The best laid plans can go awry...
|"What do you mean it's not there?" Bobby's voice crackled over the walkie-talkie.
Shane looked out over the placid mirror of the lake. The absent speedboat mocked him. "It isn't here. We're screwed."
"Watch your language," his older brother intoned.
"Don't talk to me like that. You're not the boss of me. I can talk how I damn well please."
"You carry on with that potty mouth and I'll damn well please myself with an ass whoopin'. Now, go and find the boat. We've got police swarming all over us and we're heading straight for you, you hear?" Shane certainly could hear. The unmistakable sounds of gun-fire, sirens and screeching tires filled the background static. A loud series of bangs, and what sounded like breaking glass, boomed through the unit followed by dead silence.
Shane squeezed the walkie-talkie's plastic casing until it cracked, and bit back a response through gritted teeth. He hurled it,end over end, in a lazy arc over the end of the dock. It landed with a pathetic plop. Who did Bobby think he was? Screw him. Shane was the best wheelman gang-land North Dakota had -- not that it had many, but the point, as far as Shane saw it, was that he was just as important to the success of any bank robbery as Bobby. Anyone could shove a shotgun into a teller's face, but it took real talent to drive at speed, being pursued and evading capture. And yet, here he was, standing on a dock instead of driving the getaway car.
"Where's my damn boat?" he yelled into the riot of rural silence. A cawing crow answered him. Shane removed the hand gun shoved down his pants. He took the safety off and stared down his extended arm to where the bird sat on top of one of the mooring posts. The crow's feet clicked on the rounded metal top of its perch in an innocent dance to stay upright.
Shane blew its feathers off.
"It was rhetorical," he admonished the cloud of gun-smoke and scorched feathers. A piercing white-hot flash seared across his temple. "Damn migraine coming," he muttered under his breath. He didn't like stress.
The intermittent grumble of an engine accompanied smoky whorls of dust on the distant lake road. Shane was relieved to note that they weren't followed by the flash of lights and wail of sirens. Relief was a short run thing; he was still boatless. He turned on the creaking boards and scanned the lake again. A mist had fallen out of nowhere, but if he strained his hearing to tune out the approaching engine, he could make out the dip and splash of oars beyond the lake's milky blanket. Someone was rowing in. Sure, a high-powered speedboat would make the getaway easier, but with the help of nature's camouflage, a little rowboat could save this heist.
He hid his gun down the back of his pants as the prow of a small dinghy bobbed out of the shroud. At the same time, Bobby's beat-up old Buick roared onto the shore. Its arrival didn't put off the tick-tock pace of the rower, so Shane jogged toward where the car as it rolled to a halt. It was a wreck. How it had ever made it here, Shane couldn't fathom; the hood was crumpled like a concertina, steam hissed out of the engine block and the groaning metal frame squealed in wounded protest as Bobby and Billy, the goon driving, spilled out onto the wet grass.
"We lost 'em!" Billy greeted Shane with a bloodied grin.
"You look like hell."
"So do you."
Bobby's cold voice crept up behind the two men, "When you ladies have finished your chit-chatting, would you mind getting the money out of the trunk, please?"
They all went around the back of the car. Billy jimmied the lock with a crowbar as Bobby looked out toward the dock. "I see you got us a ride."
Shane followed his brother's stare to where the little rowboat, now moored up, rocked in time with gentle motion against the fixed wood. Its owner stood on the end of the little pier. Mist swallowed the distant mountains, and framed the figure against its greyness.
Successfully popping the trunk, Billy broke the silence of the eerie scene,"Why's he just standing there?"
"Who gives a shit? Let's get the boat," Shane replied.
Bobby slapped the back of his brother's head. "Mind your language."
"Mind my head. I told you I got a migraine coming."
"You'll have more than a headache if you carry on cussing. Grab the cash and let's go."
The three men dragged the cash boxes down the dock. Only the repetitive thunk of the boxes' metal casing against the boards spoke for them. Shane was quite impressed by the way the boat owner just stood there; anyone else would have been intimidated at the sight of them.
"We're taking your boat," Bobby dead-panned.
"No, you're not," the dark figure answered.
Bobby dropped a cash box, reached into his jacket, drew out his gun and aimed it into the man's face. Bobby didn't shake. Neither did the man.
"We're getting in that boat," Bobby whispered.
"So am I."
"Then you can row."
"I always do."
Shane didn't like this. Bile rose in his throat. He remembered why Bobby usually did the robbing, and he and Billy shared the driving. Bobby holstered his gun and started loading the boat. Billy followed. Once all the men were in, the stranger cast off and rowed into the mist.
"Take us to the other side," Bobby commanded.
Row, dip, splash. Row, dip, splash.
"It'll cost you," replied their captain.
"I don't think you're in any position to set rates, mister."
"Humor me. I've got two dangerous criminals and a great big gun. You are some lonely old-timer, out on a lake with no one to miss him. What kind of rate are you thinking of?"
"Two coins each." With that, he stopped rowing and the mist around the boat rolled back to form a solid, circular wall around them.
Shane scrunched up his eyes against the luminous glow of white. "My head's really messing with me. . . "
Flickering images began to focus on the mist, as if it were a movie screen. Shane looked at Bobby and Billy. They too were staring in panic at the wall of white. Horror and recognition flashed across their faces. Shane followed their gaze. He saw the Buick being chased, saw it shot at and watched it crash against a highway barrier. Two bodies were jettisoned through the windscreen. They had not survived the impact. The image faded and was replaced by a crow that cawed silently on a metal topped post. Shane watched himself raise the gun and fire. The bird exploded in slow motion, and so did Shane's head; the bullet had ricocheted and struck him in the temple. He was already dead as his body spun and fell onto the dock.
"Oh," he acquiesced.
"Flat rate," the ferryman reiterated. "Two coins each."
Shane looked down at the loot. At least they could afford the fare.