(600 words, approx)
Yuto peered at the sign hung inside the window. “It is written ‘looked’.”
Cynthia shook her head. “It says ‘locked’, not ‘looked’. Besides, we don’t need a sign to know that, do we?” She went back to picking the lock. He was a foreign exchange student, here till next September, but still getting used to the English language.
Yuto frowned. “I think this, what we do, is wrong.”
“Not ‘do’, ‘are doing’.” The door finally opened with a satisfying click. “You’re new here, Yuto. Stuff over here doesn’t come cheap. At the rate Mr. Brennan pays us, we’ll soon end up like that tramp outside,” she gestured with her head outside to the man sitting near the bins on the opposite side of the road. “Besides, we’re not stealing- only borrowing. We’ll pay him back…” her eyes wandered off dreamily. “…once we pitch our amazing startup idea at the Annual Entrepreneurial Meet and get the prize money.” She snapped back to reality as her toe hit the checkout desk. Cursing under her breath, she looked at Yuto, deer-like, standing a careful distance away from the cash register. “So, we’re not doing anything wrong. Q.E.D.”
He thought about this for a moment and then said, “That ‘tramp’. He was seeing us.”
Cynthia stifled the urge to chuckle at this. If she did, poor Yuto would be embarrassed and probably avoid speaking altogether. “Coupla bucks should take care of that.” She walked over to the cash register. A cold draught blew in and she rubbed her shoulders for warmth.
“Will not Mr Brennan note the missing money?”
“Relax, man.” She said both to herself and to him. “Who’s the accountant?”
Yuto looked at her, confused. “I am.”
“Exactly.” Thankfully, she didn’t have to pick the cash register’s lock. As the cashier and one of the two salespersons, she had a spare key for that. She turned on her flashlight. Yes, today had been a busy day indeed. So busy, that Mr Brennan had forgotten to empty out the register. She started stuffing the bills into her bag, carefully leaving enough behind so that the drawer still looked reasonably full. She locked the cash register and zipped up her bag.
She looked up to tell Yuto to wipe the CCTV footage, but he was already at the computer. Smart boy. She walked over to the doorway to wait for him, but what she saw on the other side of the street made her heart stop in mid-lubdub: Mr Brennan, out for a late-night smoke outside Joe’s. He hadn’t looked their way yet, but he would soon.
“Yuto!” A harsh whisper.
He turned around in the swivel chair. “What?”
“We need to run. It’s Mr Brennan.”
“But…” he glanced behind himself helplessly. “But I’m not done yet!”
Cynthia stole another quick look outside the door. Mr Brennan was definitely walking towards the store, albeit leisurely, puffing away at his cigarette.
She looked back at Yuto, working furiously at the computer. “Dude, now.”
“Almost done…” the keys clacked loudly. “Done.” He quickly shut down the computer. But in the fading screenlight, his face seemed to be lit up with an idea. “Cynthia, I was thinking, running will be bad.”
“What the -”
“If he sees us running, he will think we are thieves.”
The boy had a point. Their best option was to slip into the shadows, walk normally and hope he didn’t notice them.
“Okay. Keep your head down.” She pulled the hood of her jacket low over her face. Locking the door, they crossed the road as casually as they could.
Mr Brennan did turn towards them once, but the smoke from his Marlboro obscured the already dim figures. Cynthia let out a breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding.
They even paid the tramp.