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  • Heist

    Bit of home-made fiction today. It's not finished yet, but my plan is to put up a chapter every other day.

    * * * * * *

    Stan Palmer got an early start on game day. He parked at the Super WalMart out on State Road 155 and prepared to take a walk to Honore Duet's new house. With his backpack and Cubs cap and old sneakers, he could almost have been a student. Across the service road behind the store, through a half mile of woods and he was at Duet's back yard. The garage faced the new Merriman Road, so he could not see into it, and he needed to verify that the Crown Victoria backed out and drove away by eleven am. Just as Brunet had promised, he saw the car leave. He waited another thirty minutes, just to be safe.

    To avoid leaving footprints in the freshly seeded yard, he approached via the tall grass in the vacant lot next door, breaking out when a dozen steps enabled him to reach the house. There was only one other house in the area, and it was across the street and not yet occupied. This was an ideal spot to commit a crime. He peeked through a window at the back of the house and could see a washer and a dryer. He lifted out the screen and prepared to break the glass, but there was no need. It wasn't locked.

    His tour of the house verified the layout he had in his pocket. The game would be in the den, and the round poker table was set up and ready to go. There was a sound system in the middle of one wall, and shelves of books on another. Palmer examined the crown molding that circled the room. In the hall outside the laundry room he could see the pull-down stairs to the attic. There was a hand grip, but no pull cord hanging down. He had to stand on a kitchen chair to reach it. It came down easily, but with a loud screech that troubled him, and he went to his backpack for a can of WD40 and sprayed all the moving parts. That didn't make it silent, but it was a great help. He climbed to the attic.

    Up there he found a walkway of plywood laid on the ceiling joists, and he followed it toward the gable at the front. He was surrounded by pink insulation bats, and there were furniture blankets enough for a comfortable pallet. With an a/c duct to guide him he located the den wall and made some measurements with a metal tape. From the backpack he took a small battery-powered drill, with a three-eighths inch bit in the jaws. Pulling the insulation back, he drilled a hole through the ceiling, near a corner. Without moving, he drilled through the metal of the duct, down low on the near side. Now he had to go downstairs to see where the hole was. The disappearing stairs creaked only a little as he descended.

    The hole in the ceiling would be fine for his purposes. Fetching the kitchen chair again, he smoothed the edges of any sawdust, and it was near-invisible in the textured paint. On his knees he massaged the carpet fibers, and the few crumbs of sawdust sank out of sight. Satisfied that he was finished on the ground floor, he took the chair back to the kitchen and went up the stairs again, pulling them up after him. He took a small fitting from his pocket – on cars it might have been called a zert, for lubrication – and plugged it into the hole in the duct. Onto the zert he attached the end of a small rubber hose on a quart-size aerosol can. There was a valve on the can, but he left it closed and laid the can beside the duct. The man in Mobile had charged him five hundred dollars for the canister, and had promised it would do the job for him. It damn' well better. He took a small flexible fiber optic instrument from a leather pouch in his pocket and lay on his belly to guide it through the hole in the ceiling. Pushing it slowly until he could see the poker table, it would be almost flush and he could only hope it would not be spotted. The view was distorted badly, but passable. He wondered if he might have thought of a better location for it.

    From the slatted window on the gable, he had a good view of the street and most of the front yard and driveway. There was a power ventilator in the roof, but it would be hot anyway in the attic. No help for that. From the backpack, Palmer took a sandwich and a canned drink, a plastic bag of kitty litter to pee in, and a garbage bag. He had tried to think of everything, and he didn't intend to leave anything behind. Twenty minutes later he stretched out on his pallet and closed his eyes.
    If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

  • #2
    Heist, two

    Palmer was awakened at 3:20 by the hum of the ventilator coming on. He was sweating, and his shirt was wet. There was air movement, and he discovered a much more comfortable spot in the gable, where outside air was being drawn in. He took off the shirt and hung it on a nail to dry and brought a dry blanket to sit on. All was quiet in the street. He could see downward to within ten feet of the front door. A couple more hours should see Duet's car return.

    At four o'clock he rose to stretch his legs and walked down the length of the house, where he found a surprising amount of new lumber, lying around – apparently left behind by the builder. He could imagine a daring raid in the future, where he might return and throw it all through the rear gable and manage to retrieve it with his truck. Palmer liked lumber. Idle conjecture, no more. He returned to the front and drank his second drink and had some chips, then peed into the kitty litter and sealed the bag and put everything in the garbage bag, ready to go out. It all went into the backpack, along with the little drill and the can of lubricant. He looked around the area for anything he might have missed, but only the canister of gas and the flexible fiber optic instrument remained. It would be last. He even tore a square inch piece of duct tape to patch the hole in the duct when it had served its purpose. With the insulation bat pushed into place it might never be found.

    The faint sound of a door closing below alarmed him. Duet was home early, and Palmer put on his shirt and his cap and resumed his vigil at the gable to check the others in. Almost immediately he saw Brunet's truck cruise by in the street and it reappeared in little more than a minute, going the other way. Palmer fumed and clenched his teeth in rage. What an idiot! He had been warned to stay away. The street was brand new, and came to a dead end only a few hundred yards away and Duet had had to turn around to come back. There were less than a dozen new houses along the way, and any passing vehicle would certainly be notable.

    Junior Woods was next to arrive and he parked in the street and began to ferry cardboard cartons into the house. He was Duet's gofer, and would make drinks and sandwiches for the players this evening. Also, he would periodically patrol the yard with a pistol in his pocket. He was not only the security man, but also Brunet's source for information on this twice monthly poker game. He had boasted of his connection with the group of action gamblers. He could not fail to note Brunet's presence on Merriman Road on game night, if he saw him. Palmer shivered and cursed Brunet silently.

    There would be no more cars until 7:30. Duet and Woods could be heard stirring around below, in the kitchen, and through his little peeper, Palmer saw Duet in the den, straightening the books on the shelves and carrying in a big chip bank. Chips were only of two colors, and Palmer hoped they represented twenty dollars and fifty dollars, or even fifty and a hundred. This was to be a big game. The chip bank had a roomy place for cash, with a trap door for access. Both men disappeared and faint eating sounds came from the kitchen.

    Gyp Donald arrived first in a silver gray Lincoln, and entered the house without knocking. Reggie Hebert came next, driving a huge pickup truck. Nit Russo and Nin Grasso came in a big Toyota SUV. They all parked in the driveway. There should be one more, but the game was well under way before Philip Clement made his entry. He also drove a pickup. Through his peeper Palmer watched the players buy chips with wads of cash, which Duet stashed in the bank. From above, they were only an array of scalps, except one man, who wore his hat all evening. The money looked like hundred dollar bills. Palmer noted where each man carried his money, to avoid having to search for it when he wanted it.

    The players, all but Duet, drank steadily, and Woods was back and forth to the kitchen, making drinks and the occasional sandwich. Every half hour he would leave the den and go into the yard to walk around in the dark for a few minutes. From the gable, Palmer saw Brunet pass at least once more, and it made him furious. At ten he counted heads, making certain Woods was in the room, and then opened the valve on his canister and heard a soft hissing sound as it fed the gas into the duct, where it joined the air going to the diffuser over the poker table. When the hissing stopped, he closed the valve and disconnected the hose, rescued his little zert and patched the hole, pushing the insulation forward to cover it. He put the canister into the backpack and took out a small gas mask and went back to his view of the game.

    In the den, nothing happened until Nin Grasso shook his head and put down his cards and laid his head gently on the table. Junior Woods stood up from his straight chair, then changed his mind and sat down again. Then, one by one they all went. Only Nit Russo and Woods fell from their chairs. The others fell onto the table, scattering cards and poker chips. Duet was the last to go, having no alcohol in him, and he was the only one who appeared to resist for a few seconds before falling face-down among his chips.

    Palmer picked up his backpack, took one more look around, recovered his little peeper and put on the gas mask. He went to the staircase and pushed it down. He flinched as it squealed, and he hurried down and pushed the stairs back up into place. There was a moment's vertigo and he drew deeply through the little mask to verify that he was safe from the gas. It should be dissipating rapidly by this time.

    Only a couple of snorers broke the eerie silence in the den. He went to the chip bank first. The money inside seemed to be all hundred dollar bills. It was in disarray but there was a lot of it and he stuffed it in his bag. Time, later, to straighten it and count it. He began robbing the sleepers. Of the six, four men had cash in more than one pocket and he tried to get it all. Pockets in pants and coats were rifled and left inside out, like losers in comics, as he worked his way around the table. He took two large rings with stones and left three others, which refused to come off easily. He found three guns and pushed them under a sofa.

    As Palmer bent to retrieve a large wallet that he knew was in the inside pocket of one player, Nin Grasso raised his head and frowned at him. It made Palmer catch his breath and freeze in place, and think of his own gun, a mile away in the Walmart lot. He stood and prepared to make a dash for the woods, but Grasso put his head back down and slept again. Palmer stayed just long enough to clean the wallet, and knew it was time to go. The window in the laundry room was still open, his own error, and he left the way he came in, even closing the window and replacing the screen.

    Tempted to take the shortest path through the back yard to the woods, he returned to the tall grass in the vacant lot instead. There was scant light to help him navigate back to his truck, but he was not in a hurry now. He took off the sneakers and added them to the garbage bag, tying off the top and putting it in a dumpster – not at the store, but behind an apartment complex on the way to the motel. He knew he was carrying a lot of money. The gas had been quality stuff, and cheap at five hundred dollars. Except for the idiot, Roy Brunet, it was without doubt the best evening he had ever had.
    Last edited by vapros; 02-28-2017, 12:24 AM.
    If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

    Comment


    • #3
      Heist #3

      Stan Palmer parked a block away from Monday's and walked in from the rear. He bought a po-boy sandwich and a glass of iced tea, and took them to a table by a front window. He was halfway through the sandwich when he saw Roy Brunet's old truck parking in the lot. Brunet got out and looked around and walked in and headed for Palmer's table. He was carrying a plastic grocery bag and he sat down and glared at Palmer.

      “What the hell happened?” Brunet demanded.

      “What are you talking about?”

      “You didn't do the job, did you?”

      “How do you know?”

      “Well, I happened to be on Merriman Road and I went by the place and it didn't seem like nothing was happening. Sure as hell no major heist, you know? They wasn't no police cars or nothing.”

      “You stupid bastard. I told you to stay out of that part of town last night, and then I saw you riding up and down the road like an idiot. Nobody just happens to be on Merriman Road, because it doesn't go nowhere. Everybody who saw you knew you didn't belong there. You should have tooted your horn a few times, in case anybody had missed you. Junior Woods was walking around the yard in the dark, and he might have seen you. I should have shot you yesterday morning. I thought about not even bringing your money tonight.”

      “You were there?”

      “I got your money, and that's all you need to know about it.” Palmer took an envelope out of his pocket. “You're getting paid for being stupid. Take it and get out of here. I hope I never see you again. This is what I get for doing business with morons.”

      Brunet pushed the envelope back. “We need to talk about that, and don't call me no more names, 'cause I just might waste you. You're a snotty mother___, and I know you scored big, and three thousand ain't a fair share for me. I've changed the price to five.”

      “It's none of your business what I got. The three we agreed on is in the envelope, and it's all you'll ever get. Better take it.”

      Brunet said, “I'll split the difference with you. Gimme four and we can part company, and I'm the one hoping I never see you again.”

      “Three gee is what I'm carrying, and there it is. Do you want it or not?”

      “Guess what I got in my bag, mother___.”

      “Got to be a gun, probably a .25 or maybe a .32, that's about your speed. I want to see it.”

      Brunet gave him a peek at a small revolver in the bag. “Whatever it is, I'm pointing it at your belly. Pick up the envelope and let's take a walk out to your truck.”

      In response, Palmer took another bite from his sandwich and another drink from his glass. He picked up the envelope and removed a packet of hundred dollar bills and fanned them before Brunet's eyes. Brunet looked around furtively to see who might be watching. Then Palmer folded the bills once and lifted the front of his shirt and drew in his belly and thrust the money down inside his pants and shorts, shifting his butt slightly to be sure of getting it all the way to the bottom.

      “Stand up, whatever your name is. We're going outside.” In response, Palmer farted audibly and had another drink of tea, and Brunet paled at the thought of what had just happened to his money. Several diners turned to see who had sounded off.

      “Your money's gone, stupid, and you can go on outside by yourself. You can remember this next time you get to thinking you're bigger than you are.”

      “You think I won't shoot you?”

      “Even if you kill me, you'll have to get down on your knees to get your stinking money out of my drawers. One of these good people in here will call 911 and another one will come over here and hit you on the head with something heavy. Now shoot or shove off.”

      Brunet was seething, his face turning red. “Man, you're something else!” he hissed. “Just gimme the money, and I'm out of here.”

      “I want the bullets out of your little gun so I can quit worrying about it. Put 'em on the table, and you can have your money. Do it now.”

      Brunet busied his hands, out of sight below the table, and gave Palmer five little cartridges. “How did you know I wouldn't shoot you?” He glared in helpless rage.

      “Don't stop now.” Brunet sighed and put the sixth round on the table.

      “Because you're a shmuck and shmucks don't shoot. They squeal and cry, and besides, this is a pedestal table. It's only got one leg. It stands on a big stainless steel pipe, right in the middle. If you had fired, the bullet would have bounced back and hit you in the nuts. Now, I want a five minute head start. You sit right where you are, because I got a big pistol in my truck. You're a feeble-minded fistf ****er, but I'm a ferocious foo-fighter and I definitely will bust a cap or two for you.”

      Palmer dug down into his underwear and came up with Brunet's money and tossed it onto the table. He stood up, finished the iced tea and walked out. Brunet didn't see him go. He had his head under the table.
      Last edited by vapros; 03-03-2017, 08:16 PM.
      If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

      Comment


      • #4
        Heist #4

        Duet, last to sleep, was first to rouse. He blinked slowly several times without lifting his head, and considered going back to sleep, then sat up abruptly. The room rotated around him. He tried to stand, but went to his knees and knelt with both arms on the table and his eyes shut. In a few seconds he opened his eyes, still a bit dizzy. Without comprehending, he noted the sleeping guests and wondered about the vacant chair. Where was Nit? Awareness came to him slowly; the game had been robbed.

        He stood up carefully and waited for his head to clear. Who else might be in his house? He felt for the pistol in his hip pocket, but it was gone. With one hand against the wall, he staggered into the kitchen and then to the dining room, but no one was there. When he returned to the den, Gyp Donald had raised his head and was trying to waken Clement in the chair next to him. Clement slept on. Duet went back to the kitchen for glasses, towels and ice water, and turned his attention to the others. The air seemed to be clear, but it was twenty minutes before all were awake and aware – or at least becoming aware.

        Nit Russo spoke first. “They knocked us out and robbed us,” he proclaimed. “I'm cleaned out.” They were all cleaned out, except Grasso, who had six hundred dollars in his shirt pocket.

        Junior Woods produced a five dollar bill and two singles. “They didn't rob me.” Then he checked his back pocket and complained that they had taken his brother's gun. “My brother lent me that gun.”

        Nobody had any doubt about what had happened. All had suddenly passed out and woke up broke. All had taken losses in the thousands, and all lied about the amounts, as if there would be a claim against an insurance company. Palmer had scored very well, but the announced amounts added up to considerably more. Now there was a decision to make.

        “Let's get one thing straight,” said Donald. “We're not calling the police to report we been robbed. There's half a dozen parties, including my wife, who would land on me like a ton of bricks if they found out I was here, playing poker and betting high, instead of paying them what I owe. I been hurt bad here tonight, but it could get worse. No cops.”

        “No cops, that's for sure. The IRS guy is damn' near having breakfast at my house already. I don't need for him to find out I got this kind of cash to lose. Not hardly.” Phillip Clement was adamant about that.

        “Well, I don't want 'em in my house, anyway, going through my stuff, looking for clues. They don't never catch anybody, anyway. We might get lucky and find out something useful, maybe even today, but no use calling the cops.” Noray Duet had good reason to fear the police poking around his house.

        Nit Russo said, “I know one thing for sure. I got no excuse at all for sitting in on a big card game, with all the debts I got. I'm telling everybody I ain't got a pot, and for that matter I didn't win many pots tonight. This robber wasn't the only one hurting me. You guys were doing the same thing, only slower. And I know Uncle Nin ain't in favor of reporting this heist.”

        Nin Grasso rolled his eyes and nodded his agreement. “No goddam cops. I don't even want to hear about no cops.”

        Easy decision – nobody wanted to report the robbery.

        “We better look around real good, and see what we can find. I want to know how they did it. They musta broke in somewheres, or had a key to a door. There's always extra keys for the contractors when you're building a new house. Maybe a key got away. Had to be the door to the garage or the back door. They damn' sure didn't come in the front, unless they been hiding in here somewhere before we got here. How many places could they hide from us in here, Noray?” Gyp Donald was ready to get something started.

        “Only the spare bedroom. We can look around in there.”

        “They did it with gas. Anybody doubt that? Had to be knockout gas.” Grasso asked.

        “What kind of knockout gas? That's only on TV. You can't go nowhere and buy knockout gas, can you?

        “Well, somebody can. Somebody did, and they had the gas masks, too, for damn' sure,” Reggie Hebert said, “and my stomach don't feel too good right now, either. It was gas.”

        “Gas masks, for sure. I seen one of them,” Grasso had not yet grasped the importance of his own words.

        “You didn't see shit, Nin. You was sound asleep, like the rest of us. You dreamed about a guy in a gas mask.”

        “Hell if I didn't, man. Guy had a gas mask on and a gray tee shirt. I seen him talking to you, Clement.”

        “Bullshit. You seen him talking to Clement and you didn't say nothing?”

        “Ha ha! What you seen was a guy in a gas mask and a gray tee shirt ripping me off. Ain't nobody talked to me.” this from Clement.

        “Well, I don't know,” said Grasso. “I seen something. I seen one of the guys.”

        “You was awake, Uncle Nin?” asked Reggie Hebert.

        “No, I was sleepin' and in a dream I seen a guy in a gas mask, whisperin' in Clement's ear. I went back to sleep. I seen it in a dream, like.”

        “What you seen,” said Clement, “was a guy in a gas mask, bent over and going through my pockets. That's what you seen.”

        “Well,” said Noray, “who in hell knew about this big secret poker game, anyway? How did these guys know to show up at my house to rob the game. Big damn' secret, huh?”

        “It wasn't these guys,” said Uncle Nin. “I didn't see but just the one guy. Only one, and he had a gas mask and a gray tee shirt.”

        Junior Woods recalled his own indiscretion with Roy Brunet, and started to mention it to the group. “Well, I can tell you this,” he began, and abruptly changed his mind. “I damn' sure didn't tell nobody.” The players had turned to hear his words, and now turned away.

        “So, who knew?” Then someone announced plainly, “Philip knew.” As one man, Grasso, Russo and Gyp Donald turned their attention to Clement.”

        “Goddam it, that's not funny, and I don't want to hear no more shit about that.” The group was silent. “Screw all of you!”

        Russo looked at Grasso and then at Duet. “I feel like killing somebody.”

        “In the morning,” said Duet, “I'll look around outside. Anyone who wants to come help is welcome. Maybe we'll find something.” He began to gather up the cards and poker chips. “Junior, see what you can do in the kitchen. Garbage day tomorrow.”

        “The gas had to come through the air conditioner,” said Hebert. “That puts these guys in the attic, don't it?”

        “Well, just as well take a look,” said Duet, “but they're long gone now. I got a real powerful light. Lemme pull down the stairs.” He took the same chair Palmer had used earlier. Five minutes later he reported that all was clear in the attic. The squealing linkage in the stairs sent him for the WD-40, only to discover the robbers had done it earlier. “They was in the attic, all right.”

        Duet turned on the TV and waited impatiently for Woods to finish up and go home.
        If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

        Comment


        • #5
          Heist #5

          On Bristol Lane in Bay St. Louis, Stan Palmer had a good sweat going. He turned two miles in a bit less that thirty-three minutes, and kept walking. He mopped his face with a towel and turned his attention to the TV set, where a poker tournament in the Caribbean was going on. He was not a fan of poker or poker games, and marked the apparent coincidence. He had one more little canister of the magic gas, but nothing in sight. It would keep and he was rich, for the moment, at least.

          He heard the phone ring and went on with his workout. It rang ten times and then the answering machine came on and he heard the caller's voice.

          “Pick it up, Palmer. I know you're in there.” He frowned and walked another ten seconds and then turned off the treadmill and picked up the phone without speaking. “I'm right across the street, Palmer, and I can see the light in your house. You need to talk to me, so open the door.”

          He frowned and stepped to his little desk and took a .32 automatic pistol from the drawer. He turned off the TV and then the ceiling light, leaving the house in darkness. Opening the blind in the window he saw a man standing in the middle of Bristol Lane. He appeared to be alone. Palmer turned on the porch light, but the man made no move, so he opened the door and stepped out, holding the gun at his side. The man came toward him and stopped ten feet from the porch.

          “Do you recognize me?”

          “Afraid I don't, pal. How should I know you?”

          “Last week in Baton Rouge you and I went to a poker game. Now do you know me?”

          “I don't play poker and haven't been to Baton Rouge lately. You must be mistaken.”

          “If you have a scorpion tattoo on your arm this is the right address. Can we go inside?”

          Palmer cursed silently and made the caller wait another five seconds, but he stepped back into the house and turned on the light. The man followed him in and closed the door. He turned his gaze to the art on Palmer's right forearm, which Palmer made no move to hide. The man reached toward his coat pocket and then snatched his hand back as the gun came up. “Easy, man. I brought you a picture.” He carefully produced an eight by ten color shot of a man in a gas mask and a gray tee shirt; a man with a scorpion tattooed on his arm. He was crouching at a table where other men slept among cards and poker chips. “I'm the guy who's face down on the table. I'm Honore Duet, and this is my house and these are my friends, and you're the thief who came to our game.” He paused, but Palmer remained silent.

          “Now you know who I am and why I came to see you.”

          “Tell me how you got the picture.”

          “First, tell me how you did the trick with the knockout gas. Where were you all this time, and how did you get the gas in?”

          “The gas was under the poker table, with a timer, and I was sitting on the floor behind the bed in the spare bedroom.”

          “You're lying. You did it from the attic, and got the stuff into the duct, somehow.”

          “Then why did you ask, and where was the camera?”

          “It was on the bookshelf, in a book. Little hole in the end of the book. Nailed you good, Palmer., and before you ask, I know a guy on the BRPD and I showed him the picture. He made you right away, by the tattoo, and told me you were here in Bay St. Louis. I didn't tell him about the game or the robbery. He didn't ask, cause he didn't really want to know my business, but he told me that all the cops in this area know where you are. You're a kind of famous thief. Tell me what you're thinking.”

          “Well, I'm kind of pissed to find out that those guys are looking at me, and I will have to do some thinking about that. And I'm wondering why you came and looked me up. Are you hoping to get your money back? I'll tell you right now it isn't here.”

          “I just might let you keep the money.” Palmer suppressed the response that came to his mind. “You got a ring off my finger, and I want that back, the one with the big ruby in it. A lady give me that ring and I want it back. She would definitely want to know what happened to it. You don't want that lady knocking on your door, believe me. And there's something I want you to do for me. Nothing to it, you can do it in twenty minutes, and the money can be yours.”

          “The money's mine now, Duet, and just so you know, I don't kill people. I'm a thief.”

          “You're in no position to turn me down, whether we are talking about killing or not. If I tell my friends who busted the game and took their money, you would be in deep shit, and you can believe that. You better not forget that.”

          Did you have enough cameras to see everybody? Where I come from, Mr. Duet, that would be a killing offense. I wasn't the only thief at the game, was I? You give me grief, I'll give you grief.”

          It was obvious that Duet was not prepared for the questions, and he took a minute to think about the other players. “Only one camera, and it wasn't to cheat anybody - it was for security, like if some sneak thief tried to gas us and rob us. Don't threaten me about cheating.”

          “Yeah, I'll be sure to explain to 'em about that, and maybe they will understand. I'm thinking I got the edge on you, because I can run away from my crime, but you can't run from yours. Same jury for both of us. When you leave here tonight, I can gather up my money and my clothes and be in Arkansas before the sun comes up, and traveling fast. Then I could blow the whistle on you and tell your suckers about your cameras and you'll have to deal with 'em, if you can. Good luck with that.”

          “Write down your address so I can send the ring back. It's not here at the house, either. Put down your phone number, in case I want to call you. Let's understand one another, first. We're quits on the poker game. You can't afford to tell on me and I can't afford to tell on you. I doubt if I want to do anything with you. You're not a guy I could trust, and besides, I don't need to work again for a while. I'm flush.” Palmer almost grinned.

          Honore Duet wrote on a tablet on the desk. “Send my ring back. Do it tomorrow. If you don't want to do business with me, then gimme the fifteen large you took from me, too. I'll destroy the tape with your pictures, and we'll be all square.”

          “Sure, all square, until the next time. Wait a minute,” said Palmer. “Here's your ring.” He opened the desk drawer and got what Duet wanted, and gave it to him. “The money's not here, I told you. I wouldn't keep it here in my house.”

          Duet frowned and left, thinking about Russo and Grasso, if they thought he had been spying on them with his cameras, hidden around the room. And he thought of Palmer's two assurances that the money was not in the house. But the ring was, wasn't it? He decided the money was there, too. What else would he do with it? Put it in his checking account?

          As he drove away, on a whim, he circled through Bay St. Louis and went by Palmer's house again. It was all dark. Was Palmer gone, or in bed? Neither. The end of a cigarette glowed momentarily. Palmer sat on the steps, smoking in the dark. He turned his head and followed the car as it went past. Duet suddenly wondered if Palmer had lied to him about not being a killer. The thought made him shiver.
          If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

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          • #6
            Heist #6 (Finale tomorrow)

            Palmer took several questions to bed with him, after Duet's visit, and woke up in the morning without any solutions. Did he need to be afraid of this man? Should he be comfortable with the apparent standoff, and if not, what could he do about it? Where could he safely stash the money? Now that Duet had found him, he did not want to keep it in his house. It was still in the canvas bag, and he took it from the shelf in his closet and carried it around the house for several minutes, finally putting it in a bucket under some dirty rags, and put it under the sink.

            At least he knew who to talk with about it. As the afternoon wound down, he called Ernie Bellam and said he needed to see him. Ernie told him to get some Fritos and come ahead, so he cranked up the truck and made the twenty minute trip to Ernie's digs at Long Beach. Maxine was there, but she occupied herself in the kitchen while Ernie and Stan took beers out on the deck, where a cooking fire was just getting started in the steel pit.

            “These ain't Fritos, bro. Don't you ever get anything right?”

            “Well, ain't they crispy and salty? Same as Fritos, who can tell the difference?”

            “I can. They ain't Fritos. Did you drive all the way over here to aggravate me and drink my beer? Did you come to borrow money?”

            “Not hardly, man. I could lend you some money.”

            “You been working, then.”

            “Yeah, I took off some guys in a card game in Louisiana, and made a damn' serious score, but one of 'em showed up at my house last night with a picture of me. He had a hidden camera and got me in my gas mask, but my tattoo was showing, and I'm busted, I guess.”

            “Gas mask, oh yeah. You been to see the man in Mobile.”

            “I did, and the stuff is great. I robbed 'em while they slept and then went home, not knowing about the camera.”

            “Well, boy, maybe you better tell me where you're at.”

            Palmer gave him the whole story, including about the secret camera and how the man had got an ID from a local cop. He explained to Ernie that there seemed to be an uneasy truce, with neither side able to make any serious threat.

            “I knew that tattoo would come back to bite you on the ass, you were dumb to get a picture of a bug on your arm. Tattoos are for sailors, or at least they used to be. You know I got some, and I regret 'em all, but they never put me in this kind of trouble. So, what did the guy want from you, half the money?”

            “No, he figured he had me in a trap until I reminded him about the danger of having the invisible camera on his card game. He had something he wanted me to do for him. I didn't give him a chance to tell me what it was, I'm pretty sure it was bad. I told him no way, so he said I should give him back what he lost at the game, and we would be even.”

            “Did you give him his money?”

            “No, I told him it wasn't at the house and I would mail it to him, but you know there's no chance I will do that.”

            “Where is the money now?”

            “It's right there in the house, but I got it hid pretty good. I'm here so you can tell me what to do with it. I don't like this guy knowing where I live. Do I need a safe deposit box at the bank?”

            “Well, that's better than nothing, I guess. I never had one, but I always had someplace to keep my cash. It's a permanent problem for people like us.”

            Maxine appeared at the door. “Let's go, you guys. I've stayed out of your hair for nearly half an hour. The fire is ready and I'm ready, and you better get ready. Is Stan staying for supper, baby?”

            “Don't ask Ernie, 'cause he don't know. Ask me, and yes, I'm going to stay and have whatever you are having. Cook mine medium well.”

            The trio spent a couple of hours on the meal and some general catching up. Only a few miles apart, neither Ernie nor Stan bothered to keep in close touch. Ernie was, at the very least, semi-retired from a life like Stan's, and seldom left the house to make a move. His considerable experience was always available to his younger friend.

            “Stan, you want to stay over? You can use the couch if you want,” offered Maxine.

            “No, Max, I better get back. Gotta feed the cows and pigs. Thanks, anyway.”

            “Cows and pigs, right! You never been off the sidewalk in your life.”

            Ernie walked Stan to his truck. “Look, son, bring the stuff over here in the morning, and we'll find a place to put it. You can't keep it in the house now. It ain't safe. And we will talk about this guy, Duet, too. Best to do it now.”

            “Okay, you be thinking about it, and I'll see you tomorrow.” Palmer drove away to sit up with his cash.
            If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

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            • #7
              Heist - Finale

              Duet fretted on the drive back to Baton Rouge. His plan to pressure Stan Palmer into doing a bit of dirty work for him had gone up in smoke. He had imagined that the picture would put the robber on the defensive, where he wanted him. Instead, Palmer had threatened to tell the poker players about some kind of video surveillance of their play.

              He considered that to be a dirty trick, because his camera really was, after all, only for security; his and his guests too. The game was hold 'em, for chrissake, where you peeked at your two hole cards and then left them face down on the table. The chance of viewing them with a camera in a bookcase was none at all. That was only on TV. There was no advantage to be gained through filming. But at the same time, the threat was no joke, and he would not want to have to explain to the others, notably Russo and Grasso. He and Palmer were at an impasse.

              On the other hand, he thought that he had learned where the money was. Palmer had denied, at least twice, that it was at his house, but then he had posited that he could gather it up and take flight in the night. And he had produced Duet's ring, also, after denying that it was there. The haul from the game – and it was plenty – was right there at that house. He had little doubt about that. He rated Palmer a poor liar.

              In the morning he called Junior Woods. “Junior, what you doing today, my man?”

              “Hanging out, I guess, Mr. Duet. Not really doing nothing, I guess.”

              “How about taking a ride with me this afternoon?”

              “Sure, Mr. Duet. I can do that. Should I come to your house?”

              “Where do you live, Junior?”

              “In a trailer park off of LA-42, in Denham Springs, Mr. Duet. I got a room with a o'boy named Brunet, they call him Donk.”

              “Well, don't come to Baton Rouge, then, Junior. How about if you leave your truck at the Piccadilly by I-12, and I'll pick you up about four o'clock?”

              “Yessir, I'll be there, for sure.”

              “Good man, Junior. Oh, and by the way, bring your brother's gun with you.” It had been found under the sofa on the day after the game.

              Cruising eastward in the late afternoon, Duet made his plan, and then went over it in his mind. They would drive around in Bay St. Louis, cruising Palmer's house. Maybe he would go out at some time during the evening. All that was needed was a chance to get into the house. If he could do that, he could ambush Palmer when he returned and make him give up his loot. Failing that, he would knock on the door and make an excuse to get in, and than watch for a chance to draw his gun. One way of another, he was going in. He hoped the money was not on its way out of town yet. No time to waste, and if he got it, he felt certain Junior Woods would not tell on him. Quite certain.

              “You got family around here, Junior?”

              “Ain't but just me and my brother, Jeffery, now, Mr. Duet. Jeffery got a trailer on the Tallahala River, up by Taylorsville in Mississippi. I ain't seen him, now, for over a year.”

              “What does your brother do up there, Junior?”

              “Jeffery gets a disability, and likely he still sells a little grass on the side. He always did, anyway.”

              “Did you bring the gun, Junior?”

              “Oh yeah, I got the gun in my pocket, Mr. Duet.”

              Duet chuckled. “That gun is a cannon, man, but it's a piece 'a shit. Remind me later, and I'll get you a better gun than that one, and you can give it back to your brother. You can tell Jeffery that Noray Duet said his gun was a piece 'a shit.”

              “Why am I gonna need a gun today, Mr. Duet? I'm not experienced, you know.”

              “Oh, you won't need it, son, but I'm going into a house to see the guy who robbed the poker game, and you can stay in the car and be my lookout. I believe tonight we can get the money back from him, if we're lucky. Does that sound good to you?”

              “Yessir, it does. Them other guys got no idea who it was.”

              “Yep, just me, Junior. Nobody else knows yet. Just me and you.”

              In Bay St. Louis, Duet drove directly to Palmer's house and found it dark, and there was no truck in the driveway. Palmer was not at home. Good sign or a bad sign. He feared the worst, that his man had bailed out, and he was too late. But he had to know, and he took the intersecting road directly across, where he had parked on his first visit. He turned around at the dead end and parked the car forty yards from the corner, facing Palmer's house.

              “You stay here, Junior, I'm going into the house. All you have to do is watch, and if anybody comes home you give me three good toots on the horn, so I can be ready. Okay?”

              “You got a key to get in, Mr. Duet?”

              Duet grinned at him, and showed him a large ring of keys. “I got a key to just about everything, son. I can get in. All you have to do is watch.” He got out of the car, and went to the trunk and took out a flashlight. He hitched up his pants and checked the gun in his pocket and set off for the house. Junior checked his own gun and settled down to keep watch. Shouldn't need a gun to keep watch. It was nearly dark now, and Duet was only a shadow crossing the street.

              In the next twenty minutes, only two vehicles passed by on Bristol Lane, one going in each direction. One was a pickup truck, but it didn't stop. Junior saw the occasional flash of Duet's light in the house. Duet was searching. Junior crossed his fingers – surely there would be a good jelly for him - and then Duet was out, walking back quickly, swinging something in his hand. When he opened the driver's side door, Woods could see that his burden was a canvas bag, obviously full of something. Duet tossed it onto the floor and entered the car.

              “Did you get the money, Mr. Duet?”

              “We got the money, Junior. I had to take that little house apart, but I found what I was looking for, and now it's back to Baton Rouge.”

              “Them guys will sure be glad to know.”

              Duet chuckled. “Yes they will, Junior, no doubt about it. Tell you what. You can drive, and I am going to take me a little inventory and see what we got.” He opened the door and unbuckled the seat belt. “Mind that ditch on your side.”

              Junior Woods opened his door and climbed out slowly and circled the front of the car, careful not to slip into the ditch. He got into the driver's seat and started the engine. Duet circled the rear of the car and when he reached the open door on the passenger side, Junior shot him twice in the middle of the chest with his brother's piece 'a shit gun. Duet grunted and made a step backwards and collapsed into the ditch.

              Junior switched on the headlights and drove forward and the passenger door swung shut as he did so, and the interior light went out. He turned right on Bristol Lane and found his way to I-10, but he turned eastward instead of west to Baton Rouge. He watched for the exit to US 49 north, toward Taylorsville. He hoped Jeffery would still be there.


              THE END
              If it ain't funny, it ain't much.

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