This was gonna be a piece o' cake, Max thought, wishing he hadn't hired T'see Chow after all. The master thief hadn't done anything thusfar except provide Kent to disable the alarm system -- and that looked so easy, Max was pretty sure he could've done it himself. "What're you doing?" He whispered to T'see -- "grab it, already!"
"Not so fast, my impatient friend." T'see removed what looked like a small flashlight from his shoulder bag. He and Kent both had one -- Kent's contained the lockpick set; Max wasn't sure what else. But when T'see shone the light, it revealed a web of lightbeams around the bust. "There are lasers protecting each piece. The controls are probably in the room somewhere, and the entire room isn't wired -- too expensive. Kent, see what you can find."
"But we disabled the alarm system."
"This is a separate device -- they probably set it up just for this showing, because the pieces are so valuable. Similar to the ones at The De Young and MOMA, so the same people most likely did it."
"Got it, pop," Kent called from the corner. He had a tiny flashlight, and it was now illuminating a small box at floor level. "Want it disabled?"
"By all means, my apprentice."
Max revised his opinion about the wisdom of hiring T'see. That was when the lights went out. "Got it!" Kent murmured from the corner, just as Max said, "Shit! What was that?"
"The lights went off, honey," Candy supplied helpfully.
"This girl's a genius, isn't she?" Kent remarked as he came towards them, his tiny flashlight beam illuminating the Buddha. T'see removed a similar light from his own bag, replacing the laser detector, and Max carefully picked up the Buddha, wrapping it in protective foam, and placing it in the bowling bag he'd brought with him. A bowling bag that was identical to the one Jerry was carrying...
The Danger Club members crept down the dark hallways of the Center, finding their way to the main exhibit hall. All the displays had been arranged, but many of the actual pieces would arrive in the morning. There was a large banner across one wall that read FIFTH ANNUAL NORTHERN CALIFORNIA INTERNET CONVENTION BENEFIT. And there was their target -- the beam of Grant's large torch illumined the bust of computer pioneer Bill Gates, resting on its' fake marble plinth in the center of the hall. "There it is," Ariel pointed. "The object of desire."
"I guess he was for somebody," Tess replied, "Since he got married last year."
"With that kind of money," Gloria put in, "he could've had three wives and none of them would've complained."
"Well, I wouldn't've been one of 'em," Ariel retorted. "Come on, Jer -- your show now."
As they neared the plinth, Brian whistled. "Hey, it's a damned good job," he said. "One of you two do it?"
"We're not sculptors, darling boy," Grant retorted. "We're visual artists -- a man in Sebastopol did it. Ron Rodgers, his name is. Wonderful stuff, he does. We were thinking of having him do a sculpture for our garden."
"What's it made of?" Gloria asked, wondering if it was worth anything.
"Plaster of Paris; only the coating is bronze. Rodgers works in bronze a lot, but they wanted this particular piece to be light enough to carry. Good thing, since we have to carry it with us."
Jerry opened his computer bag, and removed The Energizer Bunny with a flourish. Everyone in the group trained their flashlights on Bill Gates, as if they had rehearsed this. Brian removed the bust and Jerry popped the bunny in its' place, while everyone applauded. Jerry bowed and lifted his cavernous hoop skirt, removing a small remote-control device from one of the pockets sewn into the lining. He held it out to Gloria. "Madame, as our senior member, would you accept the honor of holding the magic button. We all look forward to seeing you wield it tomorrow morning."
Gloria grimaced at him, and made no move to take the remote. "No, thank you. I'll gladly forgo that honor."
Jerry just grinned. "Okey doke! Hey, Grant -- you're the next geezer in line! You take it!"
He tossed it to Grant, who caught it somewhat fumblingly. "And what, oh irrepressible one, made you decide to give this honor to the elders among us?"
"Mathematics. If we get caught, and they shut us up for life for desecration to the godling of computer science, Mr. Gates, you'll have a shorter lifetime to spend in jail."
"I'm just a pawn in the scheme of life." He slipped the remote into his pocket. Ariel took hold of his arm and started back the way they had come.
"Stop mucking about, you lot -- let's get outta here!"
Jerry stuffed the bust into his computer bag. "All right, all right -- there it goes!" He hefted the bag and the group made a concerted dash back for the main lobby, their flashlights playing over the walls as they went, as though creating a new living art exhibit.
It was all going well, when they heard something coming. Reluctantly, their flashlights went to the opposite corridor and illuminated the group that burst out into the lobby. They were dressed in black, and Gloria recognized at least one of them, her fears realized. The disjointed conversation that followed sounded like gibberish to Han Sun, who had opened one of the doors and slipped inside, and was now standing unobserved against the wall.
"What the hell?" Grant asked as, as his flashlight took in the splendor of Candi Kisses.
"Who are they?" Tess asked.
"Oh, look -- real thieves!" Jerry was thrilled -- this was really gonna be fun!
"Maxie!" Gloria blurted out before she could stop herself. "What the hell are you doing here?"
T'see and Candi heard Han move in the shadows by the door, and turned their torches on him. Kent examined the young Chinese man. "Who's he? A cop?" Max groaned as he recognized his nemesis.
It was only seconds, but seemed like much longer to Han, as the pranksters also turned on him, prompted perhaps by Kent's question about him being a cop. "Ah, shit!" was Brian's erudite comment, while Ariel improved on this slightly with "Oh, shit, oh, dear!"
It was Gloria who seemed most horrified of all as she blurted out, with revulsion in her voice, "Han Sun Lee!" Both groups appeared to be overtaken by mass hysteria and the singular idea to be the first through the door. As they all converged on him, Han cowered against the wall with a shriek like a tortured banshee. He apparently thought he was about to be squashed into a shadow of his former (and present) self.
Actually, nobody even made it to the door, a given with two groups like The Danger Club and Max's thieves. Jerry tripped himself on his hoop skirt and went down in a heap, taking several others with him. Gloria, Grant and Ariel actually got as far as the door but then couldn't manage to open it, since they were all leaning against it to keep the others (what others isn't certain, since the thieves hadn't even gotten that far) from getting through first.
T'see and Kent tried to push their way through, to no avail. Max and Candi were caught up in Jerry's skirt as he rolled about, attempting to keep hold of his bag and right himself. All he could manage to say, over and over, was "Omigod!"
Brian went down, bouncing on the hoop and rebounding away. He had been holding Tess by the hand, but at this point she wisely pulled away and went crawling toward the corner and relative freedom. Brian tripped Candi, who had caught her high-heel in Jerry's petticoat, and she fell on top of him, her breasts falling neatly into his hands like two luscious melons. Brian jerked back, bringing the woman down into his face. He managed to mutter, "Excuse me, miss!"
Amused, Candi retorted, "What's your name, handsome? I don't believe we've been introduced!"
Max wasn't too pleased at Candi lying on top of some stranger -- he figured she'd probably done that one too many times already. He attempted to catch hold of her and pull her up, but the hoop caught him and bounced him in the opposite direction. His bowling bag landed near Jerry's head, and he left it there, pushing it toward the wall to keep it out of the way. Then he plunged back in to save Candi once more, only succeeding in grabbing hold of Brian's leg.
"Keep your filthy hands off my Candi," he bellowed.
Tess had stopped at the wall and was watching them. Now she threw herself forward and tackled Max around the knees, pulling him backwards on top of her. "Leave Brian alone!" She ordered him as she pushed him ungently to the floor. "He didn't do anything to her! She fell on 'im!"
Candi moved with surprising grace, considering the situation and her tight black pants, and rose to her feet, brushing herself off and shaking out her blond hair. She went to stand over Max and Tess, regarding them like a mother with two small children who will insist on fighting. "She's right, Maxie. I just sort of fell into his hands -- you know how that part of my anatomy gets in the way of everything, being so prominent. You can stop beating on my boyfriend now, whoever you are -- I'm perfectly capable of doing that myself. Come on, Maxie -- grab the case and let's beat it the hell outta here!"
Max obviously saw her point, or perhaps he was just so accustomed to following the dictates of a woman that it now came quite naturally. He grabbed the nearest bag and scrambled to his feet with far less alacrity than she had shown. Jerry managed to get into a sitting position, and as Max and Candi made for the door, Tess and Brian helped him to his feet.
Yelling, "Come on, run for it!" Jerry grabbed the other bag and they made for the door. All this took place in less than a minute, and once they arrived at the door it was to find that Ariel and Gloria had taken the opportunity to indulge their dislike for one another. Ariel had armed herself with a little gift item from the computer show -- a plastic hammer that made a sound like shattering glass everytime it hit something. She was practically sitting on top of Gloria, hitting her wherever she could with the hammer.
Over and over again she said, "Shut up, you cow -- shut up!" Grant was wondering if the excitement of the evening had been too much for her -- he hadn't even seen her this wound up when they'd gone on the diplomatic mission to Iran as part of a team of artists for the State Department, and some religious fundamentalists had tried to destroy their exhibit.
Max stopped, apparently entranced by the sight of someone beating on his mother. Tess now charged forward and grabbed Ariel around the waist, pulling her away from Gloria, who was mostly engaged in keeping her wig on. "Ariel!" Said Tess sternly, proving she had indeed dealt with small children herself on a regular basis, "No time for fun now! Come on!"
Jerry and Brian pulled the front doors open, whereupon everyone attempted to go through them at once. Grant found himself in the rear, and starting pushing people through, saying, "Let's go, let's go, let's go!" He had started to have visions of the police arriving and being confronted with this mob. He'd had enough of police and mobs when he was young and stupid and demonstrating against whatever he could think of, that particular week.
Gloria wanted to confront Max, but couldn't get near him. So she allowed herself to be borne along by the crowd, holding her wig and muttering, "My son is an idiot! It was supposed to be tomorrow!"
They erupted into the parking lot, Jerry's hoop skirt banging against the bread truck and threatening to bring them all down yet again...