Legal Theft Project: Problems, Perception, and Plausible Deniability

Her problems faded out of sight in the rear-view mirror and she relished the roar of the highway wind. Two bags in the trunk, purse on the passenger seat, and a cola in the cup holder and she was set for hours. When the last of Sin City’s towers vanished in the distance, she let out a long breath and relaxed into her seat. Someone might follow her, but she was back in her element, one she hadn’t known she’d missed. Sun baking her sleek red car, alternate identities stashed in the driver’s side door, and miles and miles of open road in front of her.

Hours later she pulled off the highway to fill up her tank and her stomach. Shouldering her purse, she headed over to the convenience mart next to the pumps. Picking up a handful of granola bars, some fruit, and her favorite candy bar, she scoped for potential problems. Nothing in particular, but when she dug through her purse for loose change, the bracelet she’d left in her luggage gleamed at the bottom of her bag. She looked at it for a moment, certain she wouldn’t have put such a valuable piece in her purse. It would be safer in her luggage. Oh well. She’d probably forgotten.

It wasn’t until it started showing up in her view for the next three days. No matter where she’d left it before. That she started to think it might be odd. But that couldn’t be it. Finally, she just started wearing it. At least that way it couldn’t sneak up on her. It wasn’t like it was a problem.

I have been stolen from. Look for other the first line in other people’s purses, I mean pieces.


Legal Theft Project: Take that Bet

“You won’t be leaving this town alive.” He leaned over her car door, beer and menace on his breath. Lore smiled softly at him and brought up the mace in her right hand. Right in his eyes. Point blank. She turned the key, the engine revved and he was left, swearing, in her tail lights. His cronies were piling in cars and speeding after her. Two wild spurts of gun fires whistled up the street behind her. One dinged the paint. She shifted into a higher gear and made a beeline for the highway. Three quarter tank of gas and everything she owned in the world heaped in the trunk next to five and a half thousand dollars. Some men couldn’t take losing. She sped through a red light and cursed the fact that bullets were cheap as three more skidded over the back end of her red convertible.

Shifting again, she dodged three civilians in pokey sedans. Thankfully none of them swerved into her or her pursuers. The irritated gamblers weren’t driving terribly well. Her smile took on a razor edge as she flew up the freeway on-ramp. If she could avoid getting shot  for the next five miles she would lose them for good on the coastal highway. No way they would take those curves at her speeds.

She dropped into fifth gear and said a brief prayer of encouragement to her car. A few more shots trailed after her, but she barely heard them. The world became wind, road, and reflexes. Spirit soaring, she raced over the pavement. One of her pursuers dropped behind and fell out of the chase. Car repairs and surgery cost far more than what she had in the trunk. She wasn’t surprised the other car continued. Pride had a high value, for all you couldn’t sell it.

A white sedan swerved erratically and she swore. Managing not to get nicked, she made it by, but she lost ground. The curves of the highway were coming up fast and she started to hear the distant sound of sirens. She had to lose them, now. Curve after curve, she spun her complaining car down the curving coastal highway.

The squeal of tires and she risked a glance in the rear view. Her pursuer had finally messed up. She let out a long breath, glad he had spun out into the hillside instead of tumbling off the cliffs.

She let herself gradually decelerate and cruised along. She’d need to get gas, and then keep going. Change highways. Dip into small towns. She had enough to go on for a while. She turned on the radio, flipped to a pop station and sang along to whatever top hit came up. Alive, a couple thousand richer, a good chase behind her. Some days, it was all she wanted out of life.

Robbed that machete wielding rogue again. Click the link to see who else may not be leaving a town alive.

Legal Theft Project: Redecorating

She ripped down the curtain disguising the featureless bulkhead. It fluttered gracefully to the floor before she grabbed it and tore it into shreds. Decorative pillows were thrown off the bed and the sheets were militarily straightened. She paused looking at the ruined fabric. This wouldn’t do. She left and returned hauling a box and a large trash bag. She stuffed the fabric into the bag and put the pillows into the box. The lamp was thrown in the trash bag. It made a satisfying crunch when it landed. The handful of trinkets was tossed into the box. The more delicate ones actually getting placed instead of thrown. The rug she picked up and methodically tore into strips before tossing the ribbons into the trash. Posters and prints were ripped and trashed. The result was a smooth grey capsule of a room. All individuality washed out as if it had never been. Just the curved alien lines of a ship that was not her home. No matter what she’d done. No matter what she changed. This wasn’t her place. She’d been in too many places like it.

She sank onto the bunk and wrapped her arms around her knees as the similarity to the facility sank in. When the hot tears came she didn’t fight them, she lowered her head to the top of her knees and let herself weep. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.

Hours later, she took out the trash bag. When she returned, she packed up the box, grabbed her running bag, and walked out of the room. She couldn’t be done with the place. She needed the resources and the safety. But it was more than time to move out.

I stole an unsettling room from a machete wielding diplomat. Keep an eye out for other thefts.

Legal Theft Project: Fight and Flight

There were worse people to have at your back. Considering how much they didn’t like each other, she expected it was a bit of a revelation to both of them. Cole hit one of their opponents and got them a little breathing room. Enough for her take stock of their situation. They’d been herded to the top platform of the arena. The floor was a long way down, assuming you didn’t hit any of the metal spikes, crossbars, or other platforms if you fell. Cole favored his left leg and was breathing hard. They’d both taken a few hits. Their opponents, she didn’t know what to call the six-limbed mantis like aliens, had taken a few, but their exoskeletons seemed to be up to it.

Breathing room gone. The years of training took over. She was glad they both had military tactics. It wouldn’t surprise her if she and Cole had shared a trainer or two. Even if his style was nothing like hers. It didn’t take too many blows and blocks for Lore to realize Cole was hurt worse than he let her see. She dodged and took two steps back. The calculated training pointed out that she was holding back, not using her abilities. It could get them both killed. But she wasn’t about to let Cole see what she could do. He had enough hints already.

But it wouldn’t matter if they both died.

She could let him die. It would solve her problem. More probably. And rage boiled up inside of her. No. She wasn’t going to be that person. She’d been made into a killer. A soldier. Someone’s tool, and she was done. So she knew what she had to do.

She tossed Cole a shield and started edging toward the back of the platform. The footing got tricky as the floor wasn’t more than a metal lattice on cross beams. She lunged at her opponent and missed, damaging the mesh. She made three more strikes on the floor, then kicked her opponent down. The thing shrieked and one of its legs plunged through the weakened floor. She lunged in for a headshot. She’d forgotten the other arms. And twin punches sent her flying back. Too far back. Cole screamed in denial.

She scrabbled for purchase but couldn’t stop herself from flying off the edge. It took all of her concentration to control her fall and she still hit half the obstacles on the way down. But she picked herself up once she’d hit. She’d hurt her left arm. Probably broken some ribs. Pulled more muscles than she could count. But she was still standing.

She couldn’t tell what was going on up top. But she knew what Cole would think happened to her. It was a terrible thing to let him believe.

She took stock of where she was. Across the field from her, there was an access vent. A way out. She looked up toward the top of the arena. A good person would go back. A good person would let her erstwhile partner know she wasn’t dead.

Lore made her way to the access vent and busted it open. She didn’t look back as she left the arena, but inside, she felt cold.

I stole a tough decision from Bek this week. I think it may be more than one…. I know at least one other thief stole one

Legal Theft Project: The Right Fit

They gave her a suite of rooms, all her own, large, elegantly furnished, and with a guard stationed outside the door. She pinched herself. She removed her jacket, but she couldn’t bear to mar the softly elegant furniture with her battered denim so she draped it over her arm. Her free hand ran across the back of the divan and she moved past an antique side table to stand in front of the enormous four poster bed. She could fit four sleeping bags on there without overlapping them at all. This space could hold four of the apartments and flats she’d lived in for the last four years. She sank down to remove her boots and got a good look at the grungy state of the laces and the bits of caked on dirt. Hurt, she went to the master bath to take them off. Carpet being hard to clean.

She felt more at home among the vanity, glass walled shower, and mirrors than she had in the open room. Bathrooms were private. She’d been sharing space for so long that the open echo of the bedroom was growing louder by the moment. She set her shoes under a bench. The shower had more than one head. Every surface sparkled with clean. Instantly her scalp started itching and she felt the dirt of every campsite, the grease of every car, and the residue of who knew how many fights on her skin. She’d stripped down to her underwear before she panicked.

It was a trap. It had to be a trap. She examined the thin blue robe for crafted spell work before putting it on and thoroughly searching her quarters. The knock at her door nearly sent her to the ceiling and she let the tingle of power rise to the surface, ready to defend if needed.

The guard opened the door and a slim woman walked through the door. “Miss Duke?” Slightly out of breath and eyes filled with the desperate hope that the woman in front of her was what… sane? Reasonable? Not going to kill her?

“Yes.” She was pleased that her own nerves didn’t show in her voice.

“You’re companions. I’m afraid. We do in fact want this to go well-“

Oh lord if she thought these rooms, rooms she would have given an arm and a leg for when she was younger, freaked her out, her friends were going to be having fits.

“My friends have issues with their rooms, I take it.”

The relief that comes from having something inarticulable be understood sounded in her voice, “One objects to the guard, the other one just refused to go in until the rest of your party arrived and both are demanding to see you. Please, you have to understand if anything happens to you…”

She couldn’t hide her wince. Even with progress some things didn’t change. “Okay.” She held up a hand. “Firstly, for the good of everyone, my party and I will need adjoining rooms, preferably separate bedrooms, but we can share a bath and a common space. Secondly, the guards are not to come in unless explicitly invited. Yes, we know that they are for our own protection, but we’ve been looking out for ourselves long enough to not view them as a courtesy. Thirdly, there hasn’t been a convocation in our lifetimes that we have actually attended so know that we may not mean to offend, but probably will anyway. Got it.”

The woman nodded, straightening the fit of her uniform jacket so that her symbol and her parent’s sat properly over her heart.

“Right. Let me gather up my clothes and we can go reassure my friends.” When the other woman nodded, she walked to the bathroom and took a last look around. They were everything her teenaged heart had dreamed of and more. It no longer sat against her skin smoothly, but snagged on the rough edges and clearer knowledge she had of herself now. She still appreciated fine things. Would enjoy getting to wear silk to dinner and washing in gloriously heated water. But the elegant echoing apartments – well, she couldn’t quite fill them up. And there were better places to be.

I filched the first line of this piece from ApprenticeNeverMaster. Take a look at the whole ring of thievery to see what people did to their rooms.

Legal Theft Project: Family and Fortune

Visiting her father was the only time she dressed down for a public event. Minimal make-up. Doing her best to wear casual forgettable clothes, jeans that were not skin tight, presentable, but older screen printed tee, flats – it felt a little unnatural like she was slipping into some unfamiliar person’s skin and maybe she was. The person Lore pretended to be on most days would not be caught dead in this outfit, but she owned it. Then again the person Lore really was didn’t like it either. Maybe she just didn’t like what it represented, what this particular outfit meant, but at the same time, she wouldn’t be getting rid of it. She quashed the urge to add a baseball cap and sunglasses, that was cliche and pathetic. Keys dangling from her finger tips, she made her way out to her dark cherry red coup with pearl racing stripes darting delicately down the sides. She buckled in, turned the country station up full blast, and sang along with Kelly Clarkson as she sped down the interstate towards the Gillian Kent Penitentiary.

Having left her little gem of a car in the parking lot, she made her way through the checkpoints to the visitor center being perfectly polite and just slightly cool to the wardens. They could look all they wanted, but she wasn’t here to charm anyone. The man she’d come to visit had enough charm for anyone and everyone. Warden Kilbourne passed her in, recognizing her from her previous visits, and she knew he’d keep the less familiar away from her. She was glad to know that there was a solidly good man on the staff who may not like her father, as he was slippery  as an eel and twice as charming, but Kilbourne knew Lorelai didn’t have to come – was uncomfortable coming, and did so anyway, so he’d quietly distract anyone who looked to give her trouble. His kids were currently obsessed with pirates so she’d brought down some costume jewelry and fake gems and gold in a little treasure chest.

“Ms. Duke.” Kilbourne said as he processed her purse. “Pleasure to see you again.”

“Kilbourne,” she said with a soft smile, the hints of her southern accent colored her voice, “How are your kids?”

He smiled and shook his head. “Still driving their mother and I up the wall about learning how to sail and talking back to teachers. Thanks for asking, Ms. Duke.”

“Well, it isn’t a ship, but I thought they might like this. I couldn’t resist.” She raised a small plastic treasure chest onto the security belt. At Kilbourne’s slightly disapproving look she continued. “The gift receipt is in the bag, and it cost me less than ten dollars. I solemnly swear I am not trying to bribe a warden and I will comply with all required security checks and measures. But it’s been four years, Kilbourne, I think we count as friends. And I like your kids, for all I’ve never met them.”

A smile tugged at the corners of Kilbourne’s mouth. “They’ll get a kick out of it.” He tucked the chest away behind the desk after checking to make sure it contained exactly what she said it did. “You’re ready to go through, Ms. Duke.”

“Thanks Kilbourne.” She walked confidently into the visitor’s center, sat at her usual table, and waited for them to bring out her father. Well, they said prison was supposed to age you, and as always, her father was the exception to the rule. He seemed ignorant of the cuffs on his wrists, the nasty shade of prison orange he was wearing, and the presence of the guard behind his shoulder as anything more than a good buddy who happened to follow him around. Her dad could, and did, make friends everywhere. In fact, with a lack of women’s boyfriends or husbands to piss off, he was probably doing better than he had outside of prison in that regard.

“How’s my princess?”

She couldn’t help it, she smiled. “Kicking royal ass in national poker tournaments. How’s the king doing?”

“Oh same old same old,” he said as they sat down. “What’s new in the world of competitive poker?”

And Lore took out the magazine spread and a couple of the photographs that she’d found floating around the internet and talked to her dad about poker, social currents, celebrities, and men. No, no one was good enough for her yet. Yes, she did date that loser from Monte Carlo, but only to convince him to sell her his car. She flattered her dad, yes he was looking good. No, she didn’t see any new scars. She thought the silver at his temples made him look rakish.

“How’s your brother? Been a couple months since he came down.”

“I don’t know. We haven’t talked in awhile what with the travel and the inconsistent cell reception.”

He chuckled. Inconsistent cell reception meant laying low after trouble. Which was a fairly standard answer for most of Leon’s life. But still. “You should call your brother. It’s sad when I know more about my wandering kids than they do about each other.”

“You’re our safe drop, dad. Now tell me if the food has gotten any better or have you actually incited the threatened food fight?”

Dad was all funny stories and humor. She’d listened, asked him what he’d like in his next care package, and told him about the last club she’d liked before mentioning the harder information. “I’m going to head out to Las Vegas. Been thinking about it for awhile and as I’m angling for the international tournament I want to get into some new neighborhoods. See how the city of lights suits me.”

“They’ll suit you right down to the ground, baby girl. You make me proud.”

“Thanks Dad. It does mean I won’t be in driving distance for a bit. Might be a year or so before I stop back in.”

“You follow what stars you need to follow. Send me updates as often as you can. And call your brother.”

“Will do. Love you, Dad.”

“Love you, Lorelai.”

It was only when she was walking back to her car, that she let herself feel the slight sadness and let down. He’d never burden his princess with any of his problems or let her know about any of his schemes. He’d be bright and fun and charming. He loved her. She knew he did, in part because he wouldn’t burden her. But oh how it hurt that he’d only ask her brother for contraband or tell him about cons gone wrong or right inside.

All the same, she knew that her visits entertained and brought a wonderful taste of the wild wild world of gambling. He’d tell stories about his gorgeous princess breaking hearts and winning fortunes at the poker tables and ride that story into yet more friends and contacts. Sometimes she wondered if trouble was going to come looking for her once it finished serving time and mention her dad’s stories as the reason why, but she didn’t think it was likely. People liked her dad and so people would leave his little girl alone.

She swung into her car and dropped the top. She turned on popular radio and headed back out onto the highway. By the time the wind and drive got done with her, the hurt would have faded to the background and she could remember her irrepressible dad organizing prison menu changes with a fond smile. You know what. She could always have her things sent from the hotel to wherever she ended up in Vegas. They had services for that. When the interchange came up, she turned west toward the city of gamblers. Why wait?

The wonderful ring of thieves robbed me again. I need to attach my first lines more securely.

Legal Theft Project: Sun Fall

The rage surging across her skin was probably making her stupid, funny how she didn’t care. She was glad Jo was on watch. Jo would have struck someone by now. Lara took a step forward into the watery sunlight streaming in from the council room’s skylight. She threw her hand out and raked it to the side gesturing to the whole room. “We’ve lost too many, to walk away. Sisters, brothers, friends – and now you ask us to run? We are not losing our-”

Her father cut her off with a cold word. “Yes. We’re losing.”

“We will if we-”


Lara bit her lip to keep from screaming and took comfort in Callen’s quiet presence a step back and to her left. Across from her, her father continued. “We’re losing and if we don’t want to lose everything, the three of you are going to run. And hide. And stay hidden. No last ill considered attempts to avenge your losses on the enemy before you die-”

Lara turned to the man on her father’s left. “What did you tell him Azazael? Did you see us dead? Are you running scared?”

“LARA.” Her father glowered at her. Callen stirred to put a hand on her shoulder. Azazael lowered the cowl of his white robes and looked at Lara. “You’re the ones with the best chance.”

Even through her anger, Lara could see how weary the seer was. They were all weary. Weary was the inevitable side effect of fighting for your life for fifteen years. Weary meant you weren’t dead. Azazael stepped back and Lara’s father ran a hand over his face. Lara felt cold inside, her father looked… lost.

“Those of us here.” He gestured to the council members standing back from the confrontation, all of them powerful, all of them old. “We have no choice but to fight. It’s in our blood and we are too old to fight fate for more free will. But you three. You aren’t restricted. You’re still young enough in power to make your own choices. Azazael can’t see his own future, but he knows the three of you have a good chance of making it out. So yes, we are asking you to run from this battle. We are asking you to carry the entire weight of this war on your shoulders for years. We are asking you to watch us die. And then carry on living. Then one day, to start the fight again. And believe me, I would not ask this of you if I had any other choice.”

Lara drew closer to Callen. Silence hang heavy at her father’s pronouncement. It was the first time she’d heard him admit that they could not come back from this. That in this case, the dark seemed victorious.

“You let them win?” she asked. “Let them overturn everything? THEM?”

A long moment passed before Azazael spoke. “No. We’re asking you to let them think they have.” Azazael was not much older than her, but right now he looked ancient. “Dark is going to rise victorious, but as long as sparks of light exist, there is hope that the dark will not reign forever. The war is not over, even if it looks it, as long as you three live.”

Lara met Azazael’s eyes and she knew they had her. She and her friends would run.

“I’ll find Jo,” Callen said. He waited for her nod before leaving. Lara waited for his footsteps to fade and for the council members to leave the room before throwing herself at her father. He gathered her close and they embraced as the sun danced patterns across the floor. Lara cried hot tears and was mildly surprised that her father did as well. “You better make them pay.”

“You know I will baby girl.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

Lara stepped back from her father and did her best to commit his face to memory. She hugged him again. Then turned and left the council room as the sun faded from the sky. Time to run.

The first line of this piece was stolen from Kid over at TheGateintheWood. Check out the merry thieving band for more fiction.

Legal Theft Project: Rescue

The clock chimed midnight and Lore stepped into familiar shadows. The lines outside the clubs didn’t give her a second glance as she walked by in her black tank and jeans. She was glad. It wasn’t the crush of the dance floor she wanted tonight. A street down, she slid into the comfortable noise of a friendly bar. Ordering a beer, she glanced at the patrons, assessing. A dark haired man, a cop, raised his glass. “To Caleb Skyll, Congratulations on beating Carter to Detective.”

Caleb flushed a little at the bar wide announcement. He handled the ribbing and camaraderie, but started to look a little uncomfortable when the guys started dredging up the embarrassing stories. She chuckled a little at his well meaning friends and checked her texts. Her brother, asking where she was. She sent him the street and the bar name. He’d take his time, but if he was ready to go home this early, she’d take it as a good sign. She slipped her phone away.

“This seat taken?” someone asked. She looked up. Detective Skyll wore a lopsided smile as he gestured at the seat next to her.

“Not yet,” she said and took a long sip of her beer.

As he sat down he breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”

“Thank you?” She tilted her head with a slight laugh. “For what?”

“For providing me a way out of an uncomfortable situation. They’re great guys, and they mean well-”

“But they’ve had a little to drink and don’t mind embarrassing you.” She finished for him. “In that case, congratulations on your escape and your badge, Detective.”

He ran a nervous hand through his hair. “ Thanks. It’s Caleb, though I guess you heard that already.”

Lore tucked her tongue into her cheek. “Well, Detective Skyll did have a nice ring to it. I’m Lore.”

“Nice to meet you Lore. You ever been here before?”

The way he said it killed the remaining doubts Lorelai had about him. He wasn’t looking to take her home, he was just glad to be talking to her and to have a graceful exit from his own party. Polite, endearing, and with the shoulders of a football player. Yeah, she’d had much worse nights. “This bar, no, but I’ll probably be back if its always this friendly.”

“Its a good place, especially if you don’t mind the occasional table of cops.”

“I don’t mind cops,” she said as the door opened and her brother darted in. He pulled up short when he saw she had company and they engaged in the quick exchange of glances that told him, yes he should come over, did she know that was a cop, yes she did, and everything was fine. Caleb followed her glance as Leon strolled up.

“Caleb, this is my brother Leon.”

“Nice to meet you,” Caleb said and held out his hand.

Leon clasped it. “Nice to meet you too. Sorry if I’m interrupting…”

“You’re not interrupting, your sister was just saving me from embarrassment.” Caleb smiled and stood.

Lore rose as well. “Anytime, Detective. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

“I’d like that. Have a good evening.”

Lore took her brother’s elbow and steered him out of the bar as Caleb’s friends greeted him with friendly ribbing. She was not going to hear the end of this.


Thievery! Gwen over at ApprenticeNeverMaster stole the first line of this piece to write about time travelling madness.