Tick.Tick.Tick

Tick.Tick.Tick. Jack stared at the second hand ticking away on the pocket watch. They are late, he thought as he looped the sterling silver string of the pocket watch around his rearview. 10 minutes they said; we will be in and out by 2:15 they said. Jack double checked the time again and began nervously rapping his fingers on the steering wheel. 2:17, two minutes behind schedule. He looked around making sure no one else was around. Of course, no one was, no one would be caught dead walking around this part of town at 2 in the morning. Jack grabbed the hanging pocket watch and began to anxiously rub the engraving on the back. “To my darling Jack, forever yours, love Maggie”.  He rubbed his rough white beard simultaneously as he dreamt of his beautiful wife. He hated this damn beard, its whiteness making him look 15 years older. He only kept it for Maggie as she loved it and he would do anything to make her happy.

Any further thoughts were abruptly ended by the slam of a door and footsteps running. Finally, Jack thought, as he saw two men sprinting towards the car. The short fatter one he called Tweedledee and the tall skinny one he called Tweedledum. He did not even bother wondering what their real names were. In this line of work, the less you know about your accomplices the better.  He leaned over the backseat and popped the back-right door open for the men.

“2:18, three minutes late, I don’t know what the contact told you all but I run a tight punctual ship here. And I can’t imagine Hart being pleased with us being late with the goods either. I assume you got the goods, right?” Jack asked as he gestured towards the backpack Tweedledum had placed in the middle seat as he slid into the seat behind Jack.

“Yeah, we got it, the safe gave us a little more trouble than we expected. And you let us worry about Hart, he’s been waiting years for this, he can wait a few moments more.” Tweedledee said as he climbed in the other backseat and slammed the door. “I would recommend going now, we’re probably gonna have some company.”

Jack nodded in agreement and turned the ignition over. The Toyota Corolla roared to life and Jack slammed it down into 2nd gear and took off.

“We expected the mob to have protection there but we didn’t expect there to be off duty cops there too. We had to knock them out but they should be awaking up soon and are bound to be pissed after they see what’s missing.” Tweedledee said as he moved the backpack between his legs.

“Well, if you got it you’ve done your part, now let me take care of the rest.”

Tweedledee opened the backpack to assure Jack the goods were there. An unnatural gold light poured out of the open bag illumining the stupid grin on Tweedledee’s face. “Oh, we got it all right, Hart will be very pleased with us. With a million waiting for each of us after this job, all of us will be able to retire in peace.”

Jack nodded in agreement. That was part of the deal, be wheelman one last time and get out clean. He began to dream of the new life he would start with Maggie, dreaming of white picket fences and children running around in the front lawn, but quickly snapped out of it. No time for daydreaming right now, I gotta focus, he thought. He retightened his grip on the steering wheel, his leather gloves gently squeaking against the leather steering wheel. He shifted up into 3rd and turned onto left onto Voorhees Avenue.  He knew he had to make up the lost time but still he drove cautiously to avoid arousing suspicion. The Tweedle brothers may joke about Hart being fine with tardiness, but Jack knew better than to anger the self-proclaimed King of Los Angles Crime. He had many nicknames, some well-earned and some not, but people didn’t call him Bloody Hart for no reason.

He continued east down Voorhees when his police scanner began to squawk. “All units in the area, we have a reported break in and robbery on Green Lane and Ruhland Avenue. A Toyota Corolla was seen leaving the scene, color and plates unknown. Be advised suspects are armed and dangerous.”

“Shit.” Muttered Tweedledum, “I thought we would have more time before they made us.”

Jack began to speed up, he wanted to leave the area as soon as possible. He was not too worried yet, the cops only had the make and model of the car and not the color or the plates. Good thing Jack picked one of the most common cars in Los Angeles. This wasn’t by accident, it wasn’t Jack’s first rodeo and he knew the key to a successful getaway involved blending in.  He shifted down a gear and shifted to the right lane as he prepared to turn right down Peck Avenue. As he waited at the light he saw two blacked out Mercedes sedans creep up behind him followed by a squad car.

Jack didn’t hesitate for a moment as he slammed the gas and peeled off to the right. He knew they had made the car. It didn’t matter if they were all cops or cops and mob he knew it was time to make his money. The squad car flipped their lights and sirens on and gunned it after Jack. The Mercedes followed suit and the chase was on.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum nervously fidgeted in the backseat. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. How the hell are we supposed to outrun a Mercedes and a Charger in a fucking Corolla. Why the hell would you pick a Corolla over a Mustang or anything else as a getaway car.”

Normally Tweedledee would be right. The Charger was the fastest squad car in Los Angeles made especially for high speed chases and, along with the Mercedes, outclasses the Corolla in every aspect besides number of cup holders. But this wasn’t a normal Corolla. Jack had seen to that. With much effort and quite a few modifications, Jack had replaced the puny little 4-cylinder stock engine with a 6.2-liter Corvette V-8. With that baby under the hood along with some other modifications, Jack could keep up with NASCAR drivers in this Corolla.

The chase continued down Peck.  Jack could hear the police scanner chirp again with the location of his car and a request for all available units and air support but it went in one ear and out the other. He was in the chase now and nothing could distract his focus. He redlined the engine as he shifted from second to third and then third to fourth. He saw the trio of cars charging up behind him. He knew the police helicopter would be on him soon but that didn’t matter, he had a plan for that. He would have to lose the cars before first so he narrowed his focus on that.

Ignoring the panicked squeals from the backseat, Jack gunned it down Peck weaving in and out of the abnormally heavy traffic for this time of night. His pursuers followed suit with Jack gaining little ground on them. As he scanned the rearview, the swinging pocket watch still hanging from his mirror caught his eye.  Just gotta lose these tails and drop off the goods then Maggie and I can start our new life, he thought. He had been dreaming of this day for years now, this last job and he’d finally have the money they needed.  Jack quickly shook his head to snap out of his daydream. No time for that right now, he thought, gotta focus on the present situation. His Corolla may be fast but the Mercedes and Charger were no slouches.  He knew it would be difficult to lose them in a straight drag race, he needed some quick turns and a few other tricks to lose them before heading to his final destination.

Jack had grown up racing these streets and knew them like the back of his hand. He knew heading up Peck would take him to Polliwog Park where he could easily lose them and still be on track to get to the meeting place with Hart. He figured he could lose a car or two before getting to the park so he pulled the handbrake, dropped down 2 gears, and skidded around the turn onto 5th Street. He immediately redlined the car and popped it back into 3rd gear then 4th gear. He got back up to speed and then pulled the same maneuver again, this time left down Herrin Avenue. He glanced at his rearview to see where his pursuers were and swore under his breath as he saw all three cars kept up with him. Time to get fancy he thought as he floored it and sped down Herrin. Herrin was devoid of any other cars so Jack fully opened up the engine and raced towards the park. He gained a little ground as the other cars redlined their engines to keep up.  He sped towards the dead end of Herrin his foot pinning the gas pedal down to the floor. The custom suspension he had installed would allow him to take turns at breakneck speed but he was still pushing the max speed he could sharply turn at without flipping the car.

With the car redlining in 4th, he slammed the gearshift into 5th and began to prepare to turn left down 11th. “Quickly shift to all your weight to the right side of the car so I don’t flip.” he instructed to the Tweedle brothers. He shifted down and simultaneously floored the clutch and gas as he hit the turn, causing the rear wheels to lose traction. As he slid his foot off the clutch the car gracefully glided around the turn. Once the car was headed straight he pulled off the gas to allow the tires to regain traction and quickly floored it again to peel out down 11th.

He anxiously watched in his rearview to see if his pursuers had also pulled off the turn. He first saw the two Mercedes hit the turn. The lead Mercedes started the drift off right but then overcorrected and slammed the back wheel against a light pole, knocking the tire off its axle and taking it out of commission. The second Mercedes let his back end slid too much while trying to avoid his fallen comrade. The sedan slid sideways down 11th for a split second then proceeded to flip over and over again.  Jack silently cheered until he saw the Charger, light and sirens ablaze, successfully maneuver around the turn and debris and fall in line right behind Jack.  Jack unconsciously nodded in recognition of the driver’s skills.

Knowing he would lose him in the park, he calmly took a right turn back onto Peck and sped towards the park, the Charger in close pursuit. The unmistakable sound of a helicopter quickly approached and suddenly the Corolla was illuminated by the helicopter’s spotlight. Tweedledee and Tweedledum were in silent awe of Jack’s skills but nervously kept looking out the tinted back window at the squad car and craning their necks around to try to spot the helicopter. Jack was unfazed by this new development, he could worry about the chopper later, he had to lose this car and not gain any new followers.

Jack floored it once again knowing he needed as much space as possible between him and the Charger to lose him in the park. He veered to the left and slightly angled his car for a head-on collision with the locked park gate. He remembers the gates always being rusty and weak when he was a kid and hoped the good city of Los Angeles wouldn’t have replaced them since then. He knew the reinforced front of the Corolla could take the brunt of the blow without crippling the car anyways, so he gunned it straight towards the gate. His memories and the inefficiency of the Los Angeles park system served him well as he easily plowed through the rusty old gate with minimal damage to the car. The Charger, not expecting this move, lagged behind while the chopper and its spotlight remained fixed on the Corolla. Jack sped through the first part of the park then quickly took a right down the first loop and quickly went off road towards the Amphitheater. Seeing he lost the Charger momentarily on the turn, he quickly maneuvered between the trees losing the chopper as well. He parked between some trees and the Amphitheater, a spot you could not see from the road. He killed the engine and the lights and remained motionless. He loosened his death grip on the wheel allowing the blood to return to his stark white knuckles.

The three men remained still in the car, the only sound being the deep panicked breaths emanating from the backseat and the calm collected breaths of Jack. The roar of the Chargers engine was close and Jack noticed the police scanner was going off again. “I lost the suspect in Polliwog Park, air support do you still have a visual?” Judging by the spotlight bouncing around from area to area, Jack knew they had lost him and didn’t bother to hear the helicopter pilot’s response. He hoped the Charger and any backup had believed he went all the way through the park, he waited for a moment to allow them to get further away. He turned the ignition over and the engine roared back to life. He reversed course and headed out the entrance. He sped back onto Peck and as he turned onto Manhattan Beach Boulevard the Corolla was once again engulfed in light. The chopper had found him again. Jack was unfazed by this even as the Tweedle brothers squealed and cried in fear. As long as no cars picked up their trail again, Jack knew he could lose the chopper. He made quick time to Sepulveda Boulevard with still only the chopper in pursuit. Sepulveda was deserted at this time of night, and Jack took the Corolla to as fast as it would go.  He headed north towards the airport with haste.

He knew at this speed no squad car could catch up to him now. It was just him and the chopper. Jack threw the gearshift up into 5th and kept his foot mashed down on the gas pedal.  Jack’s final plan was coming to fruition. He knew once he hit the tunnel under LAX, the helicopter could not follow the tunnel straight over LAX. This was a trick only the locals, at least the locals involved in less reputable business, knew; federal aviation laws forbid any non-scheduled flights over LAX. The helicopter would have to go around the airport adding a few precious minutes to their flight. Jack knew the tunnel was a smidge under 2 miles long and at his current speed and with the lack of late night traffic, he could be out of the tunnel and home free in less than 30 seconds.

The Corolla hit the tunnel pushing 150 mph, Jack weaved through what little traffic there was, hearing little groans and squeals of panic from the back seat as he narrowly avoided the cars he passed. Jack held his breath as he exited the tunnel hoping he beat the helicopter and whatever squad cars they had sent his way. The car cleared the tunnel and Jack looked around. Not a soul in the sky or on the street. They were home free for now. Knowing that, now, discretion was key, he reduced his speed and headed towards the Marina Del Rey to drop off the car.

The rest of the ride was silent and uneventful as the Tweedle brother continued to look around for any signs of cops or the mob. They reached the lot where they had a secondary car stashed and quickly switched cars while covering the trusty old Corolla with tarps. Jack had grown attached to that car, even in the short amount of time he had used it. He knew it was not his problem anymore, he had worn gloves the whole time in the car as to not leave any fingerprint evidence in case the car was found before it was destroyed by Hart’s people.  He grabbed his pocket watch from off the rearview and put it in his jacket pocket and quickly entered the new car, a Toyota Tacoma, another one of the most common cars in Los Angeles.

As he buckled his seatbelt and turned the car on, he felt the brush of cold steel on the back of his shaved head. “Sorry to do this to you after all that fancy driving but a two way split sounds better than a three way split.” He heard Tweedledee cock the revolver back and knew he had precious few moments to act. “Just drive over to the dock down that way nice and slow and we can make this quick and painless.”

Jack obliged and put the truck into drive. He slid one hand into his pocket and began to rub the engraved side of the pocket watch. This had become such a common tick for him he could read the engraving with his fingers. His thumb hovered over the engraving of his wife name. Memories of the two flooded Jack’s head, he had not come this far to lose it all now. He was going to make it back to Maggie one way or another. Knowing he had few options than didn’t end with a bullet in his head, he began to slowly accelerate. Neither of the Tweedle brothers seemed to notice anything amiss.

Jack calmly addressed Tweedledee “You don’t have to do this; a million dollars is still a lot of money. We can all walk out of here happy and alive.”

“A million is nice but a million and a half sounds even nicer. So, sorry driver, you won’t be able to make the meeting with Hart but I’m sure you’ll meet some nice fish at the bottom of the marina.”

Jack continued to slowly accelerate the truck and began to form a plan. He knew it was a dangerous plan but had no other viable options left. “I understand. I have one request, can you shoot me in the chest so if they do find my body, my wife can have some closure and have an open casket funeral.  Can’t have one of those if you blow my head off.”

Jack felt the pressure on the back of his head let up as Tweedledee lowered the gun a bit and began to speak. Jack wasn’t waiting for a response just for the window of opportunity he needed. Before Tweedledee’s word could leave his mouth, Jack pulled the seat adjustment lever and slammed his seat back into Tweedledee. Tweedledee recoiled back and momentarily aimed the gun down away from Jack’s head. Jack seized the moment, floored the gas and swerved left, then right, and then cut left hard, sending the truck skidding sideways.  The car skidded for a moment then began to tilt and soon flipped over and over again. Jack heard a few loud blasts from the backseat as instincts from his years of stunt driving kicked in and he braced for impact. He felt two hot slugs enter his back and one exit through his lower left ribcage, shattering a few ribs in the process.

The truck flipped once more and slid on its hood until abruptly stopping once it hit a shipping container. The blood rushing to his upside-down head,  he gathered his focus, quickly assessed the scene, and looked for the quickest exit. His left leg was pinned between the door and the seat and with much effort and pain, he freed his mangled leg. Upon looking in the backseat he noticed the Tweedle brother were sprawled unconscious across the backseat. Jack’s seat belt had held him in place but those two had forgotten theirs and were thrown around the truck like ragdolls as it flipped. I’ll leave them here for the fine men of the LAPD, he thought as he squirmed his way towards the shattered back window. Before he climbed out, he grabbed the backpack and opened it to ensure the goods were intact, if they weren’t this was all for naught and Hart would surely have him and Maggie killed. As he opened the bag the unnatural light once again poured out of the bag, illuminating Jack’s bloody and cut up face, steaks of red dripping down his typically snow white beard. Assured the goods were intact, he crawled out of the car and limped away from the crash.

He made it out of the Marina, his rage and pure adrenaline masking the pain of his probably broken leg. It had also masked the pain of the two gunshot wounds to his back and the exit wound in his lower abdomen. He reached around his back and felt the warm liquid ooze out of the holes then did the same to the hole in the front. He stopped to rip off his undershirt and use it to try to stop the bleeding. He pulled the pocket watch out of his pocket and checked the time. 3:23, still late. He knows Hart would be angry but he also did not care at this point, he was going home first. The Tweedle brothers were right about one thing, Hart had waited long enough for this, he could wait an extra day.  Bleeding, limping, concussed, but alive, Jack wandered to the street in search of a cab. It was his lucky day as one turned the corner almost immediately. He tried his best to hide his bleeding back and stomach and shattered leg from the cab driver. The cabbie immediately reacted with shock. “Hey man are you okay?  We gotta get to you to a hospital ASAP.”

Jack shook his head as he climbed in the back seat with much difficulty. He once again reached in his pocket for the watch and began rubbing the engraving. With images of Maggie dancing around in his head, he leaned toward the cabbie and said “No, take me to Santa Monica. Take me home.” The cabbie fearfully obliged as he didn’t know how this man was still alive and what the other guys must look like. Jack slowly succumbed to the ever-mounting weight of his eyelids and closed his eyes and fell across the backseat. The pocket watch slid out of his hand but the string caught itself of one of his fingers. The watch still hit the floor and opened up on impact. With his last bit of strength, Jack opening his eyes as much as his depleted strength would allow and gazed at the picture of his wife on the inside of the watch as his eyes slowly fluttered shut again. He quickly slipped into unconsciousness as the pocket watch continued to go Tick. Tick. Tick.

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