MOVING DAY - LAURIE POWERS
Art used to read the foreclosure notices in the papers like other people read box scores. Then he’d do a drive-by. After the owners left and before the banks came in, we would swoop in and strip out all the security systems, built-in electronics, copper wiring. These houses in Malibu were full of them.
When he told me about the job in Topanga, I swore it would be my last, but Art had me by the balls and he knew it. The race track had not been good to me lately. I had lost my own house a few months ago.
“What time will we be done?”
“I dunno,” Art said, mouth full of burrito. “How the hell do I know? Why do you care?”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “You really should watch that gambling.”
“Maybe you should shut up.” I wanted to take my piece and splatter his brains out.
The house was on a lockbox, which are about as secure as luggage locks. We picked it, pulled the keys out, opened the front door lock and stopped short. The place was full of furniture.
“What the fuck?”
“Man, these people must have been in a freakin’ hurry to get out.”
Art’s plans changed instantly. “We’re gonna take the furniture,” he said, licking his lips.
We started with the sofa. Art in front, me behind. Art opened the front door. There stood the realtor, holding the open lockbox like a dummy.
The two looked at each other for a second, startled. What a pair. The realtor, a puny little guy with greasy hair and Art with goatee, glasses and a western shirt with long sleeves to hide the track marks.
I dropped my end of the couch, the heavy thud reverberating on the wood floors.
“Hello?” More of a question than a greeting from Mr. Realtor.
“Hi there,” Art said, recovering. “We’re the movers for the bank. They want all the furniture out of here.” You gotta hand it to Art; he was fast on his feet.
“Oh, that’s ok,” Art said, smiling. Probably the first time someone had apologized to him during the middle of a break-in.
“I had an appointment to show the house?”
“Oh, okay.” We all stood there. Mr. Realtor and his client, carefully casual in his polo shirt and khakis. Couldn’t hide that freakin’ gold Rolex, though.
“So, if you don’t mind, we’re going to continue working here, if that’s ok?” Art asked.
“Oh, sure.” Mr. Realtor, feeling magnanimous.
“Let’s go.” Art turned and gave me a look. “Let’s go, Mike.”
We hefted up the couch and continued out to the truck.
“Com’on, let’s get the hell out of here.”
“No fucking way, Mike. I want that big screen!” Art was already striding back.
We began to cart the T.V. through the living room.
“Yeah, you guys need some help?” This from Mr. Casual walking by.
“Actually, we probably could use an extra set of hands,” Art responded, grinning.
What the fuck, Art? I glared at him.
“Not at all,” Mr. Casual said, glad to be one of the boys. He trotted over and picked up the middle section of the big screen. Mr. Realtor stood by, not really quite certain what to do with a client that bonded with the help.
“Careful, now.” Mr. Casual couldn’t resist giving directions. He must have been some kind of CEO.
“Hey, thanks, man,” Art said after it was loaded. They shook hands. Mr. Casual went back in.
“NOW can we go?” I asked, climbing in the cab.
“Wait a sec,” Art said, pulling his piece out from behind the driver’s seat. “Be right back.” I heard two pops inside and knew my life had just taken a big dump.
Art opened up the driver’s door and tossed the Rolex in. “Score!”
“Not this time,” I said, pointing my own piece between his eyes and firing. He dropped like a ton of bricks.
I pocketed the Rolex before sliding over and slamming the truck into gear. There’s a good pawn shop on Pico on the way to the track.
S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep
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