Block Buster | #1
Phase One had been nothing less than an utter… success. It didn’t go perfectly to plan, but perfect plans are only ever perfect, only ever worth-it, if they workout. I was within the margin of error. I’d gotten the SD card I wanted, removed a few random ones to mask which SD card I wanted. Fried the fuck out of Dbag Barry, escaped Gateway’s underground fortress, crashed my car through their massive and tightly built security fence, survived and fled into the woods.
Yeah, Teresa would be proud.
Now I was hurrying to car number two, which was parked a mile through the forest, behind an old trailer park just off the only road.
I picked my way through the woods without the benefit of a flashlight. For the past two weeks I’d come out here and covertly practiced my route each night. I’d marked trees with ultraviolet paint and I cleared a small path.
And I wore night vision goggles.
My pursuers had zero of those advantages, and also, they were trapped inside a fence with enough voltage to incapacitate them like a riddikulus-ly good ‘Stupefy Charm’.
I approached the opening near mi segundo coche but didn’t broach the treeline. I stood close, a ghost among oaks, at most a stone’s throw from car numero dos.
I stood… and studied the night. Was I alone? I could hear shouts behind me. Did I hear dogs? I didn’t know Gateway Underground Secure Storage had bloodhounds. Maybe I was being paranoid? To pacify my mind, satisfy the fear that shivered up my spine, I relaxed my eyes and stared. Peripheral vision detects movement, but I spotted nothing.
I picked my way through the undergrowth to my car, paid for in cash from a Florida used-lot two weeks before.
Unlike the Crown Vic I bulldozed that fence with, this car was not a beater. Though the pushy salesmen tried to get me to go with speed, my insistence was on distance. I needed to get gone, get off this hill, get away from Atlanta, abandon my car at a pay-to-park near the airport in Charlotte, hop a shuttle to my 6am flight, land in Seattle by late morning. I’d have the SD card on BossMan95’s proverbial desk by early afternoon. This time next week, my sister Teresa could be off the ventilator and breathing on her own again.
Maybe she’d even be – No, I couldn’t even hope that she’d be cured that quickly.
I grabbed a duffle bag in the back seat, found the cordless electric razor I had packed and quickly shaved off the beard I’d grown over the last two months as a reverse disguise. I brushed off any small clippings and got into the car.
The car started smoothly, quietly, and I pulled out onto the road. One thing remained. Because I was on a thickly wooded mini-mountain, the only road out was back toward the data center I just robbed. I would pass near the front gates in less than five minutes. As I drove down the windy road, I pulled off my sweater vest embroidered with an “AxelRod Security” patch and shoved it in the duffle bag.
Then I saw the lights from the roadblock. I thought, ‘Okay, relax. Not totally unexpected.’ I had hoped I would be clear of this forest before Gateway Security had a chance to set up a roadblock, but this is why I was shaving and changing. It’s also why I had the Domino’s pizza sign.
I had only about two months to prepare for this heist, and believe me, I’d never done anything quite like this before. But I also had the help from thousands of hackers on Dark World Forums. Using an app only available for jailbroken iPhones, I posted questions on The Dark World, asking about ideas for this and for that. One post I titled, “How to get by a roadblock?” It was a “just in case” question that had come to me one night while planning. The highest rated reply was: “Steal a Domino’s Pizza car top sign and tell them you are delivering pizza.”
It was genius. I bought a magnetized Domino’s Pizza sign off of some guy on Ebay. Just before I rolled up to the roadblock, I plugged it into my cigarette lighter.
I arrived behind a big Ford F-150, first in line. My headlights reflected in the shiny rear bumper. The Domino’s Pizza sign reflected in their rear window.
I could feel my heart pounding. I took a deep breath and told myself, “Relax, you’re home free after this.”
A guy in a uniform was talking to the driver of the pickup in front of me. I tried to breathe calmly. I told myself to remember my story. Remember the southern accent I had practiced. Y’all… remember to say “y’all.”
The pickup pulled forward, they waved it through a gap in the two trucks forming the roadblock. I rolled forward, window halfway down. Performance time. Enter, stage left. I’m playing to an audience of one man. Oh, no!! I forgot my lines. God dammit, what was my cover story? Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, pizza. Pizza. Relax.
Just before I pulled all the way forward, I glanced at myself in the rearview mirror. Oh, shit! I had completely missed shaving a whole swath of my beard. Okay, just put on your COVID-19 mask… I felt around in the dark. Where was my mask?
I stopped next to a white guy lit by the night sky. He had a salt and pepper beard poking out around a mask. He had this drawl. I’ll try to imitate it. It’s like, uh, he asked, he goes, “Where are you headed?”
Of course, I seized up under pressure. So typical. I said, “I’m good – y’all. I mean, uh, what’s happen — I’m delivering – PIZZA!” Oh, my God, why can’t I ad-lib? Ahhh!
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The guy wore a Gateway Underground Secure Storage sweater vest straining it’s limits against his belly. I had just stuffed a similar sweater-vest into the duffle on the seat next to me. All the rent-a-cops providing security at GUSS wore them. If they caught me with my vest, they’d know it was me and I’d be busted. The guy leaned down and said, “Where are you headed?” His breath smelled like salami. I stole another glance in the mirror. The bit of beard I had missed was on the right side of my face, away from the guy. If I just faced forward… maybe he wouldn’t notice.
I said, “Just finished delivering a couple of pizzas.”
He said, “It’s after midnight.”
“Last call, y’all.” Ugh. Don’t force it! Stupid! Stupid!
Behind me, another car pulled up.
Security guy said, “We’re looking for this guy.” He showed me an iPad screen with my picture on it. It was the security badge ID photo of me with my beard.
I said, “Don’t see – haven’t, uhm, seen ’em. Just pizza delivering. I mean, uh -“
Security guy interrupted me. “Look at me.” I remained staring forward at the two pickups blocking the road. The guard shined his flashlight on my head, then pulled down his mask and started to say something.
I ran scenarios in my mind. The car behind me was too close. No way to back out. Going back thataway was a dead end, anyway. I could floor it right now, and maybe squeeze through the gap in the road block, or go around it with a donut, spin away for a moment. But I wouldn’t get far, they know my car and they’d give chase.
Besides, they had radios. One of the many tips I’d gotten from the hackers on Dark World Forums was “never run from the cops! They have guns, tasers, qualified immunity and … radios. You can’t out run a radio.”
I could floor it and go for it, or it could be as easy as me doing what he asked and turning my head and facing this rent-a-cop. He’d then see my weird facial hair, the big chunk of beard I missed while shaving, but what would he do? Would he understand and put two and two together or just wave me past? I decided to take the chance.
Making a break for it, was Plan B.
I turned to him. He shined the light in my face, I put my hands up to shield my eyes. He took a deep breath. He said, “It doesn’t smell like pizza.”
I said, “What?”
He said, “I delivered pizza in college. My car always smelled like garlic, even if I hadn’t worked for a week.”
I said, “Uh, I uh, had my windows down?”
He suddenly stepped back as if to wave me through. Whew. Okay, let’s do this! Charlotte, airport, Seattle, BossMan95, save my sister’s life.
Just then I looked ahead and I saw Barry and Kevin stalking down the road from the front gate, directly to my left.
I started to let off the brake, waiting for the hand signal that says, ‘move along, go ahead, move it.’
Instead, Security guy’s right hand went to his holster, and his left hand to the radio clipped to his shoulder. He squeezed it and said what sounded like, “Got ‘im.”
Security guy said, “Sir, I need you to step out of the car.”
Like hell I was going to step out of the car.
Step on the gas, more like it. I floored it, aimed for the gap. If you could call it that. I was really a crack. I heard a thwack as the two pickups forming the barricade lurched back to close the gap. I got through, zipped past Barry and Kevin on the road! The trucks were tangled with each other. I was a quarter mile away before they fell in behind me, spinning gravel and screeching, joining the race, giving chase.
It’s on. Oh, yeah. Umm, hmm. It is on! Let’s Go.
Honestly, I’m an average driver. I have a good reaction, but never trained in evasive action. I usually go, you know, a couple of miles over the speed limit. Enough to press it a bit, not enough for a cop to bother pulling me over.
Vroom, I veered around a sharp, steep curve, I swerved, I recovered. They knew what car I drove. The paint, the plates, the model, the make. They knew the dent they’d just made in the back. They knew the sign on top. I concluded I was too easily pursued. Screwed, blued and tattooed. I knew dat, I couldn’t afford to drive this rolling billboard. Good Lord. I was an easy score.
The windy, forested road provided a temporary advantage. Those huge pickups would be ravaged and damaged if they even tried to manage the speeds I was mounting on this small mountain.
But, once we were off this road, that advantage was “good riddance.” Instinct said I needed distance this instant if I hoped for further existence.
I got up to an uncomfortable sixty miles per hour. I used both lanes, rolled through crossroads, roared around curves, prayed I wouldn’t meet another car.
Down below, I saw a straightaway and had an idea.
I had to put some space between me and the trucks. I needed to be a couple of curves ahead, or I couldn’t pull off my plan. Down this little mountain we were on, I could see lights as we came upon civilization. Strip malls, gas stations, traffic signals. I pushed it to 65 miles per hour!
No, 65 was way past too fast, I let off the gas before I my last act was to blast past the narrow path. I flew past a sign that said: Speed limit: 25. Good, Lord.
I roared around the final curve and down the straightaway. Headlights from the pickup trucks were two curves behind me. I fumbled for the duffle bag, rolled down the window, and tossed it into the tree line. I looped my arms around the straps of my backpack … everything important was in that baby blue backpack … and … about halfway down the mile-long stretch … I aimed my car for the left ditch … shifted to neutral … slowed the car to what I hoped was an acceptable speed … opened my door … and jumped out.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson
Other Music in this episode: Groove Commercial