“Okay Baby let me finish shopping and I’ll be home in about thirty minutes.”
“Love you too.”
Carlton pulled into the parking lot of his favorite specialty store to pick up some caviar, wine, crackers and cheese for a cocktail party he and his wife were throwing the following evening. He moved briskly through the isles gathering the items he needed while avoiding making impulse buys. He was encountered by an older woman in the wine section. She was very open and talkative despite being a little sickly and feeble.
“They have some nice red blends here but I think the Malbecs or Red Zinfandels are the best. The Brokel or Federalist are both quite nice.”
Carlton was not much of a wine connoisseur; he’d rather sip on an aged Scotch. He thanked the lady for her suggestion and grabbed two bottles of Brokel. He could sense that the old lady wanted more from him but he was in a hurry so he politely excused himself and turned to walk towards the register. She called out to him.
Carlton wanted to just keep walking but he couldn’t be rude. He turned and answered her.
She eased up next to him with a sorrowful look in her eye.
“I’m sorry to bother you sir but I have a bit of a dilemma. It seems I’ve been left stranded by my nephew. I can’t reach him on the phone but he said he would be back an hour ago. I need to take my medication, it’s getting awfully late. I really am sorry to be a burden but do you think you could give me a ride home? I don’t live far from here.”
Carlton knew it was going to be something. He really just wanted to get home but he couldn’t leave the old lady stranded and it was the right thing to do.
“Sure, I’ll give you a ride. Are you ready to check out?”
“Oh Bless your heart. I’m right behind you Sweetheart.”
They both checked out and Carlton led the old lady to his BMW SUV. He loaded his bags in the back and the lady took her seat in the front passenger seat with her bag and purse on her lap. The woman engaged in more small talk about nothing and Carlton answered when necessary then followed up with questions about directions to her home. Fortunately her neighborhood wasn’t very far away but her house was deep within that neighborhood. Carlton couldn’t wait to get this woman out of his vehicle and make his way back home.
Finally they came to a security gate and the woman gave the code to Carlton to punch in. He did and the gate slid open. There were many half finished houses inside the complex; half of them were still under construction. She pointed him to a home but it looked like a model home with two unfinished homes on either side of it. When he looked over to ask her if she had the right house, he was met with a surprise.
“Pull in to that driveway and park!”
The old woman’s voice suddenly sounded young and angry. She was holding a 380 pointed at Carlton’s abdomen. Before he could ask a question, the woman unlocked the door and he was snatched from his vehicle by two masked men.
“Hey what are you guys doing? I…”
One of the men slapped him in the mouth with a pistol to quiet him. It certainly did the trick. They dragged him into the unfinished home. He was tied to a main load bearing beam then he was relieved of his jewelry, phone and wallet. He never saw the old woman again. The men spoke to him in very direct and certain terms.
“We’ll need the pin numbers to these cards, the last four digits of your social security number and your home address.”
Carlton attempted to speak and there was that pesky pistol smashing across his lips again. This time he was relieved of an incisor as well as blood and a little mouth flesh.
“Do not speak again. Only answer what we ask you if you want to leave here alive. Now again your home address is…”
Carlton complied with their orders as the men verified his information with what was in his wallet. Once he gave them his pin numbers and social they pulled out a device and swiped each of his cards. They warned him to remain quiet. In the distance he could hear the woman on the phone ordering items in her normal voice. Within minutes everyone was gone and it was quiet. They left him there in the dark tied up standing on a bare concrete floor. He could see lights from the model next door but Carlton knew that there would be no one there until the morning. He was stranded on his feet in an open building. He hoped no animals would stumble upon him while he was in such a vulnerable position. Lucky for him he would be discovered early in the AM.
Carol laughed out loud then kissed her man Bud square on the lips. She hugged her brother, the men shook hands and then he was off. They had plans to run another operation in three weeks. Carol’s brother Carl would sell the phone and jewelry to their fence Harry and Carol would get all the cash she could off of the cards the same night. Carlton’s identity was sold after the trio charged $10,000.00 in his name and chopped his car.
Bud worked on different construction sites around Central Florida as a front just so he could gain security details on each of the properties. Bud knew how much security each property had, what time the tradesman did their work and the codes to the security gates. Each property was located in an affluent area so finding marks of means was quite easy.
Carol, the beauty school drop out, found a new far more lucrative calling that utilized her natural talents. Make up and acting. Carol embraced the essence of her character transforming herself into Gertrude Günter the seventy-eight year old widow, mother of three, grandmother of six, former seamstress. Her wig, hat and scent were all just as important as her appearance, walk and speech. Gertrude’s perfume smelled musty and stale with a hint of mothballs. Carol took an hour to make her self up each time and then another thirty minutes to get fully into character. She just loved being on stage. The stage she stood on now was several felonies and for an audience of one. The other people around the mark were merely extras helping to set the scene.
Carl was the money man; he had been running scams and loan sharking since he was an adolescent. He could turn anything into money, if you had a product, he could find a buyer. Everything they took from their victims he converted into cash or alternative products and then cash. Carl had a bit of a mean streak too. He and Bud met years earlier in the county jail. Bud was in for grand theft auto and Carl got caught on a breaking and entering. Together they hatched the scheme and it evolved over time.
The three of them made a formidable combination, beauty, muscle and hustle. To Carol they were all just shows she was staring in. Bud explained to her that she would be paid well for her make up and acting.
“Baby you’ve always been a star to me, now you’ll get paid like one too. You take your time, go through your process and Carl and I will take care of the rest.”
That was all the direction Carol ever needed. With four performances under their belts they decided to take their show to Venice where new upscale complexes and condos were sprouting up along the west coast of Florida. Bud gained access to the three properties his company was building on. The trio stayed at a motel ten miles away while in town putting their heist in motion. They cased the local shops, stores and eateries. Eventually they found the proper place then watched their clientele and the store staff. Carl needed to know how they moved and what the routines were. How people paid, where they normally parked and which way they exited. Once all of their intelligence was collected they were ready to put their plan in motion.
They spotted their mark, a man who looked to be in his late forties to mid fifties. He was about five foot seven, a little dumpy, wearing black horn rimmed glasses. Physically he wasn’t very imposing in his sweater vest and khakis. Once Carol was in the store she sought him out. She was surprised to see that he was first to engage her.
“Hello ma’am. How are you today?”
Carol smiled slightly then responded softly.
“I’m doing well and how are you today young man?”
“Oh I am quite well, today is a special day for me. It’s the eve of the season when I treat myself.”
“Yes, it’s important to treat yourself. You work hard, you deserve a treat.”
They laughed together. Then Carol soured her face. Her new friend extended his hand to take hers and introduced himself.
“Hello my name is Stan. Is everything okay ma’am?”
Carol looked down then slowly up again allowing their eyes to meet through their glasses.
“Well sir I am almost ashamed to say that I seem to be stranded here because my nephew is an hour late picking me up. I can’t get him on the phone; maybe I can do the Uber or something.”
Stan patted her on the shoulder.
“Don’t you worry; I will give you a ride ma’am.”
“Please call me Gertrude and thank you so much. I hope I am not taking up too much of your time.”
“No it’s my pleasure to help you home safely, my treat.”
They both checked out, Stan bought Gertrude’s groceries and carried them out for her. Then he loaded them into his car. He opened Gertrude’s door for her and helped her into his little Prius. Meanwhile Bud and Carl lay in wait for their next victim.
Stan made small talk as they drove down the quiet road a little after dusk.
“Do you live with your nephew Gertrude?”
“Yes, him and his father, actually he is my great nephew.”
“That’s nice. Thank you for being my treat.”
His statement struck her funny.
“You sure do talk about treats a lot. What do you mean being your treat?”
As she finished her sentence Stan hit her with a stun gun twice. Once in the side, once in the leg, he sent volts through her body. To the side of the road he pulled and patted her down. He found her gun and her cell phone. The gun he confiscated, the phone he destroyed. After zip tying Carol’s wrist and ankles, taping her mouth and laying her in the back seat, he got back on the road. The tiny car held the tiny woman snug and tight as Stan headed east to the Myakka River State Park. He spoke to her as they drove.
“So you’re not an old lady after all. I get double the treat. You’re just a young girl dressed up like an old lady. So what were you up to? That’s a pretty good make up job too. You’re a pretty good actress. What were you going to do... have your boyfriend roll me in the alley or something? Was I your mark?”
Stan laughed hardily. He couldn’t believe that they were out to get him.
“Where is your boyfriend now? Someone should have told him, you can’t hunt the hunter. I am the wolf and you are my special treat.”
Stan then turned on the radio and blasted an 80’s Pop station. “Just another Manic Monday” was playing and Stan sang it loud. Back at the construction site Bud and Carl had their own problems. The law was on to them. Their routine put them in jeopardy. All of the victims were left at worksites of a certain builder. The police ran background checks on all the employees, checked their movements and their cell phone records. That put Bud on their radar and they had been following him ever since.
Eventually the two men were linked to several crimes of robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, unlawful detainment, identity theft and an assortment of other offences. All three of them lost their lives that fateful day in Venice. Carl and Bud would never see the outside of a prison again and poor Carol is nowhere to be found. Stan the wolf got his treat and the season had past. It would seem Carol the lurer lured the grim reaper into ending her life. And scene, the curtain closed, but there would be no standing ovation or second act for Carol the robbing thespian make up artist.