"Do you have it?" a man whispered to another much taller than he. The shorter was lacking in muscular tone and dressed from head to toe in a grape-colored suit. The back hung down low to his knees and the undershirt sported reflective-white buttons. The way the two men leaned their shoulders into one another revealed they were much more than just acquaintances, but their stiff backs gave away the secrecy behind their words.
"Yes. It's in my pocket," the taller man responded, grumbling in a grave tone. He was monotonously dressed in a matching black ensemble, with a crisp, white shirt underneath his blazer. They both couldn't be more than forty, but the sunspots decorating the taller man's neck bared his age.
"Did you wrap it up?"
"Yes, of course I did," the taller man responded, waving his hand at his counterpart as if to dismiss the question as absurd. His nose let out a sharp breath of air as he turned it upward toward the domed ceiling.
"Good. Don't want to touch it with your bare hands. Wonder why Gusto wants it? If he can't touch it and whatnot."
"To give to someone else, you dummy," the taller man said, thumping the shorter one over the back of the head. He winced on contact. "The item is priceless. The intended receiver is what gets people to shovel up the money."
"Oh, oh, I see. Wonder who he's going to give it to. What a surprise that would be."
Lucy leaned against the eggshell-colored wall around the corner, listening to their private conversation. She looked in the other direction, scanning the crowd for shiny and interesting objects. She came to these art events often to pickpocket helpless men who fell for her captivating beauty. She had her mother to thank for that built-in diversion - a model with naturally blonde hair, tanned skin, and sharp green eyes. Her mother's profession proved to be prosperous, considering Lucy was brought up with all the possessions she desired.
But Lucy could never seem to have enough; she always wanted more. She'd swipe jewels, watches, buttons, and keepsakes off of unsuspecting aristocrats and keep what she liked, then take the rest to the pawn. The cash? Well, she'd just stuff that in her purse and count up the total when she got home. Credit cards showed no issue either - she had Josiah, a longtime friend on the outside, she could sell them to after she finished up for the night.
Her red dress hugged her dreamy curves tight, lingering in the spots that mattered most. No man would be able to take their eyes off of her deeply exposed chest with a diamond pendant placed strategically to draw the eye in. If that wasn't their thing, surly her dress's thigh-slit playing peek-a-boo with her long, silky leg would do the trick. It was precisely what she was going for – a distraction – so she could slip her hand inside a pocket without being noticed.
She had overheard the men's conversation while walking to the bar, hoping to stumble into some wealthy art buyer along the way. Now, she was on a different quest. She had to have the priceless item these men spoke of - whatever it was. It sounded expensive, and she liked expensive.
She puffed up her hair and checked her lipstick in the reflection of a silver spoon laying on the small table next to her, then rounded the corner, stumbling awkwardly into the tall man she overheard only moments before.
"Oh, dear me. I've perhaps had one too many martinis," she said, giggling. Her hands went to his chest, and she stared into his muddy-brown eyes. His grey mustache was straw-like and crinkly, and a large mole dotted his chin, oddly placed directly in the middle. Some would argue he was repulsive, but Lucy saw his handsomeness in the form of a monetary opportunity. "Would you like to accompany me to get another? I would love your escort."
The man blushed, his ears turned red hot, and his nose made a snorting noise when he nearly gasped at her splendor. "I, um-"
"No! We have a job to do, Leroy," the shorter man demanded.
"Leroy," Lucy purred. "I love that name," she said on a whisper.
"Oh, well, thank you, Miss. It's a family name on my father's side. He was a farmer back in-"
"Leroy! Would you focus," the shorter man huffed, stomping his left foot on the tiled floor.
"Would you calm down, Marcus? I am simply having a conversation."
"There is no time for conversations! We must get up to the room."
"Oh, pish posh. Gusto can wait for a minute or two." Leroy turned his attention back to Lucy, still hanging off his body. "Or perhaps time for one, tiny drink."
Marcus put his hands on his hips, and in a matter of fact tone, continued. "Well, I'll just have to let Gusto know that's how you feel." He mumbled something under his breath, then spoke up again. "You'll see. He won't be happy with this delay."
"It's hardly a delay. He doesn't even know I've arrived!" Leroy stepped toward Marcus, Lucy now on his shoulder. She took her one free hand and slid it into his outer jacket pocket. Damn it, she thought, feeling nothing inside. She moved around his back to his other side while they conversed, tracing her fingers along his shoulder and neck.
"Surely the guards have informed him. This is his party, after all," Marcus said.
"Doubtful. He's probably distracted by his mistress, being that we're to meet him in the bedroom chambers."
"Would you be quiet?! Don't blab our plans to everyone in the room!"
"Oh, control yourself, Marcus. No one here cares about our conversation except you and me," Leroy said.
Lucy slipped her hand in the jacket's other pocket. Drats! She thought, still coming up empty-handed. It must be in one of the inner pockets. His pants show no weight.
Lucy glided her hand along his chest, but Leroy hardly noticed, still deep in his argument with Marcus.
"Are you dumb, Leroy? People eavesdrop on conversations all the time."
Lucy's hand slid down toward his ribs, and her knuckles bumped something along the inside of his jacket. Her heartbeat jumped. The pocket.
"Am I dumb? Are you ridiculous? I'm the one that found the dang thing. Maybe you should pull a little more weight around here yourself."
"Now you're just getting off-topic," Marcus said. "Don't turn this around on me. You're the one who wants to take a break from work and get a drink with some pretty girl."
Their attention turned to Lucy and she smiled at Marcus, her hand still inside the flap of Leroy's jacket. "So you think I'm pretty?" she asked, moving to Marcus in a sly slither. She trailed her finger along the side of his arm. "Are you just saying that because you would rather be the one to accompany me for a drink? My, my," she said, clicking her tongue. "And I thought you two were friends."
"So, that's what all this is about," Leroy rebuked. "Can't stand me getting the girl for once, huh?"
"That's not at all what this is about," Marcus stammered, his cheeks turning as pink as cotton candy. Lucy walked back over to Leroy and placed her hands on his chest again while Marcus continued his rant. "I just want us to stay focused, Leroy! We have an important job to do, and I want to get paid!"
"We don't get paid until Friday anyway! You know there won't be an exchange of money today," Leroy responded, then leaned in toward Marcus a few inches. "Gusto forbid it, saying it would be too suspicious."
"I know, but if he finds out we're down here skipping around and enjoying the party while he is awaiting our delivery, he will be furious! He could even kill us, Leroy!"
Lucy dipped her hand inside of Leroy's jacket pocket and felt a leather case the size of a large wallet. She laced it in her fingers and pulled it out while she turned around, resting the back of her head on Leroy's chest and pushing her bosom out to deflect their eyes.
"Kill you! Dear me, what trouble are you boys in?" They both turned to look at her, blinking. She hid the leather-wrapped treasure behind her back. "I'm sorry, Leroy, but I cannot be involved with such dangerous things."
"But-," Leroy started.
"Goodbye, Leroy!" she said while twirling around, tucking the prize tightly into her chest. She scurried out of the room they were in and toward the front door. She nodded to the doormen and entered the cool outside air, the hair on her arms rising from the chill. The sky was dark now, and a few stars sprinkled the navy blanket above her. The moon was out, but she couldn't see it in the section of the sky she was facing.
Following the path around to the back of the building, she hurried, anxious to see what was inside. After reaching a quiet and secluded area in the back garden, she untied the leather binding as quickly as she could, fumbling with the awkwardly thick pieces of leather string. She threw the binding to the ground and unraveled the leather casing carefully. The men said not to touch it, so she watched her fingers, ensuring they stayed covered by the droopy leather. Perhaps the item was in mint condition, and touching it would ruin the value.
As the last flap fell from the item's surface, a gold coin the size of a plump apple rested there, glowing despite the lack of light outside. Her eyes lit up from the illumination as she took in a deep audible breath. She couldn't let it out while she marveled at the coin's beauty, scared even a small exhale would disturb its luminosity. It looked smooth – warm perhaps – and she so badly wanted to touch it.
Lucy looked over both her shoulders, checking for anyone coming her way. She was still alone, other than the crickets chirping somewhere upwind. Soft murmurs escaped from the window up above her, but no bodies silhouetted inside the frame, so her attention returned to the coin, and she reached a hand around from under the protected layer. Her fingers hovered over its surface, tracing its outline. Her skin near the luster of the coin looked as if it were dipped in sunlight, lit up like she was holding the familiar star in the palm of her hands.
What's the worst that could happen? She thought. Her fingers grabbed the metal surface, feeling cold rather than warm as she expected. Before more than the thought could float through her mind, her arms, then chest, torso, then legs, turned to stone, finishing elegantly with the tip of her nose. The coin fell to the ground with a rapid tinkle, her hand still outstretched, the other cradling a square of faded leather.
A pretty statue was all that was left, a coin gleaming by her toes. Her figure, artistic to say the least, sat inconspicuously among the colorful flowers and manicured grass, seeming to fit right in. How many innocent guests would walk by only to grab the coin for themselves, sure she was merely a statue purchased for the garden's décor? Would she know, or was she cast to stone for all of eternity? Only time will tell.