Another Amateur Night

Amateurs can make one’s job too easy.

I waited next to the elevator on the fourteenth floor, affixing the hotel employee ID to my jacket’s breast pocket.  From the corner of my eye, I watched a young man, mid-twenties, leather briefcase tucked under his left arm, fumble with the key card.  Finally, he turned it right side up and pushed open the door to room 1412.

I moved quickly, before he closed it again.

He blocked me with the briefcase, eyes widening.  “Excuse me.  This is a private room.”

I nodded.  “Yes.  And you don’t look anything like Ms Carroway.”

“Who?”  His eyes said he knew the game was up.  No way could he get past my wrestler’s body.

He tried to bluff anyway.  “Oh, my mistake.  This is the wrong room.  I don’t know why this key card worked.”

I stepped closer, forcing him inside, out of the hallway.  I didn’t wish to alarm other guests.

“It worked because you’d taken it from that woman’s purse in the lobby, fifteen minutes ago.  I saw you.”

“You’re mistaken.”

I shut the door and flipped on the overhead entry light.  “I’ve been in this business too long to swallow that.  Have you even been in this hotel before?”

“I’m new to this city…”

“I’m guessing you didn’t plan an escape route.” 

“The clerk gave me the wrong key.”

“Which I’ll take now.  Put it on the dresser.  I’m keeping both my hands free.”

He peered anxiously at my ID badge.  “Look, Mister, ah, Randall, I’m sorry.  My life’s desperate lately, with the tight job market and all.  I’ve never done this before.  Pure impulse.”

“Hardly pure.  You know Ms Carroway is in town for the jeweler’s convention.  That’s why you picked her.  Most of her valuables will be in the hotel safe, but she’s bound to keep a few pieces handy for last minute deals.  No?”

“I won’t do this again.  Promise.”

“Not rob a hotel guest, or not get caught again?  You definitely will, though, if you don’t up your game.  Open the briefcase.”  

“It’s empty.”

“Show me.”

With a sigh, the young man laid the leather case on the bed and opened it wide enough for me to peer inside.  He’d spoken truth; there was only the store receipt and the morning newspaper.  “Nothing suspicious about carrying around an empty bag,” I muttered.  “Nothing at all.”

“Can we work this out between us?  We don’t have to bring in the police, do we?”

I glanced at the key card, resting lonesome next to the wide-screen television, then back to the briefcase. 

“Go,” I told him.

His eyes widened further than they had at my initial approach.  “You mean it?”

“My shift’s almost over.  I don’t need the overtime.  Also, you’re young enough to be my own kid.  At least pretend you’ve learned your lesson.”

“I have!”  He reached for the briefcase. 

I blocked him.  “Leave it.  Don’t want you to get any more ideas about using it tonight.”

“I wasn’t…”

“Beat it!  Before I change my mind.  And don’t tell anyone I let you skip out, or you’ll have more than the police to worry about.”  I flexed my fist.

With a nod, the kid slipped into the hall.  I waited, listening for the elevator doors to open and close again.

Confident the would-be burglar was gone, I pulled a pair of thin, flexible gloves from my breast pocket.  If the key card on the dresser held any prints, they’d be his, not mine.  I would save my personal hacked key card for visiting the other two convention-goers’ names on my list.

Plus the briefcase looked better than the cloth bag strapped beneath my jacket, so, win-win.

Stumbling across this opportunity to take advantage of an amateur thief with a shared goal was rare, but tonight wasn’t my first time. 

I doubted it would be the last.

Gordon Linzner is founder and former editor of Space and Time Magazine, and author of three published novels and scores of short stories in F&SF, Twilight Zone, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and numerous other magazines and anthologies, in the genres of mystery, horror, science fiction and fantasy. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a lifetime member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.