Herb mumbled to himself as he crossed the street, his eyes fixated on the smartphone in his hand. “No, no, no, no, no,” he moaned as he frantically flipped through screens and tapped buttons. Anyone watching him would have thought he was an important man handling important matters.
That’s certainly what Jack thought from the driver’s seat of the white van. Keeping his eyes on Herb, he picked up his burner phone and dialed the first number on speed dial. “I see ‘im,” he said softly into the receiver.
“What’s he look like?”
“Average height. Kinda chubby. Balding, with a ring of red hair around his scalp. He’s staring at the screen on his phone.”
“Pfff. That doesn’t narrow it down. Everyone these days is staring at their phones as they walk, talk, and buy the groceries, aren’t they?”
“That’s why I told you the other stuff.” Jack made an effort to bring his voice back down to a level tone. “Besides, he’s different from the others. He doesn’t read anything for more than a second or two. He’s flipping through it and tapping the screen like a damn woodpecker. All the while mumbling to himself.”
“Lots of people mumble to themselves.”
“Not like this. Not like every little thing he’s doing is life or death.”
“Plenty of people have and inflated sense of self-importance.”
“I’m telling you, this is our guy!”
“OK. OK. I just wanna make sure you’re positive before we do this.”
“I’m positive. He’s passing the van on the passenger side as we speak. If you’re going to make your move, you’d better do it now.”
“All right. Here goes nothing.” Sam flung open the back doors of the van, immediately spotted his target, grabbed him with both hands, and dragged him into the van.
Herb had been carrying his phone in one hand and his keys in the other. He dropped both of them when Sam grabbed him. They landed on the pavement just before Sam slammed the doors of the van shut and Jack hit the gas.
“What the fuck are you-?” Herb said before he saw the gun Sam was pointing at him.
“Here’s how this is going to work. You’re going to keep real quiet on this little ride of ours. If you don’t, I’m gonna have to shoot you, and I don’t want to do that. Boss won’t be too happy with me if I hurt you before he gets a chance to do it himself.”
“Who? Who’s your boss? What do you want with me?”
“Aw, now don’t be like that. You know perfectly well what you’ve done.”
“I don’t! There must be some mistake. I’m just an insurance salesman.”
Herb nodded vigorously.
Sam looked at him sideways, his eyes narrowed as he tried to judge Herb’s honesty. “You wouldn’t be trying to pull one over on me, would you?”
Herb shook his head frantically.
Sam looked at him another moment before pulling his cell phone out of his pocket and flipping it open. Without taking his eyes or his gun off Herb, he dialed and put the phone to his ear. “He says he’s an insurance salesman.”
“No way,” said Jack. “He’s pulling one over on you.”
“That’s what I thought, but he seems pretty legit.”
“You know how these guys are. They’ll say anything to get out of the mess they made for themselves.”
“Not like this guy.”
“We’ll let the big guy be the judge of that.”
“What if he says we got the wrong guy?”
“Then we’ll have to go back out there until we get the right guy.”
“So what happens to this guy?”
“Either way, he won’t be bothering anyone again.”
Officer Millard was waiting for his traffic light to turn green when he happened to look across the street and see a set of keys lying on the pavement. He looked away again and thought nothing of it, but something made him look back. A cell phone was lying next to the keys. Officer Millard couldn’t do much about a lost set of keys, but the phone might get him somewhere.
He pulled over and got out of his car to see what he could do to help the poor soul that had lost such valuable items. He checked the call history on the phone and found the most recent was to someone named “Cathy” – no last name. Officer Millard dialed the number and held the phone up to his ear without touching it.
“Herb? What happened? I was in the middle of telling you about Susie’s recital when it sounded like you dropped the phone.”
“Is this Cathy?”
“This is Officer Millard. I found this cell phone on the pavement next to a set of keys. I was hoping you might be able to help me return them to their owner.”
“Herb lost his keys again? I swear he’d lose is head if it wasn’t screwed on properly.”
“Ma’am, can you give me an address where I can return these items?”
“Of course. You can bring them to the house. I guess this means I’ll have to leave the door unlocked until Herb gets home.” Cathy gave him the address and he headed straight over to drop off her husband’s keys and phone.
“It is unlike him to lose his phone,” Cathy said when Officer Millard arrived. “He’s always losing his keys, but the phone is usually glued to his hand. Are you sure you didn’t see him nearby? Average height. A little chubby, with a ring of read hair around his bald scalp.”
“No, ma’am. I didn’t see anyone matching that description. Just the phone and the keys on the pavement.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter. They’ll just wait right here for him.”