Chapter Twenty-Three: “Escapade”

Joey needed a car. He couldn’t use Robin’s car since he promised not to use it for drug-related purposes. Most of the reasons he ever needed a car were for drug-related purposes. This time, he actually needed the car for theft-related purposes, but he had a pretty good idea that was also off limits. He’d been carting drugs around in a backpack ever since Robin had asked him to stop carting them around in the trunk of his Toyota, but he needed something larger for the heist he was going to pull off. It wasn’t really a heist. Calling it a heist was just cooler than calling it petty theft. In reality, he and his cousin Vinny were going to break and enter some mansion Vinny walked past everyday on his way to work.

Vinny worked at a jewellers. The shop’s main business was engagement rings, but Vinny specialized in selling what he referred to as “apology diamonds” and “mistress rings”. According to Vinny, mistresses got rings that looked like they could be engagement rings, but that were sized for any finger that wasn’t the ring finger of the left hand. He had once sold a ring to a man who had planned on giving it to his mistress, a woman who had cut off her entire right hand and the first three fingers, thumb included, of her left in a terrible bandsaw accident. He’d requested for Vinny to put the ring on a chain.

Vinny walked past the mansion before every shift. The owners weren’t home ninety per cent of the time. The other ten per cent, they were shouting at each and their pet chihuahua, whose named was supposedly Bubbles. Joey didn’t believe this for a second because Vinny was terrible with names. He had a co-worker named Sharon that he’d called Yolanda for the first eight months of his employment. Regardless, Bubbles was a very nervous dog. He was also roughly the same size as one of Joey’s feet and would thus not make a very good guard dog according to Vinny. Vinny was a pro at hacking alarm systems because he’d spent most of his life up to that point breaking and entering, largely for fun. All they needed was a car.

Vinny knew a guy. Vinny always knew a guy. Most of the guys Vinny knew were morons, but Joey was choosing to overlook this because he really wanted to do a heist. The guy Vinny knew was a stock boy for one of the jewelry store’s suppliers. He owned his own car and was prepared to help them get off with the valuables they stole from Bubbles and his owners.

“Maltby is a decent dude,” Vinny explained to Joey the night before the heist.

“The fuck kind of name is Maltby?” Joey replied. The two of them were standing in the far corner of the Best Buy parking lot with Joey’s sketchy backpack of crack. No one had approached them in quite some time, possibly because December was fast approaching and Joey was freezing his balls off.

“It’s a family name,” Vinny shrugged, tossing the butt of his fifth cigarette on the asphalt.

“So it’s his last name?” Joey checked.

“No, like his grandpa’s name was Maltby, so his dad’s name is Maltby Jr. and now he’s Maltby Jr. Jr.,” Vinny explained, waving a hand around nonchalantly.

“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Joey said, rubbing his hands over his face in an effort to warm up his nose.

“Yeah, man, it is,” Vinny replied. “Trust me.”

Vinny was always telling Joey to trust him. Joey didn’t trust him at all. Vinny made terrible life choices.

“No fucking way, bro,” was Joey’s response.

“You’ll fucking see,” Vinny said. “Maltby.”

His name wasn’t Maltby. It was Damien. And Joey had been right; Damien was a moron. For starters, he showed up on the night of in a pair of neon running shoes and a purple beanie. He was wearing sunglasses at night because he was a tool. Joey was wearing sunglasses because he’d been punched in the face by some drunk dude leaving a bar the night before. Joey had hit on his girlfriend directly in front of him while he was walking back to his apartment from the Best Buy parking lot, which possibly may not have been his wisest move.

The second issue was Damien’s car itself, a bright yellow Camaro that Joey was fairly convinced he’d bought because he was a fan of the Transformers movie franchise. The fucking car had vanity licence plates. Even Vinny saw an issue with that.

“Look, man, all I’m saying is don’t offer to be the getaway driver if you have vanity licence plates that say 2FAST4U,” he said to Damien, who looked less shamed and more pissed.

“Possibly more important than that, fucker,” Joey stepped in. “Don’t get vanity licence plates at all, especially ones that say 2FAST4U in early 2000s text slang.”

“Fuck you,” Damien spit at them both. “Do you want my help or not?”

Joey did not in fact want his help. Vinny looked like he was going to relent though. Joey pulled him aside.

“We can’t flee a crime scene in a goddamn yellow Camaro,” Joey told Vinny in a harsh whisper. “It’s the least subtle getaway car of all time. We might as well get a megaphone and announce to the world that we’re robbing someone while we’re fucking doing it. And secondly, Maltby’s a fucking tool.”

“Trust me,” Vinny said.

“No,” was Joey’s response.

“No, no, no. Really. Trust me.”

“Shit no.”

“No, no. Come on, man. Trust me.”

“Why do you always want me to trust you so damn bad?” Joey asked.

“Because we’re family,” Vinny answered as if it was that simple.

“First of all, do you not remember when Aunt Tina stabbed Uncle Tony in the back of the hand with that steak knife because he tried to eat the last potato at Thanksgiving dinner?” Joey returned. “And secondly, stop telling me to trust you all the time. You sound like fucking Aladdin.”

“Aladdin’s a goddamn baller,” Vinny argued.

“Get rid of the idiot,” Joey said before walking away to light a cigarette. Vinny went to speak to Damien, who stormed over to his Camaro a moment later and sped out of the parking lot where they’d met with his tires squealing like the dumb ass he was.

“Now how are we going to get away with stuff?” Vinny demanded, arms crossed over his chest like he was disappointed in Joey.

“You have arms, dipshit,” was Joey’s answer.

As it turned out, it was not a very good solution to a very real problem. Actually, to be exact, it was not a very good solution to the first of many very real problems. To start with, Bubbles turned out to be a particularly vicious miniature doberman named Duke, who tore several holes in Joey’s pants and another one in his fucking leg. Beyond that, Duke’s owners were in the process of moving, which was clearly why they were never home. They didn’t have barely anything in their house. There was a gigantic cream sectional underneath a drop cloth in the living room that Joey wouldn’t even consider moving, even if it had been carved out of solid gold. And the only other thing in the entire house was a chandelier that Vinny assured him was made of crystal.

“I work at a jewelry store, fuck-weasel,” were Vinny’s exact words.

“You sell ugly necklaces to middle-aged men who buy convertibles without telling their fat wives,” Joey retorted.

“Trust me,” Vinny said in response.

“Fuck off, Aladdin,” Joey snapped back, but he ended up helping Vinny steal the goddamn chandelier anyway. It was heavy. It was also very difficult to walk down the street with a chandelier and not draw the attention of any passing stranger. At another time, it may have been possible for the pair of them to pass it off as relatively normal, like they were had just bought a crystal chandelier and were walking it home to install it in their foyer, but even that was a stretch. It was significantly less easy to play it off casually while it was midnight on a Saturday and Joey had blood running down the front of his leg from the open wound in his left thigh. Besides which, he and Vinny looked generally like the kind of people that stole shit from strangers. That was fair; they’d just stolen shit from strangers.

They made it about three blocks away before it became too obvious that they were doing something illegal. Vinny announced that they needed somewhere to hide the chandelier so that they could come back and get it the next day when he’d be able to borrow their nona’s champaign Mercury Sable. They ducked into a nearby church and stashed it in the boiler room in the basement. That was the nice way of saying it. In reality, Joey jimmied open a basement window, slithered inside, knocked over a stack of collection trays while he dropped to the ground, and then stuck the stolen chandelier behind the furnace. He was fairly certain he was going to go to hell. On the other hand, that had seemed like something of a guarantee much earlier in his life anyway.

The next morning, Vinny took the street car up to their Nona’s apartment in the far north end of the city to get the car and Joey made his way back to the church to pick up the chandelier. Again, their brilliant plan fell short. What they failed to take into account was the fact that it was Sunday morning, the Lord’s day. There were devout, church-going people inside the church already. Some of them were praying. Joey was walking with a limp because of the dog bite from Duke and he still had a black eye from getting punched in the face by a stranger. He was wearing track pants and a white tank top underneath his open parka. Elderly women in pantsuits were glaring at him. He had half a mind to tell them it wasn’t a very Christian reaction. But then someone in the back row of the sanctuary caught his eye.

“Hey, sweet cheeks,” Joey said, slipping into the pew next to Robin’s friend Finch, the angry one with the shaved head and the attitude problem. He turned his head slightly to glare at Joey.

“What happened to your face?” He asked in return.

“Escapade,” was Joey’s answer.

“What?”

“Escapade,” Joey repeated. “I went on an escapade. Like the Janet Jackson song. Come on, honey, you know the one.”

And then to what Joey assumed was Finch’s great horror, he began singing the chorus to “Escapade”. Some of the elderly women turned to glare at them, not that it did anything to deter Joey in the slightest.

“Stop that,” Finch said after a minute. Joey did, but only because he’d lasted longer than he’d expected.

Joey ended up staying for the entire service. It wasn’t as if he and Vinny would be able to smuggle a stolen chandelier out of the boiler room while a congregation of judgemental senior citizens watched them. At the end of the service, when Finch stood to leave, Joey pinched him on the ass and kissed his forehead.

“Catch you later, babe,” he said, horrifying the couple sitting in front of them. Then he dashed out to the back parking lot to meet up with Vinny and wait until the church had cleared out enough for them to sneak back in for the chandelier. They slunk down in the backseat and waited. At least the car didn’t look out of place in the parking lot full of beige and silver extended sedans.

In the end, when they went to sell the chandelier, they discovered that the crystal was actually plastic and that it was a cheap knockoff that had probably been installed in the house in the mid-80s. They pawned it for thirty dollars and Joey had to take antibiotics for three weeks because of his dog bite. He filed the experience away as a clear example the next time Vinny demanded his trust.

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