By Conan Purves 12/12/1997
"When the guy with the checked shirt came back out of the trailer, Parker hit him in the leg with the crowbar." Stan Devers paused in his narrative and looked over Frank's shoulder. A guard was coming towards the table they were seated at. "Paulson, you've got a visitor," said the guard as Frank swiveled around in his orange jumpsuit.
Devers got up from the table and followed the guard out of the recreation room. The recreation room was actually a large permanent tent, dirty white canvas stretched over metal poles. It was about 50 feet square and the men were allowed to come in here between work shifts. There was a television, a large coffee urn, and lots of aluminum tables and chairs. One corner was a designated weight area, where Stan had spent most of his free time in the last eight months.
The visiting area was another, smaller canopy enclosed by a chain-link fence To get to it, you had to go through a locked gate in the higher fence that surrounded the whole compound. Two guards stood on either side of the gate, dressed in khaki with trooper hats, mirrored sunglasses and shotguns slung over their shoulders. One of them opened the gate and Devers and the escorting guard walked through.
As he went along the dusty path to the tent, Devers tried to keep his mind blank. He only had another month to go, but he definitely needed work. Otherwise, he would be walking out of this prison with the $56 he had come in with. He had thirty grand in cash sitting in a safe deposit box in New Orleans, but he wouldn't be able to go back there for at least another year.
Inside the canopy, there were eight tables, like the ones in the recreation area, only situated more symmetrically in two rows of four. About half of them were filled. At one, facing him, sat a young chicano with neatly cut hair. He wore a blue pin-striped workshirt with the name "Will" in red cursive on a white decal over his right breast. On his left breast was a company logo that read "Natural Springs Mineral Water." His was the only table with one person on it. He made eye contact with Stan and gave a very small nod. Stan went over to him with a smile on his face and his hand out. The mexican stood up and shook Stan's hand saying, "Jim, it's good to see you."
They both sat down at the table. In a much softer voice than previously, the mexican said, "My name is Will Sanchez. I was looking for someone with some very high-end carpentry skills. Everyone in Phoenix is booked solid. I asked a contractor friend and he gave me Handy McKay's name. He told me you were getting out soon and looking for work. We're putting together a 25 hundred square foot addition in a resort hotel."
"How many people would be working on it?"
"Oh, it would just be you and me. It looks to be a fairly easy job for two people. It will probably take us a couple of weeks altogether."
Stan sat back in his chair and looked Will over. He seemed calm and confident. It also looked like he had a legitimate job, which would help Stan's cover when he got out.
"Well, Will, I do need the work. Why don't I give you a call when I get out?" Stan stood up.
Will reached into his breast pocket, behind a pen and a tire gauge and pulled out a scrap of paper folded in half. He stood up and handed it to Stan, "That's my sister's place in Tempe." They shook hands. Will headed towards the exit behind him and Stan walked back to the guard.
If this gig proved to be solid, it would be excellent timing. Stan had had to leave New Orleans in a hurry. He knew before that job that the stakes were high so he had grown a beard and let his curly blonde hair grow long and died it brown. He had also gone on a diet and lost a lot of weight. When he had hit the bank he looked like a skinny hippy. Even before he left New Orleans, he had started doing push-ups again and eating as much as possible. He also shaved his head and face. On the bus out, two weeks after the heist, he looked like a young army recruit.
In Tucson, he got caught with his hand in a drunk's jacket pocket in the bathroom stall of a country & western bar. The guy tried to hit him with his beer bottle and Stan, generally annoyed about the way things seemed to be going, had beaten him up pretty badly. The judge summarily sentenced him— under the alias of Jim Paulson— to a year's stint for assault. The next eight months were spent picking garbage off the highway in an orange jumpsuit, lifting weights and talking shop with Frank. He had gained about 15 pound of muscle.
At the time he didn't think too much about what was happening to him. He just let it happen. In retrospect, the jail stint had been a good thing. He had no expenses and could lay very low while the heat died down in Louisiana. Twelve and a half grand, minus expenses, would be just enough for Stan to get on the road and get situated again. He walked back into the recreation room to finish the story he was telling Frank.
* * *
Devers got off the bus. The wide street was quiet and hot. Halfway down the block, on the other side, a group of kids were standing around, leaning against their bikes. Stan could tell they were watching him. The houses here were low and dilapidated, with dried out lawns and lots of space between them. Cars were parked sporadically on the street. Some looked like they never left. He walked away from the group of kids, onto a larger street with occasional traffic. After four blocks, he turned right onto Palo Verde St. and stopped at the fifth house. There was a Natural Spring delivery van parked in the driveway and a dry green Duster in front of it. The front door was open, but the screen door was closed. Stan rang the bell. Will came to the door in the same uniform he had been wearing in the visitor's room at the prison. He had a beer in his hand.
"Come on in," he said. He turned around and Stan followed him into a little coat room and then the kitchen. The kitchen was neat but cluttered, with lots of decorations on the walls and counters. There were two large pots simmering on the stove, with good smells coming from that direction. Will was opening the refrigerator. "Beer?" he asked. Stan said yes and took one. There were pictures drawn in crayon on the door of the fridge.
"My sister took the kids over to my aunt's. They make a lot of noise, but they'll be back in an hour for dinner." He motioned through the doorway to the living room. Stan could see bare male legs coming from a couch covered in plastic. "Let's go sit down." They walked into the living room. There was another couch, also covered in plastic. Stan took a seat in it and Will pulled up a rocking chair. The guy in the couch was in his late twenties, blonde and had tortoiseshell glasses. He looked like a student, but there was a seriousness to his expression that suggested some life experience.
"Jim, I want you to meet Brian."
Brian stood up and shook Stan's hand. "Pleased to meet you," he said. He was tall and fit, wearing tan shorts, sandals and a striped t-shirt.
"You can see why I had to go pick him up," said Will. "He's so white looking, he wouldn't have made it halfway down the block."
"It's a perennial problem," said Brian and sat back down again.
"Brian is a secretary in a major cosmetics firm." Will began, "He lives and works in New York City but is here with the company for a major conference in a resort in the Phoenix area. He used to work in a warehouse in Oakland with a cousin of a friend of mine. When he saw the opportunity before him, he got in touch with this cousin, who called my friend, who called me. I think it looks excellent, but he can explain it to you better."
Brian shifted in his seat and adjusted his glasses. "As Will said, I am a secretary, but in this age of downsizing and endless corporate greed, I have many more responsibilities. My department arranges all of the major events, conferences and meetings that a corporation such as mine uses to keep its sales force and management motivated and happy. This is a recognized field of business known as Events Planning." He seemed a little nervous. Stan thought he had probably mentally rehearsed this spiel many times in his head. "This event in Phoenix is one of the most important. It's where the sales force is introduced to the line of products sold in the fourth quarter, the holiday season. In the U.S., my company is divided into four regions. Each region has a separate conference which lasts three days."
Stan thought of how annoyed Parker would have been at this moment. These guys fingering the jobs always wanted to give you the full picture. All Parker needed was the when and how. Stan, however, enjoyed hearing the set-up. He liked to see how other people lived their lives, to see all the various little worlds that existed.
Brian continued, "Each conference is basically speeches by senior management, seminars on sales techniques and the products and a long musical in which all the new products are introduced."
"A musical!" laughed Will.
"It's a big production, " Brian responded, "The budget is huge. They use real broadway actors and singers and a whole production company. Anyways, what's significant to you is that the sales staff has a contest during the year to see who can sell the most amount of whatever. There are always contests like this going on. If an individual sells a certain number of these products, or makes a certain number of customers or whatever they get a reward at the fourth quarter conference. The contest changes every year and they don't call it a contest. They call it a challenge or incentive. This year they had to sell at least 1000 bottles of Cosmos, last year's major fragrance. Each winner, of which there are roughly 25 per region, receives $1,000 in cash on stage. I have a memo here which explains the distribution of the money." He reached into a backpack at his feet and brought out two sheets of paper, handing one to each of them.
Stan looked at the piece of paper. It was on company letterhead and was a letter from the Senior Vice President of finance to a bank in Phoenix. It explained that $101,800 was being wire transferred to that bank and that the funds should be paid out in cash in various increments on various dates. There was a chart with four dates corresponding with four sums of money, each roughly $25,000. It also authorized one John Shaugnessy to pick up the money on those dates.
"On the morning of the third day of each conference, John Shaugnessy, my boss— my boss's boss, actually— will go to the bank with a security guard from the hotel and pick up the cash. He brings it back and locks it up in the hotel safe until a little before one o'clock when they make the presentation. This will happen four times. The way I see it, you will only be able to hit him once, but you will have three opportunities to case out the situation and make the best plan."
"So where do you come in?" asked Stan.
"I'm not going to have anything to do with the actual job. I'm just giving you the information. I'm way too close to be involved."
"Yes, that makes sense," said Stan, "but what do you get out of it. What's your motivation, as it were?"
"I'm working on my third year with this company. It's a well-paying job and they treat me pretty decently. But I am sick of these people. I hate the way they work and think and I have since the first day I started working there. Always blathering about the stupidest things and getting upset about the most minor trivial incidents. I did this event last year and I saw how lax their security was. I figure it'll give me some minor job satisfaction to really get their knickers in a twist. Plus 10% off the top, which I believe is a reasonable finder's fee." He reached into his bag and pulled out a folder with the resort logo on it. "Here is a blueprint of the grounds. I've marked off all the relevant places, where Shaugnessy's car is parked, where he picks up the security guard, the exit to the bank, etc. Here is a photo of Shaugnessy and a picture I took of one of the security guards. Here also is a stamped and addressed envelope where my cut can be mailed if this is pulled off successfully."
Stan was impressed at the thorough job this guy had done. He was also a little concerned. With such a high level of interest, Stan had to be careful that this guy wasn't involved in the job beyond just fingering it. "You did a lot of work," he said.
"Hey, this stuff all goes through my fingers," Brian shrugged. "They make me make 20 copies of everything. It's almost as if they're asking me to prepare this info for anybody that needs it."
Devers sat in the white Cadillac with the windows rolled up and the air-conditioning on. It was creeping above 100Á again today. To his left across a parking lot was the back entrance to the Eastpointe. The hotel was shaped like a big V with a single tan building containing the main entrance, reception and all the meeting areas at the bottom of the V. Coming off to the east and west at about a forty-five degree angle were bridges and footpaths going to the two compounds with all the rooms. One was called Eastpointe and the other Westpointe. Each building was shaped like an eight, with five floors of rooms surrounding two swimming pools, one for adults and one for children. Behind each "pointe" was a utility area where all the employees worked from. There was parking behind all three sections of the hotel as well as under the bridges between the pointes and the main lobby.
From where Stan was parked he could see the small office abutting the gardener's shed that was the security headquarters. There was usually a man stationed on the radio there. Sometimes he would leave the office for short periods of time, often with a first aid kit. There were three eight-hour shifts and the security guards would change into their uniforms and punch in here. Because this was a resort and because the temperature was so high, the security guards wore a uniform of blue cotton shorts and a white polo shirt with the hotel logo on the breast and the words "security" on the left sleeve.
The door of the office opened and a security guard stepped out. He was short and heavy-set with short black hair. He had a walkie-talkie attached to his belt at the back and a pistol in a holster at his right side. According to the schedule Brian had supplied them, the four pickups would be made on a Thursday, Wednesday, Friday and then Thursday again. Today was the Thursday of the first pick-up. Brian had told them that there was no set schedule for the security guards going to the bank with Shaugnessy. Whoever was on duty would make the run. They had figured that with the varying days, Shaugnessy shouldn't be expecting the same guard each time.
The guard paused outside the door, put on a pair of wrap-around sport sunglasses, turned and walked to his left, past the gardener's tool shed. He turned left again, around the corner of the building so that he could no longer be seen from the office door. He walked for about 100 yards and stopped as a dark blue Lincoln pulled up beside him. This was the car Shaugnessy had rented. Stan could make out his sloping shoulders through the rear window. He couldn't be absolutely sure it was him, but Will would confirm it at the bank.
The security guard leaned over and said something into the driver's side window and then walked around and got into the front passenger seat. The car drove away from Stan and out of the parking lot.
A half an hour later, Stan watched as the Lincoln pulled back into the hotel parking lot. It went past the point where the guard had initially gotten in, turned right and drove by the guard's office. Stan could see Shaugnessy talking. He seemed relaxed. The Lincoln parked in a space behind the main building. The security guard got out. Stan saw him unfasten the closure on his holster as he stood up. He walked around to the driver's side and opened the door. Shaugnessy stepped out with a black valise, which looked vinyl, but from this distance Stan couldn't be sure. The two walked side by side and entered the hotel. Stan checked the time, put the car into gear and drove out of the parking lot.
* * *
It was the Thursday of the fourth and final pickup. The security guard had just come around the corner, past the gardener's shed. As he passed the white delivery van idling on his right, the driver leaned out the window and said, "Hey buddy, where's the delivery entrance?"
The guard turned to face the car and Devers came from the bushes behind him and hit him over the head. Will was already moving to the back of the van, sliding open the side door. Devers pushed the guard's limp body into the van, and jumped in himself. Will slid the door shut. Devers was wearing blue shorts and a thin runner's tank top. He pulled the polo shirt off the guard and put it on over the tank top. He undid the guard's belt. The vinyl holster and the walkie talkie slid off and Stan attached them to his own belt. He reached into a small cardboard box and pulled out a pair of mirrored wrap-around sunglasses and a dark blue baseball cap and put them both on. Will was tying strips of cloth around the wrists and ankles of the guard. Devers opened the rear door and jumped out. As he stepped up on the curb, the van drove away.
Stan walked down the sidewalk and stopped at the corner. The guard had come out of the office a little earlier than the others, so Stan assumed he might have to wait a bit for Shaugnessy to come around. Getting the guard out of the way was the riskiest part of this job. They were relying on the chance that nobody would come around. The other three times the area had been deserted when Shaugnessy and the guard had met. It was right after lunch and the hottest point of the day, but they were still in the middle of a very busy resort in broad daylight. Everything, however, had gone smoothly.
After a couple minutes, the Lincoln pulled up. The driver's side window rolled down. Stan leaned over but kept his head above the level of the car, "Mr. Shaugnessy, right?"
Shaugnessy said, "Call me John." He stuck out his hand. Stan shook it. "I'm Bob. Pleased to meet you."
He walked around the front of the car and got into the passenger seat. The black vinyl bag was on the floor. Stan picked it up and put it on his lap. Shaugnessy was young, but fast approaching middle age. He had thin light-brown hair and a mustache. The flesh on his face was drooping, his cheeks showed the beginnings of jowls. He was wearing a green patterned golf shirt. A medium paunch showed above his dark blue slacks. He turned to face Stan and said, "Last run. So far so good." He put the car into drive and Stan put on his seat belt.
"So how do you like the weather out here, John?" asked Stan.
"I had to get up at 6:00 this morning so I could play all 18 holes before it got too hot." replied Shaugnessy.
"Nice golf course." said Stan.
"It's short but it's nice. I was aiming for a 76 but I fell apart on the last two holes. Jeez."
They exited the hotel property and drove in silence for a few minutes. Halfway up the hill— the bank was just over the top— Shaugnessy said, "How come your radio's so quiet?"
Stan looked patted his walkie-talkie, "I turn it off on these kinds of runs. Too much squawking."
Shaugnessy chuckled. "Oh," he said.
They pulled into the bank parking lot. After handing the bag to Shaugnessy, Stan got out first and opened the car door for him. Stan held the bank door for him also. He went into the bank with Shaugnessy but stood to the left of the door instead of following him to the teller's desk. There was one camera pointing at the door and three others pointing towards the tellers. Standing to the left of the door, near the small table with deposit slips, Stan kept the brim low and his head down. At the worst, he would be in the far right of the camera picture.
Stan watched Shaugnessy receive the money. He counted it, put it all into a manila envelope provided by the bank and put that into the main pocket of his bag and zippered it shut. He said some final words to the teller, waved to the manager and turned around towards the door. Stan was already there, holding it open for him. As he walked through the doorway, Shaugnessy turned to Stan with a comically furtive look on his face and said, "I got the stuff."
Stan gave a small laugh and followed him out onto the bright concrete. They got into the car. Shaugnessy passed the bag over to Stan, who put it under his legs on the floor. They pulled out of the bank parking lot and drove along the road that led to the hill. Stan saw the white van pull out behind them. As they came to the intersection, the light turned red. Shaugnessy stopped the car with the left hand turn signal on. They waited in silence. From the hill you could see the entire grounds of the hotel, as well as the red brown mountains on the outskirts of Phoenix.
As the traffic on the hill slowed for the yellow light, Shaugnessy moved his hand to the drive shift to pull the car out of park. The back door opened up. Stan turned around in his seat, his hand unsnapping the holster. A muscular guy with a buzzcut and small sports bag in his right hand got into the back seat. He wore the white polo shirt of the hotel security staff. Transferring the bag from his right hand to his left, he shut the back door then reached into the bag, pulling out an automatic. "Right on time," he said and then motioning the gun to Shaugnessy, whose mouth was hanging open as he looked in the rear view mirror, "Let's go Mr. Shaugnessy— make that left turn now." He then turned smiling to Stan, but his smile fell when he saw his face. "Who the fuck are you?" he said. Which is exactly what Stan was thinking.
After climbing into the passenger seat of the van and putting on the seatbelt, Brian found himself to be quite hungry. He hadn't been able to eat much that morning, due to butterflies. He wasn't actually nervous about the meeting with Will and his partner. Well, he probably was unconcsciously, but it was his need to sneak out of the office for a couple of hours that was making him a little nauseous. He would probably be gone for no more than the equivalent of an extended lunch, but there was always this culture of guilt and wariness when he was on-site with his department. The other women liked him, but they kept a concerned eye on his comings or going, so they could question him about it later. It bothered them when someone else wasn't working while they were, or at least pretending to work. There also was the off chance that one of his sixty bosses might catch him just before he had to leave and give him something stupid to do. In his capacity as secretary, he was also supposed to assist any members of the company's senior management. The accepted term was "support." But now that the meeting was over and he'd made it off the hotel grounds unaccosted, his appetite had returned.
He saw Will come out of the front door. After Jim had left, Will's mother and sister had returned home with a baby boy, and two girls. They were shy at first, but ended up racing around the couch Brian was sitting on, while the baby sat next to him and stared at him. Will's sister was young and very attractive. Suddenly, Brian remembered the food cooking on the stove. If Will had been at the end of his shift, Brian probably could have scored a dinner of those beans and whatever else had been cooking. They had smelled delicious and Brian was sure the sister would have been happy to feed him. Unfortunately it was only two-ish and Brian would be eating shitty hotel food or shitty fast food for lunch.
Brian was reaching the end of his second year with the company. He had started as a temporary secretary and had done a good job, so they hired him permanently after about a month. The pay was very good, as were the perks. He got lots of free lunches and met a lot of people, many of whom were possible future employment connections. He also learned a lot about working in a big company. Overall, though, his job had been a constant struggle with himself as to whether or not he should quit.
He kept telling himself that a certain point had been reached where he could go on working there no longer. Then he would get swept up in the work and find some satisfaction in a completed project and kudos for himself. He was definitely gaining an excellent reputation. He had received two promotions already and was constantly getting minor accolades and awards from his bosses. The problem was— and he had recognized this since the first couple of weeks— the incredible inefficiency and emotional weakness of the people around him. His co-workers did not seem to be able to separate their life from their work. And yet at the same time, most of them didn't do very good work.
A lot of his time at work was spent listening and watching his co-workers waste time. Often, they just weren't doing their work. They talked on the phone, or gossiped with each other. Honest avoidance of work, Brian didn't mind so much, it was just the mundanity and triviality with which they replaced it. It made him exhausted to think of the hours spent listening to some woman yammer about her wedding plans— the more she talked about it, the more obvious it became that the guy she was going to marry was a jerk. Or the woman across the hall who would shut her door and talk for hours about some alleged boyfriend in England. Also particularily grating to Brian was Shaugnessy. He was a nice guy, but had nothing to say and always wanted to say it to Brian. Their brief and forced exchanges about sports or the weekend always left him non-plussed and a bit tense. He always wondered what expression he had on his face when talking to Shaugnessy.
Doing work, though, was far worse than not doing it. Here was where the real vacuity of these people's souls came through. They couldn't seem to be able to simply do a job. They always talked way too much about the work that had to be done, particularily concerning the relative status of everyone involved. Brian wondered about Jim Paulson. He was not much older than Brian himself. He seemed relaxed, easygoing. As a career criminal, he seemed to be enjoying himself almost too much for his own good. Will Sanchez was also relaxed, but had a more serious air about him. He had a real job and seemed to support his sister and her family.
But when he thought about it, Brian thought that Paulson should be happy. He had a great job. Where Brian was running around supporting these weak, whining idiots, guys like Paulson and Sanchez were coming in and deliberately fucking with them. Throwing a cold and hard dose of reality in their faces. And that's really what Brian wanted when he began to set this job up. The money was just a bonus. He needed it and it would be welcome, but it was just icing.
They were a couple of blocks outside the hotel. Brian said, "This is fine. Pull over right here and I'll walk the rest of the way."
Sanchez pulled the van over to the curb. He stuck his hand out, "Nice to meet you," he said.
"Yeah, good luck." Brian jumped out of the van and turned toward the hotel. The hunger in his stomach had turned into a tight little ball of excited energy. It wasn't like the butterflies, though. It felt good.
Ignoring the flashing message light on his phone, John Shaughnessy stumbled purposefully towards the mini bar in his room. He had just come back from a dinner with his people. They had knocked off the second conference and things had gone very well. Tomorrow was a dark day. The third group of managers wasn't going to arrive for three more days, so everybody got a day off. Really, everyday was almost a dark day for Shaugnessy. His main role here, aside from various meetings with other senior management, was to stand on stage and announce the next speaker. He liked to think that he also played a valuable role maintaining a political equilibrium between his people, his bosses in the home office and the field management. But basically he spent a lot of time in the pool and on the golf course.
This was not the case with the people that worked under him. They worked very hard during the conference. Today, for instance, they had overseen 350 people checking out of their hotel rooms and getting on buses to the airports and train stations. At best, this was controlled chaos. Shaugnessy recognized this, but he felt he did his job best by staying out of the way. Besides, he couldn't stand being around some of his people when they were under stress. Yeah, they got the job done, but the amount of unneccessary drama that went on while they did it annoyed the shit out of him.
Anyways, at this point, Shaugnessy didn't give a shit about any of that. He had already had plenty to drink at dinner. He was going to get another drink and bring it down to the jacuzzi. Hopefully, there'd be some of that ass that was at the pool this afternoon down there. Shaugnessy was a married man and faithful and he really didn't spend much time thinking about pussy. But when there was a lot of it around him, a constant reminder as it were, he couldn't stop thinking about it. He grabbed two green bottles of Canadian Club then went and got his towel and trunks.
Ten minutes later, Shaugnessy was seated against the side of the jacuzzi, plastic glass in hand, whirlpool on and all alone. This is just fucking great, he thought, why couldn't some really stacked broad come down in a bikini. He was ready to talk to anybody. He sat and brooded for a bit, until he heard the gate to the pool area open and close. A young heavyset guy with a sunburned gut came over to the jacuzzi, a towel around his neck.
"Where the hell are the babes?" Shaugnessy said to him.
"You tell me," the guy said, jumping into the jacuzzi. "Oh shit that's hot. I fell asleep on the deck chair in my backyard yesterday."
"You live around here?" Shaugnessy asked.
"Yeah. I work here. I'm on security."
"No shit," said Shaugnessy. "Maybe we'll be working on a top secret assignment together." The security guard looked at him. Shaugnessy couldn't tell if the expression was dumbfounded or just vacant. Okay, he thought, we got ourselves a sharp one here. "I'm with the conference, for our fourth quarter convention. We took over the whole property."
"Oooh," said the security guard, understanding brightening his face.
"I'm John," said Shaugnessy.
The other guy reached across the jacuzzi. "I'm Dave, Dave Bowens."
They shook hands. Shaugnessy reached behind him and crabbed the other bottle of CC. "I've got another of these mini-bar bottles, but no glass. Help yourself if you want it."
"Hey, who needs a glass," said Bowens.
"Fuck the glass," said Shaugnessy. They both laughed.
Bowens unscrewed the little plastic cap and took a swig. "So what's the top secret assignment?"
"Well, I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," Shaugnessy replied. That was actually the third time that day that Shaugnessy had said that. He still thought it was funny and assumed that everyone else did. "Actually, we have a cash incentive at this event. Our managers win a thousand dollars if they achieve certain sales levels. I have to go pick the cash up from the bank for each conference. And you guys have to escort me."
"Oh yeah," said Bowens. "One of the guys was talking about that at the security office."
"Yeah, I've done it twice now. I've got two more runs to go before we're all done. It's been a different one of you guys every time. I guess it depends on the shift."
"Hey, maybe we'll be working together." Bowens leaned his head back and emptied the bottle of whiskey into his mouth. He leaned forward again, "How much money is it, anyways?"
"Well, I could tell you, " Shaugnessy said. "But then I'd really have to kill you."
Bowens got out of his pickup truck and walked up to the back stairs of his building. He lived in a beige stucco, two story apartment buiding about twenty minutes away from the Pointe. The building had a walkway going all the way around the front and back on both floors. The second floor walkway had black iron railings. It looked like a motel. He had lived there for about a year now. He had a couch left over from when he lived with his girlfriend and a big tv. He mostly kept cans of bud in the fridge. He got one now and sat down on the couch with it. He stared at the blank tv for a second and then reached over for the phone.
"Buster. It's Dave."
There was a pause.
"Remember that thing we were talking about. Yeah, well — yeah. Why don't you come over and we'll talk about it."
He hung up the phone, opened his beer and stared at the TV. Bowens didn't have much going on in his life. He still hung out with some of his high school buddies. They watched sports and got drunk together. He'd had a girlfriend when he was landscaping, but since she left he hadn't had much luck in that area. He wasn't much of a criminal, only stupid stuff when he was younger. But he felt strongly now that he needed a little more spending money if he ever was going to have a chance at women in the future. That's what Buster was always telling him anyways.
He'd met Buster at the hotel. They had worked together in security, but Buster got fired after being found in one of the guest's rooms. He'd used his master key to get in and one of the sales management had happened to see him go in and confronted him. He hadn't actually taken anything, so the hotel didn't press charges. Since then, he and Bowens stayed friends. Bowens found out that he had done some time, once for selling steroids and another time for injuring some guy. Buster had never told him the details, but Bowens thought it was something to do with drugs again.
About twenty minutes later, the door opened and Buster Els walked in. He was wearing a sweatshirt inside out with the sleeves cut out and loose cotton pants with a tiger stripe pattern in the color of some pro football team. Around his waist he had a fanny pack. He was obviously a weightlifter.
Bowens said, "beer?"
Els raised his left hand, which was holding a bottle of colored electrolyte drink. "I just worked out. I'm rehydrating." He took off the fanny pack, dropped it on the coffee table and sat next to Bowens on the couch. "So, you finally got something for me."
"I don't know. It looks like the kind of thing you were talking about," said Bowens.
"So tell me about it."
"Well, they got this convention going on at the hotel. Some of the people who attend win money— cash— and I met the guy who goes to pick it up each time— "
"Each time?" Els interrupted.
"Yeah, there's actually four conferences going on, one after the other. This guy goes and gets the cash for each one. He's already done two, but there are two more."
"How much cash is it?"
"I don't know, but it's got to be a lot because each person wins a thousand bucks and he said there are like four hundred people at each one."
"They all win a thousand bucks?"
"No, I don't think they all win." Bowens drank from his beer. "Only some of them, but I think it's a lot because it's a big security deal. That's why they don't pick it all up at once."
"So who was this guy, was he some kind of private security?"
"No. That's just it. He's an executive, some bigwig. We're the security."
"You mean the hotel."
"Yeah, he gets escorted by one of the hotel security for each run."
"So why didn't you know about this before?"
"I guess they were trying to keep it quiet. That's what this guy Shaugnessy said. It just depends who's on shift that day."
Els smiled. "He's not doing a good job of keeping it quiet."
"Yeah, well, I guess he thought he could tell me. He was also pretty loaded. He told me the days of the next two runs. I'm on shift for the last one."
"Did you tell him that?" Els leaned forward.
"No, I didn't know if I was or not. I went back after to the office and checked my schedule."
"You didn't say anything about you doing the run."
"He said, maybe we'll work together and all I said was yeah."
Buster put his hands behind his head and leaned back. He sat like that for a bit. His chest and triceps were pleasantly sore. Ever since he'd gotten the job at the hotel, he'd known the place was prime for something. He'd just jumped the gun. But this time it looked like Dave had actually come up with something. Dave wasn't the smartest guy in the world, but he had that kind of dumb, nasty instinct that Els had seen in so many of the other cons in the joint, the ones who'd gotten busted early in their careers. He probably wouldn't work with him after this job, but it meant that he could count on him to make a solid finger and do what had to be done during the job.
He figured it'd be at least twenty or thirty thousand and it could be a lot more. But, actually, not more than fifty or sixty or they'd have more security. "Yeah, Dave. This could work. I think we're gonna have to work on the details and get a little more information, but maybe we'll be able to get you a little extra cash in your pocket." He reached over and punched Bowens in the arm.
Like Devers, the guy who had gotten into the back of the car was wearing mirrored sunglasses. Devers couldn't see his eyes. He started to pull the pistol out from the holster. The guy in the back seat turned his gun towards Devers and said, "put your hands on the back of the seat, where I can see them." Devers had the pistol all the way out of the holster, but he dropped it and slowly raised his hands and lay them flat along the back of seat. He was twisted to face the newcomer. The seatbelt tugged at his right shoulder.
"Now keep them there," he said. "I don't know who the fuck you are, but you're not supposed to be on this run." Both men we're staring at each other with these opaque sunglasses, seeing only reflections of the other. Devers was picturing it in his head and it made him feel like laughing. He figured the other security guard had had a similar idea as theirs. He liked it when a plan went smoothly, but it was always when shit like this happened that he really enjoyed his job. He tried to imagine what was going through the head of the guy opposite him. Out of the corner of his right eye, he could see Shaugnessy's head keep looking over at them. The guy with the gun seemed to see it to. He didn't move the gun or his head, but he said, "Make the left turn, Mr. Shaugnessy and drive straight down the hill until I tell you to turn."
The light had turned green. Shaugnessy accelerated and made the turn. Two cars behind them, the van made the turn also. Devers was trying to think of what Sanchez was thinking. This too made him feel like laughing. He felt a tiny grin on the corner of his mouth and suppressed it. He saw a bead of sweat grow on the muscular guy's temple. It rolled under the arm of his sunglasses and down his cheek. The gun didn't move and his head didn't turn.
They drove down the hill. Devers could only see buildings after they had passed them, but he knew that they were coming into a newly built set of subdivisions. They were mostly empty. "Turn left here, Mr. Shaugnessy," the guy said.
They turned left. Two other cars zoomed by them on the main road and the white van turned in after them. "A white van followed us onto this road, " Devers said.
Again the guy with the gun didn't budge. "Why are you telling me that?" he said. "pass the next two streets and then take another left on the one after that, Mr. Shaugnessy." Devers could see the beige flat houses go away from him in an identical pattern on each side of the street. The sidewalks were clean and the street lights rose out of each corner.
They turned left. The van followed. Devers said, "The van is still with us."
"Shut the fuck up about the van!" the guy hollered. "Mr Shaugnessy, look in the rearview mirror and tell me if there is a white van behind us."
Shaugnessy sounded like he had a lump in his throat. "Um, yes, there is and it's really close to us."
The guy's head moved just slightly. What the hell, thought Devers, and shot his left hand out to the gun still pointed right at him. He caught the hand and moved his head to his left. The guy was strong and his arm didn't waver much. The gun went off and Stan heard Shaugnessy cry out low and quickly. The car lurched to Devers' right and he went to the left. He held on to the gun with his left hand, while his right went for his gun in the seat. He got it, jammed it into the back of the seat and pulled the trigger. There was a muffled report and the guy's arm weakened. Stan was exerting so much pressure on it, that it flung across the muscular guy's face pushing him down.
Suddenly the car stopped and Devers was slung backwards, his back hitting the dashboard. They hadn't been going very fast and the impact was minimal. Devers leaned over the back seat, where the guy was bent double and moaning, and swung the butt of the pistol hard against the back of his head. The guy slumped even more, relaxed and turned sideways his body coming out of the fetal position on the back seat. Devers grabbed the guy's face, making sure he was out and then took his gun. He righted himself in his seat and looked around.
They had come to the end of a cul-de-sac. Shaugnessy was slumped over the wheel with a hole in the back of his head. The car had run into the curb and was sitting in front of an empty house. Other almost identical houses spread out around him. Soon, families would come and live here. Devers was glad they weren't here yet.
He unlatched his safety belt, took the satchel off the floor and got out of the car. Sanchez was already walking towards him. Devers took of his hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Okay," he said. "I think someone else had a plan."
Sanchez stopped and looked at Devers. "These people and their big ideas."
"Shaugnessy's dead and the other one is on his way." Devers jogged over to the back of the van, opened and got in. He threw the black bag onto the front passenger seat. The security guard was still out. Devers untied his hands. Sanchez came around and started to untie his feet. They put his shirt and utility belt back on. Sanchez got his legs and Devers his arms and they carried him out of the van. As they were putting him in the front seat of the car, Devers looked around and said, "this is what you call broad daylight."
He had one of the strips of cloth used to tie the guard and he wiped down the front seat of the car with it. Sanchez went to the front of the van, opened up the valise and pulled out the padded envelope of cash. He pulled the ashtray out and down and it came right out of its socket. He had fashioned a cubby hole in there, in the space underneath the dash and he stuffed the envelope inside, replacing the ash tray. He threw the satchel to Devers who wiped it and put it on the floor in the front seat of the sedan and closed the door. Devers ran around to the back of the van, shut the rear doors and climbed into the passenger seat. Sanchez put the car into reverse, made a three-point turn into a virgin driveway and drove out of the bulbous road. "My sister was thinking about getting a house in one of these communities, but the security sucks."
Stan looked out the rear view mirror outside the door and saw the dark blue Lincoln, it's front end pointing upward. He could just barely make out the two guys heads in the front seat, one leaning forward and the other back. It looked like they were sleeping.
Sanchez got back onto the highway and then turned off it a couple blocks down on the other side from where they had come. Devers got out of the van, took off the sunglasses and hat and dropped them on the seat. Sanchez had to finish his delivery route and would ditch them at some point along the way. The water delivery man encounters a lot of different dumpsters. Devers shut the door and Sanchez pulled out on the road and headed back towards the highway.
Devers watched the van drive away. There was no indication of any trouble, no cops, no nothing. He turned around and started jogging. He felt heavy, after the adrenaline of the car ride. He had two miles before he got to the university track and the locker where he had his street clothes. If he felt a little better when he got there, he would do a couple laps. All the muscle he'd gained on the work camp had come in handy today, but he preferred to be a little thinner. The ladies seemed to like him like that, too.
He thought that the bodybuilder back there would probably die. His pal was certainly in for a shock. That guy was going to wake up not knowing what was going on. He'd think he was in Mission Impossible. That made Devers laugh and he picked up his pace a little bit.
* * *
A couple days later, Sanchez and Devers were sitting at Sanchez's kitchen table, dividing up the money. It totalled $24,500 in hundred and five hundred dollar bills. They put $2,500 asideand split the rest in half. Devers gave $200 of his pile to Sanchez for car expenses and putting him up. Sanchez was putting Brian's cut into the envelope he had prepared for them, "Do you think that kid fingered the job to those other guys?"
"Nah," said Devers. "That was a solid point."
He was going to catch a bus to Denver. He had an old girlfriend there where he could lay up for a bit. "Probably didn't think we were going to take out his boss, though," he laughed as he took the envelope from Sanchez He would drop it into the mail at the bus depot.