Everything had happened too fast. Bullets ricocheted through the room as Dorian grabbed Noelle from the floor. “We gotta go! We have to go now!” he screamed at her. He never released her hand as he began to run through the pane glass window and down into the icy river.
It took Dorian a split second to react to Noelle standing at his front door. His arm whipped to his waistband and seized the gun, swinging it to her face. She grabbed the muzzle and forced his arm down, sending the gun flying. Dorian grabbed the thief by her lapels and dragged her into the apartment. She used her forearms to break his grip and block his strikes as he came at her full force. She was the reason he was out of a job & under investigation. She had seduced him, made his drop his guard for one minute, and outfoxed him, something he could proudly say didn’t happen often. Dorian hated to admit it to himself, but he had a point to prove.
He pushed deeper inside of his wife. Her gasp pushed her warm breath onto his full lips, her brow furrowed in borrowed ecstasy. He wound his arms around her, sharing the air between their mouths and the sweat on their skin. “Tell me you love me,” he said as he watched her. She squirmed on top of him, trapped like a field mouse and its slithering predator. He filled her again and again with no remorse for her moans. “Tell me. Say it.”
“I love you.”
He rolled over deftly, still tucked away but she was different, her scent spreading through the room: honeysuckle and orchids. She pushed her knees back so he could peer down and watch her love bloom for him. He pressed his lips onto her knees as he dipped inside of her. He could feel every muscle inside of her twitch around him and he felt himself unravel with every thrust. He wanted to hate her; he wanted to stop and drag her into the deepest hole the federal government could provide. Yet, he wanted nothing but to bury himself deep inside of her, to release the thick sorrow and melancholy that kept him captive. He was trapped in quicksand; a harrowing love for his dead wife and the forbidden lust he possessed for the thief.
Deputy Director Dorson signed the last of the paperwork as she waved Agent Sanchez into her office. “You said you have an update for me on the Trevant case?”
“Actually, it’s about Agent Shaw,” Sanchez said as he sat down. Dorson’s brow furrowed and she stopped her task. “What happened?”
“I think you mean ‘What hasn’t happened?’ Shaw hasn’t shown up to any briefings in 3 days now. Security puts him in the building, but I have yet to see him coming or going.”
“I’ll admit, he’s been a bit reclusive since he was reinstated but that’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Yeah, well, you won’t feel that way when you see what he’s been up to,” Sanchez said, before he placed the files onto her desk. She flipped open the first few and was puzzled. “What is this?”
“I think he has a ‘lead’. According to these and his web of delusion in his office, he believes the thief is a bounty hunter of sorts, contracted from the Dark Web to steal priceless items. He researched EVERY high value item stolen in the last 5 years and its history. How many times it was almost stolen, tips and rumors about those who would pay for these items, etc.”
“So…he’s tracking the criminals who could have paid this thief?”
“”Exactly and the last four thefts have been within a 100 mile radius of the Trevant case…”
“Meaning a local contract,” Dorson said.
Sanchez produced a different folder from Shaw’s office. “All the items that have been taken have been on the assumed radar of one Li Yiao.” Dorson’s skin crawled when she saw the dated mugshot of the mobster. “We’ve been after this guy for years. He’s untouchable. How did he get this information?”
“I have no idea. Like I said, he’s working all this out on his own.”
“Does he have anything concrete?”
“Nothing. It’s all circumstantial, and frankly, a little crazy.”
“Well, we can’t go after this guy again because he likes expensive things. He has the best representation money can buy and the Bureau refuses to go after him until they have enough to put him away for good.”
“Don’t think Shaw cares about that. Also on that web of his, he’s planning on catching the theft in the act. Tomorrow.”
“Jesus Christ,” Dorson said before she picked up the phone.
“What you’re asking for is impossible,” Noelle said, tossing the invite back onto the table. She was at her wit’s end with the mafioso, especially after the incident at the train station. “You’re a professional. The best money can buy, or so I hear,” Yiao said. He shuffled a pair of cards behind his desk, the clacking of the plastic cards reverberated around the circular room. “I’m the best because I don’t get caught. Robbing the house of the most affluent man in the city in a crowd doesn’t exactly resonate that.”
“A thief is a thief,” Yiao said passively.
“The building hasn’t been cased. I don’t know ANY of the security protocols AND it will be filled with security guards, police officers and hundreds of witnesses, INCLUDING the Mayor.”
Yiao seemed unperturbed by her concerns. He pushed a black folder across the desk with his index finger. Noelle grimaced before she picked it up. “I took the liberty of doing all the legwork for you. Consider it a parting gift.”
“And the video?”
“All evidence against you will be surrendered upon completion of the job. We’ll be done.” Noelle narrowed her eyes suspiciously. She didn’t trust him but she had very little choice in the matter. He had too much dirt on her and one anonymous murmur from him could lead to a lifetime in a hole under the Pentagon. She snatched the file from the desk and Yiao’s face spread into a sickly sweet smile. “Relax. You’re holding the ticket to your freedom.”
Outside, the busy street was humming in the unusually warm weather. Noelle turned towards home and began maneuvering through the bodega traffic when someone slammed into her, throwing her back against the wall. “Jesus!” she yelled after the stranger, whom had continued walking. She straightened herself when she noticed a piece of paper tucked between her and the folder. She opened it and nearly lost her breath.
In a familiar hand, she read:
THE MAYOR’S GALA IS A TRAP. DON’T GO.
She peered down the street but the stranger had disappeared into the sea of people.
“I’m not comfortable with this, Dorian,” Davis Shaw whispered to his son. He didn’t want to alert anyone to his son’s plan to play Cops and Robbers during the biggest event he would probably experience. The great hall was swarming with decorators and local volunteers, readying the space for the following night. “Dad,” Dorian said. Davis stepped closer to his son and hissed into his ear. “You’re asking me to let a criminal steal a precious valuable in the home of the most respected figure in the city. Surely, you can understand my apprehension.”
“I promise, I have everything under control.”
“How come someone hasn’t come to, I don’t know, debrief me or the mayor? What kind of security measures are being taken?”
“Dad,” Dorian said, turning to face his father and grabbing him by the shoulders. “Relax. Everything is already in place. The sting will be handled swiftly and with such care that you or the guests will know it ever happened.”
The lie seemed to placate the senior Shaw, who went off to double check the rest of the arrangements. In reality, Dorian was flying solo and blind on the mission. He had alerted security of a credible threat and (after showing his credentials) insisted on coverage for all the exits for the entire evening. As he made another walkthrough, his phone buzzed in his pocket; upon first glance, he saw it was Deputy Director Dorson’s fourth call. “Not now,” he whispered to himself as he silenced the phone. He turned around to see Dorson, standing before him, phone in hand. “Seems like an important call,” she said sarcastically. Dorian felt as if his stomach had dropped down to his feet. “Deputy Director…”
“Can I speak with you? Alone?” she said before walking towards the alcove beneath the grand staircase. “HOW DARE YOU SET UP A STING OPERATION WITHOUT INVOLVING THE AGENT IN CHARGE OR YOUR COMMANDING OFFICER?!” she hissed, nearly pinning him to the wall. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I…” Dorian began before she held up her hand to stop him. “Never, in my tenure at the Bureau, have I seen such blatant disregard and disrespect for authority, even after a slew of warnings and second chances. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t suspend you WITHOUT PAY upon review and recommendation of termination,” Dorson continued in a low voice.
“I know this is complete unorthodox but….”
“Unorthodox?! This is completely unprecidented!”
“I’m going with my gut here. You know I wouldn’t jump headfirst like this without being absolutely sure.”
Dorson scoffed as he tried to reassure her. “I’ve done all the pertinent research. I’m 100% sure that something is going down tomorrow night. You know I’m a bloodhound. I just need you to trust me.”
“You WERE a bloodhound, Shaw. Now, you’re a loaded gun in the hands of a child. I don’t know what to expect out of you anymore and frankly, I cannot stick my neck out any farther for you.”
“Ok, I’ll make you a deal. If I don’t make an arrest tomorrow, you can take my badge and put me on leave. Fire me, stick me in a padded room, if that’s what you desire.”
“You’re that confident?”
“I am,” Dorian said. Dorson thought for a moment, before pointing a finger into his chest. “I’m sending backup, Sanchez and his team. One fuck up, ONE and you’ll be praying for that padded room.”
Dorian had to admit: it was the perfect excuse to keep him busy.
Li Yiao had his tentacles spread through the far reaches of the east coast. He was a mobster by choice; a career path laid out by his father and his father before him. He was ruthless, powerful and money hungry. He never accepted “no” as an answer when it came to things that he wanted, including people. His men were everywhere, always watching Noelle, whether she came or went. She constantly changed phones and phone numbers but Yiao was always one step ahead and lately, the first and most frequent call she received on each phone. The sun was rising over the horizon, the orange glow brightening the room as she scanned through his file. Hidden in a pizza box, Maverick had managed to sneak his entire dossier to her. He was wanted for racketeering, prostitution, assault, murder and a laundry list of other offenses. He was infamous for getting his own hands dirty; he was an avid believer that when you killed a person, you absorbed their power from their blood. He was a monster and he was poised to ruin everything Noelle had worked so hard for.
The wind howled on the 20th floor of the construction site. Noelle took another deep breath as she prepared the gun and grappling hook. Her next contract was located deep within the walls over 1000 feet away. The hair on the back of her neck stood erect, apprehensive to complete a job so soon and so close to the one before. “Are you ok?” the voice chirped into her earpiece, startling her slightly. “I’m fine,” Noelle said questionably. “Like I was saying, Rex Tech just went public 6 months ago. $534 MILLION, can you believe? I applied for a job but they told me I was too…” the girl rambled on in her ear. Noelle rolled her eyes and called back. “Radio silent, Maverick, until I’m across,” she snarled back to her “Eye in the Sky”. With another deep breath, she aimed the gun and fired. The hook exploded from the gun and shot across the skyline until it secured itself to the neighboring rooftop. She secured the gun to the exposed beams near her and attached the rappelling hook on the tension line. With a ‘click’, she took a running leap over the edge.
After what felt like an eternity, she landed on the gravel that covered the roof. “I’m across,” she said. “Ok, at the door, there will be a card access. Use the key I gave you and let the algorithm do the rest,” Maverick said. Noelle removed it from her pack and slid the key into the reader and waited for the handheld device to flash green. “I can only disable the cameras for 40 seconds at a time with 1 minute intervals. Any longer and a secondary security system is engaged and will send out a silent alarm. You need to get down 5 floors to get to the next blind spot, directly under the camera on the 15th floor. Got it?”
The lock disengaged and Noelle took off galloping down the stairs. “30 seconds,” Maverick said into her ear. She made it to the 15th floor and she jammed the hacked key into the reader. “10 seconds.” It felt like it took longer before the light turn green and the latch on the door withdrew. “8…7…6…” Maverick counted down as Noelle used her foot to slow the door from slamming. With barely a second to spare, she dipped beneath the security camera that was settled in the corner. “Cutting it a little close, are we?” Maverick said, her keystrokes audible from the phone. “Maybe you should rewrite this algorithm to be a little faster,” Noelle said. Another 30 seconds needed to pass before the cameras could be looped again. She was careful not to exhale too hard or move in any way. “Ok, loop is restarting…now!”
Noelle took off into a sprint down the hallway. She repeated the memorized directions from the map she studied: right, right, left, right. There were no cameras where she was going. She met with the large cherry wood door, out of sync with the other doors on the floor. She jammed the lock picker in once more and gained another accepted access. She dove into the room and waited, still catching her breath. When she stood, she surveyed the office of Vice President of Research and Development quickly. The view was breathtaking, meaning that she was in the correct place. The painting on the wall was flush against the wallpaper. The desk was tempered glass and contained no drawers. The bookcase on the opposite was awkwardly shaped; each shelf was misaligned on its intended symmetrical side. Noelle scanned it momentarily before she grinned to herself and shoved the two halves apart. Surrounding the case along the wall and floor were unmistakable tracks, used to wheel the shelves back and forth to hide and reveal the safe. “A billion dollar company and they cheap out with a McGinnick,” Noelle said as she pulled off her backpack.
“I’m in,” she grinned to herself as she removed the borescope from the hole she drilled just above the dial. “Wait, what?” Maverick said as her keystrokes furiously tapped in the background. Noelle spun the handle and the safe popped open with a dull clank. “Literally NO ONE can crack a McGinnick that fast! How did you…”
“I have my ways,” Noelle said. She had been trained by the best. Her father’s words rang in the back of her head: “Nothing is impenetrable. Patience opens ANY lock.” Inside of the safe were stacks of cash, manila folders and a group of microchips settled into a display. “Ok, which one is it?” she said as she began flipping through the nonsequential bills. “Hang on,” Maverick said, her fingers moving like lightning. “Seriously, you couldn’t have figured this out before I got it open?”
“It says all of them.”
“What? I thought you said A microchip, not 20,” Noelle said, looking back at the display. “He says it is impossible to know which is which so bring them all.”
“You make sure you let him there is an upcharge,” she said. She took the plastic display from the safe and dumped it into her backpack. She glanced at the money again and grabbed it as well. “Alright, I’m gone. Set up the meet.” she said as she swung the safe closed.
She made it back across the line a few minutes later. Just as she began to celebrate another win, she was met with a swift kick to the torso that knocked her on her back. She jumped back up and looked up at her attacker. They were dressed in all black and wore a black ski mask, but from their stature, she could tell it was a man. “Who the hell…” she began before the man attacked again. She was deft at blocking his moves; his punches and kicks were met with her own. He pulled a knife from his hip and swung it at her, causing her to jump backwards too close to the edge. He reached out and grabbed her hand to pull her back. He swung the knife again and barely missed her flesh, but he had severed the strap to the backpack she wore. He grabbed it and tried to take off running, but she jumped on his back and tackled him to the ground. He elbowed her on the side of the head and pushed her off of him. They both held a steady grip on the bag, swinging at one another for one moment of slack. As they fought, she felt her father’s coin unlodge itself from under her shirt. The mystery man glanced down at it and back to her before he snatched it from her neck and kicked her away. “Wait, no!” she yelled as she took off after him. She followed him as far as she could but he disappeared into the night with her prized possession.
The meet was scheduled for an hour later at the Zen Gardens restaurant. The man enjoyed his dinner at the back table; 4 of his most loyal henchmen surrounded him, each of them strapped with a semi-automatic gun. The bell rang to signal someone had entered. Before the man could address the woman, she had stormed inside and pushed the table right against his bulging stomach and pinned him to the wall. His henchmen had their guns aimed right as her back as she held the man in position. “Who else did you contract out for this?” she yelled. The man coughed into his napkin and tried to defuse the situation. “I placed an ad and you answered.”
“Did you send someone else after me?! To push me off a building?!”
“Now why would I do that and you’ve done what no one else could for me?” the Asian man said. He signaled to his men to lower their weapons; he felt powerful enough to not feel threatened by her. “He stole something from me and I want it back. Until I do, I’ll be keeping this,” she said, holding up the backpack. She released her grip from the table and began to walk out when the man began speaking again. “You may not want to go too far with that information. I’d hate for something to happen to that pretty little head of yours.” The henchmen moved into her path and blocked her way to the door. She spun and faced the man as a scowl spread across her face. “Sit,” he said, his hand extended toward the chair next to him. “Let’s talk business.”