The Last Game? (Part 2)
(Continued from Part 1)
|Image from WikiMedia Commons|
The people in his life know Felix as a successful businessman. And that he is. His publishing company puts out a monthly magazine, The City, that enjoys worldwide circulation. Like most of the people living in his Gramercy Park neighborhood, Felix gets up every morning, showers, shaves and heads out to work.
But unlike his neighbors, Felix has a rather unorthodox, not to mention highly illegal, hobby, one completely unknown to those in his life. Though many know of his escapades, thanks to the media, no one knows who he is. He’s only been caught once, his first time out. Ever since then, he’s always worked alone, and tells no one about his unusual avocation. He hasn’t even told his girlfriend, though that may change, because things are heating up on that front. He’s been considering asking her to live with him, and it wouldn’t be long before she began to wonder what he’s doing during his absences.
Simply put, Felix steals things. Expensive things from rich people. And no, your first thought would be wrong. He doesn’t do it to give the spoils to the poor.
If he talked about it, Felix would tell you, “Hel-lo, I steal from the rich because they’re the ones who have stuff worth stealing. Plus they’re insured to the hilt. Besides, they don’t need it. They’re rich, after all.” And he never takes it all, cleaning anyone out. That goes against his sense of ethics.
But the real reason he’s a thief is not as simple as that. If someone asked him to explain it, he’s not sure he could.
Felix loves a good challenge. Growing up on the leading edge of the video game phenomenon, he got his first Atari as a teenager. Once he’d connected it to the TV and entered the world of DragonFire, he never looked back. He and the world of gaming came of age joined at the hip.
As the games grew more sophisticated, Felix grew more excited by the challenges they presented, and more skilled at meeting those challenges. And that love of a challenge, coupled, perhaps, with a somewhat retarded sense of self-preservation, is what draws him to the “impossible” robbery and makes pulling it off so satisfying.
Bottom line, Felix doesn’t steal because he wants to be rich. He steals because he really likes it. Pressed, he might even admit he is addicted to it. Luckily -- or not, depending on which side of the heist you’re on -- it’s an addiction that’s not hard to feed. Not in a city filled with the ostentatiously wealthy, the operative word here being “ostentatiously.” Like neon signs saying “me, choose me,” diamonds, emeralds and rubies flash on the necks of those clinging to the upper-most rungs of New York’s social ladder.
A bachelor, the tall sandy-haired publisher is in demand. Society’s grand dames consider Felix an asset at charity functions, and he has more invitations to hob-nob with New York’s elite than he can handle. Not only do the potential marks hang the goods out for display, they notify the press of their social calendar well in advance, making it easy for Felix to know when he’s apt to find an empty town house or apartment.
Finding a target is a no-brainer. But once he’s decided to relieve someone of their baubles, he doesn’t just rush in and shout “stick ‘em up!” Those are the guys who make mistakes, mistakes that ensure a short career as a thief.
Felix is a strategizer, a skill he developed through gaming. It’s one of the things that has kept him on the right side of the bars. He spends months watching, researching, making notes, and working out every detail meticulously. Only when he’s satisfied that he has covered all contingencies does he go in. Once it’s done and he’s slipped back into the role of magazine publisher, the thrill of knowing he’s met the challenge successfully is incomparable. It’s a thrill that keeps him returning to the wrong side of the law after pulling off that heist that’s “going to be the last one.” He can’t help chasing the bigger challenge, much like moving to the next level in a game.
Could there be any challenge greater than stealing the British crown jewels? Maybe, but this one is too good to pass up. There’s only one hitch. Felix is daring, but he’s not stupid. He knows that pulling something like this off will require information and skills he doesn’t immediately have. Were there more time, he’s sure he could get both, but the Tower of London exhibit will be at the Athenaeum in September. That’s just over nine months away. Not enough time.
Felix hates to admit it, but he needs help, and just the thought of that gives him the willies. He has always flown solo. Well, except for that once.
His first trip over to the dark side was at the age of fifteen when he and a buddy broke into a house and boosted a bunch of electronics. They never even got out of the neighborhood. Dumb ass kids. Because they were kids, they got six months in juvie and six months community service. But he has to admit that his little vacation at the “reform resort,” as the kids called it, had the desired effect. Without question, it reformed him. Sort of. Six months in that hellhole – shit, six days would have done it – showed him that he never wanted to spend another minute as a guest of the state. Relying only on his own cunning and considerable skills is the best way he can think of to keep himself below the legal system's radar. That, and keeping his mouth shut.
But there it is: this time he can’t do it alone. Time to consult the “rolodex,” a virtual Who’s Who in the world of thievery that he has carefully constructed over the years and kept secreted in a safe deposit box. Not everyone is as closed-mouthed about their successes as Felix. When approached by a magazine publisher considering a feature article, they are usually eager to tell all. Felix even runs an article about one of them on occasion, names withheld to protect his sources, of course. But published or not, he always adds their CV to the rolodex. Like Daddy always told him, it pays to network. The day has come to make that networking pay off.
I easily snag a cab. It’s early afternoon and it’s not snowing. Getting downtown is not so easy. The trip would normally take less than 15 minutes, but a jam up at the Port Authority brings traffic to a halt. While I wait for the cabbie to find his way out of the mess and onto an alternate route, I pick up the Times someone left in the cab. Never hurts to see what the competition is up to.
A quick scan of the front section reassures me that I know everything my colleagues across town do. I relax and rummage through the pile for Arts, my favorite section. Maybe a movie this weekend…
The Arts section is my greatest resource for weekend entertainment. There’s always something going on, much of it free or inexpensive, high on my list of prerequisites. Like about half of the people in the city, I’m single, something my mother claims is ruining her life. “When are you going to give me grandchildren, Charlie? I’m not getting any younger, you know.” You can hear the tone, right?
“What’s wrong with you? You’re in New York. So many fishes in such a big sea. Why can’t you catch one like everybody else?”
As if it were that easy. It’s a big city with lots of singles, sure. But in a way, that’s the problem. Besides, there’s a lot of damaged goods out there. After making a bad choice and finding myself in a difficult relationship way too many times, I’m cautious.
“Chill, Ma,” I tell her. “I’m only 36. There’s plenty of time. I’ll find someone soon enough. Give me a break here.”
“Oh, sure, easy for you to say. You're not the one who's staring into the abyss of lonely old age.” My ma, aging drama queen. “You should come home, Charlie. Dayton has lots of nice young people.”
Yeah, I know, you feel my pain. Actually, though, I’m not suffering any. I like my job, I have lots of friends and I don’t mind spending time alone. I’m pretty good company. But truth be told, I am seeing someone. I’m not telling Ma that, though. She’d be making out guest lists and probably buying baby clothes, for Pete’s sake. We’ve been dating for a few months, and I think it might be getting serious. Neither of us seems ready to rush into a permanent commitment, though. For one thing, I’m pretty set in my ways. If I want to eat crackers in bed, I eat crackers in bed, if you know what I mean. It’s way premature to be thinking marriage and children. A movie I can handle.
A column headline on the first page of Arts catches my eye. The crown jewels coming to New York… Huh. That’s a first. I make a mental note to catch the Tower of London exhibit next fall. I’ve always wanted to see what royal bling looks like up-close and personal.
The cab finally breaks free of the mess at Penn Station and within minutes, we pull up near a non-descript red brick building on Thompson Street. Ahead is a light show performed by several police cars and two ambulances sitting in front blocking the street.
“Can’t get no closer,” the cabbie announces. He hits the meter. “Fifteen dollars.” I hand him some bills, and push open the door. I’m hit with a blast of frigid air as I get to my feet and head toward the clump of official vehicles.
“Took you long enough.” Clark, one of my counterparts at the Times, steps from the shelter of an alley as I pass and tosses his cigarette into the gutter, where it sputters in the slush.
Actually, I’ve been thinking the same thing myself lately. I need a scoop, something to propel me out to the front of the pack. It’ll never come over the scanner, that’s for sure. I need to cultivate some sources. I don’t need to hear it from a competitor, though.
“Don’t start. What’re you doing out here? Story’s inside.”
“Yep, but they won’t let us in.” Clark gestures toward a small cluster of familiar faces atop bundled up bodies. Vapor puffs from their mouths like cartoon speech balloons.
I head over to join the rest of the Looky Lous waiting to hear something. Clark walks along, filling me in.
“Cops say someone will be out in about fifteen with an update. You probably know what I do. Guy comes home unexpectedly, finds the missus doing the horizontal tango with a neighbor in the marital bed. Before they can gather their wits and clothes about them, he grabs a gun from the dresser and shoots them both, then shoots himself. Old lady next door called the cops when she heard the gunshots. The wife will probably make it. They had her at Bellevue before I got here. The guys are dead.”
See? Sex, blood, guts. Gotta love the crime desk.
Continued in Part 3