Andy KJ Cragg


A hardened criminal confesses.

Ok so, confession time. I’m a hardened criminal, always have been, since boyhood. I steal stuff. I exhort money from people, I’m a loan shark - sometimes up to 100% interest - and I put the frighteners on those that won’t pay. Now, that’s a funny thing - nine times out of ten, given the frighteners, they all pay up. Dunno where they get it from, loan sharks like me I guess, but they pay up on time with a little encouragement from me and my oversized, be-jewelled, antique, glamorous-looking knife. In all fairness that knife is as blunt as a lump of cheese, but it works, they pay up.

I’m not heartless, the ten per cent that don’t pay up, I can be merciful. Give them a bit of time. Cor Blimey, I’ve even let some of the ten per cent off altogether. I’m in a profitable business and all businesses have their returns, their refund requests etc, so I do let some poor unfortunates off. Occasionally.

As a hardened criminal, I’ve also, let’s say, relieved some “customers” of their raison d’etre. I’m a murderer. Hardened, as I say. Don’t get me wrong, the bastards that I’ve offed were proper wrong’uns. Evil creatures that had no right to continue to exist on this planet. Doing the world a favour, that’s me. I have a business to run and I've the morals of an alley cat most of the time. Firm but fair, you could say. Next to no morality and you know - that makes business so much easier to do. Once there are no limits, well the world is my lobster as they say. Make as much money as possible with minimal effort. It’s easy! Anyone could do it if they let a few ideals in life go. Easy and peasy.

With all the advances in forensics and whatnot, I’ve had to alter my MO, for sure, but the woodentops still ain't got a clue. I’m clever, you see, as well as being hardened. I’m a doctor, I have a PhD in Forensic Science, so I know it all from the inside and I’m very careful these days. And scot free, of course.

Why am I writing all this? I’m actually sat here in a little mud hut in the middle of nowhere and it’s a proper enjoyable life. As I’ve said, I’ve got a criminal mind, always on the lookout for the main chance. That’s what I am. But, I knew you wanted the “but” and here it is. Mud hut. No conveniences. No saunas, no vast swimming pools, no drug- and alcohol-fueled parties, no nothing at all really, just a lowly hut. The tribe are treating me well, I’ve been here for two months now, I only came for a week to detox a bit (I don’t drink nor take drugs, actually but I have liked a decent meal every day). There is something about living in what the outsiders would call “primitive” (this bunch is anything but, I could learn a lot if I were to leave and carry on my criminal ways in the cities of this world). Everyone knows each other and what they do. No chance then of me trying to exert my specialist skills, they’d see through me in an instant. And no money to steal and guard, it doesn’t exist in this society. For the first time in my life, I’ve not needed to play my card, pull a fast one, or bamboozle anyone out of their life savings - there are none. We hunt, we gather we fish, we eat, and we tell stories around the fire. Everything is shared, there is no first dibs for important elders or whatnot. It’s incredible.

There is a small normal-ish town about fifty miles away. I said to the tribe I was going “on a wander” - I’d not be back for days or weeks, but I would be back. I got to the town by walking, cadging lifts and even surprised myself by not nicking the bicycle I saw, just there for the picking. I walked most of it, it was fun, met some interesting people and didn’t try to rob or kill them. How refreshing. When I got to the town I drank the first decent cup of coffee I’d had in ages and I was pretty wired after that, I can tell you, so never again! But there was a shop which sold notebooks and pens, so I didn’t nick them, I paid several times over the price, because, well, I was feeling like a new me. The money I had with me I kept beside my bed, no one in the tribe thought it was valuable. I had a lot of notebooks and a lot of pens, so I am going to write my life story. And when that is done I shall keep it with me at all times, so when I die, it can be read by all and sundry. I know I won’t be there to see it, but it will be great when I reveal the locations of several bodies, stashes of gold, diamonds, cash and some very important documents - there will be a frenzy!

It’s so peaceful here, well actually there are the occasional bust-ups but the culture is such that they are formally addressed in the big central hut over there. The older, not elder, women and men sort it all out in a kind of very informal trial, judge and jury, like Soloman perhaps but more collegiate. I have absolutely no power here, so no influence that might be gained by force or threat. I lack nothing. I need no device to gain anything more than my peers.

I’m learning the lingo, and I’m a fast learner. Always had to be, to keep up with what was going on around me, the politics, the in-fighting, the threats and the opportunities.

The language here is less spoken, more accent and gestures. And I’m accepted here, I just turned up, showed interest, stayed and helped out and now I’m part of the day-to-day.

Everything I’ve done, everything I’ve learned on the wrong side of the tracks is now useless to me, I’m reborn into that child just before he stole his first loaf of bread. And if the coppers come tomorrow I shan’t resist, but I suspect it will be a long time before they do. They’ll not recognise me as the stand-out white guy here, I’m blending in nicely. I’m a million times a better man.

So, if you want a moral to my story, then, well don’t go looking for your own mud hut here, there aren’t enough to go around, I was lucky (was it just luck?). Perhaps look for your own mud hut anywhere in the world. Things can change, and change for the infinite better, I’m living proof. Perhaps your detoxing moment might be a life changer.