Legal Theft: Protection

They gave her a suite of rooms, all her own, large, elegantly furnished, and with a guard stationed outside the door. An hour passed, no one entered to explain what had just happened or what she was doing in a penthouse suite outside the city proper.

With nothing else to do she moved from room to room opening carved drawers and checking behind embroidered cream curtains, her heels making stiletto imprints in the white carpet. Each room was pristine and modern, the bed linens were surgically tucked and the sleek stone surfaces shone bright enough to flash her reflection. She finally paused in the kitchen, eyeing the knife block with unease. Should she pick one up? Violence came so naturally to some.

The last thing to do was try the front door. To her surprise the handle gave. She leaned out slowly, peaking around. The guard outside was one of the stiff necked, armed, military bred men who’d pulled her bodily from a downtown gala. He’d also been one of those that had wordlessly escorted her into an unmarked car and brought her here. He looked over with a stony expression, hands restful over the semi-automatic held in front of him. “Please return inside.”

“Sorry.” She murmured and did as she was told. The television was unconnected, the entire suite didn’t have a single working network connection or even an archaic landline. However, for the purposes of entertainment unread stacks of the latest high fashion magazines were tucked discreetly in the shelves of the living room end tables. She frowned, each of the glossy volumes were titles she read. A fresh ripple of dread curled in her stomach and she turned, rushing back to the bedroom.

She yanked the doors of the walk-in closet open hard enough that the frosted glass rattled. The racks and hangers were full of clothes. The shelves along the floor held modest pumps, kitten heels and flat bohemian sandals. She pulled a dress from its hanger. The fine azure linen was expertly stitched, designer, and exactly her size.

She replaced the dress, forcing her breathing to remain even. They weren’t going to go through the trouble of making a cage only to kill her. That was something.

The sound of the front door opening carried into the bedroom and with it a conversation. She froze. Two men spoke in clipped tones, one voice was the guard, and the other was oddly familiar. She slipped from the closet, pulling the doors closed with a muffled snap. She could have hid, or looked for a weapon.  But then Silas Norton walked in.

This story is to be continued and it all started with a deplorable act of thievery. I have taken my first line from Apprentice, Never Master. Check out her blog there, and the rest of the merry band of thieves here.

Legal Theft: Inappropriate

Visiting her father was the only time she dressed down for a public event. And visiting her father was always a public event. He was, and always had been, a man of the community. Any member of that community had to follow certain rules. When standing next to her father she was no exception.

She considered her extensive closet, ignoring the gowns and exploratory fashion. For the most part, anything she’d worn down the runway was not an option. Risque, abstract, elitist, snobby, promiscuous, she mouthed the words as she flicked her fingers over the hangers.

Everything found in her closet were creations she’d made herself or gifts from industry. She didn’t really buy clothes anymore. She didn’t need to between her night and day jobs. Her clients, most of whom had excellent taste as they were hers, kept the closet well stocked. She filled in the gaps with an eye for cut, stitch and color. But now, four hours before she was expected to play the conservative yet vivacious daughter at a campaign event she was at a loss. Suddenly the life she’d created for herself was entirely inappropriate.

She abandoned the rows of expertly stitched sendral, cambrisine, and fur and picked up her phone, fingers hovering over her mother’s number. It would be cowardice to bow out, but perhaps better for all of them. Sickness, anxiety, or maybe she had some pretentious event to attend, her mother would turn the lie into something her father could stomach. The women in her family were proficient at things like that. She took a breath and set the phone back on the bed. There had to be something here. Something that could turn her into the daughter her father needed for the night.

Scoundrels and thieves, the lot of us. This first line was stolen from Kate Kearney for the Legal Theft Project. Make sure to check out her blog and the rest

Cut From the Same Cloth: Part 2/2

Cut From the Same Cloth: Part 1 was posted last week. 

“How’s prison?” Leon asked. It was the question he always led with.

He leaned back in the plastic chair, relaxing a little. It was still good to see his dad acting like incarceration was all part of some grand plan instead of the inevitable fuckup they’d all known was coming.

His father certainly sold it that way. “Not bad. Food’s disgusting and it’s boring as backwater. So keep your nose clean.”

“You know me.” Leon said. The warning wasn’t intended in the traditional sense. His father was ordering him to not get caught.

His dad flicked his eyes towards the guards at the corners. “I do, that’s why I’m letting you know. Your sister told me she couldn’t get a hold of you. Something go wrong in Ashville?”

Leon leaned forward and rested his elbows on the metal table, also keeping the ever watchful guards in the corners of his vision. “Yah. They did actually. Next time you send me one of your fresh prison buddies, tell him to shake probation first.”

His father chuckled. “Yelner was never any good with authority.” Mossy green eyes flicked to the prison guards. “Sorry kid, figured he might have been able to help.”

Leon rolled his eyes, it’d been a fun couple days until the probation officer got wise. Yelner wasn’t the first of dad’s many friends to find Leon and call in old promises Alexander Duke once made. “He did honestly. Swearing, screaming and throwing things at the cops while they broke down a motel door served as a decent distraction. I got out fine.”

His father grinned at him and Leon smirked back. He’d been the one to get out, true but he’d still learned everything from his dad.

“Good job kid. Would have liked to see that, damn. How was the take?”

“Good, it’ll get me to Orleans. Got something I think I can run there.”

His dad raised a brow. “You can try big city trade. But if you’ve got a good take to start you wanna go to Hobbs Creek.” His father leaned in and proceeded to tell him why Hobbs Creek was the way to go. Leon nodded along with the advice, slouching a little in his chair to itch a scratch on his ankle. Maybe it was Kilbourne’s earlier stunt, but he suspected the guards watched their table more closely than the rest.

“You’re distracted.” His father commented.

It was a soft reprimand, like Leon was a kid again and had forgotten to unlock a back door or pull a security tape.

“Killbourne doesn’t like me.” Leon said. Not that he blamed the man, but the constant observation made the space between his shoulders itch. Despite a philosophy that good thieves avoided attention and better thieves used it, Leon had no desire to tempt fate here. The consequences of any move gone wrong was glaring in his father’s orange jumpsuit and every camera, checkpoint and armed guard.

His dad sent the warden a smile which was not returned. A few of the guards around Kilbourne chuckled. Leon got the idea this might be running joke and wondered how many were on their supervisor’s side and how many his father had managed to charm. “Doesn’t like me either. He likes your sister though.” Leon’s father said.

“Of course he does.” Leon rolled his eyes. Lore could melt harder men than the warden, he’d seen her do it many times. She had a talent for determining exactly which angle to take, lost waif, bad girl, preacher’s daughter…. but Lore wasn’t the type to pull anything so heavy handed here. One of them didn’t have the exit every good con required. “Lore’s in sin city now, last I heard.”

His dad nodded. “It’s about time you both caught up. I don’t like the idea of the two of you not talking. You’re family, remember that.” He pointed a finger at Leon. “And you’re smart enough to figure out how to keep in touch.”

He was smart enough. Leon just knew Lore wouldn’t appreciate her very crooked brother messing anywhere near her now legitimate ventures. It was a courtesy they’d learned from the close quarters of the RV as kids. If Leon wanted his many vices left undisturbed in his bunk, he’d had to curb the impulse to read her diary.

“Yah, I could head that way.” Leon agreed without any intention or promise to do so. His dad let it rest there and turned the conversation to business. After an in-depth and hushed discussion regarding the latest logistics of prison economies, which Leon was always curious about, his dad flicked another glance to the guards. “Speaking of which.”

Leon smirked again to hide the sudden anxiety constricting his stomach. “Which one this time?”

“Thick mustache, hound dog eyes.” His dad described one of the guards waiting by the door. Leon nodded. There wasn’t much else to do. He’d already eased the three small bags from his shoe into his sleeve. They had to go somewhere before he passed through security again.

His father motioned, indicating they were finished to the door guard.

Leon stood. “See you dad.”

“See you kid, keep your nose clean.” They smirked at each other over the odds of that happening before the guard came over to escort his father back into holding.

It was an easy pass. Leon brushed past the guard as he walked out of the visitation room, slipping the three bags into the guards pocket with less than a twitch of fingers. He didn’t know if his dad planned to lift the product once he’d been cleared back into holding, or if the guard was in on it. But that wasn’t his part to play.

Security found nothing on him of course and he was let back into the lobby. He made sure to give Kilbourne a smile before he started the long walk down the prison road back to his RV.

Legal Theft: Mad Science

Mommy says my goldfish ran away today. She says she’s sorry as she makes dinner in the kitchen and that I can put up posters but that no one would turn in goldfish, especially those goldfish. She says it like that, those goldfish.

I tell her it isn’t possible, those goldfish with their bowlish trustworthy gelatinous eyes would not run away. They are probably just hiding in the garden. They didn’t like the cats, who’ve been very swoopy lately.

She doesn’t say anything else about the goldfish because Jake, my brother’s terrier, steals a piece of raw chicken just then, prehensile monkey tail snatching it right off the counter. The little dog runs for it, the piece of chicken clutched high in its long tail like a flag. Mommy tears after him screeching and cursing my father, my brother and of course Jake, who still has the chicken.

That gives me an idea. My daddy is the smartest man who ever lived, and I know that because he says it all the time.  And he’s the smartest man who ever lived, so of course he would know. I find him in the tower. He is talking with a ferret, except the ferret is being quite rude and I can see daddy getting very upset.

I ask him if he’d seen my goldfish. The ferret responds that he hadn’t and that my frizzy hair was the color of old boogers. I tell the ferret that I hadn’t asked him, about my goldfish or his opinion on my hair. The little animal huffs, adjusts his collar primly, and darts off behind an old stack of canoeing magazines.

Daddy reaches over and picks me up, asking if I’d like to help with an experiment. I say yes, but only if the experiment is one that finds my goldfish, and not one that involves ferrets as they can apparently be hurtful with their words. We agree and begin setting little bits of paper all over the floors of first the tower, then the stairs, then the foyer, not the kitchen because Mommy was already cross and making dinner, then the patio. The goldfish, my daddy explains, will walk over the paper and their little sparrow feet will get stuck.

I ask about the cats, as they have been swoopy lately. My goldfish, with their bowlish trusting eyes, will never see the trap coming. But they won’t see the cats either. My mother thinks the cats are molting and my brother blames the weather for the swoopiness, I have no guess. My father sits down to think the problem through and I set more pieces of paper just in case.

Dinner is called. Jake is not allowed to attend and my brother comes in with pieces of paper stuck to his feet. They all laugh but I am quiet. My goldfish have not walked in with paper stuck to their feet, just my brother.

I am a thief and have stolen this rather odd first line. You can thank the wonderful blogger Kathryn for it and check out the rest of the Legal Theft Project here

Cut From the Same Cloth: Part 1/2

The parking lot of the Gillian Kent Penitentiary was nearly full, so said the gate guard, it did not have room for a behemoth RV today. The gate guard also said that’s what he got for waiting until a popular visitation day to see an inmate. On another day, at a different place, with an unarmed person, Leon might have argued or said something unwise. Today he took his ID back, put the old RV in reverse down the road and found a generous shoulder on the interstate to park the thing.

Then he walked the mile back to the turn off and the other half mile to the gate wishing there was more to look then cars and the trees blocking any frightening government facilities. The gate guard made his take out his ID again. Leon kept his jaw shut as he pulled the slip of plastic from his jean’s pocket. “Who are you visiting?” The guard asked.

“Alexander Duke.”  This wasn’t protocol. He’d have to do this all again when he got into the main building. “I’m on the approved list.”

“Buddy of yours?” The guard asked looking again at the name on the Leon’s ID. It didn’t say Duke. Leon’s fingers itched. He wanted his ID back.

“I’m his son.” It wasn’t as if that was a secret here. To get on that list you were required to hand over a legal name and declare a relationship, one of the thousand things he hated about Gillian State Penitentiary.

“Hmm.” The guard handed the license over without making the common yet annoying observation that they looked nothing alike. Leon took after his mother, or so his dad said, Leon didn’t remember enough of her to know if that was true or not. The guard leaned into his radio and announced that someone was walking up.

Check-in and security was busy. Girlfriends, mothers, siblings, and wives hustled children and each other past the different checkpoints with astounding levels of volume. Leon loitered at the back of the line enjoying the show. When it was his turn through the metal detectors he dutifully emptied his pockets and submitted to a hasty pat down.

The guards waved Leon through quickly, their attention drawn by less behaved visitors, who were loudly impatient to see their husbands, sons and fathers. He smirked back at the overly burdened security. Crowded visitation days were worth the walk.

Slightly preoccupied with the triumph he nearly walked strait into the man blocking the door into the visitor’s center. Warden Kilbourne looked down at Leon. “Good afternoon Mr. Almasi.”

“Warden Kilbourne.” Leon said, pleased with himself for keeping his smile in check. That particular nervous habit got him in trouble before.

The warden motioned for another of the guards. “Hone, I don’t think Mr. Almasi got the benefit of complete search.” The guard looked a little oddly at his boss but proceeded to pat Leon down again, checking his sleeves and pant legs more diligently now that the warden oversaw.

The guard straitened and shook his head. “Apologies, we can never be too careful. You understand.” Kilbourne said and moved out of the doorway. He assumed the attention was an educated guess on the warden’s part that Leon and his father were cut from the same cloth. Leon didn’t begrudge him the assumption; there wasn’t a whole lot he could say to refute the point.

Leon stepped past him. “Of course. We appreciate your efforts to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.” He gave a friendly nod which was returned with Kilbourne’s frown. Leon turned his back and entered the visitor’s center. It was already packed so he picked the one table open near a wall.

The prison was on a tight schedule today. They didn’t make Leon wait even a minute. When his dad came in it was like he was sauntering into a favorite bar despite the guard escorting him and the constant surveillance watching their every move.

The two of them exchanged grins as Alexander Duke slid into the seat across from his son, setting handcuffed wrists on the table. “Hey there kid.”

Legal Theft: A Good Plan

The most dangerous place in Jaon was the open stone court where the philosophers claimed their seats between the pillars. No vault was as heavily guarded, no gilded hoard more watched than the ringed steps and ominent towering columns. Intrusion was a death sentence carried out immediately on the edges of guard blades.

“I hate this plan.” Thorn muttered to the night sky. “It seems like a bad plan.” The thick cord cut into his fingers and palms as he braced against gravity. With a grunt he hauled his employer up the side of the entablature and onto the angled top. Thorn unwound the ropes and massaged blood back into his hands.

“You don’t know the plan. Its a good one.” Raf pointed a finger at Thorn, half bent and breathing hard from the climb. “Shut it.”

“So far its consisted of sneak in and lug your ass up a column. You haven’t explained anything.” Thorn kneeled and pulled Raf easily down with him. She hit the top of the entablature gracelessly and he wondered again just what type of thief got winded from a basic scurry up a rope.

Safe above the red robed guard’s rounds Thorn was able to relax a little. Against a moonless sky two dark shapes wouldn’t be seen atop the pillars, unless you believed the fanciful stories of the stone court’s guardians. Thorn didn’t as he and Raf were uncaught and breathing.

Thorn snuck a glance at the woman who’d hired him to sneak her into the most forbidden place on the continent. As usual, those who hired Thorn told him little of their intentions. It was often better he didn’t know why they needed to be where he got them. But he was currently in the midst of more than a hundred red robed killers, a little context might be helpful. If she noticed his attention, she didn’t show it.

According to Jaon’s rulers the minds that honed themselves here were more precious than any treasure. A single sentence the grey robed philosophers uttered could affect thousands of lives as they debated issues of war, money, religion and of course the power struggles within and outside of Jaon. Thus, these minds and the bodies that housed them were well protected from outside meddling.

Thorn assumed that was exactly what they were doing here, not that she was sharing. He made a living getting into places he wasn’t supposed to be, he didn’t know exactly how Raf made hers, but he suspected it probably had to do with some sort of meddling.

“We’ll be spotted when the sun rises.” Thorn pointed out after a bit, as Raf still hadn’t explained anything. While he knew his way around a knife  the red guards moved like vipers. In an honest fight Thorn would not stand a chance.

“The philosophers assemble before dawn.” Raf said. Her voice was calm and Thorn couldn’t see any tremor in her fingers. He was impressed, nerves prior to any job were common for even the best thieves and assassins. “The guards memorize every scholar and philosopher by face, as dawn approaches the red robes will withdraw to the entrance ways to check every man and woman who enters into the court.”

Thorn didn’t see how this was going to help them remain unseen.

“Which is why we had to be inside far before dawn.” Raf explained and opened the bag she’d brought. Thorn balked when she pulled out the folded grey cloth.

“You are joking.” Thorn said. Impersonating one of the scholars was unfathomable, to even be considered for the grey robe required years of study and a mastery of the higher arts. Thorn didn’t even know what those were.

Raf threw the cloth around her shoulders. “No, weren’t you a little curious about what I was planning to steal here? Its not as if the philosophers have gold or treasure under their robes.” She snorted as if that was silly.

“What exactly are you taking then? And why did I need to haul you up here?” Thorn forced himself to lower his voice. Raf was definitely going to get them killed, but he didn’t have to hurry the process.

“We needed a safe place to wait until we can slip in among the others. And you know what they do here, bet you’ve never stolen a trade agreement before? A succession? Or a war?” Raf grinned and Thorn didn’t like the manic gleam in her eyes. “A single well placed argument can turn the course of the country. You just need one of these on to do it.” She pulled out a second bundle of grey cloth.

Thorn stared at her and shook his head. He was a skulk, he got the thieves, assassins and rogues into the places they shouldn’t be…but he kept his hands clean of the messes they made there. “No.”

“They’ll see you when the sun comes up.” Raf’s grin was sharp as she parroted his words back. Thorn found he liked the woman less and less, impressive handle on nerves notwithstanding. “There is just as many stories about the guards as there is about the philosophers. Which do you care to explore?”

The answer was obvious, but Raf’s smile widened like she’d won something when he grabbed the robe from her. “I hate this plan.” He told her.

I am running out of “Thief” and “Stealing” shticks. Anyway, this was part of the Legal Theft project. I stole this first line from Apprentice, Never Master who you should definitely check out. 

Denouements

This is in response to a wordle prompt from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Her manicured and painted fingernail circled the cocktail glass. It wasn’t empty, she wouldn’t need another yet. Still the bartender’s waited, so did the two men in fitted suits down the bar. Best to leave the glass filled. Isra ignored her audience in favor of the paramnesic lapse in sanity she was currently indulging.

The chillwave in the back of the lounge was designed to fade into the background. Isra wished the synthesized music could be a little more distracting. Waiting around was unpleasant, waiting to eat eating crow more so.

The song ended. Isra tapped her nails on the bright steel of the bar top wondering if she had time for a trip to the bathroom. Another inspection, hair, dress, make-up…. would it matter? Isra liked to think it would. Why not look your best? She twisted, ready to extricate her heels from the chairs legs.

And as if cued by Isra’s departure, she was there. “Kim.” Isra said. Already taller than average, her modest heels added an inch of height. Isra recognized the perpetual frown between her brows, it would eventually  cause a wrinkle when she got into her thirties. But then, Kim wasn’t the type to give a shit about that. Mousey fair hair still fell over her shoulder long and wavy, she’d always threatened to cut it. Isra wondered why she hadn’t.

“You leaving?” Kim raised her eyebrows.

The question was accusatory. With a sinking stomach Isra realized she’d already made a mistake. “No. Can I get you a drink?” She asked and slipped back into her seat.

Kim took a deep breath. “Sure.”

Isra didn’t like the reinforced calm in the other woman’s voice. But then this wasn’t going to be painless. She’d known that the moment she started remaking memories in her head. Still Kim sat. “You look good.”

Isra felt some of the tension ease as she smiled at the compliment. The bartender wandered over and Kim asked for a martini. Isra kept herself from commenting like she would have a year ago. Kim always ordered beer at dive bars, wine at restaurants, and classy classic liquor at any place she thought might have a price tag. Kim didn’t like being judged for her drink choices. After the bartender set the glass down Kim took a sip and made a face, she’d never enjoyed hard liquor. Isra contented herself with a really? look. It was returned with a good natured glare.

Kim broke the nostalgia of old habits a moment later. “I am surprised you contacted me.”

Really? Isra thought.  Had she left it that badly?

“I was in town. Thought we might catch up.” I missed you. Isra added silently. Kim was silent. It gave Isra a chance to notice how she’d changed. A small bronze stud pierced the cartilage of her right nostril. It gave Kim’s wide eyed prettiness an attractive rebelliousness. She was tanner too, maybe a little more toned than Isra remembered. Had she started jogging? Another thing Kim had always talked about doing.

Finally Kim sighed. “I’m not here to catch up. I’m here to get closure. So we can talk, but I am not leaving with you.” It was hard for her to say. Kim didn’t enjoy conflict and was almost never this blunt.

“Okay.” Isra was a big girl, now disappointed and a little surprised at the uncharacteristic directness, but she could handle this. Besides she owed Kim this at least. “I know the way I left was horrible. And I’m–”

Kim was shaking her head and Isra stopped. “It wasn’t how you left. That, that made a lot of sense.” Kim said.

“Did it? I assumed it was…unexpected. I didn’t think things were bad between us before that.” Isra leaned in a little, trying to decipher what used to be a familiar face. Had she really deluded herself this much?

“They weren’t.” Isra felt an odd sense of relief at Kim’s words. “You were perfect. Charming, considerate, and you knew everything about me. Not a day went by without you asking about my column, or how my yoga class went, or whether we should sign up for another goddamn cooking session because you could tell how much I loved them. And I did love them”

Isra took a pointed sip of her own drink. She was confused. “Um..”

“I have a point here. You met my friends, you met my mom. You remembered their birthdays. You held my hair when I was drunk and got me soup when I was sick. Your gifts were thoughtful and personal and I still have all of them because they are still my favorite possessions.” Kim took a breath. She hadn’t touched her drink again. “You knew me better than anyone, you probably still do. But I don’t know a goddamn thing about you Isra. I never held your hair, or met your mom, or heard anything about your job, or saw you cry….” Kim pressed her lips together and closed her eyes. Isra almost reached out to take her hand but stopped herself.

“Do you know how damn weird that is?” The moment passed as Kim demanded the question.

“Kim, I’m sorry…” Isra didn’t know what to say. None of things she’d said were untrue, Isra had always been a private person. But said like that, it made her out to be some sort of machine.

“So when you vanished and people asked whether you were the type, I had nothing to say. Because I didn’t know your type, even after a year of being together.  I literally can say nothing about about your personality when it doesn’t come to how perfect you were to me.” Kim ground her teeth. “Even now, you are sitting there understanding me with this perfectly remorseful look on your face. Do you have an actual opinion on this?”

Kim looked almost desperate for something and Isra didn’t know what to say. “Kim, it’s not like…. I just keep things separate. I missed you, wanted to see you. Sorry.”

“I think I missed you too, but I really don’t know. Thanks for the drink Isra. I do hope things work out for you.” She got up. Isra could think of nothing to say to make her stay and didn’t even think she should try. It was a good exit on Kim’s part, no looking back or pausing for any last words. It would give the denouement she wanted.

Isra closed her eyes, giving herself a moment before she took a deep breath and went back to the drink in front of her. This wasn’t how she’d hoped the evening would end.