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Authors: CJ West

Tags: #reeducation, #prison reform, #voyeurism, #crime, #criminal justice, #prison, #burglary

The End of Marking Time (3 page)

BOOK: The End of Marking Time
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“Let’s have that back,” I said.

“Wait a second. What do you want for it?”

“Slide it back,” I said a little louder and he did.

“When’d you get that?”

“Two hours ago.”

“Anyone see you?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll give you five hundred.”

I couldn’t imagine it was worth that much. It might have been worth more, but I had no way to get rid of it and I wasn’t going to a bunch of ATMs and getting my face on camera.

“Deal.” The instant I said it, he walked out with the cards and the password list. I knew where he was going so I didn’t chase him. My food came a minute later. I started on my eggs, picturing him running down the street to his favorite ATM. He paid some kids to keep the camera lens blacked out with spray paint. He was out there making the cards pay for themselves. We both knew it. The thing about free money was you can’t have it all. You have to share, but there was plenty to go around if you knew where to look. Cortez was getting the cards and the numbers for free. He’d have a profit after ten minutes work, and then he’d go online and start selling the credit cards over and over again. The accounts would be maxed in a matter of hours and a bunch of banks would take it on the chin, but bankers were worse crooks than either of us.

Cortez came back long enough to drop me six hundred twenty-five bucks and give me a line about his break being over. Neither of us said anything about the fresh bills and neither of us mentioned that he’d made more in his fifteen-minute break than the rest of his day. He’d be online soon making a bundle that was tax free and safe from his wife spending it on toys the kid would break and clothes she didn’t need.

The guy, the hot blonde, and her two ugly friends got up and walked out. I was twenty years old. What was ahead of me? Was I going to keep chasing chicks like the guy in the booth or was I going to slow down and start acting like Double and Cortez? Those two were lying to themselves, pretending to be something they weren’t to impress women. I knew who I was and that wasn’t going to change.

As I stood up and headed for the cash register, the overhead television was crammed with police cars in front of a big house all lit up with spotlights. I pulled a twenty from my front pocket. At once I realized that the fat guy was buying me breakfast and that the front of his house was on the screen. His name was Jeremy Whitehouse and he was the Suffolk County district attorney. All those years ago in the projects, Double taught me to keep out of trouble by keeping a low profile. Tonight I’d broken that rule in the most spectacular way. Lots of crimes went unsolved, including most of mine, but this one would be different. There were half a dozen state police cruisers there helping the Sherborn cops.

I was shaking as I took my change. The car was good. Crusher wouldn’t sell it for a long time and it wouldn’t see sunshine until then.

The cards were the problem. Cortez had already nailed the DA for six hundred at least. In an hour there’d be dozens of people using Whitehouse’s credit to buy all sorts of things. I tried to remember if his social security number was on the paper I sold Cortez, but it didn’t matter. They’d crucify me for the trouble I’d caused him. I left the diner looking for a deep hole to

disappear into.

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

I counted four sirens rushing by that morning while I tried to sleep. I hadn’t been arrested in three years and I didn’t expect they’d be coming for me that morning, but the piercing sounds forced me to sit up and listen. They wouldn’t come for me with sirens wailing. And they couldn’t trace my work so fast. I knew it, but I also knew they’d pull out every weapon they had to get justice for the DA. It was lunchtime when I pulled the covers off. The DA’s credit cards were all maxed by then. If they hadn’t shut off ATM withdrawals, his bank accounts would be emptied by now, too.

Most of my crimes went unpunished, but the cops weren’t going to give up this time. If I didn’t feed them someone to bust, they’d arrive on my doorstep sooner or later. If I had a job it’d be easier to convince them I’d gone straight. They’d rather think that than realize I’d been hitting three houses a week for years and they just couldn’t catch me.

The sirens went away and left me in the room over the garage.

It was just a room. Not a palace like those places I hit out in the suburbs. The family that lived downstairs threw up a partition and added a bathroom, stuck a stove and an oven in the corner, and called it an apartment. They turned a little extra space into some extra cash each month. That’s what I lived on, the extra that people had lying around. From my place to my livelihood, I took what people didn’t really need. Mostly the world didn’t notice. I was just one guy. I didn’t need much to live.

You might think I’d have great stuff since I’m in and out of really fancy places three times a week, but the truth was, I didn’t allow myself any connection to the places I hit. When people were out of town, I could get away with couches and beds, silverware and glasses, but I didn’t use stuff every day that linked me to being dirty. Most of my furniture the Berniers put in here for me, the rest Double and I picked up on the side of the road. I kept some jewelry until it cooled off, but it was always hidden where no one could ever find it. I always keep myself looking clean. I had problems for a few hours in the middle of the night when I worked, but beyond that, I looked like a solid citizen with a lot of free time on his hands.

I cleaned myself up, put on some jeans, and went around the corner to Dunkin’s for breakfast—a large coffee and a Boston Kreme donut. I could never cook something this good. My mother never cooked so I never saw why it was important to try.

I headed down the block when I was finished. The guys were playing three on three in the park. There was a guy on the side who wanted to jump in, but hoop wasn’t my thing and I wasn’t into getting sweated up. The Red Sox were playing at seven and I thought I’d go to one of the bars around Fenway, have some fun, and chase a little action. Until then I planned to hang, people watch, and see who showed up in the park. I waved the guy off and sat down.

The game went back and forth. Several of the guys dumped in long shots, shots I knew were way outside my range. Some of these guys were here day after day. I wondered if they considered this work, like they’d go pro someday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for ‘em, knowing how unlikely it was some kid from West Roxbury would be bumped from obscurity to the pros. They had to know they were just killing time, but if they didn’t, I wasn’t going to be the one to tell them.

Every so often someone came off the street to watch the game for a few minutes. After the third short visit in twenty minutes, I realized the guy watching from half court was selling drugs out of his bag. The customers eyed me suspiciously as they headed for the sidewalk, but no one from the game hassled me. At least one player must have recognized me from the neighborhood. Not many white guys my age shaved their heads. It made me easy to spot, but that’s not why I did it. I learned about forensics watching cop shows on TV. If I didn’t have hair, I couldn’t leave it behind.

I was alone until a car pulled up and Melanie Michaud wiggled across the sidewalk to me. We’d had a fling a few months earlier when I was lying low. She liked the way I threw money around when I was flush from a big hit and I liked how friendly she got once she had a few drinks in her. Her timing couldn’t have been better. I hadn’t planned anything for the next week and I would have been happy to spend the whole time with her. My plans changed when I saw the nasty look in her eyes.

“Where you been?” she said, like I’d been hiding from her.

It was months since I’d seen her. I’d been busy working and she knew I wasn’t looking for anything permanent. I didn’t promise her anything but a week of fun. That was long over. I didn’t get why she was standing there with her hands on her hips until I saw the bulge at her waist. She shoved it out so I couldn’t miss it, but I knew it wasn’t my fault. Kids on the court kept score of how many girls they knocked up. Not me. I had lived that life and I wouldn’t put my kids through it. I’d been swiping condoms for seven years, even though I knew it was better without them. A lot better.

“What are you trying to do?” I asked.

“Don’t give me that. You better own up, boy.”

I stood up and stepped closer. “You looking for a husband?” I whispered. “Cause I ain’t playing that game.” If she’d talked to Double, she’d have known. “I was careful, very careful. I didn’t do that to you.”

“My father’s thinking different.”

The one girl in the neighborhood with a live-in father had to come and make trouble for me. “Listen,” I said. “You’re a hottie, Melanie. If I was going to get married, it’d be a girl like you. But that ain’t my kid in there. You know I’m careful. You tell your father, when he brings me the DNA test to show it’s mine, I’ll be there at the altar. You, me, and the baby.”

Melanie looked like she’d pass out.

I kissed her cheek and she hustled back to the car.

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

I did go to Fenway that night after Melanie cornered me in the park, but every time I thought about chasing a skirt, I started thinking about what Double and Cortez were doing. That life didn’t fit for me and just thinking about it set me off. I left the bar alone and I spent the whole week walking around the neighborhood, watching the tube, and wondering if I was missing something by not settling down. I drank four or five beers the whole week and didn’t get laid once. Some vacation.

When Cortez called to say things were slow and ask if I could throw some plastic his way, I was more than ready to get back to it. I called a guy who toted bags in a fancy San Francisco hotel. He spent his whole day getting sneered at by rich people on vacation and he was only too glad to sell me the names of his nastiest, worst-tipping clients.

For fifty bucks he gave me three names and addresses in Massachusetts. The one that stuck out was in a great neighborhood in Westwood. When I got there I couldn’t believe how huge the place was or how thick the trees grew around it. None of the neighbors could see the house and once around back, I was invisible from the road. I had to cut through a glass door to get in without setting off the alarm, but then I had the run of the place without worrying about anyone coming home. I stayed two hours looking for, finding, and eventually cracking a basic wall safe hidden in the master bedroom. Inside the safe was the deed to the house, the titles to three cars, and some other crap that was useless to me, but I did find fifteen grand in cash and a serious diamond necklace.

There were two cars in the garage. Crusher would have given me five hundred for either of them, but with all the heat I brought down when I hit the district attorney, I decided to steer clear of Crusher until I cooled off. He was not a guy I wanted to disappoint. I didn’t find anything for Cortez either, but not because I was worried about him. He didn’t have guys like Double hanging over his shoulder ready to break my leg. Unfortunately for Cortez, the only plastic I scored was a single card sitting in the safe with the activation sticker still across the front. The card was mint. Never used. They must have taken all their regular cards with them. Not something I’d advise a family bring on vacation.

Cortez called while I was driving home. I told him the card was no good, but he wouldn’t take my word for it. He practically begged me to meet him at the usual place. He said he needed a few bucks to get through the week. I’d just scored enough cash to hold me for months, so I didn’t see any harm in loaning Cortez a few hundred. I wish I’d thrown that card out, but I didn’t see the harm in giving it to him.

The diner was quiet, but I was earlier than usual. I knew Cortez was desperate when I saw him in the first booth waiting for me. His breaks were short and he never beat me to the diner. He looked nervous, like a guy in deep with a bookie who was threatening to start breaking things. Looking back I should have known what was coming, but Cortez and I had done this hundreds of times.

“Anything for me?” Cortez asked as soon as I sat down.

“Nothing good. Why so nervous?”

He sat stiffly like he was afraid to move. I checked the time and scanned the empty tables. This time of night, the diner was usually jumping, but tonight almost every table was empty. There were three guys at the counter to my left, but other than that, the place was deserted.

“Couple things came up at home,” he said. “I’m a little short and if I don’t get something going, checks will start bouncing.”

“This is all I got.” I slid the card across the table. It was still as shiny as when they printed it. I hadn’t peeled off the sticker. I wasn’t trying to sucker him. He should have agreed it was worthless. He should have asked to borrow some cash. But he didn’t. He picked it up and headed for the door.

“Be right back with your cut.”

“Forget it,” I said, getting up.

I hadn’t ordered food. That almost saved me. Without breakfast holding me there and with so much cash in my pocket, I was glad to give him the card and be on my way. I told him so.

His eyes pleaded with me to sit down and that’s when I knew I was in trouble. The three guys on the stools behind me swiveled their heads around and I saw their faces reflected in the glass door.

“A few minutes won’t hurt,” I said real loud and started for the booth.

BOOK: The End of Marking Time
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