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I might have been doing an investigation, but the undercover part meant that I did actually have to work there


Crazy Deadly Cool, continued...

“Besides, you didn’t seem to mind using my employee discount to buy that laptop for your boy, so cut me a break.”

“Yeah, thanks again for that,” he said, “he uses that damn thing constantly.” 

“Consider it one of the perks of the job,” I said.

“Anyway, yeah, I finished that up. Turns out that not only did they have theft in the pharmacy, but they also had a problem with one of the managers creating a hostile work environment.”

“Sexual harassment?”

“Got it in one.” I held my pointing finger and showed him both sides. “So in addition to my not insubstantial fee, my months’ worth of minimum wages, they floated me a nice little bonus.” I kept throwing up fingers as I counted my points. 

“Sounds like it worked out for you, despite having to wear that vest. Good for you.” Dave said. “But don’t be surprised if your employee ID pic shows up around the station. The guys love that shit.”

“Great. Can’t wait. But I’ve got something else to show you and I think you’ll see that the vest was worth the payoff.”

“Oh? Did you get yourself something nice with that employee discount?”

“You’ll see. I’m going to hit the shower, you going to the sauna?”

Dave nodded and gave a grunt. Our paths split as we walked into the locker room. I headed for the showers and Dave got sucked into whatever was on ESPN. He was still standing in front of the TV as I headed out sweat free, shaved, and dressed in jeans and the obligatory Hawaiian shirt.

“Convince the wife to cook me dinner on Sunday, I’ll bring steaks for your grill and show you my new toy.” I said to him by way of a goodbye.

“Sounds good to me. Say one o’clock and we can catch the Jaguar’s game.” The Jacksonville Jaguars were playing the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and Dave and I make it a tradition to watch that game together. Him being a Jacksonville native and me coming south from Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s a game that doesn’t happen often, but when it does, we don’t miss it. Carolina is up three to one in the series.

The athletic brunette at the counter, whose name I can never remember, Tiffany, Tammy, Tonya, starts with a T, I’m almost certain of it, stopped me as I was walking out.

“Hey Jake, this is your new car, right? The guys said it was.” she said, pointing to the parking lot surveillance monitor. 

I leaned over her shoulder and took a look-see. She smelled pleasantly of lavender and I almost didn’t care that she’d gotten my name wrong. The cameras were a gritty black and white tinged with green, but the screen she was pointing at was zoomed in close enough to show the temporary plate number on a Dodge Challenger taking up two parking spots between a Ford pick-up and a Nissan Altima.

“I’m going to say, yes, that’s my new car. Why, you want to go for a ride?” I’m a real charmer.

“Maybe I do. Maybe I don’t. But you’ll never find out asking like that. Didn’t your mother teach you how to treat a lady.” I looked at her name tag, Candace. Okay, so I was wrong about the T. “Just thought you should know that there have been a couple of kids hanging around it.”

I watched the monitor for a minute, as it switched between the cameras, and spotted the pair on camera three. I thought she might be stretching it calling these two kids. The guy was probably older than her, maybe, twenty-five. The girl with him, okay, yeah, she was a kid. She was probably around eighteen, but you’d be forgiven for buying her a drink at the bar. If I was going to steal a car to impress my girl, I’d probably choose my car too. A bright orange, hemi-powered hotrod is always good for impressing the ladies.

“Thanks, Candy.” I said and headed for the door before my new car went for a drive without me.

“I called the police to swing by and scare them off, but who knows how long it’ll be before they come around.” Candy said, as I stepped through the door and waved over my shoulder and stepped outside. World class detectives don’t need the police to handle a couple of kids.

I beat feet around the side of the building, even world class detectives don’t take chances, and came up on them from the dark side of the parking lot. The girl was standing near the lamp post, arms crossed under her breasts, hip against the post. She didn’t look like she was too all fired keen about what her boyfriend was up too, but neither was I. We’d probably get along fine. From behind all I could see was long blonde hair over dark. Dressed in cut off shorts that showed off her legs nicely, a white tank top, and flip flops; the perfect get away shoe. 

“Come on, Shawn, let’s go.” She said to him, wanting him to either do it or not. Probably, she had a rave to get too. She was maintaining her distance from the whole affair. Not committing to it, but not adverse to the thrill of it either.

Standing next to my car, bent over, peering in the driver’s side window like he was checking the mileage, and checking the door handle to see if it was locked was a big guy. He was thick in the neck and arm, had his sandy hair cut tight to his skull, and probably spent more time in the gym than the library. He was holding an antenna in his hand and I wasn’t surprised to see that the old Ford pick-up in the next spot appeared to be missing the same. 

This clown was going to try and steal my car. My brand new car. My car that didn’t have three hundred miles on it yet. I was betting that he wouldn’t be able to do it. He’d probably just scratch up the window, the paint, or both and leave me needing repairs. Besides good car thieves don’t stand around checking out the merchandise, they just move in and grab it after checking it out from afar. These two didn’t even realize that they’d been caught on film, probably for the last fifteen minutes. He probably wouldn’t think so, but I was about to do him a favor.

Shawn glanced over his shoulder at the girl, “Yeah, okay. Hang the fuck on, Cat. Give me a minute.” He was oblivious to me walking up on the two of them. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a wedge. He was about to jam it in above the window frame when I pushed the key fob button and the lights flashed and the horn chirped. He jumped back like the car had bitten him.

“You lock your keys in there?” I said, and they both turned toward me. The girl stepping even further away from the car, finding a comfortable spot on the other side of the lamp post, but neither of them ran.

Shawn probably went two-fifteen, maybe two-twenty, most of it muscle with the mean, dumb eyes of someone who has looked for and found a lot of trouble and is used to punching his way out of it. His nose looked like it’d been broken a couple times at least. He had a neck tattoo, that read, appropriately, Shawn, in dark, gothic letters and he had a tribal band around each upper arm and some sort of design on his left bicep. Why would you get your own name tattooed on your neck? These kids.

“Huh, what?” He said, then with a snarl.  “This your car? How about you just give me those keys and save yourself a beat down.”

The girl looked from me to him, decided he could take me and took a half step toward him, putting herself even with the lamppost and unknowingly in full view of the security camera, choosing sides but not wanting to commit, leaving her options open. She looked like she wanted to say something, to me or to him I wasn’t sure, but she didn’t.

“Look, Shawn, it is Shawn right? The tattoo. You’ve been caught on camera sniffing around here for the last however long you’ve been out here. The cops are going to come by and even if they don’t get you for stealing this car, they’re going to want to know why you’ve got the antenna off that pick-up truck. I’m betting the owner doesn’t know it’s missing yet.” I gave him my best, what-can-you-do smile.

“Gimme the keys you fuck.” He flexed his shoulders and balled his fists. He was probably thinking that he could flatten me, take the keys, and be gone before the police arrived. He was probably right about the police. So much for logic and common sense.

I jingled the keys in front of me absently, then stuffed them in the pocket of my jeans.

The girl glanced around nervously, spotted the cameras and said, “Let’s just go, Shawn.” 

“Caitlyn, I got this fucker.” Shawn took a step toward me and I let the side of my shirt brush open and let him see the Berretta that I keep at my hip. It’s the compact Type M with a single stack eight round clip. It’s a little smaller, a little lighter, and a hell of a lot easier to carry. Sure it’s got half the capacity of a full 92FS, but if I need more than 8 shots I’ve probably gotten myself in over my head anyway. He hesitated, looked like he thought he could get to me before I could get the gun out.

I said, “If it comes out, I’ll kill you. Your call.”

It stopped him. Didn’t make him happy. Probably wouldn’t change his path in life. I didn’t think we’d be best buds. But I knew I wasn’t going to have to shoot him. Sometimes that’s all you can ask for.


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