This week’s challenge at esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com is to build a story around one or more of the words money, new or operation.
For five long years I had been living in the shadows, trying to keep away from the O’Grady gang; continually looking over my shoulder, afraid to answer the phone, hiding every time the doorbell rang.
Until five years ago my life was normal. It was more than normal, it was good. Good? It was great. I was a professional footballer, playing for a minor league side at the time, but I was being feted as a rising star with a grand future. Everything was going swimmingly until that fateful match when I ignored my coach’s orders. The order was simple.
“We gotta lose this match,” he said, “we gotta play normally in the first half, with a scoreline of two-nil at half-time. In the second half, John, in goal, will let three goals though, and we won’t score any more. The final result will be three-two to the opposition.”
“Why’s that, Coach?” I asked.
“Don’t ask, Mark. Just this once, do as I say without question. Okay?”
“Yes, Coach,” I said. But I didn’t. I pushed through a third, then a fourth goal, scoring my first hat-trick for the club. The crowd loved it. The O’Gradys didn’t. They had, it seemed, placed some very heavy bets on my team losing 2-3 in the second half after being 2-0 up at half-time.
Afraid to leave the house for fear of being picked up by the O’Gradys, I was living most of my life on-line. That’s how I came by the big money. I played the lottery on-line; had been for nearly five years. One Saturday evening I was checking my numbers and saw that I had bagged the Thunderball jackpot. I checked it more than half a dozen times. It was right; I had won. Big. Not the Lotto jackpot, but big enough. The Thunderball game pays a cool half million top prize.
As soon as the money was in my bank, I called on some contacts to see what options I had, that could possibly allow me to escape from this hell I was living in. One of the people I contacted was Algernon, an old school chum, who was then a cosmetic surgeon.
“Depending on how desperate you are, and how much you want to spend, I may be able to help you,” he said.
“What do you have in mind?” I asked.
“I can change your face so much, no-one will recognise you,” he suggested.
“Tell me more,” I said.
“For two-hundred-and-fifty thousand, I can carry out a series of operations that would change your face significantly. For another fifty thousand, I can arrange for a contact to provide full documentation to give you a new identity.”
“What if the O’Gradys find out about it?”
“They won’t. My contact is not in this country.”
“Where is he?”
“You don’t need to know that. Leave it all to me. Do you want me to go ahead?”
“Do it,” I said, and replaced the receiver.
One month later, Algy admitted me to his clinic, where I spent four months undergoing operation after operation. When the wraps came off, at the end of the four months, I didn’t recognise myself. The whole shape of my face was different. There was nothing about me that was familiar. I was looking at a different person. Fortunately, Algy was standing-by with a cup of hot, sweet tea and a large, stiff brandy. I selected the latter.
“Once the swelling and discolouration have gone, we’ll take a passport photo and arrange the paperwork,” he said, “your new name is William Clanville; you are a British émigré to New Zealand and will have a passport from that country. Whether you choose to relocate there is up to you, but it would seem to be a good move.”
“I’ll think about that,” I said, “how long before I can leave here and try out my new face in the open?”
“Two weeks should do it.”
Two weeks later, armed with my new documentation, I left the clinic. I was three hundred thousand poorer, but still had more than two hundred thousand in the bank. Hang on, I didn’t, Mark Meechan did. Complication number one. How to get the money from Mark Meechan’s account to a new account in the name of William Clanville? Perhaps not so hard. Provided I didn’t need to give photo-ID, I could spend my Mark money. But perhaps that wouldn’t be necessary.
I arranged with the bank that held my Mark Meechan account to open a new account in the joint names of Mark and William, and transfer the balance from Mark’s account into there. A month or so later, I switched that account to a different bank and, using both signatures, transferred two hundred thousand pounds to an offshore, Euro-denominated account that I had set up in the sole name of William Clanville.
Mark Meechan carried on a normal spending pattern for a while longer then, seven years from the date of that fateful match, William Clanville, naturalised New Zealander, boarded a British Airways flight bound for Wellingon, New Zealand to start his new life.
I’ve been there ever since. I bought a nice house in the suburbs, and found employment as a groundsman at a local football club. I helped out in various roles, and it soon came to the notice of the managers, that I was quite a tasty player. I had no wish to return to playing competitive football, but was happy to help out with some coaching. That went well, and I quickly gained a reputation locally for being a good, fair, effective and successful coach. Today, I am head coach for one of the better semi-pro teams in the area, and act as visiting coach for a number of local schools.
I am tolerably well-paid and well respected. I had almost forgotten about the difficulties of my past, until a new senior at one of the schools where I coach said that his step-dad thought my playing style was familiar.
“What’s your step-dad’s name?” I asked.
“Brien O’Grady,” he replied.