Russell Greene and Paul Yoni were glad to be out of prison. After being ratted out by “Doc”, Anthony Pignone, their former bartender to the tune of ten thousand dollars, they had both spent a stint upstate. That was, if you could call ten years for armed bank robbery a stint.
“Why the hell do they call him Doc anyway Yoni?”
“Maybe he’s got a green thumb.”
“Yeah, from sitting on it all day!”
They were staking out the man who had turned on them. Finding out who it had been had been easy enough. Trace the paperwork back to the cheap attorney who had arranged the deal, slide him a couple of grand and viola! Instantly they were rocketed into their long awaited plans for revenge.
The southern California landscaping business Doc had started with his snitch pay was thriving, and Paul and Russ were waiting outside of the equipment barn and full scale nursery that were an integral part of Doc’s now three million dollar net worth company, which should be winding down for the day any time now. The mile long driveway to the property was lined with two robust veined granite boulders on either side which had plaques from the local city council for awards for business excellence, and plenty of room for more. In the distance, they could see some of the bigger equipment left here during their work day, tractors and back hoes and their transport flat beds with the hitches to haul them via the work trucks to the job sites.
Russ and Paul were parked about a hundred feet down the street from the grand entrance, and were a little concerned that they might stick out and alert Doc on this back country North County San Diego road where horses and ranches every few miles were the only places where you could find other people. It was too late to move though, as at present moment the parade of returning trucks and trailers and landscapers begin to file on down the long narrow dirt road and turn one by one into the driveway. This was the moment they had been waiting for. They had posed as a potential client coming to personally visually inspect some trees for the property they wanted to have redone, and had made Doc promise to wait for them at seven thirty pm at the nursery, a full half hour after all of the workers should have gone for the day. It was currently six thirty, a full hour ahead of their scheduled meeting with Doc.
The hour finally slid by and the moment arrived after a grueling and sweaty, long wait watching the workers file one by one back out in their private vehicles and heading home. It was a hot San Diego summer evening, and they were both quite damp in their civvies as they could not afford to run the air conditioner, for fear of having it seem out of place to have this running car just off the property. None of the workers or supervisors seemed to notice them, however and the moment they had snared to snatch their snake of a snitch had come.
“Here we go!” Russell retorted at the final work truck leaving, grabbing for his newly black market acquired piece. They had decided that not having a gun would be too much of a folly, and had spent the extra cash in Los Angeles the weekend prior. It had taken about a full day of taking the risk of asking around, but several hours later, they had scored a Smith and Wesson Twenty Two which the seller claimed was clean of any investigations.
Russ and Paul pulled the car up the driveway to the barn about three hundred yards from the entrance to the nursery, and left it there. Paul took the gun from Russ and shoved it in his back, wedged between his belt and his right hip. They both pulled their caps down very low, to keep Doc from seeing their faces before they got close enough to grab him. As they approached the trellis that marked the entrance to the nursery covered with its vines, twisting all around the rosebushes which desperately clung to its inner circumference, they noticed a light in the shed just inside of the nursery. They looked at each other, nodded, took one last surveying look around to make sure they were alone, and broke into a run for the shed.
They caught their old friend completely off guard, with his back to the small office converted from an equipment shed’s door, examining invoices from the day’s work. It was like “taking candy from a baby” from the point Doc saw the gun forward, and they quickly handcuffed him with the police issue cuffs they had bought and stuffed him in the back of the car. They felt the trunk would be too hot, and they needed him alive for the time being, not dead of heat stroke. Not that they were going to kill him necessarily, that they had not made a final decision on that yet.
“So, Pauley, now that we found out who the man is, what do we do with the man?”
Doc whimpered in the backseat from the strain of the ridiculously tight handcuffs and the bump he probably had on his head from when Paul had smashed his crown from behind with the butt end of the gun.
“Now, now, Doc. Take your time like a man. It’s your turn,” Paul directed to the slowly dimming backseat as they cruised further North down the coastal highway “It’s your freaking turn.”
Russell smiled and inadvertently yelled “Eh! Whats up Doc?!” followed by a chuckling, “I couldn’t resist…”
A few minutes of silence ensued that made Doc very nervous, as if the air was thick with a kind of tension you could almost cut with a knife. The thought of knives and of cutting made him shudder as the car hurtled ever forward towards his unknown destination. They had been driving for over an hour now, and he could barely feel his hands. That would make it about eight- thirty, or a full two hours before his wife would expect him home from his usual Thursday night carousing at the local tavern before retiring for the evening to their humble La Jolla home. Things between them lately had been so distant and cold that he doubted she even would panic if he didn’t make it home at all.
“Thinking about your lovely wife, Catherine, there, Doc?” Paul said with a sneering grin on his seedy, skinny, dark complexioned Greek face, nodding enthusiastically and sardonically to the affirmative so that his greased back hair slid slightly out of place in the front.
“She is a cutie. Maybe we should call her up and ask how much she thinks your worth? What do you say, Doc?” Paul continued on, fixing the hair that was out of place absentmindedly while taunting his victim.
Doc remained absolutely silent. He had nothing to say to either of these two. He certainly understood why they wanted him, and he felt it would be more than on deaf ears it would fall if he tried to justify his actions ten years prior. Before the company, before he met Catherine, before the kids, before the long and numbingly comfortable slide into upper class entrepreneurial living with all of its trappings. Back when he would squeeze every nickel, dime and penny to as far as he could make it go, as he had so few. Those hard times had forged the irons within that had given him the courage and skills with money and planning to grow his at first meager lawn mowing business.
As they sped further down the coastal highway, Paul and Russell engaged in bantering conversation debating on a number of topics ranging from whether or not to kill Doc or where their next food stop should be. At one point, the conversation turned to other dealings they apparently had going on that had been arranged from the inside. To Doc’s horror, they spelled out the entire insider information planning they had lent to two characters they were evidently on their way to meet. They had given the key information, maps, codes, and instructions on how to pull off a multi-million dollar heist of a very wealthy gated Santa Barbara home to two brothers Antonio and Timothy Severes who had agreed to cut them in for half in exchange for the guaranteed to succeed planning efforts of Paul and Russell.
Doc was surprised that the two partners in crime, literally, had been allowed contact with each other on the inside, and soon found out that communications between the two had been limited to passing information via their shared legal representation with whom they were allowed weekly visits to discuss various things. That’s when Doc put two and two together. When they mentioned the name of the lawyer, Joseph Menudo, his stomach sank. That was the name of the lawyer he had used to arrange the release of information about the two to the authorities ten years prior. As the conversation went on, he learned that the two had hired someone to track down the lawyer and paid him to release Doc’s name years ago, and had maintained a healthy and secret client attorney relationship themselves using him to further extend their law breaking capabilities from inside of prison walls. The two were not eligible for early release due to the fact it was both of their second strike on the same crime, armed robbery, and the illegal use of a deadly weapon guilty sentences. A third bust would give them both ensured three strike felony counts sentencing them to twenty – five to life in prison for their next offense. The two did not seem fazed by this, and Doc was once again proud of his decision to turn them in so long ago.
Finally at about quarter after nine, the two pulled the car into a heavily wooded mostly desolate camping area which was about a mile off the main highway. Paul covered Doc with a blanket and then immediately pistol whipped him unconscious. He was taking no chances with this character, this was too long in the planning to go down any other way, and besides, he rather enjoyed taking a few of the beatings he had received on the inside from both guards and inmates alike out on the rat.
“He out?” Russ asked in a very calm and detached voice, obviously tired from driving.
Paul went into to the campsites trailer office and paid the fifteen dollar a night registration fee to use a campsite, and requested the furthest back on the map of sites. Returning to the car, he found that their other company had arrived, Antonio and Timothy. Running the vehicles license plate information in to the front desk, he relished the fact that tomorrow at this time they would have their share of a looting safe smash and grab that was two hundred times the amount they could get from a bank job, and best of all it was in unmarked gold bars, easily liquid and easier to explain without complication. Antonio and Timothy exchanged formalities, the secret shake so to speak, and then followed as Russ drove them back to their campsite for the evening. Campsites kept no online records of the names and identities of their residents unlike hotels and motels, and could not be called on to pass the information on.
The four some built a healthy campfire with the generous leftover wood the previous campers had abandoned, and before they knew it, they were telling real life ghost stories and chuckling at their good fortune. During this time, Doc woke up, seeing double and feeling very out of sorts. They had removed him from the backseat, and removed his handcuffs. In their place were heavy fiber ropes binding his hands and feet and connecting the two like shackles to keep him from getting too far. He lay just outside of the ring of observation of the four who were now heavily engaged in exchanging the information as to the whereabouts of the loot from the job they had to retrieve in teams the following day. Evidently Tony and Timmy, as they were calling them now, had felt it unsafe to drop all of the goods in one place, and had buried it in two spots near highway markers on two separate desolate stretches of road. They recited the highway markers and the paces on the compass to march off to find the buried treasure.
Just then a huge piece of wet log heated to the point where the moisture caused it to pop and explode, sending a shower of sparks everywhere. A large piece of red hot wood landed right next to Doc, and he quickly went to work on the ropes about his limbs with it. Five minutes later, Doc was free and waiting for the next opportune time to slip away from the men and make his escape. Debating still on whether he should wait until the men went to sleep, he stole away into the night as the drunken fools discussed how they were going to spend their gold.
The campsites were all deserted, and he found that he went virtually unnoticed passing through back towards where he hoped he would find the exit. He considered going to the front desk as he passed it, and turning them in, but then he had an even better idea. First get their loot, then turn them in again for yet another informant fee to be received. He would even use the same damn lawyer, so the two would know it was he. Slipping quietly up on the front desk trailer, he saw an unlocked ten speed bike sitting in front. He peeked in the windows, and saw the clerk dozing off in front of an old black and white rerun of the Honeymooners, and took his opportunity. Riding off at breakneck speed, “Doc” Anthony Pignone, Tony to friends, Doc by reputation, Mr. Pig when not Dad to his kids, was finally free.
As luck would have it, Russell and Paul had neglected to take his wallet from him, which left him a lot more in the way of options. Doc recognized this stretch of Highway One oh One from the spring vacation drives to San Jose he and his wife and the kids would take every year, and headed south as fast as his stiff joints could pedal. Blind with fear and the taste of ultimate success at both the removal of his tormentors and their wares, he was a panting, soggy mess about five miles later when he came on a gas station.
Doc withdrew four hundred dollars from the ATM, and called a cab. Directing the cabbie to take him to the nearest town that would have a rental car establishment, he nursed his aching head with a bag of frozen peas he had picked up at the gas stations mini market section.
Easily obtaining a rental car from an establishment open until midnight in the nearby town, he set off for the nearest all night department store to pick up a shovel, a compass, a flashlight, two duffel bags, and a cheap prepaid cell phone.
“Going hunting for buried treasure?” the clerk asked as he moved through the check out line.
“Every day, every day,” he wearily responded, trying not to give in to a tell tale blush, “I bury my cash to hide it from my wife. Insures I get no interest from either her or the bank.”
Climbing back into the rental car, he made notes in his new cell phone after activating it as to the whereabouts of the buried loot. He prayed that the men still had not noticed his absence, or that they were at least still concerned with searching the immediate area for him and not going after their loot early. Driving to the first mile marker Timmy had mentioned, Doc warily pulled over. Maybe he should have picked up a bat for self defense as well, but leave it to him to bring a bat to a gunfight.
Using the compass to pace off the directions burned in his memory from back at the campsight, Doc came on fresh overturned earth. Five minutes of digging later, he was filling his duffels with glowing, heavy, unmarked bars of gold wrapped carelessly in a dirty burlap bag like the ones he used to wrap the roots of trees at the nursery for replanting. Jogging back to the car, he stashed the gold and all of the other equipment in the trunk. Now it was time to call his wife.
In a brief and surprisingly light conversation about his ill fate and their recent good fortune, Doc related the events of the night to his wife. She was surprisingly unmoved by the events of the night, stating that he had brought it on himself. He told her of the gold, and that he would meet her at home to celebrate after a visit the following day to Joseph Menudo, Esquire. Hanging up, he made another brief phone call to his head supervisor at the landscaping company to announce that he would not be making it into work the following day.
“Everything alright boss?” Frank had asked.
“If you like being pistol whipped unconscious, it was just dandy!”
“You alright, boss?” Frank had asked even more concerned.
“Yeah, just make sure you get it done for me tomorrow or you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
Doc hung up the phone, and dialed for directory assistance. He looked up Joseph Menudo, Esquire and figured what the hell, the least he could do was leave him the good news in a message. The phone at the poor lawyer’s office rang five times and then went to a very grainy analog recording of the attorney’s secretary reading nasally instructions on leaving Attorney Menudo a message. The line clicked, and warbled, and went blank for a few seconds, and then beeped loudly.
“Mr. Menudo, I don’t know if you remember me, but I have a deal for you. Names Pignone. I am going to visit you tomorrow at eleven with another informant case I have run across about two of your healthiest clients. If they don’t kill me first. Menudo huh? You sound good enough to eat. Maybe we’ll do lunch too, so I can formally thank you for flipping on me the last time. Don’t worry, I won’t eat you alive. I like them rare.”
He chuckled, and liking his message, hung up the phone. Time for the second pile of loot. But he was nervous. He decided to head back into town to a late night pawn shop he had seen to acquire a gun.
Barely reaching the store before it’s eleven o’clock closing, he begged the clerk to sell him a gun. He briefly related that he had two ex- convicts after him and he was worried about his safety.
“You don’t need a gun son, you need the police.” The clerk responded.
“If the police need guns, so do I.”
“I’m gonna pretend like I didn’t hear that.”
The clerk then proceeded to pull a revolver out from under the counter which he placed on the counter top.
“Came in today. One of those no paperwork deals. I trust you won’t be telling no one I did this, right?”
Doc paid for the revolver and practically ran back out of the door with his weapon and it’s heavy box of shells in a brown paper bag that read “Fashion Bug”.
Loading the gun carefully and making sure he was familiar with its workings, Doc put it into the glove box fully loaded and pulled back out of the space across from the pawn shop his rental car had occupied. As he drove out of town, he wondered how long he should bury the gold for himself, seeing as the thieves could double back on him and get him busted holding the take from the heist. In any case, it would make a healthy retirement fund that would ensure he could sell the business when he turned sixty – four and by the time he was sixty – five be playing golf at one of those resident golf course retirement communities even after footing the bill for his kid’s college educations.
Recalling several times to check his sureness of memory, Doc drove to the second and final spot where Timmy had said the loot was buried. This time, arming himself with the revolver, he repeated the set of compass guided steps to the once again, freshly moved patch of earth, and unearthed the second half of the gold, once again in a dirty burlap bag. Packing the other duffel bag, he briskly sped up realizing just how much time had passed since he had escaped. He half jogged back to the car, loving the weight of the revolver in his right hand and the gold in his left holding the short straps of the duffel, swinging freely against his hip from its longer strap set squarely on his shoulder.
Breathing a sigh of relief at the task being finalized, he was ready to make his break south in the rental car. Only one thing stood in his way; the gas light was on and the oil light all at once. Of all the lousy luck, he cursed to himself as he swung into a roadside gas station he just happened to be passing as he noticed the two indicators. He quickly filled up, and added two quarts of oil to the well without even checking the dip stick, just for good measure. Then it happened. His luck ran out.
Pulling into the gas station all at once were Paul, Russ, Tony, all piled into Timmy’s blue sedan with him behind the wheel. Their eyes lit up and Doc saw Paul immediately groping for his gun. Running around to the adjacent passenger side with its, thankfully, open window, Doc took good cover and retrieved the revolver from the glove box in one swift move. Timmy swung the sedan around to give Paul better aim, and opened himself up for an easy shot. Doc took it, and hit Tim square in the forehead with a forty five millimeter bullet that instantly killed him and sent the car speeding up and careening directly through the gas station’s front display. The recoil hurt Doc’s arm, and made his shoulder briefly numb, and he ran for the driver side, hoping not to have to kill again.
It was a full hour before Doc’s breathing returned to normal as he drove within the speed limits slowly south on the coastal drive. He could be fairly sure he was not being hunted by either the bad boys or the good ones at this point. Now this was going to put a spin on his memoirs! Not that he intended on writing any to be published before he was long gone. Too much ugly politics, and now an illegally obtained weapon committing a self defense dead straight sharp shooter shot sure to shake the hell out of the shimmying cons in their chagrin. That Timmy character was dead, that was for sure.
Checking into the first roadside motel he passed, Doc slept fitfully with one hand on his revolver throughout the night.
When the morning came, he traveled to the sleazy suburban home of Joseph Menudo, Attorney at Law’s business and sat out front until eleven o’clock sharp. He then made his entry and gave it to the man with all of the gusto he could. First, he gave the man a retainer.
“Not that it does any good with you. I’m kind of hoping it that way, though.”
He gave him the last known whereabouts of Paul, Russ and Tony, said that they had gotten into an internal argument and that Paul had killed one of the four. He told the details of the armed estate vault robbery in Santa Barbara and how they had orchestrated it from the inside. Over the next few hours, Mr. Menudo negotiated a deal with the local D.A. and drew up the papers for the information leading to the once and for all third strike convictions of Paul Yoni, and Russell Greene, with one addition, Antonio Severes.
When all of the paperwork was signed and the deal was done, Doc thought it all seemed a bit too surreal. Remembering the gold in his trunk, he set off for home to get his wife on board to travel south of the border to bury their loot before the kids came back home from school.
Switching the duffel bags into his own work truck’s covered bed along with the rest of the equipment from the trunk of the rental car in his driveway, Doc prepared for the final curtain call of all of this for many years to come. He entered his home, and related to his wife what needed to be done to ensure their safety.
“But what about Paul, and Russell?” she asked, her voice wavering, lip quivering in fear.
He hugged her and reassured her that they would soon be caught and would be going away for the rest of their natural lives. At this, she burst into tears that Doc could only read as a kind of relieving release of relief.
A few moments later, Catherine went into their bedroom to prepare to leave. She returned a few minutes later with a fresh set of heavy makeup and her large passport carrying attaché case. They set off on the road to somewhere far south where they would bury their hand me down ill gotten gains in the deserts of Baja, Mexico.
After crossing the border and reaching a famous old rest stop on the way out of the Rosarito Beach area, Doc carefully set the odometer on the truck to record how far they were to travel. The ride was mostly silent, save the soft glowing Mexican music from a nearby radio station lulling from the pickups speakers. The air seemed tense, and he hoped that task accomplished, he could clear the air with his wife once and for all. He decided all at once, that they were going to bury the revolver with the gold as well, and he pulled it from the glove box where he had stashed it earlier and handed it to Cathy.
“Don’t let me forget that, will you?”
“You bought a gun?”
“Honey, it was all I could do to stay alive through the last day even armed.”
“Did you use it, I mean, is it loaded?”
“Yes it’s loaded.”
This seemed to steel Cathy for the coming deeds left to be done, the digging, the ditching, and the dreadful wait for the delicious day they could be safe from direct prosecution and recover the gold. She fiddled with the gun, seeming to find comfort for the first time all afternoon in learning about it’s workings.
“Don’t worry hon, you’ll never have to use it.”
“I should hope if I do I don’t hurt myself. What is this a forty- five?”
“Magnum I do believe. One of the best.”
“What a waste.”
Finally they arrived in the right spot Doc felt to stash underground the gold and the gun. A spot where the land was undeveloped, and unworthy of developing anytime in the near future which would be undisturbed by anyone for the coming decades it would save their secret stash.
Doc and Cathy carefully walked off a half mile in the southeast direction in to the desert before he finally drove the stake in the ground which would mark their spot. He then dug a hole that would be fitting to bury a man in, fearing that animals could become curious out here of the human smells and the freshly disturbed earth and unknowingly uncover their future retirement. When he finished, he looked up and saw Cathy, standing there with a sad look on her face, still holding the revolver.
She waited until he was in line with the hole, and then took aim with the revolver.
“You dumb fuck, Paul was my boyfriend. That’s how I met you in the first place. I was supposed to take you out. Guess it’s never too late.”
With that she emptied the revolver into Doc’s jerking and flesh flying, jarred body until he fell neatly into his own freshly dug grave.