They drove through Blue Hills Reservation to the ring road. On its edge was a rock pit the locals used for target shooting. A squat, black-haired man stood beside a Silverado and fired at plastic bottles with a homemade Glock.
Marek parked the sedan by the river. Vin slammed the passenger door and the black-haired man spun around.
“Aim’s good,” Vin said. He pulled his revolver, raised it at the man’s stomach. “It’s not everything.”
Marek pumped a twelve-gauge Ithaca. The man dropped his gun in the gravel.
“Wallet,” Vin said. “Francis Moretti, 56 Winter Street, Brockton. You like living in Brockton, Mr. Moretti?”
“City of Champs.”
Vin shot Moretti in the throat, shoulder, and back. Marek retrieved his keys and wheeled the Silverado to the highway. Vin followed in the sedan.
The safe house was on Sheehan Street in Stoughton. They parked the truck in the garage and switched its plates. Soon it was ten o’clock—Marek needed sleep.
Vin pulled the Seagram’s bottle from his lips: “Not yet.”
They filled two cups with ice and whiskey and drove over to Sharon. Outside an elm-lined boulevard, Vin stopped the car. “See that house?” Vin said, pointing at a wide, two-story mock Tudor. “Owner works in the Financial District. In 2005, half a mil. Today, it’s worth two.”
Marek nodded, crushed a piece of ice between his molars.
“Know what else happened that year?” Vin said. “After not seeing my dad for nine months, the FBI crashed my birthday party.”
Lamps tapered down the dark street. Marek closed his eyes. He dipped a finger in the whiskey, licked it.
“You know,” Vin said, “if they’d left my dad alone, I’d be living in that house, or one even bigger. I’ve taken my chances.”
“Me too,” said Marek. “Meant to ask you about Agnes.”
Vin scowled. “Who?”
“What does she want?”
“Well, I want to stay with her,” Marek said. “Spend time with the boy.”
“Remember last year, when you went to Rhode Island?” Marek said. “I found a Polish girl in Dorchester.”
“She already popped one out?”
“Yes and no.”
Vin chuckled. “You’re leaving Stoughton to play with another man’s kid?”
They rolled back through Canton and Vin nudged him awake. Marek kept his eyes shut. He smelled vomit on his collar.
“Hope it’s the drink,” Vin said. “Hell, you’ve mentioned Agnes. I’d said to avoid American women.”
“My blue shirt in the back?”
“Damned if it is,” Vin said. “Shook so bad, thought you’d eat your tongue… I forget you’re Polish. Your mother grew up with that bullshit—the commie life. Do this, do that, it’s a world of cops. And what’s worse than a cop, let alone forty million?”
“Welcome to snitch town.”
“Who’s a snitch?”
“No one,” Marek told him. “I’m just saying.”
Two years ago, during their first robbery, Vin killed an armored car hopper. They waited until he stood behind the rear doors. From the top of a white convertible, Vin fired the Remington at the guard’s back. The driver—following company policy—sped off around the corner. Vin dropped a smoke grenade, Marek peeled from the lot.
The next two jobs were bank takeovers. At a corner branch in Wellesley, Vin controlled the customers while Marek guided the tellers and their keys to the vault. Despite the small bills and discard money, the robbery earned them a hundred thousand dollars. The Griffin heist was even bigger: Marek cleaned out the wheeled lockbox and ATM.
Now they were casing the thirty-first Northern Federal Bank in Sharon. The pair spent days with a two-hundred channel radio scanner and calculated response time at eight minutes. Given the bank’s distance from the Foxborough barracks, the Special Tactics and Operations unit needed fifteen.
That night, Marek and Vin heard the news—Moretti was alive.
Shot five times and left for dead, the Brockton man staggered a mile through undergrowth and lay in serious yet stable condition at South Shore Hospital.
“We made it big,” Vin said, “which means cops and the Violent Crimes Task Force scouring Norfolk County. Grid searches. Rolling stake-outs. At the least, we ditch the truck and hit Sharon this week.”
Following the botched murder, they’d added two AK-56 rifles and a Bushmaster XM-15 Dissipator to the arsenal. Vin converted them to automatic by grinding down the second selector stops and drilling holes to insert auto-sear pins. But conversions caused jams—he’d test-fire them at a cranberry bog in Rhode Island, a few miles from his girlfriend’s house.
Marek bought Narragansett and Wild Turkey and spent the night alone in Stoughton. All week he hadn’t visited his apartment, or the condo in Canton where Agnes lived with her son. He watched Cobra, then finished the beer and went to bed. Before taking the stairs, Marek trudged to the garage for his Beretta. He emptied the magazine. Bullets dropped on the wooden work bench: Hirschenberg submachine gun rounds.
The ammo increased the pistol’s range by ten to fifteen yards, but meant he risked it blowing up in his hand. After three more shots of Wild Turkey, he called his mother.
“It’s four in the morning,” she said. “Did you sleep?”
“When I was born, what did I, uh, resemble?”
“A normal baby.”
“No tail?” Marek examined one of the bullets, holding it between his index and middle fingers. He laid it down and unscrewed his bottle of Luminal. “Horns? Webbed feet?”
“You’ve been drinking.”
“Thinking,” Marek said. “You definitely mean thinking.”
“Did you phone Agnes?”
“She’s like you,” Marek said. “A Polish girl in Dorchester…You know, I never asked to be born.”
Marek hung up.
“What with the ammo?” Marek said. He and Vin sat on a hill in Newton Highlands, in the front seats of a Chevy Malibu stolen before torching Moretti’s truck.
“Ammo?” Vin said. “Test firing went fine. That Chinese stuff can shoot five thousand rounds.”
“Hirschenberg stuff. In the Beretta.”
“Does it bother you?”
“Took a lot to ask,” Vin said, “because usually, you don’t.” Vin turned on the engine and sped down I-95 to Stoughton. “Consider the afterlife? I mean, the life after this job…Where you heading, Mr. Podgorski?”
“Agnes,” Marek said.
“Forget her,” Vin said.
“More than one way.”
“Got that right.” Vin pulled into the driveway on Sheehan Street. “To answer your question, the Beretta’s mine. You need ammo after this one—ask.”
Marek and Vin planned the Northern Federal takeover for Thursday morning, ten minutes after the armored car’s departure. They sewed watches into the backs of their gloves and Vin’s body armor covered him shoulder to shin. All week he’d hunched over the Singer, joining and stitching patches from aramid vests. Wrapped around his arms and legs, the material was strong enough to stop police rounds and flexible enough to absorb their force. Marek wore a standard Level III-A vest with a steel trauma plate. The driver had less need for protection; in any case, his heart was too weak to carry forty pounds of padding.
At eight o’clock, they loaded the Malibu’s trunk with a dozen hundred-round snail drums, as well as three thousand rounds of steel-cored ammunition. Marek flattened a green and black duffel bag over the backseat, concealing the rifles.
Marek and Vin passed a NO SHOOTING IN SHARON sign and parked by the bank door.
The armored car left Northern Federal at nine-fifteen.
A man in gray sweats emerged from the vestibule and rounded the corner. They synchronized their watches, loaded the rifles, and ran to the lobby.
Vin fired ten rounds into the ceiling. “This is a hold-up…”
Marek heard faint screams, felt the tablets in his blood. He shot out the bulletproof teller door and shards of fiberglass panel and shrapnel flew above the prone customers.
The man standing before the gate wore a cheap blue jacket and green striped tie. Marek knew him as assistant manager Oscar Oliveira; he and Vin had tailed his Nissan around Sharon.
“Open the day gate,” Marek said.
Oliveira stared at the gun. Marek took four steps and bashed him over the temple with his rifle stock.
The assistant manager unlocked the vault. Marek scanned the piles of bricked cash and guessed two hundred thousand dollars—half the expected amount.
He knocked Oliveira in the belly, dropped him on the tile. “I saw the fucking truck,” Marek said. “Where’s the rest?”
Oliveira wheezed on the floor. Marek checked his watch: five minutes.
“M-O-N-E-Y,” he told Oliveira. “Kept in a B-A-N-K.”
“It’s gone,” the assistant manager said. He got to his feet, wobbled on his right heel. “That was a pick-up, not a delivery.”
Marek bellowed into the vault. In frustration, he squeezed the trigger and emptied his snail drum, mutilating half of the cash.
“ATM,” Marek said.
Marek called to Vin. They led the customers and tellers to Oliveira and sealed them all inside the vault.
The lobby was cool and harshly bright, smelling of powder and urine; the only sound came from the state highway.
“They’re early,” Vin said. “I’ll head north and meet you.”
Outside, Marek snapped a sight picture: patrol officers crouched behind their engine bays, behind a wall by the Indian place, behind a wooden fence enclosing a row of houses on Chestnut Street. A helicopter east of the bank hovered closer, block by block.
Marek stepped to the curb. Dye packs exploded in the duffel bag.
“Get in the car,” Vin told him, rounding the glass doors. “They’re too far away to hit us.”
As he sat down, Marek heard the trunk open. The helicopter circled them, searching for the closest angle. Their watches beeped: in seven minutes, a STOP team would arrive from Foxborough.
“What’s up?” Marek said, rubbing the steering wheel.
A single shot resounded from the wall. Vin sent off fifty rounds. The salvo hit a cruiser at the end of the lot and a woman cried and screeched.
Vin stared at the helicopter. Marek stepped out from the Malibu and slouched along the side of the bank, resting his rifle butt against the alcove, watching the teller lane.
“Time,” Marek said.
Marek glanced at the duffel bag bulging across the backseat. “We’ve got the money,” he said. “Most of the bills are bricked.”
Vin sniggered. “Give it to Agnes, before she kills you.”
Marek slid in the driver’s seat and pressed the accelerator. A round hit the front right tire. Vin followed the car, emptied a dual snail mag, then drew another from his load-bearing vest. Marek watched a patrolman sprint from his Ford to the Indian place’s wall. Rounds from Vin’s automatic whipped up his legs as smoke rose from his pants.
The Malibu’s rear tires blew out. Marek rolled the car from the lot to the main road.
Pistols and a shotgun sounded across the inner cordon, but nothing penetrated their homemade armor. The scanner finally announced the STOP team’s arrival on Main Street. Vin must’ve heard it, because he ducked behind a trailer on Chestnut. Marek felt wetness on the steering wheel and noticed his thumb bleeding.
Two trucks swerved and almost hit the Malibu’s open trunk. Marek turned right, careened toward the sidewalk. Three of the tires were flat; he needed a new vehicle.
Halfway up the hill, he stopped the car and swung open the door. Marek glanced at the intersection below: on the curb, a policeman ripped off his gun belt and tied it around a woman’s arm. Vin lay bloodied on his back, legs apart, the Beretta inches from his head.
A silver Jeep paused twenty feet above the Malibu. Marek fired his rifle at the windshield, forcing the driver out and away over the fence.
Marek hauled the duffel bag and the AK-56. Staring through the bullet holes, he put the Jeep in drive and hit the pedal: nothing. The man had taken the keys.
An armored van and black sedan stopped on the right side of the Jeep. Marek saw the M-16’s barrel before he saw the officer’s tactical helmet. He loaded a fresh drum. As it snapped into the receiver, a double tap blasted the middle of his chest.
Marek fell to the concrete, ran his fingertips over the steel plate. With the drum loaded, he shot out the sedan’s front doors. He fired again and the rifle jammed. A casing had stovepiped in the ejection port. His thumb was too weak to clear it, and he found racking the slide only worsened the problem.
A bullet hit his left shin, followed by a dozen to his feet, knees, thighs. Marek felt his body go into shock. They handcuffed him and tore off the mask.
“Couldn’t kill me,” Marek gasped.
“Give it time,” the captain said. “Your buddy fired one under the chin.”
Marek wanted to get up and run. That bastard Moretti did it.
An ambulance made it through the cordon. As Marek’s vision blurred, he glanced at the street’s unlit lamps: the bulbs his mother’s eyes, Agnes’s eyes, Vin’s eyes.
He bled to death at Brockton Hospital.
— Max Thrax is managing editor of APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL. His novel God is a Killer is available from Close to the Bone.