Chapter Eight

2.3K 153 3

As predicted, the reconnaissance portion of the VanHuett job made Asprey long to stab a fork into his eyes, if only to alleviate the boredom for a while. He'd gone with birdwatcher for this particular stakeout, which meant he could carry binoculars through the park without attracting too much attention. Unfortunately, it also meant he had to pretend to be interested in birds.

They chirped. They flew. He had yet to find anything else remotely interesting about them.

He settled onto a rock that provided him with a view of both an elm tree at its full leafy height and the apartment building he needed to watch. Thanks to Tiffany's handiwork accessing the mainframe of the firm where the woman worked, he had a copy of her daily schedule and a list of contacts for all the people she chatted with on Facebook, in addition to more concrete facts like place of residence and birthdate. Still—there was only so much paperwork could tell a person.

Asprey subscribed to the old-school method of recon, where real groundwork trumped technology. Sure, there was something to be said for the flash and bang of Tiffany zipping through the web to pull out private and eerily personal information, but that didn't tell them who Ms. Cindy VanHuett really was. This was where he learned how punctual she was or how predictable her actions were, how likely she was to be swayed by a friendly face or an emergency distraction fabricated in the heat of the moment.

Asprey was good at this part. Maybe Graff thought he was wasting his time out here, but his brother also thought that Asprey's art history degree was as effective as underwear worn outside the clothes with a matching cape. Graff's perspective was slightly skewed in favor of pragmatism.

But the watching had worked with Poppy, and so far, things with Cindy VanHuett were looking equally good.

At just thirty-six and with a trust fund that put Asprey's to shame, Cindy could have easily been flighty and unreliable, keener on parties and shopping than punching a time clock. Not Ms. VanHuett. She worked in her father's real estate development firm every day until six. She came home with a bag of takeout, which it took her about an hour to eat and enjoy before she came down to walk her wheezy Bichon through the park.

He'd even stopped her on his last visit to ask the time. Polite but cool, she was clearly more interested in matching her dog's sweater to her own than chatting up handsome strangers. After she took exactly three turns around the park, it was back home by eight, when she presumably settled in for the night.

Not an exciting life, but Asprey wasn't about to complain. Now that they could count on Poppy's help, it was just a matter of finding the right moment. The painting they were after hung a whopping eight feet by ten in her twelfth-floor apartment, and the trick to getting it was finding a way in—and out—of the guarded building undetected. So far, Cindy hadn't proven herself very open to persuasion.

"That is the ugliest sweater I've ever seen in my life," a female voice said, drawing up beside him. "Like the yarn was dragged through mud before someone decided to knit with it. And what is with the binoculars?"

"I'm being inconspicuous." Asprey turned to take in the sight of Poppy standing over him, her mouth crooked in a smile. Today, she'd opted for a short skirt that seemed to be made of pale pink vinyl, topped with a shredded AC/DC T-shirt and a cropped leather jacket. The same teal cowboy boots from before also graced her feet.

Inconspicuous was going to be difficult if she was planning on sticking around.

"You look like a serial killer," she offered. Without waiting for an invitation, she plopped next to him on the rock. "Seriously. If I looked out the window and saw a guy with a Mr. Rogers sweater staring at me with a pair of laser rangefinder binoculars, I'd skip the police and go straight for my gun."

Confidence TricksWhere stories live. Discover now