Chapter Twenty Six
IT TAKES A THIEF
Joe & Jack…The Cat!
It Takes A Thief Jack The Cat
The individual was dressed in black; also his shoes, pants, shirt, gloves, and ski mask!
“Hey man get that gun out of my face!” Joe said with indignation.
“What is a young punk doin’ on the beach at this time of night?”
“What is a jerk “doin” on the beach dressed in black with a gun in the face of a kid?”
“You seem to be mighty testy, where do you live?”
“Here…” He said.
The next thing he knew, the guy handed him three one-hundred dollar bills and says: “If you need some “real” work, come by the Hollywood Dog Track any Saturday afternoon after twelve. Just go by the left parking lot and ask the attendant for Jack…”
With that, he was gone as quietly as he had came.
“Is that your name?” He asked to the dead, silent emptiness of the night…
Harry, with the offer of a job, all that cash, the accent of the man–who obviously was from up north–Joe felt strong enough to leave and return to the projects…
After Joe left, he discover an informant had enabled the police to infiltrate the biker’s drug operation. The suspected “snitch” was uncovered and grabbed.
Under the Halendale Beach Pier, as waves gently crested the rocky pilings and sea gulls glided upon the soft, swirling, warm-fall breeze, they tortured and murdered her. The leaders of this operation would be arrested, prosecuted, and finally sent to prison for long terms… including the Boss and The Animal!
Twelve in the afternoon and the track was alive and jamming.
“Jack? Jack who?” The attendant asked as he gave Joe this scratch-his-head-who routine.
“Jack!… That’s who! Listen I just came all the way from NY to see my father’s best friend. Father died and I’m here cause I was expected to be. I had all the information but I lost it at the airport, now, will you tell Jack that Kid Joe is here? Please?”…
..”Well, you found the place. Pretty good line you gave Junior. He fell for it. Did you spend all of the bread I gave you?”
“No. I have two-fifty left.”
“I’m impressed, lets go inside. They do not allow kids bu…”
“Hey, lets get something straight, I’m not a kid, OK?
“OK, big guy, lets go.”
At the main gate the guards seemed to know Mr. Jack very well. They looked over towards him, winked, and Jack handed him twenty as they entered the frenzy.
“There’s the betting windows over there,” he said, pointing towards a bank of crowded counters with open windows spaced every three feet. Lines of betters, scowls of urgency written upon each face, jostled with one another in their haste to reach the window and place their bets–as if each and everyone of them had THE BET. “That’s the Club House up there… where we are going.” He said as they swaggered over towards the stairs which led to a large, enclosed room over looking the track.
A door man opened the door and they were seated with a group of men whom Joe knew were mobsters.
“Hey, Jacky, whose da kid?” An extremely short and swarthy individual asked.
“My nephew. From NY… Joe, meet Shorty.”
“Yea, how ya doin’.” He said with a mobster inflection while staring in semi-shock at the guy he was sure was the same man Bianco spoke of.
“Where did you get your tattoos? Sounds like your from The City…”
“I’m from the Q and Manny Hat. Just visiting. Got dese in da city.”
“You vacationing? Got any people besides old Jacky baby?”
“Some, my father, Joe”… and then he stopped–realizing he almost made a mistake. “I’m jus visitin Jacky.”
“Hey, Yo…” Shorty yelled across the table at the bar man. “Bring a burger, a dog or sumptin for tha kid, an’ a coke!” Then he patted Joe on the back, pulled a chair out, and offered it to him.
While he consumed a sandwich that came from the kitchen –four hamburgers, four hot dogs, four pastrami sandwiches, and several cokes had appeared… though no one else ate anything! — the guys were busy sending runners to bet on the dogs.
“So, whose ya old man?” The question flashed again.
“Jus a guy.” He said as he stuffed his face. ‘I should have said he was dead… and mother too!’ He thought.
“Just what guy?”
“Hey, give the kid a break…. his fathers dead. He just came down from the funeral… nobody you know, OK?” Jack cut him off.
For the balance of the afternoon, he just acted like he was watching the races while he really paid attention to the conversations that bounced back and forth. It did not take long until he had figured out Jacks occupation: A thief!
Jack was what was called a “second story man”: a thief whose specialty was robbing homes, hotels, apartment houses, and “cracking safes. He began his criminal career selling gold coins over the phone–long before it became a popular scam–and wound up learning how to steal them! He would climb six stories — from the outside! — to defeat a doorman. Quite a few “jobs” were performed while the occupants slept. His generosity was in fact motivated by business… he needed a short, slightly built juvenile to perform a few “tasks”, as he called them. The meet at the track was based on a discussion for the “fencing of loot” from some big job. His appearance on the beach, combined with his situation, build, and facts of his past, suited Jack just fine.
Now, on his part, the fact Jack dressed well, always had a huge roll of “C” notes, a pretty woman –or two– on his arm, drove a fast, sporty, luxury car, and commanded respect where ever he went, kind of had an impact…. You know?
“OK, just as we discussed: You will squeeze through the bars of the gate with a bathing suit and lots of sun tan lotion… if you get caught, plead you got lost”
—‘like who was gonna be sun bathing at two am?’
“You then make your way along the fence line. I’ll meet you by the beach wall and hand you your stuff. Then, you will have to stand on the sea wall, jump on to the hood of that there Buick,” Jack says, pointing to a wall six feet above a parked black Buick, “as you can see, the parking garage bars you from gaining access to the first balcony… but with your bounce off the car, you can grab onto that floor ledge and pull your self up. You see that telescope on the third balcony up?”
–‘This constituted the fourth floor!’
“You will tie this rope to it” –handing Joe the rope– “lower it down, and then climb down the rope”…
Joe had trained for four days at a private spa located above the shopping center on 79th. St. and Biscaine Blvd. This — as Jack called it — simple job, was to be a “preview” of the real thing! Joe looked up at the fourth floor, knowing he had to climb three balconies –that’s if he did not jump, bounce off of the car, and land on his head! Well, he did not have much of a choice, and after all, Jack was making sure he had plenty of attention, respect, and a place to stay….
“OK, calm down..” Joe said to himself as he stood on the edge of the six foot sea wall. Jump! Dull bang. Pop. He’s flying up… Grab it! “Whoa!” “Ugh, eeeeeemmmm…” He pulls him self up… grabbing ahold of the cut out designs of the concrete balcony walls… he’s soon standing upon the edge of the balcony… he climbs the corner supports using the open cut design… pushes off on an angle–without looking down!–he reaches the next one…”Ooooommm”… he grabs the edge.
And so on, and so on.
Looking over the side of the fourth floor balcony–including the raised parking area under the building– “It’s a long way down!” He says to himself.
On beach side, Jack is waiting outside the twelve foot fence. The balcony is about three feet from the edge of the wall. He ties one end of the rope to the telescope, the other to the balcony concrete railing. Holding six feet of coiled slack in his left hand, he uses his right to lower it down; gently swinging it back and forth until it clears the wall and then lets it go.. Jack unties it and ties the rope onto the fence. He motions Joe to climb down….
“Well, let me check the door out,” he says to himself as Jack is frantically waving him.
Jack had informed him this test would be done with an empty apartment. ‘So’, he thinks to himself, ‘I’ll just check it out! Show him I’m cool. What I have learned. Heck, he was acting like a father figure, right? I’ll please him!’
Joe uses the nail he carried specifically for this situation. Wedging the head under the door, he pushes down on it while pushing upwards against the glass with his body… the door gently slides on it’s well lubricated track. He enters the pitch black and drops down. So far everything went just like Jack taught him. His eyes adjust and he begins to gropes his way to the back of the room. He sees that this is one well laid out apartment. He begins to explore. Entering the bedroom…’What’s that?’ He thinks to himself as he takes several steps and hears a light rustling… ‘Must be the breeze coming from the open door… What’s that over there?… Is Tha…’
“Roar! Ruff, Ruff… Growl..” The Doberman tore at him…
Joe blasts towards the balcony as lights flash on…. a guns cocked…. “BLAM! BLAM!” and shots careen off the concrete…
He’s going over the wall as the large dog rips the legging off his pants… on the rope… sliding down so fast his gloves are hot… it seems… burning… crash…
He is up and running as several balconies come to life with lights, noise, and shouts:”There he goes… Call the police!”
“What the heck is wrong with you? Your supposed to snatch a five hundred dollar telescope and come down! Not wake up the entire shoreline. Next time… that’s if there is a next time… you will do what I say.. GOT THAT!”
“But you said tha…”
“Forget what I said, just do what I tell you!”
For the next several weeks they “hit” various places along the beach as Joe’s education continued–an education leading up to to “The Big Job”.
Jack’s territory ran from Miami Beach to Pompano Beach. He had all kinds of tricks and systems to generate the bucks. One of his favorites was renting a group of adjoining suites in a luxury hotel and jamming the doors that separated them. He would then wait several days and inform the desk that his expected associates canceled their trip. Keeping only one suite, he would jam the connecting door so as to make it seem it was truly locked and wait until someone rented the adjoining suite. In the middle of the night, he would open the door in stealth–while the occupants slept soundly–and remove all the cash from their wallets and pocket books. The strange thing was, he never had a problem: the tourists would wake up and go about their business only to discover that some how, some way, they had lost their money! Remember Harry, major use of credit card use was still far away… cash was the way.
Another operation–one to be used when the big pre-planned pickings were slim–was to go along the hotels on the beach and pick out and set up wealthy tourists. Once all information such as room number and sleeping habits had been secured, he would swallow some booze, walk along the breezeway with a stuper-like shuffle until he reached one he had staked out, and, using a pick kit, he would open the lock. If any one came out he would feign drunkenness, say something like — “Oh! Sorry. Got the wrong room– and walk off. If no one walked out, he would place one hand at the top of the door, the other on the knob, and using his foot and top hand to push while pulling on the knob, he would open the door without a sound. Then, crouching down, so as to protect himself against a possible wary occupant waiting behind the door, he would enter effortlessly. If someone was in fact waiting behind the door, and they came around, he would jam the door against them and get away before the individual knew what happened.
The track soon became Joe’s home away from home. The wise guys got used to him hanging and he was in demand as a runner. He’d run numbers for them, make drop offs of receipts, and get them coffee and things. Though he had not forgotten his predicament–the Shorty deal–he enjoyed the attention and the feeling of belonging. The only time he thought about NY was when he went to sleep. It was in his dreams that his guilt raised it’s head…. “THAT GUY IS SHORTY… YOUR SWORN ENEMY!”
“The big job is tonight.” Jack stated as Shorty grinned and slapped him on the back.
“You just make sure the goods get to my place by nine in the morning.”
“I’ll get them there, don’t you worry!”
“Who is your climber?” Shorty asked.
“Someone who’s an expert!” Jack replied as he winked at Joe, whom sat close enough to hear yet far enough not to raise eyebrows.
“You want to leave the kid at my place?”
“No, he will be staying at his grandmothers for the night.”
It was a major hit in a major neighborhood: Golden Beach and a mansion owned by a very wealthy businessman! A beautifull place with walls, fences, and a security system that was state of the art. Jack would have to defeat the system and break into a safe: his specialty! Shorty had agreed to pay Jack upfront and fence the jewelry and negotiable bonds later in New York. The “score” was said to be worth two-hundred G’s; which meant at least seventy thou for Jack in cool, hard, ready cash!
Though the moon was full, lighting up the entire lawn, two dark shapes zipped the shadows unnoticed. The outer perimitter devices, rigged trip switches and active and silent alarms, were defeated and a primary and a secondary route swept to the mansion–one in front, one in the rear–and then the units were switched back on, leaving the majority of detection units operational. In this way, if by a twist of fate someone approached outside of the narrow corridors of safety, they would trip the alarms notifying the two silent figures working the mansion wall of the violation! Jack new it all! He was In Like Flint, It Takes A Thief, Mission Impossible and OO7 all in one! At the mansion wall, Jack defeated the primary alarm and rerouted the phone lines into an electronic black box that would send a code of impersonating pulses! Even if they missed a wire, switch, button or sensor for the mansion itself, the alarm would never ring, beep, scream, nor telephone to anyone. Though a secondary system with micro-switches randomly placed under Persian carpets was always a tickler, the “sophisticated” main system was a mute and blind ignoramus. They set out to gain entrance to the main building–
Straight to one of the stained glass windows which lined the garden with a sharp steel knife, Jack removed three pieces, enough to reach in and open the window. Joe slipped in, “walked the wall” to the Persian covered, marble floored double staircase and, walking the edge of the lower marble riser, he climbed the carved, mahogany outer railings until he reached one of the outer wall windows which dressed both ends of the stair case. Jumping from the rail to the marble ledge, he opened the window, tied a nylon rope to a decorative wrought iron mold cap on the interior windows edge, and swung it out and down to the ground where Jack tied it to a marble statue.
Jack climbed the rope and, from a long, black, nylon backpack, pulled out flat, steel bars, which he placed in a series across the floor to gain entrance to the main study; the bars wedged into the sides of the hallway walls so one could step on top of them and never touch the carpet! Once at the door to the office, he ran a battery powered device locating two wires running through the walls on both sides of the door. Gently chipping the plaster off the wood underlay of the walls, he used pins to pierce the wires and then connected jumpers across them with out cutting them. Wallah! He opened the main doors to the study. Joe never saw how he managed to traverse the floor of the study nor how he “cracked” the safe. His job was to remain down the hall at the window and keep look out.
Thirty minutes later, Jack emerged with a grin and a weighted down backpack. Going through the whole procedure in reverse, Jack and Joe climbed the rope and disappeared into the tropics of the city called Miami!
One hundred and seventy five thousand dollars in bonds alone! And the jewels! We’re talking diamonds, diamonds, and diamonds! Jack also discovered a host of other items which brought the total to three hundred thousand! A sure ninety five thousand hard cash! Joe was assured at least thirty thousand dollars cash! Jack had promised he would get a third. Joe was set to go home and RESCUE HIS FAMILY! He would return the Knight in Shining Armor to rescue everyone! He was so excited. He even decided to go to church and give a thousand dollars to the priest! He promised to God, thanked God, gave God the credit! “Oh Lord, you have seen fit to end my families nightmare! Thank you!”
Listen Joe, you wait here and I will be back in a couple of hours. Then we take a triop to the Islands for a few weeks, allow the heat to die, and then you can return to New York a man of respect! Now, how many teenagers… though I’m not calling you a kid.. but how many young men get to start their lives with that kind of cash!?”
Jack left and returned several hours later upset and talking to himself. When Joe asked excitably about the money, Jack cut him short.
“The %$%^& didn’t have the damn cash! He ^%^&^% me! Said he would have it by the end of the week. He’s a wiseguy, made and connected, can’t steal a damn hot dog with out his permission. I had to give the stuff to him and wait! I cannot believe this $%^%!! He said something came up and he had to use 100 thou to bail someone out of a bind… ^%^&%$ he has three times that much in his safe!”
On and on he ranted until Joe decided to go down to the pool and chill out leaving Jack, whom he never saw yell once let alone have a fit, to burn him self out…
Joe had a rough time and awoke within his dreams…
He had journeyed back in time with visions of priests, pastors, and demons awash in his mind: though the gulls cried across the waves and a cool breeze wafted in through the open balcony doors of Jack’s luxurious apartment, it was a vision of darkness, pain, and the heat in which he was swimming that overwhelmed him. It took all of his concentration to entomb this dread and retake reality. Was it an omen?
Two weeks had gone by and other than the quick jobs Jack put together, they sat waiting. Jack seemed to be worried he was not going to see a “single red quarter” from one of his best heists. Joe soon discovered this was his first deal with Shorty. Though Jack had sent money up to him from his action for seven years, he never did a “job” in partnership with him before. In fact, Shorty did not even know of the work Jack did; not the actual jobs nor amounts. Shorty collected his “tax” on Jack through Sonny Black, one of Shorty’s guys. Sonny ran a car rental business on Biscaine Blvd. Jack had only met Shorty on Sonny Black’s word of the big heist!
After Joe dressed and ate a light breakfast, he checked on Jack: whom was sleeping–he never awoke before noon. He then went down to the pool and began a conversation with the pool boy. They were deep in conversation when he heard the distinct sounds of a large caliber, semi-automatic weapon: “Bang. Bang. BANG BANG BANG!” It’s sounds shattered the morning silence. But, as quick and fast as it came, it left. He looked at the pool guy, but he acted like he hadn’t heard the sounds. “You didn’t hear those gun shots?” He asked.
“What gun shots,” he answered as he continued to sweep the water with his net.
Joe looked up towards to the area the shots seemed to originate from. Due to the layout, it was difficult to determine it’s source, yet it seemed to come from the area of Jack’s apartment. Feeling strange, he got up and decided to leave and go back to the apartment…
The door was unlocked — Jack was a stickler for locking his door and Joe knew he had locked it! Entering, he called Jacks name out loud. No voice returned his greetings. Slipping cautiously down the hallway, he reached Jack’s door. Warily, he turned the knob and rushed in…
Jack was snoring loudly….
It was time to go… he knew, deep inside, that this entire awakening was a message from somewhere, someone! Gathering his clothing — he had purchased an extensive wardrobe — he scooped up the money he had hidden under the carpet, and silently closed the door behind him.
Hailing the first cab he could find, he rode back to the projects and Diane. You do not know how happy he was to leave the situation he had traveled in for three months–including the biker episode.
Harry, does God work in mysterious ways, NO? He works in well thought out ways: two nights after he left, Jack was found on the beach–suffocated with a plastic bag. The man whom began his career hawking gold coins on the phone and worked his way into a spot as a preeminent second story man whom racked in ten large a week was gone. Mob respect had claimed another. Joe did not know if he had a family, if he had been married, or if he had a child. Joe realized he had journeyed to a place very rare for a teenager. None of the players were the type whom “hung” out with kids! Joe concluded that Jack realy desired a son? That had to be it because after Joe began to hang with Jack, Jack began to introduce Joe as his nephew, and treated him as if he were his father! Things he had missed came crashing to the front of his mind: how everyone reacted when they discovered Jack had an orphaned nephew: the word swept the underground and he was excepted even though he was but thirteen and a half!! What irked Joe was the fact that the same guy he was sure murdered Jack, might be the same person whom murdered his father…
A gentle, caressing surf stroked the shore line as the black shadow whisked across the sand dunes… to settle against the rustling palm covered tiki hut. With deft ability, it wavered only for a moments moratorium and then flashed up and over the pitted railing to land upon a darkened landing. A spiders grasp, and the shadow covered the vertical until arising above the third floor balcony, it’s outline imposed against the chalk-white exterior wall, it disappeared once again; only a glint of reflection as a patio door slid effortlessly proof of its reality… Silent and determined, it slithered across the smooth, soft, snowy-white carpet until it rested against the lavender, hide covered sofa. Timing deep bursts of nasal breathing eminating from the target, it shifted its route untill contacting the supple down of the black and white checkered comforter. Once there, it reached for the metalic object it carried with reverence and placed it against the comforter. Once connected to an outlet of energy, the shadow proscribed it to pay due homage to its host. Once more, it whisked back to its origins…leaving not a trace of its existence!
One week after the death of Jack, before the dawn of a clear and cool morning, an electrical fire broke out in Shorty’s condiminium. Lucky for him, a sidekick rescued him; he escaped with only minor burns. Though his condiminium was a total disaster, he had good insurance–yet “the word on the street” was that he had lost a fortune in “undeclared” assets?
“So, what happened to you?” She asked…
For the next two weeks, he lived in a motel two blocks from the projects. Partying. Dressing up. Showing off. He spent the seven hundred on all of the guys and gals whom lived in the overwhelming poverty of the projects. He visited the track a couple of times, but knew it was time to go home and deal with his situation. With tearful–on the ladies part– parting, he gave away all of his goodies and clothing and with fifty dollars, put his thumb out and headed for NY. He began his track home… a seasoned traveler.