Phildelphia, home of the Broad Street Bullies, the city of brotherly love.
Part one of this totally fictional adventure is here.
Wednesday morning we took the Lincoln Tunnel out of New York and driving by the huge port in New Jersey Declan said, “Can you imagine the amount of graft in there every day?”
I said the black market economy in there must be as big as the economy of lots of small countries and Declan said, yeah, “Everybody getting a piece.”
Thousands of containers, millions of them, coming off ships and being put on trucks, probably twenty-four hours a day.
I said, “Scams and graft,” and then I thought that might be a good name for the rock band in Tumbling Dice, the book I was working on, Ladies and Gentlemen, Scams and Graft! Maybe the management company.
Then I said, I always like a good scam. “There were these guys, when I was living in Alberta, welders or gasfitters or something, they made a fake cover for an overnight bank deposit drop, put it on a different bank branch everynight. It was pretty clever, it fit right over the real one, looked just like it but it caught the deposit bags. They’d leave it up for a few hours, collect the bags, take the fake front and move on.”
Declan said that was pretty good, clean. “But you’d need to be a pipefitter, wouldn’t you?”
I glanced sideways at him and realized he was thinking of how to work something like that.
“They got caught, it was funny, because the fake front they had was for the Bank of Nova Scotia and they spelled it wrong, they had it down as Scotai instead of i-a.”
“So you’d have to be a pipefitter who could spell, then?”
I said, yeah, I guess so, and figured I’d better not mention any more scams because Declan was looking at them all as business plans.
Noir at the Bar in Philly was great. Peter Rozovsky has a brain the size of a planet and could easily be the most annoying, arrogant guy around – I know I would be if I was half as smart as he is. But he’s not. Declan and I each read from our books and then answered questions and it turned into a great night. We had a few beers with the nice people who’d come out, one of them was Scott Phillips who wrote The Ice Harvest and I bought a copy after reading the first page and getting hooked by the description of a waitress in an empty bar on Christmas Eve as having, “dishwater blonde hair that looked like she’d got shitfaced and decided to cut it herself.” At about one thirty we walked back to the little hotel we were staying at on the other side of downtown.
We were both in a good mood, talking about writing books and feeling like professionals, like we had some idea what we were doing. It was strange then, it still is, to have people ask questions as though we know something other than, “It sounded cool so I wrote it down.” People looking for some kind of secret to writing and publishing, something other than, make it the way you really want it and then send it to publishers. We’d both, Declan and I, got amazingly lucky and we knew it.
Then Declan said, “Look,” and I saw the car, slowing down in front of the bank, the girl getting out of the passenger seat, looked to be in her twenties, if that. She was carrying a gray canvas bag and going to the night deposit drop.
Declan was moving then, saying, “Don’t have to spell for this,” and running past the girl, not even slowing down as he grabbed the bag.
The girl just stood there staring at him and a guy started getting out of the driver’s seat but his huge fucking gut got in his way and he stumbled, falling into the street, yelling, “You fucking punk, I’ll fucking kill you.”
It might have been his keys in his hand and it might have been a gun, I was running too fast and shaking too hard to really tell.
Declan was gone, down the alley and into the dark.
I looked back and saw the girl – she looked like the waitress from Noir at the Bar, she sure didn't get shitfaced and cut her own hair – laughing and shaking her head but not moving and I saw the fat guy getting up and telling at her to get in the fucking car.
Then I heard, “Over here,” and I saw Declan, maybe ten feet into the alley leaning against the wall looking like he was waiting for a bus.
I said, “What the fuck?”
He pointed and said, “That’s our hotel,” and there it was, across the street from the bank where the fat guy and the waitress were making the deposit. The car was long gone, I guess the guy figured we’d still be running and he was trying to catch us.
Declan dropped the canvas bag and was looking at the cash, disappointed it wasn’t more, saying, “Fucking credit cards, no one pays in cash. All this credit, it’ll go bad, you know.”
Yeah. I followed him back to the hotel thinking the news was full of people worried about the credit crunch, the sub-prime mortgages starting to default. That’s our big problem, too much credit.
Just like in books my heart was pounding and my fingers were numb. There was no way I’d get any sleep before the drive to Baltimore.
Good thing I had that Ice Harvest to read.