Guys and Dolls
Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
The circumstances that night were more than perfect. Darkness ruled the streets, and they were deserted. The few street lanterns that still functioned during his scouting trip a day earlier had ceased operation since. Nothing stood in the burglar’s way, or so it seemed. He was experienced enough to know that storming into the place might trigger an alarm and a consecutive round trip to a little concrete cell. So, perfect conditions or not, he would be careful.
The neighborhood had been deserted for a while now, something related to an impending flood that had never come. All the people living and working here had packed their essentials and left with not one backwards glance. Most shops had been boarded up or, as the criminal community saw it, neatly wrapped as presents. Christmas had definitely come early this year and would last as long as the municipality didn’t mark the place as a safe zone again. In short, the city’s black market had never been swarmed with so many televisions, desktop computers and stereos.
Tonight’s target was a little corner shop, boarded up like the rest and, which was a bit different, without a sign. This made breaking in there a little bit of a gamble, but all the other stores had been looted already. The place had been listed in the yellow pages as ‘Guys and Dolls’, a name that could mean anything. The burglar thought that, in the worst case, it referred to a theatre costume parlor. Which would still be alright. He made sure the street was still empty, then started checking the exterior of the building for signs of a burglar alarm. There was none, so out came the old trusty crowbar. It would make some noise, but anything that carried far enough to reach human ears would be drowned out by the everlasting honks of frustrated drivers.
The boards came loose easily enough and the dollar signs started to show in the burglar’s eyes. When he had cleared enough of the barricade to access the door, he shattered its window and peeked in. Nothing but darkness greeted him, which only fed his newly found curious greed. Forcing the lock was easy enough and the door opened without any protest. He went in, unbuckling his flashlight, careful not to turn it on until he was far enough inside. The sounds had not drawn any attention, but that did not mean that he could be careless about the visual clues to his presence.
A faint, sickly sweet scent hung in the shop. Somehow it reminded him of his youth, but he could not locate the memory that would tell him the reason for that. His hand streaked past some fabric that triggered another of these feelings, this time one he could place. It felt like the little tutu his sister had used for her ballet classes, which explained the sweet scent as well. He knew enough, would take as many clothes as he could carry and dash. He readied his flashlight, switched it on and dropped it straight away. His scream was girlish, high-pitched, filled with terror. From its new angle on the ground, the flashlight cast long, dark shadows on a thousand lifeless faces, all staring down at the intruder. He staggered back into the darkness, shaking, tripped over something and fell down facing nothing but huge, staring, unchanging eyes. It was all he could take. Screaming, he dashed outside and ran for his life, forever cured of his kleptomania.
Meanwhile, in ‘Guys and Dolls’ a young, artificial voice once more interrupted the silence, asking for a change of diapers.