Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THIS DUDE NEXT TO ME IS CRAZY

Battery died on the laptop. Didn’t think to steal the charger, too. I always meant to give the laptop back, my insurance policy if you remember, but I could’ve used it a couple more days.

Instead I’m back in the stinky library and there’s a dude twitching next to me like there are fire ants in his veins. I’m jumpy, too. Still have the energy from the meet with Rodeo. It went down and the wheels are turning.

This guy next to me keeps scratching at an old tattoo on his forearm. A Ka-Bar knife with a snake or a dragon. Can’t tell, its faded and his skin’s raw from the scratching. Looks like he’s around my dad’s age. Probably a cracked VA dude who served in Nam. I’d ask him, he might’ve even known my dad, but I don’t want him to go ballistic in the library. At least not until I’m done writing this.

Wish I could be using the laptop. Feels exposed out here. Don’t think Sig’s looking outside of Santa Monica, but I gotta be careful. You ever steal something? If you need it bad enough, it’s easy. As long as you know what you’re doing. Be confident. Walk in, do it and walk out. That’s how I got the laptop in the first place. Stealing is easy when you need it. Returning things is hard.

That’s when you get caught.

Couldn’t do it when the coffee shop was just open, then it would only be me and the workers. I waited for the first big rush and moved in with the crowd. I slid the laptop onto a counter at the end of the pastry case and beat it before anyone got a look at my face. Slick.

And by now the dude should be happily reunited with his laptop. When it gets charged and he checks it, everything’ll be fine.

But if I get dead, you need to tell him where to look. Find Gabriel Chacon and tell him to dig up the Tunnel Rat folder buried in his computer. Give it to the cops or the Feds and blow the thing open. But only if I get dead. As long as I’m alive, I have a chance at the payoff and the fuck off.

And the chances are looking good. Met with Rodeo a little while ago. It was at an art supply store I’d seen on my way to this library before. Seemed like a public enough place, but not too crowded. And I figured a good looking but scruffy Trey would fit in well with the artists. Knew a chick back in Ballentine that painted. Weird in the head, but fun. The bitches in this art store were hot. Even the one behind the counter. Maybe I’ll open an art gallery when I get my payoff.

I may have fit in well, but Rodeo stalked into that place like he was venturing off the map. This guy belonged in a dark bar with glossy hookers and his friends wearing track suits and gold chains. And carrying Desert Eagles. Cocked.

He spotted me in an aisle with some bent-wire tools for carving clay. We pretended to look at the gear and tested each wood handle and poked our fingers with the tips. Our voices were low and cool. No way anyone knew what we were doing.

Can’t figure out Rodeo’s accent. Russian or Hungarian or Dracula or something. Not too thick, he wasn’t fresh off the boat. He was a business man, carried himself like a professional. And quick, didn’t care about the bullshit of how I got the black bag or what I knew about the Nerd. He wanted to make a deal.

At first he thought I was stupid. “Do you have it with you?”

“It’s safe.” And it is. It was hard leaving it behind, but you don’t bring the goods to the first meet. No one but Batman would find where I hid the bag.

Rodeo wanted the goods, but he seemed relieved to be talking to a real dealer like Trey, rather than a jellyfish like the Nerd.

“What is your price?” He wasn’t annoyed, he was doing business.

“I don’t know what you were going to pay the Nerd, but I’m sure I’m coming in under that. You’re getting a good deal. I want three hundred thousand dollars.” He didn’t flinch. “But there’s something else I need.”

Now he sounded cautious. “Tell me.”

“On the thumb drive, it’s identities, right?”

“Yes.” I caught just the faintest whiff of his anger that I knew what was on the drive.

“The Nerd collects them from what, the internet?”

Rodeo kept it casual. “Everything was funneled onto the drive. It is the only record and this transaction will go very smoothly if you are willing.”

That’s why the Nerd just didn’t make a copy of the information. Suppose he was covering his ass at work. If someone saw a list of identities on his hard drive, it might send up some red flags. But by putting all his eggs in one basket, he took away his leverage. And gave it to me. “I want the money. And I want one of the identities.”

He paused at a block of gray clay like he was trying to see the cowboy he could carve out of it. “Which one?”

“I don’t give a shit. I want one with good credit and a clean police record.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw him nodding and understanding. “We’re good with the money and if you set me up with the identity, I disappear for good. Win win.”

He laughed and I smelled cigarettes. “I like you.”

“You don’t know me.”

“Even better.”

We set the time and place. He’ll have my money and arrangements for the identity. I’ll have the black bag. I’ll disappear like smoke in the rain and you can only dream of the kind of life Trey will be living.