Here's a 3-chapter sneak peek of the next installment in The Gifted Series, The Ruthless Race, release date: 10/15.
I hope you enjoy it!
THE SNEAK PEEK
I watch the house through the binoculars. The blinds are shut but sense
its nighttime and pitch dark outside, it’s easy to tell whether there’s light fluttering out from the slits. There is none and the more darkness I see the
more I relax. No one is home. Good. That makes our job much easier.
to the three people sitting around me. We’re in my car with the heater on low.
It’s freezing outside and each one of us is covered in black from head to toe.
My hair, along with the two other girls in the vehicle, is in a secured bun
with every strand away from my face and off my neck.
clear,” I tell them.
the binoculars over to Max Dixon seated in the passenger seat. He’s the only
boy in the group; the oldest out of the three of us girls by just a few months.
He’s sporting the color black also. The moon hits his brown eyes and the green
freckled across them gleam like captured stars. His hair is slicked back and
pushed behind his ears but there’s still some defiant strands dangling in front
of his face.
looks through the binoculars. It takes him twenty seconds to make sure I’m
right. Lowering the binoculars, he gives a single nod.
clear,” he agrees. “Let’s go.”
grabs the door handle just as Jay-Jay Davis barks at him from the backseat.
immediately stops moving and looks over at her. He eyes her curiously, his hand
tightening on the door handle, his body itching to get this over with. I don’t
blame him. The longer I sit in this car, the more chance I’ll go crazy and bust
in that house, clear or not.
the problem?” he wonders.
to hurry,” says Abby Coleman, the other female seated in the backseat, the
youngest and smartest of us all. Even though she’s leaning back with the
seatbelt still on and one leg over the other, her hands are trembling and I
know she’s just as nervous as the rest of us.
can’t go about this the usual way,” Jay-Jay explains. She leans in closer and
her long ponytail hangs over her shoulder and brushes the arm in her lap.
“Going in as a group won’t work. It took my breath away the first time I walked
into his house.”
your point is?” I ask, starting to feel impatient. Jay-Jay’s wasting time- as
always- and I just want to go in there and get my money, or how I like to call
it, my ‘pirate loot’.
“So,” goes Jay-Jay, “this house is huge.
It would take us more than an hour to find the money, and we all know we don’t
have that much time.”
looks to Max, chewing on her bottom lip. “How much time do we have?” she asks
checks his watch before he answers. “Every Friday he goes to work for eleven
hours. Between those eleven hours, he goes out to lunch with the same
colleagues, Marshall and Jones. He orders a sandwich with extra pickles and no
tomatoes. On his second break at four-fifteen, he goes to the rec room to make
himself some coffee with three bags of sugar and more than enough creamer. It
takes him thirteen to fifteen minutes to finish the drink and he never takes it
back to his office. Takes a five minute piss and his break is over.
eight and eight-thirty, he leaves his job and drives over to the bar eleven
minutes away from his office building. Has some beers but last week he ordered
a dirty martini, which was unusual,” Max shrugs and continues on. “He drinks
alone. He leaves two hours before closing. He never slides off his jacket once
and only takes off his hat to say hello to a woman. But that’s only happened
twice. And then he drives home- drunk if I might add.”
and even squints into the darkness for a second as if wondering if he missed
anything important. Then he nods and waits for a response from us.
mumbles Jay-Jay. She turns her head at him and slightly smiles. “Do you also
know what color his crap is and whether or not he prefers baths or showers?”
ha,” says Max, his humor dry. “Nice one.”
eyes with Abby. She gives him a praising look.
she says. “Very good.”
my arms and check again out the window. “I don’t get it. He lives in a house
like this but works behind a desk and goes to a bar alone. How again did he get
all this money?”
question is directed to Jay-Jay and she sits up and plays with her hair.
forgot,” she admits, naturally. “I think its old money and his folks keep him
well-grounded, but I can’t be sure. We didn’t do much talking.”
grins and winks at me and I slowly turn back around in my seat.
doesn’t matter how he got rich. We have exactly fifty-seven minutes to go in
there and get the money before he comes home,” informs Max, without even a
glance at his watch. “If his house is as big as Jay-Jay claims, I suggest we
split up. Two for two.”
idea,” said Abby. “Me and Suwelly-”
take Suwelly,” interrupts Max. I shrug when he glances over at me. I’m usually
teamed with Abby. We know each other’s rules, our signals, our configured plan.
We work together like the ocean and fish, one needing the other, back to back.
I can deal with teaming up with Max for tonight, but just this once. He better
not get used to it.
don’t get in my way,” I warn.
smiles at my words and I hope he knows I’m actually being serious.
he says. He crosses his fingers for my benefit and the green in his eyes shine
grabs the empty backpacks by her feet. She passes one to me. I drop two flashlights,
tension wrench, and pick into the hole and zip it up. Abby and Max face each other and nod in
agreement. They both climb out of my car while Jay-Jay and I stay put.
binoculars are handed over to Abby. She steps forward a little. The darkness
shields her but you can slightly see the red in her hair and her fair skin
fight against the closing shadows. Max gives her space while she peers at the
speaks while her eyes are stuck to the lens of the binoculars.
are four night vision cameras,” she said. She snorts. “Not very well hidden.
Max, I’ll definitely need a boost.”
thing,” he says. He looks through the window back at me. “Be right back.”
follows Abby along the sidelines, keeping behind the rows of lanky trees. They
make sure they’re out of the camera’s view and soon, Jay-Jay and I can’t see
quiet as we wait. I hate this part the most. If Abby can’t disable the cameras,
or if she pulls a wrong plug, then we’re screwed. The anticipation, the
waiting, is brutal. I wish I was with her instead; it would be a hundred times
easier if I were with her. Then there would be no reason to hide in the shadows
and keep behind the trees.
some movement in the backseat and when I look, Jay-Jay is digging out her lip
gloss and mirror from her front pocket. She smears the fruity, red gloss across
her close-pointed lips, pouting them for a better affect.
her a dirty look.
about to rob a house,” I said, “and you’re putting on lip gloss.”
shrugs. “I enjoy looking pretty twenty-four-seven.” Her eyes roam over my whole
physique. “Unlike some people.”
widen. “No one’s going to see you! You do realize that’s the point, right?”
grunts. “It’s for my benefit.”
go, as if that makes sense and conclude the conversation.
her work on herself in the back and that gets me to wetting my lips and
checking to make sure my hair is smoothed back. My nose itches and there’s
something leftover in my teeth. Hesitantly, I reach up and pull the mirror down
in the car. I hear Jay-Jay smirk and that makes me growl but I contain myself
and take care of the itch and the salad from dinner a few hours ago. Jay-Jay
comes closer, smacks her lips and dangles her lip gloss above my face. I shoo
her off like an annoying fly. I check myself one last time- my thick, arched
brows and my dark brown eyes sunken-in against my golden deep skin tone. I
stare back at the oval-shaped face girl and soft chin, with the full lips and
at the vacant house. Here I go again. Don’t
Max appear from around the bend a couple of minutes later. Max comes to the
window and gives us two thumbs up.
camera is down and we got the gate unlocked,” he tells us. “We now have forty
minutes and thirty-three seconds. Let’s do this.”
Max and I take the back while Abby and Jay-Jay
go for the front. Lucky for them. I hate running through grass and climbing
over gates. And it’s worse if they have trees and bushes and flowerbeds.
this house has trees and bushes and flowerbeds.
time Max and I make it to the patio, my shoes are muddy from the wet flowerbeds
and I have brown leaves sticking to my shirt and hiding in my hair. I should’ve
worn my boots because now my socks are soaked and it’s very distracting.
focus, I tell myself. You have a job to do.
seems fine though even with his feet going squishsquish with every step he takes. I mimic
his moves because he knows where the greatest shadows are to obscure our
figures. Abby doesn’t believe there are any night vision cameras watching in
the backyard, but Max and I don’t want to take any chances. Hiding in the dark
and away from the moonlight will at least hide our faces. If I was with my
friend, with Abby, then we wouldn’t have to worry about sneaking through any
trees. It would’ve only taken us a second.
get to the patio door, I smile to myself. It’s not a slider. I hate those;
they’re just about impossible to open. But a two-door or a one-door? Easy-peasy.
I can basically do it with my eyes closed.
us knows how to pick a lock. It was one of the requirements to join the group.
Knowing how to pick a lock is a great skill. You never know when you might get
locked out of your own home…or if you need to break into another one.
I get to
my knees and pull my backpack off my shoulder. I tug the zipper to the side and
pull out one of the flashlights, tension wrench, and pick.I offer the flashlight to Max but he
hesitates before taking it.
sure you don’t want me doing it?” he questions.
my eyes and drop the flashlight in his hand.
what I’m doing, Max,” I tell him. Mumbling, I add, “Just hold the flashlight
like a good boy.”
a soft click and a shining light appears over my shoulder and on the door
handle. Max’s breath is on the back of my head and I choose my tools and get to
the wrench into the bottom of the keyhole. I use the wrench to figure out which
way the cylinder chooses to move- clockwise or counterclockwise. When trying
clockwise, the cylinder is gentler with its stubbornness. I keep pressure on
the right side and slowly insert the pick over the wrench. After a few jabs and
prodding, the pins give up and I push them all up. I turn the wrench clockwise,
twisting the cylinder along with it. There’s a loud click as the door unlocks.
Max holds it open with his hands while I stuff the tools back in my backpack.
I get to
my feet. Right before I’m able to enter the house, Max grabs my arm. I peer at
him and he dips his head at my shoes.
release a sigh, glad he caught that. “Good thinking.”
off our muddy shoes and damp socks and drop them in the backpack. We dry our
feet on our shirt or on the cuffs of our pants.
into the house. The alarm doesn’t go off so we know that Abby and Jay-Jay have
already entered and pulled the cords on the alarm. With the slight footsteps moving
upstairs, I figured they’re taking the second floor, leaving downstairs to us.
No problem- the money is downstairs, I’m sure of it.
retrieve the other flashlight and switch it on. The blinds are all shut so
there’s no moonshine helping us the slightest bit. We would turn on the lights
but that’s too risky, even when there are no neighbors for miles.
our flashlights around the room, Max and I find ourselves in a kitchen. Can’t
see much but you can tell this man has money in his pocket by the epic rotating
sink on the marble counter, antique white cabinets, and a furniture-style
island in the middle of the space. To the left I notice glass on the dark
hardwood floor. When I step closer, I find it a secret trap door with a winding
staircase leading down. Aiming my flashlight into the cellar, I see long
shelves with rows and rows of wine bottles. I whistle and shake my head in
my flashlight posed around me. I scan the walls for anything: a dent, a
scratch, the wrong color of paint. Max checks the pantry. Usually money or a
safe is kept in the last place you would think. We don’t always find a safe.
Sometimes a bag of money hidden in a drawer or dropped in an oval vase is all
we discover. It’s all we need. The four of us are broke, either because we’re
shopaholics or saving for college. A couple of hundred green bills make us
into a large family room with leather couches, flat screen T.V. and a glass,
coffee table. My toes drown in a Persian rug, soft and warm. Max follows close
behind me, firing his light along the furniture.
cascades across the wall. The glare hits a framed photo hanging up on the wall
by two screws. It’s an expensive painting of a tropical island. I don’t know
what the art is trying to say but I forget that and notice the size of the
frame. I can’t reach the top of the picture with it hanging on the wall; my
short self isn’t able to stretch that high. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies,
but this could be a perfect object to hide a safe behind.
free hand, I lift up the bottom edge of the painting to peak in-between the
middle. The picture’s heavy but I’m able to get a good enough look between the
art and the wall, shining my flashlight into the aperture.
I find nothing.
and let the frame go. It slaps the wall and the painting unclips from the two
screws. There’s a clank and the picture begins to slide. I slap my hand against
the frame to stop it. But with it being so tall, the top of the painting starts
to slide to the left, going awfully fast. I give a squeak of terror, knowing
either I’d have to drop the flashlight or let the painting fall.
appears at my side. He grabs the sliding painting, catching it at the end with
his free hand. While I help him hold it still, he sets down his flashlight and
then takes over. He raises the frame high enough, feels for the screws, and
clips the painting back up on the wall. He retrieves his flashlight.
scratch my head and pull at the neckline on my shirt, suddenly feeling like my
hair is too heavy and my clothes are making me too hot.
my throat. “Thanks.”
watches me for a second before he says anything.
welcome,” he said. He gives a short sigh. “Do you have any clue where it is?
Our time is slipping.”
much do we have left?”
for one more room. Then we need to get out of here,” he said.
around and move to the next room, which seems to be an office with a mahogany
desk, bookshelves from floor to ceiling, and a T.V. Max follows me, whispering
loud enough I’m sure Abby and Jay-Jay can hear our chatter.
the best at finding it,” he said. He runs his hand through his hair. “That’s
why I wanted to come with you. It’s always so easy for you.”
I mumble to myself. I search the walls and though there are picture frames,
there’s nothing that looks hide-the-safe worthy. I try the drawers at the desk
but knew I wasn’t going to find any luck there. That would’ve been too easy.
looking. His flashlight is pointed to his wrist while he checks his watch. He’s
balancing on the balls of his feet, over on the other side of the room, biting
the inside of his cheek.
grab his attention, “how much time?”
out of here in case we and he pass cars?” he says. “We’re out of time. We
should go in case there’s no traffic to hold him up.”
without my pirate loot, I think to myself.
going to go get Abby and Jay-Jay,” Max concludes. He moves from his position
and his flashlight dances over the armchair he was just standing by.
I hiss. He freezes. “Did you see that?”
over to the carmine red armchair set against the wall and angle my light on the
seat cushion. I don’t know how I was able to notice it but I was sure what I
saw was there.
cushion is a deep carmine color, plain with no details what-so-ever. This is
what made it even more obvious.
across the cushion is a burgundy stitch. It’s very close to the other carmine
color. So close, but I can’t be fooled. I smile and run my hand along the
thread. It’s a good hiding spot; a nice try.
comes up from behind me and sees where my flashlight is pointing, giving the
disparate, burgundy thread a spotlight.
smiles. “How do you do it?”
chuckle. “You’ve either got it or you don’t.”
to him and high five.
find something to open it,” I said. “Scissors, a knife, something.”
over to the desk and starts rifling through the stacks of folders and crumbled
paper strewed on the desk, pointing the flashlight over the surface. With it
being dark, everything’s twice as hard.
when I hear someone sprinting down the stairs. A part of me clenches up and my
gut holds its breath. But then I realize it’s Jay-Jay as she appears from
around the corner, breathing hard and running her light across our faces.
a problem,” she said. “He’s home.”
Max shakes his head.
says, “We have four minutes till he leaves the bar and then it’s a sixteen
minute drive home. How on earth is he already here?”
know,” goes Jay-Jay. “He just pulled up with some girl-”
she taps her foot to remember, “short, blond hair, and chubby in the face.”
Max groans. He slams his hand against the desk. “I knew she had a thing for
him. Damn it!”
still have time,” I said.
freeze when we hear the front door open. There’s a giggle that echoes
throughout the house.
don’t,” whispers Jay-Jay. “We don’t have any time.”
Everything sounds so loud in my ears. The gruff from the man’s voice. A
wee titter from the woman’s throat. The ruffling of a jacket. Click of heels.
afraid to breathe. My heart is thumping like a stick on a drum. I don’t know if
I’m scared or excited. My muscles are tightened and every ounce of my body and
conscious is telling me to run. To hide.
We’re about to get caught. I don’t want to get caught.
we do?” Jay-Jay whispers. Her eyes are as wide as the full moon and she doesn’t
dare move. Max is pretty much the same way, only it looks like he found
something to rip open the seat cushion, clinging to a silver letter opener like
it’s the last thing that matters.
never been in this type of scenario but I don’t think being frozen in place
will save our butts. We must do something.
to hurry,” I say. I throw off my backpack and toss it to Jay-Jay.
blinks down at my bag. “Abby…she’s still upstairs.”
on my lips. Why Abby? You should’ve been my partner, not Max. Now I’m the one
that has to save you, because frankly, I’m the only one who can.
to Max. “Open the seat and get the money. Then you and Jay-Jay leave through
are you going?” asks Jay-Jay.
“Someone needs to get Abby.”
my way towards the door and Max runs from behind the desk to grab my arm.
me go,” he said.
see you,” I said.
let me do this,” I said. I lay my hand over his arm.
chokes on his words.
“Guys,” Jay-Jay calls for our attention.
talking. The giggling grows louder, rough footsteps, and something that sounds
like zippers and buttons being undone. You can hear the slobbery make out from
a mile away. Max tugs me back, hoping to hide in the grasping shadows. But it’s
unnecessary. The two lovers go for the stairs and take the steps with their
wobbly feet, strangling each other’s body for a closer touch.
Max’s fingers off of my arm. I give him a look, telling him everything he needs
to hear and to understand that he needs to do just as I had told him to.
careful,” he whispers.
over my flashlight and leave them in the office. The last thing I hear is the
sound of a blade slicing against an innocent seat cushion.
the walls, breathing heavily through my nose and using the tip of my toes to
take the next step. I feel as if I’m making the most noise in the world. I can
clearly hear the lip-locking session and over exaggerated moans. I follow the
noise because I know they’re moving up the stairs and that’s where I need to go
because that’s where Abby is.
wall ends, I find myself at the bottom of the staircase. And right before the
couple. Once I notice them, the woman named Marshall up against the wall with
her dress undone and the man’s hands on her skin, I immediately slide back
behind the wall, releasing a tight gasp. They almost saw me; if their eyes were
open, they would’ve seen me.
myself to calm down. My muscles are still constricted and my gut is begging to release itself, to satisfy
the temptation to hide. I take deep breathes and block out the sounds of
kissing and pay attention to myself. The pain deep inside my stomach resembles
the type of ache when I’m starving. But I know my tense stomach is not asking
for food. It is asking me to give in to the unnatural part of me. The part that
makes me very different.
unclench my hands and relax every bone in my body. The gut feeling grows
stronger. An overwhelming rush drifts over me and there’s a click in my
stomach. The sensation lasts no more than four seconds and I drop my gaze to my
arms and legs.
figure shivers, like a light bulb in its last stand, taking its last breath
before it completely douses out. My body blinks in and out of view and my
senses feel scrambled. After a moment, I’m gone and all that’s left is the
breath from my mouth and the feeling of the wall up against my back.
I am invisible.
from the comfort of the wall. Even though I’m completely invisible, I’m still
one hundred percent holding my breath and keeping my hands in tight fists. I
can still make a racket so my secrecy isn’t completely concealed. I create
footprints all the same and I can still be detected by sensors. But at the
moment, those two things don’t matter. It’s just me getting to Abby and getting
the hell out of here.
the steps as quickly as I can manage, praying the creaking wood is not as loud
as the kissing. Maybe they won’t notice. They look pretty busy to me, I think
to myself, catching Marshall’s manicured fingers tugging at the man’s jeans
while he throws his hands all over her sensitive areas.
I get up
the stairs without being noticed. My gut tingles and I bite my lip, struggling
to keep it together and stay invisible. The longer I stay like this, the harder
it is to keep invisible. There are
rooms off to the left and the right side of the hallway. I know how Abby would
think. Rich people like to keep their money as close to them as possible. Which
would mean their bedroom.
down over the banister at the couple smooching and moaning, slowly making their
way upstairs and to the bed. I’ll only have a few minutes to get Abby. Or how
Max would say it, three minutes and twenty-five seconds…I think.
hidden, I go left. There are giant, white, double doors opened only a crack. I
slip inside. It’s a huge master bedroom. The room is as wide as my high school
gym and it takes more than half of the second floor. You could play football in
the bathroom and organize an army in the closet. I think I lost my breath. I
was sure I lost my breath when I noticed the Jacuzzi by the king size bed and
the sixty inch screen T.V. by the oak wrap-around home bar. Yep, I totally
stopped breathing for a moment.
I mutter. “Who needs all of this for one person?”
I turn around.
Abby blares the flashlight in my face and I immediately lose the grip on my ability
and blink into sight. Abby doesn’t jump five inches back like any other person
would do. She already knows. She’s my best friend and I’ve never been so close
to someone. This is the one thing I could not keep from her. Not from someone I
trust and love with all I’ve got.
difference is that she only knows half of the truth. I don’t trust anyone with
the other half, with my other ability.
That, I will keep to myself and only myself.
get that thing out of my face?” I said, slapping her flashlight away from me.
points the light to the ground. “Sorry. Where are Max and Jay-Jay?”
out of the house and in the car. We need to get out of here, Abby,” I said.
find the money? I thought I had the money, but…”
over to where she points her flashlight. There’s an opened briefcase that seems
to be retrieved from under the bed. All I see are passports and typed
should put it back,” suggests Abby.
time,” I said. “They’ll be here any minute.”
that any second.
double doors are pushed open as the love-hungry pair stumbles into the bedroom.
Abby gasps and I quickly cover her mouth with my hand. There’s that wrenching
gut feeling and I drop out of sight, taking Abby with me. That’s one good thing
about my abnormal ability- I can take whatever else with me when disappearing.
Just in time too as the man finally opens his eyes and glances our way, only to
find nothing there.
I tell Abby to be as silent as humanly
possible. I take my hand from her mouth and grab her wrist. As long as we’re in
contact, skin on skin, she’ll stay invisible.
couple trips onto the bed and I pull Abby out the bedroom and down the stairs.
By the time we get to the front door, I release her and we both race through
the gate and towards my car. Max has the car running and Jay-Jay waves us to
hurry up. Abby and I hop into the backseat and Max zooms off before the doors
are even shut.
We split the money. The bills were hidden in a
pouch that was covered and protected by cotton and shoved in the seat cushion.
Lastly, it was stitched back up, with the wrong color thread, but a good try.
thousand dollars. We didn’t find the pirate loot; not this guy’s pirate loot.
By the house- mansion- this guy lives in, we got nowhere near his real
treasure. When Jay-Jay counted if for the fifth time and confirmed the six and
three zeroes, I smiled in the backseat. Maybe he got the wrong color thread,
but he realized splitting his money will actually help him save his money.
Jay-Jay are dropped off at their house, leaving me and Abby in the car. Driving
her home, she counts her own share of the money: one thousand and five hundred.
I frown to myself. I’m nowhere near my goal yet if I want to have enough money to
pay off the culinary school I wish to attend. This is going to take a while.
How much more money am I going to need to get?
would you do if you ever got caught?” questions Abby. Looking over at her, I
can see it’s a serious question. She keeps her eyes on her hundred dollar
smile spreads on her lips. “I’m serious, Suwelly. Haven’t you ever thought
about what you would do if you couldn’t get away? What we’re doing is not
I speak, wondering why this is suddenly on her mind, “what we do is a small
crime. We’re not hurting anyone. The people we steal from have lots more than
what we take.”
I know,” she said. She takes a rubber band from her wrist and tightens it
around her bills. She finally looks over at me and she looks so unsure but so
very certain that I almost forget I’m driving.
could get in big trouble for what we’re doing,” she said.
All I can
do is nod.
was up in the master bedroom,” said Abby, “and heard them come home, I was for
sure you guys were going to leave me up there. I told myself that that’s what
you guys should do and I started practicing on what I would say when I got
caught. I didn’t have a very good reason. That’s what scared me the most.”
attention to the road so I won’t have to look at her as I said, “I would never
leave you in the house.”
And I want to go to college to be a child therapist very bad. But is it even
worth it?” she asks.
Abby snorts. “Easy for you to say. If you got caught, all you’d have to do is
disappear and you’d be fine.”
said gives me a guilty pain in my chest. It feels like I just got hit by a bag
full of reality. Is Abby jealous of my ability? Why should she be jealous of
something that turns you into a freak?
By the time I get home, it’s past one in the
morning. I unlock the front door and brace myself for the creaking sound it’s
going to make. It’ll wake up my dad and he’ll see how late I’m coming home and
it’ll throw him into a tantrum. God, his tantrums are annoying. He’s annoying.
the door quickly- like a Band-Aid. The creaking and scratching from the door
emerges through the house. By the time I’ve shut it and locked it, I’m sure the
neighbors heard me come home. We really need to get a new door.
silent. The house is dark. Hmm. Maybe he’s not even home. I smile at that
thought. Dad’s gone. No one waiting for me to come home so that they’ll have a victim
to scream at. All alone in a quiet, empty house. Feels nice.
great feeling only lasts for about five seconds. Once I hear the snoring coming
from the family room, I know there won’t be such a thing as a quiet, happy home
for a long time. Especially in this house. Should’ve stayed with mom. Should’ve
stayed with mom and my two little sisters.
out of my shoes and peak into the family room. Dad’s hunched over on the navy
armchair. There’s four beer bottles on the floor by his feet, sipped dry. The
collar of his shirt is wet and so is his hairline as if he’s been sweating.
Looking even closer, I notice that his crotch is damp from spilled beer. At
least I think its beer.
in my lips. Yup, should’ve stayed with mom.
him there. Yeah, I could pour him a glass of water and leave him some Advil,
but it’s not my fault he’s in this position. Maybe he should stop getting drunk
on Fridays. Enjoy your hangover, pop.
I get to
my room at the end of the hall, closing the door behind me. I take my old schoolbag
from the back of my closet and tug the zipper open. I pull the money from my
back pocket, wadded up and kept together by a rubber band. My share; my one
thousand and five hundred. I drop it in the bag, smiling at the thudding sound
of it falling onto the other wad of bills.
By now I
have a little more than ten thousand in cash. And every dollar is stolen. I’ve
stolen wallets on buses and dinner tables. I broke into two cars and searched
for leftover money. I grabbed a purse from a seat as the owner tried on a pair
of high heels. At the candy store a few minutes from my house, bills are
slipping out of the kids’ pockets all the time. I ‘visit’ there a lot.
was all petty money I would find. It wasn’t until I noticed Jay-Jay getting comfortable
with the rich. Or Abby breaking password codes, taking down cameras, and
picking a lock. Or Max’s extreme good memory, preciseness, and easy control of
time. I thought to myself, what if those three people I know could help me get
more money. I was tired of the purse snatching, stealing money from a couple of
kids, and seizing tips before the busboys noticed. I wanted to get in there. I
wanted to get to the real money. The money protected in houses, either by a
safe, or in this case, a seat cushion. I was ready. Not bank robber ready-
because even that’s risky for me and my disappearing act- but burglary ready.
Breaking and entering. Sounds dangerous, is dangerous, but I knew I could do
didn’t take much to convince Max, Abby, and Jay-Jay. I needed money for
college. So did Abby. Max needed money for college also, but it seemed like
he’s put that on hold, especially since so far he’s only used the money on his
car, himself, and girls. And Jay-Jay, well…I think she just came for the fun of
it all and a legit reason to flirt with rich men and get them weak in the head
so that they’ll take her home. But I was glad she agreed anyways, even if she
does get on my nerves. Without her, there wouldn’t be a target. And without me,
there wouldn’t be any cash. I guess it’s true what Max says. What each of them says.
I have a
knack for finding treasure.
completely different gift. It’s unlike turning invisible or…the other gift.
This one is normal; this one I’m proud of.
get me wrong, turning invisible is great. Who knows what I would’ve done if
people actually saw my hand when I took cash from a table or slipped my fingers
into a woman’s purse? I probably would’ve gotten caught every time. But each
time I use it, it feels like I’m turning less human. Like I’m turning into
something slightly unsettling or even dangerous.
worse is it feels good. And it feels
so necessary. It hurts me in the gut when it knows I need it. As if it controls
me more than I control it. When I think about it, that’s exactly how it feels.
other gift…No matter how many lives I save or how many people I’ve helped and
given hope to- it gives me a different type of pain. It does not feel good.
time I use it, I feel like I am slowly dying.
I pretend I have an actual job. According to my mother and father, I do
work. Dad’s oblivious and totally blind, so when he catches me leave the house
and I don’t want to tell him where I’m actually going, I just say I’m going to
work. I’m still wondering when it’ll dawn on him that he has no idea where I
work and that I leave at odd hours to go to ‘work’ in sometimes sweats or flip-flops.
easy, due to the fact she’s one-hundred and two miles away. It’s hard work
keeping the attention away from what I’m doing with my life over here in San
Francisco. I make sure to keep the phone calls short and ask how everyone else
is doing, sometimes multiple times, just to distract her. And when she starts
to push it, I tell her I have to go. I don’t want to lie to her, so to keep
from doing that, I don’t want her to ask me any questions where I’d have to
lie. I know she’d be upset and tell me this isn’t the way. But it’s my way.
far it’s working perfectly fine.
the only one out of the four of us who has an actual job. She works at a
grocery store. Sense my life tends to revolve around money and the next house
we’ll hit, I get bored often and I visit her at work just to give myself
something to do. I have plans later today, important plans, but I decide to
drop by with a muffin and coffee for her to have when she gets on her break.
employee of hers offers to take the food into the break room for me to give to
Abby. I thank him and take a walk through the store, hoping I’ll catch her on
the floor. Her manager is a little stuck up and never wants me around, but if I
can avoid him, I won’t get in any trouble. Sometimes I feel like the moment he
catches me on the security cameras, he leaves his game of solitaire and hunts
me down. Actually, I know he does.
walking down the aisles, I keep my eyes open. I watch for an exposed purse, a
wallet sliding out of a back pocket, a dollar hiding under a shelf. Anything I
can slip my hand into or scoop into my jacket. It’s easy to notice which purse
is packed or wallet full. Just because I said the money was petty doesn’t mean
I stopped doing it. When I see shinning coins sleeping like a baby bird in a
woman’s handbag, I go for it.
through an almost vacant aisle and stop near a customer. A lady with blossoming,
blond hair surveys the wheat bread on the shelf. She’s only wearing jeans and a
cropped, pink top. She’s wearing flats and a three year old baby boy is in the
that’s not what I see.
wearing a watch. A Movado ‘Bold’ two-tone round watch. Last time I checked
those things cost more than four hundred dollars. She pulls her hair to one
side of her face, throwing it over her right shoulder. She’s wearing earrings-
diamond, teardrop earrings. She finds a wheat bread she likes, placing her hand
on it. Flashing on her ring finger is a diamond ring. I squint at the jewel.
Looks like a fourteen karat white gold. Goodness gracious look at her and her
expensive items. The jewelry is so bright it’s starting to make me cry.
on my lip. There’s a ringing noise and the lady digs through her purse and
fishes out her iPhone. She leaves her purse unzipped and wide open. I lick my
lips. My fingers tingle.
closer to her, pretending to browse the various breads and tortilla shells. The
lady chats on her phone. She doesn’t notice me, and neither does her son as he
chews on a packet of gushers.
feeling rolls through my stomach. My right hand disappears and I go for the
open purse. My fingers just touch the fancy Michael Kors bag as Abby comes up,
slaps my arm, and shoves my hand down.
appears. Abby gives me a look and I try not to widen my eyes at her in
the hell,” I glare at her.
don’t be stupid,” she whispers to me.
lady pushes her cart out of the aisle. She turns the corner with her precious
jewels and sticky-finger baby.
and almost squeeze one of the bread packets to crumbs. I lean up against the
shelf and fold my arms, frowning like an upset child.
probably had a hundred dollars in her wallet,” I said.
squints. “That’s enough reason to risk it?”
my arms. “Every dollar counts.”
watches me. She peers down the two inches at me. Her caramel eyes remind me of
the inside of a Milky Way. She has her red hair into a brushed ponytail, the
sanguine color illuminated against her fair skin. And with the splattered
freckles on her pear-shaped face, gliding over the small, high-tipped nose and
down her cheeks, she looks like a rare sight. The frosted tulip lip gloss and
chained belt keeping her favorite blue jeans on her waist offer her an edgier
look. If I didn’t know Abby like I do, I’d be afraid to talk to her, and not
just because of her double smirk. She looks like the mashed up version of a Goth
and the girl in class that gets in all the fights. The only thing is she
doesn’t act like either. She’s as soft as the Persian rug my feet fell in love
with last night.
look at her. I’m personally mad at her for ruining my chance at getting that
lady’s wallet. I mean, she was asking for it. Who wears diamond, teardrop
earrings to the grocery store?
looks down at her shoes. “Suwelly, I need to tell you something.”
clears her throat. “It’s about last night.”
night?” My eyes jump to her face.
hesitates. “Yes. Last night. I’ve been thinking. And…well-”
I turn on our heels at the voice.
a lot angrier than usual.
back to work,” he barks, giving Abby his permanent grimace while his thick
eyebrows tremble above his short lashes.
at him in understanding.
drag over my face. I smile and give an awkward wave. “Hello,” I greet.
grunts and looks away, his arm coming up and his bony finger pointing at the
“Out,” he orders.
sir,” I said. I turn to Abby and whisper, “Later. Okay?”
away. She turns and walks down the aisle without saying anything.
she’s mad at me too.
After I leave the grocery store, I walk the
fifteen minutes to the hospital. Even though I would rather go home and forget
my important plan, I can’t force myself to go a different direction. I haven’t
been in the hospital for a while and it feels like I might miss a very special patient.
A patient that needs my help. Whether I enjoy it or not, I’m going to raise the
ability out of me and suffer the pain, for the good of it. I’m hoping my method
will be right. That the more I use it, the easier it’ll get. So far, no
weather didn’t get any warmer while I was in the grocery store. How long is it
supposed to take to get use to this weather? I moved here in the middle of
junior year, two years ago, and I was hoping I was the type of girl that likes
the cold, that I don’t need the hot, blazing summers Sacramento offered. I’m
really missing those hot, blazing summers.
the glass doors and make my way inside the hospital. I turn right and walk
through the hallway until I meet the white counter blocking my way. Behind the
counter is a woman with bone-straight, brown hair that trails down to her
waist. Her willow green eyes are hidden behind silver reading glasses.
Elena,” I greet her.
quickly looks up in surprise. She stops her fingers from typing on the keyboard
and gets up from her seat.
she exclaims, grinning. “I didn’t know you were coming in today.”
decided to come in and…help.”
keeps grinning like she has no idea what I’m talking about.
there anyone here that needs some support?” I ask.
is this one patient,” she begins. “He’s kind of old, but he’s strong–hearted. I
don’t know how long he can go on and…I don’t know how long we can keep him
tells me and I leave before she says more.
the room in the left hallway. I breathe out slowly and crack the knuckles on
both of my hands. I grab the warm and small door handle and push the door open.
minute I enter the room, the smell of medicine, and sickness, and death is
overwhelming. Breathing out of my mouth makes it worse. I rub my nose and
swallow with a hard gulp before appearing behind the white curtain.
older man. He’s sitting halfway up with his dark brown eyes staring into space.
He has white graying hair with the bald spot in the middle. The covers are up
to his shoulders. I am only able to see his wrinkly neck and his face with the
sucked in cheeks and gray skin.
I grab a
chair from the side of the window and sit by the bed. The man turns his head to
look at me. I take a deep breath.
name’s Suwelly Tate,” I said. “How are you feeling today?”
opens his mouth to speak, but instead a round of coughs appear. Once
everything’s out, he clears his throat before turning back to me.
a doctor?” he asks.
my lip. “A doctor? No, I’m not.”
When he swallows,
I can see it slip through his throat.
don’t you tell me your name and how old you are,” I suggest.
Hanson,” he says. “I’m sixty-five.”
you end up in here, Tyler?” I ask, softly. “What’s wrong?”
stares at his hands. His chin begins to tremble and I’m really sure he’s about
he sniffs. “Lung cancer.”
begins to cough again, nasty coughs that shake your whole body and hurt your
chest. I sit back and wait till he’s finished.
don’t want lung cancer,” he mumbles. One tear falls out of his left eye.
can do that,” I say.
shakes his head. “I never smoked a day in my life.”
eyebrows scrunch together. “But-”
dad-” cough “-he smoked like a chimney. My mom too.”
smoking,” I realize.
starts to cry and cough at the same time. He raises his hands to catch the
coughs in his palms and then wipe at the trailing tears. It’s the most
depressing thing I’ve ever seen, but I still need to see if he is worth it.
they?” I ask, taking a picture frame from the nightstand. It shows a man, a
woman, and a young child. There’s sand and water in the background. The man and
woman have their hands locked together, both beaming, while the young child
poses by the man, a girl with low pigtails and holding up a peace sign. She’s
making a funny face with her nose all scrunched up and the man’s hand on her
smiles with quivering lips. His hand feels rough when they brush over mine to
take the picture from my fingers.
my wife and my daughter,” he said. “We adopted her when she was four because
talking and his head falls.
couldn’t have kids,” I finish.
slowly nods. “But that’s still our girl. That’s still my little girl, even if
she is getting married in two weeks.”
laughs, coughs, and then clears his throat. He looks me over, blinking as to
try to focus on my face better.
here to help me?”
starts to shed tears. I take his hand.
going to be okay, Tyler,” I said. “You will.”
shakes his head and under his breath, says, “Lung cancer.”
“I promise you, you will be fine.”
squeeze even harder and release everything I’ve got onto him. My heart begins
to beat twice as fast. Tyler gasps and strangles the sheets. I shut my eyes. My
throat tightens and every part of my body feels as if it’s burning up in
flames. Sweat or tears, either one, is running down my face. I clutch his hand
even tighter, digging my nails into his skin so he won’t let go. He chokes and
heaves, gripping the picture frame of his loved ones like they’re the only
thing that matters.
I hit it
like an iceberg ramming into a boat- the cancer. My body has gone numb but my
insides feel baked and sting as if ten people keep stabbing me with pitch
forks. I bite my lip so I won’t scream. I wrench the sickness out of him. I
destroy the cancer, clean his lungs; renew them. Like he was never sick.
drop Tyler’s hand, I find him knocked out cold, breathing deeply. I struggle to
catch my breath. I grab onto the bed as a burning sensation rushes through my
chest. Bile rises in my throat and I choke it back down. A torch is lit in the
middle of my stomach, the smoke trickling up to my throat, piercing it, making
it harder to breathe. What’s happening? Why does it hurt so much more? It’s not
supposed to feel like this. My hands begin to shake. I need air. I can’t
breathe. I can’t breathe.
out of the seat.
I stumble through the sliding doors. My hair
falls in my face and I brush it back with my trembling hand. My chest still
feels as if it’s burning- my lungs, my heart. My throat is dry and I hold onto
a tree branch as the wind blows in my face. The chilly air helps as I suck it
in and force myself to calm down. People begin to stare and I feel like
disappearing, but with my heart beating so fast and my vibrating pulse, I would
only be able to muster up a slight flicker of disappearance. I need to stay in
control. I need to find a balance.
the tree branch to keep me on my feet. I feel wasted. Why does it hurt so much?
I thought the more I use it, the easier it becomes. That’s the method! Is it
not? Why the hell give me an ability that hurts to use?
thought that was the last straw. I thought that that was the moment I was going
to die. Everything inside me was ablaze like I swallowed a lit candle. I wanted
to scratch out every organ and set it in a freezer.
I take a
deep breath. I need to get home. I wish I had brought my car. All I want to do
right now is gobble down a bowl of ice.
myself to move, to walk even though my legs are weak. Maybe I’ll catch a cab.
Yes, that’s a great idea. Catch a cab even though I don’t have any money.
I let go
of the tree branch. I breathe in and breathe out. My eyes are wet, not because
the wind is cold, but because my throat is so hot, it feels like acid is
sliding down into my stomach. Not a very good feeling.
the strap on my purse, turning my hand into fists to keep from wining. I hit
the sidewalk in a wobble. I feel mauled, but I keep moving and watch the road
for a taxi. Maybe it’ll be my lucky day and the driver won’t make me pay. Yeah,
right. This is San Francisco, not Canada.
now, I’m dreaming of having skipped the hospital altogether and going home
instead and eating a bow of ice cream.
glossy, black mustang speeds up from behind me. It ditches the street glides
over to the curb a few inches in front of me. The sound of the engine is
familiar. I know who’s behind the wheel before he rolls down the window, before
he gives me that same old smug look he gives everyone else. That very smug look
he uses on girls. It works. Sometimes it even works on me.
takes off his Maui Jim sunglasses, revealing his playful, light brown eyes that
are peppered with a rich green. He checks me out then shakes his head as if I’m
another damsel in distress he must save.
in,” he said. Two words. Just two words but somehow he threw all of our history
and rocky friendship into those two words.
to look independent and strong as I tell him I’d rather walk, but a stiff wind
blows and it just about knocks me over. It makes him laugh and I hate the
sound. I glare at him and he smiles so naturally that staring at it almost makes
me feel physically better. Almost. There’s no way I’d rather walk home. I’d
ride with an archenemy just so I can get off these unreliable legs of mine.
into the mustang. I sink into the leather seats, the belt fixing me down and
his soft heater zoning over my face. It feels nice and it’s suddenly easier to
breathe. I don’t have the nerve to go invisible anymore. I’m back in control.
My emotions are balanced. And the last place I thought would make me feel
slightly better is inside Max’s mustang.
over at him behind the wheel. He doesn’t notice my glance. Or maybe he notices
but decides not to care.
the improvements done to the car. The steering wheel and radio have been
upgraded. The inside looks recently cleaned with nor a fingerprint or stain in
sight. Sparkling mirrors and better wheels, wheels that gave the impression that
there are no bumps or holes on San Francisco streets.
here is one of Max’s reasons for burglary- so that he can give his precious
mustang all that it deserves. Sometimes I’m worried he loves this thing more
than his female fan club.
keeps his eyes on the road, hidden again by his sunglasses. His coffee colored
hair looks lighter when the sun clings to it. It’s kept in wet dog style,
somehow bringing out his oval chin that works at giving Max a baby face. And
with his sandy skin, Max could be mistaken for a surfer in Miami.
down the heater. He clears his throat and finally acknowledges me.
didn’t you answer your phone?” he asked. “I kept calling you.”
my lips. My throat is still toasted but I’m able to say a few words.
know it was you,” I tell him.
raises his eyebrows as if offended. “Could have found out if you answered the
Next time I’ll be sure to run to it with a smile on my face and butterflies in
my stomach,” I promise.
a face, throwing me into a pained chuckle. The clenching of my stomach feels as
if someone is scratching at the inside of my skin with demon claws.
were you calling me anyway?” I ask him.
I’ve been working on the new target for a while and I thought you’d like to
join,” he explains. “I know you’ve got nothing better to do, right?”
at him. He seems serious enough that I don’t burst out laughing. He even gives
me a smile. What’s going on here? Max likes to do his job alone; prefers it.
But now he’s asking me to accompany him? Is he trying to let me in on a secret?
Is this a prank?
even answering his question I say, “Wait, you want me to come with you?”
shrugs and glances at me. “Sometimes I get bored.”
staring. Sometimes gets bored? Gee, I
would too if all I did was stalk a person all day.
reaches in the backseat and pulls out a drink from the cup holder. A strawberry
smoothie. It’s wet on the outside from the melting ice. When he raises it to my
nose, the sweet smell escapes from the straw and fills my nostrils.
for you,” he says, waiting for me to take hold of it.
my hands around the cup. This is what I need. My insides are melting like
butter. This is exactly what I need.
through the straw, almost moaning at how well the smoothie soaks my throat and
douses the fireplace in my belly. Nothing has ever tasted so good.
my lips. Alright Max, you have just reached the top of my friend’s list.
the smoothie in my lap. “Okay, where are we headed?”
smiles. “Just sit back and relax.”
I do as he
says. He switches on his blinkers and shifts into the other lane. A car honks
at him. Max gives them an obscene gesture and turns into an alley, taking a
shortcut to wherever we’re going.
stalking someone. I’ve never done that before. Following people around.
Watching where they go, who they talk to, why they’re there. Sounds exciting.
Like real detective work when in reality we’re just watching them to discover
the perfect time to rob their house while they’re out. But still. It’s cool!
Who else can say that they went out and stalked a rich person for a couple of
hours? This is going to be great.
out the first half hour is extremely boring. Nothing happens. I have to keep rubbing
my eyes so I won’t fall asleep.
target is an older man with brown, thick hair and a short boxed beard. We sit
in the car across the street from where he is- on a bench at the park reading a
book as big as a dictionary while his granddaughter runs around on the
playground. It’s not a sunny day but there are more kids than there is room,
with tired-eye mothers at the benches and pet dogs sniffing the ground for food
while they’re led past the park. Looks like everyone on the playground is
finished my smoothie. The radio is on down low and Max has his seat pulled back
with his hands behind his head and his eyes on the old man. He watches him
without moving. There is no paper or notepad- he takes no notes at all. That
surprises me. How does he remember all this? The exact time, the exact way the
target does as he does. He records it all in his head and I’m scared to say
something if it might mess him up in any way.
half hour passes by.
I make a
clicking sound with my mouth. I tap my finger on the window, scaring away the
nets and spiders hiking up the glass. I scratch polish off my nails, digging a
discovered inkless pen into the paint and watching it crumble to my thighs. I
twist the ring on my left hand, cleaning it with my own skin without taking it
off. I do anything to keep myself occupied. Time is moving very slowly.
out air. I can’t take this anymore.
this has been fun and all, but I think I’ve got things to do,” I disturb the
smiles but keeps his eyes on the old man even though he’s doing completely nothing.
you expect?” he asks.
that he might possibly be aiming for conversation, I sit up in my seat. I had
taken my shoes off a couple of minutes ago and right now I put my feet under my
butt and sit on my knees.
know,” I said. “Cool trench coats, binoculars, walkie-talkies.”
gives a short laugh. “Sweetie, you watch too much T.V. Get out sometime.”
I gape at
him. “I do get out.”
the last time you got dressed and went to a club. When was the last time you
had fun?” he wants to know.
go out and have fun but I don’t have any money,” I said.
over at me. “You do have money.”
up and looks me square in the eye. “You’re telling me you haven’t spent any of
the money we’ve stolen?”
“Maybe for food or clothes. But…no, not really.”
much do you have?”
for college!” I claim.
realize it’s for college,” he says. “But does it all have to go to college?”
don’t get it. I really need to go to that school. I have to go to that school. I can’t…”
what? Live with my dad any longer? Go back home to my mom and sisters without
reaching my goal? End up working at a grocery store or a fast food place for
the majority of my life? End up nowhere…like my father.
able to finish the sentence. In the end, I just lean back in my seat and pick
my nails again.
big world out there, Suwelly,” says Max.
know,” I agree.
“If you’re really about to lecture me about spreading my wings and taking an
adventure, save it and drive me home instead.”
chuckles. “I’m not going to lecture you. I just think you could do, you know,
mean for it to sting. By the way he winces, it does sting and I’m sorry about
doesn’t complain about his lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean he enjoys it. Then
again, how can a nineteen-year-old boy not enjoy parties, one-night stands, a
working mustang, and a great amount of money, even if most of it is stolen?
He’s like Jay-Jay, only male and not as classy. He’s the complete opposite of
me. I can’t remember the last time I went to a party, I’ve never had a
one-night stand, I’m lucky to have four wheels and an engine, and the great amount
of money I have I refuse to touch.
if there was a contest on which lifestyle is more pathetic between mine and
Max’s, I would probably win.
doesn’t respond to my comment. I rub my hands across my face and groan.
want to talk about this anymore,” I tell him. “Let’s just,” I sigh, “let’s just
get back to the stalking.”
feel him watching me. I don’t dare meet his eyes because I’m afraid of what
they might tell me. I don’t think he’s upset, but Max isn’t one to hide his
emotions. I just want to get back to what we were doing before.
while I hear him speak.
drop into my lap and I find Max’s eyes back on the target, who is still reading
really all there is to it?” I ask.
for him to say more. And when he doesn’t, I scoot closer and say, “And the
over at me. I don’t budge and he smirks and sets his elbow on the door’s
goes out a lot. We both know that,” he says and I nod in agreement. “When she
finds a good target- no wife, no more than one child present, and has plenty of
money- she snaps pictures of his house and sends me the address. I cruise by
during the day, glance over the foundation, find out whether there’s a regular
guard, and see how close the neighbors are. I decide whether it’s a good fit.”
it is?” I wonder.
keep tabs on him.”
watching the others weren’t as boring as watching this old man.”
grins. “I’m looking for a repetitive schedule. Remember the very first house we
were complete amateurs. Only one of us remembered to bring a flashlight and we
forgot the wrench and pick and Abby had to use the bobby pins in her hair
instead,” I recall.
But do you remember who we robbed? Patrick Dunn was his name. He had been
married twice and still keeps in contact with his ex’s sister because they’d
meet up at the nearest motel on Thursday night. Every Thursday. He’d be there
nine-thirty sharp and didn’t leave until around eight the next morning. That was his repetitive schedule.”
robbed his house on a Thursday,” I state.
Max said. “I follow them to find the right time to rob them when I know they
won’t be home. The second house we hit was simple because he was flying to
Zimbabwe or someplace random like that. The one after that had a lot of baggage
and spent his time dealing with his issues with a bottle of vodka at the San
Francisco Bridge every Friday night. Rich people like to have a planner and
organization. It takes a few months but I figure it out.”
this one?” I wonder.
squints. “I’m not sure yet. Give me another week and I’ll get back to you.” Max
releases a sigh and leans his head back, closing his eyes. “Times up,” he
mumbles to himself. “Time to go home.”
sure if he’s speaking to me or not. Then I peer over him and out the window and
find the old man getting up from his seat and calling out for his
granddaughter. She races over to him and they hold hands to the car and climb
in. They’re pulling out just as Max is straightening up and opening his eyes.
long have we been sitting here?” I question.
hour and twenty minutes.”
lost sight of time. But trust me, it was an hour and twenty minutes,” he
says.He twists the key and the car
turns on, a loud engine revving up and breaking all silence.