Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 086 - Eric Beetner


Getaway drivers are, by in large, a cocky set of bastards. Ask one and he’ll generally tell you he’s the best.

I’m not that guy. Sure, I’m good. Any driver not in jail has to be half way decent but I’m not stuck up about it. I do my job, I do it quickly, quietly and we don’t get caught. That’s what I get paid for.

And before you go there, don’t think I’m sexist by saying “he” all the time. Have you ever met a female getaway driver? I didn’t think so. Find one and I’ll ask her to marry me.

The only ones on a crew more full of themselves are the planners, the masterminds. They found the target, assembled the crew, presumably have done it before and therefore think they cornered the market on cleverness and balls. No one ever gives the driver credit for the amount of planning it takes. All they care about is the car but that’s the least important part of the equation. Try telling them that.

It gets quite annoying actually when the first question every time you go to interview for a crew is, “So what do you drive?” I could drive your Grandmother’s electric wheelchair and make a clean getaway. It’s not the wheels that matter. It’s the planning, the preparation and the nerves of steel. Do we get credit for having any of that? No. Never. Any yahoo with a muscle car and a right foot to press the gas pedal can get hired. Prison blocks are full of them.

It’s work but the planning is what I like most about it. The driving fast part is fun, sure, but that can get old. Planning a new job and staying one step ahead of the jerks trying to screw you and the cops trying to catch you - that’s a skill.

And what do I get for all my planning and all my nerve? Ten percent. Break out the confetti and party hats.

Ten percent is insulting. I’ve gotten my rate up to fifteen but that’s only by reputation and that takes a while to come by. It makes leaving town that much harder. has to be done.

Maybe it’s just in my nature to get uncomfortable being idle. Those few minutes waiting outside a bank or jewelry store are unbearable to me and normally I’m a pretty relaxed guy.

So I pack up and move on from time to time. When the job is done I get gone.

It’s not like I make friends. Making friends with thieves is downright stupid. They’re going to steal from you and screw you over. It’s what they do. By offering you only ten percent they’ve basically stated their desire to fuck you over right from the jump off.

It's time someone showed them they aren’t so smart after all. The driver does hold the keys, in more ways than one.

Sure it takes time to set up a new life in a new town but, like I said, the planning is the fun part. That’s where the really talented ones shine. Breaking in a new identity isn’t easy. Keeping out of any records: police, government, etc., is hard to do these days. Building a new reputation takes time and it means going back down to the ten percent club for a while until people start to know you.

I like to turn down a few jobs at the start. Make them come to you. The market for a good driver is actually pretty strong. They might not want to admit it, especially to your face, but deep down the planners know the driver is critical to a successful score.

I have to laugh at the planners who try to do it themselves. I always say the fastest way to get to prison is to drive yourself there.

For a first meeting, I like to steal a big impressive car to give them the eye candy that they want. A big V-8 that rumbles and sounds mean. Exactly the kind of car that I would never use on a job. The last car you want is one that is loud and attracts attention. That pretty much rules out anything American. The advantage American cars do have, though, is storage. People storage and trunk space. I give in on jobs with a bigger crew, more than 3 people, and just do some modifications to make them less conspicuous.

There is a fine line, though. You don’t want to be noticed while you wait for the job to be done inside but you do want to be noticed leaving. I know, it sounds off. The trick is that I know I can get away. No high speed chase for me. So what I want is a clear description of a car that any witness no matter how blind or dumb can give. If the cops have a very clear picture of what they’re looking for they are much more likely to ignore everything else. Enter the second car.

The actual getaway car is the flashy one with the bigger, louder engine, then something cosmetic like I usually paint one door panel orange like it’s been replaced or something or racing stripes or one of those stick-on things that makes it look like a baseball busted through your back window. Then there are the vanity plates. I have a stack I take with me. If they see nothing else about the car, most people will try to be the hero and get the license plate. So why not make it easy for them? Give them something they know and can read quickly. ‘T and A’ was a favorite. ‘g bye’ was another. For this last job I used the old classic ‘Eff Yoo’.

The last job before I get gone from a particular city doesn’t take much extra planning. Picking the right job is key, you have to go out on a big payday. I make sure everyone on the crew knows exactly where the switch is to the second car. They know what car it is and where it’s parked. That’s important for the last job.

I’m not talking about the proverbial “one last score”, screw that. I’m going to be driving into my sixties. Although that’s easy to say from the comfort of my mid-20’s. When I’m sitting on a chunk of cash, like I am now, it’s easy to see how an early retirement would be a good thing.

After the last one, I decided to go south. I like it so far. I’m spending too much time on the beach though and not enough time setting up the new me. But, like I said, I got money so I got time.

This last one went as well as I could hope. Just like the other last scores. It’s important not to tell the crew leader that you’re leaving town right after his big heist. It makes them nervous. They don’t know my commitment to the job. I would never skip out early. Still, they only see their big plan falling through and they don’t see how much is on the line for me. Arrogant pricks.

I have to tell you I really enjoy teaching them a lesson about how smart the driver can be.

This last one was a bank. Pretty standard stuff. Small crew of three, plus me. It was a perfect set up, my idea actually, because the two young guys the planner brought in with him were motorcycle guys (another batch of cocky jerk-offs). They kept saying how a cycle was a much better getaway vehicle because of the acceleration and the maneuverability in tight situations. I let them have their fantasy and suggested that they go for it. It worked out better for me.

We had two bikes stashed for them, one in the alley next to the bank and one on the street opposite the bank. When the three of them would exit, the two motorcycle guys would each peel off and get on their respective bikes and speed away in opposite directions, leaving just me and the planner to use the car and the little detail they didn’t bring up about the car vs. bike argument - the trunk to keep the money in.

A big green army duffle bag doesn’t do well on the back of a Kawasaki.

If you’re robbing a liquor store or a mini-mart, sure, ride your motorcycle. If you’re doing a real job where you hope to take enough that when you split ten percent here and fifteen percent there you aren’t left with nothing more than milk money - take a car.

So it went as planned. My plan, not his.

They were inside for three and a half minutes, a little longer than I like. They came out, no alarm. No shooting. Nice.

The two cycle freaks went to their bikes with plans to meet at the second car to split the take. The planner had stashed his gun already and looked the picture of calm, more or less, as he crossed the sidewalk to the car where I had popped the trunk for him. The engine was humming, the street was clear - it was picture perfect.

The trunk slammed and that was my cue to get gone.

I flicked the automatic door locks, cranked back the gear shift and only left a slight squeal of tires and a small square of rubber to mark my last job in this town. I had, of course, also left the planner on the sidewalk - alone, stunned and frozen in place.

The two bike jerks would be waiting by a stolen Camry in the parking lot of a Home Depot about twenty miles away from where I had my real second car stashed.

I had it all ready to go for a drive south and new start. All I needed to do was to transfer the duffle bag, as it turned out with $374,436 in it, and get gone.

Who’s the smart one now?

BIO: More about Eric's writing can be found at His crime novel 'One Too Many Blows To The Head', co-written with JB Kohl, is scheduled to come out later in 2009 unless something goes horribly wrong. Something always goes horribly wrong...


Paul D Brazill said...

Brilliantly put together.

Joyce said...

Really great job, Eric. Well paced and I love the character. Turned out just right too.

Jake said...

Hell of a lot of fun, Eric. I like how this thing is mostly exposition, yet it pulls you along anyway because the details are so spot-on.