Heart Attacks: Installment Three
Read these first to get the back-story: http://keithmitchell5.hubpages.com/hub/Heart-Attacks-Installment-Two
Noel: "I flew into LAX and saw all these busy people. Halfway attractive or better. A little weather-beaten mostly. Sunglasses on, toting luggage, moving quickly. Some alone, some with children. But almost no one with a partner. I saw customers all around." _____________________________________________________
Noel and Mitchell dreamed of going legit. They talked about it incessantly. Instead of destroying people's hopes and shredding the notion of love, they could do it better than eharmony, match.com, or any of the rest. Way better. If only they'd harness their powers for good instead of evil. Maybe next month or next year.
Mitchell continually said that eharmony got it wrong. "They suck the negative-positive charge out of a relationship. They match up likes with likes. You need healthy differences to spark things, to create an intriguing challenge. Especially at the beginning. And match.com is just a bad booty call service. We'd offer specified services for those looking for everything from safe consistency to flaming passion combined with intellectual attraction to one-night hookups and everything in between. We'd market it honestly and set up the guidelines well."
They talked about hiring their own photographers, make-up specialists, and wardrobe department to show people in their best light instead of from some unflattering self-held phone shot in an ill-fitting sweatshirt. [What were these people thinking? No wonder they're single.] They'd be like a mini-Facebook with a top-shelf IT department and even phone support for writing a better profile or doling out dating advice. It would be huge. They toyed with the name of passion.com for their mythical operation. But the immediacy of their ongoing scams always got in the way, so going legit remained in the talking stage. There always seemed to be a fire to put out, and it almost always involved Brittany.
* * * * * * *
Ellison was running out of aliases. She never re-used a previous name and never used the same name concurrently with various customers. This was smart, precautionary business to prevent embittered victims and law enforcement from connecting the dots, but it required a Herculean cataloging effort. Ellison kept a navy blue PDA just for this purpose. She grouped the names by geographic region, listed the man being scammed, his city, and the duration of her time with each. A portion of the list read:
Taurine Tofts: McKeesport, PA/ Charles Spray, April-Nov 2010; Breana Granger: Youngstown, OH/ Clayton Burris, Oct 2010-present; Kayla Emerson: Carmel, IN/ Doug Draper Sept 2011-present; Katey Holts, May 2009-Feb 2010, Robert Deis, St. Paul, MN
Picking aliases was hard. She abhorred overly contrived named - Ellison refused to use the name Madison, for example. She often used the names of actual women whose paths she had crossed in her life. The less she liked the namesake, the more fun she had defiling their good name. Ellison picked former bosses, teachers, guidance counselors, probation personnel. She played with the spelling a little to avoid being Googled. It was Noel's job to set up scenarios where Ellison's (and Brittany's) aliases were covered plausibly online. Usually, he just set them up with a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and their own amateurish looking home page/ blog. He'd phone them each and ask for ideas to post that might resonate with the client they were using that particular alias with. For example, in bilking the Robert Deis from St. Paul [see above], Noel would pick Ellison's brain about topics the two had broached, Deis's political views, and so on, and then try to subtly work that into a Facebook posting or status update. This operation was light years ahead of the Nigerians or Russians, running their obvious scams. It was almost too hard, it seemed, to actually go legit.
"Porcelaine Doing Her Best James Dean"
Porcelaine was out of control. Way beyond the pale. Noel, Mitchell, and Ellison were too caught up in their own intrigue to seem to notice. Porcelaine was unsuccessfully attempting to buffer her cocaine binges with heroin. She now often looked like pallid, squalid, and emaciated. Angry drug dealers had more than once come calling to the doorstep du jour of the operation, angrily demanding several thousand dollars. Keith Mitchell paid up each time, taking it out of Porcelaine’s bottom line. She was now in the red for about seventeen grand. The operation certainly didn’t need this aggravation, and mistrust of and acrimony toward Porcelaine spiraled. And of course, Ellison was gone. The one person best equipped to deal with Porcelaine was in Scottsdale meeting a new client, or as she increasingly referred to them, a “john,” in the parlance of prostitution.
EA- “Why kid ourselves? It’s basically what we do.”
Mitchell staunchly disagreed. “We don’t have sex with them.”
EA- “You don’t, but I would to seal a big deal.”
She had a no-nonsense tone, almost ominous.
KM, impressed – “You may be the CEO of scamming.”
EA – “I could run this operation. I’m obviously smart enough, creative enough, and driven enough. But I’d be wrong for it. It would be like having two dads.”
Mitchell remembered Ellison’s dad from her years in high school. He was the biggest nouveau riche pompous asswipe he had met to date. The man had a ridiculously large fish tank installed into the pink wall of his gaudy suburban home, which he stocked with several extortionately priced Pacific fish just because he could. A large mural of either Billy Idol or Rob Lowe – he couldn’t remember which – adorned the pink wall, just south of the fish tanks. The left ear of the mural was “pierced” with a white Christmas light earring. And among his other possessions was the obligatory trophy wife, all of twenty-four when Ellison herself was seventeen. Back then, her dad drove a truck and had once honked his horn for 45 minutes straight to get someone, anyone, to come outside at one of Ellison’s high school speech meets so they would retrieve her for him. Ellison was creative, innovative, and talented, but in his self-absorbed oblivion, pops couldn’t give a piss less. "Get in the truck!" What a severe douchebag. Mitchell wondered if her comment about “two dads” was a reference to her brusque father, so he asked, “Like having two dads?”
EA- “Dad’s push you. They want you to take reckless chances. Jump off garages, climb walls, take all sorts of risks that are potentially unwise. They’ll get you hurt, maimed, killed. That’s what I’d do. I’d push Porcelaine and Noel to take stupid risks for various reasons, and they’d both do it. I know how to get them to do anything, just like the johns I deal with.
But a mom, she puts a stop to the foolishness and yells at you to get down off the garage and tells the dad to quit being an idiot. She tells you nice things and strokes your hair and makes it better. And that’s you – you’re the mom.”
In any event, Porcelaine was still out of control. God only knew what she was out there doing and saying. She wasn't careful. She didn't guard her aliases. She used Porcelaine over and over - not exactly an "under the radar" pseudonym. Mitchell wanted a “band meeting” (as Ellsion called it) to decide their young colleague’s fate within the group. But then he realized this was preposterous. They couldn’t chuck her out, no matter what. She knew too much. A bitterly jilted, completely unreliable Porcelaine would most certainly spill the beans and bring down the whole house of cards. They were tethered, the four of them, for better or worse. Sometimes Mitchell considered bringing in a fifth team member for more potential profit and then realized the increased headaches that came with expansion. So never mind a fifth, but what should they do about Porcelaine? What could they do? Manage the situation the best they could - babysit her, hold her hand, attempt damage control.
THE 180 CONSECUTIVE DAYS THAT PORCELAINE DIED
Mitchell was in a Comfort Inn in Gallup, New Mexico, moving on and hiding out as usual. Free wireless and the anonymity of hotels were always a welcome refuge. They paid their bills in cash whenever possible and used fake names. Mitchell was bourgeois enough to bask in all the hotel accouterments too: the hot tub, the fitness center, the completely pedestrian free “continental” breakfast. Ellison was in Indianapolis to see Anna and her mother. Noel was in St. Louis monitoring the scams and keeping a close eye on the watchdog websites. Several Ukrainian and Russian photo models were being exposed as frauds. A Yahoo chat between Ellison and a mark was reproduced on one site verbatim. Ellison was “Trina Painter” in this instance. Noel turned off his favorite powerbook and mixed a Makers Mark and diet Coke. He texted Ellison to tell her that Trina Painter was "dead."
And Porcelaine. She was actually dying in the Sunset Hill Park neighborhood, just outside Seattle. Her Kurt Cobain mission of mortal dissipation having now been completed, she was discovered in various shades of blue and purple, in the hallway of a third-story townhouse, dead, with a syringe protruding from her left arm.
The police made their way through the numbers on Porcelaine’s contact list and reached Noel’s third phone, the AT&T one that had horrible coverage/reception. Between the officer’s words fading in and out, Noel gulped. He’d heard “Britney McClard” and then “deceased” and asked how. It was the predictable ending. “At least she died doing something she liked,” he thought. He called Mitchell and heard him breathe slowly, audibly, almost a sigh. Mitchell called Ellison, who said only, “Uh-huh.” Click. Dead air.
The three met at the Albuquerque airport. They seemed almost embarrassed that they weren’t more grief-stricken. “She died at least six months ago,” Ellison said between drags on a cigarette. Mitchell told her she looked “Jackie Kennedy-esque” in her black coat and dress. Given her penchant for calling attention to herself, he was surprised she wasn't wearing a veil and black gloves.
Noel- “Man, this is so sad.”
Ellison- “It's not that bad. Think of it this way: if she hadn't met us, she might well have died earlier."
Mitchell - "I don't know. It's entirely possible that we accelerated her demise."
Ellison - "Jesus, Mitchell. Some people just aren’t cut out for it. I wonder about myself sometimes.”
Whether she was talking about scamming, life or both, he had no idea.