HOMEWORK by R.T. Lawton

Gerald had gone down twice. Once was for armed robbery, but he pleaded down to simple theft and as a first offender got jail time served and probation for the rest. Second time down, was for burglary and the prosecutor wasn’t feeling generous. Gerald did hard time in the state prison and promised himself that he’d be more careful in the future.

The armed robbery had been a grocery store. On looking back, he realized that was too many employees for one person to control over too big of an area. Just wasn’t possible to see everything going on in all parts of the store. True, all the cash registers were up front in plain sight, but he’d missed the two uniform cops shopping for snacks on the other end of one of the rows. Okay, he’d learned his lesson on that mistake.

The burglary was a case of not doing his proper homework. He’d gone in the pawn shop during regular hours and looked the place over, or so he thought. And he took a walk down the alley to check out locks and security cameras in the back so he wouldn’t get any surprises. He’d even got a guy he met during his jail stay to show him how to peel wires and use alligator clips to bypass alarms. The dead bolt on the back door took him five minutes to pick, but as far as the door knob lock went, he merely twisted the outside knob off with a pipe wrench, then punched out the remaining parts. He was inside and shut the door behind him in very little time. What he hadn’t made provision for, was the guard dog the owner left inside the shop at night. The next morning, the owner had readily found him perched high up on a shelf. Gerald still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to climb that high that fast, but he was also sure he’d check out every little detail on his next job.

Now, Gerald sat in his old Ford sedan, watching the Variety Bar across the street and jotting down notes in a small notebook. At this point, the job looked good. The bar itself set on a side street, so there shouldn’t be a lot of traffic outside where a passerby might accidently glance in and see what was going on. On the inside, the room was narrow which made it easy to control the bar patrons and for him to see everything going on during the robbery.

There were three vinyl upholstered booths on the right wall, leading to two large wooden tables ringed by chairs in the back of the room. Two restrooms, a walk-in cooler and a back door were left of the two tables. A long wooden bar with brass footrail and several padded bar stools took up the rest of the left wall. A front door and a push bar locked back door were the only ways in or out. No problems there.

He’d set across the street on two previous Friday afternoons and watched the patrons enter and leave. Mostly, it appeared to be a working man’s bar, several guys in regular everyday clothes, a few in suits and ties. A couple of women in dresses, probably secretaries or office workers. The women usually sat with the suit and tie guys. By now, he recognized the faces of some of the regulars.

One bartender, old guy. Cash register on the back bar.

He’d go in about 7 pm. The after-work, two-drinks and go home to mama people would be gone while the Friday night out on the town crowd wouldn’t be out yet.

At 6:45 pm, some of the patrons came out the front door and walked away.

Gerald checked his automatic, took his ski mask out of the glove box and got ready.

At seven sharp, he entered the front door, mask in place and waved his weapon to get their attention.

“This is a robbery,” he shouted. “Don’t anybody move.

He turned to the bartender.

“Open the register,” he commanded.

The bartender carefully placed his palms down on the bar top.

“Son,” he said, “you should’ve done your planning a little more carefully.”

“I did,” said Gerald. “I did my homework on this place.

“Then you’re not gonna get a passing grade.”

He gestured towards the rear.

“Those two tables are reserved for undercover vice cops.”

Gerald turned to see nine pistols pointed right at him.

R.T. Lawton is a retired federal agent with over 130 published short stories, to include forty sold to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies and various magazines.

Copyright © 2019 R.T. Lawton. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited.