My thanks to Ed Westen at https://deartedandjody.wordpress.com/blog/ for this photo to use as a short story prompt.
Not that he knew the first thing about boats, but Dennis would try his hand at anything that didn’t involve hard work. Regular jobs were for saps, as far as he was concerned. Vince told him that for a grand each, they could buy old man Mackenzie’s boat that he used to use for fishing, and he would throw in the outboard too. Maybe even trailer it down to the boat dock.
During his last spell in prison, Vince had met a guy who knew other guys. They would pay good money to get things across from Mexico on Falcon Lake. Dennis was worried though. He had heard tell of criminals robbing people on the lake, even stealing boats. Vince laughed. “WE will be the criminals, you fool. Lighten up!” There were other worries though. Border patrols on both sides, American and Mexican. Vince lit a cigarette and shook his head. “How much d’you think those guys earn? I have contacts who have contacts. They pay the bribes, we make the deliveries. It’s easy money, my friend”.
When Mackenzie put he boat in the water and took his money, Vince produced two old fishing rods and a bucket of bait. He grinned. “Gotta have a cover story, just in case”. Dennis hoped he didn’t have to convince anyone he was a fisherman. He had never held a rod in his life. But his partner in crime was full of confidence. “You just leave it to me. I can drive this old boat, I know the signals to watch for, and I just need you to help load the goods and ride shotgun”. With that he showed an old assault rifle, stashed in a sports bag. “Locked and loaded, two spare magazines”.
Although his short army career had mostly been spent in military prison, Dennis at least knew how to use a rifle.
The first job did go easy. Vince’s contacts were on the Mexican side where he said they would be, just as the sun set. The packages were wrapped in plastic, and not too heavy, though Dennis was uneasy at the looks he was getting from the four silent men who were all wearing sunglasses. They slept on the boat that night, and crossed back to Texas at first light, transferring the packages into Vince’s Dodge Ram and covering them with bags of gravel. Then they drove to a motel in the middle of nowhere, and Vince went into a room to talk to different contacts.
As he dropped Dennis outside his apartment that night, he smiled as he handed over three thousand dollars. “There’s your money back, and lots more. Same again next week, I’ll give you a call”.
After counting the money, he took a shower and drove his old Renegade into town. There was a girl at Masie’s he had a hankering for, and he had enough money to pay for just what he wanted from her. With a good bowl of chili and a few beers inside him, he walked into the bordello waving hundred dollar bills. “Tell Charlene Dennis is here. If she’s busy, I’ll wait”.
The second job was even easier. Seemed like the Mex trusted them now, and there were no scary guys in sunglasses. The load was twice the size, and Dennis was sure the boat was too heavy. Vince smiled as he spoke. “You gotta stop worrying. This boat can take it. Might slow us down a little, but we’ll get across”.
And he was right, though the load made the springs creak on the Dodge. This time, Dennis got five thousand, and his eyes lit up at all the bills as they were handed over. Vince grabbed his shoulder, hard enough to hurt. “Now you stay sensible, and don’t go throwing the money around. Don’t change your car, or go buying a fancy watch or such like. This could make us both rich, but we gotta be careful”.
By the time they made the fifth trip, Dennis had close to twenty thousand hidden away in a metal box buried near a tree. And he had been talking to Charlene about going exclusive with her, suggesting she could move into his place and stop working. When she asked where he got the money from, he touched the side of his nose and winked.
Vince sounded happy when he called. “This will be our last fishing trip for a while, and I’m hoping for a big catch. I’ll pick you up on Sunday, first light”.
Once the boat was loaded, they hid in their usual spot on the lake and had a few beers from the cooler before sleeping. The next morning at sunup it was hot, and Dennis was sweating more than usual. “How much do you reckon this time, Vince? This is the biggest load yet”. His friend shrugged. “Maybe ten grand for your end. Like I said, easy money”.
As they tied off the boat in front of where the Dodge was parked, four men walked from behind Vince’s pickup. Then a smaller person appeared, a woman. It was Charlene. She pointed at Dennis. “That’s him. Don’t know the other fella”. Vince looked at Dennis, and inclined his head at the sports bag. But the firing started before he could slide the zip.
Todd Mackenzie followed the rangers down to the edge of the lake. The younger one pointed at a boat half sunk. “This your boat?” The old man nodded.
“Was at one time, but I sold it to two guys I didn’t know”.