It took an hour to weave through the city streets in a way that avoided the known surveillance cameras. They remained in separated pairs until they arrived at an older area in Alphabet City. They were sure that no presence of big brother existed for at least a few city blocks. Even after a few decades of gentrification, there were still neglected stretches. Areas that kept them hidden and anonymous. Roman and Bryce slowed to a crawl when they arrived at the alleyway meeting spot.
Burton Warner and his younger sister, Hope Warner, were already halfway done changing when Bryce and Roman arrived. Without a word in the quiet chilly night, Roman and Bryce dismounted their bikes. They began by changing out of their thick jackets and hoodies into NorthFace fleeces. They stripped their extra baggy jeans, exposing more stylish, better fitting jeans beneath. Scarves stripped, and their winter beanies were replaced with baseball caps of different teams.
The inner liners that held the cash were removed from the messenger bags and transferred to different styles of bags. Roman had a gym bag. Bryce a regular backpack. Hope carried a flower print overnight bag. And Burton had an old military field pack.
All of the removed clothing and gear went into large black trash bags. They added their trash bags to the large pile already gathered on the sidewalk. They leaned all four of their bikes, unchained, against a nearby sign post. Anyone rummaging through the trash this morning was going to find some nice prizes. Leaving anything on the streets guaranteed that it would disappear into the city forever.
They each took different paths through the neighborhood, building distance between each other. It took a lot of discipline for them not to show their excitement in public. There would be plenty of time to celebrate together later that night. Hope jumped into a cab as soon as one crossed her path. She would arrive at the apartment well before the rest. Chivalry still existed in this crew. Burton would grab the L train on 14th Street. Bryce would grab the M15 bus downtown. Roman would enter the subway on Houston and take the F train.
Roman was the last to arrive at the apartment. The route he chose was the shortest but had the most traffic in the evenings. Walking would have been faster.
The apartment was the top floor of a ten floor building. Built in the 1920s, it had been renovated countless times since. It was on the edge of what is considered the Financial District, on an adjacent block to the New York Federal Reserve. The penthouse apartment even had a great view of the Fed from its large bay windows. The safest place to be was where the authorities would least expect.
On paper, Bryce owned the apartment. His day job salary justified its price tag, but Reggie and Roman contributed to the mortgage. Roman accepted it for being a central location with multiple routes in and out of the city. Bryce especially enjoyed the short walk to work. Reggie couldn't care less where they lived. Even though Burton and Hope lived uptown, it was spacious enough for them to stay over often, as they did.
The curtains were already closed. The others stood around the dining room table. It's dark wood was piled high with the weekend's take. Though their eyes were tired, each one of them beamed. Roman pitched his bag to Bryce, who enjoyed what he did next more than anyone. With the excitement of a child, Bryce held the bag over the table. He poured the green bills, adding to the already large green bank. He tossed it up like it was confetti at a championship parade.
"What was the total, Reggie?" Roman asked as he grabbed the glass of scotch Hope held out for him. He accepted the tumbler, briefly registering her fingertips as they touched. It was only a small moment that he was sure she didn't notice.
Reggie took a deep breath and recited the amount one digit at a time.
"Three million. Two hundred. Forty-five thousand. Three hundred. And sixty dollars."
They all looked at each other, speechless for a moment. It had been three months of intense planning and execution. But the result was more than worth it.
It wasn't their largest take, but any job they could walk away from without any complications was enough to be satisfied about. They could rest easy and take a hiatus for a while before Roman thought through another job for them. He was proud of his small group of friends. They trusted him more than he even trusted himself.
"So does this mean we can take a break, boss?" Burton asked, throwing a light jab at Roman's side.
"Let's take a month before we start another. Good job everyone," he said as he held up his glass. They raised their own next to his.
The only thing better than a job well done was getting away with it.