Thieves Get Rich, Saints Get Shot - By Jodi Compton


Fans of musical theater will recognize the title of this book as adapted from a lyric in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. So will viewers of the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was where I heard it quoted and loved it.

Hailey’s Latin and Spanish are taken from my own studies of those languages. Thanks, though, to copy editor Maureen Sugden for catching an error in my Latin late in the editing process.


“It’s me. Hailey.”

“I know.”

“I thought maybe something was wrong with your voice mail. I left you a message, and you never called back.… Well, listen, I’m coming home to L.A.”

“Is that right.”

“I … CJ, what’s wrong? Are you pissed because I left town without saying good-bye? I wanted to, it’s just—”

“Why would that piss me off, Hailey? Feel free to come and go as you please. Go down to Mexico and nearly get yourself killed, then come back and tell me nothing.”

“Where did you hear about that?”

“You showed your mother the scars from where you got shot. She told my mother about it, who told me. It’s great hearing this stuff thirdhand, by the way. It’s not like you and me mean anything to each other.”

“You mean everything to me, dammit. It’s just that … it’s complicated.”

“Your life is complicated because you make it complicated. If it ever gets simple, you’ll go out and recomplicate it by any means necessary.”

“That’s not fair. You don’t know what happened.”

“Whose fault is that?”

“I kept you out of it because I was trying to protect you.”

“Yeah? Let me make that easy on you, then. I don’t want to see you when you get back into town. Don’t call me, don’t come around my place. Understand?”

“CJ …”

“Do you understand?”

I’ve been slow to realize it, but a lot of what’s happened in the past four months has to do with my cousin CJ and the conversation I had with him on New Year’s Eve, just days after losing one of my fingers—and nearly my life—to a mobster’s hired thugs. Since then my behavior has not been unimpeachable. Impeachable would be a very fair word to describe my actions. Or maybe acting out, as the psychologists say.

But the Good Friday killings, as the media is calling them, I had nothing to do with those. Because at the time I was over four hundred miles away, committing an entirely different crime.

a day in the life


good friday/early april

You never realize how few stars pierce through the light-leached night sky over Los Angeles until you get out of the city. Way out. That’s where I was tonight, at a little past eleven, in the desert on the edge of a lonely secondary highway near a railroad crossing, straddling my motorcycle and looking up at the sky. About the only thing I recognized in the dazzling treasure chest above me was the arched three-star handle of the partially visible Big Dipper.

Experts say that my generation can recognize, on average, two to three constellations and six to seven species of trees but over a thousand corporate logos. Supposedly a lot of us also can’t find America on a world map, either.

I say, does it really matter whether Americans can find America on a map? What are we afraid of, that people will go to Canada and not be able to find their way back?

In my prior life as a sincere person, I would have gotten really bent out of shape about young Americans’ geographic illiteracy. Not anymore. A lot of those teenagers who can’t find the USA on a map can tell you, block by block, which gangs control which territory in their part of town, where it’s safe to walk and where it’s not. That’s what keeps them from getting killed. Nobody they know has ever been shot for not finding the United States on a map. People know what they need to know.

I know, for example, that there isn’t much out here in the desert except, about four miles east, the laboratories of a major pharmaceutical company. And I know that the company’s delivery drivers are instructed to stop, like school buses do, at the railroad crossing. My reconnaissance on a previous night suggests that nearly all of them do. By the time they cross the point where I am now, they’re lumbering back up to twenty or twenty-five miles per hour, a manageable speed at which to have a blowout. And one of them is definitely going to have one.

That was why I’d come