by Jerry A. Sierra
We’re more like the crew in The Usual Suspects
The day before the job, at 3 a.m., I walk down to scout the area. It’s surprising how much light the street lamps provide, and how little they brighten parts of the sidewalk, especially if there are trees around. I can’t recall the last time I walked alone on a dark street this late at night, or why, but I’m exhilarated.
Graffiti writers on the corner of 15th at Valencia, white-spraying on a blood-red wall, seem too young to be out at this time unsupervised. They run away when they see me approach; dark pants, dark jacket, black gloves and a monopod in my right hand that looks like a small bat.
Standing in front of Sultry Sins I see the job in my mind step by step, point by point. I’m concerned that some of the boards may be damaged during removal. I study every possible angle that might notice us… like James Caan in Thief… he wouldn’t be afraid of the night.
With the mural’s face behind me, I study the buildings across the street, surprised to find various lights on, though no activities that I can notice. Probably somebody watching TV or drinking themselves silly. I kick a large recycle bin several times but nobody seems to approach any of the windows to investigate. Maybe they can’t even hear it.
After a while I start to walk back; occasional traffic towards Market Street, no cops, no neighbors, all the lights are off in the apartment next door to our prize.
It’s a good plan and we are a good crew. No weak links, no femme fatale-schemers to steal from us honest thieves like in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, no loose-cannon thrill seeker like in The Town. We’re more like the crew in The Usual Suspects.
At this point I can’t tell if Hector’s present to me is the mural or the crime.
“For me, the action is the juice…”
The next day at work, during a meeting, I’m a little sleepy from the nocturnal recon, and I can’t concentrate on the meaningless crap I’m actually paid to do. Instead I appreciate the genius of our plan… if we used the front door to bring in the panels, the truck would be parked under a street light for at least five minutes… but using the back area to store the loot (I love calling it “the loot”) and bypassing the squeaky back stairs, like that little bit of cinnamon that puts the accent mark on a good recipe, is pure genius. And I’m not just saying it because it’s my main contribution.
Being a criminal-in-progress is invigorating. I’m notorious… dangerous… quite possibly the most dangerous man in the whole building at this moment.
On the way back to my cubicle this big ox analyst cuts me off as I try to exit the elevator, but I don’t yield. I stare the fraker down until he backs off and allows me to exit first. I surmise that the tie-wearing son of a bitch needs a lesson in civilized elevator behavior (let people exit first, then enter) but this isn’t the time.
Think about the job. Play it cool. There’s always time for justice later (that’s what DeNiro should have realized at the end of Heat).
During lunch I imagine there are other pieces of beautiful art that could be protected from bad weather, exhaust fumes, graffiti and careless laborers while temporarily beautifying my indoor landscape.
I make a loose mental note of other murals that could be preserved for future generations in my hallway or the guest bedroom. But how do I get Hector and Chico to go along with this? Could I sell them on the thrill of the ride? Like Tom Sizemore in Heat; “for me, the action is the juice…” (What a beautiful line!)
Years from now Lynn and Mags would be grateful to recover their long missing mural, which would go on a world tour through the major museums… “the stolen mural returned…” and they would be commissioned by the Gates Foundation to recreate the missing pieces around the part that was returned… and crowds would line up to see it like they did for the King Tut exhibit… it would spring a new awareness of street art as a unifying force that would begin to change the world… museums would finally put away their bourgeoisie collections and start offering street art tours in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Atlanta, and mankind would finally start living up to its potential… all dating to a mysterious crime that nobody can unravel.