A profesional thief gets a surprise when on the job in a hotel.
Susan Treasure knelt down in a silent hotel stairwell and unzipped a gym bag at her feet. Inside was a mobile phone, lipstick and a snub-nosed pistol. She picked it up a little way out of the bag, making sure the weapon was still concealed if someone came through the door. She turned the weapon over in her hands a few times. She had never needed to use it, and felt sure that she never would. Getting in and out without being noticed, or rather, by being noticed at the right time and in the right circumstances, was her specialty. It’s how she had earned the tabloid nickname that made her smile as she placed the gun back into the bag. I’m The Silent Storm, she smirked.
She slipped her hoodie, t-shirt and bra off her delicate frame and dropped them into the bag followed by her shoes, jogging bottoms and underwear. She zipped up the bag, shivering as she stashed it in a corner, unsure whether her shivers were down to her nerves or the intense cold. A year ago Eric would have been there, cracking stupid jokes at the wrong times and almost getting them caught. He had never been as professional as her. Maybe that was why she was still doing it after all these years.
Susan straightened up and took a deep breath. She had robbed countless flats and houses over the years, but stealing from a hotel suite was a new ruse and the first one she had planned herself. She twisted her wedding ring, the only thing she now wore.
Satisfied her bag was safely hidden Susan expertly adopted a flustered expression before pulling open the door to the lobby and running, covering herself as best she could, to the nearest man at the front desk.
“Hello madam, how can I help…? ” The man tailed off as he looked up, his blanched face accompanied by a loud gulp.
“I’ve been locked out of my room, please can I have the key, quickly! I’m in the penthouse.”
Susan could see in the enormous mirror behind the desk that everyone in the lobby was now staring at her, whispering behind their hands.
The receptionist slowly unhooked a key from a rack under the counter, his eyes still fixed on Susan’s curves, and handed it to her saying, “Here you are, miss.”
“Thank you,” said Susan tartly, snatching the key out of his hand and causing the man’s eyes to flick downward. She hurried back through the doors to the stairwell where she retrieved her bag from the corner and quickly redressed before starting up the stairs. There was no way she was getting caught in a lift with a bagful of somebody else’s valuables, or stand in a brightly lit box in full view of a snooping security cameras. It’s basically like getting your mug shot taken a day early, she thought.
Fifteen minutes later Susan had reached the top floor, her legs burning. She unlocked the penthouse door at the end of the corridor. As she walked inside she was reminded of the way Eric used to say “Bada-bing” whenever they were “in”. She smiled, but it swiftly turned to a frown when a small panel on the wall to her left started beeping. Susan deftly punched a few buttons and the alarm blinked green. That was easy, she thought, I guess I still got it. Susan pushed her hood back and looked around.
She was in the living room. A bright orb in the middle of the ceiling cast a harsh light. There wasn’t a shadow in sight except for Susan’s, which stretched down the narrow hall behind her. The walls were bare except for a large, bland painting of the ocean, exactly the type of art that was guaranteed never to offend anyone.
She poked her head into every room of the suite before returning to the front door. It was deserted, just as she had thought it would be at midday on a Monday, but she had to check. Thick blue carpet washed into every room and seemed to be spilling out of the impressive floor to ceiling windows, framed by clashing white curtains.
With the strangest sense of déjà vu Susan walked around the living room, swinging her bag and darting from cabinet to shelf, dropping valuables, trinkets and electronics into her bag.
Her mind continued to fall back on Eric, and how much fun they had used to have when they worked together. The whole arrangement had been his idea. The day before their wedding on a rainy Sunday afternoon he had said that with her intelligence and his complete disregard for the law they could do something really special. And they had, for a while. They had been unstoppable; no job was too big. But a year ago Eric had stopped going with her, contenting himself with planning the heists and counting the money. As much as she loved him, a quiet part of Susan hated him sometimes. It would flare up when they chatted over breakfast or materialise when they were sketching out a job. Thanks to him there was no way she could enjoy a ‘normal’ line of work. This was her life now whether she liked it or not.
Susan walked into the bedroom and looked around. Luxurious wallpaper enveloped the walls and the bed looked soft enough to swallow her whole. Linen curtains swished gently in front of delicately tinted windows. She walked around the bed to check the nightstand. In her experience people often left a few prizes there.
As she drew closer she felt sure that she recognised one of the rings in a glass bowl on the tiny table. Susan picked it up and turned it over in her hands. How funny she thought, that looks just like Eric’s wedding ring. She fished out a necklace and some change and then looked back at the ring before smiling, placing it back in the center of the bowl on it’s own.
She pulled open the table’s only drawer and the smile dropped from her face.
It had been almost an hour since Susan had found Eric’s lighter in the end table and she still couldn’t believe that she had let love blind her. She sat on a corner sofa in the living room, turning the lighter over in her hands. She had bought it for him only a few months earlier and his name, which was etched on the lighter’s handsome case, flashed irritatingly.
Neither her nor Eric had ever been honest people. It was one quality that had drawn them together in the first place. Even telling passers-by in the street the wrong time had used to give them a thrill. But she had never, for a moment, thought to keep an eye on him. Never once had it crossed her mind that he could outsmart her. I need to know what’s been going on under my nose, she thought.
The sound of a key being turned in a lock reached Susan and she crossed her legs, reclining further into the comfortable sofa, turning her face to the door.
Eric entered the room, laughing, a phone pressed to his ear. He was slim, wearing a powder blue suit that made his dark brown eyes sink into his head. Susan raised her gun and pointed it at him.
“Hello, Eric.” He jumped almost a foot in the air before clutching his chest, leaning on the wall and staring at the woman perched in his living room.
“Suzie,” he gasped, “what are you-?”
“Robbing you. But that doesn’t matter now. Now, I just want one thing from you. Answers.” She gestured at the sofa with the gun. Eric dutifully sat opposite her. “So,” said Susan in clipped tones, “what’s all this?” She waved the gun around, and flashed a shark’s grin in Eric’s direction.
Eric placed his hands on his knees and let out a long breath. It stretched across the room and slapped Susan in the face, a foul mixture of alcohol and what Susan suspected was the stench of an impending lie. “Well, I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Susan’s face slackened. “A surprise? Well I’m very fucking surprised, so keep talking.” She raised the gun at him again, narrowing her eyes.
“Whoah, can you put that down,” he said, shuffling in his seat. “Look. This place. It’s our retirement home.” Susan’s grip weakened a little on the gun’s clammy handle. “Babe, last year I started thinking that we’ve done so well for ourselves we can stop. Put it behind us. Start again and live comfortably for the rest of our lives, together.”
Susan’s eyes had begun to water. I can’t believe it, she thought. A bubble of excitement burst in her mouth and she grinned. “Really?”
“Of course. So, this isn’t exactly how I wanted you to see it, but what do you think?” said Eric, standing up and waving his arms around.
Susan had forgotten everything that had happened before now. “I love it!” she cried, flinging her arms round Eric’s neck and kissing him hard on the mouth. “It’s perfect. Let’s celebrate! Let’s have a drink.” She danced into the kitchen and opened a few cupboards before finding two glasses. She slid a bottle of wine out of a rack above the stove and poured two generous measures, the fruity aroma lifting her spirits to dizzying heights.
She looked up at Eric. He had made two small steps and stood beside the sofa where Susan had been sat moments before. Her gun was clenched in his right hand and it was pointing at her.
“I can’t believe you swallowed that,” he scoffed, plucking a pretzel from a bowl on the glass coffee table. “I thought I taught you better.” Susan’s heart shriveled. Rage boiled in her veins, and it felt like every capillary was pressing against her skin, branding her with white-hot anger. “You didn’t really think you’d disabled my alarm, did you? All you did was send a message to my phone telling me there was an intruder.” Eric popped the pretzel he had been holding into his mouth and crunched it. The sound made Susan wince. “And ten minutes before I came in here I called the police and reported a burglary. I’ve even left the door open for them.”
“I don’t understand-”
“Why?” said Eric, “well, it’s all very simple really.” He pushed his tongue against the edge of his teeth and sucked in a breath. “I never loved you. Never really even liked you. But,” he added, winking at Susan, “you were one hell of a thief.” Eric reclined in the sofa and called out, “You can come in now Beth.”
Susan was still reeling in the kitchen but upon hearing another woman’s name she focused on the front door. A sallow face with cheekbones that gave her eyes the piercing quality of a sparrow pushed its way inside.
“You do look sexy holding a gun, babe.” She slinked over to Eric and pulled him off the sofa with manicured hands. She pointed her toes so that she was breathing in his ear and said, “Tell her the rest.”
“Ah yes,” said Eric, “there were a couple more things I have to tell you. This suite is a retirement home, but not for you. I’ve been siphoning money out of our joint account for years, so that me and Beth can be together.” They shared a disgustingly warm look. “And the best part is, it’s in your name. I couldn’t have the payments traced back to me. So, I suppose thanks are in order.” Eric broke away from Beth and walked towards Susan. She backed away from him into the corner of the kitchen but all he did was lift the two glasses of wine that she had poured, the gun hanging off his thumb, and walk back to Beth. He handed one to her and turned to face Susan, raising his glass. “Cheers.”
The front door flew open accompanied by loud shouts of, “Police!”
Eric smiled dolefully once more at Susan and opened his mouth to speak.
“Yes, there they are!” Susan screamed at the top of her voice, “Please, help me!”
“Nobody move!” one of the policemen shouted, taking a knee and sticking out his tongue to keep Eric’s head directly within his crosshair.
Susan, Eric and Beth all began shouting at once, but it was Susan’s pitch-perfect hysterics that were heard most clearly above all else. “Officers, it’s him! Look, he has a gun!”
Eric glanced at the gun in his hand and looked as if he was going to cast it aside. Instead, he took a firmer hold and shouted, “No, no! I’m pointing it at her. She broke in here!”
Two of the officers were now pointing their guns at Eric. “Just put the gun down sir. If I ask the manager who this room belongs to, what will I learn?”
“It’s in my name!” shrieked Susan, jumping up and down, “You can check!”
The third policeman swung his weapon around and aimed it at Eric.
“Sir, put the gun down,” said the first policeman, “we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Eric was now floundering, raising and lowering the gun by a few inches every few seconds, his eyes darting around the room. “But…this…she…” Words were failing him. Susan knew there was only one thing he would do now. Eric raised the gun a final time, leveled it at Susan, and fired. A metallic click echoed throughout the room. Before all three policemen blasted Eric through the window beside him he looked at Susan and she grinned. Pity you didn’t know it wasn’t loaded, eh babe? She thought. Susan indulged in the smile a few moments longer before Beth’s screams returned her to the room. “Thank you officers,” Susan said, “that was touch and go for a minute there.”
The following morning Susan was alone in the flat. The police had said they would be back today to take statements after Susan had “recovered from the shock.” She stood at the broken window that Eric had fallen from with a cup of coffee and looked out at a much brighter day. She pulled Eric’s lighter out of her pocket and threw it out the window. She sipped her coffee and walked over to the sofa, stretching luxuriously on the soft material. She had been pondering all night how she felt about the fact that he was gone, and had come to the conclusion that she didn’t care. She was even glad. I can start my life all over again, she thought, grabbing a newspaper off the coffee table and flicking to the wanted ads. An IT consultant? Probably not, she thought. Susan sat back and looked at the page full of ordinary, work-a-day, monotonous jobs and grinned. She couldn’t wait.