Date: May 9, 2010
When two thieves target the same piece of merchandise, there are bound to be… misunderstandings.
Warehouse - Somewhere in NYC
Warehouses are like God's gift to the thief. They usually have reinforced doors. Sometimes there are cameras or guards watching the doors. No one watches the walls, though. Especially not for a determined man wielding a water saw.
Grunting with effort, Porter lowers his saw to the ground and rubs his lower back briefly, then picks up a small duffel bag and slings it across his shoulders. He's dressed in a navy jumpsuit and hat. Camoflauged for a night mission, but not suspiciously so. With a smile, he pulls the cut-out section of wall aside and sets it down gently. From there, all he has to do is locate one crate.
One crate among hundreds. Perhaps thousands. Luckily, this isn't his first time on a scavenger hunt of this magnitude. He glances at the closest crate, then another, and another. It doesn't take long for him to get his bearings and set off in the right direction.
Flexibility has its advantages in many situations, especially when it comes to assignments of such importance. Armed with only a crowbar and a slip of paper containing a number, Vasha slinks through the ventilation system above the maze of wooden boxes. The noise of the fans masks any that her body makes as she snakes along the metal ducts until she reaches a vent.
This is where a crowbar comes in handy.
Prying away at the edge of the grate, Vasha loosens it enough to swing open. Then she grips the sides of the hold and quietly lowers herself down to the top of a stack of crates. Coming to a stand, she reaches up again and closes the vent with a quiet click.
Her shoes make a soft thud when she jumps to the cement floor and she stills for a moment, turning around in a circle to examine her surroundings. She digs the piece of paper from her pocket and glances at the number, then to the numbers on the crates adjacent to her. Then, she's off.
Porter's eyes are constantly on the move, devouring information and stockpiling it away for later use. At the same time, he's pulling decks of cards from his duffel and tucking them away into inobtrusive places around some of the containers. He grins victoriously when he finally spots the one he's been looking for. 0412.
In a flash, he's on his knees in front of the locking mechanism with picks in hand. After a few seconds of grinding noisily at the wards, he withdraws his tools and spits in the keyhole. "Rusty son of a whore," he grunts under his breath as he goes back to work.
Every cube has six sides and from between two stacks of crates, Vasha is working on the other side of the crate. She's not concerned with the lock, she's got a crowbar. With a hefty creak she's got the back of the crate off and is digging through the raffia they use as packing material.
There is it, The Bambara fertility statue. Lifting it carefully, Vasha upends it and carefully twists the bottom, breaking the base off with a soft crack. There, stuck inside a small hollow is a single dot. Vasha's lips upturn in a small smirk as she removes one of her gloves with her teeth and then presses her finger gently to the dot to remove it. Then, it is carefully wrapped into that same slip of paper from earlier and stuck back into her pocket.
One by one, the pins fall into place until the lock opens with an audible click. Porter keeps his ear close all the while, listening for that tiny, magical sound. When he hears it, he licks his lips and a look of rapture spreads across his face.
Then it disappears. The creaking is a dead giveaway. He freezes and cocks his head, listening for the telltale sounds of… yes… there it is. Someone has beat him to the mark by seconds.
Porter tucks into a half-crouch and creeps around the crate, keeping close to the side and out of view. When he reaches the pried-out opening, he exhales, counts to three, and launches himself in to tackle the competition.
The statue crashes to the floor and the old wood shatters against the cement.
The body underneath Porter isn't quite as concerned about the antique piece of cultural art than her own well being. She is face to face with him, again.
"Captain," she purrs, narrowing her eyes at him. "When I said to keep in touch, I did not mean this close. I am afraid that I am not available to scoundrels such as yourself."
She doesn't need her arms, or her body, she has strong legs and those legs wrap around his torso. Locking her ankles together, she begins to squeeze tightly, gritting her teeth.
Porter groans and pries vainly at Vasha's thighs. Can't breathe. Can't breathe. The creaking sound coming from his ribs is a bit ominous, too. Every move he makes to struggle only seems to worsen his situation. Still, he writhes around in search of a better grip and comes into intimate contact with his aversary in the process. His eyes widen visibly. "Oh… Oh my God," he gasps painfully. "Are you… moist… ?"
Vasha's eyes widen with fury and she releases him promptly. Using her legs again, she places her feet underneath him and grips his shoulders with her hands. Then she rolls with him until she has him prone and she is on top. "You are a disgusting pig," she practically spits at him, her accent making it sound gutteral and seductive all at the same time. Then, using a loose bit of his pantleg for traction, she attempts to push off of him.
Right. Because Porter is going to stop her. Pained and winded, he scoots backward until he's propped against the wall of the crate. Then, smiling, he lifts a single finger, as if gesturing for her to wait a moment. Slowly and deliberately, he reaches down to depress the face of his watch.
Simultaneously, eleven empty Hoyle boxes packed with C4 erupt into blasts of flame and concussion. No cards in there, it seems. The explosions rock the entire warehouse. In the wake of the detonation, Porter is on his feet and on the offensive. He shoves Vasha outside, where smoke hangs thickly in the air, fragments of burning wood are still falling to the floor, and rack upon rack of storage containers are tipping over, spilling their contents like carpet bombs.
No more words. Porter snaps his foot out toward the side of Vasha's knee and follows it with a vicious elbow aimed at her face.
The willowy woman is down but she's very far from out. Once again, her eyes narrow dangerously and she growls, then lets out a roar of fury as she flips to a stand. She shakes her head, much like a bull trying to regain its bearings after being stabbed in the ring. Then her sights are set on Porter again and she rushes forward, one fist cocked near her face to protect it while the other lets off a quick jab to his nose.
The air is thick with smoke and while she should be coughing, she's not. She's holding her breath, breathing out a short burst every once in a while. Twin jabs at his face and then she ducks down again, feigning a leg sweep but actually using the time near the ground to grab another gasp of air.
Porter sways around the first punch, deflects the second, and takes the third squarely on his nose. "Son of a bitch!" he gasps, backing away and blinking his watery eyes. Now his pride is stung and his hackles are up. Grimacing, he picks up a piece of broken shelving, hefts it experimentally, and smiles.
The twisted piece of wood makes a handy club. Porter feints with his improvised weapon, pivots, and then pistons his leg out to deliver the true blow. A kick aimed under the solar plexus and angled upward toward the vitals.
Vasha flies back when the kicks hits her and all of the air is expelled from her body. She hits a burning stack of crates with a crunch and it begins to teeter dangerously. Still, the woman is not out. In great pain, she's picking herself up from the floor just as the tower of burning wooden boxes comes down on top of her.
There's no time for hesitation. Porter narrows his eyes, drops his club, sprints toward Vasha, and checks her with his shoulder, knocking her backward. As he does, his hands dip into her pockets with practiced ease.
The shelf collapses, dropping thousands of pounds of crates to the concrete. Porter does well at first, dodging and evading them like the proverbial Indiana Jones. Then one grazes his shoulder and brings him to his knees. Another smashes directly behind him, pinning his legs under the debris. Battered and bloodied, he struggles weakly to free himself.
Again, Vasha hits the ground after being hit. She turns her head to witness Porter being pinned down by the boxes. There's more than just a moment where she pauses in consideration, is it to leave him? Very sluggishly, she pulls herself up to a stand and stumbles toward him.
Slowly at first, the boxes on top of Porter are thrown to the side. When enough of the weight has been lifted off of him, she reaches down to grab him by the wrists and pulls him free of the rest. She drags him down toward one of the clearer alleys before dropping him and sinking down to her knees. The air is becoming almost unbreathable and her way out isn't a viable exit anymore.
There's too much noise and not enough time for a proper conversation. Porter looks Vasha squarely in the eye and then staggers to his feet. This time the roles are reversed and he takes her by the wrist. Gently, but still insistently, he leads her toward his hole in the wall by touch and memory. As they grow closer to the exit, cleaner air and evacuating smoke give clearer clues.
Eventually, he staggers out into the alley behind the warehouse with Vasha in tow. He releases her wrist, spreads his feet slightly to distribute his weight, and clenches his jaw. His brown eyes, now bloodshot, are fixed curiously on his companion.
Wrenching her wrist from his grip, Vasha doesn't allow him to touch her for longer than is absolutely necessary. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she backs away a few paces and then pivots on her heel without a word to him.
Looking in her pocket, she pulls the piece of paper out and unfolds it just enough to make certain that the microdot is secure. Then she looks over her shoulder at her nemesis with a conceited smirk and holds the paper in the air between two fingers. Taking a deep breath, she coughs the remainder of the smoke from her lungs and begins to slowly walk away from him.
On a quiet night, you can hear a Beretta being cocked almost fifty yards away.
"I can't let you walk with that," Porter calls out, his voice almost wistful. "I wish I could. We worked together pretty well back there. Sadly, if I let you take it, you and I both know you'll use it to burn me."
Two suppressed gunshots cut the piece of paper in two.