THE Job 3
I had slipped into reverie when I heard that the job would be, "down there", which everyone in the life knew where that was shorthand for. Maybe I would drive the extra miles afterwards and see her. We would have to split up lay low and it might hedge my bets of not getting caught, one less steely eyed gringo trying to melt back over the border after the bubbling up of trouble. Ana, all the fights, broken promises, it would have melted away in the sun which bakes all the motion out everything down here except seemingly the flies and those who loose their cool and run to get out. It would take little enough effort to find out where she ended up. I would not even have to worry about being too subtle in my inquiries as common sense dictated someone who had just done a job would not be calling the slightest attention to themselves by asking around about anything. Half of the crew was young, out to make their bones but not patient enough to do it in the right way. We met in a garage that was used for both cars and small planes that would buzz mosquito like over the baked landscape, which was oven like despite its size, even the shadows were set at a slow simmer. I had two other direct peers who, as Ricardo paced back and forth toy wound too tight, not paying enough attention to the plans, gave me a look that told me they thought the hex was on and something bad was going to happen. The driver was the nephew of a pal from the old days whose ticket was punched not by the lifestyle but a botched surgery, he was young but versed in the ways and so would be ok.
"You are a long way from Dublin Joyce."
He was glad to see a familiar face and although he did not say it, as we shook hands I picked up on his counting on me to get us through this in one piece, the defacto leader as Ricardo seemed more interested in posturing, acting scenes from what the movies told him was hard.
There would now be two meetings, this pantomime of one used to placate Ricardo and then back in my hotel room which I would have to make sure was clean before hand, not too hard to do as it was basically a broom closet, the real one where we went over a "B" plan for when Ricardo made things turn sideways. I shaved and quickly did up a few hand drawn copies of a map to give out with the points of interest, escape, hospital and hotel with even smaller, hotter rooms but where they did not ask questions so long as you paid up front in cash. They all crowded in bumping shins on my bed's corners. Half of me had the urge to tell everyone that this was not going to work, we should all split but that would bring on a whole new set of problems. I think perhaps Ricardo just wanted to let the mad dog loose and did not care if it were on a job or to hunt down someone who he thought had betrayed him. He could do what ever he wanted and would not face censure as he could claim it had been a case of bread off of his table, A matter of semantics but he would be half right. I bit down the urge and fast, everyone was edgy and looking to me. "The thing is, not about not getting caught, it is about not getting caught down here. " I took that worry off their minds by letting them imagine it was already a foregone conclusion,the stripping away of extraneous thoughts and worries it allowed for better concentration. I looked around, almost everyone was here except of course Ricardo, his cousin and his friend. I did not feel obligated to save their asses as either of them could have at any point tried to help adjust Riccardo's attitude and make my leadership unnecessary.
We all had to put on masks which was not his worst idea but i noticed he only wore a bandana hooked over his nose and covering his mouth. Our masks were all animals, sad mascots from imaginary teams. Joyce asked why he too did not have to wear one. With a wink he said that down here everyone looked alike and he could easily blend in unlike us. The sweat was stinging my eyes the smell of something plastic burning, muffled voices yelling "Go-go-go" as we jumped out at the curb, poor Joyce a drunk looking raccoon with a painted on crooked smile. From the get go Ricardo came in heavy which was not necessary as the only people in the place was an old guard a few years past retirement, the owner's wife and two woman looking at bracelets as a way to kill their lunch break. Ricardo smacked the guard with the nozzle of his gun which was long and square. He went down with a moan, someone opening a birthday gift in front of everyone at a party only to discover it is not what they wanted. The woman behind the counter was emptying the blue velvet trays as fast as she could into into what looked like one of the hotels stained white pillow cases. When she was done Ricardo made a "Tch-Tch" noise and the woman's eyes went wide, I was sure he was going to shoot her. I had been next to him scoping out if there were any hidden cameras. I kept hitting counter edges due to my bunny heads poor periphery vision. I squeezed his shoulder the way a father might. He winced but did not fire. Right before we left though he did take pains to complicate things by shooting out each of the glass display cases. Back at the garage, a piece of plywood stretched over an upturned oil barrel, everything is dumped out. All the guns are put on the table forming a sort of violent border frame to the sparkling mosaic. Only then does Ricardo punch me in the face. I knew no one agreed with him on this not even his cousin but I just took it as i was hours away by my calculation from ceviche and ocean breezes.
"You do not interfere with how I do a job,,,,,"
"If you had shot somebody you would have forced the police's hand, no one would get in or out and us killing time waiting eventually a desk clerk or bartender would be tempted by the reward or to make things easier for a retaliative already on ice and turn snitch. As it is had you not shot up the place we could have had a nice head start of a few hours. He went to punch me again and this one I decided I would not take when his cousin stepped forward, he looked nervous, he opened and closed his mouth several times without saying anything, fish out of water taken off hook. Ricardo forgot about further fighting as he had enough dumb animal instinct to worry about what his cousin may report back to his father. The stuff was dropped off as agreed upon, two parties, four witnesses made up of Ricardo and his cousin, Joyce and I so that no one could abscond later claiming it had all been delivered.
A roll equal to half the takes value minus various fees was given to us, the rest to come after the fencing a few weeks from now. I stopped by the hotel to grab my bag, as a joke or maybe a "fuck you" Ricardo had picked the lock and left the rabbit head on my bed for anyone to see. I jammed it into my bag.
Back at the garage we did the split.
I shook hands with everyone including Ricardo and his people. I was just glad it was over with no one being shot or pinched even if my nose was throbbing.
I told Joyce not to take anymore south of the border jobs as all the old timers were dying off or retiring. In their own ways the jails down here are as bad as those in Russia minus the chess games in-between the torture.
I hopped on a bus as to avoid calling attention to myself by renting a car. The bus lurched across the expanse of highway in surprisingly short amount of time. I think maybe I had been lulled to sleep by the slow parade of cactus and hypnotic circling of vultures.
In the next town I felt it ok to grab a coffee and rent a car. I also put out feelers to a few old local contacts to see if I could get a lead on where she may have landed. I told them I was on the road and would touch base tomorrow. Giving them that time frame would allow them to get things done but it also hinted that I was still in California in case word of the job leaked out. I drove most of the day, singing to myself as the radio offered up none of its songs.
Everything which took concentration and nerve over with I slept straight though to the morning, the bunny head having been pulled out of my bag for me to get my dop kit sat on the bureau next to the snowy television. a perverse hunting trophy.
The next day I made some calls. They had found her easily enough. I could tell Pepe wanted to ask what I was going to do but dare not as it was against his professional code;
"Just to say hello."
"Ok boss, well let me know if there is anything else you need."
"Vio con huevos" I sad, we both laughed despite how old the joke between us had become.
The town was a few hours away. It was nice enough to bring in tourists and some of the boho's who wanted to live on the cheap, bad enough that she could find some kind of work.
I parked my car and found a clean room off of the main strip as to be able to sleep without the raucous noise of tourists excited ot have briefly escaped their everyday lives keeping me up.
She would be at the second best bar as the best would have too much security and a cut of all money made would always have to go to the boss.
I slid in sideways and took a seat at the far corner of the bar. I ordered two drinks, one for my thirst one for old time's sake. Noise coming from a booth, i looked sideways without seeming to do so. There she was in a booth surrounded by tourists, all male and fresh faced from the suburbs. She was making her bread by letting whom ever ponied up the money take photos of her feet which were now intricately tattooed as she skillfully lifted tiny scorpions out of a brandy snifter. I had seen enough.
I walked some of the back streets hoping to run into Ambrose Bierce . I had dust from the road on my shoes, i stopped at a shine stand.
I sat on the cracked green leather chair putting my feet on the dulled pedals.
"A shine and a wax Senor Bunny?"
- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2013