Thomas Wictor

A very bad man, part four

A very bad man, part four

When we arrived at Larry’s hanger, he told us he didn’t have the key, so we’d have to go home. Instead, Tim took a crowbar from his car and silently broke the lock while Larry wailed. Inside, we learned the last of Larry’s secrets.

His hidden treasure was a landfill of magazines, cardboard boxes, empty bookshelves, scores of rusty wire paperback racks, boards, hand-painted signs, wooden booths, and scrap metal. They were all heaped together in a giant mountain.

A coalition of silverfish, weevils, mud daubers, cockroaches, rats, and termites had attacked every box of books and tied bundle of magazines. Many of the boxes were coated with a gray, cementlike substance—a byproduct of decay or digestion—and the books inside were stuck together in a block. Millions of ravenous little mouths had bored tunnels all the way through them. A half-inch of oily black dust coated the interior of the hanger and its contents.

“It looks like Satan puked all over everything in here,” Tim said.

The fabled treasure simply did not exist. We did some halfhearted sorting that day, loading what we could into the van, Frank’s truck, and our own vehicle. Despite this final disappointment, we still refused to let Larry face the consequences of his own choices. Hoping that there might be something of value in the greasy, dusty, Satan-vomit mountain, Tim and I arranged to rent a truck at our own expense and transport the contents of the hanger back to the store.

A late Christmas present

On the morning of December 28, 1995, we met at the store and followed Larry to the airport. We decided to spend the entire day there, and we’d dressed in our cruddiest work clothes because the last time we’d emerged from the hanger as blackened and filthy as chimney-sweeps. The loading itself was uneventful, beyond the discovery of two 500-lb. bomb casings which we assumed were empty, though by that time we didn’t really care.

Larry kept excusing himself and disappearing. “I got the drizzlin’ shits!” he shouted.

God almighty!” Tim screamed at him.

It was just another endless interval of sorting and toting endless boxes of books, magazines, and loose papers, the only difference being that this time we had to pause every few minutes to brush insects and spider webs from our hair. As the sun began to set, we finished and secured the hanger for a visit the next day. By the time we arrived back at Larry’s store, it was dark.

In the poorly lit parking lot, we backed the truck up to the loading dock and proceeded to pile everything on the two wheeled carts we had at our disposal. Nobody said much. As we stacked boxes on the carts for the third or fourth trip into the store, I noticed a car parked in the alley next to the loading dock, no more than six feet away but barely visible in the gloom.

“Tim, there’s a car right there!” I said, grabbing his arm.

He shook off my grip. “Well, don’t worry about it,” he snapped.

That made me so angry that I thought, Fine. Fuck you, then. I hope we all die.

At that moment, a figure popped out of the darkness in front of us. He wore a knitted balaclava, a bulky flak jacket, heavy gloves, and combat boots. In his right hand was a huge machine pistol.

Jim

There was a moment of complete silence, broken only by Tim’s quiet “Oh,” a sound of absolute comprehension. The gunman then raised his pistol and pointed it at my face. The open end of the muzzle was two feet from my right eye. He began bobbing and weaving like a boxer.

“Don’t fuck with me, man!” he squealed.

I could see from the crinkles around his dark eyes that under his mask, he was smiling.

After that everything decelerated and took forever. I turned and ran, the gunman chasing me. Larry was crouching in the back of his van, and as I passed it, I realized that I’d left Tim behind. Since there was really nowhere to run, I circled back around the van and ran smack into Tim, who was in the process of vaulting over some of the stacked boxes.

My face collided squarely with the rock-hard top of my brother’s head, breaking my nose and glasses.

Glasses

We piled into the store, slammed the metal door, and turned off the lights. Neither of us knew Larry’s state of affairs. While Tim dialed 911, I shouted through the door for Larry, amazed that I had the presence of mind to stand off to the side in case bullets punched through. I realized the gate to the loading dock was wide open. Anyone could come inside the store and stalk us among the dark aisles.

There was no choice but to go out to the loading dock and pull down the roll-up door. As I did so, I expected tracers to fly out of the blackness and blow holes in me. Without my glasses everything was a blur. Closing the loading-dock door was actually worse than the initial attack, because now I knew that there was a gunman out there. When the clattering, crashing, ear-splitting door was finally closed, I ran back to the front of the store, unsure if I’d locked the gunman in with us.

Tim patiently explained the situation to a slow-witted 911 dispatcher. A police captain later told me that I screamed obscenities the whole time. I have no memory of that.

Then Larry’s querulous shout of “Hell-lo?” came from the other side of the door.

“Get inside right now!” I screeched.

“No, I’m… I’m all right,” he said, sounding strangely distracted. I looked out the front window and saw the gunman’s car leaving the lot, so I opened the door and screamed at Larry as loudly as I could. He ambled in a few seconds later.

“What’s all the fuss about?” he asked.

Though I wanted to shake him so hard that he fell apart, I refrained and checked him for bullet holes. While doing so I looked up; the car had returned. It sat right outside the front window.

There they are again!” I screamed. “Get on the floor! They might shoot through the window!

We all crouched and watched the car circle the building a few times. Tim called 911 again, reiterated that we need help now, and hung up. The phone immediately rang. I picked it up.

“When do we eat?” A froggy voice demanded.

It was Anne, Larry’s wife, upset that he was late coming home. Stuttering, my teeth chattering, adrenalin rushes coursing through me, I could not get her off the phone.

“Give it to me!” Larry shouted. I heard her tinny squawks of What’s going on? What’s happening? as he stumbled through an explanation. Tim ended the dispute by grabbing the phone and dialing 911 a third time. It’d been fifteen minutes since we’d first called.

“Is it worth it?” I yelled at Larry, “Why don’t you retire?” He recoiled as if I’d slapped him.

When the deputies finally showed up, the gunman was long gone. Since no shots had been fired, they were impatient with us. We’d wasted their time.

“I was too angry to be scared,” Larry said to an impassive deputy. “I picked up a tire iron and chased ‘im off!”

Since Larry could barely walk, it must’ve been quite a torpid chase. Maybe the gunman bobbed and weaved because he had Meniere’s disease and was in the middle of a rotational vertigo attack, though in 1995 I had no idea the condition existed.

I also had no idea why we hadn’t all been killed. What I did know, however, was that I was through, so I announced to Larry as I finished unloading the truck that I was quitting. Tim handed him back his keys, and as soon as the last squad car left, we drove off ourselves, not able to spend another second in that cold, black parking lot. Larry refused to leave with us.

“I’m fine, fine,” he said.

A very bad man, part one
A very bad man, part two
A very bad man, part three
A very bad man, part five


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