Chapter 1: The Board
Mary sat down before the Parole Board.
Miss Blue said, "Good morning. Please state your name for the record."
Mary said, "Good morning. Mary Morstan."
Mr. Green said, "The purpose of this hearing is to determine if you're likely to break the law again."
It wasn't a question.
Green found her attractive. Mary crossed her legs.
Doctor Black said, "You were implicated though never charged in dozens of confidence schemes before your conviction."
"As you said Doctor, I was never charged." Mary put a dollop of penitence in her smile."
"We're trying to determine if you were caught up in circumstances, or," Miss Blue didn't like Mary, "if you were merely caught."
Mary folded her hands. "My wife left me." She looked down. "I went through a bad period. I got into a pattern of self-destructive behavior."
"Do you think you're likely to get into the same pattern?" asked Green.
"She left me once. I doubt she'd do it again for kicks." Mary saw she had them.
She walked into the world a somewhat free woman. She couldn't leave the state.
She did that almost immediately.
She didn't go to the Bellagio where her ex-wife worked, managing the art collection. Dating Charles Magnussen, the owner.
Her plans had nothing to do with Janine.
But Mary was planning on robbing the Bellagio.
Chapter 2: Out to the Castle
Mary heads to Atlantic City.
Of course, she won't leave the state. Of course she won't be drinking. Of course she won't get into trouble.
Mary walked out of prison in the cocktail dress that she'd been arrested in. Her wedding ring still fit. She turned it as she sparkled in the sunshine.
Sarah was working the tables at the Castle Casino in Atlantic City.
Mary sat down. Waited for Sarah to come to her.
Sarah said, "How are you Ma'am?"
"Hey," Mary pointedly examined Sarah's name tag, "Juana." Played a round. Said, "I feel like the cards are getting cold?"
"Try the lounge at Caesars." Sarah shuffled the deck. "It heats up around noon."
The lounge at Ceasars was quiet. It was 3pm on a Tuesday. Sarah sat down. Mary raised an eyebrow, "Juana?"
"Sarah Sawyer can't get past the gaming commission."
Mary gave her the shrug for the breaks.
"So…." Sarah moved her martini glass around the table, "do you have a job?"
"Please," Mary grinned, "I just became a citizen this morning." Sipped from her martini. "So, have you seen her?"
"Irene's out in LA teaching movie stars to play poker. If I get one more text from her telling me how bored she is and inviting me to dinner….
As if on queue, Sarah's phone buzzed. She waved it at Mary. It was a dinner invitation.
Mary leaned back with her drink. "I can guarantee, she's not going to be bored."
Chapter 3: Bored in La - Send Chips
Irene was unutterably bored teaching actors to play cards.
Then of all the gin joints of the world, excitement walked in.
Irene delicately plucked nachos with neatly trimmed red nails. Was unutterably bored.
One of her clients, VampCW walked up. Wanted to know if she could get a receipt for the tax right off.
VampCW dropped the matter.
Irene reminded ActionHeroMarvel not to deal left. Reminded AbsHeroDC that five card draw was not Blackjack.
None of them knew what they were betting and could care less.
AbsHeroDC put down his hand. Irene smiled on the outside, "You can't have three pair. There aren't six cards in five card draw."
She looked at ActionHeroMarvel. He put down his cards. "All red," and slapped hands with his friends as if his utter shite hand was something. Irene did not rest her Manhattan against her forehead, which would muss her makeup.
She took a break. Listlessly watched beautiful women gyrate for her pleasure.
Her heart started beating again.
There was aka Mary Morstan sparkling as a red bellied piranha playing cards with her clients.
They fenced over crime. Cash. The last job that went south because Mary got emotional. Because Janine didn't want to fence stolen Incan Matrimonial Facemasks.
Baited the hook that Mary was betting so high so early because she was bluffing. VampCW folded clutching her glass. The rest were game.
Mary laid down her cards. She wasn't bluffing.
Chapter 4: A plan is born
Irene and Mary discuss the job.
They looked down at LA shining like watery stars through the smog. Behind them Griffith observatory gleamed.
Irene said, "Don't tease. What's the target?"
"Why not?" Mary took Irene's paper cup. Sipped coffee at the spot where red lipstick marked the spot. "You like it so much."
"Didn't you get my cookies?" Irene took back her coffee.
"That's why I came to see you."
"What," Irene sipped her coffee, "is the target?"
"When was the last time you were in Vegas?" Mary pushed a strand of hair away from her neck.
"You want to knock over a casino." Irene felt like a roulette wheel spun by Mary's three raised fingers. "Three casinos."
Mary gave LA a demure look.
From the twentieth floor of Fab Right Architecture, they examined blueprints. Irene traced her fingers over lines. "I think this vault may be less assessable than my grandmother's panties." Irene licked her lips. "Three casinos?"
Mary pointed. "M.G.M Grand. Mirage. But it all ends up at the Bellagio."
Irene's eyes narrowed. "Those are Magnusson's' casinos."
"Yes." Mary smiled.
"You'd need at least a dozen women pulling a combination of cons. A Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday, three Etta James, and the most bad ass Ella Fitzgerald ever." Irene pursed her lips. "It'll take money."
"Oh, I have someone in mind for the bankroll."
Chapter 5: In the Land of the Blind, the One Eyed Banker is Queen
Mary and Irene pay a visit to Lady Elizabeth Smallwood.
"You are certifiably insane." Lady Elizabeth Smallwood poured tea into Mary and Irene's cups. "It cannot be done."
Mary said, "It's never been tried."
"Oh, it's been tried." Lady Smallwood held up her hand. "The bronze goes to Minny the Moocher in 1965 at the Sands. She grabbed a lockbox and made it three step." Lady Smallwood raised a second finger. "The silver goes to a hippy in 1973 at the Flamingo. He actually made it to the door." She spread her hands. "But the gold medal goes to Sami Silver in 1983 at Caesars. She came. She grabbed. She threw it the air."
Lady Smallwood leaned back. "Of course, you're pros. You'll get out of the casino. After which you'll still be in the middle of a God forsaken desert."
Mary smiled. "You're right. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs."
"Pure hubris," agreed Irene while loving on her cucumber sandwich.
"As a matter of curiosity, what casinos were you thinking?" Lady Smallwood really was curious.
"M.G.M Grand, Mirage and Bellagio." Mary let the words fall.
Lady Smallwood put down her cup. "Those are Magnussen's casinos."
"They are," agreed Mary.
"He flicked my eye. Blew up my casino." Lady Smallwood scowled at the china.
'He did," agreed Irene.
Lady Smallwood smiled. "How much do you need? I'll be your bank."
Chapter 6: The Crew
Mary and Irene discuss who they'll need for the job.
One vault door was injured in this scene.
"Who do we have?" Irene poured sugar into her expresso.
Mary tapped the table. "Sarah's transferring to Vegas. Drivers?"
"I spoke with the Doctors. Mortimer and Stapleton." Irene sipped slowly.
Mary laughed. "They're probably arguing over their doctorates."
Irene tapped the side of her nose.
"Anthea. She's been doing surveillance for the FBI." Irene smiled fondly.
"That explains all the Ticket to Ride." Mary pursed her lips. "Munitions? Kitty?"
"Died." Irene shrugged.
"Did you send flowers to the funeral?"
Irene tilted her head. "Dated her wife."
"Basher" suggested Mary.
Irene sighed. "Availability issue."
Primarily because Sally Donovan had gotten in with a crew of utter tossers. She said, "Hold onto your knickers," and blew the vault door.
The alarm went off.
She glared at Anderson. "You had one job." Was still fuming as the cops cuffed her for the walk of shame.
"We meet again Basher," said Irene. She held up a badge. "De Sade. ATF." Stepped forward. "Have you searched her for detonators?" Irene slammed Sally into the cop car. "Find Sasser-Masoch," yelled, "Find him!"
The street cop left.
Unschackled Sally. They walked away. "We're putting something together. You in?"
"Hell yeah," said Sally. She rubbed her wrists. "Be good working with proper villains."
Which was when the empty cop car behind them exploded.
Irene helpfully yelled, "Bomb!"
Chapter 7: Two More for the Team
Hudders didn't need anything. She had a duplex and a boyfriend with Viagra. And lots of oranges. But...
That was 9.
They went to the circus to add a grease woman for 10.
Martha Hudson, Hudders, sat with her blue racing hat atilt pealing an orange. She was in Florida and she was going to eat oranges. Especially with Mr. Hudson under the bay.
Irene walked up.
Hudders did not stop pealing. She said, "Dear, I saw you before you got up this morning." She tutted. "You should rethink pajamas. There could be a fire."
"Always." Irene sat down.
They watched the horses. They ate soup.
"You're the best," said Irene. "What do you want?"
"Nothing," Hudders examined her spoon. "I have a duplex and a boyfriend with unlimited Viagra."
Irene sniffed. "Get a dildo and a few batteries."
Mrs. Hudson hummed. "Are you going to treat me like an adult?"
Irene handed her a brochure.
Hudders put down her soup. She could have a duplex in Rome with an Italian gigolo.
Irene and Mary went to the circus.
Mary asked, "Which one is the amazing Yao?" peering at the leaping women.
"The little Chinese woman." Irene sipped her cola.
Mary looked at Irene. "Who else is on the list?"
"She is the list."
Mary huffed. "She doesn’t look that impressive."
Soo Lin Yao did a triple flip and summersaulted to a landing.
"We have a grease woman," said Mary.
"We have a grease woman," agreed Irene. "A very flexible grease woman. Bendable."
Chapter 8: Molly Makes Eleven
They need one more for the lift.
Irene twirled a cherry stem. Mary cupped her Manhattan. Mary said, "That's ten. We can do it with ten."
Irene put the stem in her mouth. After a moment, she pulled it out thoroughly knotted.
Mary sighed. "You think we need eleven."
Irene twirled the stem.
"Fine, we'll get eleven."
Molly was dressed in her most mousy clothes. Shy and sad. She stood swaying on the "T". She tripped on her own laces. Said, "I'm sorry." She was apologetic. Not about the pull. That had been silk smooth. She was sorry a few more times.
Got off around Fenway. Found a card in her pocket instead of her wallets. On it was written, "Emmit's" On the front was printed, "Mary Morstan".
Molly swallowed. She wasn't a big dog. Not Molly. Still…
Mary greeted Molly saying, "I'm putting something together." She held out a plane ticket. "You in or are you out."
"What is it?" It was a ticket to Vegas. Molly felt like she was in an episode of "So You Think You can Dance."
"Kenna Cauldwell recommended you highly."
"Mothers are like that. Yeah, she didn't tell you?" Molly looked at the ticket. Lifted the watch off Mary's wrist.
Mary grinned. "That was your best lift yet."
Molly decided that she was ready for a little more bark.
Chapter 9: The Pre-Planning Party
The crew gather for canapes and champagne.
Sarah got there first. She had too many shrimp, but it was in a tower. She never could resist a shrimp tower.
Soo Lin was impressed. Lady Smallwood threw a very tasteful party. There was champagne and tiny crab cakes shaped like stars. Soo Lin appreciated subtle details like that. She showed off a bit on the diving board, but Irene kept clapping.
Irene was looking forward to the after party.
Sally had a beer with a pig in a blanket. Champagne gave her a headache.
Molly wasn't sure why she was there. These were all big names. Well, not the gymnast, who could apparently levitate, but everyone else was well known in certain circles. Molly had good hands. She clutched her Chardonnay. Afraid they'd lift it from her.
Hudders knew why she was there. Italian gigolo. Maybe a French gigolo on the Riviera for variety.
Doctor Mortimer said to her half-sister, Doctor Stapleton, "You're ignoring the implications of post structural heterogony."
"Stop being so didactic."
"I am the older sister." Doctor Mortimer picked up a canape.
"You're only older by three days," sniffed Doctor Stapleton.
They had to be separated by Lady Smallwood.
Anthea played Ticket to Ride on her phone. Sipped very good champagne.
Mary said to her crew, "Let's begin."
Chapter 10: The Bad News and the good News
Mary and Irene lay out the good and bad news for the crew.
Mary said, "Ladies, the M.G.M, Mirage and Bellagio. Together, the most profitable casinos in Vegas."
Anthea updated the animated display.
Mary continued. "The Bellagio's vault. The money from all three is stored here. And we're going to rob it."
"Smash and grab," said Molly. Immediately wished herself into the wall.
"Slightly more complicated than that," said Irene.
Mary met her crew's eyes. "First, the bad news. It has the security of a nuclear missile base. We have to get into the cages. Through a corridor where everything is monitored. Past a six digit code that changes every four hours. To the lifts, which require finger print authorization and Casino authorization to move."
"Which they are unlikely to give us," Irene winked at Molly to see her blush.
"The shaft has motion sensors." Mary pointed to the display.
"Which," said Irene, "if triggered will lock the lifts."
"Once we're passed the lift, it's easy. Just two armed guards. An incredibly tough nut of a vault."
Doctor Stapleton looked at her sister. "What's the good news?"
"It's a requirement of the Gaming Commission that each casino hold enough funds to cover the floor. On a fight night, like in three weeks, the night we'll rob it, it'll hold a billion dollars."
Eleven breathes drawn in.
"That's right," Mary smiled, "we'll be a billionaire."
Chapter 11: Tasks One, Two, Three
The first step was learning everything there was to know. Every corridor. Every guard.
The second was Basher's show.
Sally asked, "Broke, blind or bedridden?"
Mary spread her hands. "All three."
The third was surveillance.
Anthea examined the specs. "Definitely a black bag job. In house IT?"
Irene handed Anthea a badge cloned from a very lonely member of the IT department.
Doctor Stapleton walked through the casino. When she ran into her sister, Stapleton let go of her balloons, which blocked the cameras from viewing the cage door. They got into a heated argument about modern casinos as embodying the surrealistic horror of Victorian gothic novels.
The guards came over to separate them. Were dragged into a discussion of German literature. Sam, one of the guards, was studying Schauerroman for his thesis.
In their absence, Anthea badged in. She followed the floor plan to the server room. Wished she could have worn a sweater. She slipped a wireless router into the system. Sniffed. The casino wouldn't be scanning for unauthorized signals for two months.
The monitors in their hotel room came live.
Mary said, "Why are the rooms always painted that color?"
Irene shrugged. "Taupe is soothing."
As Anthea emerged into the casino, the Doctors resolved their academic differences and left.
Irene popped a balloon.
Chapter 12: Tasks Four, Five, Six, Seven
The fourth task was construction. They built a replica of the Bellagio vault for… practice.
The fifth task was transport.
While the Doctors were thoroughly examining the vans, Sarah negotiated.
She considered going to about medical school, but enjoyed working with her hands.
As she shook hands with Mr. Donny Gee, she gripped him tight and would not let go. Kept shaking. Talked to him about moisturizer. For some reason that always worked at driving the price down.
The sixth task was a suit. Hudders complimented the imported silk of her pants suit.
Mary had to ask, "Hudders, are you ready?"
Hudders smiled, "Dear, ask that question again, you won't wake up the next day."
Hudders went into the casino as Madame Zelder. Followed by the Doctors, looking sharp in black suits and hats. Hudders felt hats made an outfit.
The seventh task was intelligence.
Molly followed Magnussen.
She learned his schedule. Every eye flick. Every incident he dealt with. "Um… did you know the last person who crossed him went to prison, had his house foreclosed, and his brother's tractor business was seized?"
Irene tossed a peanut into the brush. "I heard."
The best part of Molly's day was when the Irish Angel walked down the stairs.
Irene stared at the angel.
Molly said, "Isn't she beautiful?"
Chapter 13: Enter the Ex
Irene and Mary have a talk.
Janine walks into frame.
Irene walked on razor sharp feet back to the warehouse. "Mary," she licked her lips, "we need to talk." They went to the door. Where the chilling night air was full of buzzing insects. "Tell me this isn't about her. About screwing the man screwing your ex. Tell me or I'm walking."
Mary lied. "It's not about Janine."
There were shadows everywhere. Irene didn't look away.
"Not entirely about Janine." Mary swallowed. "When we got into this business, we said we'd play like we had nothing to lose." She put her hand on Irene's bare arm. "I lost something."
Irene crushed a bug with the point of her toe. Didn't pull away. "Just remember, you can't steal two things. Which one will choose?"
Janine stood in front of the Dali. Hair coiled tight. Her suit covering her from neck to wrist to ankle. Entirely contained.
Her boss, lover, looked at the painting. She asked, "Do you like it?"
Charles smiled behind glasses that everyone else saw as cold and calculating. He wasn't like that with her. "I appreciate it through your eyes."
She leaned forward for a kiss. He pulled away as he always did. Glancing at the monitors.
"Until tonight." He gave her the faintest of nods and walked away.
Left her there among the Giacometti, Bacon and Bourgeois.
Chapter 14: Two Meetings
Hudders makes a proposal to Magnussen.
Mary makes a far different one to Janine.
Hudders met with Magnussen as requested.
Explained that she had a package arriving on Saturday. Was offered the house safe with a patronizing smile.
"The house safe is for cheap vodka and fake pearls. I need something better." She crossed her hands. "You will be well compensated."
Magnussen wouldn't want money. But a woman like Madame Zelder held secrets in her eyes.
Their glasses reflected agreement.
Janine felt a hand on her shoulder. Smiled. "You're late."
"Yes, I am," said Mary. She sat down. "Had to pay my debt to society."
"Your checks bounce," said Janine. She sat very tightly in her chair. Wished her hair was still up. Mary had loved to play with her hair.
"Where's your ring?"
"I sold it." Janine couldn't look away. "You need to leave before,"
"Magnussen gets here." Mary shrugged. Elegant. Ordered a whiskey without a care. "I'll make this quick. I'm here for you. I want you in my life."
"You're a thief."
"But I don't lie about it. I don't do that anymore."
Janine couldn't believe what she was hearing. "I'm with someone who doesn't have to make that distinction."
"No," Mary didn't look away, "he's something else."
Which was when Charles arrived.
Janine tried to smooth it over. Mary was just her ex. Nothing more.
No room left for blame.
Chapter 15: Dinner
Irene needs to relax to get her focus.
Soo Lin has a visitor.
Warning: This chapters features soft focus f/f per the rating, because if Irene doesn't get some action, well, I'm not sure how anyone will.
Irene was restless. No reason.
Every reason with Mary splitting her focus.
Irene liked Janine. Beautiful skin. Lovely hair that must look fabulous on a white pillow.
She didn't an eleventh of a billion like her.
Irene needed to find her focus.
Mixing business with pleasure was a terrible idea. That's why she loved doing it.
Soo Lin opened her door.
Irene was wearing a white robe. Held a bottle of champagne, two flutes and a small box of raspberries. "Dinner?"
"There does not…" Soo Lin did not want to offend, "that would be a… small meal."
"Oh," Irene walked past her, "this isn't dinner." She put everything down. "This is desert." She untied her robe. She was naked.
Irene flicked the ties of Soo Lin's nightgown with a finger. Bent down for a kiss. Irene's tongue it was, it could, Soo Lin felt as if she was making a triple summersault.
Found her hands sliding along smooth skin. Into the tumble of Irene's hair. Didn't resist as Irene slid off her nightgown. Gasped as Irene guided her body through poses. As if she were a teacher. As if Soo Lin was gasping clay.
Irene had her meal. Champagne. Popped berries in Soo Lin's mouth and was gone.
Soo Lin lay shattered and told the closed door, "Bye."
Chapter 16: The Plan Gets All Buggered to Hell
The Poxy bastards blowing up Lady Smallwood's old casino buggered her plan right up.
It was with some discomfort that Soo Lin folded herself into the casino money cart for her practice run. She inhaled from her tiny oxygen tank. Thought about the pleasures of the night before.
When the signal came, she climbed out. Mary said, "Ten she shorts it out."
Irene smiled. A red mark bloomed like a flower on her neck. "Twenty she doesn't."
Soo Lin met Irene's eyes. Stood perfectly on center. Flipped and landed without jostling the cabinet. Gave Irene a bow.
Sally was in her happy place. Her zone. Delicate wires. Timing. Everything just fucking precise.
Then those fuckers. That god damned poxy demo team used a coaxelent. Blew up the backup grid one by one.
It was like Magnussen knew what she was planning on doing and blew up Lady Smallwood's old casino a purpose to piss Sally right off. Oh, the blow was fine. Lady Smallwood spent the whole lead in chewing nails. Sally watched it on the tele and then the lights flickered.
Mucked around in the sewers watching the poxy bastards sorting out the flaw that she was planning on exploiting.
She rushed right back. Flinging muck racked clothes everywhere. Told her villains how fucked they were. "Less we're doing this job in Reno, we're in Barney." Growled. "Barney Rubble. Trouble. It's all buggered.
Chapter 17: What to do in a Pinch
The team goes for a pinch.
Once she'd parsed the trouble of barney rubble, Mary said, "Perhaps, we could,"
"In one day," said Irene. She pursed her lips. "There's always,"
"Too risky," said Mary, "Course, there's always,"
"No," they said together.
"Fuck me, we can use a pinch." Sally snapped her fingers. "A um electo pulse. Stops everything electric dead. Course" She worked an extra bit muck out of her hair, "only one big enough to manage it is in Livermore California."
The Doctors looked at each other brightly. "Road trip!"
Mary pointed at Molly, "Stay in the van."
Molly wanted to point out that the drivers were going in. Then again, they claimed to have a familiarity with the layout. "But you're always arguing about literature."
They looked at her blankly. "That's for fun. That's not what our doctorates are in."
She waited in the van. She couldn't take waiting in the van.
The place was a maze.
She ran down halls. Upstairs. The alarm went. She could see the van leaving. She tossed a chair through a window. Followed it. Jumped down onto the car park roof. Down again. Ran to the moving van. Hands pulled her in. The van door was slamming back and forth.
Soo Lin screamed. Everyone was yelling. Sally cursing blue at her.
Soo Lin clutched her hand. "It's broken!"
Chapter 18: The Hits Keep coming
Mary is red flagged. No idea why. Nope, none.
The hits kept coming.
Their grease woman thankfully only had a sprained wrist, which she was going to have to use oving around the vault.
Molly was sulking like a whipped puppy.
Anthea greeted them back at Lady Smallwood's. "Mary, you've been red flagged." She held up the printout that she sadly had been forced to print out due to a lack of extra tablets. "If you go into a casino, they'll be on you like hawks with cameras."
Irene ate a bite of gelato. "Any idea how this happened, Mary?"
Mary knew exactly how this had happened. "No."
Molly said, "She's been chasing Magnussen's girl. I've been tailing him."
Mary said, enunciating each word. "I did not tell you to do that."
"Then it's a good thing I did," said Irene. "Why couldn't you leave Janine alone?"
"Who the fuck is Janine," asked Sally.
"My wife," said Mary.
"You're ex wife." Irene ate another bite.
"Janine is here?" asked Hudders.
"You're out Mary, you can't trigger the vault if you're flagged." Irene pointed at Molly. "You up for it?"
"Yeah," said Molly, who looked like her heart was in her throat.
"Janine is with Magnussen now!" Hudders shook her head. "But she has a soul." She lit her herbal soother. "Must have been like with Frank. All about the bedroom."
Chapter 19: Last Tips Before the Stage is Set
Irene gives Molly some pointers
Warnings: Implied f/f
Irene stood Molly in front of her. "How are you going to stand?"
Molly crossed her hands.
"Not like that." Irene gestured with her lollipop. "Not like that either." She clicked her tongue. "Where are you going to look if you're asked a question?"
Molly looked down.
"That means you lying."
Molly looked up.
"That means you don't know."
Molly looked her in the eyes with a slightly crazed look.
"Don't hold eye contact." Irene sucked on her lollipop. "Be funny, but not too funny. You want to be attractive, but not too memorable. You'll do just fine."
"Ah, there's the fire. Almost perfect, but…" Irene walked around her.
"You're far too tense. Follow me." Irene put her lollipop in her mouth and winked at Soo Lin. An hour later, Molly returned, rumpled, pink cheeked, and more than a little dazed.
Soo Lin nodded and handed her an ice pack.
Hudders put on her coat. She put on Madame Zelder.
She felt dizzy.
Too old for this.
"Martha," said Irene from the door. "It's time."
Hudders nodded and got a kiss on the cheek for her troubles.
In the casinos, the crowds were gathered.
Hudders waited with Magnussen for her courier.
The stage was set.
In the ring, two fighters were getting ready to trade blows.
Chapter 20: Into the Breach
Hudders plays her part.
Hudders walked through the casino with Madame Zelder's straight shouldered stride with Magnussen, when her performance was broken.
"Oi, Hudders!" A voice cut through the casino's roar. It was Tadpole, one of Frank's old crew. "Hey, Hudders, long time."
She did not look at Magnussen. She said, "You are mistaken." Flicked her eyes at the Doctors. They hauled Tadpole away.
Thankfully, and this was in no way a part of planning, Mary stood up from where she was playing slots and ordered a free drink from one of the waitresses.
Magnussen ordered two of his men to deal with the red flag at the nickel slots.
Hudders held up the briefcase chained to her wrist. "Please. I have never enjoyed the touch of steel to my skin."
They continued on. Hudders prayed Mary knew what she was doing.
They made their way into the secure area that Hudders had seen so often over the cameras.
Magnussen said with a cold smile, "I accept your briefcase, but you can't accompany it into the vault."
"Insurance," the smile grew colder, "I don't trust you."
Since her performance wasn't designed to illicit trust, Hudders inclined her head.
"Is there a place where I can watch it go in?"
Magnussen allowed her that.
She went to the control room to watch a briefcase.
Chapter 21: Be Cool
Soo Lin gets into a tight space.
Molly looks Magnussen in the eyes.
Soo Lin climbed into the tiny space of the cash trolley. Irene gave her an oxygen canister and offered her dinner. Soo Lin flipped her off, which seemed the right reply.
Irene laughed. Locked her in. Soo Lin sat curled in complete darkness with only thirty minutes of air.
Molly took a deep breath. Over her com, Anthea said, "You'll do fine. You're a natural."
"Thanks." It was good to hear.
"You're welcome, but don't screw up. I will hurt you." Came the not entirely calming reply.
Magnussen emerged onto the casino floor. Molly said, "Mr. Magnussen, Jane Channing from the Nevada Gaming Commission. I'm going to need ten minutes of your time."
Magnussen flicked his eyes over her. She didn't like it. Being seen by him. "Anything for the NGC."
They went to pit five where Molly identified Sarah as an ex-con.
Magnussen transferred the security codes to his inside pocket from his case. "If she's who you say." He examined Molly. "Been at the Commission long? Had a chance to work with Hal Holling?"
Molly looked down. Cursed herself. Looked straight ahead. "Been there eighteen months. Haven't seen Hal since he died."
Got a pleased hum from Anthea.
Just as Irene had said he would, Magnussen said, "I'd prefer this conversation happen off the floor."
Anthea said, "Beautiful."
Chapter 22: Being Good at Being Bad
Molly makes a lift.
Mary gets caught up.
Sarah glowered at the table. A woman caught out.
Molly fiddled nervously with a manila folder. "I'll umm… take your silence as agreement that you are Sarah Sawyer." She held out the folder to Magnussen. "I'm afraid that you've been employing an ex-convict."
Sarah slapped the table. "What right do you have? Coming in here. Kicking me just when I get back on my feet."
Molly swallowed. "Miss Sawyer, the Gaming Commission takes ex-convicts working…"
Sarah stood up, toppling her chair. "Is that all I am?"
Molly shrieked. Fell back into Magnussen. Scampered around him to get away from Sarah.
Sarah had to admit, Molly was good.
Magnussen sneered at both of them. He glanced at his phone. "Enough of this." He jerked his head at the casino manager. "Deal with this. I have more important concerns."
He swept out. Both of them already forgotten.
Mary evaded Magnussen's men. Went to where Janine was waiting for Magnussen.
Janine said, "You're not here for me. You're planning something, Mary."
"I'm just here to say goodbye."
That stopped her. "Oh. Well. Good bye."
Janine swayed. Her eyes fluttered. On the edge of a kiss.
Mary kissed Janine's cheek. Brushed back a strand of her hair. Said, "Be good."
Strolled to where Magnussen's men were lurking. "Hello, boys."
Chapter 23: Storming the Castle
The crew takes their places.
Louise said, "I thought you had the badge."
"No, you had the badge," said Jaqui. "Fine," she smiled at Gene, one of the cage door guards, "could you run the money to the vault."
Gene sighed. "Third time this week. Next time remember your badges."
They handed off the cash cart.
Lady Smallwood watched over Anthea's shoulder, as the cart rolled inside.
Irene stood up. "That's my queue."
Over a very different set of monitors, Hudders dabbed a handkerchief at her neck as her briefcase was carried into the vault.
"Madame Zelder, are you alright?" said the head of security.
Hudders was very much not alright.
Sally drove her van into position.
Molly said, "I forgot my pager, I'll just be… can I…"
The guard sighed, "Go get it. You know your way out."
"Oh, yes. Thank you. " Molly headed into the corridor.
Mary looked at the ceiling. "No cameras here."
A large tattooed man stepped into the room. The guards left.
He punched her. Mary fell back. "Bruiser, you're not supposed to hit me until later."
"Sorry, Mary. I forgot," said Bruiser.
"Fine. How's the wife?"
"Pregnant," said Bruiser glumly.
"That happens. Push me up."
Bruiser pushed her up to the air vent, where she climbed in.
"Have fun storming the castle," said Bruiser.
Chapter 24: When the lights went out in Vegas
The plan rolls on.
Janine didn't particularly enjoy going with Charles to the fights. It was just something she had to do.
She didn't like thinking like this. It felt disloyal. As if seeing Mary had shaken something loose. She clapped for the fighters.
Over the monitors, Hudders watched Molly walk down the corridor. One of the guards said, "Whose that guy?"
Hudders clutched the railing, gasped and fell.
Anthea switched to video feed.
Molly went into the lift. Almost had a heart attack Mary smiled down from the above. "You didn't think I was going to sit this one out?"
Mary pulled her up.
"What about the argument?"
Mary grinned. "Fun."
"That's just." Molly gave up. Looked down at the grid of lasers below.
Around Irene, the guards stared worriedly. She performed CPR. She called on an uncaring God. She declared Madame Zelder dead.
The Doctors arrived in their EMT gear and solemnly zipped Hudders. Wheeled her away.
The guards inched around the spot on the floor and started talking about cholesterol.
Sally looked at her beautifully glowing pinch. Anthea said, "Donovan, we're ready."
Sally snarled. "Give me a minute."
"We don't have a minute," said Mary.
"Better leave off bothering me, yeah."
Sally clicked off. Flipped a switch. Got nothing. Kicked her pinch. Blam. The city went black.
Chapter 25: Chaos at the Disco
It's all on Soo Lin.
In the dark, Molly and Mary slid down the shaft. Cut their lines. Just as the backup power came on.
It was chaos in the stadium. The fighters were just brawling. From behind Charles, Lady Smallwood said, "This is insane. If you were any sort of gentleman, you'd take Janine out of here."
Charles glared, but guided Janine through the crowd.
Mary slid an emitter out of the lift's shaft. Closed the doors. Waited for the second guard to fall. Climbed out. Molly put in the codes.
The last door. Mary said, "There's a ninety pound Chinese woman and a billion dollars behind these doors."
"We should get her out."
Soo Lin pushed out of her cage. Took no more than a breath before grabbing the briefcase chain, before it could fall to the ground.
Sarah watching Soo Lin over the monitors said, "Ten cents says she shorts it."
Anthea growled, "I will hurt you."
Soo Lin made the flip. But only just. Over compensated. She caught herself. Pushed the through the pain in her wrist. Climbed the walls. Soo Lin placed her part of the explosive on the inside of the door.
Soo Lin tapped out. Realized in cold horror that her bandage was stuck in a gear. She'd be caught in the blast.
Chapter 26: Blast Doors are Open
First the blast.
Then the burn.
Anthea tapped the com. "Mary. Molly. Do not blow the door. Soo Lin is trapped. Can you read me?"
She saw Mary counting down. Not reacting.
She saw Soo Lin struggling. Felt the pang of being the eyes. Unable to act. Heard Sarah, "She'll be killed."
Nothing to do, but repeat herself.
Watched Mary trigger the blast. Nothing.
Precious seconds of tapping devices. Changing batteries.
Enough time for Soo Lin pull free.
Silently, the blast went.
Behind her, Sally said, "Fuck me."
Anthea acknowledged by breathing.
Mary and Molly came in the vault.
Soo Lin scowled at them.
Hudders watched them pile up money. She said, "I don't know about you dears, but that is the sexiest thing that I have ever seen."
Someone had to stay on task. Anthea said, "Irene, you on."
Irene walking through the casino called the mobile in Janine's coat pocket. Politely asked to talk to Magnussen.
"Who's is this?"
"The woman who is robbing you." Just saying it gave her a thrill.
Signaled to Anthea to switch the monitors back to show them what was "really" going on.
Janine stood lost in thought. Mary had used her again. Slipped something into her pocket. Almost heard as an afterthought Charles ask her to leave. Wondered why the wound of it still burned.
Chapter 27: Delivering the Message
Irene delivers two sets of instructions.
Over the mobile, Magnussen said, "Fine," sounding quite vexed, "you're a dead woman. How do you plan on getting my money out?"
"We're not. You're going to." Irene navigated the casino. "Your manager is telling you that you have a billion dollars currently stored in that vault. You'll also see we're only taking half. The other half, we're leaving booby half. We take half, or blow both." Irene ran into Janine. "It's your decision." Put the mobile on mute.
Janine said, "Where's Mary."
"Fine and in good form." Irene smiled. "She requested that you go to your room and watch tv."
"She did?" Janine had that shimmer in her eyes that threatened tears.
"Yes, Janine, she did." Irene walked away from Janine. Told herself that she was Mary's problem.
Over her com, Anthea said, "They've called SWAT."
Over the mobile, Magnussen said, "It's a deal."
"Fantastic," said Irene. "We've put our half in the elevator. Your guards will carry it to the back where an unmarked van will drive up. Put our money inside. When we're safe, we'll give you the codes to free your half. You follow us, we'll blow all the money."
Magnussen said, "You're in the casino."
"Of course I am." Irene walked briskly. "I'm staying in your hotel. However, I have one suggestion for you. Mini bar."
Chapter 28: An Excellent Research Opportunity Lost
Louise Mortimer loses a research opportunity.
Irene kept giving instructions.
As the van pulled away, Magnussen said, "I've complied with your requests. So, now I'll tell what to do. Run and hide. I'll enjoy find you. I won't be handing you over to the police."
Irene left her burner at an all night restaurant.
The SWAT team descended down the elevator shaft. "Cut the power."
Mangussen ordered the power cut.
Watched the idiots in his vault with the remaining funds. Sneered as SWAT breached the door.
Gun fire was exchanged. An explosion. SWAT reported that a bomb had been detonated.
Was informed that the van had reached the airport and let his men know it was worth their lives to keep it there.
Janine paced her room. Told herself that she was not watching the television.
In a car near the airport, Louise held a set of controls and told Lady Smallwood. "I'd like to run an experiment first." She caused the car to roll forward. "See how they react."
She manipulated a control. Caused it to roll backwards. "Interesting. Even seeing there's no one in the vehicle, they still follow its motion."
Lady Smallwood sighed. "Don't be tedious. Blow it."
Louise felt that she was losing an excellent research opportunity. Still, she hit the button. Watched it explode. Carefully observed the guard's behavior.
Chapter 29: A Little Bit More entertainment
In which Magnussen sees what's been blown.
Terry, who'd only been on the job two months, bent down to pick up a piece of paper. He said, "It's not money. It's a flyer." He held it up for Phillip to see. "For hookers." He examined the flyer. "Hey, that's Cowboy Joe down at the Silver Stallion. I love him."
Phillip rolled his eyes.
In his vault, Magnussen moved flyers for hookers with his toe. Breasts. Penises. No cash. He looked at the Bellagio logo inset in the floor. Said, "Walsh. Queue up the footage from the robbery." When Walsh indicated that he'd complied, asked, "Does it say Bellagio on the vault floor?"
Walsh like idiot said, "No, sir. I don't understand."
Magnussen sneered, as if Walsh were responsible for what he had missed. "We had it added on Tuesday. What we saw on the monitor wasn't actually happening. Someone built a replica of my vault and showed me a stage show."
Still like a moron, Walsh said, "But what happened to all that money."
The SWAT team walked briskly through the casino with their heavy bags of gear.
Hudders was not enjoying the fit of her set. She was too old for this sort of shenanigans.
Sally quite liked it. She felt like a proper copper.
They got in their police van. Drove away. Lights blinking.
Chapter 30: Breathing
Janine turns on her tv.
Magnussen swept in as Bruiser hit Mary.
Magnussen had his men hold her. Slid a finger next to her eye. "Did you have a hand in this?"
"Did I have my hand in what?" asked Mary, trying not to flinch.
"I'll ask one more time." He flicked her eye.
"Magnussen, I don't know what you're talking about." Mary glared out of one eye.
"Fine." He gestured for his men to take her into the hallway.
Janine's phone rang. A voice told her to turn to channel 88.
She wasn't going to.
Watched Mary being escorted down a hallway. Mary said, "What's wrong, Magnussen? You get robbed." As if she wasn't flirting with death.
Charles said, "Where's my money?" Reached out. Actually flicked Mary's eye.
Mary hissed. "If I told you I could get your money back if you gave up Janine? Would you?"
"I would say yes," Charles stood there as if he'd given away a napkin.
"Alright," Mary agreed. "I know a gal. We were in the joint together. She's got connections. I can find out what she knows."
"That's it. You know a criminal." Charles snarled. "Contact the police. I'm sure she's violating her parole."
Janine pulled on her coat. Headed for the door. Felt for the first time in a long time, she was truly breathing.
Chapter 31: Beautiful to Be
A short concert after work was done.
Janine passed Charles coming out of the lift.
He called after her.
She said, "Charles, you of all people know in your casino, there's always someone watching you." She walked away.
A SWAT car pulled into a warehouse.
Ten women walked out. Smiling. Went to watch the floodlit fountains dance and play classical music in front of the Bellagio.
Molly had never seen anything so beautiful.
Sarah'd always liked the light show at the Bellagio.
Soo Lin loved the play of water and breeze.
Lady Smallwood normally thought it was garish, but found her mood had turned benevolent.
Jaqui looked at her sister, Louise. As one, their lips formed the same word, "Brownian."
Sally thought it looked like the water was burning.
Anthea closed her eyes. Thought about how all this light looked from above the earth's biosphere.
Hudders was ready for a brandy.
Irene had somewhere to be.
Janine ran up to where Mary was being escorted away by the police. She yelled, "Wait! That's my wife."
Mary was smiling. "I told you. I knew what I was doing."
"But I didn't." Janine swallowed a lump in her throat. Watched her wife taken away again. Didn't know what to do.
Irene strolled up. Slipped her arm through Janine's. "Would you be interested in dinner?"
They went to breakfast.
Chapter 32: Three to Six Months Later...
Three to six months later, Mary got out of prison.
Irene waited in front of the prison. She was eating a po' boy sandwich. Was carefully not getting drips on her dress. Mary walked out in the cocktail dress she'd been arrested in. Irene said, "I hope you enjoyed the party."
"Cher called," replied Mary. "She wants that dress back."
They smiled foolishly. Walked into the parking lot. Mary looked at the convertible. "Millions and this is what you drove cross country to pick me up in."
"Blew it all on the dress," said Irene.
"Where are they?" asked Mary, not bothering to look.
"Our delightful tail is back of the lot in the obvious van." Irene went to the driver's seat. "I picked up some of your personal effects. Hope you don't mind."
Mary looked. Janine was sitting in the back seat. "I'm not sure these belong to me." Got in with Janine while Irene got in the driver's seat.
Janine said, "We need to get Irene a girl."
"There's a women's prison down the road," suggested Irene, starting the engine with a roar.
Mary examined the wedding ring on Janine's fingers. "I thought you sold it."
"I lied," said Janine.
"Liar." Mary pushed back one of Janine's thick black curls.
"Thief." Janine shivered and leaned forward.
They kissed as they drove past their tail, following them into the beyond.
Chapter 33: Beyond
Lady Smallwood purchased diamond earrings with her share. Wore them when she sat behind Magnussen at the fights. At galas. Felt such extra ordinary pleasure. The rest, she put into a charitable bequest.
Hudders was a happy woman. Giovani was oiling himself by her pool. Pedro was napping, poor dear. Leo was giving her a backrub.
Jaqui stared up at the soaring light shining through the stained glass. Louise handed her handkerchief. Gaudi's Sagrada Familia wasn't even done. They'd made a small donation to speed up work. Strolled out. Madrid was playing Barça.
Sally experimented with explosives. Blew off steam at footie games. When the play went south, time for the bash.
Sarah bought a new identity. She brushed up on her French. Got a job in Monte Carlo dealing Baccarat.
Anthea put together a team that monitored and did something about problems. It was lovely being her own boss.
Soo Lin opened her own troop. No more ridiculous backflips. Recreations of the theater of the imperial court in Beijing.
Molly listened to her mom. Course Molly couldn't share details. Her mom said, "She's fucking brilliant."
Irene looked over Mary at Janine. Was glad she'd finally convinced the two of them to stay for dinner. Today was a day to spend in bed.