“Well I think it used to be a factory or warehouse of sorts but its been abandoned for years,” Jace replied. “Just round here,” he indicated leading her through a rusted chain-link fence and into a room much the same as before. Esme stepped over rotten debris on the floor and alarm bells started ringing in her head. What was waiting for her in here? Could she really trust Jace? But as much as she doubted him, the excitement of the unknown spurred her on and she found her feet following Jace step by step.
Eventually they reached a door, just like the dozen they had already passed but the difference with this one was that Jace stopped at it. He held his hand into a fist and rapped on the door, one, two, three times. Then after a five second gap, he did it again.
He opened the door and they walked in. Light streamed into Esme’s eyes and she had to squint at the brightness. She trailed behind Jace and let her eyes re-adjust to what was in front of her. Now the real nerves started pouring in!
“Hey guys,” Jace exclaimed. The room of people turned and looked right at them, except the man on the computer. Esme had never felt so self-conscious in her life. “I would like you to meet Esme my new girlfriend,” Jace continued. Did he just say girlfriend, Esme thought to herself. No one had ever called her their girlfriend before. She couldn’t help but blush a little.
“Hey,” came a few grunts from the room. Jace squeezed her hand and proceeded to introduce her to everyone. “That’s Felix over there. He’s our brains. He doesn’t say much but don’t take that personally, he still has never said a word to me!” Esme looked over at the little man hunched over a computer in the corner. He was writing something furiously on his keyboard and seemed not to not have noticed their arrival.
“Then over there is Trudy. She is the mother of our operation. She keeps us boys fed and in good nick. Don’t know where we would be without you Trudy!” The lady in the corner did not make Esme feel any more settled. She glared at her looking her up and down. “Hey girl,” she called out. Esme did not like her one bit!
Then Jace introduced her to the men at the table. “This is Bill and opposite him is M.J.” Both men grunted a hello at Esme then instantly looked away without much interest.
“And finally the big guy at the back, that’s Mike, he runs things around here.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Esme,” Mike said beaming at Esme from ear to ear. Finally a friendly face, Esme thought! “Now why don’t you guys pull up a seat and have a drink, we have some business to discuss.”
Jace dragged a rickety old bench from across the room and Esme did as she was told and sat down. Jace instantly hung an arm around her shoulders making her feel much warmer and safe. Maybe everything was going to be ok.
“So what exactly do you guys do here,” Esme whispered to Jace. She still had no idea what sort of business this was.
“You’re about to find out,” Jace whispered back squeezing her shoulder.
“So let’s get down to business,” Mike announced like he was holding court. Esme could tell he was definitely the one in charge around here. “Bill what have you got for me?”
“Not much I’m afraid,” Bill replied pulling out a red velvet box and opening it up on the table top. “The alarm went off as soon as I got in last night so I had to scarper pretty quickly!”
“Yeah those dam alarms are the bain of my life,” Mike replied inspecting the contents of the box.
Light shone from the box lid like it held the fountain of youth or something equally as precious. As Esme strained her eyes she realised that the light came from the glittering of gold and diamonds. Earrings! The box was full of beautiful diamond earrings. Like a magpie, Emse had always been drawn to anything shining and here it was in front of her in all its glory. She tightened her hand around Jace’s.
“Do you understand now,” he whispered to her.
“I think so,” Esme gulped. They were thieves. Jace was a thief! Walking in here had felt so wrong and now suddenly everything felt right. He head was telling her to get out now, but her heart was pulling her towards the shining things on the table. She couldn’t move!
A couple of hours later, Esme and Jace emerged from the building to the darkness of the night sky. The stars were twinkling down at her but they were nothing like what she had just seen in that room.
Esme had not realised that she was stomping ahead of Jace until he grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him. “Wanna go for a drink?”
“I’m not sure,” Esme replied trying to pull her hand away. She needed space to think! “I think I should be getting home!”
“Aww come on, one little drink won’t hurt.”
“Ok,” she whispered as she knew they had a lot to talk about.
Jace took her to a dive bar nearby, bought two beers and then sat her down in the corner. They drunk in silence for a while waiting for the other one to speak first. Finally Esme gave in. “Why did you not tell me you were a thief?”
“Because I wanted you to see it for yourself. If I had told you what I was then you probably would have run a mile. But this way you had the opportunity to see. To hear. To understand.”
“How do you know you can trust me? How do you know that I am not going to go straight to the police the minute I leave you tonight?”
Jace let out a little smile and leant forward across the table. “Because of what you told me last night. You’re what we have been looking for a long time Esme. A girl who we can train and become the best thief Bridgeport has ever seen. Don’t you seen you are born for this.”
“You want me to become a thief like you,” Esme gasped!
“Don’t look so shocked Esme. I saw the look in your eyes back there. You want this as much as I do.”
Jace was right, of course he was. She has been sneaking and stealing since she could remember. But that was all petty stuff; could she really do this for real?
“I tell you what. Why don’t you come on a job with me tomorrow night? You don’t have to do anything, just watch. If you don’t like it then you can go back to your boring life, graduate high school, maybe become a nurse or a teacher or something lame like that and live your life like every other boring person in this town.”
“I don’t know Jace,” Esme replied. Her head was spinning and she was certain it was not because of the beer she had just drunk or the lack of sleep but by what was being proposed to her. It was something that would change her life forever. “Can I think about it?”
“Of course you can, but don’t leave it too long.”
But there was something else niggling away at Esme. “One more question. If I decide not to do this does it mean there will be no more you and me?” She winched at having to ask this but she had to know.
Jace let out a sigh and thought before he spoke. “I like you Esme,” he said leaning forward again and stroking her hand. “I’m not dating you because I want to recruit you. But I do know that when one person lives this sort of life and the other doesn’t it makes things pretty hard to make work if you know what I mean?”
Esme understood. “I think I would like to go home now,” she said.
“Of course, I’ll put you in a taxi.”
By the time she got home, she was almost consumed by exhaustion. She knew she would have been even if she had slept the night before. She strode in through the door and passed her mum, dad and Farah sitting on the couch. “Hey guys,” she called continuing to walk towards her room. “I’m sorry but I’m really tired so I’m just gonna go straight to bed. Good night.”
Carter and Anna looked at each other and rolled their eyes. They just assumed she was being a moody teenager.
By the time Emse had changed clothes, and brushed her teeth her body was aching with tiredness. She crawled beneath her covers and fell asleep instantly!
But her sleep was not peaceful. She dreamt that she was at home and was baking. Even though she never normally baked, in her dream she knew that that was what she was meant to be doing. The clothes she wore felt itchy and drab and when she looked down she noticed she was dressed like a 1950’s housewife. As it is with dreams, she knew this was not the norm but she went with it anyway.
All of a sudden a shrieking sound exploded behind her. She spun round to see a tiny baby on the floor of the kitchen screaming his head off.
Inside she instantly knew that this baby was hers and she needed to comfort it. She ran over and scoped him up doing the best she could to settle him. But no matter how much she jiggled the baby or sang to him, he still screamed his head off.
Just as the baby was starting to calm down, Esme heard another scream from behind her. She looked over and there was another baby on the floor, crying. Then there was another and another. Esme looked up and realised that the whole room was full of screaming babies, and they were all hers!
As she surveyed the room in horror, she heard her name being called. Jace was standing on the other end of the room calling for her, beckoning her over to him. “Esme, Esme,” he kept calling. “Come with me Esme.”
Esme knew she needed to get to him! He would rescue her from all these babies. But as she tried to cross the room, more babies appeared and she could not get passed them. She tried to wade through but they clung to her feet, stopping her from moving forward.
“I can’t,” Esme called out to Jace. “I can’t get passed, help me.” But Jace just smiled at her and called out her name once again before turning around and walking away.
“Jace please wait,” she cried but he was getting further and further away until he disappeared!
Then Esme woke up! Her body was bathed in sweat and tears were streaming down her face. She grabbed her cell phone from her night stand and typed out a message. “I’m in,” she said and then clicked send!
The following evening, Esme dressed in black like Jace had instructed and snuck out the garage as she had done before many times. But this time she was not going partying with friends, this time she had work to do.
Jace picked her up at the bottom of her road. “You ready,” he asked as she slipped into his car.
“No,” she replied and they both laughed.
“Last chance to back out?”
“No I wanna do this,” Esme snapped back.
“Ok then, let’s go!”
They rode through Bridgeport in silence. Every now and again Jace would turn and look at Esme, searching for signs of doubt or trouble. But she kept her poker face on at all times, there was no way she was letting on how terrified she actually was.
As they came out the other side of the city, Jace cut the lights on the car and pulled up to the curb. They both got and Jace leaned into Esme whispering into her ear, “That’s the one.”
They both crept up the hill with Esme keeping close behind Jace. When they arrived at the front door of the house, Jace crouched down and started picking the lock. The adrenalin was whooshing through Esme and it was making her paranoid. She searched the streets for any sign of being watched but at this time of night, everywhere was deserted.
Esme heard the lock click and then saw Jace crept into the house. There was no turning back now. She followed him through and then let him close the door gently behind her. “Shhh,” he hushed putting his fingers to his lips. “Wait here and don’t touch anything,” he instructed.
Esme did as she was told. She tried to hold her breath so not to make a sound but that soon became impossible. She was sure that the loud banging of her chest would give the game away but again, it appeared only she could hear this. Every now and again she saw Jace darting past a door way, scooping things into his bag and then creeping away like a cat. She was mesmerized by the way he moved around the house, silently, gracefully, beautiful.
She took the opportunity to look around the palatial house from her position by the door. She wondered who lived here. How would they feel when they discover that their possessions were gone? Guilt suddenly swept through her and she felt the need to open the door and run.
But before she had time to think, the most ear piercing sound penetrated her ear drums – the burglar alarm had gone off. Frantically she searched for Jace and saw him sprinting towards her. “GO GO GO,” he screeched!
Esme did not hesitate. She bolted through the door like lightning, down the road to the car and before she knew it, Jace was driving like a bat out of hell up into the Bridgeport hills. Up and up and up they went, higher and higher, faster and faster.
Eventually he pulled over into a small clearing at the top of the hills. They both fall out the car panting like animals. They looked at each other and started to laugh. “Wooohooo,” Jace screamed while Esme cheered, clapping her hands in excitement. That was the biggest rush she had ever known!
Jace stopped screaming and pulled Esme towards him, pressing her body hard against his. “You were amazing,” he panted looking at her like he was about to devour her any minute.
“You were there,” he whispered lowering his lips and finally consuming her.
Up over the hills the sirens blared but both of them were too preoccupied to even care!