The prompt this week was to STEAL a sentence! We were to start our story with the first sentence on Page 84 of a book that we do not own. Also, and quite appropriately, we were to include a robbery in the story. The word limit is 1400. I took my sentence from Page 84 of A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Don’t ask…
“By this time, paleontological momentum had moved to England. Well, will you look at the time. Why don’t we pick up this discussion after the break. I’ve graded your essays, and they’re on my desk. You can pick them up on your way out. Have fun.”
My students all looked at me like I’ve lost my mind. I’m ending class a half hour early today, but I need them to get the hell out of here so I can confirm this evening’s plans.
“Professor Stanley, would it be possible for me to…”
Here we go again. Amy Jernigan wants to make a deal to up her grade. She’ll suggest preparing a display for one of my classes or picking up my dry cleaning for a week… It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or offensive her offer would sound, she’ll present it anyway. Whatever it takes to change that D- to a C, minimum. I tell her every time that if she continues trying to negotiate her grades, she will face possible expulsion, but it does no good. The girl has no pride. Since I won’t be back after this semester break, I believe I’ll make my position on her insulting suggestions abundantly clear.
“Yes, Professor Stanley.”
I believe she got the message this time. Her eyes filled with tears and she ran out of the classroom. There are two of my students, however, that I need to have a brief conference with.
“Mr. Whalen and Mr. Simpson? If you would please remain for a moment, I need to go over something with you.”
They smile and nod and move to the side of my desk. My favorites. Straight As for them both, no matter how crappy their essays are; and, take my word for it, their schoolwork is garbage. But I’ve learned to find good in everyone.
“Prof?” Mr. Whalen always addressed me that way and made certain there was quite the sarcastic tone included, while Mr. Simpson simply spoke his mind and hoped his words would find their intended target.
I would have flunked them both out of my life had they not possessed the skills I required, among them being the ability to bypass state-of-the-art alarm systems. Yes, you understand me perfectly. They are efficient, and proficient, burglars. How I learned of their special talent and hooked up with them, as the kids today refer to the process, is immaterial. The point is, I did, and while I am going to be their ticket to untraceable cash, they are going to be mine for what I desire most of all: freedom.
Freedom from my position here at the University as teacher to mindless trust fund babies, whose futures are set in stone with daddy’s corporation and only seek a degree to paper their office walls. And freedom from a wife, whose wealthy father has always lavished her with expensive houses and cars, and who treats me as if I were the family’s gardener; that is, without any of the personal perks men of that occupation usually receive from the lady of the house as depicted in some movies.
Esther is not exactly unattractive, but she only married me to gain access to the University’s social structure, which includes politicians at the state’s highest level. Why did I marry her? She had access to lots of money, and I had dreams of travel, exploration, possible discovery of a lost civilization, and perhaps my photo on the cover of National Geographic. Well, she’s still rich, but I’m confined to the house and my classroom. I receive an allowance, and, on Esther’s orders, the cook packs a delightfully nutritious lunch for me to take to school each day. Lucky me.
Kill her then, you might say, inherit her money, and move on. Not an option, I’m afraid. She’s willed everything to various charities, with my small allowance to continue, so I’ve come up with another way to get my hands on enough cash to allow me to flee. And, it’s all legal too; well, sort of…
“We’ve scoped the house, Prof, and we won’t have any problem getting in. Security there is a joke, and since we know exactly where all the valuables are kept, especially the one you want removed, we’ll be in and out in the blink of an eye. We won’t mess the place up too badly, just enough to make it believable as a robbery by outsiders.”
I could feel myself getting all tingly. This was all too exciting. Mr. Whalen obviously had the situation well in hand.
“Once I get the money from the insurance company, I’ll wire the payment we agreed upon to your accounts.” These two young men, at 20 years of age, had accounts in the Caymans. I have no wish to get too close to them since they were both clearly sociopaths and quite dangerous, but the risk of dealing with the likes of them would be worth the reward--as long as I keep my end of the bargain.
“All is set, Prof,” Mr. Whalen stated in that eerily unsettling tone of his. “We’ve also got all your documents ready--new ID, passport, license and all. They’re in the storage locker, and here’s your key. Just make sure you get the funds to us as quickly as possible since there are others involved that we have to compensate.”
I wondered who the ‘others’ were. Gangster types, maybe? I’m sure it would be to my advantage not to ask.
“One question though.” For the first time since I’ve known him, I see concern on Mr. Simpson’s face. “The house is yours. You want us to rob you?”
I knew this would come up. It was my home I wanted them to rob, but there was only one item I wanted them to steal. It was a hand-crafted, jewel encrusted, tie pin my father-in-law presented to me on Esther’s and my wedding day. It was gaudy and frankly, hideous, but it was also insured in my name for a nice tidy sum. Once I got the check, I’d pay off the boys and leave the country. It was all arranged, and I’d be able to live my life doing what I wanted. I wasn’t sure what that was yet, but I’d have plenty of cash to sustain me until I made the decision.
“Yes,” I told them. “I have my reasons.”
“Whatever, Prof,” Mr. Whalen didn’t question me further. “Consider it done.”
When we pulled up, I could see the boys had left the front door ajar. Nice touch. Esther ran inside and made a beeline for her jewelry box.
“Walter, we’ve been robbed. They took some of my favorite pieces too. Go call the police, and I’ll call Daddy.”
“Oh, look Esther. The case that held that tie-clasp your father gave me is empty. We’d better make a list of what’s missing for the insurance company. They’ll need that to process our claims.”
“Walter, that tie thing wasn’t stolen. The robbers did open the case, but it hasn‘t been there for months.”
I shouldn’t have had that extra cocktail before dinner. I was beginning to get a bit light in the head.
“What do you mean it hasn‘t been in there? For months? What?”
‘Walter, Walter,” Esther shook her head in her usual condescending way. “Remember my friend, Alexis? The one whose husband died?”
Yep. That cocktail was one too many. I could feel my knees buckling.
“You know who I mean. Anyway, her husband always wanted a pin like yours, but it was custom made and couldn’t be duplicated. She couldn’t do much for him while he was ill, so I wanted to provide her some comfort. I gave her your pin so she could bury him with it. No point in paying premiums on it since you never wore it. May as well put it to good use. I guess I forgot to discard that case.
What’s the matter with you, Walter? You look so pale. Why don’t you lie down and I’ll call the police myself. This violation of our home obviously upset you more than I had realized. Look on the bright side. You’ve got time to work through this before the semester starts back, and the insurance company will reimburse me fully for all my losses. Doesn’t that make you feel better? Walter? Wal…”