Fighting to be free, p.22
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.22
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         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  My crew was already assembled downstairs, but I had needed just a couple of minutes to collect my thoughts. I had a bad feeling about tonight. Something wasn’t sitting right in my stomach. I think it was the fact that five of the guys who were helping with tonight’s boost weren’t even used to stealing cars. They had no experience whatsoever and were used to working another part of Brett’s business for him. Inexperience and a high-profile boost just didn’t mix well, but with the number of cars that we were talking about, I couldn’t exactly refuse the help. There just weren’t enough hours of darkness for the usual crew to complete this task on our own.

  “Your father used to get that look on his face when he was concentrating hard on something.”

  I jumped and looked up to see Brett walking into his office. I frowned as I took in what he’d said. “You knew my father?” I asked. He’d never said anything about him before; I wasn’t aware they even knew each other.

  Brett nodded, shrugging out of his suit jacket and throwing it over the empty chair opposite me. “Yep. It was a long time ago, but you just reminded me of him for a second there.”

  “How did you know him?” I probed, sitting forward, interested now. I’d never really spoken to anyone about my father before. The only one who’d ever talked about him was my mother, and that was usually to rant about what an inconsiderate asshole he was.

  Brett smiled and motioned with his hand for me to move. “Out of my chair. You don’t run this place yet, you know.”

  I laughed and pushed myself out of his leather chair so that he could sit down. “Sorry.”

  He grinned and rolled his eyes. “I worked with your dad a long time ago, years before you were born, when he was just a kid like you are now.” I stood watching him intently, waiting for him to continue and tell me something I didn’t know about the man who had made me. All I knew about him was that he was twenty-three when he died and that he had brown hair and brown eyes, the same as mine. I was only two at the time of his death, so I had no memories of him at all, all I knew was just what my drunk, drugged-up, and saddened mother had told me.

  “He was good with cars, too,” Brett continued.

  I smiled at that. “Really?”

  “Yep, I worked with him for about a year. I saw him steal cars without leaving a trace; he was like you in that respect, a ghost. You have his talent. Quick, nimble fingers and an eye for detail.” He smiled and pulled out a cigar from the little wooden box on his desk, nodding down to them in offering. I waved it off politely. “He was a good guy. It was a shame he was killed. I liked him.”

  I chewed on my lip thoughtfully. “How did he die, exactly?”

  Brett sucked on his cigar as the flame from his silver lighter licked at the tip of it. “He’d moved on and was working for a guy named Tommy Harris—he’s long dead now too—but Jason, your dad, he was on an arms deal with a new supplier. Apparently something went wrong, a double cross or something, and he got shot. Damn shame, such talent.”

  I chewed on the inside of my cheek as I imagined how that had gone down. Things went sour so quickly at deals like that, there was a lot of room for error when a group of highly charged alpha males got together and tried to make a deal. I tried not to imagine how different my life would have been if he hadn’t gone to the deal that day. Would I still be where I was today, or would he have not wanted his boy to go into the business like him? I sighed and nodded, not knowing what to say.

  “You should go get started, the guys are beginning to get antsy down there,” Brett suggested, nodding at the door in encouragement.

  “Yeah. See you in the morning,” I muttered, heading out of his office. Trudging down the stairs, I stopped when I saw the unorganized rabble standing around waiting. Another of those uneasy feelings washed over me because I recognized hardly any of them.

  I cleared my throat loudly, staying on the bottom step so I was a little higher. The murmur slowly died down as people turned to look at me with interest. “Right then, we’re ready to go. You’ve all been given your packs, so you know which cars you’re going for. For the five that have never done this before, you guys have each been paired with an experienced booster. We’ll all go together for the first one, the warehouse job, then after that we’ll split up and go get the rest of them. Don’t take risks. Don’t get cocky, or speed, or run lights. Someone will boost the car for you, so all you need to do is drive it safely back to the warehouse. There’ll be transporters outside ready for you. Just stay focused and do your job,” I said sternly.

  There was a nod of approval from the group, signaling that they understood, so I waved my hand toward the blacked-out minibus that was waiting to drive us all to the warehouse where we could get the Jags. Immediately the crowd started moving toward the bus.

  One guy caught my eye, so I smiled and headed over to where he was leaning against the desk, a cocky smile on his face. Dodger—the new me. I’d suggested that Brett hire him for the night to help with the boost; we certainly needed the extra set of hands, and this guy was supposed to be good. Apparently he was at loose ends because he’d lost a lot of his trade when I came back to work for Brett. I was secretly surprised the guy didn’t hate me.

  “Hey. I’m Jamie, by the way,” I said politely, holding out my hand. We’d spoken on the phone a lot this week, but this was the first actual face-to-face meeting.

  “The kid, yeah, it’s nice to meet you in person,” he replied, putting his hand in mine. “Dodger.”

  I winced. I really didn’t want to call the guy that; it had to be the worst nickname ever, a total rip-off of Oliver Twist. “Yeah, uh, what’s your real name? I’m not calling you that,” I said, laughing and shaking my head.

  His eyes tightened. “It’s Vincent, but I prefer Dodger when I’m working.”

  “Vincent it is then,” I stated, dropping his hand.

  He frowned. “You don’t want me here, that much is obvious. Am I encroaching on your territory?” he mocked. A sarcastic smile played at the edge of his lips as he raised himself to his full height. I would imagine that he was trying to be intimidating, and he would totally have pulled it off too, with his muscles that could be clearly seen through his black T-shirt. The dark brown skin of his arms was covered with tattoos of quotes about cars and his nickname inked up the inside of one forearm. On the other biceps was a big cross with a quote from the Bible underneath. He would have been intimidating to others, I have no doubt in my mind about that, but he didn’t scare me in the least.

  I shrugged nonchalantly. “Dude, you can have my territory, I don’t want it. I’m only here for another two months, then I’m out.” I ran a hand through my hair. “And I’m glad you’re here, actually. I wouldn’t be able to keep these guys organized on my own. Once we’re done with the warehouse job, I’ll assign two of the newbies to you, you’ll boost the cars, and they’ll drive them back for you; that’s how we usually roll.”

  Dodger nodded, slipping his black jacket on and picking up his carryall from the table. “I’m excited to work with you. They say you’re the best.”

  I laughed incredulously. “They say a lot of things; you should know not to believe half of the shit that floats around.” I grabbed my bag too, and we both headed toward the minibus.

  “How come you’re only doing this for two months then?” he asked as we climbed on.

  “Personal issues. I agreed I’d do it for three months; I have just under two left, then I’m going straight. I have a girl who would hate it if she knew I was into this kind of thing,” I explained, skirting around the issue.

  I sat down at the front of the minibus and was just about to put my bag on the seat next to me when he plopped down in it instead, his expression incredulous. “You’re going straight for a girl?”

  I laughed at the disbelief that colored his tone. He obviously loved his work and wouldn’t be giving it up anytime soon, especially for a girl, by the looks of it. I could understand that; the rush from boosting was definitely addicting. “I
wanted to go straight before I met her, but yeah, basically.”

  He pursed his lips and ran a hand over his short, wiry hair, his dark brown eyes locked onto mine. “She hot?”

  A proud but semi-smug smile crept onto my face. “Smokin’ hot,” I confirmed.

  He nodded thoughtfully. “You share her?” he asked. I raised one eyebrow and looked at him warningly because he was extremely close to disrespecting my girlfriend. He recoiled slightly, holding his hands up innocently as he shifted in his seat. “I’ll take that look as a no,” he muttered.

  Closing my eyes, I decided to get half an hour of sleep on the way to the warehouse. Unfortunately, Dodger had other ideas about that. He talked the whole damn way there. I’d never met a guy who talked as much as him. It was as if he had a gossipy teenage girl trapped inside his butch masculine exterior. My eyes were stinging by the time we got to our destination.

  As soon as we pulled up a little way down the road, though, I was wide awake. I stood up as best I could in the confined space of the minibus, zipping up my black hoodie and pulling the ski mask from my bag. Usually for a job like this we would disable the cameras first, but the guy was paying extra for us to leave them rolling to capture the action. Apparently it would help his insurance claim. As a precaution, I’d instructed that everyone wear plain clothing, nothing identifiable, plain sneakers. Clothes were to be burned tomorrow, as per Brett’s orders.

  Turning back to the rabble that were pulling this boost with me tonight, I smiled reassuringly. Now that we were here, the adrenaline was rushing through my veins, creating that high that I got off on.

  “Masks and gloves on, boys. I’m disabling the sound system in there, but the cameras will still be rolling. Once Vincent—” I started, but “the new me” cleared his throat loudly next to me, so I rolled my eyes and corrected myself. “Sorry. Once Dodger and I have made sure the coast is clear, then I’ll call Shaun and he’ll open the front gates. No one moves in without my say-so. Do exactly as you’ve been told. No hero shit in there or I’ll personally kick your ass,” I said sternly, looking around slowly to make sure they got it. There was no way I was getting in trouble because some dipshit wanted to be a big shot and do something he shouldn’t. “Wait on the bus then. No one takes off their mask until they’re at least two blocks away.”

  I looked down at Dodger and raised one eyebrow. A devilish grin slipped onto his face as he cracked his knuckles and then plucked his ski mask from his pocket. “This had better not mess up my hair,” he joked, winking at me as he pulled it down over his face.

  I laughed and pulled mine on too, grabbing my bag and slipping on some latex gloves so we didn’t leave fingerprints. “Let’s go then, hotshot,” I teased, nodding at the open minibus door, and we both stepped out into the blackness of the night.

  The warehouse was about fifty yards ahead, the gates a little beyond that. We didn’t speak as we walked quickly to the darkest part of the perimeter and stopped by the chain-link fence. I slung my bag over my shoulder and grabbed the cold metal, immediately starting to climb it. We’d spoken about this a lot on the phone, and both of us had been over the plans, but it was slightly different having a guy I didn’t know do it with me. Usually, at this point, I’d be flying solo. Two people were a necessity, though, since two guards patrolled the inside of the building.

  I dropped down to the concrete on the other side just seconds before Dodger landed gracefully next to me. “Silent as a ninja,” he whispered, laughing quietly.

  I grinned but punched him in the arm at the same time to tell him to shut up. The guards were stationed on the other side of the warehouse, watching the grounds on little monitors. We’d purposefully chosen this spot to climb because Mr. Randall, the owner, had moved one of the cameras by a couple of inches to allow a blind spot. I put my finger to my lips and then nodded to the side of the building. Apparently if we stayed as close as we could to the wall and moved quickly, then we could outsmart the cameras, which rotated on a continuous sweep, taking in the whole area. It just meant getting the timing right and not screwing up.

  It took a good ten minutes of stopping, starting, and crouching behind stuff to avoid the cameras before we finally made it to the security door of the warehouse with no alarms going off. Dodger pulled out a lock-pick kit, sticking in two metal pins and fiddling with them until the sound of the click filled the air. The door sprang open with a slight creak.

  We moved quickly. As we stepped in I pulled out the gun Brett had given me. I didn’t usually carry guns, but this was all for show on the cameras. The guy was paying extra for little details. I pointed down the hallway to where the sound of quiet talking could be heard. Dodger nodded, and we both made our way there slowly. I kept my eyes peeled for signs of movement, but there was nothing at all.

  “I see your three, and I’ll raise you … another three,” someone said from the last room on the left. I already knew this was the monitoring station because of the building plans that I’d been meticulously studying for the last week.

  “Ooh, confidence. All right. Call,” someone else answered.

  I smiled because that meant that they were both in there, just like they were supposed to be. Stopping outside the door, I risked a quick glance around the frame. Two middle-aged, overweight, and bored-looking security guards were sitting opposite each other at a table. Playing cards and matches littered the desk in front of them. Neither of them was even facing the monitors. I felt a pang of annoyance that Dodger and I had just done our Mission: Impossible impression for nothing if they weren’t even looking.

  I could see the cards of the guy sitting on the left; he had two pair. A pretty strong hand. I nodded to Dodger and stepped around the corner, raising my gun. “I’d save my matches if I were you. He’s got two pair, tens over eights,” I deadpanned, pointing my gun at the one on the right. He gasped, his eyes widening as he dropped his cards on the floor. His half-eaten doughnut froze on its way to his mouth.

  The one on the left lunged for a red button mounted under the monitors. Preempting his move, I smashed the gun on the side of his temple, knocking him out cold before he could touch it. He slumped forward, his face connecting heavily with the wooden desk.

  “Right, then, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, which would you prefer?” Dodger asked the remaining guard, dramatically pulling out a long strip of duct tape and grinning wickedly.

  “What do you want?” the guy croaked in response.

  I laughed and pointed to the middle monitor. It was making a sweep of the inside of warehouse 3, which housed ten perfect, brand-spanking-new Jaguars. “Those little babies.”

  The guard gulped when Dodger stepped forward. As Dodger taped the guy to the chair, securing his arms and legs with plenty of duct tape, I got to work on the security. I grabbed the guy I’d knocked out and pushed him into a chair, wheeling him away from me so I had more room to work. Sitting on the floor, I leaned under the desk and yanked off the plastic covering for the security wires. It took a while to find the right one, but I finally located the audio feed, cutting the wire quickly. I made a show of cussing for good measure, slamming my hand on the desk in apparent frustration. This was all for show, I needed the guy to think I couldn’t disable the cameras, otherwise they’d wonder why I’d disconnected the audio and not the visual feed.

  When I was satisfied, I pushed myself out from under the desk and turned to the crying security guard, who was all taped up like a Christmas present. “You know how to disable the visual?” I asked him.

  He shook his head quickly, his eyes tight.

  I turned back to Dodger. “I can’t do it. We’re gonna have to leave it on. The audio’s gone, but …” I trailed off, acting as best I could. The guard would have a pretty little tale to tell the police in the morning, which was exactly what Brett’s client wanted.

  Dodger shrugged. “Let’s just get this done. No one will know it’s us anyway. Let’s get the cars and get out,” he replied, securing the uncon
scious guy to his chair, too. “I’m done here.”

  Nodding, I picked up my bag from the floor before turning to the conscious guard. I smiled apologetically and raised the gun, bringing the butt of it down on the side of his head just hard enough to send him off into slumber but not cause any long-term damage.

  As we stepped out of the room, Dodger held up his hand for a high five. I grinned and slapped my palm against his victoriously. The rest was the fun part—the boosting.

  Once we got to the room where the ten cars were parked, I stopped and just let my eyes rake over the beautiful sight before me. My gaze settled on the C-X75; these things weren’t even for sale yet. I staked my claim on it quickly. “That’s mine.”

  Dodger shrugged, immediately walking up to the side of a XKR-S convertible. “Whatever. You can keep your eco car, I want this!” he rebutted, running his hand over the hood in awe.

  I grinned and pulled out my phone, dialing Shaun to inform him that the coast was clear. The guys were cutting the lock on the front gates and coming in that way. That would be the way we would leave too, driving straight out the front.

  “Let’s get to work then,” I suggested excitedly, unzipping my bag and reaching inside for my tools. Dodger saluted playfully and followed suit.

  By the time the others entered the warehouse, seven of the cars were already sitting there, engines running, ready to go. Jaguars were easy pickings if you knew what you were doing and had the correct tools; we’d be home free in less than five minutes.

  Dodger and I were the only ones boosting tonight. Because the cars were being immediately shipped off, there was no margin for error. No scratches would be tolerated because someone had been too forceful. Everything had to go perfectly, which meant I had a busy night ahead.

  After starting the final car, I pushed myself out of the seat and walked up to the group, who were talking in hushed whispers. They all quieted as I approached, looking at me with expectant eyes.

  I nodded. “All ready to go. No one touches that.” I pointed to my car of choice. “That’s mine. You know your routes. Stick to the plan and keep it legal. Straight back to the meeting point using the route you’ve been assigned,” I instructed. All of us were headed in different directions to get back to Brett’s tonight; it would look slightly obvious if ten brand-new Jaguars drove down the street in a neat little line. “Go. See you all back there.” Immediately, they all ran to their chosen cars. Dodger was sitting in his, appreciatively running his hands over the wheel.

  I walked to the sliding garage door and grabbed the bolt cutters, positioning them around the lock and clamping down tight. When the lock and chain clanked to the floor, I raised the door and stepped back as the cars filed out of the warehouse in turn.

  I let everyone else go first and just sat in my car, taking in the expensive smell of the new leather. The mileage counter only read 2, and that was probably just the test run in the factory when the car was made. It was beautiful.

  Dodger leaned out of his window as he inched forward so he was level with me. I wound down the window and looked at him expectantly. “You seriously think you’ll be able to give up the buzz that you get from this shit? You look like you’re having a cargasm. Don’t jizz on the seats,” he joked, winking at me before pulling out.

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