Double Ought Buck

Posted: July 13, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a little thing I’m working on. It’s not exactly a main writing project and I’m not sure how long it’s gonna be, but I’m tentatively calling it Double Ought Buck:

1

This is about how Dupree nearly got himself killed but only lost his pinky finger, Anders finally got his million dollars, and Sashy wound up in jail. Not that nothing happened to me. I got a black eye and a chipped tooth for my troubles. Also, I got to write it all down in this story. I guess you could say I broke even, if there is such a thing.

Here’s how it all rolled out.

2

Hunting is the number one sport in East Texas, and it’s in there right after talking a cop out of giving you a traffic citation. That’s how it all started—a routine traffic stop, while we were on our way to go hunting.

“You boys going hunting, or coming back?” the cop asked.

“Yessir, officer,” I told him. “We figured we’d be up before dawn and sitting in a deer blind.
We’re bringing home Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Wild turkey, huh?”

“We don’t drink, sir,” Sashy said. Sashy rode shotgun.

The cop laughed. “I meant what you might be hunting, not what you’re drinking. So it’s deer. But, that sounds like a load of bullshit to me—you fellahs not drinking, that is. But, have it your way. So you don’t drink. That’s fine. That’s mighty fine.” Then to me, the driver, he said, “Got any idea how fast you were going back there?”

“Honestly I don’t, sir.”

“You were doing eighty-seven in a sixty-five. That’s about twenty-two over the limit.”

“Told you you were going to fast,” Dupree said from the back seat of my Toyota Four-Runner.

“Tell your friends,” the cop said, “to shut their traps.”

“Shut your traps, guys,” I said.

The officer began writing. He walked around to the back of the car and wrote down the license plate number. When he came back he tore off a sheet of paper from his steel ticket book and started to hand it to me.

“Go ahead,” he said.

“Go ahead and what?” I asked.

“Go ahead and try to talk me out of giving you this ticket. Maybe ask me to make it a warning or something.”

“Maybe your mind is already made up,” I said.

“Could be,” he said. “But my shift ended five minutes ago. I was just about to head home when you fellahs ran by me ninety-to-nothing. I’m feeling…ambivalent today. Maybe I could be swayed.”

“Well,” I said, slowly. It took me a few seconds, but I finally came up with something. “It think it was quite honestly my ingrown toenail.”

“No shit?” the officer asked.

“Yep. The top of my boot gives it a little bit of pressure. When I’m standing on it, it doesn’t throb so bad for the first little bit, but when I’m sitting, it creeps up on me and starts hurting something awful. I think about a mile back I started feeling it—you know, just below conscious level—and I started pushing on the gas. I think that’s why I was going so all-fired fast.”

“Now that,” the officer said, “is the best one I’ve ever heard. No one’s ever given me that line of bullshit before. That’s pretty damned good.” He bent down head-level with me, looked me in the eyes with his too-bright flashlight up close and personal. “You fellahs ever hear him complain about his ingrown toenail? Now I’ll know if you’re lying to me.”

“Uh, not once, officers” Anders said from the back seat.

“He mentioned it once to me,” Sashy said. “But that was a few weeks back. I think he was looking for an excuse to get out of helping me move.”

“What about you?” the officer said, and aimed his flashlight at Jackson Dupree. I glanced that way just in time to see Dupree shake his head.

“That’s what I thought. Okay, so I suppose there’s enough to make me doubt. I’ll just write ‘Warning’ on this thing. Now you slow it down, Mr. Trombaugh, you hear me?”

“Yes sir. I’ll do that.”

“I thought you might.”

He tore off the ticket and handed it to me, then handed me my license and registration. Sure enough, I had gotten off.

“By the way, fellahs,” he said, “go nice and slow through this next town. There’s a manhunt on for an escaped convict. Don’t pick up any hitchhikers and mind the local cops. There will be roads blocked off, men on horseback and lots of dogs about.”

“What’d the fellah do?” Anders asked.

“Robbed a bank a few years back. It’s been suggested that he hid his take in these woods and that he may have come back for it.”

“That’d be stupid,” I said. “I mean, coming back to fetch the money with everybody looking for him.”

“Yeah, but it’s been my experience that criminals all have one thing in common. They’re too stupid to come in out of the rain, too lazy to hold a job, and have no sense of timing.”

“I’ll remember that,” I said.

The officer nodded, then returned to his cruiser. I didn’t wait for the red and blues to stop rotating and counter-rotating behind us. I started the SUV and got us back on the highway.

“Close one,” Dupree said.

“Yeah,” I said. “No thanks to you.”

3

“I’ll bet it’s millions,” Yates Anders said from the back seat. With Anders it was always ‘When I make my first million,’ this, and ‘All I need is that first million,’ that. More than once I tried to convince him that a million was just pissing-money and not enough to guarantee what you’d call a ‘life.’ He wasn’t having any of it. A million was all the money there was. With a million you could do just about anything. Anders once had me try it on for size to prove his point. Once he said something like, “Tell me one thing you’ve always dreamed of having,” and I responded something like, “One of those thirty-foot dual-engine deep sea fishing boats. Anders replied, “Less than a million. A lot less than a million.” “A big house on Horseshoe Bay.” “Maybe more than a million, but still, if you built it yourself the materials would run you less than a million.” The guy was convinced.

“They don’t keep millions in banks anymore,” Clyde Dupree said. The sun was long gone from the sky and darkness lay across the East Texas piney woods.

“Does your toe really hurt?” Sashy asked me.

“A little,” I said, for no other purpose than to retain my credibility with the boys.

“Yes they do,” Anders said. “They exchange millions with other banks all the time. Usually it’s in big notes. Denominations of five hundred or more. It’s one little stack of bills that way.”

“You’re full of shit, Anders,” Sashy said.

About that time we came around this long, winding curve and into the town of Kyle’s Crossing. There were red and blue police lights everywhere.

“Holy shit,” Anders said. “Will you look at that!”

“Yeah,” I said, and slowed way the hell down.

A couple of horses and riders came into view off to the side of the road. A fellow with a half a dozen barking coon hounds walked along in front of them.

“They wouldn’t have dogs unless the guy was spotted here. I don’t think they’ve got a scent in their nose, though,” Anders said.

“You ain’t never been coon huntin’,” Dupree said, “so shut the hell up.”

“That’s a damned lie! I’ve been coon huntin’ probably a hundred times.”

“Come to think of it,” I said, “I don’t ever recall you going on coon hunt with me, and I’ve been coon huntin’ at least twenty times since I was knee-high to a…to a knee.”

“Shut up,” Anders said. “That fellah is waving us down.”

I brought us to a slow stop and a state trooper approached my door. I rolled down the window.

“We were just passing through,” I said. “You haven’t caught him yet, have you?”

The trooper looked at me quizzically, then said, “Nope. Of course not. You boys keep on goin’. Don’t stop for nothing until you’re at least ten miles from here.”

“What’s this fellah look like?” Anders asked.

“Looks like a criminal. Could be he’s in an orange jump suit, prison issue, but he’s probably already ditched that. Buzz cut, lots of tattoos. Spent all his time in prison lifting weights, so he’s probably stronger than an ox. If you see him, give a call to 9-1-1, and we’ll take it from there.”

“Thank you, officer,” I said, and hit the gas pedal before Anders or anybody else could ask another stupid question.

“Hey,” Anders said. “I was going to ask him something.”

“I know. That’s why I left. Remember? We’re going to be in the blind when the sun comes up. Bag us a few deer, get our Thanksgiving all lined up, have a few beers and get back to town. Keep our women happy. That is, those of us who have a woman.”

“Yeah, but plans can change,” Anders said.

“No they can’t,” Dupree said.

On the outskirts of town there was a sign for a county road off to the right.

“I’ve got a feeling about this,” Anders said. “Turn right.”

“Nothing doing,” I replied.

“Come on. If you do it, I’ll be your personal servant all day tomorrow.”

“Personal servant, huh? You’re already my personal servant since I let you have Molly Francine’s phone number, and you ain’t done shit for me yet.”

“I mean it. I’ll do anything but hold your pecker for you. All day tomorrow. You want me to go to town to get more beer, I’ll do it. You want me to tag, skin and gut any buck you bag, I’ll do it. Just slow down and take this next county road.”

“Goddammit,” I said. “Fine.”

Stupid of me, but I slowed and turned.

4

My dad worked for the prison system back when I was little. He told a hundred stories or more about the shenanigans of prisoners and guards, all of it laced with his legendary grim humor.

The majority of Texas’s prison population resides in and around Huntsville, which was no more than fifteen miles south and east of us as the crow flies. In my mind’s eye I could see this muscle-up, bedraggled, and scratched-up jump-suited young con moving along through creek beds and ducking down dark culverts in the night. It would be a hell of a way to live, on the lam like that, with men with dogs, rifles and shotguns breaking trail for you. Let me tell you, I wanted no part of any of it. But then again there was Yates Anders and his nose for money—possibly more money than he’d ever seen at one whack in his entire life—sitting in the back seat directing all four of us. You could say Anders was in charge.

In deep East Texas, any county road looks like any other county road, especially at night.

A mile down the washboard, kaliche road, we came upon a tree across the road. It wasn’t a huge tree, but it was obvious that it could potentially do damage to the undercarriage if we tried going over it. I slowed us to a stop.

The tree was quite obviously dead. Its few remaining branches were shattered across the roadway in front of us in the glare of our headlights.

I scratched my ear. “Well, as I see it, this is a good place to turn around.”

“No way, Jose,” Anders said. “We can just roll over it.”

“In your car, maybe,” I said. “Not mine.”

At that moment my car door opened. Something powerful grabbed my hair and pulled my head back to where I was looking at the ceiling. I felt something sharp across my throat.

“Don’t any of you move,” the voice said. It was a voice full of gravel, dead oil and old truck parts.

“Uh, we’re not movin’, Mister,” Jackson Dupree said.

“No sir,” Anders said.

“Get out. All of you. Step in front of the headlights where I can see you. Don’t get out on this side or I cut your friend’s throat.”

I dared not move a muscle. One by one they got out—Sashy Johns, Jackson Dupree and Yates Anders—and went to stand in front of the headlights. They looked eerie like that—like the weirded-out people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The fellow pulled on my hair until I came out of the car. Let me tell you, it hurt something awful. But all the while he kept that shiv—or whatever the hell it was—right against my Adam’s Apple.

“All right,” he said. “I’m gonna let your boy here go.” To me he whispered, “you go stand with your friends. If you try any shit, I’ll come grab you and cut you wide open.”

I nodded. The hand slowly released my hair and the blade came away from my throat. He shoved me past the open car door and to the fellows. He went around back, opened up the hatch and pulled out a rifle. We wouldn’t have been able to see it at all but for the reddish glow of the parking lights and the yellow light from the hatchback.

“Hey!” Jackson Dupree shouted and started to move, but then the distinctive sound of the bolt slamming home stopped him in his tracks.

“Want to do something about it?” the man asked. I still hadn’t seen his face.

“Uh, no sir,” I said.

“Not you. Him.” he pointed the rifle at Dupree.

We could almost hear the gears turning in Dupree’s head. There was no telling what he was going to say, but he never got the chance. The rifle bucked and spit fire. Jackson Dupree wailed and bent double in front of the driver’s side headlight. His hand spurted blood.

“Shit! He shot me! Oh shit! My finger!” Dupree wailed.

Dupree’s pinky on his left hand was missing past the first joint.

The fellow laughed. “Well hell. I was aiming for your scrotum.” The bolt slammed home again on the rifle.

Dupree’s hand continued to spurt blood in the glaring headlights. Staring at it, I realized I was slowly going blind, and meanwhile, we were blind to our assailant. With effort, I turned away from Dupree and his hypnotic hand trick.

The fellow stood behind my open car door.

“Alright, boys, I’m taking your ride. It’s a long walk back into town. If any of you try to follow me, you’ll wind up dead. That I can promise you.”

Without further word he got in, threw the SUV in reverse and back up. He stopped about thirty feet back and the four of us stared at him.

He honked the horn.

“I’m not going over there,” Sashy said.

“I don’t think—” I began, but another horn blast cut me off. I was going to say that I didn’t think he wanted us to come over and talk.

I began moving toward the side of the road.

“Where are you going?” Anders asked.

“Uh. Out of the way.”

The con hit the gas pedal. The tires spun on the kaliche gravel for a moment and then caught. The car leapt forward.

Sashy shoved Dupree and Anders tripped over his own feet getting out of the way. My car hit the tree and sailed over it without any difficulty. In ten seconds my taillights disappeared into the night.

“Oh shit,” Dupree cried. “Somebody find my finger. Somebody find it!”

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