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Welcome to The Take! Library. Here, every bit of The Take!'s narrative is organized chronologically. If you're new to the game, or if you just want to brush up on the crew's history, you can read each piece of lore in order here.
You can also save your place via the Saves menu.
<center>[[START|Nasty Gal]]</center>[[Chapters]]"Look, if we're gonna do this, we gotta do it now." Dixie flicked ash off her cigarette and checked the time her phone again. "They're supposed to pick up the plates in about four minutes."
Their crew of four stood in an alleyway, across the street from the Pursuit Bank branch they intended to rob. They were standing well back from the street, hidden so their black suits, domino masks, and guns wouldn't cause panic before they could decide what they were going to do.
"We don't have a driver," Cleo reminded her, not looking up from her own phone. The driver assigned to their job had confirmed he'd be there in the app, but had not shown up on time. Cleo texted him continously with increasing vitriol, but recieved no response.
"So I hotwire a car and we leave. No big deal," Dixie said. "Driving is the easiest job on the crew. We'll be fine."
"Oh, you know the roads around here all the sudden then?" Cleo argued.
"No, but Away in any direction'll do, won't it?"
"You know perfectly well that is a recipe for disaster."
"So we're just gonna go back to the hotel with nothin' to show for ourselves? Come on, we ain't had a job in weeks, Cleo. We need this. We either make this work or we settle down here and apply at Wal-Mart 'cause we don't have enough cash to get to another job."
"Wooooow, that inspires confidence," one of their crewmates broke in. She was a young woman with pink hair, which undoubtedly explained her codename Frenchie as a Grease reference. Syndicate controllers liked to give out referential codenames like that.
Cleo winced at Dixie's lack of discretion, but quickly turned her attentions to Frenchie's comment.
"You only have two jobs under your belt and a 2.2 rating between them," she said, backing out of their driver's profile on her phone to bring up Frenchie's. She showed the screen to everyone else so they could see Frenchie's shameful rating. "You're lucky we joined your job at all."
Frenchie shut up.
The remaining member of their crew today, a portly and timid man with a receding hairline, took a step back out of the circle so as not to tempt Cleo into dragging him too. Codenamed Mitty, he had no rating as this was his first job. To Cleo's relief, he did not appear to recognize that their scores weren't so great if they'd joined a job with such low ranking crewmates. She and Dixie had 3's, with Cleo outpacing Dixie by a few decimal points, but that was considered only competant among Syndicate crews. 4's or better had a much easier time getting jobs. Their ratings were, however, good enough to pull rank on these new recruits.
"Yeah, the grown-ups are talkin', honey," Dixie said, gesturing at Frenchie dismissively. Turning back to Cleo, she said, "Look, we didn't come to Buttfuck, Montana to leave empty-handed and I damn sure don't wanna be stuck here."
"It's too risky, Dixie! We don't know the way. We could get caught in a dead end."
"So we'll use GPS," Dixie said.
"That won't do us shit if we're in a police chase-"
"Ladies?" Mitty interrupted. The other three turned to look at him and he blushed under their scrutiny. "Maybe we could just vote on it?" he mumbled to his shoes.
"Yeah! Democracy in action! Mitty here's got the right idea," Dixie said. Mitty blushed even harder at getting approval for his idea. "All those in favor, raise your hands."
Dixie shot hers in the air. Frenchie raised hers, but only up to her shoulder, as if she were being sworn into the witness stand and resented it. Mitty raised his as well, but only just, not wishing to draw more attention to himself.
"The ayes have it," Dixie said, pulling her revolver out and breaking from the circle to charge across the street. "Giddy up, motherfuckers!" she shouted back at them. Frenchie and Mitty scrambled after her, drawing their own weapons. Cleo grimaced but readied her shotgun and followed too.
<h6>Originally from the <a href="http://thetakegame.com/updates/exit_strategy/story.html">"Exit Strategy" update</a>.</h6>
Continue on to [[The Montana Job]].<iframe src="http://www.thetakegame.com/updates/exit_strategy/game/index.html" width="805" height="605"></iframe>
<h6>Originally from the <a href="http://thetakegame.com/updates/exit_strategy/story.html">"Exit Strategy" update</a>.</h6>
Continue on to [[Jumping Ship]].<h2>Chapters</h2>
<li>[[Method and Madness]]</li>
<li>[[No Call, No Show]]</li>
<li>[[The Montana Job]]</li>
</ul>"Oh. My. GOD. What a total shitshow," Dixie said. She dropped the duffel bag of cash on the floor of their hotel room, then whirled around and flopped backwards onto the bed.
"Of course it was a shitshow!" Cleo said. She made sure the door to their room was closed completely before continuing. "We went in without a plan, with useless crewmates, and no driver!"
"Not a bad take, considerin'. What happened to Frenchy?" Dixie asked.
"I don't know," Cleo grumped. "One second she was there, the next she was gone. And I don't think she fired a single shot the whole time."
"Someone's gettin' a bad review," Dixie singsonged.
"You're goddamn right she is," Cleo said.
Cleo scowled at the whiteboard they had propped up on the desk. They brought it with them to every job. Cleo had drawn a floorplan of the bank on it the night before and went over the plan with Dixie multiple times before erasing it clean in case housekeeping came in. What was even the point of having a plan if Dixie was just going to do whatever she wanted?
"Why did you just rush in like that?" Cleo asked. The question was direct, unavoidable. "Why did you convince the others to go ahead with it?" That one was more evasive, hiding the real question of why did you undermine me in front of them?
Dixie huffed to the ceiling.
"'Cause if we didn't get something for our trouble today, we pretty much woulda had to quit altogether. Without this money, we'd have to choose between giving up and getting real jobs or robbing gas stations and hoping The Syndicate didn't notice us working outside the app." She propped herself up on her elbows. "Those bad reviews are hurtin' us, Cleo. It was do or die."
Cleo frowned and sat on the end of the bed.
She let out a long breath.
"What are we going to do?" she wondered aloud.
"Well, I figure there's about $200,000ish in that bag," Dixie said. "Once we turn it in, we'll get our 40%. We'll probably lose about half of that in cleaner costs so $40,000 divided by two, $20,000 each? That'll at least get us to another job."
Pitiful, Cleo thought. She'd shot how many cops, Mitty had died, who knew what happened to Frenchy, and all they had to show for it was forty thousand dollars between them. What were they even paying The Syndicate for? Not to arrange transportation apparently. 60% of their take, plus cleaner fees, gone. For what?
Not for the first time, Cleo had considered striking out on her own. It had always been in the back of her mind, ever since she joined up and realized the reality of the work. She had thought it would be clever Ocean's Eleven-style heists, not smash-and-grab robberies. The money was good, though, and there was security while under The Syndicate's employ. Was. Having one bout of bad luck had thrown them into a downward spiral where the drop in their ratings lowered the quality of their prospective crewmates. The lower quality crew meant lower quality takes, and therefore even lower ratings and payouts. It became a self-perpetuating cycle.
But what if they just removed themselves from the cycle? Not formally quit: one did not just quit The Syndicate so much as retire entirely. But what if they just stopped taking jobs and by all appearances dropped off the face of the Earth?
It was a delicate subject. Many Syndicate members would have considered it the highest treason to even suggest it. But Cleo and Dixie had been working together for years. It'd be a test of loyalties to ask and Cleo wasn't sure what she'd do if Dixie wasn't onboard. But maybe...
"What if we didn't turn in the money?" Cleo broached, turning around to face Dixie.
Dixie's eyebrows furrowed.
"What do you mean? Just... keep it?" Dixie snorted. "I think The Syndicate would take exception."
"Yes, but... what if they couldn't find us to do anything about it?" Cleo pressed on.
Dixie regarded Cleo, trying to discern if they were having the conversation she thought they were having.
"Cleo, are you saying we quit? Just retire on $100,000 each? 'Cause that ain't gonna get us very far in this economy."
Cleo took a deep breath.
"No. I'm suggesting that we take this $200,000 and use it to go independent. Start our own crew."
The proposition hung in the air for an uncomfortable amount of time. Cleo waited for Dixie to say something.
Finally, Dixie said, "Can we do that?"
A smile crept up on Cleo's face.
"I don't see why not. It would take them a while to figure it out. If they figure it out. They're so big now, they might not even notice we're gone at all."
Dixie frowned though.
"They're gonna know it's us though, once we get back to work. Domino masks don't do shit. They'll see us on the news and ask where their cut is."
"I know this is a real avant-garde idea," Cleo said patiently, "but what if we wore masks... that covered our faces?" She gave Dixie an "Hmm?" look.
"Huh. You know," Dixie said, marveling at the obviousness of it. She'd been in uniform way too long. Still, that wasn't her only concern.
"How are we gonna find anyone to get in on this?" Dixie asked. "We don't know anyone who isn't in The Syndicate. We don't know if there is anyone who isn't anymore. Caint do much more than gas stations and liquor stores with only two people."
"I know of at least one person," Cleo said. She bit her lip. "It's a long shot, but it's worth a try. When I first joined The Syndicate, I went on this job to steal this Fabergé egg-"
"How the fuck did you get on a job like that?" Dixie interjected.
"Not a Romanov egg! Jesus, I wouldn't be suggesting this if I was getting jobs like that. It was just, you know, one that some guy comissioned for himself. Anyway, we're creeping the house and I bumped into this woman. She was there to steal the egg too. We ended up doing rock, paper, scissors for it." Cleo chuckled. "She won so she got to keep the egg and I lied to the rest of the crew that I didn't find it."
"Anyway," Cleo said, "she gave me her calling card." She pulled out her wallet and slid an ancient business card from one of the slots. Dixie took it. It read "Bijou" in Brush Script and had a little 90's clipart silhouette of a black cat in the bottom right corner. Dixie flipped it over; Cleo had written a phone number and address on the back.
"So you want to quit The Syndicate in order to chase down this stranger you met once during a robbery? A thief, mind you, who was fool enough to give you her phone number and address?" Dixie asked.
"She didn't give them to me," Cleo explained. I convinced an administrator at HQ to search for her in the database. From what he said, they had reached out to her, but she declined to join up."
Dixie still wasn't convinced.
"Yeah, but that had to be, what? Ten years ago, give or take? What if she's moved?"
"Look, Dixie, I don't think our standing in The Syndicate is going to get any better, and you know - you know - if we had gotten arrested today, we'd be sitting in the cooler for a year before they got us out. They didn't even let the locals know we were pulling the job, to judge by all the bullets. But we don't have to commit to quitting right now. We can call Bijou up and see if she even still lives at that address and if she's willing to help us. If not, no harm, no foul. We'll never speak of it again, take another Syndicate job, and try to make a go of it.
"But if she can help us... I mean, think of the money, Dixie! We wouldn't have to give up sixty percent anymore. We could keep it all! I mean, after laundering and expenses obviously. But that would still be way more than 40%. And we could get new names! I know you've always hated yours, and mine is so on the nose. In fact, I've just thought of a new one." She had thought of it ages ago. "Hello, my name is Cairo." She held out her hand to shake. "What's your name?"
Dixie just stared at Cleo's proffered hand.
"Cairo? I... " she sputtered. "How did you come up with that off the top of your-" She cut off as the realization hit her.
"You've been thinking about this."
Cleo smirked, pleased that Dixie picked up on that.
"It pays to have a plan," she said.
Dixie regarded her old friend and partner in crime.
"Why didn't you just tell me, man?" Dixie asked.
"I don't know," Cleo said, gesticulating the awkwardness of it. "I've never heard you say a word against The Syndicate, even though the benefits are clearly evaporating. And you know how people are about even the suggestion of it." Cleo huffed. "I didn't want to ruin a good thing."
"I owe 'em a lot. I probably woulda drunk myself to death if they hadn't invited me in. And I wouldn't have partnered up with you without them. But what have they done for me lately? Who's actually making sure I get my paper at the end of the day? A company ain't your friend."
"So you'll abscond with me?" Cleo asked cheekily.
"If that means ghost on 'em, then yeah," Dixie said. Then she frowned. "I don't know what I want my name to be though."
"Well, I picked Cairo because I've always wanted to see Egypt," Cleo explained. "What's something you've always wanted?"
Dixie thought about it.
"When I was a kid, I really wanted a mink stole. I had a Barbie paper doll and she had this huge white stole... Does Mink sound good?" Dixie didn't look convinced that it did.
Cleo bit her lip. "Mink sounds kind of... euphemistic. What about Sable?"
"Like the wrestler?" Dixie tilted her head quizzically.
"I was thinking more the animal," Cleo said.
Dixie nodded. "Yeah, I like that! It's like a real name."
Cleo snorted. "Dixie is a real name."
"Maybe if you live in a compound, it is."
Cleo shook her head and laughed.
"All right, so we have new codenames. Step 1 complete. How about we plan the rest of our lives then, Sable?" Cairo said, hauling herself off the bed. She went to the desk and uncapped her hot pink dry-erase marker.
"Start off us, Cairo," Sable said, sitting upright.
<h6>Originally from the <a href="http://thetakegame.com/updates/exit_strategy/story.html">"Exit Strategy" update</a>.</h6><p></p>
<img src="http://thetakegame.com/library/libraryTitle.png">The Take! Library<h3>Braum</h3>
"What about this job?" Dixie said, holding her phone up for Cleo to see across the table. "Codename Braum. Doing an art gallery in Topeka."
"Why would we subject ourselves to driving through Kansas?" Cleo asked, not looking up from her smash burger combo. She was not helping to search because a hamburger required two hands to eat and she didn't want to get grease on her phone's screen.
"Wait, Topeka is in Kansas?" Dixie asked. frowning.
"It's the capital of Kansas, honey," Cleo confirmed patiently. Then, curious, she asked, "Where did you think it was?"
"I don't know." Dixie's face scrunched up, wondering that too. "Not Kansas. How valuable could the art from <i>Kansas</i> be?"
"Well, hold on," Cleo said. She tilted her head to the side, considering. "With a name like Brahm, he might have more insight on the Kansas art scene than we're giving him credit for. If he's named for the composer, maybe he's not a complete philistine. Perhaps there's something special moving through there."
"Yeah, well, it's spelled like the ice cream store," Dixie said around a mouthful of Frito pie. Cleo shot a disgusted glance her way. Dixie swallowed her food before continuing. "Maybe he's just a goth kid and Dracula and Alucard were already taken."
"There's a remote possibility that it's a <i>Legend of Sleepy Hollow</i> reference," Cleo mused as she swirled a french fry around in the puddle of ketchup on her plate.
"Wasn't Brom the bad guy in the movie?" Dixie asked.
"More than Ichabod himself?" Cleo asked. "The man was trying to marry the girl for her money."
"You wouldn't name yourself after the dickhead in the movie though, would you?"
"You might if you thought he was in the right," Cleo pointed out. Then she shrugged. "Or if Ichabod had too many syllables to be used as a codename."
"Okay, hold up," Dixie said, chuckling at this turn in the conversation and waving her hands in front of her to halt this line of thinking. "We're forgettin' the important thing here.
"We can't tell anything about what this guy knows about the art scene in Kansas by his name alone, 'cause he ain't the one who woulda picked it. His controller did and that don't do us shit. The only real thing we know about Braum is that he's going to <i>Kansas</i> for art."
"Keep looking then," Cleo said. She took another bite of her burger.
<h6>Originally from the <a href="https://thetakegame.com/forum/index.php?topic=5.msg5#msg5">"Total Request Live" forum thread</a>. Based on a suggestion from <b>Paupers Run</b>.
"<i>Say Cairo, Sable and the rest come across another member of this Syndicate known as Bram. You think "reference to Bram Stoker", right?
Well, after a bit of conversating, they find out he was trying to call himself "Brom", like Brom Bones from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", and now he's all butthurt by the fact he can't change that.
Nothing major, just thought it'd be a tad fun.</i>"
"Ok, just realized you don't pick your code names with Syndicate. Ok, here's my revamp:
Brom wanted to go by, well Brom, and said so to whoever you talk to while becoming a part of The Syndicate. He got told that's not how it works, and he's thinking "Ugh, fine, whatever."
Once his registration is done, The Syndicate picks Bram as his codename. He swears they did that on purpose.
Ok, how about now?"</h6>
Continue on to [[Chester]].<h3>Nasty Gal</h3>
"Mmhmm, and what kind of weapon do you carry?"
"Weapon?" Cleo asked.
"Yeah-huh, your gun," the bored controller seated on the other side of the desk elaborated. "You can't rob a bank with just a mean face."
"I'm really more of a burglar than a-"
"Ya still need a gun, hun." The controller clicked her mouse of a couple times. "Look, go out, buy a gun, and come back tomorrow. I can save your application, but I can't activate your account if you ain't got your equipment.
"I have more than enough to buy it," Cleo said. "I don't see what your objection is." It was a combat shotgun, the most intimidating-looking weapon in the racks at EZ Pawn. It had a sloppy, jagged engraving on the receiver that read "Nasty Gal". Cleo considered the inscription damage and felt it should've made the weapon less expensive. The elderly shop owner thought the narrative it created increased its value however.
"My 'objection'," the elderly pawn shop owner said, making finger quotes at Cleo's use of too fancy a word, "is that this ain't a weapon for some Ivy League rich girl who won't appreciate what she's got. This was used as a prop in <i>Black Beignets</i>, held in the hands of Trini St. Romain, with a certificate of authenticity. It says Nasty Gal on it and you ain't no nasty gal."
His refusal to sell was utterly ridiculous. She had the money, she would certainly pass the background check. And yet, she couldn't buy the stupid gun because she wasn't "nasty" enough.
Cleo would have debated, argued, and charmed until she brought him around to her way of thinking, but what could she really argue here? That she was, in fact, going to use the gun to get up to some nasty shit? He probably wouldn't even believe her. And even if he did, she probably still wouldn't be robbing banks in a nasty enough fashion for his liking.
No, there was a much simpler and more direct way to get what she wanted.
Cleo rolled her eyes and left.
She then spent the rest of the day waiting for the shopkeeper to leave, watching the shop from her rental car in an alley across the street,
She could have just bought a gun somewhere else. She <i>should</i> have. But now she wanted - had to have - this one. Cleo just couldn't abide a world where she was denied access to anything, especially when she had the money. She knew this was ridiculous, that she'd let herself feel the same way to a prop from a movie she'd never seen and assumed was terrible as she would an artifact in a museum, if only because someone else was keeping it out of reach. She did feel that way though, and a mere pawn shop was not going to keep her out.
Cleo waited until the last shop on the street closed down. Then she pulled her car around to the back of the pawn shop. She reached up and turned the domelight off before getting out of the car. She left the door open for a quick getaway.
The front door and windows had bars, but in her experience, people didn't often think much about the back door. She figured there was a good chance the heavy metal door could be opened with nothing more than a piece of stiff wire. Work the wire into the jam, slip the latch and pull-
The alarm sounded!
No matter. She knew where the gun was. Cleo cast a quick glance around the shop floor, looking for something blunt and heavy, and landed on weight bench with loose weights sitting on top. She picked up one of the weight plates, dashed to the gun case, and smashed the plate into the glass. She used the plate to break more of th glass out of her way, then grabbed the Nasty Gal from the case. Her first smash-and-grab! Cleo ran straight back to the back door, but she stopped in the doorway. She reached in her pocket and threw a wad of cash totaling $2800 into the store. The wad exploded into a shower of bills and wafted down to settle on the floor and counters. With that, she threw herself in her car and got the fuck outta dodge.
The pawn shop owner arrived on the scene minutes later, having been alerted by his alarm system. It was obvious to him who did this. Only one thing was stolen and it had still been paid for. Petty thugs didn't leave you enough money for the stolen goods with change leftover to buy a new gun case. He rifled through the bills one more time, just to be certain of the amount. That's when he saw the the handwriting on one of the bills.
In a tidy cursive, there was a note.
<i>Who's nasty now?</i>
The store owner chuckled at the cheek of it. He stuck the bill in his pocket. He still had to call the police since it was a firearm that had been stolen, but he decided to keep that bit of evidence to himself.
<h6>Originally from the <a href="https://thetakegame.com/forum/index.php?topic=5.msg8#msg8">"Total Request Live" forum thread</a>. Based on a suggestion from <b>Paupers Run</b>.</h6>
Continue on to [[First Impression]]<h3>Method and Madness</h3>
"We should approach quietly," Method said.
"You <i>would</i> say that," Madness said.
"Of course I would," Method replied evenly. "It's the only logical way to go."
"Except running in guns a-blazing and scaring the shit out of everyone so they don't have time to think or fight us."
Method started in on some deapanned reasoning involving fight-or-flight response and the variables it brought into the situation but Madness' eyes glazed over. Cleo and Dixie glanced sidelong at each other, sharing a look of acknowledgement that they had brought this on themselves.
Twins. You rarely ever got the ones with the telepathic link that put them in perfect sync. Instead, you usually got a pair of fuckin' Geminis, at odds on everything up to and including the hiest plan. Siblings - especially twins - were always way too comfortable with each other and not comfortable enough with anyone else. It created problems. A lot of times, siblings were so concerned with each other that they couldn't fit anyone else into their awareness. Or like today, they'd be too busy arguing to agree on a course of action.
Cleo and Dixie usually avoided jobs where the other crewmates were visibly siblings. The jobs had been coming up dry lately though. The Syndicate had grown by several hundred agents and that meant the job distribution was thinner. So they took the job with these twins (whose codenames really ought to have been enough of a clue that it was a bad idea) and now they were gonna pay for it.
"They gave us zero point ones!" Dixie bitched.
"Obviously," Cleo harrumphed, scowling at her own phone. "They have to explain why we came out with such a pitiful take and they weren't going to downrate each other."
"That is such a load of shit though," Dixie said. She slammed her phone facedown on the diner table in disgust. "Madness was the one who deviated from the plan and created a panic."
"You would think by now, Method would have figured out how to reign his sister in," Cleo huffed.
"Or, you know, they could work separate of each other," Dixie said. "It's fuckin' weird to still be joined at the hip when you're out of school. Hell, it's still weird in school, but at least there I can understand. I mean, who'd want to be friends with those two?"
<h6>Originally from the <a href="https://thetakegame.com/forum/index.php?topic=5.msg19#msg19">"Total Request Live" forum thread</a>. Based on a suggestion from <b>Paupers Run</b>.
"<i>Cleo and Dixie are working a job with a pair of siblings (gender is at your discretion). These two are constantly bickering and sniping at each other, with C and D (maybe the driver as well) being stuck in the middle of it.</i>"</h6>
Continue on to [[Braum]].<h3>Chester</h3>
"Is this where I can sign up to be a bank robber?" Chester asked timidly. He held up a cellphone with a Hole-in-the-Wall app profile open on it. He was sure it was not clear what he meant, being that this was the headquarters of a cellphone app that catalogued dive bars. The receptionist's eyes widened and without a word, he immediately punched in an extension on his phone. He stared down at the panel of lights until one lit up.
"Take that elevator," he said, pointing to the first in a bank along the wall. "Don't press any buttons. It'll take you where you need to go."
"Thank you," Chester said, giving the receptionist a grateful smile and he turned for the elevator. He pressed the call button and boarded when the doors opened.
Standing there, he wondered why he was not given a floor. Where was he supposed to go? The building had six floors. He was about to just pick one at random so he could get off and ask for better directions, but the elevator began to move, not up but down.
A secret basement, he thought to himself. Neat!
When the doors opened, he was greeted by a severe woman in a prim skirt suit. She took the phone from him and gestured for him to follow her.
"Where did you get this?" she demanded.
"I found it on the floor of my bank," Chester answered, quailing under the harshness of her question. "Behind a potted ficus."
"And how did you get into the backend of the app?"
"It just opened to it when I unlocked the phone."
"There wasn't any kind of passcode or swipe pattern on it?" she asked, incredulous. She leaned forward, bearing down on Chester, as if it was his fault the phone's previous owner didn't secure it. Chester shrunk into his chair and shrugged.
She pressed the power button on the phone and, sure enough, it opened the Hole-in-the-Wall app, bypassing the frontend and automatically logging into the backend. She navigated to this fool's profile to find out who it was who was threatening their entire operation. The profile loaded, revealing the phone's owner to be an agent codenamed Clippy. His profile photo had a black-and-white filter, though, meaning the agent had been reported as deceased. Pity, she thought. No one to make an example of.
"Um, look, ma'am," Chester ventured. "I don't care that all this is illegal. I'm not gonna tell anyone. I just want in on it."
She gaze snapped up from the phone to examine Chester's face for motive.
"Have you ever committed armed robbery before?" she demanded to know.
"No, but I'm not afraid! I could be a great bank robber!"
Her eyes practically rolled out of her head, but then an idea flashed across them.
"All right. In recognition of your service here today in bringing this grievous breach of security to our attention, I will put you on a crew. It'll be an easy introductory job. I'll even have a firearm requisitioned for you."
Chester's face broke into a bright grin.
"Thank you, ma'am! You won't regret this!"
She didn't acknowledge his thanks, ignoring him to bend down over her desk and scribble a note on a post-it note. When she finished, she ripped it off the pad and handed it to him.
"Take that to the end of the hall, turn left, and go through the third door on the left. The controller in that office will get you set up.
Chester hopped out of his chair and accepted the post-it note.
"Thank you again, ma'am! I'm really excited about this!" He waited for a response, but gave up and left when he realized she was finished with him.
He shut the door behind him and read the post-it note.
<i>For immediate assignment on Accounts Payable team. - Verdandi</i>
The controller let out a low whistle when he read the post-it note. Normally with a novice he'd ask why they were interested in the work and make sure this wasn't going to be a waste of time, but in this case, he would get in trouble if Chester backed out now. So instead he sat back down behind his desk, gestured for Chester to take a seat opposite, and started setting up his profile.
Chester looked around while the controller filled in the information on the computer. He read the name plate on the controller's desk - his name was Zeppo - and took in the books on the shelf behind him. Mark Twain, William Faulkner, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, H. L. Menken.
"So..." Zeppo said. "You ever rob a bank before?"
"No," Chester admitted. "But I've seen it done in movies. It can't be that hard, right?" It was clear he needed reassurance.
"Nah, it's a piece of cake," Zeppo lied. "All right, so your codename will be Mitty. Now that's your new name basically, so forget your old one. Your crewmates are only to know you by your codename." He pulled a cellphone out of a box of them, poked and swiped at the screen for a few minutes and then handed it over.
"I've already set you up for a job on there," he said. Mitty took the phone and looked at the screen. The job was a bank branch in Montana with three crewmates. Cleo, Dixie, Frenchy.
"All ladies, huh?" Mitty said, both nervous and pleased.
Zeppo smiled. "Hey, if I managed to get you a date too, you can thank me later." He knew Mitty wasn't going to bag any of those chicks. He stood and directed Mitty out the door. "Head back to the elevator and I'll have it send you to Wardrobe. They'll get you your uniform and take your profile photo."
"Thank you so much!" Mitty said.
"Don't mention it."
Zeppo watched Mitty head back down the hall and turn the corner. Assigning a fresh recruit who hadn't even had the chance to disappoint yet to an Accounts Payable team? The cruelty of it weighed on him.
He looked forward to forgetting what Mitty looked like.
<h6>Originally from the <a href="https://thetakegame.com/forum/index.php?topic=5.msg22#msg22">"Total Request Live" forum thread</a>.</h6><h3>First Impression</h3>
<h6>Originally from the <a href="https://thetakegame.com/forum/index.php?topic=5.msg25#msg25">"Total Request Live" forum thread</a>. Based on a suggestion from <b>CunningValentine</b>.
"<i>How did Sable and Cairo meet?</i>"</h6>
Continue on to [[Method and Madness]]<h3>First Impression</h3>
<h6>Originally from the <a href="https://thetakegame.com/forum/index.php?topic=5.msg19#msg19">"Total Request Live" forum thread</a>. Based on a suggestion from <b>NAME</b>.
[[Back to Chapters|previous()]]"Okay, you're good. Go!"
Summer pulled the plastic cap off the heel of her boot and let her pocket knife fell out of the hollow into her hand. Peeling out the Phillips screwdriver bit, she set to work unscrewing the battery panel of a Laser Lock on some hapless kid's locker.
In this post Columbine world, being caught with a weapon on school property - even one as dull and useless as the blade in her pocket knife - had ridiculous consequences. So Desi, her best friend, was keeping guard at the door to the outdoor halls. They weren't supposed to be in the hall this early either, but getting caught in the building before the first bell was an infraction they - especially Desi, as a straight A student - could talk their way out of.
Summer had a good thing going with these Laser Locks. The infomercial for them started airing earlier that year. In it, kids pointed their little color-coordinated remote controls at the Laser Locks on their lockers and the locks popped open instantly, no combinations or keys needed. It shaved valuable seconds off a mid-day locker trip that might otherwise make it impossible to get across campus in the five minutes given before the bell rang, earning one an inordinately high punishment for tardiness. Or it would, if Summer didn't prey on these locks.
"You know, I'm gonna miss this when you go off to college," Summer said as she twisted the screwdriver. Desi had been accepted to Turnbroke University. Summer didn't know much about colleges, since she'd never planned to attend herself, but she knew it was one of those fancy-ass schools that impressed people when you said you went there. "I'm gonna have to find a new lookout."
Desi huffed and checked the window again.
"I'm not going anywhere. I can't afford it and it was a waste of money for my mom to apply. I'm just gonna do community college here."
"That's bullshit," Summer said. "You can get scholarships."
"Not enough to go to Turnbroke."
Summer rolled her eyes. Desi always was a pessimist.
Panel off, the batteries inside fell out into Summer's waiting hand. She pulled a couple of dead batteries out of her skirt pocket and replaced the ones she was stealing. Then she screwed the panel back on. She'd put the stolen batteries in her CD player on the bus ride home that afternoon.
"Why d'you put dead batteries in there?" Desi asked. "To add insult to injury?"
"Nah. Without the dead batteries, they'd know as soon as they tried to open it that someone was stealing them because the lock would be too light," Summer explained. She put her knife back in her boot heel and stomped her foot to secure the plastic cap back into place. "But if I put dead ones back in, then they just think the batteries died. And they'll put new ones in that I can steal later when my CD player dies again.""Hey Cleo! Look at this."
Dixie googled the tiny handcuff key that Nero had mentioned and found the website that made them. And they had other products as well.
Dixie showed Cleo a product that looked like a bullet vibrator. However, instead of a tiny battery-operated motor, it contained four lock picks, a "bend to fit" tension wrench, the handcuff key, two different kinds of lock shims, a Kevlar saw, a diamond rod saw, a ferrocerium fire rod, three waxed jute fire starters, and a ceramic razor blade.
"'If your occupation or recreation takes you into dangerous situations," Dixie read aloud, "you'll want to have an Escape Module on hand... or wherever you can keep it hidden. Just 3.2" long, this tiny o-ring sealed module houses lifesaving escape and survival tools.'"
"Apparently, you can use the casing as a flint too," Cleo noted.
"Sounds like it depends," Dixie said. She read on. "'Included in this order (but not fitting inside the module) is a small petrolatum packet for just about any survival use you can imagine.'
"Hmmmmmmm, it sure is weird how the lube doesn't fit inside the thing. Where do they expect you to keep it?" Dixie said, playing dumb.
"Yes, I love how deftly the copy dances around what it's for," Cleo chuckled. "Are you going to buy it then?" she teased.
"I gotta be honest," Dixie said. "I'm-a two minds about it. On the one hand, am I gonna walk around with a dead bullet vibe in just in case? No. It probably sets off metal detectors. But you know if you ever get in a situation where this'd be handy..."
"You'll be thinking to yourself, 'If only' the whole time," Cleo said, trailing off into a peal of chortles.
"Yeeesss!" Dixie said, dragging her hands down her face in hysterical acknowledgement of their newly amended reality. She recovered and added, "Plus, being able to say you're going to pull an escape plan out of your ass and then actually follow through? That's comedy gold, right there.""I don't know, man. I feel a little iffy about this job," Savoy said. "But I can't tell if it's a gut feeling or if it's just because working in places decorated for Christmas feels like a bad omen."
"Bad omens? We got fuckin' Rudolph up here guiding the sleigh tonight. There isn't a better omen than that." Nero smartassed.
"Wow, that's an original fuckin' joke," their driver, the aforementioned Rudolph grumped. "Why don't you tell one I ain't heard a million times before?"
"Damn, Scrooge, who pissed in your porridge?" Nero asked. "I was just trying to lighten the mood."
"Look, man, if I wanted to hear the same tired-ass joke over and over, I'd go back to working retail," Rudolph said.
"It's not even the reindeer, is it?" Braum asked to both commiserate and change the subject. In his experience, the codenames were almost never actually about the thing they seemed.
"Nope. Rudolph Valentino," Rudolph said.
"Was your controller that woman with all the black and white pictures of movie stars in her office?" Selznick asked excitedly.
"She was my controller too!" Selznick said. "Her office is wall-to-wall photos of old movie stars. It's like the Brown Derby in there."
"Yeah, she wanted to go with Sheik but it was too short, she said.," Rudolph explained. "And Valentino was too long. So now Christmas is way fun to work every year 'cause everyone thinks he's the first guy to think up a smartass comment about the driver being named Rudolph."
"Well, fuck, man, sorry," Nero said in a way that belied that he had no sympathy at all for this salty son of a bitch. Dude needed to get some Christmas spirit."How long do you think it'll be before they start lookin' for us?" Sable asked. Cairo was driving, so Sable had her feet up on the dashboard and was eating Sour Punch Straws.
"I don't expect that they will," Cairo said. "As long as they never find out we're working outside of the app, they should have no reason to think we haven't merely retired."
They drove along for a while in relative silence, save for Sable's gooey chewing, the radio, and a beep every so often from the police radar detector, until Cairo's face shifted into a pensive frown.
"Frenchy could be a problem," she said.
"How?" Sable asked. She didn't look up from the candy straw she was peeling apart from the rest in their plastic tray.
"It depends on what she knows. We don't know when she disappeared or where she fucked off to." Cairo considered the angles. "If she knows we took the money, she could report that it should be incoming."
"Wouldn' be in her interests though," Sable said. "That was her job. Means she'd be responsible for making sure the money came in."
"Logically, yes, but she might report the score to explain why we didn't get the plates. If she does, she'll be on the hook for the money, but it'll also point the finger at us."
"Should probably check if the reviews are in then," Sable said. She reached down the floorboard to dig her phone out of her backpack purse. She flicked and swiped for a while, going through the newly pain-in-the-assened login procedure for the Hole-in-the-Wall app's secret backend.
"I tell you what, if we end up leavin', I ain't gonna miss this shit," Sable said. "You log in, and now they send a passcode in a text message and then you have to go back to the app and type - not paste! - but type the fuckin' combination in. And it's, like, twelve fuckin' digits, so you gotta go back and look at it three times before you can get the whole thing in. And then you gotta hope like hell you didn't mistype it or you'll be startin' all the way from the top."
Cairo's face scrunched up in empathetic frustration. She hadn't tried to log in since the day of the bank robbery so she'd yet to contend with the new two-factor authentication that the app had patched in yesterday.
"Ugh, finally," Sable said. "Reviews, reviews... Nothing from Mitty, obviously. We should report him dead." Sable opened up his profile, tapped the Reporting Options button, and notified the app of his death. His profile photo reloaded with a black and white filter when Sable backed back out.
"Nothing from Frenchy yet either. Might as well rate each other up while we're in here," Sable said. "How did Cleo do? Five, of course."
"You should at least take some points off for the utter mess I made in the lobby," Cairo demurred. She had tried to aim below the waist to minimize causalities, but there was only so much care you could take when you were shooting buckshot.
"Pffft!" Sable scoffed. "I, for one, am happy to have less cops to deal with. And they started it anyway. They got exactly what they had comin' to 'em, endangerin' civvies like that. 'Sides," Sable said seriously, "if this whole thing with Bijou doesn't pan out, we're gonna want our ratings as high as possible. Lemme have your phone so I can give myself a five."
Cairo reached into the breast pocket of her jacket and handed her phone over. After a few moments of frustrated cussing, Sable said, "There. Fresh fives. What do you want to rate Frenchy?"
"Let's wait on reviewing her. Since we don't know if she knows that we left with a score, we don't want to tip our hand or give her a reason to downrate us. We'll let her make the first move."
Sable shrugged. "Fine. What about our no-show driver? Hopscotch." Sable snorted at his codename. "Can we review him?"
"I don't see why not."
Sable brought up his profile on Cairo's phone.
"Huh," Sable said.
"What?" Cairo asked.
"Hopscotch here's got almost a perfect rating. Four point nine."
"That's impossible. That has to be a mistake," Cairo said. "There's no one way anyone has a rating that high. Especially not a guy who flakes on jobs."
Sable nibbled her lip. "What if he didn't flake on the job?" she proposed. "What if somethin' happened to him?"
"Such as?" Cairo scoffed.
"I dunno. Car accident?" Sable said. It'd be the most obvious thing.
"A four point nine driver got in a car accident?" Cairo reiterated to illustrate how absurd that was.
"He mighta had to drive through Mississippi on his way, who knows?" Sable shrugged defensively. "I just can't figure why a guy who had a score that good would fuck it up by not showin' up. It might not-a been deliberate."
"Maybe he thinks if his score is that good he can afford to ditch a job from time to time."
Sable shook her head. "Nope. His reviews would say so if he was in the habit. Nothin' but recommendations. Pfft!" Sable chuckled. "Well, this guy thinks he's an asshole, but still said he's a great driver."
"I don't care how great he was on everyone else's job. He didn't show up to ours so he gets a zero from me."
"Yes ma'am," Sable said. She gave him the score and tapped the confirmation button. His rating went down to a 4.8. Sable set Cairo's phone in the cup holder and went back to her own phone to give Hopscotch a zero from her own account. There was a new email notification on the lock screen.
Sable opened the email and read it. It was a scan of a hand-written letter from her old school friend, Desi. Sable used a mail forwarding service who would accept her mail and scan it just for Desi's letters.
Sable frowned at the contents of the letter.
"Bad news?" Cairo asked.
"Desi says they started up some call center for a phone company and they're taking him off farmwork detail to work there instead. He ain't happy about it. And he's up for parole soon too." Sable exhaled and blew her bangs out of her face. "Gonna have to tell him not to get his hopes up."
"Is the call center a pay raise at least?" Cairo asked, trying to find a bright side.
"They don't pay inmates in Texas," Sable said. She leaned her head on the window and stared out, mood soured by the news.
Cairo glanced over. That was no way to look when you were on your way to Las Vegas. Luckily, something to perk up Sable's mood was peeking over the horizon.
"Look," Cairo said when it came fully into view.
It was a simple blue sign with white letters.
Welcome to Idaho
"We're not in Buttfuck, Montana anymore," Cairo said. "Now we're in Buttfuck, Idaho!" She checked the GPS. "Just seven hundred and seventy-eight more miles before we're back to civilization."The mood was always somber when they came back from a job without a crewmate.
Everything had been going fine, tripped alarm notwithstanding. Cleo and Dixie had a decent assembly line going. Cleo was bagging up sculptures and then tossing the bags to Dixie, who in turn tossed them into their driver's van.
"Loving this efficiency, Dixie," Cleo said. "It's truly some Henry Ford shit."
"I know! I don't think I've ever seen this many bags at once," Dixie agreed. She swung another bag into the van. It landed on the pile of bagged sculptures and made both a crunching and a shattering glass sound. Dixie winced.
Cleo looked up at the sound and gave Dixie an admonishing glance.
Just then, Southern burst into the gallery. He and Nero, their crewmates on this job, were supposed to be in the lobby holding off the cops.
"Nero's just been killed! We need to leave!" he said.
"Are you sure?" Cleo asked, looking back into the lobby. If he were only injured, they had a responsibility to make an attempt to get him out of the scene.
"Positive," Southern said, climbing into the back of the van. "This antsy pig on his first day of class got spooked and shot him right through the eye. I killed him back, but we gotta go or this is gonna turn into a bloodbath."
Cleo and Dixie didn't need to be told twice. Cleo zipped up the last bag, threw it to Dixie, and jogged the rest of the way. They both climbed in, careful not to step on the bags, and pulled the doors shut behind them. Southern banged his fist on the back wall to signal the driver to leave.
The ride to the warehouse the Syndicate had provided was silent. Southern got out his phone. The light from its screen illuminated his face as he reported Nero dead in the Hole-in-the-Wall app. The pointed absence of a fourth was a reminder to the rest of them that they need to be vigilant about their surroundings. It killed the jubilation that should have come with a score so big as to be swimming in duffel bags.
Of course, the post-robbery workload of such a large score contributed to the dampened mood too. They had stolen 27 expensive sculptures from the art gallery and only broke two. Now all those sculptures had to be inventoried, individually packed, and loaded into a truck. From there, Southern - who was lead on this job - would be responsible for delivering them to the Syndicate's nearest depot.
Again, the assembly line was put into place. Cleo itemized each sculpture, making note of descriptions. Dixie would then wrap them in bubble wrap. Southern was in charge of building boxes and packing the boxes.
"You know," he said, breaking the silence, "it's not all bad. The take will be split into thirds instead of fourths. We'll all make more."
Cleo raised an eyebrow at that, but said nothing. Dixie didn't even look up from her bubble-wrapping.
"No, it won't," she told him. "His cut goes to whoever he left in his will. It's in the manual."
Southern faltered in taping the box he was packing. Cleo spied on him over her clipboard, watching his expression. He looked a little like he was struggling to swallow, but he kept working.
They went on like that for another half hour, completely quiet except for the sound of packing tape being rolled out. As such, they all heard when a car pulled up outside. All of them froze and listened. It could be the police, especially if Southern had killed one of them. There was a tacit agreement between the Syndicate and law enforcement, but killing each other made the terms hazy. The locals often took it personally.
The sound of footsteps approaching thudded through the walls. Dixie was the only one of them still carrying her weapon. She slowly hovered her hand over her revolver. They all watched the door.
The knob jiggled, but didn't open. When they arrived, they found it sat unevenly in its frame, making it hard to open and close. They hadn't been able to get the deadbolt to turn either. A moment later, the door flew open and banged against the wall, kicked in by the person on the other side. Dixie yanked out her gun out of its holster and pointed it at the intruder.
It was Nero.
He stood in the doorway for a moment, furious face scanning the room, then his head snapped to focus on Southern. Nero pulled something out of his pocket and threw it at Southern. It glinted in the fluorescent lighting as it flew through the air, seeming to unfurl a little. Then it hit Southern in the face and fell to the floor with a metallic clatter.
"Motherfucker!" Southern said, reaching for his mouth. Nero rushed at Southern and pushed him down. Southern reached out behind himself to catch himself. His mouth was bloody, cut open from the thing Nero had thrown at him which they could now see was a pair of handcuffs. Nero kicked Southern in the side. Southern tried to roll away. Nero kicked him again. And then again. And again.
All this time, Dixie still had her revolver trained on Nero. She looked to Cleo to see what she made of this.
"Nero, what are you doing?" Cleo shouted.
Nero didn't look away from the ass-kicking he was dishing out, but he explained in between kicks.
"This son of a bitch," kick, "watched me get tased", kick "and he just stood there," kick, "and let it happen."
Nero gave Southern one hard final kick in the stomach to ensure he wasn't going to be pulling any surprises. Southern curled into a protective ball.
"And then he watched them cuff me and drag me off to the police van. Didn't lift a finger. I was lucky I had my clip key on me."
"Is that true?" Dixie asked, turning her gun on Southern.
He didn't answer. He only gurgled out a moan through his mangled mouth.
"It is," Cleo said. She moved to loom over him, to look more imposing. "You thought if you let him get arrested, you'd make more money."
Southern squeezed his eyes shut and whined.
"We were lucky he couldn't carry that many bags by himself," Cleo said to Dixie.
"Well, what are we gonna do with him?" Dixie said, coming to stand over Southern too. She still had her gun pointed at him.
"We're going to ruin him," Nero said. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and opened the app, but he groaned in frustration.
"Ugh! He marked me dead so I can't review him," Nero said. Then he kicked Southern again for putting him out of his way.
"We still can though," Dixie said, whipping her phone out her back pocket. Cleo pulled hers out of the breast pocket of her jacket and they set to work.
"Watched... one of our... crewmates... get arrested..." Dixie dictated as she typed out her review with her thumbs.
"Lied to us about a crewmate dying under the false assumption that fewer surviving crewmates would net a higher cut," Cleo read aloud as she typed out a much longer treatise on the circumstances of this job.
"0.1" Dixie finalized.
"0.1" Cleo concurred. "I assume you'll be giving him a 0.1 when you get reinstated?" she asked Nero.
Nero just kicked Southern again in reply.
"Well, his career is over, but I'd feel better if he were taken out of play entirely," Cleo said, crossing her over arms and staring down at the pitiful pile of kicked ass at her feet. "He's clearly a danger to the whole profession."
"Well, you can have it quick," Dixie said, straightening her aim, "or Nero can kick you to death." Southern's eyes widened in terror. "Your choice, sugar," she said to Nero.
"I have a better idea," Nero said. He reached down for the handcuffs he'd thrown at Southern. He picked a tiny object off his belt and used it to unlock the cuffs.
"What is that?" Cleo asked.
"A clip key," Nero said. He held it out in the palm of his hand so they could see. It was a tiny - less than an inch - but functional black plastic handcuff key. It had a little clasp, so it could be clipped to clothing. "I never leave home without it." He clipped it to his belt loop and turned his attention back to Southern.
Grabbing him by the hands, Nero dragged Southern's slack body over to a support column. Propping Southern up against the column, he handcuffed the man to the post.
Nero stood up and surveyed his handiwork.
"Do you ladies have any 'incriminating evidence' that you'd be willing to part with?" he asked. "I know it's less money, but I think it's worth the sacrifice."
"Sacrifice, my ass," Dixie said. She went over the to the bags of sculptures that had yet to be unpacked and collected the two bags they had set aside. They contained the broken sculptures.
"We ain't losin' a dime over this," she said, plopping the bags down next to Southern. He looked up at Dixie miserably.
"Don' look at me like that," she said, sneering. "You play dumb games, you win dumb prizes."
"We'll call the cops on him once we get this stuff in the truck and on the way," Nero said. "I'm sure they'll be real happy to see him since someone strangled a cop on his way out of the police van."
"Wow, how'd ya do that?" Dixie asked.
"Well, if they're foolish enough to cuff you in the front, what they've really done is given you a garrote," Nero said, demonstrating how one might loop their bound hands over someone's head and strangle them from behind.
Dixie watched this pantomime and nodded her approval.
"I feel like I've learned a lot today," she mused aloud.They were in the Titanic Exhibit gift shop. There were necklaces for sale, with pendants made from supposedly genuine pieces of coal brought up from the Titanic's wreckage.
"That seems rather tasteless," Cairo commented.
"That shit's probably haunted," Sable said.a vacation for both of us," Sable said. "If you wanna see something boring, we can see something boring."Things were going quite well, if Dixie said so herself. This was the first time she had applied to be lead on a job. It earned one a ten percent bonus for taking the responsibility of seeing that the score was delivered to the local Syndicate depot. The rest of her crew were out front sweeping loose diamonds off tables and displays and into duffel bags. The diamonds were small and of mediocre quality, but the sheer quantity of them would net a decent profit. Because things were going so well, Dixie was in the back office, cracking their wall safe. She didn't expect to find anything worthwhile, but she had the time and cracking safes was what she did.
At the last tumbler falling into place, she turned the handle and yanked open the door. A stack of bills sat on top of some official looking papers. She snatched the bills out and put them in her jacket pocket: a tip on top of her lead bonus! This job was turning out real well.
Until the gunshots sounded out front.
It was not common to fire one's gun during a Syndicate job after the initial civilian scare. Even if the police showed up, they usually did not interfere directly as it could endanger civilians. The occasional hero cop might try to thin a crew's ranks with an opportunistic shot sometimes, but for the most part the agreement the Syndicate had with law enforcement kept gunplay to a minimum.
The shots fired out on the sales floor were therefore cause for suspicion. Dixie drew her revolver from her hip and peeked around the door frame.
Two of her crewmates, Selznick and Mallard, had with their weapons fixed on two other people in Guy Fawkes masks who were pointing their own guns at them. Her third crewmate, Fontaine, was curled up in a ball in the middle of this stand-off, whimpering, gasping for breath, and bleeding all over the floor. The three civilians lying in a neat row on the floor along the back wall shook in fear and hid their heads under their arms.
Dixie crept out of the office, staying low to sneak behind the display cases. Joining her crew out there would tip the scales in their favor over... whoever these guys were, but if she could manage to sneak up on the one who was standing closest...
What Dixie lacked in height and might, she made up for by carrying a massive firearm. The Ursa Striking Bear revolver was five pounds and ten inches of intimidation, a fact this V for Vendetta cosplayer realized when Dixie jammed its barrel into his back.
"Why don't you set that gun down, sweetie?" Dixie said, prodding him with her own. "Nice and easy, don't want it to go off." He bent down slowly and set his assault rifle at his feet.
"Mallard, come get this," Dixie said. Mallard came over to collect the weapon, never once taking his eyes or his own weapon off the other guy.
Once Mallard and her hostage's weapon were out of reach and the odds were significantly back in the Syndicate agents' favor, Dixie shoved her hostage. He stumbled and fell. She kept her gun pointed at him. When he turned over, she asked, "Are y'all, like, protesting the robbery?" She gestured around at the scene. "The fuck is this?"
"These guys just burst in here and shot Fontaine," Selznick said.
"Why'dya do that?" Dixie asked her hostage.
"We were gonna steal your take. Billy says it's easy to steal from Syndicate crews 'cause they're not real robbers."
Dixie rolled her eyes. She figured that much.
"No, honey, why did you shoot Fontaine," she clarified.
He seemed reluctant to answer so she pulled the hammer back on her revolver to convey her impatience.
"Billy always shoots a civilian first off," he spat out. "So they know he'll shoot any of them if they act up."
"Shut up, Charlie!" Billy said, shifting his aim off Selznick and on to Dixie. Selznick jumped on the opening and fired his shotgun at Billy, hitting him in the gut. Billy reflexively fired his rifle as he fell, and the bullet clipped Dixie's ear. Dixie's hand darted up to hold her stinging ear and she swore loudly. Charlie saw the opening and made a motion to get up, but Dixie trained her gun back on him to get him to stay down.
Selznick darted forward and snatched up Billy's rifle from where it lay next to him.
"Okay, good hustle, Selz-y, but one inch over and I would be dead," Dixie pointed out.
"Sorry, ma'am," Selznick said.
Dixie gingerly prodded her ear and hissed.
"God, there's, like, a chunk missing. That's gonna heal up pretty." But no matter. "All right, you two," she directed Selznick and Mallard, "Get Fontaine into the van. You," she said, pointing at Charlie. "You are now in my crew." She waved her gun at him in a pope-like blessing. "So start loading these bags in the van."
"Or what?" Charlie said defiantly. It surprised Dixie, as Charlie had come off pretty passive this whole time. It was annoying, given the obviousness of Or What.
"Or I will shoot you," she ground out, "and your buddy Billy here, and I won't miss like Selznick did," she said. "Chop chop, motherfucker."
Charlie begrudgingly got up and picked up a pair of duffel bags. He followed behind the rest of the crew as they carried Fontaine as gently as they could.
Dixie huffed at the ceiling and reached up to poke at the missing chunk of her ear again."All right," Sable said. "Moment of truth."
Cairo picked up the hotel phone, flipped the yellowed calling card over, and dialed the number she'd jotted down ten years ago. Sable leaned in close to hear since they weren't going to risk putting the call on speaker and being overheard.
The phone rang once. Then again. Then the click of connection.
"Good morning, Miss Laurendeau's residence," a woman's voice answered. Cairo knew this woman was definitely not Bijou. Bijou had a comically affected transatlantic accent. There was still a remote possibility that Bijou still lived there, if this woman was just answering her phone.
"Hello. May I speak to Bijou please?" Cairo chanced.
The woman on the other end was silent for a moment, then said, "May I ask who's calling?"
"Oh, my apologies," Cairo said, having forgotten to introduce herself before . "My name is Cleo."
"Cleo...?" the woman trailed, prompting for a last name.
"I see. May I put you on hold?" the woman asked.
"Yes, of course."
They waited. A moment later, an older woman's voice asked, "Hello? Bijou speaking."
Sable nearly choked in surprise at how this woman just answered so readily to her codename, not knowing who was on the other end of the line.
"Uh, hello," Cairo said, a bit startled herself. But this was Bijou. One did not forget a fake accent like that. "You may not remember me, but we met several years ago on a job. You gave me your calling card-"
"Oh, I never forget a face, darling," Bijou said.
"It was pretty dark at the time," Cairo said, positive that Bijou couldn't possibly remember her.
"We met at Mimi Vanderhausen's, correct? In 2009? We were... admiring her collection of Fabergé?"
Cairo leaned back and stared at the phone for a second. "You remember that?"
"Darling, you scared the hell out of me!" Bijou explained. "It's not often I meet colleagues while I'm working. Let alone someone quite so imposing. I thought you were on Mimi's security team until I saw you had a mask on too. So how have you been, dear? Are you still working with the Syndicate?"
"Actually, that's why I called," Cairo said. "My partner and I were thinking about leaving, striking out on our own. But we don't really know anyone outside of the Syndicate. We were hoping you might be able to help us."
"Oh dear," Bijou sighed.
"Oh dear?" Cairo asked.
"I'll help as much as I can, of course. But I definitely think you're in for an uphill battle. There's not a lot of unsigned talent left anymore."
"Surely we can scare up two crewmates," Cairo said. "We're really more worried about finding a launderer for now. We're sitting on a pretty big pile of dirty clothes and we don't have anything to wear, if you understand me."
"Hmmm. I don't know any launderers personally, but perhaps my fence does- Actually, a marvelous thought has just occurred to me," Bijou cooed. "Yesterday, he told me about this friend of his who's just come off a long-term engagement too and is looking for work. You should see about meeting him."
"Oh, uh, we're really doing more of a feasibility study at this point, not conducting interviews," Cairo tried to defer.
"Oh darling, you really must," Bijou said. "You're going to find that the world outside the Syndicate is very small. You'll want to have as many options as possible if you want to have any hope of making this work."
"I don't know. I really would rather discuss the logistics before we get anyone else involved."
"Trust me, you'll want to meet him. He's in Las Vegas right now for a car show. Go! You'll have fun, take a nice little vacation before you start this new crew." Sable perked up at the idea of going to Las Vegas. "In the meantime, I'll speak with my fence and we'll see who we can find with availability. After you speak with his friend, come up to New York and we'll figure the rest out."
Cairo didn't think now was a good time for a vacation and she didn't want to involve any more people in this conspiracy than was necessary. Sable watched Cairo's face to see what she was thinking and didn't like the conclusions she seemed to be reaching. Sable grabbed the notepad and the pen off the nightstand and scribbled out a note.
It's my birthday next week.
She held the note up and did a seated we're-going-to-Vegas shimmy because how could one argue with that?
One couldn't and so Cairo relented, giving an annoyed nod, but she smirked when Sable hopped up from the bed and did a silent celebratory happy dance. At the very least, they'd be able to launder a little of the cash themselves through the casinos to fund a decent time.
"All right, we'll go to meet this guy," Cairo said into the phone.
"Fabulous!" Bijou said. "I'll get the details and call you back."
"Thank you so much for all your help, Bijou," Cairo said.
"Think nothing of it, darling. I'm always happy to help someone get out of a bad contract."
Cairo hung up the phone.
"Vegas, vegas, veeegas!" Sable sang as she did her Vegas dance.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Cairo said in mock-annoyance. It was convenient though. She hadn't actually known it was Sable's birthday. They'd never exchanged gifts or acknowledged birthdays the whole time they'd been working together. Now that Cairo thought about it, it was sort of strange.
"How come you've never mentioned your birthday before?" Cairo asked.
Sable stopped dancing and stared at Cairo for a second before looking away.
"It wasn't that big a deal in my family, that's all," Sable said. "Grew up poor, you know? We'd have cake and all, but it wasn't that different from any other day. So I just don't think about it, I guess."
"Oh." Clearly a change of subject was in order. "Well, what do you wanna do on your Las Vegas birthday vacation then?" Cairo said, getting out her cellphone. She ran a search for Las Vegas attractions. "Look, we could see some sort of male revue called Thunder Down Under. Oooh! Or - well, I know it's your birthday, but maybe we could see The Titanic Exhibit too."
"Hey, it's a vacation for both of us," Sable said. "If you wanna see something boring, we can see something boring."