By the time Peter Boscovich ran into Ray Campos and LaVonne Walker at the Blue Door two days later, Nick was only a fading memory on Bottom Street. Word in the ‘Loin had it that he was in Canada, or Los Angeles, or hiding out someplace in Baja. Bosco had been looking high and low, but Nicholas Dolman, former truck driver, federal prison inmate and newly minted fugitive, had seemed to vanish from the face of the earth.
Bosco slid into the booth next to Campos. “Hello, boys,” he said with a slight smile. “Hear anything from your close personal friend, Nick Dolman?”
LaVonne shook his head, while Ray just looked at Bosco glumly.
“What’s the problem?” Bosco asked him.
Campos sputtered. “That motherfucking Dolman!” he muttered, his face dark with anger.
Bosco gestured to Hank Cutter and made a little circular motion taking in Walker, Campos and himself. “Can you give us a round, here, Hank?” he called before turning back to Ray. “Okay, what happened?” he said.
Campos didn’t seem capable of speaking, he was so furious.
“The fucker’s an idiot,” LaVonne said, looking no happier than Campos, but a good deal less agitated. “He fucked both of us on that tool trailer deal.”
“Well, that’s certainly not much of a surprise,” Bosco said, working to suppress an I-told-you-so smile. “How, exactly?”
“We did just what the sonofabitch said,” Campos sputtered. “He cut the lock off the gate and we brought the tractor right in. He hooked it to the trailer and everything, and we wheeled it out of the yard. Went North on 680 and turned onto Highway 24 at Walnut Creek. It all went exactly like he said.”
Bosco looked at him curiously. “So, what happened?” he said. “How did he fuck you guys?”
Walker grinned in a way that Bosco had never seen him do before; it was more of a grimace, really. “We got the fucker back to San Francisco,” he said. “Nick didn’t have money for the bridge so I had to pay the toll.”
Bosco laughed. “Is that it?” he said. “I thought you said he fucked you. Stiffing you on bridge toll is just SOP for Nick.”
“There wasn’t nothing in there,” Campos blurted in a tone of voice that made it clear he still couldn’t believe what had happened. “It was completely empty.”
“There was nothing in where?” Bosco said impatiently. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“The trailer was empty,” Walker said. “It was supposed to be full of all these groovy tools and shit, but there was nothing inside when we cut off the lock and opened it up. We stole a fucking empty trailer, man.”
Bosco just stared at him with his mouth open.
“Yeah,” Campos said bitterly. “Nick talked us into crewing with him on this big job, but the asshole didn’t know what he was doing. We stole a trailer that didn’t have anything inside. We did a job for nothing. We didn’t make a damned cent off of it.”
“What happened to the tools?” Bosco said, still having trouble understanding what had happened.
“I guess the guys on the job took ‘em out,” Ray said, shaking his head. “I don’t know, man. It looked like the work was just about done to me when we got there. They wasn’t no tractors or nothing around. Just these little condo deals they’d built. Hell, they even had trees in front of them and grass in the little yards.”
Cutter brought a tray with two Budweisers and a shot of Jim Beam rye, neat. Bosco put a Ben Franklin on the tray. “We’ll work on that fifty for a while, Hank,” he said. “My boys here need some cheering up. Just keep ‘em coming and let me know when you need more.”
Bosco looked at Campos. “What did Nick say when you found out the trailer was empty?” he asked.
Ray raised his shoulders. “A lot of blah-blah-blah,” he replied. “He just ran his mouth, like he always does. What the fuck could he say? Besides, we were kind of in a hurry to ditch the damn thing and get the hell away from there.”
He sighed. “He said we’d talk it over the next day,” he continued. “But then the feds came by asking me if I knew where they could find him. I called him to tell him the feds were looking for him and that was the last I heard of the motherfucker.”
LaVonne took a pull off his fresh beer. His eyes were bleak. “I don’t know when we gonna be able to pay you back, Bosco,” he said. “I guess we lucky we only ended up paying the bridge toll on this stupid fucking job.”
Bosco shrugged. “Forget it,” he said. “I’m just glad Dolman’s gone, to be honest.”
“Why’s that?” Campos said. “I wish the motherfucker was right here so I could cut his throat.”
Bosco grinned. “Look, the only reason you two guys aren’t being sweated by the FBI right now is because Nick split,” he said. “If he was still in town, the feebs would have already grabbed him. They probably wouldn’t just have you two bozos in the cooler; they probably would have picked up Eli and I by now, too.”
“You think Nick would give you up, man?” Walker asked, his expression making it clear he couldn’t imagine such a thing. “He may be a fuckup, Bosco, but he’s not a rat.”
Bosco’s grin was gone. “Oh, he’d rat all right,” he said. “The fucker is just dumb enough to think he’s smart enough to talk his way out of a federal beef. Once the feebs got him started, they’d need two stenographers working 24-7 to get down everything he said. He’d give up you guys on the tool trailer deal just for starters and then he’d give up Eli and I on the Mandragola scam. To be honest, I’ve been looking for him for the last two days to make sure the feds didn’t find him.”
He pulled back his sport coat, revealing the butt of a blue-steel automatic shoved into his waistband, then let the coat fall shut again, concealing the weapon.
“Shit, man, you serious?” LaVonne said, licking his lips, his eyes wide with concern. “I never seen you packing before. That fucking scares me.”
Campos gave LaVonne a sharp look. “Man up, partner,” he said. “I agree with Bosco. Nick would give us up in a minute.” He turned to Bosco. “You were right about Nick—we never should have trusted the bastard. But you’re going to have to wait your turn if that shithead turns up in San Francisco again, because I’ll cut his throat myself if I see him first.”
Bosco lifted his glass. “I don’t think we have to worry about it,” he said. “I warned Nick that if he fucked up on this thing, he’d have to watch out for Eli and I as well as the cops. He doesn’t want to run into you two, guys, either.”
“I’ll bet we’ve seen the last of Nicky Dolman,” he said, taking a sip and rolling the whisky around in his mouth before swallowing it. “At least, I hope so.”