Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Tale, a weekly feature where we collaborate to write a story. Previous Tuesday’s Tales include Beyond Reality and Beaned By an Angel. We follow the basic rules of the “Yes, And” improvisational game – accept everything written so far as part of the story, and add your own paragraph (or so) where the last addition left off – except you needn’t begin your addition with “Yes, and.” I’ll start the story….

Note: On New Year’s Eve, 2008, the world lost the brilliant writer Donald E. Westlake. His career spanned almost a half-century and a wide variety of works, but he is perhaps best known for his comic crime capers featuring star-crossed burglar John Dortmunder. We offer this week’s Tuesday’s Tale as a tribute to Westlake and his genius.

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“If I understand you correctly,” John said, looking up from the glass of brown liquid on the table covered with what was once green felt, “you want to steal something from a guy who doesn’t have it, then sell it to a guy who doesn’t want it.”

“That’s pretty much it,” Andy replied cheerfully.

Andy was always cheerful, a trait John found only mildly disturbing between jobs. It was during a job, when anything that could go wrong had or was about to, that Andy’s cheerful nature became truly annoying.

A low rumble emitted from a human mountain to Andy’s left. “We ain’t Wall Street,” Tiny grumbled. “If I’m gonna steal something, I want something I can pick up with my own two hands. Like a bank vault.”

John found the thought of Tiny lifting a bank vault in his own two hands equally disturbing, mostly because, if things went as they usually did, John would be inside the vault when it happened, grabbing onto the little knobs of safety deposit boxes, trying in vain to steady himself, before finally falling to the floor, seasick (actually vaultsick, but you get the picture), until Tiny hefted the vault onto the back of a semi-trailer. Only then would the seasickness (or vaultsickness) ease, and only because the truck would stall and stubbornly refuse to restart, at which point Tiny and Andy would rush to John’s rescue in much the same way antelope scattered across the African plain when the lions (dressed in blue) charged out of the bushes (dressed like squad cars).

“So who’s the guy we’re not going to steal this whatever-it-isn’t from?” John asked, hoping they could move onto a more profitable discussion once Andy got the idea out of his system.

“Dilbert Delano Dillwether,” Andy said.

“The guy who’s in jail on that insider trading scam?” Tiny asked.

“Exactly,” Andy said. “He’s in jail, so nobody’s living in any of his houses. Including the one on Willow Island. That’s where this thing is. Or would be, if Dillwether had it.”

“Stop there,” John said. “You said island. As in, surrounded by water. As in, boat.”

John held his stomach, already seasick (the real kind, not vaultsickness) just from saying the word boat.

“Relax, John,” Andy said, so soothingly that John almost believed him. “We don’t have to go there. Dillwether doesn’t have the thing. We just have to convince the other guy we went there and got it.”

“The guy we’re going to sell it to,” Tiny said quietly, like the sound of a thunderstorm building over the horizon. “The guy who doesn’t want it.”

“But he will want it,” Andy insisted, “once he thinks we stole it from Dillwether. Samuel Simpson Sourvane lost his fortune in that insider trading thing. Vowed to get even. Said he wants everything Dillwether ever owned.”

“Something’s missing,” John said.

“What?” Andy asked.

“Exactly,” John said. “What. As in, what thing are we gonna not-steal from the D-guy and sell to the S-guy?”

“Dillwether and Sourvane,” Tiny said.

“Those guys,” John agreed, because people always agreed with Tiny. “But what’s the thing?”

“That’s why I came to you,” Andy replied with a happy smile. “You’re the planner.”

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Have fun!