A Bad Night for Burglars
The burglar, a slender and clean-cut chap just past thirty, was rifling a drawer in the bedside table when Archer Trebizond slipped into the bedroom. Trebizond's approach was as catfooted as if he himself were the burglar, a situation which was manifestly not the case. The burglar never did hear Trebizond, absorbed as he was in his perusal of the drawer's contents, and at length he sensed the other man's presence as a jungle beast senses the presence of a predator.The analogy, let it be said, is scarcely accidental.
When the burglar turned his eyes on Archer Trebizond his heart fluttered and fluttered again, first at the mere fact of discovery, then at his own discovery of the gleaming revolver in Trebizond's hand. The revolver was pointed in his direction, and this the burglar found upsetting.
“Darn it all,” said the burglar, approximately. “I could have sworn there was nobody home. I phoned, I rang the bell--”
“I just got here,” Trebizond said.
“Just my luck. The whole week's been like that. I dented a fender on Tuesday afternoon, overturned my fish tank the night before last. An unbelievable mess all over the carpet, and I lost a mated pair of African mouthbreeders so rare they don't have a Latin name yet. I'd hate to tell you what I paid for them.”
“Hard luck,” Trebizond said.
“And just yesterday I was putting away a plate of fettucine and I bit the inside of my mouth. You ever done that? It's murder, and the worst part is you feel sostupid about it. And then you keep biting it over and over again because it sticks out while it's healing. At least I do.” The burglar gulped a breath and ran a moist hand over a moister forehead. “And now this,” he said.
“This could turn out to be worse than fenders and fish tanks,” Trebizond said.
“Don't I know it. You know what I should have done? I should have spent the entire week in bed. I happen to know a safecracker who consults an astrologer before each and every job he pulls. If Jupiter's in the wrong place or Mars is squared with Uranus or something he won't go in. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet it's eight years now since anybody put a handcuff on that man. Now who do you know who's gone eight years without getting arrested?”
“I've never been arrested,” Trebizond said.
“Well, you're not a crook.”
“I'm a businessman.”
The burglar thought of something but let it pass. “I'm going to get the name of his astrologer,” he said. “That's just what I'm going to do. Just as soon as I get out of here.”
“If you get out of here,” Trebizond said. “Alive,” Trebizond said.
The burglar's jaw trembled just the slightest bit. Trebizond smiled, and from the burglar's point of view Trebizond's smile seemed to enlarge the black hole in the muzzle of the revolver.
“I wish you'd point that thing somewhere else,” he said nervously.
“There's nothing else I want to shoot.”
“You don't want to shoot me.”
“You don't even want to call the cops,” the burglar went on. “It's really not necessary. I'm sure we can work things out between us, two civilized men coming to a civilized agreement. I've some money on me. I'm an openhanded sort and would be pleased to make a small contribution to your favorite charity, whatever it might be. We don't need policemen to intrude into the private affairs of gentlemen.”
The burglar studied Trebizond carefully. This little speech had always gone over rather well in the past, especially with men of substance. It was hard to tell how it was going over now, or if it was going over at all. “In any event,” he ended somewhat lamely, “you certainly don't want to shoot me.”
“Oh, blood on the carpet, for a starter. Messy, wouldn't you say? Your wife would be upset. Just ask her and she'll tell you shooting me would be a ghastly idea.”
“She's not at home. She'll be out for the next hour or so.”
“All the same, you might consider her point of view. And shooting me would be illegal, you know. Not to mention immoral.”
“Not illegal,” Trebizond remarked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You're a burglar,” Trebizond reminded him. “An unlawful intruder on my property. You have broken and entered. You have invaded the sanctity of my home. I can shoot you where you stand and not get so much as a parking ticket for my trouble.”
“Of course you can shoot me in self-defense--”
“Are we on Candid Camera?”
“Is Allen Funt lurking in the shadows?”
“No, but I--”
“In your back pocket. That metal thing. What is it?”
“Just a pry bar.”
“Take it out,” Trebizond said. “Hand it over. Indeed. A weapon if I ever saw one. I'd state that you attacked me with it and I fired in self-defense. It would be my word against yours, and yours would remain unvoiced since you would be dead. Whom do you suppose the police would believe?”
The burglar said nothing. Trebizond smiled a satisfied smile and put the pry bar in his own pocket. It was a piece of nicely shaped steel and it had a nice heft to it. Trebizond rather liked it.
“Why would you want to kill me?”
“Perhaps I've never killed anyone. Perhaps I'd like to satisfy my curiosity. Or perhaps I got to enjoy killing in the war and have been yearning for another crack at it. There are endless possibilities.”
“The point is,” said Trebizond, “you might be useful to...”Enough Rope
. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.