I always used to let the mark decide the meet. Always. Two reasons. First, it made the mark think I was somebody they could work with, somebody who’d give them the originals and the negatives if they just paid me what we agreed. Most guys working this rip they always keep something back so they can bleed the mark anytime they choose. That was never my style. I made a promise I kept it. Besides, I had so many marks that just keeping track of which twenty-year old beaver went with which paunchy middle-aged guy needed a goddam spreadsheet. I tried it once but ended up blackmailing some John with a picture of Sally when it was Suzie he was balling on the side. Embarrassing.
Second, it told me how the mark was going to play it. Those guys, they didn’t want nobody knowing what they’d been doing, if they did they wouldn’t have been so eager to pay up in the first place, so it stood to reason they’d want to do the handover somewhere discreet. If one of them told me they wanted to do it in Taco bell in the bus depot at rush hour I’d know something was up and shitcan the deal.
The last mark of mine. I called him up. He already knew what was what, he’d seen the nice close-up of his funky two-tone moustache getting acquainted with this Egyptian broad’s Nile delta. He didn’t even give me an address, just gave me a GPS coordinate. This, I thought, this is somebody I can work with.
I drove out there two hours early so I could scope it. Nothing doing; two tracks of lonely-ass backroad crossing in the weeds. Not even a stand of grass deep enough to hide my balls in.
He pulled up alongside me in his mid-life crisis on wheels. He got out, wiped his clammy hand on his paunch, straightened his toupee, and handed me the envelope. It was nice and fat in my hand. I made to throw it on the backseat of my car.
“Aren’t you going to count it?” He licked the droopy end of his moustache.
“We both know you aren’t going to dick me.”
“Why wouldn’t I? You think I wouldn’t?”
“That’s exactly what I think.” I held the envelope out to him, daring him to take it back. He cringed away behind the car door.
“Look, there was a lot of money spread out all over the suite when I made the count. I don’t want this to queer over some stray ten spot rolled under the rug.”
“Let me make you a deal on account of how accommodating you’ve been so far. Anything shy of a hundred dollars light and I let it slide. Sound good?”
“Please. Set my mind at ease. Count it.” Poor slob sounded like he was going to cry.
“Alright. If only to…” I lifted the flap with the curve of my thumbnail. There was a snap like a mousetrap slamming down.
Next thing I knew I was on my side in the road, there were white spots in my eyes and the stink of burnt pork up my nose. I thought he’d tasered me. Until I rolled. Three of my fingers were twitching under my car and what was left of my hand was smeared across the asphalt in a wet red fan. Charred fifties rained down around us. They sizzled where they hit my blood.
“M… M… M…” I gummed at him as he knelt down.
“Let me make you a deal seeing as how you’ve been so accommodating thus far. My wife sees those photographs and I’ll stick the bomb up your ass next time. Understand?”
“Yeah.” I fumbled for my belt and looped it around my elbow.
“You’ll want to tie it five inches above the wound. You stick it over the joint like you’re doing you’re liable to screw up your nerves.” He turned around in his car door. “You’re lucky I was in a good mood when I picked this place. Another mile down the road there’s a cell phone blackspot. Then where would you be?”
I had no idea. Still don’t.