Authors: Max Austin
Duke City Split
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An Alibi eBook Original
Copyright © 2014 by Steve Brewer
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States of America by Alibi, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
and the A
colophon are trademarks of Random House LLC.
eBook ISBN 978-0-553-39030-8
Cover design: Scott Biel
Bud Knox relaxed on a park bench, basking in the April sunshine, his windbreaker zipped to his chin. A placid man with thinning brown hair, Bud looked nothing at all like a bank robber.
He looked like somebody’s dad, which in fact he was. He’d brought his two daughters to this very park before, though it was miles from their home in Albuquerque’s northeastern sprawl. The girls liked the sandy playground, with its squeaky swings and plastic climbing castle. Bud enjoyed the way the old elms whispered over the cavorting children.
A shadow fell across his face, and Bud opened his eyes. Mick Wyman stood over him, backlit, much of his craggy face hidden behind wraparound sunglasses and his drooping mustache. He wore no jacket, and his denim sleeves were rolled to his elbows, exposing thick, tanned forearms.
Now this guy, Bud thought, looks like he could rob banks for a living.
Mick was a bruiser with shaggy black hair, and he could freeze a sputtering bank guard with his icy blue stare. He was thirty-nine years old now, five years younger than Bud, and they made a good team: Mick supplying the brawn, the boldness, Bud the cautious family man. Mick thrived on thrills. Bud was perfectly content to hang around the house, poring through his ever-growing library and plunking at his computer and cooking for his wife and worrying about his receding hairline. His daughters’ soccer games were all the excitement he needed.
Economic necessity regularly prodded him into action, however, and it usually was Bud who scouted the banks they robbed. This time was different. It was Mick who’d called this meeting in the park.
“Hey,” Mick said as he joined him on the slatted wooden bench. “How you been?”
“Still flush, but nothing much going on. Kinda bored, to tell you the truth.”
Mick scanned the kids squealing around the playground, their watchful parents guarding the perimeter.
“You didn’t bring the girls?” he said.
“Nah. Linda took ’em shopping at the mall.”
“Yeah, it’s the beginning of the end. Pretty soon, they’re teenagers and they want shoes that cost two hundred bucks.”
“Sounds like you’ll need extra cash.”
“Always,” Bud said. “Got a plan to get some?”
“Maybe. You’re not gonna like it, though. It’s close to home.”
“Right here in Duke City.”
“You know better than that, Mick. You don’t mess in your own nest.”
“I know. I was ready to turn it down right away because of that. But wait until you hear the details. I met this kid last night at Silvio’s Bar—”
“Silvio’s? I thought nobody went there but felons and freeloaders.”
Mick arched a black eyebrow above the sunglasses.
“I stop by there occasionally. Take a neon bath. Listen to the jungle drums.”
“I’d agreed to meet this kid Johnny there,” Mick said. “I know it’s him soon as he comes in the door. Spiky blond hair. Skinny jeans and loafers. They don’t get a lot of hipsters in Silvio’s.”
“Where were you?”
“At a corner table, my back to the wall. I had one of my Army .45s in my lap, in case it’s some kind of trap.”
“You mean cops?”
“Cops, somebody playing cute, I don’t know. It’s an introduction. I’m being careful. But not this kid. He sits down and spills everything right away.”
A red-haired girl chased a purple ball to within twenty feet of the men on the bench. They sat silent until she ran back toward her plump mommy.
Bud said, “They don’t mind you waving guns around at Silvio’s?”
“It was under the table. Hell, at Silvio’s, everybody’s got a gun. Except for Johnny, this talkative kid with the zits on his chin.”
“What’s his story?”
“Johnny lives near that big brown Indian casino north of town. You know which one I mean.”
Bud nodded. The Tewa Casino and Hotel was one of the biggest in New Mexico, a multilevel mud monstrosity that marked its territory in the Sandia Mountain foothills with a giant sign in glowing yellow.
“Johnny noticed that an armored truck comes down the hill from the casino every morning. He started following them.”
“They didn’t spot him?”
“He used different vehicles borrowed from this car stereo place where he works. He followed them for a couple of weeks. The armored truck takes different routes, but it always goes to the same little branch bank. A pushover.”
Bud knew better than that. Some banks were easier than others, but none were pushovers.
“Johnny says there’s only one guard on duty. The usual cameras and things, but we know how to handle those.”
“Come on, Mick—”
“Think how much cash moves through a casino on a given weekend. Think how much the truck delivers to that bank on a Monday morning.”
“They must take extra precautions,” Bud said.
“The kid says no. He says they’re hiding in plain sight. Who would move a fortune through a little bank in a strip mall?”
“He saw the delivery?”
“Several times. They keep the cash in some kind of Lucite lockbox with wheels. The guards roll it off the truck and right into the vault. The tellers count the money and put it in bags. Sometime in the afternoon, it gets picked up by the bank’s regular armored transport and taken downtown. But the vault stands open all day, tellers going in and out.”
“And there’s just one guard?”
“Three on the armored car, of course, but we’d wait for them to leave. Only one guard in the bank, staring at the ceiling, thinking how much his feet hurt.”
“This kid told you all that?”
“Everything except the name of the bank.”
“Wouldn’t be too hard to figure out,” Bud said. “What’s to keep us from following the trucks and finding the bank on our own?”
“Well, Johnny would know we did it, for one thing,” Mick said. “And he’s seen my face.”
“How did he even get on to you?”
“Bartender at Silvio’s. Bald biker named Sid Harris. Used to be in the game, till he got caught outside a bank in Santa Fe, covered in pink dye from one of those exploding money packs. He pulled ten years at Leavenworth.”
Bud coughed. Prison was his greatest fear. He’d never done time, never even been arrested. He couldn’t stand the idea of being separated from his family.
“That was years ago,” Mick said. “He’s clean now, but he keeps his ears open. The kid approached him about finding a crew. Sid mentioned it to me.”
Bud didn’t like this kind of exposure. He always insisted on banks in other states, far from their everyday lives, far from any Albuquerque lowlifes who might rat them out to cut a deal with police. It sometimes meant weeks away from home on “business trips,” living in motels, staking out banks, but he considered the distance a safety cushion.
A little boy ran past, shrieking, his arms extended like the wings of a plane. Mick hunched his shoulders against the noise. Bud, veteran parent, didn’t even flinch.
As the child dashed away, Bud said, “So if we pulled the job ourselves, Johnny would run to the cops?”
“He didn’t say that, but it would be a risk.”
“What does he want for the information? A percentage?”
“He wants an even split,” Mick said.
“And get this: He wants to go along on the heist. He’s never done it before, and he’s hot to lose his cherry.”
Bud frowned. He and Mick never worked with others. They had a successful system, just the two of them.
“We might need a third man this time around.” Mick grinned. “To help us carry all that cash.”
The next morning was a Friday, and Johnny Muller was enjoying one last cup of coffee before work when someone knocked on the door of his second-floor apartment. He glanced at his chunky wristwatch as he went to answer the knock but forgot about the time when he found the bank robber waiting outside.
The big man looked the same as he had at Silvio’s, even dressed the same, except now he wore sunglasses and a gray windbreaker over his denim clothes.
“Let’s go for a ride.”
He turned away without waiting for an answer. Johnny grabbed his leather jacket off a chair by the door and followed, saying, “I’ve got to go to work soon.”
“This won’t take long.”
The bank robber—Johnny still didn’t know his name—trotted down the steps to the ground floor, then climbed behind the wheel of a dark blue Dodge Charger with tinted windows.
Johnny dropped into the passenger seat, saying, “So, you thought about my offer?”