Short Stories

A Little Bait

«And the alarm takes off…now! Mr. Smith is gonna wait 15 seconds yawning and rubbing his eyes before he pushes the blanket aside and sits up straight on his bed, unfolding his two arms in full length.» The man was examining his watch, holding it carefully with his left hand while his peer was sitting right next to him, listening carefully.

«He stands up. Wears his slippers and starts dragging his feet across the room, which should take about….7 seconds till he gets to the door. He opens it up and heads to the toilet, 30 seconds.»

The guy next to him was sitting motionless, watching tentatively. Both men were well dressed and appropriately mannered, sitting in the waiting room of what seemed to be a busy office. People would pass around back and forth, constantly moving along the scattered office tables across the area.

«He gets back to his room, picks up his white shirt, dark blue trunk, and dresses up. He sits on his bed..» The man glanced over to his peer peeking above his reading glasses. «..and puts his shoes on, 2 minutes. Ethan, are you following me son?»

«Of course I do, sir»

«And we haven’t missed anything, have we?»

«Hmm, no, Mr. don’t think so..»

«What about the cleansing and brushing of teeth, did we count that?»

«No sir, I’m afraid we didn’t. You are right sir; we missed that part.»

«That’s about right, Ethan. And you realize the delicate and intricate nature of our work? And how important it is to be extremely accurate?»

«Of course sir..I’m really sorry sir, it won’t happen again»

«Good. So that adds another 3 minutes to the equation in which case he should be heading for his quick little breakfast downstairs.. right about now. He opens his fridge, picks up a butter croissant, and some jelly. Sits down to eat with his newspaper. 5 minutes.»

«Ethan my boy, do you remember the time we are supposed to start our part?»

«Absolutely sir. 10:15 am sir. It should work fluently as a machine, sir!» the boy smiled while the man was taken aback.

The man had a big grey goatee beard, that together with his glasses and big white hat would make him resemble a character in an old-age cowboy movie. Alongside him was the young man with the red head and big brown pimples scattered along his face which was always drawn with downwards angled eyebrows.

«That is exactly right, boy. And are you ready to make your phone call? Have you memorized your words as intended?»

«Absolutely sir. Right to the last word sir» he said with a big proud smile.

«Good, good. As you may understand this is something I could not handle myself as my voice could be recognizable to Mr. Smith. In a couple of minutes he is gonna finish his breakfast and head over to his office in which case..he is in a for a little surprise.»

«That is right sir,» said the young man gaging in laughter.

«And so it goes. Right about now he should be walking towards it. He opens the door to the room and….voila! There in its whole glory lies..a masterpiece! ‘The Gardener’ by Vincent van Gogh. A painting worth millions upon millions is now found in his room. The painting got missing a few weeks back from the private collection of the tycoon Mr. George Simmons. A powerful businessman and lover of arts, who has in his collection some of the most wonderful masterpieces made in the history of humanity, to which we now have the honor to provide our services». The piece was taken together with other rare artworks, that would amount to immensurable value. No one really knows or understands who and how he managed to penetrate one of the most sophisticated securities ever invented let alone get away with it without anyone noticing something.

«That is correct sir. But how do we know that Mr. Smith was involved in it? Or that he is gonna make any move at all once he founds it even?»

«Excellent question my boy. Let me elaborate on it.» The man jerked his tie on his neck a few times before speaking. «At this point, there is no question that whoever got his hand on the pieces had the cooperation of someone from the inside. There is no way someone could penetrate passed the cameras, locked doors, and security men that were onboard in the house and active at all times just, on his own. Simply impossible. The only question is, who of the personnel would be willing and in a position to give out sensitive information to compromise such valuable content. The house consists of a number of people that are employed to preserve and maintain it at all times. 4 bodyguards, 6 mates, 2 cooks, the financial manager, and a couple of gardeners are among the regulars but then you have a number more that are more occasional and are employed on a per-job basis. Now all of them of course are in constant watch as we speak but we would never expect them to give away any hints after such an undertaking even if they had participated in it. Teams of that sort always make sure to cut out any unneeded communication till enough time passes for them to be cleared out.»

«Ok but why Mr. Smith?»

«Ohh yes, Mr. Smith is the only one that has access to most parts of that huge property of 160 rooms, as being the general manager of most processes that run through it, from gardening, cleaning, cooking, and so on. There is no other person that would be capable to give sensitive information even if they decided to.»

«Ok and what makes us so sure that this is gonna push him to call his contacts»

«Ahh now, this is where the magic happens. You see Mr. Smith is about to find one of the stolen pieces in his office. What he doesn’t know is that it is only a mere replica that I order to be made just for this purpose. Obviously, Mr. Smith lacks both the knowledge and subtlety to make out any difference between the fake and the original.» The man stared upwards on the ceiling for a few seconds before taking a deep breath.

«Alas for the souls of those that cannot appreciate the magnitude of such majestic work. And so the story goes that although Mr. Smith doesn’t know exactly who was behind the actual job, he does have in his possession some way of communicating with a middleman. And assuming a little push from you and the call you are about to make, it should guide him into taking the step we so desire.»

«Excellent thinking sir. Very well thought plan indeed.»

«That’s what I think as well my dear. So by now..» the man took a good look on his watch prolonging his face «Mr. smith should be already in a maze of stress and uncertainty not sure what to do about what he has in his possession. Should he hide it? destroyed it? talk to someone? it’s not an easy decision to make by any means. Whoever left the piece there might contain the knowledge of his doings or it might serve a purpose he wouldn’t anticipate. Anyhow, our next act should seal the deal and force him to proceed as we expect him to.» he turned over the young man. «Are you ready for the call?»

«Sure I am sir» he picked up his phone and dialed a number. The phone started ringing but no immediate response came to it. He glanced over to the man on his side in bewilderment before finally, a voice answered.

«Hello, is this Mr. Smith?» he pronounced with a heavy voice.

«Mr. Smith this is police officer Daniel Harding. I’m calling you from the state department, as we have found that your contribution would be extremely valuable to an ongoing investigation we are currently doing…Ohh nothing to worry about, its’ pure routine process.» he glanced over to Mr. Harriss who nodded condescendingly. «Would you be able to pass over the office in the afternoon to have a chat? That would be great Mr. Smith. See you then.» he said as he hanged up the phone.

«Excellent my boy. Now he is hooked for sure. You see this call puts a strain over him. He cannot go to the department without notifying his contact as that could mean the end of his life if word would come out for it. And he cannot avoid the police as this would make him look quite suspicious. This is a dangerous sport to be bothering with my dear. It has strict rules that could mean the difference between life and death..» he moved his head downwards staring at the ground in haze.

The young man followed his stare to the ground but didn’t spot anything so he glanced back at him and waited. He leaned in towards him and raised his eyebrows.

«Mr. Harriss..?»

«And here is where the secret lies my dear boy!» he yelled strongly taking the boy by surprise.

«Obviously our guy is not only part of our little town, but an acquaintance and friend of Mr. Simmons, which means we run no danger of him fleeting away. That leaves him no option but to find a good place to hide the pieces without running the risk of wearing them out. Of course, we have witnessed such pieces to be kept in all kinds of strange places in the past. Crammed deep down the ground, stacked inside boxes together with other meaningless papers, or even thrown away in a corner as if they were the next random magazine. But here is where our guy differs, whoever that may be. His methods were extremely accurate. Clean like a surgeon making a heart operation, calculating his smallest hand movement. There was simply nothing like it, me, or my peers had ever witnessed before. Usually, there is always some sort of mistake, or minor miscalculation to give us some clue. But this act was conducted with precise and meticulous steps. Whoever this guy is he leaves nothing on luck. Let alone the saving of the paintings after the job. I’m pretty sure he chose one of the private vaults to deposit his newly acquired pieces. Luckily for us we only have two such organizations in our city and one of them is half managed by the state having a big bureaucratic list of assessments and verifications before each deposit. Surely he would be very inclined to avoid such trouble which leaves us with only one place suitable for his purposes. The vault deposit we are currently in..»

«Very thoughtful of you Mr. Harriss. That is surely brilliant thinking.»

«It sure is my boy and make sure to pay attention as this is the way of your learning and education on such subjects.»

He glanced at his watch again. «Now, The last piece of the puzzle is that once the contact of Mr. Smith is communicated on the incident by Mr. Smith, it is pretty sure that the guy in possession of the paintings will come here in search of his crop. He will have to make sure whether everything is still in place or the job is somehow compromised. So you see my dear instead of us hunting down the thief, we put out a nice little bait for him, and let him find us. All we have to do now is sit here and wait for him to arrive to conduct his business. And I ‘m pretty sure it shouldn’t be long till we see some sort of sign.»

«That is for sure sir..»

«Some things are handled better with delicate swift actions instead of brute confrontation.» He took a deep breath. «Alas, we shall see where this is getting us to. Funny though..» he looked over the door of the bank. «..I think this is the brother of Mr. David Simmons that just came in.. I would surely want to rub my eyes for them not to fool me or something. And I m sure that would be a hell of coincidence in the most obscures of pranks played to us by the universe. If only it wasn’t for the fact that…I don’t really believe in coincidences…Ohh, my dear boy..this is a hectic world we live in…»