Late last Saturday, eleven men were detained outside Green Library after what is now being called “the most daring attempted heist in Stanford history.” The group nearly made off with an extremely rare hand-written manuscript of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, which has been valued on the underground manuscript market for over $20 million. The manuscript, allegedly written by Steinbeck in one wild, coke-fueled weekend during his last month at Stanford, has been proudly on display in Green Library’s Special Collections Room for the past 20 years.
“We thought the manuscript was completely untouchable,” claimed Green Library Security Director, John Freeman. “Not only was it secured under two inches of bulletproof glass, it was covered by a grid of hypersensitive, infrared lasers that would go off at even the slightest change in temperature! It was actually probably too sensitive! During the winter, whenever we turned on the heat, it would often trigger the alarm. It happened so much actually, we eventually decided to just mute the whole thing. In retrospect, not the best move from a security standpoint, but that glass was still pretty thick!”
But not thick enough, however, to keep out a crack team of international manuscript thieves. “We are the best in the business,” exclaimed Jean-Paul Boudreaux, codename “Snippers.” “In fact, I’m pretty sure we are the only ones in the business. The market for stolen manuscripts is not doing great right now.”
“Our plan was perfect,” explained Alfonso Ochava, codename “El Chivo.” “We were all posing as Middle Eastern dignitaries visiting Stanford as part of a good-will tour of America. We knew all of the guards would be busy providing security, and no one would be paying attention to the manuscript. About an hour into our tour of Green Library we set into motion our carefully-rehearsed plan.”
“I was pretending to be the Prime Minister of Armenia,” recounted Vinny DiCosto, codename “Meatballs.” “When the moment came, I stuck out my leg and tripped Rain Man, who was going as the Turkish Secretary of State. I then whispered ‘That’s for the genocide,’ just to make the whole thing believable, and he and I pretended to get into a big fight. Just like we planned, all the guards were trying to calm us down and prevent an international incident, meanwhile Snippers and Big Mike snuck away unnoticed to the Special Collections Room. All they had to do was cut a hole through the glass, which apparently wasn’t even that thick, reach in, grab the manuscript, and stick it in Mike’s backpack. At that point we figured we were home free, but apparently we were wrong.”
As the men attempted to leave Green Library with the stolen manuscript, they came across the one security precaution they could have never predicted: Old Man Norman. Norman has been Green Library’s official backpack-checker since 1958, and was on duty the night of the attempted heist. “Well, I was just sitting at my desk, minding my business, when I see these fellas come on up,” Norman explained. “One of them young security guards say, ‘Oh it’s okay Norman, you just let these guys through, they’ve had a rough day.’ But Norman never lets his guard down. I tell them, ‘Boy let me see that there backpack!’ I open it up, and sure enough, it’s got that fancy manuscript inside. So they ended up locking those boys up, and now they calling me a hero…But I ain’t no hero. I’m just a man doing his job. Someone has to protect this library. And that someone, is Norman.”