The Escape

 

bleak

© Sue Vincent

“Are you out of your mind, Jake? If we get caught here, they’ll add ten years to our sentences.”

“Relax, Hubie. We won’t get caught. Now get off your lazy butt and help me drag the raft higher on the rocks. We’ve got to get it in undercover.”

Jacob “Jake” Falco and Hubert “Hubie” Pavoni had both been sent up for twenty years to life for their part in the largest bank heist of the 20th century. Three guards and two hostages were killed during the shootout and only Jake and Hubie got away long enough to hide the $10 million in cash they’d made off with. That was six years ago, and they were still the only two men alive who knew where to find a fortune.

“Okay, Jake. We’ve got the raft and supplies under this outcropping, so it can’t be spotted from the air and sure as hell no one’s going to step foot in this place except crazy people like us.”

“That’s the beauty of my plan, Hubie.” Jake was smiling, he was always smiling. He was grinning ear to ear when he shot that teller, she couldn’t have been more than twenty, and the railroad worker whose only mistake was to be in the bank depositing his paycheck when The Costanzo Gang walked in to knock over the joint. He was just trying to protect the girl.

Jake put his hand on Hubie’s shoulder. “Point Lobos…hell, all of San Francisco is a protected reserve. Has been ever since the ’06 quake flattened the whole city what…thirty-five years ago? Anyway, since it’s illegal for even Park Rangers to step one foot inside, anyone looking for us won’t be able to search here. We’ll just lay low for a few weeks until the heat’s off.”

“Rock outcropping will hide the raft but what about us? I’m freezing.”

“Grab some of the supplies we lifted from the prison larder Hubie and follow me.”

The two escaped cons each pulled a large burlap sack behind him as they climbed the unrelenting and unforgiving rock, so much like The Rock from which they’d escaped late last night. Finally, they reached the top. Jake walked west toward the ocean and that’s when Hubie saw it.

“That? We’re going to stay in that? It’s just a hunk of cement. We’ll freeze our butts off.”

Jake kept walking but looked back at Hubie who had stopped, aghast at this latest development.

“Will you come on? We’ve got sleeping bags. We’ll be warm enough and the food’ll hold out. I tell you, it’s a perfect plan.”

Hubie reluctantly started walking again, sometimes stumbling over the uneven ground. Finally they reached the bare cement shelter and both men collapsed on the floor.

“What is this place, Jake? How’d you know it was here?”

Jake didn’t answer right away. He was still breathing heavy from a night of rowing their makeshift raft in the waters of San Francisco Bay and then past the Golden Gate into the Pacific, not to mention the effort of climbing up the rocks.

“I told you. Point Lobos in San Francisco National Park.”

“I mean this.” Hubie waved his arm around indicating their immediate surroundings.

“Used to be a shelter for Jap and Chink fishermen and whalers, oh about fifty, sixty years ago. One of the few structures that didn’t either burn to the ground or get flattened into dust during the big quake.”

“How you know all this?”

alcatraz

Alcatraz Federal Prison as it appeared in the 1930s.

“Because I’m not an idiot like you, Hubie. Alcatraz has a library. I minded my Ps and Qs and got made a trustee, remember? I figured if we was gonna escape, we’d need a plan so I read up on this place. We bribed that guard Fitzpatrick with the cigarettes we hoarded and stoled from other cons so he’d leave the supply room unlocked. That’s how we got enough food to last us and where I got the stuff to make the raft.”

“You was always smart, Jake. I’ll give you that. But I still feel creepy being here. Like the ghosts of all those dead people are gonna haunt us.”

“You’re a superstitious idiot Hubie but I love ya like a brother. I promise we’ll get out of this. Once the cops ease off the search, we’ll beat it out of here, pick up the loot, and get our butts to Mexico.”

“Gee, that’s a long way, Jake. You sure we can make it?”

“I know a guy in Santa Cruz. If we can get that far, for the right price, he’ll smuggle us south and then across the border. Then we’ll be home free. I tell ya Hubie, with that kind of dough, down in Mexico, we’ll live like kings.”

“What about Eddie Costanzo? He’s gonna skin us alive if we take his money and run.”

“His money? Ha! Eddie the Weasel sat it out while the rest of us took the risk. Four of our pals shot dead by the cops, the fifth, you remember Phil Bronski right? Phil was in a coma for near about a year before he cashed in. We were the only two not to get whacked and we got sent up for twenty to life. We don’t owe Costanzo a thing.”

“Maybe if we’d have told Eddie’s mouthpiece where the money was, maybe the shyster could have gotten us better sentences.”

“Nothing doing, Hubie. It’s like I said back then. If Costanzo wanted his cut, he should have gotten us a better lawyer. Then once we were free and clear, we would have all gone for the loot and split it even. The hell with him anyway. We worked hard, spent six years on The Rock. That money’s ours, Hubie. It’s yours and mine. We earned it.”

“I guess you’re right, Jake. You’re always right.”

“You bet I am. Hey, slip me one of those sleeping bags. The wind is colder than a witch’s you-know-what, Hubie.”

“Sure Jake, I…”

“What is it, Hubie?”

“You hear something, Jake? Some kind of buzzing?”

“Buzzing? What are you…wait. You’re right. What the heck is that?”

Jake and Hubie looked out the western-facing opening of their ruins and from the horizon they saw airplanes, dozens or maybe hundreds of airplanes.

“What the hell, Jake?”

“Ya got me, Hubie. Oakland has a Navy Base. Maybe they’re on maneuvers or something.”

“Hey, how about Fort McDowell? You know. On Angel Island?”

“Nah, they ain’t got an air field. They’ve got to be from Oakland.”

“They’re getting awfully close, Jake. I think they’re gonna fly right overhead.”

“Relax, Hubie. They can’t spot us in here. We’ll just sit back and watch the show.”

“You know Jake, I don’t think those planes are the Navy.”

“Why’s that…oh wait. I see what you mean.”

“Jake, what’s it mean if the wings have a big red ball on them?”

“Mean’s they’re Japanese, you dope. Those planes are from Japan. What the hell are the Japs doing way over here?”

The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor began at precisely 7:48 a.m. on Sunday, 7 December 1941. A total of 353 Japanese planes bombed and strafed Oahu in two waves. At exactly the same moment, 9:48 a.m. Pacific Time, a fleet of 487 Japanese Zeros  approached the California coast and then attacked the military installations at Fort McDowell Angel Island and the Oakland Naval Base and Shipyards.

pearl harbor

A scene from the 2001 movie “Pearl Harbor.”

In Hawaii, a total of 2,403 human beings died including military and civilian personnel. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the loss of life was nearly twice as much.

Jake Falco and Hubie Pavoni thought they were both lucky and smart to be the only two men to have escaped the infamous Alcatraz alive. They were just waiting for the heat to blow over before collecting their hidden 10 million and beating it to Mexico.

What happened instead was that they became the first two people on the American mainland to witness the beginning of World War II.

I wrote this for the Thursday photo prompt – Bleak – #writephoto hosted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. The idea is to use the photo prompt at the top of the page to craft a short piece of fiction or other written work and then leave a “pingback” on Sue’s blog.

When I saw the photo, it vaguely reminded me of Point Lobos which lies at one of the western most points of San Francisco. However, it wasn’t close enough to pass for the real thing, so I decided to change history.

First, I made the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and the subsequent fires a lot worse, so bad in fact, that the entire city was leveled and no one wanted to rebuild. So it was made a national preserve and designated off limits. That explains the relatively bleak environment and it would make a perfect hideout for two cons who had just pulled off a miracle escape from Alcatraz.

What I wrote about the shelter for Japanese and Chinese fishermen at Point Lobos is basically true. The Whalers Cabin was a building constructed in the 1850s to house Japanese and Chinese fishermen and was also used by the Carmel Whaling Company from 1862 to 1884 and by the Japanese Whaling Company from 1898 to 1900. Today, a museum stands on the site.

Also, Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay, now a State Park and tourist attraction, used to house the Fort McDowell Army Base. If you visit today, you can still see the ruins of the Fort. You can take bicycles on the ferry to the abandoned fort and ride the trail that runs along the island’s parameter.

I significantly tweaked history again to allow the Japanese to attack both Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area simultaneously (there’s a two-hour difference between Hawaii and California time). In real life, this would likely have been impossible, but I figured since it was my story, what the heck.

Oh, in January 1935, the Manhattan Company was robbed of $1.5 Million which today would be worth $25.6 Million. I figured if I upped it to 10 Million in 1935 dollars, it would be a king’s ransom, especially to Jake and Hubie. Of course, in my alternate history, they probably knocked over a bank in Oakland rather than New York and stashed the loot nearby if they expected to quickly lay their hands on it on their way south.

If you took exception to how Jake referred to Japanese and Chinese people, that’s probably how he would have thought and spoken within the context of the story.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit Thursday photo prompt – Bleak – #writephoto

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