Read Uptown thief Online

Authors: Aya De León

Uptown thief (page 2)

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“You're wasting everyone's time,” he said. “We'll send someone to find the van later via GPS.”“Be my guest.” Marisol laughed. “Your repo guy can watch urban health care in action all over Manhattan. I told your girl I'd have the money for you tomorrow, and I will—in cash.”“Tomorrow morning,” the guy said. “Just this once. You need to start paying on time.”“Great,” Marisol said. “Now you and I have a verbal contract. Which I recorded on my phone. Is nine a.m. good for you?”* * *The tow guy lowered the van off the truck. Marisol put her shoes back on and handed the baby back to his mother.Nalissa, the young hothead with dyed-red hair, approached Marisol. “You remember how I been looking for business opportunities?” she asked.“I'm rushing right now,” Marisol said. “Talk to my assistant, Serena. Tell her I said you're a priority appointment.”Marisol and Tyesha watched Nalissa switch back into the clinic on high-heeled sneakers. With her extreme curves and long red hair, she was popular with the escort clients.“What does Nalissa want?” Tyesha asked. “Better bookings?”“She can smell some more hustles going on besides the escort service,” Marisol said. “I think she wants in.”“You considering it?” Tyesha asked, handing Marisol a duffel bag.Marisol shook her head. “That first award heist was a fluke, but it taught me I could trust you, Kim, and Jody,” she murmured. “The last seven or eight jobs taught me to stick with a good thing. After we get these two final ‘donations,' we'll be home free.”She said good-bye to Tyesha, and ducked back into the van with the duffel.Jody took a drag off a cigarette and blew smoke out the driver's side window. Marisol reposted the papers that the baby had pulled off the van's bulletin board. On top were two press clippings. One, dated over a year before, was about the Mexican sex trafficking scandal. It carried the photo of the eleven CEOs on the board of the fraternity Ivy Alpha, who were allegedly involved. The other article, dated eleven months before, reported that one of the Ivy Alpha CEOs had been robbed at an award after-party—details were sketchy as to what had been stolen. However, it did mention that security was able to recover the award, which had been “damaged” in the chase.“I haven't had time to check my phone,” Marisol said. She stripped out of her office clothes, exchanging them for a black turtleneck, yoga pants, and sneakers from the duffel bag. “Is Kim at the ‘donation' job already?”“We just talked,” Jody said. “Since it's snowing, she was going to move—”“Tell your girlfriend to stick to the plan and stay where I put her,” Marisol said, holding up a hand. “I'm already fourteen minutes behind schedule. Can you stay with the van until the outreach crew arrives?”“No problem,” Jody said. “I hope some dick does come for the van. I haven't given out a good ass-kicking since I left the dominatrix biz.”Marisol said, “Tell Kim that Tyesha will be there to relieve her momentarily.”Jody pointed to a pudgy, graying man in the newspaper clipping. “Give the tech CEO my love,” she said and lit another cigarette.Chapter 3Marisol looked out of the sixth-floor window. Snow obscured the visibility across East Seventy-second. She could barely discern the outlines of the windows on the building across the street, and she had no way to see whether anyone was standing on the sidewalk below. She and Tyesha had arrived in separate cabs, while Jody stayed with the van at the clinic.U in place?Marisol texted to Tyesha.All clear,Tyesha texted back.Marisol picked up her worn tool bag and got to work.Out in front of the opposite building, Tyesha made eye contact with Kim. The young Korean woman wore a hooded parka and high-heeled boots. After their eyes met, Kim walked away, letting Tyesha take over as lookout. The doorman came to shovel the curb, so Tyesha paced back and forth between two piles of snow.Three tourists exited a nearby restaurant.“Oh my God, it's snowing,” one shrieked.Tyesha watched the cab pull up in front of the building where Marisol was working. The snow muted the voices of an arguing couple that drifted out of the open cab door. They'd come back home to retrieve their forgotten theater tickets. The woman had her wallet out, platinum credit card in hand, and one rust-colored pump already planted in the snow. Her husband said they should hang on to the cab.Above, in the couple's apartment, Marisol Rivera tapped twice on the door of their wall safe. She put her stethoscope to the door and slowly turned the dial. The pads of her fingers pressed against the serrated surface of the metal. She turned it carefully to the right, then left, then right again. She breathed to calm her jitters, and listened for the safe's three-click reply. She relied on the ritual of the two-beat/three-beat call and response in clave rhythm to guide her conversation with the safe. When the door swung open with a slight hiss, she mouthed “gracias.”Marisol reached in, and pushed aside several disk drives, a stack of CDs, and a jewelry box that contained a diamond necklace set and an Ivy Alpha membership ring.Marisol's anxiety escalated as she found several stacks of papers, some kind of patent materials, but no sign of cash. Had she really masterminded this job only to find a safe full of stuff they couldn't use?The back of the safe seemed to move. The surface she had thought was the rear wall of the compartment turned out to be the back of some kind of metal box. The safe was deep, and she had to stand on her tiptoes to pull the box out. She set it on the hardwood floor and lifted the lid. She found stacks of twenty-dollar bills.* * *The woman paid the cab fare, and her husband climbed out behind her. All at once Tyesha recognized the graying man and his young wife as they hurried into the building. Tyesha had been watching to make sure the housekeeper didn't return, but she hadn't expected the owners. She snatched her phone to warn Marisol. As she dialed, one of the tipsy tourists swayed into her, knocking her phone into the snow.Tyesha leaped to retrieve it.“I'm so sorry,” the tourist wailed. “Let me help you.” She stumbled forward, spraying new powder onto the spot where the phone had fallen.“Back the fuck off me!” Tyesha elbowed her and dug into the snow.The tourist wobbled across the street to her friends, complaining about rude New Yorkers as they piled into the available cab.Tyesha tore off her leather gloves and dug barehanded, the cold biting into her fingers.* * *Marisol's own gloved hands gripped the bricks of cash as she loaded them into the oversized handbag strapped across her chest. She eased the safe shut and replaced the painting that had concealed it, a headless reclining female nude in shades of yellow-green.One of Kim's escort clients had brought her to a party here a few weeks before. Kim had bumped the painting and seen the edge of the safe.The apartment belonged to the CEO of a tech manufacturer. On the wall opposite was a photo of him with the mayor.The snow floated down past the window, hushing the noise of the city. Down the hallway, an elevator sounded a faintding.Marisol set the bag down on the living room floor, and knelt in front of the open-air vent through which she'd crawled in. She had just turned to grab the screwdriver to refasten the grate, when she saw something in her peripheral vision. It was a little model building, about eight inches high. As she turned her body for a closer look, she heard a key in the door. She grabbed the bag of cash and shoved it into the vent.The apartment was secured with three locks, which allowed her time to slide into the vent feet first. The space was narrowest just outside the apartment. Her hips and ass, the widest part of her frame, barely fit. The squeeze of her lower body had been a challenge crawling in, but it was even more difficult in reverse. She wriggled backward, pulling the grate into place. She held a flashlight in her teeth, a press-on/press-off type she could operate by biting down. She scanned the room.Three of the four screws from the vent lay brazenly exposed on the hardwood floor, just beyond the camouflaging reach of the Oriental rug. The beam of her light illuminated the flat head of one of the screws on the floor. It glinted up at her, taunting.The couple entered the apartment. Marisol bit down, extinguishing her light.“. . . And did you see her dress?” the woman said. “What was she thinking with all that pink shimmer?”The husband murmured something, and the woman said, “Honestly, I'm halfway glad we forgot the tickets. Not just because of the snow. I'd hate to walk in with her wearing some prom dress–gone–wrong.”They flipped on the living room lamp.Marisol's eyes darted from the couple's shadows on the carpet to the loose screws on the floor.“And her daughter?” The wife's voice got louder as she walked into the living room. “Did you see what she had on? Some of these teenage girls look like roadkill.”Marisol's phone vibrated. The vent lit up with Tyesha's belated warning. It rattled slightly, rumbling against the metal of the vent through the fabric of her pants. She saw the rust-colored tip of the woman's shoe through the metal slats. Marisol held her breath. The woman kicked off her wet high heels and walked out of view.What the hell had happened with Tyesha? Why was the warning text so late?“Honey, you forgot to set the alarm again,” the wife said.“I was sure I had,” he said. “Your husband is getting senile.”But he had set it. Kim had videotaped the husband entering the code while pretending to take selfies with her date.Marisol's phone buzzed again. She itched to turn it off, but her bent arms were pinned to her chest like chicken wings, holding the grate in place in front of her. Marisol's fingers gripped the latticed metal on either side of her head, the crown of which was practically pressed against the grate. Strands of her dark hair and her fingertips would surely be visible to anyone looking closely.“Good thing we came home,” the woman said. She padded across the carpet and picked up her shoes. “I had to pee and that restaurant bathroom was disgusting.” Her voice trailed away as she moved toward the back of the apartment.The screwdriver dug into Marisol's right hip. She angled her body to take off the pressure. As she did, she heard a tiny rustle of paper. Folded up in her bra was the same newspaper article from the bulletin board in the van. She carried it as a talisman.Ivy League Fraternity CEOs Cleared in Sex Trafficking CaseHouston, TX (January 17th)—A federal judge dropped all sex trafficking charges against the organization Ivy Alpha, the national men's organization whose members are all Ivy League alumni and Fortune 500 CEOs. A complaint alleged that the organization brought in young Mexican women as prostitutes at Ivy Alpha's annual conference in Houston last year, under the guise of a “dance performance.” The fraternity was charged with several misdemeanors and felonies, including child prostitution, as some of the girls involved were underage. “The hypocrisy is particularly outrageous,” said the attorney who filed the complaint. “All the CEOs have factories in the region that offer low-wage jobs to women as part of anti-trafficking efforts to provide ‘jobs with dignity' to women who have been ‘rescued and rehabilitated.'” One CEO's bookkeeper turned whistleblower when she suspected trafficking: “I requested the lodging invoice for the women since the transportation invoice clearly showed that they came early Saturday evening, but didn't leave until Sunday morning. My boss said, ‘Don't worry about it,' but I dug around a little, and it became clear that those girls spent the night in the CEOs' rooms.” Criminal charges were dropped despite several firsthand accounts by the women allegedly involved. According to the judge, the evidence was insufficient to proceed with a trial against the organization. Defense attorneys insisted that the firsthand accounts were “suspect” because “these women from Mexico would say anything in order to come to the US.” Pictured above, the eleven New York–based CEOs who are board members of Ivy Alpha.“Where did you leave the theater tickets?” the man asked.“In the breakfast nook,” the woman called back. “I used them as a bookmark.”“What time is it?” he asked, over the sound of running water. “You hate to miss the beginning of a show.”Marisol saw the woman's feet as she stepped into a pair of brown boots.“You look stunning,” the husband said. “Maybe we can have our own little show right here at home?”Two pairs of feet moved closer to each other.The woman giggled. “Easy there, big fella. I promised my brother I'd come backstage afterward—mmmmm . . .”“Well . . .” The husband's voice was low, seductive. “We can't really be seated until after intermission, sweetheart. We have at least half an hour.”“Half an hour is not enough time to get into anything naughty,” she said.“Usually it's not,” he said. “But I took a little trip to the fountain of youth.”“I thought the Viagra made your vision bluish,” she said.“My doctor got me something else,” he said. “I can see you perfectly. Can you see what I've got for you?”“Wow,” she said.The man's pants dropped around his ankles.The couple laughed, murmured, and moaned. The woman's bra fell next to her stockinged feet, and then both of their bodies sank into Marisol's view. Their foreplay continued on the carpet.The husband knelt on the rug, in front of his wife's parted thighs. He slid off the lacy beige panties below her skirt.As he lowered himself between the wife's legs, she moaned.“Am I rocking your world, baby?” he asked.“Oh yes,” she called back. “Yes!” The young wife had the practiced, breathless affectation that any pro could recognize.Marisol distracted herself by trying to guess the take from the safe. How many bricks of cash had there been? Seventy-five hundred would cover this month's mortgage payment on the clinic. But $14,750 would make payroll.Government cutbacks had hit the clinic hard a few years before, and Marisol had opened a discreet escort service to cover the $5,000 gap every month. Then, one of their private foundation supporters came under fire for funding birth control, and didn't renew their operational grant. Previously, it had been one of their most reliable income sources. Marisol kicked the escort service into overdrive, hustling to hang on until later this spring, when a different foundation would disburse a grant award for 1.3 million dollars. Her scheme was working until their biggest corporate sponsor went bankrupt. But that same week the chance to heist the first corrupt CEO practically fell into her lap. Her mother would have called it a sign from God.A hand swung into Marisol's view, almost touching the screw that lay just beyond the perimeter of the carpet. Marisol jerked and nearly banged her head against the roof of the vent. Holding her breath, she watched the woman dig the back of her fingers into the carpet. With each thrust, her little finger moved closer to the screw.“Oh God!” the woman moaned.When her hand touched the screw, she didn't seem to notice. Then they changed positions, with the wife on top.Marisol felt jagged from the tension between the adrenaline rush and the need to stay still. Her leg twitched, and she breathed to calm her system. She willed herself toward soothing thoughts, recalling the last place she felt she could really relax. She imaginedla playa, El Escambron Beach, in Puerto Rico, and being with her grandmother when she was eleven. She recalled humid nights sleeping under a mosquito net with Cristina, laughing and admonishing her younger sister not to scratch her bites, even as Marisol secretly scratched her own—not scratched, but pressed the tip of her nail on the bite, making an X across the surface of each one. Scratching broke the skin, made it bleed, invited infection. The nail press brought delicious relief, but left no trace.The sharpclacking of the woman's boot heels on the hardwood floor brought Marisol back. Back to the screwdriver digging into her hip, her cramping fingers as she held the grate, the pain in her jaw from biting down on the flashlight, and her stiffening muscles.“I just need to freshen my lipstick,” the wife said, slightly breathless. “You have the tickets?”“Got them,” the husband said.
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