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"Born Loser" Chapter Five

Turns out I'm still pressed for time and can't quite do a proper update for this blog, same as earlier this week.  So, have another sample chapter from my book, Born Loser.  Check out chapters one, two, and three if you haven't already.  If you like what you read, please consider dropping a couple of bucks on the Kindle version, or at least go to Amazon.com and leave me a review.



Here’s how it was supposed to work.

7:30 AM: Lacey goes to the factory to fetch and load up a company van.

8:00 AM: Everybody meets at the game store.  Mark drives my car, Lacey drives the van, John parks his car a few blocks away, and everybody else walks.  I try my best not to complain about the hangover I have.

John will not come to the bank.  His job is to stay in or around the store and hold the fort – to warn us if it’s not safe to come back for any reason and to provide a clean getaway in case anybody needs a new escape vehicle.

As an added bonus, he can keep David occupied.  David isn’t supposed to come to the shop until nine to open it up.  John’s going to walk around the neighborhood until then, and when the shop opens, he’ll walk inside and say he’s there for a Saturday try-before-you-buy marathon.  David will see a regular, so he’ll never suspect that anything shady might be going on.

8:15 AM: We split up into our groups and make sure we each have the materials we need.  Lacey, Drew, and I will go in the van.  We have two backpacks and the decoy bag.  Mark and Clara are going in my car. Clara has an empty duffel bag, identical to the dummy bag, and a grocery bag containing her disguise and a drop wallet filled with a forged ID and Social Security Card.

Drew gave her the basic info she needed, but Clara made the fakes from there.  We didn’t ask exactly how.  From what we knew of Clara’s weekend habits – preparing for the New World Order and all that – this wasn’t the first time she forged such a thing.

She puts on the disguise before we leave.  It’s important that she gets into character now and stays that way.  Her performance will be the most important part, because the disguise is barely anything: a cheap wig with a natural color, some false eyelashes, and dark lipstick.  Just enough detail to distract without calling attention to herself.

“How do I look?” she says, shoving out her shoulder in a mock-sexy pose.

Drew shrugs.  “I’d bang you.”

She drops the pose and considers kneeing him, but settles for a scoff.

Mark and Clara will be most in danger of getting arrested.  It’s important that they minimize their time with each other so they have some semblance of an alibi.  So they leave before the rest of us.   Mark drives to a quiet street in Little Italy and lets himself out.  Clara gets behind the wheel and ditches him for the moment.  They’ll meet up again later, but until then, they don’t know each other: Mark’s just a tourist enjoying a calm Saturday morning walk and Clara is the wife of a recently-deceased technological wunderkind.

Meanwhile, Drew and I get in the back of the van and lay low.  Our job is to remain out of sight, so when I say “lay low,” I mean it literally.  We are flat on our backs, beneath the line of sight of the rear window.  There are no side windows in the back, so as long as we don’t move, you would never know we’re there.  Each of us holds an empty backpack and we keep the dummy bag nestled between us.  Lacey drives.

8:45 AM: Lacey parks in the basement level of the garage nearest to the bank.  There’s a very specific spot she’s trying to get to – a spot that John picked out for us when he cased the place before and after work.  It’s a spot where, if she parks head-first, the back half of the van will be out of the sightline of any surveillance cameras.

It’s important that the back half remain unseen.  This is the part that connects the two groups.

Lacey parks in the special spot and gets out of the van.  She walks past the security cameras so they know what she looks like and what vehicle she’s driving.  We want them to see this.  We want them to know because she has a perfectly reasonable cover story as to why she’s here, and there’s no reason for them to investigate her or the van as long as they see only what we want them to see.

Lacey is going to briefly open the back door of the van, dig around inside, and visibly pull out her purse.  Then she will close the door, leave the garage, and walk to a department store that is only about a block away.  She is going to purchase a new laptop computer and some miscellaneous office supplies.  Then she is going to come back to the van, open up the rear doors, load up her purchases, close the doors, get in the driver’s seat, and leave.  This is all that anybody should be able to see or know.

9:00 AM: While Lacey is out shopping, Clara drives into the garage and parks not far from the van.  She carries an empty duffel bag with her.  Clara goes into the bank alone and present her fake driver’s license, which identifies her as Elizabeth Marlowe.

“I’m here to check out a safety deposit box,” she will say.  “It belonged to my… late husband.”

She’s going for an understated, subtly emotional outburst of regret and lost love.  We have advised her not to lay it on too thick, since there’s nobody else there who will be able to help her out if anybody thinks she’s suspicious.

John has told us it shouldn’t be too hard as long as she doesn’t try to get overly cute. “The tellers are going to go through their standard process,” he said, “but they aren’t going to be personally invested in it.  It’s not their stuff that’s in the box.  As long as they can reasonably say they covered their asses, they’re in the clear.”

“The paperwork looks official enough,” Drew added.  “It should be convincing on its own.”

Drew has been worried about it.  I’m more confident in her.  After all, we’ve been playing a lot Fiasco lately so she can practice her improv skills.

Once everybody believes she is the widow Marlowe, Clara goes to the safety deposit box and empties all of its contents into her duffel bag.  She signs a false signature to whatever paperwork is needed, shakes whatever hands she needs to, and leaves.

9:30 AM: Clara goes back to the parking garage, carrying the duffel bag visibly.  Then, when she walks past the van, she pauses briefly and emerges from the other side still visibly carrying a duffel bag.  The camera sees nothing unusual when Ms. Marlowe gets into her car and drives away.   Nothing suspicious is going on, so nobody cares.

Of course, if you were looking at the other side of the van all morning, you’d care.  You would have earlier seen that Lacey had pulled a dummy bag out of the van and set it on the ground underneath.   And you would have seen that Clara stopped to swap bags, dropping off the money and taking the dummy bag on her way back to my car.

Clara’s next move is to make a clean getaway. She’s already dumped the most incriminating evidence – a bag of stolen money – but she’s still surrounded by enough circumstance.  So she drives away to her next checkpoint: yet another parking garage.

9:45 AM: While Clara’s been at the bank, Mark has been walking a few blocks westward.  Now he’s waiting on the third level of a garage near the aquarium.  Clara drives up to the third story and shifts over to the passenger seat.  Then Mark casually gets in the driver’s seat, as if he was looking for his car here the whole time, and hops inside.  Clara rips off her wig and fake lashes, wipes off her lipstick, and dump the disguise and fake credentials back into the grocery bag.

10:00 AM: Mark drives out of the garage and circles around to an alley so Clara can get out of the car.  She walks past various garbage cans and dumpsters where she can toss bits and pieces of her evidence, until eventually she’s just innocent little Clara again.  Then she walks through the next few hours independently. Later, she’ll meet everyone back at the factory.

Mark, in the meantime, just drives straight there.  He’ll park my car in the back of his lot, out of sight, so it can lay low for the next few months.  Assuming nobody ever confronts me and tells me they suspect my car has been involved in a case of fraud, I’ll just go fetch it some other time.

And if the police ever do knock on my door?  I tell them it was stolen and Mark will ditch the car in the woods somewhere.

1:00 PM: Everybody gets back to the factory, where the surveillance system has been turned off.  We divide the money, have a drink, and play another board game.

Assuming the plan goes perfectly, very little of this is even necessary.  The goal is that the bank never suspects a thing and they never even pay attention to Clara once she’s out of the bank.  The rigmarole of meeting up at different points and swapping drivers and all that other nonsense is redundant.  We hope.

But, just in case….

9:45 AM (Again): Just in case, we have the van.  When Lacey comes back from her shopping, she picks up the duffel bag from beneath the van and loads it up along with her new purchases.  After she drives away from the garage and rejoins the traffic, Drew and I will sit up and get to work.

We unzip the duffel bag and see a mountain of cash.  More than either of us has ever seen in our life.  The money is tightly wrapped in thick green bricks – they look like props from a low-budget movie.  Each one feels like a power-up in a video game.

We divide the bag evenly, each of us shoving our share in our backpacks.  Lacey will circle around for a little while until we tell her that we’re done, and then she’ll pull off into an alley.  I’ll open the door and get out first, taking my pack with me.  She’ll keep circling around and Drew will get out somewhere else.  Then we’ll all make our way back to the factory: an innocent factory employee running some errands in a company vehicle and two random dudes wandering around with backpacks.

It’s an elaborate scheme, but also tidy.  The money eventually ends up in the hands of people who have no reasonable connection to the events of the morning, so there’s no reason to suspect we’re up to anything.  Meanwhile, everybody else gets an alibi.  The only way we could be caught is if somebody had been watching us from the beginning.

We all thought it was a pretty good plan.  I still think it was a pretty good plan.

But there’s a problem when a machine has a lot of moving parts.  It only takes one piece to fail for the rest of the machine to jam up.  And in this case, it was something simple.

There was a flash drive mixed in with the money.