I hate money.
Didn't used to. But then again, I didn't love it either. The hustle wasn’t about money. Never the money.
It’s like when you're driving at night, in pitch black. And a car comes the other way. There’s a split-second as the car goes by, as its headlights are in your face, when you can't see a thing. And you’re driving blind… Sure, you proceed on your best knowledge, your experience; but you’re still blind.
There's a time like that when you hustle. A moment — and it’s more than just a split second — when you are driving blind. You can do all your preparation, but that doesn’t diminish it. In fact, it even focuses that moment — all your graft, all the gear and the gadgets. All your nouse. It sucks it all in, to that one time when you have no control, and it's all down to luck.
You live for that moment. And when it comes, you live in that moment. That's the thrill, that's the bite, that's the buzz…And me and Johnny loved it.
Man, we were hooked.
I first met Johnny when he joined my football team — Sunday league on the Hackney Marshes. He was a man of few words, but kind of cool with it — laid back; rock-solid in defence; And he had this gift — for deception. It was obvious when he took penalties. Before his run-up, he’d always stare at the keeper to psyche him out. He’d always get them diving the wrong way. I figured this gift would come in handy.
And it did.
Found out Johnny was a ‘short seller’: selling on the account shares that he didn't have, on the hunch that something will drive the shares down. If he's right, and the share price drops, he buys the shares he sold at the lower price, delivers to the market, and pockets the difference. It's a bit of a gamble… Unless you can predict for certain how the markets are going to drop.
That’s where I came in. On the technical side – Software Analyst.
Stockbrokers use computers for buying and selling. And if there’s one thing I know about computers, it’s that they’re totally predictable. No guess work. If you know the logarithms for mitigating loss, balancing risk, then you have power.
And me and Johnny used it.
It didn’t always work. But it paid off the mortgage.
Johnny was the one who suggested doing something big.
“Could you make the stock-market computer system crash?” he said.
“You can try,” I said.
“It would trigger off a wave of panic selling,” he said.
“I’ll work on it,” I said.
When you attack a system, you don't go for the weak points. They’re expecting that. No, you go for its strength, and make that a weakness…The Exchange computers are well protected. The best in the world. They lock onto a virus intrusion the second it hits the Initiation Buffer. They even start hunting down the virus source, to make them pay for it, if needs be — that’s their weakness.
You set up a system to hack into the mainframe, and kick-start a virus witch hunt: You get the mainframe chasing an infinite loop relayed between two Remote Servers.
You have to cover your tracks, and disguise your Server ID’s with the address of, say, a Merchant bank — somebody with multi-user access.
But the real trick is to break into the cycle and alter the Exchange mainframe’s self recognition macro. The ‘hunter’ mainframe doesn’t recognise itself, and starts chasing its own tail. And the beauty of the trick? As it gets closer and closer to catching itself, the more processing power is given over to the hunt… Until there is no more power to give. And then the system seizes up… Crash.
We chose the first day of spring. It was warm and sunny. So we reckoned the buyers would be up for it.
Johnny phones me from his office. Tells me things are looking good. So I programme the relay to hack in, set it on a timer, and phone Johnny.
"You've got 45 minutes," I say.
"Plenty of time," he says. He tells me he's going to target some of those fat cats on phone number salaries.
"Good luck," I say.
"Luck has nothing to do with it," he says, "Not this time."
And then he places the order with an independent broker to sell a whole portfolio of shares we don't have, with strict instructions for the broker to buy the shares back from the market on the last day of the account.
And I go and buy myself a cappuccino.
45 minutes later, I'm on the street outside Johnny’s office. I call him.
"Job done," he says. He's looking out of the window at me. And he smiles. He doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to. The look he gives me says it all: Money. Success.
Then I hear it.
A sound like the earth had split in two. And Johnny went through the window, flying through the air. Arms and legs flailing around, like he was drowning. And suddenly everything was broken – buildings torn to shreds, windows shattered, and bits of glass started coming down like a rain.
Johnny landed about 20 yards in front of me.
When I got to him, he was lying face up. Not moving. I shouted at him, but he didn’t respond. They pronounced him ‘dead on arrival’ at hospital.
The bomb took out the whole south side of the building. They reckoned one of the cleaners was an operative from a 'terrorist cell', but they don’t really know. Casual labour comes and goes all the time. You never know who they are. We never cared. Until now.
The markets nose-dived. The order Johnny placed was still completed even though he was dead: 'strict instructions'. The profits cleared 1 million. And it was all mine. And all totally legit.
Two weeks after the funeral, I was playing football. Thought it would take my mind off things.
We were awarded a penalty. The guy who took it missed.