The guns are back, but they were stolen. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

Trez skipped a lot of school to smoke dope; Willy skipped it because he hated it; Ben Tom skipped school to work. Although Irene sent money she stole from Buck to cover some basic expenses, Clark never told Ben Tom and made it clear that he expected him to help out with expenses. And he was feverishly buying and bartering for parts from the auto salvage yard where he worked to start building his own car. He also took a second part time job in a grocery store as a butcher’s assistant. Ben Tom carved meat as skillfully as he carved wood or molded metal to his will.

Willy had his own ideas for making money. He found a hole in a chain link fence surrounding a metal scrap yard down the street and proposed a scheme to Uncle Clark. Clark liked the idea. The next night, Willy helped his uncle steal a pickup and a flat bed trailer.

At midnight, Clark parked the pickup and trailer next to the scrap metal yard. Willy sneaked through the hole and threw aluminum scraps over the fence for Clark to load. A day or two later, Clark sold the yard its own aluminum. They repeated the operation a month later.

Clark always abandoned the truck and trailer after two trips and stole another. Willy’s share of the enterprise was soon bigger than what Ben Tom made at the salvage yard.

It took almost a year, but Ben Tom parked a splotched, dented ’55 Ford Victoria built from wreckage and scraps in his uncle’s front yard. Just in time for his driver’s license. He expertly removed the dents with borrowed tools and skillfully painted it cream and aquamarine using spray paint cans. Although little about the car was original, it looked fit for any showroom.

Willy, in the meantime, had become a regular apprentice to his uncle. In addition to his talent for filling orders, Clark was a skilled arsonist who took contracts to burn buildings. Sometimes it was for the insurance, other times it was to cover a crime or to settle a score for someone else. He had also been known to set fire to a residence to cover a theft.

He occasionally set fires as a distraction, a way to divert authorities from a house or business he intended to burgle. But setting such fires was rare because it almost required him to be in two places at once and to set fires too close to the sites of his crimes. When Willy entered the picture, those fires became more frequent.

Willy came in handy for this duty because he could wander around neighborhoods without attracting as much attention as Clark. He could also squeeze into and out of tight places.

Clark taught him how to burn things without leaving evidence of arson and how to delay ignition until he was safely away. He also taught him how to set fires that would do minimal damage. After all, Clark didn’t want to intentionally burn a house or business down without getting paid for it.

Ben Tom complained to no avail as Clark kept Willy out later and later on school nights. A few months after their partnership began, Willy and his uncle came home an hour after midnight. Ben Tom feigned sleep as the smell of smoke wafted through the room. Willie seemed intent on making as much noise as possible as he came into the room carrying an armful of something that clinked. He loudly dropped his burden in the corner of the room. Ben Tom did not bite. He did not want to wake Trez.

Willy snuggled into one of the three beds that Clark had stolen and was soon breathing heavily.

Ben Tom lifted himself up on one elbow and examined the bounty by moonlight. Three guns. Hope filled his chest. He whispered loudly. “You found our guns?”

“Better than that. Them guns Daddy bought was cheap. Stevens and Savage models. Two of these are Winchesters. Got Trez a .22. He’s too big for a damn pellet gun now. And your shotgun is a Remington. Sixteen gauge.”

“My shotgun?”

“Damn right. Clark promised me a while back that he would replace the guns.”

“Stolen guns.”

Willy rolled over and looked at his brother.

“This old man had a safe full of guns. We just took three. He won’t ever miss ‘em. Doubt he ever opens that safe. They’re brand new. Never been fired.”

“Why do you smell like smoke?”

Willy rolled over on his stomach, signaling the conversation was over.

Ben Tom put his hands behind his head and leaned against a wadded blanket he used as a pillow. “Don’t want no stolen gun. I want the gun Daddy gave me.”

“What the hell you talkin’ about? This gun is a lot better than the one you had.”

Ben Tom rubbed the wooden cross he put under his pillow. “I won’t have a stolen gun. I ain’t no thief and I ain’t ever gonna be one, either.”

Clark nursed a warm Schlitz from a six pack he had forgotten to put in the fridge the night before as the boys walked into the kitchen the next morning. He used his fork to move around a plateful of scrambled eggs before pointing it at Trez and Ben Tom. “See them guns in the bedroom?”

Trez went back into the bedroom and returned wide-eyed and smiling with his small Winchester rifle.

Clark nodded toward Ben Tom. “What about your shotgun?”

Ben Tom walked to the stove and ladled out a serving of eggs for himself and each of his brothers. “That’s not my shotgun.”

Clark gestured toward Willy with the warm Schlitz. “Guess he’s too good to accept a gift. And after all our hard work.”

Ben Tom dropped Trez’s eggs onto his plate. “Thieves don’t work. They steal from people that do work.”

Trez looked at the eggs and then at his brother. “You sayin’ I can’t keep my new .22?

Clark crushed the beer can. “Will that pile of junk you put together run?”

“It’ll outrun anything you got.”

“It ain’t got a VIN number. How you gonna register it?”

Ben Tom had not thought of that.

“You need to start earning your keep. I got a job to do next week and we may need your car.”

Ben Tom took a drink of the milk he had bought with his own money. “Not a chance.”

“We’re not stealing a thing. Just need you to give us a ride home after we do a favor for a friend.  No danger to you or your precious car.”

It was the moment Ben Tom had been dreading for two years.

Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.

You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.

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