Ryan listened to Kelly’s description of what he’d seen. He didn’t think a lot of the man. He’d told Rose he was considering hiring him for the Pizza, but that was just to have something to talk about, to give her something to rant and rail against.
The work history on Kelly’s application read like the description of a hopscotch game. It skipped forward awkwardly a step or two every once in a while, but eventually jumped back to the beginning.
He’d heard about him drinking on the job and knew he sold dope.
Ryan had about as much intention of hiring Kelly to work at his Pizza Hut as he did of replacing the delivery drivers with St. Bernards.
No, he’d only brought up Kelly’s name around Rose to get a reaction. Sharing a common enemy was the best way to build a bond between two people, he thought.
While he’d sooner hire an organ grinder and a monkey to work his restaurant, Ryan had to admit he felt closer to Kelly at this moment. They had a bond. He believed in the money Kelly talked about, which Ryan knew had to have come from the bloody man on the floor who’d take a shot at him. What Rose had to do with all of this, he had no idea, but it didn’t matter.
The money didn’t belong to her anymore than it belonged to Andrew or his pale-faced grandmother.
Taking it from the guy who’d tried to blow off his foot seemed right.
Kelly was talking about straight up daytime burglary, which Ryan knew might not be so straight up. He didn’t know what kind of shady stuff Rose had gotten into. The kind of money Kelly was talking about always came with strings. If he had to make a bet, he’d have said it was probably drug related. There were plenty of drugs floating around. He’d watched shows like “Breaking Bad” and that new one, “Ozark,” on Netflix. The criminals in those shows always seemed to have big bundles or bails of cash.
That had to be it.
“So, all we need to do is wait until she leaves and then we go looking through her house,” Kelly said. “I don’t see her taking it back to the gas station, do you?”
Ryan had no idea, but he was willing to go along with it. A suitcase full of money would go a long way toward changing his life. He’d been at the Pizza Hut now for just under 10 years. He’d made it all the way to store manager, which wasn’t all that impressive an accomplishment; just a test of his endurance. He’d only outlasted everyone else who’d come before him. All that took, really, was a modest degree of competence and a willingness to put up with a lot of grief.
Anybody could do it.
He didn’t know how much money was in the suitcase –thousands, for sure; millions, maybe? Whatever. It would be enough for him to quit having to kowtow to his checked out boss, while standing watch over a quietly failing pizza place. He could leave Charleston, leave West Virginia, leave the country, if he wanted.
The kind of money he hoped it was would be enough for him to go to South America or Asia, where he could explore some of the experiences American women weren’t interested in and that he’d only seen on select websites.
“OK,” Ryan said. “We’ll keep an eye on her place and then you can go in and look around after she leaves.”
“Just me?” Kelly asked.
“Just you,” he said. “I’ll be in the car, keeping an eye out for you. If somebody shows up, I’ll signal for you to get out. You come a-running to the end of the road and we’ll drive off with nobody being the wiser.”
Ryan watched Kelly work though what he’d just said to him, then he nodded his head.
“Sure. That’s a good idea.”
Moron, Ryan thought.
It would also be a good way for Ryan to get clear and deny that he’d been anywhere near the house if things went south.
“If you find the briefcase, just give me a call,” he said.
Ryan regretted saying that for a second. It would like him to Kelly if he got caught, but then he remembered Kelly had applied for a job. He could just say that he thought Kelly was just checking on his application.
That might work.
“If you have the briefcase, call me and I’ll drive over to pick you up,” Ryan said. “You don’t want to be out in the open for long.”
Kelly nodded. That sounded good to him. He looked nervous, which seemed about Ryan thought, since he was assuming most of the risk, but only getting, at most, half the loot.
Ryan had already worked out a plot to convince Kelly to let him launder the money for both of their sakes.
This guy isn’t very sharp, Ryan thought.
With a thumbnail sketch of a plan put together, they drove just down the road from Rose’s house. They parked the car in the gravel lot of a long-dead, burned out store.
Kelly didn’t even ask him how he knew the way.
“We can wait here for a while and then you can walk up and hide behind the tree line,” Ryan said.
“How long do you think we’ll have to wait?” Kelly was cold, sleepy and getting hungry.
“Not too long,” Ryan said. “Rose will have to open the store. The owners are out of town. One of her clerks cut his foot yesterday and she fired you and that other guy.”
Kelly snarled. “Oh, I haven’t forgotten.”
Then he brought out the gun.
“Oh, hang on,” Ryan said. “What’s that for?”
“I went in to talk to her about my job,” he said, bitterly. “The gun.” He didn’t seem to remember why he’d brought it.
“Were you planning on robbing her?”
Kelly shook his head. “No,” he said. “Maybe. I don’t know. I know there was a reason why I brought it. I don’t think I was going to try and rob her. That’s crazy, right? I’ve never robbed anyone in my life.”
Of course, that was what he was fixing to do.
“Maybe it was just protection,” Kelly said. “It was a long walk in the dark before I caught up with you.”
Ryan looked at him and the gun in his passenger’s hand. Suddenly, things didn’t seem so easy and this waste of space of a human looked like he might be dangerous.
“Maybe you want to put that away,” he said. “And I don’t think you should take it in the house with you.”
“Why not?” Kelly’s eyes were wide open and wild. His finger was on the trigger.
“Because if we get caught with the gun in the house, that becomes a whole bunch of other crimes.” Ryan didn’t necessarily know this to be true, but he’d watched a lot of crime shows on Netflix and Hulu. It certainly sounded like it was probably true. He said, “I think it becomes armed robbery or a different class of burglary or something. More jail-time.”
“Oh,” the former convenience store employee said and sagged in the seat. “In all the excitement, I kind of forgot that what we’re doing isn’t technically right, is it? We’re robbing somebody. We’re criminals.”
Ryan sighed and looked over toward the burned-out wall next to his car. Kelly was starting to fade on him, get doubts.
“Only in the sense that we’re taking money from other criminals,” he said. “It’s more like we’re vigilantes. We’re taking money from people who are probably using it to fuel the drug epidemic in our state. Practically, we’re doing a good thing.”
Well, maybe, Ryan thought.
“You really think that?”
“Sure,” Ryan said.