“May I say something?”
I turned the corner as quickly as I dared. I didn’t hit the guy on the bike, although it would have served him and those damn ugly shorts right if I had, but I could quite proudly say that I missed him by at least three feet. “Okay, say something. Wait, you know what? No, don’t say something. I’ll say it.” I mostly stopped at the stop sign, then slammed through the intersection with barely a pause for unspoken thanks that all the children in the neighborhood were safely somewhere other than crossing the street while people like me were out driving. “Don’t say something,” I repeated. “I know what you’re going to say so don’t even say it.”
“I was just going to…”
“Well, don’t. I know, okay? I know. I was there, I saw, I know. I’m sorry about the eyeball. I should have done something other than the eyeball thing. I had no idea one measly eyeball would bleed that fucking much. One eyeball. Sorry, but that was pretty excessive. Whoever planned people should not have made them so that one fucking eyeball would bleed that much. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s done, he’s done, his eyeball is certainly done, I don’t think we need to talk about it anymore, okay?”
Goddamn black Mustang piece of shit still behind me. Like the eyeball and the severed finger weren’t bad enough. Okay, no matter, I could do this. Another guy on another bike. If I could just- yes! I managed another corner about two feet head of the bike, and heard the squeal of the Mustang’s brakes behind me.
“Ha! Did you see that? That was pretty good, wasn’t it? I thought that was pretty good.”
“It was, but you might consider…”
“Okay, you know what? I was going to go left, but in my defense, may I say something? It’s five in the morning. Safeway is getting a delivery right about now, and if I had gone left I would have had to try to get around those bigass trucks over on Second Street and it would have lost us even more time, okay? Oh, how do I know Safeway is getting a delivery right about now? Well, Mister May I Say Something, I know that because I used to go out with one of the guys in the bakery department, and in addition to all the free donuts that got me, it also got me a pretty good idea of what the delivery schedule is like, okay? When a goddamn delivery schedule starts screwing up your sex life, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what that schedule is, too, okay? Free donuts are a rather poor substitute, so don’t tell me I should have turned left when I had a really good goddamn reason for not turning left, okay?” Fucking red light! I did a quick check for ambulances, pedestrians and cops, and then tore through it.
“Left was a good choice, you’re right about the trucks, I was just going to say…”
“You know what? Could you maybe try to cut me just a little slack here? Until a week ago, I worked for a goddamned mortgage broker. I sat at a goddamned desk all fucking day. I had a goddamned phone screwed to the side of my head and I fucking typed all goddamned day! With all of that in mind, I really don’t think I’m doing all that badly here. Other than the eyeball thing. And granted, maybe I did cost us some time going back for that bracelet, but my dad gave me that bracelet, okay? It was a birthday present. I was eighteen, my dad got me that bracelet for my birthday, my eighteenth birthday. Didn’t your dad ever give you something that you just really didn’t ever want to lose? That guy deserved to lose a finger. And what’s the big deal anyway, what does a dead guy care that he’s missing a finger? Thank you, by the way. Even after the eyeball, I don’t think I could have dealt with that other guy. How much goddamned money is in that bag, anyway?”
“Quite a bit. And I understand about the bracelet, I really do. In fact, all I was going to point out…”
“Look, this is my first official day as anything other than a conservative, law-abiding citizen, can you please not nitpick every little fucking thing I do wrong to death, please? I admitted I was wrong about the eyeball thing. Nothing like the eyeball thing will happen again, I promise. I was wrong about the bracelet thing. I will refrain from wearing any jewelry that holds any sentimental value whatsoever on any future jobs, I promise. I turned left to avoid the damn delivery trucks even though, yes, I agree, right would have been closer to the shortest distance between two points, but I really did have my reasons for doing what I did in that one instance. I didn’t hit the guy on the bike, either of the guys on the bikes. So I really don’t think you have all that much to complain about. Maybe I’m not the best felon-in-training you’ve ever worked with, but I don’t think I’m the worst, either.”
The tacky turquoise shutters of Frank’s rental were getting closer. I wasn’t thrilled about the Mustang still behind us, but Frank had assured me it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Try not to lead anyone back here, but it’s not the end of the world if you do, we’ll deal with it if it happens, it’s happened before.
“I’m sorry about the shrub thing, too. That was a mistake, I won’t do that again, I promise I’ll try not to do that again.”
“The shrub thing has actually happened before, if it makes you feel any better.”
I barely had time to pull into the garage before the door started to close behind me. “Really?”
Stuart grabbed the bag from behind his seat and I followed him through the rear door of the garage and down to the basement. Frank was waiting for us, and I could barely hear the gunfire as the door closed behind us.
Frank lit a cigarette. Frank was always lighting a cigarette. “How did it go?” he asked through the smoke.
Stuart was going to answer and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I was done, my life of crime over before it had begun, my reputation as a complete fuck-up established within this single venture in criminal activity. I was doomed to be an adequately paid respectable citizen for the rest of my life.
“It went well. For her first time out, she did remarkably well. One of Bruce’s boys caught up with us on the way back…”
“To be expected,” Frank replied, again through the smoke, and with that, we were dismissed.
Stuart led me up the stairs to the kitchen, told me to help myself to whatever was in the fridge, and said to wait an hour before leaving the house.
“Is this like swimming? Wait an hour before leaving the scene of the crime so you don’t get cramps?”
He almost smiled. I had never seen Stuart almost smile before in the nine days that I had known him, and it sort of warmed a small corner of my heart.
“Seriously though, thank you for today. I know it could have gone better, but it wasn’t really all that bad, was it? I mean, for somebody who’s never done this stuff before, it was okay? I could maybe do it again sometime?”
He almost smiled even more broadly than he had almost smiled a moment before. “You actually did very well. There’s just one thing I wanted to point out…”
“I know, the eyeball thing, I already apologized for that, the eyeball thing won’t happen again, I promise.”
The smile that he had been almost smiling broke through completely. “Actually, the eyeball thing wasn’t bad, I could understand the eyeball thing, you had very few choices there and you made it work with what you had.”
I was already halfway into the fridge, a Tupperware container of Mystery Casserole in one hand and a bowl of chocolate pudding in the other. I peeked over the door. “Okay, so what, then?”