Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Think Inside The Box"

“Spare change, mister?” he asked me as he scratched himself all over.I looked him up and down once and smiled.

“Change that I can spare?…No.”

“Oh, c’mon, man, don’t be that way!”

That settled it, I wasn’t giving him anything. He did a poor job of concealing the scabs that his own nails had excavated, because he went too long between fixes. My experience from the fleabag hotels that I stayed in, told me that he had gone at least a couple of days in-between. I had to give him credit for doing as well as he did, in hiding his shakes.

He was about to touch me, when I let him know with a small look that such a gesture would result in a greater pain than the withdrawals he was experiencing. As he ducked aside, I saw the unmarked police car. Why don’t they just go ahead and put the insignia or decal on them, anyway,? As if anyone other than cabbies and police drive Crown Victorias.

I could tell which one of the twins they had nabbed because of the fear in his eyes, it was “Brock.” The other one’s name was “Rock,” that took real imagination on their parents part, there. I acted casual and went into a corner store, this wasn’t my first close shave, nor would it be my last. How can you get ahead in the criminal life, when the cops get radar after you pull a job?

With the sun’s glare in my favor, neither Brock nor the cops saw me as they drove off. I couldn’t go back upstairs or near the hotel, and risk that they didn’t have the room under surveillance. I bought a dumb trucker hat that said “save a horse, ride a cowboy” on it and pulled it over my brow.

On the way down the street, I gave the junkie a ten-dollar bill because he had unintentionally saved my ass. The ingrate ran off without saying “thank you." Three blocks away, I hailed a cab with the money I had left and prayed that there wasn’t an accurate sketch of me in every patrol car, yet.

I knew from the start that it was wrong to throw in with these amateurs, but then again, someone vouched for them. This was it, though, I was a solo act as soon as I recovered the stash. They screwed around and screwed up so many things, I was wondering if the twins bribed guys in the joint to chat them up as competent.

Rock was the brains, the backbone, the muscle, and the balls (more like BBs, the Napoleon-complex-affected little shit) of the crew. Brock seemed to me, to be nothing but a “yes-man" and he couldn‘t even get that right. He was one of those guys that believed the glass to be half-empty, and that the other half was always full of poison. “Cheers,” Brock.

I gave the cabbie a fifty-cent tip and if looks could kill, he would have strung me like that Atlantic blue marlin that was hanging on that pole...surrounded by those guys taking pictures, only I’d be deader. Hell, I was twice as angry as he was, all of my spending money and everything I had, was back at the hotel. I climbed over the gate that they use to keep people out of the yacht berths and in a place like this, I knew someone had already called the cops. Finesse and stealth are for those who have the luxury of time.

I jumped on the boat that Brock was supposed to be working on and headed straight for the fish hold. It was wide open, with the fish and ice still there. But the jewels were gone. Suddenly I had a feeling the cops didn’t get radar at all…they were tipped and I figured that Rock set his own twin brother up. Brock wouldn’t sell his brother out right away and by the time they figured out which twin they had, Rock would have the kind of head start that have him already past Cuba.

I had to get my head together, but I had to get out of there first or they would nab me while I was doing my impression of Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

As I jogged down the pier, a beautiful woman pointed at my forehead. Did I say “woman?” She was more like a "girl." Twenty, tops.

Like Yogi Berra once said, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.” She reminded me of a younger version of the Columbian “cowgirl” that did me wrong three jobs ago, only I assumed that she was Cuban. Presumptuous of me, I know. But I always believed that every Latin in Miami was Cuban, until they told me otherwise. That way I wouldn’t say anything that could be misconstrued as even the faintest praise of Fidel Castro.

Getting back to the Columbian cowgirl, she double-crossed me out of a fortune and she got away. When I first saw the cops carting Brock off, I was doubting my own motivations on staying honest. As a matter of fact, since I did most of the work on the heist, I considered double-crossing Rock, but the little bastard beat me to it.

“I like your hat,” she said with a smile of perfect, blinding teeth, that said to me that her daddy was a dentist. That would explain why she could lounge on daddy’s yacht…or maybe the word “sugar” should go in front of “daddy.”

“I saw a guy who had the same hat, walking through here just five minutes ago.”

“Yeah, are you sure, sweetness?” I poured on the charm, though I had no intention of following through. If they look like they are “twenty,” they’re fifteen years old, and it’s four years in the pen, for the guy dumb enough to believe their fake IDs.

“Uh-huh, he was on the same boat as the one you were just on. He asked me where there was a Fed-Ex store around here…hey, where are you going?”

I had no time nor inclination to chit-chat. I knew that Rock was going to mail the jewels to whichever country he was going to sail to, so he could avoid any chances that they might be seized by a foreign coast guard, shore patrol, or customs.

At a liquor store, I shop-lifted the biggest sunglasses that I could find and ran out the door before the Haitian shop-keeper could make short work of me with a machete. As I jogged up to the Fed-Ex franchise, Rock was coming out. He didn’t see me and judging by his smile, he never would, because he was too busy counting the money in his head.

I gave him a minute, then I went in. The man behind the counter glared at me. Hell, I would’ve thought I was up to something too, if I had me as a customer. I asked him if a guy came in here with the same hat as I had on. He nodded and said nothing. I looked behind him and another man was sealing up a parcel.

I leaned over the counter and the man behind it folded his arms as if that was going to intimidate me at this point. I assumed that this was Rock’s package from the postage and the foreign zip code. I mean, “postal code” since it was destined for overseas. I leapt over the counter, grabbed the package and leapt back before either of them could react. By the time they were shouting useless threats at me, I was already by the door.

I had no intention of opening the package right there, I just had to have faith that I had snatched the correct one. I had no money, no tools to steal a car with, no change of clothes, and by then, there would be an all-points-bulletin in every police jurisdiction in Florida, with my picture on it. But I had almost a million dollars worth, retail, of jewels under my right arm…or I had a box with just cookies and a few dollars, that someone was sending back home to some poor Latin backwater.

Mira, either way, I liked those odds because maybe I double-crossed someone else, for a change.

Note: JJ wanted the sentence “…but the little creep beat me to it.” This is a continuation of the Heist Man's adventures from "$8,400 A Carat."

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