Disclaimer: I don't own any of this, except for the stuff that's mine. The rest is the property of Sony Pictures, and the brainchild of Angela Robinson.
This was my first kidnapping, and I was already doing an amateurish job. For the record, kidnapping Amy doesn't count. I was a thief, but kidnapping was just beneath me. Some people find that strange, and frankly, I have to admit that's not exactly an untenable position to hold. You'd think that if you're a half-decent thief, then kidnapping should be a breeze, right? I mean, it's still stealing, you just happen to be stealing a human being. And usually, the security is low around a human being, unless they've locked themselves in a castle of some description. You'd think that it'd be relatively easy, right? You'd think, and you'd be wrong.
For one thing, sneaking a diamond through customs is a lot easier than sneaking a living breathing human being; one, in particular, who will scream bloody murder at her first opportunity. A human being isn't exactly something you can fence in most cases. And the cases where you can; well, I'd once worked with someone who sold teenaged girls to the highest bidder, but for the record, I didn't know it at the time, I never worked with them again, and he ended up getting a death sentence in a prison in Singapore for drug trafficking. I might have helped that process along a little. As a career criminal who was thought to be a mass-murderer, I wasn't a big fan of the death penalty, but there are some cases where I make exceptions.
Hey, even a career criminal needs to draw the line somewhere.
All that said, I'd be lying if I told you that I'd never entertained the idea of striking Ms. Petrie directly. I'd be lying even more if I told you that I never actually started planning such a strike. It was a sort of contingency plan in case the DEBS got a little too close for comfort, but it never got past the planning stages.
And honestly, the plan had never been to kidnap Ms. Petrie herself. It's often more valuable to have an enemy at large, but scared, than to have her dead or off the street. That's part of the reason why I try to avoid killing anyone unless I absolutely have to. Dead people aren't very useful. Ms. Petrie is one of those people who's more useful scared than dead.
So, no, the plan had never been to actually kidnap or harm Ms. Petrie. It would probably have been enough for her to know I'd been there, in her house, no more than twenty feet from where she slept. Ms. Petrie's a lot of things, but dumb isn't one of them. She'd have got the message: "I can get you any time I want to, so back off, bitch." Not that I necessarily would, mind you. She just had to believe that I was willing to, and since she was already convinced that I was some kind of mass-murdering sociopath, that probably wouldn't have been a hard product to sell.
That was the practical reason. The professional reason why I'd never kidnapped anyone was that, frankly, I consider kidnappers to be somewhere around pond scum on the scale of criminal masterminds.
And again, I remind you, "kidnapping" Amy doesn't count.
I mean, it's one thing to reallocate someone's belongings to yourself. I mean, every time I stole something it was from someone who could either afford to lose it, or who had insurance to cover it. Taking a human being and terrorizing their family and loved ones into doing… whatever, that's just low.
Yeah, I know, it's a weird place for me to draw a moral line. Kidnapping, a real kidnapping, was just beneath me.
Or at least it had been a week ago.
With that in mind, I checked the clip in the Walther I had on my hip. Fully loaded. I slid the clip into the butt of the pistol and smoothly slid the bolt back, chambering the first round.
"Lucy," Amy's voice gently invaded my train of thought, effortlessly derailing it. "What happened to your 'no guns' rule?" She asked, the slightest note of accusation dancing around her voice.
Amy had a point. I never carried a gun on most heists. I like a little artistry in most of my thefts. If everything went according to plan, I wouldn't need it, but I wasn't exactly sure how likely it was that everything would go according to plan.
"Just how likely do you think it is that she's gonna go quietly?" I hissed back at her. "The only way I'm getting her out of that house is if she thinks that there's a real chance I could kill her, and I think you probably know that."
"And what if she gets her hands on it, huh?" Amy asked. "She was a DEB before she was the director. I think she probably remembers a thing or two."
"All the more reason why I should have a gun," I muttered under my breath. Amy heard me and shot me a nasty look. I let out a long, exasperated breath. "Amy, I have no idea what I'm going to find when I get in there. For all I know, there could be a team of DEBS in there the minute I set foot on the floor. I'm sorry, the gun stays," I told her.
Amy set her jaw, knowing that there was a certain logic to the comment. I didn't think anybody other than us knew where Ms. Petrie was hanging her hat, but if I was wrong, and I went in there unarmed, I wouldn't last ten seconds, and Amy knew that.
"Will you at least promise me that you won't use it unless you absolutely have to?" She asked.
I slid the gun back into the waistband of my pants and looked back at the blonde. "Deal," I said finally, "but the second anybody reaches for a gun, so do I, you understand?"
"And again, I remind you that this is the same woman who tried to take away everything that really mattered to me, present company included," I told her. "Not to mention that she could potentially have herself surrounded by dozens of plaid-skirted vixens who would like nothing better than to punch a bunch of nine-millimeter holes in my body. You'll excuse me if I'm not willing to trust my life to her good graces."
"I'm not asking you to trust her, just don't let yourself get carried away," Amy said.
"I do not —," I started.
"Yeah, you do, sometimes," Amy said gently. "You get emotional, you make a snap decision, and, sometimes…" She let the statement trail off with a shrug. "You said it yourself, Petrie's taken a lot from you, and I guess it's fair to say you have plenty of reasons to hate her."
"I don't hate —," I started.
"And I wouldn't blame you if you did," Amy charged through my interruption. "But this isn't about you, it's not about me, and it's not about her, or even what she did to you, 'cause whatever she did, she doesn't deserve whatever Ronnie's going to do to her. All I'm asking is that you remember that while you're in there."
You have no idea how much I wanted to argue the point, but the fact is that she was right. Petrie wouldn't have to give me much of an excuse to beat the living daylights out of her; and I'm really not a violent person by nature. Mom died just after I was born. Dad died of cancer when I was 19, and Dad had spent most of those 19 years avoiding having none other than Petrie herself try to lock him up. Amy and Scud, they're really all I've got in the world, and Petrie had made it her mission in life to take them away, and realistically, she already had me mostly cut off from Scud. I was running short of things to lose, but Amy was right. I owed Petrie big time, but she didn't deserve whatever Ronnie had in store for her.
I looked over at Amy and smiled warmly.
Amy cocked her head slightly, her expression questioning. "What is it?"
"I just…" My voice caught a little. "I just really wish you could've met my dad. He really would've liked you."
"He knew about…" Amy gestured at me, then herself.
I nodded, and offered her a one-sided smile. "Are you kidding? I think he knew before I did. Let's just say that it wasn't Humphrey Bogart that made Casablanca worth watching for me."
"Ingrid Bergman was pretty hot in a 1930s kinda way," Amy admitted, a nostalgic, dreamy smile spreading across her face.
I grinned. "And your folks didn't know you were starting to cross over to the Sapphic side of the street?"
"You think they did?" Amy asked.
"Well, they didn't seem that surprised when they met me," I told her.
Amy cocked her head slightly. Her eyes rolled up and to the right as she searched for the distant memory. "You know, you're right," she admitted.
I smiled. "Okay, you stay here and ponder your parents' surprise at the gayness of you, or lack thereof, and I'll go see if I can get your ex-boss. When that force field drops, drive up to the front door."
Amy nodded. "Be careful," she said as I dropped onto the warm asphalt of the street.
I closed the passenger side door as quietly as I could. The black body suit I was wearing was snug, but it allowed me to move freely, and it didn't have any loose fabric that could snag a tripwire or break a laser beam.
On the other hand, it didn't leave much of me to the imagination. Most days I don't have a problem with that. This was definitely one of those days.
It had been almost five years since I'd had to make my way through a DEB force field. Apparently, they hadn't changed the design much. Not enough that it mattered anyway. I guess they never figured out how I did it the first time; or never worked out that I did it the first time. Maybe they just thought that Amy let me in.
There's one major disadvantage to keeping your location a complete secret. Security outside the house is necessarily minimal. If you hang cameras outside, and have electronic eyes at every entrance, the neighbors begin to wonder what the heck's going on inside that house. A force field is invisible, unless you activate it; but I remembered that the house Amy used to live in was relatively unsecured once you got past that.
So getting to the house was actually pretty easy. Easier, by far, than it had been to get to Amy's room way back when.
The easiest way to avoid being detected by a security system is to make sure that you're not wherever that security system is. Every system has a blind spot, a place where for whatever reason it's impossible, impractical or pointless to place a sensor, camera, or guard.
There was exactly one place I could guarantee that there would be no motion detector in this house: Ms. Petrie's bedroom. If they placed any kind of sensor in that room, she would invariably set it off when she rolled over in bed or got up to use the bathroom. I'd done the same thing breaking into Amy's room way back when, and it had worked then. I hoped that they hadn't worked that little detail out too.
It takes talent to lay down a trail without making it look like a trap. When you deliberately leave evidence at the scene, it can't look like you deliberately left evidence at the scene. It has to look like it's an oversight, a mistake. You'd be surprised how hard it is for someone who has a well-established reputation for heists planned down to the most minute detail and the millisecond to make it look like they screwed up.
Frankly, I was betting an awful lot on the premise that kidnapping Mother Superior would outweigh the DEBS' self-preservation instinct. I mean, they literally called in the marines when Amy and I had staged that little kidnapping. I can only imagine how much their plaid skirted asses would be in a sling when they realized that Petrie was missing.
I reached into a small pouch sewn into the belt I wore around my hips, and flipped opened the small electrical device. On its screen, a green wire-mesh, three-dimensional representation of the house appeared, complete with walls and rooms. I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked at the screen. Only one heat signature was being read in the entire house. That one had to be hers.
I took a moment to remind myself not to get too cocky. A thermal scan is the necessary first step to an intrusion of this type, and the DEBS weren't dumb. Masking a thermal signature is actually pretty easy to do, but it requires some rather sophisticated and expensive equipment. But masking every thermal signature, except for one, while possible, is extremely difficult. You generally don't do it unless you know you're about to get hit by someone. I was counting on the DEBS not figuring that one out. But if somehow they had figured this out, this could be the shortest kidnapping in the history of crime.
I had a dozen what-ifs running through my head. There was a lot that could go wrong in the next ten minutes. What if the DEBS knew about my association with Piet? What if they found out about our meeting with Scud? What if I'd already tripped a sensor I didn't even know was there? What if I was rusty after being out of the game for so long?
And there was the big one: what if the DEBS figured out where I was going before I was ready for them?
I chewed on my lower lip as I looked at the window about fifteen feet above my head. At least it was on the back side of the house. I'd hate to try to climb into one of the front windows without one of the neighbors noticing.
I'd love to be able to claim that I darted up the drainpipe like a cat, but the truth is that any drainpipe you'd find in a private residence is too weak to support even my meager 127 pounds. Not that it mattered. The nearest drainpipe was well out of reach of her window anyway.
It occurred to me that scaling the building and getting the DEBS' Mother Superior was probably something Amy was better suited for. I mean, in her heyday, she used to hang a hundred feet off the ground as a matter of routine. Me, I'm a little uneasy with heights. Not fear, per se, but just a little… not right. Amy, she could scale this wall, be in through the window, and have Petrie unconscious and out on the street without any problems, if everything went smoothly. But that would throw a huge monkey wrench into the plans. Whatever happened to me, Petrie could never have any reason to suspect that Amy had anything to do with it. So it fell to me to somehow cross the 15 vertical feet between myself and Petrie's window.
Sometimes the oldest solutions are still the best. I told Scud I needed something that could deliver a high tensile strength line up to 40 feet straight up, and anchor it in something like a wood beam, and do it as close to silently as could conceivably be achieved. There are some who would see that as a pretty tall order. Scud had duly delivered a 500-year-old solution, corrected for the twenty-first century: a hunting crossbow armed with a quiver full of custom broadhead bolts. The heads were designed to embed in just about anything softer than steel and expand within the material, anchoring it. It was equipped with a crank-cocking device that made it easy and quick for me to achieve the 225 pound pull necessary to cock the crossbow. I felt the bowstring cock back with a soft click, and engaged the safety.
I chewed on my lower lip uncomfortably. I was about to do something that pretty much went against every single instinct I had. It was an action reminiscent of the man who walks into a meeting with a grenade strapped to his own body, and believe it or not, this was actually plan "A." Usually I'm at plan "C" or "D" before I'm seriously considering something like this.
With my teeth, I pulled the glove off of my right hand and reached into the quiver to pull a single crossbow bolt free. I pressed the tips of my fingers into the aluminum shaft, making sure that I left a nice clean set of prints. My prints were still in the DEBS files, and assuming they were on their game, it would be pretty easy for them to lift all the fingerprints of my right hand from the smooth, metal shaft.
Basically, I'd just reproduced one of the classic rookie mistakes. There's a long, long list of would-be criminals who remembered to wear gloves for the heist, but forgot that they left fingerprints all over their equipment during the preparation. Shell casings, timers, wiring, tools. I once knew a thief who didn't leave a single fingerprint, saliva droplet, or hair at the scene (which, considering he was bald, sounds a lot more impressive than it is). He got nailed because he left a drill bit behind and forgot that he'd touched it will all three fingers of his right hand while he was packing everything up.
I pressed my right eye against the starlight scope mounted on top of the crossbow and swung it up to vertical. In pale green, as if it had been illuminated by daylight, I could see the overhang of the roof, and the thick wooden support beams that held it aloft.
"Here we go again," I whispered to myself as I thumbed the safety off and gently squeezed the trigger.
Scud knows his equipment, I tell you. The only sound as the crossbow discharged was analogous to a quiet sneeze followed almost immediately by a soft thwack as the arrow buried itself in the hard wood, trailing a thin rope behind it. It lodged itself there and held.
I quickly glanced over at the neighbor's house, about twenty yards away. No lights came on, no pets started acting up. Not that I expected them to. I'd been standing right next to it, and I'd barely heard the crossbow fire, or the impact.
I looked up at the window over my head. No light came on. I waited a minute to make sure I hadn't alerted anyone inside. I checked the thermal scan again. She wasn't moving, and she didn't show any signs of having been woken up.
I smiled a little to myself as I fastened a pair of ascenders to the rope. In the movies, they always have some kind of electrical winch thingie to pull the hero up to the top of whatever rope they're hanging on. That didn't actually work in real life. I was climbing on good old-fashioned muscle power.
Ascending a free-hanging rope is something like imitating a caterpillar. I'm pretty sure that's where the idea came from. The top handle ties into your harness, the bottom ties into a pair of foot loops. The top handle is moved up a couple of feet, then you hang by your harness while you shift the bottom handle up to end up right underneath it. Then you use the foot loops to push the top handle up a few feet again, and repeat as necessary. Yeah, no whizzing up the ropes for this jaunt.
Nevertheless, I made it to the top window in a few minutes and stopped, hanging quietly, just under the rafters.
Thank God for small favors. The curtains were drawn, and the lights were out. That was good. I needed at least a few minutes to bypass the alarm on the window. The curtains would muffle any sound I made.
Bypassing the window's alarm system was surprisingly easy. It was a matter of drilling a small, quarter-inch hole in the center of the window, threading a pair of metal leads down to the contacts at the bottom of the window, matching the resistance, and completing the circuit.
Something was chewing at the back of my head. It really shouldn't be this easy. The alarm on the window was the kind you could pick up at any Radio Shack. Sure, it would stop a relatively unskilled or undetermined intruder, but the DEBS had no reason to believe that anyone breaking into Ms. Petrie's home would be either one.
My feet dropped silently onto the plush carpet. At the far end of the room, I could see a form laid out on the bed, her curly, short hair laid out on the pillow. It was Petrie all right. Piet, apparently, was still batting 1000.
I didn't have long. I reached into my pocket. Methoxyfluorane would knock her out long enough to get her outside, and it was relatively harmless. Five steps to the bed, with a little luck, my body weight would hold her down for the 30 seconds it took the 'fluorane to knock her out, and then, hopefully, I could find some way of getting Amy inside to help me drag her back to the car.
I wasn't going to get the chance.
I made it two steps before the soft whip of a loop of cord drew me short. Before I could react, the loop dropped around my throat and pulled tight. Then strong arms pulled me backwards, helplessly flailing against the garotte.