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Laptop Larceny

By J.B. Cornelius

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Curtis went to Walmart to buy valve-stem caps for his tires. On impulse, he also grabbed a pack of chewing gum at the check-out counter. The total purchase price was three dollars and nineteen cents. Curtis rarely carried cash anymore, so he just used his debit card. On his way out of the sliding-glass doors, some businessman with a briefcase bumped into him and then apologized. In the parking lot, a vagrant asked him for spare change.

On his drive home, Curtis decided to stop by the bank to pay a bill. It was Friday afternoon, and both lanes of the drive-through were stacked several cars deep. Curtis parked his truck and ambled into the lobby. Being payday, all the walk-up aisles were crowded as well. Some young lady with a crying toddler asked Curtis to hold her shopping bag while she lifted the child into her arms. An old rancher, in a crumpled straw Stetson, made a random comment about the weather, just over Curtis’s left shoulder.

When Curtis finally reached the front of the line, he handed the teller his withdrawal slip and forced a smile. The cashier’s nametag said: “Terry.” Curtis thought that sounded somewhat ambiguous. Curtis was also having trouble identifying the young clerk’s gender. The attendant had a ponytail and a complexion blander than hummus. From the neck down was the same pastel dress shirt and patterned necktie that every other bank employee wore.

“How may I help you today?” The representative seemed harried but polite.

“Fifties please.” The amount was only for a couple hundred bucks. Curtis used to scoff at people who put everything on plastic, but even he was no longer a fan of folding money. This particular transaction was for a boat payment to his neighbor though, and it had to be in cash.

The non-binary bank teller made a few keystrokes on the computer facing away from Curtis. Then he or she arched his or her finely plucked eyebrows, leaned across the counter into Curtis’s personal space, and whispered, “I’m sorry, but there seems to insufficient funds available at this time.”

“That’s impossible.” Curtis stated flatly. It was not even his primary checking account. He only kept that one open for fun-money to hide discretionary income from his ex-wife. It had about five grand it.

“Oh, wait,” continued the androgynous attendant, looking both directions, like he or she wished this was somebody else’s problem. “Actually, there is still activity on it right now in real time.” The attendant turned the monitor toward Curtis. He could see his balance dropping by two hundred dollars every five seconds. When it ultimately reached a zero balance, a red bar appeared signaling: “Potential Fraud Alert.”

 

***

           

Lonny sat poolside at the Hilton hotel in an undisclosed city, eating a ribeye sandwich and sipping Prosecco. He was shirtless, wearing only designer swim trunks and sunglasses, with a thick gold serpentine chain around his neck and a full-carat pinky ring. When the patio waitress came by to clear his plate, Lonny ordered another bottle and lit a Dominican cigar. Then he tipped her two twenty-dollar bills.

Lonny propped his tablet device against the umbrella pole in the middle of the table and connected to the complimentary Wi-Fi. He had the whole courtyard area to himself, except for some teens tossing a beachball in the shallow end. It was just a typical day at work. Lonny had learned almost everything he knew about being a professional thief while he was in prison. He also earned an advanced certificate in computer programming when he was locked up the second time. The rest, he just perfected on his own over the years.

At age twenty-two, Lonny was first sent to the penitentiary for washing checks. This was before most people even owned a personal computer, and a decade prior to the internet. He was pulled over randomly by local police one night with a backseat full of other people’s mail. Lonny was convicted of forgery but not fraud. It was still a felony, but at least it wasn’t federal. Lonny was sentenced to eighteen months, but he only served nine. That was long enough to learn a thing or two.

A bird landed on the ground nearby and began pecking at the crumbs left from Lonny’s lunch. An attractive woman in a one-piece and a big floppy hat strolled from the lobby and sat on one of the chaise-lounge chairs, spraying her whole body with sunscreen. Lonny stretched and yawned.

When he got out the first time, Lonny began driving around to trash dumpsters behind law firms and doctors’ offices. He would sift through the personal records of their clients and apply for credit cards in their names. Lonny would make a few pricey purchases at major retail outlets. Then he would sell the items at pawn shops quickly before they could be reported as stolen. Lonny was eventually caught on video, however, trying to hock a flat-screen television the size of a bay window.

He received a five year stretch for that one. With good behavior, he was out again in three. By then, someone had already created bitcoins, and online gambling, and artificial intelligence. The potential for confidence scams was limitless. However, it required a complete change in lifestyle.

Lonny now lived entirely on the run. He never stayed in one place more than a week, and he was always looking over his shoulder. Lonny already had two strikes against him. The risk and excitement he once craved, at some point became just another sentence instead. The afternoon sun was descending, and a long rectangular shadow crept slowly across the swimming pool. Lonny puffed on his imported robusto and finished the sparkling wine alone.

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