"Nine million dollars."
He sat in front of me, bare-chested, hands cuffed to the chair. I jabbed my finger to his sternum.
"Why would I lie?" he said.
"Other than the obvious? You've been lying all night."
"Yeah, to him." He ticked his chin at the door where my partner had just walked out.
"Not to you."
I smirked. "So I'm special?"
"No. You're my only way out of this."
"Paul, your only way out is to give us the codes."
"Fuck yourself with the codes," he said.
I couldn't believe the balls on this guy. All night, telling Eddie and me to go fuck ourselves.
"We're gonna squeeze 'em out of you sooner or later, Paul." His left eye was already puffed shut. "We have all the time in the world."
He shook his head. "Threaten all you want. That don't change that he's playing you for a chump."
"Again with that shit?" I poked his chest. "He's my partner, you fuck. I brought him into the plan."
"Yeah, well, your ratshit partner knows exactly how much cash is inside that house. You don't. What does that tell you about your plan?"
"It tells me you don't know shit."
He chuckled. "I know more than you think."
"Okay, smart guy." I felt the slither of doubt. "What do you know that I don't?"
He glanced at the door, took a breath. "While you were out sweeping the area, your rat snake partner stopped thumping me with the phone book long enough to make me an offer: my life for the codes."
I breathed a little lighter. Good old Eddie. "That's what we do, Paul."
"Yeah, I knew the score," he said. "Told the lying prick to fuck himself. Figured he'd whoop me good for it, too. Instead, he ups the offer. Two-hundred grand to give up the codes. Says 'Me and Calloway own the rest,' like now I'm suddenly part of the team."
My stomach clenched. Calloway was Eddie's former partner, a Narcotics guy, crooked as a salesman's smile. I eyed the door, told Paul to keep talking. He lowered his voice.
"I played along, buying time, you know? Asked him why you pigs were low-ballin' me on a nine million dollar score. Bastard sneered, said I was a real piece of work, bitching about the same amount you were getting." Paul chuckled again. "That's when I knew."
My blood pressure spiked. I drew my Glock, jammed it to his forehead. "You're lying. He's my partner!"
"Yeah, and he's fucking you," Paul said. "Nine million changes people. Think about it. If you set up the score, and your cut on that kind of juice is only two hundred grand, you're either the dumbest cop alive or your source never knew about the second vault."
That's when it hit me. "What?"
"Yeah," he said. "Two vaults. Old man Boyd was a paranoid prick. Built a sub-basement. You might've brought your boy into the plan, but someone wised him up along the way."
I felt the room spin. Calloway. I lowered the Glock, took a breath. It was the dead of night. We were in a bamboo shack, in the middle of a sugarcane field. In the distance, I heard the faint stab and pitch of Eddie's shovel. With Calloway in play, I suddenly wondered how many holes my partner was digging.
My decision was easy. Paul was the only man alive who knew the codes to the vault, vaults, beneath the Alabama House. I forced a smile, dangled the handcuff key and offered him the deal of his life.
Eddie strolled in, wiping dirt from his hands. Paul remained in the chair, arms behind him, head down. I flashed Eddie my pearly whites, held up a scrap paper with the codes and said, "Got 'em." As I walked out, I patted my partner on the shoulder and said, "Kill that motherfucker."
On cue, Paul stood, swung my throw-down piece from behind him and banged three rounds into Eddie's chest. When rat-shit Eddie dropped I walked back in, smiled at Paul, then shot him in the head with the Glock.
Nine million dollars. It changes people.
CHRIS PIMENTAL is a former international under cover investigator who has been read in D.Z. Allen's Muzzle Flash, Powder Burn Flash, Web Digest Weekly and Demolition Magazine. He Currently runs the webzine BAD THINGS.
*"The Doublecross" was first printed in Out of the Gutter 4, and was the all-time comment-getting champion on Muzzle Flash before that.