Vinnie nodded to a short, thin man wearing thick diamond and gold rings on his slim fingers as he passed through the front of the party car to the next. There were two bathrooms in the hall, just before the connecting doors, and Vinnie glanced behind him to make sure no one noticed he took neither. There was no badge reader or guard here, and Vinnie was about to say something about the door being locked. But with a simple touch of the handle the door slid open easily. Vinnie was in the connecting pass-through, and then he was in the next car.
Vinnie took another sip of his ginger ale and prayed to the train god that the ride would smooth out. “How do we get them back there?” he asked, his lips still on his glass. It was a murmur, so quiet without the tin ears Verna never would have heard even as she stood half a foot away.
The earpiece fit so snugly into Vinnie’s ear canal you couldn’t see it. At least, he hadn’t been able to see it no matter how he moved his head around in front of the mirror. Of course, there was still something jammed in his ear. It was like he had a particularly big piece of wax stuck and it was making his hearing lopsided.
Could this lovely old factory, so full of character and charm, really be the same squat, ugly thing Vinnie had walked into for the first time only weeks before? Back then it had loomed above him, like it might fall over and eat him. Today, covered in sunshine and floating in summer heat, it had become a welcoming gentle place, advertising good things. Gentle clouds drifted by above, and birds swooped around the roof. Yes, they were scrawing seagulls instead of chirping blue birds. Yes, one of them almost shit on him. But Vinnie still took them as a good omen.
The quiet, and the dark. It was what he needed. He felt his way up the stairs of the abandoned factory, back into the room where he had met everyone only hours ago. Leaving the light off, he made his way to the table using only the lights coming in through the dirty window. He sank into his chair, his head still swimming and his feet like lead. The watch on his wrist said it was ten thirty, and he stared at it trying to figure out how a wrist watch was lying to him.
Vinnie had expected the elevator doors to open to quiet, and potentially darkness. The party was downstairs, in the Grand Ballroom, and the rest of the building was just a sleepy hotel. He thought the top floor would be the most expensive rooms connected by an empty hall and he’d be able to find the men’s room in peace.
Vinnie – Face, or maybe the Face? He still wasn’t sure – had found the location of the safe. Smile had charmed their way in. Eyes had worked at the safe with obvious skill while Fist had stayed close to the door, keeping lookout. The safe had opened and for a few bright seconds they were able to look upon the fruits of their good work without fear: wallets, jewelry, and purses. The things too precious to just be left in those cheap room safes in the closets. Things owned by people who owned so much else, what was the loss of a single necklace, or a few bills?
In truth, he didn’t have to do much talking. Only the barest amount of small talk, whatever would make it appropriate for a simple touch. A hand shake. A pat on the arm. Sometimes Vinnie didn’t even have to open his mouth. The ballroom was so crowded he could pass off his hand brushing against someone as an accident.
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.
This was, easily, the weirdest first day on the job he’d ever had. Including the water park, and that first day had ended with three paramedics and a small fire. At least when he’d shown up the location had seen normal. Parking lot away from the customers, locker room, other college kids either eager or over it. The address he had walked to from the train was a factory with some old logo fading off the brick, surrounded by other factories in varying levels of disrepair.