An open letter to Mr. Seare:

It is with relish and delight that I recall the scintillating affair you arranged last evening. Be assured, good sir, that while I certainly profited from my 16 percent, my greater gain was in sharing your company and that of your esteemed associates, the finest felons with whom I have ever had the pleasure of conspiring to thievery and murder.

It was a great thrill to attend an event that any man of my postion in the community would see as the zenith of the winter season: the acquisition of not only the Starkweather family's prized antique jewelry, but their vaunted collection of Pissarro oil paintings, and as a bonus, the contents of Max Starkweather's fabled fifth-floor safe!

I am still humbled by my inclusion in the affair. True, I can cut a canvas from its frame as well as the next man. I am quite capable of reducing large-carat precious stones down to salable but untraceable sizes, and it goes without saying that I have a certain funny little way with alarm systems, know my way around a silenced automatic pistol, and can climb sheer walls fairly well. But I had never before found myself paired with such lofty culprits. In matters of robbing a man of his worldly possessions and cold-bloodedly taking his life, you are without peer.

As we waited in the dimly lit parking garage for the unassuming dark sedan that was to transport us to the heist itself, your grace in making the introductions was impeccable. I was quite taken with all the invitees, from lowly hired gun Ace Spade to safecracker par excellence Deuce Diamond to light-fingered and lovely pickpocket Ada Hearts. Not their real names, I know. Their real qualities were nevertheless evident.

And once we penetrated the mansion proper, I had a truly marvelous time distracting the poor befuddled guard—and distracting myself with glee, to be sure—by vaulting from balcony to balcony.

I take great pride in knowing that the loudest sound we made was the muffled crunch of the unfortunate guard's third and fourth cervical vertebrae. As much as I enjoyed luring him into the third-floor drawing room, your exuberant praise upon finding him heaped on the floor humbled me, sir.

If you will indulge me by permitting one additional compliment, I must say your red herring was nothing short of ingenious. By so obviously rifling through the contents of the upstairs safe, you have almost certainly led the authorities to believe that the stock certificates and bearer bonds were the target of the break-in. I treasure your taking me into your confidence concerning the truth: that while I engaged the guard in a deadly waltz, you cut the paintings from their frames, replaced them with forgeries, and then—brilliant!—vandalized the forgeries in turn, making our sophisticated soiree seem like a thuggish act of violence by more callow and... shall we say... urban elements.

You did me another honor of which I deem myself quite unworthy. I could not insult you by refusing it, but to think you would allow me to kill the inside man! When my carving knife slid through the eyeball of Starkweather's traitorous chef, I felt for the first time as though I were a member of your circle. A shame, of course, that a truly first-class chef had to die in such a fashion, but I will not apologize for enjoying it! We allow ourselves too few indulgences in this life. Doubtless this is why, even though the plan had gone flawlessly, you elected to slit the throats of the Starkweathers in their beds.

Even our adieux were bid in a manner quite befitting the gentry. Though the jewels were safe in your hollow cane, the stock certificates and bearer bonds concealed in Ada's ample décolletage, the collectable stamps in the lining of my jacket, the delicate Pissarros could not have been safely transported had not your driver, Royce Rollins, displayed admirable wit and adaptability in procuring Mr. Starkweather's pristine Maybach limousine. I enjoyed a most engaging and enlightening discussion with your most excellent wheelman, as he spirited us home along what I am quite sure were not main roads.

A success by any standard! I look forward to attending many such events with you in the future. I am sure I do not need to add, dear sir, that should you ever attempt to double-cross me for my cut of the $20 million, I will crush your windpipe like a walnut.