Short Stories

Overlooked (3)

June 22, 2015

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The Big Score

 

As promised, Ryan Cole returned two days later to find Lon as happy as a clam and Jody, surprisingly humming a popular tune of the day. He understood why Lon might be cheerful but was surprised how well Jody took it, eventually inquiring whether the deed had been done. She smiled without saying a word, humming as she had before, a curious response.

Fairly sure that his tactic had worked, they assembled in Ryan’s room to discuss the impending job.

“I’m sure both of you would love to hear what I’ve been arranging,” announced Ryan. “Petty ambitions produce minimal results; elevating that ambition to a grandiose level will reward us with more money than we can spent in our lifetime. We are going to make a withdrawal from the local bank.”

“I didn’t know you kept money there,” said Lon.

“Not so my dimwitted friend,” he replied. “This will be a financial withdrawal after hours, one of significant cash.”

Jody perked up sitting on the edge of her chair to hear the rest, a bank job a serious matter. The average bank robber usually work with a gang and strong-armed their victims, until the money was handed over. Breaking into a safe after hours required something more, though less violent.

Ryan continued. “The railroad payroll will be in the bank two days hence, the employees receiving their recompense the day after. Unfortunately for those loyal employees, we will have taken that payroll and applied it to our own personal needs.”

“Geez! A bank?” responded Jody not Judy. “That’s serious shit. You sure about this?”

“Yes, serious, my love,” he answered. “A few days later we shall be on our way to Mexico via train, the tickets are already in my pocket. In a year or two we shall return or move to pleasurable places to spend all that money; like I said, it will be a long time before we put a dent in the amount.”

“How much is that gonna be?” asked Lon.

“More zeros tacked on than you can imagine, my little friend, lots of zeros. I would suggest you study a little Spanish.”

 

The plan was simple; the local bank had a night watchman, who drank while on guard. The door locks were ancient; it was a simple matter of breaking in while the watchman slept, tying him up and taking the cash without incident.

Ryan coaxed the combination to the vault out of a distraught person, who was in prison at the moment. The incarcerated individual extorted money from the bank and was caught by a sharp-eyed teller, who also happened to be the bank manager’s son, who also happened to be in on the extortion plot, careful not to leave any trails indicating him. Prisoner 76723 of the federal penitentiary cooperated with a few dollars thrown in for good measure. Vengeance could be sweet even on the other side of prison bars.

“I have to make sure the money is there before we move,” added Ryan. “Meanwhile we keep a low profile and wait for the right moment, no small jobs in the interim. One thing will be different, however; Jody will stand watch while Lon and I load up the cash. There’s entirely too much for one person to carry alone, time being the element; we need to be quick enough to make our escape before the guard wakes up. We wouldn’t want to leave any eye witnesses behind.”

Then Ryan reached in a cloth bag and pulled out a gun, placing on the table in front of Lon. Lon’s expression changed. Ryan had not missed the boy’s apprehension at the sight of the weapon.

“This is just a little insurance in case the guard decides to be a hero,” he added. “I only have three bullets for it. I doubt we will need to use it. Relax, don’t worry.”

 

The Heist

 

Everything was as Ryan Cole said; the back door of the bank was held fast by a simple door lock any thief could pick. They waited outside until they saw the guard lean back in his chair pulling his cap over his eyes, preparing to snooze. An hour later Ryan quickly picked the lock, swinging the door quietly open with a whisper of a squeak; the guard never stirred, a spittle of drool running down the corner of his mouth. A quick rap on the head with a weighted blackjack sent the Guard to la-la land. Ryan didn’t bother to tie up the guard, positive the whack on the noggin put him out.

“Is he dead?” asked Lon, not wishing anyone to be hurt.

“Nah, my young friend,” answered Ryan. “A tap on the head with my cosh is just a little insurance; he’ll have one hell of a headache when he comes to but I’m sure it will be no worse than his normal hangover. We should still hurry and flee with the money before he comes around. We wouldn’t want to keep our fair Jody waiting.”

As foretold, Ryan easily opened the safe door, the crude combination dial on the door making enough noise to be cracked by an amateur. A careful wipe of the surfaces had to be made before they went any further; Ryan mentioned something about fingerprints, new crime detection being used. Rapidly, potato sacks were stuffed with stacks of twenty-dollar bills until they had eight or nine bulging with greenery, more money than Lon had ever seen.

“Don’t bother with the coins, Lon; they weigh too much and we need to keep things light. We’ll stash the money in our rooms and wait a few days before departing for Mexico as planned. The police will expect the robbers to immediately bolt, watching the train stations like hawks. Because we linger, it throws suspicion off of us; we shall look as innocent as any of the towns people, horrified that such a dastardly deed was perpetrated in their small burg.”

All but one bag of cash was put into the waiting car, Jody not Judy sitting nervously behind the wheel anxious to speed away when all was said and done.

“Ain’t this a boot, Lonnie?” whispered Jody. “I feel so alive when we score like this. We’ll all be rich as a kings.”

“You’d have to be a queen, Miss Jody; kings are all men.”

“You know what I mean,” she snapped. “Go get the last bag so we can get outta here.”

He always felt funny when Jody not Judy called him Lonnie; nobody ever did. He dashed inside, almost knocking Ryan over in the process. There was a groan from the floor, the guard holding his head and trying to sit up.

“Get the bag,” urged Ryan. “Hurry, the inebriated fool is coming to faster than he should.”

Lon stumbled on his way out of the vault, the guard hooking the cuff of his trousers. A loud explosion was heard and the guard dropped to his knees, blood pouring from his side. Ryan grabbed the bag only to witness Lon falling down again, hitting his head on the marble counter; the guard held Lon’s pant leg tight before losing consciousness. Lon didn’t get up, out cold, a deep cut over his right eye from the fall. The gun had made too much noise for comfort; there was no time to lose and no time to scoop up Lon. Ryan had to abandon him, while Jody gave the car the gas once Ryan ducked inside, a regular Bonnie and Clyde duo.

Ryan kept looking back, cursing as they sped away, the plan flawed by a careless accident. He didn’t like leaving Lon behind but the gun would surely bring the curious and then the authorities at their heels. He had no doubt, Jody and he would get away and past the border in time but poor dumb Lon would bare the brunt of their crime.

Plans change as quickly as partners when circumstances demanded it. Ryan decided it was better to leave town immediately, than take a chance of Lon fingering them for the shooting and robbery. He had been a very loyal partner but one could never tell what pressures might come to bear; the simpleton might be coaxed into sharing information that might curtail their departure. Ryan wasn’t heartless; but this was business, his compassion saved for times that did not involve a long stay in prison.

 

 

Open and Shut Case

 

The courtroom was filled with angry townspeople grumbling about the shooting and the stolen payroll. Though there was some anticipation, the prosecutor had no problem proving his case, Lon admitting the theft but distancing himself from any involvement in shooting the guard, which was the truth. When asked if he knew about the gun, he answered in the affirmative, adding that it was never supposed to be used. There was no gun when police arrived with Lon out cold, a substantiating factor in the shooting.

The guard died of complications before the end of the trial but supported Lon’s assertion in regards to the shooting, claiming an older, tall man shot him, Lon not even close to being tall or older. Nonetheless, Lon was an accessory to robbery and now murder, the sentence life in prison. The prosecutor pushed for the death penalty but was not supported by the jury, the mental inequities of Lon Kirby, obvious.

It all happened so fast; Lon did not quite understand the consequences of his admission. This particular state used the electric chair, the prosecutor disappointed he could not get the death sentence. He wanted his record to show how tough he was on crime, future aspirations in politics. A man had died; someone had to pay. Try as he might, he couldn’t convince the jury; Lon was a pawn to a heinous crime and should be executed for his involvement. All the men on the jury could plainly see Lon was a dimwitted youth, perhaps too dumb to realize the seriousness of his crime.

In less than fifteen minutes, he was found guilty, the time required in the jury room to vote and return. Sentencing took two hours before he was handed a life sentence, the jury believing Lon wasn’t completely responsible for the act, his lack of intelligence obvious, to all who listened to his testimony. Lon may have been given a shorter sentence but he never gave the authorities the names of his partners out of some sick sense of loyalty. It was terribly misplaced; Ryan disposing of him quickly, though Lon still felt pretty pleased with his intimate encounters with Jody not Judy. How could a guy drop dime on a woman so friendly and generous?

Lon sat shackled to a bench in the hall waiting for the final removal from the courthouse. Down the hall from him, a juror stood talking to another man.

“Damn shame, if you ask me,” said the man. “But I do have to admire the boy for his loyalty, though it is foolish. I only wish my employees were half as loyal.”

Lon thought that was a very nice thing the man said. Not many people said nice things about Lon.

 

 

Life in Life

 

The sheriff’s deputy escorted Lon to a bus a few days later, where he would be taken to the state penitentiary several hours from town. This wasn’t like a city bus; there were metal screens shutting in everyone at the back, plus a lot of chains mounted to the floor where they attached Lon. There were two other men in the bus when he got there, one who looked very angry while the other sobbed quietly against the window.

“You lucky boys have a reservation at the Big House tonight,” said the driver laugh afterwards. “Get ready to pucker up them lips and find you, a nice boyfriend; that’s if they don’t find you first.”

Lon didn’t understand what the driver meant but the angry guy muttered something nasty under his breath while the other man started to blubber in earnest, his chest heaving with each sob.

“Hey kid!” said the angry man as the bus pulled into traffic. “Ignore the asshole. Fuckin’ bulls want to screw with your head.”

“Bulls? They got animals there?” returned Lon.

The angry man stared at Lon for a minute, shaking his head.

“Listen kid, I been in a few joints and this one ain’t any worse than the others,” added the angry man. “What’s your fuckin’ name, kid?”

“Lon Kirby, sir.”

The man snorted at Lon’s politeness.

“What you in for, stealin’ a tricycle or maybe a candy bar? You don’t look like no hard case to me.”

“Bank robbery and murder,” answered Lon. “I can’t complain; they was pretty nice, cause they didn’t give me the electric chair, like some of them wanted. Mr. Wallace, the guy who wanted to kill me, couldn’t make them see it his way.”

The angry man sat up straight; surprised this small specimen of a boy could be so dangerous. Doubtful, he decided the boy was lying.

The angry man continued, “Got me for murder too, but the cops framed me, the bastards. They didn’t have no proof. It was a set up by the Lucia brothers to get me off their backs; they paid some cops off and next thing I know they’re banging on my door.”

The angry man turned out to be Carlo ‘Pronto Morte’ Capriano, a minor hit man for one of the Mafia families. His frame-up was due to an unfortunate error in killing the wrong judge, one that happened to be on the family’s payroll. Carlo’s girlfriend fingered him when pressed by the cops; she might have been paid by certain unknown parties to squeal on him. The end result was a stay in prison, not permanent in Pronto’s opinion. Bribing the right person and shoveling cash under the table bought preferential treatment and eventual freedom.

Carlo or rather Pronto, as he preferred, was barely five feet tall, still taller than Lon. Pronto weighed less than one hundred-twenty pounds soaking wet and did not suffer from malnutrition. He showed Lon a tattoo of a dagger on one arm; a tattoo of a rose rested on the other; there was another one on his buttocks, which Lon didn’t see, thinking it best not viewing anything that personal.

The bus pulled into the courtyard of the prison, a few of the inmates staring at the newly arrived men. Guards in the towers and walls stood at the ready in case anything went wrong, which rarely happened unless someone important was brought in. The regular residents knew better than to start up a ruckus, the guards, quick to bust heads and shoot anyone unwilling to cooperate. The crying man was first to disembark followed by Lon and then Pronto. Catcalls from the men in the yard disturbed the crying man but Pronto didn’t appear shaken, displaying a middle finger to those watching.

“Hey, kid,” mumbled Pronto. “You some fuckin’ homo? I mean, do you got a thing for men?”

“No,” answered Lon, curious why he asked.

“Good,” returned Pronto, quietly lining up in front of the guard.

There was a quick speech by the captain of the guards and a few simple instructions, followed with a warning about disobeying any orders. A yellow line led the threesome into a processing building where all the new inmates stripped and were sprayed with a nasty smelling chemical. They donned their gray trousers, shirts and ill-fitting boots before being escorted to Cellblock B, the block reserved for murders, rapists and hardcore criminal, according to the guard.

On their way through the cellblock, several of the residents called out to Pronto, apparently with some familiarity. Welcome shouts and rude questions were yelled over the noise of their footsteps, Pronto nodding in return, making a continued hand gesture that was not nice. Lon was placed in a cell with some fat bald guy while Pronto was assigned to the cell next to Lon’s.

Lon’s new cellmate paid no attention to him, loudly passing gas as a welcoming gesture. Registering the man’s facial appearance, Lon decided not to engage him in conversation until the man initiated it, the gruff looking cellmate probably a killer or worse. He didn’t offer any words, no name or explanation, farting as his only means of vague communications. This wasn’t like juvenile custody; the boys there farted as a joke, laughing at the volume and indelicacy of the act. His present cellmate’s odiferous offerings were a poor start, should they find some common ground in being friends.

The crying man was placed in Cellblock C; that block possessed the extortionists, small time criminals and child molesters. Lon wondered which one of the crimes the crying man had done; he never said a word on the way only muttering, ‘Oh, no.’ now and then in between his heaving sobs. He didn’t look like a thief, though it would be impossible to tell by appearance; many inmates didn’t look like the crimes they committed.

Lon place himself on the unmade bunk on the opposite side of his cellmate, debating on how to fit in. Passing gas might not endear him to his new associate, though it appeared to be a favorite pastime. He decided it was better to be invisible. In juvenile detention the other boys eventually left him alone, while calling him nasty names, eventually overlooked, forgotten. He had always been small for his age and a lot of the boys thought he was younger, the pecking order well established, Lon at the bottom of that totem pole. He wondered if there was a pecking order in prison; he’d been warned as much by his lawyer during the sentencing.

“You’re not really a bad kid, Mr. Kirby,” said the lawyer. “Poor alliances, perhaps. Just remember, prison is full of bad people, who will hurt you if you’re not careful. Do as you’re told and stay out of trouble.”

His lawyer never pushed him to plead innocent, which was only fair. Lon got the impression the middle-aged lawyer liked him. During the trial he told Lon to keep his mouth shut and let him do all the talking. Apparently, that worked when it came to gaining a life sentence instead of the electric chair.

 

To his surprise the guard showed up at his cell with another distraught prisoner, his arms filled with bedding, grumbling softly. Lon was ordered to gather his bedding and stand outside the cell, a prod with a stick in the gut to ensure cooperation. The gloomy prisoner was installed with Lon’s farter, while Lon was moved next door to where Pronto resided. Once installed in his new cubicle, the cell door slammed shut behind him. Pronto was propped up in his bunk with a stern expression on his face, picking at some imaginary piece of fuzz on his trousers.

“Make yourself at home, kid,” he said without warmth. “I pulled a few strings. That fuckin’ loser, who was in here smiled at me funny, probably some faggot, bastard. As long as you keep your dick in your pants, you and I are going to be best friends, you hear? You watch my back and I’ll make sure nobody messes with you; I got friends in the joint, enemies too, which is why I need you to cover me.”

Lon wasn’t sure what he meant by that, though anything was better than the farter next door. He soon discovered an interesting fact of prison life; some prisoners were treated differently. The guards could be pretty mean when anyone crossed them. Lon had received a few jabs in the gut with a nightstick for not following the right lines on the floor. They were color coded yellow, green, blue and red to indicate certain boundaries or directions. It was difficult for Lon because he was colorblind, red green, and blue looked the same; the blue line led to the prison hospital.

The food was terrible, the seating arrangements cramped but Pronto made sure no one sat right next to him or behind during all meals. Lon kept watch while Pronto gulped down the slop they were fed. Lon was instructed to stop anyone who came near, even engage them physically if necessary. Lon was pretty little nervous; he didn’t like to fight plus it was prohibited, the penalty a week in solitary. Pronto’s friends also kept their eyes out for trouble, warning him when someone heard rumor of a possible shiv attack. One such threat was dealt with simply; inmate Franklin was found unconscious in the warehouse with the broken end of a broom handle stuck into his belly. He lived for three days before dying of massive infection; the prison hospital was not a place to get well. The hospital was run by a civilian doctor who drank heavily; he was at the bottom of the barrel when it came to people in his profession.

True to Pronto’s word, nobody messed with Lon, no sexual advances of attempts to shake Lon down. In one incident an inmate tried to fondle Lon in a narrow hall during lineup. The next day the inmate’s nose was taped over, badly broken. The warning that went with that, discouraged others from touching Lon, Pronto’s reputation a promise of bad things.

“The boy’s like Poison Ivy,” remarked inmate. “Get near him and it’s all over for you. Fuckin’ Pronto will eat you balls for breakfast.”

 

Time passed, the good and bad experienced daily in the Pen. Pronto was losing favor with a lot of his fellow prisoners, the opposing gangs well organized in secret. It didn’t bother him since his lawyer was going to get him freed in a matter of weeks or as late as a month or two, which apparently dragged on longer than expected. A few bribes to a judge here and there weren’t working as well as he hoped. However, Pronto was sure he’d be sprung before too much time elapsed.

His crime family wanted him released because he knew where all the bodies were buried, figuratively and in reality. That kind of information was too delicate to be left behind bars, where a man could become talkative given the proper incentive; he might get tired of prison and want to get sprung, making a deal with the Feds.

Pronto never made a deal nor did he get sprung by some smart conniving lawyer. He met with an unfortunate accident in the laundry, somehow managing to get stuck in one of the washers and drowning. The investigation concluded it was not an accident; foul play was alleged; however, no viable suspects could be produced in the case. Lon felt personally responsible for not watching Pronto’s back, as was his duty. Now his only friend was gone, though Pronto made it clear they weren’t really friends.

For some unexplained reason Lon was still left alone by the prison population. Previous threats took away the incentive or perhaps Pronto’s stooge was deadlier than suspected; men like that didn’t utilize meek associates. In any case, Lon was glad for that. He was assigned to a new cellmate, another murderer, who claimed he was innocent. Jacob Hatchabee was a simple welder, nothing more, the circumstances of his conviction, strictly contingent on loosely presented evidence; killing a wife was usually pinned on the husband. Jacob Hactchabee’s gun was found at the murder scene, though Jacob was several hundred miles away during the murder, which did not seem to matter in the trial; his first attorney enjoyed too many happy hours while preparing the case omitting that fact. Like many of the other inmates Jacob was waiting for an appeal to overturn the verdict, his second attorney eager to work the case until Jacob’s money ran out.

Making a long story short, Jacob spent fifteen years with Lon until his lawyer dug up the omission that would free Jacob. Lon would have celebrated along with Jacob but only one of them would be free. Lon was still there for his life sentence. He didn’t resent Jacob Hatchabee; the man was clearly innocent, whereas Lon was not. Shortly afterwards, Lon was transferred to a minimum-security prison; he was not considered a threat or a troublesome inmate, certain influential parties wanting to be sure he was taken care of.

It came as a complete surprise when one of the guards announced a visitor waiting for Lon. It couldn’t be his parents and he doubted his former partners would drop by; Jacob vowed never to go near the Pen again. The visit was short, the stranger assuring better treatment in his new facility.

“Benny’s my name,” announced the visitor. “You could say, Pronto was an associate of mine.”

“Family?”

“Uh, we prefer to say associates,” corrected Benny. “There ain’t no relationship between us.”

“Well, I’m delighted that you came to visit; I don’t get any visitors. Fifteen years has been a long time.”

“Yeah, yeah,” replied Benny, eager to get to the point. “We have a small concern, which might be smoothed-over with your help. You see, there is a change in our organization, a new boss. You might say. Well, Pronto worked very close to our boss and he’s worried Pronto might have shared some sensitive information wit you.”

“I didn’t know him for very long,” said Lon. “He never told me very much except that he killed the wrong judge. He told me his family wasn’t very happy about it, either.”

“Exactly my point,” responded Benny. “My associates would like you to keep your mouth shut about it. In return you’ll do easy time.”

“I’ve never said anything about it,” claimed Lon. “Most of the people in here seem to be afraid of me.”

“Yeah, yeah, they should,” returned Benny. “We got the word out a long time ago that nobody was to fuck wit you. The bulls fuck wit you, and we gonna know it. You’re one of our boys now.”

After the reassurance Lon would say nothing, Benny ended the visit never to return again.

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