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Home for tonight is the Luxe Summit Hotel up Sunset-big rooms, you can park yourself and youre right on the freeway. I let myself in, shower off the fear, break up my cell phone on the cool bathroom tile and flush the pieces down the toilet. Ive got three more cells, the ones you load with prepaid minutes and toss before the number gets hot.

I lie down on the bed and picture Rex coming toward me, checking me out. Then his eyes, bloodshot and dripping tears. I sleep hard for an hour, dream Im riding a horse along a beach where I hold up a good-looking buck with a saddlebag full of gold bars then we make love in a sand dune on the beach and I steal both horses and ride away while he sleeps.

I eat some of the food I stocked in the fridge, shower again and put on laundered jeans, cowboy boots and a yoked C &W blouse I shoplifted from a saddlery up in Topanga. I make the local ten oclock news: The armed robber who calls herself Allison Murrieta has apparently struck again, this time in the Hollywood Hills

They show the nightshade-covered wall, partially lit by roving spotlights, and the dark driveway. Then they run the popular video clip that shows a woman robbing a McDonalds. Its from last year. Its me all right. Everything on screen is yellow and red and cheery except this babe dressed in black with a gun. I had no idea somebody was shooting video, but these days somebody always is. Luckily I have my professional face on, which means my wig is back in the ponytail and Im wearing my mask. The mask is made of thick cardboard with black satin glued over it. I cut it to shape, added the satin and one very nice Swarovski crystal for fun. It covers my nose and eyes, cheeks and mouth, ears. Then the news shows an enlarged image from the McDonalds video, and I note again that with the mask on I look stylish and dangerous. The crystal is near the mouth opening, and it draws your eye, just like Marilyns birthmark. The network goes to a commercial for-you guessed it-McDonalds.

My next job is at midnight, a little over an hour from now. If it goes as planned, Ill leave Hollywood with forty-five thousand dollars worth of unmounted gem-quality diamonds.

Heres the plot: a friend of a friend of a friends boyfriend is a diamond district broker, young guy, a real go-getter and they love him at the Caesars sports book in Las Vegas and you know how it goes-hes lucky and hes smart and then hes neither. Barry. Takes him two years to run his business into the ground, borrowing, betting, losing. Throw in lots of booze. The bottom line is that Barry is into the Asian Boyz for seventy-five grand and hes willing to give them four hundred and fifty thousand retail dollars worth of very good and very insured diamonds because the cut will be one-tenth when the Boyz manage to fence them. Youll notice that Barry is cheating the Boyz by almost half. They dont know that. Theyre amateurs and theyre kids. They dont know that it isnt easy to lay off that much ice to one guy, all at once.

I can. The arrangements are made. Forty-five thousand dollars wont make me rich, but I love diamonds.

I just have to hit up Barry before he makes it to the Boyz at Miracle Auto Body in City Terrace at one A.M.

And I know something way more valuable than where hes going. I know where hell be leaving from, and its his own damned fault that I do.

See, Barry is not a good man. Hes Greed, too, just like Rex. In order to pay down his debt, Barry talked his girlfriend Melissa out of ten thousand dollars. But he wont pay her back. All she gets is excuses. Barrys not only gone hostile on her, hes trying to work another girlfriend into their life. I hear that Melissa is a little brokenhearted and a lot pissed off. But Barrys careless, you know-he treats her like a moron-so it was easy for her to learn the pay-back plan for the Boyz. Then she sent word up the friends ladder to see if anyone could help her get her money back. If Barry had any real stones hed have taken care of his woman. But since he doesnt, hes going to have to deal with me. And much more important, hell have to deal with the Asian Boyz, who will be unhappy when I steal what he owes them. Barrys going to have to get his hands on enough diamonds to buy his life not once but twice.

You make your own luck.

I dont leave one thing at the Luxe Summit that I cant live without.

I pull up to Barrys place just before midnight. Its a modest little stucco off Highland in Hollywood. Its got stands of giant bird-of-paradise and rhododendron for privacy. The lights are on but the shutters are closed.

Melissa said that Barry will leave from home. She guaranteed it. Barrys a homebody, she swore. Home is where he is unless hes in Las Vegas or at the office down in the diamond district; home is where he loves to be, where he drinks and cooks and watches sports on the tube hour after hour-Melissa could hardly get Barry to drive her to Philippes for a French dip. Home also has the safe where Barry will stash the four hundred and fifty thousand retail dollars worth of diamonds hes going to give the Boyz.

Melissa also said that Barrys gun stays up in a closet at home because hes afraid of it. Never carries it.

Good to know.

I park across the street two houses down and watch for just a minute. The streetlamps are far-spaced and dim. Ive cased the place, and I know the giant bird-of-paradise and the rhododendron are my friends. Nobody who carries diamonds for a living should have anything but a low hedge and floodlights out in front of their house. Barry undoubtedly knows this, but an informed fool is still a fool. Barry thinks he can be invisible just by keeping a straight face.

The walkway to the front door isnt even lit. From the street you can barely see the front door and thats good for me. The porch light is on. I listen to the police band radio for a minute or two, just in case some Hollywood Station PD patrol car gets a call nearby, but most of the cops talk on the mobile data terminals now to discourage people like me from listening in.

At midnight Im walking down the sidewalk with my satchel-its a big leather and brass-studded Hobo I shoplifted from Nordstrom-same side of the street as Barrys house. When I get to his yard, I cut across the grass in the dark and push through the rubbery rhododendrons.

I hit the ground and walk on my hands and knees below the shuttered windows, dragging the Hobo along beside me. When I get to the porch, I stand up with my back near the stucco wall, spin my hair into a ponytail and put on the wig. Next I pull the mask from the satchel and put it on, then get Ca~nonita ready. Ive got the pepper spray on my belt. Im not expecting any fight from Barry, but sometimes the chumps surprise you. My heart is pounding like someone just mainlined me with ten ccs of pure adrenaline.

I love it.

I breathe deeply and try to clear my mind. I listen to the soft whap of the bugs against the porch light and the whirring of the air conditioner up on the roof.

Minutes. Seconds. More minutes.

By twelve-forty Im pretty sure that somethings wrong. You dont leave Hollywood for City Terrace with twenty minutes to spare and your life at stake unless you have major stones, and I know Barry does not.

I give him five more minutes then put my things back into my bag, walk to the car and stash the gun under the passenger seat.

I call Barrys cell number-courtesy of Melissa, of course. She also supplied a picture of him and the make, model and plate number of his car. No answer on the cell, just Barrys curt little message, like I shouldnt have interrupted him.

I wonder if the plans have changed. I wonder how good Melissas information really was. I wonder if she might have mixed up one A.M. with one P.M. And I wonder if Barry might have just cut and run.

Im outside Miracle Auto Body at eleven minutes after one.

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