When dangling fifty two meters off the ground, the people below look like ants. The ants, I imagine, look like snowmen.
I don’t think the drugs have worn off yet.
It’s night and unaccountably cold and windy. It’s supposed to be spring, but no one told the climate. So I am shivering, suspended by a girder, a length of rebar holding me in the air though the left arm sleeve of my coat jacket. And all I can think is “thank god I sprang for the expensive coat.”
Despite the cold, the whipping wind, the mind-bending height, and the whole damned situation, this is the only chance I’ve had to catch my breath for the last forty-five minutes.
In the near distance, security is already sweeping over the site. The goods I wanted are now so much carbon, except for the jewels. The jewels are now dirty, warm, and impossible to get to.
Crime is not paying. Not tonight, anyway
When you are fairly certain you are going to die, your mind searches the past trying to figure out how you got to this place.
I know exactly how.
Two days ago, I am at a party. Well, not a party. “Party” suggests that there is fun, cake, and that it’s a place you’ve been invited to. There was no fun or cake. I certainly wasn’t invited. But the secret to blending in anywhere is to bathe beforehand, dress like everyone else, and act like you are slightly bored.
This isn’t my first gate crash. It might be my last.
I had heard of Jameson Rusk. Who hadn’t? I had heard of his business sense, his charitable works, his charming demeanor, and his string of rape charges that somehow slipped through our etch-a-sketch justice system.
Not that I am complaining about our justice system. It has served me very well as a career criminal .
Anway, there is Rusk, talking to various lackeys and enjoying being the gravitational center of his universe. His eyes linger a little too long for comfort at the women near him. He has a reputation. It’s not a good one if you have the right sexual organs.
With the next bray of disingenuous laughter, I sidle in an laugh with them. I have no idea what Rusk said, but I know the price of not laughing: standing out. I don’t like standing out.
So there I am with Rusk talking. I’ve already counted five valuables he’s carrying that I could see for a good sum, but I am not here for petty larceny.
Aside from the sexual assaults, I heard something else about this man: he has a safe.
There’s nothing like hearing the sound of a seam tearing to get your mind back in the present. Especially when you are facing a long drop and a sudden landing.
The anti-panic drugs have definitely worn off.
I feel the sleeve give a little. Just a little. Not enough to panic me, but enough to make me consider some ridiculous options. Like swinging on the rebar to reach the now open office on the floor below.
There is no way that would work. I would swing, make a beautiful but tiny arc, and then watch the ledge pass me. Then another. And another, faster this time. Until all I see are a blur of ledges and then nothing at all.
Kind of like life, huh?
That’s a bad sign. Getting philosophical at a time like this means that part of my brain is giving up. Although I am curious to see if my brain or my coat give up first.
Another bad thought. Get it together!
Okay, let’s take a look at the inventory of suck here:
- Hanging fifty-five meters and change in the air.
- Only a stylish coat holding me up.
- It IS a stylish coat. I have to admit that. Midnight blue. Because you don’t wear black when sneaking around. You look like an out-of-place shadow.
- The ledge on my floor is ten feet away. A blown-out chunk of wall is holding the rebar – and thus me – up.
- I am probably hurt. I can tell my hair is singed. I can smell it. I want to check to see if my eyebrows are still there. I liked my eyebrows. It’s a bad time to check.
- Security, and soon the police, are checking the area and are certain to find me dangling. Then they’ll either laugh and arrest me or laugh and let me fall. Laughing is the worst of both situations.
- I have maybe five minutes to get my ass off of this rebar and re-evaluate my life choices before either of those two scenarios happen.
I have to admit that things look bleak. But if I got to blow up some important documents of a rich rapist, it will all have been worth it.
I take that back. Dying to inconvenience a rich prick is a bad trade.
Okay, think fast, rabbit.
I swing my right arm up and grab the rebar. I slowly slide my sleeve out. The rebar is rusty, ribbed, and biting into my hand. My left arm slowly slides out of my jacket and grabs the rebar.
Fantastic. Now, instead of dangling fifty-five meters plus via high-quality stitching, I am dangling fifty-five meters plus via my comparatively weaker hands. I would applaud myself if it didn’t mean falling.
While hanging, I slide my right arm out of the sleeve. The coat dangles for a second, then slips off the rebar. I don’t bother to watch it fall because looking down would be idiotic. But I am sad. It was a damn fine coat.
The key to swinging in a direction while death-gripping rebar with your hands is with the legs. Swing your legs from side to side, then let the momentum carry you in the direction you want to go. Swing your legs too far and the only direction you get to go in is down.
So I am swinging my legs gently and swinging slightly, sidling up an exposed concrete slab that is held on by more rebar. On the third swing, I feel the rebar droop.
Moments like this are why I like to have a good piss before a job.
I tamper down the swinging and take my time. That’s the trick in situations like this: take your time. Your mind starts to rush, then you start to rush, and then you’re counting floors. I have all the time in the world, even though I don’t.
I make it to the concrete slab and hoist myself up, ignoring the skin burns on my palm. I lay down on the slab and do something ridiculously stupid.
I look down.
Then I whimper. I don’t mind heights, but usually I am inside somewhere safe when regarding it.
That is when I hear the air chop in the distance, a rotor slice in the wind. Helicopter. I have less time than I thought.
I blink off the ball dropping terror and stand. I feel the rebar support bend slightly. Who cares? I have to get off of this now.
I catfoot across the slab, then place my right heel against the edge facing the gape in the building. It’s probably a five or six foot gap. A slip and I maybe get twenty seconds or so to feel profoundly stupid before I feel nothing at all.
I launch forward, but the concrete slab rumbles and slides slightly under me, undercutting my jump. I am not going as far as as fast as I should.
My body hits the edge of window and I slide down. I grab the ledge of the window and feel glass cut into my palms.
Here is where I start laughing.
Pain is ignorable. I usually think of something distracting like sex. It’s not helping right now. Thinking of falling is not helpful. If you think of falling at a time like this, you will. Nothing for it but to do it.
I swing my legs and the glass bites up into my hands. I can’t cry out because whoever is down there will rush up. I’d rather go to prison than die, but I am given a choice to do neither if I can just suck it up for a few seconds.
I swing my right leg up and feel the pressure of jagged glass bite against my leg. The glass doesn’t penetrate my pants. THIS is why you splurge on clothing.
I roll up and over, savoring the singed carpeting and giggling. I am bleeding and aching and terrified and in danger of getting caught and I am alive. I roll over, stand up, and cradle my hands. The pain is intense and sharp. I know how Jesus felt.
I look around the shadows and see multiple avenues of escape. I hear the helicopter getting closer so I only have half-a-minute at most to get away. As I turn to the most likely exit, I see some gleaming objects along my left side against the wall.
Jewels. The exploding safe must have spewed them out when the safe door flew open. I smile broader than I have all evening.
Crime pays after all.