The following post is chapter two of the story, "Dumb Luck". If you haven't read the first chapter I would encourage you to go back one post and start there, then read this one. Please enjoy.
"Excuse me." he said to the bus-boy, "Did I just hear those guys talking about some kind of lost money?" "You haven't heard?" replied a nearby waiter, "It's been all over the news today," Not wanting to tip his hand that he knew at least part of the story, he followed up with, "So, what happened?" Without skipping a beat the waiter reached over to the table where the gentlemen had just been sitting and grabbed the front section of the morning paper. As he handed it off he said, "Here, check this out, it explains everything."
He eagerly grabbed the pages and began to read the headline when he was struck by what he saw. "What on Earth was this?" he thought. He slumped back into the upholstered cushion in utter disbelief as he looked at a surveillance photo showing a side view of his red Jeep. This couldn't be possible, could it? There he was, on the front page of the "Daily Journal", or at least his vehicle was. As he looked closer, there, behind the glass of his passenger side window, sitting in the driver's seat, was a profile shot of him. To most people it was just a grainy shot of what appeared to be a white male driver, but to him it might as well have been a high resolution, 8x10 color glossy with his name printed under it in bold type.
He was sure everyone in the restaurant was looking at him by now, but as he lowered the paper a bit to scan the dining room, he found nothing out of the ordinary. Just families sharing meals together and businessmen engaged in conversations. The TV in the corner was airing the Delta Hawks game just like it always did this time of year. He was sure any minute it would have one of those "Breaking Story" news flashes with a picture of him and a caption saying, "Have you seen this man?", but it didn't, it just kept on playing the end of another meaningless game in their losing season. To everyone else seated around him it was just another day in a large city, but to Darren Miles it was anything but ordinary.
He hadn't looked at the rest of the article yet, and right now that didn't matter. All he could think of was getting out of there and sorting out what was happening to him. He folded the paper, stuck it under his arm, and headed for the door. Just as he was stepping outside he heard the waiter behind him say, "Hey buddy!" His heart dropped. "Oh crap, he knows!" rushed through his mind. Turning around he managed to stutter, "Ye...ye...yes?" "I don't need to call the cops do I?" he heard. Ready to bolt he said, "I...uh...I...excuse me?" The waiter grinned and said, "I'm just kidding, you forgot to pay your bill." As he turned to go back into the restaurant, his knees nearly buckled under from the scare he'd just had. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry...I didn't mean to..." he stammered. "Don't worry about it." said the waiter, "You look like an honest guy, it probably just slipped your mind."
"What the hell am I doing?" he thought, "Did that really just happen?" Opening the paper again, he noticed the picture didn't show the licence plate number or any other distinguishing characteristics that he could tell of. He certainly felt better about that, but then again maybe that wasn't the only photo circulating now. He could feel a knot forming in his stomach again as he looked for a place to take in the remainder of the article. Oblivious to the near freezing temperatures outside, he took a seat on a nearby bench. Now he could read the whole article and find out the rest of the story.
"Sting Operation Goes Awry!" was the headline. The article went on to say, "In a bungled attempt to break the notorious Bennetelli auto thief ring, police not only loose an arrest, but also one million in cash." Darren sat there paralyzed in fear of what he had just read. It was bad enough seeing his picture plastered on the front page, but to know the Bennetelli's were involved was more than he could bear. "It couldn't get any worse than this." he thought. These people were part of the largest organized crime family the city had known in over fifty years. When stories about mysterious bodies found floating in the river, or unexplained disappearances of high level executives surfaced, it was always the Bennetelli family whose name came up. Although no arrests had ever been made in these matters everyone, Darren included, knew they were involved "I can not be in the middle of this!" he kept thinking.
When he'd composed himself enough to read further, he saw the police had recovered one of the empty bags along with the tracking device that they'd placed in it. It also explained how there was a second bag that was still missing and that they were working on leads to recover it as well. Did this mean the cops were in his house right now, seizing the bag of money he'd left there earlier in the day? "If there is a god in heaven, please tell me that somehow the tracking device fell out of the bag before I found it." He was not a religious man, but he found himself mentally on his knees praying this thought over and over again now.
Something that kept nagging at him, was how his Jeep became the picture he saw on the front page of the most read paper in the city. He feverishly poured through the rest of the story to find his answer, when he saw the following: "Police found the second tracking device, which appeared to be malfunctioning, at the corner of 49th and Ellsbury. Surveillance photos taken from a nearby ATM showed this yet unidentified vehicle at the scene moments before its discovery. Investigators believe the driver to be involved in the whereabouts of the missing money, according to eye witness accounts."
What he thought couldn't get any worse, just had. Knowing the most feared family in the city would be looking for 'their' money was reason enough to panic, but knowing the police were also trying to track him down was bringing him to the brink. He had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. How could anyone feel this alone in a city this size?
To be continued...