A short story by Paul Kain
Shane held his finger on the button and the window rolled silently down. He turned his head and spat a wad of thick, gooey phlegm onto the pavement and turned to look at his reflection in the mirror and proceeded to wipe away a few drops of spittle that were on his lips with the palm of his hand while pressing the button to roll the window back up. He left it slightly open.
The light turned green and he shifted into first and pulled away slowly, glancing at the side of the road where hawkers were still busy setting up their stalls to peddle sweets, fruit, belts, caps and just about anything else that they could get their hands onto to the hordes that would walk by on their way to work in the bustling city center.
Some of these people had been here for few hours already and the early morning crowds had already started their mass transit into the depth and darkness of the city. Shane looked into the rearview mirror to make sure that the green van with the dark tinted windows was not too far behind him. Satisfied, he sped up and turned onto the onramp flowing the BMW easily into the early morning traffic. He took a deep breath and with one hand shook a smoke out of the box of cigarettes that lay on top of the dashboard. He popped the cigarette into his mouth and lit it with the car’s cigarette lighter, dragged heavily and blew out a thick cloud of smoke. Tendrils of smoke floated up from the cigarette towards the slightly open window and then rushed out and disappeared into the air outside.
The cigarette tasted horrible and he knew it was because of the nerves that made his stomach a mass of knotted muscles. He couldn’t even eat his breakfast. It wasn’t always this bad. It was probably worse today because there was this slight sense of satisfaction about today. It was going to be the last time that he would do this, he had made up his mind two weeks ago when he was driving as retriever and Simon had gotten into a situation with a salesman who pulled a gun on him. Simon, who didn’t pack a piece, had attacked the man and shot him with his own gun and left him for dead on the side of the road. Simon refused to work this job and had backed out right there, he had made a fat stack of cash in 3 years and it was time to pull out. Shane however was going to pull one last job with this crew and then he too was out. He and Simon had an arrangement to put their cash together and start up a little restaurant somewhere near the coast. Luis was very understanding and was just as distraught as Simon over what had happened with the last job and had given Simon his blessings. The old man had been running cars out of the country for over 20 years and although violent reactions were not a common occurrence they were inevitable. He was empathic to Simon and the one or other two guys who had previously been involved. Luis was very much against violent crime and didn’t condone the use of violence to obtain cars. His methods and ideas were always safe. Most of the time anyway.
There were other crews who they knew that had no qualms whatsoever in pulling out a gun and shooting a driver before taking their car. Shane wasn’t like that. He hated the idea. But he still carried a gun on the job anyway. He flicked the cigarette out of the window and drove on.
Nearly an hour later he arrived at the off ramp he was supposed to take, it was a little after 8 in the morning. Perfect timing really. He would be traveling against the flow of traffic which would allow him to get very far away in a short space of time. He followed the directions that Luis had given him quite well, only stopping once to look at the crude hand drawn map. He crumpled up the map and threw it into a gutter and drove off. A few minutes later he saw the car lot on the right hand side. He drive down a block and made a slow u-turn and drive slowly back up and parked outside the lot.
The green van was already parked on the opposite side of the road.
He stepped out of the car and activated the alarm and pocketed the keys. He adjusted the gun under his jacket and smoothed his suit with a flat hand, patting his jacket pocket to make sure the false set of keys were there then turned toward the green van and although he could not see through the van’s tinted windows, gave a slight nod and started walking toward the lot. The little black Mercedes was parked right in front of the main window of the show room. It was one of those window walls that folded away sideways to allow cars to be driven in and out of the show room floor. Shane immediately walked up to the car and walked slowly around it, making sure that any sales people nearby would notice him. He had noticed two people at the counter on the far side of the show room that looked like sales people, a man and a woman. He half hoped that the woman would not come and serve him as women had a tendency to freeze up and not follow orders when the pressure was on. Some could also scream and that wasn’t going to help anyone.
Shane circled the car again slowly and bent to peer through the window, admiring the interior of this little black beauty and noticed the male sales person walking toward him. He smiled silently, relieved that it was the man approaching and not the woman and stood up straight to greet the man. He needed to get this man to think he had a sale on his hands and agree to a test drive. The man approached with a wide smile on his face. A real salesman no doubt. He was probably going to be nauseatingly smooth with Shane and suck up to him. Shane expected it. After all, he wasn’t buying a hotdog; he was buying a fine German sports car and this man sensed it as soon as he got close to Shane and noticed the fine leather shoes and silk Bernini suit.
Shane greeted first. He had to get the guy into his trap and very quickly. “Good morning, do you accept trade-ins?”
The man smiled courteously and replied swiftly “Indeed we do sir, what make of vehicle?” Shane turned to the BMW parked outside and pointed. “The BM.” He replied and turned back to the man whose eyes lit up at the site of the polished and gleaming white BMW parked on the side of the road. He offered his hand and smiled “Warren Baker’s the name.” The man gripped Shane’s hand firmly and replied “Albert Gresham.” Still with that broad grin on his face. Shane circled the car again and smiled. “Today’s a big day for me.” He offered. “Today is definitely my day.” Albert circling slowly after Shane smiled again and asked ever so professionally “Business good I take it?” Shane let out a small laugh and nodded “Indeed sir, like you have no idea.” And put his hand into the inside breast pocket and produced a business card. Very professional looking. He offered it to Albert who took it and turned it over slowly reading the card.
Warren Baker – Attorney at law.
“I closed a very nice deal yesterday and promised to treat myself if it came through and here I am.”
Albert beamed, cocked his sideways, stood tall and kind of clicked his heels together, making him appear more like a butler than a car salesman.
“Well sir, I hope I can attend to your needs. I see you are quite taken with the SLK, a fine machine it is.” He stood there while Shane walked around the car again towards the driver’s door and opened it. The fresh smell of new leather hit his nose and Shane smiled. “I have had my eye on one of these for a while now and promised myself to one if I managed to close this deal I have been working on for a number of months now. So yes and I want a black one, like this one, in fact, I want THIS car.”
Albert smiled broader now and circled to the driver’s side “Certainly sir.” Shane slid in the seat behind the steering wheel and ran his fingers over the steering wheel, then over the dashboard smiling even more now. Albert was hooked and he didn’t even know it yet.
“Can I take her for a spin?” he asked and Albert immediately replied “Yes sir, although we do have a policy, you’ll need to show us a proof of your driver’s license and you’ll need to leave your car key’s here with the receptionist I’ll also need to go with you.” Shane slid his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out the fake set of car keys and passed them to Albert and then produced a very authentic looking driver’s license in the name of Warren Baker and passed it too to Albert.
“I’ll just be a minute sir, I just need to get the keys and get someone to roll open the door for us.”
Shane’s heart was pumping now but he was in full control. If a call was made to the number on the card, the caller would get a voice mail message of Saxon, Baker and partners attorney’s at law and a message that the practice only operated from 9 to 5. It was just past 2o minutes past 8 and it would clearly easily fool anyone.
Albert returned and slid into the car into the passenger seat and waited while one of the guys from the wash bay silently opened the door/window. He handed Shane the keys and Shane’s license while Shane started the car. It started easily and the engine sounded smooth. There were 43 Kilometers on the clock.
Shane put the car into first and slowly pulled out of the showroom and turned left into the street and drove slowly to the stop street not 100 meters away. He glanced into the rearview mirror and saw that the passenger door of the green van was already open. In less than a minute, one of Luis’ goons would be on his way back to Luis’ workshop in the BM, using a spare set of keys to start the car. Shane turned the corner slowly to give the driver of the green van enough time to catch up and follow him at a safe distance. There were tools in the van that he would need if there was a tracking system in the Mercedes.
Shane turned to Albert and asked “Is there an alarm?” Albert grimaced and replied “No sir but we can have one fitted during the course of the day. You’ll only be allowed to collect the vehicle tomorrow anyhow pending paper work”
Shane nodded “I understand. I am keen to get it as fast as possible. Any other extras that I will be getting?” Albert breathed a sigh of relief, happy that his client was not going to throw his toys out his cot on that account and replied “There is an anti hijack system already installed, if the driver’s or passenger’s doors are opened and then shut without the alarm being deactivated or without the button in the lining of the gear lever being depressed, it will sound a beep after 60 seconds and after 120 seconds will completely disable the car. Shane smiled broadly and felt around the gear lever for the button that Albert mentioned. “Next to your leg sir.” Said Albert proudly. Shane found it and pressed it, “Ah! Very clever.” Albert smiled more broadly, probably already spending his commission in his head. “Will you be able to install a tracking device for me during the course of the day?” asked Shane “Certainly sir, that can be arranged” Albert replied
“Bingo!” thought Shane “No tracker.” He pressed the button on the driver’s door to open the window and opened it all the way down. He stuck his arm out of the window and glanced at the rear view mirror. The green van was not too far behind him and the driver would see the signal to retreat, Shane had no need for him now that it was confirmed that no Tracker was installed. He made a circle with his thumb and forefinger and held it below the side of the door, out of Albert’s view. Shane watched the green van slow down and turn the corner. They were a good 10 or 12 blocks away from the showroom and Shane looked about for any action, anything out of the ordinary and more important, police. There were no cars behind him and he pulled to the side of the road and put the car into gear. He pulled the gun from his shoulder holster and pointed it at Albert. “Get out.” Albert’s smile disappeared and his face dropped. “I won’t ask again. Get out” Shane cocked the pistol.
Albert turned as fast as he could and opened the passenger door. He was out of the car very quickly and Shane didn’t wait for the man to close the door before pulling off rapidly, pulling the door shut with the forward motion of the Mercedes. He quickly turned the corner and the next, driving quickly but not stupid enough to draw any unwarranted attention. He holstered the gun and sped up..
He was soon back on the highway, sticking at a little over the speed limit, making his way back to Luis’ workshop. He pulled a cell phone from his jacket pocket and dialed a number. “I have it and I’m on the way. Get the team ready.” He didn’t wait for a reply and quickly ended the call.
From here the car would be pulled into Luis’ workshop, re-sprayed, baked for a few hours, chassis numbers changed with some sophisticated machinery, the engine number changed and within 2 days it would be on its way out of the country where it would be driven through Botswana up to Zambia and sold. R30000.00 for 3 hours work would be Shane’s cut.
This was his last job. After this, no more. His mind was made up.
He breathed a huge sigh of relief as he made his way off the highway and down to the set of robots at the end of the off ramp. The robot was red and he stopped behind a truck and watched a newspaper hawker whistle loudly and weave his way through the cars parked at the robot while holding a copy of the morning paper over his head. He watched an elderly beggar stop at the window of the truck in front of him, turn his palms upward and motion that he had nothing. The beggar slowly started moving toward Shane, shuffling along and he stopped at Shane’s window. Shane didn’t acknowledge him and he moved on. Shane glanced down at the radio and pushed a button to turn it on, the shadow of the beggar still cast over the side of the car but not moving. Shane glanced up to see what the beggar wanted and became suddenly aware that it was not the beggar at his window, but another young black man. With a gun pointed at Shane. Shane saw fear and panic in the young man’s eyes. He heard the man say something. His mind moved in slow motion trying to figure out what was going on, what the young guy was trying to tell him. Everything was slow all around him the world was moving at a snails pace and he heard the young man again saying a little more clear this time “Get out of the car” Shane couldn’t believe what was going and contemplated going for his gun. The young man opened the door and pulled Shane by the hair and threw him on the ground. Shane fell slowly and felt the young man leap over him and climb into the car. A shot rang out and the world sped up to normal again. The car was moving now and Shane heard it change gears and speed away. He took a breath and couldn’t, he tried to get to his feet and fell again. Shane put a hand to his chest and looked at it. His hand was covered in blood. Darkness seemed to consume him. He saw the newspaper vendor running to wards him. The blood had a bright red tint to it but the red of the blood started changing rapidly to a dark color and then black, the black consumed his hand and then the entire world all around him became dark. He heard voices all around and slowly slipped away into the darkness.