I dressed in the usual fashion: black yoga pants, matching turtleneck, a hoody, and—to stop my breasts from jiggling—a sports bra. My braided, blonde hair was tucked under a knitted cap. Tight, black leather gloves covered my manicured hands, and on my shoulders was a backpack with my tools. The getaway car—a stolen black Mercedes—was parked by the side of the road next to the delivery entrance to the now closed summer home of Gunther and Gladys Pearl.

I jumped and stepped on the hood of the car to assist me in scaling the ten-foot metal fence, when I heard my chicken-shit, scared brain asking me if I knew what I was doing. I decided not to answer and just proceeded with the plan.

My legs, as if on command, sprinted toward the employees’ entrance to the kitchen. The brown door was locked and dead-bolted, but in precisely three minutes, Oliver, the night watchman, would open it for his nightly smoke.

Silence and darkness surrounded me as my eyes were glued to that door.

Then I heard it . . . the cluck of the metal as Oliver turned the knob to unlock the deadbolt. He opened the door, and I, in turn, pushed it with such force, Oliver went flying across the kitchen floor. I closed the door and pulled my virgin Beretta from inside my hoodie. Oliver, like most people, can’t differentiate a loaded gun from an empty one.

I gave him a few seconds to get his wits about him. 

I waved the gun in front of him. “Oliver, I just need you to move and sit in one of those kitchen chairs.” He moved slower than traffic on a Friday night.

He sank into the chair’s cushions as I removed rolls of duct tape from my backpack. The tape screeched as I wrapped his chest, arms, and legs to the chair. I was about to tape his mouth when I noticed his thick, white mustache. Images of him pulling that nasty tape flashed through my mind, and I decided against it. 

My new running shoes squeaked against the marble floor as I ran toward the staircase. Skipping steps, I reached the second floor. Darkness engulfed me. I grabbed my flashlight. The long hallway was covered with Early American and British nautical art. Mrs. Pearl’s study was the last room to the left.

The door was unlocked. I moved with ease as I approached the glass case displaying her favorite collection—the jewelry pieces that Napoleon gave his mistress, the beautiful Marie Waleska.

I raised my arm and was about to strike the glass case when my brain stopped me. Check the cases.

I told myself that the new cases weren’t due for another month. But what if they temporarily installed a glass-shattering alarm? I leaned in and, with my left hand holding the flashlight, my gloved fingers slid across the edges and traced the glass. Nothing. Nothing had been added.

I closed my eyes, held my breath, raised my arm, and with the butt of my gun struck the glass case. I heard a loud “POP” as the glass exploded, sending a downpour of glass pebbles onto the delicate pieces. My right hand gently lifted the ruby necklace encased in diamonds, the sapphire brooch, the black pearls, and the locket with their pictures in it.

I picked up a brooch and imagined Napoleon clasping it on her dress. I wondered what he whispered in her ear. No one has ever loved me enough to give me a memento of an affair.  

My feet were again on the move. The flashlight illuminated the path as I ran down the two flights of stairs.

I heard my brain reminding me to hit the button to open the delivery entrance gate—unless I wanted to scale the gate again. Thanks, I heard myself say.

I was running on pure adrenaline. I passed Oliver, hit the button, and sprinted toward the Mercedes. I had four hours to catch a direct flight from New York to Paris. Me and my now relaxed, chicken-shit, scared brain were already spending the extra-large bonus I would receive from the insurance company for recovering the pieces stolen from the Louvre’s Napoleon Bonaparte Collection.

2016 Derringer winner; 2016 Alfred Hitchcock- The Picture that Won- July-August 2016; 2015 and 2016 stories included in Level Best- Best New England Mystery.

Copyright © 2018 Vy Kava. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.