Poetry #04: where there’s a WILL…

[This was originally published in F.U.C.K. poetry Issue #4. The publish date is approximate.]


crime

once, and you are lucky
                twice - talented
the third time is charm
four times - a legend
        five times?
        fucking invulnerable.
or not. you're just a gambler's dream

(dedication to sensai voyager)

#451: Honor Among Thieves

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


Mark had been with this crew for over a year now. As was custom, you just didn’t ask a lot of questions. He knew very little about the others in the group, only that once every month they would get together, run a score, and back to the daily life of each. One of four, yet as a team they were not to be trifled with. A special task force had been formed three and a half years ago to try and catch the leader of this crew. Over the years, members would filter in and out, but one had stayed in seemingly forever.

He didn’t know much about Jeremy as a person. He could attest to Jeremy’s technical skill when it came to crime. Top of the line entry guy, good with planning and strategy, equally proficient with explosives, sharpshooter, electronics, you name it.. Jeremy could do it. Despite his wide variety of skills, most scores relied on having a well trained crew that trusted each other, that worked well together. Getting on his team was more difficult than getting any job or car loan. Very few people knew about his team, fewer made it on.

There were maybe five teams across the world of this caliber, and he was on it. Sometimes it bug him that he couldn’t talk about it, couldn’t tell his friends what an honor it was. Funny he should think of that word, because most criminals were without honor. It was something that no one could understand unless they were within the criminal element. Most ‘good’ people couldn’t comprehend the thought of ‘honor’ and ‘thief’ in the same sentence. Yet it was there.. a strict yet unofficial code many of them lived by. Jeremy demanded it of his team at all costs.

Conner had been with the team for almost two years from what he knew. As far as a timeline, he had no idea how long Jeremy was active before the task force was formed, only events since that. New to the team was Ben. As was procedure, all members of the crew had to meet and agree on any new members, but Jeremy had final say. Ben had come highly recommended from the network, possessed all the skills needed to fill in the recently retired Lane, and seemed like a good guy all around. As with most new members, proficiency was rarely a problem, liking the person was the issue.

The night had come for their monthly score. The pace Jeremy kept was beautiful. Instead of going for super high risk, super high payoff, he used his skill to plan moderate hits. Each month would bring them money to live six months. This allowed each member to put away money for a healthy and early retirement. In trade for smaller scores, the risk was almost non-existent to them. One thing that you never saw in these groups was the cut this group experienced. It was customary that a leader take an increased percentage for planning and ‘allowing’ others to join in. With Jeremy, it was different. Most hits, he took a smaller percentage than anyone else, sometimes just enough to live comfortably until the next score.

They sat in the basement of some rented house, preparing for the hours to come. Plans of the building, highlighted routes to take, backup plans, emergency escape routes, frequencies of police, even alternate scores nearby if the original couldn’t be worked out. Once everyone had given indication they were ready, they headed out. As was customary in groups of this nature, an unofficial ‘rank’ was held by each member based on time with the group. That put Conner in second, him in third, and Ben in fourth. Since joining the group, there was never a time where this came up, but the feeling was always present, and fully understood.

Mark sat there with Jeremy on the fire escape, quietly watching the neighborhood below. The watch showed ten more minutes before they had to move, giving them both reason to lean back against the wall. Looking at Jeremy he noticed his ever vigilant eyes scanning the scene below, a slight smile trying to escape.

Can I ask you a question Jeremy?

Of course, what’s up?

Well, I was just wondering why you always took a smaller cut than the rest of us. I mean, you plan these hits with such precision, you catch every little detail, and basically provide a foolproof plan. The scores are always well worth it financially.. and other team leads out there seem to take more in return for that. Why are you different?

Hm.. strange that you are the first to ask. Hell, Conner has never put that question to me. Anyway, because of certain incidents in my past, I value loyalty more than you know. There is a certain honor among thieves that I look for. That honor is worth a lot to me, especially in the network now. More and more upstarts are in it for all the wrong reasons, and would kill their mother to score an extra dollar. That is wrong.

Yeah, I have run into a couple like that. Didn’t like any part of them so I always moved on. Dunno what it is about them, but I definitely know what you are talking about.

As I said, past incident have taught me that honor among thieves is foremost in the network, whether people know about it or not. Long ago I vowed never to be in the position where I had to deal with dishonor like that. So, I struck out on my own, and here I am. That is one of the reasons I take my time finding new people to hook up with. Just not worth the the time to deal with someone like that.

Figured it was something like that, but just wanted to see what you thought. Thanks Jeremy.

Yup.

The watch set them into motion. Mark reached into a bag next to him and drew out a grappling iron. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Jeremy nod, triggering his throw. The iron flew out away from the building, dragging a soft black rope behind it. The graceful arc it formed took it over a twenty foot alley and onto the far side of the opposite roof. Pulling it taught, he felt it latch onto the AC unit resting on stilts. Silently, the two thieves swung out onto the rope and slid down.

Jeremy went into action once on the roof. Unpacking various gear, he set up shop in front of the door that provided roof access. It took him several minutes to setup a temporary bypass for the alarm, and only twenty seconds to pick the lock of the door. What was that, five minutes total to get into the building? With an appreciative smile he patted Jeremy on the back once and handed him a black duffel bag. Both slipped into the building, empty bags in hand. He gave a radio check to the other team and slid down two flights of stairs.

Twelve minutes, thirty seconds.. to the second, and they were back on the roof, each with one full bag. Radio check showed the streets were clear, so they made their escape, cleaning their tracks. When the police arrived the next day, they would find no signs of forced entry, no fingerprints, nothing on the cameras in the building, no heat sensors tripped, motion detectors still armed, and one cabinet completely empty of its normal contents.

Profits from that score were nice. They were all amazed at how much clients were paying for information. This last score was one set of manuals from the corporate office of Brindel Security Systems, giving full details of bypassing every alarm they were capable of installing. It was ironic that Jeremy could already do it, but the client wanted the complete set of manuals, nothing else.

=-=

The new month had arrived, drawing them all to the rented basement like moths to the flame. As countless months before, they planned out the score for that night, drilling the plans into their head. Once done with the plans, they decided to split up for dinner before heading on to the site. He and Conner wrapped up and headed for the door, with plans to hit Arby’s. Before he could get out the door, Jeremy asked him to stay for a minute. Conner continued outside to wait.

Thanks for staying Mark…

No, glad you said something. I had a question about tonight but didn’t want to bring it up in front of the others.

I figured you would wonder, so its better that you ask now instead of doubt later.

Yeah. Well, obviously I would be better suited on the back entrance with you. And, you seem to split the team so that you are always with me or Conner… why Ben?

I guess a test of sorts. I have doubts, and this should alleviate those concerns.

Gotcha… see you later.”

Dinner was un-eventful, he and Conner sat in near silence. Both silently reviewed the plans to make sure everything would be fine. Even though they rarely teamed up, conversation didn’t seem natural between them, so neither forced the issue. They wrapped it up and headed out to get ready.

They were all in place at midnight. Things were going smooth as usual. Six minutes after the patrol car turned the corner, Jeremy gave the word that set them into action. He and Conner entered through the second story side window as planned. Unlike other hits, this one involved three people doing entry, only one on watch because of the relaxed environment. Also unusual was the time they spent in the place, almost three hours.. and the time crawled like never before.

=-=

He and Conner were the first ones back to the basement. It would be another fifteen minutes before the other two arrived, so they set down their bags on the table, prepared to view the loot. Instead of emptying his bag he stepped back a few paces and reached to his back. It had never been used before, and he was scared of his own actions now, but it had to be done. While Conner emptied his sack, he screwed the suppressor onto the end of the .22 and leveled it at his team mate.

A guttural cough was all it took to make Conner realize something was amiss. He turned to face his friend, and found a problem.

Why Conner?

What the fuck are you talking about?

You know the rules, why steal from the rest of the team? From Jeremy?

Man, you have flipped… what are you talking about stealing?

Third room on the left, roughly eight thousand dollars in the fourth drawer down. I was watching from the door.

You must be tripping or something. There was no money…

Last chance. Please.. please don’t make me do this…

Fuck you…

Honor among thieves… rule number one. Honor among thieves…

With a look of anguish, he chambered the first round, and waited five seconds. After no response he held the gun up and fired once. Conner went reeling back, the force of the bullet strong enough to knock the other man down. His first and only shot pierced Conner’s heart, killing Conner almost instantly. The shot stunned him.. he had never shot anyone before. Time escaped him as he stared at the body, the world around him far away.

He heard a muffled voice from somewhere. Again. A third time and he realized it was his name. The fourth time and he snapped back to this world and looked around. Jeremy stood at the door, his face featureless. Now that he thought about it, he had just killed the second, without consulting the first. Without a word, he turned to face Jeremy, gun still leveled.

As soon as he realized he was aiming the gun at Jeremy he pushed it out, bringing no reaction from Jeremy. As he sat there with arm outstretched, gun leveled, he could barely comprehend his actions. He let go of the gun, letting it spin around his trigger finger, and the gun came to a rest barrel down. He nodded once indicating that Jeremy should take the weapon. As he let go of the gun, his arm dropped down to his side.

I can explain everything Jeremy…

Hmm… this gun seems light.

Jeremy pulled the clip out and held it up to the dim light in the room. It was as he suspected.

You only had one shot Mark…

Yes. I never wanted to use it, but I carry the gun for that reason specifically. Conner stole from you. From all of us.

I know. I saw him do it tonight, as well as times before…

You… you knew?!

I never said who I was testing earlier. Welcome to my family… brother.

#442: Solitude Standing

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


I dunno.. I haven’t heard from him in two weeks.

Yeah, me neither. Well, email here and there, but nothing else really.

Think he is alright? I mean, he used to hang out all the time with us…

I dunno… wanna give him a call?

He hasn’t answered his phone in two weeks. Hasn’t returned any pages either I don’t think. Julie said he didn’t return her pages…

Guess he isn’t talking to anyone.

  • day

11:02a on the status bar. An hour and a half had passed and he had already sent 62 pieces of email to 47 people in 4 countries. He pressed ‘x’ and the screen replied “deleting 400, keeping 130“. The mail he considered important had been replied to, mail that would take more effort to reply to left for the afternoon.

  • break

10:44p on the status bar. He had no idea how many pieces of mail he had sent over the day. Well over two hundred; not that it mattered, but it was amusing keeping track. Another day had passed without leaving the apartment. What was that.. three days?

  • day

He woke up at 1:13pm and lay in bed for 10 minutes relaxing. His cat had jumped on the bed and lay across one of his arms, repeatedly nudging his shoulder. Smiling, he reached over with his free arm and scratched the cat on the neck. “I’ll feed you in a few minutes, son.” Climbing out of bed he tried to shake off the fatigue he felt. Another day of three hours of sleep. He reminded himself to look up the exact definition of insomnia later that day.

The shower hadn’t even warmed up before the phone rang; the eighth time that morning. He let it ring a second time to ensure caller ID information had passed, then picked up with a quick ‘hello’.

Yes, I just woke up…

No, I haven’t read my email.. someone’s at the door, I’ll call you later.

He slammed the phone down in disgust. Just because he slept at different hours of the day did not mean he was lazy. Each night he slept four hours less than most of his ‘friends’, yet got nothing but shit about his sleeping schedule. Fuck them. They wonder why he didn’t want to talk to them? If they can’t show simple understanding about such a simple thing as sleeping schedule, how could they understand anything else going on in his mind.. his life? Obviously, they couldn’t. Still disgusted, he climbed in the shower.

  • break

Lets see.. new Fiona single, Portishead, Ani, new KMFDM, and 5th Element soundtrack. How does that sound kid?

His cat looked up at him with an almost quizzical look. Its not like the cat would ever respond, despite a cat having over one hundred distinct vocal sounds. However, the cat appeared to understand the gist of what he said, and loved the attention. ‘shuffle’; ‘play’, and he closed the glass door on the stereo cabinet. Back to the computer to catch up on email and news.

As he sat down he leaned back to think for a minute. He debated on having his phone line turned off. He didn’t use the phone much at all as it was, and he had the two ISDN channels which could double as a voice line. That would just make it so no one could call in… not a bad thing overall. Or would cancelling his pager be a better thing. These days he didn’t get paged much, and those that did never paged with a code so he could recognize the number. That left a handful of random numbers each week, 20% of which he recognized and returned.

He looked over and his son let out a single meow. “Yeah, I’ll decide later.

  • week

Aside from family, only his ex had remembered his birthday. She even bought him a present on top of lunch. He didn’t really care about his birthday, as it meant very little. But the action of at least remembering it would have been nice, especially from the various friends he did favors for. ‘Get this info for me’, or ‘can you pick up this’, sometimes ‘can I borrow ten bucks’. Didn’t matter what they asked, it was all a lot less than what they did for him. But he was used to it, and expected for them to forget.

Along with that expectation came the desire to distance himself. Like many things, it was the principal behind it, not the actions (or lack thereof) themselves. Perception is everything.

  • day

He posted to a mail list the other night, but hasn’t answered my mail yet. I don’t know what’s up with him.

Hrm. I called him a few times over the past days and only got his machines. He isn’t answering pages either. Wonder if he is ok…

What a dick.. ignoring pages like that.

  • day

The more time passed, the less reason he could find to stay in touch with the people he used to call friends. It amazed him that they would drop by unexpectedly, hang out for hours on end watching TV and drinking his liquor, but when they hadn’t heard from him for a week, they would barely try to reach him. Because of his current shift in daily routine, he had drug a patch cord out to the living room so he could stay online but watch TV or a movie instead of listening to the stereo.

As before, he loved getting email, but even that had changed. He eagerly anticipated getting mail from a handful of people, and barely opened his eyes to sort the other hundred pieces from mail lists. On his list were a few local people he still cared for. Others included a friend from New York, someone he had never met from the ‘Midwest’, a handful of young ‘students’ he was helping in various areas, and one or two other random people that wrote with great infrequency.

Despite the lack of physical contact, or voice communication, he felt closer to those people than most others. He wondered what the chances of compatibility were in each person he mailed. Some cases in the past taught him that meeting over the net was not a way to meet compatible people, while sometimes it proved to work out just fine. No clue on what dictated that characteristic or if there was a way to determine it up front. Not like he had to meet any of them or force the issue either. Just curiosity.

  • day

More problems plagued him now than ever before. Not the amount, but how much they weighed on his tired soul. As always, the people that claimed to care about him could barely read him, let alone understand him. It was a known element in his life, and expected. Why he put up with them was beyond him but his own desire for contact and friendship was still there.

The road ahead was unpaved at best, littered with unmarked turns and more than enough potholes. No matter how he tried to look ahead, no matter how he tried to figure out how to get a map, the more obscured his path became. Sometimes he wished destiny or fate would give him a hint as to where to go, other times he didn’t believe in either. Days passed where flipping a coin to determine change in life seemed a pretty damn good method of choosing. Others he was content to sit back and enjoy the solitude of his domicile, content with the world passing him by.

  • break

Whatever happened, he could only rely on where the day takes him.