Robbing the Neighbours
We sit in a cramped, dimly lit room, the only light coming from a single overhanging lamp that flickers occasionally. Dark wooden planks cover the floor, contrasting sharply with the pale walls. In the center of the room rests a massive mahogany table. The table has a history, I know. Cut from the boughs of a mighty tropical tree, it was forged in the fires of a stove that burned really hot. Like, really hot. How this table did not burn is beyond me.
I stand at the head of that majestic table, a jumble of blueprints and schematics laid out before me. My cohort stands at the other end, an incredulous look plastered to her tanned face.
“You want to do what?” she asks me, cocking her head to the side and raising her eyebrows in disbelief.
“You heard me.” I whisper darkly, “We’re going on a heist.”
“We’re going on a heist?” she asks, that bewildered look never leaving her face.
“We’re going on a heist.” I confirm. “Is there an echo in here?” I glance around the room.
“No.” She releases an uneasy laugh, maybe more of a scoff. “No, no, no, we are not going to rob anyone. We are not going on a heist. Where…” She trails off, brushing stray strands of brunette hair from her face as she looks around the room. “Where are we anyway?”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” I hiss, my tone as dark as the night sky that currently hangs over a town… somewhere. It’s very sunny here.
“What? Why are you talking like that?” She asks.
I chuckle. “My dear Susanna, all will be revealed in time.”
“Susanna? That’s not my name.”
That’s right. Susanna is not her name. It’s Julie.
“Regardless,” I had to get this meeting back on topic. “We’re going on a heist.”
“Alright,” Julie says, raising her arms in surrender. “I’ll play along. We are going on a heist. Where? Who’s our mark?”
An evil smile stretches across my lips as I slide a paper across the table to my crony. “Mr. Albert Quinton.”
“Wait, Mr. Quinton? Your next door neighbour?”
“Yes. Mr. Albert J. Quinton. Age sixty-three, height sixty-six inches, weight approximately one hundred and twenty-five pounds, currently residing on Churchill Street, house one-eighty-two.” I flip open a manila folder and pull out a few papers. “He’s a retired sanitation engineer, and rumour has it that his mind isn’t all there.” I sigh. “The garbage business can do that to a man.”
“His mind isn’t the only one that isn’t all there.” I hear Julie mumble, but I decide to ignore her.
“Mr. Quinton is leaving tonight to visit family on the other side of town.” I continue. I unfold a map of the city and use a red felt-tipped marker to draw a circle around one of the areas. “His relatives live in this vicinity.” I explain as Julie leans in over the map. “His home however,” I draw another circle in the bottom corner of the map, far from the previously drawn shape, “is over here.”
I cap my marker. “The plan is simple. While he’s away partying like only old men can, we’ll break into his house and steal the thing.”
“Yeah, I was meaning to ask you,” Julie clasps her hands in front of her face, “what exactly are we stealing?”
An evil smirk spreads across my lips.
A cold breeze rustles the trees, shaking loose leaves and sending them dancing through the air. The winds stir grassy lawns, picking up old discarded newspapers. The mournful cry of a wolf pierces the night sky, and afar, an owl hoots from its perch in the trees.
I bury my face in the high collar of my dark trench coat as the wind tickles my cheeks with its cold, merciless fingers. I wear an ebony fedora atop my head, and despite the present darkness, a sleek pair of Aviators hide my eyes. I’m on a mission, and stealth is a priority.
I crouch in the shadow of a blue tin mailbox and check to see if the way is clear. Satisfied with my search, I dash from the safety of the mailbox and take cover behind a tall streetlamp. The lamp’s bulb has long since burned out, casting a small section of the street in darkness. My head swivels back and forth, searching for the enemy ninja I know were sent out to stop me from completing my mission. Due to the present darkness, I am unable to see these ninja, but I know they are there. Ninja are sneaky. If you see them, you can always be sure they’ve already seen you, and are about to attack.
A sudden crash startles me out of my reverie, and I quickly spin around to see what had caused the noise. A garbage can lies on its side in an alley to my rear, its contents spilling across the pavement. It must’ve been the ninja. They’re getting sloppy.
Thinking fast, I dart across the street. No cars are out this late at night, so I don’t have to worry about becoming a splat on anybody’s windshield—an unfitting end to such a well-fitted woman. On the bright side, I’d be a pretty good-looking splat.
Nimble as a cat that’s blindfolded and strapped to a nuclear missile, I dive over a row of trash bags lined up on the side of the street. I land in a roll and quickly spring to my feet.
Footsteps—soft and silent, as if someone were trying to sneak up on an oblivious target. However, I am no oblivious target—I mean, I may be a target, but I'm definitely not oblivious.
Quick as a very good simile, I dive to the ground and army crawl under a simple wooden bench. The footsteps are still there, still following me. Grunting, I scramble to my feet, in turn smacking my head on the bench. I hiss in pain and rub my sore head. That’s going to leave a mark.
Remembering the imminent danger, I crawl out from under the park bench and leap to my feet. I dash from the open sidewalk and clamber over a white picket fence that bars my way. I press my back against the wooden planks and try to catch my breath. I hear footsteps pass by on the other side of the fence. I sigh in relief as the footsteps gradually fade into silence. Those ninja almost got me. It was close, but close only counts in horseshoes. It’s a very good thing I’m not playing horseshoes.
“What are you doing?”
This voice startles me, and I jump to my feet, my hands raised in defense. Wait, when had the world gotten so dark? Oh—my eyes are closed.
I quickly blink my eyes open and gaze at the new arrival. It’s Julie, clad in a pair of small black gloves and a simple gray windbreaker, as well as pants and all the other stuff, I’m sure.
Noting the low threat level, I lower my hands. “I was hiding.”
“From what?” she asks, looking around, “The neighbour’s cat?”
“No, from the ninja.” I look around too. It seems as though I’m back in my own front yard. Perfect. Everything is going according to plan.
She cocks an eyebrow. “The ninja?”
There’s that echo again. She must have a hearing problem or something. “Shh! They might hear you. They may not be Anbu, but they’re definitely not deaf.”
She sighs. “Let’s just get this over with. Where’s the house we’re going to ‘rob’?”
“Right over there.” I say, pointing to the house on our right. I’m not sure why she put air quotes around the word ‘rob’. Maybe it’s that strange new prescription she’s on. I wonder if ‘random air quotes’ is listed as a side-effect.
Julie and I exit my yard and approach Mr. Quinton’s. As we walk, a sleek black cat crosses our trail. I know that this is clearly a sign of bad luck, but I ignore the horrible feeling rising in my stomach and press on. It’s now or never, and I never say never.
Well, maybe on occasion…
We silently enter Mr. Quinton’s yard; I’m crouched and trying to remain unseen while Julie saunters into the yard with her arms crossed and a confident smirk on her face, almost as if she owns the place. Maybe she isn’t telling me something. Maybe, just maybe, Julie had bought the house while I had been planning the heist. No—Julie is poor. She couldn’t have afforded the house. There was something else making her smirk. Something… ominous.
The outdoor light is off, and I am unable to make out the house number. Oh well. I know this neighborhood like the back of my hand, and am confident that this is indeed Mr. Quinton’s home.
I soon come face-to-wooden face with the door. It stares me down menacingly, trying to get me to back out, but I return the stare easily. I have come too far to let some lousy door intimidate me.
Behind me, Julie coughs, catching my attention. “Are you going to stare at the door all night?”
“You’re right, Julie.” I say, cracking my knuckles. “Let’s do this!”
“Wait, who’s Julie?”
So she isn’t Julie either, huh? I must’ve gotten her confused with the Julie that lives just down the street. That means that she’s actually Sarah.
I nod to myself before winding up and smashing my foot into the door, right into its smug little face. The door swings open easily. It seems as though it was never locked. It’s sad, really, how Mr. Quinton’s brain has deteriorated so much that he forgets to lock his door.
I turn to Sarah, who stands with her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. “You… kicked the door in. You actually kicked it…”
“It had to be done.”
“No. No, I thought this was a joke.” She clasps a hand over her forehead.
“I never, ever, joke about heists.” I tell her seriously, my face stoic.
“We have to stop. We can’t rob Mr. Quinton!”
I shake my head. “Once you’ve kicked in the door, there’s no going back.”
Slowly, I turn back to the house. “I’m going in. Keep a lookout.” With that said, I disappear inside.
I am now fully convinced that Sarah has a hearing problem.
Instead of keeping a lookout as I told her to, she follows me inside, trying to convince me not to rob the house. She may as well be talking to a rock because I am not going to budge. I’ve made up my mind; I am robbing this house and nothing is stopping me.
I stand in the kitchen, sifting through the contents of many cupboards. I look behind some boxes. No, not there. I check under the plates. Not here either. I open the fridge and scour its contents, but my prize does not lie within its cool refines.
I sigh and shut the door. “Where is it?”
“Maybe it’s not here.” Sarah hisses. “We shouldn’t be here!”
As Sarah starts on another long-winded rant, I let my eyes wander the kitchen. They scan the counters before finally resting on a small shape covered in a white dishtowel—that must be it! As silent as a heavy metal band, I creep across the kitchen. Carefully, I lift the towel from my prize, a groom lifting the veil from his beloved bride’s face. The metaphor starts to fall apart there, however.
Hidden beneath that foul dishtowel is the most glorious looking pie I have ever seen.
Sarah’s eyes widen in disbelief. “You did all this… for a pie?”
I gently take the pie into my hands and gaze at it lovingly. “No, not just for pie.” My voice is barely a whisper. “For revenge.”
“Revenge?” she echoes like a… like an echo, I suppose.
“Last week, Mr. Quinton blew all of his leaves into my yard.” I explain. “One of my windows was open, and many of the leaves blew into my house and onto my poor, defenseless pie. It never stood a chance.”
“All of this… for pie.”
I shrug. “It’s pumpkin.”
Sarah is about to reply, but a new voice interrupts her.
“Who’s there?” The voice is definitely feminine and shakes slightly—whether from fear or old age, I do not know.
Sarah’s eyes are the size of saucers, and I’m sure mine are as well. We slowly begin to creep out of the kitchen, but a very fat—er, well-built lady clad in a pink bathrobe, blocks our escape.
“Intruders!” she screeches. “Thieves!”
Sarah and I stand frozen, hoping that she won’t be able to see us if we are still. At least, that’s what I’m doing. I have a sneaking suspicion that Sarah may have wet herself.
“I’m calling the cops!” the lady shrieks, scrambling for the phone.
My hopes that we had not been spotted are crushed, and Sarah and I make a mad dash for the door, the pie still clasped firmly in my hands.
It’s only then that I realize we are not in Mr. Quinton’s house.
I robbed the wrong neighbour.