By Matthew Wallenstein
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Dirty was 17 and working at Wendy’s. In a lot of ways, he was the closest thing to a responsible employee they had. So he was put on all the closing shifts. They ended at 1 a.m. He was still in high school and would have to get up every morning after he worked and make it there. The others his age were drop-outs. There were a few older guys, 20, 21, and a 26-year-old named Joe who Dirty considered ancient.
It was a decent place to work sometimes. Most days they would just smoke weed and cook hamburgers.
One night there was a series of mishaps and they were late closing. Dirty was working with F and M. They didn’t get out of there until after 2 a.m. All of them felt tired and annoyed and were ready to go home. Dirty and the other two loaded into his truck. They were going to drive over to the bank to put the night deposit in the box. The plan was for Dirty to drop the other two guys off after that.
It was the routine. Every night after they closed they would take all the money, count it, put it in a plastic bag that sealed shut, and toss it in the deposit box. The bank was not very far from the Wendys. Dirty often gave the other guys rides.
He started driving. They smoked some weed. It was cold and the windows were fogged up.
Dirty pulled into the bank and rolled down the window. Smoke unfurled into the night. Dirty grabbed the bag of money and reached out the window. F started yelling and ducked down. Dirty turned around and was looking at him and was very confused.
“Get the fuck out of here,” he said.
“Wha?” Said Dirty.
“Shit man, get the fuck out of here,” it was M in the front seat this time. He was crouched down too.
Still confused, Dirty turned and looked out the windshield. Not far in front of them was a man with a long hunting rifle. He was pointing it right at the truck. He was wearing black head to toe and wore a mask.
Dirty’s immediate reaction was to floor it. He hit the guy. He tumbled over the car and landed behind them. Dirty kept driving. He looked behind him as the guy limped, tried to steady himself and fired at them. Dirty kept going and another shot sounded.
They were high and out of it. They only drove about 200 feet before pulling into the parking lot of a gas station. Dirty still had the money sitting in his lap.
“For all anybody knows he got the money.”
“It was dark. No one would be able to tell even if they watched the security footage.”
“Okay, we hide the money. We call the cops and tell them the fucker stole it and when it’s all done with we split it.”
“An even three ways.”
“No, F should get 200, you and me get 600.”
“Yeah that works,” said F without irony or bitterness.
The boys agreed. Dirty had his truck set up so he could lift the upholstery on his seat and hide things there. That’s just what he did with the bag of cash.
They went inside. Behind the counter, there was a tiny old lady. Her eyes barely reached above the register.
“Somebody tried to rob us,” M said.
“What?” she said.
“Someone tried to rob us.”
“What do you mean?”
“This guy, ma’am, please call the police.”
After a little while, a couple of cops came into the store. They ambled over to the boys slowly, casually. One grabbed a SlimJim off a shelf, peeled it open, took a bite out of it.
“Okay, he said. “Okay, what’s the story?” His words came out in a long unimpressed sigh.
“So who was it? This masked rifleman, who is this mastermind?” the cop said sarcastically.
“We don’t know we just got shot at. He-”
“Yeah, you know. Come on. You were probably in on it, huh?”
“We don’t fucking know the guy.”
The cops separated them and asked them their stories. Each version lined up perfectly. After all, they really had just gone to the bank, someone really had come out of the woods and shot at them. After the questions, they all went back to standing in a group again.
“Yeah, well, hopefully for your sake this all checks out,” said the second officer.
“A little strange all that money disappearing, that money from your restaurant,” the first one said.
“I don’t know what to tell you, there’s some guy with a gun down the street. You should probably go check into it,” Dirty said.
The second cop started to say something but was interrupted by his radio.
“We got shots fired,” someone said through the static.
“Turn the lights off, lock the doors. We will be right back,” cop #1 said.
They both left. Dirty, F, M, and the confused gas station attendant all crouched down in the dark store. Sets of blue lights sped by and lit up the packages of chips, the bottles of soda, the walls, their faces. Another set. Another. A helicopter sounded loudly over them.
“What the hell is going on,”M said.
They were there for a long time, unsure of what was going on but thinking it was probably bad.
There was a pounding on the door. The tiny lady stood up, then stretched on her tiptoes and looked over a shelf. She shuffled over and unlocked the door. Two cops, two different cops, came in. They looked much more official than the first pair, much more stern.
“Get in the car,” one said.
The boys followed them out and got in the police car. They were driven down to the station where they were put in a holding cell. None of them had been searched and Dirty wondered if they would find the weed he had in his pocket or the cigarettes in his other pocket, or for that matter the bag of stolen money in the seat of his car. He was exhausted. Hours went along. Hours in a holding cell are the slowest-moving.
Periodically different officers would walk by, look in the cell, say things to each other. The three Wendys boys got to talking. They figured the cops had it solved, knew they were the ones with the money. They got to thinking maybe they should get ahead of it and come clean.
After a little while a cop came and got M. Then another came and got F. By the time Dirty was escorted out of the cell and had a chance to see a clock it was past 7 a.m. They sat him down. The cop let him know his statement was being recorded. Dirty told the story for maybe the fifth time that night. This time when it got to the part about the money he said he had thought the guy had grabbed the bag but there was a chance it could have fallen on the floor or gotten stuck in the seat, something like that. It had happened fast he couldn’t be sure.
“Look, I don’t really give a fuck,” the cop said. “What do you know about a guy you work with named Joe?”
“Huh? Yeah I work with him. He was off tonight.”
“Okay, did he tell you he was going to try to rob you tonight?”
“No. It was him?”
Joe was a strange and quiet guy. He mostly kept to himself. Dirty and the others got a ride back to his truck after they finished having their statements recorded. That was when Dirty, by some kind of remarkable luck, happened to find the money. It turned out it had hid itself under the upholstery in his seat. The cop who dropped them off took it and drove away.
Dirty was excused from school that day which, in some ways, made the night worth it. When he woke up he walked over to the couch and turned on the TV. After yawning and flipping through the channels he found the news. A little while into watching it he saw security footage of his truck smashing into a man with a rifle. He watched him violently roll over the truck and tumble behind it. It cut to footage of Joe, his coworker, limping to his arraignment. The newscaster explained that after having been hit by the truck he limped a mile. He followed the train tracks and ended up at a gas station. He demanded all the money from the register. The guy handed over everything that was in the drawer. It was 80 dollars. Joe then aimed his rifle at the man’s stomach and pulled the trigger, shot him at close range. That’s where the police cars and helicopter had been going.
Dirty turned the channel. He never found out what happened to Joe. He guessed he probably pled guilty.
Dirty did ask his bosses at Wendy’s if he could get paid for all those hours at the police station, he had, after all, recovered their money. They said no to paying him but did offer him a free meal.
The next week Dirty punched out for lunch and never went back. He turned his phone off, went home, and played some Crash Bandicoot.