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“Pink hair, Randy? Did it have to be pink?” I’m annoyed, but I keep my voice down. I don’t want to wake Zoe. A thump in the hall tells me I’m too late. Then again, I should know better than to expect her to be asleep, anyway. Not tonight. She always knows when it’s a drop night, even when nobody’s told her anything; it’s like a sixth sense. “Could you think of anything more conspicuous?”
“Well, I was going to get a neon sign with a big flashing arrow pointing at my head, but I didn’t really want to carry it around.” Randy doesn’t meet my eyes; he’s too busy picking at a loose thread on the cuff of his sleeve. He’s dressed like I am: long-sleeve black shirt, black pants, black boots. He looks strange, diminished somehow, like he’s been swallowed up by the dark. His pale skin contrasts sharply against the black turtleneck. “Seriously, Davin. It’s fine. I’ll have the mask on. Nobody’s going to notice.”
“What’s going on?” Zoe appears from the hallway, faking a huge yawn so I won’t notice that she hasn’t been sleeping. She’s wearing her pajamas, but her hair is still tied back and her eyes are sharp and awake behind her black-framed glasses.
“Go back to sleep.”
“Yeah, right.” Zoe crosses her arms over her chest, giving me a well-practiced look of defiance. She’s had sixteen years to work on her pouting skills, so she’s very good at it. Unfortunately for her, I’ve been her brother the whole time, so I’m pretty much immune. “What’s happening? Are you two going out? Is it for The Underground? Can I come?”
“Zoe, you already know the answer to that,” I say, checking the time. 10:30. The drop’s scheduled for 11:00. We’ll be cutting it close, and that’s if everything goes smooth, which I’m not counting on. “We’d better get going. You’re going to lock the door behind us and shut off all the lights. You can watch TV if you don’t want to go to bed, but keep the volume down. We’ll be back in a couple of hours, tops.” I glance at Randy. “You ready?”
“Waiting on you,” he says, pulling a ski mask from his pocket and looking at it disdainfully.
“Zoe – I mean it. If anything happens, you call me, okay? It shouldn’t be too long.”
She looks like she’s about to say something, but meets my eyes and backs down. “Okay.”
I heave the duffel bag over my shoulder and Randy follows me out the door, pulling the ski mask over his face. The deadbolt clicks behind me and I know Zoe’s standing on the other side, listening to us leave. Randy and I don’t say anything to each other. There’s no point. He hesitates for a moment beside his car, a cherry-red Mercedes that crouches in my driveway, ready for action. But we can’t take it. Like Randy’s hair – like everything about him – it’s too flashy, too obvious. If anybody sees it, they’ll remember it, and they’ll know who we are.
So we leave the car and start walking. I have an easy time of it, but he lags behind a little. He’s at least a foot shorter than me and compact. He has to take two steps to keep up with each of my long strides, and I’m walking fast.
“Can I ditch the mask?” Randy asks. He’s tugging at the edge of his ski mask, running his finger around the gap between it and his neck. “It itches like hell and there’s nobody around to see us.”