Mystery/Crime, 342 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud
His tortured face signals fear and anguish for his upcoming exploit … does not want to do it: Creep into the museum and heist the million-dollar icon. "Set a thief, old Beelzebub advises, to catch a thief. So I be thief two." To trap number one. "And go to Leavenworth." When caught.
Midnight, with crowbar in hand the contractor creeps up, pries open the side door and makes off with the famous silver cross to gift the developer. Reckoning comes. He's invited into moneybags' home. There on a pedestal, unrecognized, converted to a sculpture, is the great cross. The museum property takeover scheme unfolds: "Me, sabotage the Old Stone Church?" the contractor asks. Answer, "You bribed me, I'm bribing you."
Driving to a retail customer parking lot close to the Mission, Thornburgh dialed Dawn's number, hoping she was through classes for the day and Earthala had talked to her. The line was busy, so Thornburgh kept trying, and finally Dawn answered. After introductions, Dawn said she had talked to Earthala, was anxious to contribute what she could and did have new information.
Thornburgh responded, "What Earthala and I chatted about, let's not bring it up. Phones are not user friendly. So watch what you say and don't use real names. Now, I understand you have..." Thornburgh coughed and cleared her throat a few times as a signal. "This documentary you're working on-run me through a scene or two."
"Hmm. Okay, in this scenario are two academic junkies, Hot-water Lucky and Monkey-brain Heather."
Lucky was Zenny. Heather was Dawn herself.
"The action goes like this," Dawn began. "Lucky is in a panic and shows Heather a photo of, of a grade D exhibit and blames her for it. Lucky, see, blames my, er, blames Heather's friend. Heather starts running her friend down to Lucky, which is bullshit to get him going. Heather puts him on-Lucky, that is-which drives him so out of it he dirties his shorts, and his eyes yo-yo. Flashback. Lucky asks for Heather's picture, she gives him some swimsuit poses, expecting her grades to go up, and damn if they don't.
"Cut back to live," Dawn went on. "Because of the confrontation, Heather asks for her pix back, keeps asking, but Lucky ignores her and won't promise to return them. With horror on his face, he slumps off like a wobbly wheel. That makes Heather so mad she stews a minute and takes out after him to have it out and, know what? She spies Lucky breaking into a pickup truck outfitted with one of those camper sheds. It has a little window, and Heather watches what he's doing in that little mobile bunkhouse. Lucky pries out an inside panel and fishes out a bunch of shiny gadgets. One is a pitcher or a cup and, so help me, he drinks out of it, or looks like he does, but for this scene it's empty, because Lucky is just nutso."
Earthala kept going with her scenario. "Oh, and he barks, 'Okay, uhm, Hoot, I got the loot, thank you,' and so on, talking to himself. The loot includes a couple of crucifixes, and Lucky laughs at one of them, a Jesus thing, because it has bloodstains on it. Makes Heather gag real-time, like, shriek. She is sure he hears her screech, so she runs like hell away from all that. Dissolve to the scared little monkey-brain, moping in her dorm, fiddling with her keypad, trying to figure out the next scene, and that's it."
"Sounds good for a first draft," Thornburgh retorted. "I'll have my A-team transcribe and story-board your idea, flesh it out with dialogue and shop it around. The back room will want to meet with you and run down your next assignment. You're available?"
"Like a zit-faced hooker. Sooner the better, chief."
"We'll touch base, then, in the near term, and zip your lip until the brass picks up the option. Be talking to you." Thornburgh clicked off and laughed, eager to meet this Dawn character who witnessed what a detective could only itch for: catching a thief red-handed. The objective now was to see that the icons never left Zenny's care.