On the morning of July 21, a Saturday, Molly McNamara drove Bud Schwartz and Danny Pogue to the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills for the purpose of burglarizing the office of Francis X. Kingsbury.
"All you want is files?" asked Bud Schwartz.
"As many as you can fit in the camera bag," Molly said. "Anything to do with Falcon Trace."
Danny Pogue, who was sitting in the back seat of the El Dorado, leaned forward and said, "Suppose there's some other good stuff. A tape deck or a VCR, maybe some crystal. Is it okay we grab it?"
"No, it is not," Molly replied. "Not on my time."
She parked in the Cindy-the-Sun-Queen lot and left the engine running. The radio was tuned to the classical station, and Bud Schwartz asked if Molly could turn it down a notch or two. She went searching through her immense handbag and came out with a Polaroid camera. Without saying a word, she snapped a photograph of Bud Schwartz, turned halfway in the seat and snapped one of Danny Pogue. The flashbulb caused him to flinch and make a face. Molly plucked the moist negatives from the slot in the bottom of the camera and slipped them into the handbag.
"What's that all about?" said Danny Pogue.
"In case you get the itch to run away," Molly McNamara said, "I'd feel compelled to send your photographs to the authorities. They are still, I understand, quite actively investigating the theft of the mango voles."
"Pictures," said Bud Schwartz. "That's cute."
Molly smiled pleasantly and told both men to listen closely. "I rented you a blue Cutlass. It's parked over by the tram station. Here are the keys."
Bud Schwartz put them in his pocket. "Something tells me we won't be cruising down to Key West."
"Not if you know what's good for you," Molly said.
Danny Pogue began to whine again. "Ma'am, I don't know nothin" about stealing files," he said. "Now I'm a regular bear for tape decks and Camcorders and shit like that, but frankly I don't do much in the way of, like, reading. It's just not my area."
Molly said, "You'll do fine. Get in, grab what you can and get out."
"And hope that nobody recognizes us from before." Bud Schwartz arched his eyebrows. "What happens then? Or didn't you think of that."
Molly chuckled lightly. "Don't be silly. No one will recognize you dressed the way you are."
She had bought them complete golfing outfits, polyester down to the matching socks. Danny Pogue's ensemble was raspberry red and Bud Schwartz's was baby blue. The pants were thin and baggy; the shirts had short sleeves and loud horizontal stripes and a tiny fox stitched on the left breast.
Bud Schwartz said, "You realize we look like total dipshits."
"No, you look like tourists."
"It's not that bad," agreed Danny Pogue.
"Listen," Molly said again. "When you're done with the job, get in the Cutlass and come straight back to my place. The phone will ring at one sharp. If you're not there, I'm going directly to the post office and mail these snapshots to the police, along with your names. Do you believe me?"
"Yeah, sure," said Bud Schwartz.
She got out of the Cadillac and opened the doors for the burglars. "How is your hand?" she asked Bud Schwartz. "Better let your friend carry the camera bag."
She held Danny Pogue's crutch (mending quickly, he was down to one) while he slipped the camera bag over his right shoulder. "The tram's coming," she announced. "Better get moving."
As the men hobbled away, Molly called out cheerfully and waved good-bye, as if she were their mother, or a loving old aunt.
With a trace of fondness, Danny Pogue said, "Look at her."
"Look at us," said Bud Schwartz. "Real fucking pros."
"Well, at least it's for a good cause. You know, saving them butterflies."
Bud Schwartz eyed his partner in a clinical way. "Danny, you ever had a CAT scan?"
The burglars were huffing pretty heavily by the time they made it to the tram. They climbed on the last car, along with a family of nine from Minneapolis. Every one of them had sandy hair and Nordic-blue eyes and eyebrows so blond they looked white in the sunlight.
A little girl of about seven turned to Danny Pogue and asked what had happened to his foot.
"I got shot," he said candidly.
The little girl flashed a glance at her mother, whose eyes widened.
"A tetanus shot," said Bud Schwartz. "He stepped on a rusty nail."
The mother's eyes softened with relief. "Where are you from?" she asked the men.
"Portugal," said Danny Pogue, trying to live up to the tourist act.
"Portugal, Ohio," Bud Schwartz said, thinking: There is no hope for this guy; he simply can't be allowed to speak.
The tiny blond girl piped up: "We heard on the radio that the whale died yesterday. Orky the whale."
"Oh no," said Danny Pogue. "You sure?"
The tram rolled to a stop in front of the main gate, where the burglars got off. Nodding good-bye to the blond Minneapolitans, Bud Schwartz and Danny Pogue slipped into the throng and located the shortest line at the ticket turnstiles.
In a gruff tone, Bud Schwartz said, "Portugal? What kind of fuckhead answer is that?"
"I don't know, Bud. I don't know a damn thing about tourists or where they come from."
"Then don't say anything, you understand?" Bud Schwartz got out the money that Molly had given them to buy the admission tickets. He counted out thirty-six dollars and handed the cash to his partner.
"Just hold up one finger, that's all you gotta do," said Bud Schwartz. "One finger means one ticket. Don't say a goddamn thing."
"All right," Danny Pogue said. "Man, I can't believe the whale croaked, can you?"
"Shut up," said Bud Schwartz. "I'm not kidding."
Danny Pogue didn't seem the least bit nervous about returning to the scene of their crime. To him the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills was a terrific place, and he strutted around with a permanent grin. Bud Schwartz thought: He's worse than these damn kids.
Outside the Magic Mansion, Danny Pogue stopped to shake hands with Petey Possum. A tourist lady from Atlanta took a photograph, and Danny Pogue begged her to send him a copy. At this point Bud Schwartz considered ditching the dumb shit altogether and pulling the job alone.
Golf duds and all, Bud Schwartz was antsy about being back on the premises so soon after" the rat-napping; it went against his long-standing aversion to dumb risk. He wanted to hurry up and get the hell out.
It wasn't easy locating Francis X. Kingsbury's office because it didn't appear on any of the colorful maps or diagrams posted throughout the amusement park. Bud Schwartz and Danny Pogue checked closely; there was the Cimarron Trail Ride, Orky's Undersea Paradise, the Wet Willy, the Jungle Jerry Amazon Boat Cruise, Bigfoot Mountain, Excitement Boulevard, and so on, with no mention of the administration building. Bud Schwartz decided Kingsbury's headquarters must be somewhere in the geographic center of the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills, and for security reasons probably wasn't marked.
"Why don't we ask somebody?" Danny Pogue suggested.
"Very smart," said Bud Schwartz. "I got a better idea. Why don't we just paint the word 'thief' in big red letters on our goddamn foreheads?"
Danny Pogue wasn't sure why his partner was in such a lousy mood. The Kingdom was awesome, fantastic, sensational. Everywhere they went, elves and fairy princesses and happy animal characters waved or shook hands or gave a hug.
"I never seen so much friendliness," he remarked.
"It's the crutch," said Bud Schwartz.
"It's the damn crutch, I'm tellin' you. They're only being nice because they got to, Danny. Anytime there's a customer on crutches, they make a special point. You know, in case he's dying a some fatal disease."
Danny Pogue said, "You go to hell."
"Ten bucks says it's right in the training manual."
"Bud, I swear to God."
"Gimme the crutch and I'll prove it."
Danny Pogue said, "You're the one's always on my ass about attitude. And now just listen to yourself – all because people're actin' nice to me and not to you."
"That's not it," said Bud Schwartz, but when he turned around his partner was gone. He found him on line at the Wild Bill Hiccup rodeo ride; Danny Pogue had stashed his crutch in the men's room and was determined to give Wild Bill Hiccup a go. Bud Schwartz was tired of bickering.
The ride was set up in an indoor corral that had been laboriously fabricated, from the brown-dyed dirt to the balsa fence posts to the polyethylene cowshit that lay in neat regular mounds, free of flies. Twenty-five mechanical bulls (only the horns were real) jumped and bucked on hidden tracks while a phony rodeo announcer described the action through a realistically tinny megaphone.
During this particular session, the twenty-five bulls were mounted by twenty-three tourists and two professional crooks. Before the ride began, Bud Schwartz leaned over to Danny Pogue and told him to be sure and fall off.
"You heard me. And make it look good."
When the bell rang, Bud Schwartz hung on with his good hand and bounced back and forth for maybe a minute without feeling anything close to excitement. Danny Pogue, however, was launched almost instantly from the sponge hump of his motorized Brahma – a tumble so spectacular that it brought three Company Cowpokes out of the bronco chute at a dead run. They surrounded Danny Pogue, measured his blood pressure, palpated his ribs and abdomen, listened to his heart, shined a light in his eyeballs and finally shoved a piece of paper under his nose.
"Why don't you put your name on this, li'l pardner?" said one of the Cowpokes.
Danny Pogue examined the document, shook his head and handed it to Bud Schwartz for interpretation.
"Release of liability," Bud Schwartz said. He looked up with a dry smile. "This means we can't sue, right?"
"Naw," said the solicitous Cowpoke. "All it means is your buddy's not hurt."
"Says who?" said Bud Schwartz. "Bunch a dumb cowboy shit-kickers. Thanks, but I think we'll try our luck with an actual doctor."
The Cowpokes didn't look so amiable anymore, or so Western. In fact, they were starting to look like pissed-off Miami insurance men. Danny Pogue got to his feet, dusted off his butt and said, "Hell, Bud, it's my fault anyhow – "
"Not another word." Bud Schwartz seized his partner by the elbow, as if to prop him up. Then he announced to the Cowpokes: "We'd like to file a complaint about this ride. Where exactly is the administration office?"
The Cowpoke in charge of the blood-pressure cuff said, "It's closed today."
"Then we'll come back Monday," said Bud Schwartz. "Where is the office, please?"
"Over Sally's Saloon," the Cowpoke answered. "Upstairs, ask for Mr. Dexter in Risk Management."
"And he'll be in Monday?"
"Nine sharp," muttered the Cowpoke.
The other tourists watched curiously as Bud Schwartz led Danny Pogue haltingly out of the corral. By this time the Wild Bill Hiccup attraction had come to a complete and embarrassing stop (a man with a sprocket wrench had beheaded Danny Pogue's bull), and Bud Schwartz wanted to depart the arena before his partner spoiled the plan by saying something irretrievably stupid.
Into Danny Pogue's ear he said, "You're doing fine."
"It wasn't on purpose."
"Yeah, I had a feeling."
As they watched Danny Pogue's genuine hobble, the three Cowpokes from Risk Management began to worry that they might have missed something during their quickie medical exam.
One of them called out: "Hey, how about a wheelchair?"
Without turning around, Bud Schwartz declined the offer with the wave of an arm.
"No thanks, li'l pardner," he called back.
The same tool that picked the lock on Francis X. Kingsbury's office did the job on the rosewood file cabinet.
"So now what?" Danny Pogue said.
"We read." Bud Schwartz divided the files into two stacks. He showed his partner how to save time by checking the index labels.
"Anything to do with banks and property, put it in the bag. Also, anything that looks personal."
"What about Falcon Trace?" asked Danny Pogue. "That's what Mrs. McNamara said to get."
They used pocket flashlights to examine the files because Bud Schwartz didn't want to turn on the lights in Kingsbury's office. They were on the third floor of the administration building, above Sally's Cimarron Saloon. Through the curtains Bud Schwartz could watch the Wild West show on the dusty street below. Tourists shrieked as two scruffy bank robbers suddenly opened fire on the sheriff; bloodied, the sheriff managed to shoot both bandits off their horses as they tried to escape. The tourists cheered wildly. Bud Schwartz grunted and said, "Now there's a job for you. Fallin" off horses."
Sitting on the floor amid Kingsbury's files, Danny Pogue looked orphaned. He said, "I know lawyers that couldn't make sense a this shit." He couldn't take his eyes off a portable Canon photocopier: seventy-five bucks, staring him in the face.
"We'll give it an hour," said Bud Schwartz, but it didn't take him that long to realize that his partner was right. The files were impenetrable, stuffed with graphs and pie charts and computer printouts that meant nothing to your average break-in artist. The index tabs were marked with hopelessly stilted titles like "Bermuda Intercontinental Services, Inc.," and "Ramex Global Trust, N.A.," and "Jersey Premium Market Research."
Bud Schwartz arbitrarily selected the three thickest files and stuffed them in the camera bag. This would keep the old bat busy for a while.
"Look here," said Danny Pogue, holding up a thin file. "Credit cards."
The index tab was marked "Personal Miscellany." Inside was a folder from the American Express Company that listed all the activity on Francis X. Kingsbury's Platinum Card for the previous twelve months. Bud Schwartz's expression warmed as he skimmed the entries.
Reading over his shoulder, Danny Pogue said. "The guy sure knows how to eat."
"He knows how to buy jewelry, too." Bud Schwartz pointed at some large numbers. "Look here."
"Yeah," said Danny Pogue, catching on. "I wonder where he keeps it, all that jewelry."
Bud Schwartz slipped Kingsbury's American Express folder into the camera bag. "This one's for us," he told his partner. "Don't show the old lady unless I say so."
Danny Pogue said, "I heard a that place in New York. Cartier's." He pronounced it "Car-teer's." "That's some expensive shit they sell."
"You bet," said Bud Schwartz. Another thin file had caught his attention. He opened it on his lap, using his good hand to hold the flashlight while he read. The file contained Xeroxed copies of numerous old newspaper clippings, and three or four letters from somebody at the U.S. Department of Justice. The letterhead was embossed, and it felt important.
"Jesus," said Bud Schwartz, sizing things up.
"What is it?"
He thrust the file at Danny Pogue. "Put this in the damn bag, and let's get going."
Danny Pogue peered at the index tab and said, "So what does it mean?"
"It means we're gonna be rich, li'l pardner."
Danny Pogue contemplated the name on the file folder. "So how do you pronounce it anyway?"
"Gotti," said Bud Schwartz. "Rhymes with body."