Professional

Nik Cariola

There was a fine line between looking like you knew what you were doing and looking desperate. Looking into the mirror, reviewing her outfit, Nik thought she was straddling the line a bit too much. Her skirt and top looked professional, but her casual vest gave an air of casualness. Her white bow and shoes accented the whole outfit rather nicely...but Nik couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that she looked a little too much like a kid trying to be an adult.

Then again, that's exactly what Nik was. A kid, trying desperately to make her mark early on, trying to establish herself, trying for some sort of release from the charade that was her life.

She needed this.

---

The outside of the pub was less than impressive. A battered old neon sign sputtered its message to those who would listen; it didn't exactly sell the place. Still, the warm glow from inside the windows told Nik that, at the very least, this was a place that was well cared for by somebody. She could respect that.

She let Jazz enter first. Though it usually infuriated her to let him look down on her or protect her, it would build up his ego and reputation with the others if he was seen as the guiding figure. That way, she could quietly observe, learn, and then make herself useful.

It was, after all, her very first con.

As Nik entered, she was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere. The firelight glinted off the walls, logs crackling merrily under the hearth. A strong smell of old spirits and older memories lingered in the air. A man (she assumed it was Harvey himself) quietly cleaned glasses behind the bar, occasionally glancing up towards the table in the corner. Nik followed his eyes and discovered another old man sitting at the table, nursing a mug. A man, younger than the first, but still old enough to be imposing, eyed her cautiously. Nik returned with a steely-eyed glance, before remembering her role and melting into a simpering smile.

Then Nik looked up and saw a wave of gold descend upon her.

"Hi there! You must be Jazz's younger sister. I'm Lara, and it's a pleasure to be working with you!"

Nik stared. This woman was gorgeous beyond the word's definition. Her blond tresses flowed easily, like liquid gold. Her eyes were like a storm cloud, ready to descend. She carried herself with the natural confidence of a leader and the springiness of a child. And that smile.

That smile that said, "I am in charge right now, so you'd best be happy about it."

Nik's chest swelled with a mix of admiration and envy. This girl had everything. This was the kind of girl Nik wanted to be. She shook the girl's hand.

"I may be Jazz's younger sister, but most people just call me Nik. That's who I am."

And Nik had never spoke truer words.

---

After settling down with a glass of cola and listening raptly to the man's tale about stolen diamonds and important people, Nik carefully watched as the group members signed on. As soon as Jazz murmured his agreement, Nik chimed in joyfully with hers. She knew she could help out with this.  While the others talked strategy, listing contacts and equipment, Nik just absorbed it. She let it sink in and become part of her knowledge base. It was vital that she be ready for everything.

After the meeting, at home, Jazz worried about her for a bit. Nik dismissed it and went to her room, eager to be free of the restrictive shoes. If he could do it, she could do it. She was every bit as capable as he, even if their skills lay in different areas. She would prove that to him.

And to herself.

The End

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