So Leary and I are sleeping on the sidewalk outside of CVS. We get a wakeup call from the police who ask for ID. Does the fucking Hilton ask for ID when they give you a wakeup call? Anyway, Leary hands the cop his ID with his father’s business card over it. Leary’s dad is some sort of PBA lawyer with Suffolk County. I just hand him my ID. I haven’t got anything to camouflage my crappy identity with. The cop goes back to the van and checks our IDs against the computer or whatever the hell they check them against. He comes back.
“Mr. Gannon, you have some outstanding summonses against you. Please get them taken care of. Mr. Leary, our outstanding warrant records indicate that we haven’t been getting together as much as we should. Also, Mr. Leary, why did you put that business card over your ID? This is New York City, not Suffolk County. Is the Empire State Building in the Hamptons, does the Brooklyn Bridge connect Fire Island with the mainland , do the Yankees play in Patchogue? I don’t think so. You should know the difference. Please put your hands behind your back, you’re coming with us.”
“Please excuse me, officer, Mr. Leary is an alcoholic and unless he gets a drink in an hour or so he’s going to go to do some serious vibrating. Can I give him something to calm his troubled waters?”
“Mr. Leary, I’m going to uncuff your hands. Now put your hands in front of you. This way you can hold your friend’s bottle.”
They cuff Leary and read him the rights bullshit. The last time I saw him he was sitting in the back of the police van with his hands cuffed in front of him holding onto the pint of vodka that I gave him. He looked like he was praying. Fucking Leary, the patron saint of alcoholics, sitting there looking like one of those saints praying to God in the stained glass windows over at St Monica’s. As the van pulls away my man Leary has this shit eating grin across his face. I’d never seen anyone arrested with a grin across his face. The cops even thought it was funny. So anyways three days later I’m hanging in the park sharing a bottle with Richie and who comes walkin’ over, it’s Leary.
“Leary, what the fuck is up. Last time I saw you I thought that you were headed for some serious time upstate.”
“So did I, my man, but my Suffolk County dad got me a New York City lawyer who knows that the Empire State Building is on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, not the Montauk Highway. Who knew when those nuns were teaching us geography that it would actually come in handy? Why didn’t Sister Bernadette tell us that someday your dumb ass will be getting busted and you’d better know where the fuck you are or you’ll really get your tail in a solid shit storm?”
“Since you’re out let’s go see if we can score some weed and celebrate your return as a functioning member of Manhattan society.”
Leary, unpredictable as usual, gives me a fucking look and a half, like I just had suggested that we rape his mother or some insane shit. I ask him what the fuck is wrong.
“Don’t include me in Manhattan society.”
“What’s this all about, Leary,” I say realizing that I’m about to do what one should never do with Leary, namely dig into his interior mental crevices. Going in there is like walking down one of those rotten piers along the river with a blindfold on; you never know when you’re going to go down or what you’re going down into.”
“I’ve had my taste of Manhattan society. They suck. Don’t you remember that chick Sofia that I picked up at the free concert in the park?”
“Yeah, didn’t she live uptown on Park Avenue or some other place like that?”
“That’s right, Park and 73rd.”
“If I’m right, you went out with her for about four months, almost like a short stretch.”
“Right again, her father was some hot shot with a drug company and got me a job working in a plant over in Jersey. That was an OK gig until they realized that I had, with my usual entrepreneurial spirit, started a retail outlet for some of their better selling products right here in the park.”
“You never got busted for it though, right?”
“Not by the cops. I made the mistake of buying Sofia a pin from Tiffany’s on some of my independent earnings. Her father sees her wearing it and contacts the plant to see what I’m making. They tell him and he puts two and two together and realizes that I was up to something and tells them to watch me. Of course their accountants start snooping around and discover something’s off. What’s those economic terms, supply and demand? Anyway, they’re off. To cut to the shit, I get busted by an accountant. How fucked up is that? They don’t go to the police as they don’t want anyone to know that their security system is for shit. They just sack me and tell me to get lost. Sofia, instead of appreciating the trouble that I went through for her tells me to kiss off too. So you can take Manhattan society and ram it.”
You think after that outburst Leary would stop, but no, he just keeps getting crazier and crazier. He was like that girl dog that Jasper had that couldn’t get enough and ended up screwing half the boy dogs in the neighborhood. Jasper didn’t know what the hell was going on at first. He took the dog to the vet to find out. The vet couldn’t believe that Jasper was so fucking ignorant. He tells him to have her fixed but Jasper tells him no, she’s entitled to have a good time like everyone else. He thinks that the vet is some kind of born again Christian. Anyway, I digress. Leary now decides that we should retaliate against Manhattan society. Well, more like make some dough and partially retaliate against Manhattan society. How, by ripping off The Brew House that sits on Second Avenue and 12th Street. I ask him if he’s gone completely crazy and what the fuck does The Brew House on Second and 12th have to do with Manhattan society? He says that The Brew House is owned by some guy who lives on the Upper East Side. It’s 78th and First or somewhere around there. Leary says, First, Park what’s the fucking difference? They’re all Upper East Side jerks. So I ask him if he knows how much is in the cash register.
“I don’t know. I’m not talking about the cash register, although that would be nice, but the liquor that they keep in the basement.”
Leary wants to steal the boxes of liquor down there. He thinks that with basements the security is less because you only have access from the street. You’re not going into the main floor where the cash register is. So anyway, we go to The Brew House to try and figure out the best way to get into their cellar. Leary says that we can just saw off the lock that they have on the door. So I ask him just when do we do that? When they’re not looking? Leary tells me to go fuck myself and then lays out this concocted plan.
“We get in with a buzz saw at four in the morning.”
”Leary, c’mon, don’t you think that people will hear it?”
“No, we’ll blast covering music from my boom box. The cops won’t hurry for that. It’s just a noise complaint. That’s where our rehearsals come in.”
“It’s fucking theft, Leary, not fucking Broadway.”
“Listen, we rehearse the procedure until we nail it as fast as possible. Even if someone calls the cops we’ll be gone by the time they show up.”
“How long it will take to buzz the lock and then get the liquor out, which, may I remind you, is heavy and we don’t even know where it is.”
“No problem. First, I’ll get one of those high powered saws from a hardware store. I’ve seen ‘em. They kick ass. Second, it’s tough to hide liquor crates. Who would think that someone would steal them anyway? As I said, most people would go for the cash register on the bar floor. With the Leary plan, the risk is reduced. We’re going for smaller game. Plus there’s a third component, and may I say, is the best part.”
“We’re going to sell the liquor. I already have the perfect buyer in mind.”
“Who else, the bar owner.”
“It’s simple, here’s how it works. I contact the owner after the heist and tell him that I can find his liquor for him, for a price of course. Now, don’t forget, he’s already been paid by the insurance company so by this time so he’s not out of pocket by much.”
“Isn’t he going to ask you how you know where it is?”
“Of course, that’s when I agree to meet with him, no police, no insurance company people, just him and me.”
“I feel the guy out. I make sure that he’s not going to go sour and rat to the police. He’s got to be involved in the situation so much that he’s got just as much to lose as we do, if not more. See, the idea here is not just to pull off a one-time heist, it’s to institute a business plan.”
“A business plan?”
“Right, a business plan, an ongoing business, just like I fucking BM or Walmart. Now, you know that all of these bar owners know each other. People in the same business and same area all know each other.”
“What we’re going to do is rip off the entire neighborhood. The only thing difference is that, after the first, they know we’re coming.”
“Because we tell them.”
“Why don’t we tell the cops too? Please Leary, you’re putting more of a strain on me than staying sober with this scheme.”
“It’s easy. We check them out. If they’re OK then we ask them if they want to get ripped off. Look, as I said before, these guys all know each other. If we pull this off successfully with The Brew House we can do it with others. These guys report the theft and collect the insurance. Then we sell back what we’ve taken at a reduced price. Since they know about it, they tell us when to hit them which reduces the risk of getting caught going in. They might even help us by giving us a regretfully unlocked door etc. It’s always easier to rip someone off when they cooperate, don’t you think?”
“Leary, you’re a fucking genius. You should be at Columbia teaching existential physics or some shit like that.”
Anyway, me and Leary check out The Brew House when they have a beer delivery. Leary walks past the open cellar door and drops his keys down the chute. He asks the guys unloading if he can go down and look for them. They say OK. Leary runs down. He eventually comes back and is so excited about what he’s reconnoitered that the moron forgets to bring up the keys and has to go back down again.
“Shit, they have at least fifty liquor crates down there. What do you want, Jack? Johnny W?, fucking Stoli?”
“Leary, we’re going to rip it off, not drink it.”
“O yeah, right.”
We decide to hit the place on a Tuesday night, no, Monday or Sunday night fuckin’ football to ruin our plans. Plus they close at two on Tuesday. We rehearse the whole thing in the basement of Leary’s apartment building carrying sacks of sand that approximate the weight of the boxes. We sweat like pigs but we do get some kind of rhythm going up the basement stairs. As a matter of fact, it almost works as well as detox. Anyway, the time comes to pull off the heist. We pull up in Leary’s mother’s old beat up black van. We wait until 4 AM and then check up and down the street to be sure that no one’s around. Leary yanks on the lock on the cellar door to see how sturdy it is and the fuckin’ thing comes off in his hands. It’s almost totally rusted. You think Leary would be happy. No, not Leary, he then wants to start up the saw just to show me how awesome it is. I tell him he can show me on the next hit. Quietly, we open the cellar door and go down the stairs. When we get there, Leary spies this case of tequila. He says that since we didn’t make any noise and no one will be calling the cops anytime soon let’s have a few pops to steady our nerves. What the hell I say, that sounds good. Nutso Leary actually asks me if I have any salt and limes on me. I ask him if he isn’t totally off the wall. Like hey Leary I have salt and a few limes right here in my pocket. I always carry salt and limes with me just in case I stumble over a bottle of tequila. Anyway we sit down on some cases of wine, lean against the cellar wall and start bsing and passing the bottle of tequila back and forth. Next thing I know we’re working on the second bottle having a good time just shooting the shit and drinking. As a matter of fact we’re having too good a time. I’m getting really tired from being up so late and all of the alcohol. Leary seems to be fading fast too. Before I know it, I feel a tap on the shoulder. Like a bad dream, I hear, “Mr. Gannon, Mr. Leary, it’s good to see the two of you again. I take it the suite outside of CVS was taken so the two of you had your travel agent book the cellar here. Unfortunately, the guy who opened the bar didn’t have your reservation information when he found you so he called us. The good thing with us is you don’t need any reservation. No credit cards required. You know the drill, let’s go. As it looks like the two of you have polished off enough tequila to fortify an army I don’t think any in flight complimentary bottles will be required for this trip.”
Charlie Coleman‘s work has appeared in The Subway Chronicles and The Cynic Magazine among other venues.