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Marvyn Petrucci

Rip Off


Bateman and the professor were sitting at a table covered with a crisp white cloth in a small private room on the second floor of Locke-Ober, a restaurant in the alley off of Winter Street in Boston. The uniformed waiter had just placed a gin and tonic in front of Bateman and a white rum and ginger in front of the erect black man with a clean-shaven scalp sitting across from him.

Bateman took a sip of his drink and said, "They run it overland from Guadalajara to the gulf coast of Mexico but never to the same place twice. They got a freighter sitting out there in the gulf with a couple powerboats with twin diesels. Those babies zip into a prearranged pickup spot, load the kilos into the boats and beat it back out to the freighter that hauls them up and covers them over to look like cargo, case anyoneís watching from Heaven. Freighter chugs along for a day or two. When theyíre close enough they lower the powerboats at night so that they come in somewhere either side of New Orleans. The boats lay off the coast till they see a signal then come in fast and dump the shit. Boom. Guys stash it or haul it right off in trucks quickerín you can say God bless the USA."

"Sounds real big time. Your friends must be laying out some cash," the professor said.

"You shitting me? There ainít a mayor or police chief on the route from Guadalajara to Tampico and from there down to Vera Cruz who doesnít have his hand out. Course, they gotta pay the higher-ups. I canít imagine the politicos all the way up to the Fed level ainít raking it in. From what I hear you can go for hours and see nothing but dope growing down on the old hacienda."

The professor laughed softly. "Bateman, man, you are fucked."

"Iím fucked all right. Iím fucked if I donít get those beans you promised me would be here a couple days ago."

"Be cool, man. I told you what that gig involved. Thatís gonna happen real soon."

"How cool you want me to get? Thereís lots of guys know how to boost a warehouse."

"Bateman, you sound like a million other honkies. I thought you was together, man. Whatchoo layin this shit on me for? Iím Top of the World here, Mr. B; I donít need no light weight."

"Schoolís in around here in a week in case you havenít heard. I got guysíre ready to bust their ass peddling beans. Iíll be cool for the next five days. After that Iíve got to take my business elsewhere. You know my set-up. I got guys Iím paying the rent and theyíre in there watching the shit, dealing it out. I got people put in a lot of dough help get this thing going. They are gonna want their money back before Christmas."

The professor finished his drink and buzzed the little button on the wall. The waiter appeared in a moment and the professor nodded for refills.

"You got to be patient, Bateman. You been in this business a few years an you got in it cause you knew some dudes, man, and you had a roll. Am I right? You a on-trep-a-nooer, man, like a Capitalist fool taking his money to the bank same time every week. Shit, man. You forget already where we met? You was hawking O-Zís on the corner, had a baggie-full of pills you was fuckin-over high school kids for an thought you was King Shit the Dope Dealer.

"You know, Bateman, you a bright boy despite gaps in your knowledge, an now you come on like Mr. Marketing and Distribution. Just might be a lot of guys, like you say, know how to boost a warehouse, but you ainít one of Ďem. You the mother ready to buy what they go out and git. You goin to school all this time while you learnin to hustle. Getting yourself a nice education both ways. Thatís all right. Thatís cool. Like you got two lives or something. But when you through with this one life, man, you got the other one to go home to. My black ass been on the street all the time you goin to school and a long time befo that, so I know what the fuck Iím talking about, you dig?"

"Yeah," Bateman said, "I dig."

"Yeah? Well, I am happy to hear that, muh man. I put the word out on you and you wonít get jack-shit from any nigger this side of the river, never mind what you lookin for."


Pete knocked on the glass set in the top half of the door. Fat wet snowflakes broke against the grocery bag Donovan held in his arms. They saw nothing behind the black curtains. Donovan watched the snow swirl in the cone of light from a streetlamp at the far end of the red brick tenement houses. A light came on in a wire cage above the door and bathed them in blue.

"Nice touch," Pete said. "A blue fucking light. Very cool."

The door opened a few inches. Donovan could hear Hendrix on the sound system. He saw an eye, cheek, half a mouth, big chin.

"Merry Christmas, John," Pete said. A big man opened the door. He had no neck. His jaw occupied most of his face.

"Itís about fucking time," John said, as the two men stepped into the hallway. Donovan saw an Iron Cross welded onto Johnís belt buckle and the wide leather bracelet studded with steel balls on one wrist.

"We got slowed up," Pete said. "Itís snowing out. Maybe you didnít notice, youíre so busy studying for Divinity School."

"Fuck you, too," John said, and shut the door as Donovan followed Pete into a parlor where a guy with a red beard and ponytail sat in a wooden chair in front of an old steamer trunk. He turned the volume down on the giant KLH speakers.

"Hey, Scooter."

"Hey, Pete."

"This is Frank," Pete said.

"Hey, man, you brought the groceries. Great."

Scooter reached into a bag as Donovan set them down on the steamer trunk. He pulled out a kilo of pot wrapped tightly in green plastic and masking tape. "Well, O-kay." He threw the brick to John. "Put some of that in the pipe, man. Letís get cookiní."

Scooter ripped the paper bag down the side and slid forty white boxes marked "Sample" onto the trunk. He opened one and held up a clear plastic sheet with a dozen black ten milligram Biphetamine capsules encased within it. Each box had three-dozen sheets. There were two zip-lock plastic bags each containing three hundred 15 milligram desoxyn tablets.

"Beauties for the cuties," Scooter said. "And yellows for the fellows."

Pete and Donovan found chairs. John had stuffed a hookah with buds and placed it on the trunk. He handed out flexible surgical hoses, each with a clip on one end attached to the body of the hookah.

He lit the bowl. They smoked for a minute. Donovan got the hang of it. Not bad. He watched Pete take a wad of bills from Scooter, count it, fold it, and put it in his back pocket. Cartoons were on the TV with the sound off. Porky Pig, in a helmet, machine-gunned a chicken hawk.

"Get that cock-sucker," John said.

Donovan had closed his eyes for a minute and opened them to see John standing in front of him. "Beauty?" John held a few black capsules in his cupped palm until Donovan told him no thanks; he hadnít any need to see the sun come up.

They all heard the three hard raps on the glass of the front door as John put a Black Sabbath album on the turntable. He didnít press the play button, but looked at Scooter, who told him to check it out. Scooter reached under his chair and brought up a Colt forty-five, Army issue, blue-black and bad looking, and laid it on the trunk.

"You guys expecting trouble?" Pete said.

"Nah," Scooter said, "We pay our rent on time."

The early movie came on, World War Two in the Pacific.

John peered through the black curtains and saw a girl about nineteen or twenty. Collar up, scarf around her neck, she was pulling a knit cap down tightly over her ears. There were no other signs of movement, no cars in the street other than Peteís van.

"Who is it," Scooter said.

"Itís a chick," John said.

"See what sheís selling."

John hit the light and could see the girl had her hands in her pockets. She looked cold. He opened the door to tell her they werenít buying any cookies. He opened it wide enough to get a good look at her in the light, wide enough to see the black dude who stepped into sight with a chopped Winchester twelve-gauge shotgun braced against his thigh.

"What the fuck," John said.

"Shut the fuck up," the girl said, shoving a 9mm Walther into his stomach. "You havenít been doing your sit-ups, Fuck-face." She forced him back into the hall and turned him around. He felt the shotgun against his back. He heard the door shut.

Donovan saw them first, framed in the entryway to the parlor, the light from the hall behind them. John came in with something sticking out of his back.

Attached to it was a brother in a leather jacket and cap, wearing shades. The girl bounced into the room, pointed the gun at Scooter, and grabbed the forty-five off the trunk.

"Donít think bad thoughts," she said.

She herded them against the far wall, face-first, told them to kneel on the floor with their hands behind them. Donovan was in front of the TV, where the Marines were eating sand, pinned down by enemy fire.

"Youíre fucking with the Disciples, bitch," Scooter said.

She put a round into the speaker next to him. He froze.

"Somebody move," she said.

Donovan heard a plastic bag snapped open and the dope being dumped into it.

"Iím only gonna ask once," she said. "Whoís got the money?"

"I got it," Pete said. "Itís in my back pocket."

"Take it out, real slow, and hold it up, then throw it back here."

Pete followed her instructions. She grabbed the roll and said,

"Down on the floor. Face down."

"Be cool," Scooter said, "You got what you wanted."

She put the business-end of the Walther between the cheeks of his ass and said, "What I wanted was to take a couple pictures of you in your bra and panties. Who does your hair?"

The black dude said, "Letís go!"

When the front door slammed, Scooter rolled over and sat up.


Twenty minutes later Pete swung the Chevy van into an elevated parking lot above Haymarket Square. He entered the second level and pulled alongside a black Mercury sedan and shut off the lights.

"You still think Iím fucking you? Roll your window down."

Donovan cranked as the power window in the Merc came down and he saw the black guy in shades and leather cap sipping from a pint of Cutty Sark. The girl was next to him. The guy looked up. "Eve-nin, brother."

Pissed off, Scooter had ranted on about revenge and the Disciples werenít gonna take this; that coon and that bitch were in trouble, man. Donovan listened to speculation as to whether they had been shadowed from the pick-up point, or had the apartment been staked out since who knows, while they just waited for a delivery? They left and Pete started laughing soon as he turned the key in the ignition. The big joke was Bateman had planned the heist. Bateman got some people he knew from out of town. Pete was in on the whole thing.

"Why didnít you tell me?í Donovan said. "What if something went wrong?"

"You didnít have to know is why I didnít tell you, and nothing went wrong so donít even wonder about it."

"Why?" Donovan said. "Is Bateman crazy? These guysíll break his legs if they get the idea heís fucking them over."

Pete laughed. "Theyíll break moreín that. But they ainít gonna get that idea, Frank. Ideas donít come easy to those guys. And what do you mean, why? Frankie, theyíre a couple of scumbags. We had the people and we did it. Scooterís an asshole with that forty-five under his chair. I nearly burst when Triggy shit-canned that speaker. I loved it. I thought Scooter was gonna shit. We get the dope back; they get the money. Thatís the way we figured it. Bateman is outta town. Theyíll be over the state line in a couple hours. No muss, no fuss."

The black guy handed up the dope. The Merc pulled out first. Donovan began to see the humor in it as Pete headed out for the territory.


Marvyn Petrucci's poetry, essays, and stories have appeared in the Santa Clara Review, the Boston Globe, Aspect, Southern Humanities Review, Boston Review, Louisiana Literature, Black Warrior Review, Zone 3, Rhino, Spinning Jenny, Typo Magazine, Shampoo.

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