“Well well well, haven’t you both done well,” Mike exclaimed while surveying what Jace had swiped the night before. It had been a close shave, but Jace had spotted the patrol car before it was too late and Esme and him had hidden out in the undergrowth of the hills until they were gone. Esme was just thankful to not have been caught!
“It was all Jace really,” Esme replied shyly. Even though she would have loved to take the credit she did not really do anything.
“Nonsense,” Mike snapped back. “Jace told me how quick you were on your feet Esme. Yes I think you are going to do very well here with us if you are interested?”
Was she heck! “Yes definitely,” she almost shrieked! They were giving her a job!
Both Mike and Jace laughed at her. She looked down sheepishly and cleared her throat. She was a professional and now she had better start acting like one. “I mean yes please,” she confirmed.
“Great, it’s all settled then. Jace will train you on everything you need.”
Esme gazed up at her boyfriend smiling back at her. She could not wait to get started!
And so they got started that very night. Jace warned her it was going to be hard work but she really had no idea.
“The first rule about being in this business is that you have to be fit,” Jace panted while sprinting on the treadmill next to her. They had been working out for over an hour now and still Esme was tripping over her own feet. She had not realised how out of shape she was!
“You have to know how to run like hell in case something goes wrong,” he continued. “If you’re not athletic, you’ll never make it.” Esme held steadily onto the handrails peaking at Jace out the corner of her eye. How was he running so fast when she could not even walk on this thing?!
For the first month, Jace did nothing but train Esme. He pushed her and pushed every day after school until she was sick. She begged and pleaded with him to ease up but she soon realised that the Jace at work was different to Jace her gentle boyfriend. He was here to get results.
When she was finally able to run for a few minutes straight, he cut their training hours down by half and allowed her to move on to other things. “Next we are going to learn how to be invisible.” They were in the overgrown garden of the abandoned warehouse. Jace had been showing Esme how to sneak and it was proving harder than it looked. “Think of it as a dance. Dancers pirouette on their toes – effortless, graceful. This is what you have to do. Become as light as a feather so you are never heard – you become invisible!”
Esme lifted herself onto her toes and crept forward. “Too heavy,” Jace snapped. “Do it again.” Esme wished they could go back to the treadmill.
“Gloves,” Jace said tossing her a pair of thick black leather gloves. “Gloves are your best friend. Never leave evidence behind. Remember Bridgeport has the DNA of every person who lives here. You leave behind even a smudge and they will find you!”
Esme pulled on the gloves, squeezing her fingers into each socket. They were tight but still light enough to move her fingers into. The importance of their use suddenly hit her. She knew she would never leave the house without them.
“Burglar alarms are your enemy!” Esme peered up at the practice alarm system that had been installed at the warehouse for the team to practice on. “Most houses have them,” Jace continued. “If you can be invisible they won’t go off. But the trick is to know how to turn them off. If it’s a big job, watch the owners for a while before you do the job. Peer through a window – do anything to try to make out what the sequence of numbers they are programming into their systems are. You get the code, you have no problems!”
Esme starred at the mechanism on the wall. It scarred her how one little thing could get her caught. She swore to herself she was going to master it.
“Yes just like that. Push it through and feel for the switch inside it.” Esme had been practicing picking locks for a while now. This was one thing she was definitely good at. It normally took her between 10-20 seconds and every time she did it she was getting better.
Months went by and still Esme had not been out on a job. She was coming along well, so Jace said, but she really wanted to get down to it – her fingers were itching to once again feel the rush of a hit. But it was not for her to say when, or Jace. It was up to her boss, Mike.
“Come on Esme, push through it. You can do it. Come on!” Over the past week Mike had been testing her on everything Jace had been training her for, the last thing was her fitness test. She had to sprint two miles in ten minutes. “You can do it, come on Esme!”
She looked down at the clock. A quarter of a mile left. She pushed through the pain in her side and ran faster until she heard Jace telling her to stop. She flopped off the treadmill and looked up at Mike. “She is ready,” he said.
“Wooohooo,” Jace screamed scooping Esme into his arms and spinning her around. She was ready. She was finally ready!
It happened the following night. Esme picked the house. It was a modest size and the couple who lived there were old so she knew that they would not wake up if she kept to the downstairs only. Jace was going to be with her for her first few hits but everything was up to her. They crept up to the door and Jace kept watch while Esme swiftly picked the lock.
80 seconds later they were running back out the door. No alarm had gone off and Esme’s bag was full. She had pulled it off without a hitch.
Esme was so excited that she insisted on going straight back to the warehouse to show Mike what she had gotten. She laid everything out on the table for him to see. There was a great selection, an iPhone, vintage plates, a vanity set – even a priceless vase. No one could deny she had done a good job.
“You got all this,” Mike asked surveying the relics suspiciously.
Esme nodded her head.
“All your own,” Mike asked again titling his head in such a way that he did not believe her.
“Well Jace was with me,” Esme replied. What did he want her to say?
“I didn’t do anything,” Jace piped in. “It was all Esme.”
Esme looked back at Mike smiling from ear to ear. See, she wanted to say. Never doubt me! But she kept her mouth shut and said it with a smile.
“Well well well young lady. It seems I may have underestimated you,” Mike continued. “Jace next week you and Esme are on the Consignment Store job.”
Esme saw Jace’s eyes nearly pop out of his head. “Err do you really think she is ready for that boss?”
“She is ready,” Mike snapped back annoyed that Jace had questioned him.
“What is the Consignment Store job,” Esme asked Jace later that night when they had left the Safe house. She had been wondering about it ever since she had seen Jace’s shocked face. What was the big deal?
Jace scratched his head and sucked in a big gulp of air. “Every few months we hit a big business,” he begun blowing out the breath he had just sucked in. “These jobs are ten times more lucrative than robbing houses but they carry a higher risk. Because of this, we hardly ever do them.”
“Why are they risker,” Esme asked feeling a shiver run through her.
“Because more things can go wrong!”
“Hey don’t look so nervous,” Jace said reaching out and stroking her cheek. “You’ll be fine. We’re doing it together and you’re a pro at this now!”
He pulled her into a hug and stroked her back. “Its gonna be fun, you’ll see.” But neither of them were really convinced!
One week later Jace and Esme watched as the Consignment Store shop-keeper shut off all the lights and then locked up the door for the night.
They watched him walk up the road out of sight and then Jace turned to Esme. Their outfits were slightly different tonight. As businesses have CCTV they had to paint their faces black and hide their hair. It was not only finger prints that they had to worry about tonight.
“Right this is it,” Jace whispered looking Esme dead in the eye. She had never seen him this serious before. “I’ll pick the lock and then you rush in and turn the alarm off.”
“You remember the combination right?”
Remember the combination! For four days, Esme had camped out at the window of the store watching as the storekeeping punched in those numbers, memorising them over and over again. “74,25,62, 41,” she replied reassuring Jace once again that she knew what she was doing.
“Perfect! Then while you are disabling the alarm I will get starting on lifting the goods. Once you’re all set you’ll join me. We should be in and out of there in five minutes. It’s a bit longer than we would normally be in somewhere but as it’s a business, we need longer. Ok?”
Esme took a deep breath. “OK, let’s do this.”
They looked left and right for any traffic or people and then once they knew the coast was clear they sprinted across the road. Jace bent down and immediately picked the lock in four seconds flat while Esme kept watch. Her heart was pounding at a hundred times a minute and the enormity of what she was doing started to close in on her.
The moment she heard the click of the lock they both dashed into the shop with the bleeping of the alarm ringing all around them. She knew they had 20 seconds to input the numbers before it went off. “74,25,62, 41, 74,25,62, 41, 74,25,62, 41,” she kept saying to herself over and over again punching the numbers into the alarm system on the wall.
Finally she typed in 41 and hit enter. The bleeping instantly stopped and she let out a huge sigh of relief. She spun on her heels to join Jace who was already busy swiping all the valuables.
As she moved to join him, the ear-piercing sound of the alarm suddenly exploded penetrating right through her. She felt sick rise up inside her. “Switch it off,” Jace spat at her from across the room. He looked like was going to kill her.
Esme pulled herself quickly together and looked back up at the alarm system. She re-punched the numbers in, hit enter but still it did not go off.
“Esme quickly,” Jace screamed again from across the room.
“I’m trying,” Esme called back. And she was. The numbers were correct, she knew they were. There had to be something else wrong. “I’m trying,” she called out again hearing the wail of police sirens in the distance.
Jace heard them too. He looked around frantically and that’s when he saw the flashing lights right outside the window.
He did not even think twice. He turned and sprinted out the back door – every man for himself!
Esme did not know Jace had left her. Nor did she know the police were outside the door. She just kept frantically punching the combination into the alarm system over and over again determined to shut the thing down. All that kept running through her head was that she did not want to let Jace and Mike down. When she eventually turned to scream for Jace to help, she found the room empty – it was just her and the blaring alarm. “JACCCCCCCEEEEEEEE,” she screamed at the top of her lungs!
Just then a cop came bursting through the doors of the store. “Put your hands on your head,” she hollowed bounding over to Esme.
Esme backed herself into the wall of the store. There was no way out!