Pancakes at 23.03.
It was a little after eleven in the PM when the waitress finally took my order. The place was empty and there were only three other people in the café. Dunno what took her so long. By the time she came over I’d already studied the egg encrusted laminated menu three times. I knew what I wanted so I told her…
“Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. Home fries on the side and a coffee. Please.”
The broad looked at her watch, shrugged and scribbled the order down on that little notepad of hers. She would have been pretty in her prime but her prime was long ago. Too many graveyard shifts in places like this have taken their toll in her face. She’s probably not as old as forty but that’s what she looks. She scurries off behind the counter and passes the order to the chef and boy, do I hate using the word ‘chef’ for the fella. A guy can’t help the looks he was born with but you can stop yourself looking any worse. The waitress returns quickly with the coffee, spilling most of it into the saucer, and in some kind of accent tries to strike up a conversation…
“You look like you are carrying some weight on those shoulders, Sugarpie.”
I smile weakly but politely with a shrug and take a sip of the coffee. It burns my lip but I try not to show it. Not well enough it seems. She chuckles on her way back to the counter. Sounds like a blocked drain with hiccups.
“Could say that…”
Twelve hours ago I was a different man. Stu O’Neil, wheelman extraordinaire. As of now, according to the ID in my pocket my name is Lawrence Irvine. Yeah, Lawrence. Christ…
They share a lot of the same characteristics Stu and Lawrence. Same height, same weight, same taste in women. In fact there’s not a whole lot different apart from Larry’s bad black dye job, which still smells a bit funny, and a week old beard. I always grow a beard before a job because of a scar I have on my jaw line. I hate it though. Itches.
Ten hours ago I was part of a three man team that successfully ripped of a van carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars scheduled to be destroyed. These new bills are better quality apparently so the older notes are being phased out. The banks have been holding on to them and today was the day that big wads of them were being sent out to the incinerator.
We got the info from a guy on the inside for a couple of C notes. We then got the drop on the van but then one of our guys felt like dropping one of the guards with a .22 to the throat. This is what happens when someone hires a relative three days out of prison on to the team. In this case a nephew. I don’t ever take a gun to a job. As a driver there’s no real point carrying anyway but if you got a gun the option is always there to use it. I remove that option.
There is always another way.
Eight hours ago, for reasons I still don’t fully understand I was set up to take the fall for this shit situation. Rather me than the boss having to explain to his sister why her number one son is back in lock up I guess. I’ve been driving ever since. I pulled over to fill the car up and saw the café. My stomach grumbled a message and here I am obeying.
I have no idea where I’m heading to, least of all what I’m gonna do when I get there. The only thing I know how to do is drive so what does that leave? Drive a cab? Not exactly what I’m used to but I don’t need to worry about that for a while. The bag full of money at my feet solves that problem. It’s also a reason why they won’t let me go. They’ll chase.
Here’s a free lesson for you. If you’re gonna screw a fella over and leave him out to dry for a murder he didn’t do, don’t leave a bag with at least two hundred grand (twenty K lighter after paying for the ID) in the back seat of his car. Chances are he’s gonna run. And if he’s a wheelman, he’s gonna run fast.
The waitress brings over the pancakes and I tuck in as soon as the plate hits the table. Took me years to feel right about eating a meat with pancakes. The maple syrup helped change my mind. Can’t get enough of the stuff now. I’m chewing my third mouthful when I see the headlights of a car pulling into the car park. It pauses and parks. Two men get out and look at my car. They turn their heads to the café. I recognise who it is by the outline of their heads. Who else could it be anyway? I’m sat in the window so they must be able to see me too.
I continue to eat my pancakes and home fries watching them as I do so. Ten minutes later I’m all done and they’re sitting on the hood of my car. Waiting. I grab some cash from the bag and drop a bill and a healthy tip on the table. I swipe a handful of napkins and wipe the sticky syrup off my hands. I notice that my hands have patches of black dye on them. Can’t expect a thorough job in the bathroom of a service station.
Walking down the steps to the forecourt I clutch the bag to my chest and keep my eyes on the fellas in front of me. The one guy, Frank is level-headed, cold but sensible it’s the other guy that’s the problem. Little Robbie. Little on the fact that he’s so damn big. He was just tall when he went inside the joint. He’s come out built of stone with a testosterone injection. That’s what three years of lifting weights and taking it like a man does. They get off the hood and I’m relieved that Robbie hasn’t left a dent.
With outstretched arms Frank comes towards me, talking of a misunderstanding. I stop, still holding the bag to my body. I can see the gun in his belt. Even without seeing it I knew it was there. Little Robbie is blasé enough to be holding his .22 in his thick folded arms. Frankie and I shoot the shit for a few minutes until, characteristically, Little Robbie gets impatient, decides that this is “bullshit” and starts shooting the shit out of me.
There were three shots. One went wide, another hit the bag, came straight through and tried setting up residence in my shoulder. I fell back, fumbling, to the floor. The third shot hit Little Robbie in the chest. Dead centre. He looks at the expanding red puddle coming out of his chest and with a face like I’ve told him wrestling is fixed…
“What’s this bullshit?”
Little Robbie drops to the floor on his knees like a tombstone before falling face first into the gravel. When I bought the ID earlier today I thought it prudent to pick up a gun of my own. Seemed wise. These guys didn’t expect me to have a gun. I was counting on it. Just because I choose not to carry doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use. Frank goes for his gun but sensibly stops when he realises that mine is trained on him. His hands go up and he plays nice. Friends.
I shoot Frank in the face.
I’d seen first hand what these guys are capable of and there was no way I was gonna be able to just walk away. Had I let Frank go I would see him tomorrow with more guys. It had to be done. I guess I was wrong all these years. Sometimes there is no other way. So now I really am a killer. I think on it and decide that I’m okay with it. Under the circumstances. If nothing else this malarkey buys me time. Time is good when you move as fast as me.
It’s been quiet for a few minutes when the waitress comes out to see what’s going on. She sees the dead hoods on the ground and holds a hand to her mouth. I almost did the same when I saw all the blood on my car. Where am I gonna clean that off? She looks at the gun in my hand and backs off. I shake my head and tell her not to worry…
“If they were standing instead of me you’d all be dead by now.” She gulps. Almost theatrically. I look down the road. “People will come looking for me. Just tell them the truth.”
I toss the bag into the passenger seat with a grunt. I’ll need to get this wound looked at but I have a quick look. It’s clean enough from what I’ve seen in the past. It’s passed through which is good. I grab those napkins from my pocket and stick one in each end of the wound. Maybe the maple syrup will keep them stuck in place. I ask the waitress for her apron. She unties it and hands it over. I thank her as I tear at it and wrap the material it around my arm, tight, to help stop bleeding. It’ll do for now. I linger by the door for a second longer…
“Great pancakes by the way. Really great.”
The waitress actually smiles and thanks me as if she made them herself. I get in the car, start her up and drive west keeping an eye open for a 24 hour car wash or a pharmacy or a cop. I know people out West. Hmm… Maybe I should drive East… I scratch my face. Maybe I should shave my beard now.
It’s a long drive to wherever, plenty of time to figure out who I am now.