Two weeks later, Brad was at the home of the unknown man. Not totally comfortable with what he was about to do, he sat and watched the man pace back and forth in front of him in silence. Brad waited for him to speak.
“So. We have everyone in place for the heist. I have watched the location for weeks, and I’m confident that we can get our hands on it.”
“You never told me how you know the location of the jewels.” Brad said quietly.
“Because that isn’t your business. Johnny G and the rest of his team were good. So good in fact, that didn’t bother to protect the collection they worked so hard to steal. I intend to get my hands on it. All of it. Your job is to buy the jewels as they come up on the exchange. I will pay you accordingly. Got it?”
Brad nodded. “Yeah. No one gets hurt right?”
“As long as they don’t get in the way.”
“Congrats!” Apollo said toasting Sateria. She was finally able to buy and sell property in the state of Illinois. Apollo was happy because it meant he could move on with who they really were. They hadn’t hit a museum or gallery since Johnny died, and it was beginning to take a toll on him. But first things first.
“Thanks,” Sateria said, grinning. Now she was on the inside. It took a while, but she was finally in a position to do what the love of her life asked. Still not knowing how she was going to do it, she trusted Apollo to teach her. The rest of the team, were still strangers to her.
“We’ll do it up big,” Apollo said, genuinely happy. “Introduce you to the board and the other directors.”
Sateria shook her head. “No. I still have a lot to learn. You can introduce me as a member of the team, but not as the boss. I don’t deserve that yet.”
“Fine,” Apollo grinned. “We need to get you into an office close to mine, since you will be on my team.”
“You did say you wanted to use your degree, right?”
“Oh yes. I forgot about that.”
“However, your other training is to begin immediately. I will speak for the rest of the team to tell them of your progress but, you can’t call yourself our leader until you are better than me in everything we do. I realize Johnny wanted this, but there is no way that I’m gonna put the rest of the team in danger because you are a novice. You will have to work, and you will have to work hard. Long hours. Expect them. Unorthodox hours. Expect those too. You will have to be alert when it’s time to move, or you will be a liability to the team, and well, that may get one of us killed as well as yourself.”
A week later, Sateria was in her office reading some contracts that Apollo had given her to look at. There was a knock on her door. “Come in.”
To her surprise, it was Jayden. Looking quite handsome in his olive slacks, crisp white shirt, and black tie. Sateria never noticed how good looking he was until now.
“Good morning, Jayden,” she said smiling at him.
“Good morning, Sateria,” he replied, sitting in the chair in front of her desk. “Apollo told me that you and I were to be joined at the hip after work all week.”
“I’m in fine shape,” she replied, and she was.
Jayden gave her a seductive smile, glancing at her chest. “I don’t doubt that, but I still need to see it. How fast and how far you can run. Endurance is what we are gonna work on this week. Soon we will add strength training to that, but for now, all you’re gonna have to know how to do is run.”
She sat there and glared at him for a minute. “Okay,” she paused curious on what he really thought about her. “Jayden, you know I didn’t kill Johnny, yet you still don’t trust me. Why not?”
Jayden sat and stared at her long and hard before he spoke. “Honestly, there are several reasons. But I won’t go into it now. Don’t worry. You prove that you are valuable to the team, and that’s when I will begin to trust you. What we do is extremely dangerous. It requires one to be light on their feet, some stamina, and the use of your brain. You also have to have nerves of steel. You may have to shoot someone in order to save your own life. If you hesitate, well, you may end up with a bullet in you, or someone on the team will. I’ve been shot and believe me, it is no fun.
“So, starting today after work you belong to me for a minimum of three hours. First we will have a light dinner, and then we hit the gym. We’ll do this everyday. And I expect you to be on time, and not one minute late.”
“I’m glad you agree,” Jayden said, got up and left her office.
Sateria, bothered by Jayden’s all business attitude, went to see Apollo. She carried the contract in her hand just in case someone walked in. She knocked on the already open door. Apollo looked up.
“What’s going on Sateria? Having trouble with one of the contracts I gave you?”
“Actually I am, and there is something else on my mind as well.”
“Okay, close the door and have a seat.”
Sateria placed the contract on his desk. “These numbers are wrong. This isn’t the price we discussed with our client. It is one-hundred thousand dollars more than we talked about, and I don’t think they will be happy about that.”
Apollo picked up the contract and read it over. “You’re right. We’ll fix it. So, what else is on your mind?”
“What about him?”
Sateria took a deep breath. “He doesn’t like me. Not that he should immediately, but he does not like me.”
Apollo sighed. “I warned you ahead of time that it takes him a long time to trust people. You already knew that so why are you letting it bother you?”
Sateria rolled her eyes. “I don’t know. It may be because I feel something from the rest of you that I don’t feel from him.”
“And that is?”
“Acceptance. I mean, I come to work everyday, work like a dog like everyone else, yet he still treats me like shit.”
Apollo looked at his watch. “Like I said, he is different than the rest of us. He has to trust you. Give him some time, and things will be fine.”
Sateria watched as Apollo was fidgeting and constantly looking at his watch. “Do you have an appointment?”
Apollo nodded. “Yes, I do. Forgive me.”
“So do you want me to have Donna type up an amendment?”
“Yes, please. Thanks, Sateria. Forgive me for being so busy. I promise I will come see you after my meeting.”
Sateria nodded. “Okay.”
Sateria left Apollo’s office and went back to her own. Johnny told her to give folks an opportunity to love her. She was not feeling the love from the team she was supposed to be leading.
Three months later, she called her own meeting. Not at the office where she would have had to pretend, but at her home, where she could be herself.
“I think it’s time we go and rob someone.”
Jayden chuckled and shook his head. “Really. So you can run. What else can you do?”
Sateria rolled her eyes. “Fuck you, Jayden. You respected Johnny, he left me in charge, and it’s time that you respect me.”
“Sateria, you can’t be serious.”
“Oh, but I am. I’ve gotten other training besides the physical that you have given me Jayden, and well, let’s see how I do.”
Jayden looked at Apollo and then back at Sateria. “A mock up. Certainly you are not talking about the real thing. You aren’t ready for the real thing.”
“You aren’t me. You can’t tell me what I am ready for, nor can you tell me the opposite. But yes. A mock up. Let’s get to it.”
Apollo was happy Sateria was beginning to embrace her inherited authority, but there was no way he was gonna let her lead. He agreed with Jayden. She was a long way from being ready. “Sateria, have you ever fired a weapon?” he asked.
“Okay. Just wanted to know.”
“So where and when will we do this mock up?” Sateria asked.
Pheonix looked at Apollo. “The warehouse is still set up from our last job. We can do it without having to move things around.”
Apollo shook his head. “No. Need something smaller. Our last hit was in a three story building. Way too big to start to train Sateria. I say we set it up for a store.”
Jayden protested. “A store? We haven’t hit a store in five years.”
Apollo shrugged. “She has to start somewhere, so a store would be perfect. It will be good for accuracy and timing. It’s only practice, Jayden.”
Jayden still not wanting her on his team rolled his eyes in protest. “Fine.”
“And what will we start with first?” Pheonix asked.
“Smash and grab. This will give us a chance to test her speed. We’ll set up several counters in the warehouse. Sateria your job will be to go in, smash the glass of the displays, grab the loot, and get out as quickly as you can.”
“I can do that.”
Jayden nodded. “Sure you can. But how fast can you do it?”
That weekend, the team went to work and set up four mock stores for Sateria to practice. She was ready to prove to the people, the thieves, that she associated with that she was ready to be a part of their world.
Apollo and the team sat in front of each mock up. Each one of them slightly different than the last. They had stop watches in hand, prepared to time her. She stood at the pretend door of the first store and waited for Apollo.
“Go,” he said pushing the button on his watch.
Sateria entered the pretend store with a rifle in hand as her only tool. She attempted to smash the glass on the first display case, and it took her three hits at the glass to do it. She went at the next with the same three strikes. She started to swing at the third and Apollo stopped her.
“Stop!” he shouted.
Sateria turned to him, slightly out of breath. “What’s the matter?”
“You need to break that glass in one swing. You have spent too much time just to get at the jewels.”
“That’s impossible, Apollo.”
Apollo shook his head. “No it’s not. Troya can do it.” Apollo turned and looked at Troya. She got up from her seat and took the rifle from Sateria. With one swing, she smashed the glass of the next display case.
“How did you do that?” Sateria asked.
“Put your whole body into it. Arms aren’t enough.”
Sateria stepped outside of the mock store and nodded at Apollo. “Go,” he said, watching his stop watch. Sateria ran in, lifted the weapon over her head, and swung at the glass. She managed to break in one swing, but broke her weapon in half at the same time.
Apollo smirked in disgust. “Stop!” he yelled.
“What’s wrong now?” Sateria said turning to him.
Apollo shook his head. “If you needed to use that weapon, do you think you could?”
Pheonix laughed. “As a bat maybe.” Apollo shot Pheonix a look that told her to keep quiet. “Sorry,” she said, giggling quietly.
“Tell me Sateria, can you shoot someone with that weapon if you needed too?”
Sateria shook her head. “No, I suppose not.”
“Watch the metal at the edges of the display. Don’t hit it. Break the glass only.”
Sateria moved to the next store mock up, manned by Pheonix. With a new rifle in hand, Sateria stood at the ready again. Pheonix held her watch in her hand and said, “Go.” Sateria went into the mock store and broke the first display in two swings, but her weapon remained in tact.
“Better, but you need to figure out how to break the glass in one swing and not destroy your weapon at the same time.”
Sateria stood and looked at Pheonix. “Okay.” Not that she had any idea of how she was gonna do it, she tried again. This time she managed to break the glass in one swing and her weapon remained in tact.
Sateria grinned. “Thanks.”
The third store manned by Troya. “Don’t forget your loot. Getting into the display is half the battle, but you have to grab what you can while you can and move on to the next.”
Sateria nodded. “Right.”
Sateria stood at the door to the next false store. Troya said, “Go,” and in she went. This time armed with both her weapon and a large cloth bag. One swing at the glass, and she grabbed the loot and put it in her bag. Sateria went for the next display. This one took two swings, but she grabbed her loot and moved on to the next. Three swings, broken glass, and she grabbed her loot. She left out of the mock store in five minutes.
Troya shook her head. “Gotta move faster than that. The cops will be on us within seven minutes of the alarm going off if we aren’t able to disarm it. In seven minutes, we gotta be long gone.”
Sateria stood in front of Troya slightly out of breath. “You’re kidding, right?”
Troya shook her head. “Nope. You have to move faster than that.”
Sateria nodded. “Okay.”
She stepped in front of Jayden’s mock store and he only stared at her. “I’m not even gonna make you do this.”
“Because, you aren’t strong enough. I obviously have failed in my duty. Apollo, Sateria, and I are taking the week off. It seems that we have some work to do.”
“Okay, but what about our annual meeting?”
“Move it. Sateria, meet me at the gym in the morning. I will not be shot and killed because you aren’t in the best shape of your life. Take some pain killers before hand. I promise you will hate me by the time we are done.”
Jayden got up from his chair and left the building, leaving his team, mouths agape.
The following day.
“One, two, three. Come on, Sateria, lift!”
In between reps, when she could, she spoke up. “I hate you.”
“As you should. Five more pounds.”
Jayden added more weight, and demanded that she push. Sateria pushed until she couldn’t anymore. “Jayden, I’ve had enough for today.”
Jayden smiled. “See you tomorrow.”
They worked the entire week, and Saturday morning, they were back at the warehouse. Sateria stood in front of Jayden’s mock up, and he gave the command to go. Sateria remembered her previous training. She smashed the glass of the display case, grabbed the goods, and was gone in three minutes.
“Nice,” Jayden said. “We will make a thief out of you yet.”
Jayden’s wall was coming down. Sateria only had to learn one more thing for him to begin to trust her. He, having been shot before on one of the heists, was not about to be shot again. Monday, Jayden walked into Apollo’s office after hours. The Smith sisters had gone home.
“Hey,” Jayden said.
Apollo looked up from his desk. “Hey.”
Sitting down making himself comfortable, Jayden asked, “So, what do you think?”
Apollo tilted his head. “About what?”
“Sateria. Is she ready?”
“No,” Apollo said shaking his head. “And you know she isn’t. Why are we even talking about this now?”
“Maybe I just wanted to know where your head was.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?” There was no way that Jayden could see past his mask. Apollo thought that he’d hidden his feelings towards Sateria well, but obviously not well enough. He was going to deny any and all accusations.
Jayden gave Apollo a devious smile. “You like her. She is beyond a doubt one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen, but I still think she killed Johnny.”
Apollo shook his head. “No way. She doesn’t have the mental capacity to kill anyone in cold blood. She’s innocent. And I don’t like her the way you think. She’s a friend and that’s all.”
Jayden smiled crookedly. “Heh. A friend? We’ll see about that.”
Apollo stared across his desk, determined to hide his true feelings from his friend. “Just a friend, Jayden.”
“Okay, okay. Don’t start freaking out on me. I was kidding about you liking her.”
Apollo squinted. “You really still believe that she killed Johnny?”
“I do. And let that be our little secret.”
“She told us she’s never fired a weapon before in her life. Johnny was shot in the back of the head with a high powered rifle, at night, through his window and his chair. There is no way in hell she could’ve done that, Jayden. You’re spouting off a bunch of nonsense. Only a sniper could’ve pulled that shot off. You know it, as well as I do.”
“Hmm. I take that back,” Jayden said smirking. “You do like her. Perhaps it’s time we got her to the range and put a gun in her hands. Maybe she was telling the truth, and maybe she wasn’t. We won’t know until we see it first hand.”
“You wanna train her?”
Jayden shook his head. “Nah. One of you all can do it. I spend enough time with her in the gym.”
The following night, the small museum where Johnny displayed his entire jewelry collection, was broken into. The police called Sateria at home and told her what happened. She was upset, but was more concerned about the guards.
“Was anyone hurt?”
“Yes ma’am. One of the thieves died, but that’s all. None of your people were hurt.”
“Was anything taken?”
“No ma’am. But I suggest you either move your collection or beef up security. I’m certain that the thieves will try again.”
“Okay, I will. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Good night, Miss Murphy.”
“Good night.” Sateria hung up the phone. She looked at her clock. Three in the morning. She was upset and couldn’t go back to sleep. How dare someone try to take the gift from Johnny? She didn’t care what time it was, she called Apollo.
“Mmm. Hello?” Apollo answered out of a dead sleep.
“Apollo, its Sateria.”
He was immediately concerned. She never called him at home. “What time is it? What’s the matter?” He asked, suddenly becoming more alert.
“Three in the morning. I’m sorry to wake you, but I just got a call from the police.”
“The cops? What’s going on?” Apollo asked sitting straight up in his bed. He thought for sure someone found Johnny’s murderer.
“Someone tried to take Johnny’s collection.”
“Was anyone hurt?”
“None of my people. Apollo, I’m scared.”
Apollo sighed. “It’s okay. We’ll just have to move the collection. I told Johnny a long time ago that it wasn’t a good idea to display it.”
“So where should we move it to?”
“For now? My house. I have a safe here where I keep my valuables. We’ll find a bank and put it all in a safety deposit box after that. Okay?”
“Okay. I’m sorry to have woken you.”
“You gonna be alright?”
“Yeah. I’ll just drink some tea or something. Thanks, Apollo.”
Two days later, Brad’s benefactor was livid. The team Brad hired failed where they thought they would succeed.
“What the fuck? Where did you find those raggedy pieces of shit?” He yelled loudly. “Now we will have to work twice as hard to get at the collection!”
Brad hung his head in shame. “Sorry. I did the best I could.”
“Now we will have to wait many more months before we can move again! My team will have to work overtime just on surveillance alone! Damn it!”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know anything about stealing jewels; I only know the real worth of a stone.”
The unidentified man stopped in his tracks and pointed at Brad. “Fuck it. I’ll do this myself. You are on my team as the buyer only. You are to stay out of everything else.”
Knowing who the collection belonged to, Brad was still concerned. “You promised she wouldn’t be harmed.”
“Fuck that. She gets in the way, she gets a bullet too. All you can do at this point is hope the shot isn’t fatal.”
“But you said-”
“Shut up! You have already screwed this up and made our job harder than it should be. Security on the location is sure to go up twenty percent, and now I have to figure out how to get by it. You are to do nothing until I call you. Understood?”
Brad nodded. “Yes.”
“Good. Get the hell out of my sight. I’ll call you when I’m ready.”
Brad went home to find Venus sitting on the couch, watching television in her robe. She sipped on her coffee and asked, “Where have you been so early in the morning babe?”
“I had breakfast with a client.”
“Come. Sit down.” Venus grinned deviously, patting the cushion next to her.
Brad knew what she wanted, and he wasn’t in the mood. He was worried about Sateria, though he shouldn’t have been.
“Not now, Venus.” He went to the bedroom, and closed the door.
Venus picked up her phone and made a phone call.
“How’d it go?” she asked.
“Not good. One of those meatheads Brad hired ended up dead, and we came up empty.”
“I’m sorry. So what are you gonna do now?”
“What else can I do? If we’re gonna get our hands on Johnny G’s collection, I’m gonna have to keep trying.”
“I will. I love you.”