When you work in The Gutter the cost of doing business can prove brutal. And business ain't always business as veteran Rob Pierce shows us.
The Hitter by Rob Pierce
It was never hard to get Swift to do a job. He liked to work, and he liked to get paid. He also liked to be treated as a friend. It was the hardest part of working with him.
“It’s a simple job,” I said. “You and me smash and run. Willie drives.”
“I’ll smash,” Swift said with a grin.
“Just glass, I hope.”
I’d have to fence what we stole and the fence would only see me, not Swift, not Willie. They had to take my word for it on their shares. I could lie, but I wouldn’t. Not worth it if word got back to Swift.
Willie double-parked up the block from the jeweler’s, and me and Swift got out. The place was appointment only. They knew I was coming. They thought they knew who I was.
There was a security gate between the sidewalk and the front door. Swift waited behind me on the sidewalk and I pressed the button on the wall.
“Yes?” said a voice through the intercom.
“This is Mister Shapiro,” I said.
I waited a few seconds, glanced back at Swift. He looked fine. I relaxed a little.
A few more seconds and the door opened. An armed guard in a security uniform stepped out, unlocked the gate and slid it open. He was almost as big as Swift. I stepped toward him.
“I have to pat you down,” he said.
The door remained open behind him. I shrugged. He started frisking under my arms.
“Turn around, please.”
I did, and as the guard’s hands reached my hips Swift stepped forward and reached around me. I spun and Swift threw the guard into the door. The guard landed on the floor inside and reached for his holster. Swift brought a knee down on his hand. The guard roared and Swift took his .45.
I stepped past them, pulled my pistol from my boot and shot out the main security camera, then the next. The alarm went off, a series of short electric screams. Swift took the .45 and slammed it against the guard’s temple. I shot out the last two cameras as Swift dragged the guard the rest of the way inside and slammed the door shut.
The jeweler lay down behind the counter without me saying a word. I opened fire on the security glass and Swift did the same to the other counter. We shoved everything we could into our coats and bolted out the door.
Willie rolled the car forward and we got in. He drove normal traffic speed until we hit the freeway. Then we flew.
I put the jewels in a grocery bag and met Maldov at the motel. I trusted Maldov as much as I trusted anyone I did business with. The pistol in my boot didn’t feel close enough. Me with a bag of jewelry in a place that looked like it charged by the hour. Twin thugs on either side of Maldov looked like the Hulk if the Hulk was two Russians in leather jackets. Maldov had a jeweler’s eyepiece, and a laptop on a small wooden table he must have brought with him. “Your goods?” he asked.
I passed him the grocery bag. He reached in and placed one item at a time on the table. He set the empty bag on the ground, picked up a necklace and examined it through the eyepiece. He set it back on the table and typed something on the laptop. He did this with each piece, then returned them all to the bag.
“I trust,” Maldov said, “security did not give you much trouble?”
I smiled a little. “It was loud,” I said, “but we got in and out.”
Maldov nodded. “Much of this,” he flipped his palm down at the bag, “is shit. Four thousand for the whole thing.”
“Four thousand? I coulda got shot.”
Maldov nodded again. “Do you want the money?”
“Shit.” I thought about explaining his share to Swift. “Maybe I shoulda got shot.”
I took the money.
I was going to keep half, but that wouldn’t leave enough for Swift. The job was almost over; we wouldn’t be friends any more. I called Willie first.
“I got paid,” I said. “But it ain’t what I thought.”
We couldn’t talk details over the phone. We met and he was pissed but he took a grand and stormed away. Like when Maldov offered me four. You can hate the money, but you can’t walk away from it.
I knew it wouldn’t go that smooth with Swift.
“We got fucked,” I said. We were at my place. I wanted to be somewhere where they’d recognize my body if it got thrown into the street.
“How fucked?” Swift said.
“Have a beer.” I set a bottle on the little table between us. “The fence gave me four thousand for the whole thing.”
“Four?” Swift gripped the bottle like he might break it in his fist.
“I gave Willie one. There’s three left. We can split it even.”
“Fifteen hundred?” Swift stood, bottle clenched. I stood with him, but he stood a lot taller and wider.
“That’s what there is,” I said.
“You said a lot more.”
I wished I had a drink too. He wasn’t touching his. “We got fucked,” I said.
Swift raised his bottle, drank, spoke softly. “You got fucked. I get three thousand.”
“Half of that’s mine,” I said.
Swift took another drink, sat down, set his bottle on the table.
I sat down too.
Swift picked up his bottle again, drank with his head tipped back, drained it. He smiled, turned the bottle in his hand and swung.
The bottle hit me on the side of the head and I fell sideways. I felt blood in my hair and reached for the pistol in my boot. Swift grabbed me under both arms and ran me into the wall. He let go of one arm and a fist slammed me in the gut. I was falling when his other fist hit me in the same place. I toppled forward, painfully conscious, needing air but I couldn’t even gasp.
I lay face down on the floor and Swift lay on top of me, his face next to mine. He whispered in my ear. “You give me all the money. Then we have a beer. Like friends.”