Stealing Sins- Part 5

by Jerry A. Sierra

The heart wants what the heart wants...

When the time to do the crime arrives, the prevailing winds turn out to be less than generous.

On Thursday evening I go through my routine as planned and I’m ready to go. At 2:45 am I get a text message from Hector; “Chico arrested, fight with wife. Be ready tomorrow.”


across the street

Tomorrow finally comes, but my Sony alarm is set for “weekdays” and this is technically Saturday. I wake up when the text message arrives at 2:45 am. It reads: “Afghanistan Banana Stamp.” I dress in a hurry and run out to the waiting truck.

Hector offers me a little of his coffee and I take it. Chico feels really bad about yesterday, but it was that bitch’s fault, and he really didn’t mean to punch that cop. Really. (I believe him. He wouldn’t do such a thing without reason.)

We get there, but there’s a party at the Speakeasy across the street, and various cars and people wonder about with cigarettes and other smoke-ables. Even worse, parked right in front of the Sultry Sins mural is a 2-door sedan in which amorous activities of an urgent nature are taking place.

Across the street, five apartment windows have their lights on. You’d think it was 11 p.m.

The job is cancelled for today.

As we drive to Sparky’s (on Church near Market) to talk things over and have some pie, I experience the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief in asynchronous order, with the anger portion popping in repeatedly between denial and bargaining, then between bargaining and depression, with acceptance nowhere in sight.

The mood is somber at best, but Chico pushes a button on the truck’s vintage CD player and I’m surprised to hear Bruce Springsteen’s Drive All Night… I have nothing against The Boss, although he’s not on my recurring playlist, but the song has an appropriate healing effect.

Then Chico ruins the moment. “Do you know who that is?” He points the question at me, the youngest in the crew by almost a decade. Asshole. As if he hadn’t been the one to frak things up.

I just say “yes.”


After some pie we settle on next Tuesday to go again. But our lucky Tuesday never arrives, as the scaffolding appears around the building by Monday, blocking our mural, changing the whole complexion of the job and complicating the variables beyond our level of preparation and planning.

This is the classic end-of-act-three stumbling block, and I wonder what Danny Ocean would do.

Monday night we have a shot of Havana Club Rum before strolling down to the mural for more recon. Chico’s with us, and being back in action seems to agree with him. He’s very apologetic about screwing up the job by going to jail… but “the heart wants what the heart wants…” which seems rational without anyone having any idea what it really means. He remembers where my refrigerator is and helps clear out some space in case I decide to buy some food.

The job is still doable, but it will take longer to safely remove the panels. In fact, some panels are already damaged by the work of setting up the scaffolding. It is such an ugly sight that I can’t bear to describe it now. But luckily, the main face is not touched.

I am rage incarnate. Those mother-ffff-frakers!

It suddenly seems proper to chase down everyone of the workers responsible and executing each of them with a laser/ray gun like the ones the alien invaders had in Invaders From Mars (the one with Jack Nicholson as President)… but that’s childish… those guns don’t even exist. Instead we’d hunt them down one by one into a dark alley; the three of us side by side blasting two pistol-loads each into their torsos to the prophetic sounds of Jethro Tull which mysteriously fills the night; “The poet and the wise man stand… behind the gun, behind the gun.” BLAM, BLAM, BLAM. “And signal to the crack of dawn, light the sun…” BLAM, BLAM, BLAM. “Light the sun!” Our six-shooters magically discharge 12 rounds a piece as the wind blows our capes… Ok, no capes.

Back in reality, the job is getting more complicated each minute, but like DeNiro and Brando in The Score, we chose to proceed. The scaffolding legs, and one bar going across, would prevent us from removing the mural as planned, we’d have to let it fall on its back inside the building, and then we’d have to turn it over to remove the right-side panel… with all the debris and construction materials, the potential for damage is high. And now there isn’t even enough space on the sidewalk.

What would Danny Ocean do? What would Neil McCauley and Nick Wells do?

Rather than allowing the mural to fall back, face up into the building, I feared we’d have to remove the right-side panel while it is standing, which would not be easy, as the panels are 10 feet tall and difficult to handle. We’d have to lean it against something… more of a challenge than you may realize, given the many bolts and screws sticking half way out of the back panels.

Chico said we could remove the one bar going across from one scaffold leg to the other, and still push the mural panels outward, but the thought of thousands of pounds of steel and wood coming down on us in the middle of the night was immediately disagreeable. And the noise would probably wake the neighbors.

Chico assures us this would never happen now that the scaffold is securely in place. But Hector and I are skeptical, thinking that guilt may have fired up Chico’s optimism. The presence of the scaffold increases the possibility of damaging the surface area (even without the bar going across), and that violates my rule: do not damage the mural’s surface.

The job is put on hold temporarily, and we begin to work out the problems one by one. The scaffolding gives us anonymity, but it increases the time it will take to safely detach the mural, and the possibility that a policeman on patrol would wonder by and ruin the party, maybe thinking we’re stealing copper wiring or something like that.

“But you have such a fine criminal mind...”