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The Elevating Power Of Art
About the Author: Liv Strom is a writer of stories ranging from fantastical to criminal to utterly ridiculous. She is Swiss-Swedish, drinks copious amounts of tea and reads too much of anything she can get her hands on.

Jane and Ricky were drinking at O’Malley’s, as was their usual in-between work routine, though this time the mood was as low as their funds. Their last job had ended badly, but who could have planned on a runaway elephant? Sure, they were robbing a circus, but that was just not a thing an average thief could be expected to handle during a heist. Mitigating circumstances, they called it, but that didn’t help them pay for the third round of drinks, or their debts to people even more unsavoury than themselves. It did, however, put them in an accepting mood when a lanky, dark, fix-foot fellow in a jacket better suited to a lecture hall, and a nose large enough to give elephant flashbacks offered to pay.

He introduced himself as John, the made-up name an apt show of his lack of imagination. When the third round was drunk, he cut to the chase.

“I sometimes work with the Royal Museum of Art. When someone gets ill, or they are busy, they call me in. I’m an art historian and painter, you see.”

Ricky grunted noncommittally. He’d never seen much art, but held out hope that the stranger might spring for a fourth round if he nodded in the right place.

“A week ago they called me to support writing the Certificates of Authenticity for the donations from Belcherly Manor. You’ve heard about Belcherly, right?”

“That’s the one where the old guy croaked and left it all to charity despite the grandson screaming that it’s his?” Ricky said, feeling proud of reading the newspaper once in a blue moon.

Jane, who in her white shirt and jeans resembled a female James Dean, was not as patient. “As fascinating as this is, we have places to be, people to see.”

John waved his arms as if hunting an acrobatic fly to get her to remain in her seat. “I want to hire you. For an … acquisition.”

She raised an eyebrow. People often thought Ricky, the six-foot-plus giant, was the more dangerous one. They hadn’t seen Jane angry, and something about John was like a rat gnawing at her already frayed nerves.

“As I mentioned, I’m an accomplished painter and after inspecting the art I produced replicas of the three most valuable ones. They’re already packaged for shipping to the Museum, no one will check them again. I need your help to switch them out. I’ll pay you 50k.” John dabbed his perspiring forehead.

Ricky leaned forward, lowering his voice. “You want our help in switching out three paintings tomorrow night?”

“Too short notice,” Jane replied, ignoring Ricky.

“But we’ll be art thieves,” Ricky said, imagining dashing gentlemen thieves with sophisticated moustaches and admiring fans. That would be an upgrade from snatching circus funds and prize-winning dogs. And there definitely wouldn’t be any elephants.

John’s eyes wandered between the pair. “It’ll be empty and I even know the security code.”

Ricky and Jane gave each other the kind of long look which they had perfected while working together for thirteen years. Jane broke first and turned to John. “Order another round and tell us all you know about the place.”

After the sixth pint, they had both a plan and an agreement.

Unfortunately, it was not a dark and stormy night. Instead, the full moon shone like a headlight, illuminating what was best described as a gothic stone castle surrounded by manicured hedges and scantily clad female statues. Damned bad night for a burglary, Ricky thought as they stepped out of the unmarked white van they secured for the evening. Neither Ricky nor Jane had a car of their own; what was the point when others left theirs standing around? And John, nervously sweating despite only arriving at the scene, didn’t seem to want Jane or Ricky within reach of his private property.

The three of them wore less easily obtained uniforms from Security Now. Finding the laundry company and snatching the uniforms had been enough for Jane to question the job again, but Ricky was set. Their reputation needed this. He already saw himself drinking expensive wine in a black turtleneck.

When the real security guard rounded a corner, Jane hefted a tool as multifunctional as a Swiss army knife—her crowbar. Ricky blocked her. When a mountain shaped like a refrigerator interferes, you either stop or break your nose. Jane stopped.

This story appears in our NOV 2021 Issue
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Reader Discussion

boo! They can exist and be art thieves!!!
By Suzy Quam

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