My name is John Lennon. Yes, like the Beatles, ha ha, very funny.
Anyway, nobody wants to hear my life story, the sordid tale of a young boy screwed by the system and all that. Let’s just get down to the basics, all right? Point is, I made some mistakes, ended up owing lots of money to lots of people, killed some of the people I owed money to, so on so on.
That’s how I found myself here, in New York. I ran halfway across the country, chasing rumors of a shuttle ticket to one of the colonies. Mons Agnes on Luna, maybe, or Lemuria on Mars.
Well, that didn’t go too well either, as I’m sure you’d expect, but I picked up some friends along the way, just a handful of guys like me. Guys with more muscles than sense, and more problems than muscles. Maybe this is how gangs get started, I dunno. One of the guys tried to call us ‘the Beatles,’ until I decked him, so now if we were a gang, it was one with no name.
We were all petty thugs, and the best way for petty thugs to make quick cash without attracting attention was with muggings.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. I flunked out of high school—friggin’ physics—but I can come up with a decent plan if I have to. Usually you don’t actually have to think hard, just big.
Long story short, we were careful. We sent out our boys well-armed so the targets wouldn’t resist, made sure to avoid anywhere cops had patrolled recently. The problem was, while mugging was good money for one or two thugs, it wasn’t quite cutting it for a dozen. And if we pushed too hard, the city would start cracking down once they noticed the rise in crime rates.
So, I decided to go the classic route: Bank robbery.
Everybody’s at least thought about robbing a bank, and that goes tenfold for criminals. It’s obvious, it’s simple, there’s a lot of money sitting in one place… it sure seems easy enough.
The reality is a lot more complicated.
I tapped my finger on the floor plans we had spread out on the table. “There are only five guards for the entire place, and one goes on lunch at two. If we’re careful, we can finish this up before he comes back.”
My second eyed the plans critically. “Well, the vault is right here, not too far from the entrance. The place is low-risk enough that they might just leave the thing open.”
“Maybe, but I doubt we’ll get that lucky.” I pulled out a couple mugshots of well-dressed middle-aged men. “These are the managers who can open the vault. We only need one alive.”
Bobby, one of my oldest friends, nodded. “Kill one, the other will be more cooperative.”
“Yeah, pretty basic. Greg, you got the masks?”
He tossed the ski masks onto the table. “Sure. Enough for everyone.”
“Good. Bobby, what about guns?”
She tossed our arsenal on the table. “An AK-47, one Walther handgun, two CO2 BB guns that look real, and…” she held up a strange thing that looked like a metal sculpture of a pineapple. “Whatever this is. They say it’s from Domina City.”
“It’s a McDowell party popper,” a sultry voice from behind us explained. “Shaped charge, extremely powerful.”
We all wheeled around, brandishing knives and clubs, to see the intruder in our midst.
It was… a woman. A drop-dead gorgeous woman, at that. She was sitting in a heavy black leather chair—which hadn’t been there five minutes ago—legs crossed seductively. Her bronze skin sparkled in the half-light of the basement, and her golden eyes glittered like stars.
She smiled, amused, as we stared, and flipped her long, caramel-colored hair over her shoulder, which drew attention to her silk dress.
And what a dress. Black as midnight, with a short skirt ending just above the knees, a lacy corset that did incredible things to her chest, and long matching black opera gloves that went all the way up to her elbows.
We didn’t have time for this right now; I shook myself out of my fugue and kept my gun leveled. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
She stood slowly, her every move measured and elegant, and—
Wow, she was tall. What was that, six feet and change? Was she wearing giant shoes, or—no, she had normal shoes on. She was just tall.
“My name is irrelevant to this discussion,” the woman said soothingly. “You may call me whatever you wish. My reason for being here is far more interesting.” She picked up a briefcase that I hadn’t spotted, sitting next to the chair that she couldn’t possibly have smuggled in without us noticing. “I would like to offer you all a job.”
Bobby snorted. “We’ve already got a job. So why don’t you take your offer and shove—”
I held up my hand, stopping her before she could finish, and eyed the woman in front of me, trying to take her measure.
She wasn’t afraid. That much was obvious. Her friendly smile and relaxed stance weren’t faked. She was standing in a room with a half dozen armed and spooked criminals, and she was completely unconcerned.
Was she confident that she could take us on or escape if things got hairy, or was she just that stupid?
“State your piece,” I growled.
She gave me a pitying look. No, that wasn’t the right word. Like… your little brother does something silly and stupid. You’re not mad, you’re just like ‘Oh, you.’ That was the way she was looking at me. Like she knew me, personally, well enough to see through my bluster.
“You are planning to rob a bank,” she noted. “9th Street Savings and Loan, shortly after 2PM tomorrow.” We all flinched at the casual way she mentioned something that was supposed to be very, very secret, but she continued as if she hadn’t noticed. “There will be a man there. I need you to kill him.”
I scowled. “Look, we’re not innocent, but we’re not assassins. Murder draws attention.”
“Do this right, and it won’t be seen as murder. Just some bank robbers killing a customer who tried to play hero.”
“And if he doesn’t play hero?”
She laughed, a musical sound of genuine mirth. “He will. I guarantee it. In fact—” She nodded to herself. “Yes. I literally guarantee it. If no one tries to stop you during your heist, I will pay you the remaining sum regardless.”
Bobby narrowed her eyes, but it was a calculating look, not a suspicious one. “How much will that remaining sum be?”
“Two-hundred and fifty-thousand dollars,” the intruder replied promptly, as she placed the briefcase on the table and opened it to reveal carefully organized stacks of cash. “In non-sequential hundred dollar bills.” She looked my second square in the eye. “If you’d prefer gold or some other medium of exchange, I can procure those instead.”
I nodded, stroking my chin to hide the fact that I was virtually shaking with excitement. “Half down, half on completion?”
That small, knowing smile returned again. “Please. We were already discussing the completion bonus. Two-hundred and fifty-thousand is half down.”
Behind me, Bobby made a small strangled sound.
The mysterious woman grinned, perfect white teeth gleaming.
I coughed, trying desperately to regain my composure. “O… kay. Okay. Yes, I think…” I turned to my wide-eyed friends and subordinates, before concentrating my attention back on her. “I think you have a deal. Though I do have to ask, how do you know your target will be there?”
“I’ve carefully tracked their movements the past few days.”
“Wait. Plural?” I growled at the sudden change in parameters. “There’s more than one?”
She wasn’t off put by my posturing. “Four, actually, but Derek—blond, blue eyes, recklessly heroic—is the only one I care about. You’ll almost certainly have to kill the Japanese girl as well, but the other two should be smart enough to stay quiet.”
Bobby still wasn’t convinced. “Even if you have been keeping an eye on them, what’s the guarantee that they’ll pick this bank?”
“I haven’t just tracked them, I also orchestrated events that will lead them to the correct bank at the correct time. A minor car accident to point them in the right direction, an ambush to put them in the right frame of mind…” She smiled thinly, and I suddenly had a very strong sense of gratitude that she was on our side. “They’ll be there.”
Well. What else was there to say?
I held out my hand. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
She grinned and shook my hand with a strong, firm grip.
“I expected nothing less.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 216)
Hey, look, new people. Oh, and evil plots, too.