The movies are wrong. Thieves, in my personal experience, are really, really, really stupid sons of bitches.
Last week I purchased a new GPS (global positioning) system for my car on Ebay. I was excited to play with my new toy, so I tracked it carefully across the country via UPS. The delivery service registered the sealed cardboard box on my doorstep at 2:32 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.
My wife arrived home at 6:30 p.m. to find an open box and bubble wrap all over the front porch. The box had been opened and the GPS was gone. It was worth $700.
So the next day I called down to Tony’s Sports Novelties in San Bruno. “Yeah?” said the voice.
“Is this Tony?” I asked.
“Yeah, what’s up,” the voice grunted.
“Yesterday afternoon, someone from your shop was at my house, and around that same time, a GPS was stolen off my front porch. I’d like to talk to the guy who was here.”
Long silence on the other end. “Jeez… I do remember I sent Al to Hazel Avenue yesterday. And yeah. Come to think of it, when he came back he had this box in his hand. Looked like a fish finder or something. Al said he found it in some bushes.”
“That’s my GPS,” I said. “I want it back.”
“Al lives right across the street,” said Tony. “Lemme go talk to him.”
“No, wait!” I yell. “Don’t do anything until I get there.”
I’m weaving through Interstate traffic when the call comes on my cell phone. “This John?” grunts Tony. “Yeah, could you get down here? Something’s happened.”
“What?” I shout, dodging brakelights.
“So I went across the street to the donut shop. Lot of cops always hanging out over there. I explained the story to one of ’em, and whaddya know, Al walks in. I point at ‘im, and say ‘That’s him,’ and the cops are up and Al bolts and the cops are running after ‘im.”
“What happened then?” I ask.
“Whaddya mean, what happened then? The cops are running down the street after ‘im.”
I drive twenty miles over the legal speed limit to San Bruno and pull up in front of Tony’s Sports Novelties. The cop is five-foot-six and balding, and he bears San Bruno Police badge number seven. Tony, bearded and frowning, frets about on the sidewalk.
The cop nods to me. “My name’s Likins,” he says, flipping through a notebook. “With San Bruno P.D.”
“Did you find my GPS?” I ask.
“No,” says the cop.
“Damn, he outran you,” I say.
“Oh, heck no, sir,” says the cop. “Guy jumped on his bike and I ran after him for two blocks. Then I called for radio backup. Guy bolted right, up San Bruno Ave, toward I-380. Two squad cars responded. Guy got about three miles on that bike, but we took him down. He’s in jail now.”
“If I knew you a little better, I’d give you a hug,” I tell the cop.
Officer Likins laughs. “You can’t outrun the San Bruno P.D.,” he says.
“I had twenty-five thousand dollars worth of stuff stolen a couple years back,” grunted Tony. “Sucks.”
I shake Tony’s hand. “I owe you a favor,” I said.
I get a call two hours later. It’s Likins. “Unfortunately, your man claims that he sold it to some other slimeball. And the other guy claims he never bought it. I got a court order and searched both guys’ apartments. But I can’t find your GPS. Honestly, sir, it’s probably been laundered to some other third party.”
“Thanks for trying,” I say. “What’s going to happen to Al?”
“Al admitted that he stole it. That’s a theft over four hundred dollars, which makes it a felony offense in California. He’s going to jail.”
So I’m out $700, but thanks to two honest men, there’s a fantastically stupid fucking thief in jail.
Nobody was there when the GPS was stolen. Nobody saw Al take it.
So how did I know the thief was employed by Tony? And how did I know Tony’s phone number?
When I got home, dangling from the doorknob, there was a clue.