The Man Who Says It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt The Man Doing It
"Well no wonder nothing has come up on my radar, since these robberies are perpetrated by a child." Mozzie and Neal were sitting on the Neal's terrace working their way through a bottle of red. "Do you think he needs a fence?" The other man suddenly asked after a moments consideration.
"Somehow I think someone else is pulling the strings," Neal pointed out in between sips.
"He got into Frick while it was surrounded by dozens of Fed's and managed to get three statues out of the museum without a single shred of evidence left behind."
"You're proving my point Moz." Neal just rolled his eyes.
Mozzie was never deterred when a new conspiracy presented itself. "The man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the man doing it."
"Stop with the fortune cookie quotes. I couldn't have pulled this off at his age, not without help, and maybe not even then." As a thief himself, Neal knew most thefts this complicated involved help from someone on the inside, or months of planning. A person didn't just get in and out of someplace on a whim using only paperclip and some rope, despite what was shown on television.
"Do I detect a hint of jealousy?" Mozzie tipped his head; glass partly raised in his right hand.
"What? No!" Neal paused for a moment, insulted that Mozzie would suggest such a thing. "It's just… We're not talking about stealing candy bars from the local convenience store. These museums have high quality security systems."
"And every piece stolen, is small enough and light enough for a child to carry, which suddenly explains the bizarre choice in art."
Willing to agree with the Mozzie's statement but not concede the point Neal took a breath. "As a thief you really think a six year old could get into four different museums, one with a moving laser grid, and remove hundreds of thousands of dollars in art without any help?"
"He's a foster child." Mozzie told him as if that one statement was the answer to this entire bizarre situation.
"Not all children without parents turn into criminals, present company excluded of course." Neal told him.
"You're missing the point Neal. The government has an almost endless supply of children in the foster care system that they can use for their own diabolical purposes. Numerous governments around the world begin training their children from almost infancy to be mindless drones, bred only to serve the government's purposes. Child soldiers, Olympic athletes… the Hoagies program for gifted kids, I could go on forever."
"Please don't," Neal pulled a face then added. "Come on Moz, you were raised in an orphanage. I don't see any electrodes coming out of you brain from these crazy government experiments."
Mozzie looked smug and added loftily. "I was raised in a privately funded orphanage. Besides, Mr. Jeffries protected me from such schemes by keeping the authorities from becoming aware of my superior intellect and photographic memory. But I can assure you other children left never to be seen or heard from again."
"Probably because they were adopted," Neal muttered to himself, not wanting to hurt Mozzie's feelings.
"I'm surprised you weren't whisked away in the middle of the night by government goons and trained in the coverts arts of lies and espionage." Mozzie looked lost in thought for a moment before snapping his eyes up. "Wait, were you? Skills like yours had to come from somewhere. Even the most gifted individuals need their abilities to be honed."
"Come off it Moz," Neal loved Mozzie's company, but was currently not in the mood for his conspiracies.
Mozzie leaned back and took a long swig from his glass. "I notice you didn't deny my claims."
Neal was about to respond when there was a knock at his door. Since he was not expecting anyone, and Mozzie was already in the apartment, it was either Peter, who liked to turn the tables on Neal and show up unannounced himself, or June.
June's smiling face greeted him when he answered. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything?" She asked pleasantly.
Neal gave her a charming smile. He and June got along famously, but it never hurt to be extra nice to the woman who accepted far below fair market value for the rooms he rented, and let him wear husband's expensive clothes.
"Not at all. Mozzie and I were just discussing some of his more unique thoughts on the workings of the government." Neal told her, knowing the other man would hear.
"Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last prince." Mozzie shouted from his position still outside on the terrace.
Neal rolled his eyes. "Do you want to come in?"
"Oh no," June replied, used to Mozzie's unique perspective. "I just wanted to bring up a guest. He wouldn't give me his name, but he says he's a friend of yours." She stepped to the side revealing a child with a mop of blond hair framing his face.
Neal looked at him in surprise for a moment, and quickly recovered. "Of course… Uh, June this is…ummm."
"Ender," the kid lisped.
"Ender. He and I met a couple days ago, during a bureau case."
The landlady had a curious glint in her eyes, but knew better than to push. "Well, I'll just leave you two to discuss things." She walked away leaving Neal and the kid engaged in a staring contest.
Neal broke first, mainly because he wanted answers, and wouldn't get them playing of game of 'don't blink first'.
"Come on in." He stepped out of the way and, after another wary glance, the kid slowly walked through the door.
"How'd you find me?" With his past Neal did his best to keep his location from becoming public knowledge.
Ender turned in a circle, for the moment ignoring the question as, while he took in the apartment.
"Is that him?" Mozzie had re-entered the room and stood staring at the kid with the bottle of wine loosely gripped in his hand.
Startled, the child whipped around watching Mozzie with suspicious, blue eyes.
"Oh don't worry," Mozzie held up his hands. "You have nothing to fear from me. Unlike Neal's other, more suspect acquaintances, I am not a supporter of any government power foreign or domestic. After all, 'The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government'."
Ender glanced over at Neal, then cast his eyes over at Mozzie as if silently asking, What the hell?
"Don't mind him, he gets cranky when his blood sugar's low." Neal didn't need Ender running from Mozzie's eccentricities. before he got answers. Despite the fact that the kid had clearly come to find him, he looked spooked, and Neal didn't think he would talk if he thought there was someone else in the room he couldn't trust.
Ender still didn't say anything to that but walked over to the easel where Neal was working on a reproduction of Rembrandt's "The Mill".
He reached out a small hand to touch the river the mill stood overlooking and then pulled away, rubbing his fingers together, as if he expected them to be wet. Whether from concerns about wet paint, or thinking the water was real, Neal wasn't sure.
"Looks like one good storm would knock it over." He simply stated.
"The mill?" Neal asked.
The kid nodded.
"Rembrandt was known for the realism of his paintings. Some critics of his work say he was so realistic he preferred ugliness to beauty." Neal remarked.
Ender cocked his head taking in the almost finished work. "But I always thought beauty was in the eye of the beholder." The kid's English accent from the other day was very obvious when he spoke.
Neal wasn't sure how to respond to him.
"My name's Ender," the kid prompted again.
"Right… Ender. What happened to Timothy?"
Ender made a face then puffed out his chest, his voice suddenly dripping with sarcasm. "Don't you mean Timmy? 'Oh no Lassie, Timmy fell down the old well'." He paused for a moment. "If I'm going to have a nickname I prefer Ender. It really is me, don't you think?" He looked at Neal as if waiting for an answer, but when Neal just stared at him unsure how to answer the kid kept going. "In case you haven't figured it out, my foster parents a few screws loose."
"And they seemed so nice when we met at the office." Neal finally managed to recover.
Timothy or Ender, Neal wasn't sure which to think of him as yet, kept walking around the apartment, studying the décor. Neal was about to ask something else when the kid's whole face lit up and he dashed over to the bed.
Neal hoped he hadn't left his lock picks out when he realised what caught the kid's attention. Ender had picked up the vintage trilby hat Neal wore earlier and putting it on, stood in front of the mirror to admire himself. It was way to big, and covered his eyes unless he held it up, but for a moment Neal and Mozzie stood enthralled, watching the kid pose and giggle at himself as he admired his reflection, almost like a toddler seeing himself for the first time in the glass.
Finally, Neal snapped himself out of his revere. "So Ender. How did you find me? I'm not exactly listed in the white pages."
Ender stopped for a moment cocking his head to the side and meeting Neal's eye through the mirror's reflection smirked. "Google." He shrugged as if this was the most obvious thing in the world, and kept up his posing. "There was an article about you in the paper, after you jumped out of a building or something, and it said you lived in the big white hose on Riverside Drive."
Great, another way for people to find him that didn't include hacking the FBI's datebase. "Pretty good for a six year old." Neal told him.
"I'm almost seven." Ender looked a bit indignant. Keeping the hat on he turned around, a scowl now marring his features.
"And very brilliant for almost seven," Mozzie jumped in. "I don't know if your aware of this, but those pieces you took are pretty valuable. In situations like this, errr…" He paused trying to think how best to proceed, "gentleman of your particular profession rely upon other individuals to help elicit the transfer of such goods to people willing to compensate them handsomely for their procurement."
"And in case you are wondering, I may either allegedly be one of those individuals, or able to contact a person of suitable skills. For a modest fee of course." Mozzie concluded.
Face going back to disbelieving the kid suddenly blurted out, "Are you drunk or something?"
"What? No!" Mozzie made a startled face, not understanding how his offer of assistance cause the kid to draw that conclusion.
"Then why do you have a wine bottle in your hand, and make no sense when you're talking?" Ender pushed the brim of the hat back out of his eyes again.
"I was bringing it inside." Mozzie stated defensively.
"It's almost empty." Ender shot back, the perfect picture of a petulant child.
"It's called sharing Mon Frere."
"All right, everyone call down," Neal cut in. If he was going to get anything useful he needed to take charge. "I think we need to start over here. I'm Neal and this is my friend Mozzie. He and I go way back so you can trust him." Ender looked at him like he still wasn't sure so Neal added on. "He's just a bit odd, but perfectly harmless." Neal held out his hand signalling their truce.
A moment's pause and then the kid relented shaking Neal's hand. "Timothy Caste. But call me Ender."
"It is you." Neal told him then asked. "So how can I help you?"
"I'm glad you approve I my reading choice." The kid stated then suddenly looked almost shy and glanced at the floor. "You seemed really nice at the office the other day so I wanted to see where you lived."
"Nothing particularly important you want to talk about?"
"Like what?" Ender walked over to the dresser and began shuffling through the items on top.
"Like, how you ended up in the Frick after midnight, or why the doctor said you have numerous healed fractures?"
"Or, have suspicious men in dark suits taken you away in the middle of the night and tried to learn the source of your powers?" Mozzie blurted out.
Ender stopped in the middle of piling up the different objects on the dresser into a rather wobbly tower.
"Mr and Mrs Martin haven't hit me if that's what you're implying Neal."
Neal wanted to say there was more than one way to skin a cat, but knew that if he did the kid would really close him off. "The Frick had some pieces of art go missing that night, while you were in the building. Three statues." Neal waited to see if he would get anything from his fishing expedition.
"That's sad. I hope they had insurance so they can get their money back." The tower fell over and Ender stood there for a moment staring at the debris with a distant look in his eyes.
"Are the Martins nice?" Neal tried a different tactic.
A shrug. "They're all right. They like their real kids the best, but they don't starve me or hit me. They just have lots of foster kids. Five of us."
"How many 'real' kids?"
"Two. Derrick and Sadie each get their own room, the rest of us have to share. They say it's because most foster kids don't stay with them that long and it would be traumatic to keep moving people in and out of their kids' rooms." A pause, and then the kid spoke so soft it was hard to hear. "Like dumping your clothes in a garbage bag and moving to a new house every few months is easy. At least they got a home. Even if they have the wicked witch of the west for a mother."
Neal was about to ask something else when Ender glanced over at a nearby clock. "I gotta go. It was nice to meet both of you."
The kid was just about to the door before he turned back around. For a moment little lips pursed as if considering something in deep thought. Then, for the first time he smiled at Mozzie.
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." With that final pronouncement he flounced out the door Neal's hat still on his head.
"I like him." Mozzie seemed impressed. Of course he was impressed by anyone with a possible future in criminal endeavours.
Neal just stood there staring at the door Ender had disappeared through. "He stole my hat."
A/N: If Ender comes off as a weird kind-of bratty too old/too young mix; he's meant to. The reasons why should be explained better in later chapters.
I like to cast people as my OCs when I write so the picture for this story is the kid I cast as Ender.