Sunday, 17 January 2010

All that glitters

There is no such thing as a nearly perfect crime.

You either go to your grave at a ripe old age having gotten away with it, or you don’t and you might as well have tried nick the pen from the duty desk in a police station for all the good your planning did you.

Kemp had done everything conceivable to make this one perfect. The job was simple, elegant, classic. The preparation had been rigorous, the execution meticulous.

They were going to steal gold bullion from one of the vaults of the London Bullion Market Association. Defences were light because secrecy was its security. Everyone knows you keep gold in a bank vault. Which is why they kept gold in unmarked boxes in cellars across the City.

They had cut into the cellar from the sewers: the beginning of the job, but the end of five years of preparation. Five years in which they’d gone to every conceivable length to account for every possible complication, sweeping up every grain of incriminating evidence behind them, taking care of every ramification and every ramification of every ramification. It wasn’t just picking up the paper trail behind them; it was making sure they weren’t then caught dumping the bin bags.

Investors around the world bought and sold the gold in these cellars. They bought and sold the future value of the gold. Ownership moved but the bullion itself stayed in the cellars, unchanging, unmoving. Abstract values arbitrarily tied to lumps of metal by pieces of paper. A pyramidal house of cards of speculation – but a house built on foundations of gold.

Kemp pulled down his goggles and shone his torch around the cellar.

But they wouldn’t be keeping the gold. Trying to dispose of gold was where most people’s problems began. No, their plan was to remove some and effectively hold it hostage. There was only a finite amount of gold on the planet. Each bar had a serial number so every ingot in the world was accounted for. You couldn’t just magic up replacements or move bullion around to hide its absence, like some giant game of find the lady. If the news got out that gold had been taken, the whole system would collapse.

So all they would demand was a few million to buy their silence, secretly wired to some offshore accounts. After all, who better to hide money away than the Square Mile’s finest?

Kemp stepped gently into the cellar.

There was just one complication.

Where was all the fucking gold?

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