The Ins and Outs

When I was little, I did it one time.  I was about five if I ‘member right.  I had yelled out and held my hands to stop… something, I don’t remember.  I do remember, I’m lying.  But it’s not important right now.  What’s important is that I had stopped… time.  For a good five minutes.  It felt like five minutes, might have been less.  It was enough time for me to grab my scissors from my art desk and stab the something.  It was enough time for the eyes of my mother to go from mild disappoint to horrified.

I was suddenly a monster to her, to the something.

And I never felt so free when they screamed that title at me.

“Put these on,” he said, handing me a pair of black boots.  It was our 3rd job of the year.  I watched him, watched his face.  His dark brown eyes scanned his duffle bag, his 5 o’ clock shadow slowly turning into 8:15. His brown skin had several scratches on his face, from mishaps with being too close to demolitions, even if they were small.  He loved it, however.

“Gets the adrenaline up, makes everything speed up a bit,” he told me when I asked him why he didn’t duck behind cover sometimes.

I slide the boots on, lacing them tightly, tucking my heavy black jeans into them.

We were a two-person team, hired by one of the more known, but still lesser known, bosses that ran the city.  We’ve been working for this boss for 10 jobs now.  We have never met them, but our old boss had given us a recommendation and we were hired.

Are quick and resourceful are usually what are on our “reviews” when we turn in our work and our cuts are deposited into our money apps a week later.

This job would take us to the Outskirts of the country.  We sat quietly in his car as he drove, the Bosley of this “firm” talking to us through the Bluetooth dashboard.

“Small blue building on the left-hand side, we tested this simulation on the floor last week, but let’s run through it again,” the nasal voice said through the speakers.  I rolled my eyes, leaning my head against the cool window.  My partner kept one hand on the wheel, one hand on his chin as he half listened to Bosley.

We were to arrive in the Outskirts around the time the building would be closing.  We would park several blocks down, so by the time we walk up to the building, the last employee should be leaving the parking lot.

“As soon as you no longer see their car, you–”

“Yes, yes, we know!” my partner said through his teeth, but quietly.  We were still on probation and we had to get on their good side by shutting up and doing our jobs.

“Understood?” the man on the call asked, finally finishing the call.

“Understood,” I replied, hanging up the call.

“Dear god, you think they’d let us handle it by now,” my partner said, driving onto the freeway, turning up the music in the car.

“This might be the last time they’ll check up on us,” I said quietly, rechecking my boots. It was a habit ever since our very first job, but I’ll get to that eventually.

“I’d rather they just let us work,” he grumbled, speeding out of annoyance. I nodded, unbothered by his irresponsible driving.  I smirked a bit and looked over at him.

“Maybe on our way out, we can you know…” I said, winking at him.

He looked at me and licked his lips, putting the pedal to the metal and pushing his car to her limit, hands going 10 and 2.

“I love when you threaten me with good times,” he said, cackling, weaving in and out of traffic.

We arrived just as the sun was starting to hide behind the hills of the Outskirts.  It was mildly populated out here, the city outside the city where the tourists go.  If the city of Imani was only so big and the Outskirts was the city for the people who didn’t want to pay for (or couldn’t) the more pricey hotels.  This particular street was empty, empty buildings and business littering the road.  We checked our gear, pulled on our hats and grabbed our bags as we got out the car.  I walked in front, he walked 10 steps behind.  I came to a stop, pretending to relace my boot as I looked up.  2-3 elderly women were leaving the blue building.   I squinted a bit, watching these blue-haired biddies giggle and titter about some old people bullshit as they got into their cars.

Get in the safe, the case and get out,” was the end goal, but why would a bunch of old ladies have anything to do with this?  I stood up and glanced back, my partner absently on his phone, “looking” lost.  He walked over to me and held his phone up to me, as if to show me a map, but it was just a pile of food he was ordering for after the job was done.

“You ass,” I said, scrolling through the list, adding an extra item to things he already ordered.

“Should be pulling up to the apartment when we do,” he said when I handed the phone back to him so he could finish the order.

“That means we got about 10-15 minutes to get in and out,” I said, watching the last car pull out the parking lot and drive away.  I smiled, pulling my hat down into a mask.  My partner did the same, grabbing my hand.  We took a deep breath.  I tossed my free hand out in front of me, a small breeze escaping my palm.  The breeze grew into a wind, a whirlwind, as it brushed against every and anything around us.  The noise around us slowed, coming to a complete stop after a few moments.  A stray dog behind us was frozen in time as it trekked through an empty yard; a group of children playing in the street three blocks down hovered in mid-air as they jumped over a fallen tree.

He took a deep breath behind me.

“It never gets any less creepy,” he said, letting go of my hand, his fingers lingering against mine for a moment too long; that was new.

“How do you mean?” I asked, quickly walking toward the blue building.

“You can just hear your own blood pumping is all,” he said.

We dug through our prospective bags, pulling out our tools for the job.

“I’ve never noticed,” I said to him, leaning against the building as he put on a welding mask and turning the gas on for his torch.

“Yah, well, you’ve been doing this all your life, so…” he snapped back at me before turning on his torch and holding the flames up to the keyhole.  I shrugged and looked away, noticing a hawk coming to swoop down on an unsuspecting squirrel.  I’ve always wondered what everything looks like from people stuck in time.  Does everything just go on like normal?  If I walked near someone, would they just see something like a hallucination?  A shadow?  Slenderman?  It didn’t matter.  They would just continue on with their lives unless we interacted with them directly.

The torch suddenly shut off and he lifted his mask.  “We’re in, you’re up,” he said to me, putting his gear away.  I made sure my gloves were on properly before touching the door and pushing it open.  If there was an alarm, it wouldn’t go off until time started back up.  I sniffed.  It smelt like every elderly lady’s home I’ve ever been in in my 24 years of life.

“Case, safe, out,” I mumbled to myself, looking around the common area.  Needleworks and puzzles sat on tables, magazines and books were neatly stacked on a wide bookshelf.

“What could possibly be in here?” I ask myself, looking at a magazine from 50 years ago.  I walked into the kitchen, peeking into the fridge.

“Must be a community center for old biddies,” I grumble, frowning at all the old-fashioned TV dinners.

I look around the three other common areas, nothing.  I put my hands on my hips, scratching my head.

“HEY, we have 5 minutes, what are you doing in there!!?”  he yelled at me from outside.

“Shut up, shut up,” I whisper to myself, looking around this last room before I noticed something that didn’t quite fit the decor.  To the right, the wall had been painted, but a small crack was still showing.  I knocked on it.  Hollow.  Bingo.  I punched into it, the wall falling apart with ease.  Inside this hidden cubby, sat a suitcase, I take it and rush out the building, my partner closing the door behind me before he chased after me.  As we ran down the street to his car, the hawk’s wings slowly started to flap again, the squirrel’s tail slowly twitched.  The dog yards away started to dig a hole at almost normal speed.  The children three blocks down finally came down from their jump and ran across the yard screaming in joy.  We got into the car and took off passed the blue building, a shrill alarm going off.

We sped along the freeway, my eyes scanning the cars.  His hands were on the steering wheel, 10 and 2.

“There,” I said, nodding to a cop car “hidden” behind the barrier.  A grin suddenly spread across his face, his eyes suddenly wild.  This was the part of the job he loved doing; the speeding.  We first met in his car, during the first solo job that I had fucked up.  He put his hands on the stick, his hand still on the wheel fingering a button on it.

We were 200 feet from the cop car before he lightly tapped the button and shifted upward as he slammed on the gas.  I cackled loudly as the cop car suddenly swung out of its spot as we did 165.  He hooted and hollered, weaving in and out of traffic, lagging a bit so the cop could see the car but not the plates.

Our police scanner suddenly went wild.

He smiled at me.  I buckled up. He tapped the button again.  205.  The cop car was slowly disappearing and by the time we got to 220, the car was gone.  He drove down the freeway, zipping passed honking and frightened drivers.  Police scanner told us they had a roadblock ahead.  We laughed loudly as he drove the car onto the shoulder 3 miles before the roadblock and backed into a hidden garage made from the overpass above us.

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