CONVERSATION PIECES XI: SMALL TOWN JOBS
By: Wayne Brown
I park the old pickup truck and walk into the Waffle House in Dawson, Georgia. It’s not home but I have long since forgotten where home really is nowadays. I wander from place to place. This Waffle House is one of the constants in my life patterns and one of the few. I eat here because it’s cheap and predictable. It is also off the beaten path; a place where I tend to blend in rather than stick out and I like that.
I don’t reckon I got a whole lot of raisin’ in my life. My ol’ man was a hard-ass dirt farmer who needed a slave more than he needed a son. My ma stood up to him when I was little but all the years of his abuse slowly took a toll on her. She died when I was sixteen…she was just tired of livin’ I reckon. After that, I had no reason to stay so I crawled out a window during a rainstorm one night and disappeared into the dark woods. It gives me satisfaction to think that the ol’ man might be still looking for my ass right now. Let me look, I never owed him anything.
For a while I looked for work in this town and that one mostly riding the trains from one to another. I worked a little here and there to keep my head above the water but never really took up roots anywhere that I have been. I just kept on movin’ cause there was no reason to stop. I ended up working for an ol’ feller who had a junk business. As it worked out, he didn’t make enough money to pay me so he finally just gave me the title to his old truck out there in the parking lot. That’s when I gave up riding trains and took the scenic routes.
I don’t work much anymore. Mostly I just steal what I need. These small towns don’t have much law enforcement and most of the ones they do have spend more time dozing than anything else. These towns are ripe for the picking if one knows where to look and when to pick. I have developed those skills quite handily. I know where to go and when to leave.
Once I got my start stealing, it didn’t take me long to figure out that most criminals are just plain dumb. They get caught for some really stupid reasons. Anybody can figure that out just by watching a few episodes of “Cops” on television. They keep going back to the same spots and staying in the same towns. The odds are against them and they are bound to get caught even by the dumbest of policemen.
That’s where I am different. I come into town and wander about a day or two kind of getting the lay of the land. I eat a few meals at the Waffle House and listen to the various conversations. Sooner or later, some tidbit appears which lets me know where I can get the most bang for my buck. I don’t like those “live” robberies at your 7-11 stores, banks, etc. Those are just not my style. I am more the cat-burglar type who works alone and breaks into businesses which are closed for the night. That way, I can take my time.
Experience has taught me the ways of the small town business man. Most are bored and lazy. Nothing ever happens around their place for years on end. It’s the same day in and day out. They get complacent. They quite taking the money home at night or they don’t make their bank deposits but once per week. They have their little hiding places but those are not so hard to find. Given the proper amount of time, I can almost always find the money.
I usually pick two or three places in town knowing full well that once I hit any one of them, the local cops are going to be on the look out for anyone in town who is a stranger. On that basis, I have a rule. I pick the two or three that I like. Then I prioritize them on the basis of their payoff potential and the ease with which I can get in and out of the business. I then wait until the right time, preferably a rain and stormy night and I go to work. Cops don’t like water so they stay out of the rain as much as possible usually hanging around in a café and avoiding their patrol duties. I use this time to my advantage and move on my first target. If for any reason that one fails, I move to the second one. I do it all in one night or not at all. By the time the sun comes up in the morning, I am well on my way to the next town with my booty in hand.
I don’t just move on to the next town. That would be stupid as you might imagine. I tend to leap frog across state lines and make my next hit then maybe circle back to that side when things have cooled off. I don’t go back to the same towns so I keep an old atlas map and mark off my hits so that I don’t return by accident. There’s no place that I have to be at any particular time so you could say that inconvenience is not in my vocabulary.
I stay in the little worn out motels that you find in most small towns. Most of them go by the day and some even by the hour. There’s usually a local hooker or two hanging around but I try not to get involved in those deals as it tends to leave a trail over time. I run into others like myself in this town or that one. We nod our heads in courtesy but we never really speak of what it is we are there for. If I should get confronted about my business, I tell folks that I am on my way to a job on the pipeline that they are building over at such and such. Nobody ever really knows if that’s true and they don’t likely doubt it. Why would they care?
I keep a few basic tools in the back of the truck. These are primarily the ones that I use to do my entries. As I stated, most of these folks are bored and lazy. They have locks on things that are nothing more than a reminder for honest men. I seldom run into an alarm or a surprise. Alarms cost money and one cannot be convinced to spend money when nothing much ever happens. The element of surprise is generally on my side. I often have to laugh the next day when I visualize these folks returning to their business and finding they have been robbed. I guess you could say that I have a strange sense of humor.
I also keep a handgun around. I don’t like the idea of using it because it gets so messy but you can understand that if I should inadvertently get stopped shortly after perpetrating one of my crimes, I could easily be put into a position with no real way out short of making use of the gun. Here again, most small town law officers really are not expecting such a criminal in their midst so they are not really ready when they come up to a vehicle they have stopped. Much like the small business men, they have become lazy and bore. What a shame, that such an attitude could so quickly cost one their life. I guess it’s all in a day’s work.
This is my second day in town here and I have my targets narrowed down. I should have a pretty good haul with this one landing me enough for some time down in Florida on the beaches. I will lay around down there until the money runs low. Then I just might head up into the Carolinas next and work that area a bit. Spring is here and the eastern seaboard is beautiful this time of year.
You probably just think of me as a second-rate burglar. There’s some truth to that but you could also look at me as a professional career criminal who will make a living off his exploits for years on end and in all likelihood will never be caught. Just be glad that I am not a child molester or a serial killer. Given that basis of comparison, I might be welcome in your town, huh? You laugh; there are those in that line of work who do follow patterns in the same manner than I operate in. They target is different but when their deed is done, they move on. They difference is they tend to leave a trail of death in their wake which often gets them caught. In that sense, we are also different.
So, if you live in a small town, the next time you are about town and decide to stop into the Waffle House, look around. Check for that old black Chevy pickup truck in the parking lot and look for the guy in the back booth sitting alone. He’ll be wearing a worn and faded denim jumper jacket, jeans, worn cowboy boots, a sweat stained cowboy hat and probably chewing on a toothpick as he makes notes on a napkin. If you spot him, you just might be looking right at me.
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