancthe and I should continue with the deception, drag it out as long as we could, the police would make it all right with the Bank, and we should find out as much as possible about the gang, and get as much proof as possible, so they could be arrested and charged. And once again I was totally trapped. I couldn’t persuade them it was a really dumb idea. At least Melancthe wasn’t thrown to the dogs by this plan, and we kept our jobs for the time being. Further, we were promised (separate) witness protection programmes afterwards. Oh, yes.

Well, you’ve seen it on television. Intrepid computing wizard and karate champion cracks a few passwords and saves civilisation as we know it. It wasn’t quite like that. We were being pressed by Shimrod, and his boss, whom we met secretly. We collected the gang’s names and email addresses and car number plates and other trivia. We spun it out as long as we could. We kept inventing reasons why the security at the bank was so hard to penetrate. For a while I kept them happy by allowing them external access to an artificial mock-up system that gave them the illusion that they were making progress. In a way, I was helped by the fact that my widowed mother died in the middle of it all, so that I had an excuse for weeks of funeral arrangements, lawyers, probate, grieving aunts and uncles wondering about the will.

By the end of three nightmare months, I had made very little progress for the police. We knew Shimrod and we had met his boss. We had email addresses for several co-conspirators based in various European countries – the men who would actually move and conceal the money. The strain of the deception got to us and Melancthe and I detested each other by the end.

Eventually, the trap was sprung. Only Shimrod was actually arrested. His boss disappeared. None of the foreign-based conspirators were found, as far as I know.

As a chief witness, I was spirited away to sunny Glasgow for my own protection, where they had obtained a job of mind-numbing monotony for me. Data checking. Great. Melancthe went elsewhere, I don’t know where. We were to be concealed until the trial began.

The caper was obviously much more complicated than that, and some day I may write a book, but right now I can barely bring myself to think about it. I never had much faith in these witness protection programmes, but it was a bit of a shock just a fortnight later to see Melancthe’s face all over the television news as the victim of a mysterious murder in a public park in York. You probably remember it. (Note: I have cut and pasted the news page in that link. You won’t be able to find the original)

As I sat…

March 27th, 2005

…on my “terrace” (a South-West-facing slab of concrete outside the house) this morning, a large green-grey lizard appeared and set about sunning itself. I say “large” because I am used to Surrey’s little sand lizards which are only a few inches long. This one was at least nine inches from nose to tail. It seemed unafraid, ignoring the noises I made turning the pages of my book, but I didn’t get up for the camera, though I wanted to, because of the Nature Study version of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which, simply stated, is “Any attempt to photograph wildlife will result in the wildlife not being there when the camera is available”. Wildlife photographers have to camp out for months on a termite mound with a loaded and aimed and focussed camera in order to capture 2.7 seconds of screen time. The camera I’m using is one of these throwaway plastic jobs, which would probably not produce a particularly fine image, anyway. And I’d have to get it developed and scanned. I must get a real digital camera – the instant gratification of taking a photo and seeing the result immediately has spoilt me for old-fashioned photography.

The lizard, which I arbitrarily labelled as male, remained where he was, however, even when I went into the house and returned with a drink. I wonder if you can tame a lizard? Must check on Google. Wonder if you can disguise a camera as a drink? I finally decided to fetch the camera, and, sure enough, he was gone when I returned.

A view of the track to my house
This is the consolation prize. The estate agent’s version of the view from the edge of my property – no lizard.

Very lazy …

March 29th, 2005

… for a couple of days. I have been amazed, however, to discover that if I put a tiny piece of ham on the terrace, my lizard will eat it. It also seems to appreciate a little water in a saucer. I am amazed. I suspect, though, that it was already tamed by the previous resident in my house. It is so apparently unafraid that I am astonished.

And now I’ll…

March 30th, 2005

… bring you up to date with my situation.

The Making of a Fugitive – Episode Four
By September 2004, I was the key witness to the involvement of Shimrod in a proposed bank fraud. I had lost my job and reputation. I was in a miserable, leaky witness protection programme that had plainly not protected the other witness.

The Bank was rid of Melancthe and me, they had appointed a new security manager, and they were hoping to forget it all. It would suit their book if Shimrod never came to trial. Bad publicity.

The police were still voraciously keen, and utterly determined to prosecute, especially after Melancthe’s suspicious demise, so there was no chance I’d be off the hook. Trial set for July 2005.

It was about this time that my mother’s inheritance came through. I had been so preoccupied with my own troubles, I had hardly thought about it, but the sale of the family home in Surrey turned out to result in a large sum of money, even after Inheritance Tax. Witness protection had effectively removed my former life, no loose ends.

I’m not going into detail about what I did next, because it might leave a bit of a trail for someone to follow. In summary, after a few intermediate transactions involving “brass plate” companies based in Northern Cyprus, I am now the senior director of a little Athens company which was up for sale with virtually no assets, but a respectable reputation. Together with legal and accountancy fees it cost me some nine percent of my wealth. My money is in a bank account under the company’s name, but I am the sole signatory now.

I still have my own passport, but I call myself something different now, and different from my witness protection identity. My little Greek company sends money as director’s fees every month into the local bank here, I have a credit card in the company’s name, the company owns my house and boat. In due course, I dare say I shall be paying tax in Greece, but my sleeping partner in the company – a reasonably-priced lawyer – will deal with that. I’m feeling a lot safer than I did in Glasgow.

It’s my hope that no-one can find me now. Will the police be looking? You’d better believe it. They are probably dragging The Clyde at this very moment. Will I go back for the trial? I doubt it. I value my skin too much to care whether Shimrod goes free or not.

I can …

March 31st, 2005

… hear you ask yourself, “Why is he writing this blog when it could compromise his hiding place?” It’s because I think it’s important to to write it all down and somehow validate my new life by confessing the old. Confession has long been a tool of the Church and of psychoanalysts, a tool intended to straighten out the guilty. I really fell in to this serious mess as a result of a few minor sins that people perpetrate on a daily basis with impunity, and these mistakes took place at widely spaced moments.

  • When I defied the company firewall in order to participate in that forum;
  • When I accepted a bogus reference to get a job;
  • When I lent Melancthe, whom I trusted and to whom I owed a favour, my username and password.

Of course, this is the essence of tragedy. One little frailty is followed by another and another until the victim is sucked into an impossible situation.

Sir Walter Scott: “Oh what a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Thanks a bunch, Walt. Where were you last year?

The men…

April 2nd, 2005

… of the village, mostly middle aged to old, form a sort of Club, based on the untidy tables and chairs outside Nikos’ taverna. The members of the Club have a number of habits that are strange to my eye. For hours on end, they occupy the uncomfortable wooden chairs that characterise every taverna in the world, and which grace Nikos’ in abundance.

These chairs are famously constructed with no rake whatsoever and very small seats, so that the occupant is forced either to sit very upright or to use them unconventionally. The members of the Club perch on these chairs in a number of poses which defy the Kama Sutra for variety. For example, the sitter’s legs may be stretched and the chair tilted back on two legs to an alarming degree. There are various crouch positions in which the croucher only touches the chair with the corner of one buttock. There is the cowboy pose, straddling the reversed chair and leaning on the back. There are a variety of sideways postures, with or without tilt on two, or even one, leg.

The Club members arrive, conventionally insult one another, if the growls and shouts are anything to go by, then call a tiny order to Nikos. Nikos will ignore the order for half an hour or more, unless pressed, as bringing the coffee, gazoza or ouzo too quickly might imply a request to drink up and leave. Fierce arguments often break out, which flare rapidly into shouting. A combatant may also slam the salt cellar down on the metal table for emphasis, shake a huge fist under another’s nose, or stand up in feigned horror at the adversary’s impudence, capsizing the chair loudly. Two huge members, truck drivers, I think, often tear chunks of chest hair from each other, accompanied by the conventional insult “Turk!” or “Bulgar!”, as they blow the tuft of hair to the breeze. Conventionally, the victim remains impassive at these junctures, pretending nothing has happened, for to show pain would be to lose. Then all may sit for a while chuckling or tossing their worry beads.

This morning, there was a particularly loud set-to over the partial re-instatement of the two Greek athletes who were banned from the Olympics for drug test dodging and staging a fake motor cycle accident (go figure). The newspaper carrying the story was repeatedly cuffed, snatched, and thrashed in the course of the discussion, though Nikos assured me they were all of a mind on the matter. Apparently, there is an American, or, perhaps, Swiss, plot to do Greece down. Partings after a two-hour glass of water may consist of anything from fraternal hugs to bellowed imprecations, all in great good humour, as I now perceive.

The day was …

April 3rd, 2005

… rather unproductive. Another Eleni onslaught was due today, and she and Mother arrived on time. I could see she was about to clean up to an unnecessary length, so I offered them both a lemonade to keep them occupied while I made my escape. Mother actually cracked a dry smile while tilting her chin back in refusal. Eleni accepted, but didn’t touch her drink while I was there. I left on the bike and went looking for Alexis. The boat was there, looking very shiny and smelling very plasticky, but Alexis was absent. One of the fisherman indicated the ferry pier and waved distantly over the waves, which I took to mean that Alexis had left the island for some reason. The fisherman also made strange motions over his head, pointed into town, and pointed at me. I couldn’t figure out what he meant, but decided to wait until Alexis’ return.

I was still…

April 4th, 2005

… puzzled by the fisherman’s gestures yesterday. When I rode down to Nikos’ this morning, Kostandis, a retired lawyer and one of the more sedate Club members, told me that the police inspector had suggested I call in at the police station “very soon”. Apparently, the word is out in the entire village. I was not exactly terrified, but my stomach hit my boots and I could feel the blood hiccupping in my vitals. In that moment, I knew I’d been rumbled. There’s no way I’m going to hand myself in, and I’m not sure whether I could actually be extradited, but I’ve decided to move on and try to hide better next time. I can only imagine some smartass has discovered this Carfilhiot blog, and has somehow tracked me down, which is a mystery, because it’s just another site among millions, a lodger in the neglected upload directory of a friend’s site (Well, at the time of writing it was, but we have moved on). I helped him move his website from an unsuitable ISP, and he said I could use any space I wanted within reason. If Google knows about it, I didn’t tell them… {O God, I just Googled Carfilhiot, and up we came – top of the list – how did that happen?}

Once alerted, no doubt the British police put out a call to all Greek islands, in the hope of locating me.

Unfortunately, there’s no ferry until Wednesday. I’ll catch that, and go to Athens while I sort out my next move. I don’t imagine my company has been compromised yet, but it’s only a matter of time, so it’s back to “brass plate” business again.

Now I know why I subconsciously wanted a boat. I could just have vanished into the Mediterranean.

As long as they don’t send the Black Maria for me, I should be OK here at home. I bought some provisions at the microscopic “supermarket”, and I’ll just lie low till Wednesday morning.

At the time…

April 5th, 2005

… when Kostandis told me about the message from the police, I thanked him and said the fishermen had already told me. I kind of implied I’d already been to the cop shop. Kostandis was burning with curiosity to know what is was about, but he didn’t ask straight out, and I didn’t tell him.

I spent today writing little notes. One to Alexis, suggesting he stop work for the time being and send a bill to my Athens company. I left an envelope for the Pope with a generous week’s wages for Eleni, but would she please just wait for further instructions before carrying on.

To tell the truth, I have been paralysed all day with anticipation of problems, though none transpired today so far. I’ve been mooning around the little house saying goodbye, and I left a small pile of ham pieces and a dish of water for the lizard, though it disappeared with such dispatch that I suspect that big black cat got it!

More from me when I know what happens next! I hope.