Carl knew that he had made a bad choice; he just did not yet know the total extent of that poor choice. He was about to find out. The dude had said his name was Joe, but the only time Carl’d used the name, the guy had not responded, so he was not real sure. Right now “Joe” had his right arm around the neck of a fair-complected 7-Eleven clerk, while his left hand clutched a small handgun, pressed up against the temple of the kid, who looked as though he were ready to barf.
The gig was not supposed to go down with any gun. Carl didn’t even know the dude had a gun. It was supposed to be over before the kid even knew there was a robbery. How he even got involved with the dude in the first place was weird, because he was supposed to work with Sid, a guy he had met while doing his ninety days for cultivation. Sid had shown up at the bar, but had begged off, citing irreconcilable differences of opinion with the “powers that existed” in his household, but he had provided a stand-in.
“Sid, what do you mean you want out? Out of what? Out of watching me walk around the counter, push a button, and take the loot? What seems to be the problem?”
“The problem is I don’t want to go to jail again, and there’s no guarantee.” Sid stopped right there.
“Guarantee? You want a guarantee? I’ll give you a guarantee. I guarantee that you will still be an insurance salesman, when you retire at age 65, in let’s see, only 42 years from now, but who’s counting? Not you, that’s for sure, because you can’t count that high. No one can.”
“Look, I know I said I would be down for it, but my old lady just told me she’d leave me if I ended up in the can again. Give me a break. What am I supposed to do?” Sid looked like he cared real bad, but that didn’t help me out at all. I had just the opposite problem, an old lady telling me to get two hundred dollars, or get out. I’d been in the 7=Eleven the other night when the kid had ducked back into the walk-in refrigerator, to get a keg of beer.
The plan was so easy, it was ridiculous. The two of us were going to walk in together, and say we had ordered a keg of beer, and could he get it for us? As soon as he went into the walk-in, I would lean over the counter, hit the retail key, watch the cash drawer pop out, and grab the big bills and split. Sid was supposed to follow the guy back to the walk-in, to help him with the keg, but as soon as the guy walked into the fridge, Sid was simply supposed to about-face, and follow me out the door. By the time the kid realized there was no keg for J. Skulking Bushwhack, we’d be long gone, on our way home with a fistful of bucks.
Unfortunately, when I asked for a keg for J. Skulking Bushwhack, the kid had the unmitigated gall to tell me that there was no keg for a Bushwhack. He had one for a Thorndike, and one for Smitty, but that was the extent of the kegs. Was there something else he could help us with? How was I supposed to know that the clerk was the same one who handled the ordering of the kegs? While we’re on the subject of things I didn’t know, I had no clue that Joe would suddenly take matters into his own hands, in the form of the kid. He simply reached across the countertop, and grabbed a handful of thick blond hair, and pulled him back across the counter, with the kid lashing out with his shoes. What on earth was he thinking?
One bad choice, did not really leave much room for a second one, so I thought fast, and acted even quicker. Joe never knew that what hit him over the back of his head, was a bottle of highly priced tequila, and he never really cared. By the time he woke up, he was staring into the faces of six of the city’s finest, while they readied him for the short journey to his new home.
I, on the other hand, was high-tailing it over to Lucky’s place, to take out a small loan, about 200 bucks, to be exact. Never having seen Joe, before in my life, I was counting on him not being able to finger me to the authorities. I would worry about getting the money back to Lucky tomorrow. Right now, I was avoiding the 7-Eleven, and anything to do with Sid. As far as Joe was concerned, Joe Who?