I flexed my long, nimble fingers, waiting for Sergio's signal. Arms and legs tensed, keeping me lodged in that dark ceiling corner, I kept my ears trained on the obnoxiously loud footfalls of the night guard swell, stop in the entryway, then fade.
Stupid guard. Did he really believe he was being quiet?
Sergio's head popped from the air vent. He made the familiar sign to me: The alarms are disconnected, you have thirty seconds to grab and go. I nodded, dropping silently to the floor. With a skillful knee bend and the proper footwear, anything was possible.
I pressed my fingers around the glittering object. It didn't really matter what it was. Get in, get out, don't ask questions. That was my mantra. I couldn't grow attached to the objects. They were merely part of the job.
I signaled to Sergio to help me up. He let down a line, I hooked it to my back. He hauled me up into the vent. We made eye contact, nodded, and we slithered out the way we came.
"Well, IS, you did it again!" Alonso cried.
"Good on ya!" Roger congratulated.
"New record, no?" Wally asked, clapping my shoulder.
Sergio and I returned to the lair to acclaim, high fives, and back slaps of our compatriots.
Sergio held up his hands, smirking. "Now now, you all know it doesn't mean a thing until the boss gets it, right?"
"Oh, of course!"
"Everybody make way for Sergio the Successful and Irena the Incredible! They must see Mariano the Mighty!"
I laughed as we mounted the stairs.
Sergio knocked on the door down the hall. We waited for the resounding grunt from within. He knocked again.
"Yeah, yeah, who is it?" a deep voice growled.
"Boss, it's IS," Sergio replied.
"We're back, Boss," I added.
"Ah! C'min, c'min!" The door creaked open. We slid into his cavernous, cluttered room. There were knick-knacks everywhere, both waiting to be shipped to our clients and those traded for our services. Or just other chotchskys Mariano had collected over the years.
"Y'got it?" he asked lazily, leaning back into a dilapidated chair. I reached into a hip pouch and pulled out the sparkling item. I set it on his desk and backed away slowly, awaiting the verdict. He examined every cut and every facet of it at least twice. I longed for the keen eye for detail he had. But "I had potential," he constantly insisted. I was "coming along nicely," he said. And I believed it. Why shouldn't I believe the man who'd raised me from the streets, given me a home, offered me opportunities?
He nodded, satisfied. "You've done it again, IS. Irena, Sergio, you two are the best I've seen in years. Well, well done. I'm sure our client will be very, very pleased."
"And I'm sure the payment'll make us all pleased, eh?" Sergio asked. Mariano laughed.
"Of course, of course!"
A good life, this was, the life of a thief.