F-F-F # 32 - Eyes On The Prize

Well, it's been a while since I've contributed to this series. Since March, actually. Yep, I missed it.

Without further ado, here it is.

And, as usual, thanks to Cormac Brown for hosting Friday Flash Fiction.

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Eyes On The Prize

                So much for plan B.
                First, it was Thompson taking a swan dive from the roof porch of a downtown high-rise, splattering his brains all over a Drummond Street storefront.
                Now, on page six of the paper, came the news that the body of a man in his thirties, yet to be identified, had washed up in the St-Lawrence, between the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain bridges.
                Buck Narson would bet his father's stamp collection that it was Jenkins who had been feasted on by whatever creatures swam in that sludge. Narson hadn't heard from the man in more than a week, highly unusual, especially this close to pulling off a job.
                Just his luck. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the men who would help him pull it off were dropping like flies.
                He'd just have to go it alone.
                Getting tools and a gun was easy. Narson called in a favor from an old connection, who got him what he needed. Cheap, and fast.
                Next up: blueprints. That took a few more phone calls, and cost a few more bills, than Buck cared for. But he had them, and that was all that mattered.
                Things were definitely looking up. But Narson wished he didn't have to do this alone. He did cast a few lines, but nothing bit.
                That weekend, Narson spent Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon casing the museum, learning the lay of the place and getting acquainted with the piece.
The rest of the time, he walked around, getting a feel for the neighborhood. Even for a native, it never hurt to reconnoiter an area before a job.
                He repeated that the rest of the week, varying his hours and costumes so as not to be too conspicuous. His plan began to take shape.
All he needed now was to find the perfect time to pull it off.
                That came a few weeks later. The heads of some African nations were coming to Montreal to attend an economic summit in a ritzy hotel downtown. These guys were the talk of the town, which made Narson feel dumb for never having heard of them.
                Point was, this summit was going to keep the cops busy. That's all Narson was asking for.
                It was a sunny, muggy morning that was only going to get warmer.
                The museum was quiet, until a tour bus pulled up. About forty elderly tourists rushed the doors and assembled around their insouciant tour guide. When their tour started, a chubby man with salt and pepper hair and bottle-thick spectacles joined them.
                Buck Narson followed along, listening half-heartedly to the guide's explanations. When they came into the room he was interested in, Narson hung back, his eyes on the prize.
                His heartbeat quickened and he felt himself get hot under the collar. The wig didn't help, and he was afraid some sweat would run down his cheeks.
                Narson took a few deep breaths and waited for the group to move on to the next room.
                Now, he was alone with it. But he could hardly detach it from its pedestal and run out the front door.
                Right now, all he wanted to do was disable the alarm. Once he was sure nobody would come looking for him, he got down to business.
                The alarm was exactly what he expected it to be, and the work was done in no time flat, as it needed to be.
                He pocketed his tools and quickly walked off to catch up to the group.
                The tour couldn't end fast enough for Narson. Of course, Babbling Betty here, she had questions, questions, and then some. Buck silently cursed her, looking over his shoulder, half expecting to be grabbed by Security and dragged off to a windowless room to be bludgeoned to death.
                Didn't happen.
                He was home within an hour. He showered, prepared his costume for the afternoon run, and lay down for a nap.
                Narson woke just before five p.m., which left him a few hours to kill before the museum closed.
                He watched the local news while dressing. A big grin lit up his face as he watched live footage of the front of the downtown hotel where the summit was being held. Protesters filled the street, some of them waving flags while others threw various projectiles toward the hotel and the cops in riot gear who protected the building.
                This should keep them busy for a while, Narson thought. One less thing to worry about. By the time the museum people realized what had happened to their prized possession, and the cops reacted, Narson would be long gone.
                It hadn't moved.
                The room was too crowded to act on it, so Narson circled, admiring other works, until the room cleared.
                He squatted near the pedestal and looked under it at the alarm. No change there.
                A female voice came over the p.a. system. Mesdames et Messieurs, le musée est maintenant fermé.
                Time to move.
                Narson pulled on his gloves, and delicately lifted the piece from its stand. He kneeled slowly and set it down into the case he had placed in his duffel bag. He zipped up the bag and stood, looking left and right.
                Coast clear.
                He made a beeline for the front door, bumping a couple of Asians on his way out. He'd probably never been happier to see the sun in his life.
                Narson walked a couple of blocks to catch a bus heading west. In his seat, he resisted the urge to peek into the bag. Instead, he held on to it so tightly his knuckles turned white.
                The bus dropped him off on the western edge of downtown, where he had parked his car the previous night. He opened the door and gently dropped the bag on the passenger seat.
                Narson pointed the car westward. While he drove, he scanned the airwaves, looking for a news report. Each one he caught was all about the summit. Nothing regarding a theft in a museum. Narson smiled, exhaled deeply and switched to a Miles Davis CD.
                A lifetime ago, Buck Narson had rented a self-storage unit in the industrial sector of a small suburb off the island. He'd never missed a payment, even when he'd been forced to go away. The unit mostly served as a holding cell for material that needed to cool off before he could put it out on the market.
                And this one was definitely hot.
                Narson let himself in using his access card. Not much had changed since he'd last been in. Walls had been painted, extra cameras added, but that was pretty much the jist of it.
                Narson made his way through the maze and stopped in front of unit # B-117. He slipped the key into the lock and turned the handle.
                He heard them before he saw them.
                Oddly enough, Narson wasn't surprised. In truth, he should have seen it coming.
                Narson reached for the light switch, but he already knew what he'd see.
                Guns. Pointed right at him.