So a million years ago, I wrote the original version of Jumping Ship, as well as a few other stories. Then I fucked my whole website and lost all but two of those stories which I managed to scrounge off of WayBackMachine. One of those stories, Nitriles, is now in the library, more or less exactly as it was.
Jumping Ship, however, ended up getting revamped and expanded on in what became the “Exit Strategy” update.
The original version, though, is now down here for you to compare and contrast.
“Man, used to be, if a driver didn’ show up to a Syndicate job,” Dixie said, “they’d track his ass down’n break his legs for us.”
“Seriously,” Cleo agreed. “What are we even paying them for anymore? We shouldn’t have to pull this fucking night-at-the-improv shit.”
The job was technically successful, but it had been a logistical disaster. The driver assigned to their crew had never shown. They had tried to hold out, and their lookout had been shot and killed in the street. Once the two of them realized they were on their own, they’d had to improvise. They fought their way to the parking lot of the bank, a pitiful two bags of cash between them. Dixie held off the cops while Cleo hot-wired a car, and they made a sloppy escape. Not being getaway drivers themselves, and therefore not having a git prepared, it was a miracle they managed to lose the cops. They’d made a lot of handbrake U-turns and finally stashed themselves in an alleyway while the cops flew by.
“We need to get out of this car. It’s hot as hell now,” Cleo said, getting out. She pulled her nitrile gloves off and stuffed them on her pants pocket. She then began peeling her regulation domino mask off, the eyelash glue holding it on tugging at her skin and leaving little rubber cement-like blobs in the mask’s wake. Dixie yanked the bags of cash out of the backseat, tossed them out, and then followed her example.
“Lose the jackets too,” Cleo said, shrugging out of hers. “The less Syndicate we look, the better.”
Dixie pulled her jacket off begrudgingly.
“Aww, they make us pay for these,” she whined, holding it out to Cleo’s outstretched hand.
“Tough shit,” Cleo said, tossing them both back in the car. She then started rolling up her sleeves and loosening her tie. Dixie chose instead to undo her ponytail, lose the tie altogether, and untuck her shirt, tying the tails into a crop top. Syndicate operatives were required to wear a very strict and tidy uniform, so the more disheveled they looked, the less suspicious they would be if they were spotted.
Cleo gave Dixie a once over, snorted at the slapdash shirt re-imagining, but ultimately accepted the change in appearance. They both collected their duffel bags and sneaked several alleys away from the ditched car before stopping to decide how to proceed.
“What’re we gonna do now?” Dixie asked, setting her bag down and sitting on it. “I mean, we can call the Syndicate and tell them to send someone, but the last ride we ordered from them didn’t show so.”
“Right?” Cleo snorted. “It seems like the larger they get, the worse the service is. I mean, they’re supposed to bust us out of jail, but Bluebird and Jolly have been inside since last year. And we would have been better off requesting a Swyft for all the good their driver assignment is. They’re getting too conspicuous with all the jobs we’re all pulling and the police can’t ignore us anymore. They’re losing their influence. And there’s not enough work to go around either. Look at this job even. A pissant small-town bank? What happened to the big money jobs? The whole point was to pool resources to do bigger jobs, and they’re sending us off to rob a Pursue Bank in Montana? I could’ve planned this shit on my own if I wanted to be this basic.”
“And they’re still gonna want their cut outta this too,” Dixie bemoaned, gesturing at their disappointing take.
“I have half a mind to just take this money and never report back in,” Cleo said. She said it as if it were on a whim, but the truth was she had been considering this for months now. It was a difficult proposition in the Syndicate though. The organization was large, had a lot of connections, and many of its members were devoted despite its flaws. Thus, Cleo couldn’t straight out ask if Dixie wanted to mutiny with her.
“We caint do that,” Dixie sighed. “They’d hunt us down’n kill us.”
Cleo wasn’t so sure.
“They would have before,” Cleo said. “Nowadays? I don’t think they’d notice. Not immediately anyway. They can’t keep track of the people they have as it is. By the time they realized we were gone? We’d have new names and would be untraceable. And if we wore proper masks while we worked, they’d never fucking find us.”
Dixie listened to this and grew more hopeful by the second.
“We could give ourselves better codenames,” she mused.
“Yeah, you could choose something less… Confederate,” Cleo suggested.
“Hey, I didn’ pick it, Miss Call-Me-Now-for-Your-Free-Readin’,” Dixie snipped in an impatient Jamaican impression.
“And we wouldn’t have to wear uniforms,” Cleo went on, returning to the subject. “Or glue those damn masks to our faces. Girl, our eyebrows would be on point all the time. All combed out, no bald patches, no glue balls all up in our shit.”
They both sighed longingly at that beautiful vision, eyebrows asunder and full of glue blobs.
“And we wouldn’ have to give ’em a percentage,” Dixie added.
“Oh, hell no! We’d be making way more money without them,” Cleo said, before reality intruded.
“Well, we’d be getting more value for it anyway. We’d still have to pay laundering fees and we’d have to hire getaway drivers. Doctors, in all likelihood-”
“Actually, that might be a problem,” Dixie interrupted.
“We don’ actually know any of those people. The Syndicate always handled that. We caint even do anything with this money without a launderer.”
That was a problem. The primary benefit of working through the Syndicate, in the past anyway, was access to their network. It was far easier to get a crew together and hire all the freelance assistance you’d need when you didn’t have to rely on someone knowing someone else. And since both Cleo and Dixie had joined fairly early in their careers, they didn’t have a network of their own to fall back on. Everyone they knew was also in the Syndicate and was therefore a risk to involve in any plans to jump ship.
Still, the combined irritation of paying for services not rendered and allure of tidy eyebrows was too strong to ignore. There had to be a way to make it work and Cleo was determined to figure it out. She racked her brain for anyone she might know who could help. Finally, she settled upon a name, long shot though it might be.
“I might know of someone who might be able to get us in touch with a launderer,” she said finally.
“This old cat burglar in New York. I don’t know if she’s still operating, but if she is, she might be able to help us.”
“And she ain’t Syndicate?” Dixie asked.
“Noooo!” Cleo said gleefully. “I know they offered her membership once, but she’s not really a team player. She told them they couldn’t afford her.”
Dixie snorted in delight at such audacity.
“All right,” she said, now thoroughly on board with Cleo’s plan. “But what d’we do right now? We caint walk back to the hotel like this.”
Cleo took out her cellphone and started flicking and tapping away on it. After a few moments, she looked up from her screen.
“A white Sentra will pick us up in fifteen minutes.”
“Did you just order a Swyft?” Dixie asked in disbelief.