Let’s Do This

I smiled and slapped Manny on the shoulder. He grinned back.

“Right on, let’s do this,” Flattop said. “I’ll go get a van. Hondo, can you make me a plate?”

Hondo nodded and walked over to a workbench on the wall where he rummaged through a small cardboard box. After a bit of metallic clinking he found what he wanted and pulled it free—a California license plate.

He set it down on the bench in front of him and reached into his front pocket.

“What’s he doing?” I asked Flattop.

“We’re going to need this van for a few hours, so I’ll need to swap the plates, or the cops will pull me over after it’s reported stolen.”

I wondered how that worked. In a world with computers, the cops could type the plate into their computer to run it, or in some places they even had plate recognition cameras. If it was just a bogus plate, the LAPD would know. Here in San Tadeo they couldn’t do that, so how did they know? I was strongly tempted to ask but kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to screw up our new opportunity by showing my ignorance yet again.

Having searched his pockets, Hondo pulled out a small wad of bills and counted them. He turned back to us.

“Yo, I need another two hundred.”

“Fine,” Flattop said, pulling out his roll and peeling off some cash. He walked over and slapped a couple of bills on the bench beside the plate.

“Hurry up, I’ve got to go. It might take me a while to find something.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hondo said. He combined the cash on the bench with the money he already had and picked up the plate with his left hand.

Flattop stood back, impatient, while Manny and I simply watched.

Hondo seemed to concentrate on the plate in front of his eyes, and as we watched the cash in his right hand burst into green flames and disappeared.

Without missing a beat, Hondo handed the plate to Flattop. “Don’t forget the screwdriver this time.”

“I won’t. I’ve got one in the glove box now,” Flattop replied. “Get these guys set up, I’ll try to be back within an hour.”

He hurried out of the garage and we heard the throaty burble of the Javelin starting up out in the yard.

Hondo returned to us. “All right, you guys are both strapped right now, yeah?”

“Sure,” I agreed. Manny just nodded.

“Great. Mack, you’re fine. Your clothes are pretty forgettable. Manny though, you’ve got to lose all of that. Where did you get that chain anyway, a Halloween store? That shit gaudy, yo.”

“Hey! It’s got great stats,” Manny objected.

“Whatever. Have you got something you can wear instead of that Jersey? You’ve got to look like you didn’t just steal the thing.”

“Not here, Bro. I’d have to go home and get something.”

“Never mind, I’ll find you something. Remember, nobody will see your name but without a mask they can still see your face. Anything that might be a distinguishing mark we’ve got to hide. I don’t see any tattoos on either of you, so we’re good there.”

I was impressed, as it seemed like they had thought this out. If there were people in the neighborhood watching the place when we rolled up, they’d be able to ID Manny just by his ridiculous chain. If we changed out his shirt and hid the chain, he’d be a lot less unique.

Hondo dug through one of the drawers in the desk until he came up with an oversized T-shirt, formerly a light gray. It was heavily stained with oil, looking like someone had used it as a rag.

“Shit,” Hondo muttered, looking it over.

“I can’t wear that, man,” Manny protested.

“I know. Hold on, I’ve got something else here.”

He tossed the shirt/rag into a corner and moved to another, larger drawer. It was stuffed full of files bursting with papers. He had emptied about half the drawer, forming a precarious tower of files on the top of the desk before he found what he wanted.

“Got it, I knew this shit was still in here,” Hondo said.

With a grunt of effort Hondo pulled the plastic-wrapped rectangle free from the bottom of the drawer and tossed it to Manny. Nestled in the protective plastic it had come in was a button-down shirt in a deep burgundy color.

“I’ll want that back. My moms bought me that a few years back in case I ever needed to wear a clean shirt for a customer while I was here.”

“I guess you didn’t need it then,” I said.

“It didn’t come up, no.”

Manny took off his jersey, exposing his skinny chest and arms. Like me, he wasn’t exactly a built dude. The chain went on first and the burgundy shirt covered it up nicely. It was way too big for him, as Hondo was a broad-shouldered dude and Manny was anything but. It fit him like a tent, but he looked like a different person without the jersey and chain, and that was good.

“Both of you, take these,” Hondo said, and handed each of us a black and white bandanna. I stuffed it in my front pocket.

“Tie them over your face like a mask. Just during the heist, not when you’re driving. Like I said, if the cops see somebody with a mask driving, they’ll definitely pull you over.”

The next few minutes we went over the pictures of the compound. It was quite a lot like the one we are in, although a bit larger. A large fence clad with metal surrounded the whole yard, and barbed wire protected the top. The car was in the garage, and we’d have to cut open the lock on the gate, as well as any locks on the garage before we could drive it out. Hondo produced a pair of bolt cutters, beefy and long, earmarked for this job.

In short, the plan really was simple. Break in, get the car, and drive it away to the port where Manny would produce the documents and hand it off to the right guy. The garage didn’t normally have any guards, but If there were any, we’d put a gun on them, zip tie their hands and leave them there. No shooting, and definitely no killing.

With the plan gone over we relaxed in the office, waiting for Flattop. Manny and Hondo talked about cars. Hondo about what he liked to build, and Manny about what he’d like to drive. Despite their earlier friction, they seem to bond a bit on that subject. Their mutual love of cars drew them together.

Twenty minutes later there was a horn outside the gate. Hondo rushed out to open the gate, and we followed. A plain white van with Flattop behind the wheel pulled in beside Manny’s regal. The van was what I’d always thought of as an electrician or plumber’s van. White, with a sealed rear compartment only accessible by the rear doors, and no windows on the back or sides. When Flattop opened the rear doors, it seemed that that was exactly what it was. Shelves lined the walls, full of coils of wire, and various electrical parts.

“Jackpot! Help me unload this, guys,” Hondo said, grabbing a box and hustling it into the garage.

“What the fuck are you doing, Hondo? We’ve got to go,” Flattop protested.

“You think I’m leaving this free money in the back? Fuck no,” Hondo said, dumping the box just inside the garage and running back for another.

Despite Flattop’s protestations, it only took a few minutes for us to clean out the back of the van. When that was done, we gathered by the van.

“You’re up, Mack. You know the address. Me and Hondo will ride in the back. When you’re a couple blocks out your masks need to be on if there are no cops to see. It’s an industrial area, so you should see any cruisers a long way off,” Flattop said.

“Got it,” I said.

“Once we’re there everybody but Mack will get out. Hondo will get the gate open and you drive the van into the yard. It might take us a few minutes to get into the garage, and we don’t need that van to be seen on the street while we’re doing that. Got it?”

I nodded. Flattop was just repeating the plan we’d already went over with Hondo in some detail, but it seemed like he needed to repeat himself.

“I already told them all of this shit,” Hondo said, less patient with his friend.

“Fine,” Flattop said. “Any questions before we go? Anybody gotta piss? No? Then let’s go.”

I drove the van out of the yard, waited while Hondo closed the gate. A minute later, we were on the road to our first major heist.