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Cooper’s Cut

crime caper by Lee Hammerschmidt

“You’re almost there, don’t get greedy,” Cooper said to himself, as he pulled a mittful of fifties from the purse.

He had gone through two-thirds of the purses and coats piled on the bed in the upstairs bedroom, their owners boisterously slugging down the holiday cheer downstairs. The party was in full swing, but it wouldn’t be long before the bird was on the table, so he had to work fast.

It was slow going, searching through each belonging and skimming accordingly.  Clean somebody out, they would notice and cause a ruckus.  So just take a percentage.  With all the hooch these clowns were downing they’d never know how much, if anything, was missing until much later.

He wasn’t quite there, but getting close. About seven grand in cash and a dozen credit cards. Then he would start on the jewelry in the dresser.

“Santa Claus ain’t coming to town, this year,” he chuckled.

#

“So, Cooper. Where’s my eleven grand?” the beefy slab on the other side of the desk asked.

“You’ll have it tomorrow, Frank, I swear. I’ve got this thing –”

“Can it, slick! This is your fifth, and may I add, your last tomorrow. I want my money. Now!”

Cooper squirmed in his chair. He had stalled Frank four other times, always able to talk his way out of it. That was before three large had grown to eleven.

“Seriously, Frank,” Cooper said. “I’ve got this little, uh, transaction going down tonight. I just need a little more time. You’ll have all of it by tomorrow night.”

“Transaction, huh?” Frank snorted. “What, the Trifecta at the Meadows? Texas hold ‘em at Spirit Mountain. Oh, Christ, not the fucking Blazers!”

“No, Frank, I’m not gambling anymore. I’m gonna’ sell off some heirloom stuff. I just need some time to turn it into cash.”

Frank opened his desk drawer, pulled out a Colt Python .357 and pointed it at Cooper’s forehead.

“Listen, putz,” Frank hissed. “I’m tired of messing around with all you little spoiled-rich-kid-trust-fund-douche bags. Blowin’ the family money on gambling, or drugs or donkey shows, or whatever. And when the well runs dry you come to me. Well I’ll tell you something, when Frank Focaccia cuts you off, you’re literally cut off.”

Frank set the gun down on the desk, reached back into the drawer and pulled out a flat box. He opened the lid, exposing a Japanese chef’s carving knife, it’s 7 inch, high-carbon, forged steel blade practically slicing through Cooper’s sphincter just sitting there.

“Okay,” Frank said. “You got until midnight tomorrow to pay me. But for every grand you come up short, you lose a finger.”

“Midnight, yeah, sure,” Cooper said, scrambling from his chair. “No problem, see you then.”

“Oh, and Cooper –”

“Yeah?”

“You owe me eleven grand. You got ten fingers. Show up empty handed, we’ll have to move on to something else.”

#

He was on the last purse when he heard the shell being racked into the shotgun chamber.

“Looking for something?” A grizzled Makers-and-Marlboro voice asked.

Cooper slid three Benjamins and a Visa card into his inside jacket pocket, closed the purse and slowly turned around.

“Oh, hi,” Cooper said, trying to remain calm while staring down the barrel of a Mossberg Tactical 12-Gauge in the hands of an older, but still physically impressive man. Cripes, two guns in one day. Time to make some lifestyle changes. “Uh, yeah, Chelly had a headache and asked me to get some aspirin from her purse.”

“That’s funny,” the older man said. “Chelly just pulled up in the driveway. You carrying her purse for her these days?”

Cooper stood there, trying to come up with an explanation.

“And now that your wife has arrived,” the old man continued, “the whole family is here. I was sent to track you down.”

The old man moved closer, the short-barreled shotgun on Cooper’s chest now. With his left hand he reached into Cooper’s jacket and pulled out a wad of bills and plastic.

“I can explain,” Cooper said.

“No need. How much you in for?”

“What, I don’t know what you’re –”

“Cut the shit, Cooper. I’m aware of your history. How much and to whom?”

“Eleven gees to Frank Focaccia.”

The old man gave out a short asthmatic whistle.  “That’s a hefty debt, boy, to a real mean motherfucker. Frank will cut you some slack in the beginning, but take advantage of his good nature and he’ll go all Vlad the Impaler on your ass.”

“What do you know about Frank?”

The old man wheezed a phlegmy laugh.  He held out his left hand, still holding the cash.  A hand with three fingers.

“Frank and I go back a ways.”

“Jesus, I always thought that was a sawmill accident.”

“That was just the story goin’ round, as not to embarrass the family. It was their money, I just married it. They figured I had to learn my lessons on my own. Like you gotta’ do now.”

Cooper nodded. “So what’s next?”

“You got enough here?”

“I’m still short a couple large.”

“Time?”

“Midnight tomorrow.”

The old man laid the shotgun on the bed, thumbed off a quarter of the bills and handed them to Cooper.

“Keep the plastic. Never was in to that identity theft bullshit. Seems so dishonest. That’s your cut.”

“That’s not nearly enough!” Cooper said. “I need it all — and more. What are you gonna do with the rest of it?”

“I told you, Frank and I go back a ways. And old habits die hard.  But cheer up, you got until midnight tomorrow. In fact, I just got a tip on a couple of sure things at the track tomorrow afternoon. I’m gonna let you in on ‘em. Happy Holidays!”

“Thanks, Grandpa,” Cooper said, accepting his fate. “I think I’ll take you up on that.”

“Atta’ boy. Just remember.”

“What?”

“Make sure you keep a grand in reserve.”

Copyright January 2011 by Lee Hammerschmidt

Lee Hammerschmidt is a graphic designer, writer, songwriter and troubadour who lives on the fringe of Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Gumshoe Review, Page Forty-Seven, Short-Story.Me, Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, Chicken Soup For the Soul: Runners and Think Positive. Check out his hit parade on YouTube.

[return to the January 2011 main page]

2 Responses

  1. […] “You’re almost there, don’t get greedy” […]

  2. I’m glad that I still have all my fingers, so I can type this reply to tell you I really enjoyed your story, “Cooper’s Cut.”

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