CHAPTER 1 TWO MONTHS EARLIER
Just sit tight, lil’ mama. I swear we’re going to be in and out of this joint. All we need is five minutes,” Kam assured Shakita. “Are you going to be cool?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said meekly as tension spread across her face.
Kam saw the strained look in her eyes and he had to console her.
“I know you’re nervous as shit, but we’re going to be straight. I promise. All right?”
Shakita quickly nodded her head as she fought to hide her anxiety. Kam touched her cheek and smiled before he exited the car. Shakita watched as Kam and three members of his crew casually walked into Montgomery Mall. To the average eye, Kam and his crew looked as if they were a group of regular browsers. They strolled across the mall floor not giving away any sign they were actually jewelry thieves. Montgomery Mall was set to be their fourth heist in the last eighty days. The only part Shakita had to play in the scheme was to get them out of the area before the police showed up.
Shakita pulled on her cigarette as she tapped her foot on the gas pedal. Just chill, girl, she said to herself, as she struggled to disband her paranoia of them getting caught. She suddenly got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach that told her to get out of there. As much as she wanted to listen to her gut, she quickly shook the feeling off, and studied the exit doors, praying Kam would appear
at any moment. She had to abandon her fear and remind herself the reason she was there. She needed money for gambling and selling stolen expensive jewelry was her way of making it happen. Shakita had promised herself that this would be her first and last time taking part in a jewelry heist. She would be one and done, never again allowing herself to descend so low out of monetary desperation. All she had to do was sell the jewelry and she would have enough money to get back to what she did best: gamble to win it big.
“Where the hell are they?” she wondered as she lit up another cigarette. Too much time had elapsed and Shakita was falling apart. Her protruding eyes fixated on the exit doors hoping Kam would emerge, yet her racing heart told her that he wouldn’t.
Kam and his crew walked casually through the crowded mall and headed straight toward Bertzman Jewelers. Kam checked his watch and smiled knowing their timing was perfect for the security shift change. Now all they had to do was get in and get out. They stepped into the jewelry store and one of the sales associates’ eyes beamed. He thought about the huge commission he would make from those he ignorantly assumed were rappers. He quickly dashed toward them eager to assist.
“Hello, gentlemen. Are any of you looking for something particular?” the sales associate asked as he displayed his preeminent charm.
“Yeah, I’m looking for a tennis bracelet or a pendant for my daughter. She just turned sixteen,” one of Kam’s crew members said. “I need something really special for my baby girl.”
“I can certainly help you over here, sir,” the sales associate said as he walked them to the other side of the store.
Kam walked over to a display case full of Cartier and Hublot watches. His eyes lit up green as he quickly added up the value of the watches in his head. He glanced up and saw that the other
sales associates were assisting other customers. He knew his time was now and without warning he pulled his mini sledgehammer from his pocket and swung it heavily at the vulnerable glass.
Crack! Crack! Smash! Crack! Crack! Smash!
Glass flew in all directions as Kam reached in the smashed case and pulled out all the display trays full of watches. The rest of his crew followed suit and almost simultaneously smashed out three other cases full of diamond rings and bracelets. They quickly packed as much jewelry as they could fit in their bags and headed for the exit. The once helpful sales associate tried to intervene as he grabbed at Kam’s arm. Kam cracked the sales associate in the head with the steel hammer leaving him bloody and disoriented. Kam then pushed him to the floor as they rushed out of the store.
“Security! We need security! We’ve just been robbed! Somebody stop them!” the sales associate yelled as he wiped blood out of his eyes while trying to catch his balance.
A security guard finally heard the sales associate call for help, but by the time he was ready to react, it was too late. They were gone.
Shakita’s heart fluttered when Kam finally busted from out of the doors.
“Let’s go!” he shouted as they quickly piled into the car.
Shakita took off so fast that she almost ran over someone in the parking lot. “What the hell took y’all so long? Y’all were in there for like twenty minutes. I was out here losing my fucking mind,” Shakita emphasized as she put more distance between them and the mall.
“Girl, you tripping,” Kam said as he shook his head. “We were only in there for four minutes…Five minutes tops. I told you we were going to be in and out.”
“I swear this is some crazy-ass shit,” Shakita said as her arms
shook from the sudden rush of adrenaline. They were almost on the Beltway when Shakita realized that no one was coming after them; they made it. She fell back into the headrest and exhaled deeply. They had gotten away with grand theft and she felt like a true bad ass. The robbery put some hair on her chest as she felt bolder to take on the next challenge in her life.
“The spot’s right there. Pull up in front of that Accord,” Kam instructed as they made it to their destination. Shakita maneuvered the car into the tight space. She then smiled, happy that her required driving was finally over. Kam’s men got out the car and then quickly entered into a small building while Kam waited behind. He opened up his bag giving Shakita a peek of what he had obtained.
“Damn,” she said as her eyes marveled at all the diamond-clustered watches. She pulled one of them out of the bag and held it up to the light. The diamonds glistened so much that they looked wet.
“I see you got eyes for that one.” Kam smiled. “It’s perfect for a girl like you.”
“The diamonds on this thing are crazy. This is like a twenty thousand-dollar watch.”
“Try more like forty. That’s a big-face Rolex. The diamonds alone are like ten stacks.”
Shakita slipped the loose-fitting watch on her wrist and stared at it in admiration. The cold eighteen-karat gold band against her skin gave her the chills.
“This is so beautiful. I don’t even want to take it off.”
“You don’t have to. Keep it,” Kam replied.
“But don’t you want to cash it in with the rest of them?”
“Don’t even worry about it. Believe me, we have more than enough. We really made out on this heist. You’ll still get your cut, too. Thank you for doing this for me. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem.” She smiled.
Kam returned her smile, then he opened the door. “I’ll see you in a few minutes,” he said as he placed his lips gently against hers. She tensed up from the sudden intimate gesture, but then pulled him in closer to her as her lips received his. The silent built-up tension between them had finally boiled over. The kiss had been long overdue, giving them clear indication that something was missing from their kinetic bond. The thought of them being together had often crossed her mind. They were both cut from the same cloth; they were reckless. They were outlaws in their own right, who made their own rules as they went along. They were supposed to happen and now that they did, together they would be even more dangerous.
“Can we celebrate tonight?” he asked as they clasped hands.
“Of course we can.” She smiled.
“Okay, cool. I’ll be back in a few. I got to get this money.” He gave her a wink and got out the car.
Shakita blushed as she watched him walk into the building. A feeling of joy touched her heart. It had been awhile since someone had shown Shakita that they really cared about her. It was easy for her to get affection from men, but for them to actually care about her well-being was something totally different. When it came to Kam, there was no denying that she held a special place in his heart.
Shakita eagerly eyed the small store across the street and stepped out the car. She was out of cigarettes and needed a fresh pack. She figured by the time she got back from the store, the exchange would probably be done.
“Thank you,” Shakita said to the clerk as she took her change. She placed the coins in her pocket and then retrieved her lighter. She stepped out the store and immediately lit her cigarette. She
then headed back to the car but suddenly stopped in her tracks. The cigarette fell from her lips as she frantically watched the dramatic scene that emerged across the street. Police cars had completely surrounded the building. All three of Kam’s crew members were being detained as they were being led out of the building. Shakita couldn’t believe what was happening. She was confused to how they were found so quickly, or even at all. She had been convinced that they weren’t tailed after leaving the mall. She had driven around in circles making sure that no one was behind them.
“Something isn’t right,” she whispered.
Police officers cleared onlookers from the street as a tactical team van pulled up to the scene. Shakita’s heart started to pound as she thought about Kam still being in the building. She was convinced he wouldn’t come out willingly and would fight to his last breath. Tears escaped her eyes as the tactical team entered the building with their guns drawn. She prayed that Kam could somehow find a way to escape the surefire ending. She wanted to help him any way possible. It was almost too late for him to surrender, and she was the only one he would listen to. Kam trusted her over anyone in the world. She was putting herself at risk of being caught, but she didn’t care. She had to get to him.
She started to run toward the crowd of officers hoping she could stop them. Before she could even take a step, her ears informed her that she was too late. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! The erupting sound of guns being fired caused her heart to drop to her stomach. Gun blast after gun blast continued to echo from the building until they suddenly ceased.
“It’s over. We got ’em,” one of the officers said to his team after he received confirmation over his walkie-talkie. Shakita fell to her knees as pain flooded her heart.
Everything had happened too fast for Shakita to fully accept that it was real. Then the sight of a morgue van that pulled onto the scene undoubtedly let her know that Kam’s existence had been lost forever. Shakita cried uncontrollably knowing that Kam had died for nothing. The heist had produced no winners, and Kam’s tragic death made it completely evident. She then remembered the watch that was stuffed in her pocket. Shakita had the only unaccounted for piece of jewelry left from the heist, and had no choice but to get rid of it. She wiped her face and quickly got off the ground. She walked to her truck that was parked a few blocks away and never looked back.
The next morning, Shakita pulled up to Pawnbrokers Unlimited. She flipped down the visor and then sadly looked in the mirror. She moved her fingers through her blonde-highlighted hair and sighed at the thought of needing another color treatment. Her milky-tan skin felt slightly desiccated, so she reached in her purse to retrieve a container of Nivea moisturizing crème. She rejuvenated her skin and then placed her sunglasses over her sunken eyes. She stepped out of her truck and headed straight toward the entrance. The metal newspaper holder grabbed her attention before she entered the pawn shop. She kneeled down and read the top story on the Washington Post. “It was a setup,” Shakita whispered in awe. The headlining article caused tears to stream down her cheeks.
“We were never supposed to make it.”
Shakita continued to read the story. She was astonished to discover that the people Kam were supposed to make the exchange with were undercover cops. She finished reading the story and was assured that no other collaborators were being sought. She didn’t understand how she avoided being caught, but she was extremely thankful.
“Can I help you?” the chubby, light-skinned owner of the shop asked as Shakita approached the counter.
“Yes you can. I want to get cash for a piece of jewelry I no longer have a need for.”
“Sure thing, baby girl. What you got?”
Shakita pulled the watch out of her purse and placed it on the glass counter. The man curiously looked at the watch and then back at Shakita.
“This wouldn’t happen to be stolen from anywhere, would it?” the man suspiciously asked. “If it is, I don’t want any part of it.”
“No, it’s not stolen. It was a gift from my cheating ex-boyfriend. I don’t want anything to do with him or this watch.”
The man looked at Shakita with doubtful eyes. He was highly aware about all the jewelry store robberies over the past few weeks and didn’t want any unnecessary attention drawn to his business. He quickly glanced at Shakita’s overall appearance. He saw, without a doubt, her raw beauty had gotten her a lot of costly things. It was way too often that scorned women came into his shop to sell their once precious items. He saw that Shakita was another hurt soul trying to seek vengeance for her broken heart. He decided to help her. “I’ll give you five thousand for it.”
“You can’t be serious. Five thousand dollars? Do you know how much this watch is worth?” she asked, feeling insulted by his offer.
“Yeah, I know how much it’s worth. To me it’s worth five thousand. To you it should be worth less than that. I think the cheaper you sell it, the more you’d piss your ex-boyfriend off. That is your purpose, right?”
“I know what you’re trying to do and I won’t let you take advantage of me. You can easily get twenty-five for this watch. I want ten or I’ll just go somewhere else,” Shakita threatened. She reached
down to pick up the watch, but the owner quickly gave her a counter-offer.
“I’ll give you eighty-five hundred. I respect your hustle, but that’s the highest I can go. I guarantee you no one around will give anywhere near that much. Go ’head and shop it around, but if you come back here, my offer will go down to three thousand. The choice is yours.”
Shakita didn’t have time to hit every pawn shop in town hoping to get a better offer. She needed money fast and had to make a decision. The watch was the only thing that would forever connect her to Kam. If she parted ways with the watch, she would be left with nothing to symbolize their bond. All she would have left to remember him by were her cherished memories. She sighed deeply coming to terms with the choice she would have to make. If her conditions didn’t progress, it would be inevitable for her to keep the watch regardless. If that happened, she’d be forced to sell it for an even lower amount.
She pushed the watch closer to him confirming her decision. He quickly picked up the watch and gave her a nod that she was doing the right thing.
“I’ll be back with your cash and receipt,” he said as he walked to the back of the shop.
Shakita rested her elbows on the glass counter and placed her hands under her chin. She felt stupid for what she’d done, but it was the only logical solution to fix her problem. The owner came back with her money along with the receipt. He counted every bill out loud to show her she wasn’t getting cheated. “Thanks,” she said placidly.
She hurried out of the shop not wanting to tear up in front of the store owner. She wiped her swollen eyes all the way until she
got into her truck. She stared miserably at the shop as she thought of Kam. The keepsake that they briefly shared, which signified their irrefutable connection, would soon be sold to someone else. She assured herself that once she won a jackpot, she would return to reclaim the watch. Time was her only ally and she prayed she had enough of it to make all her efforts count. With a fresh stack of money in her possession, she felt the tide would surely turn in her glorious favor. She cracked a weak smile as she headed to Hollywood Casino.
Shakita pushed herself away from the crap table and rushed into one of the casino bathrooms. She screamed and pounded her fist against the wall, outraged and disillusioned about what had taken place. Two Caucasian women quickly exited the bathroom as Shakita continued her emotional rant. She was sickened to her stomach and heartbroken that she had failed to win once again. Not only had she sold the watch that Kam had given her, but the amount she received for it had been completely diminished. She was back to being broke and felt like the most ill-fated person in the world.
“If I would have just kept my stupid ass at the slot machines instead of fucking around with that damn crap table bullshit, I would still be out there fucking playing. I could be up right fucking now.” She screamed in her head. Her chest heaved up and down as she paced the bathroom floor.
She then dug into her purse and pulled out a cigarette. Smoking had been prohibited in all non-gaming areas of the casino, but Shakita didn’t care. Getting fined was the least of her worries. Her back slid down the cold wall as the nerve relaxant started to take effect.
She flicked her ashes onto the floor as she dwelled heavily on what she was going to do next. She needed money badly, and her
avenues of opportunity were drying up fast. Now that she was without Kam, there were only two other people she could rely on. She would first go to her best friend, Latrice, for support. If and only if it really got chaotic for her, she would be forced to ask that certain individual for assistance. They would remain her ace-in-the-hole unless she was out of options. She swallowed hard, hoping that her predicament would never get to that drastic level.
“All I got to do is ask her to let me hold a few dollars until I get back up,” Shakita said softly as she lifted herself off the floor.
She quickly headed to Latrice’s house hoping her friend would be able to lend a helping hand. Her electricity had been disconnected in her apartment, and she had already been served an eviction notice on top of her other bills. Gambling had truly put everything she had in jeopardy, once again.