|The Thief of Thoughts
Author: Magnolia Shards PM
Ideas are hot commodities, able to be touched. Tales must be bought and paid for. But a mysterious thief wants to show the world a different way... rated for languageRated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Sci-Fi - Words: 2,997 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-31-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2758559
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Thought Thief
The red and blue strands of lights that danced entwined in the thought capsules were all starting to blur into one enormous smudge of color. I fought to keep my head from lolling back against the wall, grabbing my thermos and forcing down another mouthful of horrible, burnt-tires coffee. I tried to tie my attention to the little TV screen in front of me-everyone was at their necessary posts, etched out in fuzzy black and white, though Johnson had nodded off next to the Of Mice and Men capsule. Ordinarily, a stunt like that would have gotten him fired, but luckily for him, great literature wasn't in Hood's profile. Those bastards at HQ had stuck me with staking out the fairy tales; probably the riskiest area in the whole museum as far as Hood was concerned. Most likely, they were making fun of me. Trying to set me up face to face with the thief I tailed like a kid follows and ice cream truck, just to see if I'd piss my pants with glee when I finally got to see him. I figured at this hour I probably would, if I was still awake to do it.
I couldn't keep my eyes on the TV screen for long. The capsules were calling me, trying to seduce me with the dance of the lights inside. Read us…they said, red and blue swirling back and forth. Read us… It was easy to understand what drew people to thought theft. I scanned the labels for the fifth time that night, trying to compromise with myself. Snow White, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk…reading the names was like hearing a couple of wine connoisseurs mention a certain Chateau Whatever with that certain, special weight in their voices. Maybe it was significant to people with money, but it didn't mean squat to me. The kind of people who had gotten those stories as kids were the same kind of people who now wore Armani suits and had offices at the top of skyscrapers. As for me, I had spent most of my time as a kid trying not to end up one of those vacant, bleary-eyed burnouts I saw wander on to my street every night, and I was happy to be one of the 'boys in blue'. Skyscrapers and Armani suits were for people who wouldn't turn the hate on themselves if, somewhere, it all got screwed up. Yeah, that sounded like something I would do.
All right, Hood…I thought. I'm meant to be here. It's all been leading up to this. You probably know it, too. You're probably in the shadows there, watching me re-tell my little sob story for the umpteenth time. I know damn well it's over done, Hood, but it's my life. Odds are, it's probably yours too.
From the very start, I had felt that there was something special when it came to Hood. From the very first day, when I was called in by a whole squadron of Italian chefs who wouldn't stop screaming at me, I had kind of felt for the guy. Of course, back then I had thought it would be an open and shut case, but even so, the fact that a huge amount of food had somehow been stolen from a nearby supermarket the same day the recipes went intrigued me. I had been called in strictly to handle the thought theft, but the food theft was a clue most cops had to dig for ages for. This wasn't a simple case of a rival chef wanting to duplicate the recipes: this person had something big in mind, and I near drove myself crazy trying to figure out what it was. I had no idea why someone would want that much food at one time for, and I knew that once I had that, I had the case. To be honest, it was a horrible combination, those two thoughts swirling around in my head at the same time, sometimes doing battle with each other. The only other thing I had figured out at that point was the fact that this person wanted us to know that they were there. The sheer skill necessary for a food heist that big eliminated the possibility that the thief had made the conspicuously coinciding thefts by mistake. He would have waited a few months, maybe traveled to a different state, at least made some effort, but instead he stole back to back, there for us to see. He was trying to tell us something, and I added to my already overflowing plate by insisting on finding out what it was. Yes, it was stupid, but then again, maybe I'm pretty stupid. You'd be surprised at how often I do that sort of thing to myself.
Our man kept quiet for a little while after that—long enough for me to piece together a list of coinciding recipe/food thefts in other states, dating to a few years back. Some of them were even on the same night, so I knew for certain our man wasn't working alone. My logic told me that our man, as the mastermind, probably handled the thought theft while the rest of his gang made off with the food. I had gotten that far when he started showing up again, all over the country. A clothing designer in California had his sketches for the new fall line filched while racks and racks of uncut cloth were stolen from a nearby craft superstore. A teacher in Maine had her lesson plans stolen in conjuncture with half the inventory of the local Office Max. Our man seemed to be laughing at us, pulling off these bold, crazy, meaningless heists while taunting us with this ability to remain a free man. It was infuriating, the way he danced around the country while we spent countless sleepless nights and taxpayer dollars trying to find him. He left my name scrawled on a yellow legal pad at another one of his food heists. Most likely he had done it wearing gloves, explaining the absence of fingerprints. As soon as we were done inspecting it, I took it home and taped the top slip of paper to my bathroom mirror, to remind myself every morning of my new purpose in life.
The one thing we lacked at that stage in the case, excluding any hot leads or helpful evidence whatsoever, was a name for our man. In a sense, he really just was "our man". We knew him like a mischievous little brother we were chasing all around the country, planning to put him in a good fifteen to twenty year time out. At least, I got to know him that way. Perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to say the same for the rest of the boys, but I certainly spent enough nights alone with Hood's laughing ghost to get to know him like family. I purposely tried to prevent anyone naming him, for that reason alone. I felt that, if we named him, he wouldn't be ours anymore. If we gave him a name, it would be society he was paying his debt to as he rotted in prison, and I didn't want that. I didn't want him cursing society. I wanted him madly, boldly, filthily cursing me. If we didn't give him a name, there was still a chance I could see him someday paying his debt to me.
But in the end, I knew that the name was unavoidable.
It came after one of his biggest, boldest moves—the theft of plans for a new city sewage system, along with some of the hardware he would need to build it. By now, the public outcry over him was incredible, as much for the crime itself as for the fact that nobody had thought that something like it would be possible. The hardware alone was incredible enough, but what really angered the masses (and impressed me) was the fact that the plans had been in a personal thought capsule protected by a ThoughtGuard camera. The ThoughtGuard was a state of the art European design: it looked like an ordinary camera, but if someone tried to tamper with it without knowing the authorization code, they would end up with a chest full of bullets. There was a huge outcry when it first debuted in 2056, but by then thought theft was so bad that people eventually conceded to let it exist, even making it into a trend. This was only the second time in the ThoughtGuard camera's history that a thief had gotten the best of it. But sure enough, when we watched the theft of the plans, a short man in baggy clothes stepped into the room, with long, curly hair coming out of a ski mask. He got up close to the ThoughtGuard, and then came the telltale black space that told us that he had shut it off. It was a shameful moment in the ThoughtGuard camera's history, and indeed the history of thought documentation itself, and I was over the goddamn moon about it. Our man had a face. He wasn't a ghost. He could be touched, cuffed, kicked…I threw myself back into my research, digging back to the first successful theft in which the ThoughtGuard camera was a factor.
And that was where Our Man became Hood.
The theft had taken place six years ago, at the Metropolitan Museum of Thought. They had just unveiled their Robin Hood exhibit, after a lengthy war of words with the British Museum of Thought. As soon as the Met people kindly told the Brits that they'd be delighted to return Robin Hood if they conceded to return a good quantity of the Egyptian myths in their possession to Cairo, it was theirs within a week. And then, after opening day, someone had waltzed in and stolen it from under the watchful eye of ThoughtGuards at three different angles. What was available of the video showed the same short, longhaired man in baggy clothes and a ski mask from the more recent theft going around to the cameras one by one, entering successful authorization codes. The case files told me that the museum staff maintained that they hadn't given the codes out to anyone. At first, I wanted to keep this information from the public. This was between our man and me. But the pressure from the rest of the boys and from the press turned out to be too great, and I was forced to surrender our man to the public. He became Hood, and people were seeing him at gas stations and adult video stores more often than Elvis and Michael Jackson combined. What they did to him was disgusting, and many were the times I wanted to stand up and say that this man was more than their tabloid sensation, but kept my mouth shut, drowned out by the sheer force of public stupidity.
And then, suddenly, we had our godsend. A member of Hood's circle was apprehended in a fast food restaurant in Newark, caught spray-painting his name and completing it with a halo on the bathroom wall. Immediately, they sent him to me, for I had by then become the go-to man for Hood, drowning in calls from bored suburban housewives. When we interrogated him, he showed as much martyr-like resilience as if Hood were the leader of some fanatical religious cult, biting down hard on his lips after a few hours and refusing to say anything more. We did, however, through much screaming and tears, manage to pull two key bits of information from him. First, that Hood had a circle larger than any of us had anticipated, though not all of them were directly involved with the crime. The estimated number was competitive with the student body of a small, rural Midwestern private school. Second, that Hood was planning to take the Met again, on November 4, 2069. The stakeout was arranged immediately, and I was head of the team. We laid our trap, and now we were holding our breath. We knew that if something was too good to be true, it probably wasn't, especially where Hood was concerned.
A sudden shift of color in my peripheral vision shook me awake. The camera filming Johnson had gone out, leaving a quarter of the screen black. I cursed myself with every expletive I knew as another quarter blanked, out, reaching for my gun. Another one, and now the screen was black except for the bottom right corner. No way…there was no possible way anybody could move that fast…unless they had help…
"And there you are…" said a high voice behind me. I turned like a bullet, and brushed noses with the familiar ski mask, Hood's eyes smiling at me through the slits in the cloth. But that wasn't a man's voice, unless someone was going to ask me to believe the thief who had eluded America's top police forces was a thirteen-year-old boy…
"You know, ordinarily I wouldn't do this, but since we've gotten to know each other so well, I figure I should reward you for all your hard work…" said Hood. The ski mask came off, and my suspicions were confirmed. The face whose details I absorbed in an instant was most definitely female. The face wasn't entirely Caucasian, perhaps half Hispanic, with a smile that cut into her cheeks. Her hair, liberated from the ski mask, frizzed out in all directions. "I'll tell you my name, too." Said Hood. "My first name at least. Miranda."
I choked on the air I breathed. I couldn't shoot, and she knew it.
"You wouldn't mind backing up to the wall for a sec, would ya?" asked Miranda. I looked down, and saw that she was pressing a handgun to my stomach. Her smile told me that she was either a psychopath, or that she knew she wouldn't have to use it. I desperately wanted it to be the latter. I obeyed, my preparation, hell, my training falling away now that I had finally met hi…her. In the back of my mind, I suppose I knew that this was how it was going to be. I respected her enough to risk losing my job and becoming the country's second most hated person. All I wanted was to know how she did it, how she possibly pulled of the crimes that baffled a nation. If she would tell me, I would let her walk free. Hell, I would let her walk free just for gracing me with her presence. I cursed myself again, making the expletives up when I ran out. I didn't realize I was doing it aloud until Miranda laughed.
"Not bad. Don't think I'd have anything to teach you." She looked behind herself. "Michael! Time to come pick it out!"
A little boy walked out from behind the nearest wall. I imagined I felt my brain rattling against my skull, overloaded with the incredulity of it all.
Miranda smiled at me. "This is one of my Merry Men." She said. "One of the littler ones, at least. I guess you can say I stole that one too."
"You take this kid with you when you steal stuff?!" I didn't understand a word of what she was saying.
"No!" Miranda shook her head. "Have you ever even heard the Robin Hood story?"
"Grew up poor…" I said stiffly.
"Neither had I, till I stole it." Said Miranda. "For the kids back home."
"Where's home?" I asked, my voice soft. I didn't want to appear an enemy. I wasn't an enemy…
Miranda laughed. "A city underground."
"Well, it's the beginning of one. We built it all ourselves: the merry men and me." She looked down at Michael, ruffling his hair. "Go pick one out!" She urged.
Michael walked toward the row of fairy-tale thought capsules gravely, conscious of the enormity of what he was doing. "Hmmm…Snow White…that one sounds good!"
"Y-you can't do that!" I stuttered. "Th-that's, the intellectual p-property of all m-mankind!" I hated the words as they came out of my mouth. They sounded so rehearsed…
"If it belongs to everybody, why do you have to pay so much for it?"
I opened my mouth, but used this space only to lick my dry lips. Michael took the thought capsule out of its holder.
"And nobody's stopping you from dropping by my place and reading it." Miranda continued. "If you can find it, that is. You're perfectly welcome to try." She took her gun, and shot the wall next to me.
I jumped a good foot. "What was that for?!"
Miranda smiled. "The others are probably running here right now. You'd better tell them about the struggle we had." She walked over to Michael. "Time to go, buddy." He nodded, she grabbed his hand, and they ran off together, dashing lightly over the polished museum floors until they were gone.
I sank to the floor, my gun falling limply to the side. A story began to form in my head. She went for the capsule, I tried to stop her, she shot on her way out… I could hear the footsteps of the rest of the boys racing towards me. I'd tell them my story. Play her game, continue the dance. In my mind, I was already looking for her hiding place.
I had always wanted to read Snow White.