Thief                                                                                          
  It was late at night when we returned from the party, both
tired ready to get some sleep. As I turned the key, I noticed
the door was unlocked. Something was wrong. Cautiously I
nudged the door open just to face a half-empty house. We’d
been burglarized.

  Neither the television nor the leather sofa in front of it
remained. My favorite ottoman wasn’t there. The VCR, the
camcorder and the stereo system were all gone.
  I rushed to the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife and
ginger walked into every room, holding my breath and
ducking my head. Everything valuable in our home was
stolen. Even my wife’s cherished afghan.

  After the initial shock subsided, we sat on the bare floor
and grieved for our losses. Along with our belongings, we’d
lost our sense of security. Sara insisted they were hiding
somewhere in the house and any moment would jump out
and kill us.
   “Why would they do such a thing? They’ve already taken
everything,” I reasoned but she was hysterical.

  I finally called the police. A few minutes later, sirens filled
the neighborhood and several officers crowded our doorway.  
They asked all kinds weird questions, took pictures and
fingerprints, filled out countless forms and ransacked our
home worse than the thieves. Then promised to do what they
could and left. We were filled with fear and rage.

  It was almost dawn when we went to bed, but neither one of
us could sleep a wink. Neither of us went to work the next
day. We drank several cups of black coffee and took
inventory of our losses. It was late afternoon when in the
midst of my search, I noticed a folded piece of paper in the
corner of the room where the lamp used to be. Inside the
paper I found a small photo of an unfamiliar man and woman,
about the same age as my wife and I, posing with feigned
smiles.

  “How could the investigators have missed this evidence
after hours of searching our house?” I shrieked showing the
photo to Sara. She didn’t recognize them either. Once again,
we called the investigator in charge and he urged us to
promptly take the evidence to the station. “Aha, that might
lead us to the perpetrators,” the detective uttered. Now I was
really worried about ever seeing our stolen furniture again.   

  I snatched my keys and rushed outside. As I approached
my car, I noticed a man walking toward our house. To my
utmost surprise, I recognized the stranger. He was the man in
the photo. Before giving him a chance to escape, I stormed
toward him, dropping my keys, tackled him like a pit bull and
firmly grabbed his wrists.

  “What are you doing?” he screamed.

  “You tell me, what the hell is your picture doing in my
house, the house that was robbed last night?” I was fuming.

  “Sir, please, let go of my wrist. And do not answer my
question by posing one of your own. It’s rude,” he calmly said.

   “You’re the one who robbed my house. You took
everything we had!” I yelled.

   “Technically yes, but we really need to talk about this,” he
nodded with a dash of discontent.

  “A thief always visits the house he robbed. This is the
mistake they always make. And I’ve caught you,” I confidently
boasted.

  “Actually sir, the correct quote is, ‘the criminal always
returns to the scene of the crime.’ From Alfred Hitchcock, he
was a genius and this particular film was his masterpiece with
powerful characters, profound dialogue and a strong plot.
This is what I call filmmaking.  Besides, you really didn’t
capture me because I returned on my own will.”

   “You have the audacity to lecture me on the artistic value
of movies? You’re a thief! You must be behind bars.” I was
hysterical.

  “Please don’t scare me with the talk of jail. It wasn’t easy for
me to come here. If your stuff was worth anything, I wouldn’t
be here and this conversation would not be taking place.”  

  “Our Sony television alone is worth over three hundred
dollars!”

  “Three hundred dollars? Are you trying to make me laugh?”
“The new digital models are now less than that. Your
television set is really outdated with bad reception. It’s not
even cable ready. It doesn’t show all channels. When did you
buy this? When Nixon was president?” He was losing his
patience.

  “You are a menace to society, I’m calling the police.”

He arched his eyebrows and rolled his eyes and waited for
my next move. I had none.
After a few awkward moments, I defensively added, “We
bought this house just a few months ago. The closing cost,
the home insurance and moving expenses set us back quite
a bit. The house payment is much higher than the rent we
paid for the apartment. It’s almost twice as much for the
utilities. Frankly, we can’t afford new furniture, maybe next
year.”

  He sighed. “My wife wasn’t exactly thrilled to see your stuff
in our living room. How long have you had that couch? You
can’t sit on it for five minutes without your back hurting. And
don’t get me started on your computer. It’s worth nothing and
I mean literally nothing. It doesn’t even have a CD drive, for
crying out loud. It’ll cost me more to upgrade yours than to
buy a new computer.”

  Now I was trying to avoid direct eye contact with the thief.  

  “I don’t mean to sound condescending, but I really lost
money on this job. You see, these days no one takes the
responsibility of being an accomplice. To do a simple job like
yours, I paid a man $150 to help me carry the furniture and
load the truck. He wasn’t even a professional. He charged me
a flat rate in advance.”

  “You should pay your accomplices on contingency basis, a
percentage of the net profit otherwise you’re walking in the
dark.”

   “I made the plan and took all the risks. I didn’t even break
even. And I wish my only loss was financial. Now, I’m at odds
with my wife too. She called me a good-for-nothing bum.  
Nothing I do is enough for her. You know how women are.
Nothing you do makes them happy. I feel like a failure. She
has a steady job and brings a paycheck home and here I am
screwing up.”  

  Shockingly enough, I could see his point. I didn’t know what
to do. I could have called the cops and had him arrested, but
if he had repeated the same story to police, I would have
been more humiliated than he would be in trouble.

    “What do you want me to do?  You stole my possessions
and now you’re complaining it wasn’t a lucrative project? Let’s
resolve this matter amicably. I won’t call the police and you
return everything, although this’ll put me in a bind. How can I
explain this to my wife?  How can I tell her our furniture wasn’t
even worth stealing?  She’s been telling me that for months.
After this fiasco, she’ll never let me put the same old junk in
our house. She’ll buy everything new with her credit card, and
that 18% interest rate is a killer. She never understands how
tight our budget is. You just go and get the furniture, and I’ll
break the news to her.”  

  “Well, that’s the problem, my truck broke this morning and I
have no money to fix it. That’s why I came here. My wife left
this morning and made it clear that as long as this junk is our
house, she wouldn’t return.” He took a deep breath. “I must
get rid of your stuff, and I must do it now.” He was now
chewing his finger nail.

  I could help him bring back the furniture using my truck. But
I had no way of telling my wife what happened. Under a very
peculiar set of circumstances, I found someone to whom I
could relate. Someone I could share my feelings and
concerns with, and someone I was beginning to trust. A
feeling I’d never experienced with any friend.  I found the
midnight thief to be a sensitive, polite and cultured individual.
And now a common need brought us together.

  Suddenly a devious thought crossed my mind. “Let’s solve
both our problems. Why don’t we get our junk from your
house, take it to a remote area, and burn it? Then I’ll make a
complete list of expensive items, submit it to my home
insurance company, and get reimbursed. We’ll split the
money fifty-fifty?”

   “Hmm, that’s not a bad idea,” he said.

  “I’ve already reported this burglary to police, too,” I added.

  “The insurance adjustor would ask you to submit a list of
stolen items.”

  “Don’t worry. I’ll make up an expensive list.”

   “No offense, but maybe I should be the one who makes the
list.” He had a smirk on his face.

  “And then, there’s an issue of mutual trust. You are
practically a stranger,” he said, “but I know this entire affair
has put you in an awkward position and I feel responsible.”
He squinted his eyes, “I accept your proposition. Let’s do it.”

  We walked a few minutes together and then I took the
picture out of my pocket and gave it back to him. “You must
be more careful, my friend!  So tell me, what good movies
have you seen lately?”