We Ought Never To Have Done It: Part Three
II. Twenty-Four Hours Ago – Job #16, The Milford Estate
In the distance, there stands a tower.
The group took no notice of it; they had been staring at it for hours. They were an odd group, the three of them. A Yurble, Lupe, and Lutari by themselves were nothing worth noting, but it was their size difference that was quite striking. At first glance, you’d have thought them a performance piece or an escaped circus troupe.
The Yurble was the largest of the three, with muscle and fat equally distributed. His seven-foot frame hulked over the other two, and his arms could have passed for pets themselves if decorated the right way. A rotund belly and at least three visible scars completed the look of a bruiser not to be messed with. The only thing missing was an appropriate color: Pirate or Darigan, something fierce, not the dirty yellow that he actually was.
The Lupe was next in size and, by all descriptions, was average. She had normal-sized paws, a tail that wouldn’t turn any heads, and eyes that couldn’t have been browner if they tried. Whereas some Lupes walked on two legs, the better to use their hands on occasion, this Lupe prowled around on all-fours. This alone might have been her defining trait; even her color was bland, white.
And last was the Lutari, so small that she could almost have been considered a petpet. Sometimes it seemed she walked on all-fours, sometimes on two, but mostly she just seemed to move, skittering around the ground, running between legs and up shoulders, rolling on the ground like a ball and bouncing the whole way. She had on a pair of sunglasses despite the fact that the sun had set an hour ago, and her rainbow pelt glistened strangely in the moonlight. Compared to the other two, the Lutari looked straight out of a dream.
They strode together up the dirt road in the Barrens, moonlight glistening off their fur and the pine trees that closed in on them from all sides. The still air was broken by a stream of incessant chattering from the Lutari as she wove her away back and forth across the road.
"So howzit gonna go are we gonna go through the gate I think the gate’s the best way in definitely better than climbing the fence did anyone see if there was a fence there’s probably a fence we gonna all go in at once?" She paused to take a few shallow breaths before continuing. "Bruce, are you gonna lift us howzat strength training going gotta be up there by now lookit the size of you haven’t seen muscles like that since the Brute Squad came to town not that you’re a brute but you probably could be if you wanted to good pay in the Brutes at least that’s what they say could be better’n what’s goin’ on here did anyone answer me?" Some more hyperventilating. "The fence." Again. "The fence guys what about the fence doesn’t anyone know about the fence?"
The Yurble, Bruce, nearly tripped over himself as he avoided stepping on the Lutari as she twirled around his feet, yammering "the fence" over and over. "Stop," he rumbled. "There’s a fence and a gate. We’ll open the gate and go through."
The Lupe chimed in. "Bruce is right, Clarissa. We don’t want it to be obvious that we’ve been here. If the gate opens, that’s better than potentially getting caught up on a fence. Besides, if we leave prints, going through the gate looks much more…legal than going over the fence."
"We are not supposed to be here," Bruce chimed in, uselessly. "Listen to Nora."
"Alright so we’re gonna go through the gate great but what are we gonna do then they didn’t say nothin’ about howzit gonna go inside does anyone live there or are there security things does virtupets know about this place I think we should go work for Sloth after this hear he pays real good for test subjects dunno if abducting people is somethin’ we do but Bruce you’re about as good at picking pets up as things so I figure we could get into that business real quick if we wanted how about it Nora can we go work for Sloth, can we?" Per usual, Clarissa’s sudden silence was met with the same until they could all be sure she was done. "Can we? Can we? Can we?"
That was the signal that the ranting was over. Nora cleared her throat. "Clarissa, we’ve been over this. We work well together on very specific kinds of jobs. You’re the sneaky, stealthy kind of pet good at these second-story jobs. Bruce is muscle, good for keeping people away from those same jobs or else busting us into them. For lack of a better work, I’m the logistics pet. Do you think it was Bruce who came up with when and how we were going to rob this place? Our three traits make for good thieves, little else." She paused to see if her words had any effect on the excited Lutari. "If that doesn’t work, then no. Dr. Sloth is objectively evil. Stealing at least doesn’t hurt anyone."
That seemed to settle the matter, and the three walked on in silence for a few minutes before more words shattered it. Or, in Bruce’s case, flattened it into a paste.
"What are we stealing? You did not say, Nora." His heavy voice, devoid of any tone, always caused Nora to reel for a second before she was able to collect her thoughts. Sometimes she became very afraid of Bruce.
"You never ask that, Bruce. You’ve said before that our job is just to take things and not worry about what or why. Why now?"
"I don’t like this place. I don’t like this road or these trees. I don’t like what these hills are called. I don’t like that I can hear my heart. I want to know why someone would pay us to come here." His voice didn’t change as he spoke, but Nora watched his head slowly turn to glance at the woods on the side of the road. Part of Bruce’s job was defending the group from anyone who would do them harm, and these woods seemed perfect for such an opportunity. The oppressive silence seemed to hint that the wildlife had fled, though…
"Bruce is right what’re we stealin’ what’re we tryna steal is it important is it valuable should we hold onto it and wait for a better offer how much are we even gettin’ you didn’t say, Nora how many points we got ridin’ on this thing how could it even be worth anything in that crusty old house on the hill what’s in the house, Nora?" Silence. "What’s in the house?" This time, her normally chipper wavered as she stopped running around and looked seriously ahead of them for the first time, into the swallowing gloom. "…What’s in the house?"
Nora stopped in her tracks and stood up on her hind paws. "You want to know? Fine, I can’t see any harm in it. It’s a strange one as it is, not just a sheaf of papers or a safe this time." She opened the small backpack on her back and removed a few sheets of paper. "No idea who’s paying us for it. Just got this slipped under the door the other day with a sack of points shoved through the mail slot."
"Ooh how many points why didn’t you tell us about the points why-"
"Because, Clarissa, up-front payment should never influence a deal. I didn’t want to alert you two to it in case the job proved dangerous or otherwise unwise to take. As it is, I deemed the job acceptable. The object in question…" she quickly scanned through the papers, "is said to be lab equipment. There’s a list given of very specific things that should be included. ‘A vial labeled "Sample 15," a leather-bound journal, clasped with a silver buckle, all tin boxes on the premises,’ that sort of thing. It goes on at length, hence the larger-than-usual sack."
"Should have brought the cart." Bruce’s observation was perhaps obvious but not unwarranted. A cart could have been useful for this much loot.
"The details of the job specifically said not to. We’re supposed to deliver it to the Neopia Central docks after we pick it up, and carts get searched. Bags don’t, so we’re supposed to haul everything out in one bag, tag it, and ship it to Mystery Island. No questions asked, payment in full upon receipt of delivery."
"Up-front was supposedly 1% of the total commission. And I’ll tell you now that there were a full million points in that bag." Nora waited while the other two did the math. Then she waited longer than she thought necessary. Finally, exasperated, she blurted out, "That’s a hundred million points! This might be the last job we ever need to pull if this goes off without a hitch. Of course, I fully expect the buyer to welch on the deal, we’ll probably only see ten million if the Gavril Paradigm holds true, and we’ll be able to live comfortably for a year or two. But this is still the biggest job we’ve ever had and I don’t want to jeopardize it by not following the instructions to the letter. Is that clear?"
If there was one thing all three of them could see eye to eye on, it was money. Regardless of Bruce’s slowness, Clarissa’s excitement, or Nora’s objectivity, they all knew how to do whatever it took to get the gold at the end of the job. None of them needed to affirm that. It was clear.
To be continued…