This short story was written in response to a writing prompt ‘The Signature’. The setting sprang from a recent holiday on the Fife coast. I’ve no idea how Terrance sprang from my imagination, but I hope you enjoy this little insight into his somewhat dodgy life.
There was nowhere left to run.
Terrance Goodman pulled into the deserted car park that, during the summer, was a popular destination for families seeking an afternoon on the beach. Today though, an icy wind whipped the waves into sharp-teethed peaks, and the sun was hidden beneath glowering clouds. The place was as gloomy as his mood.
Stepping out of the car, he pulled up the collar of his winter coat, and wished he could pull heavy cloud cover over his life that would hide him as easily the sunlight. To add insult to injury the wind snatched up a handful of gritty sand and flung it in his face. Take that, it seemed to say. Don’t think you are any more welcome here than south of the border. Fumbling in his pockets he retrieved a black woollen beanie hat that he tugged over his thinning hair, and a pair of thick fingerless gloves that he pulled onto his hands. Next, he took a well-worn wallet from the inner pocket of his coat. Opening it up he took the bank notes – £200 worth – and shoved them into the front pocket of his jeans. Hardly a princely sum, but it would keep starvation from his belly, and he would add to it as opportunity presented itself over the coming month.
He sighed wearily at the array of credit cards in the wallet, and selected one at random. Turning it over in his glove-clad fingers he admired his handiwork. Never mind Banksy and all those other popular artists, what he was holding was a masterpiece. It had taken dedication to his craft to create the card. He was particularly proud of the signature on the back. Hours of practice had gone into mastering that. And his beauties had served him well – fine meals, good clothes, including the warm coat on his back, expensive jewellery.
But now it was over. The days of forging a signature to gain access to goods fraudulently were dead. A curse upon the inventor of the dreaded chip and pin, and a curse on the law makers who were making its use compulsory. There were those of his acquaintance that knew of ways to steal data and clone cards, but he had no interest in learning such a trade. He was an artist, not an engineer. His time was done. He was done.
He returned the card to its snug home, bid a silent farewell to the entire set, and tossed the wallet into the driver’s footwell. From another pocket he pulled out a mobile phone. Another modern device for which he had no love. Everyone was enthralled with texting. But what was wrong with a handwritten letter? The world had become an alien place. Too fast. Too complicated. And too many damn security cameras everywhere. The phone joined the wallet in the footwell.
His car keys were the final item to be extracted from a pocket. He closed the driver’s door of his Ford hatchback, and pressed the fob, locking it. But then, turning to stare at the angry sea, he gave a bitter laugh, pressed the fob again to unlock the door, and added the keys to discarded items in the footwell. They would find the car soon enough. He knew they had been tracking him – the faceless ones behind the surveillance cameras. That was why he’d decided it was time for drastic action. But why make it difficult for them to drive the car back to civilisation? It had served him well, and it deserved a better fate than rotting away all winter at the mercy of the wind and sea salt spray.
He turned back to the sea. The sound of the waves washing over shingle was oddly comforting. The wind was still anything but. That was fine, though. He didn’t plan to be out in the raw elements for long. If he remembered correctly this whole long stretch of Scottish shoreline was a daisy chain of caravan parks and golf clubs. And at this time of year, the caravan parks were largely deserted. He might be saying farewell to a life of credit card fraud but he wasn’t past a bit of breaking and entering – not when it was necessary to survive a winter on the run.
Once the heat died down and he became just another name on the long list of wanted criminals on the Thames Valley Police radar, he would risk creating a new identity. A friend had told him there was easy pickings on ebay – he’d been sceptical at first – how could an online marketplace replace the easy mark of a distracted shop assistant? He’d learnt, though, that cleverly forged pieces of memorabilia could be sold for a fine profit to those desperate to be part of a fantasy world in which their chosen idol would one day fall in love with them. He had all winter to master the signatures of an array of movie stars and pop singers. Perhaps he would even venture into the world of fine art. Faking a Banksy would be difficult given the elusive artist’s love for random outdoor canvases, but there were other, smaller works and lesser known artists that might provide fine pickings.
Even in the world of chip and pin, there were always the gullible in the general public. And if his conscience pricked at him, he would simply remind himself that he had a right to make a living, a right to a full belly and a few pleasures. And besides, he was an artist – every bit as talented as the original artist. Was it really fraud to sell someone an item they would love every bit as the genuine article – an article that was to all intents and purposes an identical twin?
He smiled at the thought as he stepped onto the beach and headed for the caravan park he had marked out as his first hideaway.
After all, he whispered to the wind, what’s so special about a signature?