Vinnie glanced at the gold and silver clock face hanging above the doors to the ballroom. It had been exactly an hour and twenty-three minutes since he had found Joey on the upper floor of that shut-down factory. Give or take a few seconds. And now, eighty-three minutes later, here he was in a nice suit and a touch of cologne, Smile draped on his arm like they had known each other for years, walking into the ballroom and trying to seem like it was a normal event for him. Not the first time he’d ever worn a suit off stage. Not the first time he’d ever been in any kind of room this nice, with people dressed in such furs and jewelry. You could just about smell the diamonds.
They weren’t here for those, though. This was not, as Eyes had put it, a ‘ballroom blitz.’ They had a singular objective, and that objective had been about all the information Vinnie had received before being told to change. Somewhere in this hotel was a safe. And in that safe was all of the things the people at this party didn’t want to show off.
Vinnie stared at the necklace the woman passing him was wearing, gold chains with a splash of what look liked real sapphires, and wondered, if that’s what she’s comfortable wearing, what is she hiding away?
“Stop staring,” Smile said in his ear, right through her eponymous grin.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I-I wasn’t looking at her chest.”
“I don’t care what you were looking at just stop staring. You look like a rube. And get rid of that blush, that’s not helping either.”
It only made him blush harder. And Smile rolled her eyes. As though it were something he could control.
“Let’s split up. I’ll take this half of the room, you take that half.”
“Work the room. Talk to people. Ask the right question to the right person and you’ll get the right answer.”
“Remember the signal?”
She kissed his cheek and then she was gone, expertly weaving through the crowd. Looking for her first mark.
What little Vinnie understood he had pieced together himself. He was the Face and she was the Smile. Both con artists, working information out of people. Eyes seemed to be on top of information. She knew how the entire building was set up, their exits, and the most likely place for the safe. And if they found the safe, she’d know how to open it. Fist was…well, his role was self-explanatory. He still hadn’t figured out what Spirit was going to do. When everyone else had been getting dressed she had taken off. She must be here somewhere, the plan was to get her the goods from the safe so she could get it out of the building. But he didn’t see her.
He did see Joey, leaning against the bar and drinking something that looked like water but probably wasn’t. Ugly relief washed through him and he crossed through the people, trying to avoid their searching looks. Did they know he didn’t belong? Why he was here? He hadn’t done anything but stare and he’d already been caught. He needed to leave. The big room was beginning to feel hot and cramped.
“Corbin, is that you?” Joey asked, too loudly, slinging an arm over his shoulder. “Corbin I haven’t seen you in months, how has it been?”
Joey pulled him closer, leaning them both over the bar. With his nose over Joey’s glass Vinnie could confirm he was not drinking water.
“What the hell are you doing? You’re not supposed to know me,” Joey said.
“I don’t think I can do this.”
“What? Of course you can. It’s easy. Especially for someone of your…talents.”
Vinnie looked down at his hands, still in black gloves. “I didn’t think you wanted me-”
“This is why I hired you.”
“Kid, we can talk when this is over. Now get out there and get the information.”
And with that Joey and his vodka-breath were gone, back turned and already deep in another conversation with the woman on his right, somehow. Back at the factory Joey hadn’t let him mention his…talents. Hadn’t even let Vinnie mention them. Maybe Joey had changed his mind, he thought, or Vinnie had misunderstood. Yes, that was what Vinnie had decided. That, despite the promises, he had misunderstood, and that Joey didn’t actually know what Vinnie could do. Everyone wants to be accepted, right? Not just the freaks?
Vinnie took a breath. And another. Finger by finger he pulled the black gloves off and tucked them neatly into his pant pocket.
You are Corbin Lecoeur. You inexplicably have a lot of money and you are mingling. You’ve played harder characters. Now, go.
Of course, with stage acting he always had lines. Direction. And what he didn’t have was a sensory overload. If he wasn’t careful he could seize. Actually, the more he thought about this…yes, this was a terrible idea. If he was smart, he would turn around and just walk out. Out of the party and down the street and to the train station and just leave it behind.
That wasn’t going to happen. Joey hired him for what he could do. Maybe it was supposed to be a surprise. Gee, Vinnie, how did you know where the safe was kept? Well, Smile, let me show you. And then they would accept him. They would all have abilities of their own. Yes, that must be what Joey was planning.
It had to be.
Vinnie took one last breath and started into the crowd.