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Gotta Pick a Pocket or Two

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The first clear memory Linus has of his childhood is the day in kindergarten when Miss Jones asks the class “what does your Mommy and Daddy do?”

“Momma works for the government,” Linus says, slowly enough to make sure he says government right.

“And what does your Daddy do?”

“He takes other people’s things and sells them.”

While his teacher clearly thought this was a cute way of describing a normal business transaction, when Linus repeats it at the dinner table that night, his mom rests her face in her hands with a noise almost like laughing, and his dad shakes him so hard he bites his tongue.

Ever since, Linus never forgets to say that his dad is a businessman and leave it at that.


When Linus is 11, his English teacher assigns an essay on “the story of how your parents met”. He writes it easily, already knowing that what she want to hear is the funny bits about how they were at the same hotel in Dallas on different business trips, met in the bar, coincidentally ordered the same drink, got into a conversation.

What he doesn’t tell is how his dad was there to meet with a bigtime art thief and his mom was supposed to sting it.

“Shit the supposed to,” Bobby Cauldwell says whenever he tells Linus the story, invariably sipping a beer. “She busted that meeting wide open. I was lucky to get away with three months and probation. That’s what made me like her, that she had the balls to do that.” He chases a laugh with more beer. "I sent her a bottle of wine while I was in and we had our first date, or rather I guess our second, the night I got out."

For one insane moment Linus is tempted to write the real story, but it's a fleeting wish, like the time he'd wished his dad simply sold stuff instead of stole it, and his mom baked cookies, instead of carrying a badge.

Mostly, he thinks it's all pretty damn awesome. If nothing else, none of his friends ever get presents that are half as cool as his.


Linus' first real crime (not counting the bit about forgetting to mention what his dad did for a living, which was probably only a misdemeanor, anyway) is a week past his fifteenth birthday. A few words of advice from his dad (and his mom) have given Linus a whole repertoire of quick motions to cover what his rapid and sure hands can make off with. He had used this skill before mostly to help himself to any candy he could more than pay for at the deli, but in this instance he nabs the essay questions to the European history final. His mother finds them while tidying up his room and, naturally, tells his dad.

"Are you crazy?"

Bobby stands in front of him, and looks eighty feet tall to Linus, hunched at the kitchen table. Linus glares up, eyes angry (and perhaps a little teary, but that's mostly for effect), a response to the tune of what do you expect? resting on his tongue, but it dries there as his father continues.

"Stealing somethin' like that during school when anybody could have seen you? First thing you learn is that whatever you do, make sure you'd be the only one who'd ever think you could have done it, you got me? I know for a fact that those locks are shit, you should of gone in at night. The janitor's already in hock up to his eyes, it would have been easy!"



"I didn't get caught."

"And you know why?"

"Because I'm good?" Linus almost smiles, thinks better of it.

"Well, of course you're good, you're my son. But you didn't get caught because you worked with people you trust. Can't trust 'em? Don't even think about going through with a job."

"But, I worked by myself."

Bobby smiles.

"Sometimes the only person you can trust is yourself."

"Oh. The other thing is..."

"Now what?"

"I don't know how to pick locks," Linus mumbles.

Bobby stares at him. Then laughs.

"Honey, get in here. We need a little of your lock expertise..."


Linus spends the winter vacation of his senior year of high school practically jailed in his bedroom. He wishes it were because of some stupid stunt he’s pulled, but no.

“That essay done yet?” Bobby calls from the kitchen.

Linus looks at his computer, where he’s typed Northwestern Personal Statement and… not much else.

“Nearly,” he calls back.

“Bullshit. If you haven’t finished a draft of that in the next ten minutes, Linus Oliver Caldwell, you can forget about coming with me on the Halloway job this weekend. And I might just call your mother in Venice and ask her for some interrogation techniques…”

“All right, Jesus, I’m writing!” Linus frantically starts typing, spilling out sentences about how he wants to grow as a student and how living in a vibrant supportive community like Northwestern will really help him really grow in the study of the dynamic field of English literature.

“Tell them how you helped at the community center by coaching Little League.”

“I did it so I could help lay the odds better, Dad! You ran the book; it’s how we bough the new car!”

“Tell ‘em… you really benefited from supporting each individual to their own personal goal, or somethin'. Colleges are big on goals. And I better hear some more typing going on in there.”

When Linus gets into Northwestern, his parents take him out to dinner. He opens his mother’s present (his own set of lock picks) and is surprised his father didn’t get him anything until he sees the grin on Bobby’s face when they stand in the front yard.

“What’s up, Dad?”

“Your present’s inside. You only get it if you can pick the front door in the next… minute. Better get cracking.”

“Nice joke, dear.”

Linus is too busy sliding the picks into the lock to even groan at the pun.


Linus has been lying and stealing, big stuff and small, since he could walk; even earlier if you heard the stories his dad tells. So he's only slightly surprised the day he reaches into his pocket for the wallet he just lifted and finds Danny Ocean's card instead.

"You're pretty trusting," he manages to squeeze out, after Danny explains the job offer.

"Well, Bobby has a lot of faith in you."

Linus grins.

"Fathers are like that."