Chapter One
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Danny hesitantly peered over the fourteenth-floor penthouse balcony. A sharp breeze stung his shaved head, and the tiny lights of traffic barreling down 5th Avenue brought a wad of bile to his throat. He pushed back against the balcony railing as he fought the vertigo that messed with his feeble mind and tempted him to throw himself over the edge. 

“Are we doing this or what,” he snapped at Carlos, his partner. 

He shook his head, chiding himself for once again falling for one of the Puerto Rican’s promises of wealth beyond imagination.   

Carlos turned from the glass doors leading into the darkened apartment. 

“We go when I say we go.” 

He straightened the collar of his jacket and Danny saw his fingers shaking not from the cold, he figured. Carlos turned back to the glass doors and tried again to see through. He cupped his hands around his eyes, the edges pressed against the glass.

“Come on,” said Danny. “It’s freezing out here.” 

“You’re always going off about something. Relax, cabron, or I’m throwing your ass over the edge.” 

Danny had done enough jobs with him to know that the irritating little guy might not be joking. Quick on his feet and daring, yes. Rational and level headed, not a chance in Hell. He studied Carlos’s movements for those telltale jerks that meant he was about to pop. None.

A light came on inside the penthouse. Danny shifted to the dark corner of the balcony and flattened his body against the cold bricks. Carlos moved next to him, the smell of garlic and a pungent foreign spice lingering on his breath. 

“You told me there wouldn’t be anyone home.” 

He felt Carlos’s shoulders rise. 

“I lied. No refunds, okay? Just shut your fat face.”         

Carlos crouched against the wall, angled toward the window but far enough away that he was outside the rectangle of light spilling onto the balcony through the glass doors.  Danny followed his lead. Inside, an immaculately dressed man with gray hair at his temples adjusted his suspenders. Bookshelves lined the walls of the room, and a massive wood desk sat at one end. It all reeked of rich, stinking rich. Danny figured the man’s suit must have cost over a grand, and the shiny cufflinks even more. Maybe the night wouldn’t be so bad after all.

The man reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and Danny tensed. But the man just pulled out a packet of cigarettes, the expensive kind, in the blue soft packet. He stepped toward them, and Carlos held his hand low signaling not to move. Then the man unlatched the door and pushed it open into the night.

Without hesitating, Carlos lunged at the man, knocking Danny back on his ass in the process. This wasn’t the plan at all. It was supposed to be a simple robbery; no people, no signs. 

The man fell back into the study and Carlos was on top of him, pinning him to the ground face down. 

“Hold him!”

Danny scrambled over to the two of them and took over for Carlos. The man wasn’t just fat, he was out of shape too. The fall had knocked him half-unconscious. Danny pulled the man’s arms behind his back and Carlos secured the man’s wrists with a tie strip.

“In the bag, duct tape his mouth.”

“This isn’t what I signed up for, man.” 

He was still on probation from the last mess they’d gotten into. All he’d wanted was to take an easy job, make a few bucks, and lay low for awhile.

Carlos motioned with his hand. 

“Get him out of here and stop your whining, little girl.” 

He turned to the bookshelves. 

Danny grabbed the man by the suit collar and dragged him toward the study door. The bastard was heavy, that was for sure. He pulled him out into a hallway and made sure the ties and tape were secure but that the guy could still breathe. Then he came back in and closed the door behind him. 

Danny joined Carlos at the bookshelf. 

“Are you sure it’s here?”

“It’s here. Just get a move on.”

Carlos opened a glass case and, without Danny noticing, plucked a gold medallion from the display inside.

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