Category Archives: Suicide Squeeze

Short Fiction: Suicide Squeeze (Part III of III)

SS3

‘Suicide Squeeze’ is fun for the whole family.  A blog novella created with one part ‘Point Break’, two parts, ‘The Fan’ and a dash of ‘Corporate Porn.’ 

 

7th Inning

Mickey was now the lead off hitter.  In Tampa, the locals heard what was happening and now Mickey was being heckled, called a “murderer” and worse.  Didn’t matter though, Mickey finished the game with five hits, and another home run.

****

“Did you see the game?”  That’s all Mickey had said on the phone.  Jimmy was driving and parked next to a pay phone.

“I’m here.  Alright, how bad is it?”

“I don’t know, they’ve got the other two, and well I’m sure you heard about…”

“Yeah, what happened there?”  Jimmy was clearly annoyed with the way everything went down.

“It’s okay, just wanted to make sure you weren’t in any trouble.

“Trouble! Why should I be?  Damn Mick, did you say anything?  Anything at all, now is the time to tell me if I’m in trouble…”

“No, no, I haven’t said anything.  Ever.  You know me.” Said Mickey.

“Okay, relax, this will blow over.  We talked about this.  We knew this was a possibility.  Now if you feel it’s warranted you need to take care of the others.”

“I know.”

****

“Four counts of armed robbery and one count of felony homicide.”  Malloy looked up at Ricky and Paully from the sheet in front of him.  “Each.”

On one side of the red brick room sat Malloy, the other side, separated only by a weathered wooden table sat Leroy Jackson, Ricky’s attorney, and Paully.  No words had been spoken since being picked up from the funeral home.

“Your asses are mine.”  Malloy smiled, even though he knew he needed a confession.  “If you don’t deal you’re both facing twenty, minimum.”

Neither budged.

****

“Mick, you up?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”  Mickey was sitting in his hotel room, thinking.

“This is hard.”  Duff, the manager of the Heartbreakers paused.  “We’re going to trade you to Harrisburg.”

“The Pirates organization?”  Mickey snapped.  “Why?”

“Well the Pittsburgh Pirates just called up some hot shot rookie and they’re considering you to join him in the big leagues, you know as a mentor.”

“The major leagues?”  Mickey was stunned.

“Yeah, look I hate to see you go, but this could be your big shot kid.”

“Okay, make the trade, I guess.”

 

8th Inning

Malloy was staring at some pictures with Jackie Swanson, a District Attorney. She was frustrated as they tried to get an angle on how to nab Mickey. “All we have is a guy about the same size, with a mask?”

“So far.”  Mumbled Malloy, “But I know it’s him.”

“Let me know when you have more.”  Jackie walked out on Jack.  Jack went home, opened a bottle of whiskey, and passed out.

****

Mickey was sitting in a bar when he got the call from Jeff Holmes, the GM for the Pirates.  “Is this Casanova?”

“Yeah, this is Mickey.”

“We’re going to move you.”

“Yeah, I heard I’m going to back up your rookie.”

“No, change of plans.  The Red Sox starting catcher just went down tonight.  We’re sending you there.”

“To the Red Sox.  I’m going to play in Fenway!”  Mickey tried to contain himself, after all he was talking to the Pirates.

***

Jack woke to the phone ringing.  It was one of his associates.  “You’re not going to believe this.”  Said the voice.

“What?”  Jack grumbled.

“Casanova is going to the show.  The Red Sox.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Are you guys still following him?”  Jack’s not sure what to say.

“Yeah.  We’re all over him.”

“Don’t lose him.”  Said Jack, then went back to sleep.

9th Inning

Game three against the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday night at Fenway Park.  A game with major playoff implications for the Red Sox who could take a decisive lead in the American League east with a win.  Mickey was the starting catcher.  He spent the day working with Charlie Mays, the games starting right handed pitcher, and was now taking batting practice.  Mickey stepped back for a second and looked at left field, the Green monster, he took it all in.

In the bottom of the third Mickey walked up to the plate with two outs: tapped his shoes and looked to the sky.  He looked over his shoulder at the coach for the sign.  Three straight fastballs, Mickey missed them all, and walked slowly back to the dugout.  Fooled by a curve ball, Mickey struck out in the fifth.  In the seventh, down by one and the tying run on second Mickey got a hit and drove in the tying run.  Standing on first, a dream come true for Mickey as he heard the crowd cheer.

****

Jack Malloy never saw Mickey enjoying his accomplishment.  He was on the phone with Jackie, “I got him.”

“What are you talking about?”  She sounded annoyed.

“Mickey, I got him.”  Jack was staring down at a picture on his desk from the last bank robbery.

Jack’s Camry was turned past Park Street onto Beacon Street, traveling along side the Public Garden, then turning onto Commonwealth, a few blocks from Fenway.

Ten minutes later Jack was pulling into the park.  “Meet me at Gate C.”  Jack was talking to the Boston Police Department.  He wasn’t sure if he needed backup, but just in case.  They went through the back tunnel and into the dugout, Jack was waving his badge around, “Mickey Casanova, where is he?”

Everyone pointed to home plate.

****

Mickey walked up to the batter’s box.  Bottom of the ninth.  One out, a runner on third and down by one.  Mickey was so nervous he missed the coaches bunt sign, the squeeze was supposed to be on.  The first pitch was an eighty-five mile an hour fastball. CRACK!  The ball looked like a rocket off Mickey’s bat, clearing the Green Monster by a hundred feet.  Rounding first base Mickey looked into the stands.  Everyone was on their feet pumping their fists, on the verge of rioting.  Crossing second base is when Mickey noticed the flashes of the cameras; Mickey Casanova was now part of Red Sox history.  Mickey pumped his fist, wondering if he would be on the cover of the Boston Herald.  The cameras were non-stop.

Flash.

I just hit the game winning homerun.

Flash.

I’ve realized my dream.

Flash.

I love this game.

Flash.

I’m going to be on Sportcenter.

Flash.

The third base coach gave Mickey a high five as he rounded third, Mickey looked over to the dugout and saw Malloy waiting.  Two uniformed cops were approaching home plate.

Flash.

Busted.

Flash.

The rest of my life in jail.

Flash.

It’s over.

Mickey slapped high fives with just about everyone on the team as he crossed home plate.  Tears were welling up as the players parted and the cops moved in at home plate.

“Sorry Mickey, orders from the big boys.”  Said a local Boston cop as he reached for his cuffs.  With all the players around, the flashing cameras, and commotion the cop was so distracted he never felt his gun leave his side.  When he turned back Mickey was sucking the barrel, and squeezed the trigger.

Flash.

 

Epilogue

The next day the Boston Herald ran a picture from the Nashville bank robbery showing a masked Mickey and Paully running out of the bank.  The headline read: CURSE OF THE BAMBINO.

****

“Nothing.  You guys are full of shit, there’s nothing there.” Repeated Malloy.  After the events the night before Ricky was talking and had come clean.

“I just checked last week.  Did you call the number?”  Said Ricky looking over at Paully.

“The number no longer exists, the number was traced to a stolen cell phone in Belize City.  Who did you talk to when you called?”

****

It had been a month since the game.  A month since the money had been transferred.  As he walked the sands of Brazil he thought of the World Series, how the Red Sox ended up losing in seven games.  An old woman approached and asked him for money.  He gave her a hundred American dollars.  “Thank you sir, who are you?”

“I’m Jimmy.”

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Short Fiction: Suicide Squeeze (Part II of III)

SS2

‘Suicide Squeeze’ is fun for the whole family.  A blog novella created with one part ‘Point Break’, two parts, ‘The Fan’ and a dash of ‘Corporate Porn.’

3rd Inning

Jim Johanson, Jimmy, was pacing on his hardwood-floored apartment holding a cup of coffee in one hand and a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in the other.  He was reading the sports section.

Growing up in Milwaukee Jim had been a huge baseball fan with hopes of someday playing professional ball.  When his team went to the state tournament and hit the game tying homerun in the ninth; however, that day individual heroics were short lived.  Next up was Mickey Casanova; he hit the game winning homerun.  Mickey’s homerun not only got the headline, but also the scholarship, also the contract.  Jimmy enrolled in Finance at Marquette University.  After school he went to work as an accountant for the Federal Reserve, learning the banking business as well as the importance of insuring money kept in banks.  Now a head security analyst Jimmy had access to every banks infrastructure and would know most importantly: the money flow.  The way he figured it, if he couldn’t play America’s favorite past time, he wanted to be somehow involved in America’s second favorite past time, robbing banks.

The first job was in Fall River, Massachusetts, a small town located on the south shore.  Jim did all the planning, and when Hartford opened last season playing the Cape Cod Car Dealers it was the perfect opportunity.  It was Jim’s idea to add the masks, and now every time another bank was robbed the headlines would read Cooperstown Gang Strikes Again, Bank Robbed by Hall of Famers, or his personal favorite printed just two days ago in the Baltimore Ledger:  Bambino Robs Hometown Bank.   Jim did all the planning and only expected twenty percent in return.  He understood the risk, and felt that with Mickey his friend from back in the day, would keep the heat off.  Jim used statistics to pick the banks to hit.  Take the size, amount of cash, and number of guards.  Jim advises the banks of potential risks, but also knows when the risk will be addressed.  The robbery occurs and Jim points out the recommendations after the fact.

The First National Bank of Nashville downtown branch was perfect.  A month ago Jim had a meeting with Shannon Jules, the manager of the bank, who explained their situation and was asking his advice on whether another temporary vault should be brought in.  Jim pointed out the cost of a temporary vault versus another guard.  On a follow up call a week later Jim learned that Shannon had decided to hire an extra guard during the time of repair.

Jim’s phone rang.

“Yeah, it’s Jimmy.”

“What’s up buddy, did you see the game?”

“Yeah, great game, he listen, I’ve gotta run.”

A code Mickey and Jimmy had come up with.  Jimmy hung up the phone, put on some shoes, and walked to a pay phone.

Jimmy and Mickey confirm the take down will occur during the Knoxville series.

****

Two weeks had passed since Mickey struck out to end the game against Wilmington.  Since two veteran players had been cut and the only surprise was that Mickey was not one of them, yet.

The Knoxville Clowns played their home games at a park known as the beer garden.  Over forty beers on tap, lots of fights.  This afternoon Mickey broke out of his slump with a pair of doubles and four runs batted in leading the Heartbreakers to a 7-2 win over the Clowns.

****

The drive to Nashville was quiet.  They were listening to sports radio, taking calls on the economic issues with baseball.  There was talk that MLB may be striking next year.  Mickey wasn’t paying any attention; instead going through a mental checklist in his head.  The masks, the gloves, and bags for the money was in the trunk lying next to the box of dynamite and detonator.  Paully was in charge of the explosives.  Four nine-millimeter guns were under the front seat.  When they arrived in Nashville, they headed to the south part of the city where they found a deserted parking lot to allow them to get ready.

They hit the doors of First National Bank of Nashville like horses coming out of the gates of the Kentucky Derby.  The bank had a large lobby with a half circle counter surrounded by metal desks.  Behind the counter were several large plants surrounding a small waterfall that appeared to start at the ceiling, and trickle down.  Next to the waterfall was an open room where a thick metal door was propped open (being repaired).  Pete Rose immediately charged the guard, knocking him to the ground and grabbing his gun in one motion.  Babe secured the second guard with a gun to his head, knocking him to the ground.  Joe D. quickly moved toward the counter with his gun pointed at the lovely Madeline.  He directed the other two tellers around the counter to join the crowd where Big Mac was instructing the crowd to “stay low and shut the hell up!”

“Everyone down, this is a robbery, now one gets hurt if everyone stays cool!” Screamed Mac.

“Oh my God, we’re all going to die!” Screamed an elderly woman dropping to her knees.

Joe D. handed Madeline the bags and directed her to fill the bags with all the cash from the drawers and then the vault.

“I don’t know, uh, what, it’s being –“  Madeline stuttered, cut off by Joe D.

“If the money that is usually in the vault isn’t in that bag in five minutes I’m going to shoot you in the head.”

Madeline nodded and walked around the desk behind the counter where a safe was sitting.  She went into the desk, found the combination and began working on it.  Joe D. quickly jumped over the counter, grabbing the combination, and opening the safe, proceeding to stuff all the money into the bag he was holding.

Pete Rose was watching Joe D. when the guard he was covering eased his way to his knees and reached for the fire alarm.

Big Mac notice the guard reaching for the alarm, yelling over to Charlie Hustle who kicked the guard in the stomach, dropping him back to the floor.

During the commotion a man wearing a cowboy hat, rose up with his six shooter pulled pointed at Big Mac.  Joe D. screamed then shot toward the cowboy, hitting him in the back.

The masked all-stars all ran for the door leaving behind screams of terror, an echoing fire alarm, and a dying cowboy.

****

Paully took the first lift and the next right, nobody was following the car, buy they could hear the sirens in the distance.  Ricky, Raul, and Mickey removed their masks and got out.  Paully would dispose of the car.  The rest would split up, because right now the cops are looking for a group.

After some Mexican food Mickey calls Jimmy to let him know it’s done, but that there’s heat.  Eventually the crew meets up in a parking lot where they are picked up by Paully with a new car.  The drive back to Knoxville was quiet.

4th Inning

MICKEY WAS HITTING.  In Knoxville he went 11 for 15 with three home runs.  The next series in Columbus, 12-17 with four more homers.  He was having the time of his life and there was still no heat.  The superstitions were also growing, now instead of just tapping his foot he was also looking up at the sky before every pitch.  The important thing was that Mickey was hitting.  There would be no more banks, everything was secure in a secure offshore account in Belize City.

****

The Boston Police Department had the red brick Back Bay apartment building surrounded.   Despite rain the neighbors looked on with interest.  With twenty cops surrounding the building Lenny just walked out with his hands up, he knew they were there for him.  After all he was a white mail with dreadlocks and work a black Kangol hat.  There was no way he would never get busted for dealing drugs.  Recovered in the bust was five guns, a 100 grams of cocaine, and over fifty thousand dollars.

 

5th Inning

Over the next couple weeks Mickey continued hitting.  Back in Hartford Mickey led the Heartbreakers to three wins over the Erie Tools with two game winning home runs.  Over the past twelve games Mickey was hitting over .600 and smashing extra base hits every other hit.

***

Jack Malloy was leaned over his desk with his hands covering a Dunkin Donuts coffee reading about the robbery in Nashville, now also a murder case.  Jed Thornton, a truck driver in the bank, had taken a bullet to the back of the head.  No clues so far so Jack was skeptical when he got a call from Baltimore saying that they had recovered some of the marked bills.  Not actually marked, but each bank was now recording serial numbers of hundred dollar bills.  Now some of these bills had turned up.

“Yeah, it’s the damn’est thing.”  Donny, a detective from Baltimore said.  “They came from a drug dealer in Boston.”

“This is good news.”  Mumbles Jack.

“There’s more.” Said Donny.  “The guy sang like a canary and we know where the bills came from.”

“I’m all ears.”

“Some guy named Raul, he’s a baseball player for Hartford..”

“Heartbreakers?” Jack finished his sentence.

“Yeah.  That’s it.”

“I’ll be damned.”  A smile crosses Jack’s face.  “Finally, something to go on.” And then he said, “Hold on.”  Jack ran to another room and punched up the Heartbreakers schedule on the internet.  They were going to be starting a three game series in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He runs back to the phone.

“Donny, still there?”

“Yes Jack, what’s going on over there?”

“Nothing, listen I can meet you at BWI at 11:30.  Don’t do anything until I get there.”

“Okay Jack, then what?”

“Then we’re going to take a road trip.”

****

Jack arrived on time, Steve was waiting.

“I’ll drive.  Where’s your car!”  Shouted Malloy when he saw Steve whom had extended his hand.

“Uh, okay, it’s over their.”  Steve pointed.  “Where are we going?”

“Raleigh.”

Malloy drove ninety-miles an hour the entire way.  They arrived at 3:45pm, so since the Heartbreakers didn’t play until 7:30pm they went to the Day’s Inn where the players were staying.  The FBI in Raleigh wasn’t an everyday occurrence and it was sure to spread through the town fast, so Jack and Donny went to pick up Raul.

Raul was sleeping when Jack and Donny showed up at the door.  At first he thought it was a joke, but when he saw Jack’s FBI credentials he quickly got serious.  Jack refused to talk to him until they got to the local police station where he assured Raul he would let him know then.

****

Mickey didn’t notice Raul was gone.  The night before in Clearwater he had went 5 for 5 with three home runs and now was 4 for 5 against Raleigh.  He was unstoppable at the plate.

****

Raul walked into the gray interview room followed by Jack and Donny.  Two metal chairs, a mirror, and a coffee machine.

Jack stares at Raul, Steve stands in the corner.

“Do you know why you’re here?”  Jack mumbles.

“No.”

“Do you know a guy who goes by El in Boston?”

Raul pauses.  “No, Never heard of him.”

“Are you sure?  You should know that the Raleigh Police Department is checking your room right now, also we have El in custody for possession with intent to delivery.”

Jack sits back.  “Do you know him now?”

“Yeah, I’ve bought some cocaine from him once.”  Raul exhales slowly, “But not much…”

“How did you pay him?”  Jack asks.

“What?”

“Cash, money, how did you pay him?”

“Uh, yeah cash…I don’t know what you mean?”

“Denominations?  Do you remember?  Twenties, tens, fives…”

“Twenties, yeah probably twenties.”

“Where did you get the money?”

“God, I don’t remember, probably Wilmington.  We were playing there the night before.”

“Are you sure?”

Raul shrugs, “Yeah, it was definitely Wilmington.”

“Hmm.”  Grunts Jack.  “Definitely Wilmington”, Jack leans closer, looking into Raul’s eyes, “And not Baltimore?”  Jack let’s this hang.

Raul chokes for a second then gained his composure.  “I said Wilmington.”

“Well Okay.” Said Jack as he stood up.  “Since this is your first offense you will probably just get probation.  Thanks for coming in.”

Raul leaves.  Steve walked over to Jack.  “Why did you let him go?”

“You’ll see.”  Said Jack and then a grin appears over his face then he calls a man by the name of Greg Monroe, gives Raul’s name, and explains that he needs the usual.

“Who Raul associates with and prints, right?”  Asks Greg.

“Correct buddy, call me when you have the info.”

****

Back at the Heartbreakers hotel Mickey wasn’t answering his door so Raul went to his room and found that his stash was secure, snorted two lines, and then fell asleep.

The next morning Raul caught Mickey in the hotel lobby and explained that they needed to talk, but Mickey was too focused on batting practice that he was late for.  “We’ll talk after, at Rusty’s.”

****

“No, he didn’t say anything about a robbery, but he mentioned it.  Why would he mention Baltimore?”

“It’s probably nothing.”  Mickey could tell Raul was shaken.

“Dude, if they had anything you wouldn’t be here added Rick.  Paully playfully punched Raul in the arm, “Yeah, forget it, probably nothing.”

Raul still appearing nervous, “I don’t know, what if we come clean-“

Mickey cuts off Raul, grabbing his shoulder. “What the hell do you think you’re going to do….get it together man, get it together.”

“You’re right.”  Said Raul, “That Malloy guy just got the best of me.”

“No problem, we need to focus on the big game tomorrow anyway.”

Paully laughs, “Yeah, big game for you Mick, have you been sleeping with your bat, what the hell man?”

“Just a little luck” Replied Mikey.

“Ride the wave man, just ride the wave.” Said Ricky.

Two tables away, Greg was unable to hear what they were saying, as soon as they walked away from the table he walked over and cleared the table.  A waitress approached him; he smiled, pushed past her, and walked out the door with the glass bottles knocking together in his stained Columbo like trench coat.

 

6th Inning

Malloy popped the top of the Advil bottle and chased two capsules with a large Dunkin Donuts coffee.  His phone lit up, it was Greg, he had come through with two sets of prints and two of them matched prints from the Mustang in Nashville, Paul and Rick.

“What about this guy…”  Jack fumbled around looking for the name.  “Mickey.  Mickey Casanova?”

“No, nothing yet, but he was doing all the talking.”

“Got it.  Alright, I’ll be right there, give me an hour.”

****

“Don’t sweat it.”  Mickey told Raul at the Elbow room in Birmingham where they played that night (Mickey had three more hits and was now leading the team).

“I hope you’re right Mick, I just got this bad feeling.”

Mickey put his arm on Raul’s shoulder, his body was shaking, and “It’s just a little heat, not big thing.”

The bartender, Walker, walked over to the table shaking his head, “Mickey Casanova, how the hell are you?  You look good; I hear you’re hitting the leather right off the ball.”

Mickey shook his hand, “Yeah, right now it looks like a beach ball coming at me, I can’t miss.”

“Good to hear, I saw some guys playing catch out on the street the other day and thought of you.  Remember how we used to play catch on the roof?”

Mickey laughed.  “I remember you throwing the ball over my head, and watching it land four stories down on some guy’s new ride. He was pissed.”

“Yeah, that guy waited for us all night.  Good thing there’s a back door.”

Raul came back and Mickey introduced the two.

Doug looked at both of them, “I have to work, but if you guys want the gloves and ball are right over there, go ahead Mick if you want.”

Mickey looked over at Raul who shrugged his shoulders.  Mickey grabbed the gloves and they walked up the spiral staircase to the roof.

On the roof they looked over the city.

“Thanks, you know, for what you said down there.”  Raul said to Mickey.  “It should blow over, I need to take it all in stride.”  Raul grabbed one of the gloves, Mickey threw him a curve ball that he caught.

“Yeah, just give it time, it will blow over.”  Mickey threw a high fastball, forcing Raul to jump back and make the catch.

“So what’s it like man?”  Asked Raul, winding up and throwing a sinker that dropped just as it reached Mickey.  “What do you mean?”

“To be hitting like you are, what’s it like?”

“It’s the greatest” Smiled Mickey, throwing another high fastball, forcing Raul to jump back again, this time to the edge of the roof.  Raul wasn’t sure if it was the elevation, beers he had consumed, or the cocaine, but he was feeling great and laughed for no reason.  He threw a knuckle ball back at Mickey.

“Cool man, I hope you make it to the big leagues.”

“Dude, don’t say that, you’ll jinx me.”  Replied Mickey as he winded up and throwing a fast ball.

Raul was smiling, looking up at the stars when the ball hit him in the chest sending him over the roof to the street below.

****

“You gotta be kidding me.” Was the response from Jack when he heard about Raul.  “Accidental? Bullshit. Enough is enough I’m going to go pick up the two with the matched prints.”

****

Raul was dressing in gray, his road uniform.  Mickey was sitting in the front row surrounded by the other Heartbreakers.  The only family Raul had left was a sister, living in Florida who decided it would be best to have the funeral wherever the team was, Raul would have wanted it that way; baseball was his life.

Mickey, Ricky, and Paully were all walking out of the funeral parlor, consoling each other when Jack Malloy approached them.

“Paul Johnson and Rick Diangelo you need to come with me.”

“Hey, our friend just died, who the hell are you?”

With Donny and two uniformed officers standing behind him Malloy flashed his FBI badge and told them they were under arrest for four counts of armed robbery and one felony homicide.  After reading the counts he turned to Mickey.  “And when I catch up with you maybe we’ll throw in another homicide.”  The officers cuffed Paul and Rick.  Jack looked back at Mickey, “Oh, and Mick, sorry to hear about your friend, I hear he fell off a roof top, tough break kiddo.”

 


Short Fiction: Suicide Squeeze (Part I of III)

SS1

‘Suicide Squeeze’ is fun for the whole family.  A blog novella created with one part ‘Point Break’, two parts, ‘The Fan’ and a dash of ‘Corporate Porn.’ A blast from the past from author David S. Grant.

1st Inning

Big Mac had two jobs, the first was to guard the door, and the second was to make sure the guard at the door didn’t try anything foolish.  The Babe had crowd control: everyone faces down, no talking, and if anyone makes one move they will feel the wrath from the Sultan of Swat.  Joe D. was in charge.  Joe D. was in charge of getting the money from the tellers, in charge of making sure everybody in the bank stayed cool, and in charge of making sure his home run kings didn’t do anything foolish.  One large room with a counter separates the customers from the tellers, an ATM machine against the far wall, and a large, almost life size portrait of Abraham Lincoln looking down from the back wall.  Today’s score was an estimated fifty large, all cash, in and out in less time than a Harry Carey drunken rendition of “Take me out to the ball game.”  Just another May in Charm City.

“Behave Prom Queen, no heroes here today just put the money in the bag and hold back your tears.”  Muddled the Yankee Clipper, he was talking to the only bank teller still on her feet named Joyce.  She had just started two weeks ago and was certain she was about to die.  Joe had been there the day before and had noticed the perky blond who moved her lips while counting change.  She was perfect.   Joyce moved from register to register, opening and stuffing the cash into a burlap bag, Joyce wondered how he knew she was once prom queen.

Joe D. liked dealing with only one person, less risky.  Joe had a knack for finding the weakest person in a room.  Today’s lucky winner was Joyce and she didn’t disappoint, she even offered to open the vault, but that wasn’t Joe’s style – get the cash and get out.  He turned his head around to survey the room and thought of a line from a poem he had once read: “This is it, and nothing more.”

Back to the game.

“How we doin fellas!” Screamed Joe.  “We’re cool D!” Yelled Mac.  Big Mac was applying pressure to the guards face with his foot; he could feel his cheekbones through the sole of his shoe.  A small pool of tears was forming on the floor.

“Cool beans Joe D.”  Replied The Babe.

Joe D. grabbed the bag from Joyce.  “Alright party’s over, here’s the rules, anyone tries to stop us will be dead as Marilyn, now slowly start counting backwards from 1000 keeping your head down, we’ll be watching.  First one to lift their head gets a third eye.”  Just as Joe D. reached the door he turned and yelled “Thank you for choosing the First Bank of Baltimore for your banking needs.”

And just like that three men wearing wide smiles hidden under the masks of Babe Ruth, Mark McGuire, and Joe DiMaggio walked briskly out the from door of the bank.  A stolen black BMW with lightly tinted windows and a man wearing a Pete Rose mask waited.  The uniform never changed: masks, black sweatshirts, jeans, and sneakers.  Always wear gloves; never wear jewelry, and when the mask is on, that is who you are.

The Beemer squeals around the corner in front of the neighboring courthouse and turned right onto Baltimore Street flying past the convention center on the left, with Camden Yards in the background, and pulled into an alley next to the River Rat pub.  Pete detonates a device and slips it under the front seat.  The detonator will cause a small enough explosion to ignite twenty pounds of dynamite stored in the trunk of the car.  In five minutes an explosion would occur loud enough to make visitors jump out of their seats on the waterfront, sending chills through the locals enjoying a beer at Fells Point.

This was how they did their first job 13 months ago and how they’ve continued ever since.  So far everything was cool.  A standard score was fifty thousand,  over ten thousand each for an hour of work, not a bad part-time job.  Quickly they hop into the waiting explorer, take a right onto Mulberry Street, that leads into I40 all the way out of Baltimore to Wilmington.

This was their third heist since they started; it was going to be a good season.

2nd Inning

A spring afternoon in May showed off the blue Wilmington skyline over the outfield fence.  This was the final game of a three game series in which the Wilmington Quakers had taken the first two over the Heartbreakers.

Mickey Casanova looked back at the umpire in disgust and walked back to the dugout.  There was no way that slider had caught the corner of the plate.  Despite Mickey’s current ten game hitting streak Mickey had struck out twenty-five times in only seventy at bats this season.  In his thirteenth year Mickey had yet to blossom into the player the Milwaukee Brewers had hoped when they drafted him out of high school.  A solid catcher, who hadn’t hit over .240 since his rookie year when he hit .270, a year later pitchers realized Mickey’s Achilles’ heel, the slider.  After three years playing in Beloit, Wisconsin Mickey was traded to the Red Sox double A team, the Hartford Heartbreakers, where he was now entering his tenth year at the age of 30.  Two types of players play AA ball, the first, is a major league player rehabbing an injury, and the second was a player who was no longer a single A prospect, and also not good to play AAA (one step from the majors).  The good news was that Mickey hadn’t suffered any major injuries.  Initially is was thought he was having difficulty adjusting to wooden bats, better pitching, and the drag of the long season; whatever it was, he had yet to show the potential the Brewers had hoped for when selecting him ten years ago.

Take away the strikeouts and Mickey was off to a decent start this year with ten home runs, twenty runs batted in, and a .275 average through 21 games.  His last ten games had brought Mickey his longest hitting streak ever to ten games.  Ironically due to the hitting streak some of the players had started razzing him with the nickname Joe D.

Mickey was born a block from the State Fair Park, in West Allis, a Western Milwaukee suburb ten minutes away from County Stadium where he grew up watching Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and later the catching prospect B.J. Surhoff, the man whom he patterned his catching style after.  His dad had gone to prison at the age of eight for assault and battery after he nearly beat a man to death in a bar.  It was his third offense.  Rumor has it the fight started over an argument about the designated hitter rule.

As a youth Mickey played baseball at a park down the street where the parking lot was located behind left field.  Playing baseball at fourteen years of age Mickey shattered twenty windshields in ten games, forcing parents to park on the cracked city streets, risking auto theft, and walk through garbage ridden alleys to attend games.  In high school Mickey stood out as an athletic 6’2”, 220 pound defensively minded catcher who was able to knock the ball out of any park in the Midwest.  Mickey led his team to the state championships against Stevens Point, a team from the Northern part of the state loaded with homerun hitting farmhand rednecks, where Mickey hit for the cycle, saving the homerun for the bottom of the ninth to cap his legendary amateur career.  His whole life was baseball; drafted fourth round by the Brewers out of high school he was headed to Beloit with dreams of playing in the majors with a two-comma salary in no time.  His first year was a struggle, hitting .270 with 20 homeruns; two years later Mickey would finish with a .230 average and only 15 homeruns.  Two weeks after the season he heard the Brewers had drafted a catcher from Chicago, one week later Mickey was traded to Hartford.

“Let’s go Mick” was yelled from the bleachers as Mickey stepped up to the plate in the fourth.  The first pitch, a slider missed, followed by another slider just missing.  The next pitch, a hanging fastball, Mickey ripped into leftfield for a single; the streak extended to eleven.

The dream of playing in the majors was almost over, but it still beat working for a living.  Who wouldn’t rather be playing baseball seven months out of the year instead of some crummy job in a cramped cubicle, dreaming about baseball?  Barring a miracle, Mickey was a minor league lifer, he could see the writing on the wall: ten years in double A, and never had a manager insinuated that a move up might come in the future.  At this point Mickey was destined to play the rest of his career playing for meal money.  The way he figured it he would play for another ten years, then coach.  There was no way he was going to be forced to get a normal job.  He had played baseball his whole life with one goal and if he couldn’t do that he didn’t want to do anything.  Also, to be truthful he didn’t have any other employable skills.  What was he supposed to do after baseball?  He went into the system right after high school.  Baseball was all he knew, it was all any of them knew.  Another problem was baseball’s minor league retirement plan promised mostly chronic injuries and was less on cash; this is why Mickey robbed banks.  In just over a year he had saved over 50 grand with little risk, due to help from a friend in the bank security business.  Mickey and his crew had successfully robbed three banks without a trace of heat.  He knew their time would come eventually to be smart and get out, and now was their time.  One more heist, the one that would yield enough to retire on.

Two outs, ninth inning, down by one, Casanova stepped to the plate.  Now pitching is the rat faced lefty John Santino, a wild power, younger Randy Johnson version with a wicked slider.  Mickey steps out of the box and taps his bat on his right foot and then his left, a ritual he’s had since high school.  Very superstitious, when in the field he never stepped on home plate when going to talk to a pitcher, and would never toss a foul ball to a fan (he had heard that was bad karma resulting in an error).  One time during batting practice years ago his shoelace snapped in half so he had to tie his right shoe without the top three loops, he went on to hit three homeruns that night, and has never used the top three loops on his right shoe since.

“C’mon Mick, bring’em home” yelled Raul from the dugout.

The next pitch from the rat was an 80-mph slider that had Mickey fooled before it left his hand.

****

“We need to stop off at a friends place downtown.”  Said Raul.  “He lives on the South End.”

Five minutes pass and then the Cleveland Circle trolley pulls up and they get on.  The Heartbreakers were now in Boston, playing in a charity game against the team from Worcester.  They get off at Copley Square where Mickey, Rick, and Paully stopped off at a pizza parlor to catch a slice while Raul went off to see his “friend”, a.k.a. his cocaine dealer.

It has been a monthly ritual for Raul for nearly two years to score coke in Boston.  Raul started using three years ago with then teammate Alan Samonis.  Although Raul always claimed it was recreational, it was obviously more.  The road can be dark mysterious lonely place, even for a ballplayer, and Raul, like most ball players, enjoyed his vices: drinking, women, and cocaine.  Raul never offered an apology for these shortcomings.  After all it wasn’t like he was shooting heroin, just snorting a little coke.

After Raul scores his coke they go to a bar named the Green Dragon Bar.  They seat themselves at an isolated table in the far corner near the jukebox, and ordered four Guinness beers.  The bar itself was eerily dark due in part to the tar stained coating on the walls from years of smoke.  There was a sign over the bar that said Established in 1774, Mickey thought about this for a second and wondered if Paul Revere had once enjoyed a beer there.  A waitress brings over their drinks and Mickey hands her a twenty, telling her to keep the change.  All eyes turn to Mickey.

“So what’s this big score?”  Asked Paully.

Paul Jauron, a fifteen-year veteran for the Heartbreakers was the backup catcher to Mickey.  He’d only played in two games during the last year, when Mickey took a three-day leave to attend a funeral.

Raul leaned in, “Big one, eh?”

They stopped and watched a lady in red walk up to the jukebox.  Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was playing on the jukebox.

Load up your guns and bring your friends.

“I heard from Jimmy today, and this one is the one.  Large enough for none of us to have worry about money after baseball.”  Said Mickey.

“Where is it at?”  Asked Paully.

“Nashville.  We’ll be there in two weeks.”

Paully nods, “No problem.”

Raul speaks up, “How much?”’

Everyone leaned in when Mickey said “One Million Dollars.”

Ricky rocked back in his chair and raised his hand in disgust, “In the cashier drawers?  No way man, this is a vault job, that isn’t our game, we’ll get pinched for sure.”

Mickey stroked his goatee and moved his hand in a downward motion.  “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it covered.  Leave the planning to Jimmy.”

“Why this one, why will they have that much cash on hand.”

“That’s easy.  Because it has been recommended by their Federal Reserve security analyst.”  Mickey received approving nods around the table.

“Cool.”  Everyone says.

They finished their beers and walked up to the bar.  Raul dropped two fresh twenties on the bar, ordered another round, and bought the lady in red a drink.

Raul’s dark features always got the girl.  Once they found out he was a ballplayer it was over.  Sometimes he would introduce the coke after he went back to the hotel, other times he would keep it to himself.  Raul rarely slept alone, having many nights of passion followed up by many breakfasts without eye contact.

****

Two hundred feet away from the Green Dragon Jack Malloy was working late in his office located in the dilapidated Boston FBI building headquarters.  On his desk sat a still shot security photos from the First Bank of Baltimore bank robbery.  A small television only turned on during Red Sox games was sitting on top of one of the stacks of closed cases.  Known around the Bureau simply as the “Silent Hammer”, for his cool interviews, Jack was baffled by his latest case.  He had just gotten off a conference call with members of the Bureau from Baltimore and New Jersey to discuss the robberies and discuss leads.  They had nothing and were looking for a break.

A New York cop for fifteen years Jack decided he wanted a change.  Three years ago he joined the FBI, working car thefts, and then promoted to bank robberies.  During the past year he’d solved every bank robbery case brought to him, except one.  Eleven months ago, a Fall River bank had been robbed by four guys wearing masks of famous baseball players, at the time little attention was paid because they only hit the cash drawers and never went for the vault.  The case had been losing steam until another bank was hit the same way, this time in Baltimore.