The emerald lawn’s grass was carelessly ripped up and a window was shattered. LAPD officers Freddy Cantarelli and Micah O’Halloran stood at ease, taking a statement from Sid MacPhillimey, the owner of the overcompensating Beverly Hills mansion.
“Did you get a glance at any of the physical features of these said individuals?” Cantarelli asked, pretending to care.
“No, stupid!” snapped MacPhillimey. “They were wearing masks!”
“Don’t get angry; that won’t solve anything. Just try to answer these questions to the best of your ability. How large would you say they were again?” Cantarelli felt very irritated.
“Huge, about seven feet tall apiece,” MacPhillimey answered.
The door opened and Detective-Inspector Rod Trevier stepped out on the porch.
“Look at what the burglars left behind.”
Trevier roughly shoved a thick stack of papers into O’Halloran’s stomach. The stack was bound clumsily together with duct tape to make a homemade book. On the top page, there was a crude picture of a colossal robot destroying a city. To O’Halloran, it looked like something his five-year-old son would draw. To Cantarelli, it looked like something an embittered mental case would draw late at night after everybody else had gone to sleep, and then chuckle over.
The book was entitled “Crush All My Enemies Underfoot, Ho, Ho, Ho: A Novel.”
“My diamonds!” MacPhillimey shrieked, whipping up a few tears for the benefit of the neighbors and the paparazzi.
“I hate this job,” O’Halloran said.
“It’s nice to know that there is some justice in the world,” Mia gloated in between bites of her eggplant parmesan, her first good-quality meal in many months. “Just when you feel kicked to the ground, something always lifts you up.”
Raine nodded his head, but he wasn’t looking at her. He was staring at other diners, a persistent habit of his. They were getting pretty weirded out by the sight of Raine gazing intently at them with his languid gray eyes, and one couple changed tables.
Mia grabbed Raine’s head and turned it so he faced her while she was talking.
“Pay attention, Rainecloud,” she said kindly, but forcefully. “There will probably be a test on what I’m saying later.”
“Okay, hon,” said Raine obligingly. He took another bite of spaghetti and gagged. He often gagged when eating, because he had a tendency to think of disgusting images that induced nausea.
“Reflect upon it,” Mia went on. “We’re suddenly able to turn our lives around thanks to our own courage and iron wills.”
It had been Mia’s brainchild to make a living by robbing celebrities’ houses, but she would not have come upon it if Raine had not brought her attention to a rather interesting article in an old copy of Time magazine. They were staying in a room at Days Inn in Los Angeles at the time, not as paying guests, but as squatters. Raine was perusing an old copy of Time while Mia watched an old rerun of Cops with the sound turned down so as not to alert the housekeeping staff to their presence.
“Look at this inspirational person, Mia.”
“Raineboy, this had better be of utmost importance.” Mia looked up grumpily from the TV. She had spent the day alternately watching the tube, fantasizing about living a decadent life of lavish extravagance, and sleeping. “Tell me what it is and try not to bore me.”
“Mia, love, this one guy has been raising Cain all over the Pacific Northwest, breaking into houses and stealing all kinds of things. Cars, boats and etcetera. He even stole a few planes.” Raine seemed very excited, as he clenched the magazine tightly.
“Planes?” Mia asked, interested in spite of herself.
“He’s a regular Mr. Toad. The world is his fricking playground,” Raine continued, referring to the amphibious hero of The Wind in the Willows. “I hope they never catch him.”
Mia read the article three times without a word. She found it poorly written, as she found most of the articles in Time. Still, she enjoyed it. She greatly related to the article’s subject. When Mia was done reading, she looked at Raine and grinned wolfishly. “I feel as if a veil has been lifted from my eyes.”
“We should do that,” she continued.
“Do what?” asked Raine, as he ripped a napkin into tiny pieces and blew them onto the ground.
“What do you think? We should pursue a similar career. Maybe not with planes, but I’m sure there are plenty of wealthy neighborhoods within driving distance dripping with goodies. Ripe for the plucking, if you know what I mean.”
Raine had to think a bit before he realized exactly what Mia meant.
“I don’t know, little dove,” he said nervously. “What if we get arrested and the police torture us with electrodes and waterboarding to get a full confession?”
“We won’t get captured, Rainyday. There are hundreds of burglaries every single day and the perpetrators are never grabbed up by the long arm of the law. So what do we have to fear? That’s some irrefutable logic right there.”
“I don’t know, Mia… The whole business just seems so blunt and straightforward.”
“Please, Rainecloud, hon,” Mia coaxed. “I can’t do it without you. Besides, the houses in Beverly Hills belong to celebrities, for the most part, so our crime will automatically get on national or even international news. Everyone will say, ‘We don’t know who these thieves are, but we admire them.’ We’ll become folk heroes.”
A brilliant idea began to form in the recesses of Raine’s soggy brain. “Celebrities, you say?”
“You better believe it. Beverly Hills is practically crawling with them. You can’t throw a rock without hitting one.”
“Okay, as long as there are no repercussions. I’m with you all the way.”
“God, you’re easily persuaded,” Mia wanted to say, but didn’t. They watched the rest of Cops and then began eagerly making plans.
Mia was pleased at how well the burglary went. She and Raine waited until dark, then dressed in their darkest clothes and drove in Raine’s 1978 Pinto to Beverly Hills. Raine wore a Richard Nixon mask and Mia wore a Judge Dredd mask that she’d bought it at a comic convention in Annapolis.
“So many houses to choose from. You decide, Rainiac.” Raine pointed randomly at one particularly opulent-looking mansion made out of adobe, with a red tiled roof.
“You sure know how to pick ‘em, Rainecoud. Now, let’s git-r-done before the neighbors see a couple of shady individuals lurking around and their silly paranoia is aroused. Famous people always suspect that someone is out to get them.”
“Oh, they won’t suspect us if they see us,” said Raine. “I mean, to the untrained eye of the layman, you’re the incorruptible Judge Dredd, who is the driven enforcer of the Law, and I’m a noble former statesman. Could we get any more respectable?”
“Beautiful,” said Mia.
These two intrepid outlaws crept across the well-manicured, emerald lawn up to the front windows. They smashed through the panes of glass with their gloved fists, immediately setting off the burglar alarms.
Raine reacted by screaming with terror.
“Onward!” Mia commanded. They clambered through the window panes into the living room, cutting themselves on the glass in the process. Mia swore foully and Raine continued screeching, but they got through, dripping blood on the marble floor of the mansion’s living room.
Mia proceed to grab every object within arm’s reach. Raine purposefully dropped a thick stack of papers bound with hockey-stick tape upon the coffee table. On the front page, there was a crude picture of a robot destroying a city. It was one of Raine’s novels, and he hoped that the owners of the mansion (whoever they were) would use their celebrity connections to publish it.
He had also included an explanatory note he had painstakingly written just before leaving:
“Deer Celebritee, I am robbing yor house, but lissen: publish this oh-so-fine book in my name n then you will never go hungry. It is superb, just reed it. It is the storee of a robbot who is demolitching a cities n it is the grate Amerikan novel n it is much better then Junot Diaz’s books n better written two. Donot forget to send me the royaltees.
At the end, he enclosed the address and phone number of his former residence in Baltimore, so the royalties could be sent there.
Raine contemplated his book from where it lay on the coffee table. It looked irresistible, and he was tempted to pick it up and thumb through it, but he heard Mia yelling above the din of the burglar alarm.
“Rainecloud, come over here and help me!”
Raine dashed into the kitchen where Mia was grabbing the silverware and stuffing it into her Pikachu backpack. Raine flung open the cupboard doors to grab some eatables.
“He has Almond Joy, little dove! Most excellent!” The burglar alarm continued to wail.
“What’s all this, then?” came a pompous voice that sounded surprisingly familiar. It was the owner of the house, a ferret-faced man wearing pajamas monogrammed with the letters SMP. Raine dropped the candy in terror and shrieked long and loud. The man jumped with surprise, and Raine and Mia were able to shove past him.
“We have to get out of here!” Raine gibbered with fear.
“No!” Mia yelled. “Just a little while longer! Stall him and keep him from calling the police!”
Raine rushed back to the man who was trying to dial his cell phone. He knocked the phone out of his hand with a wild, swiping motion. The man tried to flee, but Raine tackled him and they began tussling. As they fought, Raine tried to speak in what he hoped was a pleasant voice. He hoped that he would be able to persuade the man to leave them alone, so they could complete their task.
“Let’s not fight, my friend,” Raine said, as he pulled the man’s gelled hair as far back as it would go. “Let’s just use reason and logic to settle our differences. We are rational beings, after all, are we not?” The man bit Raine’s hand, drawing blood.
“OW! Oh, you filthy, ugly, stupid thing, you!” Raine struck the man across the face with the injured hand, leaving a splat of blood. A thousand curses upon you, sir!”
Mia dashed by, her backpack bulging.
“C’mon, Rainecloud, let’s put as much distance between ourselves and this place as humanly possible!” She burst through the door and ran outside.
“Just in case there’s any confusion, I feel no shame for my actions!” she yelled as she tore across the yard. “I’m not sorry at all!”
Raine tried to pick himself up, but alas, the owner of the house was grasping him by the arms and pulling him down.
“Release me!” Raine commanded. The man refused, so Raine was forced to slam the man’s head against the ground a few times. Thud, thud, thud.
“You’ll pay dearly for this!” the man promised, but he released Raine. Raine was up in a flash, and he ran out the open door and across the lawn to his car.
“Goodbye, my good man,” he called back politely. “Don’t forget to read my book!”
“Drive, drive, drive!” Mia screamed at him as he dove inside the blessed safety of the Pinto. Raine shoved the key into the ignition, and the engine hacked and sputtered to life. Raine floored the pedal and steered directly onto the sidewalk. The old car scraped against the side of a couple BMWs and a Lamborghini, setting off their alarms before Raine regained his composure and drove back onto the asphalt.
“That was a narrow squeak, Mia, sugar,” he said happily. “But we didn’t get permanently hurt.”
“Take off your mask,” Mia ordered. Raine pulled off his rubber Nixon face and threw it into the back seat.
“How much did we earn?” he asked. Mia made a quick inventory of her backpack’s contents.
“A lot of silver spoons, a Rolex, a Frank Sinatra CD, a cummerbund, a banana, a Ming vase, the controller for an Xbox and a small wooden clock,” Mia said in a casual, detached tone. “Oh, and about $200 in cash.”
“We’re living the American Dream, little dove.”
Mia began singing Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” at the top of her lungs.
“I’m in awe of how easy it is to seize what’s rightfully ours,” Raine marveled. “Today I learned that the finer things in life await you, just as long as you’re strong enough to take them.” He flexed his scrawny arm proudly.
“Dunn, dunn, dunn, da-dunn-dunn, da-dunn-dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn, dunn, da-dunn-dunn, da-dunn-dunn! Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law!”
The Pinto bounced off into the warm Los Angeles night.
At the little Italian restaurant, Raine and Mia finished their supper.
“Nothing like a hearty meal after a hard evening’s work, that’s what I say,” quoth Mia, wiping her mouth on the tablecloth.”
Raine licked the last dregs of his banana split from the bottom of his bowl.
“Y’know, Mia, I think I recognized the guy whose house we robbed,” he said loudly, with a tone of surprise.
“Shh!” Mia hissed, mortified. “Keep your voice down, Raine Man!” Then, in a whisper, “Who was he?”
“Sid MacPhillimey,” said Raine intensely. “The famous creator of animated shows and singer of songs.” Mia cackled like a crone rejoicing. Her laugh was music to Raine’s unwashed ears.
“That @#$%^? I didn’t think it was possible to feel any more pride in what we did, but I just managed to. We’ll have to watch the news for sure tomorrow.” Mia belched. “Considering the unpleasant nature of the victim, I’d say what we did was nothing short of heroic.” She got up and stretched her ligaments. There was a small karaoke machine on the other side of the room, and Mia ambled over to it and picked up the microphone.
“Acid Raine, get your carcass over here. We need some more music to make this golden memory complete.”
Raine hurried to his feet, knocking over his glass, and spilling Mountain Dew on the floor. He rushed across the room to where his girlfriend awaited.
“I’m in the mood for some Dead Kennedys. What say you, Rainecloud?”
“Excellent choice, little dove.”
“Of course it is.”
The other diners in the little Italian grotto looked up from their meals and turned to watch the spectacle of two ragamuffins belting out “I Fought the Law” with raucous joy.
“Drinkin’ beer in the HOT SUN!!!! I fought the Law and I WON!!!! I FOUGHT THE LAW AND I WON!!!!!”
Two thousand miles away, Raine’s father, Anselm Nugent was watching a rerun of Cops when the phone rang.
“Yeah?” Anselm asked bluntly as he picked up the receiver.
“This is Detective Trevier from the Los Angeles Police Department.”
“Good for you,” said Anselm. “What’s that got to do with anything in existence?” He took another swig from his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
“Does Raine Nugent live here?” Trevier asked, as if the whereabouts of Anselm’s useless slacker of a son were any concern of his.
“Not anymore,” said Anselm, and hung up.