My short story challenge rolls on, with another story inspired by a line in a randomly chosen novel.
So, once again I’m using a random novel from my bookshelves, opening a random page and choosing a sentence as my title with a random press of my finger. One of these days that will really trip me up. Frankly, it might have done so with this one. The reveal of the title is, as always, after the story itself if you’re curious.
Being week 41, if you’re just coming in now, where have you been?
In any case, if you want to catch up with the prior stories you can find the full archive here.
Not that this is my first short story challenge, mind you.
The first led to an eBook, called Fifty Two, so if you enjoy this tale, why not do me a solid favour and buy a copy?
If you’re more of a long fiction reader — and especially one who likes B-Movies about Australian secret agents featuring way more exploding sharks than any other novel* then I’ve got just the book for you:
*As nobody has yet challenged me on this one, I’m going to shift towards regarding it as scientific fact. Want to prove me wrong? You’ll need to buy a copy first to check that hypothesis.
But enough e-book advertising, Alex! On with this week’s story:
You Don’t Think I Can Take It, Do You?
I see what you’re doing.
Hell, I can see what you’re thinking.
You don’t think I can take it, do you?
I’ve known you too long, and we’ve tussled too many times. I’ve always prided myself on being at least three steps ahead of you.
Sure, that’s not always been true – there was that time in Beirut where I really did think you had my number.
If anyone else asked me, I’d talk about how I planned it all and of course I got away, but really, it was just luck that the wall collapsed in the way it did, creating enough of a diversion and a ramp for me to drive the getaway truck out of the museum.
But that was then, and I always plan a little bit better, a little bit sharper since that day.
One too many glasses of Rosé in the planning session before, back when I used to drink all the time.
These days, special occasions only, and only once a job is done.
So… you don’t think I can do it, do you?
You figure that you’ve got it all worked out, and that I wouldn’t dare even try to steal Misenon’s L’épée Dans La Grenouille.
But, look, a girl has bills to pay, and the sweet, sweet dollar bills that will come flying my way when I have that painting to sell will see me living the fine life for a good long time.
So sure, put in your cameras, and your backup wiring, and your generators.
Pressure sensitive pads, naturally.
A few spare laser sights, with redundancy, of course. That stuff’s for tourists, and we both know it.
Scoped it all out just wandering around right under your nose.
Like I said, I know what you’re thinking, and I knew, I just knew that you’d be there yourself, personally. Overseeing it all, shouting out orders from behind that gruff little beard you insist on growing.
It’s showing your age, you know, what with the salt and pepper look. Not too many men can pull that kind of thing off, and, darling, you’re not one of them.
Sorry… that was probably a little too harsh. Wear your beard however you like, really. Doesn’t matter to me, and your wife doesn’t seem to grimace too much when you kiss her goodbye every day before heading to the station.
Oh, shit, that probably sounded all kinds of threatening.
No, look, don’t worry, I’m not into that kind of hostage play.
Not my scene at all, you know?
I just like to keep tabs on you so I can plan a little better, stay those steps ahead like I said. You should probably have a word to that son of yours – Kevin, is it? Been hanging out with some very unsavoury types down by the train station, just so you know.
So, look, you’re probably wondering why I sent you this email in the first place.
It’s not professional courtesy, that’s for sure. But really, I felt like I kind of had to. Because while you’ve been reading this, I’ve been busy.
Busy selling L’épée Dans La Grenouille, mostly.
See, the other day while you were seeing its installation in the gallery, and putting all the safety measures in place, including the ones you figured I wouldn’t spot, like the fake painting with the thermal sensors in it?
Yeah, I know about that too. Planning is everything in this business.
So, the pudgy overweight truck driver you swore at who delivered the crate the painting was in?
That was me. Amazing what you can get a few theatrical types to make for you for a very reasonable sum. A little spirit gum here, a fake nose there and I walked around you for ages without you ever suspecting a thing.
So, anyway, I picked up L’épée Dans La Grenouille in Nice, under your specific supervision.
Drove it all the way from Nice for you, all on a truck driver’s lousy salary.
Gave me very easy access, all things told. Swapped the crate for a very nicely produced fake – cost me a few euros, let me tell you – while we went through the channel tunnel.
Very easy job to pull off, really, but I couldn’t resist delivering the fake myself, just to see you fuss over it in person.
I’m sure the tourists who are already calling it the must-see exhibit of the summer are loving it, just like I’m loving all the money I just made.
This week’s novel? Inspired by a discussion I had while working yesterday’s NSW Election, it’s from Page 194 of Nightfall (1991 paperback edition) by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg. So now you know.