by Mark Finn
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Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed

Everyone turned to look at Rutlege, who was wearing a smug grin.

"How's that?" asked D.J. "We're the ones going, not you."

"You guys don't read a lot of caper fiction, do you?" said Rutlege, chuckling.

"I've seen The Thomas Crown Affair," offered Turk.

"The one with Steve McQueen?" asked Rutlege.

"Steve McQueen wasn't in that movie, it was Pierce Brosnan," said Turk.

"But you just told a story!" sputtered Larry. "You told it to me at the Burger Coop last week! No telling how many times you've told that story!"

"Yes, but this is the first time that anyone has decided to go dig up rare game books based on a personal anecdote that I related. So, I should be compensated for that."

"Highway robbery!" shouted Larry.

Rutlege sighed. "Okay, look, here's how these things work. I have inside information about this little job you're planning on pulling. I also tipped you off about this gig in the first place, which should count as a finder's fee, but let's not complicate things." Rutlege pulled a cold slice of pizza out of the box and motioned for everyone to gather around. "Because I'm willing to give you this inside information, I should be paid for my trouble. Furthermore, paying me insures that I won't tip off the company or the authorities." Rutlege paused and let the implied threat sink in. "But I wouldn't worry about that. If you get caught, I don't get my dough. We're talking about a lot of money, here, and this is a risky situation, so you're going to need every advantage." He sat back, munching on the pizza. "Now, do you all agree that for my information, I should get ten percent?"

Everyone looked at Larry, who was staring at Rutlege intently. He nodded, briefly, and the others followed suit. "Sure, okay, but this had better be good," Larry said.

Rutlege grinned and said, "Trust me on this. You want what I've got."

"Wait," said Burt, holding his hands up. He pointed at Larry. "I thought you said you had a plan all worked out."

"Yeah," echoed Turk.

"I do!" Larry cried. "I know exactly how we're going to dig the modules out of the ground."

"Assuming they're still there," said D.J. slowly.

"Don't worry," said Larry. "Rob, what do you think?"

Rutlege raised his eyebrows and said, "Oh, I'm pretty confident that no one has gone out there and dug them up. Otherwise, we'd have heard about it by now, don't you think?"

Larry nodded confidently. "You see?" He turned to Rutlege. "Okay, what do you know that I don't?"

"How about a map of where everything is laid out, from the vacant lot to the warehouses around it?" said Rutlege, looking smug.

"Yes," said D.J. before Larry could speak. "That would be fine."

Larry got Rutlege some graph paper, so he could throw D.J. dirty looks from a distance, and a pencil. "Okay," said Rutlege, sketching with short, bold strokes. "Here's the lot. There's a bank of warehouses that face each other, with a paved parking lot in between them. There's a chain link fence, open during business hours, that surrounds both warehouses. These here, on the left, that's the Gamesmen offices. When I was working there, it was the whole bank of warehouses."

"What's on the other side?" asked D.J.

"Doesn't matter, you won't need to know. Now, the road goes here." He sketched a two-lane road parallel to the front gate. "And these warehouses sit in the middle of the block. Everything else around it, on either side, is empty field. But, here's the deal." He sketched in more fences, behind the warehouses, opposite the road. "This part here is the vacant lot that is owned by Gamesmen. Their idea was to expand into a super mega office warehouse space. That got scrapped when I was there."

"What if they sold the land to someone else?" asked Burt.

"They didn't," said Larry.

"How do you know?" asked D.J.

"Because," said Rutlege, answering for Larry, "the land out back runs right up to the railroad tracks. They bought it for a song, because no one wanted to build that close to the tracks."

"I did research this project on the Internet," said Larry, throwing a withering gaze at D.J.

"Fine, whatever," said D.J. He got up to get a Mountain Dew from the kitchen. He hated Mountain Dew, but he would drink it anyway, and be displeased, and that would show Larry.

"And here," Rutlege counted out the squares on the graph paper and drew a box with dotted lines in the field, "is roughly where the pit was dug. So, that's the basic layout," said Rutlege, handing the plans to Larry. "Now, how does that fit with your scheme?"

Larry studied the drawing, rubbing his chin. With the fedora perched on his head, the gesture resembled a grotesque parody of Indiana Jones. "Yes, yes, okay. No, I think it'll work, just fine. But, there's a lot of stuff we need." Larry looked up at Rutlege. "Can you stay awhile? We've got a lot of stuff to go over, and I won't be able to run you home until we're done."

Rutlege sat back, sipping his coffee. "I'm at your disposal, partners."

Larry consulted his sheets of paper. "Okay, everyone, break out your paper and pens. I suggest taking notes, because here's the plan."

Next Chapter

Chapter One: The Navel Adventures of Larry Croft
Chapter Two: 1123 Miles to Tempe
Chapter Three: Enter the String
Chapter Four: The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Chapter Five: Rutlege's Story
Chapter Six: The Plot Thickens
Chapter Seven: The Fifth Man is Revealed
Chapter Eight: It's a DRY Heat
Chapter Nine: Preparing to Lam
Chapter Ten: The Mislaid Plans of Mouse and Man
Chapter Eleven: The Danger of Talking to God
Chapter Twelve: Anchors Aweigh, Let's Go Men
Chapter Thirteen: The End is Near
Chapter Fourteen: Roll to Hit
Chapter Fifteen: Six Feet of Beef Stick for the Soul
Chapter Sixteen: Hello, My Name is Indio, California
Chapter Seventeen: Threadgill Takes Charge
Chapter Eighteen: The Players on the Other Side
Chapter Nineteen: On the Road to Perdition
Chapter Twenty: Welcome to Tempe
Chapter Twenty-One: The Game is Afoot
Chapter Twenty-Two: Should Have Known Better
Chapter Twenty-Three: Test-Run at the Waffle House
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Supply Run
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Backhoe
Chapter Twenty-Six: A Frank Discussion
Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Brief History of Larry's Van
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Go Speed Racer, Go
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Owner of the Thumbscrews
Chapter Thirty: Brain Teasers
Chapter Thirty-One: Frick and Frack Check In
Chapter Thirty-Two: Scouting
Chapter Thirty-Three: The Stakeout
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Food Fight
Chapter Thirty-Five: Time to Dig
Chapter Thirty-Six: Deep in the Night
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Paydirt
Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Phallus of Ebon Keep
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Otto and Stacy Make Good
Chapter Forty: Thieves in the Night
Chapter Forty-One: Critical Failure
Chapter Forty-Two: Downtown
Chapter Forty-Three: The Hoosegow
Chapter Forty-Four: An Emergency Breakfast
Chapter Forty-Five: Two Early Phone Calls
Chapter Forty-Six: Threadgill Meets the Gang
Chapter Forty-Seven: Back to the Van
Chapter Forty-Eight: Five Days Later
Table of Contents

About the Author

Mark Finn is the author of Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. He also writes excellent short stories, essays, articles, and reviews. In addition to his regular gig at the Vernon Plaza Theater, he can be found intermittently on The Clockwork Storybook blog and RevolutionSF, holding court or damning with faint praise.