“Give it back!” screamed the Mexican, voice hoarse with excitement and smoke. “You damned rat bastard, give it back!”
My hands were gripping desperately to the rocking horse; sure as shit I was not going to be giving it back. If I gave it back, what would stop me from falling? Above me, Fat Steve clung on to the head of the horse. Behind him, Chang and Jim and the others heaved on Fat Steve, trying to pull us all onto the roof.
The bulldog growled and sunk her teeth further into my behind.
In the distance, cop cars wailed, getting closer.
How the hell had I gotten into this mess?
Other gangs might kidnap rich brats. Not us.
“The Mexican loves that horse,” Chang had assured us. “Had it since he was a kid.”
“He’ll pay good money,” Jim agreed.
So we’d set it up. Everyone had a role.
Fat Steve had looked the part in the fake nacho stand. Looked more Mexican than the Mexican, who in fact had been born in Dakota and gone to school in Oregon. Chang scoped the getaway. He was waiting on the roof with the microlights. There was a race passing near the city that evening. Plan was to slip amongst them and get lost. Jim was meant to lose his shit at the food stand, just as the Mexican was passing with his entourage. The weird bastard took his beloved little horse everywhere.
Me? I was the grab man.
I’m fast, I’m slick.
Only problem was, I’m not as young as I used to be. And my knee’s not been right since that time in Dallas when…hell, that’s a different story.
“What the fuck is this?”
Jim was glaring at the bags of rice.
“For the nachos,” Fat Steve said defensively.
Jim and Chang exchanged glances. I looked away. The next street over, a distinctive German engine stopped. Our mark was here.
“Will someone tell him?” said Jim. “Tell him what traditionally constitutes a nacho?”
Everyone looked at me.
“Good anger,” I said. “Looks real. Use it.”
I gave Chang the nod. Our rides had to be running and ready to go. We would be leaving in a hurry.
Footsteps were coming. Expensive shoe leather. Even their damn footsteps sounded rich.
Chang was gone.
I bent, tying a shoe that didn’t have laces.
I glanced back as the Mexican rounded the corner, flanked by two heavies. They didn’t look so tough. I’d had Maria fill their pistols with blanks that morning. Good thing, having a girl on the inside.
Then my breath caught.
Ladybird. His prized bulldog, solid, intimidating. Looked like seventy pounds of pure muscle.
That was wrong. The Mexican wasn’t meant to have Ladybird with him.
“Shit,” I muttered. Too late to bow out now.
“You call this a fuckin’ burrito?” Jim roared.
Steve shoved, and then the Mexican was yanked back by one of his heavies (as planned) - and I swooped.
I was halfway across the street before they began to yell.
They gave a good chase, but I had scoped the area real good. By the time I’d emerged on the rooftop opposite, they were looked bushed. The fact they had offloaded a dozen rounds between them to no effect probably didn’t help.
“Catch!” I yelled, tossing the horse across the gap. Fat Steve grabbed it, then I danced across the wire. It was so thin I couldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t been the one to lay it out.
It would’ve worked so easy, if it hadn’t been for that damned dog.
The pain in my behind was like fire.
I fell. The ground seemed very far below. I scrabbled wildly, grabbing nothing at first…and then I was slamming into the side of the building, grasping desperately at the damned horse, as bags of rice sailed past my head, hitting the Mexican and his heavies down below.
The buzz of engines sounded. The race was passing by above.
Time was nearly up.
Chang socked Ladybird with a bag of rice. The dog barked as she fell, knocking the Mexican and his heavies like bowling pins.
Then I was limping over the roof and we were strapping in. A moment later, the whole dusty city fell away like a bad dream…apart from the cop car.
Around us, the sky was full of microlights, buzzing through the air. We had slipped amongst the race as planned.
There was only one problem.
The rocking horse was heavier than I had accounted for. Already, my microlight was struggling, dipping below the others. The cop car prowled after us like a hungry hyena.
“Crack it!” shouted Maria, zooming in from one side. She was a real pro. A real stunner. My girl.
“What?” I demanded. “The Mexican’ll kill us if we do that. How are we supposed to ransom a cracked horse?”
Maria raised an eyebrow. I knew better than to argue.
I twisted the horse’s wooden neck, and it sprung apart like a secret, revelling…
I reached in and pulled out the glittering things.
“Diamonds,” I breathed.
It was fair to say I was dumbstruck.
“Better than a ransom, right?” Maria told me. She grinned. “Heard him mention it to his driver. That prized-childhood-toy bullshit was just cover.”
I stared at her a moment, then laughed wildly.
Then I shrugged and dropped the stupid rocking horse.
The microlight’s little engine whinnied with approval.
We streamed over the desert towards the setting sun. I knew our luck would run out one day, but today…
From far below, there was a loud, distinctive thump as the rocking horse hit the cop car. There was a screech of tyres, then the rapidly receding sound of impassioned swearing.
Today…well, today had worked out just about right.
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