“I love you. Goodbye.”
Stephen waits in the bar below their rented apartment. He dazzles a few locals with some card tricks. Tries the one that’s only ever failed so far. It fails again, but he doesn’t care.
He’s not entirely focused on the tricks, anyway. Every five minutes, he’s looking at the door. Bloom’ll be back soon. He always is.
Stephen waits in the bar again, this time paying more attention to which patrons are regulars and which have just stopped in for the first time. He looks for signs of wealth. Signs of dark secrets. Signs of weaknesses.
He identifies a few possible marks for the next con. May as well start preparing for when Bloom gets back.
Stephen has three possible cons sketched out. All three require a player who isn’t here.
This is the longest Bloom’s been gone. Usually, after his "This time I really mean it" storming out, he’s back within three days. Well, apart from that time in Chile, but there had been a snake bite involved, so it wasn’t exactly his choice.
Stephen sends Bang Bang to start checking out local hospitals.
Bloom is fine. He has to be. There are no Blooms or John Does in any local hospitals or morgues. No news from further afield of anyone matching his description being found injured or dead.
Stephen starts to consider the possibility that this time, Bloom really does mean it.
No. He just thinks he does. He’ll be back. He just needs some time.
Stephen’s never really been interested in the one-man con, especially with himself as the main player. And as useful as Bang Bang is with her own unique skill set, she’s not really helpful in the face-to-face baiting and stringing of the mark.
They try it, just once. It doesn’t go well.
She does end up with the guy’s phone number. And that’s after she shoots part of his ear off.
Despite a few less-than-flawless jobs, they’re doing okay on money, or at least they will be if he can stop Bang Bang from ordering so many Camparis.
He’s starting to worry that he might lose her soon, too.
He’s not sure why she’s still with him, to be honest. He’s always gotten the impression that she liked Bloom more than him.
Bang Bang is gone.
But she’s gone searching for Bloom. She sends Stephen postcards to update him on her progress.
They’re blank, of course, except for his current address, carefully scrawled, and sometimes a silly picture.
Bang Bang sends him a postcard from Rome. She’s drawn either a pizza or the Colosseum, Stephen can’t tell which.
This might be the longest Stephen has ever stayed in one place. He’s become a regular at the bar, which means his marks can only be drifters. He should really move on.
But Bloom might come back.
Will come back.
And Stephen will be there when he does.
Bang Bang sends him a postcard from New Jersey, of all places.
It has a stick figure drawing of a man in a hat, holding a suitcase. Stephen thinks it’s supposed to be him, but it could be Bloom.
Either way, Stephen thinks he gets the message. He packs his things and heads for the train station that evening.
For the first time ever, he leaves a forwarding address. Just in case.
Stephen’s more than a little pissed to find that Bang Bang has summoned him to New Jersey, and Bloom isn’t here.
She brings him to a huge castle of a house, and hands him a folder containing a couple of articles about a rich heiress named Penelope Stamp.
“A mark? You brought me to New Jersey to show me a goddamn mark?”
She looks back at him, unfazed by the anger in his voice, then points to another article.
Stephen reads a little more, and he starts to understand what Bang Bang is thinking. A plan begins to take shape.
Bang Bang knows where Bloom is. And now Stephen has a plan to get him back.
“Where are we going?”