A Very Short Story: Extreme Weather

This isn't how I thought our class trip to the Smithsonian would turn out.

The dying guard gasps for air like a fish that has suddenly found itself swimming down Fifth Avenue.

"Holy crap.  Jack?  Jack?  You're going to be okay man, you're..." The younger guard hovers over his partner, desperately trying to remember his CPR training.  "Jack?  Oh jesus, I'm sorry man.  My phone's not-- It's the storm, I can't get through. I can't get help. Oh my god. Jack?  Jack?"

Jack is dead.  His body looks like a wax figure stolen from the Hall of Human Origins dioramas and stuffed into a guard uniform.  Like he's not real at all, and he never was.

Sarah lifts the gun again and points it, shakily, at the younger guard.

"Sarah, what are you doing?" Tom asks, staring at his girlfriend like he's never seen her before.  "We can't..."

"We have to," She says.  "You know what they'll do to us if we get caught?"

He doesn't answer.

"Life in prison.  Right?" She's asking the younger guard.  He looks so confused.  Like he can't believe this is happening to him.  I can't blame him.  A high school cheerleader is holding a gun to his head.

Somehow, I feel like this is all my fault.

I really didn't mean to start babbling about the diamond collection this morning.  I just couldn't help myself.

"Oh no, Tom, the Hope diamond isn't even close to the biggest diamond in the collection, that's the Portuguese diamond. It's 127.1 carats.  They're super luck nobody's stolen it, what with these huge storms we've been having. The flash blizzard thing is nuts. Last time, the power went out on the whole Mall and it completely wiped out the Smithsonian's security systems. Even the generators. Guess that's why they call it extreme weather, right?  Crazy."  

See? Babbling. But I really couldn't help it. I've been completely, hopelessly in love with Tom Jenkins since we built a volcano together for the third grade science fair.  Then, 3092 days, 5 hours and 22 minutes later (otherwise known as this morning), he suddenly noticed that I exist again.  I'm lucky I didn't throw up on his shoes.

I didn't know another flash blizzard was brewing.  I had no idea we'd be stuck here.  With the power out.  And the phones down.  And the alarms off. 

I also had no idea his stupid, psychopathic cheerleader girlfriend was listening.

Speaking of psychopathic cheerleaders...

"Right?" Sarah demands again, insisting that the guard validate her life in prison theory. 

He nods. 

Sarah shoots him in the head.

I can't breathe.

"No. Please. No, Sarah, tell me you didn't just do that.  You didn't. Holy crap."  Tom is panicking.

I still can't breathe.

"Don't be such a baby, Tom." She is shaking so hard she has to hang on to the gun with both hands. "We can't stop now.  Even if we don't get caught, we'd all end up working at McDonalds. Forever. My dad is going to prison because he's too dumb to insider trade without getting caught. And you destroyed your knee, so no college ball for you.  And Marie... you're just... sad.  I mean, you got a scholarship to Saint Mark's, but you are not special. At all. What are the chances that a real college is going to take pity on you?" 

"I... Jesus Sarah, I didn't think we were actually going to steal anything," Tom blurts.  "I thought it'd just be funny, like, sneak around. Pretend we're cat burglars.  Make out in the stairwell or something..."

Tom trails off, eyes glued to the corpses scattered across the gallery floor. 

"Jesus." Sarah smashes the butt of the gun through the display case. "You're useless, you know that?"

She reaches into the case and snatches up the enormous diamond.

"Come on."

As she strides towards the gallery doors, Tom reaches out and grabs my hand.  Hanging on to it like he'll never let go. 

Sarah sees it happen. She stops.

"Actually.  The cops are going to need someone to blame for this,"  She says, conversationally.  "Two dead guards.  Missing diamond.  They're not going to phone this one in."

"They won't suspect a couple of high school kids.  That was the whole point," Tom says.  He sounds exhausted.  Like he can barely get his lips to form the words. 

Ignoring him, she continues, "We need a, what's it called?"  She ponders for a moment.  "Scapegoat. We need one of those."

She's looking at me.

"What?" I can barely hear her over the roar of blood in my ears.

"No one will miss you, scholarship girl," She smiles brightly. "And didn't you just do a project on the Smithsonian?  You'd know all the tricks... how to get in... what to steal... how to get away."

"Get away?"

"Well, you'll actually be in that specimen incinerator thingie they showed us on the tour.  Downstairs.  But nobody else will know that."

She fires before I have time to react. I'd be dead right now, if Tom hadn't thrown himself between me and the bullet.

The dull, fleshy smack of the bullet going into his shoulder is so loud. It seems louder than the gunshot. It can't be, but that's how it sounds in my head.

Tom crumples.  Sarah screams.

Those metal poles they string the velvet ropes on are heavier than they look, but you'd be surprised what adrenaline will do for you.  Sarah is so shocked at the sight of Tom, bleeding on the floor, that she never sees it coming.

Much later I'm alone in Tom's hospital room.

His parents are out of town on business. They're so grateful I volunteered to stay with him. Especially after I saved his life in the museum. 

"Thank God you decided to sneak out of the cafeteria to find a quiet place to study, Marie,"  His mother gushes when I call her to check in.

Of course, I have no idea how he ended up bleeding out on the floor in the Harry Winston Gallery.  Or how two guards ended up dead and a priceless diamond ended up missing.  But the MPDC have a pretty good idea what happened.

Most people will be shocked to hear that Sarah Morris, the queen of St. Mark's Prep, shot three people and stole one of the world's largest diamonds, but the Jenkins' tell me that they have always known Sarah was trouble. Just like her father.        

They hope Tom will be spending more time with me now.           

I hope so too.         

They're all sure Sarah will be caught. A 17 year old girl just doesn't have the resources to fence something as conspicuous as the Portuguese Diamond.           

Unless, of course, she has an uncle in the diamond business in New York who started teaching her how to cut gems when she was twelve, like I do.           

Fifteen or twenty flawless cut diamonds won't be too hard to sell. Not at all.        

And in about a week, after the incinerator has been run a few times, I'm sure anything that might happen to be left of Sarah Morris will be completely gone.

No, I had no idea this field trip would turn out so well. But, then again, you can't predict the weather.