Phillip – Part Three

Phillip – Part Three

I pretend as though I’m alarmed, but I keep my cool. I yank at my wrists as if to break the cuffs. Then I look at the slender man and cry, “You can’t do this! I know my rights!” He lunges forward and punches me in the mouth. He hits like a girl, but I decide to pretend it hurts. I grunt as my head swings about. I pretend to be momentarily stunned by the force of his punch.

He shouts at me, “Shut up, Phillip!”

Damn.

My face must have shown my disappointment at his astute identification. He stands upright and looks cocky. A smirk creeps onto his face. He turns around and walks the room as he talks.

“Didn’t think we’d identify you, huh? How could we forget?” He turns back and leans across the table at me. “Don’t you think it strange that just when the trail on the San Marco case goes cold, you, of all people walk right in and declare you have some ‘new’ knowledge about the case we need to hear?”

I eye him coldly in reply.

“All quiet now, eh? Listen Phillip, I know you just got out of prison this morning, but I’ll be all too happy to throw you back in as an accomplice if you don’t start talking!”

I cock my head to one side and look at him with curiosity. “Well that’s interesting,” I say.

“What’s that, Phillip?”

I just stare at him for a moment. “Are you an idiot?”

He shouts and punches me again. I grunt and reel from the blow. I bring my head back to face him. I take a breath and recompose myself.

“I was just asking because you’re holding me here on suspicion of being an accomplice to a crime with which you know it’s entirely impossible for me to have been involved.”

He gives me a curious stare.

“What, do I have to spell it out for you?” I ask, exasperated. I continue, “I was in jail the whole time! I’ve been there the last ten years! Ask the warden! Ask any of the guards! I was there every day! I couldn’t have done it!”

The slender man drops his cocky attitude. Defeated, the slender man takes a breath.

“You’re right, but I still need what you know for my investigation.” He sits down at the table across from me, “Maybe it’s strange that you’re here, but it’s fortuitous for me. It could be for you too. Let’s talk.” He smiles.

I smile back. “Yeah, I’m really not sure you understand how this works. Like I said before, I’m not in the habit of telling sensitive information to people I don’t know and unfortunately, I don’t know you. Why don’t you bring the chief in here. I know him.”

My smile stays consistent. The slender man drops his.

“Fine,” he acquiesces, “but I’ll be in the room with him!”

I can feel blood from my lips and the inside of my mouth on my teeth, but I give him my best grin anyway. “I’ll be waiting right here.” He closes the door and I hear him walk away.

It only takes a few minutes before the door swings open again. The chief stands in the doorway with the slender man close behind. He’s removed his decorated jacket and is wearing only a button up shirt. He looks tired, but his mustache remains alert as ever. The chief says nothing, but calmly sits down across the table from me. The slender man closes the door behind him and leans up agains the wall, arms folded. No one says anything for a moment. We just look at each other.

“It’s been a while, Phillip,” the chief begins. I smile at him. “My associate here tells me you’ve got some information on the San Marco heist. Well? What have you got for me?”

I lean forward, “Well chief, I know how they did it and I think I may know who.”

The chief raises an eyebrow, but keeps his eyes fixed on mine. “Is that so? Well, I can’t suppose there would be any harm in hearing you out.”

I look at the slender man. “Would you be so kind as to unlock these?”

Hesitantly, the slender man walks over, unlocks my cuffs, and leans up against the wall again.

I look back at the chief. “Let me show you something chief,” I reach in my pocket. As I do, the slender man leaps from the wall as if intercepting an assassination attempt and grabs my arm with one hand, winding up to strike me again with the other.

“Relax!” The chief shouts. The slender man freezes and slowly loosens his grip and lets his arms fall. Still standing beside me, “Pull it out of your pocket. Slowly.”

Very slowly, I remove the newspaper clipping I cut in the old woman’s tearoom and slide it across the table to the chief. The slender man relaxes and goes back to leaning against the wall.

“This paper ran this morning,” the chief says, “Everyone saw it, much to my chagrin. Why are you showing me this, Phillip?”

“Because this picture tells us exactly how they did it! It might also tell us who!”

The chief tries not to smile. “I’ll be honest, Phillip, I never thought you and I would have a conversation like this. How am I supposed to believe anything you tell me?”

“You don’t really have a lot of options, chief. Between you and me, I could tell from the press conference that the trail on the case has gone cold.

Silence hits the room. After a moment, the chief gestures for me to continue. I begin explaining the picture to him.

“First of all, lets see where the San Marco Casino actually placed the safe. Where is it, chief?”

“Set in the wall behind a false panel, locked by a hidden combination lock and release lever.”

“Interesting. How many people do you think knew the safe was behind that wall?”

“Oh, I don’t Phillip. Maybe a handful?”

“And how many of those people do you think knew the combination to the lock or knew how to crack it?”

The chief looked at me. “Phillip, we already pursued that trail and it was a dead end. Are you saying it was, in fact, an inside job?”

“I’m not sure yet, but let’s come back to that. Now, what else do you notice?”

“Other than the fact that it’s empty?”

“Look at the wall around the edges of the safe.”

The chief leans in and squints at the photograph.

“They’re blackened. Is that . . . charring?”

“Good, chief! That’s exactly what it is!”

The chief gives me a blank look. “I don’t understand. Why is the wall charred only around the edges of the safe?”

“Whoever our thief is used small, concentrated explosives focused backward into the wall to blast the safe out of the wall. That charring you see around the edges is what’s left.”

“So they blast around the edges of safe and then . . . what?”

“Well, they stole it, chief.”

“The – the safe? The entire safe?!” the chief looks surprised.

“Of course! Steal the entire safe and then you have all the time you need to crack it open safely. The safe in the picture is a fake.”

The chief leans back in disbelief. “No, Phillip, that can’t be right. Our investigators at the scene said they drilled through the front of the safe. You should know the technique: drill a hole in the right spot and the safe acts like an amplifier for the sound of the tumblers. Add a doctor’s stethoscope or something and you’re in business. Makes it easy to hear them fall into place as they release the lock. Look, you can see the hole they drilled in the picture.”

“That’s not what the thief did, chief. That’s what they did to this fake safe to make you think that’s what they did. It’s a red herring. With how tight the security at this place is, this had to be a quick heist. That type of reinforced plate would take almost an hour to drill through. I’m also familiar with this style of safe and the tumblers are silent. They have extra housing around the tumblers to dampen their sound, but that sound-absorbing housing produces slight vibrations in the combination dial which can be felt with a careful hand. We used to call this kind of safe a ‘feeler.’ Anyway, drilling a hole, no matter how strategic, wouldn’t help you crack this safe.”

The chief stared at the picture for a moment. “So, you’re saying that they didn’t crack the safe, they just stole it completely and replaced it with a fake?”

“Yes, but not just a fake, chief! A perfect copy! Imagine how many times someone must have seen and studied this safe to fabricate a perfect copy like that! Good enough to fool even the casino’s owner! It’s a perfect duplicate with a perfect red herring to throw you guys off and it’s left in plain sight.” I pick up the newspaper clipping and look at romantically for a moment. “I don’t know who this thief is, but I almost admire his work. He’s certainly a master of his craft.”

“Let’s talk about that, Phillip. Now who stole the safe?”

“Right!” I smack the table with enthusiasm. “Let’s talk about who stole the safe! Now, at first, I thought it had to be an inside job. Given the overall secrecy surrounding the location of the safe and its security measures, I figured that the only person who could’ve done something like this had to be someone who worked at the casino.”

The chief responded, “You said, ‘at first.’ You don’t think that’s the case anymore?”

“No. I think this was done by a highly organized professional. Like me.” I give the chief a winning smile. He isn’t amused so I move on. “Initially, it was the explosives that got me. I couldn’t figure it out. They used some pretty powerful hardware, the sort of hardware that you can’t get just anywhere and that doesn’t come cheap. Their resources were too vast, their pockets, too deep for this to be some schmuck trying to rip off his boss.”

“So who do you think it is?”

“I’m not done yet, chief.” We lock eyes for a moment. “There’s also the expertise with which the explosives were applied and the blast was focused. Whoever they were, in addition to their vast resources, they also had to be a master demolitions man.”

“Okay, so who was it?” The chief is getting a bit annoyed.

“Still not done, chief.” I continue, “Finally, there’s the perfectly fabricated copy of the safe that was left behind. He had to know how this safe looked, how it worked, inside and out to make a copy this good. So, in addition to his deep pockets, mastery of explosives, he also had to be a master safecracker.”

“Phillip! Just tell me who did it!”

I hold up a finger, “Whoever he is, he’s a talented person . . . or talented group of people . . . .”

The chief gives me a puzzled look. I lean forward.

“Here’s what I think chief. At first, I thought it was a single guy who had worked at the San Marco for years on casino security who got fed up with taking orders from his boss and decided to rip off the whole casino. However, when I started looking at the crime scene, just from this photograph, mind you, I started to realize how improbable it actually is to that a single person pulled off this whole thing, and so well, I might add! And, perhaps most importantly, that they got away with it. Far more likely that a team, each with their own specialties, pulled the heist. That’s the only way something like this works, chief.”

The chief looks at me. “So who do you think did it?”

“There’s only one group I know of with that kind of power operating in the city.”

The chief leans back in his chair. “You’re talking about your old syndicate, aren’t you? You think this is a job they pulled?”

“Just trust me, chief. From the inside out, this looks just like something they would’ve pulled off! Like something I would’ve pulled off. Each step is exactly their style. There’s no one else with the resources, the manpower, or the expertise to pull off something like this.”

“Phillip, I don’t have enough evidence to go after someone like that! I don’t know a thing about them! Do you expect me to just walk up and tell them I know they did it and ask for a confession?”

“No, but I do know where they’re keeping the safe.”

“How could you possibly know that, Phillip? You’ve been locked away for 10 years.”

“I’m confident they haven’t changed it. It would be in one of three places, neither of them heavily defended or guarded so as not to draw attention to them. What I’ve just told you should give you plenty of reason to be able to go in and snoop around.”

“How do I know they haven’t already cracked it and destoryed all the evidence?”

“Because they don’t have anyone good enough to crack that safe.”

“You mean they don’t have anyone as good as you.”

I look down at my dirty shoes for a moment, then back at the chief. “Yeah. 10 years and they still haven’t been able to replace me.”

“This is crazy, Phillip.”

“Well, it’s a lot better than what you have on the case now.”

“That’s true,” the chief grumbled. “Okay, Phillip. I’ll play. Where can I find the safe?”

I describe the three possible locations to the chief, who writes them down and hands them off to the slender man. He dashes out, presumably to begin putting teams together to search each location. The chief and I each stand up and he leads me out of the station.

Outside on the stoop, the chief turns to me, “Thanks for your help, Phillip. I don’t think I could’ve wrapped this up without you.”

Just like the warden at the prison this morning, he smiles at me. I feign a smile back. He extends his hand, still smiling. I reach out shake his hand. I walk out from the stoop and hear the door to the station whine to a thud as it closed.

And that was it.

. . . except for one thing. There was just one small detail I left out of my story.

I pulled the heist at the San Marco.

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Phillip – Part Two

Back on the street, I pull my jacket forward and turn up the collar. A wind is picking up and I can hear a dull roar toward the city center. I follow the old woman’s directions and find myself on the bustling square. I stand for a moment and take the square in. It must look like a giant ant hill from above. Each person with their own goal and their own path. They travel in every direction. They bump into each other often and apologize rarely. Automobiles have come to a complete stop, each one waiting for the next to move. The air feels dirty, almost gritty as it enters my lungs.
I’ve missed this city.
I find the police office is on the square like the old woman told me. As I make my way around the square, I notice that a large crowd has gathered outside the steps leading into the station; men in trench coats and hats, some with cameras and huge flash bulbs, others with pads and pencils scribbling furiously. I’m certain at any moment their paper will combust from the sustained friction, but it doesn’t. A tall, large man in police uniform decorated with badges and ribbons is talking behind a podium, his entourage just behind him. The man’s mustache is as austere as he is. It’s been 10 years and he’s put on some weight, but I recognize him. He’s the chief of police. As I approach, he’s in the middle of a press conference.
“That may be possible,” he answers a reporter, “We’re ruling out nothing at this time.”
Pencils scribble quickly on their respective pads. One reporter puts his hand in the air and waves.
“Chief! Who are you primary suspects at the moment?”
“We . . .” he pauses for a beat, “have several individuals who we are investigating at the moment.” A beat. “I can’t say anything more than that in the interest of protecting their identities.”
That was a lie. I shift my posture on to one foot, cross my arms, and continue to listen. Another reporter waves his hand.
“Do you have any theories as to how this thief got past security so easily?”
“It was apparently an inside job. Only someone with very detailed knowledge of the security layout could’ve done this.” A beat, “But as I said, we’re ruling out nothing at the moment. We have a lot of good leads to track down.”
The inside job lead must’ve been a dead end. He doesn’t know where to take the case now. Another reporter is about to ask a question, but the chief is already turning to walk away from the podium. The crowd of reporters frenzies and begins shouting questions. The police chief tries to shout over the roar, but I don’t think anyone hears him.
“I really can’t answer any more questions at this time,” he says, “but rest assured; we are doing everything in our power to bring this thief to justice!”
He turns and walks back inside the station, his entourage in tow. The reporters, though disappointed, begin to quiet down and disperse. It’s not long until I’m the only one standing on the sidewalk. Other people are still bustling to try to get somewhere else. I stand and look at the police station for a moment. The view from here is better than when I was stuffed in the back of a police car 10 years ago. And my hands are free. I look at my hands a moment and rub my wrists. My hands were tied with rope and I remember the burns. I raise my eyes and look at the front doors to the station for a moment. I walk up the stoop and inside.
The lobby is mostly quiet now. A few officers are milling about with files in their hands and several people are sitting on benches waiting. There’s a young, pretty receptionist waiting by a phone behind a desk. She’s new. Or new-ish. Well, she wasn’t here the last time I was here anyway. I realize the irony of this situation; my first day out of prison I go back to the same police station where I was interrogated immediately before I was thrown in prison. But my reason for being here is different this time. Nevertheless, this is awkward. I take a deep breath and proceed into the station lobby. Hopefully, no one has worked here long enough to remember who I am.
I approach the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist doesn’t look up from her desk as I approach. I stand in front of her for a moment and say nothing. She glances up at me, then back down.
“Something I can help you with?” Her voice is soft and sweet if only a tad nonchalant. I thought to be offended, but she couldn’t possibly know the gravity of what I had to say.
“Yes, I’d like to speak to the chief please,” I reply.
Now she looks up at me, “The chief currently isn’t seeing anyone. He just finished a press conference. If you like, you can make an appointment. He should have some time . . .” she begins flipping through a calendar. I decide not to wait.
“He’ll want to see me now. Trust me. Just let him know I’ve got information regarding the San Marco casino,” I start walking backwards away from the counter, “and I’ll be waiting right here when he wants to talk.” I take a seat at a bench facing her. “Right here,” I reiterate.
I watch as she gets on the phone, a different phone than the one I originally spied on her desk. She covers her mouth and talks under her breath, so I can’t hear what she says. Occasionally, she sends a suspicious eye my way which I meet with a calm, watchful stare and a confident smile.
This is going my way.
It isn’t long before a slender man in a gray, three-button suit comes out from a door behind the receptionist. He makes a beeline for her and begins talking to her in hushed voices. I see him send a glance my way and he looks me up and down. I just look at him. He says a few more words to the receptionist and then comes over to me.
Standing over me, he looks down. “You got information for the chief?”
Still sitting, I look up at him. “Yeah, I think he’ll want to hear it.”
A pause.
“Alright then,” the slender man takes a step back from me and turns around. Looking over his shoulder, “you can follow me. He’ll see you now.”
I follow him behind the same door he emerged from. We walk down a corridor, turn, down another. We go up a flight of stairs, another corridor, another turn, and then the slender man bends slightly to open a door. He doesn’t go in, but gestures for me to enter. I do and he enters behind me. Inside is a plain, steel table with two uncomfortable metal chairs on either side of the table. The setting sun is entering through the room’s only window. The room is warm and slightly amber due to the sunlight.
“Grab a seat,” says the slender man and gestures toward the far chair,” Let’s hear what you have to tell us.” The slender man closes the door, walks behind me as I sit, closing the blinds on the window. The room turns to a cold, blue, steel color.
I sit down, but I make my protest vocal, “I don’t think you understand,” I say, “I told the receptionist that I have information for the chief, and seeing as how I don’t know who you are, I can’t tell you what I have to say.”
As soon as I finish speaking, the slender man grabs my arms, pulls them behind my back, and cuffs my wrists. The cold steel of a handcuff link is all too familiar. Forget what I said earlier. This isn’t going my way at all.

Phillip – Part One

I’m almost done writing this story line. I’ve decided to begin releasing it in longer segments. I haven’t titled it yet, so I’m open to suggestions. I’ve always been awful at titling my work. For now, I’ll simply call it “Phillip” because he’s the only character to whom I’ve assigned a name.

Part One

I get out of prison this Saturday. 10 years sure seemed like a long time to me when I was 21. Someone told me that my twenties would fly by. They told me I’d be married with a family before I knew it. Someone lied. Of course, my twenties were a bit different than that of most young gentleman. Most gentlemen my age were learning a trade or trying to court a woman. I was surviving. Come to think of it, I’ve always been surviving.

Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t even introduced myself. Phillip, professional thief – er – sorry. I was a professional thief before I got caught. It was a set-up. There was this job. It seemed like a pretty simple heist, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. They hired me to crack the safe, but that wasn’t actually what they wanted. They needed a fall guy to cover their escape and, being as young and naive as I was, the choice was obvious.

I don’t talk about it much. I used to bitter about it. It was hard for me to sleep at night, partly because of how horrible these beds were, if you could call them beds. I got used to them. No, it had a lot more to do with what I would think about after the guards turned out the lights. I used to fantasize about catching up to the guys who set me up and what I’d do to them if I ever caught them. That’s a pretty big “if” though. They were more like ghosts than people. I don’t even know their names. I hardly remember what they look like. And besides, that was years ago. 10 years is good time to think, but more importantly, it’s good time to forget. That’s what I wanted to do, at least.

Sunlight broke through the window above my “bed,” casting long, thin shadows from the window’s bars along the wall. I roll over and look at the calendar I carved into the same wall.

It was Saturday.

Getting out of prison is about as glamorous as getting in; lots of waiting, paper pushing, standing, and hand cuffs. They have me change into some uncomfortable civilian clothes. They give me an itchy shirt, patched trousers, suspenders with rusty clips, a jacket about as thick as newspaper, some old shoes that didn’t fit, and a dirty hat.

I hadn’t looked better in 10 years.

Once I change and they finish stamping all my papers, they walk me outside to the gate. There, they hand me a burlap sack and tell me this was to help me start a new life. The warden walks over to me. He takes off my cuffs.

“Congratulations, Phillip,” he said, gesturing toward the road beyond the gate. “You’re free to go.”

He smiles at me. I feign a smile back. He extends his hand, still smiling. I reach out and shake his hand. I walk out the gate and hear it to whine to a thud as it closed.

And that was it.

The prison was located on a hill not far out from the city. I stand on the street for a few minutes taking in the city before me. Sunlight hits my face. It was warmer, somehow fresher than in the prison yard. I take a deep breath. The air tasted better. It was less stale. A breeze catches my jacket, pulls my hat off, and tosses my dark hair. I crack a smile for real this time. Then I pick up my hat from where it landed a few feet away. I turn and look down at the city and wonder how much it’s changed in 10 years. I untie the drawstring on the sack and look inside. There was another pair of trousers, another shirt, two pairs of underwear, $100, and a sandwich. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a joke, but I chuckle like it was. I’m not sure how they expected those things to help me start a new life, but nevertheless, I tied the sack up again and sling it over my shoulder. It wasn’t really important. I had other plans. I turn, take one last look at my home of the last 10 years, and start walking down the road toward the city.

I walk down the rural road from the prison that leads into the city. There’s tall grass and open, downhill fields which afforded me a great view. Every mile or so I’d pass the odd mailbox, only a small hint that anyone actually lived on this much land. Their long driveways disappeared seemingly miles away into small specks that vaguely resembled enormous country manors. I remembered those from my ride in to prison 10 years ago. And just like 10 years ago, the thought crossed my mind of how many valuable things they might have, how easy they might be to take, if they would even miss those things once I had . . . .

I snap to. I shake my head and try to place the thought behind me. That was a thought I hoped to leave behind me along with . . . well, everything else. I had other things to focus on now. Only a handful of automobiles actually drove by me on the road. A few them, appropriately, drove down the long driveways toward the country estates. The type to own estates in the country are some of the few wealthy enough to own one of those automobiles.

By the time I had made it to the edge of the city, the sun was high in the sky and I’m feeling ready for my sandwich. I sit down on a bench on a street corner and take my sandwich out of the sack. It’s warm. In a bad way. I peel the bread apart and look at what’s on it. Some ham, a slice of cheese, and some mustard. This is significantly better than prison food. I take an excited bite and lean back on the bench. I spread my arm along the back of the bench, cross my legs, and look around.

This side of town is quiet. I’m still far from downtown. There is a small convenience store, a bank, and couple other buildings I can’t identify. I guess they’re offices. There’s only a handful of people out walking around. They look like they’re far too busy going somewhere else to possibly want to hang around here. I could relate. A kid selling newspapers catches my eye. This didn’t look like a busy part of town to be trying to sell papers. I take the final bites of my sandwich and brush the crumbs off my lap. I walk over to him.

“Hey, kid,” I say.

“I’m not a kid, I’m fifteen!” he retorted, indignant.

I just stare at him for a moment. “Yeah . . . anyway, can I buy a paper?”

The kids eyes brighten up. He apparently forgot that I had insulted him. “Yeah! Of course! Just a nickle.”

I reach in my pocket and feel the lint. I wince. The only money I had was the $100 bill in the sack. “Listen ah, you don’t have change for a hundred bucks, do ya?” I say.

The kid laughs out loud and looks at me. I just keep looking right back at him. “Oh, you’re serious,” he says. “What are you, some kind of high roller?”

I feel a puzzled look cross my face as I consider what I’m wearing and how long it’s been since I had a good shave, but nevertheless, I decide I’ll play.

“Yeah, of course I’m a high roller,” I assert, “Do you have any idea who I am?”

The kid opens his mouth and begins to form an answer. I interrupt him, “Doesn’t matter. Now you got change for me or am I buying my paper somewhere else?”

The kid is frazzled and tries to pull himself together. “Uh, yeah, yeah, sure. Of course I got the change.”

“Let me see it first”

He pulls a pouch out of his pocket and opens it up. I quickly tally it. He’s got more than enough. That strikes me as odd that a kid selling newspapers has change for $100, but I bite.

I hand him my bill. He hands me a paper, and some crumpled bills. He starts counting coins out of his purse, but I see him do a sleight of hand and count the same nickel three times. He’s trying to short change me figuring I won’t notice 15 cents in 99 dollars. Smart kid, I think to myself. He’s probably been doing this all morning. No wonder he’s got change for $100. He holds his hand out to drop the change in mine. I open my palm and let it fall.

“Thanks kid,” I say.

“You’re welcome, mister!”

“But can I have the rest of my change?”

He stares at me, confused and afraid that I’ve caught him, “Wha . . . um . . . what do you mean?”

“Your sleight of hand was slow. Also, you counted each coin individually and drew my attention to it. You were too thorough.”

I reach my hand in his purse and grab 15 cents. I lean in really close to him and quietly say, “Next time, kid, distract me from what you’re doing. Get me to talk about the weather or my family. Anything to take my eye and my focus away from your play.”

I lean back and smile really big. Loudly, I say, “Yeah, I hope this weather holds too! I’ve got a fun trip planned for the family this weekend! Thanks again!”

I walk away. After a bit I turn around, smile, and wave at him. I shoot him a wink and he smiles back. Kid’s good. I was around his age when I started.

I keep walking through the streets toward downtown. It’s early afternoon now, so I figure I’d like to have a cup of tea and read my fresh paper. After a few minutes, I find a little tearoom and walk inside. It’s quaint. And quiet. There’s only a couple people inside including the elderly lady keeping the place. The chairs and tables look old, but well worn. A lot of interesting people have sat in this tearoom over the years. I suppose they’ll add my name to that list.  I approach the counter and wait for the woman to acknowledge me.

She turns and sees me, “Oh! Hello dearie! I apologize, I didn’t see you there!”

“No problem,” I assure her. I lean in and ask, “Do you have any Earl Grey?”

She chuckles a little. “Well, it wouldn’t be a right tearoom if I didn’t! Go ahead an grab a seat dearie, I’ll start making it for you.” I start to reach for my pocket to pay when she inquires, “Is this your first time here?”

I nod.

A broad smile spreads across her face. “Then your tea is on me today. Go grab a seat.” She waved me away the way a mother waves her children away from cookies fresh out of the oven; with only the most pleasant of smiles.

I grab a seat at a table a few steps away. I take off my hat and place it in front of me on the table. I pull my paper out from under my arm and give it a whip to open it. The headline glares at me in dark, bold print:

SAN MARCO CASINO SAFE CRACKED! POLICE DUMBFOUNDED!

The cover photo had a big picture of an open, empty safe and a few police standing around it. I smirk and start reading. Casino jobs were always my favorite. The elderly woman comes by and drops my tea off.

“Your tea, dearie.”

“Thank you,” I reply, not looking up from my paper. The woman lingers a moment, then glances at my paper.

“Oh you’re reading about that safe cracking!”

I turn and look at her. “You know something about it?” I inquire.

“Oh, it’s the strangest thing. Plenty of people have tried to rob that casino but this one was different. The safe was locked up in a room with guards on watch all night, but when they opened it in the morning, it was empty! The police haven’t been able to figure it out.”

“Sounds like an inside job,” I mutter, “Classic.”

“Sorry, I’m a little hard of hearing,” she leaned in, “What was that, dearie?”

I raise my voice a little and over-enunciate, “I said, ‘sounds like a tough job. Classic.'” I drop the enunciation and continue, “You know, a tough job for the police.”

“Oh right! Well, I agree! That does sound difficult. Hard to catch someone when there’s no evidence.”

“Say, you wouldn’t happen to have a pair of scissors or something with which to cut out this article, would you?”

“Well, sure, dearie! Let me grab that for you!”

She bustles off and returns in a moment with a pair of scissors which she hands to me. I quickly cut out the photograph and the headline. I stuff the clipping in to my jacket pocket and leave the rest of the paper on the table. I stand up and put my hat on.

“Are you leaving, dearie?” she asks.

“Well, I just remembered a very important meeting I need to go to and . . . uh . . . well, I need to go to it. Thank you for the tea. It was lovely.”

“But you haven’t tried any!”

As I walk across the tearoom and toward the door I say, “Ah, but I needn’t taste it to know how delicious it is! Tea is all about the aroma,” I grab the doorknob, open the door, and turn back to face the woman, “is it not, misses . . . ?”

“Please, just call me Mary, dearie,” she said with a smile.

“Mary,” I smile at her, “can you tell me how to get to the police station from here?”

“Sure,” she says, “Just go down three blocks until you reach the square with the fountain. It’s on the square.”

“Thank you Mary.”

“Oh! I didn’t catch your name, sir!”

“No,” I smirk, “You didn’t.” I walk out and shut the door behind me.

Part Two to what I wrote yesterday

I walked down the rural road from the prison that lead into the city. There was tall grass and open, downhill fields which afforded me a great view. Every mile or so I’d pass the odd mailbox, only a small hint that anyone actually lived on this much land. Their long driveways disappeared seemingly miles away into small specks that vaguely resembled enormous country manors. I remembered those from my ride in to prison 10 years ago. And just like 10 years ago, the thought crossed my mind of how many valuable things they might have, how easy they might be to take, if they would even miss those things once I had . . . .

I snapped to. I shook my head and tried to place that thought behind me. That was a thought I hoped to leave behind me along with . . . well, everything else. Only a handful of automobiles actually drove by me on the road. A few them, appropriately, drove down the long driveways toward the country estates. The type to own estates in the country are some of the few wealthy enough to own one of those automobiles.

By the time I had made it to the edge of the city, the sun was high in the sky and I was feeling ready for a sandwich. I sat down on a bench on a street corner and took my sandwich out of the sack. It was warm. In a bad way. I peeled the bread apart and looked at what was on it. Some ham, a slice of cheese, and some mustard. This was significantly better than prison food. I took a bite and leaned back on the bench. I spread my arm along the back of the bench, crossed my legs, and looked around.

This side of town was quiet. I was still far from downtown. There was a small convenience store, a bank, and couple other buildings I couldn’t identify. I guessed they were offices. There were only a handful of people out walking around. They looked like they were far too busy going somewhere else to possibly want to hang around here. I could relate. A kid selling newspapers caught my eye. This didn’t look like a busy part of town to be trying to sell papers. I take the final bites of my sandwich and brush the crumbs off my lap. I walk over to him.

“Hey, kid,” I say.

“I’m not a kid, I’m fifteen!” he retorted, indignant.

I just stare at him for a moment. “Yeah . . . anyway, can I buy a paper?”

The kids eyes brighten up. He apparently forgot that I had insulted him. “Yeah! Of course! Just a nickle.”

I reach in my pocket and feel the lint. I wince. The only money I had was the $100 bill in the sack. “Listen ah, you don’t have change for a hundred bucks, do ya?” I say.

The kid laughs out loud and looks at me. I just keep looking right back at him. “Oh, you’re serious,” he says. “What are you, some kind of high roller?”

I feel puzzled look cross my face as I consider what I’m wearing and how long it’s been since I had a good shave, but nevertheless, I decide I’ll play.

“Yeah, of course I’m a high roller,” I assert confidently, “Do you have any idea who I am?”

The kid opens his mouth and begins to form an answer. I interrupt him, “Doesn’t matter. Now you got change for me or am I buying my paper somewhere else?”

The kid’s frazzled and tries to pull himself together. “Uh, yeah, yeah, sure. Of course I got the change.”

“Let me see it first”

He pulls a pouch out of his pocket and opens it up. I quickly tally it. He’s got more than enough. I hand him my bill. He hands me a paper, and some crumpled bills. He starts counting coins out of his purse, but I see him do a sleight of hand and count the same nickel three times. He’s trying to short change me figuring I won’t notice 15 cents in 99 dollars. Smart kid, I think to myself. He’s probably been doing this all morning. He holds his hand out to drop the change in mine. I open my palm and let it fall.

“Thanks kid,” I say.

“You’re welcome, mister!”

“But can I have the rest of my change?”

He stares at me, confused, “Wha . . . um . . . what do you mean?”

“Your sleight of hand was slow. Also, you counted each coin individually and drew my attention to it. You were too thorough.”

I reach my hand in his purse and grab 15 cents. I lean in really close to him and quietly say, “Next time, kid, distract me from what you’re doing. Get me to talk about the weather or my family. Anything to take my eye and my focus away from your play”

I lean back and smile really big. Loudly, I say, “Yeah, I hope this weather holds too! I’ve got a fun trip planned for the family this weekend! Thanks again!”

I walk away. After a bit a turn around and smile and wave at him. I shoot him a wink and smiles back. Kid’s good. I was around his age when I started.

This may become a short story

I got out of prison on a Saturday. 10 years sure seemed like a long time to me when I was 21. Someone told me that my twenties would fly by. They told me I’d be married with a family before I knew it. Someone lied. Of course, my twenties were a bit different than that of most young gentleman. Most gentlemen my age were learning a trade or trying to court a woman. I was surviving. Come to think of it, I’ve always been surviving.
Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t even introduced myself. Phillip, professional thief – er – sorry. I was a professional thief before I got caught. It was a set-up. There was this job. It seemed like a pretty simple heist, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. They hired me to crack the safe, but that wasn’t actually what they wanted. They needed a fall guy to cover their escape and, being as young and naive as I was, the choice was obvious.
I don’t talk about it much. I used to bitter about it. It was hard for me to sleep at night, partly because of how horrible these beds were, if you could call them beds. I got used to them. No, it had a lot more to do with what I would think about after the guards turned out the lights. I used to fantasize about catching up to the guys who set me up and what I’d do to them if I ever caught them. That’s a pretty big “if” though. They were more like ghosts than people. I don’t even know their names. I hardly remember what they look like. And besides, that was years ago. 10 years is good time to think, but more importantly, it’s good time to forget. That’s what I wanted to do, at least.
Sunlight was breaking through the window above my “bed,” casting long, thin shadows from the window’s bars along the wall. I rolled over and looked at the calendar I carved into the same wall.
It was Saturday.
Getting out of prison was about as glamorous as getting in; lots of waiting, paper pushing, standing and hand cuffs. They had me change into some uncomfortable civilian clothes. They gave me an itchy shirt, patched trousers, suspenders with rusty clips, a jacket about as thick as a sheet of newspaper, some old shoes that didn’t fit, and a dirty hat. I’d never looked better in 10 years.
Once I was changed and they had finished stamping all my papers, they walked me outside to the gate. There, they handed me a burlap sack and told me this was to help me start a new life. The warden walked over to me. He took off my cuffs and shook my hand.
“Congratulations, Phillip,” he said, gesturing toward the road beyond the gate. “You’re free to go.”
He smiled at me. I feigned a smile back. I walked out the gate and heard it to whine to a thud as it closed.
And that was it.
The prison was located on a hill not far out from the city. I stood on the street for a few minutes taking in the city before me. Sunlight hit my face. It was warmer, somehow fresher than in the prison yard. I took a deep breath. The air tasted better. It was less stale. A breeze caught my jacket a tossed my dark hair. I cracked a smile for real this time. I looked down at the city wondered how much it had changed in 10 years. I untied the drawstring on the sack and looked inside. There was another pair of trousers, another shirt, two pairs of underwear, $100, and a sandwich. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a joke, but I chuckled like it was. I wasn’t sure how they expected those things to help me start a new life, but nevertheless, I tied the sack up again and slung it over my shoulder. I turned, took one last look at my home of the last 10 years, and started walking down the road toward the city.

This is the same room, yet

This is the same room, yet
every thing looks different
when it’s view’d through weary
eyes; It’s familiar and
peculiar to me now.

This unreality,
known to me only be
cause this instance is sim
ply one of many. Tasks
tessellate across my
desk, underneath my fogs.

Caffeine affords no rest
ing place, coughs in my chest
and a flem in my throat
will not let me forget this.
I had all the sleep, but
none of the dreams were mine.