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The keys to the universe

By Pat Garofalo

Section: Arts

November 18, 2005

Hey, hey. Over here. Look at this lamp. We need to take this lamp.

And where do you propose we put it, huh? Do you plan on waltzing out the front door with it hidden in your shoe?

But man, this things got to be worth a ton. These rich folks always buy expensive furniture. Ill bet its from, like, Naples or Albania or something.

Forget about the lamp, idiot. Were after more important things. You know that. And with their slight exchange ended, the two thieves resumed shuffling through the home of Mr. Marcus T. Franklin, the wealthy businessman. For the past three weeks there had been rumors circling among the denizens of New Yorks underworldthe burglars, muggers, dealers, and the likethat Franklins apartment on 6th Avenue was housing an object of very high value. Some said that it was a necklace lost during the Crusades, while others alleged that it was a cross used during the Inquisition. There were even a few who claimed that Franklin held a film proving that JFK had been shot by a man on the grassy knoll whose gun was concealed in an umbrella. But the thieves didnt really care what the thing was. They just knew that it was unique, expensive, and that its sale would enable them to escape the drudgery and slime of the New York City alleys. And it hadnt taken the crooks much effort to get into Franklins suite. They were veterans, and knew that a few dollars placed into the pockets of a security guard would get them a time that Franklin was out to lunch and free passage into his downtown apartment complex. Once inside the building, Franklins locks hadnt been difficult to get by. Funny, how even when he was protecting something of such high value, Franklin didnt think to put something on the door heavier than a standard deadbolt. It was almost too easy. The two thieves slowly walked through the apartment, and entered Franklins bedroom.

This place isnt that big. Where the hell iswhatever it is?

I dont know. I mean, if this thing is so important, he wouldnt just leave it lying around. Its not like the movies, where the valuables are always locked in a safe hidden behind a painting.

Um, theres a safe behind this painting.

Youre kidding?

Nope.

Let me see.

After elbowing his partner out of the way, the burglar began to study the safe, unoriginally located behind a replica of a Van Gogh, which now lay strewn on the apartment floor.

Looks like your typical three digit combo deal. Think we can crack it?

I dont know. Do we have enough time? How long is this fellow going to be gone?

Well, weve come all this way. Itd be a damn shame to leave with nothing.

Try something stupid, like 1-2-3.

Ha, that would just complete the story, wouldnt it? I can see the headline now. Cops blame theft on millionaires stupidity. Culprits escape to parts unknown.

Unfortunately for the thieves, the lock did not open with the first few combinations that they tried. They spent a few hectic minutes entering random numbers before one of them punched the safe in frustration. As his fist thumped upon the door, the two heard a click.

Did you just pop the safe by hitting it?

It would appear so.

This is ridiculous. Lets take whatever it is and get out of here.

The first thief quickly pulled open the door of the safe, and peered inside.

Oh no. No, no, no, he stammered, clearly shaken by what he saw. We can not take this. This is bad, very bad. We have got to get out of here. Right now.

What? What is it? After all that were just going to leave? It cant be that bad, can it? The second crook looked over his partners shoulder into the safe. His mouth fell open, his arms dropped to his sides, but he quickly regained his composure. Right, he said, lets go.

The thieves quickly got up to leave, but as they did they heard the front door of the apartment open.

Franklin strolled into his room and saw the two crooks standing by his safe, with pale looks upon their faces.

So, boys, he said, more than you expected, eh? Well, get on out of here, before I think to call someone. The thieves didnt need to be told again, and they scampered out of the apartment, down the stairs, and out into the street, without looking back. Inside the apartment, Franklin chuckled, picked up his safe, and calmly replaced it behind the painting.

Fools, he thought, They look for riches, but dont want the responsibility.

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