Keith was about to make the biggest mistake of his life.
That’s what the voice in his head was telling him. And it was hard to ignore. Not least because it had taken on the nagging cadence of his long dead mother.
In an effort to disregard the self-doubt, Keith pulled his collar tight around his neck and looked out across the street. It always looked different at night, bathed as it was in the sick orange glow of overhead lighting.
He checked his watch.
Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
Keith looked up at the lamppost, still stubbornly vomiting its phosphorescence. Maybe his watch was wrong.
Just then, the streetlights began to turn off one by one, causing a wave of darkness to flow up the street towards him. The one above him popped off, and Keith let his eyes slowly adjust.
Only an insomniac would know what time the council shut down the lighting in these days of austerity.
Or anyone who read the local paper.
Which was no-one.
Keith liked to pretend to himself that he was privy to privileged information, even though he knew he wasn’t. Another little game he played to add some drama to his mundane existence.
But tonight was a much bigger game, and as his foot dropped from the kerb to the road, Keith narrated his actions in his head. The first step towards a new, more dynamic life.
Dressed head to toe in black, including a stupid woollen hat, Keith actually felt more conspicuous moving through the shadows of the night. If anyone saw him like this, it would be hard to explain away. He looked like an urban ninja, except with a ratty old bomber jacket and lace-less skate shoes. The white flashes on those had been a problem easily remedied with a black marker pen.
When a car back-fired in the distance, it made him run the rest of the way across the road and up onto the pavement.
He ascended the three steps outside of number 34. The navy blue door looked sturdy in spite of the delicate net curtains dangling in its windows, and the lock seemed formidable.
But Keith had been practicing.
Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, he retrieved a small leather wallet. It fell open in his palm and he picked his implements. Lock picks look a lot like dental tools, except the ones that look like throwing stars.
Keith knelt down, bringing the deadbolt lock to his eye level. He’d purchased a few of these at the ironmongers and had become quite adept at shearing them with just the torsion wrench and half-diamond pick. The nomenclature of it all was as fun as actually doing it.
There was an easier way to bump the lock with a hammer, but the crude nature of that left Keith cold. He wanted this to be more elegant. He was a gentleman thief now, not a common burglar.
The pins slowly, but easily separated, and within two minutes Keith had the door open. The grin on his face was so big it actually hurt his cheeks. He looked over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being watched, then stood up, slipping the leather wallet of picks back into his pocket.
It was almost unreal.
Skulking around at two in the morning in a quiet suburban street, casually breaking in to a house, now this, THIS, is what insomnia is for. With a triumphant sniff, Keith stepped into the hallway and let the door close behind him. The gentle click hardly echoed at all, but he looked up the stairs just in case.
He hadn’t expected to see or hear movement up there, but it was wise to double-check. His eyes were becoming accustomed to the dark, but the alien layout of the house threatened to prove a hindrance. Must take it slowly, one step at a time.
The loud, antique ticking of a Grandfather clock imbued the whole caper with just the right ambience, as Keith almost tiptoed across the black and white stone tiles.
It was a nice house actually. Victorian, with many of the original features, and high, corniced ceilings. Or so it seemed, as much as he could make out in the shadows.
But as he wandered slowly past the ageing clock, the volume of its inner workings startled him slightly, and Keith somehow managed to slip and lose his footing.
With an automatic reflex, Keith threw his arm out for balance, and found his fingers curling around a baluster on the staircase. His leg kicked up from under him, and he was left dangling on one foot, his grip tested for strength as he inelegantly regained his balance.
Back upright, he strained his ears, but heard nothing above the incessant tocking of the clock. He examined it for a moment, half-tempted to open it up and give it a wind, but he decided against it. He was here for more nefarious purposes.
The door at the end of the hall was closed, so he pressed his ear against it, listening again for any tell-tale signs of life beyond. Aside from the mechanical hum of a refrigerator, he heard nothing of concern.
His latex-clad fingers curled around the doorknob. These gloves stank like stale condoms, but the woollen ones he preferred were too clunky for lock picking and risked leaving fibres.
He’d thought it through. There was plenty of time in his day of monotony to do so, his mind easily able to wander with the mechanical process of checking tax returns. He could do that on auto-pilot as he planned his new life in his head.
But now he was actually doing it.
With a gentle twist, he turned the knob and let the heavy door click open. It swung easily on its hinges, not once squeaking its discontent, revealing an open-plan kitchen lit by the cool green glow from the oven clock.
Rooms by night always fascinated Keith, but none more so than the kitchen. Any insomnia-ridden nocturnal walk about his own house always ended in the kitchen, listening to the gentle drone from the fridge, maybe munching on a bowl of cereal drenched in ice cold milk.
Keith smacked his lips like Pavlov’s best friend. He really fancied some cornflakes. Being a cat burglar was hungry work.
No, that would be daft.
He was on the clock. The longer he spent in this person’s house, the more likely he was to be discovered. And being caught with a gob full of breakfast would be really stupid. By his reckoning, Keith had been inside for over a minute now.
A Tupperware container sat on the surface, proudly taunting Keith with its contents.
Were those Honey Nut Loops?
No. He had a mission. And only Sugar Puffs could distract him now.
His feet were carrying him inextricably towards his goal. Or so he hoped. People’s personal preference for the layout of their kitchen always perplexed Keith, but their choices often gave away subtle clues.
Anyone who kept an open topped container of salt next to a kettle was clearly an idiot, and one who never drank hot beverages. Anyone who stored their plates as far from the dishwasher as possible was a masochist, while anyone who had a drawer full of plastic carrier bags was a lazy asshole.
Positioning himself in the natural place to begin making a pot of tea, he tried to ascertain the optimum positioning for everything. The cups would be in that cupboard, the one with the glass front. Check.
The tea bags would be in a pot along the wall by the sockets. Check.
A pivot and a step would take him to the sink one way and the fridge the other.
So that meant the only logical place for what he was after was …
He stepped to a drawer and pulled it open, noting the pleasing way it moved on its runners. Nice.
His nose wrinkled in annoyance. Who kept all their unopened bills tucked away with their tea towels? And what sort of person only has two tea towels?
But Keith wasn’t after paperwork. He was after something much more valuable. The drawer closed with a soft, slow-moving motion that prompted a nod of approval. This was a quality kitchen. And one that was subtle enough not to give any clues as to where it was purchased.
Keith now wanted to price one up.
With a soft sigh, he picked another drawer, and tried to yank it open. The mechanism was ready for that, and just yawned the drawer out. Keith was greeted by the sight of phone chargers and laptop leads, all coiled up together in an orgy of electronic lust. It sickened him to see cables treated with such indiscipline.
He wanted to slam it shut, but knew the build quality wouldn’t allow it, so he decided to test a theory instead. With the lightest of nudges, almost feather-like in its daintiness, he brushed the front of the drawer, and watched with delight as it slowly closed itself.
That really was first class.
Why spend all this money on a great kitchen and then abuse it with such poor positioning choices? He half suspected he’d find spice jars aligned across the lip of the extraction hood, drying out and clumping up with the steam and heat from the oven. But then he realised there was no extraction hood, nor a hob. Just the oven, looking to all intents and purposes like it had ever been used.
Made sense now.
This was the kitchen of an aesthete.
A poseur’s kitchen.
No cooking would ever be done in here. Just the warming up of takeaways and foil containers sent in by the caterers on special occasions like dinner parties.
It made him sick.
They deserved everything they were about to get.
Keith picked another drawer, and took no pleasure in opening it this time. He was too angry for that now. But as it slipped open slowly, he was greeted with his prize.
With a manic grin, he scooped them up in his gloved hand and held them aloft, watching them glint in the moonlight streaming in through the blinds. They were beautiful.
Well worth the effort.
Half a dozen forks.