I’m not stupid. I have a master’s degree from Bowling Green in popular culture. I graduated Cum Laude from Kenyon. Unfortunately, I also have a $500 a day meth habit that I can’t feed with the jobs I can get with a master’s degree from Bowling Green and a BA from Kenyon. So I steal.
When you mug someone you have to be fast. I’m pretty good at it; never been caught. It’s easy if you follow the script: just show them the gun, show them you mean business, take the money and go. Don’t be stupid. Stupid muggers talk; they say stuff that can identify them. Stick to cash. Stupid muggers take jewelry or credit cards that can be traced back to the source.
I’m not stupid. I’m not. But I did something stupid last night.
It was a standard grab at Lake and Fifth. Lake and Fifth is one of the better corners. There’s lots of cover. You can get people coming off the bus. They relax when they think they’re almost home. I saw this well-dressed guy with blonde hair and blue eyes (remember that: he had blue eyes) and bing I knew that was my mark.
So I make my grab: get in his face, point the gun, tell him to hand over the wallet. It was clean, but I fucked it up. He had his hands up and I see this ring he’s wearing. It’s all shiny and red.
It was the red that caught me. I’d never seen a red ring before. Gold isn’t red, not even red gold. Red gold is a little pink from copper, but you add enough to make it really red and metal gets too brittle to make into a ring. You could make a ring out of pure copper, but that wouldn’t be red either; it would turn green in a day. This guy had a red ring, pure red, and it shone on his finger like a lighthouse, like an LED, like blood.
So I see the ring and what do I do? Stupidest thing in my whole life. I tell him to give me the ring. Crazy motherfucker just smiles.
“You want the ring?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “Give me the god damned ring!”
“Just let me get this straight,” he said, smiling like I had told him Christmas was coming a day early. “Are you asking me for this ring of your own free will?”
I seriously wanted to cap him, but my gun wasn’t loaded. I never load my gun; if I got caught that’d be another ten years in prison, easy. Instead I try to put on my badass Lawrence Fishburne look.
“I’m not asking you, mother fucker. I’m telling you.”
He pulled the ring off and put it in my hand. It was hot, hotter than it had any right to be, and crisscrossed with these little lines like veins. I couldn’t take my eyes away, even though every instinct told me to get away.
“I have more money,” this guy said.
I had forgotten he was there and jumped when he spoke. He was taking off his left shoe.
“Mug money,” he told me as he pulled out a wad of bills. They were all hundreds. “You can never be too safe in this neighborhood. Here. Take it. You’ll need it.”
He put the money in my hand on top of the ring and I looked up into his eyes. They were relaxed, a deep, dark brown. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.
“Thank you,” he said softly, and he walked away.
He was a nut. He was messing with my head. He must have been part of some new police sting operation to scare the hell out of muggers instead of putting them in jail. They make these special rings that keep heat and give them to guys who dress in suits and walk around at night. He must have prepared that speech about taking it of my free will and needing the money. Probably yanked some contacts out of his eyes when I was looking at the ring.
Yet here I am, still holding the ring. I can put it on my finger and take it off. I can put it down and walk away from it. I look into the mirror and my eyes are still dark brown.
Nothing has changed. Nothing. Not even the ring. It’s exactly the same.
It’s still hot.