One Last Job
Here is a bit of free life advice: If the words “One Last Job” ever depart from your lips, think real hard about it, and whatever it is, don’t.
To be fair, I’m not exactly the best person to be giving this advice, especially when you consider my current predicament. I’m sitting in an interrogation room, in a police station in downtown Seattle, under arrest for trespassing and attempted robbery. I’ve been sitting here for about ten minutes now, still handcuffed; no doubt the two detectives are staring at me from behind one-way glass, hoping to see me sweat.
But how could I have resisted? The Amarillo Starlight is not exactly the most famous of diamonds or the most valuable, which is part of what made it such a perfect target. Were I to steal the Star of Africa I would have the entire world looking for me. The Amarillo Starlight, on the other hand, is merely seven and a half carats, I could get a hundred fifty grand minimum for it, and people would have forgotten about the robbery within a few weeks. It would be a great way to go out. I’d already decided to retire, why not just one last job?
This is why. This room, with it’s beige cinder block walls, it’s flickering flourescent lighting and it’s one-way glass is why.
It’s possible you may have heard of me. You may have even seen that video on youtube. About three years ago I made a small mistake, and it made me a bit more famous than I would have liked. I had erased the cameras on the premises, as always, however a security camera from an impound lot across the street caught me making my entrance. It was on the internet by the next morning, the validity of which was hotly debated for months. In the end, most people agreed it must be a hoax and everyone moved on. But that’s where I got my name: The Phantom.
The door opens, and a slightly overweight man in a grey suit comes in, sighing heavily. “Mr… Pierce, is it?”
“That’s me.” At this stage they don’t have anything concrete, so there’s no reason not to be polite.
“Would you mind explaining to me what you were doing at Smalls and Weston last night?”
I smiled. “I work there as a janitor,” which is not a lie, I got a job there a month prior in order to case the location, “and I must admit, to my shame, that I fell asleep on the job and got locked inside.”
I don’t actually expect him to buy this heaping load of bullshit, but as long as they can’t prove how I got inside they won’t have much choice but to accept the alibi, as flimsy as it is. Besides, it’s not like the truth is much more believable.
It’s not exactly easy to pass one’s body through a barrier of solid matter, but as I’ve done it hundreds of times before last night should have been no different. Everything went smoothly at first: I drove my moped to Smalls and Weston, parked it a few blocks away in an alley, then headed to the building’s south side, the side closest to the security station, and walked effortlessly through the six inches of brick.
I made my way to the security station, knocked out the one guard on duty with a taser, and set about erasing the hard drives where they store the security footage. I then deactivated the motion and pressure sensors on my way to the vault. Everything was going smoothly, right up until I reached the vault itself.
“So, let me get this straight, you are claiming that you work at Smalls and Weston-”
“Correction: I DO work at Smalls and Weston, you can check my employee badge, you must have it with everything else you took from me.”
The tired man in the grey suit eyes me, like a new poker player who is trying way to hard to figure out how bluffing works. “Right, so, you are a janitor, you fell asleep on your shift, and woke up when the alarm went off?”
“Yeah, that’s what I told you before!”
“Then how do you explain the unconscious guard, how do you explain the erased security footage?”
“I don’t! I have no explanations for those because I had nothing to do with them.”
He sits back, and rubs his fingers through his hair. His index finger catches a knot, and he winces in pain for a split-second before putting his hands back on the desk.
“Mr. Pierce… This would all be a lot easier if you were to just tell me the truth.”
“I am telling you the truth!” I’m careful here, I want to sound slightly desperate and exasperated, but it’s crucial that I don’t sound guilty. “I fucked up, I admit, but I’m not a criminal. I’m already going to lose my job over this, do you really think I’d risk more by lying to you?”
The man sighs, mutters “ok”, and leaves the room, letting me know he’s going to get more coffee. A few moments pass and I find myself being questioned by a greasy-haired man, who wears an angry expression, a dark blue suit, and enough cologne to cover the smell of a rotting corpse. He doesn’t appear to be undead, so I’m left to assume that he is the “bad” cop.
“So, Mr. Peirce, would you mind explaining this to me?”
He pulls out an evidence bag with what remained of my device, at this point little more than cables attached to a smoldered plastic box filled with destroyed electronics.
“What the fuck happened to my walkman?”
It’s not a walkman. Not that even anyone at my age still uses tape players anymore, but if you’ve been paying attention you already probably guessed it wasn’t a walkman. The corpse doesn’t buy it either, and my feigned ignorance seems to anger him more than anything else.
It all started in 1987. I was an electrical engineering student at Trapp University, and my roommate was studying theoretical physics. We dreamed up a device, purely theoretical of course, that could allow an individual the ability to pass through solid matter. It was crazy, but we imagined that if we succeeded we would be famous in the scientific community. (Bear in mind that this was almost two full decades before the incident in Trinity Square, before we all realized how fucking insane the world actually is.)
My roommate never saw our dream completed. He was killed by a drunk driver our senior year, and our invention was still a few years from completion. I buried myself in my work, pouring over his notes, obsessively testing and perfecting the design, and finally in 1992 I walked through a wall for the first time.
The feeling was… strange at first. Imagine sinking in molasses; You can’t breathe, you can hardly move, and you press through, hoping that there will be air again on the other side. All the meanwhile you can’t even feel your own body, like you’ve become weightless at the same time. I nearly gave myself a heart attack that first attempt, and I was only passing through a half inch of plywood.
I also feel I should clarify another point here. I didn’t finish my friend and I’s work with the intention of becoming a thief. When this all began I had the noblest of intentions, however, I had long lost the respect of my peers and had gotten into a severe amount of debt trying to finish the device. I needed money, so once I mastered walking through walls I robbed my first bank.
It only took one time, and I was hooked. The thrill of such a feat, and then getting away with it, there is no rush like it, especially when you know that you can do the impossible. I traveled the world, for fifteen years, stealing money, relics, jewels, whatever I wanted. I was careful, and methodical. I never got greedy in the middle of job, only ever taking exactly what I was after. Each theft was another impossible feat, each time the authorities had no idea how I pulled it off. Doors locked from the inside, safes that were never opened, no evidence, no witnesses. I had a long and lucrative career, right up until last night.
“You know,” I say to the corpse, “This really comes down to that incident in Trinity Square last year. Ever since then you police types want to see phantoms around every corner. We’re not all super-villains you know.”
He scowls, he knows I have him. They have no video, no proof that what I did is even possible, just a fuzzy video on youtube that most people think is fake. Sure, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that I was there to do no good, but I hadn’t technically stolen anything.
But last night the impossible happened. I found a wall I couldn’t walk through.
In between the tag team taking their turns attempting to get me to say even a single wrong word, I’ve been trying to piece last night back together in my head, and I’m still not sure how it happened.
See, unlike a safecracker I didn’t need to open the door, and I’ve walked through as much as 2 feet of steel-enforced concrete. This is not recommended, and usually not needed. However, when I approached the wall of the vault where the Amarillo Starlight was being held I reached out my hand and hit solid concrete. I checked the device, it was still active. I tried again, again nothing happened. That’s when the alarm went off.
I have racked my brain trying to think of possibilities. Maybe someone have found a way to stop the device, perhaps some kind of energy field that stopped it from working? But even if they did, the cost and energy of producing such a field would be astronomical, and they had no idea I was coming for it.
Alternatively, after a decade and half the device finally stopped working? But I checked it, tested it a dozen times preparing for this job, and it’s not like I’ve never replaced parts or repaired it.
Or, maybe God finally decided to punish me? I have not exactly been a righteous man, though, then again, I’m not exactly religious either.
To be honest, I have no idea what happened, all I know is that my power failed. Once the alarm went off my curiosity had to take a back seat. I headed to the wall I had come in through, and once again I found the wall impenetrable. So, plan C. I activated the devices self-destruct, tossed it into the nearest garbage can, hid my mask and gloves, and changed back into my janitor’s uniform. The police arrived within five minutes of the alarm going off, and I surrendered to them, putting on my best confused innocent bystander.
“So, as I’ve said, when the alarm went off it woke me up, and I tried to leave. That’s when you all showed up.”
“Do you honestly expect us to believe that?” The man in the grey suit sits across from me, while his cadaverous partner fumes angrily while sipping a mug of what I assume is coffee.
“Believe me or don’t, but at the end of the day there are only two possibilities: Either what I told you is true, or I’m the Phantom, and after fifteen years you’ve finally caught me red-handed. Which one of those is supported by the evidence?”
The two look at one another, and I can tell I’ve won. They’ll likely still hold on to me for the twenty-four hours, after which they’ll be forced to let me go. They’ll probably threaten me or tell me that they’ll be “watching me” or whatever. I’ll likely be fired from my janitor job, but it’s not like I really need the money.
Besides, I will be plenty busy; I have a new device that I need to build. Once that is finished I will have one last job to do, one last diamond to steal. At this point it’s a matter of pride more than anything else.