Kat stood up as quietly as she could and slipped into her brother’s room. Hopefully, she could watch the intruder through the crack in his door. After a brief period of waiting, a woman came out of her room. What the fuck? The woman was wearing her black tee and jeans. Then Kat noticed that those were also what she was wearing. Fuck! Some sort of disguise based on security footage? Kat could feel her chest contracting in fear. It only got worse when the woman glanced in her direction and she even had Kat’s face. Kat tried meditating, mentally running over a mantra in her head, but she could hardly keep the chant straight. The woman turned around again and noticed Chris’s note on the table. After looking at it for a moment, she took it and a banana, she left Kat’s apartment.
Kat gained control of herself twenty blocks away once her sides started hurting too much to keep sprinting. It appeared she’d grabbed the merchandise out of the safe, which meant the other woman hadn’t. Kat whipped her emergency burner phone out and started dialing Chris’s burner.
“Hey, Kat. I’m in the middle of a business meeting right now, so now isn’t a good time. Can you call me back?” He meant that he was in the middle of pulling a scam and had the mark in front of him.
“No.” Kat tried to keep the tremble out of her voice but wasn’t sure she succeeded. “I’m in trouble. Please.”
Chris sighed. She heard him speaking to someone: “I’m incredibly sorry, sir, but I’ll have to step away. I have just received news of a family emergency. Perhaps we can reschedule this meeting for tomorrow.” After a brief period of someone yelling at him, Chris repeated: “I understand, sir, but this is an emergency. I am incredibly sorry.” After a bit more time, he said “Thank you sir” and then shortly thereafter “Ok, Kat, what’s going on?”
“That job…it went sideways. Hard. Someone disguised as me was in our place looking around.”
“Shit!” Chris exclaimed. “You went on a job without me? Weren’t you supposed to be laying low while the Paco thing blew over?”
“But…you left me that note. It was that job.”
“Kat, I never left you a note.”
“Oh fuck. Oh fuck” Kat hyperventilated. “It was a counterfeit. Someone’s playing me.”
“Okay. Let’s just start from the top.”
That she could do. After a brief pause to think, she started: “I found it the morning after I dropped you off at the airport…”
Kat woke up and stretched. Grunting out of bed, she grabbed her clothes strewn out on the floor and pulled them on. She quickly downed a mug of cold coffee sitting on her bedside table and flicked some gunk out of her eyes onto the floor. After another stretch, she made her way out into the living room. Her brother was away for several days, so Kat was just going to chill and enjoy herself. She went to crash onto the couch but noticed a piece of paper sitting on the table.
Kat grabbed the note and looked at it. It was written in Chris’s writing and just said
134 Moorwood Crescent.
Safe in basement with combination 1473327519.
Fingerprint scan also required.
What. The. Fuck. Chris normally wasn’t so fucking cryptic. Why hadn’t he just told her about this before he left. Kat considered calling, but they had specifically agreed to not to communicate while he was playing the scam. It made things easier in case he had people checking up on him.
After a brief period of consideration, Kat shrugged. At the very least, she’d check the place out. She quickly grabbed a banana and headed out to the address on the note.
The place was an opulent suburban home – not quite what you would call a mansion, but close. There were about a dozen people visible either in the yard or in the house. While none wore uniforms and no guns were visible, it was clear that they were guards by their bearing.
About a dozen cars were parked out front – presumably the guards, but one was a 70s Stringray. Kat smiled to herself. No security guard could afford that, so it would be the owner’s. Scanning the area to make sure no one was watching the cars, she pulled out a piece of putty and pushed it against the door handle. Kat breathed a sigh of relief when no car alarm went off. After making sure she had gotten a fingerprint impression, she put the putty away and went back to observation.
Kat spent the afternoon and a bit of the evening surveying the building, but decided she wasn’t going to make an attempt. The security was too strong for a solo job. If she was going to plan a robbery here, she would want someone to cause a distraction and another someone to cut the power and provide tactical support from comms, ideally with a blueprint of the building.
Just to be sure, Kat had kept watching for a time after making her decision. She was studying the guards movements to see if she could find a pattern when she heard shouting a couple of houses down. After a few moments, gunfire broke out and then power cut out all along the street. Kat’s first instinct was to start running, but then she hesitated. At least eight guards were running from the house to check out what was going on. She may not have planned it, but this was the distraction she needed. Mentally screaming curses at Chris for getting her into this mess, Kat started pulling on gloves and sprinting for the house.
Shortly after getting into the house, she saw a guard and shouted a “They need you at the front door!” to him. He started running for the door and Kat grinned to herself and resisted the urge to shout a cry of glee. The rest of the route to the safe was clear of guards.
Safe really wasn’t the right word. It was vault. There was a heavy metal door about a meter wide by two tall. There was no cutting through this with what she had on her, and without power, the key code wasn’t going to work. Kat stood considering for a moment, when the lights came back on.
Kat could feel her breathing getting fast and shallow, so she forced herself to take larger breaths. This was clearly a well-planned heist; it just wasn’t planned by her. That said, she came this far, so there was nothing to do but carry on. After pressing the putty into the scanner and typing in the code from the note, the door swung wide open.
Inside was a brightly lit room. The walls were steel and there was a glass case on a table with a small pouch in it. A woman stood in the far corner with green hair and porcelain white skin. She nodded at Kat and asked “Authorization code?” Fuck.
Kat pulled one arm out of her backpack and swung in hard into the glass case. After the glass shattered and a siren started blaring, she reached out to grab for the pouch. The woman’s hand clasped firmly around her wrist. Almost without thinking, Kat grabbed a shard of glass from the table and slammed it downwards into the woman’s wrist. As blood started flowing, the woman grunted and her grip weakened. Kat started running as alarms started to sound throughout the building.
As she started running back up the stairs, Kat heard the sounds of gunfire coming from the front yard. Turning, she barreled out a side door and quickly vaulted over a fence. A glance over her shoulder showed the green-haired woman chasing behind, who fired a few gunshots at Kat.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Kat started chanting to herself as she ducked into an alley and started running for the city proper. Hopefully, the woman wouldn’t be able to chase her through crowds of people.
After Kat finished bringing her brother up to speed, there was a short pause, followed by a hesitant “Uh, Kat…Besides the obvious, there’s something else off about that story. It is the morning after I left for the airport.”
Kat’s brow furrowed. “What? No, that was yesterday.”
“No, Kat. I just got here.”
There was a short pause. “I dunno, Chris. I just – I can’t think about this all right now.”
“Okay. Head to Diki’s and lie low. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Okay. See you there.”
“Love you, Kat.”
“Sure.” Kat hung up and tried to take account of her situation. She still had the pouch on her, which seemed to contain a handful of nice rocks and some jewelry, but probably nothing worth the level of security it had. She’d been set up by someone who could fake her brother’s handwriting, but since no one had taken the pouch, she couldn’t work out why. Plus, they had a look-alike out there checking out her place. Not to mention Chris’s comment about the date.
Kat murmered a quick mantra and tried to get a grip. She couldn’t do much about that list of issues right now, so she’d deal with what she could. Getting to Diki’s.
The walk to Diki’s house took about half an hour and worked its way out of the city core and into the suburbs. The sun glowed down on her and the walk began to clear her head and restore focus. It seemed somehow comforting that the city was functioning as usual – everyone going about their business, completely uninterested in her problems. It almost made Kat feel like she could be as well.
Soon enough, though, the walk came to an end and she stood in front of Diki’s. It was a small blue townhouse with a half-falling apart Volkswagen parked at the road and a string of prayer flags hanging over the door. Kat bit her lip nervously as she walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.
Diki’s shouted “Coming!” came almost immediately, but it took several minutes for her to actually appear at the door. In the meantime, Kat shifted her weight back and forth between her legs. When she saw her, Diki’s face broke out into a smile and then slowly darkened. “Kat! I didn’t know you were visiting! Wait…you’re in trouble, aren’t you? My house isn’t a safe house, you know. I can’t have you risking Ell and Patrice.
Kat didn’t say anything but tears started welling up in her eyes.
Diki sighed then waved her in. “Fine. Get your ass inside, then.”
Kat nodded and came in. Patrice came running up and gave her a hug. “Kat! Ella and I are watching youtube videos. You should join us!”
A smile broke through Kat’s face, but that only caused her to start weeping more. After the flow of tears slowed down a bit, Kat nodded and allowed herself to be dragged away by the kids. She spent much of the afternoon watching videos and eating potato chips. By the end of the evening, she was even beginning to relax.