How to Rob an Armored Car (9 page)

BOOK: How to Rob an Armored Car
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“You have to what?” Mitch was hardly paying attention, his eyes riveted to the screen where a playful Rottweiler pup was pushing a toddler around on a tricycle.

Doug got up to take a shower and Mitch suddenly looked away from the screen. “You’re taking a shower for Kevin?

What, are you guys, like, gay now or something?”

“Man, I’m not taking a shower
for
Kevin. I just want to take a shower. Is that OK?” Doug slammed the door to the bathroom but he could still hear Mitch call to him:

“Hey man, if you wait a while, maybe Kevin’ll join you.”

Doug got into the shower and cranked up the heat and the pressure, as if he could wash away his sins. The only way to make this right was to do something good for Kevin. Something that involved loss or suffering for himself equal to the loss or suffering he had caused in others. He strained to remember the book on Buddhism he had read in his senior year in high school. He had liked it. The paper he had written on it had been his last A. It had been the last book he had read too.

Maybe he could buy Kevin a present. No. What the fuck was he thinking? Mitch had already made a comment about them being gay because he wanted to wash Linda’s perfume smell off himself, so if he actually bought Kevin a present, it would open the floodgates of ridicule. Not to mention the way Kevin would probably react. Given the fact that Doug had known the guy for four years and had never been moved to buy him anything before except a pack of cigarettes, suddenly showing up at Kevin’s door (which, of course, was also Linda’s door) with a lavish gift might arouse his curiosity. And what would Linda think? Shit, shit, shit. This was all wrong.

He heard Kevin come in downstairs and could hear the muffled sound of Kevin and Mitch talking. He shut off the shower, toweled himself off, and listened to their conversation. They were talking about how he and Mitch would have to go grocery shopping now that Doug could no longer bring food home from the restaurant.

Surprisingly, the sound of Kevin’s voice did not fill him with anxiety. Instead, he found it oddly reassuring, as if the idea of Kevin were more menacing than Kevin himself. Perhaps this life of deceit that he had just embarked on would not be as terrible and karma-destroying as he had first imagined. He would do something nice for Kevin but he didn’t know what yet. Not a present though. He could take his time and figure something out. He felt himself calming down and emerged from the shower to go downstairs.

“Hey, dude. That sucks about your job,” Kevin said as he saw him coming down the stairs. “Here. Maybe this’ll help.” Kevin tossed him a dime bag of weed. “It’s mostly sticks and stems, but I thought it might ease the pain of unemployment.”

Oh Christ. Kevin had bought
him
a present. It was supposed to be the other way around. Kevin was such a good guy and Doug was a sneaky slime-bellied snakeass of a human being who slept with other men’s wives while they worked hard for money to buy weed for him.

“I . . . I can’t take this,” Doug said miserably, then thought what an idiot he sounded like. This was far more suspicious than simply saying thanks and firing up, which is what pre-sex-with-Linda Doug would have done. He shook his head and was relieved when he realized that his sheepish refusal had been interpreted as depression over losing his job.

“Hey man, it’s not a big deal,” Mitch said. “You’ll find something else real soon. Don’t worry about it. The rent’s paid because of the TV deal anyway.”

“I may already have something for you,” Kevin said slyly, sitting on the sofa and putting his feet on the coffee table. When Kevin came over, he seemed to relish the lack of tidiness, the informality. He could plunk his feet on anything and Mitch and Doug didn’t care. Or at least, Mitch didn’t. Doug was frequently scraping bits of dried mud from Kevin’s boots off the coffee table but today definitely wasn’t the day to say anything. He sat down next to Kevin and began packing a bowl.

“Have something for me? You mean dog-walking?”

“No. I already got Mitch for that and I only need one other person. This is more money less work.” Doug and Mitch leaned in and Kevin paused for a moment, enjoying their curiosity. “You guys wanna steal a Ferarri?”

Doug stared at him. “Huh?”

“I wanna steal a Ferrari,” said Mitch.

“I’m serious, man. I know this guy who’ll pay, like, twenty grand cash for a Ferrari. It should be an hour’s work. At the most.”

“Sounds good,” said Mitch. “Where do I sign up?” Ever since they had stolen the television from Accu-mart, Mitch and Kevin had developed a whole new respect for theft, which disturbed Doug. The morning after the theft, Mitch had been reading the paper and happened on an article describing the arrest of a bank robber. Mitch had held forth on the idiocy of the man’s crime, concluding that he should have robbed electronics and flogged them as they had done. Based on his one experience with crime, he seemed to have appointed himself the local criminal genius. But to be fair, Doug thought Mitch might have had a flair for it.

“I don’t know anyone who has a Ferrari,” Doug said. “And they have, like, security systems and shit.”

“How do you know this guy?” Mitch asked.

“From prison.”

“Great,” said Doug. “You can’t trust those people.”

Mitch and Kevin stared at him. “I’m one of those people,” Kevin said. “I was in prison.”

Shit. He had meant to be nice to Kevin and now he had wound up insulting him. He had insulted Kevin and
slept
with his wife on the same day.
“Sorry,” Doug said.

“I ran into this guy in the dog park,” Kevin said, ignoring him. “He seems to think I’m someone else, some dude who stole cars. Anyways, he put me in touch with this other guy who’ll pay twenty grand for a Ferrari. And at first I thought, what the fuck do I know about stealing cars? Then I remembered high school.”

“High school?” asked Doug, trying to sound interested but actually waiting for a good place in the conversation to point out that Kevin had gone insane. He would point it out nicely. Maybe that could be the nice thing he did for Kevin—save him from a five-year prison term for doing something stupid.

“Yeah, man. I went to high school about an hour from here. I worked weekends as a valet at this super high-end restaurant, parking cars. Dude, there were Ferraris in there every night. Rolls-Royces, all that shit. And you know what? We left the doors unlocked and we put the fucking keys under the mat. That was ten years ago but I bet they still do.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Mitch, as if they were discussing buying concert tickets or a pickup softball game. Doug winced. Did these guys not realize what they were talking about? This was a crime, punishable by years, not days, in prison. This was the last thing Doug needed. He began to shake his head, was about to beg out of the whole deal, when a sudden, horrible thought struck him. What if this was the nice thing he was supposed to do for Kevin? Not talk him out of it but participate enthusiastically. The laws of karma dictated that you scored more karma points for doing something you didn’t want to do, something repugnant to you but pleasing to the offended party. This certainly qualified.

“OK,” said Doug.

“Really?” said Kevin, who had obviously been anticipating resistance. “You’re in?”

“Yeah.” Doug looked into Kevin’s eyes and saw not suspicion or anger or betrayal, all the things Doug knew he should be feeling, but pleasure. Pleasure at having his friend Doug along for the ride, part of the team. This was it, though, Doug thought, the one thing. Once this was over, they were square.

Oh, and no more sleeping with Linda.

MITCH LIT A cigarette and looked at the snow falling over his backyard. Kevin had left and Doug had gone upstairs to be moody and depressed, so he was getting a chance to enjoy a moment of solitude amid the rusted tools and piles of broken PVC piping on his back porch. A year ago, in exchange for half a month’s free rent, Doug and Mitch had renovated the kitchen’s ailing plumbing, a job which had taken a day, but the cleanup process was in its thirteenth month. At the end of that day, Doug, flushed with the success of the home-repair job, had resolved to become a plumber.

So they were going to steal a Ferrari. Twenty grand for a day’s work. It was odd, but it seemed like a job to him. Only, unlike working at Accu-mart, this was something he could really get into. He would make decisions and be a part of a team, not a worker ant who constantly had to be reassured of his own importance with platitudes and falsehoods. There would be no motivational posters, no time cards, no uniforms. There would be no Bob Sutherland, no endless hours of boredom, no need for a lunchtime pot break. Just exciting and productive work, good pay, and the knowledge that he was one of a select few chosen to do the job, which were the only things he had ever wanted from his employment. Accu-mart had provided none of them.

He wondered if he would have a knack for it. He knew Kevin would be the perfect partner, smart and aggressive, but he was surprised that Doug seemed so interested. He would have imagined that Doug would have just shrugged the whole thing off and gone looking for another cooking job, leaving him and Kevin to split the money. Mitch thought that the fact that he had lost his job that day might have been a factor. Maybe Doug had wanted in on the job because he was worried about his bills. But that theory didn’t quite make sense, as Doug wasn’t one to really worry about his bills. Mitch usually had to remind him to pay them, and if he didn’t handle the rent, they both would have been evicted a long time ago.

“You have to pay your credit card bills every month,” Mitch remembered lecturing Doug once after discovering about five late notices stuffed into the couch. “If you don’t, it will ruin your credit score.”

“Why are they keeping score of how often I pay my bills?”

Mitch had begun to explain the system to him, incredulous that a twenty-six-year-old man didn’t already know about this. But, it turned out, he did. He had simply applied his own logic to the system and wanted an argument to test it.

“So they’re keeping score on me so if I get a high score I can buy a house?” Doug had asked.

“Yes,” Mitch had answered suspiciously.

“What if I don’t want a house?”

“Eventually, you’re going to want a house.”

Doug had shaken his head. “I’ll never have a house,” he’d said without regret. “Neither will you. We’ll never own houses. They just like to keep score on us. They keep score on all of us but we’ll never own houses.”

In truth, Mitch couldn’t help feeling Doug was right but he wasn’t willing to let go of the idea that he would one day own a house. He just knew he would, one day. He wasn’t sure how but just over the next hill there were good things waiting to happen. He was certain of it. Sure, the credit system was fucked, the credit score just a number that indicated how willing you were to participate in a rigged game, but that was no reason not to try.

So maybe Doug wasn’t worried about bills but for some reason he was finally taking some responsibility and joining up for the Ferrari mission. It seemed ironic that the first time in months that Mitch had felt respect for Doug was when the guy decided to commit a felony. Maybe Doug was changing, turning into a different person right in front of them. Maybe he was finally joining them on Planet Earth.

Good things were waiting to happen. Soon, with the proceeds from the Ferrari, he could clean up his credit, maybe even apply for a gold card. Then on to other good things. Maybe one day he would even get a nice suit and perhaps get a Ferrari legally and drive it up to his house, which he owned. He and Doug would both own houses and they would live near each other and go over to each other’s houses and smoke pot all day and play beer pong and not have to worry about anything because they were such efficient and excellent car thieves that they never needed to work crappy jobs. But they would, of course, occasionally help Kevin with his dog-walking business. Dogs were cool and how else would they explain all their money to the IRS?

The door opened and Doug peered out. He looked better, less moody, less beaten by life, as if he had had a good cry. “Hey man, you wanna play beer pong?”

Mitch got up from the worn couch and tossed his cigarette into the snow. “Sure, dude. I’m gonna kick your ass.”

6

CHAPTER

T
HE ROAD TO Eden, Kevin’s hometown, was beautiful, snowy, and desolate. The roads were icy and Mitch and Doug were getting anxious about Kevin’s lead-footed driving, as they were both crammed into the death seat of Kevin’s pickup and unable to fasten the seatbelt.

“Dude, you could maybe slow down?” asked Doug, hoping not to cause offense. He found it hard to make eye contact with Kevin but he didn’t think sleeping with someone’s wife gave them the right to kill you in an auto accident. Mitch, who Doug had thought was too high to care, mumbled something in agreement.

But Kevin was lost in thought. Seeing the roads he grew up on had made him gloomy and thoughtful and he would occasionally point out random things along the way, things which had some long-lost personal meaning for him, making him the world’s most boring tour guide.

“Me and Willie Wright used to play down there,” he said, seeming wistful, as he pointed out a drainage ditch. Mitch looked down into the ditch, trying hard, for Kevin’s sake, to find something interesting in there. He felt he should ask a question but the moment passed as his dope-soaked brain searched for the right one. A block farther on, Kevin pointed out a tree. “That’s where Katie Feld broke her arm.”

Instead of asking about the details of her injury, Mitch asked the first question that occurred to him. “Was she hot?”

“She was six years old, you asshole,” Kevin said. Mitch burst into a fit of giggles, which caused Doug to start giggling, and they both went into convulsions of laughter on the bench seat of the pickup as Kevin snorted with disgust.

“You guys are morons,” he said. “You’d better get your shit together because we’re almost there.”

They pulled off onto a gravel road in the thick of the woods and Mitch wondered what type of a high-end restaurant would be in such a location, apparently in the middle of a forest. Kevin seemed to anticipate the thought, because he said, “This place is really cool. It’s a remodeled farmhouse. We should go to dinner here one night.”

Which was pure fantasy, they all knew. It was an hour from Wilton and a trip to McDonald’s usually had all three of them checking their wallets. Eating out had become a luxury that they just read about and saw on TV. And besides, if you stole a Ferrari from a restaurant’s parking lot, it might not be a great idea to use the proceeds eating there, since that would increase the likelihood of being seen by a busboy or valet parking attendant who might have noticed you lurking around in the woods prior to the theft.

So much of their lives were made up of that kind of fantasy, Mitch thought, so much time wasted with comments like that one. We should go to dinner here. Yes, we really should. It would be awfully nice, wouldn’t it? Perhaps we should have our butlers make reservations for seven-ish. It was all part of the same brainwashing—him obsessing about paying his credit cards on time so he could one day buy a house and Kevin suggesting a dining-out experience at the priciest restaurant in their part of the state. They had eaten it up, all the shit they had been fed about having a future. Their future was to work or starve, and the work was getting harder to come by.

Kevin pulled into the parking lot, which, despite the freshness of the snowfall, had already been plowed and most likely would be again before the restaurant opened at four o’clock. They looked at the ornate woodwork on the porch, the sign with a layer of snow neatly balanced along its narrow edge. A Mexican man wearing an apron emerged from a basement door and began shoveling the snow off the steps, paying no attention to the pickup truck idling in the otherwise empty parking lot.

“That’s Jorge,” said Kevin, full of awe. “He’s the dishwasher. Jesus, I can’t believe he still works here.”

“Where else would he go?” asked Mitch, looking around at the woods and motioning toward the dying town they had driven through to get there. Kevin was still staring at the dishwasher, lost in a reverie of nostalgia. He snapped himself out of it and looked across the parking lot.

“See back there? All the way back against the tree line?” He pointed to the far end of the lot. “What we gotta do is hide in those trees over there, as far as we can from the front of the restaurant. On busy nights, they park the cars all the way back against the trees.”

“How can we be sure they’ll park the Ferrari back there?” asked Mitch.

“We can’t.”

“How do we know what nights the Ferrari will be here?” asked Doug.

“We don’t.”

There was silence. “Look, guys,” Kevin said patiently. “We’re gonna make over six grand apiece, OK? We gotta put a little bit of work in.”

“Like what? Whaddya mean, work? You mean we gotta hide in those trees in the middle of winter until a Ferrari shows up?” Mitch was getting annoyed now. He’d just spent an hour in the cramped pickup with Doug’s leg crammed against his, putting his foot to sleep, and he had the good seat. He could only imagine how uncomfortable Doug must have been, straddled over the stick shift, and now it was starting to look like the plan involved coming out here on a nightly basis for god knows how long, and lying in a snowy bush all night. He didn’t mind stealing cars. That was the fun part. But he hadn’t signed up for night after night of freezing his balls off in a forest.

“Yeah, that’s what I mean,” said Kevin, as if he were talking to his six-year-old daughter.

“Dude, let’s just steal the first car we see. This is fucked up.”

“I don’t mind,” said Doug quickly.

“That’s the spirit,” said Kevin. “Dude, there are like three guys who come here all the time who drive Ferraris. Seriously.”

“That was ten fucking years ago,” snapped Mitch. “They could all be dead by now.”

“OK, there’s more,” said Kevin, talking only to Doug now. “We have to wear business suits.”

“Business suits? What the fuck are you thinking?” said Mitch.

“Business suits,” said Doug thoughtfully.

“Yeah, business suits. If we get out and walk around in this parking lot the way we’re dressed right now, in jeans and these shitty jackets, the valet guys’ll be on us in a flash. They’ll start asking all kinds of questions. But if we’re wearing business suits, they’ll leave us alone.”

“So I have to squat in a bush for a week wearing a business suit,” said Mitch. “Dude, fuck this. Let’s just go rip off that doctor with a safe full of pills.”

“Pills?” asked Doug. “I hadn’t heard anything about this. What’s this about pills?”

Kevin ignored him. “Mitch, man, what the fuck is the matter with you? You won’t spend a few nights getting your precious little hands dirty for over six thousand dollars? Fine. Fuck it. Me and Doug’ll do it. That’ll be ten grand for each of us. We don’t really even need three people anyway.”

“Yo, you guys, what’s this about pills?” Doug said. “Do you know someone who can get pills?”

Surprised at how easily he was being cut out of the deal, Mitch began to backtrack. “Dude,” he said patiently, “I’m just a little surprised. I thought you knew exactly when and where we could find a Ferrari. I didn’t think it was going to involve a lot of detective work.”

Despite having run a booming pot-selling operation with Doug, Kevin wasn’t sure enough of his intelligence to go into the car-theft business with him alone and felt more comfortable about the three of them working together. He, too, began to backtrack. “Well, I can’t say for sure what night we’ll get a Ferrari,” he said, “but we’ll get one. The plan is good.”

“The plan is good,” Mitch agreed, skeptically.

“OK then,” said Kevin. “Do you guys have business suits?”

“What’s this about pills? Why won’t you guys answer my questions about pills? I know you’ve got pills,” said Doug.

“We don’t have any fucking pills,” said Mitch. “I was kidding.”

“You weren’t kidding. I distinctly heard you talking about stealing pills.”

“Well, if we’re talking about stealing them it means we don’t have them, right?”

“Do you guys own business suits?” asked Kevin again

“Yes, we have business suits,” Mitch half-shouted.

“What kind of pills?” said Doug. “OxyContin? Can you get some OxyContin? Seriously. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been able to get ahold of OxyContin?”

Kevin looked across at Mitch and rolled his eyes. Neither one of them gave Doug a straight answer as they drove back to Wilton.

ON THE DRIVE back, Kevin was thinking about a guy he had met in prison named Eddie Dars. They were in the common room one afternoon, which was really just a huge cell, and as they were the only two white men in the room at the time it was only natural that they gravitated toward one another. Eddie was playing chess by himself and had invited Kevin over and taught him some moves. Kevin had been intrigued by the game. Then the conversation had turned to sports, and they discussed the Steelers and the Dolphins in great depth. Eddie really knew his football, knew the colleges attended by the whole Steelers offensive line, the histories of the coaches. They had laughed sometimes as they talked and Kevin had gone back to his cell thinking, I’ve finally found a friend in this place.

Kevin found out later that same day that Eddie Dars had raped seventeen women. Not one, not two. Seventeen. The guy was a fucking maniac. After a week of jail, this was the first actual
criminal
Kevin had met and up until that moment it had not occurred to him that the prison’s ostensible reason for existence was occasionally valid. Among the black kids who had driven through white neighborhoods with bags of weed, the drunk drivers who didn’t have connections to get them out, and the junkies who had failed to show enough respect to the judges and police, there were some
actual criminals
mixed in. This was an eye-opener for Kevin. It turned out that Eddie Dars was only in the minimum-security prison because he was attending court dates in the county and would be headed back to maximum-security prison at the end of the month to serve out a fifty-year sentence. And Kevin had picked him over all the others as a friend.

What did that say about him, Kevin wondered? He knew that he himself was a well-grounded fellow—normal upbringing, popular in high school. Yet in his personal choices he always seemed to gravitate toward the fringes. How else would he have wound up in a car with these two, Continually Complaining Mitch and Pillhead Doug, planning a felony? Was he just like them? He
felt
normal and he figured that if people saw the three of them together they would see him as an ill fit. But he did fit. He got along with them.

He knew the fact that he got along with them annoyed Linda. There was always something about his attraction to the fringes that had bugged her. He hadn’t decided to grow pot in his basement for the money, though the money it generated hadn’t hurt. He had grown the pot because he knew he would start meeting people like these guys. He had felt that he was about to sink into a middle-class hellhole, and Linda had already started going to PTA meetings. Real PTA meetings. Kevin had thought that the PTA was just a
Saturday
Night Live
joke, a symbol of domestication and middle-class family life, like white picket fences. He hadn’t thought there was actually a PTA. But there was and Linda had found it.

So that was it; he was doomed to spend the next fifty years hanging out with married couples and going to dinner parties at other people’s houses and talking about the cost of gutter replacements and the best way to seed a lawn. Some of the people he met when he was forced to go to a dinner party and reexamine his lost youth were younger than him. One cheerful neighbor named Hank, in his early twenties and dressed in khakis and a sweater (which was almost as bad as going to a PTA meeting), had suggested that Kevin needed to aerate his lawn and spent a full half hour giving him horticulture tips. While Hank had been rambling, Kevin had decided that a little horticulture might not be a bad idea.

He had sat down at the computer the next day and bought lights and seeds online, built a partition in the basement, and told Linda that he was setting up a “workshop” for himself. Rather than buy a padlock to keep her out, he had decided to make her think that whatever he was doing in there was just so boring that she wouldn’t care to enter. She wanted him to have hobbies, so he picked the most boring hobby he could think of—sculpting—and ran with it. The space behind the partition became his “sculpting room.” Linda never asked why a sculpting room required ten kilowatts of power a day, nearly doubling their energy bill, nor why it emitted an eerie glow visible under the panels of the partition at all hours of the night, nor why fans could be heard constantly running in the sculpting room, nor why he never produced any sculptures. His lack of sculpting output could always be blamed on sculptor’s block. But finally, when he had felt it was time for him to produce something, anything, he had gone to the Asian market and bought a raw wood sculpture of an Easter Island–style mongoloid with a huge head. Linda’s comment when he showed it to her had been, “Yeah, I saw that at the Asian market.”

It had gone on that way for months. Linda never asked questions. She must have known all along what he was up to. Must have. He went to dinner parties (when forced to by Linda) and the conversation one night had turned to basement remodeling. I’m going to hook up a high-def sound system in mine; I’m going to get a weight room set up; I’m going to get a sports room/pool room/guys-only room with a bar and a Beer Meister, blah blah blah. They were all talking about brand-name appliances and how great it was going to be when their basements were all finished and how everyone was invited over, and Kevin had only one thought: you guys are never coming over to my basement, unless you want to sample some Afghan sativa hybrid under 320-watt sodium lights. The thought had made him smile to himself, which the other guys had ignored, because they were used to him smiling to himself and never saying much and they didn’t really like him anyway.

BOOK: How to Rob an Armored Car
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