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Behind Closed Doors
"Mr. Pollock has $421,646 waiting for you. What do you do?" Malcolm was leaning in far too close now, his odor a constant reminder of the latest diet fad, garlic smoothies.
Rosa leaned back and stood up abruptly to distance herself from him. Her reaction was far from subtle and yet he did not take offense. The relationship was purely professional and of necessity; they were not afraid to show their dislike of each other.
"I take it," she answered him. "Ask questions later."
"No!" Malcolm's impatience was ill-concealed. "The deal's for half a mill; that's what we're in for, that's what we're getting!" He held out the Ray Bans case to Rosa, his face set hard as cement, revealing nothing but his determination for this, his last hustle, to succeed.
She took the case. "So, you want me to stand there and, what, count the money? I don't think so." As she went on, the faint rattle of the diamonds inside could be heard. "If Pollock is shortchanging us, he's hardly likely to tell me by how much. If he's short and I'm really the naive mark we need him to think I am, then I can't start questioning his honesty, can I?"
Rosa noticed Malcolm was tapping his heel on the floor. She nodded towards it and smiled. "Nervous much?" She would have added "big boy", but felt it was best not to antagonize him any further.
His leg stilled in an instant and he looked up at her sharply before saying, almost too calmly, "Just get the money. You get the money and you wait for him to leave. Remember, he's got to leave first. We don't want pretty boy deciding to follow you back up."
A red light flashed, and they both turned toward it. One of the small motion sensitive cameras hidden on the lower level had been activated. Malcolm saw the man himself on the monitor. "Right, this is it," he said, hustling his accomplice out into the hallway. "We're in this for the big money now, Rosa. Don't screw it up."
Malcolm closed the door and sighed a jagged and drawn out breath, evidencing both his relief and his anxiety. The plan was under way and there was no turning back. He flexed his ankle as he thought of the utility knife hidden in his boot. Once Rosa was in the elevator, Malcolm would run to the stairwell. He could only imagine how her face would register surprise at the unexpected attack in the dark, empty garage. If his aim was true, she would not even have time to cry out. But for now, he leaned his forehead against the door, one eye squinting, as he waited for the elevator to close behind her.
The door closed and Rosa drew a deep breath, smiled, and pressed the button to begin her descent to the lower level garage, where Mr. Pollock, her true accomplice, now waited. Knowing that Malcolm would be watching every moment of their exchange, she tried to clear her mind as much as possible, so that when Mr. Pollock punched her and escaped with the briefcase, as they had planned, her stunned reaction would appear genuine. She only hoped he could manage not to break her nose.
As Malcolm took the stairs two and three steps at a time, and Rosa stood in the elevator, staring blankly at the numbered lights counting down the floors, no one was in the room to observe the grey light of the monitor as Mr. Pollock briefly examined a small pistol and concealed it again within his jacket.
And with the sounding of a bell to announce its arrival, the elevator doors opened.
Trena Taylor is a member of Zokutou, a writing group that formed during the 2002 NaNoWriMo in London. The group has produced several anthologies. Trena won bronze in the fall 2003 Three Cheers and a Tiger contest. E-mail: tntaylor101[at]hotmail.com.