a short story by Tom Sheehan
([email]tomsheehan [at] attbi [dot] com[/email])

For nearly a month, from a cliff shoulder on Pressburn Hill, August rain and sun taking turns at him, birds accepting him, Brisque Validarn watched the house on Bretton Heights, watched every movement, change of light, visit and departure. From his post the house, on the very summit of Bretton Heights, was about half a mile distant, sitting there the crown jewel of targets, its parapets breaching the skyline. One precious stone, slipped with dark ease from that crown, would last him for a year; Nice, Bordeaux in the old country, any beach without reservation in the New World. He watched, he clocked, he measured, he posted entries in a burgeoning logbook. When a light went on or off, he bent over his logbook and marked the time, the quadrant of the big house, calculated routines. When a FedEx truck crawled up the long driveway, Brisque swore he could hear the gears at work, both coming and going, as the drive back down the hill could prove challenging.

There was no easy way in. Or out. And heavy rain would make it adventurous. But all these details, one by one, would be noted, calculated, put in place. Nothing took the place of care, and care took care of confidence.

Marie had come to him, contrite, diffident, her hat twisting in her hands, as if she were trying to make up for being a woman the last time around. [i]You don’t play games with Brisque Validarn[/i], he had pointed out to her, initially laughing at a bit of thigh, her hand lingering at the Mound of Venus pushing against a blue silk, finally a breast cupped in that hand.

“I swear, Brisque, she had rocks on her hand would knock your eyes out, the wifey. Eight, ten carats, I’m telling you. This thing on her neck could choke a horse, too. Dazzling, and it not yet noon. She must wear stuff like that in a shower probably big as city hall. Not bad either, come to think of it. I’d give her a go myself. She’s got a butt she should be proud of.” She rolled her you-know-me eyes.

“What about him? All this sudden revelation is as subtle as a broken leg, Marie Lavoren. You’d do anything to get what you want. Prostrate, vertical, you name an angle, and you’d find it and fit it. What’s his age? Condition? Athletic looking? What do his eyes look like? How deep inside you did they go?” He gauged her again. “When Marie the clerk becomes Marie the opportunist you can be devastatingly clear and concise in your observations, in your intuition, but you have great trouble leaving sex out of your judgment.”

Her gray-green eyes lit up, and then narrowed, blonde tresses falling over one eye as she nodded, and another button of her blouse was slyly opened. “Sitting on top of the world, he is, Brisque. In shape, lean at the waist, wide-eyed, jaw like a movie star with that intriguing cleft in the chin. Can undress you in a second, he can, explore you a bit, he can, but lets you know he’s putting your clothes back on. A little class with his act, I’ll tell you. He’s looked at me a few times in the store.” Leaning forward, using her body as punctuation, loading it up with exclamation, she added, “He’s about fifty, though he looks younger. It’s his physical training adds something special. Has great color, oh my, yes. Must lift, but not too much I’d bet. Moves like Gene Kelly or Freddie what’s-his-name doing a waltz in one of those old movies. Blue eyes like a lagoon must look, like they’re a second away from inviting you in for a shower or a swim or even a tussle.” She punctuated her description with another, ” Oh my, yes.”

“How would I immediately recognize him?” There was something in Marie’s eyes that said she had a piece of information put away, held in reserve. He’d counted on that from the beginning. It was her [i]modus operandi[/i]. She wouldn’t let him down.

Marie the opportunist smiled. “Two fingers missing off his right hand. And he is right-handed. The index finger and the sex finger, both gone almost to the knuckles, but not messy. Not like they were smashed off but a surgeon took them off. Clean. Neat. Not ugly or bulgy or toady looking.” The smile continued. She had come loaded for bear. “Harry’s sold him stones out of the store he says for eight or nine years now, since he cut the big crust. Says it came overnight. Figures it’s clean crooked, if you know what he means.” She could not have twisted the offer of her body any more than it was at that moment. “He’d be a great hit.” Her eyes rolled again, trespassing on the ultimate potential.

“Anything else Harry offer?”

She leaned forward again, never letting a chance slip away, her mouth slightly open, her eyes slightly closed. Brisque thought there should be odors in the offing too. [i]She’s a piece of work[/i], he said to himself, [i]a magnificent piece of work[/i].

“Lots of stuff kicking around, the kind Harry picks up in the trade. Stuff that follows big spenders, high rollers, the quick rich. He’s got a sweetheart stashed away in a condo down in Revere, right on the beach. His fingers came off via a machete, they also say, in the hands of a Cuban brought up from Miami to fix a wrong. If he soured somebody bigger, welshed, got in the sack with the wrong broad, he paid for it. But he come out of it clean. Well, kind of clean.” She smiled and broadcast her desire again, the blouse almost open the way barn doors swing wide, her blonde tresses falling over part of her face like cover playing games, her eyes finding at last a glimpse of libido down in the well of the master thief. “‘Cept the index finger and his sex finger, of course.”

“You got something special in the bag, haven’t you?” Brisque Validarn slid a hand against the texture of her blouse, grazed the risen nail head, watched her eyes close.

She held his hand against her breast. “I don’t do this just for money, Brisque. I have dreams too.” The risen nail head struck back. “In his cellar, someplace in the house, in against that whole cliff, he’s got treasure your dreams couldn’t find. They say he brought something up out of the Caribbean would stand Fort Knox on its ear. I mean treasure treasure, Captain Kidd or Bluebeard himself, bigtime baddies’ treasure, like he found it or stole it from someone who found it and was hiding it from the whole world. [i]Treasure[/i] treasure!”

She cupped the back of his head, his lips at her breast. “We could be famous, Brisque. No more talk about Jimmy Valentine or Second-story Jack Finnegan. It’d be us, Validarn and his chick. Wouldn’t that make ’em sit up and take notice?” Her mouth was open as wide as his.


Two more weeks, Marie at the listening post in the jewelry store, pumping her boss for information, bringing tid-bits to Brisque Validarn, him still collecting data, charting, and the heist of the century was at hand. Invaluable Marie came with the final tid-bit. “He’s going to Switzerland next week, Brisque. That hunk is going skiing. Imagine him maybe breaking a leg, or worse!” She rolled her eyes, played with a button. “His wife’s already in Paris with her sister. Been there two days. Two nights now he’s been down to Revere to the condo and the girlfriend. Would I like to be a fly on that condo wall.” She rolled her eyes, hung her tongue out, let a gurgle of a laugh rise and fall in her throat. Took his hand in her hand, brought it to the nail head.

“Marie, you are something else!” He cupped her, the inanimate nail head now alive. “I suppose you know when his flight leaves the airport?”

Back she leaned against the couch, shifted a bit for comfort, moved her buttocks into prime time, pursed her lips. “Flight Six-oh-two, Magellan Air, 9:30 P.M. next Wednesday evening. Harry Donnelley’s Limo is picking him up at 6:00 O’clock.” Her simple touch of him was not an idle touch. Results were quickly evident.

“What did you have to give up to get all this info?”

“There’s plenty left for you, Brisque. Here, have a look.”


By eleven O’clock on Wednesday night, under brittle darkness, heavy overcast but no rain promised until late morning, Brisque Validarn, master thief, was deep in the cellar of the house on Bretton Heights. He had by-passed the alarm system that tied into the Masco Security Company in nearby Wakefield, and studied the walls. It was a piece of cake to spot the false wall, find the keyway that moved it out of the way. In frozen awe he studied the contents of a small room, ten feet deep into the cliff, five feet wide, the sides all natural rock. Michelangelo himself must have done the sculpting, the chipping, set shelves of marble in place holding astounding treasures. As his flashlight beam found each piece the sparkle of immense stones leaped back at him, then a ray of near golden shine like a sunbeam loose of the sky, and footings so elaborate on pieces of large and ornate emblazonry that he was frozen in place. It was the mother lode of mother lodes. The thieves of the world, from London, Paris, Budapest, Raffles himself, would stand in awe.

[i]All I planned on was one good stone[/i], he said to himself. [i]My god, look at all this treasure. Marie was right. I’ll need a truck to carry it. I can’t carry it all and I can’t leave it. Not by a long shot can I leave it. I’ll take one piece now and come back tomorrow night[/i]. His mind leaped at ways of carting the stuff off the hill, and then he thought of a FedEx truck or a UPS truck. [i]Another piece of cake[/i], he muttered as he reached for small chalice set with dozens of stones. It was like the sun being refracted through a special lens, prisms scattering against his eyeballs. A deep breath was hauled down into his lungs.

A short while later Brisque Validarn came out of the darkness at the foot of Bretton Heights into the sudden glare of lights and beams and screaming and authoritative voices for him to stand in place or be shot to death. Deftly he placed the stolen chalice on the ground and raised his hands. A dozen policeman surrounded him. Headlights on a dozen cars also chipped in with their own pieces of daylight.

The very first thing Brisque noticed was a hand, with two fingers missing, resting comfortably on one hip of Marie Lavoren standing off to the side. Brisque suddenly realized Marie probably had her own condo down in Revere, right there on the beach.

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