GALE AS METAPHOR - KEITH RAWSON
It was a cliché, but in Dane’s case it was a statement of fact:
He was getting too old for this shit.
"This isn't going to work."
"And you should know, right? You've done this a million times, right, Mr. Bank Robbing Expert?"
"I've done it enough to know he doesn't want to die, or see you, or his employees die."
"So that thing’s real?"
"Yeah it's fucking real. Rodney's an old school mad bomber. The Irish accent might sound like bullshit, but it's the deal. He'd strap those rigs to British soldiers they'd kidnap and make 'em walk into their barracks. Of course, those psychos only wanted blood."
"And all he wants is money now?"
"I don't want anybody hurt! You promised me! I've known most of those people for years. Just because their boss is a dick doesn't mean they should get hurt!"
"Would you shut the fuck up for once! I told you I wasn't going to hurt nobody and I meant it! Just try to stay calm until we get the call."
Jesus, the cunt had a mouth on her. Six weeks of working her, and Dane could swear she hadn't shut her trap the entire time; she even chatted it up in her sleep. Six weeks was a long haul for a fuck job. Usually he was in and out within three. One week of scouting, one week of screwing, then a week convincing the target into the job.
It still amazed him what you could talk a middle-aged woman into doing when you threw a little strange cock in ‘em.
But with Gale it was the standard week of background, but two weeks of her attempting to be coy and flirtatious, which made Dane throw up in his mouth a little every time she fluttered her eyelashes seductively or “accidentally” caressed the back of his hand before he finally put the cock to her.
And once she got it, she kept wanting it and wanting it. Two continuous weeks of humping, and anytime he’d attempt to broach the subject of her husband or anything resembling the job, Gale would be down on her knees, unzipping him with her teeth. He’d groan, attempting to make it sound like pleasure instead of disgust.
It wasn't that Gale was an unattractive woman, far from it. She was a petite 5'4 brunette, who spent 4 days a week in the gym and ran 6 days a week. Dane should have been thrilled she wasn't your typical middle age bank manager's wife. (Who—from personal experience—tend to resemble wrinkled rotting pears with folds of cellulite the consistency and color of cookie dough, thanks to a wholesale diet of chocolate, fast food, Twinkies, and trashy daytime talk shows.) But when he looked at her, a shiver ran down his spine and the taste yellow bile crawled up his throat; it wasn't Gale, it was what Gale represented; Gale as metaphor.
The screw jobs were a young man's game, and he was rolling up on 36.
True, at 36, he could easily pass for 25 or 30, but shit, it was a lot of work to keep up appearances. A couple hours in the gym every day; weekly visits to the salon; pedicure, manicure, a professional dye job, and a strict diet where red meat and alcohol were excluded. He was a bank robber, for Christ's sake. Shouldn't he be out every night drinking and whoring, enjoying the spoils of his labor?
But this was the path he'd chosen as a thief. He was by no means a strong-arm man, storming a bank in ski masks and packing shotguns was for amateurs or psychos like his partner Rodney. He was a finesse man, but crawling into the sack month-after-month, year-after-year . . . The only thing that seemed to be making it worth the effort was the afterbirth of the job.
He'd made it a habit to keep the wife alive until the crew made it back with the cash and the husband. Most of the wives would be foaming at the mouth ready to tell their loving spouses off. Nine-times-out-of-ten, they'd rip into them about what shitty husband's they were; how lousy of a lay; how every time they screwed she faked it.
Dane wound be internally bent over shrieking laughter as he watched the husbands break down in a fountain of tears and snot, the tortured eyes, knowing that their wives of 10 or 15 or 20 years could betray them so easily for some strange cock and a whole shit load of money. At this point in the confrontation, Dane would step up behind the bitches and turn their heads inside out. The best part was watching the husband's reactions.
Most of the time, it was horror, revulsion; but occasionally, the husband would have the smirk of a man who’d just finished a great piece of prime rib, or has just watched his cheating whore of a wife have her brains come rocketing out of what used to be her face. After the smirk, Rodney would take care of the husband, and the team moved on for six months, three months, or whenever they ran out of money, and it was back to the grind of scouting the next target.
But the stolen car joy ride exhilaration of the kills wasn't doing the trick anymore, which is how he figured Rodney talked him into the vest.
Rodney had been pushing it over the past couple of years. It was a simple design: Two pounds of C4 explosive strapped to a regular suit vest with industrial strength duct tape. The detonator was controlled by a simple remote, which worked great as long as the vest was in direct line of sight. Otherwise, it was completely useless, which was why a basic timer was used as back up. Dane suspected Rodney wanted to use the vest because he missed blowing shit up; correction, he missed blowing people up. You really couldn't blame him; the Irish screwball came of age in Belfast during the "troubles" and he'd spent a lifetime perfecting the art of turning walking, breathing human beings into something resembling extra chunky salsa. So what was the harm in letting him blow up the husband, as opposed to shooting him in the back of the head?
Whatever, Dane didn't like thinking about it too much. It was a reminder that screwing all those over-the-hill soccer moms had more to do with ego than with pulling a job.
The cell in his jeans pocket vibrated like a dildo. He picked up on the third ring, grateful he had someone else to talk to other than Gale.
"It's done. We got the wedge." Rodney had immigrated to the states 10 years ago and his brogue was ever-so-slowly starting to be swallowed up by a flat Midwesterner twang. It made him sound like a Californian attempting to imitate a chappy from Gloucester, Mass; yeah, more or less retarded. "D'ya want us to head back to the house?"
Dane stared at the back of Gale's head, his eyes focusing on a small cluster of gray hairs near the top of her skull that her colorist must have missed at her last stylist appointment. He pulled his tiny Sig Sauer P250 from his waistband, thumbed the safety off, and sighted down at those gray hairs.
"Nah, go and take him someplace secluded and light him up."
"Yer shitting me, Boss?"
"No, just make it quick and don't linger. All that C4 going to make a lot of noise."
"You betcha, chief. Ah, the boys are gonna love this shit!"
"Great, have fun." Dane hung up and listened to Gale's prattling, panicked voice grating like nails on a chalk board; still going on and on about how she couldn't live with herself if someone got hurt because of her. She didn't even notice that he'd been on the phone or had a nine millimeter pistol nearly pressed into the back of her skull. He wanted to say something, cough, clear his throat, anything so she'd turn her head a couple of degrees so she could see the gun.
Ah, fuck it.
He inhaled deep, letting his lungs fill with the stink of cordite and burning hair. Other than the slight echo of the report, it was finally quiet enough for him to think. Maybe he just needed a few months off.
Six months in Mexico shacked up with a couple or few college girls down in Cabo and he'd be ready to get back to the grind? Or maybe he'd finally just let Rodney take the reigns. Maybe.
Right now was nothing but a world of maybes.
BIO: Keith Rawson lives in the Phoenix, AZ suburb of Gilbert with his wife and daughter. His stories have appeared (or are waiting to appear) in such publications as DZ Allen's Muzzleflash, Powder Burn Flash, Flashshots, Darkest Before the Dawn, A Twist of Noir, Bad Things, Crooked, Crimewav.com, PulpPusher, and Yellow Mama. He has also finished the first draft of a hard-boiled novel tentatively titled, Retirement.
And yes, just like every pulp writer on the net, he has a blog which he occasionally updates when he's not chasing around a two year old or working on new writing projects. You can find it at Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips.