The 1985 Buick Skylark was parked at the end of the shopping center, a maneuver away from a quick exit down Jefferson Way. Mitch sat in the driver’s seat, picking away at the worn out foam on the steering wheel. He did not remove his eyes off of the Pawnshop in the distance.
He ran by the nickname Bandit, an ex-con who had done time in Pleasant Valley State Prison, for home invasion and possessing a large quantity of an illegal substance. They called him Bandit, because he loved being a thief. He figured out early in his criminal career, that stealing was the only thing he was adept at. He accepted it as a calling – and he loved it! He got better at it the more he exercised it, and never got caught up to the point of his incarceration.
His younger brother, Richard, sat in the passenger side, popping another handful of peanuts into his mouth, dusting the salt off his palms. Richard, or as everyone called him, Peanut, idolized his older brother. He desired to be just like him – an all out criminal.
“You sure about this guy baby brother?” Mitch said, doubtful. “There’s something about him, something that rubs me the wrong way.”
“Who, Sal? Absolutely!” Peanut answered. “He’s a solid guy – real cool. Don’t worry brother, we got this! He like, planned it all out and stuff.”
Mitch glanced at him, disbelieving at his words. He knew his brother, how gullible he could be. He would put his trust in the wrong person without paying it a second thought. It was just who he was, he couldn’t help it.
“He better be Peanut, I’m not about to go back in the joint on the account he makes a mistake.” He redirected his attention forward.
“It’s a great piece of equipment!” The proprietor of the pawn-shop said. “It sounds swell and it’s in excellent condition, I’ll let it go for a buck-fifty if it pleases you?”
Sal, stood at the glass counter, facing down at a sound system being shown to him. He wasn’t actually interested in it, he was there to take a head count of the people inside. Precisely as he suspected, only the old man and his wife were present, both earnestly trying to sell him on the device. Sal looked at it, pretending to show consideration.
Sal wasn’t cut out to be a criminal – but it didn’t stop him from trying. In fact, he wasn’t even raised around them. He received a good upbringing, with nurturing parents who gave him everything he wanted, and had decent schooling, up to the point where he decided to drop out.
He met Peanut through a friend who sold them marijuana – they hit it off right away. Peanut, befriending anyone who allowed him a minute of their time, and Sal seeking a lifestyle that wasn’t meant for him to live.
The plan was for Sal to enter the business, and confirm what he had been watching over the last two weeks. Every evening, approximately eight, traffic throughout the shopping center died down and customers rarely came around the shop. That would be the time to move – to pull off a robbery he put together from scratch.
He’d presented the idea to rob the pawn shop to Peanut, hoping that he would run it by his brother, as an attempt to get his foot in as certified bad guy. When Mitch was open to the idea, Sal felt that was his time to transition and was influenced to follow through with it.
After confirming the only people inside the shop was the old man and his wife, Sal would exit the shop and come back to the vehicle to give the all clear to Mitch and Peanut, who were waiting for him. Everything was going perfectly according to plan.
“I’ll tell you what,” Sal said. “Let me think it over, and if it makes sense, we have a deal. How does that sound?”
“Son, I’ve never been one to disagree with somebody on a potential purchase. You go right ahead and do that, well be right here when you make up your mind.”
He knocked the glass gently with his fingers, giving the old man his approval, then exited the shop.
He slid into the back seat of the Buick, shutting the rusty door after him. He sat still for a moment, fidgeting with his jacket, then fixed his eyes on both men sitting in front.
“We’re golden,” he said, confidently. “Just like I said, nobody but the old man and his old lady. It’s perfect! The safe is in the back and everything, I’m telling you boys, I couldn’t have planned this any better!” He tapped Mitch on the shoulder, playfully.
Peanuts demeanor changed instantly. He had discovered his brothers expression change, he knew that look all too well. A few months earlier, Mitch and Peanut drove south on route 41, when a Dodge Ram behind them blared its horn at them. Exhorting them to move over and let him pass, Mitch slowed his speed, further aggravating the driver. He zipped up around them, giving them the finger, shouting obscenities. He hurried off, maneuvering around several other cars.
Fifteen minutes later, in a gas station off of Grangeville, the Dodge Ram was parked at the pump, the driver was inside the Deli Mart, getting some cigarettes and a Red Bull. After his purchase, the raging driver approached the truck, unlocking the door and setting the items along the seat, before proceeding to fill the gas tank.
A barrel of a gun, dug deep into the rear of the mans neck, making his hairs stand. The hammer cocked and Mitch turned him over.
“You ain’t so tough now is you?” He lingered over him, that same look that he gave Sal on that parking lot, was the very same one he’d given to the driver. He hit him repeatedly in the face, opening gashes of blood, and knocking him on conscious. They rode off, leaving the man laying on the hot asphalt.
“…That’s sounds good to me,” Peanut spoke up, trying to soften the tension that loomed over Mitch.
Sal sensed his aggravation, leaning back into his seat. Mitch understood what his brother was trying to do, and ultimately submitted to it.
“Cameras? What about cameras?”
“Oh hell, big brother,” Peanut said. “They got lots of those in there I bet! You can get yourself a real nice one.”
“Security Cameras!” Mitch shouted. “Damn it Peanut, are you really that stupid?” He bent his gaze towards Sal.
“What about them genius? “Who do you suppose they’re going to go looking for when the cops get involved?”
“Then we grab the tapes, no big deal,” Sal said, carefully picking out his words. “Look, all I’m saying is, If we’re going to do this, we have to move now, before things change.”
“Yeah, exactly!” Peanut said, enthusiastically. “I mean, that’s why we’re here, right? Let’s go get this money and have one hell of a party after.”
He was right, they had to go. At the very least, there had to be a couple thousand dollars in cash stashed away in the safe. The jewelry in the displays would bring in a couple more.
“Then let’s get this done,” Mitch said.
They pulled black ski masks over their heads, extending and adjusting them so only their eyes, nose and mouths were exposed. Peanut handed a revolver to Sal from the glove compartment, instructing him to look it over. The brothers did the same. They left the vehicle, walking briskly towards the shop, weapons in hand.
The doors swung open, the sensor fixed to the frame, announced their arrival. Mitch was the first to go in, his weapon already raised and aimed at the old man, who stood motionless. After the reality of the situation set in, the old man began reaching for something behind the counter.
“No no no no no!” Mitch shouted, warning him to stop reaching. “Get your hands up, don’t be stupid old man!” After a moment, he thought better of it and did as he was told. He walked up to him, grabbed a handful of gray hair and rammed his head against the wall.
“Don’t make me splatter your brains all over this floor, you got that you old fool?” He motioned to Peanut and Sal to tend to the woman behind the displays, waving the gun towards her direction.
“Where’s the safe? The safe old man, where is it?”
“…in the back,” the old man said. “Back there, please don’t – “
“Then take your ass over there and open it! Move it!” He disappeared into a back room, shouting and pushing him to hurry up.
A black duffle bag smacked her in the chest hard, she clutched it with her shaking hands, before it had a chance to go down to the ground.
“Empty it!” Peanut demanded, motioning towards the jewelry inside the glass display. “Do it!”
Her hands quivered sorting through her keys, locating the right one moments after. She unlocked the latch, slid the door, and began filling the duffle bag with gold clumsily.
“That’s a good girl!” Peanut said, teasingly. “Where are the security tapes?”
“The tapes!” he cried, grabbing her by the arm, shaking her hard. “Don’t play stupid with me, you dumb broad. The tapes!”
She finally pointed towards the other side of the building, through a small room. Inside, the security system sat on top of a desk. Peanut gestured to Sal, instructing him to recover the tapes. He turned and made his way towards the small, dark room.
When he stepped inside, the room was dark, the only source of light came from a monitor that had a split screen four ways, monitoring every corner of the shop. Beside it, a tower blinked sporadically, causing a buzzing sound. That had to be the security system. He passed behind the device and yanked the cables attached to it. The monitor went dark.
The old man worked the dial on the large safe, soft ticking sounds came from its interior. Mitch was getting impatient with his lack of progress.
“Quit playing games with me and get it open!” He yelled at him, nudging the pistol into his side.
“I’m working as fast as I can son, I’m an old man. Please, just let’s keep calm.”
“Shut your mouth and open it already!” He pushed deeper, the old man winced.
The final tick came to rest, unlocking it.
“There, it’s open.”
“Then what the fuck are you waiting for, open it!”
The old man took hold of the large lever on the side of the steel door, struggling to lift it open. Tired of waiting for him, Mitch shoved him out the way, and moved up the lever himself.
The door swung open, creaking on its hinges, revealing what was inside. Mitch’s face lit up. Dozens of bills lined the inner shelf, labeled and color coded with different denominations. It was way more than they expected to find, over forty thousand dollars.
A single shot was fired. Sal’s head swung at the sound, the woman let out a loud scream, fearing her husband had been shot down. Peanut landed a heavy blow on her jaw with the butt of his gun, sending her crashing back against the shelving behind her, before falling on the floor.
Peanut, grabbed the duffle bag from the counter and tossed it over his shoulder. No shot was supposed to go off, no one was supposed to get hurt. Something must of happened, the old man must of forced Mitch to use his weapon on him. Sal came out, the recording device tucked under one arm.
“What the hell is going?” He said, apprehensively.
“Stay here! Keep your eyes on the door and the bitch!” Peanut sprinted towards the back room.
He got to the back room, turned and stepped in. He halted, frozen and numb. Mitch lay on his stomach, with a single shot to the back of the head.
The sight of so much money, blinded him, losing track of what was going on about him. The old man caught on to this notion, and reached for a pistol he had laid away on top of a cabinet, right where Mitch had shoved him towards.
“What’s going on?” Sal shouted.
Another shot went off, a body fell backwards, landing lifeless in the door – It was Peanut. Blood spurted out of the back of his skull, spreading around him in a pool of blood. Sal dropped the security system, hitting the floor, dividing the top cover from its casing. He pulled back towards the door, realizing their plan had gone horribly wrong. He turned, quickly reaching for the door, when a series of shots rang out from beside him. The old woman aimed and fired from her own weapon hidden away. One thing they could count on in a place like a pawn shop, was the abundance of weapons they held in their inventory.
Sal ran as hard as he could, not once looking back. He ran, feeling the coolness of the night on his perspiring skin. He raised the handle on the old Buick’s drivers side door, jumping inside.
The keys! He thought. I don’t have the keys! They lay tucked away in Peanuts dead corpse inside the store. He would have to continue running.
He opened the door and set about his exit once again. He felt a stinging sensation on his side, then he felt his clothing wet, sticking to his skin. Moving his jacket aside, he noticed his shirt was covered in his own blood. The old woman had shot him, his adrenaline kept him from acknowledging it. Fear filled him, he pressed on his wound, the blood bled through the shirt dripping through his fingers. His sight began to sway, his strength weakened quickly- he was dying. He sat back, shut his eyes and sobbed.
The old man sat on a chair, next to his wife. He took her hand, as the medics tended to her busted lip. Police officers were assessing the situation within the store, trying to put the pieces together.
An officer went into the store, informing them, they found the third suspect deceased in an old Buick at the end of the shopping center. They asked the old man to walk over and I.D. The man for the investigators. When they neared the vehicle, the door was swung open, and a man in his mid twenties laid back in his seat – dead. The old man peered in closer, taking a better look at him. It was the same young man, who hours earlier, spoke to him about a sound system.
A robbery planned by a wannabe criminal, a naive boy, barely a man, who sought a life not fit for him. A childish, careless brother, who never took anything serious. A man who trusted without considering the effects of doing so. A half empty bag of peanuts tucked away in his pants pocket, defining his entire life. A hardened criminal, blinded by the sight of the most money he had ever seen in his lifetime. A menace who took by force and wasn’t afraid to spill blood over it. A man who loved the thrill of of the steal, now lay betrayed by his own doing.
An old man, thought incapable of defending himself from a life and death situation. An old man, who his quick thinking saved not just his life, but of his loving wife. A business that seldom had visitors in the dead of night, was now surrounded by black and white cruisers, all there just to be in its presence. Strobing lights flashing blues and reds on its exterior, letting everyone know that it was the center of attention.
If there was ever individuals, destined for life’s karmic justice, it would be these unlikely three.