Home > The Shell Game (Fox and O'Hare 0.25)(6)

The Shell Game (Fox and O'Hare 0.25)(6)
Janet Evanovich, Lee Goldberg

“Theft as performance art? Who’s the audience?”

“You are,” Drake said.

There was a knock at the door, and Drake let the room service waiter into the suite. Conversation stopped while the food was set out. Kate was relieved to see steak and french fries. She’d been worried that a guy looking like Drake might have ordered raw fish or snails or duck liver.

“This looks great,” she said to him, taking a seat. “Tell me about your company, Intertect.”

“We’re very good at what we do. If I told you more than that I’d have to kill you.”

Kate paused with her fork in her hand. “That’s usually just a clever thing to say.”

Nick refilled her champagne flute. “In the case of Intertect it would be death by boredom. We’re not a flashy company.”

Nick watched Kate march off to the elevator. She was cute, he thought. Earnest, refreshingly unpretentious, full of energy, too determined to be professional to flirt with him. And she was as dedicated to upholding the law as he was to breaking it. She was exactly what he needed in his life. She was going to be fun. He returned to his suite and phoned his three drivers to confirm that the evening’s activity was a go.

An hour later, Nick and his crew gathered outside the chain-link fence that surrounded the parking lot of Picture Car Universe Inc. Picture Car was in an industrial area of Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley. The fence was topped with razor wire, and the lot was filled with hundreds of vehicles of all kinds.

Wendy squinted into the dimly lit lot. “What is this place?”

Nick opened a utility box attached to the chain-link fence and pulled a couple wires. “It’s where Hollywood studios go to rent vehicles for their shows. Fake taxis, police cars, hearses, school buses, ambulances, anything on wheels. You name it, they’ve got it.” Nick closed the box and nodded to Evaristo. “The alarm is deactivated.”

Evaristo put his bolt cutter to the fence and went to work. “The security is pathetic.”

“That’s because most of these vehicles are props, cheaply dressed up to look like the real thing,” Nick said. “The rest are retired vehicles on their last legs that were bought on the cheap. They don’t have any value unless you’re a movie maker putting on a production.”

“Or a con man trying to trick somebody,” Artie said.

“Still, they could have made an effort,” Evaristo said. “A few armed guards or even a couple vicious dogs would have been nice.”

Artie gave him a look. “You enjoy fighting for your life?”

“How else do you know you’re alive?”

“Try breathing,” Artie said. “That’s usually a good sign.”

Evaristo made the last cut, a big chunk of fence fell onto the ground, and everyone stepped through the opening and into the parking lot.

Nick led them past ice cream trucks, army jeeps, gasoline tankers, and fake Model Ts.

Wendy stopped to admire three identical space-age cars with sleek, aerodynamic lines, bubble-topped cabins, gull wing doors, rear fins with propulsion rockets, and two elaborate laser cannons mounted on their front grills. They were prop cars from Future Spies, a short-lived science-fiction TV series.

“Let’s take these,” she said.

“Not going to happen,” Nick said. “We’re after the four armored trucks that are lined up in front of you.”

Nick had two mechanics waiting in a Culver City warehouse to modify the fake armored trucks to meet his special requirements. The mechanics would then pretend to be Intertect agents on the day of the heist.

“You’re no fun,” Wendy said. “Can we at least take the laser cannons?”

“You know they’re fake, right?” Nick asked her.

“Yeah, but they’re cool.”

“True,” Nick said. “You can take one. Just one.”

On Monday, Kate pulled her Crown Vic into the LAX terminal lot and saw that the armored truck was already in place. The sky was bright blue and cloudless, and the morning sun was quickly burning off the remnants of a marine layer. Kate was wearing a field uniform of running shoes, jeans, white T-shirt, and Kevlar vest. And she’d proudly accessorized the outfit with her brand-new navy-with-yellow-lettering FBI windbreaker.

Drake was beside the armored truck, waiting for her. He was dressed in a dark suit and dark dress shirt and tie, and was flanked by two men who looked like agents from Men in Black. The two men wore black suits, impenetrably dark sunglasses, and matching Bluetooth earpieces.

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