Hermosa had taken the early shift for that morning. She parked the old truck outside by the dumpster, and walked to the back entrance. On the way to the front she passed doors to the offices and storage rooms. The security guard was watching T.V. in the boiler room. She passed the custodial closet and peeked her head in.
“Working hard I hope, Maria.” This was the key phrase they had decided on earlier. Speaking iish had often helped Hermosa relate with the accomplices. Like in Texas, a lot of the workers here were officially “illegal.” If necessary she could also offer expertly forged documentation with the deal; Tony had quite the skill.
Maria paused and looked around quickly, “por supesto jefecita.” She winked.
Hermosa shuddered at this display. Amateurs. But she had remembered the passwords. Everything was good to go. She continued toward the sales floor and adopted Betty’s Waspy characteristics. She smiled softly imagining which items she would choose first. All the hard work was done. Today she could make a good haul.
At many points throughout the day Betty made trips to the storage room. As she looked for a customer’s size she also did some browsing of her own. A black bag sat inconspicuously behind a crate, before she left it would be slightly heavier.
During her lunch break she magnanimously offered to update the inventory list. “I’m on a diet,” she whined. “Since I can’t eat I would love something to keep my mind off food.”
“Well of course, babe!” her coworker responded. “Be my guest. You can do it every week if you want to.” Sue smiled brightly. The other girls hated doing inventory. Why wouldn’t they be glad there was someone willing to take on the task?
In the late afternoon Maria walked slowly around the building empting trash cans. When she had picked up all the bags she pushed her cart out to the dumpster to dispose of them.
The end of the day was coming quickly. Hermosa had been constantly alert, always looking over her shoulder. The buzz was amazing. Even though she knew it wouldn’t last, she was satisfied. Today had gone well. As her shift ended she said her goodbyes, waved, smiled and exited through the back door. The old truck started easily. She glanced into the back. One bag, almost full, was resting in the bed. She drove home to the apartment.
“Tony, I’m back.” she called out as she entered the room. He was sitting on the coffee table again chewing something loudly. Apparently this time he had decided even the briefs were unnecessary.
“Hello, beautiful. How did it go?” He didn’t look up. He was staring at a napkin surrounded by newspaper.
“About 25 pieces. We can probably get $20 each if we sell them directly in T.J. next month. $500 isn’t bad for a day.”
“A day? Darling, this is a long-term venture. Just make sure to change the inventory sheet every week and we could keep this up until the quarterly audit.”
Hermosa slumped down onto the couch. Every part of her body was weak from fatigue. She felt even worse than the day before.
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ve thought of everything. In a couple months time we can take 15 grand, no problem. You can have your money and your clothes, and all will be right with the world.” He let out a chuckle.
“I’m glad you’re so sure.” She let her head fall back onto the cushion. “But if I get caught again I’m holding you responsible. And you sure as hell better get out of this apartment and bail me out quickly. I don’t care how much you hate interacting with ‘capitalist bureaucracy.’”
“Pedestrian animals are so scared of authority. You have too much faith in the system. The system is broken. We will win; it is inevitable. Just watch baby, just watch.” He stood up and swaggered into the bathroom. The door closed behind him. The flossing would take a while.
Hermosa stared at the bathroom door for a long thoughtful moment. Once again her heart began to race. Someday you’ll have to admit it. Her small mouth turned to a smile. She pulled herself off the couch and walked over to the kitchen table. She picked up the phone—just like she had in Phoenix, Houston and Dallas—and dialed.
She used the Texas voice, “Hello, can you transfer me to the security desk please? I would like to make an anonymous tip about some stolen merchandise.” She had to bite her cheek to keep from laughing.