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First pages

THE ROBBERY – PART 1

PRACTICING

Ann’s kiss numbs me and anguishes me. I hold my eyes shut while she exits the Dodge, leaving the sense of her tender hands burning my face. My wet lips resist touching each other, afraid of losing her taste. She leaves a trace of floral aroma, and my nostrils try to capture the essence of her perfume hanging in the air. The responsibilities implied in her words reverberate in my mind (she said I can do the robbery). For a couple seconds, my muscles rest, then she slams the passenger door, startling me. With the impact, the door spits the handle off, which lands on the duct tape that patches the now vacant seat. The vibration turns the speaker on; Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” is playing on the radio. What a coincidence: Michigan is a dream to me too.

The song takes me to the 60s. I picture myself with long, disheveled hair, hitchhiking through the country, attending rock concerts with stages placed on farms in the middle of nowhere. I’d sit with friends on the grass, laid-back and laughing for no reason while enjoying bands playing songs about love and peace. That is all I need. The robbery will bring me peace of mind (the money will pay my sister’s treatment), and the love I already have from Ann. I guess she’d have joined me as a hippie. It’s easy to visualize my girlfriend with flowers in her hair and wearing faded clothes. Although, she’d be happier visiting all the art museums in the world over browsing the bargain section of paintings available at the large bookstore. Ann is right, they’re not the same. But she agrees with me; we are so broke that a taxi to the airport is already a luxury we can’t afford.

My sister, on the other hand, doesn’t ask for peace; she loves guns. Since she can’t be part of the action, she pushed me to bring her pistol to the robbery. Speaking of robberies, I’d rather not to steal. Someone in a comfortable position would argue that we have choices. My sister wishes I had the time or the intellect to find a better solution (she says “we,” but I know she means me). I wish my sister’s illness were a bad dream. I wish I could wait it out and somehow a miracle could happen. Unfortunately, time is against us, and waiting is no longer a possibility. It’s on me, and I’m okay with that. I’ve always wanted to end the lethargy and stop being the supporting actor of my existence. Now I’ll be the protagonist and take action, even though the reflection of my opaque eyes in the mirror tells me I’m not up to the task. My hands agree with them. They keep trembling even when I clutch the steering wheel. I stretch my fingers to the point that it hurts, but they continue to shake. That’s why I won’t carry my sister’s gun (who would respect a criminal that can’t keep his gun steady?).

The roar of an engine wakes me from my daze, and the passenger side mirror reveals the bus arriving. I rub my eyes while my lungs suck in as much air as they can. For two seconds, it helps mitigate the sensation of a one-ton rock on my chest. My hands move to my head, and I turn to the mirror; the sidewalk is empty. I catch the tip of her red sneakers as she gets on the bus, and soon after, Ann passes by me at the window. “Don’t be a pussy,” I tell myself. She touches her lips to her palm and blows me a kiss. I say, “Take care,” and pinch the bridge of my nose with the thought of not seeing that smile again. It compels me to stop this madness and gives me the momentum to do what I have to do. It doesn’t matter what I decide. Whatever I do, I may end up losing her; I can either get arrested and spend the rest of my days in a prison, or she can get tired of my lack of courage and walk away. Goddammit. I’m so fucked.

The bus disappears while I go over the plan in my head. Each step must function like clockwork. If any shit happens, there’ll be no way to fix it. We’ve only got one shot to get it right, and several possible ways for things to go wrong. It starts with the fact that this will be my first time, and hopefully my last. My fears vanish when I remember that the worst outcome will hasten a tragedy that’ll happen even if I do nothing. It’s like there’s no risk at all.

I step on the clutch, sigh, and grab the gearshift. “Let’s go,” I tell myself as I shift into first and press the gas pedal. I hear the hum of tires on blacktop as the car speeds up. In my side window, the sidewalks and buildings blur with the green of the grass and trees. And in my mind, I see only the jewelry store; the place that will provide the money we need. I turn to the right, and the image of people crossing the street appears ahead of me suddenly. I stomp the brakes. The squeal from my tires scares a man in a suit and two women. They stare at me, but their glares don’t last long. I wish I could be one of them. I move ahead.

The second turn is to the right, and I make it without almost killing anyone. There’s a beggar leaning against a wall. No envy on my part. Maybe. The exit to the road emerges then, and I take it, heading to the turning point in my life (for good or bad). I can hear my late grandma saying, How many people wanted to have this opportunity? I wished I could answer, “Not me.”

The ramp makes a curve to the left, which gives me a clear view of the cars on both lanes. The traffic is smooth. It allows me to relax and enjoy the landscape while I drive to the target. I know this lull won’t last much longer; rush hour is close, and soon everything will change. It’s a good metaphor for what’s about to happen. Change. Right now my life is lackluster, but there are black clouds on the horizon. Doesn’t matter what I do; chances are a storm will come. I do nothing and my sister dies. If the robbery is a success, I’m sure we will be chased for the rest of our days.

Ahead, the buildings from downtown are fast approaching, getting closer, getting bigger. It’s as if they’re moving, coming toward me. The houses along the highway make me feel glad I live in a trailer. My home is tiny, but at least I don’t have the roar of engines in my yard. That’s funny. I finally found something to brag about regarding my place. I could stay there forever, yet, after the robbery, with or without success, I’ll leave the trailer behind. The landlord already fixed the eviction notice on my door. It’s another change coming my way.

Although today is only a rehearsal, there are risks. I’m afraid somehow my presence in the coffee shop, my lookout tower, so to speak, intrigues all around. I know I may be exaggerating (nobody used to pay attention to me), but I can’t forget that I’ll be robbing a major target for thieves. If I owned the place, I’d have security systems on alert twenty-four hours, seven days a week. That’s why I hope I can identify any flaw in this plan so I can return to my original idea. Despite the fact that my first attempt failed (badly planned, I admit), my idea is still better because I can do it by myself. To tell the truth, I wish I could do the robbery right now and end this anguish. But I’m not convinced I’ve covered all the details yet, and, most importantly, I have to check the timing.

The sign ahead shows one mile until my exit. The ramp is a descent that ends when Fifth Street starts. Funny name since there’s no Fourth or Sixth nearby. It’s perpendicular to the coffee shop, with a strip of old buildings on both sides. The buildings stand like proud guardians of a rich past. They’re stately, but looking closer, anyone can see that the raw bricks that cover them divert the dirt. Two dead ends cut the street before the traffic light at the crossing with State Street. I stop at the red light on the corner, with the wall of the coffee shop on my left. It covers half of the jewelry store across the street. That sight doesn’t bother me like it used to. Now I’m glad it exists. When the light turns green I move forward, and the jewelry store comes in full view in front of me. Looking left, I see two police cars parked on the opposite corner of the coffee shop, right in front of the donut store. It’s a typical day.

On the next block, three wood planks painted with diagonal stripes of white and orange hold a sign that says the street ahead is blocked for through traffic — roadwork. It’s been this way since the first time I drove around this area. I’ve seen no workers around (they may do the job at night). Who cares? I’m planning to turn to the right on Franklin Street, anyway. At the next crossing, I turn to the right again and enter Industrial Street. I find a spot, park my car, and check my watch: there’s still plenty of time. I get out of my old 1968 Dodge Charger, and as I shut its door, the thought of having it painted a different color comes to my mind. The orange is so flashy.

With my hands in the pockets of my hoodie, I walk to State Street, checking the surroundings. I always feel surprised when I spot something new in the windows of the buildings. I sense I’m missing something. My walk through the empty streets brings me a moment of peace until I arrive at the corner of Fifth Street again. At the coffee shop doors, goose bumps prickle my skin; this where everything can change. Both sides of the street look alike, with a line of two-story, early-twentieth-century buildings of red bricks and mortar. That’s the standard style in this part of the city.

My reflection in the cafeteria’s tinted windows shows a kid who seems to have lost his way home. I hope this works in my favor; no one around will guess I’m up to no good. Across the street, the narrow windowless store still has no sign to explain its business, if any. Right next to it, the jewelry store stands out for its black color. It looks like an Irish pub, except for the diamonds drawn on its dark windows on both sides of the door.

The sky is clear. I guess the temperature is around seventy degrees. A chill runs down my spine and spreads through my whole body. As a kid, that place scared me. As a teenager, I hated it with all my being. It killed my dad. I still detest it, but now I see it as a source of hope, even though it’s dark inside.

A few cars and small trucks pass by. This part of the town is better known for its warehouses than its fancy stores. I never saw men in suits and ties, no businesswomen or shoppers walking around. The curb in front of the coffee shop is littered with garbage dropped by pedestrians or passing cars. The asphalt has small cracks, and the paint of the crosswalk is fading. The shadows of the buildings cover the ground almost the entire day. Thus, humidity makes the atmosphere thick and the odor around seems to come from wet rats. The same cars always seem to be parked in the same spots. And, of course, the happy cops are hanging out down the street, relaxing like kids after a school day. They always do that on Fridays.

The jewelry store doors open and a man comes out, stands at the door, and lights a cigarette. I’ve never seen him before. Is he new security? I don’t know. Not a problem, I hope. Two guys wearing wifebeaters pass behind with a suspicious look at me, as if I were an intruder in their land. I’ve seen at least one of them before. They are nothing to worry about. I guess.

I take a deep breath and scan the surroundings one more time. Staring at the jewelry store for a few seconds more, I bite my lips and blink. Then I head inside the coffee shop. The door creaks, announcing my entry, but nobody seems to care. Typical. The smell of coffee is in the air. I’m surprised at the lack of paint on the wood tables and chairs. Not that I’m an expert on coffee shop furniture, but I’m more accustomed to laminate. There are nice paintings hanging on the walls, showing coffee beans being transformed into black liquid. The first one shows the trees. Another one shows the beans roasted, and the third shows large bags of the ground coffee beans. Finally, a fourth painting depicts a white mug of rich, black coffee. The wifebeater guys are in line to order. Their sleeveless shirts give them the appearance of longshoremen, though there’s no port around.

As I find a vacant table close to the window and take a seat, one of the longshoremen in line says, “Look out the window; we’ve got a new hooker.”

His mate rubs his chin. “That one is better than Janine. She must be expensive.”

Across the street, the “new hooker” assesses the area. She walks in circles and then stays at the corner, leaning against the light pole. She’s wearing the orange wig and red lipstick. A short and colorful skirt reveals her long legs. Her white blouse with short sleeves clings tightly to her body. Her bra is also white. The red All Stars give her the look of a high school girl. Any angle she turns, her curves turn heads.

When the line disappears, I stand up to make my order. I leave my car keys on the table to show I’ll be back, walk to the cashier, and ask for a cappuccino. The small tag pinned to her shirt looks like a tiny blackboard, with “Jenny” written in chalk. I count my change with one eye to the street and walk to the other end of the counter to wait for my drink as Jenny goes to the machine. She’s wearing a green apron and beret that hides her long dark hair. She kindly smiles at me (this is rare), but I don’t reciprocate; I’m here for business.

I grab my coffee and sit down just as a black SUV parks and a stylish-looking man gets out from the passenger side. He has dark slicked-back hair, a thin mustache, and a goatee. As usual, he’s wearing a black jacket, black shirt, and black trousers. His sunglasses are also the same, as well the metallic briefcase he’s carrying. He seems to have walked out of a spy movie. He strides to the jewelry store confidently, as if he’ll avoid all the bullets and kill all his enemies. The driver follows him; it’s that rough-looking guy I talked to during my first attempt. He seems to be a wrestling veteran. Tan, a ponytail, and wearing a long-sleeve white shirt tucked into his khaki pants. The muscles in his arms and chest inflate the shirt as if air is trapped inside it. Each step he takes seems like it might break the sidewalk.

I sip my coffee while the armored car arrives and parks in front of the jewelry store. The driver gets out of it, looking very relaxed. That scene doesn’t surprise me anymore. I’d do the same knowing that the nearby donut shop is full of police officers.

Over at the next table, an old man stares at me. His face reminds me of a Pekingese dog with his small eyes and large irises. The eternal frown in his eyes doesn’t go away even when he smiles. His teeth are slightly exposed, and I can’t tell if he’s glad to see me or ready to attack. We’re old acquaintances; we’ve crossed paths with each other around these streets so many times, but we never exchange words. He doesn’t stop staring. I frown back at him, but his eyes don’t leave mine. When I sip my coffee, he says, “You remind me of someone.” I don’t reply. I’m not good with small talk anyway.

Across the street, one guard struts toward the “new hooker,” looking confident like a Don Juan. He stops in front of her with ravenous eyes. They talk like old friends, exchanging smiles and seductive looks. He talks with his hands a lot, appearing to negotiate; I guess he wants it free. With her gentle features combined with thick lips and evil eyes, she can charge as much as she wants. The hooker smiles and nods

I watch as guard number two, the driver, yells to his pal. The Don Juan shows his index finger as if asking for a minute. Then he walks backwards to open the trunk of the armored car without taking his eyes off the hooker. Guard number two pulls out a bag and goes to the jewelry store. The bag looks to be holding something rectangular and large, like a coffee table book. It could be a jewelry box, the new collection the wrestler/driver told me they’d soon bring.

From the back of the coffee shop comes a cough; it makes me remember once again why I’m here. From a table on my side, one of the longshoremen complains that they should not allow an employee to work while sick. I wish I could say something, but again, I’m here for business.

The old man stands up and trudges to my table. He grabs a chair and sits without invitation. I keep myself quiet; I don’t want to call attention. He says, “I don’t know you, but I knew your father, Patrick Boyle.”

It was not the first time someone implied that I’m a physical copy of my dad. I can’t say if it’s true or not. The son of a bitch died in prison before I was born. The few photos of him that I saw were too blurred or faded to see his features clearly.

The old man continues, “Long ago, I worked as security at that jewelry store across from us. I was the one who caught him when he tried to rob it. What a dumbass.”

I think, What the hell? Then I say, “My father was never arrested…He’s a CEO of a big corporation.”

The old man nods. “He was idiotic, running inside the store. And I have a bad feeling you want to follow in his path.”

So this is the man that screwed over my family. He may have saved a few bucks for his rich employer, but he ended up ruining our lives. I don’t argue, pretending I’m not paying attention to his madness. If I say something, it’d be useless anyway; he seems to be a man with solid beliefs.

The front door opens. The Don Juan enters the coffee shop, goes to the cashier, and orders a mocha with whipped cream.

“None of us believe you entered the store the other day to buy a ring for your fiancée. I bet you don’t even have one.”

I blink. I think, “Shit. Shit. Shit.” And I bite my lips.

“See kid, I don’t know why you’re doing this. Whatever the reason, don’t do it, okay?” The old man looks down at the table and scratches the top of it with his thumbnail. “Believe me; this is not for you. It was not for your father either. It doesn’t matter if you have balls or not. You need skills, okay?” He looks at me and sighs. “You really are a clone of him. The same countenance, as if you’re apologizing for existing.” He then turns to the window, sips his coffee, and shakes his head.

At the back, the Don Juan grabs his drink and Jenny offers him two cappuccinos she has made by mistake. He winks at her. Smiling, she puts it all in a cardboard beverage carrier and gives it to him. On his way out the door, the Don Juan passes by me, the keys on his waist rattling.

The old man points to the street and continues his motivational speech. “Did you see all these cops around? The security at the door of the store is my nephew, and he’s a former SEAL. He’s that big fellow at the front door, and his pal that has arrived is even bigger. You’re so skinny, a breeze can take you away. How old are you? Twenty-something, right? Forget about it, okay? You don’t have a chance.”

I peek at the other tables, afraid the clientele can hear us. I relax when I conclude that no one seems to care about the old man’s monologue.

The Don Juan is crossing the street, strutting to the light pole. When he reaches the corner, he gives the mocha to the hooker. He says something. I assume he’s asking if he can see her tonight.

She says something, and the guard looks frustrated; seems he can’t work himself into her busy schedule. I’m sure that he suggests talking with her again another day.

Guard number two leaves the store, holding the same bag. He yells again to his pal. The Don Juan shows the palm of his hand to his mate. Then he sighs and shakes his head, as if remembering he’s working. He grabs the keys from his waist and opens the back door. When his colleague finishes putting the bag inside, Don Juan gives him the coffee. Both guards smile to each other. They chat, point to the coffee shop, and sip their drinks.

The guards are side by side. I’d guess they both are a little over six feet and weigh over two hundred pounds each. I’m five foot eight. Despite acting as if the street is a market fair, the guards have a military posture. They both have cropped hair and stand with their chests out. I check my watch; it’s time to leave.

I’m just standing up when a police car shows up and stops in front of the guards. They exchange nods and give each other a thumbs-up. That’s never happened before. I hope it’s only today. I know I can’t cover all the possibilities, but I’m trying my best to avoid any surprises.

I grab my keys, finish my coffee, and walk to the door, feeling the gaze from the old man on my back. I don’t care. He doesn’t have a clue. At the sidewalk, I see the guards entering the armored car and move away. When the traffic allows me, I stride toward the jewelry store. On the curb, I observe the officer parking his car in the empty spot left by the armored car. After killing the engine, he checks his cell phone. Looks like he’s on a break.

At the sidewalk, I pass by the “new hooker” at the light pole. She smiles. I wink at her and move forward while the armored car stops in front of the donut store. The driver yells something to the cops, and they all laugh. Then the armored car moves to the traffic light. There, it’ll turn right; I never liked one-way streets, but today I have no complaints. I stop at the building on the corner, some thirty feet away from the jewelry store. The security guard at the front door has the build of a former marine. However, his purple jacket makes him look more like a bouncer at a nightclub. He gazes at me and calmly puffs his cigarette. So, the old man didn’t lie. There’re two big guys protecting the store. I guess this is a good sign. But it scares me, the fact that I may miss something.

At the other corner, the armored car is slowly turning while the man in black steps out of the jewelry store. He says something to the bouncer and, as usual, crosses the streets to the coffee shop. Both of his hands are in his pockets. I run to the next parallel street, leaving the jewelry store behind. There, the scenario changes. It looks like the city limits. Right across the narrow two-lane street rests a vacant land surrounded by a fence made of diamond-shaped wire mesh. On both sides of that land, the buildings are decrepit, lifeless structures.

I turn to the left and walk along the sidewalk, passing by a green dumpster half full of old debris. Looks like long ago somebody forgot to take away that trash. I stop in front of the old florist store and wonder if somebody has ever entered it to buy roses. The dirty window does not keep me from seeing the shelves, the dusty counter, and an old cracked clay pot. Beyond, a door is ajar, showing the warehouse and the wall that separates it from the back of the jewelry store. At the front door, the rental poster is fading.

The roar of the engine wakes me up, and I take my eyes from the window to see the armored car coming towards me. I turn around and walk to the crossing to pick up my car. There’s no traffic coming. I don’t move while the armored car passes by. I can see both passengers; they’re talking to each other, laughing and drinking their coffees. They don’t notice me. I check my watch: it’s time to go home.

THE PLAN – PART 1

THE FIRST ROBBERY ATTEMPT

None of our past relatives fought a war. Our family tree doesn’t point to pathfinders in the Old West. At meals, we learned only the burdensome routine of growing potatoes or running away from law enforcement. It’s nothing to celebrate. Our grandparents (Dad’s side) came from Europe in the sixties, escaping a remarkably poor environment. Their journey by ship lasted three months, and Grandma said that was the best time of her life (they traveled in third class). They became smugglers due to the lack of options and their need to survive. That activity produced jokes among us, but no one would brag during a job interview.

We have no clue about my mom’s family. They’ve never sent us so much as a postcard. Grandma would say that if they needed money, they’d already knocked on our door (and found nothing).

In general, I have a neutral feeling about being broke. The emptiness arises when looking backwards and forwards. I wished we were heirs that had lost the fortune left to them. I’d still be living in a trailer, but with the memories of the old decaying mansion with its antique furniture and its smell of oak. Over the fireplace, there would have been a big faded painting of the relatives who started the family’s wealth. The only patrimony remaining would be our ancestry and our pedantic way of speaking.

Naturally, when I was ten years old, I didn’t have those thoughts. I guess any kid believes they’re special and are excited by the possibilities ahead. As the music says, when I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful. At least I didn’t expect hardships anytime soon. Not to mention the earthquake that rocked my life during the tedious school trip in the fourth grade. It became a landmark in my life when we passed in front of the jewelry store. An accident on the highway took the heavy traffic to the narrow streets around it. The extra volume of cars resulted in congestion, and after five minutes stuck in front of that damned jewelry store, a kid stood up and started giving a little lecture. I don’t recall the exact words he used, but I remember paying attention to his announcement. I listened to the details of the robbery, the arrest, and the death, eager for the upshot. When he pointed his finger at my direction, the reality struck me.

Other kids joined the commotion and contributed with new details or different versions of the story. But everybody was unanimous about the main character: my dad. I had no way to argue. It was the first time I had ever heard anything about it. Until then, my dad had died in a car crash when he was away on a business trip.

A tumult took over the bus. The kids got together to laugh and point their fingers at me. They repeated the same mantra: “His dad was a thief.” Those words hurt more than any kick or punch to the gut. I couldn’t find any way to dodge them. I turned to the window and looked to the black building and those diamond stickers. I prayed for the bus to drift away from the store. Or for the kids to get tired. Or for the world to end. For endless minutes the kids stood over me, their yells hitting me like stones in a lynching. Finding out the truth was painful. But it also brought comfort; since I could remember, I’d been an outlaw in my neighborhood and school. After that trip, I found out why.

Later, my mom told us that my dad was a lovely man who made poor choices. But he didn’t choose to be born into a family of offenders. I don’t want to advocate him. Nor accuse him of anything. Grandma would say her sweet son struggled to provide a decent life for his family. However, without proper education and no good friends, he ended up on the wrong side of the law. Mom mentioned he had problems with drinking and gambling. I suspect women were also part of the equation.

We didn’t have a picture of their wedding. I don’t think they had a ceremony to celebrate their union. Apparently, it was a good arrangement; they stayed together until he died. And she didn’t remarry.

The robbery of the jewelry store was also my dad’s first attempt at a career in crime. Considering the consequence, it was clearly a mistake. But from his perspective, he had no option. He had no job, and his wife was pregnant with twins. They were living in a trailer and about to be evicted. He could not wait for a miracle. He needed to act. But despair, it seems, is not a good adviser.

After going to jail, my dad told my mom he’d had a partner. An old friend with experience in similar scams who worked at the jewelry store. This friend promised to make things easy for him. But as soon as my dad got inside the store, the security guards were ready for him. The old friend, looks like, tricked him. Nobody knows why.

The store’s security would have killed him if a couple hadn’t come in to buy a pair of earrings and interrupted the beating. I guess the couple didn’t become loyal customers. Of course, my dad’s luck didn’t last longer. Officially, he died during a lunchtime fight in prison. There’s no report of any other inmate getting hurt during the fight or even accused of his death.

The same friend later offered help to my mom. We don’t know why she didn’t accept. The details of the robbery reached our ears through intermediaries. Despite so many missing pieces, the image that came from the puzzle looked like a love triangle. Tragic, for sure. Romantic, we don’t know.

My sister used to blame my grandparents’ past for the sad destiny of our father. My grandma used to defend their way of life, saying she and our grandpa chose to be outlaws to survive. None of us asked her what options they had. Until my sister’s diagnosis, survival for me meant making it through the day. It was never death or life.

Based on the trailer we live in, the smuggling business didn’t generate good fruits. But my grandma didn’t regret the life they chose. On the contrary, she used to tell the history of their lives with pride. She was always telling us how my grandpa managed to escape bad deals that ended up with several guns being pointed at them. She would say that he never gave in and he never gave up. His mind was always focused on surviving. If his enemies had their fingers ready to pull the trigger, he always managed to be the last man standing. My father didn’t inherit such skill: he was killed trying to become a criminal.

When confronted about the morality of their acts, my grandma would say that they never stole. Society considered what they did to be criminal, but it wasn’t a natural law that determined it was a crime. She’d conclude that everything was ruled by convention, even stealing. I never understood that analogy until now. She’d mention nations that stole natural resources from weak countries by bribing their governments. People taken from their home to became slaves in different places. Bankers who created legal but immoral schemes to take more money from their clients’ pockets. In short, I guess what she meant is that stealing is relative. Depending on who does it and how, society can even consider stealing legal. This is the key I guess—everything is relative.

We’d bring up the risks they took and the outcome they got, asking if it’d paid off. Grandma would shrug it off and say we all needed to experiment the devil chasing us, feel his breath on our napes and his claws scratching our backs. So in the end, after getting rid of him, we would celebrate life. Now, I sense the devil’s breath behind my neck. I can tell you, it’s not a good sensation.

THE ROBBERY – PART 2

D-DAY: FRIDAY 4PM – THE ACTION

It’s another sunny Friday afternoon. A blue and white Volkswagen Kombi passes by my side of the bus. One day I’ll take my kids to the beach in a German van like that, carrying surfboards on the roof rack. We’ll have a teacher to show us how to surf. Good thought, but the reality doesn’t leave space for dreams and illusions. The doctor sent a letter emphasizing how traumatic my sister’s state is. The large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma is growing fast. It won’t take long for her to die. She needs to undergo surgery and a long treatment that we cannot afford. The best place is in Michigan. Far away from home, adding expenses for housing costs. The doctor also thinks I should take some tests since we’re twins and mom died from the same thing. Chances are the disease is genetic.

Today I’ll go and take the money that is so crucial to maintaining my sister’s life. The image of the jewelry store disturbs me. It swallowed Dad; it can swallow me. To hell with it. The prospect of ending up like him, a view that has crossed my mind so many times, today doesn’t concern me at all. What causes a shiver of fear is the risk of missing the opportunity. I’ve come across the only way to escape my fate of misery and sorrow. And it involves that damned store. Of course, there’s a bit of revenge involved.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Jose Carlos Antunes lives in Michigan with his wife, their two kids and their dog Daisy. He is the author of The Enterprise and the short story Henry and His Kids. None of them has found a mainstream publisher, and even if The Thief’s Son has the same fate, he will keep writing other stories because, well, he can’t help it.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
Few years ago, I experienced some health problems in my family. It was scared but all ended up well. When I saw the hospital’s bills I thanked God for having a good insurance and wondered what anyone would do to save a loved one in the opposite circumstances.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
The book is about fighting when the world is against you. It's about swimming against the current. It’s about ignoring that the odds are against you and keep going. It’s about, above all, never give up.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
I’d like to see Tom Holland (Spider Man: Homecoming) as the narrator, Kristen Stewart (Twilight saga) as the sister, and Lily James (Baby Driver) as the boy’s girlfriend. Vincent Cassel as the French, Ron Perlman as The Wolf, Viggo Mortensen as the FBI agent and Julianne Moore as the TV reporter.

Next in:
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
Trailer In The Woods
Children's nightmares in the Adirondacks
Who Killed Becky Thatcher?
Revenge and murder in America's hometown
Extraction
The world’s not going to save itself.