This is the story of how Joe Kerr and Anne Gene first met.
5 years before the events of Hiatus
Brooklyn, New York, USA -
"Make a left at the next turn" instructed the emotionless voice of a GPS unit. The driver of the yellow Mini Cooper dutifully obeyed and steered the car into a left turn...and right into a dead end.
"Aargh! Worthless GPS system. Should have known not to trust this piece of junk. That's what I get for renting a car from the cheapest dealer in all the five boroughs of New York." The masked driver of the Mini Cooper grumbled in frustration as he surveyed his surroundings.
It was then that he noticed he was in unfriendly territory - the ‘Red-Hood' section of Brooklyn.
The mysterious man sighed and wondered how a simple drive from Broadway to JFK international airport ended with him in a dead end in what could be the most dangerous place in all of Brooklyn. Lucky for him, he wasn't your run-of-the-mill tourist. He was a thief, and the trip to New York had been more for ‘business' than pleasure.
The man chuckled behind his ornate jester's mask as he recalled the night's events. It had started with a fun night at the theatre, watching the last run of Phantom of the Opera with its original cast. If the double standing ovation was anything to go by, the Tony Award winning cast really brought the house down. The masked man chuckled as he recalled the roaring cheers become roars of horror as he unleashed his stink bombs. In the ensuing chaos, he had managed to purloin the original ‘Phantom Mask' that was being used for this special performance. The masked man turned to the passenger side seat where the prize now sat in a small, felt-lined, wooden box.
The screeching of a cat in a nearby trashcan snapped the masked man out of his revelry, bringing him back to the grimness of the current situation. Shaking his head, he switched off the GPS and started to back the rented vehicle out of the dead end when two other masked men got in his path. Their black cloth masks blended with their denim jackets, worn out jeans and shirts. One was armed with a crow bar and the other with what looked to be a baseball bat, modified with nails.
In a gruff voice, the one wielding the crow bar ordered the Mini Cooper's driver out of the car. Smiling behind his mask, the mysterious masked driver did so. Despite being a good head shorter than the two would-be thugs, he was not the least bit intimidated by them. In fact, contrary to what they attempted to portray, Tweedledee and Tweedledum , as the masked jester called them, came off as bumbling amateurs.
The two thugs gestured to the jester to turn around and take out his wallet. Obligingly, the jester turned around...and dropped a laughing gas grenade at their feet. As the laughing gas started to take effect on its victims, the jester remained blissfully unaffected due to the special gas mask feature he had added into his mask. With the two thugs incapacitated by laughter, the jester chuckled merrily as he dragged them out of the path of his car and prepared to drive off. However, before he could get into the car, a loud scream pierced the night.
The voice was female and laced with panic. From what the jester could tell, it came from little more than two blocks away. As much as the jester wished to simply leave with his prize, he also knew that he would never forgive himself if he didn't help out a damsel in distress. Then again, it could also be a trap.
Finally, the jester got in his car and drove two blocks towards the supposed origin of the scream. It was a garage of sorts and the main door was halfway opened. From his car, the jester could make out two thugs who were far better dressed then the buffoons he had met earlier. They seemed to flank a slightly shorter gentleman in the middle wearing a top hat. Apparently, the guy with hat was the leader. The woman who screamed was slightly blocked from view by the three.
Silently getting out of his car and inching towards the door, the jester could also make out the gleam of a revolver in the hands of the leader. As he got closer, he heard the leader threaten to the woman for ripping him off or something of the sort. From what he could see, the woman, a feisty red-head from the looks of it, had apparently tried to fight back with a tire iron only to be stopped by the firearm. Her right leg was bleeding from a bullet wound but to her credit, she showed no tears; only a scrowl directed to her attackers. Behind his mask, the jester was no longer smiling; he was furious. It was jerks like them who gave classy criminals like him a bad name.
Clearing his voice, the jester strolled into the garage in such a manner that you would think he was the mayor of New York himself.
"Gentlemen," he nodded to the ‘three blind mice' as he dubbed them. "Dear lady" he nodded to the only member of the fairer sex in the room.
"I am sorry to interrupt but I couldn't help overhearing this ruckus as I drove by. What seems to be the problem?"
The leader of the trio was quick to reply in an arrogant and hostile tone. "This here broad is trying to pull a fast one on me. She told me she could fix my ride for 500 bucks and now she says it will cost me 3000 big ones. Nobody rips me off and gets away with it. So I offer her a deal. She slashes the price or Louie," he gestures to the man on his right, "will start slashing her."
The man pauses to spit on the floor of the shop, further adding to the Jester's disgust.
"Instead of being grateful for my generous offer, what does she do? She tries to bonk me on the head with a tire iron. So in self-defence I happen to pop her one in the leg. However, if she doesn't start giving me what's coming to me, the next shot won't be in self-defence, if you get my drift."
Oh, you'll get what's coming to you, alright. The Jester thought furiously. Surreptitiously, he put his hands into his pockets.
"Oh, by the way, I don't know who you think you are but you're gonna learn not to stick your nose in other people's business, especially not mine." The leader motioned for Louie to approach the Jester with the knife.
Unbeknownst to the trio, the jester had been tapping his foot to deliver a message in Morse code to the injured damsel. He hoped she would be able to understand it. The jester then calmly pulled his hands out of his pockets as if to surrender but the trio backed up when they saw that in his hands were what looked like two grenades.
Before the trio could act, the jester yelled "Now!" and threw the two ‘grenades' towards the trio. The grenades exploded into a thick cloud of knock-out gas and promptly put the three to sleep. The woman however had been spared the worst of the gas as she had deciphered the Morse code and managed to cover her mouth and nose with a cloth.
After the knock-out gas dissipated, the jester managed to tie up the trio with some chains, gladly provided by the recently rescued woman. He then moved over to position the slightly woozy woman on a chair and tie a tourniquet on her thigh. He then took out a small bottle of his special smelling salts, which he retrieved from his car, to help remove any lingering effects of the gas on her. As he treated her, she broke the ice.
"Thank you stranger. I don't know who you are but you sure saved my bacon. The name's Anne by the way. Anne Gene. They call me the best car mechanic on this side of the equator."
The jester smiled at her southern drawl and the charm that came with it. For the first time he noticed how her frizzy red hair contrasted with her oil stained, and now slightly crimson stained overalls. Deciding to trust her, he took off his mask and bowed.
"The name is Joseph Kerr. But you can call me Joe. You seem like a nice lady. I'm sorry we had to meet under such... distasteful circumstances."
"Good to meet you Joe. And I'm not sorry we met like this. Otherwise I'd probably be swimming with the fishes thanks to Caponelli and his goons over there," she gestured at the chained up trio while stretching her arms. "By the way what brings you here?"
Joe merely smiled in reply as finished tying the tourniquet. He moved towards the wooden box which was laying on Anne's work bench; the same wooden box that was moments earlier seating on the passenger seat of Joe's rented Mini Cooper. He looked at the box longingly before handing it to her with a wistful smile.
"I'm going to be honest with you Anne. I'm a thief. I was here to steal the contents of this box. I was on my way to the airport when my malfunctioning GPS led me to this neighbourhood. I guess in a sense it was fortunate for you."
Joe paused to look an Anne who was understandably a little perturbed by Joe's confession.
"I don't want to cause any trouble. Just point me in the direction of JFK and I'll leave. Five minutes after I'm gone, call the cops and plant this box on Caponelli and his goons. This should send them away for a long time. And don't worry, the knock-out gas shouldn't wear off until a couple of hours' time."
There was a short pause before Anne gave a laugh in reply. "Don't worry Joe. You might be a thief but you're way better than Caponelli and his lot. I'm not too proud to admit it but my business caters both to legit clients and also some unsavoury ones, though not by my choice. It's the only way a girl can keep her business afloat in this neighbourhood. I'd move out but I need more cash to do so. I'll keep your secret for you hon. Now you'd better hightail it outta here before the boys in blue decide to do their job."
Joe smiled and returned to his car. He paused and considered Anne's words. He reached into his carry on and pulled out the other item he'd managed to steal while in New York: a Picasso from the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art. He had stolen it a week ago and he knew that by now there was at least a five to six figure reward for its return.
Anne was surprised when Joe came back into the shop just as she was about to dial for the cops. She was even more surprised when Joe handed her his other prize. Recognizing it from the news, she did something that was extremely uncharacteristic for her, she started to cry. Hugging Joe, she gave him a peck on the cheek.
"Thank you. This means a lot Joe. Look, if you're ever in need of help to fix up a car, give me a call. I promise to try and stay in touch."
Taking an old rag from the work bench and a marker from the same place, she hurriedly scribbled down her email address and handed the rag to Joe.
"Stay in touch. I'd give you my number but it'd probably be changed twenty times over by the time you tried to call me. Don't be a stranger now, ya hear?"
Joe gave her a warm smile in return and turned to walk towards his car. Before he left the garage, he gave one last parting shot.
"Oh, before I forget, you might want to get that leg checked out as well. Last I heard, the health department issue a warning on having bullets in your leg."
Anne laughed and shook her head as Joe drove off. She would never forget this funny little jester who helped turn her life around.
Behind the laughs - a behind the scenes look at what Joe is doing/thinking/plotting...