The door shut behind her and Lena walked over to the table, taking a seat on the rickety metal chair set behind it. The room was sparsely furnished, the linoleum floor squeaking as she scooched her chair in, her hands in her lap as she shivered in the thin orange surgical scrubs of her prison uniform. Goosebumps rippled across her bare arms as cold air blew in through the small vent, the gentle whirring the only sound as she shifted slightly in her seat. A balding man in an ill-fitting suit was sitting behind an identical table a few metres away, a file open before him with a few pieces of paper spread across the table. He cleared his throat before leaning forward on his elbows, giving her a scrutinising look from across the room. Lena knew she looked unkempt, her dark hair a long mass of waves and her complexion, which had always been pallid, looking almost too wan. Still, she waited patiently as she met the man’s stare over the rim of his half-moon glasses. The room smelled like dust and cheap chemicals and she had to resist the urge to sneeze as she waited for him to speak.
“Good afternoon, Miss Luthor,” he eventually drawled, sounding bored as he leant back slightly, brushing one hand over his wonky tie and turning his attention to the paper in front of him. It had been nearly six months of waiting for parole, and the parole board finally come to a decision a few days ago. She was to be released. The prison official cleared his throat again.
“Hi,” Lena tamely greeted him, a passive look on her face as she watched him.
“As you know, parole is a privilege,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken, and Lena quickly nodded. “And one of the restrictions on any parolee is to avoid the company of any person who has a criminal record of any kind. That would include most of your family.”
A grim look of agreement on her face, Lena nodded again. “Yes, that’s … obviously that’s not something I’m proud of.”
“Would this pose an impossible challenge for you?”
“No. No, I don’t want that life. I never wanted that life,” she earnestly told him, a serious look on her face, “my brother, may he rest in peace, was a criminal. The same for my father and mother as well. I loved them, but they were con artists. It was in their blood.”
The officer gave her a searching look, “but not in your blood?”
“No sir. That was never me. I just … I fell for the wrong person. It was a mistake, and, uh, if I were to be released, I, um,” she started tearing up, her wide green eyes going glassy with fake tears as she blew all the air out of her lungs, shaking her head slightly. She gave him a tight smile, blinking the tears away. “Sorry, it’s just … even saying that is just- I, um, if I were to be released I would just, you know, want a simple life. Get a job, make some friends, pay my bills. Get a dog and go for walks and enjoy the fresh air.”
She was confident in her abilities as a liar, but still, she was almost smug that he so willingly believed her, eating up her lies about being a changed woman. Her whole family had been bred to con people, she was a convicted felon purely for conning people, and yet, he still ate up her act as if she had learnt something from her mistakes while she’d been inside. But then again, Lena couldn’t deny that she had learnt something from her mistakes - not to get caught next time. The second she was given early release, she knew she was back in the game.
With the sleek black dress she’d arrived in nearly six years ago, embroidered with hundreds of beads and sequins, Lena stared at herself in the reflection of a window, waiting to be allowed through to collect her belongings. She quickly swiped a deep wine red lipstick across her lips, smiling at the familiar colour - her trademark look - and relishing in the feeling of wearing lipstick again. It had been far too long since she’d felt anywhere near to being her normal self. The doors parted and her heels clicked on the tiled floor as she made her way over to the desk where an officer stood, scoffing as she rolled her eyes at Lena.
“The simple life?” Officer Martian said, arching an eyebrow as she smiled, “nice one.”
“You heard about that, huh?” Lena smirked, reaching for the clipboard being pushed towards her across the wooden counter, dumping her coat on the counter as she picked up the pen. She scrawled her signature across the dotted line and set the pen back down.
“Who didn’t?” the woman replied, shaking her head as she looked at Lena with faint amusement. She’d never been one to cause trouble during her stay behind bars, and her sharp wit and intelligence had made her somewhat of a favourite of some of the officers, although Lena was also smart enough not to flaunt it. It was also the reason why she’d been able to enlist the help of Officer Martian in her smuggling ring. “Here’s your stuff.”
Reaching for the package, Lena smiled, opening it up, “thank you.”
She pulled a black leather watch out and felt a twinge in her chest. She missed her brother. Turning the Rolex over, she looked down at the pair of dice etched into the metal, along with ‘ Lex’ and pressed her lips together in a grim smile as she flipped it back over and started buckling it onto her left wrist.
“It was my brother’s,” Lena murmured.
“Did he leave it to you?”
Letting out a quick laugh, Lena glanced up at the other woman, flashing her a dazzling triumphant smile. “No, I stole it,” she told her, her eyes sparkling with amusement at the disapproving look that crossed the officer’s face. “Don’t worry, Megan, he stole it first. So we’re still going to get a regular shipment next week. You can take your cut, plus a few extra cartons, okay?”
She finished buckling the watch up and gave the woman a smile, picking up her coat and slipping it on. The woman gave her an apprehensive look, and Lena tossed her long hair back, slipping the strap of her bag over her shoulder and giving Megan a quick wink. The uniformed woman looked far from charmed but couldn’t stop the smile that played on her lips. “So, where are you going to go?”
“Well, Megan, I’ve got forty-five dollars. I can go anywhere I want,” Lena breezily replied, before turning on her heel and walking out of the office.
The first step into freedom was invigorating, and Lena breathed in the smell of fresh air, convinced that it was sweeter than the air behind the towering barbed wire fences, and she couldn’t help but smile as she set off across the uneven graveled pavement spreading out from the front door of the prison, which closed behind her with a reassuring thump. She was free. Taking a deep, satisfied breath, Lena smiled, not even sparing the red bricked building another glance as she slipped a pair of dark sunglasses on and kept walking. She had business to attend to.
She caught a cab into the city, sitting in the backed up traffic with the window in the back cracked open, the smell of diesel and exhaust fumes mixing with the smell of food coming from food trucks and restaurants and the odour of trash piled up in alleyways. A small smile curling her lips as she sank into the leather of the back seat of the cab, Lena thought about the irony of missing the smell of the city and its cacophonous sounds as people went about their ordinary lives. Block after block passed by, towering chrome and glass skyscrapers set alongside galleries, department stores, coffee shops and bistros. She got out on the outskirts of the city centre, opting for a stroll through the familiar streets, as well as the fact that her forty-five dollars could only take her so far, and Lena couldn’t stop the smug smile on her face as she crossed at intersections, mingling with the crowds of pedestrians.
Stopping at a Bergdorf Goodman outlet, the windows filled with the latest fashions and accessories, Lena walked inside, looking every inch like a wealthy upper class woman who frequented designer stores as she strolled through the immaculate white tiled building, picking up products and eyeing dresses. Strolling past a neat row of colourful perfume boxes with matching colourful testers, Lena picked one up, giving it a quick sniff before spritzing herself with some and picking up an unopened box. In the cosmetics section she eyed a dozen shades of red lipstick, picking one a shade or two lighter than the nub she’d come out of prison with, and selected a few other necessary products on her wanders around the store.
With her hands full of the things she’d picked up, she walked over to the the brunette standing behind a counter, tossing her hair back and depositing a few small boxes of beauty products onto the white surface. “Hi, I’d like to return these,” Lena brusquely told the woman.
“Oh, sure, do you have your receipt?”
“No, but they’re unopened.”
The woman gave her a sheepish smile, an apologetic look on her face as she looked at Lena, “sorry, I just- I really need your receipt. We don’t accept returns without one.”
“That’s ridiculous. The boxes are all still sealed, they haven’t even been used,” Lena indignantly replied, bristling slightly as she gestured towards the boxes.
“Do you have the credit card that you used?”
“I bought these last week ,” Lena insisted, an irritated look crossing her face.
She watched the woman flounder slightly, giving her a helpless look, “sorry, ma’am, there’s nothing I can do. You could try client services on the sixth floor.”
Waving away the woman’s words, Lena sighed, shaking her head slightly, “you know what, nevermind. I’ll just keep them.” She quickly picked all of the things back up, juggling them slightly in her full hands. She gestured towards the woman with them, giving her a cool look, “can I at least get a bag?”
Vigorously nodding, the woman hurriedly picked one up off the pile, shaking it open and holding it out for Lena to drop the products into it, before she picked the bag up and gave the woman a hard look. “Thank you.”
She filled bags with stolen items as she made her way through the store, and a few more adjacent ones in the centre of the city, before making her way towards one of the fancy hotels in the area. Her heels clicked as she swept into the lobby, making her way past the concierge’s desk, eavesdropping on a couple checking out, and making her way up the marble grand staircase. Lingering in the open foyer, she leant on the railing as she looked down at the lobby, listening to the rest of the conversation with the couple as she pretended to flick through one of the magazines on display. As soon as they left she swept back downstairs, sitting in one of the leather armchairs with its back to the woman manning the concierge’s desk and dialled the hotel’s number on her phone.
It was easy for her to pretend to be the woman from the couple she’d just saw checking out, grimly explaining how their flight had been delayed and she’d need her room back, if it was possible. It was almost too easy. Within minutes she was in the elevator, a small suitcase stolen off the trolley the bellhop was pushing, along with a stylish fur coat she’d been eyeing, making her way up to the seventh floor. The maid was in the room, the cart sitting outside, and Lena was quick to skim a few things off it, before making her way in through the open door. She breezed in with her armful of bags, giving the maid an apologetic smile as the woman turned to look at her. “Hi, sorry, would it be possible for you to come back later?” Lena asked, “I just need to get off my feet.”
“Of course,” the woman said, giving her a friendly smile in return.
Giving her a grateful look, Lena dumped her bags onto the freshly made bed, “thank you so much. Have a great day.”
“You too,” the maid said, disappearing through the door and closing it behind her.
Flopping down onto the bed, Lena sighed, feeling like she was about to sink into the mattress. It was so soft after years of a thin prison mattress, and she spread her arms out wide with a look of content on her face. She could’ve stayed there forever, but she had work to do. Her main priority at the moment was having something good to eat and a bath though. It had been an eternity since she’d had something wasn’t prison food and a nice hot bath. Scanning the room service menu, she ordered one of everything that caught her attention, silently thanking the poor idiots who were putting her up for the night, and was soon surrounded by a sea of dishes and a bottle of a deep red Merlot.
The view from her room was spectacular, the fiery sunset reflecting off a thousand windows of all the tall buildings, and she swirled the wine around in her glass as she watched the sky grow darker, thinking over her plan for the millionth time while she listened to the sound of water pounding the bottom of the tub. When it was full enough, she messily tied her hair up and slipped beneath the bubbles and into the hot water, feeling the tension fade from her muscles as she lay suspended in the heat, watching steam rise and fog up the glass as she basked in the relaxing warmth of the bath. Sipping from her glass of wine in one hand, she held a much folded piece of paper in the other, staring at the list of names as the hum of the city carried on outside the window a few feet away. She’d forgotten how loud the city always was, and how bright it was too. Lights sparkled everywhere she looked in the darkness of the night, and Lena sighed, tossing the piece of paper to the bathroom floor, draining her glass of wine and then slipping beneath the water, letting it close over her head.
On the other side of National City, Kara was sitting in one of the upstairs rooms of her bar, absentmindedly alternating between reading a magazine and staring at the TV which was playing reruns of Judge Judy while her staff watered down bottles of vodka. It was getting late, just a couple of hours away from midnight, and she was feeling tired after a long day, the dull thumping of music and loud voices coming from downstairs. Glancing at the clock, she checked on the girls and sighed, climbing to her feet.
“That’s too much!” Kara said, frowning as she looked at the bottles of vodka filled nearly to the brim. “They have to be filled three fingers from the top, not one. Three.”
Leslie, the girl filling the ones in front of Kara was busy staring at the TV, and Kara snapped her fingers in front of the woman’s bored face, giving her a mild look of amusement. “It’s a rerun, Les. She slept with her cousin, and crashed the car.” Pouring a shot of vodka, Kara handed it to the blonde and arched an eyebrow slightly, “what does it taste like?”
“Vodka,” the other woman bluntly replied.
“Exactly. I don’t want vodka. I want vodka and water,” Kara said, giving her an exasperated look. “You want to know why? Because when you’re drunk, it tastes like vodka.”
She gave Leslie a wink before she walked off, the sound of the TV fading behind her as she passed through the door and into the loud din of the bar as she looked down to the floor where people were dancing and music was shaking the foundations. The bar had been hers for years now, a place for her to run her own business, which had turned out to be not as profitable or as fun as she’d hoped, and had in turn led to making some cheaper shortcuts that had left a bad taste in her mouth at first. She did what she had to do to make money and keep her bar open though, and Alex was always quick to reassure her that there was nothing wrong with a little bit of tampering whenever Kara’s conscience threatened to get the better of her. It wasn’t like this was her newest gig with breaking the law, but she had never been quite as reckless as her sister and her … well, Lena wasn’t an ex as per say, more of an occasional hook up, best friend and partner. Feelings had never really come into the mix, but they’d been brilliant partners.
Leaning against the railing of the fence separating her from a twelve foot drop down to the grimy wooden floor below, Kara blew all the air out of her lungs, almost wishing that she’d picked something else to do with her life. She had that old business degree floating around, but an office job had never really interested her, and besides, she was happy with her lot. Besides, she’d be lying if she said she didn’t love the thrill of getting away with breaking the law - it wasn’t like she was hurting anyone either - and she knew that if she was being honest, she wouldn’t pick anything else to do. Flying under the radar was her thing, with her low-end scams and cons, and she managed to make enough to make a decent living. She didn’t need any trouble. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and Kara pushed the sleeves of her bomber jacket up her arms before fishing it out of her pocket. The bluish pulsing lights of the small stage where the DJ was set up painted her face in an eerie blue light as she smiled, staring down at the lit up screen of her phone.
Jailbird: Where’s the fucking cemetery? 12pm?
She didn’t need any trouble, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t about to find her.