The cigarette smoke went up towards the caged swinging light, up and around, blending with the smell of bacon and choking the feeding woman by the counter top. The fire rustled beneath the pan, she thrust it back and forth and with a soured face placed the child by the counter.
“We’re going to steal his car?” Henrico went for the clay tortilla holder, reaching down to the hottest and lowest of the layers, three points tattoed beneath his thumb. A snake running up his forearm.
“Yes.” Jesus said. Red flannel shirt over a burly body, he looked behind himself to the woman by the kitchen. They locked eyes for a moment. She took the child out to the living room, where behind the revolving door an octogenarian crooked in her black foux leather seat coughed a fury. Jesus put down the cigarette. He went over to the counter and swirled his eggs in chorizo. Onions. Garlic. Poblanos and the sheen of red fat covering it all. A bit of oregano. A few drops of worcestershire or soy, which were his secrets. He reached for the refrigerator looking for it, body leaning over the peeling white door, cigarette held by a pinch. Nothing. Empty egg carton. A thin pool of milk sitting at the bottom of a carton. Cardboard beer boxes, no beer.
He went back and put his breakfast on a cracked plate.
“Alfonso said he’s seen the mayor down there with Half-Neck.” Jesus said. “Alfonso says they’re hiding something, struggling to make a deal. Armies of men down there guarding some trunk.”
“Alfonso smokes crack with bums beneath a bridge. You can’t trust that low-life. He ratted Little Nose in jail, you know that?”
“I don’t trust him. But I trust what I see and I’ve seen what’s down that quarry.” Jesus sat with the plate, going through tortillas only to find them all cold. Stiff. He grabbed one and spooned his breakfast, egg barely set with the spice of fatty chorizo dripping down ribbons of yellow. Even poor, still eat well he always said. A dog walked inside, tongue out, he looked for his bowl and finding it empty whined.
“Tomorrow, Peter.” Jesus rubbed his face. The shepherd drooped his body and scampered off, his thin brown tail hitting the side of a bucket set below a drop.
“Dumb dog.” Jesus went back, eating. Only two eggs. Only half an onion. Only half a poblano. No Worcestershire, little chorizo meat. His stomach grumbled.
“Alright. What’d you see down there?” Henrico asked.
“Nothing. No lights. No machines, I don’t even think they’re working anything down there. Just sacks of marble, a giant ditch with nothing in it past midnight. That’s when you hear the trucks,” Jesus leaned forward. “It’s starting to get green down the sides of that pit, there hasn’t been a truck working that quarry for months. Why’s that you think?”
“I don’t know. Do I look like a construction worker or some shit?”
“Construction workers don’t work in quarries. They’re miners.”
“Aye, they’re kids? Thought you had to be sixteen to work?”
Jesus tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. He took the tortilla out of Henrico’s loose grip.
“My guess is that the mayor ceased all operations. He wants the privacy to make a deal with Cartel members.”
“What kind of a deal?”
“For whatever the fuck is in that trunk. So yes, I want that trunk. And I want to ransom it. And I want to take the money and get the fuck out of this city.” Jesus said. He shoveled the tortilla into his mouth. “We can get a million, I’m sure.”
“Oh, now you’re listening?”
Henrico rubbed his chin and looked out a brown stained kitchen window. A dead tree shaved the last of its leaves down to dry lawn, two kids bike by, knocking a swinging chain link fence door back and forth. The old man shifts, wobbling to the front deck where he picks up a hose and waters nothing but dirt. The daughter behind him – Jesus’s wife – cradling a baby by her bosom.
“This sounds like heat.” Henrico said. “I know I’m retarded but I know that much.”
“You can’t make it in this country without a little danger, primo. That’s how our parents did it.” Jesus said. “They traveled across a desert, threatened to get shot, to climb a fence and plant their feet in another countries soil. And we can’t steal a fucking car?”
Henrico grabbed a cup off the table, filled halfway with coca-cola. He swirled it in his hand, ice hitting against glass, his own reflection deep in the acidic dark of his drink. His face, soured with the cold sharp chug.
“Alright.” He said.
“How is this going to work?” Henrico scratched his arms. Jesus looked down the path towards the center of the quarry where giant machines and laid stiff in pitfalls of gravel so fine that gentle summer wind push had them travel down their dunes. Containers too, off to the side of the giant hole where construction lights stood posted on the corners. Men shuffled in and out of the container rooms. All of them; people and steel a dab gray and rusted brown, stern men with stern looks on their faces. Jesus removed the his eye from the scope on his rifle and stood by the edge of the car, sucking his teeth and watching the hole now. They were ant people without their magnification. Ant people moving quick in coming dusk. At least a dozen.
“See that road on the other end?” Jesus pointed opposite.
“They’re starting to open the gate, see? They’re getting ready today. I think it’s going through.” Jesus said. “We’re going to catch ‘em coming out.”
“Catch them?” Henrico scratched his head. “How’s that happening?”
“We’re going to trail ‘em.”
“And we’re going to crash into them.”
“Yeah-” Henrico turned and slammed his palm against the hood of the car. “Excuse me?”
“It won’t be hard enough to kill us. Just enough to turn the fucker. Look at it, it’s a 98’ Corvette, we’ll flip the fucker.”
“Let’s say it does go that way.” Henrico closed his eyes, hand repeatedly slapping the metal hood of their Honda. “Let’s say we do slam the shit out of ‘em. They’re just going to let us out?”
“No. They’re not.” Jesus reached into the car and pulled a switch near the drivers compartment. The back clanks and the car jumps up and down and the trunk props open with eager swiftness. Henrico looks at Jesus, sniffling then back to the car. It’s heavy at its back. The suspension almost drags against the dirt path of their small little offroad. Creatures shuffle in the dry bushes, cactus drop their swollen red fruits. But there’s a stillness to the place.
“What’s back there?” Henrico asked.
Jesus smiled and walks back. He came out with a shotgun. Another hunting rifle. Pistols. He lined them on the floor, no care or organization to it. And finally, the last gun. An M16, heavy with a grenade launcher swollen at its under carriage.
“Dios mio. How the fuck did you get that?” Henrico asked.
“I’ve been saving this whole time.”
“Saving money? You can barely afford food, you’d rather buy a gun than pay rent?” Henrico swiveled his foot against the floor as if putting out a cigarette. “Shouldn’t you be paying rent with that?”
“If we score this, we’ll never pay rent to anybody ever again.” Jesus said. “We’ll be living free man in a free country, like we were supposed to.”
“Primo…” Henrico sighed. “I mean, if you say so.”
“I say so.” Jesus walked over to Henrico, he pushed the gun to his chest where shaking hands grab at it.
“You said we’ll be getting a million from this?” Henrico asked.
“In all our life, what’s been my one rule with you?” Jesus asked.
“That I always listen and do.”
“Exactly. You listen. You do. We come off better for it. Always.” Jesus said. “Now’s not the time for you to be questioning. Your life’s been leading up to this moment, you understand? We all get one of these in our lives. Only one.”
“Only one…” Henrico nodded.
“One moment where men are made. Or they’re broken.”
Jesus let go. Henrico stood there, rifle in his hand and his face scrutinous at the steel in his hands. Jesus put on his mask. A clown face that wrapped around his shaved head with leather bindings. He walked back to Henrico and fitted his own mask.
“What’s on my face?” Henrico asked.
“John F. Kennedy.”
“Wasn’t he the one who got shot.”
“Yeah.” He said. The car engine starts, the lights flashed on and cast against the chainlink fence. A small squirrel with an acorn in his hand ran across, agile against the bent and turned over fence, riding its corrugated ends with fear.
“Let’s go.” Jesus slapped his car. Henrico opens the door and for a moment, resigns himself to stillness in the air. The scent of cigarette lingered in his face, small debris of chips and burnt marijuana buds indented into the crevices of the seat and floor matt. A Santa Maria dandling on her rosary noose on the rear glass mirror. If there was thought or doubt or anything that makes the souls of men bend to higher truth, it diminishes as Henrico steeled himself. Courage; killer of reason. And all the fields of the imagined earth hold in them the folly of man. In the grass blooming. In the dirt rotting. In the bones dusted to soil, the fields hold evidence of men too courageous for reason. And how often stupidity and pride and honor are the same thing. Hold the same dignity. Pay the same price.
“What’s wrong?” Jesus asked. “It’s free money.”
Nothing is free, Henrico thought.
“You’re right.” He laughed and settled himself into the seat.
They drove down Mulholland Drive, coasting the right most street where the stacks of pulp mills shadowed them with a long arm into the sky, there along the streets and underneath the yellow glow of sidewalk lamps flickering into the night. Following loosely the white painted boundaries of the streets, skipping over homeless wandering the suburbs. A black man yelling into his radio with ear buds dug deep into his ears. Mailboxes filled with piss and tipped over, rusted blue. Shops with pleated steel curtains, tagged with gang signs. Obscene murals of genitalia. Strange symbols that by just looking, filled Henrico with falling dread. Like his stomach would anchor through the car, into the floor of their fast moving vehicle.
A right. A left. Another left.
“These fuckers are moving fast.” Jesus said.
“I thought we were tailing them.”
“I am tailing them.”
“This is tailing?” Henrico looked to Jesus. Jesus kept his face forward, both hands on the wheel to maneuver fast at a notice. Henrico looked back to the side walk. Empty now. Factory. Smoke stacks. Empty.
He gripped his gun. They went into a tunnel, small bulbs fit themselves center of the tunnel ceiling and Jesus followed them through the bend.
“Are we in down town?” Henrico asked.
“No. Don’t you know your own city?”
Henrico felt his heart race. Two cars came into the view, the Corvette and a black van in front of it.
“I never fired a rocket launcher.”
“It’s a grenade launcher.”
“Same thing.” Henrico’s arm shook, the barrel tapping against the dash board.
“It’ll be fine. Just aim for the van. Merc anyone who stops us.”
“We’re wearing masks. It’s fine.” Jesus said.
“You sure?” Henrico felt cold in the summer night. Though he was sweating, though the beads came down his arm and towards his quivered finger. They came out of the tunnel. Now, green steeled bus stops with movie posters half-torn. Bolted trash cans. Side walks that no longer were split down the center. Buildings populated with lights, people who stared outside.
“We’re in downtown.” Henrico said. “We’re going to get caught.”
“Stop worrying. Do you see any cops?” Jesus asked.
“Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know.” Henrico licked his lips. “I don’t know…”
“Because whatever is in that car is something the mayor doesn’t want let out.” Jesus said. “There won’t be any cops. Period.”
“No cops…” Henrico leaned back in his seat. Speed held him shut.
“We’re getting closer. Get ready.” The engine revved. The pedal squealed. This small honda, speeding along the street. Other cars honked.
Jesus rolled down the window. Henrico looked outside, wind pushing his hair. He stuck his torso out, then followed with his arms and the gun. The car approached both van and corvette, and his arms steadied in the turbulence. Henrico held his breath. He aimed higher and…
It went like a whistle, a fire work perhaps, leaving a quick stream of smoke and arcing in the air. Absolute drop. Ground zero.
An explosion to the side of the van. It tipped over and swerved, sliding against the floor.
“Oh, fuck yeah!” Jesus screamed. “Come on, get inside Henrico. Come on!”
Henrico came back in. He strapped his belt.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” Jesus said.
Henrico held the rifle tight. Homeless scattered, leaving shopping carts on the street. Windows opened in the high rises. Men slipped out of the broken glass of the van, bleeding. Leather jacket wearing figures, crippled and mutilated. They shot at the car. But the car did not stop. It drove past the van, towards the corvette moving along the street, taking a turn too sharp.
The honda met it halfway. It crash straight into the passenger seat side. And the corvette stopped. Henrico’s head slammed against the dashboard, his eyes struggled to stay up. He coughed, glass in his face. Jesus shoved his door and vomited out of the car. He kicked out and steadied himself against the smoking hood and walked over to the corvette. His figure, struggling around towards the Corvette’s passenger side where he opened the door and looked at the driver inside. He raised his gun. Bang. A blood splatter in the corvette. The body dropping, dragged away.
“Come on.” Jesus said. “Come on.”
Henrico opened his door. The gun too heavy, he left it at the dash board, half of it was stuck in the front glass anyway. He put weight on his right and pushed against the door frame to stand. His body went weak, he drooped and fell against the hanging door.
“Something ain’t right.” Henrico said.
“I’m wrong.” Henrico said. “Something’s funny in me.”
He raised his palm up to his face. Blood. And he looked down towards his waist. A red stain growing larger and larger.