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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Glen Bush: Justice Served

104_ym_justiceserved_jthompson.jpg
Art by John Thompson 2024

Justice Served

Glen Bush

                                                                                                                                   

     It’s an ugly story, but it’s my story.  Let’s get that straight, Detective, my story, not yours, not some guy at the bar, mine, all mine, for good or bad, mine.

      I told him, I says, “Look, Jack, it ain’t gonna work. The odds ain’t right.  I don’t wanna do time for sumthin dumb like this.  If youse wanna make a little coin to pay off the debt, let’s check on the truck docks, maybe the truck stops.  Always a truck carryin’ sumthin worth quick cash.”

     “I ain’t got that kinda time.  Big Man says I pay by Friday, or I get both knees broke, maybe more.  I can’t have that happen.  Y’know me, I can’t be spendin’ the rest of my time on crutches or in a damn wheelchair.  Can’t do it!” 

     The beads of sweat were pourin’ down his fat face.  His eyes were two big saucers with spots of coffee grounds sittin’ in the middle.  Scared.  Damn scared.  I felt sorry for Jack.  He was my friend.  We had some good times back in the day.  Stole a few cars here and there.  Worked a little construction along the river.  Even took a trip down to Cancun after we made some good money on a truck heist.  Fun, yessireebob, fun.  But now, Jack wasn’t havin’ fun.  Yeah, after he started hangin’ out at the strip joint on South Broadway, the Girls, Girls, Girls Gentlemen’s Club, things started goin’ south for him.  It didn’t begin all at once, nope, not at all.  I even went with him a coupla times in the beginning.  But I ain’t much for strip joints and gamblin’.  I prefer sports bars.  If I’m gonna bet anything, it’ll be on the game I’m watchin’, not on one bein’ monkeyed with by a sports mechanic and loan shark like Big Man.  I don’t like that kind of trouble.  But Jack said he had everything under control.  Said him and Big Man were like two peas in a pod.  But y’know, my gut told me that wasn’t the story.  Guys like Big Man don’t have friends.  They got people around them that do this and that and can be replaced just like that (Lew snapped his fingers loudly). 

     “You want a cup of coffee or a water, Lew?  Sounds like your mouth is getting dry.”

     I looked up and the detective was pointing toward the coffee pot and the water bottles sitting on the folding table.

     “Thanks, Detective.  I’d like a cup of that coffee.  Cream and sugar, that is, if youse got that.”  I thought maybe this cop ain’t all bad.  Not all cops gotta be bums.

     “Here you go, Lew.”  Sittin’ the coffee in front of me, he then stepped back and sat back down in his chair across from me, so I kept on talkin’, tellin’ the three cops what I figured they wanted to hear.

     Pretty soon Big Man had Jack doin’ favors for him, y’know, like runnin’ here and there, pickin’ this up and droppin’ that off.  Simple shit. Y’know.  Next time I see him, he’s throwin’ cash around and sayin’ that rapper crap, y’know, like, hey, it’s rainin’ up in here, real ghetto crap.  He had a stripper hangin’ on each arm.   

     “Jack, where’ya gettin’ all the coin?”  I’m about three sheets to the wind, y’know.

     “I got the best deal in the world.  Makin’ money hand over fist.”  Then he stops and looks at me and looks around like somebody might be listenin’ and grabs me by the shoulder and pulls me close to him and whispers, “Lew, you wanna piece of this action.  I know ya can use a little sumthin-sumthin in yer pockets.  Right, my man?”

     And I feel these weights on my shoulders.  The good little angel with the white halo on my right shoulder, and the little red one, the devil, sittin’ on my left.  They both whisperin’ in my ears at the same time.  Do it! Youse need the money! Do it! And the other, whisperin’ don’t do it!  It ain’t nuthin’ but trouble!  Go home!  And I’m steady lookin’ at all that green Jack’s tossin’ around, laughin’ the whole time.  What could I do? 

     So, I sez, “Yeah, hook me up.”  The pit of my stomach told me it was gonna be ugly, but I said it.

     “Hook me up.”  There weren’t never three more deadly words invented to get a man jammed up.  Never! 

     “Hey, Detective, y’think ya could get me a sandwich or maybe a cheeseburger.  I’m starvin’.  I ain’t had nuthin’ to eat in almost two days, not since Jack and me started playin’ Dillinger.”

     “Hey, Joe, bring Lew one of those baloney and cheese sandwiches from the machine.”

     “Thanks.  Yer a real stand-up guy for bein’ a cop and all.”

     Anyways, to make a long story short, I meet Jack the next afternoon over on Grand and Wyoming.  He tells me we gotta make four stops, the first one’s down the block.  The next three are further south.  Ya see, Big Man’s got these bookie joints scattered about the city.  Every day one of his cowboys goes and picks up the receipts from the day before.  Small time stuff, neighborhood stuff, but when ya start addin’ up the small stuff, there’s a lot of goddam money bein’ gambled by these neighborhood barflies.  And Jack’s checkin’ the receipts against the take and throwin’ away the paper and pocketin’ the change.  Never a big, big amount, but considerin’ he's makin’ maybe a dozen of these pick-ups a day, seven days a week, he’s makin’ a killin’.  Killin’.  Ain’t that the truth!

     That first day my cut was three hundred.  Not bad for two hours of drivin’ around.  And, get this, that was a Tuesday, a slow day.  Not much action on Mondays.  I figured I couldn’t go anywheres but up. 

     But my up didn’t last that long.  Jack was takin’ the money he skimmed off the receipts and started betting on every game that came up on screen.  Me?  I wasn’t bettin’ but I wasn’t helpin’ or thinkin’.  My cut was either goin’ up my nose or into the hands of some hooker.  Then Little Man, Big Man’s older brother, started askin’ us questions.  At first, he was just askin’ Jack, but then he came around to me. 

     “Say, Jack, how is it youse keep losin’ on every friggin’ bet but keep comin’ back with more money than you had the day before, and this is what is fuckin’ botherin’ me, you can’t pay my brother the vig on the bets you lost?  How is that, Jack?  How is that?”

     “Little Man, I been collectin’ on some loans to a coupla fellas on the East Side. ’Bout six months ago I loaned them a coupla grand and now they got their shit together and are payin’ me off, bit by bit.  Y’know what I mean?”

     Jack’s tellin’ me Little Man went for the explanation, but that little angel on my right shoulder, the one with the white halo, is whisperin’ to me that ain’t the real story.  Next day, Little Man comes to me and asks me the same questions about Jack.  I just tell him I don’t know nuthin’ about Jack’s business and say I’ll let him know if I hear anything that I think Big Man should know.  That’s when I started thinkin’ it’s about time to start thinkin’ about movin’ south, maybe Key West or further, maybe the Islands.

     “Smart, Lew.  Why didn’t you go?”

     “I wish I had.  But that’s when Jack came to me with the plan to rob that bank.  He said he’d seen it in a movie, some damn cowboy movie about how these two brothers would rob banks in the morning when the bank first opened up before many people were around.  Perfect crime, he sez to me.  Yeah, right, perfect fuck-up!”

     “Say, officer, that was a real good sandwich.  Thanks.  My moms used to make me baloney and cheese sandwiches with catchup.  She was a good woman.  She’d a liked ’cha.”

     “So, what happened, Lew, with the bank?  Why’d you shoot that woman?”

     “It was a mistake.  She shoulda never been there.  That’s not how Jack said it would be. And, get this, that ain’t the worst of it.  We didn’t know it, but Big Man had been havin’ us followed.  So’s even if the bank job would have gone right, Big Man’s fellas woulda popped a cap in our asses and took the coin before we could pay him off and split with the rest.  It was a clusterfuck from the word Go.”

     Jack puts his piece in the teller’s face and tells her he wants all the money in the counter drawers.  Forget about the safe.  She’s nervous, but she’s stuffin’ the money into the bag.  I’m standing a little to the side, closer to the front door, with my piece aimed at the security guard.  The sun’s shinin’ in the window, right in my eyes.  My eyes are hurtin’ from the sun bein’ so bright.  I’m nervous.  I just want to leave, quick.  Then the teller accidentally drops the bag and the money spills out on the floor.  Jack’s really pissed.  He starts yellin’ his head off at her.  Cursin’ her out. And then the guard starts to get froggy and tells Jack to watch his language when talkin’ to a woman.  Damn!  Jack goes ballistic and shoots the guard.  Now, I’m really scared.  Then, to beat all, the friggin’ woman and the whinin’ kid comes into the bank!

     “Lew, grab that bitch,” and he points to the woman and kid. 

     “What d’ya want me to do, shoot her?”  Before Jack can answer, I happened to look out the window and see Big Man’s black Escalade parked across the street.  He’s sittin’ in the back with the window down, watchin’ us robbin’ the bank.  Holy crap!

     “Jack, Big Man’s outside waitin’ for us!  Look!  He’s right across the damn street.”

     The woman starts yellin’ and her kid starts in, too. 

     “I’m sorry, Detective, but I just lost it.  My head was spinnin’ like crazy.  I was still a little high from the night before.  Everything was a blur.  The dead guard.  The teller.  The screamin’ woman and kid.  The money on the floor. Blood all over the floor.  Big Man waitin’ for us to walk out of the bank.  I just snapped and shot the woman.  I didn’t wanna shoot her. She  looked like decent people, but what was I gonna do? I was scared.  Me and Jack was gonna get jammed up.  That was my only choice.”

     “No, Lew, that wasn’t your only choice.  You could have walked out the door and left the woman alive.  You didn’t have to shoot her.”

     I wish, but, anyways, Jack grabs the bag with the chump change, and we run out the door and jump into our car.  We could hear the sirens comin’ from all directions.  Big Man is still watchin’ us.  We’re in the car, Jack’s drivin’ like a bat out of hell.  And I’m not thinkin’ about anything but gettin’ outta Dodge.  I’m not thinkin’ about the dead people in the bank or the cops comin’ or even Big Man watchin’ us.  I just wanted it all to be over with. 

     We get to the end of the block and Jack crashes into an oncoming truck.  He’s crushed behind the wheel.  I’m dazed.  Tryin’ to figure out what to do.  That’s when I see Big Man standing next to the car, opening the door, and reaching in and grabbin’ the money bag. 

     “Serves you two dumbasses right,” he says.

     I crawled outta the car and pulled my piece and aimed it at Big Man’s back.  I figure I can still get the money and run away before the cops get to me.  Little Man was watchin’ everything.  He let off three or four shots and dove back into his car.  That’s all the time the cops needed.  Big Man was gone with the money.  Jack was dead behind the wheel, and I was hiding in the front seat like a little bitch. 

     “What d’ya think, Detective?  Any chance we can make a deal?  I don’t mind doin’ ten, even fifteen years.  What’dya think?”

     “Lew, you killed an innocent woman and left her eight-year old kid an orphan, and robbed a bank.  You’re going to burn in hell.  We’ve got the death penalty in this state for guys like you.”

     “What?  No, man!  That’s ugly, real damn ugly.”

     “Yeah, Lew, but that’s justice.”

 

The End

Glen Bush is a retired English professor who now lives in the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA.  Since retiring, he has been writing crime noir short stories and urban fiction. Bush is also an active member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.  Recently, Bush has published several crime noir and mystery stories listed below:

 

“Laughing All the Way to Hell,” (Short Story) Close to the Bone.  (December 2023).

“Of the Living and the Dead,” (Short Story) Mystery Tribune Online. (January 20, 2023).

“Cold Eyes, Cold Blood,” (Short Story) Crimeucopia, Murderous Ink Press. (January 2023).

“Hard Case,” (Short Story) The Yard: Crime Blog, online. (November 2022).

“Retribution, With Extreme Prejudice,” (Short Story) Retreats from Oblivion, online. (October 2022).

“Lost but not Forever,” (Short Story) Close to the Bone, online. (July 2022).

“Simple Pleasures,” (Short Story) Close to the Bone, online. (May 2022).

“The Queen of MLK Boulevard,” (Short Story) Close to the Bone, online.  (March 2022).

“Dead Man’s Blues,” (Short Story) Crimeucopia, Murderous Ink Press.  (March 2022).

“Unforgiving Memories,” (Short Story) The Yard: Crime Blog, online. (February 2022).

John L. Thompson currently lives in New Mexico with his wife of twenty-five years. 
When he is not searching for lost remnants of the old west, he can be found working on several writing projects. Thompson is known to have worked as a truck driver, heavy line diesel mechanic, armored truck guard, corrections, body guard, and a host of other professions.
His true passion is writing, collecting vintage books and is the current cover artist for the Casca the Eternal Mercenary series.  His novel 'Truck Stop' is due out 2017-18 by Dusty Desert Press.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2024