What is it about a .45 pistol that makes you feel safe?
September 13, 2013
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
Hoyle seemed deep in thought and did not answer Willy’s request to keep the gun. He directed Willy to stop a quarter mile from his house and told him to get out.
As Hoyle came around to take the wheel, he met Willy face to face in the front of the van and put the .357 under his chin. “End of the line for you and me.”
Willy’s voice quaked. “You aim to kill me? Why?”
“You’re a liability now that we got what I came for. Seen too much.”
“I did everything you told me.”
Hoyle released the pressure he was applying, but kept the gun under Willy’s chin. “We generally don’t leave any unfinished business behind, but you might be more messy dead than alive. Think that crazy woman you live with got a look at my face. I’d have to kill her, too.”
He put the gun back in his waistband. “I’m gonna let you live, Willy, providing you keep that woman under control. And I might need you to do something for me later. You won’t see me again unless I need you or you screw up.”
Willy took a deep breath as Hoyle opened the door to the van. “Can I keep the gun?”
“Too risky. Drop it in the well. I guarantee the goons won’t be coming for you. They been paid off and warned off.”
Willy stood in the yard holding the bloody pillows, the cowboy hat, and the gun as the van pulled away. It was the first time he had been alone since the nightmare night had begun. He put the gun inside his belt, put the hat on his head, and hugged the pillows to his chest as he walked back toward the house. He talked aloud to himself as he took folded newspaper out of the sweatband to make the hat fit, trying to get his head around all the events.
The loan shark would never bother him again, but his goons might, despite what Hoyle said. But the Dixie Mafia in the person of Hoyle Broom seemed satisfied. Willy felt he had acquitted himself well with Hoyle, maybe even made a friend he could call on for something important later.
He did regret the loss of the bronzes. Having them stored in that feed room at Buck’s had given him a sense of security, something to fall back on, to fence in case of emergency.
Now, he had a dead body in his yard. Okay, it was in a well, but the well was in his yard. The goons might have seen Hoyle shoot their boss. They were almost certain to have known that Willy was the person he was coming to visit when he disappeared. Willy tried to reconstruct the scene in the alley by the Meatloaf. Who could have seen or heard the shooting? Sure, the shot was muffled by a pillow, but if someone was close enough . . .
Willy decided to take Hoyle’s word that the goons had been taken care of. That still left the matter of the King of Diamonds. Now, he had no jewelry to give him in exchange for his life. Clark had taken it. Of course, Clark said that he would take the king off his trail. How could he do that?
Then, there was the matter of the strange art Clark had left in place of the jewels. Stolen, of course, and maybe more dangerous to keep than the bronzes had been. Did it belong to the King of Diamonds, the Dixie Mafia, or who?
Clark’s note had said he had to wait a few years to dispose of it. How many is a few and who would buy it? He had liked the fact that he could walk around with the jewelry snug against his belly. What do you do with stiff, dirty, ugly paintings? Who would want the things, anyway?
He talked himself into feeling better as he walked by the house. After all, he had not shot the loan shark. Anyone watching would know that it was as much a surprise to him as it was to the shark. He had not stolen the jewelry, only rescued it and moved it to a better place. Same for the bronzes, which should be on the way to Tennessee or wherever the current headquarters of the Dixie Mafia was located.
He did regret that Hoyle had given two thousand in cash to Buck. That money was technically his. Well, it was the loan shark’s, but it should have reverted to Willy when the loan shark no longer needed it. After handling all the stolen bronzes, stolen jewelry and coming close to two grand in cash, he got nothing for his efforts.
It was pitch dark, cool and still. A good night for building a little fire. Willy was still talking to himself, watching his feet as they took him to the well. A small shout escaped when he looked up into a gun barrel. Colleen stood astraddle the well, pointing her .38 at Willy’s left eyeball.
“I seen what you did.”
Willy was not in the mood. He had after all, just become a big time gangster. He had handled a large quantity of stolen goods, worked with a criminal organization, and disposed of a loan shark in one evening. He slapped the gun away from his face and took it away from her. He pulled the Colt .45 and stuck it in her face. “You point that damn gun at me ever again, I aim to kill you.”
Defiance filled her eyes. “We all as good as dead, anyway. Got a dead man not thirty yards from our front door. What did you get yourself into?”
“Nothing that concerns you. Go in the house and keep quiet.”
“Nothing? What about them bloody pillows you’re hanging onto like they was a baby or something? And you look like a halfwit in that hat.”
“Got into a little scuffle with those goons came by here and threatened you. They won’t be bothering you again.”
She was skeptical, but considered the possibility that he might be telling her the truth. That he had defended her honor and safety again. Last time, it had sent him to jail for a year.
Willy pulled back the hammer of the gun and felt the satisfying click as the cylinder rotated. “I said for you to go in the house. I got things to do. I’ll be in there in a minute.”
Behind the shop, Willy sprinkled the pillow cases with a little gasoline, covered them with pine needles and acorns and the paper from the hat, and set them afire. He sat in his usual chair just outside the shop door and watched them burn. He twirled the gun, practiced a fast draw out of his waistband, wished for a holster. He forgot that the hat was still on his head.
Willy drove his pickup to work the next morning, feeling that it was now or never with the goons. The truck was still there when he got off. He offered a six pack of beer to a co-worker to follow him home in his Pontiac. Willy returned the man to the construction site and picked up two sacks of lime on the way back. Just after full dark, he poured it down the well and replaced the cover.
With the .45 in his waistband, he felt almost safe for the first time in months.
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.