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THE LOUISIANA KIDNAP

Categories: STORIES
Published on: June 17, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One: Harry, the battle continued..

The Hitchhiker

He placed his thumb out for a ride,

new memories, visions by his side;

‘an hops aboard sleek racing stripes,

or cluttered jalopy–he hardly gripes.

He’s hooked: adventure, travel finds

all responsibility left far behind!

“Hey, Sonny… need a ride?”

Red, bright red, fire engine red, souped up and rumbling, with a deep throaty sound, full blown engine, double, four barrel carbs, high-rise intake, dual exhaust, the ’65, two-door Ford came to a stop. With delightful exuberation, Joe ran towards the car. One guy, a heavy, swarthy looking man of fifty, eyes glaring and bloodshot, wearing a greasy mechanics uniform, steps out of the passenger door and holds the front seat down so Joe can enter the back seat. Joe squeezes himself into the tight interior and makes himself as comfortable as the space between the rear passenger and the window allows. Roar, the engine revs to life, and with a Oooommm… Click! Screech…. Oooooooommmm… Click! Screech… Click! Oooooommmmmm… they were on their way to cruising altitude in what seemed like three seconds in a rocket ship with tires and a gear box….

“Welcome aboard, where ya headin’?” The mechanic asked.

“Southwest.”

“Oh, Wet-Back territory”… the front passenger piped–leading to a barrage of greaser jokes and back slapping…

It was not long before Joe realized something was wrong with the picture! Three men, two in their fifties and one twenty-four but looking sixteen, drinking moon-shine straight from a jug, riding hell bent in a bright and shiny race car with Florida tags–in Tennessee with out five bucks between them–and no destination! Joe soon discovered the drivers name was Davis and he was from New Mexico. The other two “nice men” were from New Orleans. Their names were Papa Joe and Pigny–or was it Pigmy? He really could not understand their accent! They had “purchased” the car with a check…. stolen by Pigny(?) from his boss (ex!) in Florida: “Was the car therefore stolen?”… seemed to be the discussion going on as Joe desperately rolled the facts over in his mind…. One: These guys were crazy. Two: They were drunk. Three: They were armed. Four: There was no rear door to escape from. Five: Why were they so open in their conversation of their misdeeds and circumstances in front of a stranger…. unless they planned to rob (though Joe had not a cent nor any thing of value)that stranger and……!

Pigny sharpened the twelve inch blade of his Bowie knife upon a strip of leather with the dexterity of a butcher…all in tune to the Louisiana Bayou music twanging from the radio.

‘Hanging music, Yep, that’s what it was, hanging music!’ Joe thought. He was sure he had heard this very tune in some damned movie where people butchered hogs, drank corn liqueur, and groped bare foot women deep in the swamps of Louisiana–or was it Georgia?–as they prepared a New Yorker for the hangin’ party! One thing was for sure: Joe would never set foot in a swamp!

Joe shifted uncomfortably when Papa Joe, whom sat in the back with Joe, began passing gas in tune to the sounds of a banjo that suddenly appeared in his hands.

The racket of Popa Joe’s twanging and dwanging mixed with the roar of the engine and the loud, quick tempo of Davis’s hands tapping the dash board as he steered the car with his knees in wide, sweeping, screeching motions across a thin, crumbling, black-top road.

Pigny yelled, “Hey, Mike (Joe’s phony ID road name)…he be doin the tune? Eh!”

“Yea man. Cool man. Cool!” Was all Joe could say; his knuckles turning shades of purple and white as he grabbed the seat with both hands… “Cool, I like that music, but listen, hey, Pimgny, I was going to go north… not southwest. You can let me out at the next cross road. OK?”

“His names Pigny, got that? Why don’t you drink some of this…” Papa Joe said, handing a jug to Joe. “You’ll git where your goin soon enough!”

Joe took the jug, pretended to take a long swallow, then wiped his mouth in the fashion of the trio. With a forced burp, he handed the jug to Pigny and thought his best chance of escape was to get them drunker…unless Davis crashed first!

“Hey, where almost out of gas?” Davis inquired.

“You got some money to chip in?” Pigny “asked”.

“I ain’t got a plum nickel.” Joe replied as his stomach began to twist.

“You gota pay your way some how.” Papa Joe said, belching room for another swig of the corn.

“I got an idea…” Pigny interjected, “…we can do the thing using the kid!”

“Yea! Good idea!”

Joe began to worry. What was this great idea that that they had agreed on?

As the car roared on a journey through the outer limits with Pigny and Papa Joe dozing off, Joe set his eyes upon the rear of Davis’s head and began to think of a plan. Davis, an eagle eyed, pimple faced guy, with long black hair, whom, unless he was spitting gobs of slushy chewing tobaky, leaving dripping streaks as wide as the tires of the car across his face–which he promptly wiped away with the sleeve of his stained denim jacket– seemed out of place in this environment of toxic waste. Educated and well spoken, he lacked the “communication skills” of Pigny and Papa Joe–his words did not creep and crawl through a mind field of broken teeth and slurred thought. Joe knew, if he was to escape this cargo of dramatic destiny, Davis was the key to his release. He began to encourage conversation and soon discovered that Davis had been “picked-up” by Pigny and Papa Joe several months before. He was from New Mexico. Said he was a half breed, Navaho and Irish. It had been four years since he began his hike to Michigan and fortune–he had yet to make it! He kept getting blown off course–sounded familiar! This, his most recent detour, was the worst: the guys from New Orleans were using Davis in con games; they drove the entire breadth of the Southeast, drinking, driving, and stopping frequently at large, expensive homes to beg for money…using a teenage looking Davis to plead for “A few dollars to help me an’ my son! Or, pulling up to a major shopping center and, after bruising Davis about his body, pretending that “My son just fell and hurt himself…” settling for a cash payoff….

Papa Joe drifted out of his stupor and cuffed Davis across his right ear as he shouted an order for him to “Pull the hell off the highway and head towards those there lights of that damn house on the hill”.

Davis was intimidated by Papa Joe; Joe noticed when ever Papa Joe spoke at him, he would begin to stammer. This stuttering seemed to excite Papa Joe in some perverse way. Joe had seen that look before: in Miami–on the predator’s face!

“Pull over here… STOP! You, Mike, get out of the car with me”.

Once outside of the car, Papa Joe continued, ” You just keep your mouth shut” “BAM!” Papa Joe smacked Joe so hard his face reddened and his eyes watered. “That’s it, you look perfect, lets go….”

“Knock! Knock!”

“Click. Creak.” “Can I help you?” A wary, middle aged woman asked.

“‘Scuse me ma’am, but we, my son and I, have had some misfortune’. We seem to have gotten lost an’ used all of our gas tryin’ to git back to the main road. We have not eaten since mornin’. I was hopin’ you nice Christian folks could see your way inta loaning us a few dollars…. I could send it back ta you when we git home?.”

The woman did not blink, Joe could see she was intimidated by Papa Joe, yet she also displayed compassion for the young boy whose face looked so sad. “Wait here,”. she said as she closed the door. Several minutes later, she appeared with a large sack of food and twenty five dollars. “You take care of that child…..”

Joe sat in the rear of the car not paying attention to anything but the sandwich he was wolfing down. They had stopped for gas, and as Davis filled the gas tank at a cost of six dollars, Papa Joe sauntered into the package store/gas station to buy a fifth of Bonded Bourbon. For seven weeks they had traveled the country; stopping when ever the money for booze and gas ran out to “ask” for charity. Though lately, through the good fortune of a real teenager, Papa Joe began to get greedy; stopping all of the time! The previous night was the worst demonstration of his new pattern: Papa Joe lost his temper when an old woman’s son came to the door of the house he chose and demanded that Papa Joe take his kid and get the hell off his property or he would call the cops!–Papa Joe wanted to go back and “Do him right!”. If, in fact, Pigny had not voiced his opinion that they had two hundred dollars in the kitty, Joe was sure Papa Joe would have carried through his threat. Instead, Papa Joe ordered Davis to stop at the next truck stop and demanded he follow him to the rest room. When they returned–Papa Joe with a large back slapping, grinning attitude, and Davis with tears and a halting walk–it became apparent that he had taken his anger and pleasure upon Davis.

“What a team. We ain’t did this good for seven months. Mike there seems to make them want to give…Eh Pigny?”

“Yea, lets head to Nashville, the Christians are strong there!”

Pigny and Papa Joe sat in the front of the car, guzzling Bourbon and singing loudly out of key; occasionally, they would peek into the darkness of the rear compartment to wink at Davis and Joe with twin, perverted twists of their thick, tobacco stained lips. Joe’s mind was going twice as fast as the car. He knew he was running out of time. The Orleans duo were talking of upping the ante. They wanted to “do som’thin’ bigger”. What that was, Joe did not want to know! Eventually, the booze combined with their vocal efforts to tire them out. Pigny stopped to let Davis drive, crawled into the back seat, and soon, the cars gentle throaty sound and light rhythmic bumping along the tar streaked highway had Papa Joe and Pigny in a deep, snoring sleep.

Joe tapped Davis on his head and, with a hasty motion of his finger to his mouth, warned of silence. He then slid next to Davis’s left ear and began to whisper…

The sun arose to welcome the late fall morning: crisp, clean, cool air; falling leaves, turning colors of rainbow; squirrels running amuck along the ground of the rest stop–gathering legions of nuts in preparation of the coming winter. A scene, reminisce of Georgia, brought yearnings of freedom to Joe. One month had passed and Papa Joe had grown tired of his cat and mouse game with Davis…he began to show more attention to Joe than Joe desired. In the past two weeks, Joe had spoke with Davis about escape; he had convinced him that it was more than possible and Davis had begun to trade in his fear for friendship. Joe told him that whenever the opportunity presented itself, Davis had to be prepared. With Papa Joe leaning towards his “new ideas”, Joe was sure that he would have to prompt that opportunity.

As everyone stretched their legs to limber out the cramps of sleeping in the confines of hard, plastic wrapped, bucket seats, Joe noticed a sign identifying a large truck stop off the next exit 100 yards down I-80. “Hey, why don’t we stop at that truck stop and wash up and eat…” Joe blurted to Papa Joe, …”Wouldn’t you like to stop and use a rest room?” Joe continued, teasing Papa Joe.

Papa Joe’s eyes glimmered and his smile twisted in a familiar crooked grin. “Yea, that sounds perfect…

The truck stop, crowded with huge rigs parked in neat orderly rows, swarmed with a multitude of truckers. Popa Joe, sensing that this many people might not be ideal to retaining his captives, decided to continue down the road; he ordered Davis not to stop….but Joe was not going to give up.

“Hey, I gotta go! Come on, lets use the rest room…” he said as he jumped over the seat and forced Davis to make an abrupt, tire screaming turn into the overflowing parking lot.

Sensing the futility of causing a scene, Popa Joe’s anger was over taken by this temptation of opportunity. He ordered Pigny to pull behind the restaurant with it’s collage of humanity and park by the outside rest room. When Pigny stopped, Popa Joe wet his lips and opened the door. Motioning Joe to get out, he held the door and told Davis and Pigny to wait. When Joe’s feet hit the pavement, he turned and began to rapidly walk around the building. Papa Joe rushed to over take Joe…

Joe entered the restaurant and plopped down in the first booth he saw. Popa Joe, an arms length behind, cautiously sat down. “I thought you wanted to use the rest room?”

“Later, lets eat some real food for a change… Hey, waitress”… Joe yelled–loud enough for every patron to stop what they were doing and turn their heads. “Popa Joe, get the guys…”

Popa Joe was steaming mad, but he could do nothing. As he contemplated his next move, Davis appeared with the car in front of the window that the booth faced and parked. A wide, ear to ear grin swept his face as he exited the car with Pigny in tow.

Forks clattered, plates clanked, and a hum of rapid murmur–occasionally interrupted by loud barking orders of waitresses and cooks–filled the large dining room. ‘What a place,’ thought Joe, viewing the concoction of color, language and custom with awe.

Joe was always amazed at the diversity of a truck stop. There was not another place in the entire United States in which such a contrary group of individuals mixed with more harmony: Tall, bearded Texans, in western boots and plaid shirts, sitting with short, balding, Italian truckers from NY; men dressed in brown khaki pants and black, high top industrial boots, wolfing their food in heaps, while New Englanders cut theirs into small, precise shapes–with the deftness of a plastic surgeon–conversations of laughter exploding ethnic and racial barriers, conveying one word in a multitude of accents: Friendship!

One could hear a meeting of minds pushing aside the every day prejudice and disharmony blanketing the towns, cities, and countryside’s these road warriors originated from. In the high sounding, boisterous laughter of truckers from a rapidly expanding West Coast as it broke, in sharp, rag-tag tempo, through the long, slow, drawling molasses like texture of the Southern truckers– whose soothing sounds softened the hard edges of the serious laughter from those whom represented the crowded East Coast cities–caused Joe to sit back in bewilderment: “How come men did not behave like this all of the time?”

A grunt from Popa Joe, signaling he was still engaged in the process of stuffing his snout, brought Joe back to reality: Though the world moved upon it’s continuing journey into the future, he was stuck in the present… with no change in sight! He looked at Pigny, he was gorging himself. Reminiscing the diner episode with Carmine when his journey began, Joe began to wait for Pigny to vomit!

As they dug into their platters, Joe signaled Davis to slip him the keys to the car–a pre-planned idea they had agreed to do at the first opportunity–and made an announcement. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Pigny, go with him!” Popa Joe blurted.

“Hey, I don’t need a chaperone, besides, the bathroom is over there…’ He said, pointing to a door with a sign that said “MENS ROOM” not ten feet from the booth.

“Well, make it quick!” Pigny said…

Joe entered the bathroom with the confidence of the customary window he would make his exit from–he was stunned by his discovery: no window existed!

“#$%#!” he said out loud, ” What the $#%$ am I gonna do now?” He went to the door and peeked through, the trio was still eating. He knew if he attempted to leave through the door they had come through would be committing suicide. He contemplated notifying someone of his and Davis’s predicament, but he was unsure if Popa Joe would not come up with some con as to them being rebellious kids or something; this would prove fatal also, for then the police would be called in and Joe was sure that he would be returned to a juvenile home or even worse–returned to NY and the wise guys!

“What should I do?” He questioned himself. And then, the answer popped in his mind.

With purpose, he began stuffing the five commodes with toilet paper and paper towels. Moving from stall to stall, in rapid succession, he began to flush them. The water began to rise, and soon, it flowed across the bathroom floor and under and out the bathroom door. Within seconds, like a stirred up nest of ants, a rush of employees, mops, buckets, and towels in hand, invaded the bathroom. In the confusion, Joe slipped out and exited the restaurant. He ducked down and made his way to the car.

Keeping his head down, he opened the passenger door and crawled across the front seat. Placing the ignition key into the slot, he turned it until he heard the click and the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. He was ready, except for one other item: he had never driven a vehicle with a stick shift!

Though it seemed an eternity had elapsed since Joe had entered the restroom, only fifteen minutes had gone by. Popa Joe, whom sat wondering what had happened to him and the cause of the commotion of the restaurant staff, stood to investigate…

Joe peeked over the dashboard as he squeezed into the drivers seat. Popa Joe was rising from the booth, looking in the direction of the confusion that blocked the bathroom door. Pigny had already began to walk towards the mess and Davis was edging his way to the door. Joe shifted the drivers seat forward and began concentrating on the shifter. He had watched Davis and Pigny for more than a month, he was sure he could do it. Placing one foot on the clutch and the other on the gas, he placed his hand on the key and cringed as he gave it a twist……. “VAROOM!” The roar of the engine crashed through the parking lot and into the restaurant….

…just as the familiar VAROOM of the super charged engine of his beloved Ford broke through his conscious mind, Popa Joe instinctively turned to face the window. A look of shocked horror ripped across his face as his eyes met Joe’s… …and the action began…

…Joe revs the engine, pushes the clutch in, and moves the shifter…

…Davis hits the door…

…Pigny grabs Davis by his jacket, stalling him…

…Joe jams the gear shift into reverse, jumps his foot off the clutch and jams the gas….

…Popa Joe opens the door and heads towards the car…

…The engine roars but the car does not move!

…Davis breaks free by shifting out of his jacket…

…a horrendous sound of gears clashing together rips through the parking lot…

…Popa Joe grabs the door handle…

…Davis opens the door and comes tearing out…

…with Pigny in hot pursuit…

…just as Joe jams the shifter and lurches off in hopping movements…

…NO!…

…the car jerks FORWARD!!!…

…Popa Joe is thrown from his feet…

…Davis is almost to the door when he is grabbed by his leg by Pigny…

…Joe pulls the shifter out of first…

…Popa Joe reaches up and grabs Davis…

…Davis grabs the door handle…

….Joe grinds the gear shift into reverse and slams down the gas pedal…

…Davis falls on his face…

…Joe, his feet attempting to work the gas, brake and clutch, all at the same time, causes the car to move in hard, jerking movements down the drive…

…in reverse…

…Davis is almost at the door…

…Joe slams the brake!…

…Popa Joe, and Pigny are tearing behind…

…there almost there….

…Joe slams the shifter and rips down the gas…

…just as Davis slips his hand in the door handle…

…just as Pigny grabs Davis’s leg…

…dragging Davis and Pigny…

…they all fall…

…Joe looks in his rear view mirror…

…just as Davis rises and zooms once more towards the moving car…

…Davis is in the lead…

…catching the car…

…Popa Joe…

…catches up..

…causing Joe to start and stop, in crazy, up and down motions…

…all the way to the road…

…over and over…

“But you said tha…”

“Forget what I said, just do what I tell you!”

For the next several weeks they “hit” various places along the beach as Joe’s education continued–an education leading up to to “The Big Job”.

Jack’s territory ran from Miami Beach to Pompano Beach. He had all kinds of tricks and systems to generate the bucks. One of his favorites was renting a group of adjoining suites in a luxury hotel and jamming the doors that separated them. He would then wait several days and inform the desk that his expected associates canceled their trip. Keeping only one suite, he would jam the connecting door so as to make it seem it was truly locked and wait until someone rented the adjoining suite. In the middle of the night, he would open the door in stealth–while the occupants slept soundly–and remove all the cash from their wallets and pocket books. The strange thing was, he never had a problem: the tourists would wake up and go about their business only to discover that some how, some way, they had lost their money! Remember Harry, major use of credit card use was still far away… cash was the way.

Another operation–one to be used when the big pre-planned pickings were slim–was to go along the hotels on the beach and pick out and set up wealthy tourists. Once all information such as room number and sleeping habits had been secured, he would swallow some booze, walk along the breezeway with a stuper-like shuffle until he reached one he had staked out, and, using a pick kit, he would open the lock. If any one came out he would feign drunkenness, say something like — “Oh! Sorry. Got the wrong room– and walk off. If no one walked out, he would place one hand at the top of the door, the other on the knob, and using his foot and top hand to push while pulling on the knob, he would open the door without a sound. Then, crouching down, so as to protect himself against a possible wary occupant waiting behind the door, he would enter effortlessly. If someone was in fact waiting behind the door, and they came around, he would jam the door against them and get away before the individual knew what happened.

The track soon became Joe’s home away from home. The wise guys got used to him hanging and he was in demand as a runner. He’d run numbers for them, make drop offs of receipts, and get them coffee and things. Though he had not forgotten his predicament–the Shorty deal–he enjoyed the attention and the feeling of belonging. The only time he thought about NY was when he went to sleep. It was in his dreams that his guilt raised it’s head…. “THAT GUY IS SHORTY… YOUR SWORN ENEMY!”

“The big job is tonight.” Jack stated as Shorty grinned and slapped him on the back.

“You just make sure the goods get to my place by nine in the morning.”

“I’ll get them there, don’t you worry!”

“Who is your climber?” Shorty asked.

“Someone who’s an expert!” Jack replied as he winked at Joe, whom sat close enough to hear yet far enough not to raise eyebrows.

“You want to leave the kid at my place?”

“No, he will be staying at his grandmothers for the night.”

It was a major hit in a major neighborhood: Golden Beach and a mansion owned by a very wealthy businessman! A beautifull place with walls, fences, and a security system that was state of the art. Jack would have to defeat the system and break into a safe: his specialty! Shorty had agreed to pay Jack upfront and fence the jewelry and negotiable bonds later in New York. The “score” was said to be worth two-hundred G’s; which meant at least seventy thou for Jack in cool, hard, ready cash!

Though the moon was full, lighting up the entire lawn, two dark shapes zipped the shadows unnoticed. The outer perimitter devices, rigged trip switches and active and silent alarms, were defeated and a primary and a secondary route swept to the mansion–one in front, one in the rear–and then the units were switched back on, leaving the majority of detection units operational. In this way, if by a twist of fate someone approached outside of the narrow corridors of safety, they would trip the alarms notifying the two silent figures working the mansion wall of the violation! Jack new it all! He was In Like Flint, It Takes A Thief, Mission Impossible and OO7 all in one! At the mansion wall, Jack defeated the primary alarm and rerouted the phone lines into an electronic black box that would send a code of impersonating pulses! Even if they missed a wire, switch, button or sensor for the mansion itself, the alarm would never ring, beep, scream, nor telephone to anyone. Though a secondary system with micro-switches randomly placed under Persian carpets was always a tickler, the “sophisticated” main system was a mute and blind ignoramus. They set out to gain entrance to the main building–

Straight to one of the stained glass windows which lined the garden with a sharp steel knife, Jack removed three pieces, enough to reach in and open the window. Joe slipped in, “walked the wall” to the Persian covered, marble floored double staircase and, walking the edge of the lower marble riser, he climbed the carved, mahogany outer railings until he reached one of the outer wall windows which dressed both ends of the stair case. Jumping from the rail to the marble ledge, he opened the window, tied a nylon rope to a decorative wrought iron mold cap on the interior windows edge, and swung it out and down to the ground where Jack tied it to a marble statue.

Jack climbed the rope and, from a long, black, nylon backpack, pulled out flat, steel bars, which he placed in a series across the floor to gain entrance to the main study; the bars wedged into the sides of the hallway walls so one could step on top of them and never touch the carpet! Once at the door to the office, he ran a battery powered device locating two wires running through the walls on both sides of the door. Gently chipping the plaster off the wood underlay of the walls, he used pins to pierce the wires and then connected jumpers across them with out cutting them. Wallah! He opened the main doors to the study. Joe never saw how he managed to traverse the floor of the study nor how he “cracked” the safe. His job was to remain down the hall at the window and keep look out.

Thirty minutes later, Jack emerged with a grin and a weighted down backpack. Going through the whole procedure in reverse, Jack and Joe climbed the rope and disappeared into the tropics of the city called Miami!

One hundred and seventy five thousand dollars in bonds alone! And the jewels! We’re talking diamonds, diamonds, and diamonds! Jack also discovered a host of other items which brought the total to three hundred thousand! A sure ninety five thousand hard cash! Joe was assured at least thirty thousand dollars cash! Jack had promised he would get a third. Joe was set to go home and RESCUE HIS FAMILY! He would return the Knight in Shining Armor to rescue everyone! He was so excited. He even decided to go to church and give a thousand dollars to the priest! He promised to God, thanked God, gave God the credit! “Oh Lord, you have seen fit to end my families nightmare! Thank you!”

Listen Joe, you wait here and I will be back in a couple of hours. Then we take a triop to the Islands for a few weeks, allow the heat to die, and then you can return to New York a man of respect! Now, how many teenagers… though I’m not calling you a kid.. but how many young men get to start their lives with that kind of cash!?”

Jack left and returned several hours later upset and talking to himself. When Joe asked excitably about the money, Jack cut him short.

“The %$%^& didn’t have the damn cash! He ^%^&^% me! Said he would have it by the end of the week. He’s a wiseguy, made and connected, can’t steal a damn hot dog with out his permission. I had to give the stuff to him and wait! I cannot believe this $%^%!! He said something came up and he had to use 100 thou to bail someone out of a bind… ^%^&%$ he has three times that much in his safe!”

On and on he ranted until Joe decided to go down to the pool and chill out leaving Jack, whom he never saw yell once let alone have a fit, to burn him self out…

Joe had a rough time and awoke within his dreams…

He had journeyed back in time with visions of priests, pastors, and demons awash in his mind: though the gulls cried across the waves and a cool breeze wafted in through the open balcony doors of Jack’s luxurious apartment, it was a vision of darkness, pain, and the heat in which he was swimming that overwhelmed him. It took all of his concentration to entomb this dread and retake reality. Was it an omen?

Two weeks had gone by and other than the quick jobs Jack put together, they sat waiting. Jack seemed to be worried he was not going to see a “single red quarter” from one of his best heists. Joe soon discovered this was his first deal with Shorty. Though Jack had sent money up to him from his action for seven years, he never did a “job” in partnership with him before. In fact, Shorty did not even know of the work Jack did; not the actual jobs nor amounts. Shorty collected his “tax” on Jack through Sonny Black, one of Shorty’s guys. Sonny ran a car rental business on Biscaine Blvd. Jack had only met Shorty on Sonny Black’s word of the big heist!

After Joe dressed and ate a light breakfast, he checked on Jack: whom was sleeping–he never awoke before noon. He then went down to the pool and began a conversation with the pool boy. They were deep in conversation when he heard the distinct sounds of a large caliber, semi-automatic weapon: “Bang. Bang. BANG BANG BANG!” It’s sounds shattered the morning silence. But, as quick and fast as it came, it left. He looked at the pool guy, but he acted like he hadn’t heard the sounds. “You didn’t hear those gun shots?” He asked.

“What gun shots,” he answered as he continued to sweep the water with his net.

Joe looked up towards to the area the shots seemed to originate from. Due to the layout, it was difficult to determine it’s source, yet it seemed to come from the area of Jack’s apartment. Feeling strange, he got up and decided to leave and go back to the apartment…

The door was unlocked — Jack was a stickler for locking his door and Joe knew he had locked it! Entering, he called Jacks name out loud. No voice returned his greetings. Slipping cautiously down the hallway, he reached Jack’s door. Warily, he turned the knob and rushed in…

Jack was snoring loudly….

It was time to go… he knew, deep inside, that this entire awakening was a message from somewhere, someone! Gathering his clothing — he had purchased an extensive wardrobe — he scooped up the money he had hidden under the carpet, and silently closed the door behind him.

Hailing the first cab he could find, he rode back to the projects and Diane. You do not know how happy he was to leave the situation he had traveled in for three months–including the biker episode.

Harry, does God work in mysterious ways, NO? He works in well thought out ways: two nights after he left, Jack was found on the beach–suffocated with a plastic bag. The man whom began his career hawking gold coins on the phone and worked his way into a spot as a preeminent second story man whom racked in ten large a week was gone. Mob respect had claimed another. Joe did not know if he had a family, if he had been married, or if he had a child. Joe realized he had journeyed to a place very rare for a teenager. None of the players were the type whom “hung” out with kids! Joe concluded that Jack realy desired a son? That had to be it because after Joe began to hang with Jack, Jack began to introduce Joe as his nephew, and treated him as if he were his father! Things he had missed came crashing to the front of his mind: how everyone reacted when they discovered Jack had an orphaned nephew: the word swept the underground and he was excepted even though he was but thirteen and a half!! What irked Joe was the fact that the same guy he was sure murdered Jack, might be the same person whom murdered his father…

A gentle, caressing surf stroked the shore line as the black shadow whisked across the sand dunes… to settle against the rustling palm covered tiki hut. With deft ability, it wavered only for a moments moratorium and then flashed up and over the pitted railing to land upon a darkened landing. A spiders grasp, and the shadow covered the vertical until arising above the third floor balcony, it’s outline imposed against the chalk-white exterior wall, it disappeared once again; only a glint of reflection as a patio door slid effortlessly proof of its reality… Silent and determined, it slithered across the smooth, soft, snowy-white carpet until it rested against the lavender, hide covered sofa. Timing deep bursts of nasal breathing eminating from the target, it shifted its route untill contacting the supple down of the black and white checkered comforter. Once there, it reached for the metalic object it carried with reverence and placed it against the comforter. Once connected to an outlet of energy, the shadow proscribed it to pay due homage to its host. Once more, it whisked back to its origins…leaving not a trace of its existence!

One week after the death of Jack, before the dawn of a clear and cool morning, an electrical fire broke out in Shorty’s condiminium. Lucky for him, a sidekick rescued him; he escaped with only minor burns. Though his condiminium was a total disaster, he had good insurance–yet “the word on the street” was that he had lost a fortune in “undeclared” assets?

“So, what happened to you?” She asked…

For the next two weeks, he lived in a motel two blocks from the projects. Partying. Dressing up. Showing off. He spent the seven hundred on all of the guys and gals whom lived in the overwhelming poverty of the projects. He visited the track a couple of times, but knew it was time to go home and deal with his situation. With tearful–on the ladies part– parting, he gave away all of his goodies and clothing and with fifty dollars, put his thumb out and headed for NY. He began his track home… a seasoned traveler.

Chapter Twenty-One: Harry, the battle continued..

The Hitchhiker

He placed his thumb out for a ride,

new memories, visions by his side;

‘an hops aboard sleek racing stripes,

or cluttered jalopy–he hardly gripes.

He’s hooked: adventure, travel finds

all responsibility left far behind!

“Hey, Sonny… need a ride?”

Red, bright red, fire engine red, souped up and rumbling, with a deep throaty sound, full blown engine, double, four barrel carbs, high-rise intake, dual exhaust, the ’65, two-door Ford came to a stop. With delightful exuberation, Joe ran towards the car. One guy, a heavy, swarthy looking man of fifty, eyes glaring and bloodshot, wearing a greasy mechanics uniform, steps out of the passenger door and holds the front seat down so Joe can enter the back seat. Joe squeezes himself into the tight interior and makes himself as comfortable as the space between the rear passenger and the window allows. Roar, the engine revs to life, and with a Oooommm… Click! Screech…. Oooooooommmm… Click! Screech… Click! Oooooommmmmm… they were on their way to cruising altitude in what seemed like three seconds in a rocket ship with tires and a gear box….

“Welcome aboard, where ya headin’?” The mechanic asked.

“Southwest.”

“Oh, Wet-Back territory”… the front passenger piped–leading to a barrage of greaser jokes and back slapping…

It was not long before Joe realized something was wrong with the picture! Three men, two in their fifties and one twenty-four but looking sixteen, drinking moon-shine straight from a jug, riding hell bent in a bright and shiny race car with Florida tags–in Tennessee with out five bucks between them–and no destination! Joe soon discovered the drivers name was Davis and he was from New Mexico. The other two “nice men” were from New Orleans. Their names were Papa Joe and Pigny–or was it Pigmy? He really could not understand their accent! They had “purchased” the car with a check…. stolen by Pigny(?) from his boss (ex!) in Florida: “Was the car therefore stolen?”… seemed to be the discussion going on as Joe desperately rolled the facts over in his mind…. One: These guys were crazy. Two: They were drunk. Three: They were armed. Four: There was no rear door to escape from. Five: Why were they so open in their conversation of their misdeeds and circumstances in front of a stranger…. unless they planned to rob (though Joe had not a cent nor any thing of value)that stranger and……!

Pigny sharpened the twelve inch blade of his Bowie knife upon a strip of leather with the dexterity of a butcher…all in tune to the Louisiana Bayou music twanging from the radio.

‘Hanging music, Yep, that’s what it was, hanging music!’ Joe thought. He was sure he had heard this very tune in some damned movie where people butchered hogs, drank corn liqueur, and groped bare foot women deep in the swamps of Louisiana–or was it Georgia?–as they prepared a New Yorker for the hangin’ party! One thing was for sure: Joe would never set foot in a swamp!

Joe shifted uncomfortably when Papa Joe, whom sat in the back with Joe, began passing gas in tune to the sounds of a banjo that suddenly appeared in his hands.

The racket of Popa Joe’s twanging and dwanging mixed with the roar of the engine and the loud, quick tempo of Davis’s hands tapping the dash board as he steered the car with his knees in wide, sweeping, screeching motions across a thin, crumbling, black-top road.

Pigny yelled, “Hey, Mike (Joe’s phony ID road name)…he be doin the tune? Eh!”

“Yea man. Cool man. Cool!” Was all Joe could say; his knuckles turning shades of purple and white as he grabbed the seat with both hands… “Cool, I like that music, but listen, hey, Pimgny, I was going to go north… not southwest. You can let me out at the next cross road. OK?”

“His names Pigny, got that? Why don’t you drink some of this…” Papa Joe said, handing a jug to Joe. “You’ll git where your goin soon enough!”

Joe took the jug, pretended to take a long swallow, then wiped his mouth in the fashion of the trio. With a forced burp, he handed the jug to Pigny and thought his best chance of escape was to get them drunker…unless Davis crashed first!

“Hey, where almost out of gas?” Davis inquired.

“You got some money to chip in?” Pigny “asked”.

“I ain’t got a plum nickel.” Joe replied as his stomach began to twist.

“You gota pay your way some how.” Papa Joe said, belching room for another swig of the corn.

“I got an idea…” Pigny interjected, “…we can do the thing using the kid!”

“Yea! Good idea!”

Joe began to worry. What was this great idea that that they had agreed on?

As the car roared on a journey through the outer limits with Pigny and Papa Joe dozing off, Joe set his eyes upon the rear of Davis’s head and began to think of a plan. Davis, an eagle eyed, pimple faced guy, with long black hair, whom, unless he was spitting gobs of slushy chewing tobaky, leaving dripping streaks as wide as the tires of the car across his face–which he promptly wiped away with the sleeve of his stained denim jacket– seemed out of place in this environment of toxic waste. Educated and well spoken, he lacked the “communication skills” of Pigny and Papa Joe–his words did not creep and crawl through a mind field of broken teeth and slurred thought. Joe knew, if he was to escape this cargo of dramatic destiny, Davis was the key to his release. He began to encourage conversation and soon discovered that Davis had been “picked-up” by Pigny and Papa Joe several months before. He was from New Mexico. Said he was a half breed, Navaho and Irish. It had been four years since he began his hike to Michigan and fortune–he had yet to make it! He kept getting blown off course–sounded familiar! This, his most recent detour, was the worst: the guys from New Orleans were using Davis in con games; they drove the entire breadth of the Southeast, drinking, driving, and stopping frequently at large, expensive homes to beg for money…using a teenage looking Davis to plead for “A few dollars to help me an’ my son! Or, pulling up to a major shopping center and, after bruising Davis about his body, pretending that “My son just fell and hurt himself…” settling for a cash payoff….

Papa Joe drifted out of his stupor and cuffed Davis across his right ear as he shouted an order for him to “Pull the hell off the highway and head towards those there lights of that damn house on the hill”.

Davis was intimidated by Papa Joe; Joe noticed when ever Papa Joe spoke at him, he would begin to stammer. This stuttering seemed to excite Papa Joe in some perverse way. Joe had seen that look before: in Miami–on the predator’s face!

“Pull over here… STOP! You, Mike, get out of the car with me”.

Once outside of the car, Papa Joe continued, ” You just keep your mouth shut” “BAM!” Papa Joe smacked Joe so hard his face reddened and his eyes watered. “That’s it, you look perfect, lets go….”

“Knock! Knock!”

“Click. Creak.” “Can I help you?” A wary, middle aged woman asked.

..until Popa Joe falls, tripping Pigny…

…and Davis reaches the car…

…Joe slams on the brakes…

…Davis snatches the door open…

…Popa Joe is up and at the rear window of the car…

…he jumps on the rear deck…

…the Joe slams the gas peddle down…

…leaping the highway…

…with Davis holding on for dear life…

…half in and half out of the car…

…and Popa Joe slides off…

…Davis climbs in…

…Joe gets the hang of the clutch…

…THEY HIT THE OPEN ROAD TO FREEDOM…

…LEAVING POPA JOE AND PIGNY GESTURING AND CARRYING ON LIKE A PAIR OF COMICS IN A NINETEEN TWENTIES SILENT FILM!!!

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