Authors: Robert Ward
They turned left down Thames Street, by the old Merchant Marine Building.
“Love it here,” Edwards said. He started to walk out on the dark dock. Bob looked at the cold, oily water lap against the pilings. Who was he to believe? Emile or Colin Edwards? Somehow, he couldn’t imagine the diminutive Emile Bardan losing his temper and smacking his old friend with an oar, but perhaps it didn’t matter. Even if Edwards was a killer, he wouldn’t hurt Bob now. Not when he obviously wanted to hear what he had to tell him. Bob ventured out on the old pier.
“Now,” Edwards said, when they were halfway out into the wet darkness. “Let’s talk turkey. Are you going to help me get my mask back?”
mask?” Bob said. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that Emile stole it from you?”
“That’s right, my friend,” Edwards said. “I bought the mask from a private owner, one year ago. I had the provenance and the bill of sale. The mask was under lock and key in my manor house in Sussex. I won’t bore you with the small details. Suffice it to say, Emile bribed one of my guards, broke into my safe, and stole it.”
Edwards strolled obsessively around the end of the pier.
“So you see,” he said, “this Emile, he’s not the quiet little victim he seems to be.”
“So you say,” Bob said.
“So I do say,” Edwards said. “And how sayeth you, Bob Wells? Are you going to team up with me, restore the sun god to its proper place in this skewed universe, and make yourself a rich man in the process?”
“That would depend on you,” Bob said. “But I think I can be of service.”
“How?” Edwards said.
“I’m going to get the mask, quietly, without fuss. And then I’m going to sell it to you,” Bob said, scarcely believing his own words.
“What makes you think I’m going to let you do that?” Edwards said.
“Because you don’t know where it is,” Bob said. “If you did, you’d already have it.”
“Even so,” Edwards said, “I can merely grab Emile off the street and torture the information out of him.”
“But you wouldn’t want to do that,” Bob said. “Emile has guards with guns. There’s no guarantee that someone wouldn’t get hurt, maybe even killed. At the very least there would be a big scene, which would draw a lot of attention. I’m your best shot. Believe me.”
Edwards glowered at him, and even in the darkness Bob could feel the force of his malignant will.
“Fine,” he said, controlling himself. “I’ll pay you two hundred thousand dollars for the mask. Not bad for a night’s work, hey, Doc?”
Bob saw a chunk of loose concrete at his feet. He picked it up and threw it out to sea. It sank without a trace.
“I must have misjudged you,” Bob said. “I thought you were serious. I’ll have to go see the Japanese collector, what’s his name? Asahina? I bet he’ll make a more reasonable offer.”
Edwards moved toward Bob and grasped for his throat, but Bob quickly slapped his hand away, then pushed him back with a quick palm to his chest.
“Touch me again and I’ll break your face,” Bob said. Edwards stepped back and Bob was pleased by the surprise on his face.
“I did my homework, Colin,” Bob said. “Asahina wants the mask as badly as you do. You want to get into a bidding war, it’s fine with me.”
Edwards’s eyes darkened as he stared down at Bob.
“How much do you want?” he said. All the playfulness was gone from his voice.
“Six million dollars,” Bob said.
“Asahina won’t think so,” Bob said. He turned and started to walk back to the city, half expecting a knife in his shoulder blades.
“Three,” Edwards said.
Bob kept walking. Each step was heavier than the last.
“Four, then,” Edwards said.
Bob stopped, turned around.
“Five,” he said. “You can turn it around and sell it for twenty, so don’t fuck with me.”
Edwards stared at him with such fury in his face that Bob could barely meet his gaze. Finally, after a long period of silence, Edwards nodded.
“All right,” he said. “Five it is.”
Bob had to restrain his wild emotions. He felt like leaping for joy. Instead, he walked coolly forward and offered Colin Edwards his hand. The Englishman took it, but there was anger in his eyes.
“How do you plan on pulling this off?” Edwards asked. “Hypnosis? ‘Look into my eyes, Emile’?”
“That’s my business,” Bob said. “But you don’t have to worry. I know what I’m doing.”
“Fine,” Edwards said. “I’ll call you tomorrow and we’ll arrange a meeting place. There’s one more thing, though. As you may have guessed I’m not always as good-natured as I’ve been tonight. If you try and fuck with me in any way, I’m going to kill you and your girlfriend.”
“Fuck you,” Bob said. A rage blew through him that was so intense that it was all he could do not to reach for Edwards.
“Better chill out,” Edwards said. “Stealing is best done with a cool head. Talk to you tomorrow, Wells.”
He flicked his cigarette into the bay, then turned and walked down the pier.
Bob stood watching him, his body humming with adrenaline. All the aches and pains he’d felt earlier, standing watch, were gone. He’d done it, made a deal with the devil and gotten exactly the terms he’d wanted.
The only small problem he had now was that he had no crew and absolutely no idea how to get the mask away from Emile Bardan.
Ray Wade had been a criminal for as long as Bob had known him, which was fifteen years. But unlike most of the other street thugs, hustlers, second-story men, and other wags who hung around Elmer’s bar on South Bond Street, Ray had style and intelligence. He dressed like a “drape,” Baltimore’s term for a juvenile delinquent back in the 1950s. His thick black hair was combed straight back; he wore a black T-shirt, black jeans, and ancient motorcycle boots. He drove an equally ancient Indian 1500 cc motorcycle, and he usually had a woman (or “babe-ette,” as he called them) riding on the back. He wasn’t strictly a womanizer, though, for he fell madly in love with each new girlfriend and had married at least three of them.
The reason he couldn’t stay married was not only that women found his lithe body, big muscular arms, and killer smile impossible to resist, but also because his heart belonged to Mommy.
His mother, Dorsey Wade, was sixty-two years old and lived three blocks away from Ray on South Lucerne. Ray was her only son, though she had three daughters she couldn’t stand. As far as Dorsey was concerned, nothing her handsome boy ever did, including a three-year bit in the Maryland State Pen for auto theft, was wrong. On the other hand, Bob thought, as he looked for a parking place down the street from Dorsey’s house, nothing any of Ray’s wives or girlfriends did was right. She hated them all. Bob had learned all about this when he’d played briefly with Ray in one of his blues bands, when he was in his thirties, and Ray was the “kid” who played bass and sang, and damn well, too. They had renewed their acquaintance back in Bob’s poker-playing days, those bad times when he’d lost most of his life’s savings. But he didn’t blame Ray. In fact, Ray had often warned him he was out of his depths.
Bob was about to ring Dorsey’s row house doorbell, when he heard a scream of fury coming from the upstairs bedroom.
“Goddamn you, Raymond, I tole you,” she said. “I tole you I dint want you to take that cedar chest home with you.”
“Hey, geez, Mom,” came the plaintive reply. “You said Angel could have the chest just last week.”
“I did not say anything of the kind, Raymond,” Dorsey answered. “I would not let that whore have even a coaster set, much less a cedar chest.”
“Whoa, Moms,” came Ray’s voice. “Don’t be calling Angel a whore, okay?”
“Why not?” Dorsey shouted back. “It’s a well-known fact that she screwed half the police force.”
“Goddamn it, Mom,” Ray said. “I’m not going to take much more.”
“Did ‘em all in their patrol cars, is what I heard,” Dorsey said.
“Shut up, Mom, you old skank,” Ray said. “I love Angel.”
“Oh man. Well, count me out on this one, Raymond,” Dorsey said. “I’m not coming to this wedding. No sir. By the way, you better use a rubber, Raymond, ‘cause Angel baby could give you a good dose.”
“Goddamn you, Mom,” Ray said. “She’s not like that anymore.”
Jesus, Bob thought, this might go on indefinitely. He rapped on the door, hard enough to rattle the glass in the storm windows.
“If ‘ats ‘at whore of yours, don’t let her in,” Dorsey said. “I love her name … Angel … ha ha ha … what a joke
“Shut your trap, Mom,” Ray said. “Or I’m gonna come in there and slap some sense into you.”
“Listen to you,” his mother said. “Threatening the very person who gave you life.”
“Be right there,” Ray said, as he came hustling down the steps.
The charming smile on his wide face said he fully expected Angel Harkins and when he saw that it was only Bob, Ray looked somewhat crestfallen.
“Dr. Bobby,” he said. “Man, I forgot we had a meet.”
“It’s important, Ray.”
“Don’t worry,” Ray said. “I’m more than ready to get out of here. Mom’s on the warpath.”
He looked upstairs and gave a yell.
“Me and Bobby are going out, Ma,” he said. “You want me to bring you something from the store, babe?”
“Yes, honey,” she yelled. “Get me a Payday and some Nerds, will you?”
“Sure, Ma,” Ray said. “See you later.”
“ ‘Bye, sweetie,” she said in a cheery voice.
“Come on,” Ray said. “Let’s go, before she gets started again.”
“Don’t bring that whore, the so-called Angel, back here with you,” Dorsey cackled as Ray shut the door.
They walked up Lucerne Avenue, past a couple of kids who were chasing a little white dog with broom handles, and went into Patterson Park.
“Well,” Ray said calmly, “what kind of sinister shit do you have in mind, Dr. B?”
“Hardly sinister, Ray,” Bob said. “But I think you’ll find it interesting.”
Bob smiled and as they continued walking across the green park, he told Ray Wade the story of Emile Bardan, Colin Edwards, and the priceless mask of Utu.
“That’s quite a tale, Doctor,” Ray said when Bob was done. “I can’t believe you’re really considering becoming a bad guy.”
“Me, either,” Bob said. “But what the hell. It’s just this once.”
Ray laughed and shook his head.
“I always said you scratch a saint and you’re gonna find a sinner,” Ray said. “And how much would we collect for this hard night’s work?”
“Five million dollars,” Bob said. “Of which you get one.” He had considered lying to Ray, to keep his end down, but he didn’t want to become overly greedy and have it bite him in the ass.
Ray’s eyebrows shot up in dual exclamation points.
“Wow,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting anything that exceptional. This would be, possibly, the score to end all scores, so to speak.”
“Precisely,” Bob said.
“But I usually get half,” Ray said.
“Yeah, I know,” Bob said. “But this is my score, my one and only. And I’ve already put a lot of time in getting the information. Not to mention I’m risking my entire career and good name if it goes wrong.”
Ray looked at him with sleepy eyes.
“I can appreciate that,” he said. “Okay, solid. One it is.”
Bob was shocked that Ray was rolling over so easily. He’d expected a struggle on the split.
“You’re sure that this Utu mutherfucker is actually in his home office? In a safe,” Ray said.
“Yeah,” Bob said, “I’m sure.”
“What kind of safe? Wall or floor?”
Bob felt foolish. How had he managed to miss out on that little detail?
“I don’t really know,” he said. “But it’s not like his office is all that big. Should be easy to find it.”
“So you say,” Ray said. “Look, you pull a job, you gotta get in and out fast. Every second you spend hunting for shit … like the safe … is one more moment you can get busted.”
Bob felt his face redden and his breath get short. What kind of an imbecile was he? But Ray, who was sometimes surprisingly tender, patted him on the back.
“Probably a floor job. Most of the walls in Canton are too narrow for a safe. Lemme ask you this. Is the guy gonna be home when we go in?”
“No,” Bob said. He then explained how every Friday night Emile went to the Havana Club and spent the night with Laura Santiago.
“That’s good,” Ray said. “What about guards?”
“Two,” Bob said. “Upstairs in the back and down on the first floor.”
“Hmmm,” Ray said, blowing two jets of smoke out his nose. “We’re gonna need some more help.”
“How many guys? I want to keep this thing small.”
“Sure you do, Bobby,” Ray said. “But we got the guards and we got a safe. I’ve blown a few of them, but for this we need a real specialist. We also need an alarm expert.”
“Jesus,” Bob said. “Can’t
just cut the alarm?”
“Sure,” Ray said. “If you want the red light and alarm to go on at Southeast Station.”
“Then how do you beat it?”
“Jam it. Loop it, so it outthinks itself. But that’s not my thing. We’re also going to need a driver.”
“I’ll drive the getaway car,” Bob said.
Ray could barely repress a laugh.
“You? Who the fuck are you, Dale Earnhardt? You can’t drive no getaway car.”
“Why the fuck not?” Bob said. “Nobody is gonna be chasing us.”
“You don’t know that,” Ray said. “Look, Bobby, you came to me because I’m a professional, so don’t start backsliding into amateurism. You ain’t driving the getaway car, and that’s all she wrote. You’re gonna meet us afterwards.”
Bob felt a little rage whirl through his stomach.
“No way,” he said. “Either I go in or I get somebody else to do this with me.”
“Hey, you don’t know anybody else,” Ray said, laughing. “See, on a heist you only take in guys who do a specific job. What’s yours?”
“Okay,” Bob said. “Let me ask you the same question. What’s yours?”
“That’s different,” Ray said. “Think of the heist as a bunch of guys building a house. My job would be, like, general contractor.”
“Well, you should think of me as the guy who hired you,” Bob said.
“That’s funny,” Ray said. “ ‘Cause that would make you the owner of the house, which means you’d be robbing your own joint.”