SATIN SHORTS Copyright 2011 by George Snyder, all rights reserved. No portion of this novel may be duplicated, transmitted, or stored in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.
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This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental.
This one is for Rusty.
Eddie O'Rourke held the satchel of jewels in that covered parking lot at Borderland just north of El Paso. The big hanger-type door let in harsh sunlight to glare off the concrete floor. He stared in surprise as Phyllis came toward him, her skinny body looking good in the tight red dress he had bought for her. Tears streamed down her scrunched-up face as if she already felt sorry for what she was about to do. Her heels clicked on the concrete as she walked closer to him, the Colt Ace .22LR semiautomatic shiny in her hand.
Nick the Book, rotund, balding with his Clark Gable mustache, walked behind her, dressed in tan slacks and a light blue polo shirt. He stepped to the side and leaned against the hood of a Honda Accord with his arms crossed, looking expectant and wearing a smirk.
"We can't get enough for the jewelry," Phyllis cried. "Oh, I love you, Eddie, you got to know that, I do, but there isn't enough for Nick and me to go live in Paris. I got to write my novel in Paris, that's where writers go. Try to understand. With a three-way split, there just won't be enough...."
The little .22 snapped loud in the half-empty lot.
Eddie jerked back in pain as the first long rifle hollow point slug tore into him then another snap and the second slug put him down to his knees. He gripped the satchel tight. He leaned back to sit on his heels, his hand pushing his stomach, still not believing, even when blood covered his hand. He felt the heat and the hard concrete floor. Everything else started pushing behind a veil, getting fuzzy.
Phyllis, with her long skinny legs and hair black, the color of the week, stood panting. Tears glistened on her face.
"Finish it," Nick the Book said.
"Don't... Phyllis." Eddie went down to hands and knees, his guts burning and a pool of blood spreading under his stomach over the rough, hot concrete floor. He tightened his grip on the satchel.
"Don't you see, honey? There won't be enough. We got to cut you out."
She reached for the satchel but Eddie held on. Phyllis jerked back unable to break his grip.
"No." Eddie's voice weakened.
"Damn it! Give it to me." She knelt in front of him, careful to stay away from the blood. "Honey, why you making this so hard for me? Come on, don't make it hard. Give me the jewels."
"No." She was close enough he could grab her but he didn't have the strength.
Phyllis stood and walked to Nick. "Why is it taking so damned long?"
Nick the Book said, "Small caliber, gut shot, it'll take a while. Put one in his head, that'll quicken it."
"I love the guy, Nick. I'm not going to shoot him again."
"Don't ever love me, Phyllis."
"Not much chance of that. You're just my ticket to Paris." She looked down at Eddie. "I got to get the satchel." She shoved the .22 at Nick. "Here, you finish it."
Nick held up his hands. "Hey, I'm no killer."
Phyllis stared at him. "No, you always get others to do it for you."
"He should be weak enough now to pull the satchel."
Phyllis knelt beside Eddie. "I got to do this, honey." She grabbed the handle and, using her body to help pull against his grip, yanked it free. She stood looking down on him, breathing heavily.
Eddie saw her red high-heel shoes and skinny ankles, and the bright sun glaring off the concrete. He slipped down to his elbows, his vision growing fuzzier as the veil thickened. The pain diminished with his weakness. He eased to his side, both hands pushing the wounds.
Phyllis turned to Nick. "Okay, let's go."
"You got to leave him some," Nick said.
"How else they going to know he pulled the heist?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"Give him the broach."
"Dammit, Nick, that's an emerald. We'd get a good price for it."
"Give him the broach and the pearl necklace."
"Damn." Phyllis pulled the broach and necklace from the satchel. She knelt beside Eddie, again avoiding the spreading pool of blood.
"Put them in his back pocket," Nick said. "Let part of the necklace hang out."
Eddie, on his side could see them. He felt Phyllis push the jewelry in the back pocket of his Levi's jeans. This would be the last chance he'd have to grab her. He tried to make his arms move, get his hands on her skinny ankle, maybe break it in two. Nothing worked.
Phyllis lightly patted Eddie's cheek. "Thanks for buying me the bookstore, honey. Nick will forge your signature so we can sell it when we go to Paris. Marriage to you was... a lot of fun at times. I'm real sorry it had to end this way. See ya."
Nick pushed off the Accord, and they walked away from Eddie together, out the yawning bright doorway, Phyllis's heels clicking on the concrete floor.
"Count... on it," Eddie croaked. "You'll be... seeing me."
His last sight of them was Phyllis and her twitchy, bony bitch ass with Nick's hand roaming over it and the tight red dress Eddie bought for her.
Eddie O'Rourke was still bleeding when the cops found him.
In jail medical clinics and hospitals, those in charge got Eddie well enough to be thrown into the court system. Eddie said not one word to anyone.
In the El Paso jail with clanging cell doors and shouting voices, he never saw a clock or a big window to look outside and he ate every meal with a tablespoon. Late at night he heard stalkers pace their cells like animals in a cage, unable to sleep after the sun went down.
One clear morning, Eddie met his court appointed public defender.
The public defender wore a nice looking suit and had surfer blond hair with a downy peach fuzz face.
After the first meeting when the defender at last wound down from his long speech about the law and the power it had, Eddie stared at the floor and said nothing.
The next time the court appointed public defender came around he looked bored with Eddie. He said, "Look, Eddie, I can't help you if you won't help yourself. You're looking at pulling the full five years in a two-to-five stretch. We can make a deal if you hand over the jewelry, a better deal if you give up anyone in it with you. Make the deal and I can get you maybe fourteen, fifteen months."
Eddie looked intently at the kid and said nothing.
The public defender with the nice suit and the surfer hair wasn't a bad guy, just too young. Ink still wet on his law degree, he believed in the law and that restricted him to a small box of rules. With experience he'd learn to weasel out and around the box, bending and maybe breaking laws like other lawyers. At this point he was useless to Eddie who had to follow his survival instincts. If Eddie had one fear, it was of his own ignorance. Raised on the streets, uneducated, he figured he had street wit and war experience from Desert Storm but he didn't think he was smart. And the kind of life he lived, that could be him killed.
They pushed him to trial and found him guilty. They sent him to Huntsville for not less than two, nor more than five years.
Eddie went saying nothing.
A wide difference existed between the courtroom world and the prison cell world with a lack of co-operation, and conflict between the two. The time would go by and he'd remain silent.
He geared himself for prison routine. When somebody tried to screw with him, he gave it back, hard and quick. When somebody tried to hit him, he struck first. After a month of it, he had to kill somebody in a corner of the crowded yard. He used the handle of a spoon and went for the throat.
After that they left him alone. He got the reputation as a loner, and that's what he wanted.
For the first two months Eddie's cell mate Chris talked about the procedure he had been going through before prison to become a woman. A procedure he'd continue after serving his embezzlement time. He let Eddie know he'd be his bitch and when the procedure was done he'd look Eddie up.
When Chris was released, he came back to visit Eddie once every couple of months.
Eddie had other visitors. His son, Santos--San, came all the way down from the gold claim just outside Yuma. Sometimes he brought his partners, Taro and Carlos. Eddie was always happy to see San, who had his mother's fine looks and his dad's dicey way of thinking. When all the guys were there, they laughed a lot. Seeing them, Eddie missed the past and the connection to it. When they left he again became a silent, sullen, obedient prisoner, drawn inside himself with his thoughts.
The cops pestered him monthly about the jewelry.
He stared them down, listened to their prattle and threats about doing the full five. He told them nothing.
He had a lot of time to think, and he thought about Phyllis and Nick. Nick the Book, with his Clark Gable mustache, sniffing after Phyllis like a shifty mongrel hound with its tongue hanging out, itching to get his hands on her skinny body the second he met her. And Phyllis, teasing with her twitchy ass, long slender legs, tiny boobs, and short straight hair the color of the week.
He had met and married her when he was going through his skinny woman phase. He had drifted through a slippery string of them starting with Ginger, and he thought maybe Phyllis had the best disposition. Eddie married her and bought her a bookstore because she said she loved him, and he sure never heard that from the other skinny women. She wanted to write a novel about her life and told him it was bound to be a best seller, her life so eventful and all.
He thought about her suburban upbringing in Anaheim with parochial high school and two years JC and one dark night giving her virginity to a gas jockey in the back seat of a Jeep Cherokee on the rack due for an oil change the next day. A couple dozen books already covered that kind of suburban life, maybe more, maybe a hundred.
Phyllis liked to talk literary stuff to him that he didn't understand. She liked books about little women and strong female characters, and thought Danielle Steel was the greatest author of the century. Mostly, though, Eddie married her and bought her the bookstore so he could keep doing her.
Prison made Eddie remember. He started writing Phyllis after trying to call her disconnected number, writing she got too greedy and took some bad advice shooting him like she did but he forgave her and would she please pay him a conjugal visit. He remembered her fine slim body and the little things that lit her fire--Eddie still in his skinny woman phase. But no contact back from her and no visits, conjugal or how-you-doing-Eddie-locked-up-there-in-the-joint or any other kind of visit because she was back in Southern California lying down for Nick the Book giving him all the conjugal he could handle.
After a few months of no response, Eddie thought maybe Phyllis might need killing along with Nick the Book.
They cut him loose on parole after twenty-two months.
Eddie found a cheap third-story hotel room downtown El Paso and got ready to start his new job at Home Depot. He checked in with his El Paso parole officer, a fat guy named Wally with the photo of a fat wife and two fat kids, who did touchy-feely with his chubby female assistant that sent her giggling as she pulled her shirt together. He insisted Eddie call him Mr. Wallace.
Eddie figured right off the set-up wasn't going to work.
Enforcement wanted the goddamned jewelry and believed Eddie still had it. Cops dogged him wherever he went, watching, frisking him, making him empty his pockets in public places, like in a restaurant eating his chicken enchilada. They pressed harassment, working to strip his human dignity as they did the illegal Mexican locals.
In the joint, Eddie had been reminded of a flourishing racism, of open hatred and talk of ethnic cleansing. Gangs and mobs were ready to kill each other over race, and did some killing. Latinos hated blacks who hated Asians who hated Arabs who hated Latinos. They all hated whites. Prison inmates were the worst racists on Earth but cops pushed a close second. Cops in El Paso were no different. Isolated videos showing racial police brutality meant thousands of incidents went unreported.
El Paso had played itself out.
At Best Buy, he bought a cheap cell phone and paid one-hundred dollars in advance for a thousand minutes. His first call was to his son, San to give him the number.
San wired him a thousand bucks and told his dad to get to the gold claim anytime.
Eddie kept the invitation in reserve.
On a hot November Sunday, his second week after release, he propped himself on his cheap hotel bed wearing his military boxer shorts and undershirt reading the Sunday paper. He sipped cheap Irish whiskey without ice from a water glass. The noisy fan hummed as it waved back and forth, curtains fluttering and windows open bringing heat and traffic noise, and voices talking Spanish. He was supposed to start his Home Depot job tomorrow.
The beige desk phone on his nightstand rang with real bells. In the phone Eddie said, "Tell me a story, and make it good."
"It's Nick, Eddie."
Eddie gripped the phone tightly. He stayed silent. He kicked around thoughts how to play the call.
"I had a hell of a time locating you," Nick said. "I had to pretend to be a LA cop wanting to talk to you about a heist out here. Not that you did it but I said you were a party of interest. What a laugh that is, party of interest--you still there, Eddie?"
"Tell me where you are, Nick." Eddie figured on the way he might swing by the claim outside Yuma and pick up a gun.
"Eddie, I'm asking forgiveness, what with Phyllis shooting you and all. She's been sick with remorse, like she's real sorry she did it. Turns out we never made it to Paris. I got the Book to run, and my family. I told her to go alone and now I think she's ready but there isn't enough money. Paris was always a cotton candy dream anyway. As if I'm going to leave my family and trot off to Paris with some piece of ass, and sit around scratching my balls while she writes her great crap novel."
"She never visited, not once."
"Yeah, and that sucks, I know. But I'm not asking you to forgive her, hell that's between you and her, you know, husband and wife. It's just I got something big going, the biggest flipping job of my life, worth millions, and I need you in it."
"I already got a job."
"Is your payday going to be a couple hundred thousand dollars?"
"For doing what?"
"You handle the bank money, nothing else. They bring the money to you and you take it up there to Vancouver in Canada where I'll be waiting at a laundry to exchange it for good spendable cash. You got no part in the robbery, nobody else is involved."
"How do you know I won't run off with the cash?"
"It's bank money, it's useless until I make the exchange. What do you say, Eddie, I really need you?"
Eddie kicked it around a spell. He had to get out of Texas and Nick offered a way. He could get to Nick quicker and kill him sooner. How it played after that depended on how events fell in place. If he kept control, he'd be okay.
"I need money," he said.
"Listen, Eddie, I know you never said anything about the jewelry heist and I appreciate it. You're a stand-up guy not telling anybody. I owe you and cutting you in is one way I can make it up to you. I need your forgiveness."
"And I still need money."
"I'll wire you a thousand walking around money today."
"Take Monday to clear things there then ride a bus or whatever up to Bellingham, Washington. I got a beautiful motor home waiting in a KOA campground. It has all the comforts of home. I'll send the location with the cash."
"No, tell me now, so there's no record of it with Western Union."
Nick gave Eddie the address of the KOA in Bellingham. "That's where the guys will bring the bank money Friday night. I'll call when you're settled and tell you more about the operation. And I got a surprise for you, Eddie."
"I don't like surprises."
"You'll like this one. I'm sending you a fine looking semiretired hooker to take care of all your physical needs. I know it's been a long time for you. She'll get there Thursday morning. You'll have Thursday and Friday to play with her."
"What the hell does semiretired mean?"
"Beats the crap out of me," Nick the Book said.
* * * *
Monday morning, Eddie called his supervisor at Home Depot to say he ate some bad junk and his stomach was on fire and he couldn't come in until maybe Thursday. Before he could hang up, he waited through a phone lecture about rehabilitation and getting another chance and he shouldn't blow it.
He called Wally the parole officer, who came on the line breathless as if he'd just pulled out of his assistant and gave the same spiel, only this time the lecture was a threat about him returned to Huntsville, and how people were going out of their way to make him a solid citizen. Eddie's concern, as he listened to the monotone oral diarrhea, was did they buy his bullshit story? They did so he figured he had two days to clear the hell out of Texas before they started looking.
It was enough.
* * * *
He thought about buying a car but that meant paperwork that could be tracked. He thought about buying a woman, but with Nick sending one to Bellingham, he could wait.
Tuesday morning, for twenty bucks a local Mexican bought a bus ticket from El Paso to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once there, Eddie had a reservation Indian buy a ticket to Seattle, where, after the long wet ride, he bought a black rain jacket and wide-brimmed Australian hat. Eddie handled the ticket to Bellingham himself.
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