We all nodded politely. That shark tamer sure loved the sound of her own voice.
We were in the back room of an Indian buffet, planning a heist. I didn't know anybody's real names, of course; we used quarks as nicknames for the job. The woman organizing the heist, a middle-manager who got fed up with the dot com bubble and went into crime, went by the name Up. The safecracker, a surly octogenarian with a heart of gold, was Down. I was Charm. Strange was the shark-tamer, cynical and talkative. Truth was the cognitive therapist, sharp-witted and callous and quiet. Beauty was the roboticist, but, for this job, it was just as important that he was a former Baptist minister. When Up hired me, she told me that she was recruiting me as a linguist and an improvisational haiku writer, but as the plan developed, more and more I was acting like hired muscle.
Bottom was our mascot, a friendly Dalmatian puppy. Everyone agreed that this heist needed a mascot.
We were going after a sunken transport ship a few miles off the coast of Louisiana. It sank in a storm in '00, but didn't make the news because of the Olympics. The ship is right next to a sunken pirate ship, and the '03 recovery attempt was stopped by the pirate king's ghost and the a zombie crew. Now, the place is crawling with Coast Guards, FBI Spooky Affairs Division, and, of course, the shipping company that's trying to recover the goods.
And what goods they are!
Most of the team was after the shipping crate full of gold, but I'm forfeiting my share of the money for a bigger prize. In addition to the gold, aboard the ship is the final masterpiece of a fabled neurologist: a transcranial magnetic stimulation helmet, that stimulates activity in the prefrontal lobe, and, simultaneously, the portion of the temporal lobe governing religious visions. A helmet that gives tremendous willpower, vision and morality. That's right: I'm in this heist to amp up my personal virtue.
Everyone agreed that this job was nearly impossible, but Up had a plan and a whole lot of chutzpah. It involved an untrustworthy insider in the Coast Guard, switching out the real gold for a counterfeit shipping crate, a convincing decoy to draw the authorities away, and, of course, a friendly Dalmatian. Up (who is also a SCUBA instructor) was going to get us underwater. The sharks would take care of the zombies, and Truth would keep us sane and helps us cope with ghostly possession. The rest of the details are fairly obvious to those of you who are familiar with haiku or Dalmatians.
I think the plan would have worked, too, if we weren't double-crossed. Who was to know that a loose cannon from the Baton Rouge police department caught wise to the gig, and infiltrated our team?