Snatch and Dash Job

The Irish Republican Army was in trouble. Not the kind of trouble they were normally in; no, this was financial trouble. In the last ten years, the popularity of the revolution had been waning and many of the bandwagon supporters had dropped off. This decrease was due to a number of factors, ranging from a recent upward trend in the Irish economy to the continued popularity of a song entitled Sunday Bloody Sunday by the Irish pop band U2. Unfortunately for the cause, however, when these supporters left they took their money with them, and as everyone knows, without funding for a revolution there is no revolution.

Unwilling to give up on their dreams so easily, however, the diehard IRA members began looking for alternative means of funding. Not having much of a reputation for ethics or morals, their options were virtually limitless. As the years progressed, a number of different methods were tried, ranging from the legitimate business of Wall Street to the more lucrative and dangerous trade of selling internal organs on the black market. The latter of these methods turned out to be a bust when it was discovered that the highest commodity on the internal organ market was the liver. However, for some reason, and they could never figure out why, nobody wanted to buy livers from Irish people. The collapse of the American economy in recent years also dealt a devastating blow to their funding as the stock market no longer yielded fruitful results. After trying a number of different methods, it was determined that the best way to quickly generate funds was through the theft of fine art.

Two member teams were formed and sent to the finest art museums all across the globe in order to scout and steal the world’s most valuable art. This system proved to be very effective, and through its widespread use the IRA quickly turned beautiful art into billions of dollars in funding used to purchase both weapons and political allies. One of the most successful teams was made up of a seasoned veteran named John Moorehead and a rookie named Owen Lawson. As the years progressed, this team was to steal a record number of two billion dollars worth of fine art. Their first mission together, however, nearly brought a very short end to their careers as international art thieves. It all started out on a wintry December night outside the Museum of Fine-Art in Nuremberg, Germany…

“Stop Bogarting that flask,” said John, a heavyset man in his mid thirties, “you think you’re the only one nervous about this job?”

“Hey, you’re supposed to be the expert,” replied Owen, “I thought you’d done this kind of thing before.”

“Sure, after a few belts,” John grunted as he tipped the flask, “but only an idiot would contemplate this type of operation sober. Speaking of which, I was looking over the map and the security layout looks pretty straightforward. We just need to bypass these three alarms and stick to the plan and we should be fine.”

“By the way,” said Owen, “since you’ve been on a few of these, have you ever figured out a way to justify stealing these paintings? I know we’re working for a good cause and all, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’re little more than common thieves.”

“Sure,” John replied, “We’re just like Robin Hood, we rob from the rich and give to the poor.”

“What do you mean “the rich”?” asked Owen, “I thought a lot of these art museums were non profit, city funded institutions.”

“Hang on, I’ll explain it to you” was the reply, “but first, secure that grappling hook and lets get onto the roof.” As he said this, Owen deftly swung the steel grappling hook and tossed it up to the third story roof of the gallery. The two large men quickly scaled the rope and made their way to a sheltered section on the roof.

As they squatted down below an air inlet duct, John began to explain. “Look, here’s how it works. Back in the middle ages, the only people who were able to afford art were the wealthy upper class. Everyone else was out working these people’s fields and living in serfdom, right?”

“Yeah, I suppose that’s true.”

“Okay, so as a result of this fact, it was the rich upper class of the time that dictated what was good art and what was bad art.”

“I can see how that would work.”

“Alright, now lets take this to modern times. The people today who really get into art, for the most part, are the ones who are especially moved by what they consider to be good art. Now, what they consider to be good art is generally the same as what the ancient landowners considered to be good art. If this were not the case, they would never have developed an interest in art in the first place.”

“I suppose that’s generally true,” commented Owen, “ but there are definitely exceptions to that rule.”

“Try to stay with me,” replied John. “So these people, who are fascinated by art, spend several years studying it at universities until they become experts and are allowed to teach other people about what is and is not good art.”

As he said this, they began to climb into the ventilation duct and down through the air conditioning system of the building. This was a relatively small art gallery, with minimal security and normally nothing of value. On this particular week, however, they were doing a special exhibit of the original “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh, which is why John and Owen had selected it as their target.

John continued, “Now these art instructors, who entered the business because they liked what the original upper class had determined to be good art, are teaching at universities. As you know, most people who can afford to go to a major university are from the upper or at least upper-middle classes. So basically, all the rich people in our society are being indoctrinated as to what good art is by instructors who agreed with the rich landowners of the middle ages. These people graduate from college, go out and find good jobs, and purchase this “fine art” to decorate their fancy houses.”

“So what you’re saying,” replied Owen, “is that art education is little more than indoctrination into the ways of an ancient upper class.”

“Exactly,” answered John, “and we shouldn’t have a problem stealing the art, because regardless of who currently owns the medium, it is little more than a tool used by the upper class to separate themselves in yet another way from the rest of us.”

“I find your ideas intriguing,” quipped Owen sarcastically, “are you selling any literature on the subject?”

“Go ahead. Mock me, but do you have a better explanation for the current state of the artworld?” replied John.

“As a matter of fact I do,” said Owen, “should I start by pointing out all the holes and assumptions in your theory?”

“Hold that thought,” interrupted John, “We’ve come to the tricky part.” As he said this they crawled up to a small metal grate in the ventilation. Peering down through it, they surveyed a room with several paintings encased in glass on the wall.

“That’s it over there,” exclaimed Owen as he pointed to the featured exhibit that was surrounded by a velvet rope. Quickly, they popped out the vent and lowered themselves to the floor of the lighted room. Looking around to see if anyone had noticed their intrusion, they made their way to a dark corner and hid behind a large monolith-like sculpture. At this point, they waited for the security guard on duty to make his routine walkthrough of the building. The inspection of this particular room came at ten-minute intervals, which they determined from observation while waiting unnoticed in the corner.

“Well, it looks like we’re going to have to wait this one out,” whispered John, “what was it that you were trying to say earlier.”

“Oh nothing, I was just going to point out a few holes in your little theory, its not important.”

“Hey, we’ve got nothing but time,” replied John, “Lets hear it.”

“Okay,” continued Owen, “you are making several assumptions which may not be correct. First of all, the collegiate art institution doesn’t force anybody to like a certain type of art. Secondly, we have no idea what poor people would like if they did have the same opportunity to experience art as rich people. I agree that in the past they were busy doing things like plowing fields, so they didn’t have much time to get involved with art. With the development of the Internet, however, that is all changing. People have access to all kinds of different art, and you no longer have to be rich to experience them.”

“Right,” whispered John, “but I still don’t see how that shoots down my theory.”

“Be patient,” answered Owen, “after all, we have five minutes left until we make our move. My point is that when poor people decide to get into art, as they are now doing, they will have the same wide range of art to choose from as rich people. When this happens, and it has already been tested, the good art will stand out from the bad just as it has with the wealthy. Beethoven, Picasso, and Michelangelo will still be considered masters, even though this new audience probably won’t have had the privilege of learning about them at the university.”

“Maybe so,” conceded John, “but what do you say to the idea that institutionalized art education is little more than indoctrination?”

“On the contrary,” replied Owen, “I believe it is education at its finest. Nobody is forced to like a certain kind of art in the college classroom. Rather they are educated on many different types in order that they become more informed when they have to make their own decisions as to what is or is not good art. Often, the art institution will provide one perspective, but the overall decision is still left up to the viewer. Only simple-minded people allow themselves to be indoctrinated by an institution. The rest of the audience is going to make their own decisions about art anyway, so why not allow them to be educated by people who have devoted a large portion of their lives to its study?”

“I can see what you’re saying,” said John, “I’m not sure if I agree with all of it, but it definitely gives me something to think about. Now that poor people are viewing art along with the wealthy, I guess the individual pieces represent a little more than just a tool of separation in the hands of the upper class institution. In either case, however, we have a revolution to fund; so we’re going to steal this painting.”

As he said this, the security guard made his scheduled rounds and left the room. John and Owen quickly moved over to the painting and climbed across the rope. With a small screwdriver, a pair of bolt cutters, and a multi-meter, they removed the glass that encased the painting on the wall. As they began to take down the painting itself, Owen noticed something unusual on the floor.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“What’s what?” asked John. He looked in the direction Owen was pointing and saw a small cylindrical object laying on the floor. The security guard had accidentally left his flashlight behind when he continued on to the next room.

“Hurry up!” hissed John frantically, “he could come back for that at any minute.” Just as he said this, the guard walked around the corner and spotted the two thieves.

“Hold it right there!” he shouted, drawing his pistol, “Put the painting down slowly and get those hands in the air!” John and Owen had no choice but to comply, slowly placing the painting on the ground and raising their hands. With his gun firmly trained on them, the security guard made his way over to the phone on the wall in the corner of the room and began to dial the number of the local police. Owen and John looked at each other desperately, but being unarmed, could do nothing.

Suddenly, they heard a large crash and an explosion, like a transformer blowing out, and all the lights in the room went out. The security guard began shouting orders at them, but could no longer see anything. John grabbed the bolt cutters and following the sound of the guard’s voice, ran in his direction. At the same time, Owen snatched the painting and ran to the other side of the room, yelling as a distraction. As the guard turned and pointed his gun in the direction of Owen’s voice, John cracked him over the head with the bolt cutters, rendering him unconscious.

“Quick, the back entrance is over here,” yelled Owen, “I’ve got the painting!” The two men set caution aside as they ran down the three flights of stairs and out to the loading dock in the back of the building. Their van was parked in an adjacent lot, and under cover of darkness they stealthily made their way over to it and placed the painting in the back. Then, as if nothing was awry, they calmly climbed into the front of the vehicle and drove away.

As they cruised past the main entrance, they found the source of their liberation. Several police cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck were gathered around the scene of an accident. Apparently, a drunk driver who was leaving a local pub had managed to wrap his car around a telephone pole, completely blowing out the transformer to half the city block. This provided the perfect diversion for their getaway.

Looking over at his partner, John remarked, “You’ve got to love that luck of the Irish, it works in some very strange ways.”

“I hear that,” breathed Owen, “but that was way too close. Next time let’s spend less energy discussing art philosophy and place a little more attention on the mission at hand.”

After the heat over the theft of the painting had died down, John and Owen unloaded it on their European black market contacts in exchange for a small arsenal of weapons that was immediately shipped to their comrades in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, however, the revolution itself was not nearly as successful as the two thieves. In fact, it appeared that the Leprechaun had left the island and followed them south, as the luck of the Irish was clearly no longer in Northern Ireland.

by David Sweet

Major Mechanical Engineering
Expected Graduation Date December, 2003
Hometown Olympia

The majority of my writing experience has been in the form of essays assigned by professors. In the last year, however, I have taken up writing as a hobby, mainly out of the boredom imposed by my current major (mechanical engineering). This summer I plan to actually devote some serious time to my writing, and hopefully come up with something that is on the verge of being professional.


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