Second-Story Man

Lucky Gutierrez stepped through the garden gate and joined the laborers working in the cultivated garden. With the broad rimmed, straw work hat and dark green, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, Lucky's threads matched the other workers in the yard. The Ford F-1 work truck bearing the landscaping logo and I Like Ike bumper stickers was parked in front of the house. Cerezo Rosa played on a small transistor radio. Being Puerto Rican, it was easy for Lucky to blend in with the fully Hispanic crew. He was a few inches over five feet tall and as wiry as Sandy Sadler. No one noticed the extra hand doing landscaping, something Lucky had counted on.

Lucky was a second-story man, though tonight he was going to hit the third floor of the house he was pretending to landscape.   The three-story, beige brick Colonial sat squat and square on several acres of lush, pruned land.   Evergreens and box hedges were clipped neatly around the outskirts of the mansion. Decorative ivy climbed the side walls. Spring blooms lined the curving, white pebble path from the front door to the driveway. Mrs. Gloriously-Nifty’s powder blue BMW 503 Cabriolet gleamed in the sunlight where it was parked in front of the three-car garage. Mr. Gladhandy-Horndog’s red Jaguar XK120 flip-top was gone.

After casing the house for weeks, Lucky had gotten a pretty good grasp on the couple residing in the Colonial.   Mr. Gladhandy-Horndog, as Lucky had named him, worked long hours as a banker in the city. When he was home, he couldn’t keep his hands off his young, knock-out of a wife, almost to the point of impropriety. Mrs. Gloriously-Nifty was a red-haired hot mama who dabbled in fundraising and flower arrangement. She was also never too far from a Manhattan.

Lucky picked his targets from the good list of candidates he'd obtained by visiting the tax assessor’s office. The public record read like a Who’s Who for cat burglars, listing things like property values, taxes owed, number of residents, and whether there were delinquent payments. If a pricey property was in the black, Lucky knew the owners had the kind of dough lying around worth taking. He didn’t do houses with dogs, though. Too much of a hassle. Good thing a lot of rich people tended not to like dog hair on their white furniture.

Without hesitation, acting like he belonged, Lucky fetched the wooden extension ladder from the large garden shed and carried it over to the house. He positioned it near the window he was planning to enter, extending it to its full length. He spent the rest of the afternoon doing yard work on and around the ladder.

Come four o’clock, the workers knocked off for the day. Lucky fell behind the pack, pretending to leave with them, then peeled off like he’d forgotten something with a smack to his forehead. He jogged around to the back of the house again and fiddled with the ladder in case one of the men came looking. No one did, like he’d figured. The crew wouldn’t notice anyone missing because no one was, and Lucky heard the work truck start up and rumble off with Bill Haley & the Comets playing on the radio.

Lucky repositioned the ladder where it wouldn’t be spotted from the windows, placing it closer against the house.   He retreated to the garden shed to wait for dark. It was the most boring part, having to wait, but he’d been doing this for years and had learned that patience made for clean jobs.

Mr. Gladhandy-Horndog eventually returned home, and Lucky knew from watching the house, petting would be had and dinner consumed, not necessarily in that order. Then, Mr. Gladhandy-Horndog would do some work in his office while Mrs. Gloriously-Nifty lounged in a bubble bath. Eventually, both would end up in bed for a round of horizontal exercise before the couple tidied up and went to sleep.

It was nearing two in the morning before Lucky emerged from the garden shed. He’d left the hat behind, and nimbly climbed the ladder to the third storey of the house. A slimjim opened the lock, and Lucky pushed up the window sash. This house had one of those home alarms on some of the doors and windows on the lower floors, which was why Lucky had chosen this way to ingress.

With practiced ease, Lucky padded silently through the empty third floor guest room, to the hall, and down the stairs to the second and then the first floor. He pulled a folded cloth bag from his pocket, which had a draw tie.   He wasn’t interested in the jewelry that would be kept in the bedroom with the sleeping couple. He’d come for the cash in the safe, which he had the combination for after all his preparation using binoculars.

Lucky was in an out of the safe in the office, had the handle and knob wiped down with a handkerchief, and was back up the stairs to the third floor within ten minutes. He closed the window before descending the ladder. He didn’t bother to collapse the ladder by the wall, instead carefully tipping it down until it lay on the ground. Then he unhooked the latches and slowly and quietly maneuvered it closed. The ladder was then returned to the garden shed, Lucky picked up his hat, and off he went through the garden gate, an easy thousand bucks richer.

He wondered how much dough he’d get on his next score.