Sunday, May 20, 2007


Whether it's in books, movies or the news, everyone wants to talk about the heist gone wrong. Yet, nobody wants to talk about the robbery gone right and the crooks that got away. Least of all, nobody in this car or we might jinx it. And when I say it went right, I mean we were out of the bank three and a half minutes early. That counts as at least five less patrol units to deal with.

The Phoenix Police and Arizona Highway Patrol had predictably concentrated the majority of their resources on the west, east and southern parts of town. They've figured that anyone hightailing it out of town would head for all points Mexican.

That's sound logic since we had taken enough money to live in Ensenada for years. By now it also might have come to their attention that we had pinched a fortune in jewels as well. Besides, don't all criminals believe Mexico to not only be haven, but a combination of Outlaw Heaven and Hell?

If we wanted to chance driving right under their very noses, we could do just that. We had changed cars and disguises twice and we've already passed three police cars without incident. So if everything has gone to plan, why tempt fate and talk about it? If the jinx is hovering around us like a score of mosquitoes around a porch, don't let it in.

Croyle, Babbo and I are going north to Utah, where Babbo has a plane fly that we're going to fly down to Ensenada.

The traffic on the Seventeen and the half hour of silence are getting to me, so I chime in my best Julio Iglesias, "Ensenada, where the food and ladies are hotta."

"Shut it!" barks Croyle.

"What, what's wrong with a little singing, Croyle?"

"Sing about anything you want, but not about that. Don't talk about our trip and don' about our destination." Croyle rubs the cross that is dangling on his sweat-soaked shirt, then he rubs something else in his pants pocket that he keeps for good, not that.

He believes that part of the power of whatever it is that he carries, is that no one can look at it and break its bad luck. My guess is that it is a rock, though knowing Croyle, it's John Dillinger's gallstone. His twisted version of good luck, is to study the bad luck of others and I know that it has carried over to collecting objects of criminals with bad luck.

When we were in the holding cell at the Maricopa County Courthouse for a simple mugging, we met a guy in there that was about to be sentenced to life for a post office heist on Christmas Eve that had gone altogether wrong. Croyle asked him how much he wanted for the cross around his neck and the loser said a TV. The whole post office thing was so he could get his family a flat screen TV.

Croyle told him that if he gave him the cross, he would get a 42" plasma for the loser's family. The guy hesitated all of a millisecond and gave his address to Croyle as he handed the cross over. Croyle and I got that day on time served and probation. The very first thing he did was take the money we worked so hard to get to go get that family the damn TV.

"What the hell, Croyle? That guy can't touch you on the outside and he probably expects you to go back on your word! We worked too hard to get that cash!"

"I don't care about him or the money. The jinx has already touched this cross and it won't be coming back. Whoever wears this will be invisible to the jinx and its bad mojo."

So neither Babbo or me has so much even dared to sigh or fart since Flagstaff. We've just left the edge of the Navajo Reservation and we're on the Alternate Eighty-nine, north of the Grand Canyon. Now even I'm starting to believe in Croyle's convoluted superstition, though I won't say anything about it either way, so as not to tempt the jinx.

That cross has come in handy, in that we've met Babbo. I doubt that there is a scientist that was ever born that could calculate the chances of meeting someone who has both a disgruntled bank manager cousin and a plane. I'd tell you to "go figure," but the odds dictate that you can't.

What a shame that we had to pick this econobox for its low profile, because its handling is wasted on the long, luxurious curves of Alt. 89. As we come out a sweeping right-hander, a woman in a long white coat waves us down, though we're going too fast to stop. I look over to Croyle and he nods for me to turn the car around and see what this is about.

She is entirely too pale to be a native of these southwest states and her hair is as red as the sun just before it sets. She's wearing a white lab coat that is soiled and ripped. I look past her and I see why: she has a white van with two flats, one of them which she has managed to replace.

I look back from the van, straight into those green eyes...this is going to get complicated. I don't have time for love...or for lust.

"I'm sorry, could you give me a ride to Page, or to at least a gas station on the Reservation?" she says with equal mixture of helplessness and sultry.

I'd give her a ride to Argentina and Babbo with his tongue almost lolling out, seems to agree. It's Croyle's call, though and he decrees "we are running a little behind schedule and unfortunately we can't turn back. We can drop you off in Fredonia or any gas station between here and there."

She looks at the van and she looks at us. She seems a little spooked, though I'd love to be candid and tell her that she has nothing to be afraid of, because I'm all business at this point. As is, this detour is closing the barely left open window that is our escape.

"Hold on," she says with all the sultry and helplessness gone. She gets her purse out of the van, then she writes something on a piece of paper and puts it under the left windshield wiper. Babbo scoots over and she gets in the right passenger seat. We all nod to each (except for the leering Babbo) and we're off.

You'd think that another person would add something to the conversation...uh, no. Every bump in the road and every pebble that we run over, you can hear loud and clear. I look at her every so often, via the rear view mirror. Croyle's eyes are focused on the road and down the road into our future. I don't want to know about Babbo and neither does our new passenger, as she's definitely averting her eyes away from him.

Babbo who hasn't said a word since the day before yesterday, decides the break the ice.

"What's your name?"

She's distracted and I can imagine why, out in the middle of nowhere with three men who she's guessing are armed, and lo and behold, she's right. It takes a few moments for her to realize that he's talking to her.


"Jill, huh. I'm Ba-"

Croyle tersely interrupts "he's Bob, that's Rob and I'm Huell."

An already skittish Jill blurts "nice to meet you."

Great going Babbo, why not really try and impress her by telling her you just got through robbing a bank? But he just won't let up as his little head has taken over his all of his reasoning.

"You're wearing a lab coat, are you some kind of scientist?"

"No. Actually, I'm on my way to a conference."

I turn the radio up real loud in an effort to end this conversation before it steers back to the heist, so I don't hear what she says next. Whatever it is, Babbo has turned pale and Croyle is now redder than a lobster.

"-the car" Croyle seethes.

"What?" I ask as I turn the radio down.

"Stop, the, fucking, car!"

I stomp on the pedal and nearly lock the brakes up.

"Pull it over to the shoulder!"

I shrug and does as he says, having no idea why Mount Croyle is about to erupt, and Babbo looks like he's going to vomit. Jill's trying to figure what did she say that was so offensive and so am I.

"Get out!"

I don't know who Croyle's talking to and neither does anyone else.

"I said, get out!" he repeats. Jill reaches for her door and "not you! Him!"

I get out and Croyle shoots out of the car like one of the bullets did out of his gun, some six hours ago. He gets in the driver's side and moves the seat forward. I am just standing on the highway, trying to make sense of this and wondering how far this is going unravel.

Are we going to kill her? Has Croyle lost it completely and is he going to plug us right after that? He points to the passenger seat and I get in. Croyle puts the car in reverse and I'm waiting for him to whip it into a J-Turn or a one-eighty. It's not going to happen.

Babbo has finally lost it, he rolls down his window and vomits. With her arms and hands pushed outward and her body firmly lodged in the right passenger corner, Jill looks like a startled spider. Me? I'm contemplating putting one in Croyle as soon as the car stops...if he doesn't drive us over a cliff, first.

He has us going backwards at thirty miles an hour and this econbox has a hard enough time going forwards at that speed. Apparently the whining of the transmission and engine isn't enough of a clue for Croyle, so the car drops another hint with the smoke that is now seeping in.

"Um Cr...I mean, 'Huell,' the car isn't made for this" I offer up, as I visualize my first shot going into his chest.

I don't know if he heard me and I say it again, as I picture the second shot going right between his eyes. The glare that he gives me before he yanks the emergency break and sends us spinning, let's me know that I've gotten my point across.

We skid to a stop right in front of Jill's van, much to the detriment of us and the RV that just misses us. Croyle shoots out of the car again and whirls over to right rear passenger door. He yanks it open and Jill responds by sliding towards the nauseous Babbo. Croyle bows and does an odd flourish like some odd combination of a psycho, a modern dancer, and a chauffeur. Jill cautiously sidles around him, then sprints for her van.

Suddenly it's all so clear. I guess, we were so busy looking at her, that none of us three saw the small "Maricopa County Coroner" painted on the side of the van.

The car howls once more, as Croyle floors it and pushes it past its meager limits. I flashback on something I saw on her jacket.

"Hey, Croyle-"

"Shut up, you'll bring the jinx back."

I chuckle and say "no, you don't understand, do you know what her last name is?"

"What did I just say-"

"Her last name is 'Nix."


Babbo laughs, he gets it.

"What? What little private joke do you two have going on that's going to bring us more bad luck?"

"Croyle, think about it. Jill...Nix. Jill...Nix."

He shrugs and Babbo's quiet chuckles are annoying him even more.

"Jill...Nix. Take away a few letters and what do you get?"

It takes Croyle another few seconds, then the annoyed look is melted by a smile.



"jew" "girl" said...


Writeprocrastinator said...


Thank you very much.

John Donald Carlucci said...

When are you putting a book of your collected shorts together?


Cormac Brown said...

Editor JDC,

Realistically, I'm further away from it than ever.