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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

82_ym_sawedoff_kduncan.jpg
Art by Kevin Duncan 2020

Sawed Off

 

By Allan Leverone

 

 

Letting Crazy Dave handle the shotgun was a mistake. Joey and I both knew it, but we needed cover for our plan to work, so we buried our heads in the sand and tried to pretend things would be okay.

Spoiler alert: things would not be okay.

The plan was audacious: we would rob our way through the city, knocking over one liquor store after the next, boom-boom-boom, completing our little spree in less than two hours. The last store would be located hard by Interstate 95, and after hitting that one we would zip onto the highway and be gone.

We spent hours developing the route that would allow us to hit the maximum number of stores in the minimum amount of time while also avoiding the police, who despite their general sloth and stupidity would eventually tumble to what we were up to.

Our first few stops seemed obvious. Washington Street featured a cluster of liquor stores, all catering to desperate horny men looking to pick up a bottle of liquid courage before availing themselves of the sex-for-hire trade for which the area was locally renowned.

We figured three stores on Washington would be about right. Hitting them would take no more than twenty minutes, and by then the cops would be on their way. They’d be certain we were going to continue down the street, certain they would stop us in our tracks before we could finish the fourth job.

So after the third, we would exit the area via a side street and move across town. Then we would hit three more stores before changing cars.

After that we would zigzag our way toward the interstate, taking down three additional stores as we went, before knocking over the last one on our way out of town.

Would it work?

The plan seemed solid enough, but as far as we knew, no one had ever tried robbing ten liquor stores in one afternoon, so who the hell could say? But this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing. The three of us planned for a solid week, debating various routes and potential law enforcement responses before settling on our final plan.

It seemed solid. We liked our odds.

The day of the heists, we spent the morning placing our stolen cars. The first we would use to begin the job.

The second we stashed in the parking lot of a boarded-up dry cleaner’s shop in Chinatown. We knew by the time we’d completed a half-dozen robberies that our first car—a late-model blue Buick your grandfather might drive—would have been seen by dozens of witnesses and be all over the cops’ radar, so we were going to have to ditch it to have any chance of finishing the job and escaping the city.

Our third stolen car we placed eight miles up the interstate, in a carpool lot just off the highway. We figured if we made it that far after robbing ten liquor stores, we’d be home free.

It was a little after one when we started. Middle of the day, traffic should be light. People with jobs would be at work and people without would still be inside their apartments trying to beat their hangovers.

First three jobs went down nice and smooth, like Jack Daniel’s after a busy day robbing liquor stores. The sound of sirens in the distance serenaded us as we pulled away from the third place—a dirty little hole in the wall called Pedro’s—and I knew we had planned the day perfectly.

But there was a problem.

Of course there was.

Crazy Dave was starting to live up to his nickname. He looked twitchy, flushed and shaky, and he was moving with the unnatural jerky motions of someone who’d had way too much coffee.

Or way too much meth.

“You okay, Dave?” I asked as we approached the fourth store, located all the way across the city, a couple miles from where the cops would be looking for us.

“I’m fine,” he said, even as we both knew he wasn’t.

Dave’s job was to step out the right rear door while I hit the store. He was to pull the sawed-off Remington 12-gauge out from under his long overcoat, and intimidate the shit out of any bystanders during the few minutes it would take me to clean the place out.

But his actions were making me nervous, and even though he hadn’t fired the damned gun yet, I could see by his increasingly rash behavior he wanted to.

The fourth and the fifth stores went down easy, but I couldn’t help feeling a sense of anxiety as we moved the three blocks it would take to get to Number Six.

“Keep it together, Dave,” I said, and his only response was to growl something unintelligible.

After Number Six we swapped cars in front of the old dry cleaners. We piled out of the now-red-hot stolen Buick and into the unobtrusive blue Accord, and as Joey pulled out of the lot, fucking Crazy Dave stuck the 12-gauge out the rear window and blasted the abandoned dry cleaner’s building.

“The fuck do you think you’re doing?” I shouted.

“The building’s empty, fuck you.”

“That’s not the point. We changed rides to stay off the cops’ radar, and now, if anyone saw your brilliant move, they’ll be looking for this car too.”

“Fuck you.” Dave was practically bouncing in his seat from tension and pent-up aggression and I couldn’t wait for this job to be over. I swore right then and there this was the last time I would ever work with Crazy Dave. Fucking guy was a powder keg.

We crisscrossed the city as planned, me certain Dave was going to do something to get us all thirty-to-life, Dave getting more and more jittery and unpredictable.

The next three jobs went off okay.

One more to go, a little mom and pop liquor store next to the I-95 on-ramp called, ironically, Pop’s.

And that was where everything went to shit.

I cleaned out the register while holding my gun on the old guy standing behind it, just like I’d done nine times already today. It was obvious he was pissed off, but equally obvious he knew there was nothing he could do to stop me.

Twenty seconds later I hit the door at a dead run and sprinted to the car, sliding into the back seat and yelling, “Go, go, go,” as if it needed to be said.

The car stayed put.

“Dude, go!” I said again, and Joey nodded in the direction of the sidewalk.

Where Crazy Dave stood, sawed-off leveled at the old bastard from the store. The dumbass had wandered out the door and stood staring wide-eyed at Dave’s Remington, looking exactly like a guy about to meet his maker.

Which he was, because Dave pulled the trigger.

The Remington boomed and the old guy went down and Dave slipped into the Honda. Joey was screaming and I was screaming and the car still wasn’t moving.

And Dave said, “We need to go.”

Joey hit the gas and we squealed into traffic and hit the on-ramp at seventy per and climbing, Joey and me still screaming in shock and horror and fear.

I grabbed Dave and forced him to look at me.

“Why?” I shouted in his face. “Why? Why would you do that? We were about to get away clean!”

“Fuck him,” was Dave’s explanation.

My heart was slamming in my chest as we hauled ass up 95.

Accessory to murder.

Life in prison or maybe even the needle.

Joey and I were now stuck with Crazy Dave forever, because if he were to be caught or we were to cut him loose, the first thing he would do, and I mean the very first fucking thing, would be to give us up.

Life in prison or the death penalty, or being stuck with that crazy murdering fucker Dave for the rest of our lives.

Unless…

I leaned forward and whispered to Joey, “Unlock the doors.”

He was still screaming so I had to slap him before repeating myself.

“What the fuck are you talking—”

“JUST DO IT!” I shouted.

I didn’t think Dave could hear what I’d whispered to Joey, but he was watching us with what looked like increasing suspicion. I would have to move fast or risk getting ripped to shreds by that goddamned sawed-off, which Dave had already reloaded.

Joey shook his head in confusion but did as he was told.

The second I heard the click of the locks releasing, I acted. I reached across the back seat and slammed Dave’s head against the window as hard as I could. It wouldn’t knock him out but might stun him long enough for me to finish him off.

He gasped and moaned but I was too busy trying to save my ass to congratulate myself on making it this far. I wrapped my right fist around his shirt, grabbing as much material as I could hold, and then opened the rear door with my left.

Behind the wheel, Joey was screaming again, but he hadn’t taken his foot off the gas and the wind tried to force the door closed. We must have been doing ninety, zigzagging up 95 as cars in all three lanes scrambled to get the hell out of the way.

I shoved Dave hard with my shoulder while pushing with my fist, and although he’d been stunned, Dave must have figured out what I had in mind because he grabbed me and held on for dear life.

So I let go of his shirt and slugged him in the face.

And Crazy Dave tumbled out the door.

At ninety-plus.

Behind us, brakes screeched as cars tried to avoid running over the poor soul who’d just fallen out of a moving car on the highway.

I didn’t bother to look out the rear window because it didn’t matter whether anyone had run Dave over or not.

There was no way he could have survived the fall. Not at that speed.

And I sure as hell didn’t feel guilty. All I felt was angry.

At myself.

          Because we never should have let Crazy Dave handle the shotgun.


Allan Leverone is the New York Times- and USA Today- bestselling author of nearly two dozen novels and five novellas. His short fiction has been featured in dozens of anthologies and magazines, and he is a past winner of the Derringer Award, given annually for excellence in short mystery fiction. Learn more at AllanLeverone.com.



Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books. 

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020