Street Cleaner

By William E. Wallace

 (An Excerpt from a Work in Progress)


Mr. Souk smiled broadly and handed me an envelope.


The night Mr. Souk lost his cherry as a liquor store owner it took 22 minutes for a cop to answer the alarm. Souk spent two hours he couldn’t afford the next morning filling out paperwork and looking at mug shots. Detectives booked his security camera’s video tape into evidence but never did arrest the two gunmen who held him up.

Souk lost a half-gallon bottle of Jack Daniels, $387 from the till and two teeth from the pistol whipping the crooks gave him before they split. 

The second time he was robbed, the cop that reached Souk’s store 40 minutes after the alarm sounded cited him for having an illegal sawed-off 12-gauge stashed under the cash register, even though it wasn’t loaded and he hadn’t had time to reach it after the robbers arrived, anyway. The fine was $250 dollars. Once again, the security video proved useless. At least the police report took less time the next day; that was good because no arrest came of it.

Souk’s loss: another half gallon of Jack, $526.57 from the register and two Moon Pies. He kept all his teeth that time but it took four stitches at the county emergency room to close the cut above his left eye.

The same two gunmen did both jobs. Souk could have picked them out of a lineup if the police showed any interest in making an arrest. They didn’t. A criminologist might have said that a pattern was beginning to emerge.

They came back again a month later.  Souk had the alarm and closed circuit camera taken out.

That’s when he hired me. And that’s why I was sitting in the alley outside his little liquor store in my Chevy Malibu the next time they paid him a call. 

Souk rang my cell as they were walking out his door, my signal to get ready. I eyeballed the pair through the right side of the Chevy’s windshield. They jumped into a 2001 Mercury Sable and backed up to pull out of the parking place right in front of Souk’s convenience store. 

Parallel parking in front of an armed robbery was stupid and sloppy but I wasn’t expecting Professor Moriarity; he would have had better sense than to hit the same mom-and-pop store over and over again.

As they pulled out into the street, I came out of the alley burning rubber, turned the corner and rear-ended the Mercury at almost 20 miles per hour. It was just a little love tap to inflate the airbags, stun the crooks and momentarily pin them in their seats. 

The one on the passenger side recovered quickest and by the time I reached him he was pulling his Glock semiautomatic and trying to get out of the car. I swung the door shut on his gun hand with a crunch, then dragged him up from his seat and slammed his nose down on the edge of the door until his legs buckled. I put his gun in the pocket of my trench coat. He wouldn’t need it any more. 

The driver was still sitting behind the wheel, trying to shake his head clear when I grabbed a handful of his greasy hair, pulled him up until his eyes were even with the top of the door and slammed it on his temple, twice. The second time it made a satisfying sound, like somebody splitting a cantaloupe with the back end of a claw hammer. 

There was an old Smith and Wesson six-shooter tucked in his waistband. I dropped it in the pocket with the Glock: No sense in leaving lethal hardware out on the street; somebody might get hurt.

Neither thug was going anywhere so I had plenty of time to go back to the Chevy, get the tire iron from the front seat and finish the job. When I got done, they wouldn’t be robbing any more convenience stores. Not unless you can take one down strapped into a wheelchair. 

While I worked, Mr. Souk recovered a half gallon of Jack Daniels and a bag I assumed contained cash from the robbers’ Mercury. Then he smiled broadly and handed me an envelope.

 “The alarm was costing me $100 a month and the security camera was another $50 plus the installation fee,” he said. “I spent nearly $2,000 on them since I opened earlier this year. The police never did a damned thing. I should have hired you to begin with.”

 “Spread the word to your friends,” I said, tucking the envelope inside my trench coat. I didn’t have to count it; I knew the full grand would be in there. “Tell them what I do and what I charge. Word will get around that you’re protected. You shouldn’t have any more trouble but if you do, call me: follow-ups are on the house. The shitbirds usually leave you alone after my first visit. In twenty years, I’ve never had to see a client more than twice.”

We shook hands and I got in the Chevy and drove away. I like that old Malibu. They didn’t screw them up with airbags in 1979.

# # # # 

No comments:

Post a Comment