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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The tomato farmer

“There he goes. That’s the one.”
“He doesn’t look dangerous. Looks like a salesman.”
“No. That’s him for sure. My source can’t be wrong.”
“Then let’s go do it. What are we waiting for?”
“The right moment.”
Jimmy Sullivan walked out of the bank. He didn’t get the loan. It was cold but he let his overcoat rest in his arm. He stood at the edge of the snow covered sidewalk and started searching for something in the pocket of his overcoat.
“What’s he doing? Is he reaching for his gun? He knows we’re here.”
“Relax he just lit a cigarette. I’m telling you he doesn’t look like our guy.”
“My source can’t be wrong.”
“I mean look at him. He’s fat and short and bald. Just doesn’t look like a spy. I’ll bet he couldn’t even kill a mouse. Probably just a loser applying for a loan to start another business or something.”
“Well there’s no way to find that out now is there.”
“There’s one way.”
“Hey where are you going? TED! God damn it.”
Ted put his gun in the holster and got out of the car. He wrapped his overcoat tight around himself as he made his way across the quiet street. Jimmy was standing there lost in his own thought frantically trying to finish the cigarette. Bob looked on from his car and realised he had his hand wrapped tightly around his gun. His instincts told him that they had the right guy. But he also knew Ted won’t go ahead with it unless he was sure. He looked on as Jimmy lit a cigarette for Ted.
“Excuse me. Do you have a light? Sure is cold as hell today.”
“Yeah. Cold as hell.”
“So you work at the bank?”
“No. No. I just came to apply for a loan. You know start my own business and all. Start over.”
“I know what you mean. So didn’t like your last job or got fired. You know for sucking at it.”
“No. No. I didn’t suck. I was very good actually. But there comes a time when you just have to move on, you know. When you just get tired of doing the same thing over and over again, you know.”
“Yeah I know what you mean. So what business were you thinking?”
“That’s right. Tomatoes. You know growing them, packaging and transporting them to markets. The whole thing. Like a tomato factory.”
“Yeah I didn’t get the loan though. I guess I’ll try some more banks.”
“Yeah you do that. Don’t give up. Listen I gotta run. It was nice talking to you.”
“Same here. Take care now. Let me know if you need any tomatoes.”
Jimmy watched as the cop walked away and got in his car. He couldn’t believe what kind of detectives they were letting into the force now. That guy looked, spoke, even smelled like a cop. He might as well have been wearing a board around his neck saying I’m a cop. As soon as the anger and frustration over that cop went away he realized what might have happened if that cop hadn’t been stupid enough to come to him. He lit another cigarette and started thinking of ways of killing these two idiots.
“What the fuck were you doing? You could have got both of us killed.”
“Relax Bob. He’s not our guy. The idiot wants to open a tomato factory. Can you believe that? And he’s wondering why he didn’t get the loan.”
“Are you sure? Coz my source has never been wrong before.”
“Of course I’m sure. This guy is a total loser man. Let’s get out of here and get something to drink. I froze my fucking balls out there talking to that loser.”
“Hey I don’t know man. I say we at least follow him and make sure whether he’s the one or not.”
“Fine. Let’s follow him. But if he goes into a bar we’re going in for a drink as well.”
“Fuck. Where did he go? Did you see him?”
“I don’t know. Why weren’t you looking at him?”
“Coz I was fucking arguing with you.”
“Okay let’s go check him out. But I still don’t think he’s the one so relax.”
“Fuck you man. Take it seriously or we both will be dead by morning.”
Jimmy held the cigarette lightly from his lips as he put his overcoat on and tuck the file of documents between his side and arm. He was looking straight ahead but was seeing the two cops argue in their car. His mind was concentrating on the escape routes. The two cops looked at each other for a moment and that was all he needed. He felt his body diving towards the corner before he thought about going that way. In a second he was out of their view, standing with his back against the wall. Once again he felt that rush of adrenalin that drove him during his young days. He counted to ten, instead of three, coz he knew those two idiots would argue a bit before coming out of their car.
“You take the right side of the bank and I’ll go from the left. He must have gone that way.”
“What are you talking about he’s just a tomato farmer Bob. Relax will you. Come we’ll both go this way and I’m sure we’ll see him getting into his car. If the loser has a car that is.”
“Ted I’m telling you I don’t feel good about this.”
“Alright alright. Let’s go.”
Ted and Bob walked to the right corner of the bank. There was no one there or in the alley beside the bank. The snow on the sidewalk had too many foot prints and it was hard to make out which one’s belonged to the tomato farmer. The cops decided to split up and see where he went. Ted searched the alley and went all the way around the bank but he was nowhere. Bob had searched the streets in front of the bank and there was no sign of him there either.
“Did you see him Ted?”
“No. I think he might have gotten into a cab or something.”
“Damn it Ted. Something’s not right. I mean look around you. It’s so fucking cold there is no one out here. How can we lose a fat guy on these empty streets?”
“Well where did he go then? He couldn’t have just disappeared. Maybe he went back in the bank?”
“I don’t know man. Something’s not right.”
“Let’s get in the car. It’s so fucking cold.”
Jimmy counted to ten and heard the cops slam their car doors. Amateurs. He walked briskly around the bank shuffling his feet in the snow, spreading snow everywhere, so that no foot prints were left. He reached the front of the bank from the other side and the two cops had split up. He knew one of them was coming around the bank and he had only a few seconds to cross the street and reach the cops car. He waited, crouching behind a car, watching the other cop. As soon as he turned around, jimmy made across the street, crouching all the while. He hid behind the cops’ car and took a paper clip out of his file and threw the file under the car. He picked the lock on the door and got in. Opening the glove box he found what he was looking for, a gun. The other cop had come around the bank and the two of them were discussing what to do next. As they made their way towards the car, still arguing, Jimmy got in the back and hid behind the passenger seat.
“So what are we going to do now?” Bob said as he turned the ignition on to get some heat flowing in the car. Before Ted could answer Jimmy had seized him from behind and had the 45 pressed hard into his temple.
“Now we are going to go some place quite and have a chat.” Jimmy said even as Bob turned around and seeing what he saw, almost jumped out of his seat.
“Go straight and take the first right. That will take us out on route 66. Not much traffic out there at this time of the year. That will give us some peace and quite to talk about our present situation.” Bob still pressed hard against the door looked at Ted.
“Go on Bob. Do as he says.” Ted said trying to hide the panic from his voice.
Bob put the car in gear and drove out into the wilderness.
“So! Bob is it? And what’s your name?”
Ted thought about lying but realised it was of no benefit to him, “Ted” he said.
“Bob and Ted!” Jimmy said almost laughing. “You two could not be any more stereotypical cops! Well Bob keep driving straight. I am just going to reach into your side and grab your firearm. No sudden movements there Ted or you’ll die of your own bullet.” He took their guns one by one and threw them out of the window.
“What’s your name then?” Ted tried to be bold and start a conversation.
“You don’t even know that?”
“I mean what do you call yourself right now? We know your real name’s Dan Thomas. From Iowa, played college football, had a heartbreak and joined the army. 20 years doing missions for CIA. Till you went rouge, stole a whole lot of government money.”
“Well well so you don’t suck completely at your job. Know a lot about me. But you don’t need to know my name. Just call me Jim.”
“Okay Jim. I can understand why you went rouge. A spy has no life and I know that. I understand why you stole that money. A life on the run needs a lot of money. But what I don’t understand is what you are doing right now.” Ted said gaining more confidence. “I mean you were off the grid for a long time. Then a few weeks ago we get a tip that you are in town visiting local banks. I mean are you seriously going to farm tomatoes?”
“Stop the car right here Bob.” Jimmy said without seeming flustered by Ted’s questions. They got out of the car and headed into the forest. Bob, Ted and right behind him Jimmy, holding a gun to Ted’s back. Bob realised this was way out of hand now. The chances of them being dead by evening were very high. He cursed himself for not listening to his intuition. Ted on the other hand was still trying to make something happen. He continued to taunt Jim, “You must have been desperate to come back here. Trying to get a loan to grow tomatoes!” More than annoying Jim he was making Bob nervous.
“Shut up Ted.”
“What? I mean you have to agree it’s really pathetic. From a spy to a tomato farmer!”
“Shut up Ted. Obviously he didn’t tell you the truth. That’s not what he was doing in the bank.” Bob tried to make sense, “were you?”
Jimmy stayed silent and tried to find the perfect spot. They reached a little opening in the forest at what looked like a small frozen pond. He told both the cops to get on their knees right in the middle of the pond. He moved behind them and placed the gun behind Bob’s head. Bob started breathing heavily and felt like he was loosing consciousness even before he had been shot. Ted tried to say something to delay the inevitable, hoping that they’d catch a break from somewhere but before he could say anything Jim had pressed the trigger.
Bob fell forward and Ted threw himself at Jim screaming “Noooooo”. They both fell on the ice and skidded a few metres. Ted was now on top of old Jimmy and flying punches at his face. Jimmy let go of the gun and tried to block his punches. Ted was confused at why he had let the gun go but jumped on the ice and grabbed the gun and skidded a turn and fired three times at Jim. Nothing happened as Jim got up slowly holding his face.
“It’s empty Ted.” Bob said getting up on his feet having regained consciousness now. “I remember now I took the bullets out a few weeks ago when my son found the gun in the glove box.”
“Oh thank god you aren’t dead; wait, why you didn’t tell me earlier that the gun was empty. You let him bring us all the way out here?”
“Yeah I totally forgot about it man. I’m sorry man.”
“Oh you’re sorry! I thought you were dead. I thought I was going to die and you are sorry?”
“Will you two shut up!” shouted Jimmy who was in a lot of pain because of the fall and Ted’s punches. “All this time I’ve had an upper hand because of your arguing. You waste so much time on that. Even now I could have disappeared into the forest while you were fighting.”
“Well why didn’t you?” Bob asked.
“Because I’m tired of running. Look, you were right; life on the run needs a lot of money. A whole lot more than I stole. I ran out a few years ago. That’s when I came back. I just wanted to be home. Since then I have been working minimum wage. At first I was waiting for someone to find me and kill me. Actually I was hoping for that. But you guys don’t bother about minimum wage America. And then I started dreaming of a life. I started saving. What I told you was right. I wanted to farm tomatoes. I needed a loan to buy the land and farm equipment but no loans for us poor folks. And as soon a guy starts making regular visits to banks he comes back on the radar. I start making a little bit of a life for myself now you want to kill me.” Jimmy sat down on the ice exhausted. Ted and Bob looked at Jimmy and then looked at each other. They walked over to him and sat down by his side. The three of them sat there without saying a word for some time.
“I am sorry about your face.” Ted said after a while. “But in my defence you were trying to kill us.” He added. Jim tried to laugh a little through his swollen lips.
“It’s so fucking cold today!” Bob said after some time.
“Yeah let’s get out of here.” Ted said.
The three of them got up and walked back to the car.
“What a day huh?”
“Yeah. What a day!”
Ted and Bob had decided to let the old pro off the hook. They understood his story and felt sympathy for him. This was an old case and nobody bothered anymore. That’s why they had gotten it even though they were not so experienced. They could go back and easily report that the tip had been a dead end. Jimmy thanked then by giving them some pointers on stalking. They dropped him off near his home and drove off.
“Let’s go to a bar.”
“What? We need to go back to the station and file our report.”
“Come on Bob don’t tell me you can’t use a drink right now.”
“Fine let’s go to a bar. I need to drown the fact that you almost got me killed today.”
“What? You are the one who forgot that the gun was empty.”
“Hey I told you to be careful from the beginning but you never listen to me.”
“He turned out to be a tomato farmer, didn’t he?”
“Oh shut up Ted.”
“Just shut up.”

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