First They Stole Everything. Then They Burned Everything.
They entered at night, like sneakers do. Sneaking peeks with flashlights under dark tee-shirts. The tees were wrapped around the lights, rubber banded to the shaft. The eager youngster clicked his on and off, totally blowing it already. They wore striped clothes like old prisoners. They thought it was a goof, though it looked like a prediction of conviction. They kept the brims of their wool hats down low, a bunch of eyebrow-covered bandits. The lead girl, whom they called the Chick, grunted and pointed, used baseball hand signals to communicate with the gang. The cement floor of the old warehouse was cold, they could feel it through their shoes.
They didn’t expect the birthday party being held in the offices that overlooked the storage facility. They didn’t see the candlelights through the crossed beams of their moving flashlights. Being conspicuous wasn’t really something they were known for. The Chick said, “shhh” to the youngster several times to quell his overexcitement.
Then came the cake.
The birthday party sang the birthday song as they watched the bandits from above. They watched them scurry across the wide cement floor, through the tall-shelved hallways, where pallets were raised and tucked during business hours by forklifts manned by remote control.
“They sneaked the wrong peek,” says Brenda by the cake-candle light, to Gerald who has frosting in his moustache. They decided to keep the candles lit while they ate the cake.
“How do you mean?” asks Gerald, plucking the frosting from above his lip.
“The place is meant to blow. Tonight. Remember?”
Gerald had not remembered. He had not remembered that before the thieves broke into the warehouse that they themselves had planned to burn it. That in fact, the candles on the cake were part of the plan. The cake was being eaten to suggest that the candles had burned out. Yet the cake was the device, which Gerald has also forgotten. The device, Gerald trails off at the word. What was the device in?
The Chick finds the crate they are looking for.
“It’ll take two of us,” she says, grabbing one end of a large lid.
“I got the other side,” whispers the youngster at full volume to everyone else.
They lift the lid, the smell of pine and bits of sawdust waft over them.
“There’s nothing in there.”
A pop is heard from the place where the birthday party is.
“What was that?” asks Brenda.
“Sounded like the warning crack,” says Gerald.
“Sounded like it was in the room,” replies Brenda.
“Of course! It’s in the cake!” says Gerald, remembering. “Oh -”
The birthday party explodes.
“Aw, shit!” snaps the Chick. “Let’s move!”
The sneaky peekers scurry across the cool floor to escape the escalating flames.
Though they robbed the place, and they did in fact burn the place to the ground, the office party did not escape the flames to reunite with their bounty. The cake was never meant to be enjoyed.