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Freedy backed away from the corner stack of Campbell's Soup he'd been poking his head around.
"We have to get out of here now," he said.
"What about the others?" Sheila said, looking at him sharply. "I still have my badge."
"I don't think that trick will work this time," Freedy said. "These are private cops, I'm not sure they'll recognize your authority."
Sheila looked ready to object.
"Besides," Freedy added. "You've been seen with them. Remember the old lady?"
Her face fell. Hard to forget the Grandma from Hell.
"I have an idea, Sheila. Bear with me."
"All right, Freedy," She nodded. "I have a feeling this place is going to be swarming with guards in a very short time. Let's go."
They started walking quickly down the aisle toward the front of the store. He stopped suddenly at a display. He grabbed a summer hat and sunglasses which were on close-out and turned to Sheila.
"Here, put these on," he said.
"What, you want me to steal?"
Freedy suspected there were security camera's all over the place, but... "How much more trouble can we be in?"
He grabbed the least feminine hat on the rack, and jammed it on his head. He took off his coat, and draped it over his arm. Sheila saw what he was doing, and put her coat on backward. The inside of her coat was a bright red.
Freedy had a sudden image of them showing up on the infamous website "People of Price-Ceiling." Look at this idiot wearing a feminine hat and his girlfriend with her inside-out labels showing!
"We need to buy a couple of pre-paid cellphones," Freedy said, after a moment's thought. Sheila could probably escape notice better than him. She was already transformed from the no-nonsense woman that had walked into the store into the ditsy broad standing before him.
Charlie had given each of them a couple hundred dollars for spending money out of Freedy's diamond heist, and he handed his folded bills over to Sheila. "They don't need to be fancy," he said. "The cheapest phones they've got."
He let his gaze linger on her, hoping he wasn't sending her to jail and ruining her career. "I'll wait for you in the car."
He walked straight for the sliding frontdoors without looking back, expecting a hue and cry with every step. The podium the Greeter had inhabited was abandoned, and he walked on by and out the door. He'd never heard such a happy sound as that swoosh of freedom.
He got in the driver's side of the van, and realized belatedly that Jim was a prisoner inside the store and that he had the keys to the van in his pocket. But Jim was also notorious for losing his keys, and everyone in the crew knew there was an extra set in the glovebox. Fortunately, they had been so rattled when they left, they'd neglected to lock the doors.
Freedy started the car and tried not to look too nervous. After a minute or two, he started creeping toward the entrance. He was driving by the doors for the second time when Sheila rushed out and hopped in the passenger seat.
"Got it. Let's go."
As they accelerated away, they saw several white panel trucks pull up and half a dozen guards jump out of each. The men ran into the store.
Unlike the guards they'd met inside, these guys were armed.
The cellphone was bright blue, with the face of white kitty on front. "Hello Kitty?" he said. "Really?"
"Unless you'd rather have this one?" she said, pulling out a pink Barbie phone.
Freedy almost recoiled.
"Hey," she said, laughing. "You said get the cheapest phones!"
He smiled back. Being thrown into danger together had erased some of the awkwardness between them. They were too focused on what they needed to do to worry about how they felt about each other. It was doing wonders for their relationship. Freedy could almost imagine that the betrayal hadn't happened. But then -- every time he thought that -- he of course remembered the betrayal and his smile dropped.
They drove several blocks to the east before they found a road that seemed to wrap around the Price-Ceiling store. In back, there were loading docks every few hundred feet with sliding doors. Some were active, most weren't. Freedy realized for the first time that it was a Sunday. He could only guesstimate which storeroom they had taken the prisoners to.
He'd find out soon enough.
He panicked for a moment when he couldn't find a port. Had they bought too cheap a phone? At the last moment, he discovered a single port at the base of the phone. He pulled the flashdrive out of his pocket.
Sheila's eyes widened. She grabbed his hand, and leaned down to examine the jewels on the device. To Freedy, they looked like costume jewelry they were so big. He was reminded by her intense examination that she was an F.B.I. agent and probably knew the difference between fake and real. Her hand lingered on his and he closed his eyes for a second.
Her finger poked into the gauged-out hole where the diamond had been and looked at him questioningly.
We don't have time for this! Freedy thought -- or so he told himself. In truth, he'd been basking in the glow of his heist, and even if Sheila the F.B.I. agent was probably disgusted with him, he thought maybe Sheila the woman was kinda impressed.
He plugged the flashdive into the phone.
4 days ago