Sunday, November 14, 2010

Life on the Lam

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Ah, a life of crime. No mystery writer who denies that they have thought maybe, just maybe, they could get away with “it,” is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Yes, we write clues and cops and justice for all endings but we just can’t help ourselves. We, on some level, think that if we were to take up that lifestyle, the one on the wrong side of the law, we’d be good (or bad depending on your point of view), really really good.

Despite writing murder mysteries, I’d rather be a thief than a killer. In fact, I intend, oops, I imagine, I would be so smooth as a thief that no one would ever get hurt much less killed. But of course, if I am going to be that elegant (go with me here, especially those who know how unelegant I actually am), I’d need to steal something as interesting and sophisticated as I am. There won’t be any 7-11 stick up jobs for me. And no robbing the post office – jeez, don’t people realize they don’t have any cash and it’s a federal rap? No, I am going to liberate the talismans of my new, sophisticated (and unafraid of the big house) self – art and jewels.

Art makes sense because the value of certain pieces makes the risk worth it. Also, why quit a winner? I don’t know why but it seems that truly valuable paintings go on regular walkabouts. Granted, in this economy, the buying pool might be more limited than before but then again we’re talking about the truly wealthy who aren’t afraid of a little receiving stolen goods arrest. They’re probably the people making money out of the current crisis.

What would I target? In 1911, a workman stole the Mona Lisa off the wall of the Louvre. Just took it off the wall and picked up his lunch box and went home. For two years, people lined up to stare at the blank spot on the wall. No gun. Not even any breaking or entering. Just reached up and took it. Now that was 1911 but I like the calm cool of his approach. You’d think that security would get better and I’d have more trouble with my new occupation.
Maybe not.

In 1961, a bus driver climbed through an open window at the National Gallery in London and helped himself to a portrait of the Duke of Wellington (wouldn’t be my pick but it was there for the taking). Who leaves a window open at the National Gallery? Why do the windows open at the National Gallery? Whatever the reason, once again, no guns, no violence, no witnesses. The thief was only caught because he talked.. I won’t make that mistake.

Maybe I’ll go with the Stewart Gardner Museum ploy. Wear a police uniform, walk into the museum and tell everyone you are responding to a burglar alarm. Then, handcuff the “suspects” who happen to be the security staff. Help yourself to $300 million and wave on your way out the door. Never caught despite being seen by the security personnel. Reminds me a little of helping myself to a water buffalo during a prisoner of war exercise at military school. Act like you belong and people assume you do. Plus a uniform tends to blur the facial recognition of witnesses. All they see is blue. Added bonus – rule followers take instruction from police without question including, in the case of the poor security guys, putting your hands behind your back and letting the “cops” cuff you. Hard to live that one down for them but for the thief, maximum style points and $300 million is nothing to sneeze at provided you have a buyer lined up. Even at fifty cents on the dollar, that’s quite a day’s pay. I could see myself doing that.

Unlike art, which has to be sold whole, a jewel theft leaves you with options. The jewels won’t be worth as much cut up but they are much harder to trace and still very valuable. Plus, jewel thieves can be oh so cool. I’ll use the same technique seen at a 2002 heist at the Museum of Science in the Hague. The thieves got away with $108 million in gems plus several royal pieces deemed priceless. They came in on a Saturday night or Sunday during a three-day weekend. The theft wasn’t discovered until Monday. Despite 24-hour surveillance and security guards, the thieves are not on any tape nor were they spotted by the guards. $108 million plus and a three day head start with no one to identify them. Maybe this particular thief started as a writer? Yep, I can see this lifestyle. Now, to plan…

Thanks for reading and if anyone asks, I was here all the time. Except starting next week when you can find my blog on Fridays, alternating weeks with the amazing Meredith Cole. Trying to ameliorate Shane withdrawal will not be easy, even my Mom is mourning, but we'll do our best.



Anonymous said...

Love the historical tidbits in your blog, Gabi--great combo--art and crime! Thanks for the post.

Meredith Cole said...

I think you would make a terrific art thief. The museums of the world are lucky that you have instead decided to concentrate on crime only in your writing...

Looking forward to blogging with you on Fridays, Gabi!

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I can totally see you fencing art and jewels in a sophisticated black dress and pearls, with Cary Grant on your arm.

I always thought the easiest art to steal would be the stuff kept in private castles, stuff that's been 'in the family' forever.

Not that we would EVER do that. And we were together when that painting disappeared. At the beach.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Thanks for the fun post. Cheers~

Michael Wiley said...

After you're done with the art and the jewels, you might want to try 17th-century Chinese vases. I see that one just sold at auction for $69.5 million. A nice haul, and you can put flowers in it while waiting for a black-market buyer.

A great post, Gabi.