The man across from Officer Locke easily looked like a retired long-haul truck driver. He adjusted the red baseball cap covering the remaining patches of hair on his head.

“Garrick MacCready.”


“Can you please just admit that you did this so that we can get out of here? My daughter’s got a ballet recital tonight and I don’t wanna miss it.”

Garrick leaned back on his chair, shining a toothy grin up at Locke.

“A lucky man. My daughter never did invite me to hers.”

Garrick’s grin widened as he continued. “Besides, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Police Officer Locke put his head in his hands. The naked bulb of the interrogation room blinked. Twice. Locke dragged his hands down his face, tired and exasperated. He wanted to clock off.

“Just because you wiped the cameras doesn’t mean you’re getting away with it, MacCready. You’re a man of interest. That type of shit sticks.”

“Well, alright,” said Garrick.

“You’ll confess?” said Locke. He was shocked. The two of them had already been playing cat and mouse for the best part of four hours.

“If I were to have taken a part in this crime, then I probably would have wiped the cameras,” said Garrick. “Only I had nothing to do with the crime.”

He spoke the lines as if they were rehearsed. In fairness, they may as well have been. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

Locke cursed under his breath, realising that if it ever came to the Supreme Court, Garrick would testify that Locke had tried to hoodwink a confession out of him by using tricky terminology.

Garrick was practised. But then again, of course he was. He’d had plenty of time.

He’d been arrested first on August 12th, 1992 for breaking into an ATM with a bunch of armed thugs. He’d organised the whole event, but he’d made sure that the rest of his group were essentially the fall guys.

Whilst they made off with a cash and got caught within a week, Garrick took no cash. When he was arrested a fortnight later in his home, he was on his computer trying to understand the cryptoprocessor he’d yanked out of the internal vault.

He only got eight weeks in county due to stealing such a monetarily weak item, whereas his compatriots got ten years to life. And what did he get out of it? Internal knowledge of how every ATM in the Midwest worked.

Garrick MacCready was that kind of man.

Sure, the board and the players had changed a lot over the years, but Garrick’s game hadn’t changed once.

And he was good. Damn good. That was the problem with smart criminals. After the initial slip-up, Locke had found, they have an irritating tendency to learn from their mistakes.

Locke scowled as he escorted Garrick out of the holding area and out into the golden Manhattan sunshine.

“You’ll never get him, you know,” said a voice from behind him.

As a general rule of thumb, the police didn’t recommend any sort of intimacy between officers. It just wasn’t the right line of work for it. But Locke had loved Sandra Wiggan from the moment he set eyes on her.

“I can at least try, love,” he replied.

Sandra leant on the doorjamb, her black and silver helmet tilted.

“She’s gonna be disappointed,” said Sandra. “This is the fourth week in a row that you’ve promised.”

“I know, love, I know.”


Garrick slid his nimble fingers underneath the gap in the door and slid the bolt out.

It was an occupational tick, breaking into his own home, but also made him feel a little better about his line of work.

If anyone wanted their possessions back, they’d be able to break in and reclaim them fairly easily.

A thief never keeps his nicked goods under lock and key. You’ve got to at least allow for the victim to have a decent enough go at retrieval.

The house itself was a hovel, and the interior was worse.

Boxes were stacked up against every single surface, some containing multipacks of bread rolls or bulk lots of bootleg perfume, women’s sanitary towels, giant packs of ready-made icing, Halloween masks, and hockey sticks.

Garrick was a kleptomaniac but also a compulsive hoarder, which didn’t particularly make for a clean household.

He manoeuvred between two large boxes containing bottles of liquid soap and stapler refill packs.

He dropped Locke’s Casio watch down on the kitchen table and chose between the Kraft Mac n’ Cheese packets.

After some brief consideration, he settled on Regular. Three Cheese had a tendency to clog up the works. Tomato and Herb was just too spicy. Upset the insides.

He felt a lot of the food he ate tended to ruin him if it was junk.

He was 42, after all; the motor was ticking over, but not without the occasional sputter. He looked up at the four crucifixes adorning the wall above. They made him feel a little better just looking at them, knowing that he was close to God.

Sure, he knew deep down inside that something had gone wrong. Something had upset the motor and it would just get worse and worse over time.

But, as Garrick had always supposed, everyone had to go sometime.

He hit the button on the kettle, poured in the powder and pasta, and topped it up with a little milk when the kettle had boiled.

He stood in the kitchen watching it simmer and steam in the plasticated cardboard bowl. He chewed the contents slowly and finished the bowl in a few minutes and then the voice behind him spoke up.

“I thought I’d let you finish your meal before hauling your ass away. You’ve got a long trip ahead of you.”

Garrick wheeled around and looked into the darkness of his kitchen as the table lamp clicked on.

The cord was held in the hand of DCI Thaddeus Bull, who had his feet up on a crate of either curtain poles or the selection of family photographs that Garrick could no longer bear to look at.

Garrick made a break for it, but it was far too late. Within seconds, the man was upon him. Two police officers pulled open the back door to make sure Garrick was pinned, one of them thrusting a large burlap sack over his head. He felt a brief sting around his neck as a large needle was pushed into it, and that was all.


Thump. Thump. Thump.

Garrick felt the slight lurch again and again and again. The bag had been taken off his head and Garrick could make out the reflections of the glowing chevrons on the road as the car jolted over them.

He was in the back of a jeep, his hands and legs bound by cable ties. He could feel them rubbing his wrists raw and cutting off his circulation.

“I think he’s awake, chief.”

Garrick tried to respond, but his tongue felt a large wad of cloth on the inside of his mouth. He tried to push it, but it didn’t budge.

He laid back in the back of the van and tried to relax, but it was impossible. Everything was uncomfortable. Sometime later, he felt himself bundled out of the van outside a large building made of fancy glass and giant monolithic pillars.

He was frog-marched through two sliding glass doors and up a flight of sleek stairs. Garrick raised a tied-up hand limply to wave at the receptionist as he was dragged along, his feet scuffing along the polished marble floors.

He tried to say “hello” through his gag.


It turned out he couldn’t.

Taken into a very shiny office, the gag was pulled out of his mouth and Garrick felt a rush of fresh air enter his mouth and nose. He didn’t gasp, but it was a pleasant sensation to be able to breathe cold air.

“Hey, can you take me back downstairs? I really think me and the girl on the front desk had something.”

A hand on his back pushed him down onto a pleather swivel chair.

“Comedy. They told us you were a comedian.”

“But hey, thanks for taking that shitty rag out of my mouth. Nobody’s gagged so hard since your mom decid—“

The man in front of him raised a hand and the two men standing near the doorway who’d dragged him into the office raised their pistols.

Garrick smirked and slid down on the swivel chair like a scolded child.

“You could have had so much, Garrick. So much. A man of your capabilities. I assume you know where you are?”

“Rich decor, friendly guards, receptionist with heels from that fancy store with the Norwegian-sounding name. I’m going to go ahead and assume that I’m in some sort of…“

Garrick wafted his hands towards his nostrils, inhaling sharply. The room smelled of some sort of aftershave and burned plastic.


Everyone in the room shuffled uncomfortably as Garrick began to laugh.

“Are you serious? You just bought me here, to the middle of a giant bank? Talk about cat among the pigeons. Jesus.”

“You won’t be leaving this room, MacCready. Not until you’ve considered my client’s offer, and then you will be escorted back out. Try anything, and you will be shot.”

Garrick considered this information with the gravitas of someone considering between a nationally recognised brand of toilet tissue or the store’s own brand.

“Alright,” he said, finally.

As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Thaddeus Bull left the room and Garrick heard a muttered exchange outside followed by a brisk whirring, as if someone was counting banknotes in his hands.

“Yep. It’s all there,” said Thaddeus from outside the room. “Pleasure doing business with you.”

Garrick saw the large burgundy cowboy hat enter the room before he saw the pot-bellied moustachioed man underneath.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Dalton. CEO of BigNSafe Enterprises.”

He extended a hand to Garrick.

“It’s awful rude not to shake the hand of another fellow, you know,” Mr. Dalton said after some time of leaving his hand extended.

“Hands are tied, mate. Not my call,” Garrick replied.

“No matter. Clearly, this rudeness is what got you into trouble in the first place.”

“I’d argue childhood poverty.”

“You would, criminal.”

“Mr. Dalton, is it? Could you please tell me what your proposal is that you’ve put together with that corrupt police dude so we can all continue with our lives please?”

“Sure can, partner,” he said. He leaned against the far wall and stared out of the window. He could have been watching the traffic going by or the people walking by the sidewalk below. He might not have been looking at anything in particular.

“But I know you don’t have much time. Stomach, isn’t it? I talked to your doctor on the phone. Bribed him, too.”


“Goodo. So we’re testing out our new 100 percent unbreakable safe before we go public with it. We want to sell it to businesses, discerning individuals and—yes?”

Garrick put his hand down. “Every safe can be cracked.”


“The only way to stop your stuff from ever being filched is to destroy it. Wear, tear, erosion…even without those, they’ll be other things.”

“The BigNSafe 509 is complete with thick metal walls made of a new magnesium alloy with silicon carbide. It is the strongest, and yet lightest, metal in the world. The hinges are titanium.”


“Naturally, Mr. MacCready.”

Garrick chortled. “Hey, remember the 445 model which buckled when you poured ice water over it because you fucked up the composition of the alloy?”

“What’s your point? The new safe is—“

Garrick was still laughing as if he was remembering an incident involving an old friend. “Nah, it’s nothing,” he finished, after he’d stopped giggling.

“It can’t be broken into at all, Mr. MacCready. There’s just no way to—“

“I don’t care. I don’t care at all. You can make it out of anything and it’s still going to have the biggest flaw of belonging to someone. You can get inside people, you know, just like any vault you can pick with their emotions and open them right up.”

“I don’t think I need philosophy lessons from a convict,” said Mr. Dalton, his Texan voice tinged with boredom. “The safe’s completely unopenable. Anyone who puts anything into it will always keep their possessions forever safe. That’s our tagline. What do you think?”

Garrick MacCready shrugged. He was staring at the floor, his eyes shining.

“It’s all on loan,” he smiled sadly.

“I’m sorry?”

“You can’t own anything. You know that, right? Sometime later, you gotta give it all back. Some grips are tighter than others, but you’ve always gotta drop everything you clutch eventually.”

“Man, cancer really made you such a depressing person.”


“Yuh. I mean, I’d heard tales of the legendary Garrick MacCready the master spy breaking into Fort Knox, the man who knew the banks better than the managers, the man who could crack anything. The man who—“

“Yeah, I’ll let you know if he turns up, fella,” Garrick said. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“You probably don’t have long, either. Months? Years? I’ll tell you what: if the legendary Garrick MacCready appears in my televised advert exclaiming that he can’t open the BigNSafe 509, I’ll give him a million dollars. Oh, and if you do, then I’ll put two million dollars in the safe. Prize money. It’s a win-win. And then you’ve got something to send to your family. Your daughter, Garrick. Your wife.”


“Whatever. You can see I did my homework, though. Impressed?”


“Are you in, MacCready? If you’re not, then it’s straight to the cells with you.”

Garrick took a moment. It didn’t hurt to pretend to be considering his options, even though everyone present knew that he didn’t have any.


They hustled him out of the building soon afterwards. Nobody noticed the flashing device in his pocket.


Two months later, Garrick was preparing his kit, checking and rechecking his gear and tools for the hundredth time, when the black van pulled up outside his house.

“It’s time,” said the voice from behind him. Garrick jumped and clutched his chest in fright and surprise as he wheeled around.

Officer Locke was confused and gave a slight chuckle. “Uh, sorry. Your door was unlocked. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

The policeman stood there in his puffed-up policeman’s outfit, bulked out by a stab-proof vest alongside handcuffs, a pistol, and a baton as Garrick stood in front of him in his oil-stained threaded vest and cargo shorts. Then they both laughed and broke into a brief hug.

“Ha! Well shit man, you should knock!” Garrick said after he’d finished chuckling.

“I’m not the ace criminal leaving my doors open,” grinned Locke. “Anyway, I picked up the rest of your gear.”

“How does it feel to be helping a convicted criminal break into a safe, Locke?” Garrick said, taking a large metal device off of Locke and pulling down a trigger that caused a spurt of green flame to extend from the barrel.

“It’s sponsored by the police division and you’re not breaking the law so—watch where you’re pointing that thing.”

“Sorry, boss. No, it’s for a corporation. And corporations are always law-abiding, I’m sure.”

Locke rolled his eyes and smiled as Garrick fiddled with his new toy, adjusting the gas valves. For weeks of Locke hauling gear round to Garrick’s house, they’d built up quite the rapport.

“Anyway, thanks for grabbing the GR5 instead of the BL4. The blue flame isn’t as strong as the green one. I’m very picky when it comes to thermal lances.”

Locke shrugged. “It’s the police budget, not mine. Anyway, we need to move. It’s time.”

As they both closed the car doors, Garrick turned to Locke.

“So did you make it in the end?”


“Your daughter’s ballet recital that I held up because I was—“

Locke raised an eyebrow.

“Busy. Because I was busy.”

Locke sighed.

“No. Caused a big family bust up as well.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“First time you’ve actually sounded apologetic for anything in your life, Garrick.”

Garrick considered, rubbing his chin. “Very well might be, Officer. But I probably wouldn’t be here if I’d sounded more apologetic all those other times.”

“Probably,” the officer agreed.

“And don’t get me wrong,” Garrick continued. “I regret a lot of things. Everything that pushed my daughter away. I know it’s mostly my fault. I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t.”

Locke didn’t take his eyes off the road and kept driving. They were out of town, heading through rural scrubland. “What did you do?”

“I left her alone with a terrible woman,” came the voice to Locke’s right. He almost didn’t recognise it. Garrick’s voice had never sounded so gentle. So soft.

The studio lot was pretty far out from the big city, but eventually the two of them got to it.

The safe stood in the middle of the wide-open plain, looming over the two of them as the press and baying photographers were herded back by cast and crew. After Locke emptied the car of equipment and gear, Garrick was presented with a microphone as the portly Texan slung one arm around his shoulder.

“Gotta suggest to the camera we’re chums,” he whispered in Garrick’s ear. “The people in TV land love that.”

The man behind the camera put up three fingers. Two. One. Going live.

“Hi, my name’s Ryan Dalton and I make security devices like the GigaWeb SecuriCam and the BigNSafe 509 to help people protect what’s rightfully theirs! And this evening we’ve got the biggest, nastiest, and meanest criminal we could find in the land! Garrick MacCready is the most notorious safe cracker in the USA and he’s agreed to do this segment with us. Isn’t that right?”



“Ha ha! Don’t you just love that spirit, folks? So we’ve told Garrick that if he can break our new BigNSafe 509, he can have one million US dollars! Yessiree! Garrick has four hours and all the conventional tools of the trade used by unsavoury characters in that particular industry!”

He paused and waited for Garrick to say something.

Garrick remained silent.

“Alright! Your time begins NOW!”

The cameras panned and zoomed as Garrick got to work. Ryan Dalton was particularly pleased to find out that Garrick muttered to himself whilst he worked. After all, more viewers meant more customers after Garrick’s public shamed him.

Served him right for being in that line of work, after all.

Garrick was in the middle of fiddling with the main key lock with a large pick when the entire keyhole blocked up.

“Our patented keyhole destruction, folks!” Ryan yelled, his voice beamed out of a large red and white megaphone. “When your safe is being forced, a pressure plate feels a change in sensitivity and runs down a trickle of QuikDry concrete. We’re proud to be supported by QuikDry, the premium name in—“

He frowned as Garrick pulled out a thin metal bar and began jackhammering it into the keyhole, dislodging the concrete. After some time, he managed to click open the manual lock and the door swung open.

The door inside the door was a surprise to Garrick. In all his years of safe cracking, he’d rarely seen a door inside another door.

He looked over to Mr. Dalton, who was leering at him. The cruel smile spread across his face conveying nothing but satisfaction. Locke was sitting in a row of spectators, biting his nails. Thaddeus Bull was smiling to himself.

“Folks, the electronic door is the real deal. We like to play with ol’ Garrick here, but this door isn’t messing around. Not only is it the strongest, but the only way to open it is by key. If the door detects anything else, the door will become unable to open.”

Garrick spent two hours trying the door. The electromagnet failed. The push-pins failed. Even the thermal lance wilted on this bizarre metal.

His time was almost up, and Garrick sat in front of the safe with his head in his hands.

“Folks, it looks like Mr. MacCready has all but given up!”

Suddenly, inspiration struck him. His head bolted upright, like a deer in headlights. He took out the large lockpick from his apron of assorted tools and wrapped it ‘round a coil of metal wiring. After putting on some yellow Marigold rubber gloves, he connected the wires to a car battery and pried it into the keyhole.

“The electricity short-circuits the mechanism that shuts off the door access whilst I’m picking it,” he explained to a fleet of cameramen who’d swept in like ravens.

A wave of whooping noises from several spectators rose up as the lock clicked and Garrick MacCready smiled. He pulled the safe open.

It was entirely empty.

Ryan Dalton began to laugh.

“He really thought we’d give him the money, didn’t he? Well, folks, we don’t give criminals any money. Now that this is all over, Garrick is heading back to jail!”

“Not quite,” said Garrick in a quiet and measured voice. He stepped back into the safe and took out a large device from his back pocket.

“Last week, with the help of DCI Thaddeus Bull and Mr. Ryan Dalton, I was able to infiltrate the Royal Bank of America with this.”

He held up the cryptoprocessor.

“Now I have the details and credit information of every person in around nine states.”

He pressed a large button on the front of the device.

Somewhere far away, 50 million dollars was deposited into the account of a young girl, taken from the accounts of specially selected businessmen, congressmen, and venture capitalists.

Ryan Dalton approached him with his arms up in the air. The megaphone lay forgotten on the dirt ground. Several policemen were approaching the man inside the safe with their firearms raised, including Thaddeus and Locke.

“Get out of there, Garrick. It’s over. You’re going back to jail. We can undo whatever you’ve done with that device. We both know you have to hand it over.”

Garrick MacCready didn’t stop smiling as he stuck out his hand and pulled the large metal door shut on himself. The door locked automatically. Shots rang out, leaving only gunpowder marks on the indifferent metal door. There wasn’t a single dent left.

“Open that door,” Thaddeus said to Locke.

Locke patted himself down and his face became one of horror. “He pickpocketed me! In the car! The bastard stole my key!”

“God damn it!” screamed Mr. Dalton. “How can you let a known criminal fucking pickpocket you? You knew who he was! You knew!”

His yelling rang out across the empty desert sands, safe for only a few hardy gorse bushes.

“Yeah, I knew,” Locke muttered under his breath as Thaddeus admonished him, yelled along with the Texan. He barely even heard him when he was told that he was fired.


Locke drove up to the theatre at ten past nine that evening and ran to meet his wife. The interval had just finished and people were beginning to slowly drift back towards their seats, their tinkling laughs echoing through the corridor.

As he fidgeted through the auditorium giving his “excuse mes” and his “pardon mes” he found his wife and sat down next to her.

“Finally. I thought you’d be too tied up with work to come,” she smiled, pecking him on the cheek.

“I’m sorry I missed the first half, Sandra, dear,” Officer Locke replied. He’d already changed out of his police uniform and somehow looked younger.

“Hey, she’s mostly in the second act anyway.”

Locke nodded in agreement as the curtain rose.

He smiled, fiddling with the keychain attached to his belt that held one solitary key.


“Deus Vault” won fourth place in Terror House’s Pulp Submission Contest. To read all of the winning stories, click here.