We arrived at Crazy Russ’s place at 8:10 which was a testament both to my commitment to this deal and to my driving skills. I was forced to drive it like I stole it, but I wasn’t gonna be late. Too many people were counting on the way tonight played out. I was still flying high from the way dinner had worked out for me, and was a little worried that it might cloud my judgment. I had Ralphie knock on the door. I looked at him as he did so and made sure he understood what I needed from him.
“Dude, please don’t open your fucking mouth here. I need you for intimidation factor first and foremost and you’ll be far less threatening if you talk.” He just nodded. I know he hated it when we made him do this tough guy song and dance but it was sometimes necessary to make the right first impression.
Russ’s place didn’t look like much from the outside. It looked like a house that was converted to some apartments and Russ just happened to live on the first floor. I was checking the view of the neighborhood, to see if anything looked fishy, when he finally answered the door.
“Hey guys, come on in.” He shut the door behind us and we all had a seat in his living room. There was already someone in the room, a guy maybe in his mid to late 50s. He didn’t get up as we came into the room, though he did look our way.
“Ralphie, my box please.” He did as I asked and didn’t say a word.
“Guy’s I’m just gonna need a minute to check out the room. I Hope you don’t mind.” I didn’t bother waiting to hear if they did mind since I really didn’t care. Stealing from the federal government, well military really, had to be a felony on the scale we were looking at, and reselling those goods to potential enemies of the United States was probably treasonous on a good day.
“What the hell is that?” Russ sounded a little worried as my little box hummed slightly as I moved around the room sweeping for signals. This is when the old guy finally said something.
“Shut up Russ. He’s sweeping for ‘bugs’. He’s a smart guy this one. I’m impressed boy, did you make that thing yourself?” He didn’t sound impressed. It sounded like just a hollow platitude, but whatever.
“Yeah, I made it. It’s got a secondary function as well. It’ll throw out a sort of white noise field big enough to cover the area we’re currently in. Just in case there’s something I missed in the room sweep.” Whether he was genuinely impressed or not I knew by now that Ralphie was, and his opinion was the only one in the room that mattered on the subject. Of course the guys were all used to me making all kinds of weird little gadgets to do shit. It was one one of my hobbies and was almost like meditation of a sort for me. Focusing on the task was just relaxing and the world just sort of fell away when I was doing it.
I heard him softly say cool, but then it was like he caught himself and he had shut up before he had even finished the word. The old guy just kinda laughed at that.
“I have no reason to bug the room, and this isn’t a setup, but I can respect your preparedness. Whenever you’re ready to get down to it, you just let me know.” He seemed to soften up a bit and actually sounded sincere in that statement. Looks like my paranoia had actually helped us out in this.
I continued to move around the room. I checked out the lamps, the entertainment center, and anything else that was plugged in, looking for a signal out of the ordinary. I moved on and did a quick trace of the ceiling fixture, and once I was satisfied I sat down, and put the device on the coffee table. I pushed a combination of the buttons on the face and it started to hum, but this time in a different tone than before. I was hoping it worked, cause I’d never gotten the chance to test either function. I’d made this kinda stuff before though, so in theory it should be golden.
“Alright, I’m satisfied it’s clear. We can start.” I wasn’t really satisfied at all since I couldn’t test it, but confidence was an issue here so I couldn’t waver.
“So you’re interested in buying what I’m selling, is that right?” This guy had a strange way of talking but whatever, I should be able to keep with him.
“We wouldn’t be here otherwise. Russ here says you’ve got a shit-ton of guns and a helicopter you’re looking to move.” I figured that I’d made this dude wait long enough when I was scanning the room. No reason to do that now, so I just got to the point.
“You guys are interested in that old thing? You got some balls kid, I’ll give you that. And yeah, I’ve got more guns than you could know what to do with.” He just crossed his arms across his chest and sat back with a smug ass look on his face.
“Before we go any further, what are you guys looking to get out of this?” I wanted to get this one point out of the way, but in my mind it was the most important currently.
“We just want to get our fair share, is all.” Russ at least knew what he wanted, and I couldn’t argue with that. Tom decided to clarify this now.
“We want equal shares. A third for you guys, a third for me and a third for Russell here.” WEll motherfucker. This asshole was out of his fucking mind. There was no fucking way we could go for that. Ralphie just looked at me a little on the slack-jawed side. Even he knew it was a shitty deal.
“No fucking way. I appreciate what you’ve done putting this together Russ, but there is next to no physical risk to your involvement. No way in hell do you get a third. And Tom, no way are you getting a third. You wanna get back at the ‘man’ for fuckin’ you that’s fine and all, but you need to realize that we’re the ones who have to deal with finding a buyer, and we’re also the ones who have to worry about getting this shit out of the country. You just have to worry about selling your story to your bosses. No, you don’t get more than a third total for the two of you. You guys can work it out from there.” I looked at Ralphie and he just nodded. I started to stand up to leave.
“You know what guys I think maybe we’re just done here. You guys clearly don’t want to deal on this, and I guess I misunderstood that you were working against the clock there Tommy.” I wasn’t gonna be pushed by some washed up, disgruntled, douchebag security guard. “Come on big man, we’re leaving.”
I’d grabbed my device off the table and had my hand on the door knob when I heard the old man call out after a sigh.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa kid. No need for that. You drive a hard bargain, but I think we can still deal on this.” The guy sounded a little flustered. Perfect. I always did have a way of negotiating like a motherfucker.
I started to open the door before responding.
“No, I don’t think we have anything to talk about. I told you what you guys would get. You’ll get that and not a penny more. If we’re the ones doing all the hard work, then we’re the ones getting the lion’s share of the prize. This is non-negotiable. If you don’t like it you can find someone else to do business with. It’s as simple as that. Do we have a deal, or are you gonna have to find someone else to do business with?” I didn’t bother to turn around for his response. I had to at least pretend that I was some kind of badass dude.
“Damn kid, you drive a bargain like a freight train through a whore. Looks like I don’t have much of a choice. You’ve got a deal. Here’s where you really get to earn your share. The timetable’s been bumped. I don’t have three months to do this deal. I’ve gotten word that I’m getting moved at the end of the month, so you guys need to empty the place before then.”
Holy shit, it was the 18th already and this guy was getting moved on the 31st. how the fuck were we supposed to pull this plan together in 12 days and not the 90 we’d expected. There were so many variables in this that I thought I might pass out where I stood. There was so much to get together in not nearly enough time. And then I heard the words coming out of my mouth almost as if on instinct.
“Fine, then I assume you have some kind of plan to clean this place of your out? We’ll handle storage of everything once it’s out, but getting it out can rest on you. You get word to me in two days time when you plan to have all this stuff out and you guys can get 40 percent. I’ll need one week to secure some sort of storage for all this shit as well. Exactly how much stuff are we talking about?” I figured that if they were willing to work for it then they could get twenty percent total. We were still doing most of the work.
“Sure kid. That’s all you had to say. I’ve already got a plan in place. After all this shit is out though, you’ll have no way to reach me. I’ll be dropping off the grid for a while. I’ll get in touch when I want to get my money. This’ll teach them to fuck me over and put me on fuckin’ guard duty.” Sure, just let the old guy ramble all he wants. We get paid all the same, and now we have even less work to deal with on our end. Things were starting to look up for us.
“Whatever, old man. I don’t give two shits about what you do. What I do know is that if you even think about fuckin’ us on this I’ll make you wish we’d never met.” The old man just laughed at that.
“Sure kid.” He was fucking mocking me. This piece of shit was fucking mocking me.
“No, Tommy, I don’t think you get it. No place on earth will be safe for you to go. I will find you and I will hurt you. And if you laugh at me again, I will be bitch slapping that smile off your smug fucking face.” Ralphie started to move towards the old man, who just threw up his hands in submissive gesture.
“Ok, ok. No need for it to get physical.” Ralphie just stood there. He didn’t look at me he just stood there, waiting for the word to either fuck this shit-head up or sit back down.
“If you can keep you fucking manners then I don’t think we have a problem, but I assure you that he can just as easily rip your arms off and beat you with them without thinking twice about it as not.” Ralphie just crossed his arms smiling. I thought it was a bullshit statement, but I wondered if he would?
“Fine I’ll have Russell here come see you in two days time. He’ll have the specifics for you on the exact time I’ll need to have this shit dealt with. He’ll also have the location where I’ll be stashing this shit as well. It should be safe there for about 36 hours once I’ve gotten it out, but the quicker you move it all into your lock-up the better.” This sounded far more reasonable than what we’d initially discussed.
“Sounds good Tommy. Ralphie we’re leaving.” I got up and moved for the door. I knew at worst that Ralphie was about three steps behind me. That would work, and give the image I’d wanted to show.
As Ralphie was shutting the door behind me I went ahead and shouted back for Tom’s sake.
“Two days Tommy. Don’t be late.” We drove back to my house in silence. When Ralphie got out and moved to his car he finally spoke.
“Hey man, what the fuck was that back there? Was that really necessary? It seemed like you almost took things too far there.” And he was right of course. I usually did take things a little too far, except in those rare occasions when I took things way too fucking far.
“That was just me working a deal. If that guy thought that he could push us around and dictate the way this whole thing was going down, then we’d be fucked all along. Now, at worst he’ll view us as equals in this. As for being necessary, it was, especially if we want to get paid on this whole deal. You know I like to ride the razors edge on shit like this.” I hoped that sounded as cool out loud as it did in my head.
“But we’ve never been in shit like this before. We sell comic books, not fucking guns and helicopters. What the fuck is that ‘razor’s edge’ shit about? You ride the edge too long you’re gonna get cut, asshole, and if we’re involved we get cut too.” Ok, so sometimes Ralphie had this grasp of a situation that was just completely astute and so on as to be completely out of character for him.
“I’d never go out of my way to do anything that would open any of us to unnecessary harm. I have to hope that you know that I’m only doing what I think is best for all of us. We need this. You know that we need this. I know even when things were good at the store money was tight for you. I can’t even imagine how it is now.” Hopefully appealing to his sense of familial preservation would get him to let this go.
“As long as you’re sure you’ve got this under control. That Jonah back there didn’t seem all that in control.” I thought he’d put up more of a fight. He just started laughing. “And what was that shit about ripping his arms off?”
“Oh, you liked that? Just something I came up with on the spot. Was it too over the top?”
“It was funny, I’ll give it that, but damn I don’t think over the top begins to cover it.” And he headed to his car to go on home.
As he was shutting his car door I asked, because I was a little curious.
“You could have done it thought right?” He just smiled and drove home.