- 4. The aggravated thief needing a friend.
- 30. The tough, burnt-out, opinionated assistant hiding a dark secret.
- 25. The graceful official searching for truth.
- 34. The tactless ambassador with big dreams.
- 45. The friendly musician.
* * *
Click. Click. Click. Clunk.
“Damnit! I missed it again.” Jimmy said aloud.
This was the third time Jimmy “Bones” Jones attempted to open the safe. His aggravation was making the task more and more difficult.
Click. Click. Clunk.
Jimmy stared at the safe for a solid five minutes. He attempted to control his breathing.
In through the nose, out through the mouth.
In, out. In, out. In, cough cough. Jimmy doubled over and gripped the clichéd painting covering the wall safe. His entire body tensed with the violent cough. The spasm was extreme enough to tear the canvas before he fell on his back. He lied on the ground for another five minutes before sitting, gathering his safecracking tools, replacing the defaced paining and exiting the building via an open window. He walked two blocks away before leaning against a 1989 ford Escort hatchback. He tossed his bag through the open window and produced a pack of cigarettes. He took a deep drag and exhaled twin gusts of smoke through his nose.
He looked up at the twinkling stars and asked, “What the hell am I gonna do?”
As if in response, Jimmy’s cellphone chimed indicating a low battery.
* * *
Nikki Haley walked cautiously through the vestibule at work. She didn’t know what she expected today, but “business as usual” wasn’t it.
“Something’s going down.”
Nikki flashed her photo identification and nodded at the guard’s comment. “Something’s always going down around here.”
She turned and started through the metal detector, but was interrupted by the guard. “Ms. Haley, you need to pass your bag through the X-ray machine.”
Nikki rolled her eyes gathered her waist-length hair in one hand, pulled the bundle over her shoulder and placed her purse on the conveyer belt. Retrieving her purse at the other end of the checkpoint, she took a moment to adjust her hair and outfit. Before heading up a marble staircase.
* * *
Inspecteur Lavigne climbed the steps to the floor his office occupied. He preferred to use the stairs instead of the elevator. The thought of being trapped in a steel box sent a shiver up his spine. He opened a door labeled “Service de Protection des Hautes Personnalités,” and saw a state official sitting in a chair facing his desk.
The man stood as Lavigne entered. “Inspecteur Lavigne. I need you to follow up a potential incident at the consulate.”
Lavigne grabbed the folder containing the particulars of his assignment, held the door open for the departing official, who stopped and fussed with his porkpie hat and necktie before departing the office. Lavigne glanced at the first page in the folder, flipped it shut and followed the official out the office.
* * *
“An Inspecteur from Service de Protection des Hautes Personnalités will be here shortly, be sure he has access to anything he needs. I don’t need this incident soiling my reputation; I’ve got bigger and better things to do.”
“Good girl. When I’m in the White House, I won’t forget you little people.”
Nikki smiled politely. She had tolerated the ambassador’s rude, tactless comments for two years. She knew she only had to tolerate it for a little while longer.
Plans are in motion. She thought as the ambassador walked into his opulent office. Just a little longer.
* * *
“I need help, man.”
Harriet Lavigne sighed and placed her guitar into its case. She forced a smile and turned to a disheveled man everyone called “Bones.” In the freelance entertainment business, if you were difficult to work with, you didn’t remain in the business long. Harriet worked hard to project a friendly demeanor and after six years on the circuit, she found she could finally pay her bills.
“What’s the matter, Bones?”
“I’ve got a job to do, but I’m afraid my hands aren’t steady anymore.”
“What sort of job?”
“Let’s say a retrieval job.” Jimmy lowered his voice before continuing, “ya know, ‘off the books.’” He emphasized the end of his statement by raising his eyebrows.
“Sorry, Bones. I keep it above board.” She paused, remembering her friendly persona. “I’ll write down a number you can call, though.”
“Thanks, Harriet. You’re the best.”
Jimmy sauntered to the bar where his cellphone had been charging and started dialing.
* * *
Nikki played with her hair nervously. She didn’t want to be there, but she had to keep up appearances. The door opened and a uniformed Inspecteur walked in until his cellphone chirped. Standing in the door, he scrutinized the message before smiling at Nikki, and stepping out the door backwards. She heard his cellphone ring as the large oak door clicked shut severing her view of the Inspecteur.
* * *
“Yeah, I got this number from someone saying you could help me with a little project.”
Inspecteur Lavigne forced himself to count to five before continuing. “This project something that needs to stay quiet?”
“Yeah.” The voice on the other end erupted into a coughing fit. It was several minutes before the call continued. “I need to retrieve a certain electronic device from a safe.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not a safe guy.”
A raspy chuckle, “No worries, man. I’ve been cracking safes for years. I need someone to just follow my lead.”
“Can you give me the details?”
“Does that mean you’re interested?”
“Sounds good, who’s the client?”
The caller hesitated and Lavigne could hear raspy clipped breaths.
“I’m not gonna do a job is I don’t know who it’s for. I’m gonna hang up now.”
“Some broad at the consulate wants some World War Two relic from a safe.”
“Alright. Let’s meet. The bar across the street from the consulate in,” Lavigne glanced at his watch, “in three hours?”
“That works. See ya then.”
Lavigne closed his cellphone and stared at the oak door to the office he was to inspect due to a botched break in. He waited a few moments to regain his composure before grasping the shiny brass doorknob.
* * *
“Nikki!” The shout came from the inner office. “Has that inspecteur gotten here yet?”
Nikki walked to the door separating the ambassador’s office from the reception area. “He was here, but he stepped out after receiving a phone call.”
“Find him, I have things to do.”
She walked towards the oaken door and as she reached for the brass doorknob, the door opened revealing the inspecteur.
She felt the intensity of his gaze as he reached for something on his belt. She could see it in his eyes.
She shoved the inspecteur aside and attempted to sprint past him.
* * *
When the woman in the office reacted to Lavigne retrieving his notebook, he knew she was the ‘broad’ the voice on the phone had referred to. As if it were a trained reaction, he reached for the woman as she shoved him aside. His first lunge captured only air, but the second attempt netted him a handful of hair. The woman twisted and her hair flipped off her head revealing a shaved head with a tattoo above her ear. Lavigne cast aside the wig and gave chase to the woman. She tried to bound down the steps and landed hard on her heel. The heel snapped and she fell headfirst down the marble staircase. As she tumbled down the stairs, her head impacted several times spraying a fine mist of blood on the stark white walls.
Lavigne reached the motionless body of the woman on the first landing. Her legs were at odd angles and her head was twisted so her chin rotated past her shoulder. He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket to call for a coroner.
* * *
Harriet hadn’t seen ‘Bones’ for about two hours. He had disappeared towards the bathrooms to place a call. She placed her guitar in its case and went to find ‘Bones.’
She discovered him in a stall in the men’s room. His body was lying next to a toilet and his shirt was covered with blood. She tried to avoid looking into the toilet as she felt his carotid artery. His lips, nose and chin were glistening in blood. She felt no heartbeat and dialed her dad on his cellphone.