Lieutenant Claudia McCann’s career with the Major Crime Unit was a result of overcompensating for her father’s moral compass, which spun wildly, as if it were placed directly on a magnet. John Teixara, now long dead, had been a safecracker, a robber, a two-bit thief.
When young, John was an exquisitely handsome man with a thick head of silky black hair, blue eyes, and high cheekbones. He was tall, slender, elegant, perhaps even regal. He was, like many of the residents of Fall River, of Portuguese descent. His parents and grandparents had been born and died in Terceira Island, the original spelling of their surname.
“You have to find the fundamental weakness, Claudia. Everybody and everything has one,” he said, the last time she saw him.
“What’s yours, Dad? Safes?”
“No.” He flipped open a Zippo lighter and shook a Camel from the pack he kept rolled up in the sleeve of his BVD brand undershirt. “My fundamental weakness, Smartass, was your mother, of blessed memory.” He crossed himself.
“What was her fundamental weakness?”
“Jewelry. She was nuts about it, especially Sapphires, her birthstone. Your mother, of blessed memory,” he said as he again, formed the sign of the cross, “could tell real from cultured pearls from clear across the infield at the Foxboro Harness Track.”
“So you’re telling me you did what you did for Mom.”
“I did what I did, Sweetheart, because I loved your mother more than I can ever express, to you or to her,” he said and blew smoke rings up above the ringlet that hung down his forehead. “I did what I did because I could. Once you understand, regardless of your chosen vocation, that everyone and everything has a fundamental weakness… the sooner you get that straight, the sooner you’ll realize how simple everything really is.”
“Dad,” Claudia said with a touch of tenderness and a smidgen of impatience revealing that she had heard this speech too many times before, “Dad, what has that got to do solving the murder of Jane Doe Number Twelve?”
“Everything. Ask yourself this, Claudia. Ask yourself how it is that I was able to open that safe with both the husband and wife sleeping in a bed not fifteen feet away. How, Claudia, how’d I do it?”
“Because you’re the best Yeggman on the planet.”
“Well, that’s likely true, too. But that’s not how. What is the fundamental weakness of every safe?”
“Fire or burglar?”
“Burglar. Fire don’t count. They are the Yegg’s equivalent to the lock on a teenage girl’s diary.”
“I don’t know Dad. That they can be moved where you have the time to crack them unless they are bolted down?”
“That could happen. The real thing, the real fundamental weakness is that every safe, always has to have, must have accessibility to a locksmith in case the person screws up and forgets the combination.”
Claudia leaned forward. “This is news. You never told me this, Dad. So how do you expose that weakness?”
“A good ear helps. Patience is key. Knowing the combination is best.”
“Did you find the combination on that last job written down somewhere?” Claudia’s voice held a touch of chiding.
“No. I did not.” He sounded righteously indignant. “The fool never changed the Try-Out.”
“The factory settings. The factory sets up certain combinations and then the owner is supposed to change the combination. Most of them don’t. All I had to do was figure out what brand of safe he bought, which was no hard trick. He was so busy bragging about it to his son-in-law while I was hanging wallpaper in the master bedroom that I could have been in the kitchen and still would have known.”
“So you managed to get in around his security system, pitter pat into his bedroom and crack his safe while he snored away next to his wife. I’m amazed she didn’t wake up.”
“You know why?”
“You’re right. He snored like a… , never mind. He snored. First time I saw him at the racetrack, I knew he would be a snorer. He’s a big fat guy. Smokes cigars like a chimney.”
“You should talk. That’s about the fourth in an hour.”
“Hey, I’m seventy-five. Been smoking since I was nine. Smoking’s not going to kill me. Having my daughter treat me with such disrespect, now that’s what’ll take me out.”
“Don’t ‘Dad’ me. Anyway, I knew this A-hole would snore, just by lookin’ at him. So I also figured she’d wear earplugs. Takin’ a look at his decanters of Scotch in the living room and findin’ a couple of bottles of Vodka hidden where you know someone’s secretly sipping clued me in that this couple’s fundamental weakness was booze and a basic hatred they had for each other,” he said. “Hey, you got some more ice tea? Good stuff. Almost as good as your mother, of blessed memory, made.” He crossed himself.
“Sure Dad. I’ll be right back.” Claudia picked up both empty glasses and went to refill them.
“So I’m kind of embarrassed to reveal, after all these years, how easy it was.”
“What? I can’t hear you. Wait a second!” Claudia returned with two glasses of iced tea, lemon slices slipped onto the rim, dripping with condensation and placed one on the dinette table.
“I was sayin’ I’m embarrassed to tell you how easy it was.”
“Yeah. The lock opened on the first try,” he said as his eyes welled with tears and a strange sound, like a choke, erupted from him.
“Dad, why are you crying?”
“Cause it was so stupid! All those years I got away with tougher jobs and this is the one that screwed me up.”
“How’d you get caught?”
“I let your mother wear this big honkin’ sapphire necklace to the racetrack.”
“And they were there.”
“I told you. Everyone and everything has a fundamental weakness. Mine was” he said as, again, he formed the sign of the cross, “your mother, of blessed memory.”
© SelahWrites 2006