deception-skullI don an inconspicuous outfit, khakis and a white oxford shirt. Passing through the security gates of the museum, I smile courteously and retrieve a map. I don’t need one. I know exactly where I’m going. I’ve gone over this plan in my mind numerous times. Timing and attention are critical for success.

Left, two rights, up a staircase, around the corner into the atrium, and through the northwest corridor. It had become my mantra. I whisper it quietly now as I meticulously follow the directions. I glance at my watch. Right on time, perfect. There were more direct routes, but this one had been chosen for a reason. The museum’s placement of cameras left gaps in coverage that I could exploit.

Sitting on the platform, the skull was left unguarded, even though it shouldn’t have been. It was the oldest known cranium found to date, estimated to be a descendant of the famed Lucy. I ease up to the velvet divider separating her from me. Millions of years separated our existence on Earth. I wonder if she’d ever conceived something so mischievous in her lifetime?

One last scan before I spring into action. The stairway located on the eastern wall is my escape route. Ready, set, go. Deliberately, but not hastily, I hop the divider, grab the skull, and begin sprinting towards the door. Dodging left, then right, with the prize safely tucked away, I’m a running back, avoiding linebackers looking to tackle me.

“Stop!” the security guard shouts, and I know who his words are intended for. The museum alarm system is enabled, just as I push open the stairwell door. Still on schedule.

Skipping steps three at a time, I traverse the two stories with ease. Reaching the ground floor, I push open the exit door. The alarm is already going off. No harm in triggering another one. Placing the skull on the floor, I dart out of the darkened stairwell and into the sunlight. The backpack is waiting for me there.

I pick it up and make my way to the pub around the corner. I emerge from its restroom a new man, dressed in shorts, t-shirt, and sunglasses. I blend in with every other tourist as I sling the backpack over my shoulder.

The guards will be flummoxed when they discover the skull, still safely inside the walls of the museum. I’m sure it won’t make any sense to them. No matter. By the time they discover the handful of missing gold doubloons, the ones my partner has pilfered amid the chaos, we will have already collected our millions on the black market.

“Hey, stop,” comes the officer’s voice from behind me. Something isn’t quite right. Our plan has been compromised. It’s in this moment, however, that I realize it never was our plan. It was his plan. The plan for deception, as it turns out, was twofold. For the security guards, yes. But his first point of deception was yours truly. Damn, mission accomplished.