Friday, May 22, 2020

James Cowie and the Case of the Midnight Job (short story and opportunity)

Another victim signed up late last Saturday for the I Will Kill you for $5 project. So, of course, I had to oblige. 

First things first, here is the link to download the files for the story (they're available in epub, mobi, and PDF). Take your pick and take it with you. Or take them all, I'm not watching. 

Image of James Cowie.
The real James Cowie.

I don't know the gentleman, James Cowie. Not sure how he heard about or stumbled on the project, but what could I do? Kill 'em. That's what. James requested a crime tale, and to be the protagonist. And as I looked at the above selfie he sent me, I knew I had something to work with. I looked around and zoomed in on the photo. The docks. Boats. An older gent with a white beard, classy. I really had something to work with, I felt. And so my creative juices went to work. 

But enough introductory stuff, let's get to the story! I hope you enjoy, James, and everyone else too.



James Cowie and the Case of the Midnight Job

Former homicide detective, James Cowie, sat down in the small living space beneath the deck of his boat, the Edmond Dantès. He crossed his long legs. He had saved up for the boat during his tenure and used it as both a means to get away from the job and deep dive into a case. After his retirement, he moved out of his small apartment and into the Edmond Dantès on a dock just off Pier 1. He sold his car, a lot of other things, and what little he couldn’t get rid of for nostalgia sake he kept in a storage unit a few blocks from the dock. Pier 1 provided him with what little groceries he needed, and he just made it work. It had been the most peace he had enjoyed since he joined the Babylon police force so many years ago.

                He took a sip of wine and sat the glass on the table next to him. He picked up a book he’d read countless times, but couldn’t get enough of, a classic from hard-boil author Dashiell Hammett. He flipped to chapter one and stroked his white beard. The color had faded his last few years in the force but had gone all-white in retirement.

                He had only made it a few paragraphs into the book when he heard the shriek of a woman, immediately followed by multiple gunshots. He opened a drawer on the small table next to him, he pulled out a small pistol and holster. He stood up and clipped the holster onto the belt holding his white shorts up. He loosened the safety strap on the holster. He slipped on his flipflops atop the deck of his boat. He looked about in the night and he could hear multiple voices shouting from various points.

                “He’s over here!” A man shouted.

                Another gunshot.

                “I got him!” Another man shouted to the east.

                Another gunshot.

                He stepped over onto the dock and slowly moved towards the sobbing of a woman. He turned a corner and could see Mrs. Bates was the source of the wailing. James hurried to her and asked what was wrong.

                “Look—” she said and pointed to the Chandler; a yacht owned by one Maximillian Crenshaw. A young playboy.

                James looked onto the deck and he could barely make out the remains of Crenshaw on the deck. A light above James and Mrs. Bates kept swinging to and fro, only shining light on the scene of the crime for seconds at a time. James looked up and took a hold of a rope that was swinging, knocking the light about. Once the rope steadied, he took ahold of the light with the orange bulb inside. He shone it on the deck.

                Crenshaw had laid to rest in a pool of his own blood. There was a steady stream of blood pouring out of his neck, a second wound—and cause of death likely—was a gunshot to the chest.

                James hopped over onto the Chandler’s deck, he looked back to Mrs. Bates. “This is a crime scene, Mrs. Bates,” he said, “Don’t let anyone near the boat.”

                “Of course not.” She said and turned around to stand guard.

                He knew she’d keep everyone away, she relished in any power given her. But in that moment, that is what Crenshaw needed. He needed privacy. And his neighbors weren’t keen on privacy. There would be rubberneckers coming over to investigate and give their two cents before the police would ever arrive.

                James hated to climb into the scene of the crime, but he had to be certain he couldn’t help Crenshaw more. He knelt and felt for a pulse on Crenshaw’s warm neck. He confirmed he was dead and checked the time on his watch, 12:07am. Assuming the first two gunshots he heard were what struck Crenshaw in the neck and chest, time of death was somewhere around 12:06.

                There was more shouting near the west entrance to the dock, followed by one more gunshot.

                James stood up and walked to the edge the boat, “Who are they chasing, Mrs. Bates?”

                “The killer, of course.”

 

2

 

As he had expected, a crowd of nosey neighbors gathered at the Chandler. Bates had stood her ground, snipping and yelling at anyone who got too close to the Chandler. She would look back after snipping at someone, nodding gently to James. He would smile and nod back.

                The noise was all about Crenshaw. Nobody on the dock had liked Crenshaw. He was younger than everyone, seemingly richer, and he changed girlfriends daily. And occasionally, a boyfriend. He didn’t discriminate.

                James never had a problem with him, and Crenshaw knew that. James had figured he might be the only one on the dock Crenshaw would willingly start a conversation. Most the time, they’d just nod and say good morning in passing. Crenshaw behind his Oakley shades, a different pair for each day of the week.

                The one thing people had always nagged over was where Crenshaw’s money came from. He had no background that anyone knew. No family. No business ties. He just existed there on their dock.

                Furious disagreements broke out over what the killer looked like, where he exited the dock. Some described a fit, tall man. Others described a slow man with a beer belly. But one thing that all agreed on was that he was wearing a ski mask. Some had claimed to chase the killer out the west entrance, others out the east entrance. Some were red in the face at the idea that the other party were shooting at an innocent man.

                “Who screamed?” James finally spoke up.

                The crowd went silent and looked to Mrs. Bates. She turned around to James. “I did. I was taking my midnight walk, as usual, and there he was on the boat. He had his gun aimed on Crenshaw. Poor boy. I guess I just didn’t know what to do. I screamed.”

                John Grey stepped forward and put his arm around Mrs. Bates. She planted her sobbing face into his armpit. “She did the right thing. You leave her alone.” Grey had always been looking for a way in with Mrs. Bates. Even during a murder.

                “I have no problem with you Mrs. Bates, but I have to ask,” James said, “Did you see it?”

                She looked up from Grey’s arms. “Yes, and no. I saw the first shot, but after that I just panicked and don’t remember what I did.”

                “I found her laying down, scared for her life in the commotion.” Grey said.

                Finally, James heard the sirens, he looked at his watch. 12:21am.

 

3

 

Detective Palmer came strutting along, later than everyone else. He was sweating and eating French fries. When James saw him, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He had hoped to never set his sites on the lousy detective that was Palmer. He recalled he would always grab a box of French fries to munch on when he was nervous. It was an odd tick, but somehow the grease got him through the hardships of being one of Babylon’s worst detectives.

                Palmer looked upon James with a mouth full of fries, “What the hell are you doing here?”

                “I live here.” James said. “And I have witness testimony to give, if you recall what that is, Palmer.”

                “Don’t tell me you’re one of the idiots that was shooting off their guns,” Palmer chided. He turned his head back and shouted loud enough for everyone in vicinity to hear. “Does everyone on this dock own a gun?”

                “Yes,” James said. “Sometimes two or three.” That wasn’t true, but James always figured for cops like Palmer, it was good to think there were. Palmer was an itchy trigger, but if he knew others were packing heat, he crapped out and recoiled. He couldn’t stand the thought of being overpowered or outgunned. He liked it better knowing the perpetrator was unarmed.

                Palmer cleared his throat at the thought and shoved some more fries in his mouth. “I take it you’ve been a busybody and are trying to solve the murder yourself? I’m sure you’d just love to tell me how to do my job.”

                “No desire there,” James said. “Just need to do my part as being a citizen and get to bed.”

                Palmer laughed. “Old man.” He laughed and choked on the fry in his mouth. Mad at it, he spit it out into the water. “Alright, tell me your version. Was it little, green men?”

 

4

 

James returned to the Edmond Dantès after sunrise. He could feel the weight of being up all night bearing down on his eyelids. But as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was wide awake. Maximillian Crenshaw had money; everyone knew that. How much? No one knew that. Where it was kept? How he invested it? No one knew those either. What if his money was on the Chandler? Everyone had always assumed he was some sort of mafia connected, rich man. But what if it wasn’t as glitzy as his lifestyle? What if he was laundering money? What if it was drugs? It could have been a lot of things.

                Frustrated at his mind, James got up and made coffee.

                He sipped all the way through a cup, stirring over the possibilities. Who the hell was Maximillian Crenshaw? He poured another cup of coffee. And another. Halfway through his third cup of coffee, it struck him. The girls Crenshaw would bring during the day, have them all day and night, and be rid of them the next day. The boyfriends only ever came over in the night, late. The more he thought about it, the more he realized it might have always been around midnight.

                He picked up his phone and called Mrs. Bates.

                “Hello,” she answered. Her voice was hoarse.

                “You’re still awake, I presume.” He said.

                “Yes,” she replied. “I can’t get that visual out of my head. Seeing Max’s face, and then—” she choked up.

                “I’m sorry,” James said. “Witnessing a murder for the first time is hard. I’ll be over later today; we can talk about it. I’ve been there.”

                “Thanks, I’d appreciate that.” She said.

                “But first I want to ask you a question, it may seem odd,” he said.

                “Of course,” she sighed, “What’s one more?”

                “Do you know for a fact Crenshaw was bisexual?” He asked.

                “What the heck, James?” she replied.

                “I know it sounds odd, but it’s important.”

                “Oh heck, I guess not,” she said, “He was always having the boys over in the middle of the night and what else would they be doing, but the same thing he was always doing with the girls?”

                “Was it always in the middle of the night?” He asked.

                “Yes,” she said, “Whenever he had a boy over, it was always around midnight. I know, because I’d pass them on my walk.”

                “I see.” James stroked his beard.

                “Poor kid,” she said, “I feel so bad I always talked ill of him. All I can see now is his face right before—”

                “Take your sleeping pills, Mrs. Bates,” he said, “Lay down, close your eyes, and just breathe. I’ll bring you lunch later. Sound like a plan?”

                “Of course,” she said, “Thanks.”

 

5

 

James was sitting with his book again. Biding the time. He had taken lunch to Mrs. Bates earlier in the day, as promised. All of her gossipy and melodramatic self was gone. Witnessing the murder of Crenshaw had taken that from her. Not a total loss, but not the desired way one would want to go about improving themselves either. She had made it clear time and time again, that she wished she could take back the previous night. That if she could go back in time, she would tell herself to stay home.

                He knew there was someone else who wished they could take back the previous night. The killer. He presumed the killer was not there to kill in the first place, otherwise he would have used a subtler method. No, he presumed the killer was there to collect Crenshaw’s money. But Mrs. Bates happening upon their exchange changed all that. The killer panicked and pulled the trigger. The first shot only grazed the neck, not necessarily fatal. He had to put the second in the chest to finish the job. But that was never the job. That job was to collect the money. The money he had to abandon in a hurry.

                The killer would be back one last time. In hopes the cops had missed the money, in hopes it was still there. The newspapers had not reported anything concerning large sums of money, or a cache of cocaine, or some other nonsense Crenshaw might be mixed up in. Either the cops were keeping that close to the chest, or they didn’t find what the killer was looking to find.

                He put a bookmark in the book and rested it on the table. He opened the drawer and pulled out the revolver and holster. He stood up and clipped it to his belt. He had never made an arrest in shorts, plaid shirt, and flipflops. But there was a first time for everything, even in retirement. 

                He looked at his watch, 11:55pm.

 

6

 

James had directed Mrs. Bates to stay indoors, an order she didn’t mind taking. She had no desire to wonder out in the night after what had happened. Probably wouldn’t for a while.

                He laid down on the deck of his boat and watched with binoculars for the killer to return. The orange light was illuminating the Chandler, which was wrapped in police tape.

                He waited.

                And waited.

                The waiting was always the worst part of a stakeout. Not knowing if anyone was going to show up. If anything was going to happen. Not sure if he’d be laying on the deck all night, waiting for something that would never come. A very valid possibility. He hoped it wouldn’t happen that way, because his back would be in so much pain. Better to toe off with a masked killer, than spend the next day in bed, popping painkillers.

                He checked his watch.

                12:01am.

                He saw a shadow bouncing near the west entrance. He looked down his binoculars and saw the shadow of someone coming, but a boat stood between the two. He waited for the shadow to turn to man at the edge of the boat. But it didn’t.

It turned into two men.

One was tall and lean. The other was shorter and had a beer belly. The contradicting testimonies weren’t contradicting at all. There were two perpetrators.

He followed them with the binoculars until they reached the Chandler. They raised the tape and ducked under. They entered the boat and vanished into the shadows.

James sat up and climbed out of the Edmond Dantès. He scurried down the dock, hand on his gun which was still holstered. At the edge of the Chandler, he loosened the holster and pulled his revolver. Six shots. That was all he had to work with. He hadn’t really intended on needing the little revolver when he bought it. But he didn’t want to take a chance with an angry criminal he’d locked away or bitter family member taking him off-guard.

He leaned over the water and looked in on the deck of the Chandler. Like the evening before, he couldn’t see much on the deck itself. But below the deck he could see lights were on. And he could hear them moving around, tossing the place upside down. He could see shadows bouncing around the floors and walls.

He slowly and carefully stepped onto the deck of the boat. He made his way to the top of the stairs. He listened for a moment. It was a clear night, and he just might hear some dialogue between the two.

“It’s gotta be down here somewhere.” An older voice said.

“We checked everywhere, where else could it be?” Another voice said.

James thought for a moment. He recognized the two voices. He was sure he knew who the men were. A few more complaining words tossed about between the two men, and then it finally hit him. He knew who the killers were.

He slowly descended, one step at a time. The complaining between the two men kept getting louder, which helped mask his intrusion. He entered a lush kitchen compared to his own. The two men had their backs turned to him, tossing around through the cabinets.

“Don’t. Move.” James spoke loud and forcefully. The two men stopped dead in their tracks. “Place your guns in the sink.” They hesitated. “Now. One after another.” They complied. “Now turn around, slowly.”

They turned around and looked upon him for the first time. They didn’t speak, they just continued to breathe heavy under their ski masks.

“Take those masks off,” James said, “They must be itchy. And hot.” Neither complied. James looked at the tall, lean man, “You are John Grey.” He looked to the man with the beer belly. “And you are the worst cop I know.”

The two men looked at each other, puzzled. They removed their masks. It was as he had said. The killers were John Grey and Detective Palmer.

“So what is this all about?” James asked.

“Screw you,” Palmer said to him.

“Fine, let me help you,” James said. “Whatever you are looking for you’ll find under the refrigerator.” They both looked at each other, wondering how he’d know where the goods were. James continued, “If you’ll notice, there are some scratches on his otherwise immaculate floor. No doubt from the constant back-and-forth of the refrigerator.”

The two men looked at the floor and the refrigerator. They looked up surprised and excited. He motioned for them to continue to it. The two men rushed over, and Palmer let Grey move the refrigerator alone. Palmer took his time kneeling down to his knees on the floor. There was a hole in the floor. From it he pulled out stacks and stacks of cash, along with bricks of cocaine. He tossed the bricks of cocaine aside haphazardly; they were just in it for the cash.

“Here’s what I get,” James started, “Palmer, you’re scum, so of course you’re in this for the money. Grey, rumor has it your retirement fund is almost gone, which means you’ll have to move in land. Probably sell of the boat. That takes you away from Mrs. Bates, and you can’t have that. How romantic. But what I don’t get is how Palmer even played into this. How do you know Palmer, Grey?”

The two men were staring at him, he thought, but in reality they were looking beyond him. To a third perpetrator.

“Don’t. Move.” A voice said behind James. “I’ve got a gun aimed at your head. I’ll use it.”

James recognized the voice immediately. And something he had dismissed clicked into place. Grey had said he found Mrs. Bates laying down, in shock, and that he had helped her. But when James had first laid eyes on Mrs. Bates, she was all alone and standing near the Chandler. Not in a state of shock at all and there was no Grey around. He had dismissed Grey’s statement as false. But he had neglected to consider that Mrs. Bates had not contradicted Grey’s statement. Either she would have known it to be false, or indeed would have been in a state of shock when he found her and not realized what had transpired as they had claimed.

“I’m disappointed, Mrs. Bates,” James said to the third puzzle piece in the room. She was the killer who didn’t flee the scene of the crime. She stayed behind to set up and frame the scene.

“I don’t care what you think of me, James,” she said. “I never did. Now give me your weapon.” James complied. “And Palmer, as you call him, is my nephew.”

“Of course,” James said.

“Shut up.” Mrs. Bates said and hit him in the back of the head with her gun.

James fell to the floor and rolled over, he felt behind his ear and could feel the blood. He put pressure on it. He looked up at Mrs. Bates. “Just one card left to turn over I suppose.”

“Yeah,” she said, “What’s that?”

“Who screamed?” James asked.

“Who else?” Mrs. Bates scoffed. “Crenshaw’s girlfriend of the night. We didn’t know she was there, and she walked up on us.”

“Trigger happy jack here,” Grey pointed at Palmer, “Panicked and shot Crenshaw.”

“The girl jumped ship,” Mrs. Bates continued, “My boy pursued her.”

Palmer chimed in. “I caught up to her. Eventually.”

“Yeah,” Grey bickered, “But you left me to deal with the wounded Crenshaw. You couldn’t even do that right.”

The three of them started arguing over how the previous night had gone down. It went on for some time, but finally ended when Mrs. Bates told them all to shut up or go to hell. “What’s done is done, and thanks to James, we have what we came looking for.” She looked down at him. He was still laying on his back on the floor. “So thanks for that.”

“Just shoot me and get it over with,” James said. “You’re killing my back.”


THE END


Monday, May 4, 2020

Kirsten Little and the heist of the Jade Necklace (short story and opportunity)

Here we go again. Another victim has signed up to be terminated. So I have obliged. 


The real Kirsten Little

In an interesting turn of events, Kirsten chose "heist" for a genre. That's not one of my options I give when people sign up, but it sounded too fun not to try. She also asked to be the antagonist in the story. One of only two to make the antagonist request, as I recall. I've known Kirsten for a few years now, not sure how many, she's married to a very old friend of mine (and previous victim here). She's a music teacher, and so I tried to sprinkle a lot of music throughout the story. Almost every scene in the story is accented by a vinyl spinning in the background, a boombox playing, a radio, a tape cassette. And if you're wondering why not CDs or Spotify? Because this heist takes place in 1987.

But enough about all that. Let's get to reading. Hope you enjoy the story, and please sound off in the comments after you're done. I appreciate it. Now... let's read!


Kirsten Little and the heist of the Jade Necklace

Summer 1987. 

Kirsten Little changed lanes on the freeway, her shoulder-length dark hair flapping in the wind behind her head. She had taken the top off her black Calloway Twin Turbo Corvette before leaving the hotel. She was blaring Whitney Houston on cassette tape. It was just the right weather for a fast drive to the hideout. Sun was setting and it was warm but not so hot she couldn’t wear a leather jacket. She put her sunglasses on when the sun lowered just below her car’s visor.

She had a lot fluttering through her mind. It was a big night for her and the Bonnie and Claudette gang. The night they had been planning for since Christmas. 

The night they would steal the Jade Necklace from Princess Dianna. 

She changed lanes.

***

Kirsten let herself in to the single-family house they’d been renting during the job. When she entered, she could hear a Rod Stewart vinyl spinning upstairs. That was Bonnie. She always had to have music playing. She found the other three women of the group in the kitchen. They had laid out three pant suits of varying colors. Red, yellow, and black. 

Lula was already dressed in her service outfit. It was her job to slip a spiked glass of wine to Princess Diana. She would only be out for a bit, just long enough to allow them to swap out the Jade Necklace with the forgery they had made. 

Claudette saw Kirsten and tossed her the yellow pant suit. “Here. Put this on.”

“How did I end up with the yellow?” Kirsten asked.

“You’re the one who said the color didn’t matter, remember?” Bonnie said as she walked by and picked up the black one. 

They reviewed the plan after they all got into their disguises. 

Princess Diana was attending a charitable event to raise both awareness and funds for research to find a cure of leprosy. She had offered the royal family’s Jade Necklace as an auction item. Bonnie, Claudette, and Kirsten had gotten themselves close to the princess through the contract of a local security firm. They would take up local security around Diana at the event. They would have to stay with her through the whole event. Lula would sneak in the spiked drink along with the fraudulent necklace. When she left, she would have the real Jade Necklace. She would abandon her service role and wait for them at the house, where they would return, and then pay a visit to their client.

Their client was none other than Prince Charles himself. He had been furious when he discovered Diana had offered the Jade Necklace for auction behind his and the royal family’s back. He had hired Bonnie and Claudette, notorious thieves, to make the switch. He wanted the real Jade Necklace back in the family vault. If they played it right, Diana would never know she was auctioning off a fake.

Satisfied they had everything in its place, they all left. Lula in a rental car alone. Bonnie and Claudette rode off together in a Porsche. 

Kirsten slid into her Corvette. She watched her partners in crime drive around the corner, as she went over her own plans she had made. She would arrive back at the house before Bonnie and Claudette, kill Lula, and take the Jade Necklace for herself. She would hide her Corvette in the alley out back, Bonnie and Claudette always came in through the garage. It would be easy to pick them off one after the other as they entered the kitchen from the garage. She would hold her own auction in a few months on the black market and take in way more money than the royal family had offered for the necklace’s return. 

She turned on the Corvette. She ejected the Whitney Houston tape and replaced it with Michael Jackson. She turned it up and sped off to the end of the street. She drifted around the corner, straight through the stop sign. 

***

Kirsten, Bonnie, and Claudette entered through the backstage of the event with their security passes. Backstage they could hear a song by Starship blaring out to the audience in attendance. There was a low murmur of an audience during the pre-show warmup. They only had thirty minutes before they would be escorting Diana to the stage wings and losing any chance of getting the Jade Necklace. They had to act quick. 

A nervous and fast-talking stage manager led them through the chaos of ballet dancers, jugglers, a comedian rehearsing a monologue, and even a tiger in a cage. He led them to a white dressing room door that said “Diana” on a golden star. 

“We’re here,” he said as he knocked.

The door cracked open and a short and stout woman stuck her head out. “What now?”

“The security.” He said. “Is it safe to enter?”

The woman looked them over in their yellow, black, and red pant suits. “For them? Yeah.” She looked back to the stage manager, “For you? No.”

The stage manager just took off without another word. Kirsten could hear him yelling at a juggler about there being no knives around the princess.

The woman showed them into the crowded dressing room. A boombox near the door was playing Bryan Adams, one of Diana’s favorite musicians Kirsten had once read. 

Diana was sitting with her back to them in front of a mirror. There was a makeup artist on one side of her, a hairstylist on the other side hosing her blonde hair with hairspray. 

“Your highness,” the stout woman said, “Your security.”

She turned around in her chair. She stood up, a towering presence for a woman. She was wearing a white evening gown that would have seemed pretentious on anyone else. The dark lines of her mascara had just been applied. She blinked a moment. She looked at each one of them. She turned to Kirsten last. 

“All women.” She said seemingly to everyone and no one at the same time. “I like it.” 

About Diana’s neck was the very reason they had come to be her guardians for the evening. The Jade Necklace. Lights constantly bounced off it, causing a sparkling sensation. No one knew the exact age of the necklace. The British had confiscated it from an African tribe, it was presented to the royal family as a treasure of the colonization of Africa. It had remained in the royal family ever sense, only making a few appearances for special occasions. A wedding, a funeral. 

Bonnie asked the other women to give them a minute with Diana to discuss some security details. They cleared the room, and it was during that short window they would be relying on Lula to get the spiked drink into them. And most importantly, that Diana would actually sip the wine. 

A few minutes into their discussion about the boring details concerning their security itinerary, there was a knock at the door. Claudette opened it a crack. It was Lula. She handed a glass of wine and note over. 

Claudette presented the items to Diana. “A note and glass from your husband.”

Diana glanced at the note, which wished her well with the event and offered the wine to calm her nerves before going on stage. Diana gently bit her lower lip, a show of nervousness. She turned around and sat back down at the mirror. She had the note in one hand and the glass of wine in the other. She dropped the note on the table. She picked up a bottle of Hermes 24 Faubourg perfume and sprayed it across her neck and the necklace.  She looked up at Kirsten through the mirror and said, “Something to remember me by.”

Diana stared for a moment in the mirror in silence. The glass of wine just resting in her hand. If she didn’t take the bait and drink the wine, the plan was shot. 

She sighed and took a sip.

They continued their boring discussion about their security precautions. They watched as Diana slowly took a few more sips until her eyelids became heavier and heavier. And then, finally, she lost her grip of the wine. Kirsten caught it without spilling on the white dress.

“That would have been a travesty,” Bonnie said. 

Kirsten stood in front of Diana, snapped fingers in her face. Nothing. “Let’s do it.”

Claudette pulled the fake from her jacket, where Lula had placed it at the door. 

Kirsten sat the glass down on the table. She reached around the back of Diana’s neck and unfastened the priceless necklace. She slid it off and handed it to Bonnie. Kirsten could smell the Hermes 24 Faubourg she had applied. She made a mental note of the scent. It might come in handy later.

Claudette handed over the fake to Kirsten. She fastened the fake on Diana’s neck. 

Bonnie put the real Jade Necklace into her inner suit pocket. The three then crowded around Diana and tried to wake her up. When she finally came to, they commented on how she had dosed off, tired. 

“That’s enough wine, I think,” Kirsten said and grabbed it from the table. She handed it to Bonnie. 

Bonnie went to the door and opened it. She spotted Lula and called her over. She handed her the wine. “Get rid of this. The princess doesn’t need it.” 

While Lula took the wine with one hand, she picked the Jade Necklace from the pocket and put it in her own. Bonnie thanked Lula and tipped her. 

***

The rest of the evening had gone fine. Thankfully, they didn’t have to actually do any real security work, there were no crazed fans throwing themselves at Diana. The fake Jade Necklace auctioned off for a price that was way more than its worth. If the owner ever discovered he’d bought a forgery, it would be the disappoint of the century. 

Outside the event center, Kirsten rushed to her Corvette. Once inside, she ejected the Michael Jackson and inserted a tape she’d made with nothing but one Billy Idol song on it. She had timed herself to it and knew she could be back to the house with only a few riffs to spare. Other songs were either too short or too long. The song kept her racing across the city, moving closer and closer to her destination, and inching to the end of the song. The beat kept her moving and shifting gears. 

She spun left and drifted into the alley behind the house. She drove dangerously fast down the alley to the back of the house. She came to a stop and the song ended. All she could hear was the static of the tape that had nothing else on it. She turned off the car and got out. She knew Lula would have already been in there for hours, anticipating their arrival. 

She jumped the fence and made her way to the backdoor. From the backyard she could hear a song by Chris de Burgh blaring. She came into the kitchen through the backdoor.

Kirsten found Lula in the living room dancing to the radio. She was wearing the Jade Necklace and sipping a Hi-C Ecto Cooler. 

“We did it!” Lula shouted. She was young and had been so happy to be a part of a Bonnie and Claudette venture. She had been chosen by Bonnie and Claudette for her pickpocket skills. 

“Let me see that thing,” Kirsten said. “I didn’t get a chance to really take it in.” 

“Sure.” Lula said. She took it off and handed it over to Kirsten, and then quickly went back to dancing. 

Kirsten pulled a pistol from her pant suit, a Walther PPK 7.65mm. She pulled a long suppressor from her pocket and screwed it onto the end of the barrel. Lula was dancing with her eyes closed and had no idea what was happening.

It took just one shot to the head. Lula fell to the floor. She was dead in an instant. She never knew what hit her. It was better that way, Kirsten figured. No need for disappointment. 

Kirsten sniffed the necklace. There it was.

Hermes 24 Faubourg.

***

Kirsten waited at the edge of the kitchen and living room, on the other side of the kitchen table. They had spent many hours around that table—forging documents, discussing plans for the heist. But the final laid plans for Kirsten was to send a spray of bullets across the table. 

She saw headlights wave across the ceiling of the living room, which meant Bonnie and Claudette had pulled into the driveway. She heard and felt the rumble of the garage door opening on the other side of the living room wall. She heard the car turn off. A moment later a car door shut, a few seconds later another one shut. 

Her palms were sweating. Her pistol was aimed and ready on the door.

She waited.

And waited.

Silence.

It felt like an eternity to her, but it was likely only a few seconds. But the silence was finally broken by the sound of breathing behind her. Before she could turn, she felt the cold barrel of a gun press against her head through her hair. 

“Hand over the gun,” she heard Bonnie say, “Nice and slow.”

***

Bonnie had come in through a window in a back bedroom that she and Claudette had left unlocked for her. Claudette had pulled into the garage, alone, and waited for the okay from her partner, Bonnie. After taking Kirsten’s gun, they handcuffed her and sat her at one end of the table. They joined her. 

“We had our suspicions early on,” Claudette explained to Kirsten. “So we kept tabs on you away from us. Over time it became clear that you were planning your own operation concerning the Jade Necklace.”

“Naturally, we couldn’t allow any interference.” Bonnie chimed in.

“You got me.” Kirsten said. “What happens now?”

Claudette checked her watch. “Our client should be here soon.”

“Prince Charles is coming here?” Kirsten asked.

Claudette just smiled and shook her head.

The doorbell rang.

Claudette went to retrieve their mystery guest. Kirsten wondered who would be coming around that corner to the living room and into their kitchen. Wondered what sort of weird double-cross Bonnie and Claudette had played on all of them.

Claudette returned with a tall woman behind her in a gray trench coat. Kirsten watched in horror as the woman stepped into the light of the kitchen, slowly revealing her identity. It was Princess Diana. The whole rouse was a rouse. 

Without a word Diana walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. She looked around their food. Finally, she spoke. “Sorry I was running a little late. Had to lose a couple of paparazzi.” She opened the freezer and found a container of ice cream. She grabbed it. “Where are the spoons?” Claudette pointed to a drawer. Diana got a spoon and sat down at the table. She opened the ice cream and just dug in with the spoon. She took a bite and sighed. “Where are things at?”

“What is she doing here?” Kirsten asked.

“You haven’t told her yet?” Diana said.

“We were waiting for you,” Bonnie said.

“Exciting.” Diana said and took another bite of ice cream.

Bonnie and Claudette explained the whole thing to Kirsten, while Diana just ate ice cream. Princess Diana had come to them first and hired them to steal the real necklace. Her plan was to auction off a fake necklace, and then have Bonnie and Claudette spirit away the real Jade Necklace back to its rightful owner—a small tribe in Africa. But before they had even started making their plans, Prince Charles contacted them about stealing the real Jade Necklace and returning it to the royal family. They had figured accepting his offer and returning a forgery to him was the best solution. 

“Here.” Diana finally spoke up. She pulled a third Jade Necklace from her coat jacket, a second forgery. She handed it to Claudette. “This is the one for Charles.” It was about that time she ran out of ice cream. She got up and discarded the container. She found a bag of chips on the counter, without asking she opened it and began eating.

Claudette turned to Diana and spoke to her, “What do you want us to do with her?”

Diana bit her bottom lip for a moment. “I’m not a destructive person. But considering what she did to the young girl in the living room, perhaps it’s best we take no chances.”

There was a silence in the house. The only noise was coming from Diana eating the chips. Kirsten was at the end of her rope. She thought she could betray the notorious Bonnie and Claudette and it had backfired greatly. 

Diana stopped eating the chips and put them back on the counter. She walked over to Kirsten. She kneeled on one knee and came face-to-face with her. “It’s a shame. We could have been friends.”