Carl still wore his work overalls. I slid over one barstool and made room for him. The bartender brought us each a longneck and I took a swig.
“This is the one,” Carl said. “If there’s ever going to be another one, this is it.”
I told him it’s too risky. I’d already served eight months for grand theft.
“You’re some rule follower, alright. When did you get permission to hang out in the bar, or with me, for that matter?” He asked.
I hung my head. “It’s not the same. They yell if I break those rules. I go back inside if we pull another stunt.”
He called me a pussy. Said it was a rich old lady, with no security and no dogs. He cleaned her rain gutters last week. She offered him lunch, and the house is full of antiques and has a safe.
We worked our way through a dozen more beers. The old lady has a caretaker that comes on Tuesday and Thursday. Carl goes back to patch the basement concrete on Friday.
“Look, she knows me. I can’t go inside, but I can drive,” Carl said. “I’ll leave the basement door unlocked and it’s all yours.”
I promised to think about it, and headed for the homeless shelter. You have to get there early to get a cot after it turns cold. I sat through the revival meeting, but couldn’t help thinking about having enough money to make a clean start.
Thursday I went looking for Carl. He said it was a cinch and told me about the jewelry in the safe. I’m not a safe man, but he said it’s small enough to take the whole thing.
I paused and rubbed my eyes.
“Look, man. This is happening,” Carl said. “If you don’t want in, I have another guy. I’m only going to get one chance at that basement door, and she can’t get up and down the stairs to lock it.”
“It isn’t like she needs all that stuff, does she?”
“She never leaves the house. Probably hasn’t worn jewelry in ten years. You can leave her a tea set or something.”
“Pick me up two blocks down from the shelter. I’m in.”
It wasn’t right, but I’d done it before. Maybe this would be the last time. We’d done a lot more that I never had to answer for.
Carl pulled his work truck up to the curb, and I climbed inside. It was better than I hoped. Big yard, lots of trees, no close neighbors. Best of all, nice and dark. It was perfect, but then Carl knew his stuff. We watched for an hour and no lights came on. No one moved behind the curtains.
I grabbed my flashlight and hurried across the back yard. The door was one of those that sloped away from the house and had stairs leading down. It didn’t even squeak as I opened it. Carl must have oiled the hinges. I left it open for my escape.
Once I was down the stairs, I turned on the light. The basement was empty and Carl’s fresh patch showed up on the far wall. One flight up, and I was inside.
It was cold inside, but there was sweat on my brow. I made my way to the safe room and looked around. Six chairs surrounded an ancient dining room table. The safe was in the china hutch.
“You’re late,” a feminine voice said.
I froze. I swear there wasn’t anyone here. I even shined my light around the table. I turned slowly and there she was. Long dress, expensive shoes, beautiful.
“That will be all tonight, Carl.”
He must have followed me inside, because he said, “Yes, Ma’am,” and filled the door way that was my only exit. He closed the door and locked it.
She took down two wine glasses and opened a bottle of wine. “It’s so hard getting in homes any more. No one will invite me inside these days. Too much crime.”
I worked my way toward the window. She filled the glasses and pushed one towards me.
“But you aren’t burdened by such restrictions, are you. You can rob any old woman you like.”
I fumbled for the window latch. It was stuck and I glanced down. When I looked back up she was right beside me. She hadn’t made a sound.
She grabbed my shirt and nearly lifted me off the ground. “Have a glass of wine. We have all night.”
She tossed me into one of the chairs and smiled. Her fangs must have been three inches lon–