Adam gathered the first three sacks from the steel shelf into his arms. The canvas caught on his uniform’s buttons, and threatened to dislodge the badge pinned to his left breast. Giving the bags a glare, he headed up the steep stairwell, out of the underground vault, and into the vacant alley.
Trotting up the armored van’s waiting gangplank, he strode the length of the interior, and then bent at the knees, depositing the sacks onto the cool metal floor. The hush of dollars blended with the muted tumble of coins as the bags listed under their own weight. Standing, Adam swung his arms, encouraging his blood flow, and then gave his shoulders a rub as he made his way to the van’s gaping exit.
Trundling to street level, Adam stared into the vault. The eagle in the Mint’s seals on the crates and sacks glared with accusing eyes. Adam smirked and gave them a mock salute, before descending for another armload.
He had three shelves gaping, rivets exposed, by the time the dawn cast another shadow upon the alley. A corresponding pair of shoes scuffed loose pebbles.
Inside the van, Adam froze by the collection he’d gathered. He transferred the sacks he held into one arm, and put his back to the new presence. While his bicep burned beneath the load, he drifted his free hand to the pistol holstered at his side.
“Adam?” Walter’s husky voice crackled with early morning fatigue.
Blowing out a breath, Adam grunted his greeting. Without turning, he lowered the bags into place, fitting the lumps against one another like jigsaw puzzle pieces, and hiding the tell-tale labels from wandering eyes. “You’re late.”
“I thought I had a tail leaving the apartment,” said Walter.
Scowling, Adam rose. “Did you?”
“Would I have come if I did?” Walter leaned one bulbous shoulder against the van’s frame, and stuck his hands into his uniform’s pockets. “Anyway, you’re early.”
“You know we need to get this done before the morning deliveries.”
“It’s Sunday, we’ve got time.”
Swallowing his grumbles, Adam retraced his steps, stormed down the walkway and descended into the vault.
From the alley, Walter leaned over the opening. “We’ve got what? Three shelves left?”
“Four,” said Adam, wincing as Walter’s voice bounced on the steel.
“This was really brilliant you know.”
“Pat yourself on the back once we’re out of here.” Adam gathered another armload, and started up the stairs.
Backpedaling, Walter checked his watch. “Want some coffee?”
“I want some help,” said Adam, tugging canvas from his button.
“We’ve got time. You’re just being paranoid.”
“We got over ten million here, and you’re snapping at me for being paranoid?”
Walter shrugged. “You know how my shoulder is.”
A twang raced up Adam’s spine as he walked into the van. “Fine, just hurry and try not to get noticed. Large black. No cream.”
“Great,” said Walter. “Be back in no time.”
Adam snorted, and deposited his bundle, before heading back for more.
As he dropped off the first half of the next to last shelf, a pair of sneakers squeaked against the asphalt.
“About time,” said Adam. He wheeled from the stack of bags, and then stopped, his body rigid as stone.
In the cold illumination spilling out of the vault, a curved figure stood, her body softened by the morning light. She lifted a hand to her brow, as if to help her peer into the gloom cast by the van. The plastic bracelets on her wrists tinkled like shattered glass. “Excuse me?”
Adam licked his lips as sweat popped out at his hairline. “Yes?”
“I was wondering if you could help me.”
Adam cracked his knuckles, one by one, in rhythm with his mounting pulse. He glanced at the collection behind his back and then scrubbed a sudden twinge at his neck.
“It’d just take a minute,” she said. “I’m afraid I’ve locked myself out of my car.”
“Don’t you have a spare key?”
“Yes.” She settled her hands on her hips. “But it’s with my no-good Ex.”
“It’s out of battery.”
“We’ll, I’m not sure how much I can help.”
“Isn’t that a toolbox or something?”
“Yeah,” said Adam, spotting the box by the mouth of the van.
“Then maybe you could pry it open. Would you mind trying? I haven’t seen anyone around this morning and I really want to get out of here.”
Dropping his head, Adam hid his grimace. “Sure, sure.” He strode down the van’s bed, and along the walkway, keeping his gaze locked on his dress shoes. Without looking up, he turned, and hefted his toolbox. “Where is it?”
“Just around the block.”
“Okay. Hold on.”
He yanked closed the van’s back door, and snapped shut the steel lid of the vault before activating the keypad. Fishing out his keys, he locked both.
“Isn’t that the bank?”
“Yeah.” He winced again, but motioned for her to lead on.
“My name’s Casey, by the way.”
“Oh.” She waited another heartbeat before heading around the van’s bumper, and traversing the narrow alley and along the main boulevard with a wobbling gait.
Adam followed, his gaze locked onto her dagger-heels and the shapely pair of legs flowing up into parts he kept himself from exploring. Instead, he tightened his grasp on the toolbox’s handle and silently cursed his chivalry.
“Here we are.” She halted by a scarlet Corvette, hugging the curb.
Adam set the box onto the sidewalk, crouched, and flipped the latches. Sifting through the top layer, he then dove into the deeper compartments until he found his lock pick kit. After inspecting the car’s key hole, he retrieved a jagged rod from within the leather wallet. “This shouldn’t take long.”
“Here,” she said, waggling her driver’s license and insurance card. “I don’t want you to think I’m trying to steal it or anything.”
Adam skimmed the plastic. The name Casey MacDonald was printed next to a comely portrait of a five foot 8 inch, one hundred and thirty pound, twenty-one year old brunette with blue eyes. The other gave matching car details. “Looks good to me.”
“I just want to keep this on the level.”
“You seem like an honest person,” said Adam, swiveling to face the door. “Just one with a locked up key.”
“Yeah, that’s me. Brilliant as always.”
She stood behind him, fabric rustling and bracelets clinking as she swayed to a softly hummed tune. Putting his concentration on the lock, Adam slipped the rod in and jiggled the metal, identifying each groove. A twist later, and the bolt flew back. Standing, he grabbed the handle and opened the passenger door.
“Wow that was fast. It’s like you’ve done this before.”
Without responding, Adam stowed his tool, and zipped the case.
Casey stepped close, and laid one hand on the door frame. Her proximity wound tendrils of alcohol into Adam’s nostrils, twining with the remains of her perfume and a salty film of sweat.
Adam widened his eyes as he found himself staring into hers. Her bleached smile glowed in an oval face warmed by a chemical tan. A gauze overshirt covered a snug tank top and matching miniskirt, both tight enough to leave little else to the imagination.
Forcing his gaze to his toolbox, Adam squatted, stowed the kit and clasped the latches. He seized the handle, and rose.
“You know,” said Casey, twining a finger through her tousled ringlets. “You’re face seems familiar. Have we met before?”
“No,” said Adam, gazed latched on her heels.
“Are you sure?”
“I’d remember yours.”
She released a warm chuckle. “Well Adam,” she said, offering an oranged hand. “Thanks for the rescue.”
Adam wiped the sweat from his palm onto his navy-blue slacks, before clasping her smaller hand in his rough fingers. “No problem.” He found himself staring into her eyes again. Breaking free, he released her hand and looked toward the alley’s opening. “I should get going. Work you know.”
“Right. Thanks again.”
“Glad I could help.”
Adam turned, bent on the waiting van but Casey rested her fingers on his forearm, exposed from his rolled sleeves. Her touch halted him in his tracks.
“Maybe when you’re done, we can get a cup of coffee or something?”
The street lights flickered out as the morning waxed, and spurred his retreat along with his sprinting heartbeat. Adam quickened his step as he neared the van, tossed the toolbox into the bed, and then double-timed his efforts.
He nearly leapt when Walter appeared, carrying a cardboard tray holding two cups and greased bags promising pastries.
“We got to get out of here,” said Adam, hurrying down the stairs. “Now.”
“No one recognized me,” said Walter.
“Not you. Me.”
Walter set the tray onto the van’s floor, and lumbered into the vault. “What’d you do?”
“Helped open a door from some girl,” said Adam, rushing up the stairs and into the van.
Grunting, Walter hefted the last two sacks. “Did she remember you?”
“I don’t think so. Said I was familiar though. Might have seen me in the club when we were thinking of digging before you got the camera codes and keys.”
“And you yell at me for being clumsy.”
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s just get this out of here before she comes back.”
Walter panted up the walkway, and added the bags to the collection. “Comes back?”
“Yeah, she said we should get coffee or something when I’m done.”
“Not good, Adam, not good.”
“Fine, next time I’ll get the coffee and you can say no to a pair of legs in distress.”
Walter snickered. “We’ll make it work. We’ve gotten this far.”
“When I’m on a beach in Colima, I’ll be happy.”
“Sounds good,” said Walter.
Plodding out of the van, Walter scooped up the breakfast tray while Adam shoved the toolbox inside and closed the retractable door. After shutting the vault, activating the keypad and locking the doors again, he joined Walter in the van’s front cabin. The engine rumbled to life, and Adam held his breath as he drove out of the alley.
He flipped the blinker to go left, and then merged into the empty street. In his side mirror, he spotted the Corvette, lingering by the sidewalk.
Without letting up on the gas, Adam drove on.
“Here,” said Walter, handing over the larger cup once they’d reached the highway heading south. “First drink’s on me.”