Silently Theo Mallory hushed through one of the dark alleys of
New York's Manhattan district. After a few more steps he spotted
his target, the fire escape on the back of an old brick building,
in spite of the darkness and the slight fog that rolled in from
the ocean. It was one of those houses that looked absolutely decent
from the front but stank from dirt and trash on the back. He squeezed
through between dumpsters and boxes. He had almost reached the
first step of the fire escape as he stumbled over a banged-up
tin can but at the last moment he grabbed on to the railing of
the stairs. Frightened he pushed underneath the stairs and carefully
looked around if no one had heard the noise. Probably though,
the tenants were used to this as stray cats were abundant here.
As he convinced himself that no dishes or other things came flying
out of windows, he nicely and quietly deposited the tin can in
the garbage bin that was the least full.
Now finally, though still slightly covered in fog, it became visible
why such precaution was necessary: They Mallory wore and carried
gloves, a black briefcase, a wool hat pulled over his face and
dark clothes and he looked like one of those robbers that were
secretly active in this neighborhood and that the police called
"small fish" and only caught on occasion.
Mallory started climbing the stairs and avoided making any kind
of noise. Halfway up at a platform he carefully picked up a cat
that was in the way and put her down behind him on her soft paws.
Oddly she didn't stay standing but dropped to the side. She had
been dead. As he had reached the second floor he began breaking
open a window to an office. Soon he was able to slide it up easily
and without a sound. On the window sill was a thick layer of dust
and Mallory left imprints in spite of his gloves. Since no traces
were tolerable he wipe the whole window sill clean. He took a
small flashlight out of the briefcase and examined the mid-sized
room. He saw a wardrobe, file cabinets, a desk and a wall safe
which immediately caught his attention.
Tip-toeing he approached the safe. As he almost fell over an office
chair in the middle of the room he neatly pushed it over to the
desk and arranged the pillow on it too. And on he snuck towards
the safe. Nothing was in the way now. Thanks to his good hearing
and the older safe model he was able to crack the metal door soon.
He put several wads of money in his pocket, closed the door again,
changed the combination and wiped the safe with a towel. Then
he tip-toed back to the window, past the wardrobe where he couldn't
refuse to hang a coat more properly, and climbed out the window.
He closed it neatly and climb back down the stairs. He had to
push a garbage can aside in order to get out of the narrow alley
with his briefcase that now was 5000 dollars heavier. Unnoticed
he disappeared in a run-down house just around the corner. After
he had closed the shutters in his modest apartment and had cleaned
up the living room somewhat, he opened the briefcase and cherished
The next robbery was farther away in a different district and
he simply used his bicycle that was abandoned in front of the
house a while ago without being picked up until he claimed it
for himself. In order not to raise any suspicion, he wrapped his
tools in a paper bag that he fastened on the cleanly polished
rack. He rode in the evening traffic and reached his destination
in half an hour; quickly he disappeared in a side-alley that again
led to the back of the house. He leaned his vehicle against the
house wall and looked around. It was quite a clean area as his
skilled eyes could make out in the darkness. With his goal in
mind he put his tools under his arm; he intended to climb in through
the basement because there was no fire escape to get to the third
He scooped the broken glass of the basement window onto a pile
in the corner and searched for the stairs. He passed a leaning
pile of newspapers that he quickly straightened out.
By the time he returned to the basement he pretty much had done
most of the cleaning personnel's work.
He mounted his bicycle again and blended in with the traffic.
He had to hold on to the paper bag so that it would not fall down.
"We must be dealing with a very evasive and tricky dude,"
Sergeant Lyne of the city crime police mumbled to his five available
deputies, "that, however, seems to have a bit of a fad: He
always cleans up the places he breaks in to. Not only does he
put everything back where it was, he puts things in order that
he didn't even touch. Sometimes he dusts or empties ashtrays and
waste paper baskets. That way we - that is I - have come to the
conclusion that a whole series of recent robberies has to be attributed
to one and the same person. Gentlemen, we hope to solve and close
this case soon."
The policemen walked out the door and sighed with relief: The
meeting with their boss was over. He was one of these eager, straight-laced
policemen that tried to climb the career ladder and usually vented
their anger and frustrations at their subordinates.
The assigned policeman forwarded his boss' message via radio to
the other police stations and informed the press. In less than
an hour the "robber with the order fad" would be wanted
all over New York. Now the word was to wait and eagerly get other
The robber, unknowing of the situation, already prepared his next
break-in. Regardless of the risk, this time he rented a car under
a fake name. Maybe he had gotten a bit bold and had planned to
steal a little more than usual. Thus he targeted a bank this time
although it belonged to one of the smaller chains but nonetheless
seemed promising and wasn't protected by the most expensive and
modern security alarms. He started the car and drove at moderate
speed so that no cop would stop him for speeding. The bank was
located in one of the more populated outer districts close to
the suburbs of the city and it required slightly more skills to
break in there. But he was well prepared.
He parked away from the bank and slowly walked to the back of
the building where there was a fire escape that appeared useful
to him. Through a window, which he wiped with a towel first to
see through better, he climbed into a room that wasn't secured
by an alarm. He made it to a door. "Annoying how people open
and close doors with their greasy hands," he thought and
polished the door handle before he opened the door. He now stood
in a hallway that was connected to the lower floors by a staircase.
He cleaned the guard rail as he went downstairs.
The following hardly requires a detailed account: Sabotage the
alarm system, break open the safe, clean out the money, close
the safe as nothing had happened, bring everything in order, clear
any tracks and disappear. Everything went without incident.
He put the loot in the trunk of the car and drove off at normal
"Just act natural," he said to himself as he drove to
an intersection that, in spite the late hour, was still controlled
by a traffic policeman on duty. Slowly he passed him. "Just
don't drive fast then he won't be allowed to do anything to you".
He rolled on past the intersection. Sweat was on his forehead.
He looked in the rear mirror: The policeman's shift was over as
he removed his cap from his head and stoop down from the platform
from which he directed traffic. The cop was in a good mood and
walked over to his parked car. Theo could see how he got in the
car and pulled into the street that he himself was driving along.
Over his observations he forgot to drive on normally. The cop
must have noticed Theo then. So, Theo put the city map in the
glove compartment, emptied the contents of the ashtray out of
the window, folded the driving gloves neatly...
The cop hit the pedal to the metal and passed Theo's car, stopped
and signaled that he should pull over and get out of the car.
The cop made an earnest face and asked the surprised robber: "Can
I see your license, please? You don't quite look like this car
belongs to you. Where are you from?"
Obviously the cop just wanted to have some fun after a long day's
But Theo had to obey regardless since the cop represented the
law and could fine him.
"It's a rental car. Here are my papers."
After the cop had looked them over and Theo already thought he
could drive on, the other said as seriously as possible: "Please
come down to the station for an alcohol test."
Theo had no choice. Now he couldn't afford anything to go wrong.
And afterwards they would let him go. He wasn't a party pooper.
Hopefully they won't check the trunk.
At the station, a cop was half asleep in his office chair. The
boss must have been out. The sleeper was shaken until he woke
up and the other must have winked at him as he said cheerfully
as he was shown the papers: "Well, Mr. Mallory, or whatever
your name is, we are sorry but we have to keep you overnight.
Would you please volunteer to go to one of our cells?" The
two cops had difficulties suppressing their laughter. "You
can't do that!" Theo didn't believe anymore that they would
content themselves with letting him go now. They would take their
prank further. "If you're supervisor knew about this! Aren't
you afraid that I am going to tell him?"
"Shut up and sleep a round first, ha, ha!" Reluctantly
he entered the prison. It was quite a mess in there and Theo started
to clean up hastily. Although the cop was sleepy the words of
his supervisor Sergeant Lyne still rang in his ears: "He
has this fad. He cleans up everywhere." He reached for the
telephone and dialed a number under which the sergeant could be
reached: "Shht, hello Sergeant Lyne, I've made a great catch.
It just so happened that..."
Theo didn't suspect anything about the discovery. Calmly he kept
busy with the dusty plank bed.
"It takes a bit of luck every once in a while," the
policeman said. He could now understand his moody sergeant much
better when this one exclaimed with a baritone voice: "Order
is a must!"
Copyright © November 1981, Wasty, Order
German title: Eine auffällige Gewohnheit
Reading time: approx. 11 1/2 minutes
Last updated February 12, 2001 by Martin Mathis, e-mail lastbandit.com