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Rain on A Stranger's Eyes

Kevin James Miller

Kip needed a hard man for the First Metro Bank job, and they didn't come any harder than Stoney.

The two men sat in Nick's Bar and talked business. Nick's Bar was the type of joint that nobody went into except serious drunks or people who wanted to drink alone. The interior was just big enough for a long bar, a dozen hard stools and a toilet near the back in an unpainted room. The sound of early morning traffic drifted in through the front door, along with the summer heat, and the beer smelled cheap, but neither Kip nor Stoney were interested much in drinking. Only business.

Kip was the man with the plans. He ran a loosely organized crew of smash and grab types. They were pushers and pimps, mostly, who occasionally put together a high profile job that kept the cops on their toes. Kip could have been forty or fifty, and had a face everybody forgot while they were looking at it—except for those eyes. They were swimming pool blue. People who saw Kip cut the throat of a contract killer who fumbled a hit Kip bought claimed that when Kip was dragging the knife across the guy's throat, green flecks swam in Kip's blue eyes.

Stoney had just turned twenty-five. He did time first for being the guy who covered the door when the youth street gang he was in robbed a convenience store in a quiet neighborhood. The gang called themselves the Iron Shit Eaters. This reduced the city's newspaper to comical displays of good taste. They had to refer to the gang in print with names like "The Iron (slang term for excrement) Eaters." The cops had to shoot the other three guys on the crew, but Stoney surrendered peacefully and got a public defender who liked crooks better than cops. That and being a good boy got Stoney out in five years. He was pumped up from the prison weight room. His head was full of crime contacts to major operators. They were pleased at having a tall, well- built tough kid with a winning smile who needed to be leaned on occasionally to be kept in line, but other than that was the perfect soldier.

Everybody remembered Stoney's hands. They were big, wide, with scars on the fingers from when Stoney punched in car window to get to a creep who had owed his current employer five thousand dollars and change.

"I hear First Metro launders cash for Lev Drago's mob," Stoney said. "Any crew that's going to hit a bank with those connections has got serious balls, so I'm happy to play."

"We're not hitting First Metro for the cash."

"You're paying me to help you in a go-in-shooting job—and this isn't to steal money?"

"It's a big world, Stoney, and it gets more complicated every day."

"Hell, Kip. I thought one of the plus parts for this type of life was the world is simple for us. It's complicated for the good citizens."

"Here's a peek at being outside the law, Stoney, the real deal: The solid citizens never lose the taste for all kinds of things."

"Yeah, Kip, sure—dope, whores, hot DVD players at a 90% discount . . . "

Kip dismissed this observation with a wave of his hand, an almost imperial gesture. "Give the most honest man in the world everything he wants --everybody he wants—and there's still stuff that scares him, right down to his bones. In one of my rackets I try to ease the fear, for a price." Stoney shrugged his broad, muscular shoulders to show he had lost interest in this line of discussion, but Kip went on. "I run a profitable little side business. I had a partner who snagged some product. He put it in safety deposit box 362 in First Metro. Before he could set himself up as my new competition, I took care of him. That still leaves box 362."

Stoney shrugged again. "One other thing. The job is Saturday morning, The weather man said it's raining Saturday, so . . . "

"Not a problem," Kip said. "We got Tony Newton."

"Then you've got the best wheel man around. Tony Newton could drive getaway through solid mud."

Two nights before the bank robbery, Stoney went to a poker game held at Video Play Battleground, an arcade stuffed with video games of all sorts. The game was held after hours, and started around midnight.

The arcade games were stuffed into a one large room (close to the street entrance) and one smaller one. It was in the smaller room where an out-of-town gambling mob, on semi-friendly terms with the city's syndicates, ran the poker game that cost a man three thousand dollars just to pull up a seat.

Sure as hell wasn't any over head. The game was a card table and five folding chairs, set up in the middle of these quietly glowing and beeping and chirping arcade games. It was a shadowy room, with crazy jagged flashes of green, orange, yellow and red light coming off video screens.

Three enforcers from the out-of-town gambling mob ran the game. Actually the game ran itself, but the job of the enforcers was to stand around the table holding pump- action shotguns (in case anybody got cute) and collect 10% from whoever walked away the winner at the end of the night. All the enforcers were these pale, soft-looking guys with bleached hair that hung in silky curls down their necks.

A fourth gunman, from the same mob as the other three, let Stoney in the front door after Stoney gave him the code words.

Stoney felt good about the game as soon as he walked into the back room. He smelled the cigars that, as it turned out, at least three of the players were smoking. Experience told Stoney that in an underground game the serious money wasn't being thrown around unless a couple players were smoking cigars.

Stoney handed one of the blond enforcers three grand in cash. As the shotgun wielding hood counted it, Stoney looked around the room. He rubbed his large hands, with the long white scars on the fingers, together. The three cigar smokers took their seats.

Then Gunther Brown came out of the men's room.

Holy shit. Gunther Brown, Lev Drago's east side lieutenant. Brown was a fat man with a nose, mouth and jaw that stretched out a good five inches from the rest of his face, giving him the look of a satisfied horse. The mob running the game must have really been sweet with the locals if the loyal left hand of Lev Drago showed.

Now all the players were taking their seats. Gunther Brown eyed Stoney.

"Stoney, right?"

"Yes sir, Mr. Brown."

"Heard you were a real firecracker up the ass, but steady no matter what the job."

"You're gonna make me blush."

"Ha! Working on anything?"

One of the cigar smokers was dealing the first hand.

"Nothing that will crowd Mr. Drago—and nothing I can talk about or my current employers would ice me."

Brown studied his cards and shrugged. "Probably one of those free floating smash and grab gangs—like Fingers Murphy's boys, or that crew that happy nut Kip runs. Anybody in your circle wants a serious shot in the big rackets give me a call. I'll get you five minutes with Mr. Drago."

Stoney concentrated on the game. He kept his mouth shut about what he heard about Lev Drago buying a contract kill on Gunther Brown. Anyway, those rumors didn't make any sense. Brown was as loyal as a hood could be to his boss.

Or so Stoney thought until Gunther Brown got out the hip flask and the bottle of whiskey. As the night and the game wore on Brown blabbed too much about Lev Drago's operations.

Shit. If Stoney had been Lev Drago he would have, by now, blown Brown away himself.

Then Stoney got handed a gift.

"But," Gunther Brown slurred, "what's really beautiful is the setup with First Metro. They launder almost half of Lev's cash flow."

Stoney thought, hot damn! Then the rumors were true! Lev Drago was practically the god of crime! Stoney felt proud to live in the same city as him.

"We bought the vice president of the bank and couple of key managers. We can make high volume cash deposits without the bank contacting the feds, the way law-abiders are supposed to. Hell, Saturday morning I'm going to make the latest run myself and put in 2.3 million—in cash."

2.3 million!

Saturday morning came in with a hard rain. It seriously chilled down the summer heat. The First Metro Bank opened at eight a.m.

Tony Newton drove the crew for the job to a location two blocks away. Kip, Stoney and the three members of Kip's gang who were here for the job (Kip never but everybody in the field at the same time) were all dressed alike. Long rain coats, gloves, fedoras and scarves. The robbery crew had collars turned up and scarves bundled around their neck and faces. No one, the theory went, would pay close enough attention to their faces until the robbery started.

If a bank customer bothered looking hard at their faces he or she would see that each member of the crew wore a Halloween-style mask they had pulled down over their heads. But the masks were only of ordinary men—not monsters or celebrities or cartoon characters. (A member of Kip's gang who thought himself an artist had made the masks.)

Kip, Stoney and the other three crooks took turns getting out of the car, and walking through the rainy and cold morning and going into the bank, taking up their positions, pretending to fill out deposit slips or study brochures about car loans. Each crook made the walk to the bank every ten minutes.

Kip was the last one to leave the car. His job, for the first phase of the robbery, would be to cover the door to the street—just like with the job with the Iron Shit Eaters.

At exactly nine a.m. the robbery crew whipped out submachine guns and killed the five armed guards, then blew apart the three security cameras near the ceiling.

One gang regular quickly moved over to cover the bank employees behind the teller stations. The other two regulars fired their submachine guns at the ceiling, stopping at a gesture from Kip.

Kip shouted, "Everybody get face down on the floor now!" His pale blue eyes, behind his mask, were bottomless wells.

A lobby full of frightened bank customers did as they were told --including, Stoney noticed from his position near the door to the street, a chubby Gunther Brown, carrying a beige briefcase. Brown's pinched out face was breaking out into a slimy sweat.

Stoney's large hands, through the gloves, tightened on his submachine gun.

Kip and the two gang regulars who had shot at the ceiling marched over to join the gang member covering the bank employees, leaving Stoney to cover the lobby and the door.

Through the bank's front window, Stoney could see the morning rain that kept coming down hard. It was a few minutes past nine a.m. on a summer Saturday but the rain clouds covered most of the sun. Outside, the world was all rain and darkness. The thunder crashed. Stoney could smell that one of the hostages had crapped in his—or her—pants.

Kip put his submachine gun against a bank employee's face, a young man wearing thick glasses. "We started this at nine. By nine-fifteen me and my people are walking out of here with the contents of safety deposit box 362."

"I--I--can't get to it for you," the young man with the thick glasses stammered.

Kip blew the head off a redhead a few feet behind the young man with the thick glasses. She had been sitting at the desk, a sandwich half eaten in front of her, and her hands up.

"OK! OK!" The young man with the thick glasses closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. He opened his eyes. "I think I can hack past the eye scan system."

Kip pushed the young man with the thick glasses toward an open vault door. The three gang regulars went with him.

This was the part of the plan Stoney was planning to exploit. Stoney moved to the middle of the lobby at this point, just like Kip's plan said. From this position Stoney was able to cover the hostages in the lobby and the bank employees who were over behind the teller stations.

Stoney waited until Kip, the young man with the thick glasses, and the three gang regulars disappeared into the vault. A few seconds later, he stepped over trembling hostages, positioned himself over the wide, fat back of Gunther Brown and shot the man between the shoulder blades.

Bank employees and customers screamed. "Small change of plan, folks," Stoney said, kneeling next to Brown's beige briefcase. He opened it. He wanted to kiss the stacks of fifties and hundreds neatly packed inside, but there would be time for that later. Stoney closed the briefcase and stood up, holding it in one hand and his gun in the other.

"WHAT THE FUCK!" Kip's shout was loud enough to give a mountain a headache.

Stoney turned and faced Kip, the three gang regulars and the young man with the thick glasses. One of the gang regulars held a case with a handle. The case looked like a hospital kind of thing and had PORTABLE REFRIGERATION stenciled on it.

Kip shouted again. "I just asked you a question!"

"Picking up a bonus." Stoney smiled behind his mask.

Kip turned to the gang regular standing nearest him. "Time."

The crook checked his wrist watch. "9:08."

Kip nodded. "OK. Plan B."

Kip and the three gang regulars massacred the bank employees and customers that were still alive, starting with the young man with the thick glasses. They fired in long arcs. Some of the victims tried to do the impossible and escape, but in a moment only the crooks were left alive in the bank.

And none of that surprised Stoney. Any professional crook on a job, when faced with an unexpected complication, eliminated the source of any other possible and unplanned complication—witnesses or hostages that were still breathing.

Kip and the gang regulars reloaded. The air in the bank was thick was smoke from the gunfire. The thunder crashed outside.

"Right, " Kip said. "Now where was I? Oh yeah. I don't like it when people change my plans, Stoney."

"I don't give a shit what you like and don't like. Four to one doesn't make me piss myself. I've done worst odds and walked away."

"You're a 'Grade A' killer," Kip said. "But you never tangled with a guy who can knock you off balance with a surprise."

"Nobody makes the surprise that can do that to me."

"You're a classic, Kip. Almost a golden oldie. Young, tough—and dumber than a sack full of bricks."

"You and your boys gonna try it or you gonna bullshit me to death? Cops are gonna be here soon."

During all that talk, Kip's hand had slowly gone over to the case his man held. The case now opened, Kip's hand flashed inside, and he pitched something in a long arch over to Stoney. It hit him, wet and soft, on his masked face. Instinctively he looked at the floor.

Stoney looked down at a human eye, lying on the bank lobby floor.

He shouted, let the submachine gun and briefcase slip from his hands and snatched off his mask. The mask, scarf and hat lay on the floor in a loose tumble. The eye, brown, bloodshot, and slimy, rolled up next to the silky black scarf.

Stoney felt the toast and bacon he had for breakfast start to come up his throat.

He looked up at four submachine guns pointing at him.

Green flecks danced in Kip's blue eyes.

Then the dead in that bank were starting to smell like the fire at the slaughterhouse Stoney's grandpa took him to when he was a little kid.

"Black market human organs," Kip said. His smile was so wide traces of it were visible from below the mask. "Guns, drugs and whores, I never saw money like this like I get in this racket. This is a new century for crime. I'm hoping I can hang there long enough to sell solid citizens new black market bodies that some scientist being born right now will grow for me." He barked out one loud, abrasive HA! "Tell you what, Stoney. We'll kill you for spare parts and call it even."


Kevin James Miller has worked in factories, carnivals, zoos, movie theaters and colleges. Over forty of his stories, reviews and poems have appeared in over twenty publications. He will also have a story in the horror anthology Cold Storage. You can read an excerpt from his unpublished science fiction novel at


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