At this hour, it was no surprise the parking lot was mostly empty. The few cars in the lot were seemingly scattered as far away from one another as possible, as if directed by some mathematical law.
In reality, their distance was just determined by that familiar suburban vibe that demands isolation. No one wanted to ever be near each other. Even when “each other” was just a facsimile represented through an automobile. Protestantism to the extreme — it was like men navigating urinals. Find the furthest one, or feel the shame.
Shit, if they got too close the cars might fuck, or whatever.
No matter. The distance made it a tad more of a challenge, but that’s the thing about challenges: they’re irresistible if the prize is worth it.
Besides, he’d been waiting for this one. He came prepared.
Chief circled the lot like a vulture, waiting. He paced, but out of view. Far enough by the edges so that he just looked like someone passing on through. He was nothing of any consequence, you see.
But ah, he was.
He dug into his coat pocket and slipped on leather driving gloves, tightening two straps up by his wrists. They were snug enough with ’em, but why not? Always worth taking the extra step.
Just as he predicted, the target arrived.
BMW M4, Austin Yellow. Aftermarket wheels. Full tint. No front license plate, smoked rear plate.
The driver brought it here every Friday at 11:30 PM, presumably after their shift, wherever that was. A man would get out, walk over to the Wegmans, and be gone for anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes. He’d come out with groceries, unceremoniously dump all his shit right into the passenger seat, and then (sometimes!) curse under his breath and insult anyone openly who parked near him. He was ‘fraid of the car fucking, you see.
And so, he arrived. Right on time.
And so, Chief went. Right on time.
There was no drama to it. He walked up to the side of the car and knelt down, feeling under the driver’s side wheel well, the surface still warm to the touch. With an almost inaudible crunch, he pulled off a tiny hockey-puck looking device. He slid his cell phone out of his pocket, weaving a cord between the two. A few flicks of his thumb against the screen, and then it was time to bring out another simple tool — a credit card with a noticeably larger chip in it. In went a Square, and then followed the credit card. Another few taps. A chime.
He took a deep breath — more of a satisfied sigh than anything else — and pressed his gloved hand against the handle, card sitting between his fingers. With a gentle thud against his palm, the door popped open.
Slide in, foot on brake, finger on ignition. The inline-6 roared to life, the gauges sweeping in front of him. He shoved the card and phone back into his pocket.
Up to this point, he felt nothing. As soon as those interior lights flickered, though? That’s when the adrenaline comes in. It’s when you notice the cortisol that’d been building up (and you’d been ignoring). It’s when you start to thank all the little things for adding up to this moment — to this success. He clutched his pocket, a ludicrously stupid grin winding itself across his face.
RFID tags. Technology, man.
Chief was gone.
He ripped out of the parking lot, sending it onto the main drag. The car smelled of thick, expensive cologne. Poor bastard. Well, not really. Who was he fooling? You buy an M4 and then paint it this color? You’ve got to know the sort of people you’re pulling in. Probably didn’t think about Chief, though. Dude’s loss.
He wasn’t quite sure where he’d take the car — home? Nah, too risky. Probably ditch it and just enjoy the joyride. Truth be told, there wasn’t much cash in flipping stolen modern cars — unless you happened to be close friends with a few tuners and a chop shop, but even that was far too much risk for not that much money. You want to get rich stealing cars? Accords, Civics, F150s, Escalades. In that order.
But money was for people who liked to buy things.
Chief didn’t buy things.
Wasn’t that he couldn’t, but… why? This investment-o-realtor, or whatever the fuck he probably was, he was good at what he did and so he convinced himself that he deserved this car. Well, Chief was really fucking good at being a thief, and so fuck that guy and his job, now this is Chief’s car. Besides, no one who uses this much cologne doesn’t spent a little extra on insurance.
He turned off the main drag onto his favorite side street. Should be empty this time of night. He straightened the wheel, took the pedal to the floor, and prepared for the inevitable, satisfying pulse of adrenaline
Alas, when you ask for something, sometimes you get it.
Red and blue lights flashed behind him, and immediately he had some algebra to run in his head.
What are the chances you get away here? What are the chances it’s been reported? Chief’s eyes went to the clock. It’d only been 23 minutes. He pulled the car at 11:37. There was no way he called it in that fast. 32? 33? Sure. 30 on the dot? Fuck that. There was no way.
Besides, this was his car. Fake it until you make it. That’s what they said. Thief’s motto. Act like you belong, and no one will question you.
So he pulled over, not more than a few seconds after he saw the lights.
Deep breath. His hand was vibrating, so he squeezed it into a fist, then let it sit flat on his leg, then a fist, then the leg. Shit, that cortisol.
Down goes the window. Another deep breath. He could hear the cop’s door open. He counted the footsteps like sheep to soothe himself.
“Do you know what your speed was back there?”
Chief let out a gentle sigh before turning his head to face the officer. “Oh, uh, I don’t think I was going that fast, was I?”
“You were 15 over. That’s a 45.”
He forced a smile. Hanging his head.
“Aw man, I’m sorry,” he pinched out a stilted laugh.
That whole thing about acting like you belong? No. That’s not the real motto. That’s what chucklefuck amateurs tell themselves. You don’t act like you being. You know that you do. You are who you say you are, and you believe it, and anyone that doesn’t believe you? You tell them the truth. Right to their face.
“This isn’t even my car,” Chief added. “It got away from me a bit, but I don’t have any points or anything, I promise I don’t usually get pulled over.”
The officer narrowed his eyes, shining his light into the interior.
“This isn’t your car?”
“Can I see your license and registration?”
He grabbed his wallet, pulling out a dud license. He held it in his hand as he leaned over to the glovebox, rummaging through an owner’s manual.
“Ah, shit officer.”
“When I said this — oh, oh shit. When I said this wasn’t my car. Okay, look. I know this is one of those things you can get in trouble for. This is my boyfriend’s car. I just was heading up to the store and… well, we haven’t been dating that long. I have no idea where he keeps his registration or insurance, or…”
He sighed in the most dramatic, exasperated way possible. He dug through the center console. “Ah, oh, fuck, I just sucked his cock once and he was, like, take the BMW… I’m such an idiot, I just wanted to suck –”
“Okay, okay,” the officer said, stopping him mid-sentence.
“Look, I’ll let you off with a warning, just please watch your speed.”
Chief smiled, genuinely. “Thanks, sir!”
“Have a nice night.”
Chief rolled up his window, his fingers shaking against the switch. This is your car now, he told himself. At least for a bit more. He could believe it a second longer.
Soon as the cop was out of sight, he cranked the wheel hard to the right, dumping his foot through the bottom of the floor. Tire smoke, squeeling, and hissing turbos followed.
One more lap.