There’s this bar on Lower Wacker… good crab cakes. It’s not real crab but the way they put it in a cake is good. If you’ve never seen the part of a city where the streets are stacked one on top of each other, if you’ve never taken a stroll on the lower level, you might consider yourself lucky. The warm, stale air breeds germs… a perfect place for a certain breed of homeless called mole people. They haven’t seen the light of day in who knows how long and they don’t seem to mind.
There are rats big enough to take down raccoons. I’ve seen it myself. It’s like rodent sumo wrestling; a no-holds-barred fight with hair and drool whipping about. In this case, the rat won.
The only other humans to be found are junkies and degenerate gamblers.
I like it down there. I’m on top of the food chain around those lowlifes. That’s not to say I’m not a lowlife myself.
Me? I’m a career criminal. Burglaries, mostly.
The average break-in takes a skilled thief seven minutes, in and out. That’s it. You walk down the street to grab an empanada from the lady on the corner with the hairy lip? By the time you come back, all your valuables are gone.
But this is where I came up with a game-changer. That seven minutes, see, everyone knows that’s how long it takes, including the cops. So I came up with the perfect plan…
I’m in and out in six minutes, meanwhile, everyone else is trying to catch a seven-minute guy. I’ve never been caught and I owe it all to my perfect game plan.
So I walk in the bar one night after fencing some valuables I snatched up at a place in Old Town … or is it Olde Towne? I don’t know, fancy places put E’s at the end of shit sometimes. Anyway, I figure I’m gonna throw some money around when this broad walks in. She ain’t no ordinary broad, I mean, aboveground she is absolutely an ordinary broad but down here … she’s a Lower Wacker 10!
She had messy hair kinda pulled back and a belly shirt showing off those extra couple pounds.
I like ‘em trampy like that.
She was chewing gum like she was mad at it … all attitude, this one.
I knew I could make a strong impression because of the dough in my pocket. So I strolled over.
“What are you having?” I asked, looking away to convey a sense of ... you know, like I buy girls drinks all the time.
“Whiskey,” she answered in a short tone, looking away as well.
So there we were, not looking at each other, tension in the air thick as butter, and I cut right through it.
“What are you doing in a dump like this?”
I was on fire. She rolled her eyes, she was so taken aback by my charm.
“Look, I need someone for a job. I’ve got a tip and I need someone who can rob a place clean” she said, taking a sip of her whiskey. “Do you know a guy?”
I straightened right up.
“You need a cat burglar!”
Those beautiful eyes went rolling again.
“Honey, you’ve got the Six-Minute Man buying you drinks right now,” I announced.
She finally turned to look at me. Sparks were flying.
“You’re a burglar? Like, a good one?” She disguised her excitement with sarcasm.
“I’ve burgled dozens of houses and never been caught.” I began waving my arms in motions that seemed impressive. “I’ve stolen big things … little things … things that climb on rocks. And I’m not just saying that because of the hot dog song! With enough stake-out time, I can steal anything, ANYTHING in six minutes … and one time I stole a dune buggy from a guy.”
My arms began to tire so I stopped and asked for a water. Just as I caught my breath the woman got closer.
“You’re my guy, then. The Six-Minute Man,” she said, her voice getting airy and thin.
I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. I was the only one who had ever called me that. “Yup.” I raised my glass. “That’s me. So what’s the job?”
“It’s in the rich part of town. One of the mansions.”
She leaned in real close to me, so close I could smell her perfume. It was the kind of toilet water that lifts a guy right off his feet … which it did because I fell off my bar stool. It was cool, a couple of the regulars helped me up. She began again.
“There’s a false wall in the back of the master bedroom closet. All you have to do is push it till it clicks, then carefully slide it to the left.”
“And what am I going to find behind this ‘false wall’?”
I was dying to find out.
“A comic book.”
She said it with this evil little smirk but I knew better. For the uninitiated, comic books aren’t worth anything unless they’re made into TV shows. And then, their value is only up for a short time after the announcement of the TV show. If the show is good the book might be worth something through the first season, but that’s only ever happened once … you know which one. I get a tip like this from time to time but the comic in question usually ends up being Spawn #1 which ain’t no TV show, it’s a bad movie from the 90s. It’s not worth anything. The comics you hear about selling for a million dollars are super old and contain first appearances of major characters. But there’s not a chance in hell someone has an Action Comics #1 sitting behind a false wall in a bedroom closet.
“It’s Action Comics #1”
She had my attention.
“What kind of condition is it in?”
“What do you mean ‘what kind of condition is it in?’ It’s like a hundred years old. It’s in shitty condition.”
“Well, the value is completely dependent on-”
“Listen,” she interrupted. “Get me the book and I’ll fence the thing. We’ll split it down the middle.”
I knew I was doing great with her because she began rubbing my leg.
“I gotta ask,” I asked. “How will you find a buyer? There aren’t a lot of these things left around.”
She shrugged. “I’ll hit the black market with it.”
“Hey, lady! I don’t care where you conduct your business but you can check that racism at the door,” I said loud enough for the whole bar to hear.
I started clapping and nodding my head in agreement with myself hoping others would join in. No one did, the poor souls.
She polished off her whiskey and wrote an address on a napkin. I agreed to meet her back at the bar in a week with the book. I don’t know why I said one week, I would have rather had two. I have stuff to do this week. Maybe my head was still light from the perfume.
“Oh, and when you’re doing your staking out …” she said. “Don’t be surprised if you see a familiar face.”
She gave me a peck on the cheek and walked off. I thought it was an odd thing to say before our first kiss but suddenly it hit me.
“Hey, I didn’t get your name,” as she was opening the door.
She gave me one of those sexy face-tilt smiles.
I told you I like ‘em trampy.