The Ring

Submitted into Contest #205 in response to: Start your story during a full moon night.... view prompt



 The Ring

A full moon illuminated the apartment building at the corner of 82nd Street and Central Park West, highlighting the famous zig zag fire escape the city was famous for. Constructed at the end of the 18th century, for the rich and powerful that were building the emerging metropolis.

It was an impressive building of sandstone and brick, 22 stories tall, the top two floors accommodating penthouses with huge balconies. The massive floor to ceiling widows edged in ornately carved bluestone affording million dollars views onto and across Central Park. At the roofline, gargoyles menacingly peered down as if keeping watch.

She pushed herself to the back of the doorway of the abandoned Starbucks, another Covid casualty, as a police cruiser idled by. Watching, as it crawled north on Central Park West, before disappearing from view. Satisfied it was no longer a threat, returned her attention to the building opposite, in particular the 22ndh floor penthouse, which was in darkness. She would return the following evening.

They’d met a week earlier in Central Park. She’d flown in from San Francisco after the phone call from Michael.  

Kate Collins was professional thief. Stealing only to order, not driven by opportunism, only money. She was an accomplished thief, having learnt her craft at high end organisations that specialised in personal in-home security systems. She had worked for the man she knew only as Michael for eight years, procuring items he wanted, in return, being handsomely rewarded.

She lived a quiet life in her three-story condominium opposite the San Francisco Mariner with her two cats. Her business card read - Interior Designer.

She travelled frequently, telling her friends her work took her away from San Francisco.

He was sitting at a table under a huge Elm tree whose branches seemed to spread for ever. The shade from the tree was a welcome relief from the relentless heat. Summer had come with a vengeance to the city.

After the usual greetings and small talk, he got down to business, passing her a photograph, she picked it up and looked quizzically at him.

‘My dear Kate, it’s a ring, not just any ring, a signet ring, once belonging to Louis IV. Its provenance is well documented. Till now, it was believed lost. I have a client who’s recently become aware of its existence, here, in New York. They are prepared to pay handsomely to acquire it, and don’t care how it’s obtained.’ Taking back the picture, puts it in a pocket.

‘How handsomely? She asked. ‘I’m thinking its time I considered retiring. I’m not exactly in the poorhouse.  Plus, after eight years I must be running against the odds. If I get, everything I’ve worked for and acquired I’ll lose in one foul swoop.’     

He nodded, his agreement, ‘I understand your concern, this is big Kate, big for both of us. Please consider it, I’m prepared to offer $350,000, if you accept.   

She was taken aback; this was considerably more than he’d offered in the past. If her share was 350 grand, his must closer to a million, or more?

‘When do you need an answer? ‘I need to think.’

‘Ah,’ he began slowly, choosing his words, ‘Katy,’ he called her Katy when there were delicate matters at hand, ‘that’s the issue,’ holding his hands up in mock surrender, ‘there is no time.’ He looked around, making sure there were no close by ears, ‘the  current owner of the item is a semi recluse, living alone except for help that comes in daily. He rarely travels, except for his granddaughter’s birthday which, I’ve only been informed is in two days, at which time he’ll be staying with his daughter in the Hamptons for two nights. It’s our only opportunity, I know it’s short notice, but that’s all we have.’

‘All I have, you mean,’ she responded bitingly, he nodded, conceding her point.

This timetable flew in the face of her closely followed routine. Two days to thoroughly investigate the residence and surrounding area. Which she’d do both in daylight and at night. A routine, till know that had kept her safe. It gnawed at her.

‘Jesus. Michael, the money is surely tempting, for this to have half a chance I’d need to start today, now!

They discussed further.

She agreed.

He passed her a sheet of paper showing an Upper West Side address, the location of the alarm system and safe, plus a floor plan of the huge apartment.

She committed it to her photographic memory, before he burnt it, stamping the embers into the grass.

Later that afternoon Kate began her surveillance of the building and surrounding area. Appearing like any other jogger she circled the block twice. Making mental a note of cross streets, lane and alleyways. Being caught short with no place to hide was not an option.   

That evening, she returned to the address, it was 1.30 am. She’d been watching the building for two hours; the place was in darkness.

Crossing 82nd Street she entered the laneway that held the buildings garage. After carefully checking the small side door, and deciding it was safe to enter, had the door open in 20 seconds. She stood in the darkness, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the reduced lighting. There were four elevators, one of which was dedicated to the top two floors, the lobby and garage. The two reserved parking places for 22A were vacant. This would be her entry and exit point.

The following evening, she casually walked down the laneway, stopping at the garage, removing her lock picks, set about opening the side door. Inside, once her eyes had acclimatised to the darkness, pulled her jacket hood over her long hair, adding a baseball cap and gloves approached the elevators. Head down to restrict the CCTV’s view of her, pressed the penthouse call button.

She exited on 22, the vestibule was a huge circular space, that smelt of furniture polish. After opening the apartment door, proceeded to the utilities cupboard. She knew she had 90 seconds to disarm the alarm before it responded to the opened door. Removing the cover plate, set about re-arranging the coloured wires. She stopped. Took a deep breath. And waited. It seemed like an eternity. She watched as the red light flashed twice before turning to green, she was in.

The end of the hall way opened onto a massive space that covered the corner apartment with views up 82nd Street and onto Central Park. The walls were covered in artwork, paintings, sketches and photographs. She didn’t need any lights the enormous windows allowed the moonlight to flood in.

The safe, according to the floor plan was in a room being used as an office. She opened a green satin drape, the moonlight rushed in. She found the safe behind a painting. It was old, its system relying on tumblers. Kate smiled, the safe was as old as the building. She had it open in five minutes.

There were two bundles of $50 notes. She grinned, what was it about wealthy people and money, why the need to keep so much cash?  Thanking the universe, stuffed the bundles into her backpack. The ring was in a crimson felt box. She inspected it, recalling the image Michael had shown her 24 hours previous, It matched. She added it to the backpack.

After e-arming the alarm system, took the elevator to the garage. Sighting nobody.

Crossing the darkened space exited by the small side door.

Suddenly, she froze, her body instinctively stiffened, there was light, and it was moving. She heard crackling voices, a police radio. She pushed her small frame into the side doors recess. As the vehicle drew nearer, she saw flashes of light, a flashlight was illuminating windows and doorways as it crawled down the alleyway.   

She waited several minutes before standing, after straightening her back, walked up 82nd Street. She would move two blocks before hailing a cab and returning to her hotel.  

The following morning, she made the call. At midday, she met Michael in the West Side Memorial Garden. After giving him the item, he deposited the balance of the $350,000 into an account she had in a bogus name in a Cayman Island bank.

After watching him disappear in the throng on W 90th Street, walked the opposite direction, before hailing a cab.

After pushing through rain filled clouds, the aircraft finally levelled off into a clear blue sky. She pressed the call button, more Champagne.  

July 07, 2023 00:23

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