Authors: Akil Victor
© Copyright 2016
All Rights Reserved.
The steam swirled around her in the shower as the water softly thrummed down her head and the delicate features of her face. The heat within the glass enclosure was soothing, relaxing even as she attempted to let her worries wash down the drain along with the water.
In the distance, her home phone rang. The buzzing interrupting her relaxation. She frowned, placing her hand on the fogged glass and slowly rubbed a clear streak in the condensation.
“Uh!” She gasped, startled by the image in clear view. Her heart kicked up a notch as her avocado-green eyes focused on the crystal vase full of blood-red roses.
She was frozen in place, her breath quickening and heart rate rising with each second. Her ample breast heaving up and down with each inhalation/exhalation.
The flowers frightened her. Frightened her because they weren’t there before she stepped in the shower. Scared her because she lived alone and always locked the doors. The phone blared again, cutting through her terror. Reminding her that she was still in the shower with water cascading down her svelte, but for breast, body. The steam quickly fogging over the streak left by her hand and visual of the roses that weren’t there before she entered the bathroom.
Her hand trembled on the knob, turning off the waterfall effect. “H-h-hello?” Her voice croaked out softly before she cleared her throat to repeat with a bit more strength.
She was answered with the phone’s fifth ring. One more and the answering machine would pick-up.
She slid the glass door open. Eyeing the ajar bathroom door suspiciously, before gingerly stepping foot down on the towel atop her, checkered flag, tiled floor. All the while, her eyes stayed glued to the black marble of the sink on which the vase sat.
The answering machine picked up as she wrapped herself in a towel and grabbed the card attached to the stem of a rose. She walked slowly, peering around the bathroom door at her well furnished, earth tone, living room filled with vases full of various color roses, teddy bears, and boxes full of chocolate.
“Hello,” she repeated, cautiously exiting the bathroom, trying to conquer her fear.
The caller hung up before leaving a message after the beep.
Maryann's eyes scanned the entire living room: Clear. Her bathroom door was halfway open, just as she'd left it. Although, the opening was wide enough for a large body to fit through without moving it.
Holding the top half of her towel, she crept to the door. All the while thinking about how easy she was making it for a potential rapist by being bare-ass under a towel.
She peeked through the small crack at the rear base of the door.
Vmmm- her cell phone vibrated and rung out loud. Which startled her as it sprang to life on the nightstand next to the bedroom door. Although, seeing the name Brett on the caller ID put her at ease as she answered the call from her best friend. Figuring that the flowers, candy, and bears had been harmless up until this point, so what did she have to fear.
* * *
The butane torch flared to life with a 'whoosh,' illuminating a five foot circular radius in the darkened room. Terrance lowered the torch to the opening edge of the floor safe. The blue flame spewing forth from its tip morphed into gold when it made contact with the steel, causing dangerous looking sparks to fly. This was his third crack at burning down into the thin slot of the opening latch of the safe in the past thirty minutes. Pausing only when his focus wavered after perspiration would build up around his eyes on the safety goggles. He was almost to the promise land, he reflected inwardly. Trying not to think of the heavy runner gloves' discomfort, and the edges of the goggles cutting into the soft flesh around his eyes.
* * *
Maryann looked herself over in the full-length mirror that stood next to the sliding closet door in her bedroom. She had on a form fitting, green, turtleneck that brought out the color in her eyes, along with crème tone slacks over black suede Steve Madden heels. She looked great but only half acknowledged the fact due to the thoughts swirling around in her head.
'I can’t wait until the day we shower together.'
Is what the notecard attached to the rose said. It gave her chills knowing that someone had illegally entered her home and stood that close t her without her being aware. She went from peering at her reflection to scanning her background in the mirror as an uneasy feeling crept over her.
The house was empty. That much she knew. She checked. Having a secret admirer was one thing, but the type of attention she received: 40 dozen roses, 23 teddy bears, and 13 boxes of chocolates spread throughout he small living room was ridiculous. Expensive chocolates at that, Godiva pecan clusters, caramel chews, and coated cherries.
Retrieving her phone from the nightstand, she headed out the door, double checking the lock as she went along.
* * *
The hissing and popping clamor of the extreme heat on metal grew louder as he worked on the last edge of the latch. The torch seemed heavier in his hands. Hands that had been tremoring for the past two minutes or so. Almost there, he thought to himself as perspiration from his forehead ran over and around his goggles to the tip of his nose to drip down onto the heated surface of the medium sized floor safe, causing an instant Smokey hiss.
The latch gave way with a ‘shhlock.' He let off the trigger, extinguishing the torch flame. His breathing heavy from exertion and anxiety. However, with a sudden burst of energy, he threw off the rubber gloves, quickly replacing them with thin leathers before pulling off the goggles. Holding a maglite, he pulled at the curved cylindrical latch handle. It gave way by centimeters only. Placing the maglite between his chin and chest, he used both hands to pull at the latch; letting loose audible grunts as his muscles strained and veins bulged before it finally grinded open. He exhaled, the flashlight slipping through the perspiration generated by his chin, neck, and chest. Falling into the safe, making a loud clang as it landed on the first of six metal lockboxes. The latch on the lockboxes were fitted with a lock and key. To leave the keys in, they hadn't anticipated anyone cracking, or burning, through the safe. He smiled to himself.
He opened the first box, holding the flashlight above it. The light cast on the safe box contents made him gasp. This box contained the hundred dollar bills. Compressed stack upon compressed stack. The box was around four and a half inches deep and eight inches wide on all sides. Each stack of hundreds was in five thousand dollar increments. Four five thousand dollar stacks in four rows.
The next box contained the fifty dollar bills. Each of the six boxes held a different denomination.
Moving quickly, he loaded his small duffle bag with the hundreds, fifties, and twenties. “Why be greedy and take it all?” He thought out loud to himself. Figuring he was doing a service by leaving the tens, fives, and ones.
He sat the small lockboxes back in place. Pushing the ruined safe closed behind it. He gathered all of his tools and stood within the small office of the Credit Union that contained spare cash registers, money counters, and shelves full of loan applications and documentation. Making sure there was no linking evidence, he crept through the darkness to the rope hanging from the ventilation duct to make his exit.
* * *
The notecard she received on the first dozen roses was harmless:
Beautiful flowers for a beautiful girl.
Maryann reflected as she took the three block leisurely stroll to the café to meet Brett for tea and biscuits. It was dark and beautiful out with a very light breeze that made her thankful for the turtle neck she wore. Walking suited her, gave her the opportunity and time to clear her head and a bit if exercise as well.
Her neighborhood was quiet. Middle-class suburban with seldom townhouses between mostly three bedroom homes that followed a white, beige, pale blue, and yellow color scheme, individually.
By the tenth dozen set of roses, the teddy bears came, along with the designer chocolates. The notes also began to be bizarre, obtrusive rather:
'I love watching you sleep. Can’t wait until we wake up together.'
That’s when she voiced her concerns to a friend who promptly instructed her to call the police.
“Hello!” Broke into her thoughts.
“Hi, Mrs. Murphy,” she smiled, pausing to greet her elderly Betty White-ish neighbor. “Hey Butch,” she mushed, getting a friendly bark in return as she petted Mrs. Murphy’s Great Dane.
Moving along she thought about how detective Isabel Gonzales was very sympathetic as a woman and wanted to help but couldn’t until whoever her admirer/stalker was said or did something criminal.
The question was, what should she do about it? Whoever this person was, was getting closer and closer and it was becoming scary.
Maybe I should get a dog, like a big guard dog
, she thought about a block and a half away from the café when an eerie feeling crept over her. She paused, spinning heel to peer over her shoulder. Mrs. Murphy and Butch were about a block away, headed towards their townhome. Nothing else was in view but the clean sidewalk with a spattering of young birch trees here and there to her left directly in line with the vehicles parked alongside the street. To the right were the well-manicured lawns of the various home and apartment buildings.
She continued walking, her unease still present. She tried to lower her hackles by listening to the sound of her footsteps, the tap-clack that the toe and heel her Steve Madden's made. Tap, clack, tap clack, tap tap, clack, tap tap tap, clack. Her heart picked up speed as she paused and spun around to barely catch a glimpse of the rustling of medium sized bushes in front of a home to her right. Without a second thought, she turned around and started running. Which was really a brisk jog in her heels. To her horror, her tap-clacks were met with the additional taps she thought she'd heard.
Her breathing grew ragged with the onset of fatigue. Shit! She'd only ran half a block. She swung her small purse around to reach for her phone,- “Aagh,” she yelped, dropping it the moment it passed the flap. She felt something brush her arm and began screaming.
“Maryann,” she heard the unfamiliar deep voice behind her before the neckline of her turtle neck was cut or torn; she couldn’t tell which, down to her shoulder. Her scream increased in frequency. Her legs gained momentum and ankle twisted awkwardly with a reverberating pain that caused her to crash hard to the pavement.
A figure in dark clothing ran past her as the lights of homes sprang on behind shadows peering through curtains of windows.
She was near the corner diagonal of the café she was to meet Brett in. A siren pierced the night somewhere in the distance as the dark clothes figure disappeared around a corner. Maryann, frightened and in pain, began to sob uncontrollably on the pavement as someone from a house nearby rushed to her side.
* * *
Terrance scaled down the side of the Carnage Credit and Loan building. Clocking his digital watch at two minutes and thirty-two seconds from the time he got the safe open, secured the money and made his exit.
Briefly, he pressed his back against the wall to quickly scan the perimeter. Mostly clear. There were the few people within the warmth of business establishments lining the Market Street here and there. But for the most part, Downtown Carnage was nearly empty on this Sunday night as usual.
His getaway vehicle was parked a short jog around the corner from the alley in which he stood. Knowing that one should never park a getaway vehicle right in front of or alongside a target establishment. It left the possibility of too many witnesses to the make, model, color, and license plate. Even worse, he knew, was the possibility of having his vehicle blocked in by a civilian or law enforcement. Always best to have the car running (if you have a getaway driver) a short distance away to increase the chances of a successful escape.
He started toward the location of his getaway Chevy. Walking quickly through the alley. Not running, in case eyes were on him and grew more suspicious than they would be at the sight of a black man in dark clothing in a dark alley. He was counting his steps and thinking of success when a shrill clamor cut through the air blaring insanely loud as the Credit and Loans alarm sprang to life. Without a moment’s hesitation, he ran.
What the fuck! How could this be?
He thought to himself, sprinting by trash can after trash bin lining the back of the many establishments sharing the alley. Police sirens stabbed the air as well.
He knew there was a possibility of tripping a silent alarm, but an old fashioned blare alarm was ridiculous. Thirty more feet and a corner, he thought before playing back his plan. Burning through the one-eighth of an inch slat of the floor safe should have been fool proof. Part of the latch stays in the lock mechanism so that when the safe is burned open, the wiring thought it still closed. Unless some of the latch melted. Ten feet and a corner.
“Freeze!” he heard at his left. Which compelled him to power forward harder, not even considering breaking his stride. He didn’t carry a gun for safety reasons, trying to avoid the possibility of getting shot and killed or increasing whatever prison sentence he may receive.