A skinny little DJ Qualls-esque fool breaks into a house. He enters through a window while sneaky music plays. TF starts looking around for anything valuable. Eventually he sees a computer and picks it up. At that moment, but before he notices, Paul (who isn’t huge but can clearly handle himself) walks in the front door, as the off-screen jangly keys indicate. TF is holding on to the computer but gets understandably startled. Paul’s eyes connect with his and they both freeze. Paul gives TF a strange look but quickly shows comfortable.
Paul: Oh… hey man. You must be Terry’s buddy.
TF: Uh, yeah..
Paul: He told me you were going to be coming over tonight. He won’t be home for a while.
TF (laying down laptop): Oh, I’ll come back then.
Paul: No man! I told him I’d make you feel at home. Have a seat, my house is your casa. I’ll get us a drink.
TF (eyeing door repeatedly): Uh, sure.
Paul (looking in fridge): I have some Heineken. That’s it right now. Not usually what I’m into. Good shower beer though, hey b’y?
TF (relaxing a bit): Oh sure, for sure.
Paul: So where you from? Timmins, is it? Never been there.
TF: It’s okay. Glad to be out of there.
Paul: Hear that. I never go home anymore. Did Terry tell you the plan? We’re gonna head downtown for dinner later with a couple of other people. Should be a laugh.
TF: Oh, cool. No, he never mentioned —
Paul (interrupting): So I hate to bring this up, but how the hell did you end up getting to a point where you would break into some guy’s house?
TF makes a break for it but Paul stops him.
Paul: Sit down. I am genuinely curious. I need to near your story. I’m not going to call the cops or anything. That wouldn’t actually solve anything.
TF is stunned but accepts Paul’s reasoning.
Paul: Come on. You owe me that at least.
TF: Okay, you’re right. I’ll you this. It was my destiny.
Paul: To rob my house? Go on! Actually, go on.
TF: I’m one of Doc McPhee’s “kids”.
Paul: Oh god.
TF: Yup. He adopted me when I was about six.
TF: Yeah, he kidnapped most of us, but a few he got the legal way. As you know, he trained us each to be the best at something. My brother Bobby was, and is, the best saxophone player ever, as Doc knew he would be when he named him ‘the saxophonist’ of the family. There’s no one who can train a dog like ‘the trainer’ Tonya. And it’s no fluke that Amy, ‘the chemist’, has two of Alfred’s prizes.
Paul: So what —
TF: I was ‘the freebooter’. I’m supposed to be the greatest thief the world has ever known. Meant to put Vincenzo Peruggia, Frank Abagnale, Doris Payne, François Villon – all of them to shame.
Paul: Well I caught you pretty easily.
TF: Supposed to, I said. I never had it in me. I was his dereliction.
Paul: Well, why are you still doing it?
TF: I wasn’t, for years. McPhee died last week, I’m not sure if you heard. The media, they all obviously agreed he was horrible, but a lot of people did point to the success of the kids. All while never failing to mention the failure.
TF: Me. I wanted to prove to them, and to him, and to myself I guess, that I could do it, if I really tried. So here I am, failing again.
Paul: Maybe you were meant to be great at something else. Like me.
TF: Maybe. But I doubt it. Wait, what’s your specialty?
Paul: I’m ‘the shapeshifter’. I can morph my body into any form I choose, with unbeatable accuracy.
TF: No way. Like what?
Paul: Like this. Like how I’m appearing to you right now. I am not Paul. I am the dead man. I am Doc McPhee. Coo coo coo coo kachu.
[Author’s prescient note: A literal half hour after this greeting was finished, I’m still sitting at the desk in my home office when the door to my house opens. A friend had borrowed my car earlier so I assume it’s her dropping the keys off. Toast is barking with an unusual frenzy so I go to the kitchen to get him to quiet down. A strange man is staring back at me and then he turns and runs away. I chase him down and we end up having a chat for a few minutes, mostly me scolding him for breaking into houses. He makes up some lies about picking up mail for a friend who used to live here. I obviously don’t believe him but also don’t really know what else to say. He compliments my beard then disappears down the alley.]
[Editor’s note: The author genuinely did not realize that the character’s name was the same as Paul’s until some time after the last line was written.]