Two hours is a lot of time, when you think about it. A lot can happen in two hours.
Sure, it’s just barely a fourth of a typical work shift, and it definitely falls severely short of that recommended eight hours of sleep every night, but two hours is plenty of time for some things. Six hours ago, nothing was really going on. The city was the same as it ever was and the sun still had time to shine before lazily drifting below the mountains. Then two hours went by and the sun was gone, replaced by streetlights and bright windows illuminating people enjoying the brisk wind, one of the first big ones for the season. The night life had started to head home in preparation for another boring Monday morning and people were everywhere, still in the middle of their mass exodus out of town. Two hours after that, things continued to change. The people were completely gone, save a few trying to extend their last calls. The cold night in autumn had turned peaceful and serene, beautifully capping off a day that should have felt perfect. A crisp, cold and uneventful Sunday night that shared nothing in tone to the bustle previously.
But that was two hours ago. A lot can happen in two hours.
Now, peace and serenity were long gone. The streets were alive, the lights were blue and blinding, flashing over and over again outside of the museum located in the middle of downtown. A news helicopter flew overhead, trying to find an easy way to avoid the taller buildings and get closer to the chaos. Off in the distance a police chopper was coming to shoo away the news before returning to checking the nearby streets. Meanwhile, the chatter of radios and footsteps signified that the front entrance to the museum had finally been unbarred and dozens of men and women in blue made their way inside. Shouts of orders and activity flooded into the building that had, for the past hour been screeching nonstop into the night.
Watching this all happen well down the road were four figures. They were all completely in black and hiding in an alleyway four blocks away. One was standing and peeking around the corner, still wearing their mask. Another had his mask off and was on the ground laying up against the opposite wall. He was breathing hard and holding his side, blood soaking through his black shirt and some hastily applied dressings. The other two were farther in the alley. A young woman was laying on a double folded musty blanket, her back carefully placed to avoid the large holes in the fabric where various debris from the alley jutted through. She had her leg raised and propped on the lap of a slightly older woman who was bandaging up her ankle, annoyed by the mask restricting her vision but too focused on the task at hand to take it off.
The four of them barely made a sound in the silence as sirens and police shouts echoed down to them, bouncing off the buildings and reminding them that they were still barely safe. No one dared move, exhausted and defeated; they all were still, silent against the cacophony that was the last two hours.
After watching the chaos ensue for a while longer, the figure who had been peering around the corner finally turned around to face the others. They removed their mask, revealing the face of a woman in her mid thirties with short brown hair, sharp features, and dark green eyes. She stared at the rest of them, her piercing gaze looking over all of them, like a mother who finally caught her children right in the act, making them all wince. Finally, her gazed softened as exhaustion and personal guilt washed over her. She sighed.
“Alright. I’ll admit. We fucked up.”
Beginnings (Chapter One – Currently Unnamed)
Beth pulled up to the nondescript building outside of town, an abandoned warehouse that had seen much better days, even before the homeless and upcoming graffiti artists decided to mark it as their own with their respective liquid and aerosol sprays. The nearby forest had started to take over portions of the pavement and buildings as the cement crumbled in the wake of strong roots and persistent branches. While not overgrown, the process was well underway given the forty-some years nature had already been working on this time capsule. The area had long been forgotten as just another massive urban planning scheme that had gone belly up when the funds started to run out somewhere between here and thirty miles to the south where the edge of the city rose up along the riverside. However, while the city had forgotten about this place, there were still a few that found it useful.
Beth had checked behind her the whole way and no one had followed. Good. Business as usual. As she pulled up into what had once been a parking lot, her spirits started to lift. All of the stress of another life started to ease into the back of her mind. The family troubles, the friends, the friend she wished wouldn’t just be a friend… It was all background noise that she turned down like a little dial in her brain. For her, the world could melt away whenever she entered that hallowed place. A decrepit but beautiful little slice away from life where no one even knew her name.
Beth pulled the car around to the backside of the building near the forest and parked by the trees. They may be far away from town but it still pays to be cautious. Besides, the only entrance was on the back as the front of the warehouse had been blocked and then welded shut. Taking one last look around, Beth reached underneath the passenger seat and brought out a briefcase. She checked her watch and saw she still had a little time. Beth opened the case to take a little peek at her new purchase from her last shopping trip. The sunlight glinted off of the metal tube with its own slotted location in the case next to two others, a square slot filled with subsonic ammunition and an empty oblong slot for a gun. A brand new suppressor for her Glock and a new pack of toys to play with. She drooled a little thinking about how long it had been and the freedom of finally being able to use her gun outside the warehouse without worrying about disturbing the neighbors. Though, technically the closest neighbors were several miles away so it typically was hard to disturb them anyway. With one last longing look, she shut the case and left the car.
She walked up to the back entrance door as she fished for her key in her pocket. As she approached the small door on the backside of the building, she closed her eyes and took one long breath, a final bit of meditation to pack up her life in a little overflowing box before entering. She was no long Beth at this point. She was X, though why that letter was decided for her was a mystery. Regardless, with her old name gone, she clenched the case, unlocked the door and headed in.
Time to go to work.
Y was bored out of his mind.
He hated waiting. It didn’t matter if he was waiting for a time lock, a red light, or at the altar, he hated waiting on someone else. It’s not that he had a short attention span, but you would think he’d have learned by now to not show up on time for this job. It’s not like anyone else did. Still, he hated being late more than he hated being bored.
Y looked around the hideout. An old warehouse that had been abandoned for a while. Captain had found the place forever ago and renovated it for their needs. Most of the first floor was just open space, concrete floors and rundown walls and roofing with little in it besides the occasional rat or rusty piece of potential tetanus. The far back area by the only working door had lockers on the back wall and shelving in front of it, currently used for storage. Inside the lockers were weapons as needed, all organized and hidden away so that if anyone did manage to break in, the place would still seem empty of anything valuable. The shelving had smoothly recessed boxes of various ropes, pulleys, mechanical parts and gear they might need. The heaviest stuff like the drills were located near the door to make transporting them less of a hassle.
Near the sealed original front of the warehouse, there was a staircase that led to where he sat, an old open office with railings instead of walls to better look down on the warehouse floor below. They had furnished it with crappy chairs and couches they had taken from sidewalks in front of people’s houses. No need to heist furniture when people give it away for free. Nothing matched and only a few seats could be considered what someone might call comfortable but they could at least sit down around the large coffee table in the center and plan. That is, Y thought, if people would finally get here.
Zee was already present but she wasn’t always the social type, this time being no different. As usual, she kept herself busy reading, lounging sideways on the larger couch in the room and thereby stealing one of the few comfy seats. Judging from the book’s width and size in her hands, it looked to be some difficult textbook but Y didn’t have a good angle on the cover. He figured she was either a student or just weirdly into learning. Given her propensity to close the textbook after only a few minutes and move onto a fiction book, he guessed it was probably the former. And right on cue, she switched books, rubbing the studious and tired eyes of a collegiate who obviously had stayed up way too late last night, most likely for a paper or for procrastination from a paper.
Unlike the rest of them, she actually had something for her outside of this work. No one ever pried for personal information but it was obvious Zee didn’t fall into this life. He sighed. I mean, she only managed to join the team a month ago because she lost puppied us home and having a liability would have been an issue. He thought back on it. Lucky for her, she was able to turn the situation into an interview before X could make it an interrogation.
Although, Y thought, a little interrogation would have been nice because right now he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what to talk to Zee about. She was always extra guarded about herself compared to the rest of them, probably because she was so new to this and feared us knowing anything. Though, thinking about it, Y realized they weren’t the most trustworthy bunch, by trade, so her attitude did make some sense. The rule Captain set up was the less we know, the less can be used against us in case things go south and the police get involved. As X eloquently put it, “Snitches don’t get stitches if they can’t ditch us to the badge and blue bitches.”
The fact of the matter was, though, no one really cared if you let slip you’re married or had kids or something. It wasn’t that people were laxed on the rules. There was just a professional apathy to the trade. We just didn’t care. At all. Do your job well. Go home. It was simple.
But that also meant Y was now having a hard as hell time figuring out how to pass the time when he, for all intents and purposes, was currently hanging out with a mute person who was rusty on their sign language. He sighed. At least trying might eat up some minutes of waiting.
Zee didn’t even look up from her book. Great start.
“It’s, uh, really taking everyone else a while, yeah? Like, Captain tells us to show up here at six but then she never shows up on time herself. Some leader, right?”
The sound of a page turning in a book was the only answer he got from her.
“Right…” He looked on the table and saw the textbook she had given up on studying in favor of some supernatural-looking series, judging by the cover in her hands. He silently thanked the textbook that it’s big bold letters were something he knew about.
“Calc, huh? I took that in college. Always liked the integrals and derivatives. Hated the damn paragraph questions, though. Why would you make up a whole story that only actually had one or two fucking sentences that matter?”
Zee looked up at him. A sign! For a second, it looked like she was going comment. Instead, she reached over to the textbook, flipped it over, and then went back to reading her book.
Y sighed, “Look, you’ve only been here since… what? October? I know a month and a half isn’t super long but it’s long enough to trust me I’m not gonna murder you in your sleep. Rules are rules but, dammit! I’m bored! Talk to me!”
He was stunned. She doth speak.
She looked up from her book again. “Talk about what? We’re not supposed to know anything about each other so what can we talk about?”
He looked at her expression. She wasn’t being sarcastic. She honestly didn’t know. Y threw up his hands.
“I don’t know!”
He pointed at the cover of her current book.
“What’s that about?”
She looked at her book for a second.
“Some story about an angel and a demon working together.”
Silence. Y thought about it and came to the conclusion that this was probably a worse ice breaker than talking about the weather.
“What, like a RomCom?”
“No… I guess it’s a Buddy Cop kinda thing?”
“Sort of Tango and Cash?”
Her age was showing. Y sighed.
Just then, a beautiful light touched upon their faces, as if God himself had come to save them from this awkward situation. It began as a vertical line that slowly grew to wash over them both. They turned to look at who their savior was. Allah? Buddha?
It was then that the blinding light receded from Y’s face and ended synchronized with a thud as the door automatically shut and locked behind the figure. The figure known as X walked towards Y and Zee. This’ll do, Y thought.
“I never thought I’d say this but thank everything holy you’re here, X.”
X stopped, and peered suspiciously up at them. “Did I… open a door to another dimension?”
“If only. Just… save me from my boredom.”
Zee turned back to her book.
“And my social anxiety.”
Y snorted, “I realize you’re younger than us but there’s no need to be cute.”
A bird suddenly emerged from Zee’s hand and slowly flew its way towards him until it came back down to rest with her other fingers holding the back of her book. She’s a good kid, Y thought. This relationship just needed some work.
X had walked the length of the warehouse now, up the stairs, and sat down on the other end of Zee’s couch, a briefcase in her lap. She looked emotionally exhausted but holding it back. Y knew better than to prod her about that. From what he could tell, she had some relationship troubles, and it seemed her significant other wasn’t reciprocating or something. Her work was her vacation from that baggage and since he liked to keep his head, he decided to let her have the peace of mind. He went with something else, instead.
“What’s in the case?”
X immediately perked up. Good news, she’s distracted from her troubles. Bad news, Y knew what this meant.
“Well! I’m so glad you asked!”
“Lemme have this, asshole. You’re the bored one who asked me.”
She set the case on the table and opened it. Y half expected it to glow like a Macguffin in a Tarantino film but sadly, there was no magic to it. X turned the case sideways so they could both see.
“This, my dear indifferent friend, is a brand new suppressor for my sweet, sweet baby. With some subsonic ammo to boot.”
“So more gun stuff.”
X tilted her head up and peered down at him, “I don’t think you are appreciating correctly my purchase and how nice it is.”
“I mean, I think I get it. You can pew pew with your gun but no one hears it.”
“Well, you still hear it, it’s just harder to pinpoint and quieter.”
She whispered the final word.
He really didn’t care about guns but at least someone was talking to him.
“And the ammo?”
“Same thing! It’s subsonic so the bullet doesn’t break the sound barrier and make a ‘crack’ sound. Quieter.”
She moved her hands slowly like a conductor silencing the orchestra.
“And this is cool because…”
X sighed, “Less noise on the job. We’ll probably only use it in emergencies. Ah! But now I can practice out back without alerting neighbors! This’ll finally give me the freedom of ‘me’ time at our home away from home!”
Y smiled, “Oh, so you finally can take out those poor, unsuspecting trees around the hideout. They have families, you know!”
X shut the case with a thump and locked it.
“You know, I realize you’re younger than me but there’s no need to be cute.”
Damn, he thought. Right back at me.
X put the case away and leaned back in her chair, the cushions were so deflated, she sank almost to the floor when not sitting on the still padded edge of the seat. It made her look the epitome of the term ‘couch potato’, which was fitting as her mood had caught back up with her after Y’s poor joke. They all sat in silence, still waiting on the final member.
What felt like hours passed, though Y’s phone only showed a difference of thirty minutes. Y looked over to Zee to see the girl nodding off, her face edging closer and closer to hitting the book in her hands. It seemed like the wait was getting to X as well, though she spent most of the time lost in her thoughts since there was nothing to do, her brooding getting worse by the minute without a distraction. The tapping of her finger against the arm of the couch picking up tempo. Finally, X had apparently had enough.
At once, Y jumped up. Zee woke with a start. Her head flew back in surprise and hit the armrest of the couch while her book flew up in the air. A silence fell over the three of them. Y and Zee cautiously looked at the disturber of the peace. Both of them dared not to move until… thump. The book fell back down. X threw her arms up.
“Where the hell is our employer?!”
Y and Zee sighed in unison. Zee rubbed the back of her head and picked up her book. Y sat back down and shrugged.
“I don’t know, X, maybe she got caught up at the bank or something.”
“Deposit or withdraw?”
“I doubt she’d hit a bank by herself.”
X sighed. She looked over to Zee who had gone back to reading, or, at least pretending to as she was visibly shaking after being woken up so suddenly. Zee talks even less to X than me, Y thought, so she probably doesn’t realize X is more bark than bite when it comes to her own teammates. Because of this, Y noticed Zee jumped a little when X spoke up again.
Zee showed her the cover.
Y shook his head.
“We really need to get a TV or something. This shit is getting repetitive.”
Just then, with a beautiful lack of fanfare, the door quietly opened. Emerging from the bright light of the great outdoors was another figure. This one however, brought gifts of frankincense, mir, and elimination of their boredom as the silhouette belonged to their employer and final member. Y was exhilarated.
“Blessed art thou among women! Captain, thank you so much for getting here.”
Captain answered back as she climbed the stairs to them. “It’s Saturday, Y, not Sunday.”
She reached the elevated room and displayed several odds and ends of various papers and models onto the table before sitting down in a queenly chair she had claimed as her own a long time ago. With a final stretch of her arms from carrying everything, she leaned forward in her chair and got down to business.
“Sorry I’m late. You ready to get started?”
So this is a new story idea I had a long while ago and have been working on for some time when I get burnt out trying to write other projects. It’s supposed to be a group of thieves who fell into this line of work from various places and eventually find themselves a family, taking a lot of jobs of gray morality while dealing with the consequences of their actions to both themselves and their friends and families. Very Firefly-esque or Cowboy Bebop in general idea. All with a lot of humor mixed in to break up the feels. They’ll be some clever, sometimes stealthy and sometimes action-y heists as the overarching plot.
Forewarning here, unlike A Sort of Love Story or some of the other projects I’m trying to write, I don’t have a plan of action for this one yet (as of 2018). So don’t expect a lot of chapters to appear for this one. I don’t want to go ahead until I can figure out character arcs and how the overall first heist is supposed to go. However, I’ve got the start of a skeleton and I have multiple later scenes written out that help to define each character so I’ll hopefully come up with a way to bring it all together.
Anyway, in the meantime, I hope you like this sneak peek. See you all for the next chapter!
Chapter Two – TBA