Perfect Jake caresses the plastique with a breeziness that makes your left eye twitch. “It’s serendipity,” he says. “A new security guard and an old security code, the same night the bank’s holding the Wutherton Diamonds? Serendipity.”
The rest of the crew strum their admiration.
“So true!” laughs Twelve-Finger Tilda.
“Perfect observation, Perfect Jake!” beams Grandpa Pudding, your boss, the mastermind.
“Whatever,” you say, guiding Perfect Jake’s moisturized hand away from the explosives. He grins at your touch, the same grin he learned in high school, not really a smirk, not really a sincere smile. Shunning that entangling grin, you follow Grandpa Pudding and Twelve-Finger Tilda across the dark bank lobby, empty except for your crew and the unconscious guard.
Perfect Jake saunters over in his own relaxed time. “Everything OK, Cleo?” A question normal people ask in private, in muffled tones.
You don’t answer.
Grandpa Pudding flashes Perfect Jake a concerned look, desperately paternal. The “son” just grins, easing the old man back into the plan. Grandpa Pudding tugs his ice-white beard. The signal.
You slowly activate the chipped detonator. Everyone, even Perfect Jake, takes another step back. Twelve-Finger Tilda holds up her ten remaining fingers—stumpy reminders of February’s messy museum heist—and starts the countdown.
Ten years ago, Mr. Gomez introduces a scrawny, stuttering student to your 3rd-Grade class. His real name is Jacob Weisman. You’ve already decided his nickname.
Nine months ago, Perfect Jake lies to the cops about the cars you stole on prom night. They believe him; he’s handsome now. They clap his back, encouraging him to apply to the force after graduation.
Eight days ago, the crew laps up pizza in your living room. “You guys heard of the Wutherton Diamonds?” Perfect Jake asks.
Seven minutes ago, Perfect Jake fake-flirts with the bank guard as you crash the butt of your flashlight into the sucker’s cranium.
Six minutes from now, sirens blare. The others tear away, but Perfect Jake—hands wet with blood and moisturizer—lies caught beneath rubble. He coughs weakly. “Leave me, Cleo. I’ll be OK.”
Five weeks from now, at his trial, Perfect Jake spills the secret, fingering your crew as his bank-job accomplices in exchange for probation.
Four months from now, a sneering prison guard tosses the letter you mailed Perfect Jake back into your cell. Return to sender.
Three years from now, you sob, alone, as the judge denies your parole.
Two months ago, you stood before another judge, Perfect Jake’s soft hands in yours, whispering “I do”.
One decade from now…
One day out of prison…
One hand rings the doorbell. Your other hand shakily raises a stolen Glock.
Perfect Jake answers, hands still soft from moisturizer, face still scarred from explosives.
He is perfect.
You drop the gun.
You tumble into him.
And right now, in the bank, Twelve-Finger Tilda’s countdown reaches zero.
The explosives detonate.
John Adams (he/him/his) writes about teenage detectives, pelican-people, robo-butlers, and cursed cowboys. His publication history includes Australian Writers’ Centre, Bowery Gothic, The Drabble, Dream of Shadows, Fat Cat Magazine, SERIAL Magazine, Siren’s Call, Trembling With Fear, Triangle Writers Magazine, and Weird Christmas (forthcoming: Paper Butterfly, peculiar, The Weird and Whatnot). His plays have been produced by Alphabet Soup (Whim Productions) and the 6×10 Play Festival (Barn Players) and selected for readings at the William Inge Theater Festival and the Midwest Dramatists Conference. He performs across the U.S. with That’s No Movie, a multi-genre improv team. Check out his website and Twitter.