Short Story 10: The House on Conti Street
Well, just as we surmised, Hinch did value the gang more than the money that he could have skipped with and, as instructed, took the ‘fast cash option’ and deposited a cool two million dollars in the Whitney Bank branch office on Chartres St. in the French Quarter.
The next part was equally as easy. Hinch located a real estate agent that was working as a bartender at Molly’s on Toulouse Street and purchased a less than perfect, three-story apartment building at 926 Conti Street for eight hundred grand. He took out a loan for the place using the bank account as collateral, with the interest on the two mil taking up the bulk of the mortgage payments and we all moved in together. The building had three apartments in the main house, one per floor. There was a two-story slave quarter attached to the front house, which gave us two more small, but perfect, flats; a courtyard enclosed by eighteen foot brick walls topped with wicked barbed razor wire and broken wine bottles cemented into the cap for good measure. A two story maisonette in the rear of it completed the layout, all according to the specifications of Pearl’s plan. But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.
Return now to the night of the culinary disaster, Greasy Bastard cooking and a nice chat with Pearl on how we would split up more money than any of us had ever seen, compliments of a sophisticated software heist, a kidnapping and some strings pulled by Chinese businessmen who controlled the outcomes of American lotteries, and Billy butting in with his special brand of pessimism.
Pearl had countered the interruption thusly: “Alright Billy, I’ll bet my Porsche parked outside against you getting circumcised that whoever cashes this ticket in on Wednesday will be the winner of four million bucks. How ‘bout it?” Billy’s jaw dropped at the mention of his Johnson.
“Ahh, c’mon Bill,” Anne threw in: “it’s not like everybody hasn’t heard about that ‘purple hooded serpent’ that you’re always bragging about.” Billy liked to refer to his penis by that name and it was a quick and effective riposte that got Billy to cease his vocal objections to the plan or anything else for that matter; you might say that Billy had effectively been rendered verbally impotent.
Petey was up next and with a sigh of resignation he said: “Alright, Pearl-- run it down -- what’s the plan?”
And Pearl replied: “The caper will take place at Blanche’s restaurant where Brandi already works. Anne will volunteer with the festival and be our inside contact in case anything starts to go awry. Billy will get a bartending job at the restaurant and coordinate our escape, Hinch will get a job as a buggy driver, Syl and I will handle the technical stuff, Petey will be working in the kitchen at the restaurant and Morriarity will cover our backs; but first, we have to all move in together and get our asses cracking. any questions?”
“Just one,” I squeaked “what about me?”
“Oh you,” beamed Pearl “you’re going to be the professor!”
“But you said…”
“I said that the device will be presented by a professor; I didn’t say who the professor would be.” Here she let the other shoe drop “besides, any other person who would do the presenting would know that the machine is a fake and probably give us some trouble if we were to attempt a snatch.”
“You mean…” Started Sylvinia
“Yeah Syl, there’s no such device; but you and me is gonna build one with a receiver in it and we’ll control the show from our little home away from home, you know, re-mote-ly.”
“Alright, so the New York Times…”
“I got that article published” said Pearl with great satisfaction “just to sweeten the pot, so to speak; the Chinks went ape shit when they read that.”
“So,” said Petey “we’re gonna sell something, and steal something that does not exist, kidnap a man who is on our side, split a hundred million bucks…”
“ninety eight.” She corrected
“Whatever” Petey continued, “and we’re just going to disappear?”
“No,” said Pearl “First, the CIA has got to steal it from us…”
"Oh, you worry warts; we'll work it out; besides, the fire will keep everybody way too busy to notice our little shenanigans."
Sooooo…back to the present. As adroit as you readers are, you probably have not overlooked the mention and allusion to a talking cat named Professor Morriarity or P.M. If the existence of this feline, in this story, has not raised any red flags for you then I assure you that he resides in your subconscious ready to pounce into your reality with a question about his history and identity… sooner or later. Either that or you’re really not paying proper attention and we’re wasting our time here. To clear things up for those that are paying attention here: first of all, Morriarity is not a male cat, ergo, that is not her real name. Point in fact is that all cats have not two, but three names. All cats do; and Professor Morriarity, in this case, is NOT her name.
Another thing is that very few felines will converse in a human language; they all can, but very few will. It’s just not done, breach of cat policy and all that. You might say that it could and probably would lead to a catastrophe of humongous and epic proportions. So we all doubted that P. M. would talk to Pearl but frankly we couldn’t be sure and didn’t want to risk crossing her. Leave it to say that we (collectively) wouldn’t trust P.M. with ‘our backs’. (Besides, we all knew that Pearl was an accomplished ventriloquist.)
Likewise you may have surmised that all characters portrayed in this tale live in their separate realities, but none so much as the lady that’s known as Pearl (had she not come through with the two mil, we would not be having this discourse), and it’s not as if we didn’t not believe in a’ talking cat’, let alone its inclusion into our larcenous little family…. but…. what if she wanted a cut of the take?
Be that as it may, we all settled in to our new digs with a mite of trepidation, a slight tickle of apprehension and a boat load of the hormones that only a group of thirty-something’s could keep airborne.
Hinch took the downstairs slave quarter efficiency mainly because he had to get up and leave early for his job as a buggy driver and to be with the dog. Billy took the room above him with space for his exercise equipment. Brandi and Anne took the downstairs flat in the main house with Sylvinia and Pearl using the upper two floors for laboratory and habitation. Petey and I shared the upstairs of the maisonette with the downstairs converted into communal kitchen and dining area spilling out into the courtyard. I was in charge of the cooking for us all; where’s a greasy bastard when you need one?
Hinch asked P.M. where she would be staying and the cat replied with typical feline candor: “wherever the fuck I feel like.” Pearl was quick to point out that P.M. would be running reconnaissance to find the most direct route over the rooftops to Blanche’s for our electronic feeds and we all settled into a funk of suspicion and doubt for our success. We had a scant six weeks to fine tune this adventure and I realized that my cooking would be the easiest (and best tasting) part.