Like a gust on a gloomy day, Ariana cavalierly sashayed through the elegant hotel lobby with a smirk painted on her red lips. Her duffle bag that held her meager belongings and the sapphire gem dangled in her hand. After Ariana checked in at the desk, she ascended the stairs to her top floor suite.
Once in her room, she gawked at the gold-encrusted furniture and the countless chandeliers. Ariana plopped down into the plush velvet loveseat, luxuriating in the faraway rhythm of the wailing police sirens outside. She turned on the TV and flipped to the local news channel where a reporter stood outside the jewelry store. It’s been hours and the authorities were just now learning that the rare sapphire gem has been stolen. In the last three months, Ariana and her partner Malcolm executed several jewelry heists, but they scored big this time.
The sound of the suite door unlocking made Ariana whip her head back, finding Malcolm enter, wearing his backpack.
“We’re famous, huh?” he said, a smile stretching across his stubbled face.
“Somethin’ like that.” Ariana shrugged as Malcolm sat next to her. “You parked it far away, right?”
“Yep, blocks away . . . just like you asked. I had to take the train to get up here though.”
“What?” She turned towards him; eyebrows sewn together as her blood began to simmer.
“I’m not as young as I used to be, Ari,” he chuckled.
“You idiot! Please tell me you paid with cash. . .”
All of the color drained out of Malcolm’s face.
Ariana stood up and seized her hair. “They can track credit cards, dumbass. And they have cameras everywhere, meaning they’ll be able to follow you here. . .” She started hyperventilating.
Malcolm just sat there like a chastised child as Ariana paced, mumbling possible plans to herself. “We’ve gotta go. Now!” They both started to quickly gather their things.
In the midst of the commotion, the fading, light-streaked Polaroid photograph of little Ariana and her father fell out of her blazer’s breast pocket. Her smiling father was holding her while she kissed the birthmark on his neck. Her parents divorced when she was young, and when her mother’s drinking worsened, Child Protective Services sent her to a group home where she learned how to survive. But she wanted to go live with her dad.
“C’mon!” Malcolm nudged her.
Ariana returned the photo back in its place and slung the duffle on her shoulder to follow Malcolm out of the suite. They descended the stairs towards the employee exit.
When they stepped out into the brisk cold, they were confronted by a police blockade, a semi-circle of spinning sirens and high beams.
“Freeze! Hands up and get down on your knees!”
The thieves flung their arms up and dropped to the ground. A pair of officers handcuffed them and read them their Miranda rights. Ariana was focused on the paunchy officer walking towards them, poised to give them the “You lost” speech.
Ariana squinted her eyes at the man’s collar, noticing a red birthmark on his neck. . . “Dad?”