Characters: Bikky, Ryo, OCs.
Setting: Towards the end of the manga.
Summary: All Bikky wanted was something pretty to give Carol on Valentine’s Day…
Word Count: 1002
Written For: Challenge 029: Bait and Switch at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
Bikky was far from happy. It had taken most of his meagre savings to buy the beautiful ring he’d seen advertised on the internet, intending to give it to Carol for Valentine’s Day, but now it was here and it wasn’t anything like the pictures. The ‘silver’ band had no hallmark, and the ‘genuine’ emerald, Carol’s birthstone, was small and dull, unlike the large, beautifully faceted stone he’d believed himself to be paying for.
Angry and embarrassed at being conned, as a cop’s son he really should have known better, he threw himself on the sofa to wallow in misery. He couldn’t give something so tacky and cheap looking to his girl, but now he didn’t have the money to buy Carol the kind of gift she deserved. He was a useless boyfriend, and he couldn’t have felt any worse if he’d tried.
He was still lying there, immersed in gloomy thoughts, when Ryo arrived home from work. “Hey, Biks. What’s wrong? You look even more miserable than the weather.”
“I did something stupid,” Bikky admitted. “I wanted to get Carol something special for Valentine’s, and one of the guys at school told me about this website where you can buy genuine gemstone jewellery at a fraction of the shop prices; they’re based right here in Manhattan so shipping cost hardly anything. I thought I was getting a great deal until I saw what I’d bought.” He held out the ring.
Ryo sank onto the edge of the sofa and took the sorry looking piece of jewellery from Bikky’s fingers, studying it carefully. “Hmmm, safe to say there’s nothing genuine about this. I’m no expert, but if this is an emerald it’s the poorest quality I’ve ever seen.” He looked at Bikky. “If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I would’ve thought you’d know better.”
“I should have,” Bikky sighed. “Now I’ve blown everything I saved on something that’s not even worth the price of the postage.”
“Don’t feel too bad, Biks. Practically everyone gets caught out occasionally.”
“You wouldn’t have.”
Ryo smiled. “I have an unfair advantage; my parents dealt in antiquities, I learned a lot from them. Listen, I know a guy on the fraud squad. Let me have the website details and leave it with me. I’ll have a word with my friend; see if they’re investigating the people behind this scam. A lot of this stuff goes unreported because most people are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been conned. And don’t worry about getting a gift for Carol.” He pulled out his billfold and handed Bikky some money. “You can repay me by doing a few extra chores.”
“Anything,” Bikky promised. “Thanks, Ryo; you’re the best!”
“Can’t have Carol disappointed on Valentine’s.”
“Nope,” Detective Ryan told Ryo as he studied the website and the cheap ring Bikky had received. “Not come across this lot before, looks like they’re keepin’ a fairly low profile, and I doubt they’ve been operatin’ long; they’ll probably drop out of sight by Valentine’s Day. Jewellery scams often pop up at this time of year. The scammers pull the standard bait and switch, luring people in with pictures copied from other, legitimate websites, substitute their poor quality knockoffs, make a quick buck and then vanish. Let’s see if we can snare ‘em before they crawl back in their hole. First we make a purchase… Ooh, let’s see, my girl likes rubies so how about a nice pair of ruby earrings…” He tapped away at the keys, buying the goods and backtracking the IP address. “How long did it take the ring to arrive?”
“Bikky said a couple of days. They claimed to despatch items the same day they’re ordered.”
“The Manhattan address will be bogus, but they’re definitely local, or at least have a local distributor, for goods to arrive so fast… Yep! Here we go,” he grinned, jotting down an address in Yonkers. “Soon as our goods arrive, we can get a warrant an’ move on ‘em!”
“You really love your job, don’t you, Jay?” Ryo laughed.
“What’s not to love? People deserve to get the products an’ services they pay their hard-earned cash for. Anyone who fails to deliver should expect to be hunted down. Don’t matter whether they’re swindlin’ a multi-national corporation outta millions of dollars, or rippin’ a high school student off for a few bucks; it’s still fraud, an’ that makes ‘em fair game. I get a lot of job satisfaction takin’ ‘em down.”
Five days later, Bikky and Ryo were among the people looking through the one-way mirror into one of the eighty-second precinct’s interview rooms. They were there as a professional courtesy to watch as the fraudster who’d duped Bikky out of his savings was questioned and charged.
“That’s him? Seriously?” Bikky could scarcely believe his eyes. The pimply youth was hardly older than Bikky himself, maybe eighteen or nineteen at best, and he looked scared half to death.
“Thought he’d figured out a foolproof get rich quick scheme,” Detective Ryan smirked. “Sell off the costume jewellery he’d picked up cheap at vastly inflated prices, pocket the cash, and he’d be sittin’ pretty. Wasn’t expectin’ a raid at the crack of dawn, confiscatin’ his merchandise an’ all his ill-gotten gains.”
“What’ll happen to him now?”
“He’ll be charged with intent to defraud, sale of substandard goods, among other things. It was a local one-man operation, first offence, so he probably won’t serve much time, mebbe a few months. Spent most of the money he made on nights out with his mates. Not exactly a criminal mastermind. Still, maybe this’ll teach him crime don’t pay.”
“Thanks for this, Jay.” Ryo shook hands with his friend.
“No prob, it’s what I do.”
As they left the precinct, Bikky sighed. “In future, I’m only buying from shops so I can see what I’m getting before I pay for it.”
Ryo nodded. “Sounds like that kid’s not the only one who’s learned a valuable lesson.”