When Jimmy Saville scooped the glass eye out of the dead socket of a corpse, I’m sure he did it with no regard for the craftsmanship that goes into the creation of these delicate and unique prosthetics. They aren’t just churned out in Chinese factories, spun by the thin fingers of hungry children. They are individually blown through a tiny tube, painstakingly painted, with fine silk thread even laced into them to resemble ruby cobweb veins. The procedure is a marriage of art and science, and the industry value is grossly underestimated by most, including my partner-in-crime.
“We’re burgling a glass eye factory?” Aventurine scoffed, picking up a convex scleral shell, the sort that sits on top of a dried and shriveled prune of an eye to give it back its twinkle. “Ugh. If eyes are the windows to the soul, then what the hell is this?” She closed one eye and peered into the fake one as if expecting to spy the rotten crevices of the underworld.
“They aren’t glass eyes, Aventurine,” I said, peeling the jester’s mask off my face so I could send her a glare. “They’re custom ocular prosthetics. Made of acrylic. They’re worth two-thousand each.”
“Each? Oh. My. God.” she said, her face contorted into spasms of disgust. With a guttural retching noise, she dropped the prosthetic eye as if it had just blinked. Her latex-covered body spun round to face me and her own eyes flashed.
“Surprised?” I asked, puffing out my chest. I lifted one of the display pieces from its case and inspected its finely painted iris through a magnifier. “Value doesn’t just manifest in precious gems and metals, you know. I’ve been calculating the net worth of this studio since I was a boy.”
“You’re still a boy,” said Aventurine, brushing a loose strand of jet hair from skin like poured cream. She let her eyes drift to my crotch. I could have sworn she stifled a snort.
The studio I had targeted this week was lined with glass display cabinets, stunning exhibitions of eye socket gems twinkling in the beams of our flashlights like dazzling globes, each containing their own universe, their own soul. Sapphire, hazel, emerald, gold blazing like burnished halos, these ocular prosthetics were nationally renowned. That kind of beauty, that kind of craftsmanship, the relief and sense of normality they gave their wearers… It was heroic.
“But shall I tell you how it’s done?” I suggested. “It’s really a very interesting process. The true art isn’t in the perfecting of the acrylic layer, in fact, it’s in the painting. With the tiniest strokes, you have to capture the very personality of the wearer, the sparkle, the—”
She held up a hand to silence me, pressed her eyes closed under raised eyebrows. “It’s morbid, George. Just grab the fucking eyeballs and let’s go!”
My heart sank.
For a jewelry thief of the opposite sex, she was neither flirty nor seductive. To her, this was strictly business. I was a useful tool to her; my underweight and weak frame was solely employed for researching targets, project managing operations, securing underground buyers for our loot.
I saw Aventurine as Laverna, Goddess of Thieves. Wasp-like waist and full, rounded hips. Stern, flashing eyes almost as black as her hair, and a jaw set like steel. My eyes perceived her silver aura like a scintillating halo of aluminum.
Women like her don’t date boys like me. They date champions. They date Fletch, the bulky and grunting warrior currently clutching the wheel of our getaway car, periodically revving the engine to remind himself that his is an active role in our criminal trident.
Of course, she claimed herself a solitary lady, asexual and uninterested in anything but profit. But I’d seen her snogging Fletch. I couldn’t quite summon the courage to interrupt their moist and exaggeratedly carnal discourse, so I’d just watched them through the veil of my own inadequacy and the tinted windows in Fletch’s car.
I used the slim jim to ease open the glass cabinets, sweeping hundreds of staring eyes into the loot bag. The medical community would pay thousands for black-market prosthetics, and hand-crafted acrylic eyes were rare. This was by far the most lucrative project I’d assembled. If this heist pulled off—and it would—I’d have made us millions. No more rummaging for family jewels through the beige and lavender knicker drawers of little old ladies.
My stomach tightened. If Aventurine’s heart beat only for profit, then I would make it beat faster. She was currently contorted in some divine, impossible position: her legs splayed, one stilettoed foot on the surface of the shop counter, the other firmly on the floor as her tiny waist bent at a right angle and her nimble fingers worked a safe under the desk.
“So…” I began, as I dropped a set of turquoise fake eyes into the bag.
“No small talk,” came a curt reply, from a voice as velveteen as heaven.
“No, no. Just…you know.” I was on the brink of making Aventurine a very rich thief indeed. She’d entertain a subtle proposition, I was sure. “Just thinking, since we’ll be pretty loaded by this time tomorrow, perhaps we should splash out on a Mad Eye Martini later?”
The stilettoed foot and slender, strong, leg slipped behind the counter like a fish reentering water. Moments later I heard a click as she cracked the combination to the safe, and then a shuffling sound as she swept the paper contents into her loot bag. She was always more interested in the paperwork, I’d noticed, regardless of the intricate beauty of whatever artefacts I had scoped out for the heist of the week.
She stood up, slowly raising her latex-covered body until she stood before me like an oily she-warrior. The look on her face was one of titanium.
“George. Women like me don’t date boys like you,” she said, as I silently mouthed the words along with her. “We date champions. Heroes. You’re not heroic. You’re helpful.”
I puffed my chest out further. “Aventurine—the only difference between heroism and helpfulness is the element of spectacle. If it is spectacle you want…” I raised my arms dramatically and gestured at the thousands of watchful eyeballs in the cabinets the way a conductor introduces his orchestra, “then, in front of all these witnesses, may I ask—”
“You may not.”
“—you to marry me?” I held my breath.
Aventurine sighed, turned her back to me and bent over using only the last few vertebrae in her spine. She grabbed her loot bag stuffed full of paperwork, and straightened her back in one fluid sweep, flicking her jet hair back like a spurt of black gold. “That’s one element of courage, I suppose…” she mumbled, and my heart lifted again.
“Then maybe that Mad Eye—”
CRASH! The window smashed and shards of glass shrapnel showered us. Two bat-like blurs whizzed before my eyes as something, or someone, swung in through the broken pane on the end of a rope. With two nearly soundless thuds, the black-clad shapes landed in the middle of the studio, and froze.
The four of us were locked in position, only our eyeballs flicking between each other. Although the two intruders were dressed head to toe in black with tight ski masks covering their faces, the single strand of curly, golden hair poking out the bottom of one of them betrayed their identities.
Bloodstone and Sliv.
I let my eyeballs slide from the golden hair to Aventurine. The infernal fury blazing behind the lenses of her eyes glance suggested she had seen it too.
“You again,” she hissed from beside the counter.
“This is our heist,” snarled Bloodstone, frozen in a crouching position in a garden of broken glass in the middle of the shop floor. I watched Aventurine. She eyed Bloodstone. Bloodstone glared at me. Sliv watched the thousands of twinkling, immaculate eyes staring at us from every angle.
“We could split the loot?” I suggested.
Aventurine, Bloodstone and Sliv all snapped their eyes to me, and then immediately back to each other. Then, like an exquisite black flash, Aventurine leaped onto the desk and then shot into the air, grabbing the blades of the ceiling fan which snapped off in her hands. She landed back on the desk above the stunned Bloodstone, the blades crossed in front of her chest like swords.
“I never want to see you interrupting my heist again!” she cried, and raised the blades above her head.
“You never will!” screamed Bloodstone, grabbing a shard of glass in each hand. Aventurine dove off the desk to chop the golden haired head clean off, the intruder thrust the glass shards deep into my beloved’s sockets.
“Aventurine!” I screamed, as she pressed her hands against her face, blood spurting from between her fingers. I darted to her, but Sliv dove at me with a paperweight in his hand and the clunk burst into my vision like amber and citrine sparks.
I woke up as my head thud-thud-thudded down the steel steps outside the ocular prosthetics studio. Aventurine was dragging me out by my foot, a strip of my T-shirt bandaging her damaged eyes. She had one hand clutched around my ankle, her fingernails digging into my skin painfully, and the other was fumbling about before her, making sure the path was clear.
“Cor, that really hurts,” I mumbled, as she pulled me off the final step and my head clunked into a puddle on the tarmac.
“Awake?” she said with a sneer. I noticed the two bags of fake eyes and paperwork were tied to my wrists, dragging behind me. “Some heroism on your part, George. I had to take them both out while you slept. Blind. I’m fucking blind, and I still fucking saved you. If only Fletch had more between his ears he’d make a much better partner than you.”
The insult stung, but she nonetheless stopped and gave me a sharp kick in the side for good measure. I doubled over, retching, but before I had composed myself she grabbed the scruff of my neck and hoisted me to my feet. “Where’s the fucking car, hero?” she demanded, the T-shirt bandage she had tied around her head now crusty and stained with gruesome yellow and brown patches seeping though. She was truly blind. What had I done? What had I done? Now she’d never be able to appreciate the craftsmanship of the artisans I chose for us to rob.
I led her to the car, and she yanked the back door open and shoved me in. I curled up on the back seat to nurse my headache as she felt her way to the passenger side and slid in.
“Drive,” she barked.
We didn’t move.
“Fletch, go! Drive!”
I peered up. My heart stopped.
There was a bullet hole in the windscreen. Looking into the rear-view mirror between the heads of my beloved and our getaway driver, I saw a gaping hole in the forehead of Fletch, watching me like a third eye.