Gerald Champeaux hid his annoyance at the appearance of a hot cocoa mustache on the upper lip of the man seated across from him. His companion was oblivious to the foamy appendage. Gerald could scarcely believe that Jimmy Bagley was a competent professional. He forced himself to push the doubts to the back of his mind. Bagley had an excellent reputation.

“So, what you want,” said Bagley, wiping his lip as he finally became aware of the mustache, “is for me to steal stuff from your own house? For the insurance money?”

“Exactly,” replied Champeaux. “It’s really a profit deal. I have unfortunately become quite addicted to Texas Hold’em lately and have accumulated some sizable losses lately. A nice insurance settlement would allow me to hide our financial situation from my wife. A fringe benefit is that I’d be getting rid of some absurdly ugly pieces of art that she has purchased over the years.”

“OK, so what’s in it for me?”

“We’ll split the proceeds of the sales, 50-50. Some of the items are very identifiable, and may not be able to be sold for several years. Many of the others should be able to be quickly sold. I can give you the names of some dealers who have questionable ethics and are perfectly willing to buy stolen merchandise. You close the deal and keep half the money for your troubles.”

Bagley grabbed the sheet of paper from the table. “So, what sort of money are we talking about?”

“I think a conservative estimate would be a million dollars.”

Bagley whistled. “I’d make half a mill just for ripping you off? Wow.”

“For ripping me off and setting up the sales. And, of course, for your discretion,” corrected Champeaux.

“Ah, yes, discretion is the better part of vigor.”

“Valor,” corrected Champeaux.

“Huh?”

“Discretion is the better part of valor, not the better part of vigor.”

“Yeah? I always heard it the other way. Oh well, ten of one, half dozen of another.”

Champeaux rolled his eyes at the smaller man’s maligning of the English language. Focus, Gerald, focus. You don’t need to like this man, you simply need to use him.

“OK,” asked Champeaux, “what details do you need?”

“I’ll need to know about your security system, and also the layout of your home and the location of these items.”

Champeaux was prepared for these questions. He gave Bagley the details of his home security system, including flaws in the system that would allow a burglar to easily defeat the system. He verbally walked Bagley through the house. He described each room in turn, and described which of the items would be located in that room.

Four nights later, Jimmy Bagley descended upon the Champeaux home. Gerald and his wife would be out for the evening, having dinner and watching a play at the theater.

Bagley quickly picked the lock and slipped into the house. He quickly disabled the security system and began the work of stealing. He decided to use the living room as a staging area. He would pile everything in the middle of the living room before taking everything out to his Explorer.

Jimmy quickly took three painting off the wall and set them on the floor. It took him a moment to find that statue that Champeaux had described. Jimmy agreed with Champeaux – in spite of its value to collectors, it was hideously ugly.

Bagley walked down a short hallway to the master bedroom. He opened the door and was surprised to see Champeaux inside the room. He only had an instant to wonder why Champeaux was at home instead of establishing an alibi for the time of the robbery. Then he saw the Glock in Champeax’s right hand and was more confused.

Gerald Chapeaux pulled the trigger and felt the thrill of killing another man.

Champeaux waited for Bagley to die before grabbing the phone.

“What is your emergency?” asked the voice on the other end of the line.

“There’s been a break-in at my home. I shot the burglar. I think he may be dead.”

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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