Tax Day

The business may be on the up and up and all legit.

But in The Gutter, someone else always needs to get theirs too.

Tax Day by Nick Kolakowski

Sitting behind the wheel of his Oldsmobile Delta 88, warm can of beer squeezed between his thighs, Jerry Caine scanned the murky edges of the parking lot. It was 6:05, according to the dashboard clock, but already he could feel the day’s heat pressing against the windshield, making his forehead prickle with sweat.
Two gulps drained the beer, and he opened another one. Need all the courage I can get, he thought. Polishing off the second can left him with a nice buzz, and he unlocked the glove compartment, retrieving the silver .38 pistol from beneath the Oldsmobile’s yellowing owner’s manual. His shirt was soaked with perspiration, his armpits stinking hot.

Across the street stood the concrete monolith of the state tax office. Jerry knew that an armed guard sat behind the lobby desk, while a second one manned the nearby metal detector. If he made it beyond that barrier, a special elevator took him to the fifth floor, where he needed to enter a seven-digit code in order to open the thick steel door that led to the counting room. If he started any trouble inside, at least five deputies with rifles would fill him with enough lead to make him a paperweight.

A tough nut to crack, as Jerry’s father would have said.

Headlights flared as two cars turned into the lot. Jerry debated whether he had time to power-chug a third beer and decided against it. Alcohol steadied his hands but also made everything almost unbearably funny, and laughing his head off was no way to conduct a robbery—or was it?

The two cars produced three dudes, all of whom yelped in fear when Jerry emerged from the dawn’s orange flare with a pistol pointed at them and a stupid grin on his face. “Give it up,” Jerry said.

The three amigos—young, white, dressed in shirts with marijuana logos—went for their wallets.

“No, idiots, the bags.” Jerry jabbed his pistol at the bulging paper sacks in their arms.

The biggest kid—sunburned, tall, with a blonde buzz-cut going to seed—made fists. The situation suddenly seemed very precarious. Sure, Jerry had the firepower. But if one of these boys went for him, the sound of a shot would bring out a lot of cops in record time.

“Hey, don’t blame me,” Jerry said, jabbing his weapon in the buzz-cut kid’s face. “It’s the government that makes you pay your taxes in cash. Now drop it.”

Two paper bags hit the pavement with dull thumps.

“Now get on the ground,” Jerry said. “Don’t look up until I’m gone.” Once they were spread-eagle, he scooted over and picked up the bags, tucking one under his arm while holding the other in his free hand. It made him look like a bird with a busted wing. “How much is in here?”

“Forty thousand dollars,” Buzz Cut muttered. “Don’t spend it all in one place.” 

“Well, uh, I’m glad the weed business is treating you well,” Jerry said, as he backed toward his car. “Next time, hire some protection or something, huh?”

“Thanks,” one of the other kids muttered, before his friend elbowed him in the ribs.

Jerry climbed behind the wheel of the Oldsmobile, twisted the key, and burned rubber out of the lot. By the time he made the highway, he couldn’t hold the laughter back any longer. I’m just the kind of badass, he thought, who gets rich on tax day. God bless legalization. And the laws that don’t let weed farmers set up bank accounts.

Nick Kolakowski’s crime fiction has been published in ThugLit, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, and Crime Syndicate Magazine. His novella “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps” is coming out later this year from One Eye Press.