FICTION: The Autumn Heist by Katherine Pierpont

Me and my brother came in by the old lady’s window. Louis’s back heel hit the pane and he stumbled.

“Easy, Lou. Careful.”

“I don’t think this is a good idea, Will.”

“I told you. We’re in, and we’re out. She’s not even home.”

“Will, I really don’t think Sophie would care this much about the necklace.”

“Shut up, Louis.”

That was Louis’s problem. My big brother never shut up.

“She’s gotta have a jewelry box. All these women do. ‘Member the one Mom had?” But Louis was standing by the window staring outside. Crisp air unsettled his clothes and blonde hair. A dried leaf blew in. Trees. I’d almost forgot we were on the Upper East Side.

“What’re you looking at?”

“Kid’s crying.”

“Write your autobiography later.”

“It’s his turn to ride the bike, but his brother won’t let him.”

“What did I just say about your autobiography.”

I headed toward the bedroom. There was every chance Louis would do something so unbelievably Louis and go outside to right a wrong. You had to love him for it, even as you hated him for it.

I flicked on the light in the bedroom, approaching the dresser. There was a click.

She was in the corner next to her bed with a pistol almost as old as she was.

“Hey. Whoa. No need for that.” I had my hands up scanning the room for items to use, but the dresser was too far away.

She was spewing words in French as I started to back into the living room. She came towards me at the same pace.

“Listen, I just want the necklace. You remember the necklace. I asked you about it two weeks ago.”

More French. More gun waving. Christ. This woman looked like any step could be her last.

“Le necklacette, you old French bitch.”

She marched me past the kitchen doorway towards the exit. I had just enough time to think that if she hadn’t used it yet, the gun might not even be loaded.

Then her body tumbled left, and I thought maybe I had been onto something with that last step thing. She fell, hitting the coffee table at an odd angle. A vase of dead flowers toppled over as she hit the floor.

Louis was standing in her place, his arms still outstretched from the shove.

I turned to him. “Come on. We need to do this. Now.”

But Louis stood there.

“Lou, we gotta hurry.”

His body got real straight, and he crossed to the woman. He knelt beside her and went to lift her head. The small movement, however, shifted the weight of her skull, and it became clear that her neck had snapped on the way down. There was blood smeared on Louis’s fingertips.

“Fuck.” I looked at Louis.

“Will. What just happened?”

“She had a gun, dude. You didn’t have a choice.”

“Will. What the fuck just happened.”

“It’s not your fault. It was an accident.”

He murmured something.

“What?”

“I said,” he enunciated louder, “it wasn’t an accident that I was in her apartment.”

“Lou, listen, I know. We gotta – we need to leave asap.” I headed towards the bedroom.

“Where are you going?”

“If we don’t get the necklace, what was the point anyway?”

“Jesus Christ. Forget the necklace, Will. She’s dead.”

“Forget the necklace? Are you fucking serious? You want to go back to Sophie empty-handed, knowing full well it should be hers.”

“Go back to Sophie empty-handed? That’s what you’re worried about? She’s dead! It’s your fault we’re in this apartment. And now, because of all that, it’s my fault this woman is dead.”

I could hear footsteps on the landing.

“Listen, we’re not leaving without the fucking–”

There was a knock on the door.

“Margaux? It’s me. Are you okay? I heard something fall. It sounded pretty bad.”

I motioned to Louis to be quiet. He glared at me, still kneeling beside the old woman.

“C’mon, Margaux. I can help you clean up at least.”

A toe tapped outside the door. Louis shifted his weight from right to left.

“Hi, Dad…Yeah…I heard a noise from Margaux’s apartment, but she isn’t answering…Yes, I’m sure she’s there. I carried groceries up for her…No. She cancelled this week’s appointment…What’s waiting going to do? It’s not like anyone else is going to be looking for her…I’ll just use the key and check real quick…Yeah. I brought it with me in case she fell and couldn’t get to the door…Okay…I’ll let you know. Bye.”

Louis pointed frantically at the open window. I looked from him, to the body, to the bedroom. The key scraped the lock, and Louis let out a moan as I raced to the side of the door.

“Will,” he whispered. “Will, no.”

“Hello?” She had the door open.

I jumped from behind it, grabbing her, covering her mouth, and kicking the door closed again in one motion. Louis sprinted towards me, and I backed away dragging the girl with me. He stopped short. The girl struggled and whimpered.

“Let her go, Wi–”

“Don’t you dare. Don’t say it.”

“This was not the plan.”

“No. The plan was to get the old lady to sell it back to me, but she fucked that one up.”

“We have to leave now.”

“Not without the necklace.”

“Forget the necklace!”

“What about her? Huh? She’s seen us. And — and the body. You’re the one with everything to lose. You killed the bitch.”

Louis’s face drained and everything went slack. “Fuck you, Will.”

“Goddammit. Names, Lou!”

“So. What precisely is your plan now?”

I looked around and saw the gun. Hauling the girl behind me across the living room I picked it up.

“Hey you,” I said to her. “I’m going to let you go, but you’re not going to say anything.” She nodded vigorously. “Lou, get over here.”

He exhaled and walked over.

“Take this.” I thrust the gun at him. Louis pulled back. “Take it. Now.” Louis held it awkwardly. I let go of the girl.

In a rush she started talking. “My name is Lucille. I live downstairs.”

“Christ. What did I just say?”

“I’m 28. My dad’s the super. I work at the flower shop down –”

“What is wrong with you?” Her mouth opened and snapped shut. “Flowers,” I looked at her. “Of course you sell flowers. Just go sit on the couch.” I waved the gun in that direction. “Louis, watch her.”

Lucille stopped shaking and stayed where she was. Her jaw clenched. “We need to do something about–about the body.”

“I said sit down.”

“We can’t just leave her there and I don’t,” she took a deep breath and pulled her shoulders back. “I don’t think you want to hurt me.” Her eyes darted to Louis.

I pulled my hair, pushing the heels of my hands against my temples. “Alright. Get on the goddamn couch.”

She went and sat down, but her eyes didn’t move from me. Louis sat down next to her.

I went over to the body and brushed the dead leaves and flowers off. The old lady’s hair was all over her face. I pushed it out of the way. The girl was still watching.

Grabbing from under the arms,I pulled the body into the corner opposite the window. The trail of blood was thinner than I expected. I put her down slow, adjusting her head to a normal position. Then the stupid girl was holding a blanket from the couch out to me. Louis had the gun down at his side. I licked my lips and snatched the blanket away.

“Sit back down.” She obeyed. I snapped the blanket open like a garbage bag. I didn’t want to look at this lady anyway. I laid it over her, then pulled the edges out to cover her entirely.

I stormed through the bedroom door, which was right next to the couch. “Both of you better be right here when I get back,” I threw over my shoulder.

The room smelled like mothballs, and there were curtains around the bed like something out of that Christmas movie with the ghosts. I opened the wardrobe and dust fell from the top of the doors. None of the clothes had been touched in awhile. Some had faded lines from where the light came through. I looked around. There were four or five ugly nightgown things crumpled next to the bed and one plain black dress draped over a chair.

“Ah. Shit.”

I slammed the wardrobe shut and leaned against it. Just remember this bitch wouldn’t sell it back to you.

I could hear Lucille whispering. I crept to the doorway.

“My dad calls me Lu too.”

Silence.

“Is he your brother? He looks like you.”

I leaned against the wall, rubbing my face in my hands.

“He is, isn’t he? He looks like you.”

Silence.

“I don’t have any siblings. I always wanted one.”

Louis snorted. “I thought I did too until Will was born.”

“Hey! Quiet out there.” I slammed my fist into the wall, and they stopped talking. I had to hurry. Louis never could shut up.

Nothing on the vanity. Nothing on the dresser. Nothing in the dresser. I walked towards the closet.

I could hear shuffling, probably Louis, and then Lucille, “But you’re here with him.”

“Yeah. I’m here.”

“Then he can’t be all bad.”

“He wasn’t always this. He’s not…He just wants our mom’s necklace back.”

“I said shut up, Louis.” I ripped open the closet door.

“So your mom…”

“Dead.”

I was gonna yell at Louis again, but there it was. I knew she’d have a jewelry box. I pulled it down. It was heavy, made of some thick, polished wood.

“I’m sorry.”

“She was sick a long time.”

The top opened up to a music box. Half of the front was taken up by three small drawers with a clock above them. The other half had one door the length of the case. It was mostly made up of a glass window.

“How’d Margaux get the necklace?”

“Will pawned it. I guess you could say he was sick a long time too.”

There it was. My mother’s necklace. I opened the door and took it off the rotating hanger suspended from the top of the case.

“Sick?”

“He tried to get it back, you know? Went to the pawn shop after Mom died. After he got better. Killed him that it was gone. But of course it was at that point.”

The gold chain was more delicate than I remembered. But it had been a few years. The pendant was a rounded glass surrounded by a gold circle to keep it in place.

“Beat the shit out of the pawnshop owner to find it.”

The flat back of the glass was painted with small figures that expanded into life in the magnified dome of the pendant.

“He tried to pay your friend for it. Asked her for it when she left the house one day. He said she blew him off. Hurried away. Don’t blame her. I told him he must have seemed crazy.”

Lucille sighed. “Margaux’s English is — was bad at the best of times. She probably didn’t understand him.”

Mom said the figures were Echo and Narcissus at the pond. Killed my tenth grade teacher when I dropped that story on a test. Mrs. Rhoads had been all set to fail me.

“He just wants to give it to Sophie.”

“Sophie?”

“Our kid sister.”

At Sophie’s name my hand tightened on the necklace, and I walked out to the living room.

Lucille was asking, “But why’s it so important?”

“It’s not,” I said. “Lou, give me the gun.” Louis looked at me, and his grip tightened.

“Why?”

“Just do it.”

“No.”

“Give me the fucking gun. Louis, nothing has changed. Everything that was true before we got here is still true. When we walk out of here, it’s just us.”

“What about Sophie,” Lucille whispered.

“Don’t fucking say her name.”

Louis stood up. He was grinding his teeth. “Why shouldn’t she say Sophie’s name? We have more right or something? What a joke.”

“Stop right now, Louis.”

“Or what? You kill the girl and me. Weren’t you just saying something about it being us?” He looked at me. “And what about Sophie, Will?”

It took me two strides to reach him. With the necklace still in my fist I slammed my hand into his face and felt his nose crack. He stumbled backwards onto the couch and dropped the gun. I grabbed it, and swung it towards Lucille. She backed further against the couch. Louis, his nose still bleeding, moved to block her.

I threw my arms out. “How are we were gonna leave here? Just tell her to give us ten minutes before she calls the police?”

“I didn’t want to be here in the first place!”

“Then why did you come!” I screamed at him.

“You don’t get it.”He laughed. “Jesus.” With a deep breath, he wiped his nose on his sleeve, leaving a trail of blood across it. Lucille was looking from Louis to me and back again. There was something so fucking curious in her terror. Typical. People can’t get enough of domestic drama. Ready to say all kinds of shit about this kid who punched his brother.

“Lemme explain something, Lucille,” Louis said. “Things were not so hot in our household. Will doesn’t remember that much of this part,” he snorted again, “though you wouldn’t know it by how he’s acting. Dad was gone and Gerard, well, he was pretty bad. But he made money for Mom’s habit.”

I was shaking and the gun wavered.

“Then Sophie changed everything.”

“I swear to God, Louis. I swear to God.”

“Can’t keep a wife beater around when you’re pregnant. Mom kicked the drugs eventually, got a job at a store. She cared that I was going to school. I was eight, and Will, he was only five. But I don’t think Sophie turned Mom’s life around fast enough to save herself.”

“Stop it.” Goddamn Louis. If there’s one thing you can depend on him for.

“What is it you always say about me? I can’t shut up?” He turned to Lucille, who had some new look on her face. “We don’t really know what happened to Sophie. She had a lot of seizures. She couldn’t go to school after a while. Kids made fun of her.”

I turned and pointed the gun at Louis. He walked up to me until the barrel was against his chest. “If you’re gonna do it, you better do it now, Will.”

I could barely hear him over the sounds of Sophie. Sophie saying all kinds of things but mostly Sophie crying. “I’m not kidding, Lou. I am not fucking kidding.”

Sophie and Sophie and Sophie.

“I’m not either, Will.”

Louis wasn’t there. It was me and Mom and Sophie. Sophie.

“I was 18 and gone already,” he explained.

“That’s enough.” That’s enough because I say when it’s enough and the metal in my hand was enough or at least enough like the taste in my mouth. It was enough to stop everything from happening all over again.

“It happened when she was ten. Will didn’t take it well.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I pulled the trigger. Lucille screamed.

The gun made a hollow click.

“I can’t believe you, Will.” Louis almost smiled.

I tossed the unloaded gun across the room. It skidded on the hardwood and came to a stop under the window. I dropped to the floor, head in my hands. I could hear Lucille pulling her sobs back breathing heavily. Fuck. It wasn’t like someone just tried to shoot her. Or like she tried to shoot her brother. She didn’t even have a fucking brother.

I rubbed my hands against my eyes until I saw spots. When I could see clearly again, Louis was back at the window, looking out. Funnily enough, Lucille was kneeling next to me, sitting back on her heels. I felt a hand on my shoulder and brushed it away. Lucille-from-downstairs was not going to get away with dredging all this up and then pretend to feel bad for me. I pressed my nose to my face and snot gushed out. I pulled up my shirt to wipe it, scraping more at my eyes as I did.

Her hand retracted. “The necklace?”

“It was our mother’s favorite. She wore it all the time, and it was supposed to go to Sophie. Will pawned it when Mom was sick. Cancer,” he tossed the word aside. “He needed the money, because the selfish asshole got addicted to the same shit Mom did. He was so sad about Sophie he paid for the same drugs that…” His voice cracked.

My voice wrenched out of my throat. “There’s a reason it was Sophie who fixed mom.And the necklace was supposed to go to her.” I choked and coughed. “And now we’re just stuck with each other.”

“Sophie fixed Mom, because Gerard would have killed them both before Sophie was born.” Louis went towards the kitchen and picked up the phone.

“Are you calling…” Lucille trailed off.

“We can’t just leave a dead body here. And no one is killing anyone else.”

“Lou, tell them it was me. Just tell them I did it. I might as well have.”

Louis looked at me and thought for a minute. “Will, I don’t know how to make it clearer to you. You can’t fix something with another mistake.” He walked into the kitchen, and I couldn’t hear anymore. All I could hear was Sophie crying, but I knew I was wrong. It was me crying. It had always been me crying.

Lucille put her arms around me and didn’t let go. In fairness, I didn’t put up much of a fight at that point. Between gulps of air I told her, “I just wanted to give something back to them, you know?” I pounded the fist I had wrapped around the necklace into the floor. Just to make sure she got my point.

Katherine Pierpont

20170613_181931

Katherine Pierpont is a second year graduated student pursuing a PhD in Medieval History at the University of Minnesota. She has previous publications in Bustle and the undergraduate literary magazine The Blue Route. She lives in Minneapolis with her cat/benevolent overlord, Frannie.

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