OK, finishing this one up at the last minute, as usual. If you missed this month’s prompt, you’ll find it over here. I went fairly light on the “crime caper” part and, perhaps predictably, focused on what the character’s life of crime had cost him… although maybe he has a shot at redemption, who knows? That would be a different story.
Also? Miracle of miracles, this one is under a thousand words.
Anyway, as I’ve said before, there’s no expiration date on any of these prompts. Do them next week, or next year. Whatever helps you keep writing.
One Last Job
As criminal mastermind lairs went, the toolshed at the back of his parents’ house wasn’t Jacob’s first choice.
Not that he had many choices by that point. His own house had blown up (a gas leak was the official explanation, although Jacob had his doubts about that), and his husband had left him not long after that.
“I meant it,” Mark said as he closed the lid of his suitcase shortly before walking out of the hotel where the insurance company had put them up. What he’d meant was it’s me or the business, as in Jacob had to give up one or the other. But Jacob didn’t know what else he was suited to doing. He’d always been a criminal. A career that had, he reminded Mark, paid for the four-bedroom midcentury modern on a private street where they’d lived for the past five years.
“I don’t care about the house. We could live in a tiny apartment on a month-to-month lease for all I care. That’s never been the point.”
“What has been the point, then?” Jacob asked.
“If you have to ask, then you never got the point in the first place.”
After that, Mark wouldn’t answer his calls, so until the insurance payout came through, he was living in his parents’ guest room and had claimed the toolshed as his workshop. Mom and Dad didn’t ask him what kind of work he was doing, which was just as well. How they’d never caught on that their only son was a career criminal, he had no idea. For all he knew, maybe they had. Some families were like that: certain things were never talked about. It was a miracle he’d ever come out to them.
But what he lacked in family communication, Joan made up for. She had talked him down from ledges, metaphorical and literal, and had offered a shoulder to lean on when Mark left. And when all else failed, she took him out and got him good and drunk. And now he was walking her through breaking open a very important safe.
“Did you cut the wire?” he asked. His Bluetooth headset had started buzzing in one ear and he had to resist the urge to rip it off his head.
“There are three wires,” she said. “Which one am I supposed to cut?”
He pulled up the diagram on the computer. “The one on the left.”
“Left? They’re running horizontally. Top, middle, or bottom?”
“The green one. Top.”
“There are two green ones. Jesus, weren’t you supposed to be good with details?”
He rubbed the bridge of his nose and shifted uncomfortably on the old kitchen chair he’d fished out of the basement. He’d also swiped a decorative pillow from the guest room, but it did little to keep his butt from going numb.
“Look, there’s a green one, a black one, and a red one. We went over this.”
Uncomfortable silence on the other end. “Um, so, you know I’m colorblind, right?”
“Please don’t yell. Also, I’m guessing that’s a no.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this?”
“I thought I had!”
“Well you—wait. Text me a picture of the wires.”
“Just do it, please.”
A second later, his phone beeped, and there was a picture from Joan showing the open access panel and the three wires, the green one on top… and the red one cut.
“Joan, you cut the red one.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you’d—cut them all.”
“Yes. Cut them all, open the safe, take whatever you find, and run. You’ve got like thirty seconds before security shows up. Hurry.”
To her credit, she didn’t panic, just emptied the safe and then hightailed it out, following the exit route they’d planned meticulously. Fortunately, it didn’t require telling the difference between anything red and green. He didn’t take off the headset until she was out and safely on the way home. He’d meet her there later to find out if the safe had contained everything they’d been told it would.
And then he’d quit. He was done. Mark was right.
A knock on the door to the toolshed nearly sent him through the flimsy roof. Quickly, he switched his computer screen to a Word file and said, “Yes?”
The door opened a crack. It was his mother. “I’m missing a throw pillow from the loveseat. Have you seen it anywhere?”