Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fiction: My Life of Crime

The take for my first unplanned criminal act netted me $368.00 scooped out of the cash register during an espresso machine explosion in Ocean Beach. Everyone ran out of the place and I ran in to see if I could help. But there it was...the open cash register calling my name. I knew insurance would cover everything and it was a victimless crime, but still my conscience was killing me. Would I do it again? I thought not. It was a unique opportunity, too easy to pass up. I wasn't willing to take that kind of chance again—not with my own scruples, nor with the law I had worked to uphold for all those years.

Another two weeks passed; two weeks closer to getting my checks. Other than Cocaine Nose, my husband, and Ginnie, my ex-partner, nobody knew of my plight. I decided it was wiser to suffer through this period of transition without answering questions or seeking help. Most importantly, I didn't want to confess to anyone in my family about how another of my marriages had gone bad.

Ginnie invited me to stay in her guest house but I'm not one of those people who mooch. I deplore a mooch and Ginnie wouldn't take money from me. I had a free-loading brother-in-law, always dropping by for a "surprise" visit with nothing but a toothbrush in his shirt pocket. Not only a mooch, he was a pompous know-it-all. He liked to bloviate on any subject at any opportunity whether he knew anything about the subject or not. Most of my ex-in-laws I remember fondly but this one was for the birds. No, I'd have to be literally on the streets before I'd accept Ginnie's offer.

Reluctant to return to Ocean Beach on the slim chance that I might be recognized, I was walking around downtown San Diego for a couple of hours each morning to get exercise and burn off my anxiety-generated adrenaline. On the plus side, I was getting to know the city a little better. You can drive around a town for years but you never really know a place until you cover it on foot. Logan was only a couple of blocks away from the promenade; I enjoyed walking along the water and around the outside of the convention center. Once in a while, I'd spot an unexpired entrance badge in the trash, pin it on and go inside. The energy at conventions ran high and rubbing shoulders with happy people improved my outlook. The religious articles convention was enlightening; the home show very entertaining. The best show I attended was the Natural Food Expo where I filled a shopping bag with free energy bars, colon cleanser pills, exotic vitamins and tea bags...enough to keep both me and the roaches with clean guts and full of energy for a few weeks.

Most days, I ended up at the library for a few hours. I knew just how long I could sit there before the librarians began giving me the fisheye. During all the years working the beat in Las Vegas, I didn't have enough time to read. Now, at last, I had all the time in the world. Mostly I read the periodicals: The New Yorker; The Atlantic; Granta. It's likely you didn't think I was that kind of girl, but you'd be surprised by the reading material both cops and the bad guys enjoy when nobody's watching.

Maybe you're wondering about the cancer. I was one of the lucky ones. Skin cancer on my right arm, the one I dangled out of the car window for 25 years. One day an ugly growth popped up and luckily I went straight to the dermatologist. They took a chunk out of the arm and sent me on my way. That was three years ago and the spot was back. If you're going to have cancer, skin cancer is the best option.You can see it and the surgeon can see it, unlike most forms of the stinking disease, rotting away inside somewhere, discovered too late. No, I considered myself lucky on the cancer front.

Last Friday, I was sitting in the library in my favorite chair in a shaft of sunlight contemplating the word "bloviating". Warm and full of energy bars, I was dozing when I heard the scrape of the chair next to me being pulled back. I looked up from my magazine into the bright blue eyes of Bob Davis."How're they hanging?" asked Bob, sitting down in the chair. Bob was a well known small-time hustler in Las Vegas. We'd picked him up a few times for scams. He stretched out his legs and settled himself into the chair."You're probably thinking by now you can relax after pulling off your little heist in the coffee shop.You sanctimonious cops always turn out to be the worst." he said, shaking his head. Suddenly my guts turned to water and I hustled off to the ladies.

I returned to the chair because I realized there were eyes on me and it didn't matter if I ducked out of the library— they would likely tail me. I decided to go for sympathy and dump all my woes on this guy. Things were looking pretty bad—could I make it any worse?  "Listen Bob. The worm turned on me and I'm in bad shape—my husband sniffed our savings up his nose, I was forced into retirement and I've got cancer. Could you cut me a little slack here? I don't know what you've got in mind, but please forget it and leave me alone."

By the way, was I surprised to see Bob here in the San Diego Library? Many of the long term hardened con guys spent winters in Vegas on the hustle, then moved their operations over to San Diego to relax during the summer months. It was just my bad luck that this sleazy guy had the goods on me. 

He laid out his ratty scam and let me know where I was to fit in. The plan was so full of logic holes it already stunk like old cheese. But, I was desperate for cash to get myself out of the roach infested shit hole room and over to a decent place in Point Loma. I listened closely. 

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