Teheo Kodashev steals things.
He doesn’t need them nor want them.
Things present themselves: cars, luggage, jewelry, things most often owned by the wealthy — and they vanish. Somehow, throughout the years, Teheo has avoided detection. The means, he would tell you, are by the special place in which he hides the evidence. A place only he may navigate — a gap between here and there, a strange rift in this world that he discovered as a child while playing hide-and-seek. He alone knows of its existence. Teheo would tell you that he gains access through a wavering seam of ribboned silver located between 2100 West Duluth and the glacial erratic, a boulder the size of a house left by the retreat of the last ice age, in Ronquois, Illinois (silent ‘s’ on both).
Teheo steals things. He had never stolen a person. Not until, that is, that blurry night.
That night, Teresa Nikola Pratofski Smith, a woman Teheo had admired from afar, blundered into Teheo’s desperate arms and vanished with out a trace from her take-a-number life. Fortunately for her, Teheo’s special place knew no time, and was, in fact, outside of time.
However, Teheo’s post-abduction celebratory path led directly into an oncoming Ronquois city bus; the driver didn’t even slow. The accident left him languishing in a state institution, coma-bound, for the next twenty-three years. Again, fortunately for Ms. Smith, at the time of Teheo’s accident there were no mandates regarding termination of comatose patients at state hospitals. So it was that, after twenty-three years, Teheo arose from his zombie-like state, croaked his anguish at the newly returned memory of his last conscious act, and vowed to return to 2100 West Duluth to witness what remained of Ms. Smith; a woman who’d tormented his dreams for decades.
Alas, such is fate.
The revived Teheo became waylaid, his past had caught up with him. At the time of his accident, he’d been identified on camera as the thief who’d stolen three expensive vehicles from James Tanedem, an upstanding (but by all accounts, crooked) city philanthropist — still in office, and upon awakening, Teheo was sent to the state penitentiary for the next seventeen years.
On July fifth, forty years after Teresa Smith had been ripped from her reality and abandoned in the no-time place, Teheo, now sixty-eight, a son of the Nation of Osage, Native American Tribes was released from prison. He made his way by Greyhound back to silent-s-Ronquois, where he stood before the strange, vertical shimmering seam, shaking with dread and nervous anticipation.
He cocked his head, squinted his eyes and slipped his bent fingers into the crack between. His body followed.
On this no-time side, all was grey. A faint charcoal line showed as the horizon, a shade lighter above, darker below.
“Ms. Smith?” Teheo advanced, weaving between the stolen treasures of his past. He had some understanding that time moved slowly here. Once, when he was thirteen, he’d spent what only seemed like minutes, riding Bobby Charles’ stolen blue bicycle in happy, dizzy circles. In the real world, he’d been gone three nights. His mother, torn between anguish and anger, punished him by forcing his help cleaning toilets in the nearby motels.
Teheo shuffled out to the edge of his plunder, all around the monotone color spread like institutional paint. “Ms. Smith? You here?” A dozen cars lay scattered around him, one less than he remembered. He tongued the holes left by his prison-pulled teeth. His voice sounded stuffed with cotton, swallowed by the grey nothing. “If she drive off, where… where she end up?” The nature of this place had befuddled him. He’d occasionally driven out as far as the light from a Coleman lantern would reach. At the edge he would gaze at the distant, horizontal line that encircled him. His breath would catch, he’d begin to shake and he’d race back to the safety of the exit.
Upon close inspection, he discovered that all the cars had been ransacked; their trunks opened, random contents tossed about. From one it looked like groceries had been pulled, brand-wrappers crinkled like new underfoot. “This is the Mercedes I took from that maid be shoppin’ for that city man.”
Upon his third loop around the remnants of his crimes, he noticed the faint smell of diesel smoke. He stopped and focused out into the empty. “She drive that diesel Volvo out that way.” A dingy cloud seemed to linger in the air.
Teheo paid no mind to the forty year interim. He packed the Mercedes with gear from the other cars. Slammed the trunk shut, cranked over the engine and followed the stink of fumes beyond the light of the lantern he left burning atop the cab of a black Chevy pickup.