By: SilvorMoon Crow was not attracting any attention. No so far, anyway. He would eventually, of course - what was the fun of going out if he didn't attract any attention? For now, though, he was lying low. He stopped at stop signs and traffic lights. He used his turn signal.
The only thing about him that might have drawn any notice was the fact that he had a large carboard box strapped tightly to the back of his D-Wheel. It was held shut with a great deal of duct tape, and shook slightly whenever he stopped.
Dusk was just beginning to fall when he pulled his bike up to the side gate of a comfortable house on the outskirts of town. He had been watching this place for a while now, and had learned a few things about it. He had learned, for example, that it had a moderately effective security system. It also had a pair of large dogs patrolling the yard. Most importantly, though, he had learned that its owners were on a business trip and would be out of town that evening. Next to that, the rest didn't really matter.
Crow got off his bike and sauntered up to the gate. It was an impressive-looking thing - a tall, wrought-iron thing with a row of sharp spikes across the top. The gate itself was held shut by a heavy lock, which was wired to some complicated machinery. If anyone tried to force the lock, it would sound an alarm while simultaneously sending a warning to the Security office. Fortunately, the decorative gate was more pretty than functional. A grown man might have had some trouble squeezing through it, but a wiry boy from Satellite who had only rarely in his life been allowed to eat as much as he wanted... well, one of those could squirm through with a bit of a twist and a wiggle. Once that was accomplished, he opened the gate from the inside, and it opened with no trouble. Crow grinned. There were few things as pleasant in his life as people who thought the bigger the locks and fences were, the more difficult they were to get past.
Dogs, though - they could be trouble. Already they had heard the sound of the gate opening and had come stalking closer to him to see what he was up to. They hadn't quite made up their minds that he was a threat, but the low growls he could hear told him that they weren't exactly biased in his favor.
He walked very slowly up to his bike. He untied the box and set it on the ground.
The dogs came closer, their growls deepening.
Crow whipped out a penknife, and with a swift flick, he slashed the tape that held the box shut. A cat shot out, and the dogs, already filled with the pent-up need to chase something, shot off after it like a pair of sleek furry rockets.
They didn't go far. The cat Crow had chosen to bring with him was no house pet, or even a run-of-the-mill alley cat. It was a Satellite island cat, the biggest one he could catch, with one eye and a broken tail and a bent ear and a set of claws like razor blades. The mice, rats, and birds of the island gave it a wide berth, and Crow speculated that, denied of its natural prey, it probably fed mostly on junkyard dogs.
The cat raced around a corner of the house, and the dogs ran after it. A few seconds later, Crow heard a banshee scream and the yelps of canines in considerable pain. They came tearing off in the same direction they had come from, running with their tails between their legs, and dashed past Crow without even stopping to look at him. Crow smiled. So far, so good. He stepped outside again long enough to wheel his bike inside the gate and up to the back door. He left the gate wide open. After all, he liked dogs, and he didn't think they deserved to be trapped on the grounds with that cat chasing them.
The next trick was getting inside the house. This bit was more difficult; he hadn't had the opportunity to get a good look at what the security on the house itself was like, only the outer gate. He had a feeling there might be security cameras, but he didn't care about those. All he wanted was to make sure no one interrupted him until he had done what he'd come to do. He investigated the side door, but it was a solid wooden thing with nothing that would let him see what might lie on the other side. The windows were a better bet. He investigated them and found that they had a simple alarm system that would be activated if the window was pushed open. It was easy enough to disarm if he had to, but he suspected there was probably an easier way. He looked up at the side of the house. The upper storey had the kind of plastic panels that people preferred over wood siding because they could clean it with the garden hose, but the lower two floors were built of craggy stone blocks. They glittered in the light of the rising moon. They were also perfect for climbing. Crow removed his boots, tied the laces together, and draped them around his neck. Bare-footed, he began to scamper up the wall with the agility of a lizard.
As he had hoped, the upper windows weren't rigged with alarms. Someone had foolishly assumed that no one would bother trying to get in through the second floor, or else believed that no one could climb up there without a ladder and couldn't get that past the gate and the dogs. Well, with any luck, they would go right on believing that. He gently nudged the window open, wiggled inside, and just as gently closed it behind him. He put his shoes back on. Rude as it was to walk around someone else's house in his dirty boots, he had more practical concerns.
A quick glance showed him that he'd found his way into a bathroom. It was a nice bathroom, with a hot tub and a large closet full of fluffy towels. He would have happily lived in it, at least until his natural wanderlust got the better of him. As it was, he couldn't resist opening the cabinets to have a look inside, but saw nothing that tempted him. He wasn't here to loot indiscriminately; he had a particular target.
Crow opened the door to the bathroom, and was pleased to find that it exited into a master bedroom. That was more like it! He was bound to find what he wanted here. He sauntered through the room as though it all belonged to him already, and began digging through a nearby desk drawer. He discarded a number of papers, an appointment book, and a computer manual, before finally dredging up his prize: a humble phone book. He leafed through it until he found the entry he wanted. Then he carried the book over to the enormous four-poster bed that dominated the room, and flopped down to make himself comfortable there. Propped casually on a bank of pillows, he reached for the bedside phone. He punched in a number.
"Power Pizza, how may I help you?"
"Yeah, hi," said Crow. "My name is Mr. Sugira, and I'm calling from house number 615 on Ace Street. We're having a party over here, and we're going to need a heck of a lot of pizza."
"All right, sir. What can I get for you?"
"Let's make it... two veggie pizzas, one with no mushrooms, two meat lover's, two pepperoni, and two plain cheese."
"No problem. Anything else?"
"That should do it... Oh, hey, throw in a box of those bread stick things."
"The largest you've got!"
"All right. Your order should arrive in about half an hour."
"I'll be waiting. The front gate is locked, so bring it around to the side, okay?"
The pizza man agreed that this would be done, and Crow bid him have a nice evening and hung up the phone.
He had a half an hour. He was alone in a house full of unguarded and easily saleable merchandise.
He went downstairs to watch TV.
He was, in fact, in the middle of wondering if commercials had gotten stupider since he was a kid or whether his sensibilities had been refined, when there was a chime at the doorbell.
"Coming!" he called, and bounded towards the door.
Standing outside was a boy about Crow's own age, carrying a heap of boxes so tall that he had some difficulty in peeking over the top of it.
"You order pizza?" he asked.
"Sure did," said Crow, cheerfully taking the boxes out of his hands. He bounded over to his bike and strapped them into the harness that had recently kept his cat in place.
"Anyway, I've got your bill right here, so if you'd just..."
"Sorry. No can do," said Crow, climbing onto his bike. "Sorry 'bout that, but I've got kids to take care of and they've gotta eat. No hard feelings."
"But you've got to pay for that!" the boy wailed, but he obviously wasn't going to do anything else. He was a few inches taller than Crow, but he was scrawny and lanky and had obviously never had a fight with anything that wasn't pixilated and defeated by pushing buttons.
"No, I really don't," said Crow. "For the simple reason that you can't make me. See ya!"
He gunned the engine and tore off across the lawn. While the delivery boy was still standing there in shock, Crow wheeled around, leaving impressive tire tracks on the grass, and drove straight back to him, skidding to a halt directly in front of him. He pressed some bills into the young man's hand.
"There's your tip," he said pleasantly. "Have a nice night!"
He sped off again, leaving the poor boy staring in bewilderment at the money in his hand. After all, Crow was a thief, but that didn't mean he couldn't be gallant about it.
The father looked out the window as a sleek black motorcycle stopped for a stop light. There were a number of pizza boxes piled on its back.
"Looks like somebody else had the same idea tonight," he observed.
"It's a good night for pizza," his wife agreed, as she poured the drinks.
"I don't know what we'd do without the stuff," her husband agreed, as the children began climbing into their seats, all of them demanding the first and biggest piece. "Especially when it seems like it's all these kids will eat."
"You said it," his wife agreed. "When it comes to a quick and easy meal, there's nothing like pizza."