Love and Theft: A Novel

Love and Theft: A Novel

by Stan Parish

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Overview

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

“It can feel to the reader like a kind of miracle. In a word: thrilling.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Head and shoulders above the average thriller.”
The Guardian
“Pure pleasure from the first page to the last.”
The Sunday Times (UK)

An epic Vegas heist.
A high-octane international romance.
A charismatic thief forced to orchestrate one final, treacherous job to save his family.


When Alex Cassidy and Diane Alison meet at a party in Princeton, New Jersey, the chemistry between them is instant and undeniable. She's a single mother, local fixture, and owner of a successful catering company. He's a single father and weekend homeowner -- and leader of an armed-robbery crew that just pulled off a record-breaking, precision jewel heist in Las Vegas. Neither one realizes that their lives have overlapped before, and that the shared history they uncover will threaten everyone they love.

Swept up in their burgeoning relationship, Diane joins Alex at his beach house in Tulum, where Alex decides to leave his life of crime behind. It begins as a postcard-perfect weekend until an entanglement with a powerful cartel forces Alex to mastermind one final and unthinkably dangerous job. What ensues is an explosive, adrenaline-soaked journey through the moneyed landscapes of Mexico and Europe, where ghosts from the past collide with unexpected perils in the present.

Propulsive, deeply suspenseful, and layered with mesmerizing twists, Love and Theft is a sophisticated thriller about the illusion of control and the high price of past transgressions


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984897466
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/08/2021
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 102,828
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

STAN PARISH is the former editor-in-chief of The Future of Everything at The Wall Street Journal and the author of the novel Down the Shore. His writing has appeared in in GQ, Esquire, Surface, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications. He holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

Prologue
 

Officer Rob Sullivan of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is responding to a possible 413 when the second call comes in. It’s a Hispanic woman on the line with 911 this time, but the details are the same: white male, late teens to early twenties, wandering the streets in broad daylight with a weapon in his hands. The first caller, who hung up after giving a description, mentioned an assault rifle. “Big gun” is the second caller’s phrase. The suspect is supposedly six blocks from Officer Sullivan, who’s roaring into his second shift on twenty milligrams of Adderall and half a diet Red Bull. His mind circles the dispatcher’s description as he scans the streets. Sullivan has a two-year-old white male at home, and twelve years from now his kid will enter Ed W. Clark High School, where the LVMPD has responded to two bomb threats in the past three years. The school has monthly active shooter drills, and Sullivan wonders what makes these teenage gunmen snap. Their parents seem normal enough when they go on TV asking for America’s forgiveness. There’s only so much—Jesus Christ, Sullivan thinks, fucking focus. This is why he takes the Adderall. And how it works against him. Sullivan draws his pistol and pulls the slide back to reveal the bright brass of a chambered round. 

Sara Koh, emergency services dispatcher with the LVMPD, gets her nails done near the first reported sighting of the gun man. She’s friendly with the salon’s manager, Shannon Jacobson, who comped Sara’s last French manicure. Sara does something she’s not supposed to do on shift and sends Shannon a text: Hey stay inside if ur at wrk . . . smthng may b going on by u

Shannon Jacobson is not at work. At 4:25 p.m. she’s halfway through the line for a boozy Sunday pool party hosted by Encore Las Vegas at the Wynn hotel and casino. A Swedish DJ goes on in an hour, and it seems like half the UNLV student body is crammed inside the velvet rope that snakes toward the entrance. Frat boys in tank tops and flip-flops share to-go cups with sorority girls wearing almost nothing over their bikinis. Shannon loves the music and tolerates this hormonal day-drunk mob of people half her age. In the coin pocket of her jeans is Ecstasy shaped like a hand grenade, a gift from her coworker at the salon. Shannon dry-swallows the pill and tilts her head back to draw it down her throat. Her phone buzzes with a text.

There’s a white male walking north on Fairfield with something in his hand, but Officer Sullivan can’t tell what it is at fifty yards.

“Dispatch, this is one-six-two, possible suspect heading north on Fairfield toward Chicago, over.”

The suspect is loping down the sidewalk in an oversize Steelers jersey. If he hears the car, he pays no mind. When he stops suddenly, Sullivan taps his brakes. His hands feel hollow as he puts the car in park and grips his pistol. The suspect turns. In his right hand is a leash attached to a small dog.

Another cruiser rolls through the intersection of Fairfield and St. Louis, ignoring the stop sign. It’s Russell Pratt and his partner, the newish guy from Phoenix. Windows come down.

“You call something in?” Pratt asks.

“Guy walking his dog.” 

“Where is this asshole?”

Sullivan shrugs.

“Nobody’s seen shit except whoever made those calls,” Pratt’s partner says. “You’d think this guy’d be hard to miss.”

Six blocks west of the Wynn, a fifteen-foot U-Haul pulls over on a quiet stretch of Lisbon Avenue. The driver, in a black leather racing suit and full-face helmet, jumps down from the cab. At the back of the truck, he throws up the container door, lowers the loading ramp, and disappears inside. The thin walls of the trailer shake as engines cough and growl inside. Two motorcycles roll slowly down the ramp and into the street. Each bike holds two riders and all four wear full-body racing leathers, their faces hidden behind tinted visors. Both passengers wear backpacks and they crouch down as the motorcycles pick up speed until the riders resemble giant insects with pebbled skin and gleaming eyes. The truck, stolen but still unreported, is abandoned with open doors and hazards blinking weakly in the golden afternoon light.

Kai Preston and Anna Levine drove from L.A. to the Wynn Las Vegas last night on a whim. The young, blond, dreadlocked couple won next month’s rent at blackjack before losing it at craps. At 4:36 p.m., Kai reminds his girlfriend that they haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. They leave the casino floor and wander the Wynn Esplanade, a gently curving corridor lined with luxury boutiques.

“Holy shit,” Kai says. “Baby, check this out.”

In the window of Graff jewelers is a brooch shaped like a peacock with plumage made from precious stones. Anna smiles at her boyfriend.

“Can’t hurt to look,” she says.

The marble floor inside looks clean enough to eat from, and jewels in the display cases sparkle like flitting fish as the couple moves around the store. Anna is examining engagement rings when a petite woman with a platinum bob appears beside her.

“Welcome. Can I help you?”

“I’m in love with that one,” Anna says, tapping the glass.

“It’s a lovely piece. Would you like to see it? I’m Cynthia, by the way,” the woman says, pulling on a thin white glove to unlock the case and extract a six-carat yellow diamond set in platinum. These whiskey-breath surfer kids do not strike Cynthia as likely buyers, but she’s seen stranger things here. Anna slips the ring onto her finger and stares down at her hand.

“It’s unusual to find a yellow stone in that size and clarity,” Cynthia says.

“What’s the color from?”

“Trace elements of nitrogen.” Cynthia leans in. “You know, for a long time, colored diamonds were considered flawed. But Mr. Graff spent years educating people about stones like that one. They’re much rarer than white diamonds. And now they’re much more valuable.”

Kai laughs. “What’s that expression? One man’s trash?”

“Well,” Cynthia says, “that’s one way to think about it.”

“How much are we talking here?” Kai asks.

“I believe that one is $225,000, but I’ll have to double-check.”

Anna holds the ring up to her face.

“Not bad for the flawed stuff,” Kai says.

Brian Dalmore, valet attendant at the Wynn, is ten dollars richer thanks to the driver of a red Corvette who asked Brian to take special care of “Cindy” when he slipped him the bill. Brian is about to duck into the driver’s seat when he sees his colleague, Marty Stetson, locked in conversation with a tall man in a motorcycle helmet. The scene strikes Brian as tense.

“Marty,” he calls out. “Hey, Marty, everything okay?”

Marty nods enthusiastically. Brian puts the car in drive, still unconvinced. He adjusts the rearview mirror for one last look, but Marty vanishes behind an Escalade packed with kids dressed for the pool party. Brian is dreading their release five hours from now. That, he thinks, will be the worst part of my day.

Marty Stetson expected a question about parking when the helmeted rider hopped off the back of his friend’s bike and approached the valet stand. Instead, the man lifted the backpack slung over his shoulder to give Marty a glimpse of the compact assault rifle hidden underneath.

“Is your friend gone?” the rider asks, as Brian drives off.

Marty nods.

“I need your radio.”

Marty hands it over and the man—whom the FBI will designate as Rider 1—tucks the earpiece up into his helmet, switches over to the channel monitored by Wynn security, and calls in a brawl outside the Margeaux Ballroom, at the opposite end of the property, eight minutes away on foot. Rider 1 asks all guards to respond.

“Hands,” he says to Marty.

A thick zip tie binds Marty’s wrists to the valet stand. Rider 1 opens one of six tall doors to the Esplanade and inserts a locking steel wedge above the bottom hinge. Heads turn as dry heat and car exhaust pour into the perfumed resort. Marty is saying an urgent prayer for all the folks inside when a second bike rips through the arrivals area and stops behind the first. Rider 1 lays a hand on Marty’s shoulder.

“If this gets called in from out here, by you or anybody else, I’m coming back to put a bullet in your head. Okay?”

Marty nods.

Rider 1 saddles up and the bikes roll through the open door, engines throbbing in low gear. 

In the Wynn’s security command center, three guards scan the ballroom feeds for the reported brawl, ignoring camera 17, which shows two motorcycles moving slowly down the Esplanade, past carousel horses covered in flowers and through a grove of bare trees wrapped in strings of lights. Guests stop and turn; parents hurry children into stores. A knot of college kids whip out their phones and snap pictures while two New York publicists guess that this is a PR stunt, some kind of viral marketing campaign in which the whimsical, colorful world of the Wynn is thrown into sharp relief by racing bikes and riders in black leather. No one dials 911.

Jeremy Duncan has always been a little different. Tall for a fifth-grader, he walks with shoulders hunched and eyes fixed through thick glasses on his Velcro sneakers, which his mother buys him to assuage a crippling fear that his shoelaces will come undone at the worst possible moment. Jeremy loved fire trucks until he discovered that their job is to extinguish fires, not to start them. These days he’s into motorcycles, and spends hours clicking through old superbike races on YouTube. He loves watching a pack of riders fly into a turn and lay their bikes down so far that their knees scrape the track. Jeremy loves motorcycles. He’s also terrified of them. When his father lifted him onto a Vespa parked outside their local Safeway, Jeremy jumped off so fast that he cut his elbow and ripped his favorite sweatpants with the blue stripes down the sides.

The Duncan family is heading to an early dinner at the Wynn Buffet when engine noise becomes audible over the Esplanade’s smooth jazz soundtrack. Jeremy lights up at the sound. His dad says motorcycles aren’t allowed inside, but Jeremy knows an exposed inline four-cylinder engine when he hears one. His mom says he can run ahead and see, but just around the corner and no farther, which is fine with Jeremy. Around the corner is exactly where the sound is coming from. As Jeremy vanishes into the crowd, Andrea Duncan puts a hand on her husband’s arm.

“Kyle,” she says, “why is everyone running this way?”

Cynthia is showing Anna a pale pink princess-cut stone when two motorcycles pull up outside Graff. The men on back dismount, remove their packs, and shift their automatic weapons to their hips. In comes Rider 1, telling everyone to put their hands up and lie facedown on the floor. The voice is male and the helmet makes it sound as if he’s shouting at them from another room. With a flick of the wrist, Rider 3 unleashes an expandable baton and whips it into the rib cage of Rashad Lyons, Graff’s armed guard. While a writhing Rashad is disarmed and zip-tied, Rider 1 scans the store and stops on Cynthia, who knows exactly why he’s here.

The package arrived this morning with an armed escort. Cynthia signed for the delivery, which is how she knows the single item was insured for seven million dollars. The guards showed her the necklace before they placed it in the safe: a cascade of white and Champagne diamonds with a twenty-carat pear-shaped stone hanging at the bottom like ripe fruit. The piece was shipped in from the Paris store, a birthday gift for the second wife of a Shanghai developer. Li Jianrong insisted on an in-store pickup because his new bride, who grew up in Zhejiang Province without running water, loves shopping almost as much as the things she buys. Mr. Jianrong likes privacy and anonymity, but he’s making an exception here. The armed delivery and in-store guard are on his tab. Another guard is due at 6 p.m. to transport the necklace to the happy couple’s suite, which won’t be necessary now.

Cynthia is shaking. Rider 1 spins her gently and steers her toward a mirror-paneled door that leads to the stock room, one gloved hand on his gun, the other on the back of her neck. Cynthia unlocks the door and goes straight for the safe, a head-high custom piece in green and gold. She knows the combination like her date of birth, but somehow gets it wrong.

She whispers, “I’m so sorry.”

“Relax,” the man says. “Breathe.”

She’s retrying when his hand moves from her neck to her arm. Cynthia whimpers and shuts her eyes, but then the man gives her shoulder an encouraging squeeze. It’s almost enough to make her turn around. She gets the combination right this time. The steel bolts in the door retract, and Rider 1 brushes her aside. Out comes the necklace and the tray below it, which contains thirty-six diamond rings arranged by color and weight. Cynthia sees the neat rows in her mind’s eye as the rings rain down into the bag. Outside in the showroom, glass display cases shatter at five-second intervals. The buzz of a zipper is followed by the creak of leather as Rider 1 exits the stock room. Cynthia sits down beside the gaping safe. She’ll stay here until the cavalry arrives. She can still feel the man’s hand on her arm.

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