Masquerade of Costumes

Author's Note: Masquerade does not belong to me. He belongs to an online person whose Flickr username is Lloyd Whittle. I'm merely using Masquerade as a fan! Enjoy!

The abandoned warehouse stood in the middle of a snow covered lot. Most of the window panes had been smashed, but some had either been sloppily repaired or patched over with wood or cardboard.

A fading ad was painted on the side of the warehouse, advertising a defunct, out of business clothing company. The faint smell of synthetic rubber and leather still mingled in the still atmosphere.

One would think that no one would be anywhere near the barren building, but that would be where they would be wrong. One person lived inside the warehouse, hiding. Hiding from the authorities.

But he wasn't poor or homeless. He was far from it, but he had been forced to abandon his bank funds and house when he had nearly been found out. Instead, he faked his disappearance to throw the FBI from his trail.

He no longer had a name, nor did he remember his old one. But he had heard from the news reports of the nickname given to him: Masquerade. He had taken a liking to it, and had accepted it.

Masquerade didn't seem to be normal by others' standards. But he didn't mind. He wasn't out in public most of the time anyways, and when he was, he was under disguise. He had first discovered his talents in his childhood, around seven or eight years old. He was good at imitating others' voice tones.

While it didn't seem like much then, it seemed like his entire life during his teenage years. His mother had left him, leaving him with his horrible father. He had his son, who had the uncanny abilities of disguising himself as others, commit robberies all over the state. Masquerade could no longer take it, and abandoned his father on his eighteenth birthday. Hiding him was not a challenge at all, thanks to his talents.

Alas, his running away was futile. His father had planted the bad egg in him, and now he was a thief at heart. But he didn't stop at roadside gas stations and convience stores. He went bigger: charity events, banks, and larger department stores called to him like a master would call his dog.

He had taken refuge in the dingy warehouse, amazed he had managed to evade the police for ten years now. He hadn't reached thirty in years, but had stolen more money than an insane kleptomaniac wrapped up in a straightjacket.

Masquerade maneuvered throughout the maze of boxes and crates, some tipped over, the contents clearly viewable. The master thief smiled, acknowledging his cleverness to hide in a clothing storage warehouse. This was where a large portion of his disguises originated from. The only portion of the disguise that he could not get in the warehouse he had to buy in public: wigs.

Wigs seemed to be Masquerade's favorite part of the disguise. Whether he was pretending to be a woman or a man, he enjoyed the wig most of all. He had a contact who worked at a large wig manufacturer, and that was where the brunt of his wig collection came from.

He was in disguise at the moment, looking like a scruffy college student. His wig was composed of matted, messy blond hair, which went perfectly with his blue-eyed contact lenses. He wore brown, wired-rimmed glasses, fake braces on his teeth, and freckles painted across his face. He wore an overlarge, pizza sauced stained T-shirt with a number 1 on the back. His jeans were grass-stained and torn at the knees, and the torn cuffs sometimes got caught under the rubber soles of his red Converse sneakers.

He grinned his metal smile, popping the braces off. He dropped them into a jeans pocket, walking towards the wall farthest away from the sliding door. Hanging on the wall was an old ladder, which looked like it would collapse under Masquerade's weight anyday. But he had been climbing it for almost four years now, and it had stayed firmly on the faded, painted wall.

At the top of the ladder was a second floor, which was a walled loft. The control consoles had been gutted by petty thiefs long before Masquerade had come. The walls were plaster, except for two rows of small windows running across two of the walls, neither of them touching the outside walls of the warehouse.

In the loft was a bed, a regular looking bed. Masquerade had purchased it under the disguise of Alice Prescott, a middle-aged woman who worked as a green grocer. Masquerade had given names and short life stories to each of his disguises, which he quickly wrote down on sticky Post-It notes and tacked to the walls. One was almost completely papered with a multicolored amount of sticky notes, all describing people Masquerade had made up over the years.

He scanned down the large list, stopping at one that was slightly crumpled. Masquerade smiled as he felt a surge of nostalgia. Derrick Webber, a college student, who was the first disguise he had come up with back when he was sixteen.

He took his wig off, exposing his own hair. It was very similar to the scraggly, dark blond wig he had been wearing, except his hair was jet black. He put the wig on an effigy head, most commonly used for displaying them in shop windows. He had a few of them up here in his loft, along with the same amount of body disguises. He had to be prepared if the cops ever managed to uncover his trail.

Not that it would happen for a while. He had carefully covered his tracks; No one should ever be able to find him. Nobody would ever find him.

He would become the world's best thief. No one would best him; No one would discover who he really was...

Detective John Watson sighed dejectedly, flopping down into the padded armchair in his living room. He had gotten a drilling from the police chief back down at HQ, and he couldn't do anything about it. He had been on the "Masquerade" case for nearly five years now, much to Police Chief Simpson's annoyance. He had considered tossing it over to another detective, but John had stubbornly refused to get off the case.

John was tall and broad shouldered, with a sandy brown mop and goatee. He had originally been a traffic cop, but switched to detective after a couple years on the force. Everyone had been all for his moving, but the chief still held every mistake he made over his head like the crushing disappointment only the chief could deliver.

He sighed. Maybe the chief was right; He should just get off the case while he had a chance. Masquerade had somehow managed to evade him for almost five years now...

No! He couldn't give up! He had spent WAY too much of his time on this case just to give up! He would just have to try something new. He got up off the chair, and headed down the hallway to a small room he did most of his work in.

It was small, but effiecent. On three of the walls, newspaper clippings, old police reports, and numerous other media about Masquerade were tacked up. Filing cabinets were lined up against another wall, with a desk at the front of the room, opposite the door. A computer was in the middle, with a printer and a laptop on either side of it.

John stared at all the news reports hanging on the wall, stating all of the crimes that Masquerade had managed to operate right under the detective's nose. Mostly it was just robberies, but robberies of serious causes. Fund and stock transfers, charity events, even fund raising events.

John wondered, as he had for the past five years, WHO was Masquerade? Somebody had to be him! He couldn't just show up on the face of the earth like this! He had to have been a child, growing up somewhere! And John was determined to find out everything he wanted to know.

He started up his computer, but left his laptop off. He mainly used the laptop when he went out of town, preferring to use the stationary computer at his home. He thought of certain leads he could do. If he could just find out how old Masquerade was, he could have a decent chance of finding out who he really was!

But Masquerade was the toughest thief of all time. He could disguise himself, and his voice, unbelievably. So he could've been anyone who had attended the fund raisers, or the charity balls, or the bake sales... He had to get a solid lead.

He brought up a police report on his computer. Masquerade had somehow managed to slip the Charity Ball money for the County Hospital under security's nose. He needed to figure something out.

He checked to see who had started up the ball from the hospital staff. Trawling through the police records, he discovered that the ball had been set up by the hospital's owner, Douglas Johnson. He printed out the information about him, namely the phone number and address. He was going to have to talk with him.

John wheeled his swivel chair over to a side table where the phone rested. He had to ask Douglas Johnson a couple of questions regarding the robbery. He stared at the phone number on the screen, and punched it in on the telephone.

He waited patiently while the phone rang twice. On the third ring, he heard a voice answer. "Hello?" The voice was female, most likely his wife.

"Ma'am," John said. "This is Detective John Watson. Is Douglas Johnson there?"

"Yeah, hang on," the voice said, slightly skeptical. After a few impatient, quiet seconds, a deep male voice answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Douglas Johnson?" John asked. "This is Detective John Watson. I need to talk to you about some things about the Charity Ball you held about a month ago." John heard a loud crash from the other side of the line, and then Douglas shouting.

"Detective, could we talk tomorrow?" Douglas asked. "The kids are a bit out of control right now. 2265 Town Way, around noon. I will see you tomorrow." Then the line went dead, leaving John looking unbelieveably at a phone.

John wheeled back to his desk, scribbling the appointment date and time on a sticky note. He got up and walked out of the room for two reasons. One: He had decided to stick the note to his refridgerator. And, two: His coffee pot had started beeping, and he was eager for a cup of joe.

He walked into the yellow and white tiled kitchen, the soles of his sneakers squeaking. The city had been hit with an early but long-lasting snow storm, and the streets were still wet and slushy.

He kicked his shoes off and poured himself a steaming cup of coffee, slurping slowly at it. He stuck the note to the fridge, which was bare except for the schedule for his detective work.

As he stood in the kitchen, he wondered, as he had for the last five years; Who was Masquerade?

The sun had not yet risen over Hooverville very early in the morning. The snow and slush covered city was still very quiet, except for the honks of the cars and cabs carrying the early business people.

Masquerade was already awake, eager for a new job that had kept him almost too eager to sleep. He had just caught wind of a bank transfer occurring later today, and he could just not pass up such an easy opportunity!

He stretched, groaning as he heard more than one loud crack from his back. He wasn't getting any younger, but he couldn't worry about that now. He was eager to get ready his disguise for today's crime heist.

Climbing down the rickety ladder back down to the now freezing cold warehouse, Masquerade walked over to a certain crate. His breathing got slowly heavier, his breath forming small clouds in the air for a split second. One crate was full of law enforcement related clothes; It was just his luck that he had a Bank of Trust security guard disguise to go with. But he couldn't just make up an alter ego this time. He had to take somebody else's, which he disliked to a very great extent.

He had spent a longer time than he would have liked hacking into the bank's records; His father had also taught him other criminal skills that he considered important, hacking computers being one of them. When he was younger, he didn't even know what a firewall was! Now, he could easily hack on in a matter of seconds.

After hacking through the bank's numerous firewalls, he had finally accessed the records covering the two guards that were driving the armored van to transport the funds to another bank across town.

One wasn't the most ideal choice, the exact opposite of the other. The one Masquerade disliked was a tall, broad shouldered man of around forty. Masquerade did not enjoy disguising himself as somebody larger than him in the shoulder, though height was easier.

The other was almost exactly his size, a perfect choice. His name was Walt Masterson, a man of average height and weight. He had shoulder length brown hair and a goatee. His voice was one of the easier ones to duplicate. Within a minute or two, Masquerade had managed to match his perfectly with the real Walt's voice from security videos.

He proceeded to put on the security suit, which looked a lot warmer than what Masquerade was wearing now. Masquerade preferred to wear one of his favorite disguises for formal events for the rich, a black suit, complete with a white collar, button down shirt, a navy blue bow tie, and a gray vest.

Masquerade actually put on the security jacket and pants on over his own clothes, just in case things did not go as smoothly as he had hoped and needed to ditch the outfit somewhere.

Now in a fake uniform that would've fooled a customs official, Masquerade climbed back up into his living quarters. He whistled a tune he could not place a name for as he slipped a customized pistol into his pocket. He had purchased the custom weapon at a hunting supplies shop, under the disguise of a middle age hunter who had the fitting name of Hunter Elmore.

The pistol could be changed to shoot bullets, but Masquerade had it customized to shoot darts. He, despite the years of his father's lectures, could not bring himself to kill somebody. He just preferred to knock them out somehow and hide them until he had perpetrated his crimes.

It was still a very, very chilly morning, so Masquerade put a maroon colored parka over the guard uniform. Then he stepped out of the warehouse.

He had another, this time smaller, warehouse filled with various kinds of cars. Cars he had had since sixteen, when he had first gotten his license. Most of them had undergone paint jobs and tune ups to avoid the cops eyes. All had old license plates he had salvaged from dumps. The states varied greatly.

Last night, after hacking to look at Walt Masterson's entire profile, Masquerade had a car redone. He had a connection in a paint shop downtown, although he had always met them in a disguise and never told them where he lived. Just drop the car in a certain area the way he wanted it.

Masquerade considered himself lucky; He actually had the model of car Masterson owned. A 2003 Honda Element, pine green. Sure, he had to call up Bruno at the paint shop again, and get his stolen Honda Element painted and tagged with new plates.

Masquerade may have had lots of contacts on the shadier side of the law, but he was incognito even to them. He had always spied on them, but never showed himself. In fact, he had a disguise of several of them, including the paint shop pro Bruno Barton.

Masquerade slipped on a mask of very thin, sculptable plastic nylon. It resembled human flesh even at a close inspection, which was just perfect for Masquerade. It was several shades darker than his pale face, stopping at a medium tan. There was even a faint scar on the top of one cheek.

The master thief then popped in his new contacts. Walt had nearly lime green eyes, a big difference between his dark brown, nearly black, eyes. He didn't have the exact shade, but it was just a tad darker. Nobody would notice this early in the morning. The sun was not going to rise until five hours later, and Masquerade figured he'd be back here with the money within that time period.

He then slipped his wig on. Despite his love of wigs, this one irritated him. It was shoulder length, and he hated the way the hair curled up against his ears and the back of his neck. But it had to be done. With a great sigh, Masquerade slipped the dyed green wig over his own jet black curls.

With his future goal in mind, Masquerade got into the Honda. The patted the leather armrest of the car fondly, remembering how he had stole it during a routine bank robbery. Of course, he had had to hot-wire it as he had no set of keys for it. In fact, he hadn't gotten a key for it until Bruno had made him a copy.

Bruno Barton was Masquerade's closest contact, and one of the most dangerous. Barton had Mafia ties. Masquerade had to be cautious around him and the rest of the Bartons.

Masquerade started up the car and drove out of the warehouse into the frosty morning. He cranked up the heat in the Honda, and within a matter of minutes the car was warm.

Masquerade dwelled over all of the various contacts he had acquired over the years. Most of them had landed themselves into and got out of Hooverville Prison Facility, a high-security jail on a mountain high above town. But it apparently wasn't high-security enough, as some managed to worm their way out.

Masquerade then checked under his seat, relieved to see a briefcase lying on the carpeted floor. The briefcase contained a bomb. Not enough to blown up a building or kill somebody. More like an overloaded firecracker that could, say, veer a titanium armor-plated van off course...

While Masquerade didn't relish the idea of using a bomb, he wasn't above most things to get his hands on some money. Besides, he didn't have to worry. The firecracker didn't pack enough explosive power to kill anyone unless they had not reached teenagehood and were standing right over it.

Hooverville was a very large city, which had generally been broken up into districts by the public. It was like a large version of Liberty City from the video game 'Grand Theft Auto', right down to the Italian guys ruling over the city with iron fists that could also cook linguini.

Masquerade checked the fold-up mirror over the windshield, and was pleased to see a fake wallet, driver's license, and registration tucked up against the ceiling. Just in case. You never know if he might be pulled over today.

Right now, he was driving through a typical Chinatown type district. Masquerade could never tell the Japanese apart from the Chinese. He just stared idly around his surroundings while parked at a red light, noting all the black-haired people and the Oriental shops around. The Honda windows were open a crack, and Masquerade could just smell the revolting, lingering smell of fish fried in God-knows-what.

Masquerade's glance landed on a man looking out of place. He was tall, nearly six feet. He had a sandy brown and, to Masquerade's dislike, messy mop of hair, along with a much neater mustache and goatee.

"Interesting," Masquerade mumbled to himself. "Where have I seen him before?" If he didn't know, he would've guessed that he resembled one of his disguises, but Masquerade had an uncanny memory that could rival a computer. And he didn't match any of his disguises, although a few came close.

At that moment, the light turned green. Masquerade drove off, the image of the man still burned into his memory as though it were a horrid nightmare, and it seemed to pulse until Masquerade thought he woild have a painful headache.

Masquerade leaned forward, nervously drumming his fingers in a rapid stacatto on the steering wheel as he pulled onto the highway. He sped up, increasing his speed over the recommended speed limit. Masquerade didn't know how or why, just that the man he had just seen was an ominous, foreboding premonition and he needed to put some distance between him and the mysterious man.

Plus, he had a job to do. Masquerade willed himself to calm down, but his attempts were futile as a taxi cab immediately pulled in front of him and cut him off. Cursing the driver under his breath and giving him a rude hand gesture, Masquerade hit the gas pedal again. The Clark Bridge was the ideal target to plant the bomb, somewhere near the foot getting off back onto mainland, for two reasons.

One, if the bomb was implanted near the end where you go back onto solid ground, you would not risk the van or any innocent drivers into the river, at least not too far in.

Two, it would cut the mainland off from the other mainland. The city was split in two by the river, and the bridge connected them. The destroyed bridge would make the police take a two hour detour. By the time they reached city limits, Masquerade could have picked up the cash and disappeared by then.

But he could not just stop on the bridge. It would clog up traffic and instantly get him incarcerated, and they would no doubt look to see if he had a criminal record. Masquerade knew his tracks were carefully covered and none of his guises had any criminal activity. But they would check his history on the computer, and the profiles were not registered in any computer mainframe. Plus, Masquerade had this strange phobia of police and anything to do with police.

Maybe that phobia explained why he had that feeling about the man at the oriental store. But, then again, Masquerade had paranoid feelings about almost everyone. And popping the occasional extra pill could mess with your mind for a while.

Masquerade was driving through the suburban part of town, where the house sizes were either big, bigger, or just plain ridiculous. This is where the stereotypical families from soap operas lived, with unnaturally green, trim lawns. If you could manage to walk over the front lawn and peer over the fence, which was practically impossible these days with the poorly timed sprinkles and burglar alarms, you could spy something extravagant in the backyard. Such examples were in-ground pools, spas, tennis courts, a putt-putt golf course, or even a dirt cart track.

Masquerade pulled into a parking lot for a gas and convience store. He had noticed the fuel gauge was getting low, and he didn't want to risk getting stranded somewhere in the middle of the road.

The master thief clambered out of the Honda. He tried to breathe as shallowly as possible, as the gasoline smell in the air was an overpowering one. He grabbed one of the gasoline nozzles from its holder, and inserted it into the Honda's gas tank.

While he was waiting, Masquerade idly glanced around. After about a minute, his view fell on the alley between the gas station building and a tall, brick building.

"What the?" Masuerade's keen eyesight, especially his night vision, thanks to years of living in the warehouse, had spied an object out of place in the dingy alley.

It was an overlarge behemoth of a dog, with shaggy black and orange fur. Masquerade guessed that it was a rottweiler, but the tail was different. The dog seemed, different, somehow. The expression it was giving seemed almost... human.

The gas pump beeped and Masquerade turned his attention back to the Honda. After removing the gas nozzle and replacing it, he turned to have another look at the dog. When his gaze fell back over the alley, he let out a small, quiet sound. The dog was no longer in the alley; In fact, it was nowhere in sight. Just a smelly, half-open dumpstar and the litter were between the post office and the gas station building.

"I've got to stop staying up late," Masquerade murmured to himself.