Grace climbs down the fire escape with the heavy satchel. She decides not to go through the backyard but to walk around the front of the house and go around the block to where her car was parked. When she turns the corner she sees the white van parked near her but she can’t see into it.
She’s scared and can’t believe what she’d done and she knows she’s in more danger now than ever. She thinks about how Lily will react to news that Stefon is dead.
I clumsily made my way down the fire escape with the bag slung over my shoulder trying to be as quiet as possible. The bag was incredibly heavy. I jumped down to ground level and stopped for a minute to listen to the silence and to decide which direction to go in. I knew that the minute they walked into the bedroom they’d notice the bag was gone. They would immediately look out the window and see me hurrying through the backyard, tossing the bag into the neighboring yard and climbing the chain-link fence. I decided instead to walk around the front of the house, keeping to the shadows beneath the trees and hoping to get away safely before it occurred to them what had happened.
I knew I had to hurry. I walked through the small front yard toward the sidewalk and slowly jogged around the block to where my Subaru was parked.
As I was nearing my car, I noticed that the street looked exactly the same as it had forty-five minutes ago, with one exception. A small white van was idling on the opposite side of the street, facing my car. I quickly glanced sideways but I couldn’t see into it. The driver had parked directly beneath a street lamp and the light reflecting off the windshield completely obscured whoever was inside. Plus, it was starting to rain again. When I was a few meters away from my car, I unlocked it with the button on my key chain and shoved the bag onto the passenger seat. I fastened my seat belt and tried to slow my breathing as I pulled away from the curb and turned right at the end of the street.
It was just a little after four am. The only activity as I drove toward home was the crowded parking lot of an all-night diner, filled with early birds and night-shifters. My stomach was in knots and I felt queasy at the thought of food. I was shaking again, drenched by the freezing rain and in complete disbelief of what I had done. Looking sideways at the satchel, I knew that I was suddenly in a crazy amount of danger. The task of finding Lily’s jewelry box in Stefon’s apartment had been daunting enough. I hadn’t told her at the time that I wasn’t even sure if I could pull it off. But now this? What had triggered this level of stubborn impulsiveness?
On an instinctive level, maybe I knew that I only had this one chance, that these men had filled up this satchel with everything of value and once they were gone, they were gone. There would be no way for me to find them. They would pawn her belongings for whatever they could get and there would be nothing I could do about it. Or maybe I was angry at the thought of being too late, not clever enough to protect Lily’s interests while she was locked away and depending on my help. It was a dangerous favor, that’s true – but then it was also just a jewelry box. Knowing her, she’d be livid if I told her that I’d risked my life for it.
What it came down to was that Lily’s friendship was all I had right now and I wanted her to respect me. Maybe I needed her respect because there might be things that she could help me with someday – with her connections in the city, her experience reading people, her solid advice. I was just starting to realize that being friends with her had added a dimension to my life that I wouldn’t trade for anything – except, of course, having Cora back. Despite all of the limitations that these legal problems had caused, my world was much smaller before prison. If only I could find the strength to do this, to uncover the truth about why my life had taken such a turn, then I might have a chance at leaving the past in the past and finding a new way forward.
Lily would probably have mixed feelings about Stefon’s death. If the men who had killed him knew anything about the organization he was involved with, they obviously weren’t worried at all about the possibility of retaliation. I, on the other hand, was. I might have gotten away clean, without them knowing who I was or what direction I had driven away in, but Lily had warned me that it was a dangerous neighborhood where not much went unnoticed. Day or night. There was a good chance that someone had seen me set off empty-handed and then, less than an hour later, hurrying back to my car weighted down with a heavy bag. It didn’t take a genius to guess what I was up to.
This was a place where I didn’t belong but I wasn’t being naive. I knew enough to be wary of vengeful people with deep connections.