The LaFierra Caper and Its Rat Pack Robbers

Illustration to accompany The LaFierra Caper. Copyright(c) 2017 by Roger Betka. Used under license

Story by Nick Swain/ Illustration by Roger Betka

              LaFierra Citizens Bank.  Hillard St.  12:32 p.m.   October 3rd, 1963

 

“Keep your face to the wall and don’t say anything else.  You got a favorite tune?  Hum it, just do it quietly, this will be over soon,” the man in a cheap, dime store suit with a fedora on his head and a cloth around his face and a .45 in his hand, instructed the lady bank teller who had decided that the middle of a stick-up was the time to talk about Jesus and forgiveness.  And that kind of shit only made Frank nervous.  He needed to keep a cool head, and stay alert.  He hated being on crowd control.  He’d wanted to take the manager to the vault with Mr. Ducktail (or Dean as they were referring to him), but Sammy had insisted on being the one who went with him.  Actually, his exact words were: “I wanna’ watch him.”

The man in the cheap suit holding the employees and civilians at gun point in the lobby of the LaFierra bank wasn’t really named Frank.  Just like the two gunmen who’d taken the bespectacled manger down the hall into the vault room, weren’t really named Sammy and Dean.  And the short, nervous fellow waiting out in the car wasn’t really Peter. The Old Man had been explicit about them not knowing each other’s real names.  It’s harder to rat on a man when you don’t even know his real name. And the Old Man, of course being the master criminal (and until recently the oldest inmate in Quinten) who brought the gang of strangers together for the caper.  The Old Man had picked all four of them personally.  Frank had met the Old Man nearly a decade ago when he was doing a stretch for assault.  But that was something he and the Old Man kept to themselves.  Just like the rest of them did.  Frank didn’t know how any of the others knew the Old Man.

Except Sammy; Sammy was different.  “Frank” had known Sammy – whose name was really, Chris – from before the job.  He’d met him the same way he met everyone else he knew: from behind The Walls.  Though it had been years since he’d even spoken to Chris, he was plenty happy to see his old cellie, and they’d done a good job at keeping their acquaintance a secret; even from the Old Man, who Frank respected like an uncle, simply because he’d somehow overlooked the fact that the two had a history meant that he was slipping, with his age.  But Frank and Sammy more than trusted each other, even after the years, so they each agreed there was no need to share the error with the Old Man.

It had been the Old Man’s idea to give them the Rat Pack names, at the first meeting.  Just the old man’s kind of humor, to give a group of robbers the names from the cast of a heist movie that had come out just a couple years ago.  If he was going to take names from the movies, Frank would have preferred The Killing or The Asphalt Jungle; something with Sterling Hayden.  But he didn’t really mind being Sinatra.  Dean had wanted to go by Cody Jarrett (Cagney’s character in White Heat).  Or even Dracula (the latter preference told Frank more about the man than anything else had – at least, before Sammy told him something), but gave in once the Old Man gave him the choice of being Dean Martin.   The Old Man thought it would have been a bigger deal about who was going to be Sammy, on a count of how the real Sammy is colored.  But “Sammy” was such a fan of the singer, he jumped on that name the second the Old Man mentioned it.

“Now here’s how I want it,” The Old Man had said, lighting one of the cigars he never seemed to run out of, and using the spent match to point out a spot on the hand-drawn map hung to the wall.  “I want Petey out in that alley with the Ford, behind the bank on Brawn Street, so that when you boys (he pointed at the other three men) come out, if anyone sees you running off into that alley behind the bank, they won’t see what car was around the corner waiting for ya.”

The men agreed with the getaway cars positioning and moved on.  “Now Dean, you and Sammy there are gonna’ take the manager into the back where the vault is.  He’ll tell you he doesn’t have the key, but he does, it’s on a chain around his neck.  If he won’t give it to you the first time you tell him, take it.  You know what to do from there.

“Franky, I know you don’t like it, but you’re on crowd control.  I need the other two in the back moving fast with the cash, so that just leaves you.  Move everyone to a corner, keep their hands up the whole time, it’ll make them easier to watch.”

The Old Man was right, Frank didn’t like being on crowd control, the very idea of it upset him, but Sammy had given him a look he’d been lucky to see from his angle; the same kind of cautious look he’d given him back in Brooksville, when he’d been standing in the chow line next to a fellow named Hardman, who was seconds away from being knifed.

So, despite his better intuition, Frank agreed on crowd control.  And waited patiently for the opportunity for Sammy (he was being sure not to slip and call him Chris) to explain.

“It’ll come off beautifully,” The Old Man had said. “The whole thing will take two minutes, tops.”

The men finished their scheming.

 

That was four days ago, and on October 3rd, 12:30 p.m. three armed men going by the names Frank, Sammy, and Dean stormed through the LaFierra’ s doors.  Frank followed the plan from the start; the moment the doors were open and he was inside, his cannon was up and on the bank tellers, telling them that, “if their hands dropped then so would they”.  Sammy had done his part backing the civilians into a corner and getting the manager to step forward, and Dean had done his part with the bank guard – technically speaking.  But no one told him to pistol-whip the guy to the point of near unconsciousness, splitting his nose with one nauseous ‘crunch!’  Frank was sure if Sammy hadn’t grabbed him and told him to get going to the vault, that Dean would have kept hitting that poor bastard.  Dracula, huh?

Dean stopped, grabbed the guard’s pistol, stuck it in his own waistband, and went off with Sammy, who was escorting the tiny, stumbling manager by the shirt.  Frank instructed the crowd to keep their hands up and not to look at him or say anything.  He kept his eyes on the clock.

And there he waited.

 

 

At 12:33 p.m. – maybe half a minute after Frank had silenced the bible quoting employee, and maybe ten seconds after he had his first bit of trepidation about not making their two-minute mark, he heard the first shots.  There was one two three; they went off almost all at once.  Then after a second, there was one more.  And they came from down the hall; from the vault room.

Frank almost ran off for the hall, leaving the crowd of eleven, but he realized if he did that there’d be nearly a dozen people running outside and into the street, screaming bloody murder.  All he could do was wait and watch; one eye on the crowd, the other on the hall.

“Sammy?” he called out in that direction.

There was no answer.

“Sammy?  Dean?”  Nothing

The bloodied guard with the newly crooked nose started to move again, a little closer to Frank when he’d turned his back to look at the corridor.  “You’d never make it, pal.  Don’t try for it if you know what’s good for everybody.”  The older guard subdued and planted his bottom back on the floor.

When Frank looked back to the hall, he saw someone come out of the vault room.  Someone dressed in a suit, almost exactly like his own, but black (though each a different make and color, each man wore the same style suit).  It was Dean, and he was carrying a satchel around his shoulder.

“What happened?  Where’s Sammy?”

“He’s dead,” Dean said.

Frank was sure he hadn’t heard him correctly, “What did you say?”

“I said he’s dead.  Fuckin’ cop popped out of the back, greased him, and the manager in the excitement.  Almost got me before I got him.”

“What are you talking about, what the fuck is a cop doing in the damn vault room?”

“There was another room back there – before the one the vaults in.  There must be a door that leads out back.  Figure he came in through there.”

“And why the fuck would he do that?”

“Easy.  You let one of them hit the alarm,” Dean said, pointing at the crowd of frightened woman and middle-aged business men.

“No,” Frank said with absolute conviction.  “I’ve had my rod on them since we came in here, and their hands were up the entire five seconds they were behind the counter.”

“Yea, well obviously not.  One of them dames must’ve set off the alarm,” Dean said, taking the .38 he’d pinched from the guard out of his waistband.  Frank saw that same look of sinister excitement and misplaced determination in Dean’s eyes that he’d seen while he was pounding away at the guard.  He knew what Dean was thinking, and wasn’t going to just let it happen.  But there was something else he needed to see.

“Wait here.”

“What?  Where the hell are you goin’?”  Dean asked.  “I got the loot, let’s scram.”

“I need to see.”

“You don’t need to see shit.  I told you what happened.  Now let’s get out’a here.”

“Wait here.  I’ll be right back.”

Now Dean looked angry, “What’re you sayin’?  You don’t believe me?”

Before Frank had a chance to tell him that, no, he didn’t believe him, the guard made a go for Dean; who noticed it the second the old timer was on his feet.  He turned, and without raising his automatic much higher than his stomach, put one in the man’s chest.  The guard toppled over and hit the floor, dead; his eyes wide open in agonized disbelief.

Dean turned back to Frank, with an expression more annoyed than angry and said: “Now we got ‘a kill em’ all.”

“Oh no!” a young blonde in a cream-colored dress with her hands on the wall shouted.   “Please, you don’t have to do- “.

“Shut up,” Dean said, thumbing back the hammer to each of his pistols.

His cool, matter-of-fact indifference told Frank he meant to do just what he’d said.  And that meant he couldn’t go down into the hall; into that room.  He knew Sammy was dead; the manager too.  He believed Dean about that.  But there was something more back there for him to see beside his friend’s corpse.  Only now that Dean was ready to turn the bank into a shooting gallery, he couldn’t turn his back.  And besides, it was time to go.

“No time,” he said, pointing Dean to the clock on the wall that now read 12:35 p.m.

Dean considered, thought better, ordered everyone to keep still, and followed Frank to the banks doors.  And they were back on Hillard Street.

 

 

They made it as far as the first crack in the sidewalk before the cops starting crawling out of the woodwork.  The hotel across the street from the bank looked more like a police station now; blue uniforms situated on every part of the terrace, and there were several perched on each of the staircases; all had their guns out, all had them pointed straight at the bank doors.  It was perfectly clear to Frank, that they’d been there waiting – for them.  And they’d been there, waiting, for longer than the five-minute flop-job had taken.  One of them called out: “Don’t move or we’re gonna’ let you have it!”

Dean shot first.  He sent a wave of bullets at the hotel the second he saw badges there.  His .45 bucked, as he got the guards .38 back out and working alongside it.  The cops, evidently not prepared mentally for Dean’s reaction, ducked and dived for cover as bits of concrete from the building exploded all around them.  One of the heavier cops on the bottom level took one in the gut and flopped to the pavement, holding his stomach and screaming.  A red-headed trooper tried for a bit to drag his inflicted brother-in-arms back into cover, but Dean kept shooting and when a round whizzed by the trooper’s head he let go and dived for cover with the others.

Frank made off for the alley.  If they could make it to Pete (if Pete was still where he was supposed to be, Frank thought) with the car they still had a chance.  A police sedan suddenly appeared up the street, and he fired a shot at it; affectively halting it before it could get any closer to him.  He ducked into the alley before the cops inside it could get out and shoot back.  He could see Dean, inching sideways up the walkway in his direction, reloading and cursing at the cops, most of whom were still too stunned to shoot back at him yet.

As Frank opened his mouth to tell Dean to, ‘hurry up’, that this was the part of ‘Cops & Robbers’ that determined the winner, he saw something; about halfway down the alley, he saw something that he’d tried going into the vault room to see.  Something, he didn’t think Dean would want him to notice.  Something he needed to see while he could.  Something that might alleviate one suspicion he was having – or confirm it.

He went to see.

 

Dean wasn’t quite sure where Frank was – not that he’d looked yet.  In the last ten seconds, he’d used up all five shots from the guard’s revolver, along with eight of his own, and had thrown it aside to replace the empty magazine in his automatic.  He was sure he’d clipped at least two of the bulls across the street from him; hell, if he had the time and the firepower, he could lick em’ all.  Just like Billy The Kid and his Winchester.  But he had to get to the alley before the boys in blue over there worked up the nerve to stick their heads back up, and mow him down like they should have when he first came out of the bank.

Dean turned and realized that Frank wasn’t there anymore.  Sonofabitch had taken off when the shooting started.  Ol’ Frank had struck him as a little uptight, but not yellow.  So, unless he was chickenshit, it didn’t make much sense for him to run off like that; especially on a count of, Dean still had the loot strapped to his back.

The window behind him shattered, and Dean realized that the small army across the street was back up and ready for round two.

He pounced into the alley before the entire second floor of the hotel opened fire on him.  To his surprise, Frank was there, just standing, waiting.  Even… yes, even grinning.

“Come on,” he said.  “Petey’s waiting.”

 

Squealing sirens reverberated threateningly through the neighborhood streets, but there didn’t seem to be any more cops behind the bank, not that Frank or Dean could see as the two came out on Brawn Street.  Those of the four or five civilians standing close enough to notice the emerged masked men, carrying guns and running decisively across the street and into another alley, quickly gasped to themselves and entered the closest business with open doors.

The Ford was there in the alley, right where the five of them had planned for it to be.

But it wasn’t running, and Pete, wasn’t waiting behind the wheel with his twitchy, nervous glass eyes on the rearview mirror.  Pete was walking the opposite way down the alley, a smoke in one hand, his jacket in the other.  He might’ve even been whistling.

“Ay!” Dean barked with emphatic incredulity, “where the fuck are you goin’?”

The short, bug-eyed man they’d been calling, Peter, turned around and Frank thought he looked a little… well, perplexed.  Like the two of them weren’t supposed to be there.

“Surprised to see us?” Frank asked blandly.

“I, I was just, just looking around the corner,” Peter replied, walking, a little hesitantly back to them.  “What’s with all the fireworks?  Where’s Sammy?”

“Cops,” Dean said quickly. “Fuckin’ cops are everywhere.  Now get back in the car.  Hurry up!”

As the others climbed in the car, Peter looked back behind him – in the direction he’d been going when Frank and Dean showed up.  And then he went back and did as he was told.

 

“What’s the matter with you, gun this fucking thing, this is our getaway, not a nice Sunday drive!”  Frank dictated Peter as the sedan made it off the street behind Brawn, and started up Baker.  The apartment selected as the rendezvous was less than four blocks away, and if they could shake the cops long enough to get there and stash the Ford in the garage space waiting for them, there might be a way out – yet, Frank wondered.

“I shouldn’t go no faster if we don’t wanna’ attract attention,” Peter said timidly, looking every which direction along the streets passing, as though looking for the right way, though Frank knew for a fact Peter knew exactly where he was going; they had planned it together.

“We’ve already got their attention, Petey.  Just get us to that garage, and make it snappy, you hear?”

The black sedan whizzed by the Plymouth ahead of it, and straight through a red light, causing a crossing pickup to veer off and crash into a curb.  Peter had heard him alright; Mr. “Frank Sinatra” had struck him from the beginning as someone he didn’t want any troubles with, the quick-to-get-rough type.  Peter didn’t want any troubles with anyone.  He just wanted to keep his head low, and his ass safe.  “What was with all the shootin’ back there?”

“What do ya think, bright boy?” Dean said from the back, pulling the cloth from over his face down to his neck.  His pistol was still in his hand and his eyes were still scoping the streets.  “The bulls showed up, and quick.  Someone hit the alarm.”

“No one hit the fucking alarm,” Frank said coldly, looking ahead in the passenger’s seat.  “And how would you know?  You were too busy trying to rub everyone out to notice anything.  I wish I’d known you were a psycho before I came on this job, no one told me you had the worst case of trigger happy in the west!”

“What’re you guys talkin’ about?” Peter asked.  “What happened to Sammy?”

Frank had turned around and seen the way Dean was looking at him during his reproach.  It wasn’t a new look – or one of indignation; it was the casual, arched eyebrow, hawk-eyed, half-faced grin of impassivity he almost always displayed.  And it infuriated Frank.

He reached back to grab Dean by the collar, and Dean met him halfway there.  Frank’s eyes flared with dark, furious mistrust and Deans with an ocean blue of homicidal excitement.   Each had a firm hold on the others jacket, which would have surely amounted to more if Peter hadn’t stuck an arm in the middle, crying about how he couldn’t drive while a fight was going on top of him – and if it weren’t for the bellowing squad car that came skidding out on their tail as soon as they turned from Baker Street.

Before Frank could order Peter to pass their upcoming turn and to lose the cops the long way, Dean had his head out of the window and was blasting at the squad car.  Two rounds struck home, and Frank could see the spider webs of shattered glass consume the cop’s windshield.  It swerved from left to right a few times and finally slammed into a row of parked cars.

Peter mumbled something along the lines of, “…oh Jesus.  Jesus…” and made the turn.  Frank watched through the back window and saw that this had been the only cop on them.

“Well, I got to give it to you: you sure are good for that,” Frank said

Dean sat back down, noticed how close they were to the Old Man’s apartment, finally put his pistol away, and reached over the front seat to switch on the radio.  The pained, mellifluous voice of Roy Orbison sounded out and Dean cranked the volume higher before settling back down in his seat.  He sang along for a moment before breaking into a mild fit of, what Frank now thought of as, psychopathic laughter.

“…Only the lonely, know the way I feel tonight… only the lonely… know this feeling… ain’t right…”

“…Oh Jesus.  Jesus…”

 

The remaining members of The Rat Pack climbed the stairs to the third floor of the building; where the safe room was.  It seemed they had managed to evade the mob of police chasing them, hide the car from public view, and… and they had the money.  But Frank wasn’t thinking about the money as he twisted his key (every man was given one, incase separated), unlocking the door.  In fact, he’d forgotten all about it.  This had gone from a well-planned score, to something else.  And that was what Frank was thinking about.

He crossed the slummy den of the apartment and closed the blinds, as Dean opened the satchel he’d fought so hard to get there, and dumped the cash out on a table; the only furnishing in the place.   Hundreds, fifties, twenties; some in stacks, some loose bills; all invoking a grin.  Dean gave a single ‘well would you look at that’ whistle.  Peter chuckled nervously, and looked from the table spilling money, to each of the others, for the first time he was smiling.  “So, what’s the cut now you figure?” He asked.

Neither of the men answered him.

Dean was smoking, and taking off his hat and jacket, underneath which, was a leather sling, bedding his pistol; it clung tightly around his torso and attached to his belt like suspenders.  His eyes shut tightly as the smoke from the cigarette smoldering in his mouth lingered up into his face.  He was fanning through a stack of bills from the table.

Frank stood by the window, where the barrier separating the den from the depleted kitchen gave him something to lean against.  He was smoking, too.  But before he’d fished out a Lucky and flicked away the match he’d used to light it, he’d done something that Dean and Peter hadn’t noticed.  Before turning back around to them, and leaning against the wall with one foot cocked over the other, he’d taken the automatic from his belt and slid it into his pants pocket; where he’s hand remained.

“So here we are,” he said.

 

“Got something on your mind?” Dean asked, seeing Frank’s relaxed yet still somehow accusing stance.  He had deadpan eyes set on Dean as he held a cigarette in between the fingers of one hand, with his other stuffed nonchalantly in his pocket.

“Few things…yea.”  Frank answered, shooting smoke from his nostrils.  “Let’s start with how you killed Sammy.”

Dean didn’t even blink.  Or even take a pull from the cigarette still hanging from his mouth.  He just peered over at Frank with that same disingenuous, vacant-eyed stare of his.  But Peter’s mouth gaped, and he looked to Dean and asked, in a way that was neither greatly surprised or easily accepting, “You killed Sammy?”

Dean took a deep drag of his cigarette, ignored Peter’s question, and asked: “What the fuck are you talkin’ about, Sinatra?”

“I’m talking about what really happened back there in the vault room; what really happened to Sammy.  See, The Old Man – who, I’ll get back to – believed that we were all strangers, and, for the most part he was right.  Thing is… I knew Sammy.  And thing is… I know that you knew him too.

“Oh yea, I knew Sammy.  Did time together.  And three years in a two-man cell really helps you to get to know a fella.  Oh, things like his racket, his women, his enemies…”  Frank looked to Dean through the cloud of smoke he was blowing, and saw the hint of insanity escalating inside of him.  And he could swear the man’s finger was twitching…

“Now, I hadn’t seen C… well, you know his name.  I hadn’t seen Sammy in years…didn’t ever really expect to either.  That is until the Old Man got to me about this job, and I came back to this godforsaken city.  And what ya know?  Sammy’s one of you.  I mean, I didn’t even know he knew the Old Man,” Frank chuckled a little to himself here. “Anyway, after that first day, when we all met and got our names, we went for a drink.  You know, catch up on things.  And there was something I’d noticed about him during the meeting, that I was a just a little curious about.  He filled me in, alright.  Told me some pretty interesting things: How he was thinking of marrying some broad and heading to the mountains; how The Old man had been taking him up in the world lately; how someone who worked for him was getting a little too bold; you, Johnny,” Frank said, pointing his smoke wielding fingers at Dean.

Dean grinned, but that was all.  He hadn’t moved and he hadn’t spoken.  Aside from the familiar crooked grin, there was no emotion on his face; except maybe calm anticipation.

“He also told me,” Frank went on, “about the truck job he put you on a while back.  About how everyone got it; even the truck driver.  Everyone, except for you. About how, even though you made it out of the thing, somehow, the money was nowhere to be found.  You said you didn’t have it, cops couldn’t find it.  It just vanished along with the lone survivor mystery gunman of the robbery.

“He told me all about how he talked the Old Man into putting him alongside you on this job, just to, you know, keep track of the money.  You did a real good job of holding onto it today by the way; I guess practice makes perfect, right?  You wanna’ know what else he told me?

“He told me, when I came to him about not wanting to be on crowd control, that he didn’t trust you alone in the vault room with anyone else.  Funny, huh?  He also said that he could handle you; I guess that was the only thing he got wrong.”

“I told you before, a cop killed Sammy,” Dean finally said.

“Yea, I been thinking about that,” Frank said seeming firm yet amiable. “See, I never believed that story.  I know for a fact none of those people back at the LaFierra hit the alarm; I might not like crowd control, but I sure as shit know how to do it.

“Now, you said, a cop slipped in through the back door, killed Sammy and even the poor manger, huh?  I’m right about that, that is what you’re saying happened, right?  Well, like I said I didn’t believe you, and you plugged the guard before I could tell you that.  I wanted to go to the vault room and see something – I didn’t get to.  But when we got outside, and while you were busy reenacting the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, I went down into the alley… And you know what I found?”

Dean said nothing.  Peter remained silent and interested by the wall between the two.

“A door just like you said, there was a door… Only the door was locked, Dean…

“Now, putting aside that whole part about how a cop would’ve known to go in there… which, he wouldn’t have… why the fuck would he decide to lock the door behind him?

“You know what I think, Dean?  I don’t think there was a cop, least not back there.  I think you saw your chance, and you took…”

That was when Dean dropped his smoke and went for the pistol under his armpit.  Frank was ready for him and had the automatic out of his pants pocket and fired first from the hip, then raised and centered straight ahead.  The first round hit Dean square in the chest, bursting a bloodied hole through his narrow tie and clean white shirt; he’d had his hand wrapped around his pistol and mostly out of the holster before Franks slug got him.  When it hit him, he went stumbling backwards before he could take aim, and fired wildly; the first bullet hit the wall just to the right of Frank; who fired a second time, and then a third, and then a fourth…

With every round he took, Dean stumbled back farther, still firing blindly; his first two strays hit the wall leading to Peter, the last, hit the part of the wall so close to Peters head, bits of dry wall spat against the side of his flinching face; he jumped, then ducked, as the fifth bullet hit Dean and finally dropped him.  He landed flat on the table littered with cash; the legs of which gave out, and dropped Dean and the money to the floor.

His eyes were closed.  His torso was full of holes, and blood drained down from the ruffles in his shirt to the money beneath him.  His bent-up knee swayed for a moment, then stilled.  The fingers around his gun-butt relaxed, though his index finger never left the inside of the trigger guard.

He was dead.

Frank watched this, fished out another smoke, and ambled towards the mess.  He got to where Dean had been standing, bent down, picked up the smoking butt Dean had dropped, and used it to light his own.

 

 

“Jesus,” Peter said. “Jesus, I knew Dean was crazy, but killing Sammy.  That stuff with the other crew.  Jeez… Guy was a madman.  Good thing you figured it out, Frank.”

“I had my doubts.  The whole thing seemed too…” Frank smirked, “…crazy.  But I knew I was right when he drew on me.”

“Think he would of tried to ice us?”

Frank didn’t answer him.

“More for us then I guess, huh?”

“Not quite, Petey.”  Now Frank was looking at him the way he’d been looking at Dean, and his pistol was still by his side.

“What…what do you mean, Frank?”

I mean, Petey, that I know it was you who dimed us out to the cops; all the ones waiting for us, that Dean swore up and down showed up for the alarm.  You’re responsible for that.”

“Frank, I would never, I- “

“Save it Pete,” Frank cut in.  “All those cops were the only reason I wasn’t positive about Dean’s lie.  But when I got out there, and saw them crawling all over the place like cockroaches, I knew someone talked.  Why?  I don’t know, I can only imagine.  Guys always seem to have a reason.  Tell you the truth, Petey; I don’t really care why you did it, least not anymore.  But I do care that you did it…”

“FRANK I DIDN’T!  I SWEAR, I WOULD NEVER- “

“It was really just a matter of deduction,” Frank went on as if Peter hadn’t been speaking.  “Like I said, I knew Sammy.  He was a Goodfella.  Would never have talked, and even if he had, he wouldn’t have gone in the back and ended up getting killed by one of them.

“Then there was the Old Man.  I don’t believe that tough old bastard could ever be coaxed into something like that.  Poor Old Man, he’s probably getting worked over by a police grilling as we speak.

“And Dean, well, you saw.  And even the cops got a limit on how trigger happy a guy can be.  That just leaves you, Petey…”

“Frank, please,” Peter pleaded.  “I wouldn’t…”

“But what really bugged me, was how we found you.  See, way I figure it, you heard all the shooting from the car, assumed your buddies had gunned us down, and then just strolled off to meetup with them.  And that’s why you were so surprised to see us – wasn’t it, Petey?”

“Frank, come on.  I’m telling you, you got it all wrong!”

The magazine from Frank’s .45 ejected and hit the floor.  The aggressive thump it made, made Peter jump.  “Yea?” Frank said, taking out another clip from his jacket pocket, “Well maybe I do, maybe I don’t.  It’s been that kind of a day, you know?”  He pulled the slid back then, and Peter could hear a round securing its place in the gun’s chamber.  “Tell you the truth Petey, I don’t really care one way or the other, not anymore, and you know – “

Frank heard something; car doors shutting.  He went over to the window, drew back the blinds, and to his dismay, found the lot was flooded with cops.  They were smart enough to not blare their sirens, but not enough to keep from slamming doors.  Frank couldn’t help but chuckle.  He thought back to their escape; how easily they’d manage to make a break once evading the single squad car.  Now Frank knew why: they’d fallen off intentionally, waited.  Decided to stop the shooting in the streets, and raid the safe house.  Which Peter had undoubtable filled them in about.

“Good news Petey, your friends are here.  Bad news for me though.  You ever done time, Petey?”

Peter didn’t answer.  He looked smaller somehow, frightened and backed up against the wall.

“No, no of course not.  You’re not the doin’ time type, are you, Petey?”

Peter still said nothing, only trembled.

“Well I have…plenty.  And you know somethin’?  I’m not gonna be doing anymore, not while I’ve still got some bullets.  Your pals won’t be taking me in.”  Frank took a final drag of his cigarette and raised his pistol; preparing.  He was sure that he could hear a gang of feet storming their way up to the third floor.

“Don’t go out there, Frank!  They’ll tear you apart, they got shotguns!  Just stay up here with me.  It was Dean doin’ all the shootin’ right?  They’ll take it easy on us!”

“You don’t get it, Petey.”  Frank said, moving closer to Peter in the corner.  “I’m getting down those stairs, one way or another, and you… you’re coming with me!”

Peter screamed as Frank grabbed him by the collar and pulled him forward, past the staining bank notes on the floor and the dead gangster bleeding on top of it, and over to the door, which he flung open.  He wrapped his arm around Peter’s neck, as though putting him in a choke hold, and started out.

“NO FRANK!  DON’T, DON’T DO IT FRANK, DON’T, THEY’LL KILL US!”

Frank dragged Peter, keeping him in front, and got to the top of the stairs.  Just before descending, with his pistol pointed straight ahead and Peter safely shielding him from whatever would soon come from the front, Frank began singing (loud enough to block out Peters cries), the only tune he could think of:

“…Only the lonely, know the way I feel tonight…

A shot rang out.  And another.

“…only the lonely… know this feeling, ain’t right…

Another shot.  And another.  And another.

— ♦♦♦ —

END


Next Week: Thumbnail illustration to accompany "The Raven". Copyright(c) 2017 by L.A. Spooner. Used under license

The Raven (Part 1).  By Ike Keen, Art by L.A. Spooner

“Tell him The Raven is coming.”  Those are words you never want to hear.  They fill the dregs of society with fear.  If you were “him” you’d be full of fear too…unless you mistakenly underestimated the vigilante.  Read the exciting first part of The Raven’s tale next week.