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The bullet buried itself in the man’s chest, blood spurting from the wound.
The woman lowered the gun, calmly watching as her victim gasped and clutched his chest, his eyes pleading. She sauntered towards him, delicately tightening her black leather gloves as he collapsed to the floor. The low click of her heels on the cement floor echoed throughout the warehouse. She loved it when they did that.
“Mister Michaels, I implore you to reconsider your refusal,” she said. “I’m sure I can offer you more money for your museum’s archives.” The man wheezed and groaned, but said nothing intelligible. She offered a beauty pageant contestant’s smile, the gun dangling from her fingers. “I’m sure such treasures would be much more appreciated in the home of a private collector than sitting in a dusty old warehouse.”
She sashayed away, pulling her vapid smile back into a self-assured smirk. “Get the artwork loaded up, but check the labels on the packages.” Her lackeys, whom she had positioned in a strategic perimeter inside the warehouse, jumped to the order. “Take nothing that has less than eight zeroes at the end.”
The man on the floor emitted a strangled cry. How unusual. Knowing her shooting acumen, especially at point-blank range, he should have died already. She turned, and her victim rasped, “You won’t get away with this, you know. You’ll be caught someday.”
The woman rolled her eyes. It seemed like every other victim said something along those lines; perhaps it gave them comfort before they died.
“I highly doubt that, Mister Michaels,” she said. “You’ll find I take extraordinary care when I plan business ventures like these.”
“They’ll know you did it!” His voice grew fainter with each word. “They’ll find clues here and know that Aida Brooks did it. They’ll solve my murder and come for you.”
“Dead men tell no tales,” she said. She raised her gun and injected a bullet into the man’s skull.
The woman sneered. “That’s not even my real name.”
Years passed since that particular theft, which newspapers and blogs had named “The Great Heist” because of the bounty stolen. Over a third of the museum’s archives had disappeared in a single night, not a scrap of evidence left behind. The woman was confident she wouldn’t be caught for that, like every other crime she organized. Michaels had only been trying to get the last word, she knew.
But one day, that all changed.
One of her lackeys, a man she knew only as Gunner, burst rudely into her pristine office, as sterile as a hospital morgue.
“Ms. Brooks!” he said, as if she’d lost her hearing. She slowly lifted her gaze to him like a lazy cat watching a fly. “Ms. Brooks, it’s urgent!”
“What is it, Gunner?”
“It’s McIntyre.” He was panting as if chased by a hellhound. “Remember him?”
“He broke into the security offices on the ‘Great Heist’ job and destroyed all footage of us,” she said, absorbed in her laptop. “Of course I remember him.”
“Well, he never got rid of the footage. And now he’s just sent word that he wants a million dollars so he doesn’t leak it.”
She looked up and gave Gunner a hard stare, calculating a thousand variables at the speed of light. After several seconds, she closed her laptop, got up from her desk, and marched to the door.
“Come on, Gunner,” she said, ordering him to follow. “We have a leak to fix.”
They found McIntyre in a matter of hours, taking shelter from a biting winter windstorm in a barely-insulated shack in Montana. The woman approached it from the east and Gunner from the west, being sure to cover as much ground as they could between the two of them. The woman usually allowed her lackeys to do the dirty work; but today, someone had attempted to extort her.
She shot off the lock on the door and let herself in; a flurried movement told her she had the right place. She kept her gun raised and carefully proceeded through the one-room shack, more like a longhouse, really. McIntyre, a large, bald man, had moved to the opposite side of the room.
The woman approached him, holding the gun. “Montana? Really?” she said. “You didn’t even leave the country or figure in a three-hour flight. How did I ever hire you?”
McIntyre turned around, eyes wide; the woman relished the fear she inspired.
“Hello, Ms. Brooks,” he said, trying to keep the nervous quiver out of his voice. “Have you come to discuss the terms of our arrangement?”
She smiled. “Yes,” she said, and squeezed the trigger.
The bullet tore through his chest and McIntyre collapsed to the ground, much like poor Mr. Michaels. He lay shuddering on the ground as the woman strode up to him and shot him three more times, taking special care not to kill him. No, he wouldn’t die by gunshot: he would slowly bleed out. Nice and agonizing.
“End of discussion,” she said. She stood above him, glaring at him as if he were a stray dog who’d snarled at her.
“Will none of you ever get it right?” she sneered. “My name’s not Aida Brooks.”
She searched through the shack as McIntyre lay dying. Quickly finding every copy of the security footage he’d stolen, she methodically planned a dozen ways to destroy the data. When she’d found everything, McIntyre now lay unconscious in a pool of his own blood. The woman marched out the door without a backwards glance, where she found Gunner waiting for her, like a newborn puppy separated from his mother.
“Thank you for accompanying me this far.” They walked back to the rented station wagon.
“No problem,” Gunner reassured her. “I rather thought—”
The woman shot him in the side without hesitation.
He fell into the foot of snow, his eyes wide and brow furrowed. “Sorry, Gunner,” she said. “You know too much.” She raised her gun and shot him squarely between the eyes. Mercy, for the good ones.
She climbed into the station wagon and carelessly threw the hard drives into the glove compartment, all her loose ends from the Great Heist now accounted for—no worries.
She rooted around in the glove compartment until she found a small, creased photograph with frayed edges. It showed a little girl with wispy blonde hair, no older than seven, an oxygen tube threaded through her nose, her frail little body making the hospital bed look huge. The woman smiled at the picture, remembering how she’d delighted in all the paintings Mommy had brought home.
She slipped the photo back into the glove compartment and started the car, eager to get back to civilization and decent heating. She wouldn’t be caught for this; she’d made sure to come on a day with snow, so all her tracks would be covered, along with Gunner’s body, for some time. She shifted the car into reverse and backed onto the road, making a mental note to buy her daughter a trinket at the airport on her way home.