Daring looked in the mirror and ran his fingers through his bangs. They’d fallen forward and tickled when they brushed his forehead. He couldn't have been more uncomfortable.
"What's with the penguin suit?" That's what his grandfather would’ve asked.
Daring hated tuxedos. Too binding, too restrictive, but sometimes required. Besides, if everything went well, the payday would more than make up for this bit of discomfort.
He looked himself over in the mirror. He grabbed the bottom of his jacket and snapped it smooth and straight, gave himself a quick wink, and reentered the party.
There was the typical chatter. He could make out very little of what was being said around him.
“You clean up good." It was Paisley. She was coming through the earpiece in his right ear.
“Where are you?"
"Bar. Down the stairs and to your right," she said.
Daring whistled. "Hubba hubba. Never would have recognized you, beautiful."
"We’re here for a bracelet, right?" Daring asked.
"Yeah. Rubies and diamonds. It’s gorgeous."
"I could do this in my sleep,” he said. “This’ll be like candy ..."
"...from a baby," Paisley finished.
Daring lifted his first wallet at 12. First watch at 13. Broke into his first car at 15. Paroled for the first time at 20.
He was a natural. The guy who taught him wasn’t. They called him Johnny Thumbs. He had thick fingers that moved slowly. He knew how to slip his hand inside a coat pocket and snag a wallet, or shake someone’s hand and unhook a watch. Knew how, just couldn’t do it.
Johnny Thumbs reasoned that if he couldn’t do it he’d teach a bunch of street kids how. He’d work out a fence and take a cut of whatever was boosted.
Now here’s Daring, twenty years later, still taking things that didn’t belong to him.
The new Mrs. Jonathan McAster would be 24 for another three hours. Tall, red-headed and grossly thin, she was all personality. All of these folks – only the crispiest of the upper crust -- were here to wish her a happy twenty-fifth.She’d been married barely five months but the position of trophy wife fit her like an old hat.
“Samuel. Esther. Wonderful to see you,” Elizabeth said to the Crowes. “Jonathan and I are so glad you could make it.” She kissed both of Esther’s cheeks and patted Samuel’s belly.
“We couldn’t not come,” Esther said. “Happy birthday, darling.”
Elizabeth smiled and nodded. The two couples continued to talk and Daring watched the conversation from the top of the stairs. This was going to be the hardest part. Getting the bracelet was easy. Knowing when and how to approach was what always gave him fits.
“Catch her as she’s leaving a group,” Paisley advised. “Don’t let her see you coming. Just grab her hand. You going to be OK?”
“Like candy,” Daring said.
The McAster/Crowe conversation started to lull and Daring carefully made his way down the steps. Rented shoes were always trouble on freshly shampooed carpet.
“Well, I should probably go say a few more hellos,” Elizabeth said. “Wonderful to see you again.”
She turned from the Crowes and nearly walked over Daring. He reached and grabbed her right hand with both of his.
“Mrs. McAster,” he said, “I just wanted to wish you the happiest of birthdays.”
“Aren’t you kind?” She had no idea who he was, but she didn’t know most of the people at the party. Her marriage to Jacob was a bit of a scandal. The McAsters decided to keep a low profile for the first couple of months of their marriage.
They were just starting to make their way back out into the social scene.
“I hope this year will be as happy for you as I know the last five months have been.”
She blushed and tipped her head to the side. She didn’t feel Dirk’s index finger running the length of her wrist.
“You’re too kind,” she said. “Now, if you will excuse me?”
Daring put his hand in his pocket and let the bracelet fall to the bottom. The night was a success.
BIO: Jarrett Rush lives with his wife, Gina, near Dallas. He blogs at JarrettWrites.