I parked the stolen Monte Carlo across from the strip mall, feeling damn good about this job. Few shoppers, light traffic. Should be easy.
But then Mark tossed his surgical mask up from the back seat.
“Gonna wear my ski mask instead.” His voice like crushed stone.
Ben spun around. Brows creased, eyes narrowed. His system for robbing jewelry stores relied on them looking like typical pandemic-era shoppers. And Ben never deviated from a plan.
“Weren’t you listening?” Saliva bubbled at the edge of Ben’s mouth. “Didn’t I make it clear how this works?”
When Ben told me a new guy would be helping him, I didn’t think much of it. Not my place to ask questions. I just drive the car and take my 10 percent. But now I had this sick feeling in my gut, a nagging sense that this Mark guy’s head wasn’t in the game. And with rent due and my kid needing new shoes, this job had to pay off.
“I ain’t wearing one of those,” said Mark. “Cameras everywhere, so they’ll probably put us on the news.”
“So what?” Ben held up his surgical mask. “They can’t ID us with these on.”
“Yeah, but my buddies watch the news. I don’t want ‘em seeing me like that.”
“Seeing you like what?” Ben’s face went red. “What are you fucking talking about?”
I sorta knew what he was talking about. I met a guy in the bar once with the same tattoos as Mark. He kept rambling on about how the government was controlling everyone. Conspiracies aside, I didn’t get why Mark couldn’t put the thing on for just a few minutes. It made me wonder if he had a screw loose.
“Wear a muzzle if you want,” he said, “but I’ve never worn one and never will.”
I thought Ben would lose his shit and force him to get with the program. But instead, he sucked in a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. “I should’ve known you couldn’t handle this.”
Ben turned to me, the heat draining from his face. “Let’s go. We’re done.”
“Just like that? It’s over?” I said. Ben had never cancelled a job before.
“Fuck that.” Mark leaned forward. “Let’s hit the place hard and fast with ski masks on, like the original plan.”
Ben sighed. “That was never the plan. You want to do that, go for it. But not with me or my wheelman.”
That pissed me off. Ben had no idea what this money could do for me. For my kid. Maybe Mark sensed my anger, because he flashed me a crooked grin in the rearview mirror.
Then slammed the butt of his Glock against the side of Ben’s skull.
Ben slumped against the dashboard, like a drunk at last call.
“Christ!” I jumped, adrenaline tearing up my veins.
“Fuck Ben. How’s 40 percent sound?” Mark slipped the gun into his jacket. “This’ll take me just a couple minutes, cool?”
Maybe I said yes, I don’t remember. Everything happened so fast.
Next thing I knew, Mark had gotten out and was walking into the jewelry store.
I started the car. Put it in drive. Thought about leaving. Just flooring it and getting Ben to the hospital. He’d have more work for me, eventually.
A shot rang out.
Mark came sprinting back, ski mask on, carrying a bag under his arm.
He yanked open the back door and dove in, hollering at me to drive.
Cars honked as I cut into traffic. Someone yelled at us from the sidewalk.
Mark yelled something too, his words muffled by the roar of the Monte and my ragged breathing.
I took a hard right through an intersection. Ben’s limp body shifted, his head slamming into my arm.
I veered too far over, flinging us into a fishtail.
Couldn’t get out of the skid.
Shattering glass. Crunching metal.
The seat belt digging into my lap made me realize I was upside down. No sign of the other guys — I assumed they’d gotten tossed out.
The sirens weren’t distant anymore.
I hung there, blood draining to my head, wishing Mark had just worn his fucking mask.