Today’s excerpt is from Angels at Midnight, originally published in 1989. The ebook will be available via Amazon at a special promotional price 9/25/16-10/1/16:
New York City, July 1987
The penthouse was in darkness. Out on the terrace, a man and a woman, dressed in loose-fitting black overalls, prepared to make an unauthorized entrance. The woman, holding a large canvas rucksack, looked on as her partner ran a gloved hand expertly along the frame of the large glass door until he found what he was looking for: the wire connected to the burglar alarm. He reached into the rucksack and took out a pair of pliers and a long section of wire with an alligator clip on each end. Turning his attention to the alarm once again, he traced the wire to its source, moving slowly, deliberately. He stripped the wire and attached one of the alligator clips to the alarm. As he used the pliers to cut the wire, the woman tensed, an involuntary reaction, as if she expected the alarm to go off. When it didn’t, her entire body sagged with relief. Why did it still bother her? she wondered. After all the times they had been through this in the past few months, shouldn’t she be used to it? Shouldn’t she be convinced that he knew what he was doing, that nothing would go wrong? She kept thinking of something he had told her when she first entered into this devil’s bargain with him: one wrong move could be their last. He had said it himself. She looked at him, still amazed by how cool he was, how confident. Now he was taking a small glass cutter from the sack. Carefully, he cut a small hole in the glass, just large enough to allow him to reach inside and release the lock.
“Thank God that’s over,” she breathed as he slid the door open and stepped inside.
He turned to look at her, the strong, angular planes of his face shadowed in the moonlight, a lock of his thick, dark brown hair falling across his forehead. “Unfortunately,” he said in a low, deep voice, “this is only the beginning.”
He took two pairs of infrared goggles from the pocket of his overalls and gave her a pair. He slipped his on and gestured for her to do the same. As she pulled them down over her face and adjusted them on the bridge of her nose, she looked around. The room was suddenly bathed in an eerie red glow, but now it was possible for them to see the infrared beams of light crisscrossing throughout the room, deadly beams that would have been invisible without the goggles, beams that would instantly set off the electronic security system the minute they sensed the change in temperature that would occur when they passed through the invisible light. She stood in the doorway, looking at her partner questioningly as he appraised the situation.
“It’s impossible, isn’t it,” she muttered.
He shook his head. “Not impossible—just difficult.” He turned to face her. “Shall we?”
“You must be crazy!” she gasped. “There’s no way—”
“You’re wrong,” he said quietly. “There’s always a way. You should know that by now.”
She hesitated for only a moment. “You really think we can pull it off?”
He grinned. “There’s only one way we’re going to find out, isn’t there?”
She took a deep breath, then nodded reluctantly.
They moved cautiously yet swiftly through the room, dodging the beams by crawling under some, jumping over others, finally making their way to the wall safe that was concealed behind a priceless Matisse in an alcove at the opposite end of the room. She watched as he let the beam of bright light from his large flashlight play on the painting for a few moments. Then he passed the flashlight to her and took the painting down from the wall, turned it over, and placed it face down on the floor. He cut it from its frame, rolled up the vellum, and handed it to her. She put it in the rucksack. He looked up at her and nodded toward the safe. “Let’s get to it.”
As she held the flashlight, focusing the light on the safe, they saw that a series of buttons replaced the traditional round combination dial. He went to the rucksack again, producing a small, rectangular device resembling a pocket calculator with a long wire attached to it. He connected the free end of the wire to the safe just beneath the panel of buttons with a soft, pliable substance he jokingly referred to as Silly Putty. He switched it on, and the digital display began to flash wildly as the device methodically sought out the combination. Swiftly, he opened the safe and swept its contents into the sack his accomplice held open for him. Then he closed the safe again, disconnected his equipment, and hastily stuffed it into the large rucksack, slipping his arms through the heavy straps that secured it to his back.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” he told her as he pulled the goggles down over his eyes again.
Dodging the beams again, they made their way back to the terrace. As they prepared to make their escape, she looked apprehensively at the heavy cable strung from the terrace to the roof of another skyscraper several hundred feet away, the same cable on which they had entered. Though she had done this countless times in the past few months, and knew this particular cable to be safe, she doubted she would ever really get used to doing this sort of thing. She could not imagine ever being comfortable with the idea of her life literally hanging by a thread, five hundred feet above the ground. She leaned over the railing and stared down at the glittering lights of midtown Manhattan below. Normally, she would have found the view spectacular, but now all she could think of was the danger. One wrong move could be your last. His words echoed through her mind. One wrong move could be fatal.
“Come on!” he urged, perching himself on the railing. He swung his long legs over the side as casually as if he were getting out of bed, and grasped a heavy metal loop attached to the cable. Using his body weight to propel him, he swung forward forcefully, a motion that sent him sailing through the night, speeding toward the other building.
She studied the cable for a moment, thinking about something he’d told her the first time she used the cable: My life happens to mean a great deal to me . . . when I string a cable, it’s so safe you could sail a baby on it. She took a deep breath and climbed onto the rail, moving with the natural grace of a dancer. The wind whipped her long, dark hair about her face as she gripped the loop and launched herself forward. Now, as she sailed through the darkness like some night bird in flight, those old familiar doubts and questions flashed through her mind: When did it all begin to go wrong? she asked herself. When did the world as she knew it begin to fall apart?
And how had she ended up here—doing this?