THIS AIN'T NO COWBOY MOVIE
by Mary Vettel
I will most likely die today. Reddington Cornudas paced the stifling confines of the hovel he’d called home for three years. Rivulets of sweat coursed down his pimpled back, soaking his dingy wife beater. It was barely eight a.m., yet the mercury continued to creep toward triple digits, bringing another day of unaccustomed humidity to the desert. The smell of the creosote bush wafted languidly on what little movement the air could muster. He stepped into the glare of the bare window, using the edge of his shirt to wipe sweat from red rimmed eyes. He attempted to light his empty crack pipe as he followed the progress of a prairie hen wobbling near the trap he’d laid out.
He swore when the fowl bypassed the noose. No meat today. Not that it mattered. The burning in his belly wouldn’t have allowed him to eat breakfast anyway, even if he’d had an appetite. He tugged at the taut skin of his neck, his long thumbnail leaving half-moon pinch marks. The hinges on the screen door screaked, followed by a bang.
“Ooh my god, Chili!” His girlfriend rushed toward him in a swirl of dust. Nadine paused to catch her breath, fanning herself in a dramatic gesture with one hand, while leaning against the cracked adobe wall with the other.
He ignored her and kept his eyes trained on Hobo, the three-legged mutt from down the way. Cornudas was amazed at the dog’s balance while lifting his back leg to piss…right on the patch of black-eyed Susans Nadine had planted, and made such a big deal over. A smirk creased Cornudas’ crusty lips.
“Ooh my god, Chili, you not gonna believe this.” Nadine patted her chest. “My heart feels like it’s gonna jump right out my chest.” She huffed and continued to fan herself.
He sucked his blackening teeth to show his growing impatience.
“I run all the way from the baňo to tell you, Chili. It’s Maňuel. He OD’d last night.” She stepped back, out of striking distance. “He won’t be able to drive the getaway car.”
Cornudas threw the crack pipe across the filthy room. It landed silently on the bare mattress on the floor. “Who told you?” His eyes narrowed in doubt, knowing how much this little Mexican loved drama.
“His mother. She be hangin’ wash, you know, back by the baňo, and she was all cryin’ an’ shit. And I says to her, I says, ‘Ooh Seňora Garcia, what’sa matter’, right? And she goes, she goes, ‘Ooh, Nadine, my Maňuel, he OD last night.’ And she starts bawling again, right? Ooh my god, Chili, this a bad sign. A omen. Just like in The Godfather when Paulie call in sick and the Don gets shot. Maybe you better call this off.”
Cornudas spit on the floor. “Like The Godfather,” he repeated, mocking her. “You’re so stupid.” He shook his head, and then pressed dirty knuckles into his temple to ease the sudden jab of pain inside his skull.
Nadine nodded as she always did when accepting his insult as fact. “Well, now what you gonna do, huh?” Her dark eyes darted from Cornudas’ face to her protruding belly, rubbing it in a lazy motion. She brought an index finger to her mouth and scraped it against the edge of her bottom teeth. “Can you gimme ten dollars? I needs to get my nails done; they all dirty an’ shit. What color you think I should get?”
“Is he dead?” Cornudas’ voice was as tight as his fists.
“O’ course he dead. No mother cries like ‘at when they son is just fucked up. He dead, Chili.” Her voice was devoid of emotion. She tsked. “He was a loser anyway.” Nadine held her stubby fingers out for him to see. “Ten dollars, Chili. And two for a tip. You gotsta tip them bitches, else they poke hard under your nails next time you go.”
Cornudas tugged at his skin, his dark beady eyes narrowing further. “You drive.”
Nadine gasped. “Ooh my god, Chili, really? You want me to be part of this? Really? ” She resumed fanning herself, but with both hands this time. “See what you do? Now you gonna make me cry.” She fluttered her lashes at him. A moment of awkward silence followed. “Oh, no, wait. In my condition? Oh, no, Chili.”
He slammed his palm against the frame of the screen door, separating it from the rusty hinge, sending an avalanche of plaster to the floor and exposing the thin lath. “Fuck your condition.”
Nadine flinched and picked at a speck of purple polish on her thumbnail until it peeled away. “You think I should? Remember what the doctor at the clinic say. Because of all the crack an’ shit, my afterbirth is in a very pre-car-i-ous state.”
He resumed pacing.
“You want me to?” she asked coyly.
His eyes flicked across her. He shuddered, repulsed by her grotesquely coquettish demeanor. “Don’t make a big thing of it. You’re just drivin’ a car, not goin’ to the fuckin’ prom.” He winced as the throbbing in his head grew worse.
“I know. I know.” She reached out a hand to stroke his arm.
He jerked away. Lately her touch, however gentle, made his skin crawl.
“What should I wear?” Nadine thought aloud, excitement evident in her voice.
“Let’s go.” He grabbed his red flannel shirt and slipped his wiry arms into it. He tucked the tails into his low riding jeans, scratched and readjusted his balls. He scooped up the crack pipe and rubbed it against his thigh.
“I can’t go like this,” she cried, plucking at her tattered blue sundress. “It’s got a tear an’ shit,” and lifted her arm to show him.
“Look, I don’t care what you wear, just drive the fuckin’ car. Nobody’s gonna be lookin’ at you anyways.” He kicked at the screen door.
“Gimme a minute, baby,” Nadine cooed and hurried to the pearl gray Formica dresser with the missing drawer. She grabbed a faded pink summer dress. It was wrinkled, but the coffee stain on the lap was hardly noticeable. She pulled off the torn one, exposing her huge belly. A mass of furrowed lines started just south of her black bra, and coursed down her bulging stomach like streaks of red lightning, before disappearing into her orange thong.
“Damn, that shit is nasty. Cover it up.”
Nadine slipped the dress on, and smoothed it over her belly. “It’s just cause of my condition,” she explained to the empty room, and ran to catch up as he attempted to light his empty pipe.
She dragged her fingers through thick black hair, yanking at the matted parts underneath. “How do I look?” she asked in a demure tone and shielded her eyes from the bright morning sun. Windblown sand clung to the hair on her arms and bare legs.
“Beautiful, Nadine,” he said without feeling, and held open the driver’s door of his two decade-old silver and burgundy Monte Carlo.
“Ooh, thank you, Chili.” Nadine giggled. “Such a gentleman.” She slid onto the gray vinyl seat. “Ooh, Poppie! The seat is muy caliente on my hoo-hoo. You gots something I can sit on?”
The excruciating pain in Cornudas’ head increased as he waited in the glaring sun. He closed his eyes, momentarily losing his balance, and gripped the window frame of the car. “Get in the fuckin’ car and shut up,” he hissed with a grimace, settling onto the passenger seat.
“I’m in, I’m in. Ooh, Chili, if I’m going all the way to town with you, I better go pee again.” She got out of the car and hurried to the outhouse.
“I will most likely die today,” Cornudas muttered. “Fuckin’ Maňuel, man.” He slid a large hunting knife from his ankle strap and pressed the flat of the cool blade across his forehead.
“I’m back,” Nadine sang as she reached the car, rousing him from his reverie. “Hey! Fuckin’ perro!” She scooped up a handful of dirt and flung it toward Hobo. “Did you see that, Chili? Damn dog pissed on my garden.” She squeezed in behind the steering wheel and wiped her dirty hands on her pink dress. “I want a real garden after you get this money. Not that shit with the old tires painted white. That’s such tacky white trash shit. I want me a nice one. With railroad ties and clay pots. And sunflowers. You know those ones that grow taller than a man. Let’s see Hobo piss on them.” She laughed. “You make a garden for me, baby?” She leaned over to plant a kiss on Chili’s hawk-like nose.
“Get George,” he grumbled and attempted to light the empty pipe again while Nadine cranked the engine to life. The radio blared out heavy metal. Cornudas’ armed jerked forward and turned off the radio.
“Ooh, can’t we have some music?”
He ignored her, plucking at his skin.
They drove the five bumpy miles to George’s tiny stucco house in relative silence. Nadine began to sing in her very off-key way and Cornudas slammed his fist onto her thigh. A minute passed and she started up again. He punched her again. “Why he has to live all the way over here? Thinkin’ he all high class an’ shit.” Nadine wriggled as her belly grazed the steering wheel.
“Just to annoy you, Nadine.”
“Where is he?” She gave the horn three long blasts when they pulled up outside. “He shouldn’t be so disrespectful, keepin’ you waitin’. His ass shoulda been settin’ out on the step waitin’ for you.” She tsked, and then discovered a bit of food stuck between her teeth and repeated the tsking/sucking action trying to dislodge it until Cornudas punched her.
The arched door of the house opened and all three hundred pounds on George’s 6’2” frame filled the doorway. He held a soiled rucksack in one hand, a mint green rabbit’s foot in the other. George scowled at the sight of Nadine. He was a fat mouth-breather made worse by an asthmatic wheeze. Nadine and Cornudas could hear him from across the street.
“Where’s Maňuel?” His question was directed at Cornudas in his deep Barry White voice.
“I’m drivin’,” Nadine informed him. “So shut the fuck up and get in the back.”
“Shut up.” Cornudas punched her arm.
Nadine swatted at him. “Chili, don’t hit me in front of George,” she whispered.
George remained on the doorstep, glowering in the heat.
“Get in. Jesus, want to attract any more attention?” Cornudas growled when a neighbor woman stopped sweeping the dirt from one side of her front door to the other.
“What you lookin’ at, lard ass?” Nadine called to the woman.
“Look who’s talkin’.” Cornudas laughed for the first time in days.
“Hey, I’m in a condition.”
George lumbered onto the backseat with a grunt. The shot shock absorbers cried in protest. He wheezed and flicked a bead of sweat from his forehead. He withdrew a .38 from the rucksack and handed it to Cornudas.
“What are you, fuckin’ crazy? Don’t be givin’ me no gun with that lady standin’ right there starin’ at my ass.” He pushed the gun away. “Drive,” he said and slumped down further in his seat. “Shovin’ a fuckin’ gun up in my face,” he muttered.
“The safety’s on,” George said in his raspy voice.
Cornudas reprised his growl of frustration. “Not talkin’ ‘bout no safety, George. Talkin’ ‘bout not doin’ it with a witness. Damn. Don’t know which one of yous is stupider.”
“He is,” Nadine said, with a flicking motion as though brushing an irritating insect off her shoulder.
“Yeah, you ain’t winnin’ no Jeopardy with Alex Trebek either, so shut the fuck up,” Cornudas said.
George remained silent, except for his mouth breathing and wheezing. When they had gone a few blocks and the tidy adobe houses gave way to less tidy wood frame huts and hogans, the neighborhood petered out to the brick and cinder block remains of the foundation of the old firehouse that had been burned down in the sixties as some form of misguided solidarity with rioters across the country. It was never rebuilt. Some said it was because there was no money in the town’s budget for it. Others said it was in spite; to teach them a lesson; to punish them. The remnants of a plastic bag caught up on a bit of skeletal rebar, fluttered in an anemic breeze like a ghostly flag of surrender.
“Here.” George passed the gun to Cornudas, then held out a box of bullets.
Cornudas shoved the box back at him. “This ain’t gonna be no shootout at the OK fuckin’ Corral, OK?”
George stroked his sweaty cheek with the mint green rabbit’s foot. “Where’s Maňuel?” He asked as they bumped along the rutted dirt road toward the highway.
“Dead.” Cornudas said.
“He OD’d last night.” Nadine sounded pleased to be the one to break the news to the two of them.
“Jesus,” George whispered and crossed himself.
They rode the rest of the way in silence, leaving the salamanders and road kill scavengers in a wake of ochre sand.
Two blocks from the Alamogordo City Bank, Cornudas turned around in his seat and faced George. “Remember, in and out. This ain’t no cowboy movie.”
George nodded. His wheezing had grown more pronounced.
“Damn, you gotsta breathe like that?” Nadine asked and shot him an angry look in the rearview mirror.
George ignored her.
“You workin’ on half a lung or something? I gots an uncle like that--”
“Nobody wants to hear ‘bout your uncle, Nadine. There’s a spot. Park there.” Cornudas rapped his knuckles against the windshield.
George dragged the now damp rabbit’s foot across his cheek.
“Hey, retard, put that away,” Cornudas admonished him.
George tsked, and slipped the rabbit’s foot into the pocket of his jeans.
“Leave it on the seat,” Cornudas ordered. What little patience he had remaining, was wearing very thin. “I don’t do no heist with some baby with a rabbit’s foot.”
“I ain’t no baby. Just superstitious is all.” George sounded hurt.
“Tickity-tock, mo-fo,” Cornudas snapped and tapped an invisible watch on his wrist.
George scowled as he removed the rabbit’s foot from his pocket and left it on the seat.
“How much money you think you gonna get?” Nadine asked.
Cornudas got out of the car at the curb. “How the fuck should I know? Ain’t gonna be ‘nough to retire on, just ‘nough to get me some rock.” He walked toward the bank in that cocky gangsta swagger he had adopted from his time in jail. “Keep it running,” he called over his shoulder.
George grunted and defied gravity to pull himself up and out of the rear door and followed Cornudas into the bank. He slid the .38 from the waistband of his pants and pressed it to the side of his leg.
Cornudas tsked when he heard the blare of music from the Monte Carlo’s radio. He glanced out the vestibule window and saw Nadine smoking a cigarette and primping her mass of matted hair. He saw her blowing kisses to a muscled construction worker across the street. Cornudas’ head snapped around and looked up at George’s face.
“They got coffee,” George whispered.
Cornudas took a deep breath and pushed open the door.
Aiming his weapon at the forehead of the only teller in the bank, Cornudas announced, “Awright, this is a stick up!” He shifted from foot to foot like an adrenaline-pumped up boxer preparing to land a blow. He twisted his head, causing his neck to make audible cracks. “Don’t push no alarm buttons and you’ll be OK,” he promised the pretty redhead as her breath caught and her eyes widened.
“I’ve seen enough movies to know when I’m staring into the face of a wired junkie,” Clara Rioux told the police detectives later. “The last thing I wanted to do was rattle him, you know, and have him pull the trigger. I guess being behind that thick Plexiglas made me feel invincible or something. Hey, can I get a tall soy latte, no whip?”
“You’re joking, right?” Det. Hildebrand asked and signaled for a rookie to get the teller a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the corridor. “Go on.”
“So the guy looks around and sees the two old ladies filling out slips at the counter,” Clara Rioux continued. “He motioned with his gun for the big guy to point his gun at the women.”
“ ‘You know what to do,’ he shouted at me. He must’ve been really strung out, if that’s what you call it, when a crackhead’s jonesing. He kept tugging on the skin of his neck. Gross.” She shuddered. “ ‘Put the fuckin’ money in the fuckin’ bag!’ he shouted at me.”
“ ‘What bag?’ ” I asked.”
“He didn’t have a bag?” Det. Hildebrand wrote something in his notebook.
Clara Rioux shook her head. “I know. Stupid, right? ‘Aw shit!’ he said. ‘Just gimme the fuckin’ money.’ ”
“I showed him the small green plastic zippered bags and began to stuff banded stacks of tens into one of them. ‘I can’t believe you came to rob a bank and forgot to bring your own bags,’ I said. Again, I don’t know what I was thinking.” She rolled her eyes and shrugged. “It’s not like I have a death wish or anything. Thanks.” She accepted the coffee from the rookie. “Ew.” Clara’s nose crinkled. She set the paper cup on the desk and the three of them studied the oil slick on the surface for a moment.
“Where was I? Oh, yeah. Um, he goes, ‘Hey, I don’t need no shit from you. Just gimme the money. And don’t be stuffin’ no singles in there. I want the Benjamins.’ Benjamins? Isn’t that kind of dated?” She chuckled. “Sorry, I couldn’t help it. His whole gangsta-wanna-be act was just pathetic.”
Hildebrand glanced at his partner, then returned his gaze to Clara and waited for her to resume.
“ ‘Bitch, what is wrong with you? Do you not see I have a gun? And my partner has a gun?’ He kept shaking the gun at me. I waved a hundred dollar bill at him, then slipped the SecurityPac of red ink inside the bag.
“Then the big guy asked him where the guard was. He seemed really nervous. And not too bright. He was one of those mouth breathers.” She imitated George’s open mouthed audible breathing and wheeze. “I could hear him across the bank.”
“ ‘Where’s the guard?’ ” he asked me. “I tried to keep it light, you know? So I said, ‘He’s new. Probably locked himself in the safe.’ I was just joking around.”
“Uh-huh,” Hildebrand said.
“I’m in the can taking a leak,” Henry Solas, the bank’s lone guard explained to Det. Hildebrand later that day in the voice of a barrel-chested man who’d smoked a pack and a half a day for 30 years. “Clara, the teller, trips the silent alarm that sets off a flashing light in the employee’s bathroom. That is not something you want to see when you’re at the urinal. Am I right?” He looked from Hildebrand to his partner. “So I finished up and unsnapped my weapon. Twenty years with the New Mexico Highway Department without a hitch. Two weeks at this bank and wham! So, I made my way down the hall and I see Clara jamming money in those little green bags in a hurry. And I think, honey, calm down, ‘cause I can see this guy is wound real tight. You know what I mean?” He looked from Hildebrand to his partner.
Hildebrand and his partner exchanged looks.
“ ‘Did you plan this at all?’ ” Clara Rioux resumed her statement. “ ‘Or did you just turn off a Scooby Doo rerun and decide to rob a bank?’ ” She smiled at Hildebrand.
“Good one,” the detective said dryly.
“I looked over at the two old ladies and my heart’s breaking, they seem so frail and scared.”
“What are they doing at this point?”
“Well, the big wheezy guy is holding his gun on them and they’re standing together with their hands up.”
Hildebrand jotted down something.
“So the skinny dude keeps telling me to hurry up when Henry, the bank guard, yells out, ‘Freeze!’ ” Clara said.
“I yell, ‘Freeze!’ ” Henry Solas said. “I had my weapon aimed at the skinny perp’s chest. He says something like, ‘Oh, fuck, man!’ and tugs on his neck, hopping from foot to foot like a flea on a hot skillet. Then the big perp whines, ‘I tol’ you, man! I tol’ you.’
“I’m concerned about the two customers and the teller, so in a calm voice I instructed them to lay their weapons down,” Henry Solas continued. “I could clearly see the big perp in the security mirror, but the skinny guy had slipped behind a pillar.
“ ‘I don’t think so, man,’ the skinny one calls out. ‘Not when we gots hostages.’
“From outside there’s a blaring car horn and the skinny perp says, ‘Stupid bitch. Man, what the fuck is she honking for?’ He stepped to the vertical blinds and peered out. ‘Holy shit!’ he said, ‘the mother lode.’ ”
“And what do you think he meant by that?” Hildebrand asked.
“I’m guessing he meant the Brink’s truck that had just arrived. I guess his girlfriend was honking to give him the heads up.”
“ ‘Bonus round, dude,’ he said to the big guy. He told him to keep an eye on the old ladies and then he returned to the teller’s window and threatened to blow Clara’s head off if she didn’t give him the bags of money. He was getting really antsy.”
“Then what happened?”
“Well, she’d been pretty quiet the whole time, you know. They’re trained to just hand over the money, don’t antagonize the robber or anything. She slid several bags of money under the Plexi divider then ducked down behind the marble counter and I’m guessing scrunched herself into as small a target as she could.”
“It must have been her disappearing like that that stunned and angered him ‘cause he fired at the partition. The Brink’s men who were unloading the truck outside must have heard the shots,” Henry Solas explained and sipped the Diet Coke the rookie had handed him.
“Then this big truck pulls up blocking the Monte Carlo,” Nadine said from her hospital bed. “I’m the getaway driver, you know, how can I getaway with that big truck there? ‘Move your damn truck,’ I yelled at the men, but they ignore me. Then I hear the shots. ‘Ooh, Chili,’ I says, and I have to get out the car and go to him.”
“I inched closer to the corner of the wall,” Henry Solas recounted, “and called out, ‘Why don’t you throw down your weapons?’ and the sonofabitch yells, ‘Why don’t you suck my dick?’ and directed several rounds my way. I got shards of wallpaper and sheetrock falling on me from the wall where the bullets lodged, inches from my left ear. Now I’m really pissed.”
“What’s the big guy doing at this point?”
“He was trying to corral the old women, but they weren’t having any of it. My guess is he wanted to use them as hostages or human shields now that the Brink’s guys were taking up positions by the inner door of the vestibule. He said, ‘They won’t do what I say,’ and the skinny one said, ‘That’s ‘cause you’re a pussy, man, and they’re not afraid of you.’ Then he spun around and fired toward the old ladies.”
“Then what happened?”
Henry Solas hung his head for a moment. “I couldn’t see if he’d hit either or both of the women, I just heard their screams, so I lunged forward and fired at the big perp. He staggered backwards, clutching his lower belly.” Henry Solas studied the bloodstains on his shoes. “I didn’t mean to kill him,” he said. “I was aiming at his gun hand, but he moved.”
Det. Hildebrand nodded and pursed his lips. After a moment he said, “Please continue.”
“Well, I guess the skinny one freaked and fired at the Brink’s guards. The glass of the vestibule shattered and he fired again, this time striking one of them above his Teflon vest. His partner fired his rifle into the bank, to give him the few seconds he needed to grab his partner and pull him to the sidewalk. There was chaos,” Henry Solas said, shaking his head.
“I had to get to my Chili,” Nadine told the detectives. “I yanked open the door and shoved those guys who blocked Chili’s car out the way. Then I seen George.” She lowered her face to where her wrist was handcuffed to the hospital bed railing and dabbed at her eyes with a crumpled tissue. “He was just laying there on the floor, staring at the mural on the ceiling like he was in an art museum or something. That’s how I’ll always remember George. Dead on the floor in that bank, just starin’ up at the ceiling, all at peace an’ shit. He was dead ‘cause Chili made him leave his rabbit’s foot in the car.” She nodded solemnly. “That’s messed up.”
“And then what happened?”
“The skinny perp sees the pregnant woman and tells her to ‘Get outa here!’ from behind the pillar. She scooped up the big guy’s gun and said, ‘No! I’m here to help you, Chili.’ She gripped the .38 in a shooter’s stance which told me she’d had experience with a handgun. She spots me and fires in my direction. I returned fire, striking her in the left upper arm. It spun her around and she tripped over the big guy lying on the floor. She was screaming hysterically.” Henry Solas shook his head. “She staggered backwards and fell …clutching her belly.” He held a hand over his mouth and closed his eyes.
“Do you need a moment?” Hildebrand asked gently.
Henry Solas cleared his throat. “No. Let’s go on. So, um, this really pissed him off.”
“Yes. He shouted, ‘You die now, man!’ and fired at me. I returned fire but apparently didn’t hit him. Again, it’s all happening so fast, sirens, the pregnant girl is screaming, I don’t know if the Brink’s guy is OK or not.” Henry Solas covered his face with his hands.
Det. Hildebrand waited a moment. “And then what happened?”
“Oh my god,” Nadine explained. “I felt a burning, a tearing in my belly, you know? But I didn’t only feel it, I could hear it pop.”
“Heard what pop?” Hildebrand asked.
“The doctor said the placenta ripped away from my womb. You know, where the baby is hooked to me. Then the blood came. Dios mio. And I think, Oh, no, Chili will be so mad I cannot drive the getaway car. I must have fainted ‘cause I don’t remember nothing else until the hospital.”
“Then what happened?” Det. Hildebrand asked Henry Solas.
“The skinny perp rolled his head from shoulder to shoulder and I thought, ‘This guy’s going to explode any second.’ ”
“What do you mean, ‘explode’? Did you see explosives on his body?”
“No. I mean he seemed really jacked up with a real short fuse and things weren’t going his way. You know what I mean? He fired several rounds in my direction, and then ran for the exit. I saw him leap over his girlfriend’s body without even slowing down.” He shook his head.
“So, then what happened?” Det. Hildebrand asked.
Cornudas pressed an index finger and thumb against his eyes and scrunched his face. “Dude, where’s the damn painkillers at? You said you’d get me some motherfuckin’ Oxy if I talked to you.”
“They’re coming,” Det. Hildebrand said. “Go on.”
Cornudas slouched further into the metal folding chair. He pulled up the ink-stained hem of his wife-beater to wipe at his burning eyes. “Man, it was happenin’ just like in the movies.” He grinned. “I was like fuckin’ Larry Fitzgerald runnin’ for the goal line.” He chuckled. “Jumpin’ over shit. I figured those Brink’s and ambulance dudes would be busy.” His smirk revealed his rotting teeth. “So I made my move through the shattered glass door. I held my piece at my side and said, ‘There’s a motherfuckin’ crazy dude in there shootin’ up the joint!’” Cornudas laughed. “No interception. No fumble. Touch down!” He laughed again. “That fuckin’ Brink’s truck was blockin’ my car, so I kept goin’ down Alamogordo lookin’ for something I could take. Sirens an’ shit were blarin’ all over, killin’ my headache, man. Then I seen this car repair place and figure I’ll get me a car there when the fuckin’ bank bags explode and I’m covered in a fuckin’ cloud of red paint. Shit.”
“Take your time,” Det. Hildebrand addressed Mikey, the mechanic from Frank’s Auto Repairs on Alamogordo Street.
Mikey held out his trembling hands. “I’m still shook up, you know. Look.”
“Take your time.”
“Where should I start?”
“Wherever you’re comfortable.”
“Well, I woke up my usual time…”
“Maybe you could begin with you being at the auto shop,” Hildebrand suggested.
Mikey nodded. “OK, so yeah, me and Frankie – my boss, the owner of the shop - we’re in the shop and I said to him, ‘Hey, Frankie, ain’t that Ronny’s car?’ meaning his teenage son.”
“And you were referring to?”
“His son, Ronny.”
“Yes. I mean what type of vehicle?”
“Oh. A 2004 Volvo S60.”
“So, Frankie said, ‘The needle sticks on FULL even though the damn thing’s empty, and Ronny,’ Frankie’s son, ‘took a lot of grief from his girlfriend’s old man, breaking his balls about bringing his daughter home late with the oldest excuse in the book. Ronny shows the guy the gauge is stuck and he forgives him.’ We’re talking about how it ain’t under warranty no more, when we hear these sirens right outside.
“Next thing we know, there’s this guy covered in red paint standing there, lookin’ all crazy, pointin’ a gun at us. ‘Gimme a fuckin’ car,’ he says. I see he’s got green plastic zippered bags in his left hand and more bulging inside his shirt.
“ ‘This one’s on FULL,’ Frankie said, and stepped away from the car. The guy pointed the gun at me until I backed far enough away for him to open the driver’s door and get in. He turned the key, the car started and rolled down the ramp to Alamogordo Street. I winced when he bottomed out – you gotta be careful going down that ramp.
“As soon as he’s gone, I say to Frankie, ‘Holy shit! He must’ve just robbed the bank.’ I ran to the window to see and the guy’s blaring the horn to get through a red light. Meanwhile, Frankie calls 911 and I’m hoping that the cops get here before that Volvo runs out of gas.
“A second later I see the thing die in traffic, just down the block and turn to tell Frankie, but he’s talking to 911.
“ ‘He had those green bank bags in his hand and the red paint all over him,’ Frankie’s saying. I’m trying to signal to him that the car died but he keeps talking to the 911 operator. ‘He looked like a Native American, about 5’9”, wearing a red--’ ” Mikey’s voice caught. “That’s all he got out before…before he was shot.” The mechanic twisted a greasy rag and looked off across the squad room.
“When you’re ready,” Hildebrand said.
Mikey took a moment to compose himself. “I spun around to see the crazy bastard standing there. With the sun behind him he looked like a wild Indian on the warpath, or somethin’. I hit the ground and crawled out the back door as fast as I could, expecting a bullet to blow off the back of my head any second.”
“Then what?” Det. Hildebrand asked.
“I went into that car place and they gave me a car with no gas.”
Det. Hildebrand waited. After a few minutes of silence he said, “And then?”
“Man, you know what happened. Why you want me to say it all? I’m hurtin’.” He tugged at the skin on his neck.
“Well, we just want to be sure we get everything right. I mean Nadine says one thing, the teller another. The bank guard another, and the Brink’s and EMS guys something else. Then the mechanic…”
“Hey, fuck the mechanic. Givin’ me a fuckin’ car with no gas. Thinkin’ his ass is funny or something? Shit.”
“C’mon, let’s wrap this up. All the crap in the bank was captured on surveillance cameras. And there were security cameras in the auto shop, too.” Det. Hildebrand and his partner stared at Cornudas. They both knew the security cameras in the auto shop were not operational.
“Well, then you know what happened. I popped him.” Cornudas shrugged.
Det. Hildebrand remained deadpan, refusing even to jot anything down. He kept his eyes firmly on Cornudas’ haggard face.
“That other fuckin’ dude hit the ground and took off.”
“The other mechanic?”
“I need you to speak; the tape recorder can’t pick up a nod.”
“Yeah. The other mechanic. I was just about to put a .38 in the back of his fuckin’ skull when the cops dropped me.”
Det. Hildebrand glanced at his partner then turned back to Cornudas. “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?”
Cornudas shook his head and grimaced.
“Anything you want to ask us?” Det. Hildebrand clicked his pen and slid it into his shirt pocket.
Cornudas wobbled his head. “Man, you gotta gimme something. My head’s about to bust wide open.”
“No? Nothing? You didn’t even ask about George.”
“He’s dead. What’s to ask?”
“The Brink’s guard you shot?”
Det. Hildebrand checked his watch. “He’s still in surgery. The mechanic?”
“He’s dead, too, right?” The Navajo shrugged, growing more and more jittery.
“Nadine or the baby?” Det. Hildebrand asked and stood up, closing his notebook.
Cornudas’ chin rested on his chest, but his inky black eyes peered up at Hildebrand.
Det. Hildebrand and his partner moved toward the door.
“Well?” Cornudas asked.
The two detectives left the room without responding.