Home for tonight is the Luxe Summit Hotel up Sunset-big rooms, you can park yourself and you’re right on the freeway. I let myself in, shower off the fear, break up my cell phone on the cool bathroom tile and flush the pieces down the toilet. I’ve got three more cells, the ones you load with prepaid minutes and toss before the number gets hot.
I lie down on the bed and picture Rex coming toward me, checking me out. Then his eyes, bloodshot and dripping tears. I sleep hard for an hour, dream I’m riding a horse along a beach where I hold up a good-looking buck with a saddlebag full of gold bars then we make love in a sand dune on the beach and I steal both horses and ride away while he sleeps.
I eat some of the food I stocked in the fridge, shower again and put on laundered jeans, cowboy boots and a yoked C &W blouse I shoplifted from a saddlery up in Topanga. I make the local ten o’clock news: The armed robber who calls herself Allison Murrieta has apparently struck again, this time in the Hollywood Hills…
They show the nightshade-covered wall, partially lit by roving spotlights, and the dark driveway. Then they run the popular video clip that shows a woman robbing a McDonald’s. It’s from last year. It’s me all right. Everything on screen is yellow and red and cheery except this babe dressed in black with a gun. I had no idea somebody was shooting video, but these days somebody always is. Luckily I have my professional face on, which means my wig is back in the ponytail and I’m wearing my mask. The mask is made of thick cardboard with black satin glued over it. I cut it to shape, added the satin and one very nice Swarovski crystal for fun. It covers my nose and eyes, cheeks and mouth, ears. Then the news shows an enlarged image from the McDonald’s video, and I note again that with the mask on I look stylish and dangerous. The crystal is near the mouth opening, and it draws your eye, just like Marilyn’s birthmark. The network goes to a commercial for-you guessed it-McDonald’s.
My next job is at midnight, a little over an hour from now. If it goes as planned, I’ll leave Hollywood with forty-five thousand dollars’ worth of unmounted gem-quality diamonds.
Here’s the plot: a friend of a friend of a friend’s boyfriend is a diamond district broker, young guy, a real go-getter and they love him at the Caesars’ sports book in Las Vegas and you know how it goes-he’s lucky and he’s smart and then he’s neither. Barry. Takes him two years to run his business into the ground, borrowing, betting, losing. Throw in lots of booze. The bottom line is that Barry is into the Asian Boyz for seventy-five grand and he’s willing to give them four hundred and fifty thousand retail dollars’ worth of very good and very insured diamonds because the cut will be one-tenth when the Boyz manage to fence them. You’ll notice that Barry is cheating the Boyz by almost half. They don’t know that. They’re amateurs and they’re kids. They don’t know that it isn’t easy to lay off that much ice to one guy, all at once.
I can. The arrangements are made. Forty-five thousand dollars won’t make me rich, but I love diamonds.
I just have to hit up Barry before he makes it to the Boyz at Miracle Auto Body in City Terrace at one A.M.
And I know something way more valuable than where he’s going. I know where he’ll be leaving from, and it’s his own damned fault that I do.
See, Barry is not a good man. He’s Greed, too, just like Rex. In order to pay down his debt, Barry talked his girlfriend Melissa out of ten thousand dollars. But he won’t pay her back. All she gets is excuses. Barry’s not only gone hostile on her, he’s trying to work another girlfriend into their life. I hear that Melissa is a little brokenhearted and a lot pissed off. But Barry’s careless, you know-he treats her like a moron-so it was easy for her to learn the pay-back plan for the Boyz. Then she sent word up the friends’ ladder to see if anyone could help her get her money back. If Barry had any real stones he’d have taken care of his woman. But since he doesn’t, he’s going to have to deal with me. And much more important, he’ll have to deal with the Asian Boyz, who will be unhappy when I steal what he owes them. Barry’s going to have to get his hands on enough diamonds to buy his life not once but twice.
You make your own luck.
I don’t leave one thing at the Luxe Summit that I can’t live without.
I pull up to Barry’s place just before midnight. It’s a modest little stucco off Highland in Hollywood. It’s got stands of giant bird-of-paradise and rhododendron for privacy. The lights are on but the shutters are closed.
Melissa said that Barry will leave from home. She guaranteed it. Barry’s a homebody, she swore. Home is where he is unless he’s in Las Vegas or at the office down in the diamond district; home is where he loves to be, where he drinks and cooks and watches sports on the tube hour after hour-Melissa could hardly get Barry to drive her to Philippe’s for a French dip. Home also has the safe where Barry will stash the four hundred and fifty thousand retail dollars’ worth of diamonds he’s going to give the Boyz.
Melissa also said that Barry’s gun stays up in a closet at home because he’s afraid of it. Never carries it.
Good to know.
I park across the street two houses down and watch for just a minute. The streetlamps are far-spaced and dim. I’ve cased the place, and I know the giant bird-of-paradise and the rhododendron are my friends. Nobody who carries diamonds for a living should have anything but a low hedge and floodlights out in front of their house. Barry undoubtedly knows this, but an informed fool is still a fool. Barry thinks he can be invisible just by keeping a straight face.
The walkway to the front door isn’t even lit. From the street you can barely see the front door and that’s good for me. The porch light is on. I listen to the police band radio for a minute or two, just in case some Hollywood Station PD patrol car gets a call nearby, but most of the cops talk on the mobile data terminals now to discourage people like me from listening in.
At midnight I’m walking down the sidewalk with my satchel-it’s a big leather and brass-studded Hobo I shoplifted from Nordstrom-same side of the street as Barry’s house. When I get to his yard, I cut across the grass in the dark and push through the rubbery rhododendrons.
I hit the ground and walk on my hands and knees below the shuttered windows, dragging the Hobo along beside me. When I get to the porch, I stand up with my back near the stucco wall, spin my hair into a ponytail and put on the wig. Next I pull the mask from the satchel and put it on, then get Ca~nonita ready. I’ve got the pepper spray on my belt. I’m not expecting any fight from Barry, but sometimes the chumps surprise you. My heart is pounding like someone just mainlined me with ten cc’s of pure adrenaline.
I love it.
I breathe deeply and try to clear my mind. I listen to the soft whap of the bugs against the porch light and the whirring of the air conditioner up on the roof.
Minutes. Seconds. More minutes.
By twelve-forty I’m pretty sure that something’s wrong. You don’t leave Hollywood for City Terrace with twenty minutes to spare and your life at stake unless you have major stones, and I know Barry does not.
I give him five more minutes then put my things back into my bag, walk to the car and stash the gun under the passenger seat.
I call Barry’s cell number-courtesy of Melissa, of course. She also supplied a picture of him and the make, model and plate number of his car. No answer on the cell, just Barry’s curt little message, like I shouldn’t have interrupted him.
I wonder if the plans have changed. I wonder how good Melissa’s information really was. I wonder if she might have mixed up one A.M. with one P.M. And I wonder if Barry might have just cut and run.
I’m outside Miracle Auto Body at eleven minutes after one.