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A Coke and a Smile

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It wasn't the hardest job they'd ever pulled (that was the Bank job), or the most lucrative (that was the Bellagio job), or even the most fun (again, the Bellagio job), but it had its own entertainment value.

"This is the job you bring me?" Rusty asked, dipping a French fry into the ketchup puddled in the corner of the paper basket his food had come in. "Seriously?"



Danny smiled, showing a little more tooth than necessary. "Why not?" At this stage of their careers, they didn't need the money, and their reputations had been made a long time ago. They both knew because we can was the best reason to do anything. "Haven't you always wanted to know?"

Rusty shrugged a shoulder. "You can find it on Or Wikipedia."

"Not the same thing."

"You don't even want to steal it."

"I just want to prove I could steal it."

Rusty took a sip of soda, rattled the ice around in his cup, and brushed the salt off his lower lip with his thumb. Danny didn't even try to pretend he wasn't staring at Rusty's mouth when he did it. Rusty leaned back in the ugly, molded plastic chair, and Danny knew the answer before he even said, "Okay. Let's do it."


The flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta was about two hours and forty-five minutes. They sat in first class and planned the job. It was like any other bank heist they'd ever pulled. Easier, even, because there were no goods to carry out; nothing that had to be transported, stored, or fenced after they got out; and no buyers to double-cross them by not ponying up the cash and sticking them with the goods.

Danny relaxed into the soft leather seat and basked in Rusty's snacking, the crunch of cookies and the rattle of ice in a cup soothing as a lullaby after so many years. He knew Rusty was waiting, wondering if he'd leave again, and Danny couldn't blame him. He'd just have to find a way to make Rusty believe that this time, he was staying for good.

They checked into the Four Seasons and headed up to a suite on the nineteenth floor. Danny breathed in the recycled air and shook his head in bemusement at the tasteful yet overly intricate pattern of the carpet. All hotel carpeting was the same; the increase in room rate just meant the colors were more muted.

"I'll have you know that carpeting costs a stupid amount of money per square foot," Rusty said.

"Blow your savings account in Vegas kind of money or buy a BMW kind of money?"

"Send your kid to college kind of money."

Danny pursed his lips and nodded his head. "Nice racket."

"But the hours are lousy and the work is back-breaking."

Danny gave a low laugh. "Good point."

Rusty slid the key card into the lock with the ease of long years' use, a glimpse of his tattoo peeking out from beneath the cuff of his shirt. Danny always enjoyed watching Rusty work with his hands. Even learned a thing or two from him on occasion.

The living room had a beautiful view of the city, and Danny poured himself a glass of scotch from the mini-bar and enjoyed it for a few minutes. Too many guys in their line of work didn't stop to enjoy the little things, but for Danny, enjoying the little things was the point. It was why he'd worked so hard to get to where he was.

Rusty popped open the small can of Pringles and joined him on the sofa. Danny smiled and pulled him close. They could work out the rest of the plan later.


Danny wandered away from the guided tour of the Coke museum, choosing instead to browse through the memorabilia and pick up random trivia from the plaques accompanying the exhibits. He pocketed a handful of magnets and a couple of bottle cap pins from the gift shop on his way out the door. At the hotel, he sealed them up in envelopes addressed to Linus and Basher and the others. Those trinkets would be the only proof he and Rusty had even been here, let alone pulled off this job.

He'd always hated the waiting, and it hadn't gotten any easier even as he'd gotten older, though he was more resigned to it now, understood the importance of timing in everything. Four years in jail and two more in East Haven had taught him to appreciate time and its passing more than anything else could have.

He went upstairs to the room, and by the time he was done showering and shaving, Rusty was back with the ID card.

Rusty had a fake moustache and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses to get into character, but all Danny needed was his suit, his slicked back hair, and a slight adjustment in the way he walked to turn himself in to Marty McEachern, high net worth individual and anxious Coca-Cola Company board member. He didn't see Danny and Rusty when he looked in the mirrored door of the closet--he saw Marty McEachern and Clay Francis, the Coke executive who'd been assigned to assuage McEachern's anxiety about the company's current stock price.

He raised an eyebrow and Rusty grinned, letting Danny see right through the awful moustache and obsequiously rounded shoulders.

Danny took a deep breath and got back into character, but he still bumped Rusty's arm with his own as they walked to the elevator. For comfort. For luck.


Danny flirted shamelessly with Brenda Jackson, the SunTrust relationship manager who took them down into the safe deposit vault. She was flustered by the attention, which was the point--if she was ever questioned, long after Danny and Rusty were gone, she'd remember the charming gentleman and his flirtatious smile, not what he or Rusty actually looked like.

She fumbled with the key on the first try, but on the second, she got the box unlocked and drew it out. "This is the first time I've ever been the one to open it," she said breathlessly. "I was just promoted a few months ago, after Roger retired."

"Good man, Roger," Rusty said, drawling out his vowels like a native. "I used to golf with him sometimes." He gave her a charming smile of his own, one that was more Rusty and less Clay Francis than Danny would have liked. She blinked in confusion, whatever she'd been about to say lost in the blinding curve of Rusty's lips.

"We'll take it from here, Brenda," Danny said, taking the box from her and laying it on the counter. "Thanks for all your help."

"Yes, yes, of course. I'll be right outside if you need me. Just give a holler when you're done."

"Will do," Danny assured her, and Rusty gave her another smile, this one flatter and falser, more in character than the one before.

She left them in the vault and Danny grinned at Rusty as he lifted the lid of the box. A manila folder lay inside.

"You got a pen?" he asked, and Rusty handed him a blue ballpoint from the inside pocket of his jacket. Danny pulled out a sheaf of papers from his own pocket and then opened the folder. He flattened his papers out and started writing. "Orange, cinnamon, nutmeg," he murmured.

Rusty leaned over his shoulder, smelling like expensive cologne and hair gel. "Coriander and neroli oil? Really?"

"Looks like." Danny finished copying the formula down and closed the box. He handed the pages he'd written on to Rusty. "Too bad about the decocainized coca leaves. Otherwise, we could make you up a batch at home every week, save a trip to the Stop and Shop."

"Ha ha," Rusty said, and then he stopped and unfolded the pages Danny had handed him. "What--These are your divorce papers, Danny."

"Yeah." Danny shoved his hands in his pockets and gave Rusty a little half-smile.

"Okay," Rusty said. He leaned in and gave Danny a quick, hard kiss. "Okay." He tucked the papers away and called Brenda back in to put the box back where it belonged.


They were thirty miles away from the bank when Danny finally eased off the gas and slowed down to the speed limit. "It's only about seven hours to Louisville," he said, flashing Rusty a grin. "And I feel like having some fried chicken."

Rusty leaned back and put a hand on the nape of Danny's neck. His grin was sharp and full of promise. "Let's go."