Stealing and Stolen by Tommy Goricki

Dear dad,

I’m going to do it. Don’t try to follow me.

-Juliette
Stealing and Stolen
Stealing and Stolen by Tommy Goricki
I put down my pencil and quietly left the place I had once called home. As I walked to the end of my street, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. I had planned this for months. I carried my backpack with 4 pairs of clothes, toiletries, pens and paper, and 1,000 dollars in cash. I had waited until I got out of college with a degree to leave to find a job and a place to call my own. Now was my chance. The plane ticket was paid for and all I had to do was catch a cab to the airport. “Taxi,” I called out! A few seconds later a yellow taxi rushed around the corner and came to a neck breaking halt before me. I jumped in, told him the address of the airport, and we rode in silence. When we arrived, the driver turned to me and spoke in a dull tone, “That will be $180 miss.” I nodded and gave him what he asked for. Down to $820 I thought to myself. I would have to ration the money carefully. The airport was small but that was not important. I just needed an escape route. As I stood in line at security the person behind me started a conversation. “Hey, I’m Jeff.” “I’m Juliette. It’s nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you too. Where are you flying to?” “I’m going to Greece. What about you?” “Spain. Too bad we’re not on the same plane. I would have loved to have had a lady as beautiful as you sitting near me.” I blushed. I wasn’t used to getting compliments from people. I always had just tried to stay beneath the radar. I noticed a tattoo on his arm and was just about to ask what it was when I was called up. “Next!” The security guard beckoned me forward. I bumped into Jeff. I smiled and apologized before heading towards the metal detector. I walked through and the detector went off. “Ma’am, I’m going to need you to check your pockets and walkthrough again.” I nodded and felt through my pockets. Nothing. I strode through again and the detector made another little beeping noise. By this time I was very embarrassed and everyone behind me was talking in hushed voices. I felt a sharp pain in my waist and I pulled something out of the waist part of my jeans. It was a metal tracker. I quickly thought back to the last few minutes and I remembered Jeff bumping into me. Immediately, the tattoo clicked in my memory. It was a gang symbol that I had seen on the news. I turned toward him and sure enough, he was smiling to himself. “You little piece of poop!” I yelled. Jeff looked at me innocently and replied, “I can assure you I have no idea what you’re talking about.” That’s it. I thought. I leaned over and gave Jeff the finger. Seemed like that was a bad idea though. Five minutes later, I was sitting in the airport holding area trying to explain myself. “But he put a metal tracker in my jeans! See?” I pulled the tracker out of my jeans and showed it to the main guard. The guard nodded and said, “Very well miss. Next time put the metal in the bins.” I sighed and walked out of the room. I rushed to get to my gate. As I ran, I saw a man working on a piece of art. “Good work, art man!” The man looked up, smiled, and called back, “You too, running girl!” I grinned and hastily boarded my plane. Luckily there were still five minutes left before the plane finished boarding. I got on the plane and went to my seat. I was right in front of a little kid and next to another man in his 30’s. “Hey! I’m Juliette. How are you this evening?” “Pretty good. And yourself?” “Eh. Nearly got stalked by a gang member and missed the plane, but other than that, pretty well.” The guy laughed and replied, “I’m Robert, by the way. Are you always this interesting? Or have you just exaggerated?” I thought back to my life and how prone to weird accidents I was. “I’m pretty sure I’m just good at finding trouble.” Robert laughed again. “Well, welcome to the club. When I was twenty three I stood outside of a mall and helped a tattooed muscular Mexican man get a soda out of a vending machine. As he thanked me, group of people came by and started threatening to beat me up if I hurt their friend. The guy reassured them, taught me an intricate handshake, then said, ‘If you ever need any help man, you call us and we’ll kill them for you.’ He laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world and drove off on his motorcycle with all his buddies. And that’s how I accidently joined a Mexican gang.” I stared at him with a wide eyed expression and then roared with laughter. “You can’t be serious,” I sputtered. Robert looked at me with the most deadpan look and replied, “No one has ever bothered me again.” That made me laugh even harder, because I knew he was telling the truth. Robert laughed right along with me. Honestly, had we not been in seats, we would have been rolling on the floor like Draco Malfoy from A Very Potter Musical. The rest of the flight was great except for one part. The little kid behind us was named Johnny, which must have been short for tiny Satan because he wouldn’t stop screaming the whole time. Robert, at 3 hours into the trip turned around and spoke to the parents in a very harsh ‘I-don’t-take-any-crap’ voice. He said, “If you don’t make your little brat shut up, I will activate the emergency alarm, open the door, and throw him out of the plane.” The mum and dad seemed to get that he wasn’t kidding and silenced the kid. I whispered to Robert, “Or you could have your Mexican gang go after him.” Robert nodded, trying to hold in silent fits of laughter. He was really fun to entertain. After that eventful bit, I slept, talked, and watched movies until we landed in Athens, Greece.  Chapter 2 ONE YEAR LATER Greece. The most amazing place in the world. All the sights, smells, tastes, and memories you could make. I was currently in museum taking pictures. One of my hobbies was photography. There was this most amazing Greek urn that I had wanted to see for the longest time and here I was, standing before it at last. The urn was blue with copper engravings in Greek. It had a picture of Hades on it, symbolizing death and the underworld. I placed it at about 5 AD when it was made. I held my camera up, poised to take a picture when suddenly, the lights went off. There were a few screams and I was pushed around. “SOMEONE TURNON THE LIGHTS,” A security guard yelled! Someone nudged me and said, “Psst. Help me with this.” I was handed a large object and led over to an air vent and pushed through it. After a few moments of army crawling, I saw the lights flicker on in the museum. It was still too dark to see what I was holding though. I crawled until the voice said. “You can stop now.” A flashlight clicked on and I saw a handsome tan face with green eyes, “hipster” glasses, and black spiked hair. I looked down at what I was holding and saw it was the Greek urn I had been admiring just a few minutes ago. “Oh gods. Did we just steal this? Who are you?” The boy grinned, eyes sparkling, and replied, “I am a thief and proud. The name’s James. Who are you Princess?” “My friends call me Juliette. That’s because Juliette is my name.” James laughed and said, “To answer your question, we did, in fact, just steal that.” “WHAT. Why? What reason could you have to why we just stole that?!” “It’s for a good reason. I need to get my girlfriend back. This is going to be a gift for her.” My face softened. "What happened?" Even though it was a messed up way to get her back, I still felt sorry for him. James had a wavery smile on his face as he spoke, “She said she needed space and we should see other people." "What was her name?" "Ashten. She was the most amazing person." "I'm really sorry," my face turned worried again. "Are we going to get caught? Am I an accessory in crime? I don’t want to go back to jail." “What?” “Just kidding. But I don’t want to get caught.” James shook his head and his sad expression dissipated. "If there’s one thing I know, it's stealing. Just follow me." He led the way out of the air vent and into the busy streets of Olympia, Greece. No one noticed the bulky black backpack James had slipped the urn in. We walked in silence and I kind of wanted to ask where we were going. I half jogged with him around the corner because he was faster than me and down the street to a blue house with white windows. James looked nervously at me and suddenly I knew it was his girlfriend’s house. I backed up behind the bushes so as to remain unseen. James smiled gratefully at me. He knocked on the door and a beautiful brunette opened the door. She was almost as tall as James. I guessed she was 5'6" and he was about 5'10". I was only 5' and a quarter inch. Ashten invited him inside. James presented her with the priceless ancient urn and she gasped. I thought that was a good sign until I saw what appeared to be her shouting at him. Ashten pointed towards the door and James walked out, leaving Ashten to slam the door shut after him. James saw me still crouching behind the bushes and remarked blandly, continuing to walk, "I bet you want to hear all about it now, don’t you." I hurried after him and responded, "Only if you want to tell me." I was secretly wishing he would tell me. I wondered about why she didn’t want that beautiful piece of artwork. He sighed, his eyebrows furrowed, and looked down at me. "She said I was a no good thief and that she wanted to stay away from me." He sat down on the bench he had been standing next to. I tentatively sat down next to him and commented, “I’m really sorry this didn't work out for you." I had only known him for about 20 minutes but he had that sort of persona that made me sensitive to his feelings. James snorted and raised one eyebrow at me. "So, you need a ride to wherever you're staying?" I nodded gratefully. I didn't really fancy going on a bus again. When I was on the bus this morning, it was dirty and a homeless man peed in the seat during his sleep which made it stink even more than it already did. We walked to where his car was (it was a black SUV) and climbed in. I gave James directions to the hotel I was staying at and he found the Mount Olympus Hotel pretty quickly. James followed me up to the clerk’s desk who had been holding the keys to my room for the day. In a British accent I said, “Hello, Juliette Creace, room G111." The clerk nodded and dug around for a little bit, trying to find my key and then handed it to me. I smiled a silent thanks and began climbing the stairs. James followed me up the steps, his face filled with awe, and questioned, “How did you do that?" "Do what?" "You talked in a different accent." "Oh. I checked in as British so I figured I should keep it up. I didn't tell you? I'm an excellent grifter, which in case you didn’t know, is a person who reads others and uses their body signals to respond to them.” James stared at me in amazement as I walked in my room. "Maybe I’ll see you around," I said as I politely shut the door in his still admiration filled face. I flopped in bed and thought about what had happened that day. It had started off as normal, then James had made it exciting. Truth be told, I was kind of bored with the same old same old, and James had taken me back to when I was a grifter. I put on my pajamas, which consisted of sweats and a t-shirt. I climbed into my comfy queen sized bed.  Chapter 3 I slept well that night. At 8:07 I awoke to the sound of knocking. I got up and answered the door in my grey sweatpants and oversized t-shirt. In came a radiant James. "Good morning my sapphire! I have an adventure planned today! Up up up!" I replied groggily," What? Where on Earth are we going? And I have to get dressed first and you're not staying to watch." James held up his hands as if to surrender and backed out of the room while saying, "Don't take too long!" I rolled my eyes and changed into black cargo pants and a cobalt blue quarter sleeved shirt. How’d he get in here? I wondered. I pulled my hair into a messy bun as I walked out the door. James grabbed my hand and dragged me down the stairs. I flung my room key at the clerk who caught it as I was led out the door. "What are we doing," I asked? James finally turned to face me and smiled mischievously. "A heist." "WHAT?!?" Oh gods. I finished going down that path a while ago. Nearly got caught, and that’s when I stopped. I wasn’t sure what James wanted me to do though, so I figured I would hear him out. "But this is good. The guy needs to be brought down. He’s hurting people and their families. Please Juli.” I glared at him and grumbled, “Fine. But you have to tell me what to do.” James told me his plan as we drove to this HUGE building that had a sign reading: Silvermiller's Art Gallery. Great. We were going to steal more art. James turned to me with a concerned expression and began to relate the story of why this art seller needed to be taken down. "Mister Michael Silvermiller is the manager and sole owner of this establishment. He talks to families looking to sell their priceless heirlooms to make extra money and then rips them off. And I don't mean doesn't pay them as much as they deserve. He doesn't pay them at all. He'll ask for proof that they sold to him and since the 'customers' didn't get a receipt, there's not exactly much they can do. Most people just leave him alone after that. But if they don't, he sends guys to seriously injure them. They don’t mess with him after that. We have to give them their rightful money Juli.” I nodded to show I understood. I was supposed to be acting the beautiful Duchess. I had the acting part down, but it was the beauty section I wasn’t sure about. I walked inside Silvermiller’s Art Gallery, camera in hand and ready for action. It was decently crowded in there but I was spotted by Mr. Silvermiller almost immediately. James had given me a fancy red shirt, black slacks and jewel encrusted rings so I would look rich. Mr. Silvermiller walked up to me and flashed me with a dazzling smile. He was a trustworthy sort of looking man but I, being a skilled grifter, could see that it was all a façade. He asked in his most charming voice, “I am Mr. Michael Silvermiller, owner and manager of this lovely gallery,” He had a silky smooth voice that seemed to work well in his line of business because he was dressed very nicely. “What is your name beautiful?” Well, apparently I did have the beauty section down. I answered in my best English accent, “I am Duchess Maria of Eastleigh. Very pleased to make your acquaintance…. May I call you Michael?” Whoop-Dee-doo for flirting. I hate James. Silvermiller replied coyly, “Of course…Maria.” I forced myself to blush. “Do you see anything you are interested in?” I pretended to look admiringly around the room and then answered,” Not at the moment, no. But I have a very valuable piece of artwork that I would like to sell you.” Silvermiller’s eyes lit up like a pumpkin on Halloween. “May I see it?” I looked around. “Well, it’s too risky to present it to you here. Can we set up a meeting somewhere?” Silvermiller looked hungrily at me and replied, “Of course. How about Athena’s down the street in an hour?” I smiled and agreed sweetly. Silvermiller shook my hand and I departed. James was standing outside when I walked through the doors and back into the warm summer air. I relayed all the information to him and asked him where Athena’s was. “It’s about five minutes’ walk from here.” We started for the car and hopped in. Well, James did. I climbed clumsily in after him as I wasn’t really used to wearing heels. We drove to Athena’s and waited in the parking lot for Silvermiller. James had already shown me the “Van Gogh” that we were supposed to selling him. It didn’t look fake. All the brush strokes were consistent with Van Gogh’s other work. I would have believed James had stolen it had it not have been for one tiny problem. “James, there is no signature.” “Please tell me you’re joking,” James gasped with wide eyes. “I’m not.” “Oh gods. What are we going- wait. Do you think you can forge it?” “I don’t know.” “Please Juliette.” “I’ll try.” I’d only forged a couple of things in my life, like field trip forms. I had been practicing, but I wasn’t sure I could do it that well.00000 Luckily, I forged the signature so it was indistinguishable from the original. James let out a sigh of relief. A grifter and a forger. Apparently I was more of a con-artist than I thought. When Michael Silvermiller’s car pulled into the parking lot, I stepped out carrying the brown paper wrapped painting tightly in my arms. To be honest, I was really nervous that we weren’t going to be able to pull this off. But nonetheless, I smiled my most confident smile when I saw him. He returned it with an almost sincere one of his own. Almost. But not quite. I kind of got the feeling that he knew something was up. I quickly shook that feeling off as we walked inside and sat down at a secluded table in the back. Silvermiller kissed my hand as a greeting. It was a standard trust act. I had learned about it when I was taking a couple of psychology classes. “Well Madame Duchess, may I see this painting of yours?” I nodded and reached across the table to hand him the painting. He carefully unwrapped its covering and gasped. “You found a long lost Van Gogh! However did you manage it?” “It was a family heirloom from my father. He died about a month ago,” I said, repeating the well-rehearsed story James had had me memorise. “I would like to sell it because it has too many memories connected with it.” Silvermiller tried to feign interest, but I could see the excited expression on his face. “I’m prepared to give you 20 million for it.” I knew that Van Gogh’s were worth at least 39 million, but I didn’t let my knowledge show. “I’ll have to discuss it with my advisor.” “Where are they00?” “He’s sitting in my car. I’ll just be a second.” Silvermiller nodded. I strode out of the restaurant and back to the black SUV where James was sitting. I spoke with him through the window. “He says he’ll give us 20 million.” James frowned, shook his head slowly, and declared, “That’s not nearly enough.” “How much do we need?” “About 35 million.” I gasped in awe. That was just WAY too much money to steal. James quickly came up with a new plan. “I mapped out his gallery and Silvermiller has at least forty million in cash in the vault in his office.” Once I knew that information, James told me the new and improved plan. I fast walked back inside the building a few minutes later and smiled at Silvermiller who had remained at our seats. He flashed me a grin and quipped, “Well? What do you say? And will you be my guest of honour at tonight’s gallery event?” “It’s a deal for both.” He nodded excitedly. We both stood up to leave and Silvermiller bowed to me and we exited Athena’s. We went our separate ways. When Michael Silvermiller’s car had pulled out completely, I broke out in a run back to our car. Don’t ask me how I ran in heels when I couldn’t an hour ago, because I don’t know. “So. James, tell me one more time what the plan is.”  Chapter 4 “We’re going to his art gallery tonight, at the big event he hosts for all the council members and you’re going to be his guest of honour. While you keep him busy, I will be upstairs looking for his vault. Once I find it, you’re going to keep him distracted by unveiling the “Lost Van Gogh”, while I get the money we need downstairs and out the door. Then we’ll both leave and go out for ice-cream and Netflix.” I laughed. I was beginning to like this James guy. We spent the rest of the day arguing about ice cream flavours, listening to music in the SUV, and just having fun. It was actually really cool. Later that night, at about 7 (the event didn’t start until 9), we were sitting on the hood of the car looking at the stars. “So James. Tell me about your life before this.” “Uh uh, my sapphire. I don’t do backstories. But I must admit, I’m a little curious about yours.” I let out a long sigh. “Where to begin. Okay. I grew up in Orlando, Florida. I finished college when I was 16.” “How?” “I took a lot of courses over the summer and stuff so I could get done with school as fast as possible.” James nodded, interested. “What did you major in?” “I was trained to be a homicide detective, so I toured Greece while looking for a job. I couldn’t find a jo-“ James interrupted, “Do you know a lot of languages?” I glared while saying, “I know seven different languages. German, Greek, English, Spanish, Arabic, French, and Italian. Now, stop interrupting. I thought you wanted to hear about my life?” James grinned sheepishly. I laughed and continued, “As I was saying, I couldn’t find a job, so I started this grifting thing trying to help people. I got some money doing that so I figured I must not be too bad at acting. I went to acting school and found a small time gig as the lead in some musical. I guessed I could sing too. I was away on holiday when you came into the picture.” “What about your parents?” “My mum died when I was little and my dad was abusive.” “Oh.” James fell silent for a minute and then inquired, “How old are you?” “Nineteen. You?” “Twenty on January first.” James looked hopeful. “Will you sing for me?” I blushed and responded, “I don’t know. I’m not that great.” “Oh come on my sapphire. I won’t judge,” he said, now grinning. “What do you want me to sing?” James shrugged. I took a deep breath and began to sing Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I grew more confident and relaxed as the song went on, and James listened with rapt attention. When I finished I buried my face in my hands, too embarrassed to look at James. I was always told to shut up by my dad when I started singing, so I wasn’t used to positive feedback. I certainly wasn’t used to what James did next. He gently lifted my chin so I was looking at him and said softly, “That was beautiful.” He looked into my eyes for a few more moments and then pulled his hand back. I felt myself begin to breathe again. James spoke again but less quietly this time. “We need to get ready for the art gallery event.” And with that, he swung himself down from the hood and into the driver’s seat. I followed him and he drove off to my hotel. James opened the door for me while he said, “I will meet you back here in one hour.” I nodded and he drove off.  Chapter 5 I walked in the lobby, got my key and trudged up the stairs. When I got inside my room, I took a nice twenty minute shower, then got dressed in a shimmery lavender material. It had capped sleeves and a flared skirt that accented my waist. The dress was trimmed in black. I decided that I needed a little makeup so I brushed on some light purple eye shadow, black eyeliner, and mascara. I added a tint of lip gloss as an afterthought. My blonde hair fell in soft waves down my back and my gold eyes seemed to sparkle. I slipped my feet in some black converse so I kept my own personality and headed downstairs. As I entered the lobby, I was met with a lot of whistles and a couple of rude comments. “Hey gorgeous, you wanna go get a drink?” “Yo babe, I can treat you better than him.” If looks could kill, I’d be a mass murderer. I spoke in a threatening low whisper, “If you don’t shut up, I will slash your tires and make you regret the day that you were born.” One of the guys raised his eyebrows and smirked. “How so, Princess?” I grinned evilly, “I will call your mothers and tell them what you’ve said. All I have to do is find your google plus account and then it’s all over.” Their eyes widened in fear and they said hurried apologies as they backed quickly away. I returned to my waiting for James outside. A limo pulled into the drive with a person that looked oddly like James in the driver’s seat. A second later when the man turned the car off and stepped out of it, I saw it was James. He was wearing a white tuxedo and a green tie to set off his eyes. He saw me and beckoned me to come closer. Without saying a word, he opened the passenger door and I shifted myself inside. As we drove, James commented, “You look really pretty tonight.” I was glad it was dark and that James kept his eyes on the road, because I was blushing furiously. I don’t know why, because James obviously wasn’t interested in me. I was too homely looking compared to his good looks. With his jet black messy hair and intense green eyes, he was the equivalent of a male model. Did I just think that? Maybe I liked him more than I thought. “So, you ready for tonight,” I asked? James responded, “As ready as I can be.” I commented jokingly, “My only goal is not to die.” James said seriously, “I’ll keep you safe. You’re not going to die on my watch.” I blushed again and the car fell silent.  Chapter 6 We arrived at the art gallery to see it was lavishly decorated with fairy lights and music. We entered the building with an air of confidence and elegance about us and saw trays upon trays of dainty finger sandwiches, fruit pieces, and cheese squares. There were boxes for putting their bids in (the highest bid being shown every hour) and the paintings were displayed right next to them. I hadn’t gotten a chance to really look at any of the art earlier and now that I was, I had to admit Silvermiller had great taste in art. When we walked through the door, Michael Silvermiller had seen me and James and started towards us. Silvermiller bowed, smiled at me and said, “You look lovely.” These words didn’t quite have the same effect on me as James complimenting me had. It didn’t make me feel like I was floating through the sky or like I had sniper butterflies in my stomach. I replied anyway, “Thank you so much for inviting me to this incredible event. I hope you don’t mind I brought someone with me.” Silvermiller eyed James and said pompously, “Not at all. I do hope though that he’s not your, eh… significant other.” I laughed a little bit nervously. “No, he’s not. This is Costas, my chauffeur and advisor. He doesn’t talk much.” “Well, it’s very nice to meet you Costas.” James grunted in response. Silvermiller looked at me surprised (and a little bit irritated) and turned to me. “Well, uh… Duchess Maria, if you would follow me, I’d like to show you some of the exhibits.” I nodded, smiled, and spoke to James, “Costas, if you would like to go wait near the corner that would be great.” James looked at me like he didn’t want to leave me alone with Silvermiller and didn’t move. I discreetly jerked my head signaling that he just needed to go. James glowered, but walked stiffly over to the corner and stood straight backed, still gazing intently at me. I followed Silvermiller around the gallery, wondering why he was acting so weird and when James would be able to sneak upstairs. He had to do it while no one was looking and while the guards were not at the office. “So over to your right Duchess, you’ll see the famous Vermeer painting. It dates to 1665. The name is The Lace Maker. To your left, there’s Le Mur Rose by Matisse. Made in 1898, you’ll notice that it-“ he was cut off abruptly when his phone rang. “If you’ll excuse me.” I nodded politely and used that as my chance to glance over at the corner. It seemed like James had already gone as he wasn’t standing there anymore. I looked back at Silvermiller again, and saw him talking secretively into the cellphone. A few minutes passed and James hadn’t gotten me yet. Every few seconds Silvermiller would look at me and then look at the stairs. I was beginning to get worried about James. Where was he? It shouldn’t take this long. And why was Michael Silvermiller still on his phone? Just then, Silvermiller started walking towards me with a self-satisfied grin on his face. He almost looked as if- Oh. It dawned on me just a minute too late. He knew all along. James came down the stairs at that second, escorted by who I assumed were Silvermiller’s personal bodyguard. James motioned at me to leave while I could but I ignored him. If he was going down, I was going down with him. Silvermiller turned to face the crowd and said, "These two are thieves. They are trying to steal my money!" I opened my mouth, about to speak but James shot me a look telling me to keep quiet. Silvermiller called security, looking entirely too smug as they took us away. The drive to the police station was silent. Or at least I thought we were going to the station. As we took a turn past it I quipped, “Where are we going?" The security guard looked in the rearview mirror and grinned evilly. "To the big house. Mr. Silvermiller is friends with people in positions so high, you don't even know about them." Wonderful. Not even rights to a fair trial. Then again, I guess we weren't in America. James angrily whispered, “Why didn’t you just leave?” I retorted, “I wasn’t going to leave you alone! If you’re going down, I’m going down with you!” James sighed, losing his angry tone and instead adopting a concerned one. “I was the one who dragged you into this. I could’ve protected you had I just realized he was up to something.” I smiled, amused. “James, you’re the thief. I’m the grifter. If I didn’t notice then you sure as heck wouldn’t have either. And besides, as long as we don’t get sentenced to death, and I’m sure we won’t,” I amended quickly as I saw James’ worried expression, “I’ll be fine.”  Chapter 7 When we got to the imperious looking jail, we were shown to our cells. “Oh look. A piece of poop. And there’s a rat. And for the grand finale, a rat on a piece of poop. Wonderful. Love the hygiene here guys,” I said sarcastically to the guards. They rolled their eyes. The cells, like I said, were gross. They were dark, dingy, and full of rat feces. Stocked with a cot, a small toilet, and absolutely no privacy, they looked to be about the most uncomfortable things anyone had ever come up with. The only good thing about this situation was that I was right next to James' cell. I was sure he was going to think a way out of this mess. The guards left us locked up and I spoke to James when I heard their footsteps receding. "James. Please tell me you have one of your brilliant ideas to get us out of here." "Err...as a matter of fact, I don't. I didn't really plan on this." I let out a sigh of frustration. Another voice, one I didn't recognize spoke up, “Oi! I! Would you keep it down? I'm trying to sleep." "Sorry," I said, "we're trying to think of a way out." "Oh, another pair of would-be escapees. Well pals, I may be able to help you out. Does the lady have a bobby pin on her?" I nodded, and then remembering that she couldn't see me, I voiced my actions. I pulled a pin out and my hair came cascading down my back. I handed the bobby pin through the bars to the girl and asked, “I never caught your name?" "It's Aliyah Brackenfield," she answered as a lock clicked. I saw Aliyah step out from her cell and work on my lock. She was about twenty with smooth brown hair and perfectly done makeup, despite being in a jail cell for who knows how long. She had high cheekbones and chocolate brown eyes that seemed to bore right through the door and into my soul. A lock clicked again, this time it was my own. I followed her over to James' cell. Aliyah spoke matter of factly, "You would think more people would have bobby pins on them, but you would be surprised." I wondered how long she had been here and was about to ask when James' door swung open soundlessly. Aliyah led the way over to the entrance to the open main hall. She stopped right at the edge of the hallway. I looked around her and saw why. Two guards were pacing back and forth, blocking our escape. I raised my pointer finger to show her I had to grab something. She nodded and I snuck over to the watch guard station that was for some dumb reason, abandoned. I grabbed our belongings that had not yet been put in the lockers for when we checked out. I tossed James his phone and put mine in my hidden pocket in the dress. I then motioned to Aliyah that we could go now. Aliyah turned around looking straight at the window that was at the end of the opposite corridor. She walked quietly towards it, with me and James following. Aliyah looked through the window and then scrunched up her face. James and I braced ourselves as Aliyah took the fire extinguisher and smashed the window. The sound sent the guards running at us but before they could stop us, we jumped. I felt the air rush through my hair as we free fell. We landed on a huge hedge, and that broke the fall. “RUN,” we all yelled at the same time! Getting up quickly, we jumped over the fence and ran for about 10 minutes. After getting far enough away from the security guards and the prison, Aliyah questioned, “Does anyone have a way out of here?" James shook his head, looking grim, but my eyes lit up. I hastily took out my phone and scrolled through my contacts. "What are you looking for," James quipped? "When I was a grifter, I had a team of a hacker, a getaway driver, and another grifter. I'm going to see if they can come pick us up. I found the information and dialed the number. I put the phone on speaker and asked, "Hello?” “Hello?” “Hey Dwayne!” “Jules? Is that you? What’s up?” “Do you think you could get the team together for one more heist?” “Sure. Where are you?” “About a half a mile from the jail.” “Jail?! Are you ok?” “Yep.” “Ok, I’ll be there in about five minutes.” “Thanks! See you soon." James shot me a quizzical look. I nodded, knowing his question was were they coming. To be honest, I really missed my old team. I hadn't seen them in a year and I was excited to see them when they got here in 5 minutes. I sat down on the dry grass, waiting for the sound of a car, or the flash of headlights. Sure enough, two minutes later a big Range Rover pulled up and three figures hopped out. Dwayne ushered us all into the seats. The car had been modified to have 6 seats and extra space in the back for equipment. "Guys, this is Dwayne, Philip, and Vincenzo. But we all call him Vinnie." Dwayne was in the driver’s seat. He had brown hair, brown eyes, and rectangular glasses that framed his face. Vinnie and Philip sat in the back. Vinnie had dark brown hair with a fwoop, brown eyes, and a wide smile. Philip had brown hair and eyes, tan skin, and a huge grin as he exclaimed, “Welcome to the utility van everyone! We're glad to be of assistance.” Aliyah raised her eyebrows. "What exactly did I sign up for when I got you guys out of there?" James quickly explained the plan to the whole car while I dozed off. I was really tired after the big party and getting sent to jail. I guessed I had been asleep for about five minutes when James nudged me. "Huh," I grunted. "Pay attention. So as I was saying, we need to find out more about Silvermiller before we try again. Vinnie is going to be the grifter this time, and you are going to walk him through it. Philip is getting the information and Aliyah is in charge of being the hitter. AKA, taking care of security." I nodded. This seemed like a good team to have. It turned out Aliyah had been in jail for being a spy for America and she was caught. Ergo, they locked her up.  Chapter 8 About ten minutes of driving got us to our destination. It was the old headquarters Philip, Dwayne, Vinnie, and I used to use. It was a rectangular building with a dome top. The door was made of steel and required a biometric match to get in. It was already set up to recognize Philip, Vinnie, Dwayne, and my eyes. I scanned my gold eye and the heavy door opened with a swoosh. James and Aliyah gasped as they saw the inside of the building. The bottom floor had all of the equipment including: a mahogany conference table that seated ten, facing a huge screen which could be hooked up to a computer database. It also had a fully stocked kitchen complete with a fridge, sink, dishwasher, and freezer. There was a mahogany counter with colourful barstools set up around it. The dome-like ceiling had a railing which circled a small walkway that was in front of 6 small coloured oval doors. Stairs led up to the railing and there was a blue door on the ceiling that didn't show any means of getting up there. James pointed to the doors and questioned, “Why are they there?" I turned to him and replied, “Each different coloured door is a different bedroom. When we were working, we wouldn't leave here for long periods of time. So we had a place to sleep if we wanted to." Aliyah commented, “I feel like they match your personalities. Philip would be the vibrant green, Vinnie the happy yellow, and Dwayne in the collected purple.” We all stared because she had just guessed correctly where we all slept. James nodded and his brow furrowed as he pointed to the blue door on the ceiling. "What about that one?" Dwayne answered as I smiled, “That's Juliette's room." Aliyah stared at me in confusion. "How do you even get up there?" I grinned and Philip sighed. "Get ready for a show." I ran up the stairs and did a flip in the air as I tugged on the door handle. The door flew open and I hung on as I swung myself into the room that had a skylight which sent moonlight flooding into the building. Philip called up to me, “You can come down now!" I rolled my eyes and jumped down. I could see James holding his breath as I fell the eight or so feet and landed on the ground. He let out a sigh of relief. I smirked and he rolled his eyes but smiled. I heard Vinnie mutter, “Show off." I shot him a death stare. "Hey will you all come over here and check this out," Dwayne called? We walked over to where Dwayne and Aliyah were standing in front of the huge screen that was at the current moment hooked up to Philip’s computer. Dwayne navigated it to show a digital 3-D map of Michael Silvermiller's office. Philip glared at Dwayne and said in a menacing tone, “Don’t touch my computer. I can take them through the digital tour." Dwayne raised his hands and backed away. Philip looked at him apologetically. “Sorry Dwayne. I get a little overprotective of my electronics.” Dwayne smiled and shrugged. Philip turned back to the group and started his 'tour'. "So, we have the main entrance that is guarded by two guards 24/7. The second way in is the back door which has no guards but a load of high tech security lasers, video cameras, and a code to get in." Aliyah looked at Philip and quipped, “How trained are the guards?" Philip replied, “Commanding officers in the military and experts in martial arts." Aliyah nodded. "I could probably get past them but it would take me about five minutes, which I highly doubt we have." Philip shook his head. "You're right. We don't. But I can hack the security cameras and you can get in the back way if someone can do something about the lasers and code." Up until that point James had remained silent but now he spoke up, “I’m able to take care of the lasers and the code, I just need to know where everything is placed." Vinnie's hand shot up and I looked at him pointedly, “Yes? Vincenzo?" Vinnie glared when I'd said his full name but continued anyway, “Can I pretend to be a council person on an inspection so I can get it?" I agreed. Now we had a plan. Philip zoomed in on the map. "So James, the lasers are in a grid format and they're the type that incinerate anything that touches them. The code is located on the door and is biometric, using a fingerprint. I don't know who they think they’re trying to keep out, but whatever. Do you need anything for that?" James contemplated it and then remarked, “Just some tin foil and eye shadow." I looked at him inquisitively but Philip just jotted it down on a sticky note. Dwayne addressed Vinnie, “Vinnie, you're going to be the safety inspector and take Silvermiller out of his office to show him some ‘loose wires' and other potentially hazardous areas. During this time, Aliyah will take out the guard in front of the office door, giving James a chance to get the money. I will be at the front door so we can get away quickly." Philip spoke to me, “Juliette, you will stay here with me and help from base." I nodded. I realized of course that I couldn't show my face after what happened. Silvermiller would definitely have an eye out for me. Suddenly the feeling of being drained, both emotionally and physically, washed over me. I looked at the clock and saw that it was1:36 A.M. I yawned and told everyone I was going to bed. I did my gymnastics routine up to my room and got ready for bed. It had been a long time since I'd been here, but it still felt like home. I climbed into my four-poster and snuggled into the blankets, thinking about the day. My mind kept going back to the moment on the hood of the car. I thought James was about to kiss me then. I didn’t want to admit it, not even to myself, but I thought that maybe I was in...Love...  Chapter 9 I woke up the next morning to the sun shining through the skylight and the sound of knocking. I didn’t know how anyone could be knocking seeing as I was so high up, but I opened the trap door that led up to my room anyway. Beaming up at me was James holding onto a ladder. I groaned. “I’m giving up on life and becoming a burrito.” “Sorry to disturb you my sapphire, but breakfast has been served.” And indeed, at that moment the smell of chocolate chip pancakes, Italian spice omelets and buttery toast wafted up to my nose. James was staring at me and I realized I must have looked like a drooling puppy dog. I blushed and looked away. “You’re cute when you blush. Don’t hide it,” James said in a quiet voice. It was the same voice he had used the yesterday when we were on the car and I had sung for him. James had started going down the ladder already and I hastily followed him, not wanting all the food to be gone. When we entered the small kitchen area, Philip and Vinnie were sitting down, munching on their breakfast and Dwayne was scooping some fresh pancakes onto an already filled plate for me. Dwayne looked at me amused, “Good morning sleeping ugly.” I lunged and Dwayne, thinking I was going for him, stepped back quickly. Instead, I grabbed my plate and sat down next to James. Vinnie chuckled and stage whispered, “Fifty pounds of crazy in a twenty pound body.” I stuck my tongue out at him which still had food on it. Vinnie just laughed harder while Philip gave me a sympathetic pat on the back. “Where’s Aliyah,” I quipped? James pointed at the red coloured door and I nodded. I wouldn’t have the guts to wake her either. She’d probably knock me out. The rest of my breakfast was finished in content silence. This, however, was ended promptly when Aliyah came down and grabbed the extra plate left out for her. She plopped down in a chair and observed all of us. Everyone was dressed except me. Aliyah spoke, ending the silence, “So what are we doing today, other than the stealing?” I shrugged. I was happy to just sit here and watch Disney movies. James however, had different ideas. “Let’s go around the little streets with the shops and eat ice cream and stuff,” he suggested, smiling. Everyone agreed that that was a good idea and let me go get ready while they talked. I climbed up to my room and looked in my old closet. I threw on my Hogwarts alumni shirt, black cargos (as always), black converse, and put my hair up in a messy ponytail. When I got back down to the first floor, everyone had their things and was ready to go. We all jumped into Dwayne’s range rover and drove down to the more rural part of Olympia. “Park there! THERE DWAYNE! WE DON’T HAVE ALL DAY TO WAIT WHILEYOU PARK THE CAR PERFECTLY PARALLEL,” I yelled in Dwayne’s ear from behind him. “I have to park Lucie carefully otherwise some absolute walnut will come and smash my baby to bits.” Aliyah groaned. “Just park it already.” Dwayne parked the car in a random parking lot (finally) and James led the way down the street. All the little shops were run by locals. The owners all seemed friendly except for one who had a dog which barked and chased us all the way down the street. “RUN JULI, RUN! IT’S GOING TO GET YOU!” I was already screaming my head off and that comment from James only made me scream one decibel higher. It was a foot away from me before James turned around and scooped me up so I didn’t fall prey to the dog’s bared teeth and hot breath.  Chapter 10 We’d been wandering for a few hours when Aliyah said, “We’re going to leave you two alone for a while. Meet you back here at five.”She gave me a pointed look and then left with Vinnie, Philip, and Dwayne trailing behind her. I turned towards James who had until that moment, been grinning appreciatively and mouthing thanks. But as I turned, he abruptly stopped and held out his hand for me to hold. I blushed, took it, and we started walking in the opposite way that the others had left in. There were a few minutes of silence and then James questioned, “Do you want to hear about my past?” I nodded vigorously and James took a deep breath before continuing. “The first few years of my life were great. I had loving parents and I saw my grandparents on my mum’s side every summer. But when I was six, my dad left me and my mum and everything went downhill from there. My mum became stricter and more worried about grades that anything. I only saw my grandparents every other summer. They were my only consolation. “My mum started dating this fat boring guy who tried to be friends with me but he was just annoying. I went to college studying to be a video game designer and then came to Greece to find a job. I instead found Ashten and she became the best part of my life. After she broke up with me I lost my job that I’d had while with Ashten, so I resorted to doing the same thing you were doing; stealing for good reasons. “One day I went to Olympia to try and steal an ancient urn to get back Ashten with, and that’s when I met the most breathtaking girl I’d ever seen. She turned out to be the nicest, most selfless person, and she didn’t judge me on what I did because she was just like me. That girl is you Juliette. And I’m not one to sit away and pine for love; I’m a doer. When something needs to be done, I do it. What I’m trying to say my sapphire, is that I love you. I need you.” As he finished his speech, I looked into his hopeful green eyes, and did the only thing that made sense. I kissed him. I kissed him until I ran out of breath and had to pull away. “I love you too James.” James smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen and kissed me again. This time it wasn’t quite as long, but when we pulled away I’m sure we looked like the happiest couple in the world. We continued to walk down the street hand in hand and talked. It felt like we talked for ages. James bought me ice cream and we ate it as it melted, the sticky syrup all over our hands. We didn’t care. In those hours we were the only people that existed in a land that was far away from reality.  Chapter 11 At 4:50 we realized that we had to go back to find the others and began our walk back. We met them at exactly at five and the whole lot of us drove home to get ready for that night. “Who’s ready to kick some bad guy butt,” Vinnie asked! “ME,” I shouted! Everyone else was silent. I looked around skeptically and said, “Well, what a bunch of positive people. Would it kill you guys to be energetic?” They collectively stared at me and burst out into laughter. James, between barks of laughter commented, “Juli -ahahahah- you’re such -pffttthahah- a child.” I glared crossly at him. Vinnie added, “In the best way of course.” By 6:00 everyone was in their positions. Philip and I were stationed at the house; Vinnie, Aliyah, and James were outside of the gallery and Dwayne was parked in front of it. “Ready for action,” I asked? I heard assorted mumbling through the earpieces Philip had made us as everyone began to move. Philip had put trackers on everyone’s shoes so we at the house, could see it on the digital map. James had already started getting through the backdoor and I could hear Vinnie talking to Silvermiller. Philip had hacked all the security cameras so only we could see what was going on. James had the tin foil set up on the laser grid so that the lasers bounced back at each other and made a clear pathway for him to get through. Next, he dusted the eye shadow he had requested on the fingerprint code and placed his gloved thumb over it. It was genius. The eye shadow caught the last fingerprint that had been placed over it, and the glove provided the thumb like feel of the fingerprint. Basically, the system picked up the last fingerprint given and James was let in. Vinnie meanwhile, had taken Silvermiller to see some “leaky ceilings” and was stalling for time as Aliyah took out the guards leading to his office on the floor above. “Sir, this is bad for your client’s safety. These leakages could potentially burst and flood the building.” Silvermiller muttered in agreement. It was running smoothly until an unexpected visitor showed up. The police. James had just gotten to the office when the police man had walked in. Silvermiller looked smug again and strode over to him. “I see you got my call I made before they arrived. Sir, these people are working with the ones we captured last night. I need them removed immediately. I believe you’ll find more on the second floor near my office.” Vinnie gaped. “How did you know?” “You don’t think I didn’t do my research do you? Yes, I looked up all of Juliette Creace’s old acquaintances. Vincenzo, Philip is probably at the ‘lair’, Dwayne, James of course, but this Aliyah is new. However, you will all be going to jail soon, so you’ll have plenty of time to catch up.” This was the point when Vinnie smirked. “That’s what you think.” Silvermiller looked confused. “What?” That was the point in which the police man ripped off his mustache but then frowned, rubbing his upper lip. “That went a lot smoother in my head,” a familiar voice declared. Silvermiller’s eyes opened wide with fear. “Juliette Creace?” I nodded, the police hat bouncing on my head. I slugged Silvermiller in the gut and he was out cold. I looked around at my friends. “How did you know it was me? Vinnie replied, “You are the only person with those eyes. How did you guys make sure the call didn’t get to the police?” Philip answered this one. “Jules saw the facial expressions of Silvermiller just before you guys entered, which gave away that he had just made a call. We guessed that he was suspicious and had called the police. I got in on their radio waves and said that I was in the area and I could get it. Juliette then drove right over here and got him.” I nodded and said tentatively, “Let’s get him to the station. He can be arrested for fraud and abuse there. And can we get some ibuprofen on the way? That mustache really did hurt.” Everyone laughed and agreed. James pulled Silvermiller out and handcuffed him before we drove down to the station. There, the police re-arrested him and slung him in a cell. They agreed to let us give back all the money to the victims before we were sent away. When we got back home we were exhausted. We had almost been put in jail, eaten by a dog, and put in jail again (even though the second time it was just me). Everyone was saying how they were never going to do that again. Just then we got a phone call. Vinnie answered it and spoke for about two minutes. He then turned to us and announced, “Someone needs our help. Their husband has been framed for murder.” I looked around at the group and asked, “Just one more?” They all glanced around and said together, “Just one more.” We went to bed because who knows, tomorrow could be an exciting day. Before we climbed up to the second floor though, James leaned in and spoke quietly, “I’ve been waiting to do this all night.” He leaned in and kissed me softly, then ran upstairs with a big grin on his face. Best night ever I thought to myself, and then swung up to bed.

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