Darryl sped home with his heart still racing. 1.25 million? He couldn’t believe it. Compared to their 20,000-dollar repertoire of jobs, this was the equivalent of whaling after catching crayfish his whole life.
They set a date and time. They were going to meet at Chuckie’s at midnight Saturday to go over the plan and results of Darryl’s stakeout. The gang would ride together to the Lyman’s estate, where they would come away with the heist of a lifetime. Darryl was already planning the best way to make an entry into the house, visualizing a home he hadn’t seen yet and the interconnectedness of the wires and cameras and alarms. It’d be a challenge, but for this money, he was up to the task.
He arrived back with his heart somewhat back in a normal groove. Eager to relax and unwind, Linda was a wonderful outlet. She was always a patient and engaged listener. But he couldn’t tell her the news either. She did not know his previous capers and late-night escapades. He would have to play it straight. He parked his ride in front of the trailer, dropped a few eyes drops and blinked his eyes, then made his way inside the trailer.
She was watching TV; some cooking show he gathered from his initial glance. And then his eyes made their way to her, clad in her comfortable sweats. She was about as tall as him, tall for a girl, with longer brunette hair and soft features and freckles. Many had called her beautiful before, sometimes around him. He had never had that experience. Her big brown eyes looked at him and he could see they’d been crying.
“Hey.” Linda said.
“Hey, what the hell are you crying about?” Darryl felt a smile spread across his face. “You’re watching a cooking show!”
“I know, I know,” she sniffled. “Its just that they try so hard and sometimes they lose and I’m hungry and,” she hesitated for a moment, “I’m just so hungry.”
Darryl laughed as she came over to him and embraced him. He’d been seeing tears often lately, almost always with cooking shows and times when he didn’t think crying was necessary, like seeing a dead deer on the side of the road. They had been getting along splendidly, so he was a little confused. He wondered if it was something of his making.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, honey. You keep watching and I’ll make us something.” He made his way to the kitchen and glanced back to see her wrapped in her favorite blanket, with a caring look in her eyes. Darryl almost certain he loved her, but he didn’t want to be the first to say so. He always thought he’d know when it was time to break the news.
He started the rice cooker and poured some oil into the pan. With some ground beef defrosting in the microwave, he grabbed some tortillas out of cabinet and chopped up some lettuce. He knew the way to her heart was taco night. He smiled as the ground beef browned and sizzled and the smell of the taco seasoning made his nose wrinkle up. She crept up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder.
“What happened, babe?” Sometimes Darryl thought he could hide from women’s intuition. He wondered how many times he would need to be proven wrong.
“Ah, nothing. Just a long day at work. Everybody’s grandma still wants a system. It’s like being a salesperson and translator at the same time. It wears a man out.”
She wrapped a hand around his waist and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m not sure if that’s it.” She walked towards the faucet to fill up her thermos with water. Linda was thin, but she had filled out in the last few months living with him. She entranced him by even the smallest of her movements. A drop of hot oil leaped from the beef and landed on his hand, taking his attention back to the tacos and off her lovely figure. The beef seemed to be done.
“You ready to eat, woman?” She grabbed a plate and kissed his cheek.
“How did you know I wanted tacos?”
“I’m a psychic I guess.” She brought a smile to his face. She smiled back, but it was a different sort of smile.
He wondered about that smile all night. Darryl knew her expressions from front to back. He knew her angry stare and the laugh she had when he did something stupid and the intense gaze when she wanted him. But he had seen that smile before. They had eaten tacos together, finished the cooking show, then made love and fell asleep. He had been fine earlier, but now he worried about an expression he had never known. Maybe he was just strung out from the news of the day.
She had been working long hours at the steakhouse as a server. She made solid money there. And, he thought, that she liked her coworkers. Maybe he hadn’t asked her enough questions lately, and that was the message. Sometimes he felt he could be more thoughtful with her.
He drifted in and out of sleep, awoken suddenly by a vision of Uncle Ronnie and Linda in the same room at the same time. Nothing had happened, but when in the dream and feeling the two at the same time made him sick. He ventured to the bathroom and washed his face and looked in the mirror.
Dark circles ran under his eyes and his shorter black hair was a mess from sleeping. He thought of life with Linda and a million dollars. How would he tell her where it came from? Would he ever? Would he get a new job and trickle it in?
He stopped himself.
“First things first,” he thought, “we make the score. And we do it right.”
He made his way back to the bed and laid down, pulling Linda close to him. She nestled her way into his arms, and he looked at her lovely face. He kissed her head and closed his eyes.
His car gently coasted into the gas station about a half mile below the Lyman residence. He wore a bulky gray coat and some comfortable tennis shoes with fuzzy socks underneath, since he knew he was going to have to walk to get to the house. Chuckie had sent him the GPS pin in the night and it pleased Darryl to learn that it wasn’t all that much of a trip from his house. The whole surveillance detail should only take about 3 hours. He put his backpack on his shoulders and started walking up the incline with a light dusting of show laying on his shoulders. He rubbed his hands together and pulled the beanie down over his ears.
He looked at the nice, not extravagant, homes that lined either side of the incline walking up the hill. It was a newer section of town, and the homes reflected a modern, chic visage foreign to most of the area. He imagined Linda in the kitchen of one of the classy brownstone homes with a high ceiling and tall Christmas tree. He walked with more pace with that imagery to aid him up the hill.
He came to a clearing on his left and gazed at the lake. A more expansive home governed the yard, with 3 stories and a back deck to gaze out at the lake during leisure time. Darryl thought about how nice it would feel to be warmed by a fire and a blanket, with a beer in hand, letting his gaze rest on the smooth water. It was strange to him, the human urge to stare at water, but he had no urge to deny it. Linda loved water too, all the way from a little stream to the beach. The trips they could take with a million plus! He let his mind wander.
The thought of Ronnie interrupted his pleasant, imaginary journey. What was he going to do with his money? It was a stretch for Darryl to envision the dreams that someone as institutionalized as he could come up with, with all that time behind bars. Would it be a revenge fantasy? Would he change his identity and retire to the Philippines? A man could live like a king there with the money he would have after the score. Then Darryl thought he would be happy to leave these questions to his imagination. He had no interest in questioning Ronnie about future intentions.
He finally sighted the fence, equipped with a gate and large monogrammed L, that encircled the Lyman property. He couldn’t view the house from there, as after the gate was a long, beautifully paved driveway that ascended to the top of the hill. On either side of the road were large spruce trees, native to the mountain. Darryl could tell, under the snow dusting, that a well-manicured lawn was lying dormant underneath for the winter. More money maintained into this yard than I have ever paid in rent for a year, he thought.
He looked at the side of the gate and noticed the panel for a passcode to get onto the property. They would not be entering through the front door. That’s just as well, Darryl thought. They couldn’t bank on a clear night, and if things went wrong, there wouldn’t be any tire tracks to follow. He followed the fence to the left, riverside, and make the loop around the property.
The firs and lifeless oak trees loomed over Darryl as traveled over the brittle ground. He turned the corner of the fence and made his way farther up the mountain. The incline was steeper as he neared the top. He’d be able to observe the entire river valley, he thought. As he grew closer, the terrain leveled out, and he caught the first glimpse of the top of the residence, a steeple-like spire that grew out over the pines. Darryl could make out the beginnings of a cleared yard through the pine forest; he came almost to the clearing where the house would overlook the lake and stopped.
The valley sprawled before him from the vantage point. He could see the lake, still and blue, and the grey interstate that traveled over it. From his height, the traffic seemed small and slow as they traveled over the water. He could see the mountains that grew on the other side, toward Maryland, and split by the road as it wound in between them. A gust blew past, and he shivered, thinking of the foliage would look in the autumn.
He turned to look towards the estate, the target on his right. It had a roundabout circle for visitors in front, loomed over by 2 tall columns on either side of the door. On the right side of the roundabout was a separate drive to a four-car garage. Behind the house, he saw an in-ground pool surrounded by a patio. Flower beds surrounded the house, withered by the winter. He thought about the maintenance necessary to manicure them in the summer. It would have been a three-man job, at least. A path extended to the clearing on the lakeside, where he was, leading to a gate a few paces in front of them. He looked at the top of the gate for any cameras or security mechanisms. He saw nothing but a lock.
This would be their entry point; they’d go over the top.
He pulled a pair of binoculars, one of his better investments, from his backpack and looked at the house. He glanced at the doors on the lakeside of the house, noticing the motion sensor lurking above each one. That could make things difficult for them. They might go through a window this time. He moved his focus from the doors to the windows and if they were in the lock position. On this side, he went from window to window. All locked, save one that was an entrance to the high-ceilinged living room. He took a mental note. That would be one option. If they were to enter and caught by a motion sensor in the house, they would have 15 minutes to get in and out. Not impossible.
He made his way to the back of the yard, following his clockwise motion around the fence. He took in the estate, seeing the massive garden area and maintenance shack with a side-by-side parked inside. Darryl thought he could see himself gardening one day. He thought he could see himself driving a nice side-by-side even more.
At that moment, he froze, seeing someone exit the shack. He quickly moved behind a tree on the outskirts of the gate as the figure stopped for a moment to check their phone. Darryl glanced out from behind the tree to see an older man with a toboggan on, clean-shaven face except for a bushy grey mustache above his lip. On his wrist, Darryl noticed a luxury watch. This must be the good doctor Lyman, he thought. The man looked up from his phone, did a quick glance around the property, and continued his way to the house. Darryl moved out from behind the tree and continued around the house.
He made his way to the gate from which he started. It seemed like a simple in and out. They’d go over the gate on the lakeside, open the window into the living room. Once inside, they would scan the inside for motion sensors, and Darryl would deactivate them so they could continue. He made his way down the hill, encouraged. It didn’t seem impossible or dangerous. The worst case is they would be on the clock to make it out. Ronnie hadn’t made it seem like they would try to get inside a Vegas-level vault. Worst case, they split at the bottom of the hill and rendezvous at Chuckie’s house. Darryl climbed in, started the car, and took a deep breath.
They dressed in black in Chuckie’s apartment. Darryl had on his lucky black sweatshirt and black Carhartt toboggan with black running gloves. Chuckie was wearing a black hoodie with his ski mask rolled up to the top of his forehead. Ronnie was on the couch beside Chuckie, with a black crewneck and black running pants. They were taking inventory of their lock picking gear on the table.
Darryl had triple checked his electronic gear before he had left the trailer. His usual story to Linda was that a system his company had installed had malfunctioned in the night, and he was on call today to get it fixed. He had always felt guilty lying to her about his true agenda, but he felt especially bad tonight. She frowned and said okay and kissed him on his way out the door. They were sitting down, watching television together before he received the call from Chuckie. That was the fake out that he must go to work. Even with all that was at stake tonight, he didn’t want to leave her. He almost told her he loved her.
Ronnie took him away from thoughts of Linda with a snap.
“You with us, lover-boy?”
Chuckie must have told him about Linda. “Yeah, I’m here.” He didn’t appreciate the thought that Ronnie knew anything more about him than necessary. He hoped that tonight would be their last one together.
“We’re rolling out in 15 minutes. Make sure you have all your gear ready. Phones stay here.” Ronnie barked. As if I’m an amateur, Darryl thought. Rule number 1 of 21st century robbery. Do not bring a device with a GPS tracker. Still irritated, he wanted to say we should be the one telling you after all your years inside. Flip phones were probably in vogue when he got put away.
The clock read 1:30 AM when loaded into an older black SUV that Ronnie had gained for the night. Darryl had to imagine he had probably received this from the fence as a suitable getaway vehicle. Plates were probably false with a phony registration. The less he knew, the better.
They rode in silence with the only sound being the heater to combat the cold winter air. It was a crisp, clear night with a full moon. No wind was blowing. It was eerily quiet on the walk from Chuckie’s apartment to the van. Darryl looked at Chuckie in the front seat. His head was down, and his eyes were closed, but Darryl could tell from his breathing he wasn’t asleep. He was probably trying to center himself for what was promising to be the biggest night of their lives. Darryl couldn’t blame him for trying to meditate, he was nervous too. He was trying to shake the feeling that things might not go as planned.
He and Chuckie had improvised many times over their brief careers in breaking and entering, but it mostly included running back to the car and speeding away. This score would entail running at least half a mile down, all the while giving the cops time to catch up to them. And they had a third man, who was a complete variable to them. How would Ronnie react if things didn’t go their way? Would he ditch them, make his own way? Would he get caught and snitch on them?
Or would he get violent? With them or someone else?
Darryl shook his head. Had to focus now, worry later.
They parked beside a house on the incline to the Lyman’s and exited the SUV. Darryl took point as they made their way, marching in the frigid winter weather. They walked slowly, trying not to slip on ice and make any sort of disturbance the neighbors would remember. All these details could matter, should things go awry.
They came to the monogrammed gate and stood for a moment, taking it in.
“Another way to read this gate would be, ‘zero shame ahead’.” Chuckie said.
“What do you mean?” Darryl answered.
“They made all their money on victims.” He seemed visibly angry for a moment, which wasn’t like him. “Sure, I’m sure they helped a person or two that needed help with their pain. But to live in excess like this, either they were the most oblivious couple known to man, to not be able to see the lines upon lines of those outside the pain clinics.” He paused for a moment. “Or they are some of the most cynical, greedy, evil people around. To over-serve an entire state on something that tore lives and families apart. And they build a monogrammed gate.” He spit on the ground. “Fuck ‘em.”
Chuckie’s tirade strangely moved Darryl. He hadn’t seen him passionate like that in a long time.
Ronnie answered quickly. “Glad to see you’re in the mood, Chuckster. Let’s go relieve them of some of that cash so they can sleep a little easier at night.”
They moved the same route that Darryl had the previous day. The group walked gingerly, but the frozen ground was still audible underneath their feet. They came to the clearing where Darryl had seen the entire valley with the lake. The three stood together and rested for a moment as they took in the scene. The reflection of the moon on the lake was visible in their eyes, their breath steaming in the winter air. Then, as they came closer, the illuminated Lyman estate became visible. The columns in front of the door came into view, as well as the garage beside the house. Darryl looked, and or a moment, he saw the silhouette of a figure in the upstairs window. He shook his head and looked back up. The figure had dissipated.
“Quite a place.” Ronnie remarked.
“Yep, time to rob it.” Darryl said.
They made their way to the gate that Darryl had picked. Three men would make it a little easier to get over it. There would be nothing to worry about once they were over, even though it was an open run from the gate to the window. No one would see them since no one was home.
Ronnie took initiative and boosted Chuckie up to climb over the gate. Chuckie was limber and lifted himself over the gate. He was more athletic than advertised. Darryl boosted Ronnie up next. Like an institutionalized man with a solid exercise regiment, Ronnie lifted himself over the gate. Darryl found himself nervous, not wanting to look like the least athletic of the crew getting over the gate. Ronnie held up Chuckie as Darryl jumped. Chuckie took his hand and lifted him towards the top. Darryl grabbed his hand and seized the top of the gate, pulling himself over.
Step one complete. Into the window.
They jogged across the yard, trying to move with a sense of urgency, but not desperately. They came to the window, ducked down, and Darryl looked inside at the living room. He scanned for the motion sensor until he found it in the top corner of the room. He noticed something that didn’t exactly match up with the plan.
The sensor was off.
“Ronnie.” Darryl said in a hushed voice.
“What is it?”
“The sensor is off.”
A level of alarm sounded in Darryl’s voice. “The alarm is off, Ron, it’s off.”
“Well lucky us,” Ronnie said. “One less thing to worry about. Let’s move,”
Darryl fought back an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. Something wasn’t right. He lifted the window. They welcomed the feeling of the heated blast of air on their face. He slithered through the window and into the living room. He detected no movement or any lights from a security camera. The house was silent, save for the sound of the heater. He put out his hand and helped Chuckie and Ronnie into the house. The floor plan was that of a square on the bottom floor, and if facing the house, they were on the left side of the square. Darryl pulled out plastic bags for them to place over their shoes, to avoid tracking in mud with their shoe imprints. If this heist went the way it should, though, it would be hard to see the good doctor calling to report a stolen vault of illicit and unaccounted for drugs.
“Alright, you and Chuckie go left, and I’ll go right. We need to find the basement. That’s where the vault is. We meet on the other end of the square.” Ronnie said, taking charge of the group. Darryl and Chuckie nodded in agreement and made their way, silently, to the kitchen. Their eyes adjusted to the darkness and their ears tuned in to hear the creaks and movement of the house. They stepped carefully and made a turn at the kitchen table. Chuckie took the lead from Darryl and entered the next room. This seemed to be the dining room. Chuckie led in and looked to his right to look for Ronnie.
At that moment, Darryl saw a flash, then heard a bang. Chuckie crumbled like a rag doll in front of him and screamed. Darryl looked to his right to see a figure at the top of the stairs with a handgun, held by a hand with a luxury watch.
The doctor was home.
At that moment, he heard Ronnie say, “Gotcha!” He beat the doctor over the head and the gun dropped to the floor. Ronnie moved swiftly to pick it up. He looked back at Chuckie, writhing on the floor and screaming. The doctor had blown his kneecap out. He heard Mrs. Lyman cry out, “Let him go!”
“Shut up!” Ronnie’s black eyes darted between Chuckie and Mrs. Lyman. Then he moved his focus to the doctor. “Happy to find you here, sir. Now if you don’t mind, I could use your help to find something.”
“Whatever you want, I have lots of cash here, jewelry. Take what you want and leave me alone.”, the doctor whimpered. His wife began crying.
“Nothing like that, doc. I want the oxy.”
The doctor’s face froze. He looked at his wife. “I know nothing about that.”
Ronnie pulled a large knife and put it to his eye. “Try again, doc. Where is it?”
The knife unnerved the doctor. “In the basement, in the basement. I’ll take you to it.”
Ronnie narrowed his black eyes and smiled. “Better answer.” He punched the doctor in the side, doubling him over in pain. He then grabbed him by his shirt collar and drug him along, with his wife in tow.
“To the right to the right!” The doctor cried. Ronnie looked back at Darryl, who was bent over Chuckie, trying to put on a tourniquet from his bag.
“Make him stop the crying or I will.”, Ronnie said, coldly. “You have 5 minutes.” His black eyes met Darryl’s. He moved down the hall.
Chuckie was crying on the floor, with blood pouring over the mahogany wood and on the carpet, giving it a dark purple look with the moonlight on it. “Oh my god Dare, my leg, my leg.” Tears poured from his eyes. Darryl didn’t have any stitches or medical tools other than the tourniquet. The bullet was inside his knee.
Darryl was far past panic. He began trying to assess the situation. His mind drifted to Ronnie taking the doc by surprise. He had moved a little too easily and stealthily for a man who didn’t think anyone was home. And it was he didn’t mind a bit if either Darryl or Chuckie didn’t make it back with him. Ronnie was going away with that money. Both he and Chuck be damned.
Deep breaths, Darryl thought. First order of business. Get his incapacitated friend on his feet.
“Alright Chuckster, I know this won’t be easy. But I got to get you on your feet. On 3.”
“No Dare I can’t I- “
“Dare please I need- “
“Two” Darryl tensed up. He was sorry to put his friend through this.
“Don’t man, please- “
He didn’t say the three count. Instead, he picked up Chuckie early to save him the pain of anticipation. Chuckie let out a wail and Darryl, with all his might, lifted him up and set him on the table.
“Okay, you’re going to have to hold on to my shoulder and balance on your good leg.” Darryl said.
“No way, I can’t- “
“We don’t have a choice here” Darryl grew impatient, but he knew it stemmed from his own fear. He tried to hide it from his injured friend, who needed all the encouragement he could have right now. “This is the real deal. You’re going to balance or you’re going to die here. Pick now.”
Chuckie looked at him, eyes still wet with tears. He pulled a weed vaporizer from his pocket and took a hit. He closed his eyes for a moment, then looked at Darryl. “Alright, let’s go.”
Darryl found himself encouraged by his friend’s newfound strength. “It’s going to hurt, but the sooner we get through this, the sooner it will be over.”
Chuck got off the table and put his arm around Darryl. He chucked for a minute. “Promise you’ll help me recover and sit on the couch for a while in the next few months?”
Darryl smiled back. “Of course, buddy.”
They followed the path that Ronnie and the Lymans had taken minutes earlier, following the sound of Mrs. Lyman’s cries and the sound of Ronnie barking orders. They made their way to a door opposite from their entry point, that was open to a flight of descending steps. The door had a digital keypad on it. How would they have got through this door on their own? Darryl had a feeling that wasn’t the plan. He looked at Chuckie. “I don’t see why you need to go down these stairs. Hang here at the top for me, brother.” Chuckie nodded back in total agreement. Darryl made his way down the steps.
He found Ronnie standing with the Lymans in front of what looked like a gun safe.
“You don’t get it.” The doctor said, looking at Ronnie, who had the gun pointed at his head. “We lose this, we’re dead. Not just my wife and I, but everyone in this house.” He looked back at Darryl. “They will never let you rest as long as you live if you take this.”
“Who?” Darryl asked.
“No one you need to worry about. Now open this damn door!” Ronnie hit the doctor in head with the butt of the pistol. The doctor grimaced in pain and his wife cried out. “The faster you open this door, the faster this is all over.”
“You’re condemning everyone in this room to death, I just want you to know that.” The doctor sounded resigned. “I guess I had it coming, and so did you. But my wife and these boys didn’t. You want to make that call?”
“Open it.” Ronnie said, unflinching.
The doctor put his eye put to an opening on the safe. A retinal scanner. Darryl was sure now that Ronnie had known the entire time that the doctor would be home. He didn’t just drag Chuckie and Darryl to a robbery; he had dragged them to an armed robbery, an assault, and, according to the doctor, a death sentence. All as bait. Darryl felt a chill go down his spine. Ronnie had played him and Chuckie like fools.
They heard a click, and the gun safe opened. Inside were 2 full duffle bags, full of prescription bottles. Ronnie in the safe and looked at the doctor.
“2 bags?” He cried. “There should be 4! Where the hell are the other bags?”
“Sold. The family has been purchasing in bulk the last few orders. This is the collection we have. Just leave the bags. They aren’t worth your life or these boys. Leave and we won’t speak of it.” The doctor coolly explained.
Ronnie’s eyes shone with a rage Darryl hadn’t seen. 10 years of dreaming, cut in half. Before Darryl could react, Ronnie raised his pistol.
“Jesus, Ronnie don’t- “
Two shots left the pistol before Darryl could react. He looked in horror as the bodies of the doctor and his wife slid, lifelessly, to the floor. Darryl was previously an accomplice to a robbery. Now, he was an accomplice to a cold-blooded murder. He stared on with his mouth open, unable to move.
“Shut up and grab a bag.” Ronnie said, snapping Darryl back to present day. Ronnie reached a hand in one bag and pulled out a full amber bottle, with the labeling saying Oxycodone 800mg. “Hello, old friend.” He said as he shook the bottle. “West Virginia mating call!” He said with a laugh.
Darryl stared at him. This man was laughing after ending 2 lives. He needed to pull together an escape plan, and fast. But that man had the gun, and therefore, the leverage. He grabbed one duffel and slung it over his shoulder and made his way up the steps. Chuckie was waiting for him at the top. He looked, clearly discomforted, at Darryl.
“Both of them?”
Darryl just stared back at him. Chuck knew what happened. The only part of Darryl that wasn’t scared seethed at Chuckie. He had got him into this. He had made him an accomplice to murder in the company of a crazy white supremacist. Yet, he tried to deny the part of his brain that blamed himself for being available for this kind of thing.
The time for introspection was later. The time for survival was now. Darryl picked Chuckie off the ground as Chuckie let out a muffled sound of pain. Darryl had a lot of weight on him between Chuck and the full duffel bag. The trek down the hill would be exhausting. Ronnie came out of the basement behind him and shut the door. “Let’s move.”. They moved out of the front door, Ronnie shutting it behind the two of them. Ronnie took point making their way down the driveway, slowly as a light flurry of snow had set in, obscuring the full moon in the sky. Chuckie hopped along during the walk on Darryl’s shoulder, wincing with pain the whole way. He seemed almost asleep standing up. Darryl slapped his face a few times to wake him up.
They came to the gate and Ronnie used the keypad nearby to open it. They stepped out on to the road, gate closing behind them, and continued their way to the car. Chuckie found a last bit of energy to hop into the black SUV once they saw it. Ronnie unlocked the doors and Darryl loaded Chuckie into the back seat with him, being as silent as possible. Ronnie opened the front door and sat down, starting the SUV.
Darryl put his head down into his hands and tried not to cry.