The Heist

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Two men are talking together at the back of a small, local art gallery. Interestingly, they are not looking at each other. Let’s listen in.

***

“What do you think, Stan? Worth our while, or not?”

“It’s only been open for a couple of hours, Lex. I haven’t seen many pictures moving yet.”

“Word on the street was that there are a few paintings here that could be worth big money.”

“Which ones?”

“I don’t know, do I? I ain’t no art critic.”

“So, how are we supposed to know which ones to nick?”

“Stanley Aiden Conway—”

“Don’t use my full name in public! People will hear.”

“So, what if they do? We ain’t done nothing yet so no harm’s done.”

“But if we do do something, they’ll know.”

“Calm down, Stan. If, and I mean if, we find something of value here, we won’t make our move until much later, by which time it’ll be different people in here, won’t it? And they won’t have heard me call you Stanley Aiden Conway—”

“Shut up, Lex! The helpers’ll be the same. And if any of the people here are artists or their mates or relations they’ll probably be here all day, too.”

“Fair point. So, Stan.”

“What?”

“Forgot what I was going to say, now. Oh yeah!  You asked how we’re supposed to know which ones to nick.”

“And?”

“And we don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t nick any paintings.”

“Why not?”

“Simply because we don’t have the means to dispose of them.”

“You mean we can’t fence ’em.”

“Precisely.”

“So, remind me. What’s the point in being here?”

“You aren’t thinking, are you, Stan?”

“Go on, then. Enlighten me.”

“People come here to look at paintings, right?”

“Right.”

“And if they see one they really like, what do they do?”

“I dunno. Buy it?”

“Precisely, mon petit bijou, they buy it.”

“Don’t call me that. You know I don’t like it.”

“That’s why I call you it. Anyway, they buy it and, at the end of the day, we lift the cash. Genius, n’est-ce pas?”

“I get that, but why all the French all of a sudden? It’s just showing off.”

“It is indeed showing off, mon frère. And do you know why I show off?”

“Because you can?”

“Because I can. Can you?”

“Not in French, bImon ‘e’ vIchaw’chugh, vaj bImonta’.”

“What the hell was that supposed to be?”

“Klingon.”

“What did you say?”

“If I speak to you in Klingon, you won’t understand a word.”

“Now who’s showing off?”

“And do you know why I’m showing off, Lex?”

“Yeah, whatever. Do you get the plan?”

“I do, except for one possible minor snag.”

“That being?”

“What if they pay by cheque or by card? We don’t have any contacts for that and the nearest you’ve been to the dark web was screaming when there was a spider in your bath.”

“Be that as it may, old son… Ey up! Who are those two?”

“That tall man and that short woman?”

“No, that piebald stallion and the flying pig! Of course that tall man and that short woman. Quick. Follow my lead. Act nonchalant…”

***

At the other end of the gallery, a tall man is speaking to a short woman.

“These two?” he asks.

“Yes. They’ve been hanging around since we opened. They looked at one of my pieces for a long time then moved to the back. And the strangest thing? They haven’t had a glass of wine or a piece of cake all day.”

“Why is that strange?”

“That’s what most people come in for.”

“Not to buy art?”

“Not so many, sadly. And another thing. I overheard them talking earlier. I think they’re planning a heist.”

“A heist? You’ve been watching too many American cop shows, Madam. What else did you hear?”

“Well, the one with the green shirt, pale trousers and pigeon toes is called Lex and the other one, the one who actually looks shifty, his name is Stanley Aiden Conway.”

” Stanley Aiden Conway, you say?”

“I do.”

“Hang on a sec…”

The tall man raises his hand and speaks to his cuff (well, it takes all kinds). He turns to the short woman. “Stay here,” he says and approaches Stan and Lex.

“Are you Stanley Aiden Conway?” he asks.

“Who’s asking?”

“Detective Sergeant Greenhalgh, City Police.”

“Greenhalgh – is that how you spell it?”

“No, but I never was any good at spelling. Failed the first year at Hogwarts which is how I ended up in this job. Anyway, I assume you are Stanley’s brother Alexander Oliver Conway.”

“So, what if I am?”

“I have reason to believe that the pair of you are engaging or attempting to engage in what I call a criminal endeavour, namely the theft of works of art. Am I right, or am I wrong?”

“You are wrong, Sergeant.”

“Oh?”

“Shut up, Stan!”

“We were planning to wait until some punter bought one of these things then we’d relieve them of the cash.”

“I said shut up, Stan!”

“Too late, Alex—”

“It’s Lex, not Alex.”

“Either way, I have your confession on tape.”

“Ah, but we ain’t done naff all yet, have we? So, what are you going to arrest us for, eh? Eh? Eh?”

“I hadn’t thought of arresting you; I was just going to write you up. However, since you insist—”

“We haven’t insisted on anything.”

“Well, I do insist, and I have the powers to make it stick. So. How does conspiracy to commit a felony sound?”

“Good luck pinning that on us, Copper!”

“Oh, grow up, Stanley. You’ve got to learn when to give up.”

“Stanley Aiden Conway, Alexander Oliver Conway: I am arresting you on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a felony. You know the rest, don’t you?”

“Nope. Let’s hear you say it and woe betide you if you don’t get it right.”

“That’s it. Tell him, Lex.”

“You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

“That’ll do. Okay. Ahem. It’s a fair cop, Guvnor, you got us banged to rights.”

“Do you know, no-one has ever said that to me before. Properly made my day, it has. Now, be off with you, both of you, and I don’t want to see your ugly mugs on my patch again!”

As the two men ran off, the Detective Sergeant turned to the short woman and said, “That should put the value of your paintings up a notch. It was worth putting that word out, wasn’t it? Now, about that wine…”


This was written in response to Kreative Kue 330 published on this site.

 

Kreative Kue 330

Kreative Kue 329 asked for submissions based on this photograph:

John W Howell is a multiple nominated and award-winning author who blogs at Fiction Favorites. Details of John’s books can be found on his Amazon author page

The Wonder by John W. Howell © 2021

“Should we bother him?”

“I’m not sure. Looks like his mind is a million miles away.”

“That’s what I thought. If we try to get his attention he might have a heart attack.”

“We will have to interrupt his reverie sooner or later.”

“Why? We can just go somewhere else.”

“I don’t think that’s a great idea. I don’t know where else to go.”

“We could keep driving until we see someone dressed like him.”

“That could be a hundred miles. We need to be home by lunchtime.”

“Why’s that?”

“The guy from the Audubon society is going to meet us there remember?”

“Oh yeah. You are making a big donation.”

“Well, birds are our friends.”

“What about this one?”

“I think it belongs to that guy.”

“How do you know?”

“He’s got hawk protection for his hands. Look at the symbol on his jacket. It screams hawk.”

“I must say he even looks like a hawk. Okay let’s go tell him his bird is with us.”

“Don’t tell him about the pupachino at Starbucks. Not sure he would like the fact we got one for his bird.”

“I think it would be wise not to mention the blueberry scone either.”

“I think you’re right.”

“What should we say when he asks how we came to have his hawk?”

“I’d go with the bird was hitchhiking and we picked it up.”

“He’s not going to believe that.”

“Maybe the truth then?”

” When you called to it and it flew in the house sounds like a fairy tale.”

“That’s why I like the hitchhike story. Any way it doesn’t matter we will get the hawk back to its rightful owner.”

“We hope.”

“Look at the hawk. It’s shaking it’s head.”

“I think he wants to stay with us.”

“He’s nodding.”

“One question.”

“Yeah?”

“Where did this bird learn English?”

“Let’s ask him when we get home.”

“I wonder if he’s potty trained.”

“He’s nodding yes.”

“Does Polly want a cracker?”

“He’s not a parrot.”

“I still think he wants a cracker.”

“And ruin his lunch? No way.”


This thoughtful and atmospheric tale from Richard Dalgleish by email.

The photograph was old and creased. its colours faded. It was found in a metal biscuit tin, silvered and speckled with spots of rust from age as if it had morphed into the skin of a metal lizard. When the tin was opened, the ancient memories of the sweet delights within dissipated and were lost forever.

The researcher was called Isla. She was wearing soft cotton gloves, a protective mask and a white lab coat with blue paper shoes. She peered closely at the faint image. Who was this person who survived only in this photograph? Where was it taken? What was his story? She allowed her mind to drift, imagining his pains and triumphs, his journey through life, the other people who surrounded him and who were now lost forever.

Old photographs such as this turned up very rarely. The dark digital age when the image was made was mostly a closed book. The people who lived then had left little trace of themselves other than their architecture often built in flat dull concrete. Their time must have been filled with so much colour but was now grey and void. Their art and their images, their writings and their thoughts were only ever found in glimpses. The computer storage and data centres in which these people placed so much trust were all dark and crumbling and the data corrupt and lost in obscurity. Corruption and loss. As Isla watched, the image began to fade before her eyes, its exposure to living oxygen too much for it after so many years held secure in its tin box.

She snapped from her thoughts and grabbed a can of spray and covered the image in a white foam before closing the box and waiting. Hoping she had worked quickly enough to fix the image. Waiting for minutes which seemed like hours. Repeating the process of whoever had printed that photograph so long ago. Thinking of the passage of time. A whole life encapsulated in a single faint image. Isla’s timer rang loudly in the lab and startled her. Isla slowly opened the box. Tears came to her eyes when she saw what was inside.


This short tale from Raymond Walker. Raymond is a prolific author whose main web site is at http://raytwalker.com/. Details of Raymond’s books can be found on his Amazon author page

Hawks by Raymond Walker © 2021

Pale; the hawk’s shadow on the ground on winter’s eve. Little sunlight was shed upon the ruins of the cottage that had once adorned this crag, the sky leaden, dark, filled with the promise of rain, of snow. The terrain to reach the crag; difficult. Scary. Scree, marsh, huge boulders left as the ice receded were in my way but I had to get there.

I knew where she was, my wife, her car left in the high car park on the “Rest and be thankful”. A mountain midway between Arrochar and Inveraray in the West highlands of Scotland. She had called me before her mobile ran out of charge. The snow was falling, the car dead. I had meant to replace the battery for months but I was lazy and had let her undertake the long trip in an inadequate car.

I could see her car, in darkness, abandoned. She had left as the heat dissipated. Married so long my wife knew survival skills. Late nights and too much wine listening to me rattle on about how to survive in the depths of winter in Scotland. She was disinterested, a night away for her was in a classy hotel but listening to me drone on so often, I knew what she would do.

A dead car, the chance of hypothermia had she waited. She would follow my half heard advice. There was a small cabin just below the Northern Ridge. Look for the hawks, I told her, the thermals allow them to soar.

That is where she had to be. The road was closed soon after I passed, the snow gates down but I had walked these hills for years. I knew the rules and what to do. I called mountain rescue and informed them of my position and task and that I felt there was no imminent risk to life. I set up a small tent in the snow near the edge of the Black Lake (loch dubh) and gathered dry firewood. I did not know what condition she would be in when I found her.

The little cabin, little more than a bothy, provided you with shelter and warmth for a few days whilst hoping for rescue. It was not a five star hotel but it would do.

The marsh was a morass of stinking bogs filled with toads and salamanders, leeches and newts but I had come prepared and so with only a modicum of difficulty reached the base of the mountain.

The terrain was difficult, the bog the worst of it. The scree on the mountainside was treacherous but navigable as long as you were careful. I followed the circling hawks, having forgotten much of my gear in haste. Snow was rarely a problem in these mountains but could become difficult on rare occasions. This was one of these times. What should have been a twenty minute to half hour trek up a mountainside became an odyssey.

Wading waist deep through drifting snow. Hell on Earth. Legs, thighs and back aching I found the cabin, better still I saw fog coming in from the west, the sea, It would warm things up. Cloud cover can be marvellous and I knew that she would be freezing. Having spent one night in the bothy before I knew that it meant survival. Not comfort.

I chapped upon the door, decorum, and it was answered by a naked girl. My wife. She was pale and shivering. “I knew you would find me. I knew that you would come for me. You think that I do not listen to your little tales but I do pay attention. I knew to head for this cabin, I knew that you would find me here. I knew to doff the wet clothes, no matter how cold it seemed. I knew it all because of you” I was busy smiling as her lips touched mine.

She stood on her tiptoes, completely naked, and kissed me on the lips. You were not even here but you saved me.

See. I was listening when you thought I was bored of your stories.

I would not have lived without them.

I shall not tell you of that night but we used the circling hawks as an anchor to set our course in the morning. The sea was close as it is everywhere in Scotland. And so followed the closest stream downhill. It is difficult to tell where you are when everything is white and the snow is deep. Eventually, dry and able we made the car. The Hawks saved her.


My effort was:

Authenticity

Stand there and wait, they said. Wait for what? Noone would say. Just wait. I imagined they’d let me know at some stage but no. According to the head man – producer or director or whatever – they want an authentic reaction when whatever it is I’m supposed to be waiting for eventually happens.

So, I suppose I’ll just have to stand here in front of you nice people and try to entertain you until then. What would you like me to do for you? I can’t sing – not in a way you’d like to hear, anyway, and my dancing … I’m sure most of you will have seen the video from last year’s staff and volunteers’ party that went viral. And no, I won’t give you a quick rendition of that. Why not? Because there’s no music. HA. What’s that? No, Sir, I don’t want you to put your ghetto blaster on full strength. Who still uses those things anyway? No, Madam, I’d rather you didn’t sing something for me to dance to. Mostly because I’ve heard your singing before and I don’t think it’s something I’d like to inflict on these poor people who paid to come here to be entertained, not tortured. You’d like me to tell you a story? Okay. Somebody throw out a subject and I’ll see what I can do.

One at a time, please. What’s that? The photographer and the nude model? I think we could all make up stories about that, but there are children present… yes, Madam, and ladies of a sensitive nature. Give me another. I think the actress and the bishop would fall into the same category, Miss, and I’d be careful if I were you, your father doesn’t seem to be too impressed by your suggestion. Haunted car park? That sounds interesting. Give me a minute, will you?

Right.

The date is the twenty-eighth of November. Three hundred yards away, the church clock strikes eleven. The sky is covered in clouds and there’s a power cut, so it’s pitch black everywhere. Our hero; let’s call him George… no: John. Why not George? I don’t think it’s heroic sounding enough. Yes, I do think John is. Yes, I’ve heard about Saint George – he’s the guy who allegedly slew a mythical monster. All right, if you insist, we’ll call him David.

So, Davey-boy walks through the car park. Look, it’s a story about a haunted car park, isn’t it? So where would you expect him to be? THAT’S WHAT YOU ASKED FOR!

Thank you.

So, Davey-boy walks through the car park. As he reaches the corner where his car is parked. Why else would he be in a car park at eleven o’clock — yes, I suppose he could be a miscreant bent on stealing a car or robbing stuff from one, but let’s just assume he’s going to his car, okay?

Okay. Thank you.

So, he reaches the corner where his car is parked, raises his eyes from the ground — he was looking at the ground because it’s pitch dark, and he doesn’t want to trip over anything or step in something disgusting. Yes, like doggy-do. No, not like an IED. We’re not in a war zone. Honestly. I thought you people wanted a story, not a…

OH MY GOD! WHAT THE DEVIL IS THAT?


DSCF0168a

On to this week’s challenge: Using this photo as inspiration, write a short story, flash fiction, scene, poem; anything, really; even just a caption for the photograph. Either put it (or a link to it) in a comment or email it to me at keithchanning@gmail.com before 6pm next Sunday (if you aren’t sure what the time is where I live, this link will tell you). If you post it on your own blog or site, a link to this page would be appreciated, but please do also mention it in a comment here.

Go on. You know you want to. Let your creativity and imagination soar. I shall display the entries next Monday.

Authenticity

Stand there and wait, they said. Wait for what? Noone would say. Just wait. I imagined they’d let me know at some stage, but no. According to the head man – producer or director or whatever – they want an authentic reaction when whatever it is I’m supposed to be waiting for eventually happens.

So I suppose I’ll just have to stand here in front of you nice people and try to entertain you until then. What would you like me to do for you? I can’t sing – not in a way you’d like to hear, anyway, and my dancing … I’m sure most of you will have seen the video from last year’s staff and volunteers’ party that went viral. And no, I won’t give you a quick rendition of that. Why not? Because there’s no music. HA. What’s that? No, Sir, I don’t want you to put your ghetto blaster on full strength. Who still uses those things anyway? No, Madam, I’d rather you didn’t sing something for me to dance to. Mostly because I’ve heard your singing before and I don’t think it’s something I’d like to inflict on these poor people who paid to come here to be entertained, not tortured. You’d like me to tell you a story? Okay. Somebody throw out a subject and I’ll see what I can do.

One at a time, please. What’s that? The photographer and the nude model? I think we could all make up stories about that, but there are children present… yes, Madam, and ladies of a sensitive nature. Give me another. I think the actress and the bishop would fall into the same category, Miss, and I’d be careful if I were you, your father doesn’t seem to be too impressed by your suggestion. Haunted car park? That sounds interesting. Give me a minute, will you?

Right.

The date is the twenty-eighth of November. Three hundred yards away, the church clock strikes eleven. The sky is covered in clouds and there’s a power cut, so it’s pitch black everywhere. Our hero; let’s call him George… no: John. Why not George? I don’t think it’s heroic sounding enough. Yes, I do think John is. Yes, I’ve heard about Saint George – he’s the guy who allegedly slew a mythical monster. All right, if you insist, we’ll call him David.

So, Davey-boy walks through the car park. Look, it’s a story about a haunted car park, isn’t it? So where would you expect him to be? THAT’S WHAT YOU ASKED FOR!

Thank you.

So, Davey-boy walks through the car park. As he reaches the corner where his car is parked. Why else would he be in a car park at eleven o’clock? Yes, I suppose he could be a miscreant bent on stealing a car or robbing stuff from one, but let’s just assume he’s going to his car, okay?

Thank you.

So, he reaches the corner where his car is parked, raises his eyes from the ground — he was looking at the ground because it’s pitch dark, and he doesn’t want to trip over anything or step in something disgusting. Yes, like doggy-do. No, not like an IED. We’re not in a war zone. Honestly. I thought you people wanted a story, not a…

OH MY GOD! WHAT THE DEVIL IS THAT?


This was written in response to Kreative Kue 329 published on this site.