“All I’m saying, Tony, is this. Those old people living out their days at the old folks home across the road got cash coming out the wazoo. They play bingo, they don’t play for small change. They got pots worth ten grand or more.”
“And how do you know this shit, Stan?” I heft another box of flowers into the back bay of the idling truck. “You make it a point to play bingo with those old farts?”
“I got a friend who works on the inside, bro.”
“Guy named Derrick. Half black, half white mulatto dude. He’s like a custodian. Fixes shit when it breaks, washes the floors, changes the lightbulbs. Get this, he also MC’s Bingo night.”
“Let me guess, he also steals a social security check every now and again.”
Stan smiles, winks. His biceps are bursting out of his green Capital Florist Supply T-shirt. His round face is scruffy with an off white beard that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going. That’s because he’s Polish. Polacks can’t grow beards. It ain’t in their genes.
Me, I’m just as stacked as Stan. We even work out at the same gym. But I got that beautiful Mediterranean skin and I can grow a full beard in a couple of days. Plus, maybe I don’t say nothin’ to Stan about it, but I’m a lot smarter. If I didn’t quit high school, I could have gone to Harvard. Ok, maybe not Harvard, but I could have made it through community college.
Choices, my mother used to say, God rest her soul. Choices have consequences, Tony. Don’t ever forget that. Yeah, well, I’m hefting yet another box of stinking hot house Florida grown consequences into yet another truck, sucking up the exhaust, earning maybe a dollar more than minimum wage, living downtown in a hole-in-the-wall not far from Stan, who also dropped out of high school, and who can’t tell you what consequences means much less spell the word.
“So what is it you’re trying to tell me, Stan? It’s cold, I wanna finish loading this truck, go inside for a coffee and another look-see at Anny.”
Anny does the books and she’s hot. Correction, fucking smoking hot. Tall, blonde, and stacked, she’s the only thing that makes getting it up for work worth it. Or, getting up for work, that is.
“So Derrick has an idea. An idea so brilliant it made me hard.”
I twirl my hand like, Hurry the fuck up.
“And he’s been paying particular attention to Bingo night.”
“Yeah, Bingo night. You know, old people love to play Bingo like teenage boys like to jerk off. Can’t get enough of it.”
“I guess that makes you a teenager still, Stan.”
He makes a crooked face.
“So funny I forgot to laugh, asshole. Now, according to Derrick, the nightly pot for these Bingo games can run as much as ten or even twenty large.”
“Ten or twenty large. Stop talking like you’re a gangster and not a warehouse employee.”
“Ten or twenty thousand dollars, bro.” He says this with such excitement in his voice it’s like the money is already sitting out on one of the many flower boxes waiting to get loaded onto yet another truck.
“So you and Derrick wanna steal this money, is that it?”
“And you too, bro.”
For a second or two, I just stare at him. His round face, the blond hair, the tired eyes from way too many Budweiser’s at Lanies Bar last night.
I just have one word for him. “How?”
“According to Derrick, all the power to the adult home, and I mean all the power, is supplied by a single pole that’s planted right outside by the roadside entry.” He points in the direction of the old folks joint. “You can see the pole from the warehouse lot. Destroy the pole, and it’s lights out for the old folks home.”
“Then what do we do? Storm in there like Bruce Willis with our black tactical gear on and steal the money?”
“Haha, now that’s funny. A good sense of humor is a positive attribute.”
One note about Stan. He’s one of those geeks who covers his apartment walls with positive reinforcement posters like, You can do it, and Love thy self, and I like me.
He adds, “That’s when you and me pull up in my van around back. Derrick will pretend he’s working the situation, trying to restore the lights, but what he’ll really be doing is preparing for us to carry the money out the back door inside two tool boxes.”
“Tool boxes,” I say. “Whaddaya mean tool boxes?”
“I mean you and I will pretend we work for the power company. When Derrick lets us in through the back door, we load up the cash right in front of the all those old folks.”
“What about the old folks home employees?”
“The few who work nightshift will be so busy taking care of panicked residents they won’t pay the slightest attention.”
“And CCTV camera?”
He slaps my arm.
“Now that’s the beauty of this plan, bro. Soon as the power goes out, so do the cameras. And who cares if some of those old people see our faces. They won’t be able to remember a thing. Half of them are brain dead already.”
I have to admit, I’m kinda liking Stan’s plan. For a moron, it’s not half bad.
“Who’s gonna take out the pole?”
“We are, at the designated time.”
“With what? We don’t have anything big enough.”
“One of these Capital Florist trucks will do the job.”
He’s right, a couple of the trucks are big and powerful enough.
His face beaming.
“Guess what tonight is?” he asks.
“Bingo night,” we say in unison.
We arrange to meet Derrick under the cover of darkness at the back warehouse gates of the Capital Florist Supply at seven pm after everyone has gone home. Stan’s already been drinking. I know this because he opens up the door to his rusted 1995 Ford Extend van with a beer in his hand.
“You remember the keys to the gate?” I ask.
“Is the Pope a commie?” he says.
He gets out, chugs the beer, crushes the empty in his hand.
“Joe Muscles,” he says, tossing the flattened can into the weeds.
Reaching into the pocket on his tattered Levis jean jacket, he pulls out a set of keys, unlocks the padlock on the gate, pulls away the chain, pushes on the gate. It swings open, its hinges squeaking and squealing like we just rudely woke it up.
“Let’s go,” he says heading for the warehouse lot. “I’ve got the keys to one of the big trucks.”
Our boss has a whole lot of vans in his inventory, but only two big trucks that require a special class of license to drive. Stan used to be in the possession of just such a license but lost it to one too many DWIs that of course, weren’t his fault.
“Get in,” he says.
“I thought you said we were driving your van and looking like power company workers?”
“That comes later, bro. Right now, we gotta take care of that pole.” Then, while I hop up in the passenger side and he gets behind the wheel. “There’s Derrick now.”
A big, tall man emerges from out of the darkness. When the light from the exterior mounted spotlight hits him, I see a clean shaven dark man wearing a blue custodial worker uniform under a leather coat. He’s also wearing a utility belt with various tools stored on it. He approaches the truck, comes around to the driver’s side.
“You ready to do this thing, Stan?” he says. His voice doesn’t match his body. He looks like he could snap a man of average build in two. But his voice is soft and light and sort of fruity. He looks at me with wide, longing eyes. “Who’s your friend?”
“This is the guy I told you about, Derrick. My bud, Tony. We work together.”
The way he looks me up and down makes me feel violated.
“Pleasure,” I lie.
“You’re cute,” he says. “Single by any chance?”
“I don’t bat for your team, pal.”
He shakes his head, bites down on his lip.
“A tragedy really. You should try it sometime.” He gazes up at the dark, mid-winter sky, extends his hand like he’s Ole’ Blue Eyes about to break into song, which is exactly what he does: “My cock gets hard at the sound of your voice, baby…”
“No thanks,” I say, cringing. “Now, can we do whatever it is you want us to do so we can get our money and go home?”
“Patience, baby,” Derrick insists. “You can’t rush these things.” Then, his eyes on Stan. “Besides, you know what to do right, Stan the man?”
“Yup. I’m gonna go with my karma, and I’m gonna just go for it.”
Derrick steps away from the truck.
“Let her rip, Stanley baby. Put that positive karma to work.”
Stan starts the truck, grinds it into first gear, puts pedal to the metal.
“Jesus Stan, this is your plan?!”
“Sometimes you just gotta go for it, Tony! You gotta be the bat instead of the ball.”
He barrels out of the Florist supply lot, through the open gate, across the road without bothering to look for oncoming traffic.
“Get down, Tony!” He’s frantically shifting gears as we approach the tall wood powerline that stands in our path.
“Jesus Christ!” I shout at the precise moment we ram the pole.
The truck bucks hard, comes to grinding stop. The power pole snaps in two, the many lines it supports breaking and severing, electrical sparks shooting out in all directions like the Fourth of July.
“Holy shit!” I scream, while the top half of the pole looks like it’s about to come down on my skull.
But the poll crashes to the roadside only inches from the truck and all Stan can do is laugh his ass off.
“Get us the fuck out of here, Stan.”
“Wait for it…” he mumbles as if caught in a trance. “Wait for it…”
“Wait for what?”
The lights on the old folks home suddenly go black.
“That!” he barks.
Stan throws the truck in reverse, crosses the street without looking, back through the open gates, across the gravel lot, and coming to a tire skidding stop.
“See, Tone,” he says, “it’s like we never borrowed the truck to begin with. You fucking worry too much. Negative vibes, bro.”
It’s dark, but I can make out Derrick’s silhouette. He approaches the truck, sticks his head in the open window.
“Time for me to get back to work, baby,” he says. “All those poor old people will be pooping their Depends now that they’re in the dark.” He leans in even further, his lips only a fraction of an inch from Stan’s ear. “You know what to do, baby.”
Backing away, the big man jumps off the running board, jogs out of the yard, crossing the street, careful not to step on the sparking, downed wires. He disappears into the darkness as he enters back into the old folks home.
“What now?” I say. “We shoot that creep, Derrick, in the face?”
“Yah, he’s creepy all right,” Stan says. “But he’s a necessary evil, Tone. We need him to collect the money now that we’ve done our part.”
“We need toolboxes,” I say. “To make us look like electrical workers.”
“We can find them inside the warehouse,” he says. “In the tool bin.”
Stan uses his set of Capital Floral Supply office keys to let us into the warehouse. It’s okay if we turn the lights on in the big space since there’s no windows. The tool bin is located all the way in the back. We go to it.
“Shit,” Stan says. “It’s fucking locked with a padlock.”
“You don’t have a key?”
“Nah,” he says. “I gotta go into the offices, get one out of Anny’s desk.”
“Be careful. Feel around in the dark. The cops will see us if you use a flashlight.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he says.
We head to the door that separates the warehouse from the offices. It’s unlocked, so we quietly step on through. That’s when I hear it.
“What’s that?” I whisper.
“What’s what?” Stan says.
“Sounds like a porno.”
He stands still, positions his open hand around is ear. His eyes go wide. He cocks his head over his shoulder like, Follow me. We tiptoe our way to the main office floor which is filled with maybe half a dozen cubicles. That’s when we see Anny. She’s standing spread eagled on the floor, her skirt pulled up over her waist, silk black panties down around her left ankle, both her hands pressed against a cubicle wall. Behind her is our boss. His trousers pulled down, he’s giving it to her from behind. They’re both so loud and so into it, they have no clue about us.
Until, that is, Stan takes another step forward and steps on a pencil.
The pencil snaps in half.
The boss turns.
“Oh my God!” she screams.
“You son of bitch!” the boss shouts.
“Oh fuck,” Stan says.
He moves like a freight train, barrels his head and shoulders into the boss’s soft underbelly. The boss goes down hard onto his back. Instinct kicks in. I’ve never hit a woman in my life, but what the hell can I do now. I thrust myself at Anny, grab hold of her.
“Let go of me, asshole!” she says.
She’s half naked, and her long, thick blonde hair is mussed up, her blue eyes fiery. I try to hold her with one hand while the other searches the cubicle drawer for something to tie her up with. When I see the clear packing tape, I pull it out, bring it to my mouth, grab hold of the excess tape with my teeth, pull out a long length which I wrap around her wrists.
“You bastard,” she spits. “I’m calling the cops.”
I rip off another piece, press it over her mouth. I then secure her ankles. Only then do I hogtie and gag the boss. A few seconds later, Stan and I take a step back and observe the two gagged and bound half naked bodies lying on the office floor.
“Think we’ll lose our jobs for this?” Stan asks.
“What do you think, Stan?”
“I’ll get the key to the tool bin,” he says.
He goes to Anny’s cubicle, rummages around the drawer, comes back out with a keyring.
“Bingo!” he says.
“Let’s hope so,” I say.
Back out in the warehouse, we unlock the tool bin. Several yellow boxes that contain tools for building things like pallets and flower boxes are stacked on a metal shelf. Stan dumps the tools out of the first one, while I dump the tools out of another one.
“Over there,” he says. “Hardhats. Can’t hurt.”
Stacked in the corner of the bin, plain white hardhats left over from the Capital Florist Supply ground breaking that occurred before we were employed here. He grabs one, blows the dust off of it, puts it on, then hands me one. I put mine on. It fits.
“Let’s go get rich,” he says.
“Or arrested,” I say.
“Negative Nancy,” Stan says.
Carrying our empty toolboxes, we exit our now former place of employment.
We get into Stan’s van. He fires it up, pulls across the street, around the still sparking power lines, and into the dark old folks home parking lot. He pulls around the back of the facility, and looks for the designated exterior door.
“You know, Tone,” he says, while he’s driving slowly, his eyes focused on the building. “You really should be more positive. You ever watch The Secret? I mean, it’s all about how positive people attract positive vibes and neg heads like yourself, attract negative vibes.”
“What’s your point, Stan?”
“Since we started this thing, all you been doing is bitching. That’s why we ran into that trouble in the office. Because you’re neg heading all the time. You attracted that shit.”
“Shut up, Stan. We ran into that problem in the office because Anny is fucking the boss who happens to be married.”
He stops the car in front of a hollow metal door.
“Okay,” he says. “Be angry. But from this point on, I’m asking you to be more positive. It’s all about the karma, Tone. You believe we’re about to come into tens of thousands of dollars, and I mean believe it in your heart, we will come into tens of thousands of dollars. You have to picture big stacks of money in your mind, Tone. You have to really see it, bro.”
I turn to him.
“Right now I picture a whole bunch of cops coming down on us, if we don’t stop fucking around.”
“That’s exactly the shit I’m talking about, Tone.” He shakes his head like a parent who doesn’t know what to do with their asshole kid. “This is it. The door to financial freedom.”
“Yeah, Stan,” I say. “I see it. That’s exactly what financial freedom looks like. A crappy gray metal door on the back of a crappy old folks home.”
(To be continued…)
BIO: Winner of the 2015 PWA Shamus Award and the 2015 ITW Thriller Award for Best Original Paperback Novel for MOONLIGHT WEEPS, Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and AMAZON KINDLE No.1 bestselling author of more than 25 novels including THE REMAINS, EVERYTHING BURNS, ORCHARD GROVE and THE CORRUPTIONS. A freelance photo-journalist and the author of the popular “lit blog,” The Vincent Zandri Vox, Zandri has written for Living Ready Magazine, RT, New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, The Times Union (Albany), Game & Fish Magazine, and many more. He lives in Albany, New York.