New Money by Grant Butler

Flash Fiction, Heist

The Woodford house on the lake was an overpriced monstrosity. It made all the other houses around it look small by comparison. The exterior was a massive stone façade that could be seen from half a mile away, and at night it was lit up so brightly you could see it from the other side of the lake. Just what they wanted. The Woodfords weren’t there now, but that didn’t mean they wanted their house to go unnoticed.

I get why people had such contempt for the new money rich back in the day. It wasn’t enough they had an obscene fortune, they had to let everyone know they had an obscene fortune and couldn’t wait to rub it in everyone’s face. And it just wasn’t the working class or middle class that hated them. The old money rich hated them maybe more than anyone else because they found them vulgar and obnoxious. They understood new money was flaunting their wealth to get attention, which the old money crowd had no reason to do. That was smart then, and it’s even smarter now.

The reason that old money is old money is because their family was smart enough to be able to keep it. And a big reason they were able to keep it is because they were smart enough not to flaunt it at every turn and rub it in everyone’s faces. That would make it much more likely for people to want to take it from them. Old money people know that getting something is one thing, but keeping it is another.

And I gotta say, it’s never been easier to turn new money people into no money people. People love to flaunt their obscenely expensive stuff on the internet all day long. It’s pretty funny how people thought folks were naïve back in the day when they would leave their doors unlocked and the neighbors would know where the spare key is. That’s nothing compared to how people gleefully parade their lifestyle and routine online for anyone to see. My favorite part is when they post pictures of their cars or private jet and caption it with some inspiring quote. It’s just like when some supermodel posts pictures of themselves half naked and talks about inner beauty or what’s on the inside. It’s fucking hilarious. It reminds me of when an alcohol company has “Drink responsibly” in an ad or a casino has a hotline for gambling addiction on their billboard.

Well, they want people to see their stuff, and me and my friends are certainly seeing it. Seeing it, studying it, and plotting. And information is beyond easy to come by anymore. If people don’t gleefully telegraph it, you can simply ask any number of people who work or have worked for them. Walls may not talk, but underpaid employees certainly do.

I had spent enough time watching Mr. and Mrs. Woodford to know their habits and routines. So I strolled up to their front door like it was the most natural thing in the world, took a makeshift key out of my pocket, and opened the door.

When it sprang open without issue, I stepped into a massive hallway and closed the door behind me. The space reminded me of a museum in its perfectly controlled emptiness, and the marble floors did nothing to hinder the effect. That wasn’t a surprise. This place was designed to be displayed and observed like a museum, not lived in like an actual home.

Since there had been no shortage of pictures and videos of the interior posted online, I knew exactly what the layout was. Mrs. Woodford’s closet was on the second floor, third door on the right.

I crept up the densely carpeted stairs and opened the door, flipped on the light, and found myself in a closet larger than the first floor of most people’s houses. Everywhere you looked there was something to see. But I went straight to the set of drawers that I knew housed jewelry. Once I’d opened the small leather tote bag I’d brought with me, I gingerly opened the top drawer. The contents inside sparkled the moment they were exposed to the light. But that wasn’t long, because I wasted no time in efficiently dropping several rings into the back. Then I grabbed one or two bracelets and that was it. Just like counting cards, the trick to being successful in this field is don’t get greedy. That’s how you lose. A missing bracelet here or there makes it easy for people to think they just misplaced it. Or they blame it on the help. An entire missing drawer screams something bigger and more sophisticated.

With the bag all zipped up, I closed the drawer, turned off the light, and stepped out of the closet before I slowly descended the stairs. But my heart jumped halfway into my throat when I heard something in the kitchen. Footsteps. And they were steadily approaching me.

I was exposed out here in the front hallway with nowhere to hide. So I took a deep breath and braced myself to face whoever it was. I had my cover ready to go, and now it looked like it was time to use it.

The footsteps grew louder until whoever they belonged to turned the corner, and I was face to face with a young woman with curly brown hair, fair skin, and green eyes. Mr. Woodford’s 23-year-old daughter Melanie from his first marriage. Like many of his peers, Mr. Woodford had long since ditched the first Mrs. Woodford after he hit the big time. The current Mrs. Woodford was everything you’d expect.

Melanie was dressed in leggings, an oversized button up, and socks. She looked at me with mild interest.

“Who are you?”

“Hi, I’m measuring the place for the new renovations your family has planned. I just finished up here, so I’ll be out of your hair.”

“No you’re not,” she said without hesitation. “That’s not supposed to be done until next week.”

“Then I apologize, our schedule must have gotten mixed up. I truly hope I didn’t disturb you.”

“How was Deanna’s closet?”

“I beg your pardon?” I ignored the adrenaline that shot through my body.

“Deanna’s. Closet.” She repeated as if talking to a child. “You went to her closet.”

I was temporarily speechless.

“Relax, I don’t care. You can have this whole house. I hate being here. Dad and Deanna left for whatever and I’m here until my friends pick me up tomorrow.”

“You don’t care?”

“About Deanna? Hell no. She and her fake concern, plastic surgery, and jewels can jump into the lake and never return for all I care. Take it all. Take all my dad’s stuff. Maybe then I’d get to see a normal reaction out of him. Taking all her jewels is probably the only thing with a chance of making Deanna’s face move anymore.”

I’d encountered hired help who were more than happy to spill on their employers, but this was a new one. But not surprising. Familiarity breeds contempt, and who is more familiar with you than your family?

“Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.” Melanie continued. “I don’t blame you for stealing from people like my dad. And Deanna? She stole my dad from my mom, so she doesn’t exactly have the right to complain. Not that it would ever stop her.”

“Thank you.” I nodded. “I’m sorry about your situation.”

“Thanks. If anyone sees you, I’ll just pretend you were a friend I invited over to eat with. It gets lonely in this place.” She gestured around.

“I’m sure it does.”

“Speaking of that, I have a question.”

“Of course.”

“My mom is a good woman. She supported my dad and believed in him when no one else would. She deserves far better than what she got. Coffee money as far as Dad is concerned, and even that was too much for him. Can you help me with that?”

I was liking Melanie more and more.

“What did you have in mind?”

Grant Butler is the author of the novel The Heroin Heiress, his short fiction has been published in Sick Cruising, Mardi Gras Mysteries, Horror Bites Magazine, Texas Horror Stories, The Killer Collection, Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, and The Siren’s Call, and his nonfiction has been featured on The Daily Drunk and he will be featured in an upcoming anthology of The Best New True Crime Stories. Some of his literary influences include Stephen King, Ira Levin, Agatha Christie, and Thomas Harris. Cinema is also a big influence on his storytelling and some of his favorite films are Jaws, The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Psycho.