“You’re late,” Pops said.
“Yeah, I was stuck at the DMV. They had me fill out like ten forms that they then entered into a computer, making each piece of paper redundant.”
“That’s just wasteful,” Pops said.
“This city is a mess,” the Kid said, inspecting the broken bathroom window. “What is this our fortieth burglary? And we’re clearing ten percent, maybe.”
“Less,” Pops said.
“It’s a total mess.”
“Second story,” Pops said, sounding mildly impressed.
“Seriously, you almost have to have a grudging respect,” the Kid said.
“Toilet paper,” Pops said, shaking his head sadly. He was much older than the Kid. Retiring in four months. The Kid was his protege.
“Huh?” The Kid stopped inspecting the broken glass on the windowsill.
“Why do they never steal the toilet paper?”
“Probably because it’s worth maybe five bucks.”
“Maybe, but these little bodegas, they have a few in my neighborhood. They’ll buy anything. I mean… TV, camcorder, digital camera, sure… But that’s just leaving money on the table.” The Kid nodded.
“Finish up, Rook. We won’t catch this guy.”
“That’s depressing,” the Kid said. He’d been partnered with the older police as he learned robbery. Robberies were epidemic. The city was going downhill fast.
“Well, you never know. Keep your eyes open. Criminals are basically stupid.”
“I’m noticing that,” the Kid said with a sigh. “Still. I feel like I’m not going to catch anyone.”
“You’re a smart kid. You wouldn’t have made detective if you weren’t. Not so young.” Pops put a big gnarled hand on the Kid’s shoulders.
“This is too easy,” the Kid said, finally.
“No, for them. Think about it. From glass breaking to when the uniforms arrived, it was nearly forty-five minutes.”
“Yeah,” Pops said, and shrugged.
“Too easy,” the Kid said.
“Everyone gets got eventually,” Pops said. The Kid wasn’t so sure.
The Kid studied. He read books by ex-burglars. By serial killers. By urban explorers. He learned to think like a criminal. It was all too easy. Much too easy.
“Who would rob the DMV?” Pops said.
“Who wouldn’t,” the Kid said dryly. He was reading a comic book.
“You could help,” Pops said.
“What are we processing exactly? This is the cleanest crime scene I’ve ever seen. He even cleaned.”
“And left all the equipment. Just took the paper. Yeah, this one is smart.”
“Yes, he is,” the Kid said with a smirk.
“What’s with the face?”
“Oh, nothing,” the kid said, going back to his comic books.
“You waste so much money on that trash.”
“Comics aren’t trash. Dragon’s Lair has about fifty grand just in comics. Like, the good ones. And boxes and boxes of others. Plus the owner’s a douche.”
Pops raised an eyebrow.
He donated the proceeds of the DMV job to charity. Fencing low value merchandise was ridiculously easy. Too easy. He needed a more.
The Kid kept studying. He read mystery novels. He talked to everyone. From when he woke, to when he slept, he thought about burglary. He got better.
“Who would rob a comic book store?” Pops said. “Well, maybe this one they would. Isn’t this the shop you’re always complaining about?”
“Yup,” the Kid said, playing a small hand held video-game.
“Why didn’t he take the art?” Pops asked. “You know this place better than I do.”
“That’s all on consignment. Maybe he’s not comfortable robbing people.”
“The store owner is people.”
“Not really,” the Kid said with a sly grin.
“Kid,” Pops said with a sigh.
“Yes?” the Kid asked. He kept a poker-face.
“Nothing,” Pops said. “How do you afford all that crap?”
“They aren’t expensive exactly. I trade them in. Still, it’s highway robbery. You get like thirty percent of what they resell them for. It’s kind of… kind of a rip off.” Pops watched the Kid carefully.
“You sure there’s nothing you want to say?”
“Not just yet,” the kid said with a grin. He never looked up from his game. Pops sighed.
He poured over comic book price guides. He sorted the valuable comics from the trash; it wasn’t hard to do. The most valuable hundred books he put into a safe deposit box, and gave the key to a lawyer with instructions to remit the key to him in eight years. If he wasn’t there to receive the key, he was to auction the comics and pass the proceeds to a list of ten charities. All the rest of the books were sorted and bagged; he dropped them off at local orphanages. And he thought about the video games.
The Kid was learning. Slowly but surely he was learning his craft. Evolving. He learned skills one at a time, working in the off hours. He rarely slept, his night work keeping him quite busy.
“Kid, you find something funny about this?”
“I find a lot funny about this,” the Kid said dryly. He was smiling though, staring at the small business card in the plastic sandwich bag. “We’re using sandwich bags now?”
“It was already in that.”
“‘Robin Goode.’ Cute. Bet that leaks in six minutes and the media goes ape-hey-watch-where-your-stepping-in-our-crime-scene. Fifteen jobs and not a clue. No homes, all businesses. All making weird little social statements. He’s good. What’s the baggie about?” The Kid asked, setting it down.
“He’s telling us he’s that careful.”
“Or screwing with us,” the Kid said with a smirk.
“We’ll process both and get nothing,” Pops said. “He only took the used games.”
“How bout that,” the Kid said. “You gotta wonder though how funny it is to all these guys working overtime. Still, it is pretty funny.”
“Something you want to say, Kid?”
“Getting there,” the Kid said with a wry wink.
It took a month of work to move the video games safely. The Internet was an amazing tool for a criminal. He shipped games, took electronic payments, and doled the money out all around the city. His grand total so far? He’d moved nearly a million dollars into charities. It was still too easy. He needed more. Some sort of grand finale.
The Kid thought the way a criminal would. He poured over newspapers, bulletins, web pages. He looked for the perfect target. Something that would prove just how good he was. Something that would appeal to his odd socially conscious vibe. He found it. A dead millionaire heiress’ art collection was set to go to auction tomorrow night. The proceeds were going to her six year old Pug “Daisy.” It was just his sort of party. The Kid smiled. Tonight was the night.
“So, yeah, about that thing you wanted me to talk about,” the Kid said with a smirk. “It was mostly about this.” He and Pops stood in the empty auction house, handguns pointed at each other.
“I kind of figured,” Pops said.
“Let’s be honest,” the Kid said, “We’re not going to shoot each other.” Pops sighed and let his gun hang, and so did the Kid.
“How early did you know?” Pops said quietly.
“Pretty early,” the Kid said, “Nobody knows burglary that well. Even a pro. Police procedures evolve, shifts change, patrols change. Nobody’s that good without having an inside track. And nobody knows burglary like Pops,” the Kid said with a smile.
“You bring cuffs?”
“Nah,” the Kid said, “Here’s how I look at it. Chasing you these last four months taught me more about burglary than any cop in the city. Look at how fast our clearance rate is rising. And if I can catch you, then I can catch the rest of them.”
“You’re not bad, Kid.”
The Kid smirked, “Pops, once you retire, I’m the best. Seriously though, you’re officially in retirement from this too. I will knock an old man down if I have to.” Pops grinned.
“You sure? She’s giving several million dollars to what’s basically a large warthog.”
“No,” the Kid said.
“Yeah, how’d your ‘Just one’ work out?”
“Touche,” Pops said, looking longingly at a particularly terrible Jackson Pollock.
“Ugh,” the Kid said, “Let’s go, before you change my mind.” The art remained un-stolen.
Pops and the Kid went out for a drink.