Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Third Rule

Kevin was still nervous, and his foot trembled a bit as he hit the accelerator, merging the Roadster into the heavy I-95 traffic. He looked up at the afternoon sky through his sunglasses. One of the green sign boards above said “Miami 1000 miles”. “I should be home by daybreak” he thought to himself. Meanwhile, Randolph pushed back the plush seat of the convertible, humming along to the radio, soon breaking into a throaty “Somebody help me…”. "He sings well for a thug", Kevin thought, his tension slipping away slowly.

“Do you think the convertible was a good idea?” He asked to Randolph at length.

“Ha-ha, kid, I knew you’d ask, don’t worry, that’s the last thing they’d imagine you running on. They won’t even look at you.”

“But, isn’t it a bit too smart? What if they look?” he asked hiding his discomfort at being addressed a kid.

“You lift your glasses, look back at them, and give ‘em the wink”

“Hmm, I hope we don’t get that far” Kevin responded, passing his hand over his bald head.

“Did a neat job dint I?” Randolph asked with a chuckle.

“Yeah, I only hope it grows back.”

“Hahaaaaa, don’t you worry kid, it will” Randolph managed to say through a guffaw and patted Kevin’s head.

“But, won’t they figure out that we changed cars?” Kevin asked, still not willing to be convinced.

“Sure as hell they would, but by that time, they’d have spent a day in the woods chasing your ass, and you’d be cooling your heels in the Bahamas”

“Which woods? Where?? Why???”

“That’s where your blood puddles would lead them to”

“My blood puddles??”

“Ha-ha, kid, I’ve been in this business too long”

“You mean, from my truck? What woods?? Was there woods in that area??” Kevin asked incredulously.

“Yeah, and a lake too, I bet they have twenty divers in there now”

“Smooth man!!”

“Yeah, and elegant”

“Now what? What’s the plan now?”

“We head straight for Miami, then you sail your away to the islands, and I go back home
and put my grandson to bed, oh no, I guess it’s too late for that now…” he said glancing at his watch.

“Wow, finally a vacation…"

"So Randy, you do this full time?”

“Yeah sort of, looking at the rate you fellas get yourself into shit, it’s fast becoming a full time job”

“Ha-ha, and you like doing it, don’t you?”

“Yeah, hell I do, it’s sort of my calling, you know”

“You’ve being doing this since when?”

“As long as I can remember” Randolph said, stretching his arms behind him.

“Really? When did you make your first fix? Do you remember?”

“Well, that’s really long back. I was a small boy then”.

“Wow, tell me more about it man”

“You know those doors that have a little lever thingy that you can use to lock from inside?”

“Yeah”

“I mean not just from inside, you can lock yourself out too, but you can’t get in after you do that”

“O yeah, have done that myself once”

“Well I did it too when I was young, and no one was inside”

“And what did you do?”

“Well, first of all, I panicked”

“Understandable”

“And second of all, I thought, what the hell I do now”

“Naturally, I can relate to that, what did you do next?”

“Why don’t you give it a shot Kevin?”

“Hmm let me think…was there a window from where you could reach that thing”

“Yeah, many, but they were all closed, and I dint want to break anything. Even then, I liked to be elegant”

“Hmm, what did you do then?”

“There was a little air hole right over the door”

“Okay”

“I look around for a rope, found one, tied a stone to it”

“Okay, and?”

“You don’t get it??”

“Oh yeah!”

“Remember I was a small, just over three feet, so getting it through the air hole was tough, but after about an hour of struggle I made it”

“Wow that was something”

“Yeah, that has been my best work yet”

“Really?”

“Yeah, never got a kick out of anything like that one.”

“But it must be tough for you…I mean when you walk into somebody’s mess and try to fix it?”

“Not at all, on the contrary, that’s what makes it easier. It’s always easier when you approach a problem from the outside, that’s rule number one”

“Really?, Never thought of it that way…hmm. But still, there must be something special about this, I mean not everyone can do this, you got to have some talent”

“Well son, there are three cardinal rules. The first rule I’ve just told you”

“What’s the second?”

“I’ve touched on that too, the second rule is, that you got to believe in elegance. I believe that for every problem in this world, complicated or otherwise, there is a simple and elegant solution. It would be so damn elegant and so damn natural that when you hit upon it, you’d wonder why the heck you didn’t think of it earlier”.

“Really?”

An old fashioned telephone ring emanated from Randolph’s cell phone. He picked it up and listened intently for a while, his dark brow producing a little frown, as he murmured acknowledgments intermittently. At the end he asked “how far behind are they?”

“What’s the matter?” Kevin asked, concerned.

“Where’s the bag?”

“It’s in the boot, why?”

“Okay we have a problem, we are being tailed”

“Oh no! How far behind are they?”

“Don’t worry yet, they are a good three hours behind”

“What do we do now?” asked Kevin, struggling to hide his nervousness.

“Okay, pull over at the next exit”
***

“Just as I thought, the bag is bugged” Randolph said triumphantly, holding up a little shiny black device up in the sunlight.

“What do we do now?”

“Relax Kevin, here’s the plan, get back on the interstate and head straight for Daytona”, Randolph said, after pocketing the device, pointing back at the freeway from which they had just gotten off.

“What do I do after getting there?”

“Keep your cell-phone switched on, you’ll be told what next once you get there”

“And you?”

“Don’t you worry about me my lad” Randolph said winking.

***

“29 Capitol to Chicago is currently boarding” The announcement ringed through the huge atrium of the Union Station. Last minute passengers jostled at the base of the escalator as a man in army uniform struggled to extricate his suitcase from it.

“Sir, may I help you with that?” the soldier turned back to see a stoutly built black man, wearing a colorful beach shirt and cargoes.

“Oh please sir” he replied with a sharp Boston accent.

“You off back to duty then eh” Randolph inquired as he helped him extract the suitcase from the escalator.

“Yeah mate, thanks”

“That’s quite some war eh?”

“You bet it is”

“You got grenades in this? This thing is damn heavy” Randolph joked, passing the handle back to the soldier”

“Ha-ha, yea and a mini howitzer” the soldier bantered back.

“Very well sir, take good care of yourself” Randolph said as they shook hands and departed “and come back soon”
***
It was getting dark now, Randy sat in one of the busy restaurants overlooking the railway tracks, gleaming in the setting sun. He looked down with satisfaction, as the 29 Capitol to Chicago drifted away from Washington DC, disappearing into the twilight bustle of the city.

***
The Gabbiano sailed silently, occasionally buffeted by the gentle waves of the Atlantic. Kevin laid his back on the deck looking up at the starry night sky.

His cell-phone rang , familiar voice said “Is the pigeon home yet”?

“Almost there, flying with the seagull, how are you doing there?”

“Oh I am back home watching over my grandson”

“Where are they, any trouble?”

“I’m guessing they are on their way to Iraq now”

“Wow, you sure?”

“Yeah just look up” he said popping the top from a Budweiser and chuckling.

“Hey Randy tell me something, haven’t you ever messed up? I mean like us rookies?”

“Ha-ha kid, of course I have, but don’t you tell anyone”

“Nah I won’t, what has been your biggest”?

“Remember the door?”

“The door? Oh that one with the trick lever?”

“Yeah, well, the stone was a bit too heavy, the rope was a bit too thin, it snapped, and the goddam lever broke. They had to break the door open, you know, fire service and all.”

“Wow, so your first one was a mess up wasn’t it?”

“Damn right it was! …my biggest debacle was my biggest win…funny isn’t it?”

“Man, you are just so full of surprises, aren’t you?”

“Yeah I am”

“Hey by the way, you didn’t tell me one thing, what the hell is that third rule?”

“Oh that, well, that’s …oh got to go now Kevin, I have an emergency to attend to here” Randolph said, laughing through heavy breaths.

“Ah is it your grandson up to something again, okay talk later man”

***
Kevin lay back preparing to sleep. He had barely slept in two days. Randy’s words staid in his ears “my biggest debacle was my biggest win”. “What a man” he thought to himself. He thought through all the events that day, as he passed his hand over the leather bag with a couple million dollars in them.

“What would I have done without him, I would have got myself killed for sure”, he thought looking up at the stars.

“Yeah it probably helped that he was looking from outside, no fear and nothing to lose. And the elegance, that has to be talent, or maybe it comes with experience.”

One question staid in his mind as he gently slid into sleep “What must have been that third rule he was going to tell me about?” A message beeped just then on his cell phone. “The third rule? I think I already told you that…Happy vacation kid!”

***
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