Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Burglar's Dilemma, a short crime comedy

For Story Sunday, I offer a new flash story, written last week, and still not polished. I've always liked crime stories about likable crooks, like Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr stories or Donald Westlake's Dortmunder stories. I may make Rod into a regular character....

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The Burglar's Dilemma
by Camille LaGuire

ONE NIGHT, WHEN Rod was making his exit from a jewelry store, where he had acquired some heavily discounted diamonds, he cut through a another shop on his way out.

This shop sold costumes, and they had a whole rack of uniforms; cops, security guards, soldiers. And since it was night and there was nobody there to stop him, he paused to check them over for one that looked kinda like a cop, but not too much, so that he couldn't get in trouble for impersonating an officer.

Because he didn't want to impersonate an officer. Rod was a burglar, not a robber. He liked acquiring things, he didn't like scaring people. He didn't even like talking to them, really. He was shy.

So this idea of wearing a security uniform when he went on jobs seemed just right for him. People avoid looking you in the eye when you're an authority figure. Most of the time, they don't look at you at all and all they saw was the uniform.

Rod liked not being remembered.

A couple of days later, Rod waltzed right in to an old apartment building, behind somebody with a key to the security door. They glanced at his chest, not at his face.

The apartment itself was full of nice things, but he didn't touch most of them. Rod wasn't greedy and the plan was not to draw attention to himself. Fact is, most people don't check their safes every single day, so if he was careful, they wouldn't even notice he'd been there until a long time later.

And besides, what would a cop or security guard be doing hauling down a bunch of electronics or art objects? Then people would look at him. But if he just walked out the way he walked in, nobody would remember a couple days later.

So Rod cracked the safe and only took the best pieces of jewelry and some cash; things that would fit in his pockets. Then he shut the safe and cleaned up after himself. There. Perfect.

As he got to the door, though, he heard a sound.

The sound of a key in the lock. Crap! The people had come home.

The door was already opening. He had no time, so he ducked into the closet beside the door and hoped they weren't wearing coats or carrying tennis rackets. If he was lucky, he could slip out when they went into the bedroom or something.

The people, however, stopped right there in front of the door and talked. An argument. Rod sighed and realized he might be in for a long night. He held still, and tried not to listen, but of course he had to, because he needed to know if they were going to open the closet or go in the other room and have make up sex....

The thing was, they weren't really arguing. The guy was using a voice like you argue with, nasty and mean. The woman, though, she didn't say hardly anything.

Then he heard a smack, like somebody got slapped. And the woman made a sound then, like she was the one who got smacked, even if the was the guy who was saying things that should have got him smacked. There was a sound like she fell against the closet door, and he could hear what she said next clearly.

"You won't get away with it," said the woman. "They'll know you did it."

"I'll blame it on a burglar," said the guy.

Rod stood up straight. No! He'd done such a good job of covering his tracks. And this guy.... Wait a minute, this guy was talking about killing the woman!

"I've got to tie you up first," said he man. "They'll know if the rope burns came after death, after all."

"No!" cried the woman.

"If you fight it will just help my story," said the guy, and he pulled her away from the door and Rod heard them go into the next room. Rod reached for the door knob, and pictured the position of the main door. He could get out fast.

The woman was crying now.

Rod didn't like hearing people cry. It bothered him. And you can't afford to be bothered about people's feelings when you're a crook.

But what could he really do? If he jumped out and intervened, the guy would still kill the woman after he left. It's not like he could wait around for the cops to arrive, and now the guy would have a real burglar to blame.

No, he'd have to hurt the guy, and help the woman escape. Then she could testify and the guy couldn't kill her. Just the word testify gave Rod the heebie-jeebies. He clutched at his belt as he thought how he could end up testifying too.

And he felt the gun in his belt. It was fake, but it was a pretty good fake.

He took a breath and lept out of the closet. He drew his weapon and roared like the voice from his own worst nightmares:

"Police! Drop it, asshole!"

The guy was so startled he not only dropped the rope, he fell right over. He started to get back up, but Rod shoved him back down.

"Hands on your head! Cross your ankles!"

He had the guy down like a pro. The handcuffs were fake too -- they just had a button you could use to release them -- but they were metal and probably felt right to fool the guy.

"You, lady," he said as he snapped them on the guy's wrists. "Go down stairs. Call 9-1-1- for back up!"

She scrambled to her feet and started to run for the door, but then paused to look at him.

"Wouldn't it be faster to use your radio?"

What do you say to that? Claim it's on the fritz? And now she was looking closer at the gun, and the cuffs, and his uniform. Rod was a fast thinker. He had the guy restrained now.

"Uh, I can't," he admitted. "I'm not really a cop, I'm a... a stripper."

"A stripper?"

"Yeah, I saw you in the hall and I didn't like the look on his face so I followed you up here. Maybe you'd better go to a neighbor's to call the cops in case this guy gets away from me."

The woman looked him over, and Rod was grateful that he had been working out lately, because the way he had looked last year, he would not have passed for a stripper.

She picked up her purse and pulled out a card and wrote something on it. Then she handed it to him.

"Call me," she said. "I may want a stripper for my divorce party."

She left the apartment while Rod used the rope to tie the guy up good. He considered putting the money and jewelry back, or slipping it into the guy's pocket, because frankly, that divorce party sounded interesting.

But he was shy, and they'd expect him to take that uniform off, so he kept the jewels and made his exit.


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Stay tuned for tomorrow's Story Notes on "The Burglar's Dilemma."

In the meantime: you can read more of my (published and award nominated) mystery and suspense fiction in the short ebook collection: Waiter, There's a Clue In My Soup! Five Mystery Stories. For 99 cents!

Available at the Amazon Kindle Store, Kindle UK, and in multiple formats at Smashwords. Also available at the B&N Nook Store, as well as the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, Sony and other e-retailers.


Chinaren said...

Ha! Nice little story. Liked the 'stripper' twist at the end.

The Daring Novelist said...

Thanks for visiting!

The 'stripper' idea was partly just kismet, but I realized it also fit really well -- more about that tonight.