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Leon Stansfield, Master Thief

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Leon Stansfield, a master burglar and man of many talents, paves a career for himself filled with heists, espionage and adventure, all while sticking to the codes of a traditional gentleman thief.

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Eyes of the Golden Lion

Leon Stansfield had always been a character of an immense elusively mysterious nature. By the time I had first met the man, news of his exploits were sweeping American newspapers with monthly consistency.

He was a burglar, a thief, an inventor, and a fool. In the underground, he was considered an anarchist, and a rebel against the snooty enigma of high society.

The papers decorated him as a folk hero, despite his countless criminal acts. After just three months of nonstop heists, in which Stansfield supposedly amassed an unprecedented amount of illegitimately obtained money, the world was calling him Lupin’s successor.

At the time I felt this was a bit of an insult to Maurice Leblanc’s fictional gentlemen thief, yet as time went on I began to notice similarities between the character and the man all manner of well-off folk had begun to fear in the summer of 1905.

I first met his acquaintance at the Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla, California. Despite his massive success in evading capture, Stansfield would unfortunately often fall victim to bouts of either poor luck or careless clumsiness.

These rare instances would either see the master thief being caught in the act of his craft, or lead to a short, but eventually escaped, incarceration. I was attending a wedding being held at the hotel and stumbled upon Stansfield after hearing an unsettling amount of rustling coming from one of the rooms next to mine.

I had drunk a little too much that afternoon and went up to my room to sleep off a headache. That was when the noise woke me up. It was the sound of drawers opening and closing with a stern swiftness.

I headed next door, crept in, and saw the burglar disguised as a waiter. He had a necklace in one hand and a strange tool meant for grabbing small gems in the other.

I would later come to find that this small device was meant for plucking gems from tight jewelry in the rare instances Stansfield came across fake silver or gold, but genuine stones.

At once Stansfield pocketed his finds and attempted to talk his way out of the situation. To be perfectly honest, I might have even believed him if the diamond necklace he had pocketed wasn’t still hanging out of his pants.

Stansfield had cooked up a story about being sent up from the dining hall to bring down an elderly lady’s jewelry as she couldn’t be bothered to head back upstairs to retrieve it.

He even presented me with the keys to the room and the name of my aunt Elisa, whom I knew was lazy, but not lazy enough to leave the retrieval of her jeweler in the hands of a random hotel waiter.

I laughed, immediacy altering Stansfield to the fact that I knew he was lying. I wasn’t even afraid at the time. The only thing on my mind was how a man could believe such a ridiculous story.

That was about the time when Stansfield realized I was with the wedding party. Stansfield believed the floor was empty, which was why he had chosen the late afternoon to clean out the rooms of their valuables.

It was just his rotten luck that I managed to sneak by whilst he was scouting the floor. At once he dropped the jewels, admitted defeat, and wiped away the fake mustache upon his lip.

He straightened his posture and came out of the character he had cooked up to deceive me. It was then the cleverness of the man truly struck me.

In both admiration and in reaction to the idiocy of the situation I laughed. Stansfield found this most peculiar as he expected me to frantically attempt to apprehend him.

A possibility he later told me he had a plan for. I shrugged off the tight atmosphere and casually asked if he was the thief the papers had been writing about.

About then was when Stansfield began to look relaxed. I asked him if he was going to kill me, and he said only if I were to reveal his identity to the members of the hotel before he could make his escape.

I could tell he was joking. Only for a split second did I fear for my life, my nerves settling down once I realized never once in any of his heists did Stansfield ever take a life.

I followed him outside into the hallway where we were caught in a kind of awkward exchange. While the only thing on his mind was getting away as quickly as possible, something in me felt playful as I danced on the growing desire to examine the man.

Looking back little of what Stansfield originally told me was true. He seemed to like my jolly, conniving nature. A point Stansfield tried to parallel with his own twisted perception of right and wrong.

When it came down to it I told Stansfield that I would not be ratting him out to the guests or staff, but that I also could not allow him to steal from my family.

He understood, bowed eloquently, and vowed to never trouble me or mine for as long as he lived. Only time proved to show how true his words were.

And just like that, with the tapping of tight leather loafers against a thing carpet, the master thief had vanished. Exactly one week later, as I sat in my apartment reading a recently discontinued Chicago newspaper, I came across another feat of the grand thief, Stansfield.

He had heisted a precious imported Chinese golden lion statue, containing rubies for eyes, from a New York shipment dock early one midweek morning.

The golden lion was to be placed within an oriental museum on the brink of Soho and had been lent to the United States, from the home of China’s president at the time, for the duration of the year.

At the time of the article’s release, the facts surrounding how the heist was pulled off were still fuzzy, and as always Stansfield had escaped without a trace.

By this time mention of Stansfield’s calling card had finally begun making its way into the articles detailing his crimes. It was always a situate leaf with the initials L.S. slightly burnt and pressed into it like a stamp or engraving on a piece of paper.

As I finished the article I sat back and smiled, wondering how long this tour of Stansfield’s would last for and if we would ever meet again. As luck would have it our continuing encounters would come to shape us as the closest of companions.

An outcome I am sure neither of us saw coming after our first unusual forum at the Grande Colonial hotel.

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