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Good morning, kiddos. Welcome back! We’re taking a look today at the second chapter of Bad Town For A Pretty Face: New York and all the work that went into it. As always make sure you’ve finished the chapter before you scroll down or you’ll get spoilt!
Back to Wendy! We’re getting a few hints about her life now, like the fact that she has to visit a tech store to check out the news or that she drove home on the LIE, which I knew wouldn’t translate for y’all as the Long Island Expressway, the road you’d take from the city to suburban Long Island, where both myself and Wendy hail from. She’s celebrating her win and planning the next heist, and we can tell pretty quickly this one’s going to be even bigger. She’s buying stuff that makes it obvious she’s going to copy-cat the full gang, not just Eyana, and she’s got her sights set on a hotel owned by some rich dude. More on that hotel later, but is that. . . a subplot I witness? Somewhere in there there’s hints of something more.
Wendy commits her heist right away, driving into the city as the sun sets too early this time of year with a load of layers on so y’all know exactly what’s going on. She parks in a garage just off Broadway where there’s always going to be heavy tourist traffic, making her harder to find. There’s an unabashed adoration for New York as she walks past several landmarks like the LOVE statue and Radio City, though just following the whole thing about the place reeking of piss and shit it feels kinda questionable. Listen, if you’ve ever heard that New York is dirty, gross, and full of crazy people, that is one thousand percent true. Oh my god, it’s disgusting. The subway, Jesus. I don’t even want to talk about it. But we live here like rats and celebrate the place constantly so there has to be some affection. And yes, the McDonald’s on Broadway with show lights on the sign is real.
Okay so. I’m not gonna say the name of the hotel she performs this heist in, but it’s a real, very famous hotel. You may have seen a kid called Kevin in there when you were young, or perhaps read about a girl who lived in those rooms. But uh. I’m just an internet writer. And portraying a theft of a real location kinda gives me pause, which is why February and the gang robbed ‘Commodus Casino’ and Mirabelle and co. stole the ‘Commodus-but-not-that-Commodus-cruise-ship.’ But y’all know what building it is that I HAVE NO INTENTION OF EVER STEALING FROM, FBI AGENT READING THIS. And it’s so iconic. She checks in as Cleo Reid, grateful that portraying someone so passive means not having to deal with eye-contact, and goes to check out the shops that sit underneath the hotel and the painting she’s about to rob (of that aforementioned young girl).
Totally not necessary to the story, but if you’re wondering why there’s no plaque to commemorate Kay Thompson, the writer of the Eloise saga, because after publishing the stories the owners of the hotel gave her a free room for life — an offer that was pulled when the hotel changed hands. She was pissed and insisted on the painting being removed, but the hotel only took down the plaque telling the crowds who the girl was. Everyone still knows, of course, but there wasn’t much more she could do about it. And the painting that once hung there was stolen in the sixties, replaced and then recovered years later and returned to the original artist, the much-loved New York native Hilary Knight.
Back to the story! Wendy is in the underground shops beneath the hotel, and though she’s getting claustrophobic and uncomfortable in the crowded basement, she knows Cleo wouldn’t be and uses that fact to stay strong. After she looks around for cameras and security guards there’s an interesting line I made interesting on purpose, that she had “a glass of wine Cleo was old enough to drink,” strongly implying our new friend Wendy isn’t of the legal drinking age (that’s 21 here, for any Europeans around). We’ve got another young one on our hands! She goes up to her room after that, where she can’t get any sleep with all her excitement. At three in the morning she gets up (I could never be a career criminal with those hours) and does some stuff that clearly indicates future outfit changes. Then she heads downstairs straight to the main security office, where it’s fiction so there’s one guard she easily defeats.
Cleo doesn’t usually get their hands dirty, being the hacker, but it just makes the most sense for Wendy to do it this way both for me writing it and her planning it. So after she disarms the guard and before she takes off there’s a quick and hidden costume change, back into Eyana with a tracksuit and the slicked back bun. Now Eyana’s job is a bit more fitting: she takes out several guards before a quick change of makeup into the paler Brienne. She also puts a small contraption in a planter — you’ll find out what that is in a sec! — before storming the hotel lobby, where not many people are awake at 3 a.m. There are a few jet-lagged tourists chilling with a bartender, and they hit the ground just like she orders in Brienne’s unique way. You haven’t seen her out there pulling capers yet, but you can sense this is accurate.
She’s also got this fake phone call set up, her voice portraying everyone, and you can tell she’s one hell of an actor because no one would buy it otherwise. The nighttime receptionist tries to call for help, and ‘Brienne’ handcuffs her, then flicks a switch on a homemade remote — that little contraption was a laser pointer, and now that woman thinks she’s got a sight on her chest. This is the part where I have to admit various elements of this story were pulled from a fanfic I wrote back in the day. I’m not linking to it. If you know the name, you know it, and if you find it you find it. But I’m not linking to it. Suffice to say it was a similar idea: massive fan of local gang turns to LARPing to show affection. The story is majorly altered, it has to be because it’s part of the Bad Town series, but bits and pieces like the homemade remote remain.
Now it’s time for ‘Brienne’ to let Astor in, and when Wendy runs down the hall she has only moments to cover her faux zits with further white foundation and don a curly wig that doesn’t fall off because I’m The Writer And I Don’t Want It To. She returns to the guests to bowl them over with Astor’s charm (read: calling them assholes and shooting a champagne bottle), grabs the painting, and bolts. It’s a quick crime, well thought-out, well executed. The important part, really, is getting out, and she transforms back into Cleo as she leaves. The cameras saw Cleo enter, and cameras around the hotel she couldn’t deactivate will show Cleo leaving. The world might question how on Earth Astor and the girls got out, but it’ll be a hot minute before they think to question if Astor and the girls were there at all.
The most important part is walking away, and she does that with ease. Thanks to her foresight her walk back to the parking garage on Broadway is uninterrupted, and she takes off in the night completely ignored. Now, we’ve seen a lot of crimes in the past not go so smoothly, and granted, the stakes were higher. There was more action, more danger. But it’s clear already that this is one of the greatest career criminals we’ve seen in the Bad Town series so far. She knows to stay small, she knows to think things through, she’s approaching these ideas from a different angle than anyone else. Here’s a spoiler for y’all: Wendy will be underestimated by the other characters in this story. But showing you guys this crime makes me certain that the readers won’t, and that’s where things get interesting. When conflict begins to arise, who do you root for? Who do you want to advance? Who’s right and who’s wrong?
This is going to be one interesting Bad Town. I’ll see you guys back for chapter three to watch things kick off.