Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality
One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!
Crime du Jour #5: Burglary
A COUPLE OF AMATEURS
“It is a very bad idea,” I said, using a wiper-blade insert and a standard curved hook lockpick, because the padlock on the chain-link gate was a standard brand that was criminally easy to open and I didn’t need anything more complicated, “to break into the basement of a drug dealer who collects Nazi-era Reichsmarks and keeps them in his safe, just to piss him off.”
“We’re not just going to piss him off,” Clyde said. “We’re going to really piss him off.”
Clyde was my friend Martin’s son-in-law, the kind of guy who wears a monogrammed bowling league jacket to a burglary. He was now the kind of guy who was wearing it inside-out.
“I did mention that he sells drugs,” I said, sticking the lock in my pocket for disposal later. “But I forgot to add that it implies he has guns, to protect his drugs.”
“We won’t steal any drugs,” Clyde said, looking sly.
Even when Martin whispers, his voice sounds like it comes out of a root cellar. They call his type of voice a “basso profundo.”
Martin said, “Clyde, don’t swipe any drugs. Not even accidentally. Al, we’re destroying the man. You can’t just frame someone like that for doing what he does anyway. You have to take away the one thing he wasn’t ready to lose.”
“It’s still a bad idea. Especially with the three of us.”
“We need to do it now, before the cops arrive.”
Clyde led us through the junkyard and to a row of basement windows with corrugated window wells covered with steel mesh covers. The covers were held shut with a safety latch, a simple pin held in by spring tension. There was even a wire handle on the pin. I pushed the handle down with a screwdriver and popped the mesh cover open, then stepped into the well and crouched down. The window was latched but not locked, and in a few seconds I had it open. I climbed out, and Martin took my place. Martin is about six feet, five inches tall, and has the physique of a short man who has been stretched to fit. Today’s adventure was all his plan. He slid through the narrow space like a cat oozing through a mousehole. I closed the window, wiped for prints, and latched the screen cover again. Then Clyde and I walked around to the back door, whose camera I had already disabled over the Internet.
“Al,” Clyde said, “What are you gonna do with your share of the money?”
“First, never ask that question. Second, never ask that question while you’re on the job.”
The back door opened. We descended musty-smelling cement stairs, then walked past a steel door surrounded by a skunky aroma, a sealed grow room. You can never quite cover up the smell of fresh weed. Martin led us between stacks of rubber storage tubs to another steel door. This was another simple lock, not the worst model on the market, with at least two spool pins out of the six inside the lock. I had it open in a few seconds.
Inside the office, the floor was dull gray with several faded throw rugs. To one side sat the kind of old couch college students pick up off the curb. A grimy, ancient computer sat on a built-in plywood shelf desk in the opposite corner. There were no windows in the office area, and only a bare bulb with a pull string for light.
The safe was under one side of the shelf desk. I sat down in front of it.
“Don’t you need tools? A stethoscope or something?” Clyde asked.
“Only if you’re an amateur.” I generally bring at least a drill, just in case. But the safe was exactly as Martin had described, a nice old classic model. It must have been a wall safe at some point, as evidenced by the wood-grain contact paper that had been applied to the door, but was now bolted to the cement floor. I provided some tension to the handle and began turning the dial. I found the first number easily, turned the dial three hundred and sixty degrees in the reverse direction, then started hunting around for the second digit.
“Did you get it?” Clyde asked.
I ignored him. In a few seconds, I had the second, third, and fourth digits and had opened the safe. Inside was a metal door with a simple key lock.
“Another door!” Clyde said.
It wasn’t locked. I pulled it open with my fingernails.
Inside, there were two shelves and another safe, bolted inside the first one. The two shelves were empty. Martin gave me a look. I shrugged.
“Sheesh, this guy was paranoid,” Clyde said. “A safe within a safe within a safe.”
That safe, too, was unlocked. And empty.
Clyde made a disgusted noise. “Nothing there. Come on. At least we can take some of the drugs. Let’s check that first room. It should take you about two seconds to open that door, am I right?”
Martin said, “Either someone else has been here already, or he’s smarter than I thought. Let’s go.”
Clyde crossed his arms over his chest. “We can’t leave here with nothing!”
I took the padlock out of my pocket and handed it to him. “There you go, Clyde. Now you have something to remember our adventure by. And hey, at least the man who shot your wife is going to prison.”
“I mean something valuable!”
Martin said, “No drugs, Clyde.”
“It’s just weed, that doesn’t count.”
I didn’t tell either of them that it wasn’t just weed or that the smell of weed wouldn’t cover up the smell of the drug dealer’s other dead victims forever. I just wiped for prints and, later, made a hefty donation to the charity listed on Joan’s obituary, because she’d been my friend once, too.
Rule number one of working with amateurs: always case the joint.
Note: This crime du jour is dedicated to the YouTuber “The Lockpicking Lawyer.” Highly recommend!
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