You don't get into housebreaking because you're brave. Brave people (or "idiots" as I like to call them) go for the stick up, or the bank robbery, or the home invasion. Housebreaking is for the cautious, the calculating, the careful. The coward. Me. Sure there's a rush of adrenaline, but your reaction to that rush has to be to shrink into yourself. To become silent and invisible. To go unnoticed. That's my special skill, and along with a trustworthy fence and a healthy bit of luck, it's kept me out of prison so far.

That night, though, I was pretty sure my luck had run out. I've always worked alone, and even though that limited the things I could carry, it suited me fine. Now I had a "helper." My fence's nephew was tagging along to learn the trade, as it were, and I was convinced that this time was it. The kid was loud and nervous and disrespectful. Teaching him anything was out of the question. He had talked constantly while we checked out the neighborhood, and he had rolled his eyes and popped his gum while I explained our target. I had my eye on it all night. I watched the husband roll home at exactly 5:45, I watched the wife greet him at the door and aim a kiss at his cheek while he walked by her. I watched the lights as they ate in the dining room and then as he settled in front of the television while she cleaned up in the kitchen. Five minutes after she turned out the kitchen light I saw him go upstairs, turning on the lights in the hall, what must have been the upstairs bathroom, and the bedroom. When the flickering light from the t.v. went off, so did the bedroom light upstairs. I watched as the light in the hall and the bathroom upstairs went off and saw a smaller light in the bedroom come on, only to be extinguished almost immediately.

The lights were still on downstairs, and I was pretty sure that if there was an alarm system, no one had bothered to turn it on. None of my reasoning impressed the kid. He was bored and let me know it in no uncertain terms. We waited an hour, and when he was threatening to go without me we slipped up the walkway to the front door. The staircase and entryway were visible through a window in the door, and the upstairs was dark. I put my hand on the knob and gently turned it, and the door opened on silent hinges. I breathed a huge sigh of relief -- this might just work out yet. I hate to think what that kid would have done with a locked door. I slipped in, and did a quick circuit of the entry to confirm the layout of the downstairs. Everything was just where I had figured, and I turned to my pupil. He was gone. The door was wide open, and for a minute I thought he had split, but then I heard him in the living room, making slightly less noise than a bulldozer. I eased the door closed and followed him in. He was yanking at the CD player, not bothering to disconnect the cables, and the amplifier was ready to fall to the floor. I slipped behind him and grabbed his wrist just as he was giving it another yank.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I hissed in his ear. I took the CD player and set it back down, reaching to the back and releasing the cables with the practiced ease of a lakeside lothario unhooking a bra. "Do you want to get caught? Because I don't, and I have no intention of going down with you!" I picked up the CD player and set it down on the coffee table. When I turned around he was facing me, glaring.

"Fuck you, old man," he spat, not even trying to keep his voice down. "I've seen the shit you come into my aunt's shop with. Always high end stuff, but never more than a grand or two. She says you're careful, but I say you're stupid. Other guys bring in more from one job than you do from three."

I really didn't need his shit, especially right now. "Fine." I told him. "Let's just get through this, and you can go out with one of those other guys. Then after they can teach you even more while you're doing 18 months with nothing better to talk about."

"I've got a better idea." The voice came from behind me, somewhere near the front door. "Why don't you guys settle this between yourselves while you're doing time?"

I turned around slowly, my hands at my sides and open. The wife was standing in the shadows of the entryway, and she had something in her hand that looked very like a large gun. I froze, not by conscious design.

The kid, on the other hand, was unimpressed. "Damn, bitch" he said, pushing past me. "Tell you what. I know somebody in the business, I'll give you fifty bucks for that peashooter, and you take yourself back to bed." He walked right up to her and reached for her hand.

She didn't bat an eye. When he was reaching for her right hand, her left caught his wrist and twisted it behind him, turning him around. She shifted her grip on the pistol and slammed the handle down behind his ear. When he sank to the carpet she held onto his wrist with her left hand, and followed him down so that she had his arm behind his back.

"Did you call me a bitch?" she grated, yanking his arm up so that he whimpered in pain. "You're MY bitch, you rotten fucked up little punk! You're my bitch, and you'll goddamn well speak when you're spoken to!" She raised the pistol again and slammed it into his skull directly over the growing red welt she had already left. He slumped in her grip, unconscious at the very least, but she didn't seem to notice. "You won't tell ME what to wear, or who to talk to," she went on, her face almost purple. "You will not talk about me to your golf buddies or discuss our personal business with some total stranger at a bar! You will NOT BY GOD IGNORE ME!!" She raised the pistol high over her head and I snapped out of my haze and stepped forward without thinking. As she started to bring the metal down with all of her strength I caught her arm and held on, whipping my other hand across her mouth to keep her from screaming. I was ready for a fight, but she took me by surprise again. Her gun came free in my hand, and the sound she made against my hand wasn't a scream, it was more like a sob. She collapsed against my arm, and I found myself cradling her. I tucked the pistol in my waistband and put both arms around her, pulling her to me with no idea what to do.

"Oh god oh god oh god, what have I done?" her head was pointed at the kid, but she didn't really seem to be focusing on him. I didn't want to sit on him too, so I picked her up and sat down with her on the sofa. She leaned against me but other than that she didn't seem to realize I was there. "Did I kill him? Is he dead? Is he bleeding? What have I done?" She rocked against me and cried, and I had no idea what to say or do. I had to get out of there, I couldn't leave the kid, I couldn't run down the street carrying him... I turned to the woman on the sofa next to me and lost it all over again. She was dressed for bed, of course. And she was beautiful. Her hair was dirty blonde, with copper highlights that didn't look contrived enough to be artificial. It was just long enough to bounce off of her shoulders, and wisps of it covered her eyes as she cried. She was wearing a satin nightgown that had come almost to her knees when she was standing. Now it bunched slightly and exposed most of her thighs. I could see a sharp line midway down her thigh separating golden tanned skin from the creamy skin above. Her breasts were full enough to press against the fabric of her nightgown, barely. The tops of her breasts and cleavage were clearly visible as the fabric wrinkled with her pressing against me.

"Bastard deserved what he got." I said, my voice hoarse. She surprised me again. She laughed.

"Oh hell yeah, he did," she said, and laughed again. She wasn't looking at me, or the kid, or at anything I could see. She laughed until it caught in her throat, and then she started crying again. Now she pressed her head into my chest and sobbed like a child.

I'm not sure how long I held her. Her crying had stopped, and her breathing had slowed and quieted so much that I wondered if she could have gone to sleep. I couldn't get past the feeling of her in my arms. I sat there on someone else's sofa with my arms around someone else's wife, and it felt good. Not right, maybe, but good. I took a deep breath and pulled back enough to get a good look at her. She was looking up at me. Her eyes were gray, as if they had been blue and her crying had bled their color away. She didn't say a word; she didn't look away. She met my eye and waited for what I would do next. I looked at her and became aware of a hunger, an emptiness inside me awakened by her smell and her fear. She must have seen the change in the muscles of my face.

"What now?" she said, "I mean, what are you going to do now?"

I had to leave. I had to get out of there, with the kid. I had to run and run and run. I stood up. She straightened herself and kept a level gaze on my eyes.

"Stand up." I told her. She did, with only the slightest tremor, standing close enough to me so that I could feel the heat of her body. Her eyes flickered away from mine for a moment; her tongue flicked over her lips, and her gaze became guarded. I glanced down and saw that her nipples showed prominently through the satin of her nightgown. I reached for her breast, but when she flinched back my hand stopped halfway between us. I looked back to her eyes and saw the confusion and fear dawning there, and my brain shut down. I reached behind me and slid the pistol from my waistband. Gripping it loosely, my finger nowhere near the trigger, I traced her nipple with the cold metal of the barrel and watched it press back against the fabric. I moved my gaze back to her face and saw a flush to her skin and a light in her eye that hadn't been there a moment ago.

I flicked her nipple harder with the barrel of the pistol. "Take this off," I grunted, fingering the sleeve of her nightgown with my left hand. She reached down without looking away from my face and gripped the hem of her nightgown, drawing it up over her head. When her hair fell free I gripped the fabric and twisted it, pinning her arms over her head. Her body was magnificent. Her bush was trimmed, not waxed, and the curly skin of her lips showed through. Her belly was flat, and her breasts were perfect. Her posture defied gravity, and her nipples stood erect, puffy and swollen. I caught one in my mouth, holding it lightly between my teeth and first circling, then flicking over the nipples with the tip of my tongue. She moaned and pressed against me, and I moved my mouth over her breast to her neck and along her jaw to her ear. "Get on your knees." I told her, and her moan took on a plaintive tone.

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