The first day of a stakeout is very exciting; the mind runs wild with possibilities. You have to pay attention to people’s schedules to figure out the best time of day to break in. It’s not just the people in that house either, you gotta note when the neighbors are gone too. People don’t realize, a lot of burglaries happen in the middle of the day because all these suckers are off making money at their jobs.
So, I found myself a nice, subtle parking spot directly across the street from the address Rachel Lynn wrote on the napkin.
“Hide in plain sight; that’s what I always say.” I said to myself as I reached for my second sack lunch of the day.
I always pack about six meals and a case of cola for a stake out. These things take time and energy; a good cat burglar has to keep refueling. Especially when you factor in all the trips to the nearest gas station for bathroom breaks.
The house in question was ancient, but immense. I imagined the owner of a house like that coming from old money, and wondered if Rachel Lynn would be upset with me if I snagged a few extra items while I was at it. I had no way of knowing if she would be, she didn’t give explicit instructions not to, and she would have no way of finding out. But a relationship shouldn’t be built on lies and I, the Six Minute Man, was an honest thief.
The notion had psyched me up so much I decided to crank some tunes and sing along while waiting to see some movement. There was a problem, though. It was well into the night around the time my voice started to go, and I hadn’t seen a single soul go in or out of the house.
“It could be an old lady in there,” I thought to myself. “One little old lady who got the book when she was a kid, and loved it so much that she kept it hidden away, safe and sound; never touching it until it was worth seven figures.”
It wasn’t a very good theory, I’ll admit, but it was the first conclusion I had jumped to and I was sticking to it.
I had gone back to the house the next day, and the one after that, still no one came or went. Feeling assured that there was nothing more than a singular, lonely, small-in-size lady in the house, I decided it was time to lay out my game plan.
I had a few good choices for points of entry, but you never know what’s going to work out. You have to go through in sequence from easiest to more difficult. Hopefully, a window is open, preferably on ground level. If not, you start climbing balconies or find crawl space access. Sometimes, you come across a skylight, which are basically windows for ceilings. If nothing opens easily, you have to bite the bullet and break something. That’s the moment the clock starts. A good burglar hears the sound of shattering glass and immediately sets an internal clock for when they have to bolt out of there.
The next day, I accidentally slept in, on account of my internal clock being on the fritz again. I packed a stopwatch.
It was show time.
The house had a large wraparound porch, with three windows I could easily climb through if any happened to be unlocked. They were all sealed shut, so I tried the sides of the house. There were basement windows, but they had ivy growing around and were all grubby with dirt. I wasn’t trying to get dirty on this job; this was a big score. I was dressed business casual for the occasion.
It was time to go up. Now, I liked to keep myself in pretty good shape because sometimes the job called for it. I had been taking yoga classes once a month, off and on for a year, and had really started seeing some improvements. The key to yoga is breathing, which I was pretty good at. I took a deep breath, jumped up, and grabbed a chunk of ivy. I must have done something wrong because, just as I exhaled, the ivy started to break and I fell on the ground. Never one to give up on a new yoga pose, I used the end of the porch to give myself a boost and jumped again. This time, I made it to the roof over the porch and held on for three good breaths.
“My instructor would be proud,” I thought, as I hung there like a flounder. The problem was it takes strength to pull yourself up from a position like that, and it’s old fashioned to think that bulking up for size is what counts. A workout like that just wasn’t in vogue anymore. I let go and fell to the ground again.
I could only think of one last place to try. It was a Hail Mary, but the house was sealed like Fort Knox. I needed to catch a break or else I would have to bring in the heavy equipment; I have a bulldozer guy.
All the knowledge gained through experience, my tireless effort, and days of persistent planning were about to pay off though; the front door was open.
It was like I had walked through a time machine. Antique bookcases, end tables, chairs with floral designs; and all of it looked brand new! I slowly crept through to the living room where I found more of the same, and couches with ornate woodcarvings all around the trim. There was a china hutch filled with what must have been thousands of dollars in silver. It was like the extra living room at your grandparent’s house that you weren't allowed to play in … except none of these chairs had plastic on them. I turned down a hallway and entered what looked to be the library when I jumped at the sight of a round eye on top a long, winding neck. A stuffed emu was placed in the corner, mounted on a slab. I remembered reading about this; wealthy people would buy exotic stuffed animals to display in their homes, but that hadn’t been popular since the 40s. This was the weirdest, and yet, most lavish house I had ever broken into.
I needed to refocus; I had a job to do. I made my way up stairs that were lined with turn-of-the-century paintings and found the master bedroom. I poked my head in quickly to see if there was an unaccompanied, tiny, barely breathing, old lady hooked up to a dialysis machine laying in the canopy bed. The coast was clear, so I went for the closet.
“There’s a false wall … all you have to do is push it till it clicks, and carefully slide it to the left.” I could hear Rachel Lynn’s voice in my head.
So, I grabbed a bowling ball I found at the back of the closet and started ramming it around and listening for a hollow spot. Sure enough, the bowling ball did most of the work, as they usually do in these situations, and knocked a hole in the wall. I stuck my arm through and started feeling around when I heard something.
It was coming from the powder room. I quickly scurried out of the bedroom and down the stairs. You have to be a good scurrier in this line of work; I was one of the best. I was making great time as I made my way down the stairs, through the hall and living room, and had arrived at the door. I glanced out the window as I was about to turn the handle and was stopped dead in my tracks by what I saw.
There was a different world out that window than the one I had known. Like the antiques in the house, the streets were lined with classic cars. I could see people on the sidewalk all wearing retro clothing. I didn’t know if I should go out there. I didn’t know where I was. Then.
“It’s been six minutes …”
I turned to the familiar voice.