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© [Ellen Simpson] [2014-2018]

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7-24-14: a heist story has been selected to be part of promotion for the new series DIG on USA, which is what the sticker on the cover's about. check out their reading list of cool, international thrillers!

1-20-17: a heist story has been picked up for publishing and as such the story has been removed from wattpad save for this preview.  

11-12-17: a heist story will be published in January, 2018 from Ylva publishing.  More information is here: https://www.ylva-publishing.com/product/a-heist-story-by-ellen-simpson/ 

01-02-18: a heist story has been published!!!  Find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Heist-Story-Ellen-Simpson-ebook/dp/B078RSDQ44/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515078736&sr=8-1&keywords=a+heist+story+ellen+simpson 

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Prelude

Wei, at the moment when it all began

The first drop fell quietly, then another, and another. Falling from long-pregnant clouds, bursting forth into downpour in the gray of dawn. Through a crack in the window, the steady fall of rain filled the room, only to be drowned out by the shrill beep of a phone. In the quiet, dark space that existed between the waking and the dream worlds, two figures lay curled together in a bed too small for their togetherness. Bodies nestled under thick blankets against the just-spring chill and the ever-present edges of the bed. The window looked out over a mist-laden haze of rooftops toward the center of London.

Wei Topeté woke with a headache. Sleep clung to her like mud. The lull of the rain pulled her back to dozing just as strongly as the shrill beeping of her phone had her grinding her teeth in irritation. Who could possibly want to speak to her at this hour? Speaking of...what even was the hour? Wei rolled over and tugged her phone from its charger. She ran a hand over her face, exhaustion pressing into her on all sides. It had been a long night already. Too long. Sitting up late. Obsessing over uncontrollable details.

The screen's glow hurt her eyes in the darkness of the not-yet-dawn. LePage was calling. Wei scowled at the screen. He was in the States; it was the middle of the night there. Had something happened? Had LePage finally gone off the deep end and forgotten everything she'd told him about how this was supposed to work? There were rules in the game they played, levels of secrecy set up to provide plausible deniability should anyone try to dig deeper than the surface of their investigation. They had one chance, one, and if LePage screwed it up by harassing her at stupid o'clock in the morning—Wei stopped herself.

Kat would wake up if Wei didn't answer the phone. She was a heavy sleeper, but her waking was, at this juncture, the last thing Wei wanted. She sat up, hissing in displeasure as her feet hit the icy floor. Her sleepshirt was short, barely skirting the tops of her thighs. Gooseflesh rolled up her legs in a steady wave that left her wanting for the warm bed. With a quiet curse, she pulled the throw blanket from the end of the bed around her. She did not want to talk to LePage.

"This'd better be good."

Rain was pooling on the windowsill, the sheer white curtains blowing back into the room, ghostlike in in the cold spring breeze.

"He's dead, Topeté." LePage's voice drifted through the fog, full of static as it came across the ocean. He sounded rough, like a night on the town was only just ending for him, echoing in the tiredness of his voice and the fearful, almost apologetic way he spoke. "Yesterday at noon. I only just heard."

Wei frowned, her fingers twitching at her side. She'd chased him for months, knowing full well that it was only a matter of time until his terminal prognosis took hold and the answers Wei needed fell into her lap. She'd meticulously planned each detail of this moment, down to the final coup de grâce, when he would be dead and his secrets would be the property of the American government and set to be graciously loaned to her. The pieces were moving now, the plan starting to come together.

"And his estate?"

LePage heaved a weary sigh. "Gone."

A chill shot up Wei's spine, settling at the back of her neck. She rubbed at it and exhaled. This wasn't good. She glanced over to the bed, looking for confirmation, but her companion slept on. Could she have known and simply not mentioned it? Was this the moment their fragile truce finally fell apart?

"Gone? What do you mean, gone?" Her accent grew more pronounced, the French vowels coming fully into her voice as her displeasure mounted. It couldn't be gone, not when they'd worked so hard for so long to find it and ensure the circumstances of its resurfacing ended up in their favor. "That was all that we asked of you."

"I know."

"You were supposed to watch him. He wasn't meant to get to a lawyer."

"I know."

The repetition was grating.

It was raining harder now. Wei pushed the window closed, and the wind lashed heavy droplets against the pane. Wei choked down her disappointment. What were they going to do now? What could they do but start again, tracking down the lawyer and the—it didn't do to think of it now, not before a few more hours of sleep or a large cup of coffee. She pressed her fingers to the cool glass, staring out at the bleak dawn. "Where is Mock's estate?" She leaned against the damp windowsill, phone cradled between her shoulder and ear. She could see Kat this way. She could watch for warning signs.

Kat stirred as LePage spoke. A fond smile drifted across Wei's face as Kat pulled a pillow over her head and grumbled about the early hour. This was how Wei liked Kat, when the masks fell away and there was nothing left but the ease of sleepy touches. Kat was not often like this, which made this conversation a risk Wei could not afford to take. Especially not now, when they were so close to the end of Wei's next play.

"Do you have an address for the lawyer?" LePage grunted the affirmative. Wei stared at Kat's still form, deciding. Could she risk this move so soon? Would it be safe? Would Kat see through the flimsy excuses already tasting sour on Wei's tongue? She could not afford a slip, not on an investigation of this magnitude. LePage coughed. Wei bit her lip, coming to a decision. "Call the office."

"You're going in? It's five-thirty in the morning."

"Did she assign you to me so that you could question my decisions?"

"Well," LePage started. "No, I don't suppose she did."

"Exactly."

"Okay, fine, I'll send it in."

When she hung up, Wei turned to see Kat sitting up in the middle of the bed. Words filtered forward, statements of mourning and grief, words that should be said when one loses a dear friend and mentor. But the secrets living between them were such that those words stuck to the roof of Wei's mouth. All she could do was crawl back into bed and pull Kat's sleep-warm body back under the blankets and pretend the world they carved for each other in this apartment was enough.

They clung to each other, no words were spoken. Wei felt sick, her stomach roiling when Kat kissed the skin where her neck met her shoulder. Kat's touch was gentle, her eyes full of warmth. Wei could not look at her. This could be the last time.



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