GUNS ‘N MONEY
gettin’ too old for this shit.”
Sanders had waited until the train had slowed down for a bend and had then
jumped into the tall grass, ending in a rolling stop ten feet from a gravel
road. Eddie was pushing thirty. He
smoked too much, drank too much, and generally lived his life as he chose to.
he sat up, he was immediately knocked back down as he was hit in the chest by a
duffel bag that had been thrown from a speeding car. Stunned, Eddie found
himself on his back, looking up at the sky. As he lay there, another car sped
by, this one a police car, lights flashing and siren wailing.
decided to just stay where he was for a few minutes until he was sure the
parade was over.
Sanders is a private investigator and has an office in New York City. But here
he was, flat on his back somewhere
in rural Illinois, probably thirty miles from Chicago. Eddie thought he’d have
to add this incident to the growing list of fuck-ups that comprised what he
liked to call the “go where the money is” stories of his investigative career.
hood he had been tailing had made him about fifteen minutes out of Ohio and
Eddie had escaped with his life by jumping from the train in the dark without
his hat, coat, .38, or the travelling money stashed in his suitcase.
plan had been to follow this errand boy back to Chicago with the hope he would
lead Eddie to his client’s concern. Eddie’s client, Myron Weston III, had hired
Eddie to find out if his wife, Olivia Weston, was behaving herself in Chicago. He
had confided in Eddie that he hadn’t been able to reach her for a week.
hood, Johnny Marco, had been hired by Olivia Weston to make sure her husband
stayed in New York. Johnny was to let
her know if her husband left. Johnny was
about the same age as Eddie, but was pretty much his opposite in all other
things. Johnny was a sharp dresser, kept himself fit, and turned the heads of
many women younger than himself when he walked down the street.
had followed Myron Weston for a couple of days. One evening, Johnny had seen
Weston’s driver pick up a woman Johnny recognized and he was pretty sure she
had recognized him. After Weston had hired a couple of thugs to slap him around
a bit, Johnny had decided his work was done in New York City and he started
back to Chicago. Weston had hired Eddie to make sure Johnny got there and also
to check on the little woman. He had also paid off the train’s dining car
manager so that two more people could ride to Chicago in the kitchen in order
to avoid being seen by a certain passenger. That passenger was Johnny Marco.
as Eddie sat there by the tracks at two in the morning, starting to feel some
stiffness set in from his jump from the train, he was thinking bad thoughts
about the Westons and their so-called marriage. They were the reason he was in
the middle of nowhere getting bitten by mosquitoes.
for this I make a good livin’,” muttered Eddie as he got up from the bushes.
walked back up the grade to the train tracks so he wouldn’t be visible from the
road. One or both of those cars would soon be coming back to check on the
duffel bag he now carried. He sat down out of sight on the other side of the
tracks and opened the bag.
well, well,” he said. “What have we here?”
only the light of a full moon, Eddie could see the bag contained stacks of
bank-wrapped bills and two pistols. He figured there was about twenty or thirty
thousand dollars by a rough count. It was probably from a bank robbery earlier
in the day in some nearby rural town.
government said the Depression was finally over and maybe it was; there was
starting to be money in the banks again. Eddie knew that this was good for the
type of people who threw duffel bags out of cars.
‘n money, but no hat or coat,” Eddie mused, smelling the money. “But
I guess I can afford to buy what I need
a licensed private dick meant that Eddie was usually on the right side of the
law. He had to be if he wanted to keep his license. But found money is found
money. Eddie would not be making much of an effort to find out who this
belonged to. Rather, he would be doing whatever it took to keep it from being
recovered by either the cops or the robbers. In the meantime, he had to find a
way to get to Chicago. There had to be a car around here that he could buy,
rent, or “borrow.”
clutched the handle of the bag of new found wealth, stood up and stretched. He
figured he’d walk down the tracks for a while to put some distance between
himself and the spot where the bag had been thrown from the car.
he was thinking that trying to get new clothes and a car, either by buying or stealing,
would be a bad idea. The locals would take him for one of the robbers, and with
the bag of money in hand it would be hard to convince somebody otherwise.
he’d walk the tracks until a freight train came along. It would be difficult to
try and board another passenger train, but he could easily hitch a ride on a
freight into Chicago and get lost in the crowd.
walking on the tracks for only about a mile, Eddie was pulled from the random
thoughts about his immediate future by the sound of someone moaning. He had
thought himself alone out here in the boonies.
had stuck one of the pistols from the bag into his belt. He took it out and
walked cautiously toward the moaning. Looking down from the tracks, he could
see what appeared to be a big man lying on his stomach at the bottom of the
embankment. Keeping his pistol pointed at the body, Eddie slowly walked down toward
a couple of loose stones rolled down the embankment in front of Eddie, the guy
lying there raised his head. “I could use some help here, buddy,” he said
through clenched teeth.
was close enough now to see a knife protruding from near the man’s right
kidney. The handle looked like the handle of a steak knife from the dining car
where Eddie had been just an hour ago.
Johnny Marco, ain’t ya,” he said, “You were gonna shoot me back on the train
when I came out of the men’s room.”
first, ask questions later,” said Johnny with a laugh that turned into a
don’t think I’m gonna be able to help ya much even if I wanted to,” said Eddie.
“We’re a long way from civilization.”
I know I’m a goner,” said Johnny. “I
think some of Weston’s guys were on the train with us and must’ve been watchin’
me watchin’ you watchin’ me. While I was
leanin’ out from the last car lookin’ for you, one of ‘em stuck me in the back
and another flipped me over the railing.”
one of Weston’s guys,” said Eddie. “Weston wanted me to tail you back to
Chicago to see if you’d lead me to his wife. Why would his guys mess up that
know and don’t care,” said Johnny. “This whole deal is about people
who don’t trust each other. It’s good
they’re together; at least they aren’t messing up good people’s lives….” Another
coughing fit interrupted Johnny’s tirade.
Johnny, I’m gonna go on into Chicago. I’ll have the cops send somebody back for
your body. Is there anybody else ya want me to notify?” said Eddie.
took a deep breath like he knew it was close to the last one he’d be taking. “Tell
Olivia Weston that any money due me she should give to you. You can take my
.38, my wallet, and that money to The Silver Dollar, a bar off State Street
near that old water tower. Lillie Stanton sings there five or six nights a
week. We were…, I thought we were an
item, and I want her to know I was thinkin’ about her when I died. Can ya do
I can do all that, Johnny. I think we could’ve been friends if things would’ve
been different. One more thing I’m gonna do for you – I’m gonna find the goons
who stabbed ya in the back and do them the same. That’s a promise.”
Eddie got to Chicago, he started to take care of business. He stashed the
duffel bag in a locker in Union Station, keeping out enough cash for new
clothes and other expenses. He introduced himself to the Chicago Police
Department and gave them the story of the train ride from New York City. He
told them approximately where they could find Johnny Marco’s body. Eddie told
them about who had employed him and Johnny, but even though they wanted more,
that’s all he told them.
he went to see Olivia Weston. He found her by talking on the street until he
found a friend of Johnny’s. Olivia Weston was a nasty piece of work, just as Eddie
had figured she would be. She was in her mid-twenties, had a movie starlet’s
face and hairstyle, and an overabundance of confidence.
I’m supposed to give you that dummy’s paycheck
because he wasn’t able to go to New York and get back here without getting
himself killed?” she said, laughing at Eddie.
laughed back with equal cynicism. “Your husband might be interested in knowing
there’s a young man lounging on your couch wearing a bathrobe with “MW III”
embroidered on the top-left pocket.”
Arthur could be a good boy and leave the room. I think I could change your mind
about talking to my dear husband.”
thanks, Mrs. Weston. I’m a little particular about who I let try to change my
mind about things.”
going to see Lillie, aren’t you,” Olivia said. “If you are, you’re as dumb as
Johnny. You might want to check with the manager of The Silver Dollar as to
what he knows about Lillie’s whereabouts for the last few days.”
but I can’t see how that’s any of your damn business,” Eddie replied as he
walked out the door. He did wonder how somebody like hoity-toity Olivia Weston
knew about regular folks like Johnny and Lillie.
left with two thousand dollars and the notion that he would have to watch his
back very closely until this whole Weston mess was finished.
that night, about midnight, Eddie tipped the guy at the door of The Silver
Dollar ten bucks to get a table near the front. He had a couple of beers during
Lillie Stanton’s second set, and when she was taking a break, he got up from
his table and approached her. “I’d like to speak with you for a few minutes
about Johnny Marco when you’re finished for the night.”
she said. “I guess that’ll be okay…..,
yeah, yeah, we can talk about Johnny. Just follow me back to my dressing
room when I’m through.”
could see that Johnny and Lillie would have made a nice-looking couple. Johnny
had his rugged good looks and Lillie was a beautiful brunette. The way she fit
into her outfit definitely complimented her singing voice.
though he hadn’t said what he wanted to talk to her about, Lillie looked
worried during her final set and glanced over at Eddie from time to time. Once
or twice a word seemed to get stuck in
her throat and a few times she just hummed the words at the end of a line. Indecision
and fear marred what would have been an otherwise fine performance.
the little L-shaped dressing room, Eddie gave Lillie a small satchel with
Johnny’s wallet, his .38, and the Olivia Weston payout. He explained what had
happened on the train trip, leaving out the part where Johnny had tried to kill
knew it,” Lillie sobbed. “He called me every night, and when he didn’t call for
three nights, I just figured he was on the train back. But I knew it didn’t
take three days to get here from New York. I was fooling myself.”
wanted ya to know he loved ya and was thinkin’ about ya when he died,” said
Eddie. “Did anybody ya know have it in for Johnny – anybody ya know who would
want to kill him?”
everybody loved Johnny, but he was in
a rough line of work. He kept saying he was going to get into something a
little more legit and we’d get married. And now…”
then the door of the dressing room opened. “Get packed, Lillie. Now that
Johnny’s gone, Weston says you can go back….”
had had his gun in his hand the second the door opened. He now had it pointed
at a tough-looking goon who had turned a bright red.
do you mean, ‘Johnny’s gone’?” asked Lillie. “What have you done to Johnny,
noticed Lillie had also turned red and her question to the goon sounded like a
line from a B movie.
against the wall, Artie,” said Eddie, who then frisked him. “Something smells
like week-old fish and I’m gonna find out what it is.”
stepped back a few steps so he could have his back to the wall and cover both
Artie and Lillie. He didn’t really know Johnny, and Johnny had tried to kill
him, but he had asked Eddie to do a few things for him with the last breaths of
his life and Eddie was going to try and do right by him.
know this is gonna sound bad,” started Lillie. “I loved Johnny, but I got tired
of waiting for him to marry me. He was always saying there’d be ‘just a couple
more jobs.’ Mr. Weston came in one night with a bunch of businessmen when I was
singing. He told me he could get me set up in New York City in a classier joint
and maybe get me into show business. I was gonna break the news to Johnny when
he got back. Honest, I didn’t know he was gonna be killed.”
listened to all this without saying anything. He remembered what Johnny had
said about it being good that the Westons were together and not messing up good
people’s lives. He wondered if there were any good people in this sordid mess.
Lillie had been talking, Artie had been looking around the tiny room for an opportunity
to turn the tables. Eddie had been watching Artie, and when Artie stopped
looking, Eddie figured he was gonna make his move.
a sweeping motion, Artie cleared everything from Lillie’s dressing table,
sending a box of make-up powder into Eddie’s face. Eddie managed to shoot Artie
in the knee and he went down. Lillie fell into a swoon and moved toward Eddie. As
Eddie was reaching for Lillie to keep her from falling, he saw the knife she
was thrusting toward his middle. Instead of catching Lillie, he grabbed the
hand that was holding the knife and twisted her arm behind her back. He saw the
knife was another from the train’s dining car.
you!” he said. “You stabbed Johnny,
and Artie pushed him from the train. I told Johnny I would put a knife in his
killer’s back, Lillie, but life in prison thinking about what you threw away
will be harder on you. Come on, you two, get movin’; we’re gonna go find a
often happens in cases Eddie Sanders is involved in, there weren’t a lot of
winners in this one. Artie turned on Lillie and Lillie turned on Myron
Weston. After all of the plea bargaining
was finished, a jury of their peers found all three guilty of the murder of
Johnny Marco, and a judge sentenced them each to twenty -to-life terms.
Weston made some bad picks as to her lovers, with the last of the group setting
her up to be kidnapped. From prison, Myron Weston refused to allow any funds to
be used for the ransom, and Olivia was found floating in the Chicago
reasons of his own, Eddie paid for the burial expenses and a stone for Johnny
Marco with some of the money from the duffel bag that had been thrown from the
car. That found money also allowed Eddie to be a little more picky in choosing
his clients, and he actually enjoyed his work for a number of years.
is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights.
He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near
to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of
Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black
Petals, and a number of other online magazines.