Rock Con Roll (Chapter 1, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 1

Rules for Con Artists

  • Don't call attention to yourself.
  • Before the con, study the mark.
  • During the con, listen carefully and observe the mark.
  • Never look bored, but don't appear too eager, either.
  • Never let them see you sweat.
  • Offer them something for nothing while actually giving them nothing for something.
  • Never fall for the mark.


Ugh, Los Angeles! The city held too many bad memories for me, and this police station threatened to become another disturbing experience. The police were not my friends when I was a kid, and I'd never completely gotten over that feeling. So even entering the building made me uncomfortable, and after wandering down narrow stairways and poorly lit hallways full of locked steel doors, I felt truly lost. Ironic, because I was looking for the lost-and-found department.

Most people wouldn't get so anxious about going to the lost and found. But I had a reason for being nervous: I was pretty sure I was about to commit a crime. Normally, there's no crime in making a claim. I should be able to go in there and ask for the big stuffed panda I lost in the park last week, without getting arrested. But since I'd just landed here in Los Angeles and hadn't been near that park in years, my claim was a lie.

But worse than the lie, I worried there was something unusual about that panda. This had to be more sinister than a missing plush toy, because the person who wanted me to make the claim was Bea Kirkland, my foster mother since age two, and an accomplished con artist. If Bea wanted me to do this, then it was no ordinary panda.

I hadn't returned to Los Angeles to see Bea. In fact, I'd left here seven years ago, because of her. When we were young, my brother, sister, and I were taught to cheat and steal. A fun thing to do, back then, but when the cruelty and danger of such a life became apparent, I had to get out. So I ran away to New York City-rather abruptly-and hid from my foster mother.

In New York, I made an honest life for myself and didn't do any cons. I thought-no, I hoped-that I'd never see Bea again. But she called me yesterday in a panic because my Uncle Carl had been arrested. He needed my help to save him from a long prison term, so I had to come back.

Carl meant the world to me-he had taught me to paint, which was my livelihood now. Of course, a skilled painter can also be a skilled forger, so Carl and I had done quite a bit of that, too. With him in jail, I was his only hope. He'd been caught with explosives, and unless he could furnish a proper federal license for it, he'd be in trouble. Bea also pointed out that Carl had been in the middle of another con when he got busted. Something about a lost panda. Which is why I was here, looking for the lost and found.

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