Raymond J. Harding
I didn’t like anything about it from the start. I didn’t even like Chic’s apartment. “This place sucks, man.” I told him “It stinks. You got wallpaper hanging off like leaches off a turtle, got holes in the plaster, you got wooden veggie crates for furniture, —. Man, you gotta do better than this. The only half-way decent thing you got is that bureau with the statue of the Virgin Mary on it.”
Chic came back with his excuses: “This is the Bronx, for Chris’ sake! What do you expect? I ain’t had a score for months. I’m broke. What the hell, it’s a place to sleep, that’s all. Who needs fancy furniture? The bureau and the statue are my mom’s. She made me take them.”
“Good for her,” Gorilla muttered as he lifted a pile, – at least twenty, maybe thirty, empty, grease-saturated pizza boxes off a spring-ruptured recliner. “Glad somebody around here got religion. Why don’t you toss these suckers out, Chic? I think you got maggots in the crumbs.”
“Can’t toss them man, that’d be litterin’.”
“So litter,” Angel said from the spot he had picked, leaning against the wall. “And while you’re at it, whyn’t you tell us just why you invited us all here. You got no money; we all broke, so a high-stakes card game seems unlikely.”
“I met this guy,” Chic says and his face brightens, and this crooked grin cracks out like something that would open in an earthquake. “And he’s on to a job that he wants to cut us in on. I mean, man, we’re talkin’ gold mining like in the John Wayne movies! We walk in, scoop up a million tons of gold,– bracelets, chains watches, rings – and walk out, free and clear. It’s a piece of cake, but I’m gonna let him tell you the details.”
“Where?” Gorilla asks. Gorilla is a man of very few words. A limited vocabulary.
Chic says, “Portland.”
Vinnie, who has said nothing since we came in together, gets up off the floor where he had been sitting next to a roach trap, watching the traffic, and says, “I’m out of here. We ain’t got the money to get to Yonkers, how the hell we gonna get to Oregon?”
Chic grabs him by the sleeve. “Hey, man, we ain’t talkin’ Oregon. We’re talkin’ Maine, — Portland, Maine.
“Yeah, great,” I say. “This is February, man. Maine is fuckin’ filled with snow. It’s deep, man, and its cold. Nobody goes to Maine in February.”
“A guy could die up there,” Gorilla mutters.
I think to myself that I didn’t come up from Puerto Rico to get myself into this kind of shit, but I was deep into debt just tryin’ to keep my brother’s family together. One little voice inside me said, “Ride with it”, while another little voice said, “Go home, man.” I should have gone with the second voice.
Chic starts talking fast, “This guy knows what he’s doin’, man. He gonna’ supply the guns.”
Now me, I don’t like guns. Gorilla is nuts about guns. “ What kinda guns we talkin’ about here?” he asks.
“Two Glicks, two Dektronics and an Uzi.”
“That’s Glocks, not Glicks,” Vinnie says quietly.
“Glicks – Glocks, what’s the difference?” Chic says. “They are very expensive firepower.”
“What’s a Glick—or a Glock,” Angel asks.
Gorilla says, “Nine millimeter, semiautomatic. Cops love ‘em.”
“That’s good enough for me.” Chic says.
The man comes in about twenty minutes late and lays out the deal. We hit this jewelry shop right in the center of Portland. Right off Congress Street. We get there two days before we make the hit. We spend one day casing, the next day we do the place. “Simple,” the guy says. “Fifteen minutes. We’re in, we’re out.” The dude said his name was Jackson.
“The split?” Gorilla asks.
“We go six. I get two, but I deal you the guns.”
And suddenly I’m in for the great Portland gold heist.
Two days later we’re up early and out of New York, heading north on Ninety-five in Vinnie’s cousin’s Cadillac which is straight out of some Mafia movie nightmare: black, tinted windows, and we’re doin’ about a hundred with Vinnie drivin’ and the tape rappin’ away. Jackson stayed in New York. “Better slow it down, cowboy,” Angel says. “Don’t want to attract any attention on the way up. No sense gettin’ busted before the heist.”
“Yeah,” says Gorilla, “especially since we got these nice expensive Glicks,”
“Glocks,” Vinnie mutters.
Another two days. We case the place. We get ready to move. I got to admit it looks as easy as Jackson says. “When do we steal a car?” I ask in the motel room.
“What you want to steal a car for, man?” Chic says.
I mean, give me a break. This is first grade stuff for robbers. “So we go from the scene of the crime and if someone spots the car, it don’t matter ‘cause we gonna dump that car and take off in the Caddie.”
“Too complicated,” says Gorilla
“We go with the Caddie,” says Vinnie. “It ain’t ours anyhow and my cousin got a good alibi. He ain’t here.”
“Yeah, but we are. I don’t like it; I really don’t”. I keep thinkin’ about this nice, warm bar in San Juan, but I got this Uzi stuck in my belt that keeps my pant on the edge of fallin’ down. “I don’t like this at all, man.”
The job is set for quarter of twelve. Chic explains: “The cops got all kinds of cut-backs. Lack of money. So they go all the old cops on the day shift. Save the young ones for all the bad shit that goes on late at night. We got nothin’ but old cops to worry about.”
We make the hit and it goes just like Jackson said it would. Two clerks, eyeballs jumpin’ out of their winter-white faces. We bundle them into the back room and put duct tape all over them. Gorilla puts the closed sign on the door, and we empty the cases into our CVS bags so as not to look suspicious. Yeah, right.
Five of us marching around the corner onto Congress street, and we don’t look like no stock brokers you ever saw. We get into the Caddie and pull away. This time I’m drivin. I look in the side mirror as we clear traffic, and I see this bag lady —- a bag lady for Chris’ sakes! — taking down our plate number.
I think about that warm bar in San Juan where my credit is still good, and I want a drink — something warm and something soothing that will take me out of a black Caddie, where the Uzi is cutting off the circulation to my left leg. Bag lady!
Up on the turnpike, I’m doin’ like eighty when we spot this Maine Statie in the opposite lane doin about a hundred and fifty, and just before he passes us, his blues go on. “We been made,” I announce to the gathered brethren.
Vinnie looks out the back window at the fading blues. “He gotta find a cut-over. Push it. If he comes up behind us, we ditch.”
No, I say to myself, we just push this button on the dash and we get a set of wings and we fly right on down to Enrico’s Bar and Grill where I will order for everyone and pay in gold chains of which we have too many. “Here come the blues”, I said, “Time to ditch the gold.”
“And the guns,” Vinnie adds.
Windows go down; I hear stuff being tossed. The blues are about a mile behind me. “Sorry guys,” I say, and hit the brakes.
Me and Gorilla are the first two out of the car. Gorilla heads for the pine cover with me right behind him. Gorilla is five-foot-ten and close to three hundred pounds. He has size fifteen or sixteen feet. He is making something like snow shoe tracks in the snow, which I follow closely, step for step, thinking that I might get lost in the confusion. Behind me I hear the sounds of a lot of cops and our three companions in arms surrendering. I had left the Uzi in the Caddie. Gorilla has his Glick-Glock in his hand. “We gonna shoot it out?” he asks, which is probably the dumbest thing he has ever said.
“My friend,” I said, “let me dispose of that weapon of yours, while you march back there and tell them it was all a mistake. You were a hitch-hiker that they picked up. I’ll try to make it back to New York and get some help if you need it.” I couldn’t believe it. He handed me the weapon, kissed me on both cheeks and trudged toward the waiting troopers. I tossed the Glock about three hundred yards (Olympic record), dove under a comforting looking big old pine tree where nobody could see me and slept for what must have been two days.
So that’s my story, man. I kinda wandered back here to Portland lookin for a job. I don’t want no welfare, man. I got skills in Windows 3, and I can network with the best. And the real nice thing is that –so far— I got no criminal record.