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Billy the Kid Enters the Heartland: A Continuing Short Story
It’s Time to Saddle up Again
Some of you have suggested this series of short stories would make a good book. I have no idea if that will happen. It wasn’t my plan when I started and still isn’t, but my plans have a way of being altered by life, and my writing plans are often altered by my muse. So we shall see. As we used to say as teens, who knows what the nose knows, so speak, beak!
All I know for sure is Billy the Kid is fun to write about and for now that will be enough for me.
When last we saw Billy, he had just visited his good friend, Pete, in Atlanta, and found out that there is a $100,000 bounty on his head. Billy and Genna decided it was a good time to get lost in one of those nondescript states in the Heartland where maybe, just maybe, the Russian mob and the Mexican drug cartel won’t find them.
As they drove away, Pete wrote down their license number and made a phone call.
And here we go!
The thing about trust is I have very little of it on a normal day. On a day when murderous thugs are looking to spray my brain matter across the landscape, I have absolutely none.
A hundred grand is a mighty incentive to a guy like Pete, a guy who has had to scramble for every buck he has made. It has the ability to warp allegiances and distort realities. We grew up together. We lost our cherries on the same night, to the same girl. And I didn’t trust him any further than I could throw him at that moment. I instructed Genna to find a Lexus dealer. Naturally, she was curious why.
“We need to trade in your car, the sooner the better. Odds are two-to-one against us that Pete has already called the Russians and Mexicans and told them your license number and car description. That gives us about two hours to make this car disappear. You’ll lose money on the trade-in but that’s better than your body being found tomorrow morning in an abandoned lot.”
I had to give her credit. She didn’t hesitate and she didn’t ask any questions. She fiddled with her phone, found an address for the closest Lexus dealer, put the address in the car’s GPS and began following the directions given by some disembodied British trollop.
It took exactly one hour and fifty-two minutes for the salesperson at Lexus of Atlanta to hand us the keys to a 2008 Toyota Camry and wish us well. I told Genna to drive.
“Now do we head to Iowa?” she asked me with more than a little apprehension in her voice.
“Not yet. One more stop and then we’re gone. Go back to the tavern on East Tupelo. I want to properly say goodbye to my childhood friend Pete.”
I could feel her eyes on me.
“Do you think that’s wise?”
“Genna, that horse left the barn a long time ago. When we get there, drop me at the curb and turn right at the first intersection. Park it so it can’t be seen from the tavern and wait for me. I won’t be long.”
I knew he’d be there. He’d be nursing another beer and waiting for confirmation of my demise. He probably set up his bounty payment for later that night. I’m not sure what happened to loyalty in this country, but it’s sure in short supply. As Genna pulled to the curb and I got out, I thought back to the times my old man took Pete in when Pete’s old man was drunk and in a hittin’ mood. I thought of the meals my saintly mother cooked for Pete, giving him some love that was sorely missing in his own household. I thought about those things as I opened the door, walked in, spotted Pete in the same corner and approached him. I was ten feet from him when he looked up and saw me.
Pete was good but not good enough. For one brief moment I saw the surprise and fear in his eyes, then his features relaxed and a smile began to form. It never materialized. I jammed my gun in his mouth, splitting his lip and knocking two teeth out.
“Unlike you, Petey, the old times mean something to me. That’s why I’m going to let you live. No, no, Petey, please don’t try to deny it. You sold me out, plain and simple. But we were friends so you live….for awhile. Here’s what’s going to happen though, Pete. When I leave here I’m going to call a friend in the business and tell him at the last moment you had an attack of conscience and warned me. Word will spread pretty fast, don’t you think? I figure you’ve got a couple hours, tops, before either the Russians or the Mexicans walk though that front door. In other words, adios, asshole!”
I pulled the gun out of his mouth and clipped him on the side of the head. He was down for the count as I walked out of the tavern, down to the intersection, turned right and found Genna waiting ten feet down the curb.
“Did you kill him?”
“Couldn’t do it. Let’s go. This neighborhood is going to be a busy place soon. I think Iowa is sounding real nice about now.”
I’m from Washington Heights in New York City. When I was a kid, the Heights was the largest distribution center of crack in the northeast. You can look it up. The Wild Cowboys, a drug gang started by the Sepulveda brothers, ran the neighborhood with brutality, and friends of mine lived in a housing complex called Crack City. True story. Cops wouldn’t enter the Hood. Simple as that. So as we passed by the sign on the state highway telling us we were entering Iowa, and the landscape resembled a Norman Rockwell painting, all white-clapboard farmhouses, tractors, combines, Ford pickup trucks and bib overalls, I swear to God I felt misplaced, displaced and out of place.
I asked Genna if she was hungry; she said yes. She pulled off of 34 and took us into Mount Pleasant, a city of eight-seven hundred, brick storefronts, two traffic lights, honest-to-God barber poles, a meat-processing plant and a prison, and we saw it all during a five minute drive through town. Something about it appealed to us because Genna turned around, took us back into the downtown center and pulled into the Lazy Boots Café parking lot. Her Toyota was the only foreign-made car in the lot. I was pretty certain the Lazy Boots didn’t cater to vegetarians or vegans.
Mary Louise with the teased blond hair, ample butt and bosom welcomed us to the Lazy Boots, told us the chicken fried steak was to die for, took our orders and left us to ponder our present situation. I figured we were safe for awhile. No self-respecting Russian or Mexican gangbanger would be caught dead in Mount Pleasant and I shared that with Genna. She seemed relieved but still shell-shocked. Hell of a change for her. She was putting her trust in a crazy Mick bastard who had a price on his head, and that’s never a good recipe for success in life. Her dark eyes searched mine for reassurance. I don’t know what they found, but whatever it was, it didn’t ruin her appetite. She wolfed down the meal like a condemned woman on death row, which quite possibly she was.
She sopped up the last of the country gravy with her roll and asked me the question I knew was coming.
“What do we do now, Billy?”
Hell of a question.
“I don’t have much choice, Genna. I can’t go back, now or ever. There’s no debate of that fact. You, you might have some options, but they aren’t great and they all require relocation. The Mexicans know your name by now but I don’t know how hard they’ll look for you. If you’ve got relatives in some other state you would probably be safe going to them, but then there’s your ex-husband. He can find you through relatives, so that option sucks too. You can’t use your credit cards. They can be traced. Same with your cell phone. Toss it away and buy a pre-paid phone if you really need one. Right now that’s about the best I can tell you.”
She took a drink of her coffee. “What if I decided to stay with you?”
“It’s six of one, half dozen of the other. If you’re looking for guarantees of safety I’ve got none. With me or without me there are risks. Welcome to the giant crapshoot of life. I’m thinking Mount Pleasant is as good a hole to disappear in as any. Find a job, blend in with the populace, come up with a cover story and see what happens. We can hide in plain sight and hope for the best. After a few months I can drive up to Chicago and get us new identities. The paperwork won’t be perfect but it will serve our purposes. We become someone else and hopefully that will be enough to keep us alive.”
And so We Did
The days became weeks in Mount Pleasant. I found a job at the meat-processing plant, a dirty-assed job where management didn’t care enough to check references on a job app. Genna found work alongside Mary Louise at the Lazy Boots. We rented a foreclosed farmhouse two miles out of town. Mary Louise had a brother who worked at Mount Pleasant Bank, so we got the rental without too much hassle or background check, five-hundred a month including utilities. Evidently the real estate market was less-than-stellar in Mount Pleasant in December. Go figure!
The first snow fell on the tenth, a foot of white that muffled sounds and gave the illusion of safety. Our days became comforters of routine, off to work by eight, back home by dinner, eat together, watch some television, go to sleep and do it again the next day, and the next, and the next. We had remained platonic, perhaps both worried about the entanglements of emotional involvement, but as Christmas approached I was sorely tempted to toss platonic out the window and find comfort in her soft chocolate body.
Christmas Eve arrived under another fresh snowfall. We had bought each other presents so after dinner, by candlelight, we opened our gifts and pretended that all was right in the world and there truly was peace among men. I thanked her for the sweater and new work boots. She thanked me for the necklace, asked me to put it around her neck and then thanked me more with a kiss that halted time and left my knees like jelly.
Outside of our Currier and Ives scene, while we discovered the secrets of each other’s flesh, a black Cadillac Escalade passed slowly by.
To Be Continued
Just when you think our heroes (???) might catch a break and find some normalcy, up pops the devil. The only question is, which devil just popped up?
I guess we’ll just have to wait until next week to find out.
Thanks for stopping by, and if you’re ever in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, stop by and say howdy to Genna and that crazy Mick bastard…..hopefully they’ll be alive to return your greeting.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)