December 23, 2010
Day turned into night as the big rig pulled into a vacant lot. Bernie’s goons rolled up the back door of the trailer. With all three loot bags in the back seat, I backed Veronica out into the lot. I got out and watched as Bernie’s crew went to work on my girl, swapping out one dummy license plate for another and painting her a deep shade of midnight black. Yup, it’s true. Veronica was a brunette for an entire year after that.
In the back of the trailer, Santa One was awake. He removed his beard to reveal a bloody, broken nose. “When do we get our cut?”
“I don’t know,” Bernie said as he hopped out of the trailer. “Probably when Roman decides to give it to you.”
“No,” Santa One said. “Fuck that noise. That job was harder than we were told it was going to be.”
Bernie shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe it was harder…or maybe you boys just aren’t very good bank robbers. But hey, don’t feel bad. Not everyone has what it takes. Lucky for you, Price Town is always taking applications. You three would make great stock boys.”
Santa One stepped to the edge of the trailer and looked down on Bernie. “I want hazard pay. And damages for my nose. That driver was a maniac.”
Outside, I chomped on my toothpick and sighed in response to that comment, but said nothing. My stomach was still gurgling from the tunnel explosion.
“Seems like the driver was the only one who did his job right,” Bernie said. “You’re not in cuffs and you’re alive so..”
Santa One pointed a finger at Bernie. “I don’t want to speak to peons. I want what’s coming to me. I want to talk to the man in charge.”
“Look buddy,” Bernie said. “You’re going to have to take it up with Roman, although a word of warning – the Giacomo family organization isn’t exactly a democracy known for its robust parliamentary procedure, so if you think you’re just going to…”
“I don’t want to talk to Roman,” Santa One said. “I want to talk to the big man himself.”
Bernie guffawed. “You want to speak to Carmine Giacomo?”
“Yeah,” Santa One said.
“God,” Bernie said. “Pal, I barely speak to the top dog myself. You get to speak to him when he wants to speak to you and when he asks to speak to you, you drop to your knees and pray it’s not about something you’ve done to piss him off. So if you think a trio of two-bit hacks are just going to…”
Santa One pulled out his gun and pointed it down towards Bernie, who instinctively threw up his hands. “Whoa, whoa, whoa…there’s no need for…”
“I’m gonna talk to Carmina Giacomo,” Santa One said.
Bernie nodded. “Absolutely. You certainly are.”
“You’re going to take me to him right now,” Santa One said.
“Right away,” Bernie said.
“And my boys and I are going to get what’s coming to us,” Santa One said.
“Sure enough,” Bernie said. “Everything that’s coming to you.”
Santa One returned his gun to the pocket of his big red coat. Meanwhile, I checked out a news website on my phone. The latest headline forced me to break out in a cold sweat. “Over One Hundred Dead and Twenty Still Missing Following Tunnel Explosion.”
My stomach gurgled. I read the sub-headlines. “High Speed Chase Ends in Disaster…White House Calls Attack an “Act of Terror.”
I read on. “Homeland security officials are working in close coordination with the FBI after a daring bank robbery turned bloody…”
Burp. That was it. I thought my guts were empty, but there was more. I vomited all over the pavement. Bernie’s goons were pros. They didn’t flinch. They kept working.
Bernie slapped me on the back. “Aww geeze, kid. You want an antacid or something?”
“That’d be good,” I said.
Bernie said. “Yeah, I don’t have one. I don’t know why I asked that. You gonna be alright?”
“Smoke,” you said.
“What?” Bernie asked.
“That button you gave me,” I said. “You said it would just make a big cloud of smoke.”
Bernie pulled an apple out of his pocket and munched on it. “And a lot of smoke was made…after the fire…that consumed the many brave law enforcement officers who were valiantly attempting to apprehend us and put us behind bars.”
“You said it was just going to be a distraction,” I said.
Without skipping a beat, Bernie said in a deadpan tone, “They all looked pretty distracted to me.”
“And the people,” I said. “All those people.”
Bernie bit off another hunk of people. “Sad? Yes. But I mean…were any of them doing anything productive?”
I turned my head. “Fuck you, Bernie.”
“OK,” Bernie said. “Show me an article that one of those people was a scientist on his way to patent a cure for cancer and you got me. Mea culpa.”
The fixer slapped me on the shoulder. “Until then, get your panties out of a twist and take a Midol, kid. Honestly.”
“The President says its terrorism,” I said.
Bernie bunched up his hands and held them up to his eyes, pretending like he was crying. “’Waaah…boo ho the President says it’s terrorism!’ That’s you. That’s what you sound like.”
“This is serious,” I said.
“When was what we do ever not serious?” Bernie asked. The slightly older man, seven years my senior, stood there, waiting for an answer. I didn’t have one.
I was saved by Santa One. “I don’t have all night,” the dope shouted from the back of the truck.
“I know you don’t,” Bernie said. “You’re a very important man.”
Bernie looked around. “Say, boys?”
“What?” Santa One said.
“Where’s the money?” Bernie asked.
“What?” Santa One said.
“Are you deaf?” Bernie asked. “The money!”
“What do you mean?” Santa One asked.
Bernie removed his had and massaged his forehead for a moment. “I’m…I’m sorry…I just hate that.”
The fixer put his hat back on and looked at me. “Don’t you hate that? When you say something very succinctly with just the right words and someone says, ‘What do you mean?’ as though they don’t understand the meaning of commonly used terms?”
I was too nauseous to respond.
“I’m sorry,” Bernie shouted to Santa One. “When I said, ‘ Where’s the money?’ I meant ‘Abraham Lincoln just fucked your mother and asked your sister for a reach around, but she was too busy blowing Harry S. Truman while your father watched.’”
“Huh?” Santa One said.
“Learn English,” Bernie said. “The question, ‘Where’s the money?’ in common English usage means that I am unaware of the location of the fucking money and I am inquiring to you, my good man, as to any knowledge you may have of the money’s whereabouts.”
Bernie’s face turned red. “Where’s the fucking money?”
“What do you mean, ‘where’s the fucking money?’”
“Don’t make me do that dance again!” Bernie shouted. “The money! Where is it?”
“I thought you had it!” Santa One cried.
“Oh,” Bernie said. “The nerve of this guy. If I had the money, would I be asking you where it is?”
“I don’t know,” Santa One said.
“He doesn’t know,” Bernie said to me. He turned back to Santa One. “It’s OK. I don’t blame you. I blame the public education system. It’s been turning entire generations of Americans into dummies for years. Go on. Look around for the money.”
“What?” Santa One asked. “You telling me this is my fault?”
“Well,” Bernie said. “Look, I don’t mean to tell you how to do your job, but if I were a bank robber, I’d keep a might tight grip on my loot sack at all times, just saying.”
“This isn’t my fault,” Santa One said.
“Failing that,” Bernie said. “I would be aware of my loot sack’s location at all times. Again, just saying.”
My eyes veered off in the direction of Veronica, where I knew the loot sacks were sitting in the back seat. Moreover, I knew Bernie had put them there so I wondered what he was up to.
“You better not tell Carmine this is my fault!” Santa One shouted.
“There’s no fault yet,” Bernie said. “I’m sure the money’s around here somewhere.”
Santa Two and Three joined Santa One. “Someone loose the cash?” Santa Two asked.
“I didn’t do it,” Santa Three said.
“Give that trailer a good look over boys,” Bernie said. “And I’ll check the car.”
The Santas did just that. They looked in boxes, in containers, everywhere.
“I don’t see it!” Santa One yelled.
Bernie pulled a little black box out of his pocket. It was similar to the one he’d given me. Big red button. The nub of a silver antenna “Keep looking boys. You don’t want to go back to a man like Carmine Giacomo empty handed without at least being able to say you did a thorough search.”
Santa One picked up a case of auto parts and dumped it all over the floor. “Aww, come on! Rip this place apart!”
The Santas joined in, wrecking the trailer.
“Bern,” I said. “What are you…”
“You might want to step back for this.”
Bernie walked backwards, counting out his steps all the while. “One…two…three…”
My slightly older brother figure looked at me. “And we’re walking….we’re walking…four…five…six…”
“Jesus.” I hurried to catch up.
Montez one of Bernie’s goons, nodded. He gathered all ten of the fixer’s hired hands and joined us.
“…ten,” Bernie said. He stopped and extended the antenna.
“I can’t find it!” Santa One said.
“Check under that tarp!” Bernie said.
“Which tarp?” Santa One said.
“The tarp in the back!” Bernie said. “There’s only one tarp. I’m sure I saw it.”
Montez and the goons covered their ears. I followed suit.
“God,” Bernie said. “Did I use two pounds of semtex or three?”
Bernie looked around for the answer. “Montez, dos o tres?”
“No se, Mr. Bernie.”
“Aw screw it,” Bernie said as he started walking backwards again. We all followed him. “One…two…three…four…five. Five’s good. Five ought to do it.”
Santa One walked to the edge of the trailer. “Hey! You got the money, don’t you?!”
“Nope,” Bernie said as he extended the silver antenna.
“If you think you’re going to cheat me, you’ve got another thing…”
Bernie pressed the button. Kaboom! Truck and trailer erupted into a massive, all consuming fireball. The flames jumped at least twelve feet into the air.
“Well, if the cops didn’t know where we were, they do now,” Bernie said as he pulled out a pack of gum. He looked at me. “Stick of gum?”
I vomited again. At this point, I had no idea where the puke was coming from. It was like my body had extra barf reserves.
Bernie pulled out a stick of gum, unwrapped it, and popped it into his mouth. He chewed away as he patted me on the back. “That’s OK, kid. Let it all out.”
“I would like a stick of gum, Mr. Bernie.”
“Of course, Montez. Where are my manners?”