Monday, January 5, 2015

Road Block - Week 1 of 52round2

Today is turning out to be a truly fine day.  It not only began headed in the right direction, but it is going to end up as one of the best, at least, in my book.  It is a day for ridding myself of unwanted baggage and suffocating dead weight and embracing an unencumbered fresh new beginning chapter in my life.

My day had begun, as so many had recently, wondering where I had gone wrong.  My lady love and I, with the assistance of her supposedly long-lost younger brother, with whom she had been recently reunited, had planned to pull off our sweetest heist ever.  It wouldn't take a lot of planning beforehand since it wasn’t exactly Fort Knox.  It was a rinky-dink bank in a rinky-dink town with one rinky-dink manager, and his daughter as the only teller.  The security guard, if you want to call him that, was the manager’s older brother - and I do mean older, who napped more than he guarded.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, why bother with a losing proposition like that.  What could the take in a heap like that amount to?  Well, you really cannot judge a book by its cover.  In the hills surrounding that nowhere burg were mines of something or other.  Now, that, in and of itself, matters not a hoot.  What does matter a hoot and a half is the fact that loads of miners work those holes and some big-name corporation pays each and every one of them in cold hard cash.  None of them are dumb enough to live in the area, but the company sets up camps for them to stay in for the couple of months they work.  I heard those camps are set up to give the workers a decent place to sleep, food, doctors and nurses, entertainment, and whatever else they might need.

The kicker comes in where their pay day is concerned.  The money is sent in by armored truck to the local bank, and it is locked up and held until one crew is done with their part and a new crew is brought in.  The ones who have completed their time collect their cash and go home.  Then, another crew is brought in and a couple of months later, their pay is delivered, and so on.  I never did find out why they can’t work more than a couple of months at a time, but it’s probably because it’s illegal or hazardous to their health or something like that.  It makes no difference to me.  All I cared about was snatching one bundle of pay, and that’s where Savannah and Buster come in.

I first met Savannah, her real name is Beatrice, in one of those Dime-A-Dance joints out East.  I don’t want you to think I’ve ever been desperate for a date, because that never happened, but sometimes you just get tired of all the phony flash and sparkle and you look for something real.  Yeah, okay, that does sound like a load of crap and that’s because it is.  I was hard-up for company and I thought, how bad can those dames be anyway.  Well, let me tell you, most of them can be really hard on the eyes, but there was this one gal sitting by herself in a corner.  It was dark in there, but even so, she didn’t look as old and used up as the rest, so I went over and asked her if she wanted to cha-cha with me.  She told me she wasn’t a very good dancer, and that’s when I fell head-over-heels.

Here she was, putting up a false front, working in a dance place and she couldn’t dance to save her life.  I knew we’d make beautiful music together.  I asked her if she wanted to join me in a life of crime and she smiled that crooked little smile of hers and said yes.  The reason she had a crooked little smile was because her mama, after having one too many shots of Crown Royal, had dropped her on her face and cracked her jaw.  Mom never took her to the doctor because she didn’t want to get accused of anything and end up losing her state assistance, so Beatrice’s jaw never healed right.  One of her eyes was slightly lower on her face than the other too - I think that came from another fall, but it made her look kind of dim, if you know what I mean.  She was actually kind of smart, but to look at her, you’d never know, and I really liked that about her.  I told her I was going to call her Savannah because I liked that name better and she said okay, and that’s how it all began.

We pulled jobs here and there, mostly small-time stuff, and everything was going swell until one day I came back to our rooming house after getting a haircut and found Savannah in our room, sitting on our bed, with a young guy.  To say I was surprised would be putting it mildly.  I was, in fact, extremely pissed.  Sure, it was only one room with a double bed, a toilet and a hot plate, but it was mine and so was she.  I immediately went for my .38 in the dresser and that’s when they both jumped up and started to explain.

I should clarify something here for you.  While it’s true that I did have a gun in my possession, I never used it on a job.  That’s not totally true, I did bring it with me and wave it around, but it was never loaded, and I would never shoot anybody.  I’m no killer; well, at least not before today.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  As I raised the gun, which wasn’t loaded at that time either, toward the two of them, Savannah rushed me and threw her arms around me.

“No, no, you don’t understand, Wade.  It’s not what you’re thinking.  This is my brother, my younger brother.  We haven’t seen each other in years and he saw me at the market this morning and followed me here and knocked on the door.  When I opened it and we looked into each other’s eyes, we both knew.  He’s my brother and his name is Buster.  Put the gun away, honey.”

Buster was standing there, nodding himself silly with every one of her words.  I put the gun back in the dresser drawer and put out my hand to him and he reciprocated.  Savannah proceeded to tell me that Buster was all for joining us in taking scores and he was up for anything we could offer.  I went along, for her sake, but something stuck in my craw about this whole deal.  She had told me all about her sot of a mother and her vanishing daddy, but she had never mentioned a brother or a sister or a cousin or an aunt…you get the picture.  But, what could I do?  I asked our new partner if he had any cash on him for a sandwich or two since we were almost tapped and he said sure, he’d cover lunch.

Over burgers, fries and shakes that he sprang for, I went over the plan to liberate the miners’ payload.  As I have already explained, all we pretty much had to do was walk in, wave my gun, stroll over to the open safe, and take the money.  I had already done a run-through on my own when I first heard talk of how this operation went.  One of the miners from an old crew was shooting off his mouth in a bar in the next town over from where we were temporarily staying, and I was all ears.  He rattled off the timetable of their work schedule, the specifics of their camp, the delivery of their pay and when, and how, they picked it up.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  I must have done something grand in a past life to have the heist of a lifetime dropped in my lap like that.  I decided to act on it right away though in case anyone else who got an earful got the same idea I had.

I went to the bank to talk to the manager, pretending to consider opening an account, when the truck pulled up.  Two guards came in, carrying two huge bags of money each, which they dropped at the door to the open safe, which was a bit bigger than our rooming house bathroom, tipped their hats to the manager, and left.  I kid you not.  The bags had dollar signs on them and the manager’s daughter, who was 16 if she was a day, pulled the drawstrings and opened both bags and began to giggle.  I, on the other hand, almost swallowed my tongue.

I had never seen so many packets of 20’s in my entire life, and those were real too.  I mean, they weren’t like the fake ransom packs you see in the movies.  You know, the ones where there’s real money on the top and bottom and cut up newspaper in the middle.  These were true green through and through.  I knew the workers would be in the next Friday afternoon to pick up their pay, so I decided we would hit the bank Friday morning and relieve them of all that lovely clutter.

Everything went like clockwork.  Me, Savannah and Buster walked in right after the bank opened.  There was nobody in there yet, and I pulled out my gun and girly-girly behind the counter passed out cold and her daddy told us to take whatever we wanted, just not to hurt anybody.  Buster tied him up onto his desk chair, Savannah tied up his daughter, who still hadn’t come around, and I grabbed two of the bags and took them out to the car.  When I came back in to get the other two, I got the surprise of my life.

Dear brother, Buster, punched me smack in the middle of my face right when I walked in, and I hit the deck.  It wasn’t hard enough to knock me out, but I was definitely not firing all cylinders at the time, if you get my drift.  He grabbed my hands and put them behind my back and my dear lady tied them together.  She then tied my feet together as well.  I got the impression a double cross was well on its way.  They propped me up against the wall by the door and Buster grabbed the other two bags and carried them out to the car.  Savannah knelt down beside me, put my unloaded .38 in my pocket, and delivered the final cut.

“Sorry to have to cross you up like this, sugar, but I found me a younger man and I’m going to take up with him from now on.”

“What are you talking about?”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “Younger man?  You said he was your…”

“Brother?”  She smiled that crooked little smile of hers - the one I always hated because it made her look stupid.  “He’s not my brother, he’s my new boyfriend.  You are so dumb.”

Her new boyfriend beeped the car horn.  Nothing but class.

“Gotta go,” she said, heading for the door.  “See you around.”

I saw her get in the car and give Buster a less than sisterly smooch, and they drove away.  Oh, you’ll see me around alright.  You most definitely will see me around.

Fast forward to this morning, and I won’t bore you with the details, but I was able to get out from under that caper in the blink of an eye.  I left the manager and his kid where they were and slid out of my so-called bindings.  That babe never could learn to tie a decent knot.  It didn't take too long before I found them both.  All it took was a little bit of cash in the right palms and I was practically delivered right to their front door.  They didn’t go far, even with all that haul, and they were staying in a dump across the county line.  I never did understand why she did it.  She could have been staying in a dump with me.  What did this so-called younger guy have to offer her that I didn’t already give her?  Doesn’t matter.  Not anymore.  I wish I had a camera to have a permanent record of the look on their faces when I knocked on their door.  She opened it and her bottom jaw dropped a foot and a half. I raised my gun, which was loaded for this special occasion, and pointed it at her forehead.

“Hi, sugar,” I said.  “Aren’t you going to invite me in?  Where’s your child groom, by the way?”

I decided not wait for her to welcome me with open arms, so I barged right in and closed the door behind me, and locked it.

“Oh, Buster, where are you? Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

I waited for him to come to me.  Knowing Beatrice, she was no longer a Savannah to me, she’d probably hit me over the head with a pot or a pan or something as soon as I turned my back on her.

“I’ve got a bullet for you and a bullet for my lady fair.  Do you want it first or do you want to watch me do her and save you for last?  Let’s go, Buster.  I don’t have all day.”

The moron lunged at me through the bathroom door waving a straight razor.  I shot him dead center in the chest and he dropped like a stone.  Beatrice gasped and I let her have it right between her lying eyes.  I left them where they fell.  I wasn’t in the mood to get all schmaltzy about it and put them together on the bed.  I had already had enough of those images in my head while I was hunting them down.  I looked under the mattress on a whim and sure enough, I found pack after pack of 20 dollar bills.  I took a peek just to be sure and there were no cut newspapers in any of them.  One of the bags was in the closet, so I stuffed it and put a couple of extra packs in my pocket.  They must have stashed the rest of the cash somewhere else since I couldn’t see how they would have spent all that so quickly, but you never know.  One bag’s worth would be enough to stake me for quite awhile.

I walked out just as smug as you please, right past the desk clerk, who was sipping his lunch from a bottle inside a brown paper bag.  He nodded to me and prepared to take another sip.  I felt secure that he wouldn’t be making any 911 calls any time soon.  I put the bag in my trunk and drove off to pick up the interstate, and that brings me right back around to what a wonderful day this is turning out to be.  No witnesses, no one’s coming after me, and I wasn’t even angry anymore.  Funny how getting even calms me right down.

So, I’m heading down the only road out of this no-name dump of a town toward the highway that will take me across the state line.  I considered going the other way since there were lots of trees and I figured it would be easy to disappear in there.  Before I paid my call on Beatrice and Buster, I had stopped in a diner for breakfast since I knew once I had finished with them, there probably wouldn’t be an opportunity to grab a bite any time soon.  I was talking to the waitress about that rough looking road going the other way out of town and she told me I’d be much better off going to I-94.  That’s all woods, she told me, for miles and miles and miles.  At the end of the forest, there’s a mountain, she thought.  She wasn’t altogether certain of all the terrain, but one thing she knew for sure, and that was that some folk had gone in there to see what was what and never came back.  That was good enough for me; I-94 it would be.

I’m sipping on my coffee-to-go with vanilla creamer - you don’t often find that available in small-town diners, when I find myself coming up to the on-ramp of my made-to-order escape route.  What the Hell?  There’s a squad car sitting sideways across the ramp, lights and sirens off, with a cop leaning against the side of the car, smoking.  I looked up at the sky and it was clear and sunny.  So, why is mine the only parade being rained on today?  I decide to slow down a bit to get my bearings and happen to look in the rear view mirror.  No way.  Coming up slowly behind me, no lights or sirens either, is the only police car with the only cop that nothing town I just left has.  I say again, what the Hell?

How could they know and radio ahead so quickly?  I just left minutes ago, and that clerk was so lit on Crown Royal, he couldn’t have identified me with a Mr. Potato game kit.  A cop ahead of me and a cop behind me and no other cars on the road.  What did they do, seal off the town too?  All I did was rid the world of a couple of low-down two-timing double-crossers and they plan such a formal reception for me.  It isn’t like I’m some big shot gangster or international spy.  I’m nobody.  I’m Wade Schupp, originally from somewhere down in Florida, who’s just trying to get by.  I had to take them both down; anybody would have.  You can’t just let people do you like that and walk away from it.  Reputation matters.  Whether anyone else knew they crossed me doesn’t matter.  I knew and I would always know.  What choice did I have?

I’m getting closer and closer to the ramp and the end of the road for me.  Come to think of it, this is a death penalty state.  There aren’t too many of those left, you know, but this one still delivers the deadly cocktail with a dull needle.  There is no way I’m going out that way.  Since I can’t get by and I can’t turn around, I guess I’ll just have to make my last stand right here and now.  If I’m going out, I’m taking the money with me.  No way am I going to let them get their hands on one penny of it.  Cops never turn all the stuff in they find at crime scenes, I’m sure of it.  Whatever they can pocket, I’m sure gets stuffed down deep.  Who’s going to check that all the evidence is there anyway, their partner?  They’re all in it together - Blue Wall and all that.  Well, you’re not going to get a Miami condo on Wade Schupp’s dime, guys.  I’m taking it all with me.  I’m going out of this world like I came into it - with a bang.


The officer from Millsford stopped his car when the sedan ahead of him slammed on his brakes and the driver got out of the car.  The State Police officer at the ramp was wondering what that idiot was doing, stopping in the middle of the street, getting out of his car, mumbling to himself.  They both reached for their weapons when they saw the man pull a gun out from his pocket.  But, he didn’t point his gun at either of their locations; he fired at his gas tank and blew up his car, along with himself.  What in the world…

Patrolman Ross, from town, ran over to the car at the ramp to check on the officer who had flung himself behind his car for cover.

“Are you okay?”  he asked, worried the officer might have been injured in the blast.  He’d been on the force 18 years and had never seen the likes of what he just witnessed.

Officer Henley, from the State, stood up and looked around at the burning pieces of metal strewn on the road and far into the fields on each side.

“Good God, did you see that?  What was that all about?  Yeah, I’m okay.  You?”

“Yeah, I’m good,” Ross said.  “When he jammed his brakes with nothing in front of him, I knew something was up, so I stopped where I was.  I had no idea he was a nutcase though.  Why in the Hell would he pick this spot to take himself out like that?  Makes no sense.  Plus, look at this mess.  If this was some kind of twisted joke on his part, from where I sit, there’s nothing funny about it.  We’ve got people from town that work in the next county.  Once we get you out of the way, how are they going to get to the highway now?  Do you think you could radio for some help to clean this all up?”

“No problem,” said Henley.  “I’ll get on it.  I don’t even know how to write this one up though.  I mean, all this guy had to do was let you get around him so you could help me out with my car.  Like I told you on the radio, I hate taking number 802 because the battery always runs down and it figures it would die right in front of a highway ramp.  I couldn’t even get it to run long enough to pull over and ended up having to block the ramp.  These new batteries for our call cars are such a pain.  They can only be jumped by the same model, which is why I’m glad you were so close and were able to get out here so quickly.”

“Any time,” said Ross.  “I’m with you on what just happened here too.  What do we put down?  The way he acted and what he ended up doing, it's just too crazy.  Whatever was going through his mind?  Did he think we were setting up a road block?”

A road block.  They both had to laugh.  Now, that was funny.

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