I’ve always lived by the rule book my Father left me. It worked for him, and it’s worked for me. In particular:
#Rule No 1. If you are careful, you won’t get caught. But you have to be very careful.
Oh, I’ve been careful, so very, very careful. For all these years, I have been above suspicion. My email is encrypted. I change my mobile regularly. I use so many intermediaries I’m untraceable. If a crusading hero were to ride into town on the whiff of a rumour, they’d find nothing but straws whistling down the wind. And if they were able to weave a tale from the fragments they found, well then:
#Rule No 2.Your friends are your best defence.
I have friends, such powerful friends. There’s hardly a politician, newspaper mogul, movie star who I haven’t helped in some way. They’ve all enjoyed the hospitality of my house parties, and appreciated the parting video as a memento of their stay. If our sheriff were to enter the saloon bar with impertinent questions, they’d rise as one to protect me, I’m quite sure about that. As for the tiny few who reject my generosity, ridicule is such an effective weapon, their protest rarely amounts to much. Should some foolhardy idiot dare stick their neck out to defy the mocking bullets, there’s always:
#Rule No 3. Deny everything.
Our gunslinger might think he has all the shots, but when he faces me down at the poker table, there’s no way he can win. Whatever cards he holds, I’ll always call his bluff. My tongue will gild my lily-words, allaying the doubts of even the most sceptic audience. I will tell the tallest of tales, wrapped in the tiniest veneer of plausibility and the world will believe me, as it always done. Failing that:
#Rule No 4. Create a fall guy.
I’m fire-proof. I’m sure of it. Were our dogged loner actually able to penetrate the maze of connections I have created, he’d reach an impasse just before my door. I own my workforce. All of them. They know they have no choice but to hang for me, and, if it comes to it, they surely will. It is hard to imagine they’d have the wit to sell their souls to anyone else, but if they do, I’ll have a way out. That will be the day when it’s time for:
#Rule no 5. Burn the village.
If all else fails, I have other resources to fall back on. There are still places I can go where none can reach me, and I can begin again. If it comes to it I will burn my village to save it. It will be satisfying to watch my pursuer from a distance, as he warms in the flames of his great victory. A victory that will be bright, beautiful and pyrrhic.
This morning I woke to the sight of waggons circling, of vultures hovering overhead. My nemesis is swaggering down Main Street for our final showdown. I am ready for him. My bags are packed, the possessions I care about least are piled high. All I have to do is light the spark and they will burn.
My Father’s rules have protected me all these years. They protect me still. For we have saved the best for last:
#Rule No 6. Cut your losses and be gone.
Dedicated to Alan Rusbridger, Guardian Editor.