By C. A.
Joey Parloni shifted his body back into the shadows of the building.
Close enough that he could hear his boss as he finished his instructions. He hugged his
jacket closer to block out some of the cold that made his bones ache from standing still.
“All the trucks are important, but we’ve got a few shipments
that might draw some unwanted attention, so keep alert. No slacking off.”
The sun was setting but was still high enough
in the sky to beat down on him and into his eyes. Worse, a breeze had come up, sending
wafts of exhaust from the vehicles nearby.
He wore special sunglasses – goggles
were a better description – since his optometrist had said he was vulnerable to
light. Any light. Sun, fluorescent bulbs, or otherwise.
Sensitive was dead wrong. Joey
was almost blind in the light. Darkness was where he lived and thrived. He had eyes like
other night creatures.
Night sight, he called it.
If it weren’t that he
would have lost his night security job, Joey would have skipped out on the update and
stayed in the office until the light was almost gone. No one could protect the building
better than he could in the blackness. The instructions were meaningless to him.
The structure Joey
was guarding was a two-story steel warehouse, built with one entire side of garage door-type
bay openings for the tractor-trailer rigs that came and went at all hours.
Loading and unloading.
Products were moved off the eighteen-wheelers by workers with
forklifts that moved objects into the warehouse while others moved them out and onto another
transport. Trucks parked outside the fence, just off the road, waited on their turn to
come into the yard.
Joey didn’t care what was in them, only that the job paid well
since most men didn’t like the night work. For most, it took them away from their
families and required sleeping during the day.
On the other hand, the position was perfect for Joey. He
could walk the concrete pavement for hours, getting some exercise, all the while
watching for anything out of the ordinary.
Which never happened.
“Joey? You keeping up with this?”
The man in charge
was looking right at him.
“Yeah, boss. I got it. Keep our eyes open ‘cuz there are some
special shipments coming in.”
The man nodded, and Joey looked around, noting a new shiny blue
tractor-trailer pulling up to the gate shack. What he wouldn’t give to get inside
to a dark room before he began making his rounds. And maybe a cup of coffee, if it was
fresh, to warm his hands from the cold. He could almost smell the aroma and feel it sliding
down his throat.
Beside the building was the office space where Joey punched in and
out each night. Another night guard managed the computer system controlling the cameras.
A third man sat in the guard station, checking driver credentials, and opening and closing
the gate. They were on the outskirts of the city, so other traffic was minimal.
Boring jobs with
lights. Joey was only inside the office for breaks in a closet-sized kitchen where he could
control the lights.
As the supervisor walked away, Joey walked to the door of
the smaller structure for the half-hour or so before he went on watch. He and the other
office guard had an agreement. Joey was outside for almost all of the third shift. Before
that, the guard walked the complex, and when the other guard returned, Joey slipped out
Joey liked the rhythm of the clicks his black boots made as he strolled.
On the back side of the warehouse, the darkness was more pronounced,
and since anyone trying to break in would likely jump the fence, Joey usually spent most
of his time there. He realized he could have been an excellent hunter with his night sight,
tracking animals, if it weren’t for the fact that he had never killed anything that
didn’t threaten him first.
Tonight, he was on the lookout for the men
coming for a specific shipment.
Tonight, his ability to see in the moonlight
would make him a rich man.
They’d chosen the date based on the others needing
a bit of the star and moonlight to see by. Joey had told them it would be better to do
it in total darkness since he’d be the only one who could see, meaning that if they
were chased, they had a better chance of getting away. The one in charge, named Sam, had
There were three Joey, Joe, or Josephs among the guys on the team—he’d
be called Parloni as the only way to make sure they were kept straight and were easy to
remember. Joey was used to that since it had been the same way when he was in school. Although
when things got tense, everyone always reverted to first names. But he had to wonder who
had thought of putting three guys with the same name on a nighttime run.
As the evening
deepened into the night, the stars came out along with a half-moon. Clouds filled the sky,
marching across as they were being pushed by the wind that had come up.
Joey walked a bit quicker around the front of the building, keeping
a safe distance from the trucks and the open bays that let light out into the asphalt area.
The constant hum of the engines and jerks of the cabs moving forward were familiar and
gave a certain rhythm to his circuit.
As he entered the area behind the loading dock
portion of the building, he stared into the night. Looking for movement.
The time was right.
Why weren’t there men coming through the section of fencing he’d cut the night
He turned and walked a few more steps.
Stopped. Something wasn’t right.
He turned toward
the building in time to see Joe Gargani coming toward him.
“I was wondering…”
Gargani had a baseball bat and was swinging at his head. Joey was on
the ground before he knew what hit him.
Joey swallowed a groan and lay still. Gargani was slightly
shorter, slimmer, and less compact than Joey and had been a better bunter than home run
hitter when they were kids.
“Is he out?”
Joey recognized the voice of Sam, the man who
had reached out to him for the building layout and other info. The one who had promised
him ten thousand dollars.
“Yeah. He’s got a hard head, but I caught him
Gargani again. The guy who had convinced him Sam would keep his
word and the work tonight was legit.
What a putz he’d been to think they’d pay him. The blow had been
glancing, but since none of them could see as well in the dark, and they couldn’t
exactly shine a light on him without blowing up the job, they took Gargani’s word
Most likely, these jokers were setting him up to take the fall. Joey
remained still, feeling the cold ground beneath him as a few weeds scratched at his face.
“Leave him, we have work to do. We’ll finish up when we’ve
got the shipment.”
That was their second mistake. The first had been to think
that Joey would ever take Gargani’s word for anything. He was a two-bit hustler with
his fingers in lots of little things.
This time, Joey had seen the possibility of BIG money, a small
amount of which he’d like to have. He might be a putz, but he wasn’t that stupid
when that much money was involved.
As the men moved off, Joey risked opening one eye. They were
walking to the back door that he’d unlocked for them. The door opened, light flashed
almost blinding Joey, and they entered, the night reclaiming the light.
Time to move.
Joey noted the distance from
the building and from the corner to where he lay. He checked his watch - seventeen minutes
He picked up the baseball bat that Gargani had left behind.
He rose and ran
toward the back fence. He stared at the ground, checking for the potholes and rocks he
knew were obstacles. The last thing he needed was to trip or fall.
the fence so he could put it back in place, making finding the open part harder to see
without a flashlight shining on it. A light that would target those seeking to escape but
evident to his night sight.
He joined the fence pieces with wire and set
the bat on the ground. Once done, he headed back to the door where the team had entered.
Joey figured they knew which truck to target or at least which of the pallets that were
Two tractor-trailers had been coming in as he had continued his circuit
from the front before encountering Gargani. That meant a maximum of thirty minutes for
unloading and the theft to take place. While he didn’t know the details of the plan,
if they could remove the product without being seen, then it would give them extra time
to make their escape before anyone sounded an alarm.
Or at least that’s what
Joey had figured they’d planned on.
Instead of entering the warehouse, Joey hurried a few feet away
to a stack of bricks and lumber. They had been in front of the door before he’d cleared
it earlier that evening. Breathing hard from all the exertion, Joey grabbed as much as
he could carry in each hand as he made trip after trip, placing the stash back in place.
By the third load, he placed his hand against the wall as he breathed.
Tomorrow, he promised himself, he’d be at the gym since just walking he now knew
He could see his breath, and if all went as planned, he couldn’t
be doing that, so he took two more deep breaths and continued.
A few minutes later, he was done. He pushed his ear close
to the door and listened. No sounds yet.
Joey checked his watch. Thirty minutes after
He’d made good time. No wonder he was out of breath, and his
shirt was drenched with sweat.
He walked over to the spot where he’d been knocked down. Eyed
the position to the building and the corner.
Close enough that no one would realize he’d been up.
Just in time, he was back on
the ground on his side.
He’d closed his eyes, but he could hear the door open, listened
to the first man trip and fall, followed by two others.
Something hit the ground. Not huge and not
Moans and groans and a lot of curse words flew.
They’d been hurrying while carrying whatever
the night’s haul was supposed to be.
“Damn it. That wasn’t here before.”
me, you ass.”
Joey almost smiled.
“Where’s Parloni? This is his doing.”
move. He willed his breath to slow even further, as if he was out cold. Now, he’d
see how good an actor he could be.
Gargani was the first to reach him. He grabbed
his jacket and pulled.
Joey flipped over on his back, his arm swinging
out of control. He hadn’t had to pretend at all.
Gargani slapped his face.
Joey opened one eye and then the other.
your breath stinks. Why’d you hit me?”
Gargani stared at Sam and turned to stare at him as Sam asked,
“Looks like he’s been out the whole time,” Gargani said.
“Who the hell else is out here then? You were last in, you playing
me?” Sam asked.
Joey could see Gargani’s face pale even though he doubted the others
“No way,” Gargani said with a bit too much force.
Sam was staring at Joey and Gargani.
“Bring him along. We’ll sort this out once we’re outta here,”
Gargani jerked Joey’s arm up. Joey yanked it back and shot him a
look that said back off.
The men moved as a group across the empty field.
One slipped on a rock and went down. Another tripped but remained upright.
you’re going,” Sam said. “Where’s the damn opening?”
Gargani left Joey’s
side to help Sam look. Joey continued to follow but shifted his position to the left. As
they neared the fence, he reached down and grabbed the bat.
Swinging, he hit Gargani in the
back of the head before the others had any idea what was happening. Unlike Gargani, he’d
managed a good average of home runs.
His next swing took out two more men, who dropped
the box they were carrying.
Sam was the only one left.
Joey turned and saw Sam had a sneer on his face.
“It’s always one of the Joes I
have to watch out for. Damn, I thought it would be Gargani.”
Sam lowered his
arms and stood there.
He’d underestimated Joey.
Sam flew backward toward the fence from the
uppercut of the bat that connected under his chin, and then fell forward.
Joey checked his
watch again. Ten minutes before two. He needed to check in before the hour turned and let
the other guards know what had happened.
He ran to the box, pulling on his gloves as
he opened it. He whistled, low enough to be the sound of the wind, and sat back on his
Old, used one-hundred-dollar bills.
That was the special cargo.
Joey undid the fence and pulled it back so it was open again. He’d
placed a couple of garbage bags nearby, just in case. He removed one from his stash and
returned to the box.
He emptied the box, shoving the bills in the bag, before tying the
top closed with a twist tie and slipping it through the fence hole.
He ran, using his night sight to avoid anything
on the ground and stepping only on the ground where there were no leaves. He’d cleared
what wouldn’t look like a path unless you knew it was there.
Fifty yards away,
he found his mark on a tree. He took five steps past and then swept aside the leaves he’d
placed over the hole. Dropping the bag inside, he smoothed some dirt over it, packed a
few rocks on top, and then moved the leaves back into place.
He hurried back the same way
As Joey moved back through the fence, the alarms went off.
Whoever was in the warehouse
had finally figured out something was going on.
Joey picked up the bat and started
running as he yelled.
“Help. Help. I’ve got robbers back here.”
The office guard came running
along with a couple of the warehouse workers.
“What? Did you see them? Which way did
Joey was out of breath and leaned over, sucking in air.
“I knocked several out. Over by the fence,”
Joey said as he pointed.
The men ran, yelling at the thieves before rounding up the
team who were beginning to recover from Joey’s hits.
In the aftermath, the police
questioned Joey about his whereabouts and how he’d come to subdue the gang. They
also wanted to know about the warehouse guys hearing one of the men call another “Joey.”
As he’d done in his school years long ago, Joey replied, “That
happens a lot. One of the men I hit was a guy I went to school with, Joe Gargani. We were
always getting mixed up. One time they even sent me to the principal’s office for
something he had done.”
Joey smiled as they let him go. Gargani hadn’t made good on Joey
taking the rap for him when they were kids. Something he’d never forgotten.
Would there be a reward? Or at
least an “atta boy” from his supervisor for helping capture the gang?
For the rest of
his shift, Joey spent his time on the back side of the building while the police secured
the area. No one came close to where he’d hidden the money. His regular scheduled
night off was two days away. Time enough to retrieve the package and think about how to
launder the money.
The one thing he did
know was that he wouldn’t involve any of his old
buddies named Joe.
C.A. Rowland has always loved
traveling and exploring new places, from neighborhood empty houses to foreign lands that
draw her. She comes by her interest in ghosts, myths and legends, and the paranormal
naturally, having spent hours in cemeteries with her grandmother. Ms. Rowland writes
historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and the Haunted City amateur sleuth mystery
novel series set in Savannah, Georgia. Her work can be seen in several volumes
of Fiction River, Pulphouse Magazine, and other
short story anthologies. You can keep up with her upcoming fiction and travel
adventures at www.carowland.com.