Debbie gets back from lunch one afternoon, and the fucking jewels are gone.
"What do you mean, gone," Lou growls into the phone. Debbie can hear the wind rushing past her as she drives at inadvisable speeds.
"I mean I got home, I looked in the fridge, and they were gone, they were fucking gone, Lou, I—"
"And there's no sign of who was there? What the fuck happened to the security?"
"Someone got past it. And no, there's no sign, what like there's be a fucking clue, this isn't Scooby . . . Doo . . . " Debbie trails off as she finally notices, in the center of the coffee table, sitting by itself, a plain white envelope with her name on it.
"Deb?" Lou asks, into the sudden silence.
"Get here." Debbie ends the call and walks to the table. With a trembling hand, she picks up the envelope.
"You're taking this seriously? A treasure hunt. Someone leaves you a note saying 'come find your treasure!' and you think it's a good idea. We need to get out of the country."
"I think it's for real," Debbie says.
"I'm serious, you can come to England with me, my warrants have all expired, I'll say you're my wife—"
"I think we should do it."
Lou shakes her head. "And not inform the others? What if you're wrong?"
"Then they're all gonna have a lot of years to be pissed at me while we're all serving time together." Debbie looks up at her, and smiles with all the confidence she's not feeling, the shark-tooth grin that used to make Lou agree to anything. She's not sure it'll work, but then Lou's expression crumples into defeat, and Debbie figures that there's still something left of their old spark.
Something. She's still not sure how much, and for all the time she spent plotting in prison, she's not sure how to find out.
"Come on, Daphne" she says, standing up and putting on her jacket. "We've got a clue to follow."
"Daphne?" Lou's tone is incredulous as she falls into step behind Debbie. "What, does that make you Velma?"
Debbie puts on her sunglasses. "I'm Fred, obviously."
It's not one clue, but a trail of clues, all leading to nonsensical locations, like some criminal version of a scavenger hunt: to move from one clue to the next, they have to solve puzzles, finesse people for information, break into a bank vault, steal a cat (briefly), and go undercover as French art dealers. It's fun as far as it goes, but after a few hours of this, Debbie gets annoyed and starts looking through their stack of clue-letters for meta-clues.
"What, you're gonna profile the puzzlemaker and get us to the end, is that it?"
"Something like that."
"Well, you—look, you can't do it like that, here, let me—"
After a few minutes of squabbling, they manage to work together, putting together some of the clues within the clues to try to figure out where this trail might eventually be leading them.
"If we can get ahead of them, we can catch them in the act. Then we'll have some leverage."
Lou's frowning down at the pattern they've assembled. "Uh, Debs," she says, pointing. "Look where it leads."
"Oh, fuck," Debbie says.
They race for Lou's car and gun it back to the safehouse.
It's empty and dark, just the way they left it, at least at first. They walk in, closing and locking the door behind them, peering carefully into corners. When they reach the middle of the main room, the lights come on and a blonde woman is standing behind them.
"Jesus Christ," Lou swears, pressing a hand to her chest. "You scared the shit out of me."
"Oh, sorry," the woman says. "You really should install some better security on the skylight, though."
"The skylight," Debbie repeats. "That has a laser grid over it."
"Yeah," the woman says, absent-mindedly, looking up.
"That sits atop a 60-degree incline roof," Lou says.
"Right! That one. So, first thing's first, I know you want your stuff back."
The woman sets a suitcase down on the table and springs it open; inside, shiny things that certainly look like their stolen jewels wink back up at them.
"And you are?" Lou asks.
"Parker. One of you is Debbie Ocean?"
"I'm Debbie Ocean," Debbie says, stepping forward. Lou is already in the suitcase, examining the jewels, but Debbie knows that, to spot a good forgery, they'd need Amita. "Parker who?"
"Just Parker," Parker says.
"What, like the infamous . . . art . . . thief." Lou trails off mid-sentence. "You're Parker? The Parker?"
"Nice that my rep's still intact." She watches Lou watching the jewels, then says, "You can call your friend Amita if you like. I don't mind. It's all there."
"Your rep says you dropped off the grid years ago," Debbie says. Parker sits, and Debbie echoes her body language, sitting across from her. Lou takes a seat on her left side. It should feel like they outflank Parker, but it doesn't.
"I found an alternative revenue stream," Parker grins. "So, you hacked the clues. Alec said you might do that. He was impressed how quickly you got the pattern."
Debbie frowns. "I thought it was too easy."
"And you didn't shake anybody down or hurt anyone. Social hacking, roleplaying, sleight of hand, theft, catnip, but no fisticuffs or animal harm. Eliot likes you two. Likes all of you, in fact. An impressive crew you're put together."
"Parker." Debbie uses her most commanding voice, and waits for Parker's attention to fall back on her. When it does, Debbie holds her gaze. "What the fuck was this all about, today?"
"Maybe you heard about the Anderson job, a couple of years back? Or about the crew that took down Damien Moreau? Maybe you heard some whispers about what happened in San Lorenzo?"
Debbie looks to Lou, who raises her eyebrows. They both look back at Parker.
"Maybe we did," Debbie allows.
Parker nods "So maybe you heard someone stole the Black Book."
This one, Debbie doesn't know; she glances at Lou again, who shrugs.
"Well, ask your friend Nine Ball. She'll know."
"Okay," Debbie says. "So this crew, your crew, you're saying you did all these jobs? Why?"
Shrugging, Parker says, "Because it's the next step. If you wanna go on stealing from rich people who do really dumb things with their money, go for it. Don't hurt anyone who doesn't deserve it, and don't steal from, y'know. Kids or hospitals, or whatever. We'll leave you alone. But, y'know, take this as a compliment, but you've kind of maxed out the coolest stuff you can do, working at this level."
"And what's the next level, Parker?" Debbie asks. She's caught up in it, she can feel it, in the spell Parker's weaving for her, the enticement of the larger vision. She's always been a sucker for a plan, and this one sounds huge.
Lou touches her hand, warningly. This is the only way Debbie's ever been a sucker and Lou knows it; it's how Debbie got taken in by Claude. Debbie squeezes her hand briefly, I'm fine, then lets it fall.
Parker's eyes track their hands, just for a second, before snapping back up to focus again.
"The next level is stealing from all the assholes who think they're above you. Above everyone," she says. "All the ones who think they can mess up the entire world just because it suits them. Who don't care who they hurt. The next level is, we rob them blind, screw with their reputations, get them fired, destroy their favorite Porsche. We take everything they ever stole and give it back."
Debbie feels her breath catch in her throat.
"And, I mean, you can also give some to yourself. Nothing wrong with that. But mostly you give it back. Turns out stealing things can feel even better." Parker gives them a long look. "The Met Gala job got you on our radar. Today was your interview, and we liked what we saw. If you want to know more, come and talk to us."
She passes Debbie and Lou each a business card. The name on the card is Evelyn Winks, and the cards purport to be for a poodle grooming service in Long Island.
"Curls and Pearls," Debbie reads. "I have to say, I've always been interested in . . . dog grooming."
"Come by sometime," Parker says, standing and walking for the door. "Bring your whole team, if they're in."
Debbie can't muster up anything to say to that, and then Parker's out the door, her footsteps shuffling down the step.
"Well," Lou says, "Isn't that just a fuck and a half."
"Oh, and one more thing," Parker says, coming out of the kitchen. Debbie tries very hard not to scream and thinks she does a credible job; Lou grips her shoulder so hard she's sure she'll bruise.
"What the hell," Debbie says.
"I was following you today, watching your methods, and." Parker frowns, hesitating. That's interesting; up until this moment, everything she's said has been prepared, collected, confident. She's ad-libbing now, Debbie's sure of it. "And I just wanted to say. You might not think you can have what you want. People might tell you that mixing business - our business - with pleasure doesn't work. Or, y'know. Don't shit where you eat, Parker." This last clearly an impression of someone Debbie doesn't know. Parker snorts a laugh, then continues. "But you can have what you want. It'll make you stronger, not weaker. Even if you don't come by the poodle shop, maybe think about that."
"All right," Debbie says slowly. She's painfully aware of Lou's presence, the shape and solidity of her off to Debbie's side, but she's not going to air her business in front of a stranger.
"Okay. Okay, well, bye." She goes out the same door she did before, and Lou eyes the rest of the house warily for a few long moments, clearly worried she'll pop up again.
"Well, my curiosity's piqued," Lou drawls, eventually. Debbie laughs, letting her head hang down for a second, feeling some of the tension drain.
"Yeah? You wanna go by the poodle shop?"
"Oh, I'm definitely interested in going by the poodle shop."
"Sounds so dirty," Debbie muses. "I don't even know why."
"Poodles are pussy metaphors for some reason," Lou explains.
Debbie chews her lip for a second. "You think, uh, you think she's got something going on with her crew? The way she was talking at the end there."
"Sounded like it."
"You and I, we used to," Debbie begins, then doesn't finish the sentence. They used to do a lot of things, and the history is so rich between them that there's no one verb that would fill in for their time together.
"We did," Lou agrees. She turns toward Debbie for the first time since Parker left, looking her up and down. "Do you think that? You shouldn't shit where you eat?"
"I mean, only in the literal sense, not necessarily as relationship advice. I thought—but I thought you'd think, what with Claude and everything . . . " she spreads her hands.
"Claude was a piece of shit and you should never have hooked up with him in the first place." Lou's vehemence is strangely soothing. Debbie's been waiting for her to get mad about Claude for years.
"Yeah, well. I staged an elaborate heist and frame job with the sole purpose of proving to you that I finally figured that out, so. I hope that's apology enough."
Lou cocks her head. "I didn't need an apology, Debs. I came to pick you up."
"Yeah, you did. You've always been the one who did that. Even today."
Lou inches closer, and Debbie smiles, almost laughing. "So, what you're saying is," Lou murmurs, pushing Debbie's hair back from her face, "you'd like to both eat and shit with me."
"Really sexy, Lou, I can't imagine wh - " she's cut off by Lou's mouth, pressed against hers, doing every filthy thing that Debbie remembers perfectly and fantasized about for over five years.
"Let's be robin hoods," Lou breathes, when they finally part.
"Sounds good to me," Debbie grins, and captures her mouth again.