The hotel lunch room was empty except for the South Korean, who motioned for the Canadian to join him. They discussed the heists they had seen, and considered forming an alliance in case the other Jury members didn’t agree with their assessment of the artfulness of the crimes.
The South Korean had a taste of money, but his real objective was the manipulation of perception. His jobs frequently involved breaking into the systems of large corporations or corrupt governments and making subtle adjustments to their internal histories. There was a market for rewriting history
“I change history,” he said while holding back a proud smile, and the Canadian knew it was true. History is written by the victor of a conflict, but since time is an abstraction it doesn’t take much effort to rewrite reality, and what the South Korean excelled at was making adjustments and corrections in such a way that his marks themselves had no idea what he had done. It was a game of the super-rich, exposing each other’s corruption. The Canadian meditated on the dangerous nature of the South Korean‘s particular angle of their business. On behalf of his various super-rich patrons he had recently exposed a massive super-rich South Korean electronics company. If things were to ever turn south he would be vanished — but such was the thrill. He laughed whenever he considered his potential fate. But the Canadian wasn’t laughing — he knew how dangerous that game could be.
They spent the afternoon studying the work of The Portuguese, two thieves who had pulled a heist in Macau. They also studied a smuggling job by The Austrian.
The Canadian was heading back to his room when a young American he had never seen before approached him in the lobby of the hotel. “I know who you are,” said the kid, who had the air of an intellectual, or a grad student.
The Canadian turned and looked at him before answering, “Then you have me at a disadvantage.”
The kid wasn’t in the Thieve’s Guild — and he didn’t look like he was in law enforcement. “I’d like to talk to you…about…your profession.”
The Canadian was suddenly very nervous, measuring his words carefully. Thieves were supposed to be secretive — flying under the radar, letting the job speak for itself — and his apprehension about being on the Jury was suddenly confirmed. He thought about taking this punk into the service area, or into the garage, tying him up, putting him into the trunk of a car, and dealing with this potential breach of secrecy and etiquette. Instead, the Canadian invited him to espresso.
The kid turned out to be an Indie, someone from outside of their business trying to work their way in for either a gig or simply to learn about the inner workings of Guild members. It occasionally happened; an Indie might be writing a newspaper article or a crime novel, and their deep research would lead them successfully to a thief. Encounters like this were always dangerous, and when things went wrong they would go terribly wrong.
“You’re lucky you’re not le Flic,” said the Canadian as he sipped at his espresso.
“So are you,” retorted the Indie, and suddenly the Canadian realized that this seeming kid was tough as nails and brave. The geek look was clearly an act.
The Canadian remained tense and ready to bolt. He made all sorts of contingency plans in case this particular Indie turned out to be dangerous — he made calculations in his head about where to run should this meeting turn out to be a trap. The funicular train made regular intervals, and the Canadian decided that he could make his way to the train and use it to get to the old bunker just west of the hotel. As it turns out the Indie was researching for a book on safe-cracking, of which the Canadian was an expert.
Soon, the Canadian was speaking obliquely about the tricks of the trade, and revealing things he normally would never speak of. He knew it was dangerous, but the Indie had shown him a Laurel Pass signed with the seal of the Programmer. It meant he was vouched for. He would have to trust him.
That night the Programmer held a party at his small but neatly appointed apartment in the center of town. It was packed with select members of the Thieve’s Guild, and the Canadian spent the evening on the patio drinking San Pellegrino with lime and discussing the job he had pulled back in the early naughts. Surrounded by competitors for the Prize he found it very difficult to not tilt his hand nor reveal his opinion, but the truth was he admired all of the thieves whose heists he had examined.
He thought about asking the Programmer about the hidden message, but this was a tricky situation, and ever evolving. He decided that it was more prudent to look and listen. Words, he knew, always got him in trouble.
The apartment was like an oven cooking cassolette, and everyone was perspiring like they had been raving. Far too many of them were out on the balcony, and he was sure that it could collapse any moment, dropping the entire mob three stories down into the courtyard below. He didn’t drink alcohol, but everyone was and they were getting looser by the minute. He figured that the party would either evolve into an orgy or a shoot out — neither of which he wanted to be involved in. By the time the hot-looking transvestites with impossibly long legs arrived at the party and began prowling around he decided it would be best to call it a night and head back to his hotel. He was simply too tired, and he had been there and done that.
It had been an unbearably hot day and he was drenched in sweat. To make matters worse he was running out of clean clothes. At this rate he wouldn’t have enough shirts for his stay. So, like a good thief, he stayed in for the rest of the night and washed his clothes in the hotel room sink.