The Heist (Part 5)

Rory woke up around seven and came in to examine the previous day’s work. With unbridled excitement I explained that he had just replicated a van Gogh painting—a ridiculously expensive van Gogh painting! Rory was unmoved by this, and only wanted to know if he could still paint a portrait of Gus Logie over the top of it. I reminded him that our aim in all this was the art heist—for which we had spent considerable time and money preparing—and the painting had to remain as it was. He offered to paint Viv Richards instead. After a tense argument, I managed to convince Rory that snooty art collectors were not looking for portraits of West Indian cricketers, and having a carbon copy of The Starry Night was our best chance of success. He was disappointed but he agreed. We rolled up the painting and booked our tickets for New York.

 

Six weeks passed in the Big Apple—six weeks studying the layout and security of the Museum of Modern Art—but we hadn’t pulled off the robbery. One morning as Rory and I sat at breakfast in the dingy, two star motel room we were renting, I delivered some disappointing news.

“Hey, listen man,” I said. “I need to tell you something. It’s… It’s about the heist.”

Rory looked alarmed. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said, dropping my gaze into the bowl of soggy cornflakes before me, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

“What do you mean?” He was concerned, but not disheartened or angry. “Why not?”

“Well,” I said, “it’s the security cameras… and the guards… all of it really. I’ve tried and tried, but I just can’t figure a way around them. This place is impossible. I’ve run simulations here, and I would need thirteen minutes to swap the paintings—but in the museum the guards come by at least every seven minutes! The painting is in view of two security cameras. We can’t hack the computers. There are too many guards to bribe. I think this one is out of my league.”

Rory leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin.

“Hmm, guards,” he thought aloud. “Security cameras… no, we can’t hack in. The painting is on a wall, but they are watching…”

He stood up, still pondering, and took the box of cornflakes from the table. He tipped the cereal onto the carpet and then fitted the empty box on his head, a visual representation to help him “think outside the box” (he often did this). As he lay on the floor beside the table, staring at the ceiling, his mind went to work.

“The security cameras are watching,” he said. “The guards are buzzing around. We can’t attack them. We mustn’t draw attention to ourselves. We could become invisible. But how? And how to make the painting invisible? We could distract them. But can you distract the cameras? Could we make everyone leave? Could we be in there alone? Who has the authority to do that?”

This went on for a while. Some good questions were being asked, but no useful answers were forthcoming. Then he tried some word associations.

“Art, fart, dart, dartboard, chalkboard, chalk and cheese, cheesecake, mud cake, mud flaps, flapjacks, jumping jacks, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Mick Jagger, illegal duck fighting, family reunion, union, rugby union, All Blacks, black and blue, Blues Brothers, Cadillac, Pontiac, pontiff—” He stopped and sat bolt upright. “Pontiff!” he shouted.

Of course! We looked at each other and laughed. Rory had found the answer: the Dead Pontiff Protocol.

 

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