Read Never Play Another Man's Game Online

Authors: Mike Knowles

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense

Never Play Another Man's Game (5 page)

BOOK: Never Play Another Man's Game
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CHAPTER NINE

I
spent the next morning working out. Living in the city meant I had access to numerous facilities that were stocked with the most current fitness technology, but I ignored the new gyms and found an old place that catered to power-lifters and athletes instead of spandex-wearing yuppies with iPods attached to their arms. The gym had a large workout area stocked with nothing but metal. There were no moving parts or electronics, just simple machines with levers and pulleys and plenty of iron to move.

I walked to the rack of kettlebells being ignored by the rest of the gym members and picked up an eighty-pound weight. Kettlebells were an old Russian design and they were equal parts torture device and workout equipment. The weight looked simple enough: an eighty-pound sphere attached to a thick handle. I picked up the kettlebell with my right hand and cleaned it to my shoulder. I then pressed the kettlebell into the air. I repeated the motion ten times and then switched hands and did the whole thing over again. After four sets, I moved to swings and then rows, forcing myself to push the weight faster and harder. By the time I started Turkish get-ups, I was drenched. The kettlebell was more than just a weight to move, it was an aerobic activity. Every muscle in my body was run down and beat up by the Russian device, but I kept it moving, knowing I would come away stronger and faster.

After the workout, I got a tea and a doughnut, and drove the same route I had followed the armoured car through the day before. The plan forming in my head would get the money out of the truck and us away, but there were still variables that had to be dealt with. The job was like a jigsaw puzzle. I had all of the pieces, but I still needed to fit them together. I went into each store the guards had dragged the money into and scouted the
ATM
s, the cameras, the exits, and the parking lots. It took a couple of hours to get through the whole route — it was much faster when I didn't have to wait for two guys to load an
ATM
with cash. I broke for lunch at a Thai restaurant and then revisited the first four stops. If you're going to hit a truck double full of money, it's best to hit it while it's still double full. I cased each of the locations in widening circles looking for the corners of my puzzle. It was the first stop that had everything: the most money, the emptiest lot, and — most important — a way out.

I stopped at an Internet café that offered printing for five cents a page and then made a run for some Middle Eastern takeout before driving over to Ruby's place. On the way, I made a quick stop and picked up an envelope that was waiting for me. I was at Ruby's by eight. I knocked on the door and it was answered by Ruby.

“Hey, Ruby,” I said.

She looked pale. Her wig was up under a bandana and she wore a purple sweatshirt and grey sweatpants that were both way too big. On her feet were worn-out slippers.

“Hey, Wilson. It's not really a good time.”

I was about to say something when I heard Rick say, “Is that him? Oh, that motherfucker is dead now. Dead!”

I could hear plates being shoved aside, a chair being shoved back, and then loud footsteps. There was more than one person.

Rick and another twenty-something barged into the hallway. Rick had on cargo pants and a Green Lantern T-shirt. His friend wore a LeBron James jersey and black cargo pants over unlaced Timberlands; on his head, he wore a black ballcap turned sideways. He had a beard that was maybe four days old. Rick was six feet tall with the kind of muscle a high-school quarterback would carry; his friend was a hell of a lot bigger. He wore nothing under the jersey and I saw thick veins running like pipelines down his arms.

Rick charged up to his mother's back; the other guy kept a bit of distance. “Surprised you'd show your face after you sucker-punched me.”

“It was no sucker punch,” I said.

“What?”

“There's hit and not hit. You got hit. How I hit you doesn't matter. Same as dead and alive. There's no degree of either. You're either dead or you're alive.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Rick wanted to know.

“I'm just trying to explain that sucker punch is just a term invented by people who were too embarrassed to admit that they were members of the got hit club.”

“And I'm in that club?”

“Yep.”

“Franky, let's teach this motherfucker the club's secret handshake.”

Franky didn't look like he really wanted to fight, but he balled his fists and stepped forward anyway. Rick started to move around Ruby, but she lifted her arms to hold him back.

“I won't have this in my house. I invited him in and I say we're going to let him in so we can hear what he has to say.”

“The hell we are,” Rick said. “Me and Franky are going to fuck him up.”

Rick bear-hugged his mom and turned her around so that she was out of the way.

“Careful, man,” Franky said.

“Shut up, Franky. I barely touched her,” Rick fired back.

Franky had nothing else to say; neither did Rick after he turned around and saw the Glock.

“There's two categories of shot too. Shot and not shot. Which category are you going to be in, Rick?”

“Not shot,” Rick said.

“Franky?”

“Nnn . . . not shot,” he said. He put his hands in the air and took a step back towards the kitchen.

“Put the gun away,” Ruby said.

The gun stayed where it was.

“Did you hear what I said? I remember you with pimples, boy, so don't you think I'm going to let you in here waving a gun. Rick is just mad. He has every right to be.”

“Damn straight,” Rick said.

Ruby whirled on him. “But he's going to get over it because there are more important things to deal with than who punched who. Now, everybody in the kitchen.”

The two in front of me turned around and went back the way they came. I let the gun down and put it away.

“Goddamn men and their testosterone bullshit,” Ruby said. “Everything has to be about chest beating. You should know better.”

“Stop telling me what I should know. You're his mother, not mine. And you came to me for help, not the other way around.”

“Fine,” she said. “Will you come into the kitchen? Pretty please with sugar on top.”

“Was that so hard?” I said.

“Get the fuck in there, Wilson.” She had an ice-cold look on her face.

“Yes, ma'am,” I said. I hustled into the kitchen ahead of the old woman and her anger.

The kitchen had cheap cabinets with white paint peeling off the lower doors. The stove and fridge were butter yellow and both looked old enough to have been prototypes. The table was round and looked as if it would provide tight seating for four. Rick and Franky sat opposite each other, leaving two seats. My choices were either being wedged against the wall, or sitting with my back exposed to the hallway. I hated to have the open hallway at my back, but being shoved against the wall with no room to manoeuvre seemed worse. I took the seat closer to the hall and Rick said, “That's my mother's seat. You get the other one.”

I stayed put. Ruby said, “What now?” as she came in behind me.

“He's in your chair, Ma. Tell him to get out. It's your house. Or is that it? You think you own the place already? You're some guy taking a lady's house from her while she's sick. I don't know how you sleep at night. But maybe scumbags like you don't have any trouble closing their eyes.”

“It's okay,” Ruby said. “I'll sit over there. I don't mind. Really, I don't.”

“But I do, Ma.”

“It will be his house soon enough. Let him sit where he wants.”

Rick waved his hand. “Whatever, what the fuck ever. Fine, go ahead, asshole, earn your house.”

I put the envelope on the table and slid out the papers inside. “This job is like any other transaction. I'm going to need the money up front.”

“Money up front?” Rick said. “We haven't done the job yet, so how can there be money up front?”

“He wants the house now,” Ruby said.

“You're going to kick my mother, sick with cancer, out of her house. No way! No goddamn way!”

“I'm not going to kick her out. She can live here for the rest of her days, however many that may be, but the house won't be in her name.” I pushed the paperwork across the table to Ruby. At the bar the night before, I had told Sandra about the deal I had with Ruby and I mentioned that I needed to find the right kind of real estate agent — someone who would bend the law for a fee. Sandra told me that her cousin was an agent and that he could probably get us where we needed to go. Sandra's cousin passed us off to a real estate lawyer. The guy was a Serbian who was known, in some small circles, to do some shady work for other immigrants. I used the phone at the bar to call the lawyer's cell. He uh-hunh'ed his way through my bullshit story about wanting to avoid all of the red tape and taxes after my grandma died. He knew I was spinning bullshit and he didn't care. He told me a price that was anything but bullshit, and I agreed. I stopped at his office before I went to Ruby's and everything I asked for was ready.

“Fill in your name and all of your info. Sign and initial where indicated and you will have added me to the deed of your house.”

“This wasn't part of the deal. It was supposed to be after I died, Wilson.”

“Something you said yesterday got me thinking. You said that you would do anything for your kids. You'd pay any price, go to any length. If the job went south —” I put a lot of emphasis on “if” because it wasn't the word I wanted to use. “You'd sell this place in a heartbeat to get him lawyered up right. You'd cross me and I know it. These papers make sure that we'll all stay friends no matter what.”

“The hell it does. Don't sign it, Ma. I got everything figured.”

“Rick's right,” Franky said.

“Tell me what you got figured, Rick.”

“No way.”

“I'll tell you what. You tell me what you got up your sleeve, and if your mom can agree that it is a solid plan, I'll get up and leave. Your mom keeps the house and you do the job yourself.”

“You'll just try and rob the truck before us.”

“It doesn't work that way, Rick. I never wanted this job. I signed on for the house. You want it back, just show me I'm not needed.”

“Fine, we stop the truck with two vans. Y'know, pull up in front and behind. Franky puts explosives on the back door while I cover the front with a rifle. An
m4
like in
Call of Duty
. I see one of the guys up front move and I'll stitch them up with the gun so that the other will know better than to fuck with me. Franky blows the door and he pulls out the guard in back. He brings the guy out in front of the truck and we make the other two get out or else we'll blow his brains out. They'll do it. They're just guys making a shitty salary; they don't want to die for the cash. I cover the guards while Franky backs the van up bumper to bumper with the truck. He loads the van and then swings around to pick me up. I shoot out the truck tires and we're gone in under three minutes.” Rick slapped the table in triumph. “Now get the fuck out and take your papers with you.”

I leaned back and sighed. Ruby looked disappointed; it was like she asked him what two plus two was and he said ten. It took a long time for her to look across the table and meet my eyes. When she did, I said, “You want to tell him, or should I?”

“Tell me what? Tell him to get the fuck out. My plan is legit.”

Ruby shook her head at me.

“Let's start from the top. Where are you going to get two vans?”

“Steal them.”

“You know how?”

“I can learn. It's on the Internet.”

“Fine, let's say you do. Where are you going to pull this daring daylight heist? In the street? In the parking lot? What are you going to do about witnesses? People see a robbery they're going to call the cops or tape you with their phones.”

“We find a quiet spot,” Rick said.

“You did the route with me yesterday. You see any quiet spots?”

“Like I said, we'll find one.”

“Fine,” I said. “Let's say you do find a quiet spot. Where are the explosives going to come from?”

Franky opened his mouth to get this one. “Ho —”

“Don't you dare say Home Depot. They don't sell explosives, but let's say you did manage to find them and to get around the mess of red tape surrounding the sale and distribution of explosives. How much would you use?”

“How much?” There was less bravado in Rick's voice now.

“Too little and those big heavy doors won't move. Too much and you blow up the money, not to mention kill the guard back there.”

“Who cares about the guard? They're just junior pigs in training.”

“Killing a guard ups the ante. It's not just a robbery after that. You kill a man and you'll get a whole new level of attention from the cops. But let's say, for the sake of argument, that you get the explosives just right. Where do you get the
m4
to aim at the bank guards?”

“I know a guy.”

“This guy ever tell you specifically that he has assault rifles, or did you just assume that because he could get his hands on a piece that a machine gun would be no problem?”

Rick didn't answer.

“Let's say he does have the guns. Where will you come up with the couple grand you'll need to buy them?”

Rick looked out the window instead of at me.

I kept going. “You ever fired an assault rifle?”

“No,” Rick sounded petulant.

“But you're sure you could fire through bulletproof glass and hit one of the guards if you had to.”

“I could fuckin' do it, man.”

“No, all you can do is watch television. What happened, you watch
Heat
and think if De Niro can do it, you can too?”

BOOK: Never Play Another Man's Game
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