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The Power of Decision



Rich people disgust me. It's one reason I so enjoy stealing from them, and sometimes they make it too easy. Like this time. Some big shot's daughter is getting married and instead of having a party for giving gifts to the bride at home like normal people, this guy has it on a luxury cruise. Pays the fares for a bunch of other fat-and-happies so there will be a crowd telling his homely daughter how beautiful she is. And showering her with expensive gifts, of course. These people don't like to be out-done, so it should be a haul for the ages.


"Let's go," I said. We were a team of three. Yours truly, decked out in finery I had appropriated from the ship's laundry center. Pete, my oldest friend. Louise, a shipboard employee who had of course fallen hopelessly in love with Pete over the past two days. (Pete has that gift with the gals.)


The partiers saw the gift-giving as the peak of the party, so they scheduled that part late, which meant they were sloshed. Perfect. I stood among the icons of money, kept my nose up at a snotty angle to fit in, and watched as each gift was presented to Bride Margaret, a girl so buck-toothed she could eat corn-on-the-cob through a picket fence. When she finished oohing and ahhing over each present, Louise the lowly shipmaid would take the item from her and stow it in the bedroom, where Pete was stationed. If I looked at Louise when she took the gift, that meant we wanted that one. In the bedroom, she notified Pete and he procured the item and put a rock or two in its box. With any luck, the spoiled brat wouldn't even bother looking in the boxes until she was home and we were long gone.




When the party finally broke, each of us sauntered away in separate directions as per the plan. I checked my watch. 11:05. It was bone dry out on the deck, but the cold night air was damp and clingy as I walked toward the back of the ship and our rendezvous. What looked like a billion stars twinkled overhead. I arrived first, then Louise. Pete had to stash the goods in our cabin. We stood by the rail at the ass-end of the big ship and made small talk while we waited for Pete. He showed up a few minutes later with a giant grin on his face and plastered a loud smooch of a kiss on Louise's lips.


He slapped me on the back and said, "We're rich, man! Rich!" Then he turned to Louise and said, "Rich, baby! We're rich!"


I watched the way he looked and her and wondered how I hadn't seen it already. Damnation. I tapped him on the shoulder. "Come here a minute, we need to talk," then walked a few yards away and waited while he fawned over her like some schoolboy. "Pete!" I said, and twirled my finger in the air for him to hurry up. A gust of wind hit and I drew my coat a little tighter.


When he got to me, I leaned in close and said, "What are you doing?"


"Huh?" He still had that goofy smile wrapped around his face.


"Pete. She has to go. You know that."


The smile disappeared. "What? You mean—no. No. I like her. She's the real thing, man."


"This is our biggest score ever, the kind that can set us up for a long time. With her gone, there's no way they can ever tie it to us."


"She's on our side, man. She's with me."


I said nothing.


"No way she'd turn on me. Ever. She loves me." He looked me in the eye. "And I love her, too."


"You've known her a couple days, Pete."


"Sometimes you just know, no matter how long it's been."


I shook my head. "Sorry, buddy."


As casually as I could, I walked toward the girl while he stood there gawking at me. She shivered in the cold. As I reached out, Pete yelled, "NOOOOOOO!" I took her shoulders, smiled at her, and shoved her over the rail.




She was barely visible in the waves by the time Pete got to the rail. He stared at me with a crazed look in his eyes, his mouth hung open. Then he turned back to the rail and screamed down, "Hang on, baby!"


He spun and made toward the bulkhead behind us, but I was ready. I pay attention to my surroundings and I had noticed the big red buttons around the ship as soon as we boarded, sure that they sounded some kind of emergency bell when pushed.


I caught Pete from behind when he was six feet from the button, wrapped my arms around him and held on while he thrashed. "No," I said. "You can't."


"We have to save her!"


"There's no saving her. She's gone."


"We have to try!" he said, frantically fighting to get a hand on the button.


Enough. I yanked him back, hard, and we both fell to the deck, him on top of me. "Stop it!" I screamed, right into his ear. He started crying, blubbering in great heaves in my arms.




We stood at the rail. Pete stared at the waves, a mournful look drooping his handsome features. "You killed her," he said. His voice was vacant, flat. "We should have pushed the button. Maybe we could have saved her."


"If we had pushed the button, they would've stopped the ship. We need to get to New York and disappear, not draw attention to ourselves. And remember, I saved us from the possibility of being caught, Pete. I saved us."


Suddenly exhausted, I checked my watch. 11:35. A tough but rewarding day was almost over. I suspected I would remember April 14, 1912, for the rest of my life.

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