Fred Noble was a failure. Not so much as a human being, though that could be reasonably argued, but as a thief. It wasn’t that he was born to thievery; he could easily have been a grocery clerk or barista. Indeed, with his mother’s political connections, Fred could have been a sanitary engineer. Fred had other dreams, however, preferring to turn his not so inconsiderable charm towards house breaking. It was a genuine loss to the trash collection industry.
Of course, a person must answer his or her calling – in Fred’s case, skill and ability being inconsequential. There is a certain amount of romance attached to being a thief. Certain circles consider it an art form. Thieves have honour, so say some. Hollywood has made movies of the best. Cary Grant, Pierce Brosnan, and George Clooney are not a bad crowd to be among.
While fanciful, none of this applied to Fred. He was a thief because he mistakenly thought it was easy, that he was a failure at his chosen career path notwithstanding.
Penny candy was the beginning, but even then he got caught, unlike the hateful George Pickering who was always successful—enough to have become a stock broker. Fred had his moments. There was the period where he stole from his mother’s purse and his father’s change bowl. Guilt interfered–not a positive attribute in a thief. After three weeks, Fred reverted to shoplifting. His “not inconsiderable charm” saved him from juvenile detention in spite of repeated apprehensions. This charm went with his dirty blond, slightly unruly hair, dark cocker spaniel eyes set wide apart in his heart-shaped baby face with its button nose. One supposed that Pretty Boy Floyd had had similar good fortune. At least for a time.
Fred’s charm was useful in other ways. Specifically with women. Successful burglary was not wholly necessary for Fred, since room, board and other amenities were always taken care of by a long coterie of women who came into Fred’s life at fourteen and were still there to the present day. Fred was forty now. And his life was about to change.
The night started normally enough. Fred had cased a single family dwelling in the north end. It was cold. November nights are like that. Fingertips didn’t function with the same suppleness. The sense of touch, reputedly so important to a thief, was dulled by the cold. Hiding in shadow, another trade skill, was threatened by condensed breath drifting into a street light. Bulky clothing made movement awkward and stilted. For reasons known only to high school science students and Mother Nature, sound travelled further on cold nights. Thieves have their problems too.
Tonight, for once, Fred’s failure did not reside in how he handled these challenges, but in his laziness casing the house he was about to burglarize at 56 Gaius Avenue. He was fairly certain the couple stayed out on Saturday nights until around one a.m. This certainty was based on observing them for an “incredible” two Saturdays. It was now eleven thirty. Lots of time.