[1050 words] The Mechanic

Michael O’Connor is one of the mechanics working at our local Jaguar repair shop. He’s been there for seven years and was thirty years old when he started. At 165 cm, folk don’t expect to see a pair of size 13 feet poking out from under a vehicle. Slim and lithe, from a distance you could mistake him for a teenager.
The Irishman keeps to himself. His fellow workers have stopped inviting him to accompany them to The Shamrock on Friday evenings. Michael has his own agendas. No partner or children await his homecoming behind the dark grey security door of the two bedroom apartment where he lives. Most nights he does not even push his key into the door lock until after 1.00am.
When most other men are watching TV, swallowing cold beer, or just snoring, Michael O’Connor roams the streets looking for street children; runaway teenagers. He frequents the squatter areas, parks and other industrial estates where homeless youth tend to gather. His motives are not altruistic. Personal satisfaction is his only motivator. Michael is up to no good.
It is 9pm and Michael is meeting with Temel, or Tom, and his group. A Turkish refugee, Tom is a lanky 15 year old, already 6 foot tall. His dirty blonde hair is shoulder length, face sallow and acne-scarred, and shoulders stooped. Michael speaks. “Tom I’ve got a live one for you. A guy dropped his Jag off for a service today. He said he was going away for a week’s holiday and couldn’t pick up his car until next week. He’s another pigeon living outside the area.” Tom grins. “Great! Let’s do it tonight. I’ve a couple of comrades standing by.” Tom’s military speak matches his clothes. He’s wearing khaki pants, black T-shirt and army boots.
 It’s just after 10pm when Michael and the three minors pull up in front of a large double fronted timber bungalow. The house belongs to Dave Houston, a guy who dropped off his Jaguar for a service this morning. It’s a quiet street with good visibility and the foursome can see all the way to the end of the cul-de-sac. Michael parks away from street lighting and looks across at the front of the house. A light shines through the blinds of the front room. The four sit quietly for a few minutes, waiting for shadows to cross the blinds. There are none. Michael knows the signs of an empty house. 
Michael hands Tom the bunch of keys given to him by Dave this morning. A quick search of the Jaguar had revealed a couple of documents bearing some of Dave’s personal information, including his address, full name and birthdate. A piece of paper bearing these details now moves from Michael’s hand to Tom’s. Michael watches as the three boys walk quietly and quickly along a fence toward the front of the house.
 Tom and his two companions use the key to enter the house. As they close the front door behind them, Tom hears a warning beep. The alarm keypad is next to the entrance. In quick succession, Tom enters Dave’s birth year, birthdate and middle name. None work. The beeping continues. Time is running out. In a couple more minutes an alarm will be triggered and the police automatically summoned. The three run through the rooms looking for a control box. One of the boys calls out from the laundry. “It’s in this cupboard!” Tom unplugs power to the box, pulls out a knife, forces open the locked box, locates the backup battery and disconnects it. Not breathing, the boys stand together, listening. The beeping stops. The alarm system now useless, there is work to be done.
Tom doesn’t waste time. His companions have already started looking for valuables. Jewelry, watches, iPad and tablet are quickly stuffed into bags or pockets. In less than five minutes the trio is back in Michael’s car and heading out of the district.
On the periphery of the squatters area the loot is divided. Tom and Michael have done this so many times there is never any argument. Michael takes most of the stolen items and Tom keeps a few things he and his mates can pawn off without too many questions being asked. It’s not easy for a teenager to sell off the more valuable items. Tom expects an additional few dollars to be discreetly passed on once Michael turns the larger items over.

Dropping Tom and the two boys off, Michael whispers to Tom, “Well done, Tom. Overall, a great achievement. I’ll see you next time.”

 * * * * *

Dave’s cellphone rings at precisely 10.15pm. The monitoring company alerts him to the robbery. He is told the alarm signal stopped after the power to it had been disconnected. He also receives an email from his CCTV system showing images of the three young men in his house. Another CCTV camera, hidden in the front eaves of the house, shows Michael’s car parked against the kerb. A community watch camera located at the end of the cul-de-sac provides Dave with remaining clues. Michael’s profile and vehicle’s number plate have been clearly recorded. Within minutes Dave has reports the matter to police. 
Finding Michael is easy. The stolen iPad has a location tracking application. Dave is able to login using software and takes photos using the stolen iPad; showing both Michael’s house and the thief himself. Using CCTV footage and iPad location information makes it too easy for police to file a case against Michael. Dave cuts short his holiday to assist them in obtaining court orders for Michael’s arrest.   
Everything progresses quickly and smoothly. Knocking on Michael’s door is the hardest part of the entire police operation. Subsequently, police are able to link him and the boys to more than 50 other burglaries. Michael now faces the possibility of a 20 year jail sentence. Tom and his young comrades might even be happier having the roof of a youth detention centre over their heads for a few years. Who knows? Overall, a great achievement!

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