I made my way quickly up the stairs and opened doors until I found a locked one. I put my lock picks to use again and closed the door behind me as I slipped in. It was bright enough outside that I didn’t need a light, but it was dim. I stood still, counting my breaths as my eyes adjusted to the lower light. When I was ready, I slipped my heels off, set them by the door, and went to the dresser. I made quick work of the drawers and single nightstand. Nothing. I went to the closet and scanned the top shelf. I didn’t see much of anything. I glanced at my phone. Eleven minutes left. I was getting slow.
I stepped back and closed my eyes, going through the room’s floor plan in my mind and what I knew of the mark. He’s from a poor family with an alcoholic mother. This means he had to be creative with his hiding places. I scanned the walls for any indentations. The floor was carpeted, and I didn’t see any loose spots, so that left the en suite bathroom. I glanced at my phone. Six minutes. I took two minutes to order an Uber. I had to leave soon whether I found it or not.
I crossed the room to the bathroom and lifted the tank lid—nothing. I replaced the lid and crouched down to reach behind the toilet. There was a small opening, and I slipped my fingers in there, breathing a sigh of relief when I felt the hard cardboard box. I yanked the box out and opened it quickly to make sure I had what I needed. The ring was inside the box, wrapped in several layers of fabric. I dropped the fabric-wrapped ring into my pocket, closed the box, and set the empty box on his pillows. Then I ran downstairs to meet my Uber. I loved leaving evidence of the theft for the ones who stole it. My only regret was not being able to see their faces when they realized it. I smiled as I slid into the car. I’ll have Ganon keep an eye on Mark to make sure he doesn’t do this again.
My job was done here. All I had to do was send the ring back to the client in New York. When I got back to the hotel, I pulled out my phone and sent a text to Ganon.
Me: Package acquired. Need secure transport asap.
Ganon: seven minutes to your location.
I washed my face, ate a protein bar, and finished packing my bike. I got a text message and pulled up the photo Ganon sent me and compared it to the young man approaching my bike. He stopped in front of me so I could confirm his identity.
He recited from memory, “Joles}z-8K&:39dkT^w.”
I nodded as I confirmed the code with what Ganon sent me. The boy held out his hand to present a small ring box with a thumbprint scanner. I pressed my thumb and placed the ring snugly into the cushion. I addressed the boy as I closed the box.
“Straight through. No overnights. No food stops. Deliver to Warren Blankenship, Jr. Payment upon receipt.”
He nodded his agreement, tucked the box into an inner chest pocket of his leather jacket, and walked off. I put my helmet on and started my bike.
I can already hear you screaming at me for sending off that expensive piece of jewelry with a boy I never met before this moment. Ganon and I have a system. He finds, vets, and then sends them to me. I am well aware that I’m not his only source of business, but I’m his best paying client. I also use him the most. We’ve worked together for years and have come to trust each other implicitly.
I got lost in my thoughts as I took the back roads towards D.C. I knew that no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, I needed to get to New Orleans. It didn’t matter how I felt about seeing Darren. There was a job. A big job if it required the two of us. I reviewed what I knew about it. Jack shit. I was going to have to work with Darren, and we’d be working to find the codex.
Now, you may be thinking that I have all the information I needed to know what the job was. After all, everyone knows there is only one codex. Maybe in the movies, but this is real life. There are actually more than you’d think. A codex is technically a book of laws but in its loosest definition, it is an ancient book made of stacked, hand-written pages. Considering the fact that I’m headed to New Orleans, I’m going with the ancient book version. And that is all the information I had. I knew any questions would go unanswered until I got there, so I put it out of my mind for now and just enjoyed the ride.
I stopped for the night in Greensboro, NC. I had driven a lot further than I planned and I was exhausted, so I found a hotel. When I entered the room, I tossed my bag on the bed, grabbed my toiletries, and found my way to the bathroom. As I got ready for bed, I thought about the long drive I had ahead of me. While I loved to ride my bike, I didn’t like not being productive. My phone chimed as I pulled on a nightshirt. I moved my bag to one of the chairs and checked my phone while I plugged it into the charger. Gannon sent a delivery confirmation text. I transferred the funds and then climbed into bed. Tomorrow I was going to have to pick up a side job, or I was going to go crazy.
Regardless of how exhausted I was, I woke up in the middle of the night, shaking and sweat soaked. I’ve had the same nightmare since I was eighteen. I leaned over to grab my bag, but my shaking hands knocked it to the floor. Cursing, I got out of bed and yanked the bag up from the floor. I reached for my flask in the front pocket and took some healthy swallows of my whisky. I hated having this nightmare. It always made me feel vulnerable, and was the catalyst for the end of my relationship with Darren. I never knew if it was a vision of the future I saw or just a figment of my imagination. Either way, it freaked me the fuck out, and it always took me a long time to go back to sleep. Tonight, I decided four hours was enough sleep, so I got dressed and headed out to find an all-night diner. It was going to be a long week.