Powder Burn Flash #368 - John DuMond
by John DuMond
Ernie Keller was cold. And tired. His whole body was starting to go numb and he was having trouble breathing. How the hell did this happen? This was supposed to be an easy score. In and out. A couple hours work, tops. No problem. Piece of cake. But nothing's ever as easy as it sounds.
It was Perry that came up with the job. His cousin Zach worked as a chimney sweep. Zach had done a job at this house in the suburbs. Nice neighborhood. Nice house. Well-to-do family. With Christmas just around the corner, they wanted their chimney clear. Probably for roasting chestnuts on an open fire, or some kind of holiday bullshit.
While Zach was there working, he saw the lady of the house wrapping presents. A Mac notebook, a couple of the latest iPads, two of the newest model iPhone (Did these people own stock in Apple or something?), a set of high-end golf clubs that had to be worth at least a grand. Not to mention all kinds of clothes. Expensive name brands, no doubt. These people weren't the type to shop in Walmart. And who knows what kind of goodies the man of the house got for the little woman. Jewelry was a good bet. The guys in this neighborhood were the kind who went to Jared.
Zach wouldn't take candy from a baby. But he made the mistake of telling his cousin Perry. And Perry would steal anything of value that wasn't nailed down. He also told Perry something else: the house had one of the larger chimneys he had ever worked on. Once Perry heard that, he just had to hit this place before Christmas. In order to do that, he would need an accomplice. Enter Ernie Keller.
It was early evening when Perry approached Ernie in a local bar. He laid out his plan: One man goes down the chimney with an empty laundry bag. The other stays on the roof and feeds some rope down the chimney. The inside man fills the bag with valuables, ties it to the rope, then the outside man pulls it up the chimney. The golf clubs wouldn't fit in the bag, but hell, they came in their own bag. Once the job was done, the inside man would use the rope to climb back up the chimney. Perry knew a guy who could move the merchandise. He even had some cheap walkie-talkies they could use to communicate. Couldn't be easier.
"But it's a juicy score."
"Then do it yourself."
"Can't, it's a two-man job. Besides, I couldn't fit down a chimney, even a large one."
Perry had a point. He was, to put it politely, a bit on the husky side. Agile, though. Damned good second-story man. But fitting into tight spaces wasn't in the cards. Physics were working against him.
"Listen, I can't climb a rope for shit. Couldn't do it in junior high gym class, and I sure as hell can't do it now."
"Just hold on to the rope, I'll pull you up."
"What if I can't?"
"Then dart out the front door when we're done."
"Which will be alarmed, like every other front door in that neighborhood."
"I'll have the car in front of the house. Run out and hop in. We haul ass. By the time the family gets downstairs, we're gone. And when the cops finally show up, we'll be home, nestled all snug in our beds, visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads."
It sounded like Perry had all the angles figured. Ernie still had doubts, but Perry kept at him. It was Friday night. Christmas was Sunday. Now or never. By last call, Ernie was convinced.
An hour after leaving the bar, they were on the roof of the house. Perry had brought an old extension ladder they used to climb up. He said they'd just leave the ladder when they were done. Perry motioned to the chimney. "Let's do it."
Ernie had the laundry bag folded up inside his jacket. Before he climbed in, Perry handed him one end of a rope.
"Tie this around you waist, just in case."
Once Ernie had the rope tied around his waist, he climbed into the chimney. It was surprisingly spacious. He used his hands and feet in an effort to control his descent. Perry, used the rope to keep Ernie from dropping suddenly.
About halfway down, Ernie came to a stop.
"Your clothes caught on something?"
"No. Too narrow."
Weren't chimneys supposed to get wider near the bottom? Who the hell built this house?
"Pull me up."
It took a couple minutes, but Perry managed to pull Ernie loose. Ernie was four feet from the top when the rope broke. He came to a stop about a foot below where he had gotten stuck before. Now he was wedged in even tighter.
Perry lowered the end of the rope to Ernie and tried pulling him out. About a half hour, and multiple failed attempts later, he poked his head in and said, "Hey, I'll go get some help. Be right back."
Help? Bullshit. He just cut and ran. Bastard.
Ernie decided it was better to swallow his pride and get arrested than to spend the rest of his life in the chimney. So he called for help. He yelled. He screamed. He cried. No response. Nothing. No one could hear him. Probably still asleep. All he could do is hope someone in the house would hear him in the morning.
Ernie wondered if he'd be in the news tomorrow night. One of those funny "stupid criminal stuck in a chimney" stories you hear. Or would it be a few years before he made the news? One of those creepy "unidentified skeleton found in a chimney" stories. He laughed. The only option he had left was to pray for a Christmas miracle.
"Please, God, take me to jail."
BIO: John DuMond lives in Albany, NY. His short stories have appeared in Jake Magazine, Flashing in the Gutters, Defenestration, DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash, Powder Burn Flash, and the ebook anthology DISCOUNT NOIR. He blogs at http://armedrobbery.wordpress.com.