New York confidence trickster’s reversal of fortune
New York Police sirens were among the first sounds Dimitriou Marinakis heard, as he slipped into the world from his exhausted mother.
“Oh, my God, Maria, a son!” His father, Alexi, cried tears of joy when the midwife passed him the child wrapped in a thin towel “A new country and a healthy boy, God has blessed us twice over.”
As he held his new son, his gaze swept around the rented room. Although the walls were filthy, and the ceiling cracked, he still had a sense of pride. They had made the long journey from their Greek home to the Land of Promise, to give their family a better life.
“We will call him Dimitriou after his Grandfather. He is the first Marinakis to be born in America,” Alexi said, smiling through his tears.
Destined to be their only child, Dimitriou grew up on the mean streets. He soon learned to manipulate people using his good looks and disarming manner, becoming an accomplished little thief stealing from local stores.
When caught he’d raise those big, brown, tear-filled eyes to his captors and say, “I’m sorry, I was hungry.” It was usually enough to melt the heart of any shopkeeper.
Even his friends at school and on the streets weren’t safe from his tricks, his sleight of hand with playing cards meant he’d easily relieve them of what little they had.
The family remained in poverty, part of a large New York, Greek community. They observed their religion and believed they were raising their son to be honest and kind.
But Dimitriou lacked empathy, he was an ungrateful boy and considered his parents foolish for slaving away in their low-paid jobs.
Maria and Alexi scrimped and saved every penny to send their precious son to college, their health suffering from the years of hard work.
Away from his parents for the first time, Dimitriou relied on his charm to get by. He attracted girls with his athletic body, disarming smile and good looks, targeting those from wealthy families.
Filtered sunlight shone on to the bed where Dimitriou and his latest conquest, Jayne, lay one afternoon. His muscular chest glistened with sweat after their lovemaking. He sat up, putting his feet to the floor.
“What’s wrong, Dim.” Jayne raised herself from the pillows, she placed an arm around his shoulders.
“I’m worried sick, I’ve had a letter from Mum, my baby sister needs a heart operation. They can’t afford it. I’m so inadequate. I should be able to help them.”
Jayne’s forehead creased with concern, “That’s awful, how much do they need?”
“$10,000, but I’ve decided, I’m leaving the college and getting a job.” Dimitriou covered his face with his hands, “My poor sister.”
Jayne paused for a while before she told him she’d lend him the money.
His back towards her, he gave a sly smile before turning to face her.” I can’t take it, but I love you for offering, it means so much.” He paused before saying, “No, I must go home.”
Jayne argued with him, at last persuading him to accept the money, because the thought of life at college without her lover she found unbearable.
“I’ll repay you as soon as I can,” he declared, kissing her tenderly, lying her back on to the crumpled sheets.
Within a month that relationship died, and he’d moved on to the next victim.
After he graduated he intended to get into the world of finance. He networked hard, and it wasn’t too long before a firm of investment bankers on Wall Street offered him a position.
Determined to keep out of trouble, he learned everything there was to learn, so that one day he could open his own accountancy business. At almost thirty years of age he hung up his shingle.
On the first day of trading in his new office he leaned back in his chair placing his feet across the large desk.
Come in suckers, I’m on my way, he thought.
Everything progressed as planned, his clients trusted him with their wealth, and in the beginning they made money. He gained a reputation for insightful investment advice, and the business boomed.
The temptation to siphon off his client’s funds into his own personal account became irresistible, but he avoided detection for many years, becoming a person of repute. Moving in the best of circles he was never seen in public without a beautiful woman on his arm.
Inevitably his illegal actions became public knowledge, and the scandal hit the news.
Some of the headlines in the New York Times read:
Marinakis Arrested for Insider Trading.
Vampire Financier Sucks Investors Dry
Released from prison several years later at forty-five years of age, he had nothing.
Even his good looks were leaving him he noticed one day as he ran a razor over his jaw. The stodgy unhealthy prison food hadn’t helped the spreading waistline, his hair, once jet black, had threads of silver running through it.
One night in the halfway house he shared with three other released prisoners, he lay shivering under thin blankets listening to rats scratching behind a heavy set of drawers. The sound reminded him of his childhood bedroom, and he had a sudden surge of anger. “Bloody rats!” He yelled, leaping from the bed. He flicked on the light, and dragged the furniture away from the wall, determined to kill the rat, but it disappeared into a hole in the skirting board. Defeated, and about to push the drawers back, he saw amongst the accumulated dirt a yellowing newspaper from over twenty years ago. Sleep now impossible, he skimmed through the crumbling paper.
An old news item caught his eye about two men called Fleischmann and Pons. They’d falsely claimed to have found a method of producing free electricity through the power of Cold Fusion.
Dimitriou laughed out loud, he always admired anyone who could take gullible people for a ride.
He experienced a sense of excitement he’d not had for years, imagining working a similar swindle. “I could do that,” he whispered.
The next day he rose with a spring in his step. He walked the several blocks to the library, wondering what had happened to the two crooks who’d first thought of the scam. Googling their names he found out Pons had completely disappeared, a big search proving fruitless. Fleischmann had died, found murdered in a in New York alleyway, exsanguinated, drained of all his blood.
“Wow!” Dim whistled softly, “They sure pissed off someone, all right.”
Putting all thoughts of their fates from his mind he set to work.
He schemed to convince investors he had discovered the secret to generating electricity by only using sea water. To do this, he would need to build a demonstration unit to prove that before their eyes they would see the power of water powering up high wattage light bulbs.
He chortled to himself; I’ll take their money, they’ll only see what they want to see, the fools.
Dimitriou worked for weeks in his filthy room perfecting his demonstration. The plan was to appear to power up six light bulbs without the use of electricity. He manufactured a second unit; he called it the Fusionator, which had glass tubes into which he poured sea water.
He then would attach the Fusionator, and the light bulbs would miraculously light up.
No one would see the ultra small computer batteries and hidden switch.
Mr and Mrs Wolf lived in Brooklyn, a sweet couple still in love after years of marriage. Their crumbling home suited them nearly as much as each other.
Vlad was reading the paper when the telephone rang. “Answer that, Viola!” He called.
When his wife didn’t answer, Vlad struggled from his recliner to get there before the caller hung up.
“My name is Rani, I’m calling you regarding your computer fault.” An Asian sounding voice replied.
Vlad stopped him right there, “You’re nothing but a scammer, we don’t even own a computer!” He yelled, slamming the telephone on the hook.
“Something wrong?” Viola asked.
“Scammers again! How I despise them.”
“You should have invited them around, you know how much we enjoyed meeting that Solar panel salesman, when he came to talk with us.” She gave a phlegmy cough, as she laughed.
Vlad chuckled, then asked, “Did you read that article in today’s paper?”
“What was that dear?” Viola asked.
“There’s someone who's looking for investors, he claims he has invented something which will change the world.”
“Oh, sure, we’ve heard that before, it will be another fraudster whose sole purpose is to swindle people out of their savings.” Viola’s white face got even paler.
“Don’t upset yourself, darling.” Vlad knew how his wife hated dishonesty. He gave her a sly look. “Shall we give this young man a chance and ask him over to show us this world changer?”
Viola smiled and gave a nod.
Dimitriou spent money on a taxi fare to Brooklyn, deciding the expense worth it if he could get these fools to invest. They’ll be a pushover, two old codgers with too much cash.
He paid off the cab, taking his equipment from the back seat.
Kicking the creaking gate open with his foot, he walked up the long, cracked and winding driveway towards the front door. The wild grass almost reached the windowsills, and he noticed strange shaped hedges. The house appeared neglected, and almost in danger of falling down. These people can’t possibly have money to invest. He shrugged, Oh, well, I’m here now, may as well give it a go. He had the feeling of being watched.
Viola peered through the torn lacy curtains, “He’s here, Vlad, open the door, he has his hands full.”
The demonstration took over an hour; Mr and Mrs Wolf appeared impressed. He cautioned them not to tell anyone until he’d perfected his invention.
“We need to tell as few people as possible until we’re ready to announce it to the World.”
Vlad placed a pile of cash on the kitchen table where they were sitting, Dimitriou couldn’t keep his eyes off it.
“Do you wish to stay for supper?” Viola asked.
“That’s very nice of you,” Dimitriou replied. They’ve taken the hook. He thought.
Vlad and Viola exchanged a look. “Are you hungry, Vlad?”
A hand gripped Dimitriou’s thigh. The atmosphere had changed.
Viola’s breath was near his neck, and she sank her fangs in hard. A spurt of blood shot out, and Vlad breathed deeply, “Supper smells great, Viola.”
“Oh, I do so enjoy the taste of Greek food, so tasty,” Viola mumbled.
“Don’t speak with your mouthful dear, so unbecoming in a Vampire.” Vlad joked.
Their strength overwhelmed Dimitriou. Try as he might he couldn’t escape.
He became lightheaded from the sudden blood loss, and the last words he heard were… “We’ll suck him dry.”