Kansas City Nights
Daniel 'Zephyr" Thorne
Thief. Wheel Man. Your best friend, if it suits him.
Fuck Chicago. Or more accurately, fuck the man who fucks with Chicago. The man in this case would be Daniel “Zephyr” Thorne (me) and Chicago in this case would be Alberto “Big Al” Gionnini, the unelected “mayor” of the city. Gionnini doesn’t concern himself with the day to day politics bullshit, he runs the real Chicago. The mob Chicago.
Cutting your teeth as a second story man in the Windy City in the late 90’s was a fairly lucrative business. Jewels are my specialty, but the art business was paying too well at that time to ignore. Internet millionaires with more coin than sense made for some easy targets, and I was only too willing to show them the consequences of buying a Chagall before installing the alarm system.
That was when one of Gionnini’s goons came calling. In certain circles I had developed a reputation as a guy who could get the ungettable. The big guy had a friend who had come into some rare books, and Al’s appetite for antiquities being what it was, he wanted them for his very own. Problem was this guy knew all of Al’s boys, so to do the job right he had to hire an independent contractor. That’s where I came in.
I had to get close to this guy to get the lay of the land. Learn his patterns. Time his movements. Get close enough to make it clean, but not so close that he’d suspect me. We made the introduction through a friend of a friend. Someone that could vouch for me but wouldn’t be on the hook if things went south. The mark was in the market for a new driver and I was a former wheelman looking to go straight. Having experience as a getaway driver (and car booster) this was easy to pull off, but I digress. After a week I had all the information I needed.
Breaking into the house was easy enough. Hell, with a guy like me they may as well not lock the door. But getting in and out had never been the problem. Taking only what I came for has always been the bigger issue. Al gave me strict instructions to take the books and nothing else. That was the plan, at least until I saw the stones. Gems have always been a weakness of mine (rubies especially), and when I saw the ring I couldn’t resist.
How was I supposed to know it was a family heirloom? When Al heard that I took more than he had hired me to get, it wasn’t long before he sent his boys to come get me. Two hours later I was tied up in a sack headed to the bottom of Lake Michigan. These thugs were in a hurry, so they didn’t tie the ropes tight enough to hold me. Not that I couldn’t have undid them anyway when properly motivated, which I was, considering my impending asphyxiation.
I was never a fan of water to begin with. Swimming pools were okay and ponds were manageable, but larger bodies have always been a problem. Something that uncontrollable just gives me the creeps. Until that near death experience I was able to tolerate being so close the lake, but afterwards I had to get out. Well, that and the mob thinking I was dead seemed like pretty good reasons to leave Chicago. The coasts were out right off the top, so I headed inland. St. Louis would be too high profile. For me to ply my trade I needed somewhere a bit more subtle. Other than the fucking river, KC was ideal.
I had some funds saved up from my previous jobs, so getting set up with a new apartment was easy. And since I’m a bit of a car guy, a Corvette was also on my shopping list. Being presumed dead is a useful thing, especially when the mob would be interested in your whereabouts. But just in case they ever discovered I escaped, I always pack a little surprise for them. As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your 9mm closer. Mine is my American Express card. I never leave home without it.
Hooking up with Frank Lagrange was just a matter of time. Me a rising star on the second story circuit, he the best fence in the Midwest. He’d give me the targets that had the ripest low hanging fruit, and I’d procure the goods. Little did I know that my talents had attracted some unexpected attention. Little did I know how deep the rabbit hole would go.
Frank gave me the information for my latest mark. Her name, for those who know her in the societal elite of KC, is Catherine Ibbins, but I would come to call her Eclipse. At least that’s the name I feel fits her best, since she took all the sunlight out of my world.
Eclipse heard from her friends that there was a string of robberies in town. This thief took only the best, and never left a trace. Her friends didn’t know that Eclipse, being a connoisseur of fine art, would occasionally buy some hard to get items. The guy who would broker these deals was Frank. She knew that anyone pulling off these kinds of jobs would have Frank’s attention, if not his blessing. One phone call later she had arranged an introduction.
Not that I was privy to any of this. For me, it was just another job. I was to go in and steal a Böcklin off the wall (ironically, the painting in question was his “Isle of the Dead”). After ingratiating myself into her social circle (I should have known it was a little too easy, even for me) I made my move on the painting.
Eclipse, of course, was waiting for me. I never saw it coming, although considering she was a vampire, how could I? She always gets what she wants, and what she wanted was me. She collects vampires and ghouls in the same way that I collect sparkly things. Fortunately, she hasn’t gotten bored with me (yet), like she has with all the others, but just like when I decide to steal something, I know it’s only a matter of time. Until then I’ll keep learning all she can teach me so that, unlike the others, when I’m out on my own I’ll be ready.
As for Frank, I’ve made my peace with him. He still keeps me on the payroll and I keep stealing for him. Business is business and business is good. In the meantime I’ll keep biding my time, trying to squeeze some meaning out of this new existence. Not that I found much meaning in my life “before”, but at least it helps to pass the time.