But for the Grace
The alley wasnt as dark as Danny wouldve liked, and Evan was driving
him crazy, spinning the snub-nose like a cowboy in some Sunday matinee.
Would you put that away?
Keeps me cool. Evan smiled the bar-fight grin that showed his chipped tooth.
I dont care if it makes you feel like Rick James. You shouldnt have brought it. Danny stared until his partner sighed and tucked the pistol into the back of his belt. Evan had always lived for the thrill of the job, all the way back to when they had stolen forties of Mickeys from the 7-Eleven. But the addition of the gun made Danny uneasy. Made him wonder if Karen was right to suggest he start thinking long-term. Reconsider his options.
He shook his head and stared out the window. Earlier, munching greasy chips in a taco bar across the street, theyd watched the owner of the pawnshop lock up. The dashboard clock now read just after eleven, and the alley was stone quiet. Chicago life centered on the neighborhoods; once night fell, the downtown area died. Twenty minutes ago theyd cut the phone lines without a show from the cops, which meant no cellular alarm. Everything looked good.
Until something moved.
Fifteen yards away, in a pocket of black. There, then gone again. Like someone stepping carefully. Like someone hiding. Danny leaned forward, one hand covering the glowing radio to sharpen his night vision. Shadows painted dingy brick walls with a black brush. A breeze sent a newspaper tumbling by the passenger side window. Maybe hed just seen blowing trash and his mind had filled in the rest of the picture. The tension could get to you.
Then he saw it again. A slight motion. Someone getting closer to the wall, deeper in the shadow. His pulse banged in his throat.
Beat cops didnt sneak around that way. They just rolled up with their lights spinning. Unless the police hoped to catch them actually robbing the place. Danny pictured Terry, that weasel mustache, the moist stink of a habitual farter. Hed told them about the jobhad he sold them out?
Out of the darkness stumbled a stooped man with greasy hair. He ran one hand along the wall to steady his cautious shuffle. A pint bottle nosed out of a frayed pocket. Reaching the trash bin, he glanced in either direction and unzipped his fly. Took a piss with one hand in his pocket like he was in the mens room of his country club.
Danny breathed again, then chuckled at his nerves. When the bum finished, he crossed to the other side of the alley and leaned against the wall. He slid down to a squat and closed his eyes. Danny said, Hes camping.
Evan nodded, rubbed one hand across his chin, the stubble making a grating sound. Now what?
Guess we could give him a minute.
He looks pretty tucked in. Evan paused, then looked over. Should I shoot him?
Danny shrugged. Sure.
Evan drew the gun, sighted through the windshield. He closed one eye. Bang. He spun the gun to his lips and blew imaginary smoke.
Danny laughed, then turned back to the problem at hand. The drunk sat directly across from the pawnshop door. With his head resting on his knees, he looked almost peaceful.
Chase him off?
No. He might yell, Danny said. Might run into a cop, who knows.
So Ill knock him down. Evan smiled. You know they dont get up after I knock em down.
The idea wasnt totally without merit, but lacked elegance. Too much noise, and it wasnt like the bum had done anything to deserve a beating. Besides, Evan was Golden Gloves. Probably end up killing the poor bastard. Danny squinted, trying to think of a way to get rid of the guy without complicating the job. Then smiled. Ill take care of it. He reached for the door handle.
Copyright © 2007 by Marcus Sakey. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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