Another Day at The Office
by Tim Beverstock
They were in Pimp’s car today. A solid square station wagon with enough legroom to hide a black market. Carmel sat in the back seat avoiding the day while the car fan belched warm air in her face. Down the street empty cans tumbled in the wind over long afternoon shadows. All they had was time.
Pimp lit up and Carmel breathed a lungful of smoke. She coughed, her throat not used to nicotine this soon in the piece.
“You ought to see someone about your allegies.” Deen smirked as Pimp offered her a vial of pills.
Carmel didn’t want to rise to the bait but lost the choice as she felt another throat spasm.
“When can we expect something?” she asked after dry swallowing two codeine.
“Relax. They‘ll be here soon,” Deen said.
His sepia coloured eyes exposed his life like a grainy film on constant re-run. Dusty motorcycle boots capped off his skinny threadbare legs.
Pimp, moulded from sandblasted granite, was the muscle to Deen’s bones. His eyes were chips of ice like two diamonds in the rough punctuated by a mood blacker than the ink on a suicide note. She couldn’t work out the relationship between the two, but sensed the uneasiness baking together in the confined space caused them.
“You look bored,” she said to Deen.
“It’s all another day at the office to me.”
It wasn’t to her though. Three months on the job and the novelty remained. Carmel remembered her past life before she met them. How she fled the last town in a borrowed ride after calling the cops and telling them where to find the bodies. Then too many hours spent behind the wheel, crossing through too many states, physical and mental. She ditched the car when it died and crashed the night at the first cheap motel she found. Deen found her in the lobby the next morning, cellphone turning in his hand. She travelled fast. Her reputation faster. Carmel recalled how the callus on his index finger matched the trigger of the gun jammed in his belt and fell into line. The gang welcomed her with the familiarity of an ex-lover. The first three months were a test, running errands and surviving on tips like a truck stop waitress holding out for a lottery win.
Deen and Pimp took most of the work. Every so often this job would surface, usually recalled later over several beers as the easiest work they did with a payoff to keep them in spades for months. Pick up the suitcase left outside the depot. Swap it for another one in the lobby of a nearby apartment hotel. Take the money inside and don’t ask questions. It was her first time tagging along as a watcher. Tonight she might finally get to drink with the boys.
She moved over to the window and peered out into the street.
“Do we ever see who does the drop?”
“No. We wait here until one. Then we circle the block,” said Deen.
She looked around the empty neighbourhood and saw rows of buildings stiff with rigor mortis. Deen would sense trouble, his eyes sharper than the knife sheathed in his boot.
“And it’s there every single time?”
“I’ve never missed a pickup yet,” Deen said.
He glanced at Pimp.
“What’s the time?”
Pimp threw his butt out the window and started the engine. By the time they emerged from the block the suitcase had appeared. Pimp stashed it in the trunk and they drove halfway across the city to the drop off. Another exchange and home. She dumped the suitcase on the table as Deen tossed her a beer.
“Hope you liked the taste. You can have a turn next time.”
* * *
Two nights later she was on the way home from buying beer when she backtracked through the alley and found herself in a familiar spot. She jumped from sight as Deen and Pimp drove past. They parked, waited the allotted time and began the circuit. Nothing happened until a taxi swung by her in the opposite direction. She moved to the edge of the alley and watched it drop the suitcase off.
She ran across the road, heartbeat a roar in her head. Popped the suitcase lid and saw the rows of bound fifties. Nobody mentioned anything about an extra run when she got home and she ignored the empty cans in the trash.
* * *
Next time didn’t come soon enough and nobody suspected a thing. In the trunk was the second suitcase she had spent weeks searching for. An exact match for their pickup. Now they were a block from where the taxi made the drop. It was almost showtime. Pimp pulled to the curb and it was on. The suitcase bounced off her legs causing her to stagger and fall against the car as she loaded the trunk. She clambered into the back of the car. Pimp drove off like it was Sunday afternoon. She kept an eye out of the back window. No one followed.
Back in the house she cracked open a couple of beers and while Deen used the toilet, slipped the vial from her jacket and popped two pills on the back of a spoon. A quick grind and into the drinks. Dark beer to mask the taste.
They toasted and she watched Deen count and stack the money on the table. Two-thirds more than the last time. Ten minutes later the codeine kicked in. Deen let the gun dangle above the floor as he drifted off. She caught it before it fell. A heavy weight she would get used to in time.
She put the gun in the bag and the rope on the table and refilled the suitcase, counting from where Deen left off. He stirred as she finished up and did nothing except watch her through mail slot eyes, his fingers clutching at empty air.
She tied him up first. Though Pimp was more dangerous, Deen moved faster. Pimp’s breath talked for him. Snorting like an agitated bull preparing to charge. She double checked his knots to be sure before she made the phone call.
“So long guys. Thanks for the bonus.”
Outside she threw the bags in the back of the car, gunned it into first and shot down the driveway. As the cops blazed past in the opposite direction she hoped she would last the distance this time.
BIO: Tim Beverstock swears he's not a crime writer but his muse and and the pile of Ed McBain books on his nightstand suggest otherwise. He won't say no to a boutique beer or three. Keep up with his hit list via http://beverst.com