“Is Jerry there with you?”
“Yeah, he's here with me at Ricks apartment, like you said, Rick and Eddie are...”
“Is this place clean? I mean, is there anything I should know about, back doors blind spots, you've been runnin with these guys, am I gonna hafta deal with any surprises if I stop by?”
Gary's mind raced, he instinctively answered, “No, nothing like that. Didn't Rick and Eddie stop by...”
“Yeah, yeah. They're on there way. Don't let anyone know we're coming. And make sure nobody leaves. We'll be there in 15.”
	The other end went silent. 15 minutes. Gary's heart started to quicken. Why were they coming here? And why so quickly. He didn't like this. Rick and Eddie were supposed to drop of the money at the warehouse and then come back to the apartment. What was wrong? Had they split? No, Buddy just told him that they were on their way. Unless he was lying to make it so that Gary and Jerry didn't go anywhere. No, that didn't make sense, what was going on?
	He heard the TV turn on and remembered he was in the bathroom. He took a deep breath and looked in the mirror. He wanted to run, slip out the back window and make for another city, another state. He calmed himself. There was nothing to worry about. He hadn't done anything wrong. This wasn't a good time to do something stupid. He heard a laugh. Jerry. He had to be cool... very cool.
	He opened the door to Jerry laughing at cartoons.
	“Oh man! Have you  seen this one Garr? This thing? It's called Nomadic Vegetables, it's fuckin hilarious”. He turned to look at Gary, face still smiling. He saw Gary's expression and his smile dropped a notch. 
	“Geez man what's with that girl of yours, why don't you ever just tell the bitch you'll call her back?” He'd always told the guys it was his girl if Buddy called. He played it off as if he was in a relationship with a psychotic girl, for which he could sadly draw several relationships worth of experience. 
	“As hot as she is it's worth the price of admission to put up with a nutty phone call every now and then.” He broke off by rolling his eyes acting as if even he was starting to wonder if it was worth it. 
	“Must be some piece of ass Garr” Jerry trailed off as he turned his attention back to the show. Gary started to look around the room, wondering if he'd correctly represented the apartment to Buddy. He didn't really know if there were any “blind spots”, he'd never really given such a thing any thought. His instinct was to just say no, but he started to worry. What if he was wrong? No, he was getting carried away. He'd been in this place several times before, it's just a damn apartment, run of the mill. He needed to get a grip. He instinctively started to pace, not realizing that Jerry had turned to look at him again.
	“What is your deal man?” Shit, he thought. Why do you have to wear everything on you sleeve. Get your shit together. 
	“Where  the hell are Rick and Eddie man, how long does it take to get to the stinkin warehouse and back?” He was glad that he was somewhat fresh to this group. Every small time hood desperately clung to the belief that they were somehow more veteran than most. They loved the idea of schooling some fresh fish. So anytime he  wanted to conceal something he could simply brush the idea that he wasn't as knowledgeable about the craft pass their noses and they'd immediately pick up the trail.
	“Listen Garr, chill out. We've done this kinda stuff before. You did good today, but you gotta let us handle these things. Trust me, it's all goin down as planned.” 
	“Sorry man” Gary let out with as awkward a smile as he could muster. “I'm just not there yet, this stuff just wigs me out a little.” Just as he finished the door swung open and thudded into the doorway wall. Though he couldn't see them yet, Gary could here there distinct laughter. Rick and Eddie were home.


“What  took you studs so long?” Jerry let out in a mocking juvenile tone, “Bambi here was worried about you guys” Rick emerged from behind the doorway wall that separated the entryway from the main room of the apartment. His thick curly black hair making it slightly difficult to make out his eyes. It gave him a slightly deranged look when coupled with his broad smile and thin, lanky body. At times he looked to Gary like an overgrown muppet on heroin. Ricks entire demeanor seemed overflowing with energy. Gary only caught a slight glimpse of Eddie's back, scurrying down the small hallway towards the bedrooms. 
	“How's we all doin!” Rick shouted as he opened up his arms as if to embrace the entire room. Gary was a little taken back by Rick's mood, which seemed even more jubilant than normal. But then again they had just made quite a nice score, and a lot of pressure was off now that they'd made the drop at the warehouse. Jerry showed no such hesitation and immediately responded in kind. He was probably sick of being stuck with Gary and his virtual girlfriend.
	“I'm doin just fiiiiine!” Jerry retorted, “and getting my Nomadic Veg-o-matic on as we speak. So if you'll  excuse me sir.” 
	“Nomadic Vegetables!!” Eddie screamed as he emerged from the hallway and lept up onto Ricks shoulders. Rick toppled with the added weight and Eddie tumbled over him with a smile and eyes that only Cocaine could have afforded him. He rolled off of Rick when he hit the ground and immediately lept up over the back of the couch to join Jerry, who looked as if he was feeding off of their energy, but had no creative ideas of where to jump.
	Before  Eddie had settled into a seated position, Rick lept over the back of the couch, landing the side of his body on Eddie's  back. The three immediately fell into a small wrestling match before settling into sitting positions to watch the show.
	Garry rounded the couch and sat down on an overstuffed chair that faced perpendicular to the couch. 
	“Been riding the white horse have we?” Gary asked Rick and Eddie, though his eye's stared at Rick. Rick let out a neigh and Eddie began making hoof noises and motioned as if he were striking two half coconuts together. Neither let their eyes leave the television. Gary tried to lighten his mood a little, it felt good to see how they weren't stressed. 
	“We should go toss some money toward Bunnies.” He said 
	“Vegetables before tits man, didn't your mom teach you anything?” Jerry replied. Shit, he thought to himself, he had completely gotten caught up in the mood and had forgotten that they weren't supposed to go anywhere. He never thought he'd be so thankful for animated vegetables. He quickly played it off.
	“You guys worry me. You sure there are 3 bedrooms here. You can tell me guys, I'm on your side”. He said as he began to watch the show.
	“When this things over I'm gonna bring you back there and show you what we do bitch” Jerry replied, again without taking his eyes off the screen.
	Gary pretended to watch the program, but in his mind he kept going over the phone call. What had Buddy said exactly, were there any clues as to why he was coming? He thought back to the tone of Buddy's voice. He had seemed annoyed and somewhat condescending. What could it be? They'd made the hit, no mistakes. They'd dropped the money off where they were supposed to. There hadn't been any additional instructions. He felt slightly better that he had his glock tucked under his belt, but at a time like this there was no sure way that a handgun could save him. Buddy could ask to come in with one of his goons. Ask to sit down, have someone stand behind him, and then game over.
	Should he keep his back to the wall, risk offending Buddy for self preservation? But wait, there were 4 of them. All with weapons. He stared at the coffee table in front of the couch. Three pistols lay scattered across it. Sitting on a cushy couch with a pistol tucked into your pants wasn't exactly comfy, and the three amigos had to be comfy during tv kiddie hour. He could tell them. Amongst them they could come up with a plan to make sure nothing went wrong. Did that make sense? He wasn't sure. Dammit, he though, I just wanna go home and play video games, I just wanna take my money and go.
	Just then there was a knock at the door.


Gary's head jerked around too  look towards the door. He couldn't quite see it since there was a wall hiding the entryway. His gut wrenched and he put his hand on his gun.
	"Chill out man, cops knock a lot louder than that." Gary turned his head to see Jerry and the others staring at him. He realized how he must look sitting there all tensed up with his hand on his gun.  He slowly let his hand slip off of his gun handle and fell back on his familiar role. 
	"How do you know?" He asked.  Little did Jerry know that Gary was in no way worried about police, but he might as well allow him to follow the wrong trail.
	"Trust me man, been there done that." Jerry replied with an air of experience.
	"Well I'll go see who it is" Gary replied as he got up and moved towards the entrance way. 
	"You do that", Jerry mocked "and if it's the swat team take a message". 

	Gary's feet felt like lead as he moved to the door. He put his hand on his gun and slowly approached the peep hole. He could here the cartoon in the background, it's light hearted pitch seemed to mock the thickness of the air around him. His mind churned on what possible reason there could be for the visit. Would it be Buddy that  he saw when he peeped through, and if not was that a bad sign? And even if it was a bad sign, what was he going to do about it.
	The door knocked again, startling Gary and causing him to jumped back. He looked back toward the room, no longer able to see the guys, wondering what they'd be thinking since he was taking so long to open the door. He hurried to the peep hole. It was Buddy.
	Gary felt somewhat relieved. At least it was Buddy out there, which meant that so far he'd been told the truth. So far everything was fine. So far. Buddy had an annoyed look on his face, but Buddy quite often seemed to have an annoyed look on his face, and after all Gary was keeping him waiting. Gary grabbed the knob and opened the door.
	"Hey Gary", Buddy's expression seemed to relax for an instant, but then quickly found it's way back to it's annoyed stance. Garry's eyes caught a glimpse of one of Buddy's goons just over Buddy's left shoulder.
	"Things are as I'm expecting?" Buddy asked in a low tone. His eyes seemed to look past Gary, towards the noise that of the television. Gary assumed that Buddy was referring to the 'no surprises' that he had mentioned in their previous discussion. Buddy's phrasing seemed to get quite curt when he was talking business. He seemed to be a type of minimalist, which fit his persona to a t. He was a stalky man with a shaved bald head. He usually wore a sweatshirt, almost always hooded. He looked like muscle, and maybe he had been for a time. But to Gary he was a boss, and the connection in this operation. Gary had done a small job or two for Buddy. When Gary was in high school he'd worked in one of the small pizza shops that Buddy owned. One day Buddy had asked him to run an errand, and over a year it had escalated to some small time jobs. It was Buddy's idea to throw Gary in the mix with Rick, Eddie,  and Jerry. And he'd run some smaller jobs with them. This had been his first real hit. Nothing fancy but a milestone nonetheless. And he was finding that as his jobs were escalating so was unease.
	Gary stared at Buddy, who's eyes intoned that he was awaiting a response.
	"uh, yeah yeah, everything's cool"
	"Good, now keep your mouth shut, and blend into the scenery, you catch me?" He didn't wait for Gary to respond, "Good, now lead me into the three amigas"
	Buddy and his henchmen began to move forward even before Gary could turn around. Gary quickly tried took and extra step and got in front of them, leading them to the main room. When they got there he started to think of what to say when Buddy cut him off.
	Just 5 seconds after Buddy had told him, Gary had already forgotten that he was supposed to keep his mouth shut. He couldn't be happier that he'd taken a second to think of what to say. He had a aching feeling that he didn't want to piss of Buddy right now.
	Rick and Eddie turned around, seeming somewhat surprised to see Buddy. Jerry didn't budge, but was the first to respond.
	"Why'd we have to make the drop at the warehouse if you were just gonna come here anyway?" he said, in an inquisitive manner. One of the few statements that Gary had ever heard him say that lacked sarcasm.
	"That's a very good question"
	The voice came from behind buddy, and had not been from the goon. Gary quickly aimed his sights at the entryway behind Buddy. The wall was blocking his view of the stranger, but he seemed to feel him back there. Buddy didn't turn around at all, but continued to stare at Gary's cohorts. The voice seemed very confident, commanding of attention almost, and Gary had noticed that Jerry had now turned away from his favorite program.
	The stranger appeared from the entryway, slowly walking around Buddy, and placing an old style 60's dress hat on the small table that  held the apartments only land line pone. The man was very thin, and only slightly taller than Buddy. He didn't seem like the type of person that would be attached to that voice. But there was something about him. Something in the way that he moved and held himself. Gary recognized an important man when he saw one, it was just a question of how important.
	"Why would we come here if I already have my money, safe and sound at one of my warehouses?" The man continued. "Doesn't seem like a good thing to do". He stopped and looked up, taking notice of the television. "Cartoons, oh man I love cartoons. Tell me, what's this one?" The mans stance had seemed to soften. He gave a sheepish grin as if he were a five year old boy asking his father for cotton candy at the carnival. He turned to Buddy with a smile as if to convey to him how cool it was that there were cartoons on the television.
	Of course it was Jerry who replied. "It's Nomadic Vegetable. It's great, there's this carrot, and he has all these vegetable friends, and they just do the most fucked up shit".
	"Nomadic Vegetable?" the man replied, "man, what ever happened to scooby doo?" Jerry just stared at him blankly. The thin man shrugged his shoulders and seemed to go right back into his previous train of thought.
	"It doesn't seem like a bright thing to do, go to the apartment of a group that is still red hot from a hit. Connections could be drawn between us, you guys wanna watch... the vegetable... things, I wanna see how my stock prices were at the end of market." The three of them watched him, sitting in very awkward positions, turned around on the couch, and staring up at him like lost puppies. It was a strange sight, and apparently this fact wasn't lost on the man.
	"How rude of me. I'm standing here behind the couch, and the three of you have to be uncomfortable just so you can have a conversation with me, let me fix this" The man walked around the couch and stopped in front of them. He put out his hands as if framing them for a photo shoot. He slid a little left, hopped once back, and finally settled into a position slightly to the right of the TV.
	"There, now that looks more comfortable. So like I was saying, it doesn't make much sense for me to be here. Under 'normal' circumstances. But you guys, YOU guys." He paused with a smile as he held out his  arms as if ready to receive a hug from their collective presence. "You guys did a fantastic job. No traces, no witnesses. So that's why I can stand here today and say congratulations on a job well done." Gary's muscles relaxed. A job well done, they certainly had done a perfect job. And the man was right, there'd be now way he'd be here  otherwise, since it had only been an hour since the hit. The man continued. "Hell you guys nailed it, a cool 88 grand with no hitches" 
	Gary paused. Did he just say 88 grand? He wasn't sure how he'd come up with that figure. They'd taken slightly over 104 grand in the hit. He knew because he'd counted it. The whole group had exploded with excitement when he'd announced it. He certainly hoped that this wasn't the man's way of telling them that they weren't going to get their cut of 104 due to some sort of unaccounted expenses. They'd been told that they would get their cut based on the full amount that they retrieved. Gary thought for a moment and laughed inwardly about how he'd gone from wanting to get out of here alive to wanting to be sure he was getting every cent he was entitled. Greed was a mother fucker.
	"It is a disappointment though" the man continued "that the full 105 grand wasn't there that our sources had told us was there."
	Gary's brow furrowed. Now things weren't making sense. Was he trying to tell them that they were supposed to only 'remember' getting 88 or something. His muscles started to tense again. He didn't like anything about  this.
	"Aww man!" Jerry blurted out, "105 would've been sweet, that sucks". Gary was lost. What  was going on. Was everyone in on this but him? Why was he the only one that didn't understand this magical 88 number? Was he really the fresh fish that he'd always played? But then one glance from Rick made everything clear, and his stomache sank. Rick was looking at him with a dark glance. Letting Gary know everything. They had lied. Lied about the amount that they had picked up from the hit. They had told Buddy that  there was only 88 grand total, and stashed the extra away for themselves. The dark glance was to let Gary know that he was supposed to go along with this 88 number, even though none of the clods had let him in on it, and certainly handn't intended to share with him. Suddenly the extra exuberance that Rick and Eddie had displayed when they got back made more sense, they were completely jazzed about the fact that they'd made off with an extra 16 grand. And when his eye's drifted from Ricks he nearly had to step back. The man had his eye's locked on Gary, having read Ricks glare he was now staring at Gary with an intensely wicked smile. And that's when Gary remembered. The man knew.
	Buddy had told Gary to text message him three numbers when the job was done. The first was a code for if anything had gone wrong during the hit. The second was how many minutes until Rick and Eddie would be at the warehouse. And the third... the third was the amount of money that they'd scored. 104.
	They were dead. Gary froze up. The thin man knew, and he was telling Gary with the glance as if to say 'can you believe these idiots?' Gary wanted to warn them. The idiots, the fucking idiots! What the hell were they thinking? God, they didn't see it, they were walking straight into a dark den, naked and defenseless. And there was the wolf before them, bearing his fangs, but all they saw was the brilliant white glow, drawn by it's glimmering allure.
	The blood from Jerry's head hit the curtains before Gary had even registered the sound of a bullet running through a silencer. He had completely taken his eye's off of Buddy and his goon. Buddy stood exactly where he'd stopped upon entering the room, but now he and his henchmen had their guns drawn, pointing at the back of  Garry and Eddie's heads.
	Gary watched in a mix of horror and astounment as the darkly choreographed ballet transpired before him. Every movement seemed to have consequence. It was all lining up in logical sequence now. Buddy and his henchmen positioned just right upon entering. The thin man getting them to face away from the muscle. He had even mockingly shuffled to the side so as not to get sprayed with blood or be in the firing line when Buddy pulled the trigger. It was all played out as if to the beat of Gary's conscious. From when he'd realized that they'd lied, to the moment he realized the thin man knew, to the glance that Rick gave him, then the thin mans glare, and finally Jerry's end. All happening withing an instant of one another. Gary realized that he  was in no way shape or form of being in control. Suddenly the pistol tucked into his belt felt no more reassuring than had it been a pez dispenser.
	The man continued as if the internals of Jerry's head were not the predominant pattern exhibited on the leftmost window's curtain.
	"Now I've never been a big fan of lying. I mean, lying to a girl to get laid, maybe a long time ago. Glad I did it actually" he added with a smile that was far too relaxed for the situation and made Gary's stomache churn. Suddenly the smile faded and his  brow furrowed. his voice started to tremble slightly as he spoke "But lying to an employer about money, lying to ME, about MY money, now that we don't do." He paused to regain his composure. "So let's prove that we have half  a brain between us huh boys. Where the fuck is my money" Both Rick and Eddie sat frozen glancing back and forth from Jerry's dead body to the thin man that stood before them. They must've felt the gun barrels behind them, trained on the back of their skulls, boring into there psyche.
	The man snapped his fingers in front of their faces as if to wake them from a trance. Rick let out a yell of shock which he tried to play off as if the opening word of his reply "ahhhnn the the last room in a shoe box under the chair."
	The thin man didn't take his eye's off of the two of them. The  henchmen immediately dissapeared into the bedroom hallway.
	The man began again. "You know, I thought of another occasion where lying is ok. Let's say your grandmother asks you how your father  died, and you're the one that  wacked him. See that's another  case where it's ok to lie right. I mean, it's your grandmother, right? You don't want her dealing with shit like that. I was thinking of that  in the back of  my head just then, but I wanted to get past the location of the money part before I mentioned it." Gary stared in disbelief as the man non-nonchalantly inferred that he'd killed his father as he stood beside Jerry's dead body, who's blood  was now creating quite a pool on the rug.
	Gary couldn't imagine what Rick and Eddie must be feeling at a moment like this. He wasn't sure what he was thinking himself. Was he going to be held accountable for this? Was he going to be a puddle of blood for some forensics scientist to figure out? Just then Buddy's henchmen came back into the room carrying a shoe box. The thin man eye raided an eye at him and was about to say something when Rick interrupted. 
	"Look man it was a dumb idea, but we're good for it. We'll work off our 10 times our debt. You said yourself, we're good. It's only 15 grand man". The thin man allowed him to finish before speaking. He slowly crouched over Rick and said in a soft voice. "That 15 grand aint mine. It's everyone's money. The guys on the inside with the info, the guys gettin creative with the books, the guys managin the warehouse. I don't have time to go over the spreadsheets with everyone. I cant hold your hand. All I can ask is that everyone at least comes to the table with some simple etiquette. If your looking for a handout kid, you fuckin with the wrong guy. If you wanted a repremand to come in the form of a scolding letter you should've taken over daddy's dinner. My schedule doesn't afford me time to dick around, because on a daily basis I have to deal with fucks like you. Good day sir". 
	And before Rick or Eddie could get another word out they were laying dead on the floor. Gary couldn't believe it. Just  minutes ago all three were happily enjoying Nomadic Vegetables. He  looked up and saw a carrot asking directions from a cauliflower.  Life was going on as usual in vegi-land. Three pools of blood were sopping up the carpet in 206A.
	The thin man stepped over the bodies around the other side of the couch. It took Gary a moment to realize that he was coming his way. Everything had moved at such a dizzying pace that Gary had nearly forgotten he was standing there, frozen in time. It seemed so surreal to him he felt like he'd been watching a movie, and having the thin man walk over to him at this point seemed awkward, as if one of the characters in a play walked off stage and came up to your seat. He didn't know what  to say. Fortunately the thin man spoke first.
	"Gary I presume. You did a good job son. I don't think your the type that needs a talking to like this. I'm sorry you had to see it. I've heard really good things about you from Buddy, and as you proved Buddy knows how to spot character." He paused, noticing the distraction in Gary's eyes. "Hey" he said "Don't worry about them. This was bound to happen to them, it's no coincidence. They would've  ended up like this in any number of ways, they just happen to have stolen my money today." He started to step away and Buddy and the goon stepped aside to let him pass. "You've got a bright future kid, keep that good head on your shoulders". And with that he was past the entry way with the goon right behind.
	Gary realized what this meant. That no matter how foolproof any plan of his was, he always had to be looking over his shoulder for another Gary. He'd been an inside guy for the man on this run, and Gary was sure there'd be plenty of insiders on other jobs. This was part of the thin mans power, you'd just never know. Buddy was staring at him with a sullen face, as if he was genuinely sorry that Gary had to be involved in this mess. But not that sorry, he still carried himself with an air of foreboding. "Cmon Gary" he said. We don't' wanna be here when the cops show up". Gary took one more glance at the lifeless bodies of the three, and walked toward the door, letting Buddy follow him out.