December 23, 2010
Believe it or not, there was a time when I looked like I was fresh off the showroom floor. My hair was thick, lush, and still black on its own. I didn’t need glasses, but I wore a pair of mirrored aviator shades. I don’t know if that made me look cool, but I felt like it did. My generation was very big on personal feelings and frankly, that might have led to the One World Order’s hostile takeover of the planet, but more on that later.
I work a dark leather jacket, paired with a black t-shirt and jeans. A toothpick dangled out of my mouth as I primped myself in the mirror, pushing a curl of hair up off my forehead.
My cell phone rang. I pressed a button on the Bluetooth headset in my ear to answer it. A Bluetooth headset was…no, I’m sorry. I’m staying firm on this. You whippersnappers will just have to figure this stuff out on your own.
The man on the other end of the call was Bernie Schwartz, the Giacomo family’s fixer. He was a jack-of-all-trades. Whatever needed done, he did it. “Franky Boy. You ready to rock and roll?”
“You know it,” I replied.
I answered that question by stepping on the gas. The engine roared, but Veronica was in park so she didn’t go anywhere.
“Hoo-wee,” Bernie said.
“Listen to that tiger growl,” I said.
“OK,” Bernie said. “Just making sure you’re not asleep with some bimbo’s tits on your face.”
“I’d never do that do your mother, Bern,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. I’m more worried about whether you’re ready.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I ran my fingers over what was, in retrospect, the tackiest piece of bling ever – a solid gold dollar sign that dangled from my neck from a much too flashy chain. “It means that sometimes you spend so much time worrying about what I’m doing that you forget to come through on your end.”
There was a pause. “That is a scandalous accusation.”
“And an accurate one,” I said.
“Name one time I let you down,” Bernie said.
Off the top of my head, I was able to think of several examples. I picked the first.
“Armax Freight,” I said.
Another pause. “OK. Name two times I let you down.”
Blam! Blam! Gunshots and screams cut the conversation short. “Shit,” I said. “They’ve fucked up. Just get into position.”
“On my way,” Bernie said. “What’s going…
I cut the call off and looked to my right. Passersby scattered and scrambled for cover as four grown men dressed like Santa Claus (red suits, white beards, the works) ran out of the Davis Street Branch of Avasti Bank. Their handguns were drawn and loot sacks were slung over their shoulders.
The piercing sound of an alarm bell ringing meant the job had been compromised. The Santas had frantic looks on their faces. A guard popped out of the front door and squeezed off three rounds only to get dropped by a shot to the chest courtesy of Santa One.
“Just drive away,” I thought. “It’s not your fault Roman set you up with a crew of rank amateurs. Every other crew has managed to get in and get out without killing anyone or setting off an alarm. Fuck these morons.”
A second guard poked out from behind the front door, fired a round, then ducked for cover. The Santas returned fire. I don’t recall if any kids were on the scene but if they were, their childhoods were probably ruined by this sight.
“Right now, you haven’t done anything wrong,” I thought. “You’re just a guy in a parked car. You can say you don’t know these clowns. Just…”
Veronica’s doors were open and the Santas were filing in, all hot and sweaty, full of booze and panic. Santa One took the passenger’s seat, while Santas Two and Three hopped into the back seat.
Santa One was a particularly obnoxious son of a bitch. “PUNCH IT!”
There was no backing out now. My foot hit the gas. Vrroom! Veronica was flying.
Santa One turned around and shouted at Santa Two. “What the fuck did you do?”
“That bitch was reaching for the buzzer,” Santa Two explained.
“Bullshit,” Santa One said.
“As God as my witness,” Santa Two said. “She was reaching for it.”
“So you smash her in the nose!” Santa One hollered. “You don’t clip her! She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five.”
Santa Three intervened. “Oh boo hoo. Cry me a river. Shut up the two of you.”
I checked my rear view mirror. No cops yet. The infighting was getting to me.
“Real professional,” Santa One said.
“Oh, you want to talk?” Santa Two asked. “Why’d you kill that guard then if you’re such a sweetheart?”
“Because he was going to kill you, dumb fuck!” Santa One shouted. “Because you got him riled up when you killed that bitch!”
“Aww, I did what I had to do,” Santa Two said.
“I should have let him kill you,” Santa One said. “But then they would have ID’d you and that would have led them to us.”
The infighting was getting to me. I was used to transporting stoically silent career criminals with ice water running through their veins. These dunces were freaking out like a trio of babies who’d just missed naptime.
I was hauling ass – gunning through intersections, running red lights, cutting off pedestrians, coming inches from smacking into other cars who had the right of way.
“Fuck this,” Santa Two said. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to…”
Santa Three interrupted again. He opened up his loot sack and reached a hand inside. “Boys, come on. Just focus on the positive. It’s going to be a very Merry…”
Boom! A dye pack exploded, turning Santa Three’s face bright purple. “Motherfucker!”
Santa One screeched as though he was about to suffer a brain aneurysm. “You didn’t check for a dye pack?!”
“No one told me I was supposed to check for a dye pack!” Santa Three cried.
Santa One face palmed himself. “He didn’t know. Every shithead who’s ever seen a bank heist movie knows to check for a dye pack but this cocksucker didn’t know.”
“No,” Santa Two protested. “I didn’t know.”
Santa One turned to me. “You believe this shit? He didn’t know.”
I manhandled Veronica’s steering wheel, veering on a hard right turn. “I’m a little busy.”
I switched on my police radio scanner. “All units. Shots fired at Davis Street Avanti Bank.”
An old woman approached a crosswalk with a bag of groceries under her arm. She was about to step onto the street when I blared on the horn. It scared the shit out of her, causing her to toss her bag into the air, sending apples, oranges, cans and bread everywhere. In my rearview mirror, I was able to see her throwing me the middle finger. I didn’t care. I was just happy the old broad lived. I didn’t need that on my conscience.
The scanner squawked. “Suspects were last seen in a late model sports car, red…”
“Don’t think you’re going to be taking anything out of my cut,” Santa One said.
“Fuck you,” Santa Three said. “I was on this job, just like the rest of you.”
“Were you?” Santa One asked. “Because you look like you just fellated…”
I’m sorry. For legal reasons, I’m not able to print which purple cartoon character Santa Three looked like he’d taken a face blast from. Moving on…
“Copy,” the dispatcher said. “Confirmed, the car is an American Made Sidewinder.”
“Fellas,” I said. “If you could all chill out…”
“Very funny, Ted,” Santa Three said. “You should have been a comedian.”
Santa One flipped out and punched the back of Veronica’s passenger seat. I didn’t care for that at all. “You just used my name!”
“Uhh,” Santa Three said. “Did I…or did I use your code name?”
A flashing set of red and blue lights in my rear view mirror caught my eye. “Bigger problems, gentlemen.”
The idiots were oblivious. “Bobby,” Santa One said. “You’d better stop…”
“Whoa!” Santa Three said. “Why you gotta use my name…uh I mean, my code name? Fuck Bobby! Who’s Bobby?”
Santa One leered at Santa Three. “I swear to God I’m gonna come back there and…”
Boom! The back windshield exploded and shattered, spraying the interior full of jagged little shards of glass. The cops were shooting at us. Three cruisers were in pursuit now.
“Shit!” Santa One said to me. “We’ve got company!”
“I’m aware,” I said.
My nonchalance pissed Santa One off. “Do something!”
“I am,” I said.
Santa Three pointed his gun out the back window and exchanged shots with the cops.
“Unnecessary,” I said.
“Shut up and drive!” Santa Three said. “I’ll take ‘em out.”
Another right brought me to the freeway onramp. I sideswiped a mail truck as I barreled through late afternoon commuter traffic, then took up a position in the far left lane. Veronica was humming well over a hundred miles per hour now. Poor girl. She was getting all torn up. She didn’t quit on me though. She knew I’d fix her right up.
I tapped my Bluetooth and called Bernie.
“It’s all on you, brother,” I said.
“I got it,” Bernie said before he hung up.
All sorts of sounds ripped up my ears. The world’s most incompetent bank robbers would not stop screaming at each other, nor would they stop shooting at the cops. I didn’t care for the violence. I was used to professionals who never had to fire a shot. Worse, these idiots weren’t able to hit a flashing target held up by a supermodel with big fake tits, so just sprayed bullets and put the cops in a terrible mood.
Guns blazed. Horns honked, courtesy of all the motorists around me who were scared shitless by my moves. Sirens wailed. Tires screeched and then…I heard it…whirring chopper blades. I looked up and to my left. A police helicopter was dogging us.
“Sky Eye here,” came the chopper pilot’s voice over the scanner. “Got a make on the suspects. Heading west on 909. “
“Well that’s it,” Santa Three said. “It’s all over. We’re fucked. We’re so fucked.”
“Nobody’s fucked,” I said.
I looked in the rear view mirror. Tears flowed out of Santa Three’s eyes, staining his fake white beard. “I can’t go to jail, man. I just can’t. Somebody do me right here. I mean it. Shoot me!”
I rarely broke my cool, but this mongoloid made me snap. “Jesus! Have you guys even pulled a job before?”
“What the fuck do you know, you boy band looking puke?” Santa Three asked. “You look like you barely got hair on your nuts and you want to talk to me about…”
BAM! A cruiser swiped Veronica’s left side. Another cruiser was speeding up on the right. The cops were trying to box me in.
“That’s a no,” I said.
“We’ve knocked over ten liquor stores,” Santa Three said.
“And the deli,” Santa Two added. “Don’t forget the deli.”
“There was that hot dog stand,” Santa One said.
“A fucking hot dog stand?” I asked.
“That was more of a snatch and grab,” Santa One said.
“But never a bank?” I asked.
“First time for everything,” Santa Three said.
I sped up, leaving the two cruisers that were trying to sandwich me in my wake. “Fuck you, Roman. Wherever you are, fuck you.”
There were at least a dozen cop cars behind me now, plus the chopper. I’d shaken off a chase before, but these imbeciles had all but invited the National Guard to tag along.
The scanner squawked. “Unit One-One-Four…suspects are approaching the Caldwell Tunnel.”
Another squawk. “Sky Eye here. About to lose visual.”
We weren’t just approaching the tunnel. We were flying into it. It was time to slow down.
“What are you doing?” Santa One asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. The world got a little darker as the tunnel was dimly lit.
“The fuck I will worry about it,” Santa One said as he became the first bank robber I’d ever transported to lose his shit and point a gun at me. “Get some lead in your foot or you’ll get some in your face, bitch!”
“Amateurs,” I grumbled. “Lousy amateurs.”
The tunnel was providing 7,000 feet for Bernie to work his mojo. I was busy bobbing and weaving around cars to pay attention to the lunacy going on around me, though the gun in my face didn’t help the pressure.
“Ted,” Santa Two said. “Maybe just let the kid do his thing, huh? He’s gotten us this far.”
“Stop using my name!” Santa One said.
“Jeeze,” Santa Three said. “Relax. We all know your name. It’s no big deal.”
Up ahead, there was a truck pulling a tractor-trailer. The rig slowed down as I angled myself behind it, keeping time with it.
Santa One waved the gun around in my face. His hand was shaking uncontrollably. “This kid didn’t know my name.”
The back door of the trailer rolled up. A ramp extended out of the back. As soon as it hit the pavement, sparks began to fly.
“Huh?!” Santa One asked. “Did you know my name?”
For this maneuver to work, everything had to be perfect and yet, there were so many distractions – the sirens and flashing lights, the honking cars, Dipshit McGee screaming and pointing his heater at me. I had no choice. I cold cocked the prick right in the face, busting his nose open, sending a spray of blood all over Veronica’s upholstery. Damn it. I knew I’d be scrubbing red stains out for hours later, but at least the dumbass was unconscious.
“Any other backseat drivers?” I asked.
Santas Two and Three shook their heads in the negative.
I slowed to a crawl as I moved Veronica up the ramp. There was only enough tunnel cover left to do this once. One mistake, and it was all over.
Blam! Blam! Blam! Shots tore into Veronica’s hide. I persisted. I made it. Veronica was on board and in park.
“This isn’t going to do shit,” Santa Two barked.
“Yeah,” Santa Three said. “They’ll just follow the truck.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a little black box with a red button in the middle of it. I grabbed hold of a silver antenna attached to the box and extended it.
“Oh ye of little faith,” I said.
As soon as the rig was clear of the tunnel, I pushed the button. I expected some smoke but what happened next came as a complete shock. There was a massive explosion, caving the end of the tunnel in, crushing cop and civilian cars alike under the rubble.
I stepped out of Veronica and doubled over, puking my guts out. Once my stomach settled, I caught my breath, only to jump when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped around to see my thirty-year old partner in crime, truly the worst dresser ever. He wore a white fedora with a black band, khaki pants and a tacky Hawaiian shirt – bright red with palm trees and a green parrot on the right side.
“I’m serious,” Bernie said. “Name two times I’ve failed you.
“The Luftenol incident,” I said.
Bernie shrugged his shoulders and took a bite out of a crisp, red apple. “Name three times I’ve failed you.”