To Be A Thief
Please, Sylvia, let me think.
Even in the dark, I could see the panic in her eyes as she desperately tried not to curse aloud, once again mouthing, Hurry.
Rubbing my eyes in frustration, I ran over the layout of the house once more in my head. The way we had come in, a third-story window with some very climbable lattice-work immediately below it, was a bad option for a quick escape. Climbing is always easier going up than down, and while the neighboring houses were far enough away to not hear the noise, the Brandts almost certainly would.
Unfortunately, that third story window was the only one not alarmed. Johnny had used his position at Burgarello to ensure that we had a safe route in and out, but disabling more than one mode of entry would’ve raised too much attention. All we could do was hope that the Brandts were the kind of people who left their alarms off after getting home. That seemed unlikely, though – anyone with nearly an acre of property protected by a $300,000 security system tended to use it.
The sound of footsteps derailed my train of thought. Sylvia and I froze – she was crouching next to the safe, while I hid behind the desk. Her dark hair was still slightly tousled from the wind, and I could see a spot on her shoulder where a few threads were loose on her new black knit sweater. She hadn’t noticed it, or I would already have gotten an earful about how much the sweater cost, how she’d have to make a special trip back to Calvin Klein and get a whole new outfit. My turtleneck had run me $8 at a local thrift store, but it was comfortable, fit perfectly, and was that exact shade of faded black that makes you invisible on a dark night.
I watched as Sylvia closed her eyes in an attempt to calm herself. Her deep breaths made her chest rise and fall in such a way that I momentarily forgot my panic. The moonlight highlighted her figure, and it took a good minute before I realized that the footsteps had stopped.
I took the reprieve to think once more about a potential escape route. The mansion was gorgeous – Sylvia had mentioned something about it being a Gothic-Victorian hybrid, whatever that meant – but it was also built like a fortress. There were no windows on the first floor, meaning that even if we got down three flights of stairs undetected, we’d have to make our exit through one of the house’s main doors, which had cameras equipped with motion sensors.
Motion sensors are difficult to fool – you have to move painfully slow, to the point that ten feet might take you twenty minutes. But even if we had the time and patience to bypass the cameras, we’d still risk setting off the door alarm upon leaving. A first-floor escape wasn’t happening.
Because we were on the fourth floor, though, I couldn’t see us making an exit without heading down. This wasn’t a standard suburban house with convenient awnings to walk on and a single-level garage to jump safely from; leaving from the roof meant a four-story trip straight down. No awnings, no garage. Well, the garage was an entirely separate building and bigger than my whole flat, so it didn’t count. If we couldn’t leave by a door or the roof, we’d need to use a window, all of which were alarmed.
Even without a real plan, staying where we were was too dangerous. I clicked my tongue quietly, in such a way that anyone overhearing would assume it was one of any number of insects. When Sylvia’s eyes opened, I pointed to the door and made a “move forward” motion. Her eyes went wide and she shook her head sharply, her fine, dark hair rippling in the low light coming in through the window.
She pointed at the safe and mouthed, I can do it.
I wanted to say “I know you can, but if we get caught then we’re completely screwed, and I’d much rather get out of here alive, thanks,” but that seemed a bit too involved for our silent conversation, so I simply gestured toward the door again and mouthed, No, we need to go.
The frustration on her face was understandable. We’d been setting this up for weeks, studying the layout, finding an exact replica of the Sentry LS-320 safe for Sylvia to practice on. It had taken a good deal of time, money, and effort, and I didn’t want it to go to waste any more than she did. But this was precisely why Johnny had put me in charge. Sylvia tended to take more risks than could always be afforded, and in the heat of the moment, she often forgot that getting caught was worse than getting away without the score. Thankfully, even she could see that tonight was a bust. She nodded with reluctance and followed me out of the office.
Just as we hit the stairs, lights started flicking on, and we flew noiselessly back to the room we had just left. The footsteps moved straight past, though, and proceeded to the bedroom. I heard the door close, and after our pulses had lowered a bit, we worked our way back down to the third floor room we had originally entered through. It was a good place to rest and regroup for a minute, as it was in the corner of the house opposite the bedrooms. The window was closed, but the cypresses outside were bending noticeably, and the howling of the wind even made it through the thick glass.
I smiled. Maybe they wouldn’t hear us climbing down the lattice, after all.
more by KENNY STONEMAN
photograph by DFC