The gray-haired man appeared to be sleeping in a chair in the back of the room. His ball cap was pulled down, covering his eyes, dark dangerous eyes. He sat deadly still but remained alert, something he learned while in Viet Nam, in Cam Rahn Bay, a deep water bay, located in the province of Khánh Hòa, on the South China Sea. He caught some shrapnel in his right shoulder shattering the bone while hunkering down waiting for a chopper on a Hot LZ. It never mended properly and the doctors at the Veteran’s Hospital broke it twice to reset it, hoping it would finally heal. It hadn’t.
He peered down at his hands. A slight tremor started in his left hand. This was his first episode of the day. He first noticed the tremors when he returned to the states in ’69. His nerves were damaged when the United States military started the strafing of the Viet Nam jungles with agent orange. He had been waiting twelve months to get into the local Veteran’s Hospital for treatment. They told him it would be another three months before they could get him in; before it was his turn. Be patient they said. They should try living with this excruciating pain and tremors every day. Then see how patient those fuckers would be. To top everything off, he was still dealing with the sweats and shakes from the bout of malaria he got while in country.
They kept promising that things would get better at the VA Hospital, but, if anything, it got worse. Now the Nam vets are jockeying for time with the Gulf War vets. They keep piling up. Hell, he’ll be dead before he gets in to see one of the VA doctors.
His brother finally stepped in and got him an appointment with this doctor, a former classmate of his brother’s at Marquette University. Nerve damage wasn’t his specialty, broken bones were, but he said he would see him as a favor to his brother. The doctor promised to check him out and get him to the right specialists to deal with his injuries. The gray-haired man didn’t care who saw him, he just wanted some meds to stop the damn pain and the uncontrollable shaking.
The waiting area was filled with people wearing casts and braces on their hands, arms, feet and legs. A young man, wearing an arm cast on his left arm up to his elbow looked nervous. He sat, guardedly watching everyone who walked through the glass doors that connected to the congested parking lot. The cars were mainly Lexus’, BMW’s, and Mercedes, bearing witness to the wealth in this community. The gray-haired man knew who the young man was.
These people were trapped in the game of acquiring more accouterments then their neighbors. He saw it in the quality of their dress and in the sparkle of their diamonds, gold, and silver jewelry. It appeared people were getting more careless, the gray-haired man thought, as he assessed the people sitting by him. Along with their expensive jewelry, they were wearing Gucci shoes and carrying their Kate Spade Purses, all of which cost more than he made in the past year. The way they dressed communicated their wealth to everyone who saw them.
An extremely obese woman was dressed in slacks and a fox fur wrap. She wore an expensive necklace of diamonds and emeralds so large, they beg to be seen. She had a matching cocktail ring on her right hand and a diamond engagement ring that he estimated to be at least four karats on her left hand. Another middle-aged woman was garnished with gold; gold necklace and multiple gold bracelets running up her arms and rings filled with diamonds and rubies.
His gaze returned to the young man. He wore a navy New York Yankees baseball cap, navy short sleeve shirt that buttoned down the front and matching navy shorts and socks. That and his red Keds canvas shoes made him stand out from the other patients . His clothing was disarrayed. He wasn’t sloppy or unkempt, he appeared to be hygienic and well-groomed. But something about him seemed odd, he didn’t fit in. He was sitting in the reception area of one of the most famous orthopedic surgeons in the world. People came from all around to have him perform what they thought would be a miracle on mangled arms, legs, and knees that other surgeons were unable to fix or made worse through inexperience, ineptitude, or even negligence. So maybe the young man had a serious fracture that wouldn’t heal. No, the gray-haired man knew the young man and there was something off about him today.
The young man in the red Keds looked around the room and felt the security these people perceived while being in this place. Of being in the presence of like people; the monied people. He was sure these patients never experienced personal physical attacks that the common people faced every day when they entered places like convenience stores or liquor stores. The common people are conditioned to be on the lookout for muggers. No, these people lived safe lives in their insulated little universe, like this waiting room of one of the most highly respected orthopedic surgeons in the world, located in the wealthiest section of this city. Nothing to worry about today. Relax, plan your day, make out your grocery list, worry about when the kid’s soccer practice starts, and what to feed the family for dinner.
The young man had different thoughts going through his brain. What better place to pick up some nice pieces of jewelry and cash, he speculated. Plus, when someone is injured, or not feeling well, their level of resistance is going to be lower than if they are at the top of their game physically and everyone here was banged up. That old codger in the back isn’t looking too good; looks like he is beginning to shake. Maybe he is having some kind of drug withdrawal. I ain’t gonna worry about him, I gotta concentrate on cleaning house and then getting outta here fast.
Nobody is expecting to be ripped off in their doctor’s office. Well, they are going to be in for a surprise today.
He looked around and sized up the different people in the reception area. There was one guy, wearing a high school letterman’s jacket who looked like he could be trouble, at least physically, if the occasion arose. But like most of the jocks he knew, they were mostly talk; but he would keep an eye on him anyway in case he tried to be a hero. If he did, he would make quick work of him. He didn’t want any surprises when he was gathering the valuables off the other victims. The rest of the people were older and most were women.
Oh boy, was his aunt going to be pissed at him? She was the only one in the family to agree to help him when he was released from juvie hall last month after a year’s stay. His asshole father didn’t want anything to do with him anymore. Especially after he stole his Porsche 911 and wrapped it around that stop sign going one hundred miles an hour. He was lucky he survived that mess. Probably because he was stoned out of his gourd. He couldn’t even remember what he had taken that evening, but he was told he took everything anyone offered him.
Talk about an absent father. His dad was never there for him; didn’t have time when he was there except to beat him when he got in his way. He traveled to the far corners of the world, as he put it. He was an important person and his time meant money, to himself and many others.The few days he was home, he spent it with his cronies, planning more ways to make money. His mother wasn’t much better. Oh, she was home most of the time, but the pills and booze had her mind someplace else. Finally, they took her someplace else, to her grave. After she died, he pretty much lost all contact with his dad. His aunt, his dad’s younger sister, came to live with them and finally became his full-time nanny. Basically, she raised him for the past ten years. She was actually a better mother to him than his real mother was but she was content to let him have whatever he asked for if it kept him out of her way. It didn’t take him long to realize all he had to do is yell and scream to get anything he wanted. She would give in to him, just to shut him up.
Well, he was fed up with everyone and if his aunt is pissed then to hell with her. After this score, he’ll be heading to New Orleans. A buddy of his told him it’s easy to hop a ride with a Vietnamese shrimper down there and they will take him to any island he wants to go for a price. Just one of that obese woman’s rings should get him there with plenty to spare.
He knew he could get Silky Zimmerman to help him get rid of the ice for a percentage cut. There is more than enough to spread some of it around. Hell, he wasn’t greedy. He just wanted what he deserved.He had been screwed all his life. Now he was getting his.
He stood up and removed a semiautomatic pistol, a .32 caliber Ruger, from the cast covering his left arm. It wasn’t a big gun, but it was deadly. He walked over and grabbed the receptionist by the back of her neck and pushed her into the waiting room area. He gave her a large cloth bag that looked like a pillow case and started to brandish his gun around, turning to his left and right while commanding everyone to remain seated. “Everyone, listen up and you won’t get hurt,” he said. “Throw your money and jewelry in this bag as the pretty little lady comes around and hurry. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I will if you do anything stupid.”
When the receptionist returned the cloth bag to the young man, it was filled with cash and jewels. He noticed she hadn’t walked back to where the gray-haired man appeared to be sleeping. He probably didn’t have anything worth stealing anyhow.
“Okay, sweetheart, now I want you to go behind your desk and pull out the phone line and please, for your sake, don’t try anything funny. You are so pretty and I don’t want to put a third eye between those two baby blues.”
The young receptionist was obviously shaken as she walked back behind her desk sobbing uncontrollably.
After she disabled the phone, he pushed her to the floor and quickly ran out the front door, heading to the woods behind the parking lot his adrenaline pumping wildly. He could feel his heart beating in his chest and he was breathing hard as he approached his pickup truck parked at the fast food restaurant across the street.
He did it. He did it. This was his first time and he didn’t know if he could pull it off, but it was easy, damn easy, he thought.
He took out his keys and fumbled with the lock.
“Damn, calm down,” he whispered to himself. “You made it. There is nothing to worry about.”
Finally, he was able to insert the key in the lock and open the door. He threw the bag containing the money and jewelry on the floor and stuck the key with a shaking hand into the ignition. He turned the key and the old truck sprung to life. He let out a sigh of relief. He reached up and grabbed the gear shift then the door opened.
“Turn it off,” a gruff voice commanded. “Give me your gun.”
The young man found himself looking down the barrel of one crazy looking gun in the hands of that gray-haired man who he thought was dozing in the doctors office. He turned off the ignition and handed over his gun.
“Okay gramps, what now?”
“You heard me, slide over or this Mauser will splatter you all over that passenger side window.”
“Hell, old man, your hand is shaking like a dog shitting razor blades.”
“At this range, I could shake and shimmy myself to death and still be able to put ten holes in you before you could blow a fart.”
“Okay, I’m getting over.” He slid over to the passenger side and stared at the old man and his gray eyes. He could see a controlled danger hidden there and he started to fear for his life as the old man got behind the wheel. He started the truck and put it in gear and slowly drove out into traffic heading south toward the Interstate.
“How’d you break your arm?”
“I didn’t. I put it on so I would fit in with all those assholes in the waiting room.”
“Pretty smooth thinking. How long have you been planning this caper?”
“None of your business. Where are you taking me?”
“Where were you planning on going?” The old man asked.
“Now why should I tell you?”
“If you want to get where you were planning to go, you better tell me since I am driving.”
“You’re shittin’ me, right?”
“No, I’m not. I figure you have a plan, right? Don’t tell me you don’t.”
“I do, but I ain’t telling you, old man.”
“Oh, I think you will and I will tell you why. First of all, I’m driving. Second of all, I have control of the loot and last but not least, I have this C96 9mm Mauser that says you will.”
The young man just stared at the old man and his strange looking gun, not knowing what to say next. They drove along in silence until they approached the Interstate.
“You better tell me which way or you are going my way and the ride won’t be that long. I can guarantee you that.”
“Go south,” the young man mumbled.
“What? You’re going to have to speak up. I spent time in Nam with all kinds of shit exploding all around me and I have a difficult time hearing sometimes.”
“I said go South.”
“That’s better, much better.”
They rode along for a few minutes in silence with the old man looking over at him periodically to make sure he wasn’t planning anything.
“What’s your name?”
“Oh yeah? Frankie Perino? You connected?”
“Yeah, I’m connected. I just been made too,” he lied.
“Sure kid, you’re connected and made. By the way, that was pretty slick in there, what you did. Who would have thought they would get robbed in a doctor’s office? I mean by someone other than the doctor. Very smooth. I’m impressed.”
“Like I care?”
“You better care, you little turd, or I’ll drop you like a hot potato and throw you out along side the highway somewhere.”
He looked over at Frankie and smiled shaking his head. “Damn, you, I mean we, made quite a haul, didn’t we? I would never have thought of holding up a fucking doctor’s office. Damn.”
Frankie just stared at the old man wondering if he was pulling a fast one on him or just what it was that he wanted. Why hadn’t he just left him and kept the jewelry and cash? What’s his plan?
“Listen, old man, we gotta turn off up here at the next exit. My fence is waiting in a bar there for me to come by with the goods.”
“Oh yeah? What’s his name?”
“Shit, where do you fuckin’ kids come up with these names, off some fuckin’ milk carton? Silky, shit.”
Frankie just stared at the old man. Who did he think he was? He is riding on my success at pulling off a pretty cool heist. He even said as much. As long as he has that gun I don’t have much say in what we are going to do and he may be old, but he not only looks tough but cold, like a stone cold killer. Frankie was beginning to fear for his life.
“And how much were you thinking this Silky would give you on the dollar, huh? Twenty-five, thirty-five? Shit, with this ice we should be pullin’ in at least sixty. That is if you know where to take it.”
“And I suppose you do old man?”
“I suppose I do. We’ll go to my guy and cash in and split everything fifty-fifty. If you want to go your own way after that, fine. But I’m taking this truck. Now tell me where you are going?
“Shit, New Orleans? You ever been there Frankie?”
“Well let me tell you, those Cajuns don’t fuck around down there. They’ll make you into crawfish bait before you step out of this truck.” the old man started to laugh. “Little Frankie, the Cajun Queen. My God, how they are going to have fun with you.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Oh, I’m sure you can, Frankie, seeing you’re a made guy and all.”
“Anyway, I ain’t plannin’ on stayin’ there long. I’m meeting up with a buddy.”
The old man looked at him and shook his head and turned back to watch the road.
They rode along in silence again for about thirty minutes before the old man asked, “So, what’s his name?”
“Your buddy, the guy you are meeting up with in New Orleans?”
“Why should I tell you?”
“Cause I asked, that’s why.”
The way the old man said it made Frankie nervous. He couldn’t see any harm in telling him the name of his pal. “Johnny Morelli. We go way back.”
“I can tell. What, you both nursed off the same titty? Shit, go way back. Kid, you don’t know what way back means. This Morelli kid, is he a made guy too?”
“No, but he will be. He goes by the name “Shiv.”
“Oh, that’s cool.Handy with a knife is he?”
“You don’t want to find out, old man.”
They drove for thirty minutes before the old man broke the silence again.
“What’s your final destination Frankie. I mean after New Orleans?”
“I’m arranging a boat to take me to the Islands.”
“A boat? And what kind of boat are you going to arrange to take you to the islands?”
Morelli’s got connections with some Vietnamese shrimpers who said they would take us if the money was right.”
Oh boy, Vietnamese shrimpers? You speak Vietnamese? Does The Shiv?”
“No, but money talks, old man, and we sure got enough of that, don’t we?”
“Yeah we do, Frankie. We sure have enough of the green stuff. Enough for all the women, booze and good times we can stand, but not Morelli. I’ll take you along since we are partners, but there ain’t room for nobody else.”
“What are you talking about, old man? Not enough for Morelli? He’s my partner.”
“Not anymore, Frankie, I’m your new partner.”
“Well, he ain’t going to like it.”
“He’ll just have to get over it. Listen, kid, I speak fluent Vietnamese. I’ll keep these gooks from screwing you over. They get all uptight and nervous when they find out a round-eye speakees their talk. We won’t let them know until we are in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and well on our way to Costa Rica.”
“Who said we are going to Costa Rica?”
“Maybe you don’t hear so good either. I just said that.”
Frankie just stared at the old man wondering who this guy was. He had a feeling the old man knew a lot about all of his plans before he told him. But how?
“Where’d you get that strange gun?”
“I took it off of a gook, a North Vietnamese Colonel.”
“He didn’t mind?”
“I don’t think so. He was dead.”
“Did you kill him?”
“Well, he didn’t kill himself. I blew the fucker’s head off. I never seen a gun like his before; it’s a rare breed, so I took it. Notice the magazine?” The old man asked as he turned the gun sideways. It’s fitted ahead of the action and this grip? It’s called a broom handle. It makes it easy to shoot holding it with one hand. Made in Germany before the big war, by Mauser. It’s a beautiful piece. Just looks different because of the position of the magazine.”
They continued to drive South on the Interstate for about sixty miles before the old man took an exit onto a County Road that was deserted except for a couple of farm houses. They drove about five miles on that road before turning off onto a dirt drive that wound through pastureland for about a quarter of a mile. It ended in front of an old white two-story farmhouse like a thousand others that can be found along every country road in the Midwest.
The old man reached down and picked up the bag containing all the jewelry and money.
“Listen, Frankie, I’m going to let you live and come along with me as long as you do as I say and don’t try to screw me over. We are partners now, whether you like it or not, and I’m the boss. You got it?”
I guess I didn’t hear you, Frankie.”
“Yeah, I got it old man.”
“Good, then come along. I got a friend of mine I want you to meet. I think you’ll like him. But don’t get sideways with him, you might regret it.
They walked up the steps leading to the farm house. The old man opened the door, “Get in,” he said.
Frankie walked in and stopped cold in his tracks.