I loved the way she said “balloon.” She said it as if she were blowing bubbles…
She was strawberry blonde and had the greenest eyes I had ever seen. There was something about the way she puckered up her lips when she asked for a balloon that night at the carnival that made her look sexy as hell.
Of course, it should be obvious that I was in love with her. Who else says dumb shit like how much they love the way someone says a word except when they are under the influence of hormones mixed with hope? Yes, it’s true. Maureen – that was her name – could glance at me from across a room and have me shifting in my chair and needing to put my jacket in my lap. I’m not proud of it, particularly since she turned out to be such a con artist. Who would have ever thought that a girl with the faintest hint of freckles sprinkled over her face could turn out to be such a thief? No, she conned me on sight and it is embarrassing to admit. Of course, I have had my revenge, so that makes everything tolerable to think about at this point.
What did she do and what did I do as a result? Good question. You see, I manage an art gallery and turns out she was a professional art thief. Again, who would have ever thought this girl of 23 could have developed such an unsavory way of making money? Turns out she came by it naturally. Her dad had taught her everything she knew. But remember, I didn’t have a clue and so I acted like a total schmuck, thinking, “Aw, this is the one.”
That is until that Tuesday when she asked me a peculiar question: “How old do you plan to be before you actually do something interesting?”
Needless to say, this put me on the defensive. I was thirteen years older than she was at that point – 36 – and I prided myself on being fairly cultured and well-traveled. My response: “Who’s talking? What are you, 23 going on 16? What have you ever done?”
Well, she had counted on that response, I can see now in retrospect. She just smiled and said, “Let’s just say I know how to make a quick 200,000 dollars and I’m guessing by the looks of you that you don’t.”
I could kick myself now I was such a patsy. I pushed my chin up in the air and said, “Oh, tell me how.” Twenty minutes later, I was participating in an art theft of some of the best art in the gallery. Good fucking grief, it’s embarrassing to admit what an easy mark I was. But, oh yeah, you are wondering how I got her back.
Well, she headed off with the art and I waited to call the police until the next day like she told me to do so she had time to get it stowed away. We were supposed to meet up later that week and figure out our next steps, but, you guessed it, there was no meeting because she had the art and why did she need me? I was totally pissed for a long time – like a year and a half – but finally gathered up the remains of my self-esteem and moved on with my life. I hadn’t been implicated since the gallery owner vouched for me and my “unshakable integrity,” and it was obvious to the police, I think, that I was too stupid and unimaginative to come up with any sort of money-making scheme that involved breaking the law.
Then I saw her by pure accident at a movie. Yea, it was a matinée and I had the day off and I was bummed as usual so I thought I’d take in a flick downtown at a theater that specializes in classics. It was Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak and I was glad to be there since it was August and hot and the theater was cool and had fresh buttered popcorn. I was sitting there by myself, flicking popcorn in my mouth, one kernel at a time, when I saw her three rows up and two seats over on my right. I stared hard to make sure it was really her and it was. I could tell by the curve of her chin and the angle of her face since we all know that I had been that obsessed with her to have memorized such details. But this time, I wasn’t fascinated, I was 100% annoyed and I managed to sink down in my seat and call the detective who had given me his card after everything had happened.
Ten minutes later, the police were there and she was walking away in handcuffs. She glared at me with those green eyes and called out, “He was an accomplice,” but the police didn’t even turn to look at me, just grabbed her upper arm and escorted her to the patrol car for the trip downtown. Turns out she had a rap sheet long enough to circle the block. She is now upstate in the women’s prison and I am off to Europe to buy art and have some fun, thanks to a grateful collector whose work was recovered after the heist.
Maureen wanted to know when my life was going to get interesting. I think it’s fair to say right now. I plan to travel, see a lot of art, and stay as far away from upstate New York as I can for as long as she’s there. Otherwise, I might fall victim again to those sweet lips of hers and start taking her cookies on visiting days. I’m not saying I did that – okay, once – but just long enough to get a quick dose of who she really is.
After all, on the visit she leaned close and whispered, “I’ve got an idea.” I stood up and told the guard I was ready to leave.
I’m done with her ideas. Now I’ve got plenty of my own.