He yearned for the cross. He had waited for this moment for as long as he
could remember, and now, it was time. The warm breeze was cool but
pleasant. The moonlight illuminated the house in front of him and gave it a
Ten meters from the house, Hiroki Funani sat in the passenger seat of a
rusty old Ford and looked out the dirty side window. The worn cushion made
a creaking noise each time he moved. The minutes ticked by. No one stirred
outside; all was quiet. Hiroki leaned forward and drummed his fingers on the
dashboard a few times before he took a deep breath and leaned back again.
The dark-haired man next to him cleared his throat. “Do you see him?”
“No, not yet.”
Hiroki’s shirt clung to his back, and he felt a bead of sweat roll from his
forehead down his temple. He wiped it away absently.
There. He froze when he saw a weak light shift in one of the windows of
the house in front of him. As he watched, the light became sharper. He
hissed, “Look. The third window from the left—you see it?”
The dark-haired man’s face was tense and worn, and a long, thin scar ran
down his left cheek. ”Yeah, I see it,” he said in his rough smoker’s drawl.
As the men watched from the car, the light in the window bounced around
until it was obvious that it came from a small but powerful flashlight. The
light moved up and down three times before it went out. Hiroki chuckled,
trying not to show his nervousness.
“Green light. We’re good to go.”
The movement of the flashlight was the signal that things were going
according to plan. Hiroki pointed at the gravel parking lot next to the house.
“Get us over there, and keep the lights off.”
Without a word, the dark-haired man turned the key. The engine coughed
a few times before it started, and then they drove slowly toward the lot, the
gravel crunching beneath them. The light in the window was gone; the house
looked dark. Hiroki rubbed his hands together. It was time. He had planned
for weeks. Nothing should go wrong.
He rolled his shoulders up and back to ease the tension and tried to
generate some saliva in his dry mouth.
“Okay,” he said. ”Let’s go.”
They got out of the car and closed the doors behind them. Hiroki hunkered
down and crept toward the house. It was a small wooden cottage that, despite
its humble appearance, contained a marvelous treasure. His heart raced, and
he forced himself to take two deep breaths.
The dark-haired man with the scar crouched down next to him and
whispered, “Now what?”
Hiroki shook his head at the annoying comment. They had gone through
the plan dozens of times. His guard was well aware of the next step. But
that’s how it was, working with local resources—you had to make do with
what was available. Besides the guard at the museum, Hiroki had needed one
more. And since this was the Bahamas, it had been easy to find a local, shady
character eager to make some extra cash for a few hours’ work.
Hiroki nodded toward the side of the cottage and said flatly, “We go
around the house and wait for the alarm to be deactivated.”
They jogged along the side of the house and stopped at the corner. Hiroki
peered around it—nothing. There was a long walkway that was abandoned
and small bushes on the edge of the lawn that swayed in the light wind. The
faint scent of jasmine trickled through the night air. Hiroki stared at the back
door but saw no movement.
The walkie-talkie inside his jacket gave off two soft crackling noises. That
was the second signal; it meant the exterior alarm had now been deactivated
and the back door was open.
They moved toward the door and took up positions on either side of it.
The adrenaline made Hiroki’s hands shake as he touched the cool doorknob
and gently pushed it. The door glided smoothly up to waist height, and he
held his breath. When nothing else happened, he sensed the dark-haired man
grin in the dimness.
“Beautiful, just beautiful.”
Hiroki pushed the door higher and the two of them snuck in beneath it.
The compact darkness in the hallway greeted them. He listened but heard
nothing. After an eternity of waiting, his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he
could make out the outline of a second door further down the hallway. He
took hold of the walkie-talkie and pushed the “send” button twice. He
glanced at the man with the scar and heard two chirps from inside his jacket.
With a shared nod, they moved slowly toward the second door. It clicked and
opened with a slight squeak. The sound was loud to Hiroki’s ears, but when it
stopped, everything was quiet again.
Before he could open the door all the way, a voice whispered, “All clear.”
Hiroki’s heart skipped a beat when he heard the voice, but when he saw
the guard behind the door, he relaxed somewhat.
Hiroki leaned forward and whispered, “What about the second guard?”
The man’s teeth glistened in the dark. “He’s asleep,” the man hissed. His
breath was putrid, and Hiroki turned his head. “I poured that powder you
gave me in his tea, and he went out like a light. He’s in the guardroom. When
wakes up, he’s just gon’ think he fell asleep. And the guard shift change ain’t
due for another hour.”
The man with the scar chuckled, and Hiroki spun and placed his finger to
The man glared but nodded. Hiroki pointed.
“Lead the way.”
The guard led them further into the museum toward the main room, where
their target was kept. The rooms they passed were full of artworks from
various areas of the Bahamas, but Hiroki ignored them all as they pressed on.
They moved through a second room and entered a third, and then the guard
“There it is.”
Hiroki felt the room spin when he saw it—the cross made of gold. It was
dark in the room, but despite that, the cross was spectacular. As if in a trance,
he advanced toward it and placed his hands on the glass box that covered it.
He whispered, “There you are.”
The man with the scar and the other guard stood behind him and watched
as Hiroki gazed at the emerald-studded gold cross. The guard quietly cleared
his throat. Hiroki had paid him a small fortune, but he still felt nervous that
any delay would undo their whole operation.
“Shall we continue?” the scarred man murmured. “The other guards will
be here in less than an hour.”
Hiroki turned and glared at him. “Do you think I’ve come this far to turn
around?” he growled.
The guard shook his head slowly and remained silent. He extracted a key
from his pocket. Hiroki nodded at the guard and the man with the scar to
move into position. Hiroki and the scarred man faced each other and held the
glass box with both hands. The guard with the key, who stood to their side,
inserted the key in the lock of the pedestal.
Both men looked at Hiroki. He counted down from three.
The guard turned the key two times to the left and pressed a button
situated next to the lock. The lock clicked open, and Hiroki and the man with
the scar lifted the glass box up and to the side. Carefully, they placed it on the
floor. The whole exercise had taken less than ten seconds.
Hiroki rose and took a step toward the gold cross. It was beautiful. Even in
the weak moonlight, he could see it glitter. The seven emeralds that adorned
it seemed to follow his gaze like sultry green eyes. He reached for it but froze
when the guard grabbed his wrist.
“Are you crazy?” Hiroki hissed.
The guard pointed at the plate the cross rested on. “The second pressure
button,” he said, wide-eyed. “Did you forget?”
Hiroki’s face turned red. He had forgotten about the pressure button that
needed to be pressed when the cross was removed. He licked his lips.
The man with the scar took a step back as Hiroki reached into his jacket
and pulled something out. It was a small pouch. Hiroki opened the pouch and
removed a gleaming object; the man with the scar couldn’t see what it was.
The guard and Hiroki leaned over the cross on the pedestal. The man with
the scar pulled in a quick breath as he saw what Hiroki held in his hand. Ever
so gently, Hiroki raised a second, identical gold cross and held his other hand
above the cross on the pedestal.
The guard pressed the button on the pedestal.
“Now,” Hiroki said.
In one smooth motion, Hiroki replaced the cross on the pedestal with the
copy in his hand. The man with the scar exhaled. Trembling, Hiroki gripped
the gold cross, and the guard released the button. Nothing else happened.
Hiroki murmured, “Now you’re mine. Just mine.”
The guard cleared his throat. “Time to go.”
Hiroki put the gold cross in the pouch and placed it inside his jacket. He
nodded at the man with the scar, and together they replaced the glass box on
the pedestal. When everything was as it had been, they all nodded to each
other in agreement. There was no way to tell that the object now resting
under the glass box was simply a replica.
“Thank you, gentlemen. You each deserve a bonus for your fine work.”
He pulled two rolls of cash from another breast pocket and gave one to
each man. The men’s eyes widened, as did the smiles on their faces.
“You know what to do now. Stick to the plan, and everything will work
out fine. Keep a low profile. In two months, you leave the island.
Both men nodded their agreement, and Hiroki and the man with the scar
followed the guard back to where they had entered. When they were out in
the humid night once more, and the guard closed the door behind them,
Hiroki knew they had made it.
The gold cross was warm against his chest as he sat down onto the
creaking car seat and he and the man with the scar drove off into the night.