Find the Lady

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Chapter 15

Connor’s eyes were closed as he ran through every last detail again and again. He could see the outside door in his mind’s eye, the corridor they were sneaking down, and the door into mysterious room. He could see the guards patrolling, imagined their reactions to some little noise or misstep, and he created whole contingency plans for every possibility.

It was a trick he had learned from a boy in juvie who had loved football. The kid had picked it up from some pro player; he called it ‘visualization.’ It involved practicing in your head so that your mind would be ready to do it right the first time. His work often required him to succeed with very little chance for rehearsal, so he had adopted the practice enthusiastically. He had already robbed Securities, Ltd. over a dozen times by now. He anticipated that number being in the hundreds by the time eight o’clock came.

They pressed their together in the cramped space, with the bag filling up the area in between their feet. He could feel Leyla’s restlessness through her constant shifting and squirming. She was laying with her head on his chest, her eyes looking up at him. He couldn’t see her gaze, but he could sense the pleading in it nonetheless. She was not much for sitting still, and it had only been ten minutes in the van before the ennui threatened to undo her.

When they had first climbed into the van, Connor had laid flat on his back in the rear of the minivan where Leyla had lowered the seats to give them more room. Despite the multiple pillows she had thrown back there in anticipation of the job, she seemed to take more interest in her proximity to him. He was unsure if her desire was for closeness or disturbance, seeing as her main activity since then had been twisting and rotating all around him. He tried to stay focused on his visualization, but Leyla’s constant wiggling was slowly chipping away at his concentration.

“You spin any more, doll, and you’re gonna grind a hole in the bottom of this rust-bucket you call a van.”

“I can’t help it. I’m bored. Laying around for hours is lame.”

“You can take a nap or you can run through the job in your mind like I am.”

“I know the job already and I’m not tired.” She shifted so that her front was mostly on Connor’s chest. “Surely there must be other ways for us to pass the time.”

Her lips were moist and wet as she licked them. She moved up to start kissing Connor’s neck, but he stopped her. “Work before play, sweetheart.”

“Oh, come on, we’ve got hours and hours to inject a little play into our work.” As she flashed him that ‘no good’ smile, Connor could feel his insides squirm.

“My mind’s gotta be on the job, doll. This ain’t the kinda thing where it pays to be sloppy.”

“Nothing breaks the concentration of the mighty Connor Donnelly when it comes time for the job, does it?”

“I never heard you complain before.”

“Well usually your anal retentive caution and focus doesn’t keep me locked in a van for hours and hours. Seriously, Connor, let’s fool around, or I might go crazy in here.”

He couldn’t say he wasn’t tempted. He was thankful that he wasn’t really feeling the itch since they had already been intimate earlier in the day. “Can’t afford to be addle-brained, dollface. I’m sorry. We get through this and make off as big as I’m hoping, there will be enough time for all the play you can stand. But right now I gotta be all about the work.”

“Fine …” Leyla finally removed herself from his chest and grumpily put one of the pillows under her head, allowing Connor to return to his mental exercise. He knew that all of his rules and fastidious ways bugged the hell out of her, but he knew just as well what the consequences were of not getting the job done right. Even on a normal job there was the chance of not having money to eat or pay bills or the risk of going to jail. On this one, however, there was a Damocles’ Sword overhead ten thousand dollars wide. He had considered telling her about the extra burden Joey had added to the job, but ultimately he had decided against it. She needed to focus on the job. Worrying about all the side bullshit was his role in their merry band.

Despite his visualization exercises, the wait felt interminable. The hours ticked by second by second in that slow, dreary way that only happens when there’s no form of external stimulation at all. He had run through the imaginary version of the building so many times he felt like he knew it better than he knew his own apartment, yet when he checked the time he still had nearly an hour left. He looked over at Leyla, feeling an unexpected twinge that he hadn’t taken her up on her offer. He tried to think of a way to breach the silence of the darkened space. He didn’t like cramped, dark places; they reminded him too much of being a kid. He shuddered, trying to block out the image of a closet door closing, and crying, and flames. Desperation grabbed him, and he finally just said the first thing that came to his mind.

“I was thinking of buying a boat.”

Leyla rolled so that her whole body was facing him, “What?”

“If the job goes well, I was thinking of buying a boat.”

“Why?”

“Why not? I’ve never even been on a boat, y’know?”

“Not even a ferry?”

“Nope. I don’t even know why. Just never occurred to me.”

“So now you’re just going to buy one?”

“Sure. Maybe I’ll get one of those that can go really far, and I’ll take it out exploring.”

“That seems pretty ambitious for a guy with no sea legs.”

“Well, I gotta find something to occupy my time after this job is done.”

“Why not occupy yourself with the next job?”

“After this heist is over, one of two things will happen: either the owner of this building calls the cops or they don’t. If they do, it’s gonna hit the papers big, and there will be police and news cameras all over our work. If they don’t, then they’re the sort who take care of things themselves, and we don’t want them ever finding us.”

“So this is it, huh? It really is our last job.”

“Maybe it should be.”

“Why? We’re good at this; we’re a good team. I don’t see why you’re so determined to hang it all up.”

“Doll, don’t you ever get tired of it? The lying, the cheating, the taking advantage, the constant threat of arrest, the possibility of getting killed, this ain’t the kind of life that ends well. We got an out here, sweetheart, so don’t you think we should take it?”

“Out to where? Doing nothing while the world passes by? Getting some boring job with a crappy boss who doesn’t appreciate you? You’re a pro, Connor, and you know you ain’t cut out for anything else but this.”

Connor didn’t want to admit that she had a point. The idea of sitting at a desk all day was nausea-inducing. “Even if we were gonna do more jobs, we’re gonna have to lay low for awhile, really low. Not even in the country low, if you catch my meaning.”

“Are you really that worried about whoever owns this place?”

“I know that there are lots of kinds of people who can afford to hire guards and I wouldn’t want to get on the radar of any of them. When the dust settles, maybe then we can go back to work.”

“And how do we know when the dust is settled?”

“Mickey or my friend on the force would know. I can give them a one time use number. If the heat’s off, they call me and I know it’s safe.”

“Or, God forbid, they could email you,” she said, wheedlingly.

“Yeah-yeah. You know how I feel about that stuff. Phone’s just fine.”

“And until then you’re going to hide on your boat?”

He looked agitatedly at her. “No, I figure I’d take the boat out to somewhere else. Set up shop somewhere secluded and maybe just lounge around for awhile.”

A smile lit the corners of her mouth, “Sounds nice; you got room for a first mate on this little dinghy you’re planning on buying?”

He could feel a nervous thump in his heart. He tried his best not to look astounded by her implication. “Yeah, I may have room for one more on my little pleasure yacht.”

“And where were you planning on sailing it, somewhere sundrenched and tropical maybe?”

“That could certainly be arranged.”

“I do have this tiny, little bikini I never get to wear. It would be nice to put it to some use.”

Connor’s mind was lost in a fantasy of beaches and waves lit by a perfect sunset. He imagined him and Leyla in a little house with a big open deck where they could watch the water and lay out in the sun. He thought of her in a tiny swimsuit coming up from the ocean. He pictured every detail of their life: making love all afternoon under a huge bed covered by mosquito nets, sailing around to other little islands to explore, and going to the tiny markets to shop with the locals. He could feel it right in front of him, now all he had to do was reach out and grab it.

“Far be it from me to stop you from wearing a bikini.” Connor checked his watch. “First, though, we’d better take care of business.”

“Is it finally time? Thank God, I should have gotten you talking about boats and beaches sooner, maybe the time would’ve passed quicker.”

Connor reached into the side pocket of the bag and tossed a balaclava at Leyla while putting on his own. She pulled a black, form-fitting shirt from the front seat and changed out of Connor’s old t-shirt. She slid the door open quietly while Connor shouldered the bag. They paused for a moment to make sure there were no pedestrians on the street to see them crossing. Finding the sidewalks empty, they rushed across to the other side and the entrance that Leyla had left unsecured.

Connor opened the door just a crack. He needed to make sure first and foremost that the guards hadn’t noticed the switchover on the security feed. He hadn’t heard any cops, but they might have simply noticed and rebooted the whole system to fix the problem. He pulled out his mirror and slid it along the ground into view of a camera. He listened for a long moment, waiting to hear any murmurs or shouts of alarm. When he was satisfied by the length of the silence, he opened the door wider and slipped inside. He walked over and picked up the mirror and stayed still, once again making sure the cameras weren’t going to give him away. After another couple minutes, he motioned for Leyla to join him.

The halls to Securities, Ltd. were essentially formed into a ‘U’ shape made of three straight lines. The guards’ station was on the opposite arm of the U from them. Connor and Leyla crouched low and stalked stealthily to the first corner. As Connor peeked his head around, he could see the large, oak door that led into the main chamber and the foyer that Leyla had performed the ex-girlfriend in that afternoon. The whole floor was covered in an ugly, checkered linoleum that was nonetheless well waxed and cared for despite its age. The entire foyer was bedecked in fake plants that looked droopy from dust and disregard.

The glass facade was open to the street, and he checked to make sure there was nobody who might be looking inside at the pair of black-clad bandits preparing to perpetrate their planned heist. It was clear on the street side, so Connor looked over to the guard station. He couldn’t see the station itself, but could hear the sounds of a football game blaring from that area of the building. Suddenly he was unsure if it was his footage swap or the convenient distraction of 52-49 at the fourth that had kept the guards from noticing their presence. Either way gets it done, Connor thought to himself, I just wish I could plan more of my misdirects around football season.

He skulked up to the oak door just in time to hear a plethora of swear words flying at the screen combined with excited commentary coming from the coverage. He was about to pull out his picks before he heard the voices of the guards rising over the sounds of the game.

“Hey, it’s already eight, you were supposed to do the rounds half an hour ago.”

“Awww, come on, they’re just about to take the whole thing!”

“Any longer and it’s my ass in a sling! You do ’em as fast or as slow as you’d like, but they’re getting done.”

“Goddamnit, fine! Just remember to have my fifty bucks out when my boys come through with that Hail Mary.”

“Your QB has about as much of an arm as your coach has brains, so I’d say that you should be the one ready to fork some money over.”

“Yeah, we’ll see, pal.”

Irritated at the sudden change in his fortunes, Connor moved over and used his mirror to get a view of a rather portly guard coming out of the station. He hurried back over, hastily pocketing the small, reflective square, and urgently motioned Leyla to move. He was at least grateful for the man’s largesse, since the fat bastard wasn’t even close to making it around to the foyer before the pair of them had slipped into the other hallway.

He could hear the wheezing and muttering of the guard as they reopened the side door and slipped back outside. Connor put his ear up to the door to listen. The dense door didn’t transmit much sound, but it at least gave him an idea of when the porcine patroller had finished the round. He slowly reopened the entry and made it to the corner just in time to see the guard give the foyer one last sweep.

“Huh?” The guard’s flashlight stopped on something near the oak door. Connor felt adrenaline coursing through his veins and had to resist the urge to flee. Nothing is served by panic, he thought.

The man moved over to the source of his confusion. Connor felt his dreams and hopes being crushed as he saw the overweight guard pick up the tiny, square mirror from the floor. In his haste to get away, he hadn’t pushed it down far enough into his pocket and it had silently fell by the wayside as he had crouched by Leyla. It gleamed reflectively at Connor now, a silvery Judas of right angles. For his part, the security guy didn’t get too worked up over the discovery. He bounced his way slovenly down back to the guard station. Connor decided to follow and listen, just in case everything wasn’t botched. He couldn’t help but notice a slight tingle in the back of his neck as he did.

“Hey, do you know anyone who has a mirror?”

“A what?” The other guard was still mostly focused on the game. “Are you just asking random questions to distract me from the fifty you’re about to owe me?”

“No. I found this out in the foyer.” Connor couldn’t see into the station, but the pause told him that the man was handing the telltale reflector over.

“Don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen. Think we should call it in?”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Oh, wait! There was this hot, little, blonde piece of ass in here earlier today, Jerry’s girl. It’s probably hers.” So his name was Jerry, close enough, Connor thought.

“Why was Jerry’s woman over here?”

“Whoo boy, you shoulda been here! She found out he’s been slippin’ it to another girl on the side. She was maaaaaaaaaaad. I was worried we were gonna have to call in a domestic.”

“Damn! Why didn’t you tell me about that sooner? So you think this is hers?”

“Probably. She had this purse she was hitting him with. She was swinging it pretty wildly, probably it just slipped out.”

“Don’t they usually have makeup with their mirrors though? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl have a mirror all by itself before.”

“When was the last time you seen a woman do anything? They always have some kind of extra mirror or something on them. Hey, why don’t you give it to me. I’ll track her down tomorrow and give it back to her. She’ll probably be extra appreciative.” The guard seemed very amused by this last thought.

“Are you kidding me? If anyone’s getting appreciated for finding a mirror, it’s gonna be me. I’m the one who found it after all.”

A loud, raucous commotion emanated from the T.V. The other guard laughed, “Well you’re going to be fifty bucks lighter when you do. Pay up.”

Connor breathed a huge sigh of relief. He couldn’t remember a time he had come so close to being found out. He also had never been more thankful for the obsession that Leyla’s beauty created in men. Any other partner and the game would’ve been over. It was uncanny just how much a joe could overlook at the thought of her planting a kiss on them. If he didn’t know her, he probably wouldn’t have believed it. It was almost magic.

He backed away from the corner and gave a thumbs up to Leyla as he came back to that large, oak door. It was time, all the pieces were in place, and all that was left to do was pick the lock. As she came up beside him, he tried to feel excited, to think of all the money they were about to make, but he just couldn’t shake the tingle that was running up and down the back of his neck.

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