Pivot to the Money


Before the pandemic, they’d bipped cars along the Embarcadero.

“Why drive all the way out there?” asked Sam.

“Tourists.  Think locals leave laptops on the passenger seat?” 

Ron cased, signaling when he spotted something good.  Ron’d cross the street and switch to lookout while Sam busted the window with a spark plug.

They earned 300 for laptops, 200 for cameras, and 100 for phones.

Then the pandemic hit.  No more tourists, no more easy grabs. 

Ron said they had to be like the tech guys on his podcasts.

“Gotta pivot,” said Ron. 

Ron said they’d do garages.

“Why not hit houses?” asked Sam.

“Dogs and alarms,” said Ron.  “Garages just got stuff.”

Ron watched YouTube videos, then bought a drill.

They drove down the avenues until they found the house. 

“Cindy got fired from PG&E.  Says this guy uses more juice than the whole block,” said Ron.

Sam stared blankly.

“Grow house,” said Ron.  “Cash and plants.”

The house had pop out windows in a half circle above a wooden garage.  Recently painted.  Nice shrubs.

Ron’d shown Sam how to work the drill, and where to place the holes.  After drilling, Ron practiced threading a folded-over wire hanger through the top hole, bent into a tight V at the top, creating a hook.  He’d look through the bottom hole, guiding the wire hanger to the emergency pull cord dangling from the gearbox.

One pull, and the garage switched to manual.

Outside at two a.m. surrounded by San Francisco fog, it took longer than planned.  Sam’d practiced drilling on leftover plywood, Ron dangling a cord with a cork tied to it.  A dark residential neighborhood was different.  Despite the cold, both of them were sweating.

But the avenues were slow, particularly at night.  They were far enough out, Ron could smell the ocean inside the fog.  On a clear night, the sky would’ve been filled with stars. 

“Got it,” said Ron, tugging down on the wire hanger.

There was a thud inside the garage as a long piece of metal detached from the gearbox.

Sam reached down with gloved hands, pulling up on the base of the garage.  It creaked open, echoing in the darkness.  Ron looked over his shoulder, seeing only parked cars.  There were no lights on in the houses lining the street.

“Close the garage before turning on your headlamp,” whispered Ron.

They bent at the waist to enter the half-open garage.  The space felt strangely colder than the fog-lined street, and Sam felt claustrophobic as he pulled the door closed behind them.

Sam clicked on his headlamp, sending a thick beam of light directly into Ron’s face.

“Damn it!” said Ron, voice echoing along the concrete walls. 

Ron clicked on his light, and Sam raised his finger to his lips. 

They turned, illuminating the expansive garage.  There was a long, built-in steel bench along the right wall, above which dozens of gleaming drills and saws hung on pegboard, each tool outlined with white.

“Jackpot,” said Ron.  “Get the bag.”

Sam removed a gimlet and jigsaw, tossing them into a nylon duffle. 

“All these tools, no wood,” muttered Sam. 

“Hear vibrating?” asked Ron, walking to the back of the garage. 

The hum came from six large cubes, covered with tan canvas.

“Grow boxes?” asked Sam.

“Doesn’t smell like weed,” said Ron. 

Sam tugged the canvas, revealing six white deep freezers.

“Probably a hunter,” said Ron. 

“Hunters got guns,” said Sam. 

“Guns sell,” said Ron.

Sam stared at Ron.

“After the garage, we hit the house,” said Ron.

“What about dogs?  Alarms?” asked Sam. 

“Gotta go where the money is.  Gotta pivot,” said Ron.

Ron snagged a crowbar from the pegboard, turning towards the house. 

A padlock glinted under Sam’s headlamp.

“Why lock a freezer?” asked Sam.

“Hiding something expensive,” said Ron.

Ron forced the crowbar between the shackle and crossbar.  One yank, and the crossbar clanged to the floor.

“Open it,” said Ron.

Sam lifted the freezer’s lid, immediately gagging.  The freezer overflowed with frostbitten feet and hands. 

A shotgun racked in the darkness, and a deep voice filled the garage.

“Think those tools belong to a carpenter?” 

Ron pivoted, but the garage was shut tight. 

~ fin ~


Colin Alexander is an attorney and writer living in San Francisco. He’s previously been published in The Molotov Cocktail, Shotgun Honey, The Arcanist, and Havok, writing crime fiction, science fiction, and horror. While he has written for money in the past, he now primarily writes for revenge.