5083 words (20 minute read)

The Heist

Samba felt the floor vibrate beneath her feet. The floor fell away, creating cascading stairs that descended below.

“How did you do that?” said Lupin.

“E backwards looks like a three. An L upside-down looks like a seven. V is the Roman numeral for five, and I is singular, as in one. Put it together, you get three, five, one, seven.”

Samba made calculations with her fingers.

“It’s a math problem. If money is the root of all evil, then the square root of evil is the number of money.”

Lupin gave her a dumbfounded look.

“What?” she said. “You want to be a thief, you have to be good at math, right?”

Walking to the floor below, Samba found herself in a long hallway. It stretched under the bank, ending at a large door.

Once she stepped off the stairs they began to rise up. Lifted up by some unseen controller, they returned to their position as the safe floor and her ceiling.

Sealed in, Samba removed her wig and whipped off her dress. Underneath she wore a jammer, running pants, and her lucky Docs.

Peering down the hallway, it appeared a straight shot. She took one step forward, then hesitated.

Reaching into her back pocket, she pulled out a pair of goggles. Placing the goggles over her eyes, the world went a shade of red. The hallway now filled with a layer of lasers, all moving in random patterns.

“Really, lasers? That’s all the great thieves’ bank can muster?”

She stepped backwards, placing her weight on her back foot. Instead of support, she felt the floor give way. The rumbling of motion beneath her feet hinted at an unseen chain reaction.

The wall behind her began to move forward. In front of her part of the floor dropped out, creating columns. The columns began moving up and down.

“What is with pressure plates?” she said. She grabbed Lupin, placing him on her shoulder.

“You bring it on yourself!” he said.

As the wall moved forward, sidewalls over the chasm began to close in.

Running forward, Samba jumped off the edge. At the top of her jump she thrust her arms and legs outward, leveraging herself between the closing walls. Jumping like a spider, she moved up the wall towards the first column.

Reaching the edge, she landed just as the walls slammed shut. Sprawling out, she tried to collect her bearings. Staring up at the ceiling, she felt the floor begin to drop.

Not wanting to find out where it went, she jumped to the next column. Like the last column, as soon as she touched it, it began to move. Unlike its predecessor, this one began to rise.

Pulling herself up, she rolled across the column. Falling she narrowly avoided it merging with the ceiling.

In front of her lay the path to the door. Three gates began to drop from the ceiling. Sprinting forward, Samba picked up as much speed as she could.

Sliding feet first, she cleared the gates as they were about to shut close.


Behind her, Lupin had fallen off her back. The gate closed in on him.

Reaching under, Samba grabbed the black cat by his scruff. She yanked him underneath just as the gate slammed shut. Lupin clutched her leg, shaking in fear. After a moment, he composed himself. He tried to play it cool.

“Hmph. I guess I should thank you.”

Samba didn’t pay attention to the condescending cat. She watched the pattern of the lasers as they swept across the floor.

Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a pair of headphones. Once in place, she grasped her music player and pressed play.

A bass-heavy beat filled her world. Nodding her head, she began to shift her shoulders in time with the music. Swaying her hands in circles in front of her, she rotated her arms and legs.

Cartwheeling forward, she leaped over two lasers. Lnading, she kneeled down. Twisting her head and back almost parallel to the ground, she concentrated on rotating her body in a slow-motion spin.

Standing up, she back flipped, landing on her hands. Lowering herself to the floor, she rotated her legs in a circle, spinning.

As the song reached its peak, Samba reached her flow. With one last hop over the lasers, she found herself in front of the door and in the clear.

Samba snapped her fingers.

“No sweat,” she grasped the knob and turned.

The doorknob turned. The door didn’t open. Samba put her shoulder into it. The door felt firmly wedged in the wall.

Samba twisted the handle hard. The force broke the handle off, sending her falling. A wall behind her slammed down, trapping her in.

“I am seriously getting sick of traps.”

The sidewalls began closing. Samba kicked at the door. Lupin huddled close to her.

“Hurry up, or I’ll be calling you pancake butt.”

Looking up, Samba noticed part of the ceiling missing. Grabbing Lupin, she dropped into a runner’s stance. Taking her only shot, she ran towards the moving wall. Jumping in the air, she kicked off it. Stretching out, she reached into the hole.

One hand grasped a ledge. Pulling herself up, she narrowly yanked her foot up out of the way.

Lying on their backs, Samba and Lupin gasped for air. Samba saw that the ledge led to another door.

“What is this, a video game?” she said.

She cautiously approached the door. Tapping the doorknob, she jumped backwards. Nothing moved. No sounds occurred behind the walls.

Standing as far back as possible, she took hold of the doorknob. She gave it a quick twist. To her relief, nothing happened. Grasping the handle tightly, she took a deep breath. She turned the knob.

The door opened easily. Inside, the room was two floors lined by old safe deposit boxes made of brass. A vault made up the center. Unlike the front of the bank, the vault remained in its pristine original condition.

The centerpiece of the room made Samba pause. In the center stood a statue of Atlas. He hunched over from the weight of the world burdened upon his shoulders.

A hand grasped her shoulder.


Throwing her right leg back, she dropped into a split. She slid backwards underneath the legs of her assailant.

Pressing her hands to the ground, she kicked her right leg squarely into his rear. She swung her left towards the man’s head.

He managed to catch her foot in his hand. Kicking herself airborne, she brought her legs around full circle. The crook of her leg caught the man’s head in a vice. The two of them collapsed to the floor.

As soon as she hit the ground, Samba grabbed his arm, placing it into a lock. The man writhed in her grasp. Looking down, Samba got a good look at her attacker.

The young man who kept following her looked back. He tapped against her leg.

“It’s you!” she said.

Jazz tried to smile.

“Yep. Could you…please…”

Samba released her grip. He gasped. Lupin sat down at his feet.

“That’s right,” said the cat, “you just got your butt kicked by a girl.”

Jazz rubbed his neck. He smiled at her.

“You keep dropping in on me.”

“What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

He reached behind him. In the struggle, his hat had fallen. Picking it up, he struck it against his thigh.

“Where’d you learn to fight like that? It’s Melody, right?”

Samba’s gut feeling said to flee. But something else told her to stay.

“Why do keep following me?”

He creased the hat’s edge, then placed it on his head.

“I have been following you. That’s true. But you’re not the one I’m after.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture.

“Do you know who this man is?”

Samba looked down. Soulless eyes staring back up at her. It was he. Standing in a police lineup, he wore that sinister smile.

“They call him the Gentleman thief. Wherever you are,” Jazz pointed at her, “he appears. Got a hot tip he frequents this bank. Then guess who shows up?”

He tipped his hat to her.

“Care to tell me why you’re here?”

Samba turned her attention to the vault. She wandered off without another word. Jazz watched her quizzically.


Lupin looked up at him.

“She does this. Trust me, it’s just as annoying the hundredth time.”

The vault was vastly different from any Samba had ever seen. No safe blocked the entrance. Instead of rows of deposit boxes, the walls of the vault were made of polished, unbroken marble.

Looking up, Samba noticed a single blemish in the otherwise perfect fade.

“The guild symbol,” Samba said.

Chiseled into the wall was a carving of a hand plucking a coin. A single sentence lay underneath it.

“For what will it profit a man,” Jazz read, “if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul.”

Lupin looked back and forth between the two. He shook his head.

“More riddles? Or did we come all this way just for some baloney morality lesson?”

Samba walked through the deposit boxes, counting off the numbers. Reaching a particular column, she knelt down to the bottom box. Jazz knelt down next to her.

“Box 1626,” she said.

She looked up at him.

“I was raised by a priest. It’s a bible quote. Matthew, sixteen twenty-six.”

She grasped the handle and pulled. The box remained firmly in place. Reaching into her pocket, Samba pulled out the fake key. She tried to place it into the lock.

“Think you need a smaller key,” said Jazz.

“Wait,” she said.

She reached into her shirt and pulled out her locket. Twisting its top, the locket came apart neatly.

Removing the tiny key from its resting place, she lined it up with the lock. It slid inside easily.

Turning the key, the box unlocked audibly. The three of them stood close together, the sounds of their excited breathes overwhelming. Samba opened the box.

Inside the box were two pairs of baby shoes, plated gold.

“What is this?”

Samba lifted a pair of shoes out. Her mind raced

Jazz picked up the other pair. He looked at the bottom of the shoes. “There’s a name on them. They belong to someone named Arya.”

Samba’s heart jumped. She slowly turned other pair over. Her real name was emblazoned on them.

“What does yours say? Ring any clues?”

“No,” said Samba. She tried to mask the shakiness in her voice. “Just a name.”

She knew the box had to belong to her parents. These were her baby shoes. Someone wanted her to find it.

Jazz examined the statue. He rubbed his chin in thought. He looked up at the engraving. On a whim, he knelt beneath the statue.

“Look at this,” he said.

Atlas’ left leg kneeled forward, a sandaled foot propped against the ground. The other leg stretched back, the foot bare.

Jazz slipped on the right foot of the gold shoes. The shoe fit snugly. An audible click came from the vault.

A small section of marble popped free where before no indentation lay. Samba looked at Jazz, amazed.

“How did you know?” she said.

“I have an appreciation for bad puns,” he said. He pointed at his shoe. “ It’d be awful to have to carry the world and lose your sole.”

Lupin groaned.

Samba stood uncertain, her knees uneasy. She approached the box slowly, taking time between steps. Whatever was in there had been placed for her.

She grasped the box with both hands. It felt light in her hands. She removed it from the wall.

Inside the box lay a small golden key. A looped handle at the end allowed her to lift it with one finger. The bit had been expertly carved, forged into the shape of a hand grasping a coin.

“Do you have anything that conducts electricity?” Samba asked Jazz. Jazz raised an eyebrow.

“Random question. Wait.”

Reaching into his jacket, he pulled out a two-way radio. Now it was Samba’s turn to wonder about her compatriot. Opening up the radio, he handed her one of the batteries.

“But why would you…” he began.

Pressing the positive side of the battery against the key, Samba was rewarded for her curiosity.

The key began to softly glow a light blue. It seemed to create it’s own light.

“Wow,’ Jazz could only say.

A slow, deliberate clap filled the room around them. The clapping picked up speed, the noise reverberating off the walls. They echoed back to a single source.

Six men blocked the exit. At the center, clapping with abandon, stood the Gentleman.

“Excellent job little girl. Nobody goes through the secret passage anymore, for reasons you probably noticed.”

“How did you get through?” said Samba

The Gentleman snapped his fingers. The bank manager stepped out from behind him.

“Oh, did I call that or what?” said Lupin.

“We took the service entrance,” said the Gentleman. “Now, if you would be so kind as to give me that key.”

Samba clutched the key tightly.

“My father didn’t want you to have this.”

“And he would be so proud. Or would he? What do you know about your father?”

Samba tried to speak, but her voice caught in her throat.

“Did he send you here? Or was it Jack? Did he tell you that is the real key to the Thieve’s Haul?

Samba tried to hide the key behind her back. It only served to pique the man’s curiosity.

“He didn’t, did he? Maybe you don’t know him as well as you think you do.”

“I know he’s more trustworthy than you.”

The Gentleman laughed.

“On the contrary, I’m the most trustworthy man in the world. For instance, you can trust I will leave here with that key.”

He motioned his men forward.

“You’re new to this, so I’ll make you a deal. Give me the key. I’ll go off and get my treasure, and leave you and your family alone. Forever.”

Samba felt her adrenaline spike. Anger welled up inside of her. After everything he’d done, all the lives he’d destroyed, that he could so nonchalantly push it all aside.

She was so consumed by her emotions she didn’t notice the bank manager whispering in the Gentleman’s ear.

“Now, we’re all in the same business,” he said. “So as a professional courtesy, can we wrap this up? The police will be here momentarily.”

“You’re right about that,” said Jazz. He pulled a revolver from a hidden holster.

“Hands in the air. You’re all under arrest!”

Jazz’s actions pulled Samba back to reality.

“You’re a cop?” said Samba.

The Gentleman did not flinch. He eyed the younger man with a humorous curiosity.

“Detective Foley. Gousseau’s little sidekick. Still trying to redeem your mentor’s failures?””

“Not so little anymore,” said Jazz. “This one’s for Gousseau. For crimes against humanity and the world, you are under arrest.”

The Gentleman slid his hands down to his sides. He feigned admiration.

“Well look at you. I only have one question.”

He held his hands out, fingers open.

“How fast are you with that gun?”

“Pretty fast,” Jazz said.

Samba remembered Jack’s words. The Gentleman sneered.

“Let’s see,” he said.

Samba dove into Jazz, pushing behind a pillar. A gunshot reverberated through the safe.

Jazz pressed his back against the stone, breathing heavily.

“I didn’t even see him draw,” he said.

The Gentlemen stood motionless, gun drawn. Smoke emerged from the barrel. A genuinely hurt look covered his face.

“I missed,” he whispered.

“Don’t just stand there,” one of the goons shouted at him, “shoot something!”

The Gentleman tucked his gun under his arm and fired. The bullet struck the loudmouth square in the foot. At no point did the Gentleman look behind him.

“I never miss!” he shouted.

“He is really teed off,” said Lupin, peeking out. “Suggest bailing sooner than later.”

Samba looked out at the approached men. She calculated a path through them. A plan hatched in her head.

“Quick,” she said to Jazz. “Give me a lift!”

“But I didn’t bring my car,” he said.

“No, launch me!”

Jazz wrapped his hands together. Taking a running start, she planted her foot in his hands. Bracing himself, he launched her across the room.

She flipped in the air, her arc traveling over the Gentleman. Samba came at the goon hobbling behind him. Planting her foot in his face, she sent him collapsing to the floor.

Landing, she placed her hands firmly on the ground. She pressed her body upwards into a handstand.

Balancing on her head, she spun her legs around like a top. Using her momentum, her legs whirled, striking every goon who tried to approach.

The Gentleman jumped back, barely missing a heel to the face. Behind him echoed the sound of a fist.

“You’re pretty good with a gun,” said Jazz.

He approached the gunslinger, hands in a fighter’s stance.

“But how are you with your fists, dandy-man?”

Jazz lunged at him, throwing a wide punch. The Gentleman ducked beneath it. He reached down to his pockets.

Jazz feared he was going for his guns. Incredibly, he merely placed his hands in his pockets.

Surprised, Jazz hesitated. The Gentleman stood smirking. He made no attempt to take the offensive.

Testing his opponent, Jazz threw a fast flurry of blows. The man deftly avoided every attempt to hit him. His movements were almost intuitive.

Jazz realized the Gentleman wasn’t reacting. He feigned his movements to invite Jazz’s attacks. In this way, the Gentleman led the fight. Jazz panicked.

Jazz panicked. He threw a desperate strike at the Gentleman. The Gentleman ducked underneath the blow, sticking out his leg. Tripping over it, Jazz stumbled forward.

Unable to stop himself, he careened across the room. Jazz spun into Samba. They crumpled together on the ground. Jazz looked at her, her up at him.

“We’re outnumbered,” she said.

“And outmatched,” he said.

Behind Samba, one of the goons raised a pipe.

“Look out!” said Jazz.

He grabbed Samba by the hand and lifted her up. Cradling her around the waist, he deposited her behind him. The pipe slammed against the ground.

Samba jumped forward, still holding Jazz’s hands. She kicked the goon in the face.

Jazz twirled her around his back. Feet landing on the ground, she let her body fall backwards. Holding Samba’s hand, Jazz pulled her fully extended arm towards him.

Pulling her towards him, Jazz grabbed her other hand. Samba jumped into the air.

Swinging her in a circle, they became a whirling dervish, striking each of their attackers unlucky enough to enter their radius.

“I think I’m gonna hurl,” said Lupin, watching them from behind a column.

A piece of metal slipped from Samba’s pocket. The centrifugal force sent it flying across the room. It landed with a clatter at the Gentleman’s feet. He looked down to find the key to the Thieves’ Haul sitting neatly beneath him.

“Well that was easy,” he said.

One of his men collapsed in front of him, a shoeprint imprinted on his face. The Gentleman looked down at him in disgust.

“Watch it! You almost scuffed my shoes.”

Samba touched down. The dizziness hit her immediately. She lost her footing.

Jazz caught her mid-fall. His arm cradled her back in a dip. Their faces pressed close together.

“You’re a pretty good dancer,” she said.

“We’ll have to do this properly sometime,” he replied.

He noticed one of her hands had absentmindedly gone into his pocket. They unlocked their embrace, embarrassed looks on their faces.

A sudden look of worry covered Samba’s face.

“The key!”

She looked towards the entrance. The Gentleman made his retreat.

Behind them, a shrill voice shouted out. One of the Gentleman’s goons was still on his feet. He charged towards her.

Jazz pushed Samba away from him. He turned and caught the man’s fists. He looked back at her.

“Go! They won’t arrest me!”

She looked down the entranceway. The Gentleman reached the main area of the bank. He stopped for only a second, turning to look at her. His face curved into a grin. He disappeared around the corner.

She looked back to see Jazz and Lupin struggling with the last henchman. She hesitated, torn between the two choices.

She ran after the Gentleman.

“Let me go, ya tosser,” shouted Lupin. The goon held the cat by the tail.

A heavy blow struck the man from behind, knocking him out cold. Lupin looked up to see Jazz standing over him.

“Be a shame if she lost her prize pet,” he said.

Lupin started to comeback with a snide comment, then thought the better of it.

“I will let that go, but only because you saved my whiskers.”

Samba reached the front entrance. She ran down the stairs to the front doors. A black police van screeched to a halt, blocking the entrance.

Outside, Jack idled in the robin blue car. He saw Samba appear at the door.

He watched the van arrive, the letters BOPE painted on the side. The doors of the van swung open. Heavily armed men started to climb out.

“Oh, why not?” he said.

Revving the engine, Jack threw the car into drive. He swerved between cars, striking the side of the van head on. The van lurched onto two wheels. It momentarily sat suspended at an angle.

With a mechanical groan, the van gave in to gravity. Everyone standing on the street flinched as the van landed on its side.

Jack climbed out of his car slowly, rubbing his neck. He waved to the police officers crawling out of the overturned vehicle.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.”

The irate officers grabbed him. They threw him against the car hood. Jack lifted himself up.

“We need to exchange information!”

The officers grabbed his head and pressed it against the hood.

“Thanks, Uncle Jack,” said Samba.

She turned away from the doors to continue her pursuit. If the police were out front, she concluded, the Gentleman couldn’t have risked going out there.

She noticed a nearby door swinging shut. Inside, a flight of stairs led upward. She moved quickly to the top.

Pushing through an exit door, she found herself on the bank’s roof. Samba looked across the rooftops, searching for any signs of the Gentleman.

Behind her, the roof door shut. He stepped out from behind it.

“Now we had a deal,” said the Gentleman.

Samba turned quickly to face him. She realized that they were completely alone. A hint of dread tempered her adrenaline. She thought she could smell smoke.

“The key, in exchange for leaving you alone. Now why would you go back on that?”

The Gentleman held the key in his hand. Samba tried to put on a distressed face.

“You said you’d leave my family alone. Which means you’d have to know where they are.”

The Gentleman chuckled.

“If you want to know where your father is, I don’t know. You should ask Jack.”

“Then you lied,” she said.

The man’s tone changed immediately.

“I never lie,” he said sternly. A smile reappeared on his face. “If I don’t know where he is, I can’t harm him, now can I?”

“And my mother?”

A wicked sneer crossed his face.

“Oh that’s easy. She’s right where I left her.”

He began to reach into his jacket.

“In the grave.”

Her gut feeling told her it was time to run. Samba jumped between buildings, trying to put distance between herself and the criminal.

Pulling his revolver from his jacket, the Gentleman lifted it straight up to the sky. He lowered it towards Samba.

“I don’t approve shooting someone in the back. But nobody makes me miss.”

He pressed the trigger.

Next Chapter: The Cast