Thursday, July 23, 2009

Best Of: "Retribution"

This was originally titled "Mingo Zamora's Revenge," which is probably why is was initially rejected without comment. Then it was changed to "Mingo's Revenge" and then the light bulb above me head smacked me above the hairline and said "moron, change the title."

I wrote this as being in the Tenderloin (District) of San Francisco, then I changed it over to Chicago, for a Black Lizard contest that I never bothered to enter. At any rate, the story's name became "Revenge In Room 208," and then it became "Retribution." Geoff Eighinger was gracious enough to accept this story and to publish it in the premier issue of "Crooked Magazine."

This features the character with no name but known simply as "The Heist Man." No, I'm not being lazy, just purposefully obscure as I understand Donald E. Westlake did the same for one of his characters. Here is "Retribution"


“You’re a misogynist.”

I didn’t need to open my eyes to confirm that she was glaring at me; I felt her eyes boring into me, minutes ago. Since she got the better of our carnal give-and-take, I thought she’d sleep off the remaining time we had left together. This was spoiling my fun…I didn’t want her hating me too soon.

I rolled over and tried to kiss her on the lips, but she pulled back and skirted away from me on the bed as far as she could without falling off. I shrugged and mumbled, “that’s a good piece of fiction. You should be writing about robberies, instead of planning or participating in them.”

She leaned into me with a smile and said, “you can change the subject, but you can’t change the fact that you hate women.”

Not all women, just one in particular.

“What gave you that odd idea?” I whispered. I took her right hand and gently nibbled on it, because her hands were as close to a weakness as she seemed to have. She enjoyed that for all of ten seconds, until that tangent she was on resurfaced in her conscious.

“All of those things that you said last night-“

“You seemed to pretty much enjoy them.”

“Those are not the things that a man with even an ounce of respect for women would say.”

To one woman in particular, yeah, he would, and I did.

“Those words were spontaneous. They were of the moment, in the moment and you didn’t say ‘no’ or tell me to stop. You didn’t push me away, quite the contrary.”

She smiled at me without a hint of happiness. I imagined that her smile was like a dolphin’s sonar except it wasn’t echoes that were to bounce back to her, but my thoughts. Those words weren’t “spontaneous” at all and they weren’t meant to be.

Those very same words were said to her in Spanish instead of my grunting and gasping English, or so a man told me a few months ago.

Two months ago in a motel room much like this one, she laid in bed with Domingo Zamora, a man that was almost the polar opposite of me, yet Domingo and I had something in common. I apprenticed under him and he taught me almost all of what I know now. I chauffeured for a friend of his and that friend said that I was both a good driver and trustworthy. So I eventually became Domingo’s go-to driver when he would hit jewel couriers, and after a few years I became the number one man in his crew.

He was double-crossed in a hotel room much like this one, by this very woman, and she couldn’t just be content with keeping the entire haul for herself. She killed him in a particularly gruesome and painful manner that no one deserved, much less Domingo.

The lights from a plane taking off from Midway Airport shot through the curtains and lit her smile. That too-bright smile was fading into a snarl and I had to throw her off the trail, because she was adding things up a little too fast.

“You’ve got me wrong. I love women and everything about them. What I do hate is the way some men have tainted them. Rare is the woman that hasn’t been wronged or tarnished by some screwed-up asshole that couldn’t get a date in high school, and he spends the rest of his life taking it out on every woman that can’t quite see past his lies.”

With my lips, I moved up her hands and her arms to her slender shoulders. Her smile returned with just a touch of wariness. She was more concerned about her pleasure. She grabbed my head and we kissed. Ugh, her tongue running across my teeth seemed to me to be more of a brain probe than passion-related.

This heist came together by accident, and it had more to do with the right people vouching for each of us. Those of us that rob jewel couriers are a small and efficient group. We keep to ourselves. If Domingo mentioned me during their pillow talk, I believe that she would’ve done away with me right after the job. It’s happened to me before. I’ve been both lucky and smart in that during my first job that I was lead that my partner for that particular job didn’t kill me. For the second job? I figured everything out before a pair of brothers could double-cross me.

We pulled this job off without a hitch, and the energy seemed to carry over into us pulling off each other’s clothes yesterday afternoon. While she was in the shower, I planned out, texted a message and set everything up in just under two minutes. Now came the hardest part, breaking this off while the rest of my body told my mind that it was crazy for wanting to stop-

“Um, wait.”

The look on her face said that she’s never heard that one at this stage, before. I pretended to look through my pockets.

“I’m out of condoms. Do you have any?”

I already knew her answer before she said no, as I had checked.

“I’m going to get some.”

She grabbed my shoulder before I could get my boxers on and said “we could do other things.”

I smiled and said, “why do other things, when we can do the real thing? I’ll be right back.”

I put my clothes on and she pulled a gun out from under her pillow. She beckoned me over and she searched my pockets. She unzipped my pants and pulled them and my boxers down. She looked me over and bit her lip.

“Whoa, hold on! You’re not looking back there-“

“You didn’t have enough time to put anything back there,” she grinned, “but if you want me to look.”

“No.”

She looked down at my feet and grimaced. “Put your shoes and socks up here…slowly.”

I picked them up…gently and I put them down…just as gently, as if they were made of unstable nitro-glycerin. She searched them with the fingers of her free hand, while her eyes stayed on me.

“No jewels” I told her as she passed my shoes back to me. “I wouldn’t rip you off, I trust you.”

My last three words stung her like a slap to the face. I guessed that she never trusted anyone in her life, nor had she given anyone a good reason to trust her. I put the money that she pulled out back in my pocket and winked at her.

“I’m just going to the store on the corner; I’ll be back in a few.”

Just as I got to the door, she blurted “what makes you think that either I or the jewels will still be here when you get back?”

I nodded at her and, “like I said...I trust you,” came out of my mouth.

I winked at her again as I closed the door, and she had that vacant smile again with a single tear to accompany it. Was it a crocodile tear? Look, Domingo couldn’t read her and like I said, he taught me almost everything I know. You figure that he was on this Earth almost twice as long as I was, and when a fifty-seven-year-old veteran criminal gets played like a twelve-year-old that hasn’t done a minute in juvenile hall, you know that you are out of your league.

I feigned an elbow to the door and that was the signal. I went down the stairs and by the time I crossed the small parking lot, there they were, Begley and Boyle. Two cops that didn’t even trust themselves, let alone me. Yet I didn’t have to trust them at all, Cryptic did. He was a debt collector and he owned them, lock, stock and barrel, and no one was dumb enough to screw him over.

They were both police detectives and Begley used to be skinny, while Boyle was fat. They got tired of the obvious comparisons to Laurel and Hardy, so they both decided to lift weights. Begley got buffed up to ridiculous proportions while Boyle gave up after about a week’s worth of workouts. So now they were called “The Incredible Hulk and Hardy,” which didn’t have the same ring to it, though everyone called them that because it endlessly pissed them off.

I always had to work hard to hide that queasy feeling I got when I was around them. You should always be wary around thin-skinned people with guns and badges. I wiped my fingerprints off of the motel room key, handed it to Begley and walked past them.

Before they got too far, I said in a low voice “there are three rubbers that shouldn’t be in the garbage when all is said and done.”

Boyle hissed, “are you fucking kidding me?”

“What? I couldn’t have removed them without looking suspicious.”

“Well, I’m certainly not gonna-“

Begley shut Boyle up with a gesture and they went for the stairs. I chose this motel off of South Archer for a reason. The sound and lights from the Midway air traffic would help them out and they were going to need all the help that they could get.

I admired Begley. His eyes were on the curtains of the room, the whole time, and that was the kind of focus that would’ve made him an excellent stick-up man. I also figured it was just that that kind of focus was why, despite their shortcomings, those two assholes were still alive.

I pretended to go around the corner as they took the safeties off of their guns. I was as careful as I could’ve been with my fingerprints while I was in the room, and despite what the TV and movies tell you, it’s nearly impossible to find good latent prints in a motel room with so many travelers and maids going through it. I usually don’t like to stick around for anything, but I found myself lurking around the corner like a teen voyeur drunk on hormones.

Boyle crawled just under the window of Room 208 and Begley walked right past the door. He doubled back and slowly put the key in the door, and then four bullets tore through the wood from the inside. Boyle crawled forward and Begley quickly opened the door and blindly returned fire. He ducked low, peeked in and fired twice more, before he charged in. The lights went out or were shot out.

From my angle at the edge of the parking lot, I couldn’t tell what happened next, but I was amazed that a few pistols could hold that many rounds. The room looked almost like a disco gone amok; the flash from the gunfire was like a strobe effect. I decided to cut out at this point instead of waiting for the outcome. People would be looking out of their rooms and apartments right now and I didn’t want to become a “person of interest” if those two didn’t succeed.

The next eleven hours were excruciating. I couldn’t figure out if there was some kind of media blackout when the morning papers, the TV and the radio failed to mention anything about the shoot-out. I went across the Illinois-Indiana border to Gary to lay low, and finally on the five o’clock news, they said there was a shooting…with more details to come at six.

Finally at six, they mentioned two robbery detectives had stumbled onto a drug ring at a motel room and a shoot-out ensued. Begley was wounded and was in stable condition at the hospital. They didn’t mention Boyle by name, though apparently nothing happened to him other than the usual paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the shooting.

Of course you can guess that there were no drugs on me or her in the motel room. The agreement was that Begley and Boyle’s payment was to be the jewels, and they were to plant heroin in the precious stones’ place.

Finally, they talked about Claire Chambers, which I didn’t realize was her real name. She did a stint for attempted murder and another one for grand theft larceny. Domingo’s ghost could finally rest in peace, but I knew that I would now be haunted by a spirit that would be less forgiving than his and one that couldn’t be silenced by any other act of revenge, other than my death.


The End

6 comments:

John Donald Carlucci said...

Good work. You sure have a lot of stories for a guy without a lot of stories.

Gratz on the writing - keep going.

JDC

Valerie said...

That sure was an attention grabber. Loved it. I wish I could write that well.

Freida Bee, MD said...

I really like this one. You paint a full picture very succinctly, only hinting at the details that linger in the mind.

Cormac Brown said...

Editor JDC,

I have a portfolio just as you have a have portfolio, but mine doesn't have art.

Valerie,

Thank you and work at it, it's never too late. If anything, it's easier to articulate things as you get older and I prefer my writing as I age.

Freida,

Thank you, Miss Bee, you're too kind.

Paul Brazill said...

Tight stuff that,

Cormac Brown said...

Paulie Decibels,

Ta much, Sir Decibels DeHartlepool.