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Beyond Possum Trot

Beyond Possum Trot

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Beyond Possum Trot

Length:
439 pages
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 28, 2013
ISBN:
9781301378937
Format:
Book

Description

In 1930, members of Al Capone's gang commit a jewel heist. The gang leader is the only one to escape, and he has the gems. However, he dies while retrieving them. Eighty years later, a scuba diver stumbles upon the lost loot. He is forced to fight off a modern-day gang, as well as his wife who is nearly as vicious. When the caravan he is riding in comes under attack, he is saved by a newly hired security agent. She secures his diamonds, rubies, and emeralds--for the time being; but what can she do when caught up in his scrambled love life?

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 28, 2013
ISBN:
9781301378937
Format:
Book

About the author

Jerry Wible is a retired physician who has been writing for almost 8 years. He retired from the U.S. Army Reserves. His hobbies include hunting and fishing. Other interests include; snow skiing, scuba diving, collecting, and being a private pilot. Jerry's writings are diverse in topic and interests that range from Young Adult to Action/Romances and even soft Sci-Fi.

Book Preview

Beyond Possum Trot - Jerry Wible

Edition

Chapter I

Walt Garrison looked out the front window of the new two-man tail-dragger--a 1929 Aerosport, just a year old. He fidgeted in his seat. He and the pilot had flown for several hours and his butt was sore, his back ached, and he was ready for the trip to end. It was dusky and, as heavy storm clouds approached, his pilot had trouble seeing the terrain. The two men flew just a hundred feet above the tree tops. They had flown from Chicago and refueled in Springfield, Missouri. Then, they flew across the low Boston Mountains in northern Arkansas. The pilot complained there were few places to land in the mountainous terrain, should they develop engine trouble; but Walt paid no attention.

Walt knew every hill and hollow of the approaching town ahead. He had only made a couple of trips back to his hometown since joining the Army in 1922, eight years earlier. He had joined the Army to get away from what he felt were Bible thumping, in-bred, pea-brained, hill people. He so despised them that he stayed away for the past seven of those eight years. Even though Walt had wanted to get away from the town, Possum Trot, his escape into the Army actually grew on him in an insidious way. At times he had enjoyed the rush of the hunting and shooting. He had wished there were a real war and he could have watched men fall from his rifle’s answer to their angry, blue-smoke silhouettes. It was an incredible experience—war--even if he had never actually experienced it. The role playing had fired up a lifelong, insatiable appetite for blood and power.

His home had once been in Possum Trot. The town was familiar and quiet, and isolated from most outside news events smaller than a world war. He had formed his first gang there at age eight, although his goal then had been to build tree forts and to win at dirt-clod fights. He had hunted squirrels and rabbits after growing out of the cowboys-and-Indians stage. He had stolen his first car at a nearby town, and had taken Sally Jane Jenson on an excursion to buy some moonshine. After having her dress nearly torn off, Sally Jane never would go out with him again, although he pestered her endlessly.

The pilot pushed back against the barrel of Walt's 1914 Military Luger, a prized souvenir a friend of Walt’s had taken off a German officer the friend had killed during the Great War. It was a rush for Walt, just possessing the pistol of a dead German.

The pilot’s grip became blanched around the control stick as Walt pressed his pistol deeper into the man’s side.

The darker the approaching storm clouds became, the more the pilot needed encouragement to keep flying straight toward them. It looked like an angry wall ahead, spitting lightening and hissing rain at them. It was a hooded cobra racing toward them, and they even faster toward it.

Lightening crackled out and a jagged bolt of fury struck a tree somewhere down in the forest. There was noticeably less lapse in time for the thunder to arrive.

Only two or three seconds from that one, the pilot noted. Suddenly, he got a cramp in his left foot from unconsciously curling his toes. He reached down and pulled his toes up by grabbing the end of his boot. Once the cramp had passed, he let loose of his foot.

Walt had hired the man to fly him back to Possum Trot--the tiny outpost of civilization located at the base of the tallest hill in a hundred miles. Walt hadn’t counted on the weather, not that it mattered. He would have tried to fly through a tornado that night.

Tornados had skipped over Possum Trot in the past, but the town had never been hit by one. Flooding from the Cul-de-Sac River was the main problem from the weather. A landslide from a previous era had deposited huge boulders, more or less, in a curved line across the small river. At the boulders, the river swelled from the obstructions and formed a rounded end, the sac. However, it was not a complete obstruction, as the riverine channels bled back into a single body of water downstream from the sac.

Lightening lashed out every minute or so, or even more often, as they flew straight toward the brilliant lashes. A nasty cold front was pushing warm air up and to the east.

For emphasis, Walt twisted the barrel of his revolver into the heavy, brown, leather jacket over the pilot's ribs. The pilot developed a frozen stare as the approaching storm drew nearer. He was a young but experienced pilot, having gotten his license in 1924. He knew better than to fly into a storm like the one ahead. Hail could drop the plane into the wooded hills in a matter of seconds, and the pilot had tried to explain it to Walt; but, despite having been told they might crash and die, Walt was undeterred.

Desperation was etched into the pilot's face. You won't shoot me, he challenged, looking straight into Walt’s chiseled face. Then you'd have no one to land the airplane.

Pasty-faced prick, Walt thought, as the color in the man’s dim face faded even more. No, but I'd shoot you for sure once we got back, he warned. Walt seemed more intent on finding the town than on making his threats or even for his own safety. They were flying by dead-reckoning and it was getting dark quickly.

The timorous pilot's grip on the control stick tightened ever more as head-winds buffeted the two-man aircraft violently now. He unconsciously tightened his seatbelt and glanced at the sturdy wings, especially that night. He had a headache from clenching his teeth so tightly. The well-braced wings bowed gracefully up and down in the storm’s furry, with the upper wing of the bi-plane shielding them somewhat from the rain that had begun coming at them in sheets.

Walt, thinking himself a titan of the underworld and nearly invincible, looked down at the shovel and flashlights he brought along. They rested against the side of the plane next to his feet. He had to dig up the diamonds before Possum Trot was resting at the bottom of the new impoundment being created by damming the Cul-de-Sac River. No storm was going to stop him that night; it was his last chance. To wait out the storm would probably be to forego ever getting his hands on a couple hundred diamonds and other expensive jewelry.

To delay even another minute could cost Walt his life.

A senior lieutenant in Al Capone's mob, Walt Garrison had dark features with dark brown hair, a jutting dimpled chin, a rosy bulbous nose, and a gravelly voice that was so deep it intimidated those around him, friend or foe, even when he was in a good mood. Booze, whores, cocaine, rich food, and too much violence had all taken part in shaping Walt’s personality into one more fit more for a badger. But no one thought him crazy. At least, no one had ever told him so to his face. He was a shrewd and calculating man—always careful, as a way of life--despite the plane-ride as evidence to the contrary.

Chapter II

On a moonless night, the previous October, his four-man team and three other men had simultaneously hit the four largest jewelry stores in the diamond district of New York City.

With Capone in Chicago, and having tax problems, no one would have believed the Capone capable of organizing a job so far away; and that was exactly why he planned it. Capone needed money desperately. All eyes were on him, from the law to the media, and even from his adoring fans. Capone had a good friend in New York who had supplied him with the necessary information for pulling off the robbery. His friend had contacts and favors owed him, and he had helped Capone get his start in New York. His name was Johnnie Torrio, and he still looked upon Al Capone as his protégé.

The heists had started by knocking out street lamps with slingshots on the night before the heist, when no one was around. It took Walt three tries to hit the street-light. He was usually very accurate with weapons, or so he said. Other than some glass breaking, it didn’t disturb the tranquility. At exactly 2 a.m., a day later, the four stores were simultaneously robbed. The stores’ guards were of little resistance as cars came crashing in through the display windows and the front doors, and submachine guns rang out at them. Each of the guards, some phoning for help, soon lay in his own pool of blood. The gangs scurried about, scooping up gems, sorting through broken counters, and breaking into the vaults. The phone calls from the guards sent the city police into a frenzy. Cars loaded with cops passed each other, racing across the darkened streets. They were intentionally misdirected by their supervisors, themselves bribed with money or threatened with death, or both. Nearby intersections that would not be used for the getaway had been coated with buckets of oil, sending speeding cops into spins on the street and into stores ahead.

Each store yielded several cinch bags full of high quality gems: rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. But mainly they gave up diamonds, along with hastily selected pieces of high-end jewelry such as necklaces and brooches.

The four heists went according to plan.

Almost too easy, as one goon put it, speeding away in the group’s second car--the escape vehicle.

*****

Despite the successful heist, Capone had problems with moles. What gangland boss didn’t? His raging dynasty had created an empire of greedy and witless comrades. Moles, like crooked cops and politicians, were unavoidable. They were even expected, to a certain degree, as each thug fought daily to survive in the sewer of life; but they certainly weren’t tolerated. Not by Capone. Not for a minute.

A new driver had over-heard that the meeting place after the heist would be at four small motels just outside of Indianapolis, en route back to Chicago. They were a new term: motor and hotels became motels to describe the single story places popping up along the highways. Four separate motels would attract less attention to the 16 man gang than if they had all stayed at one. Each car had several extra cans of gasoline, because getting out of New York quickly was vital and gas stations would be closed until morning; and being seen by someone at a gas station en route to Chicago wasn’t a good idea, either.

If the gang made it driving straight through From New York to Indianapolis without being captured, it would be safe for Capone to receive the loot the next day without much risk. If his income-tax problems resulted in a trial, he would have to pay off and threaten judges, jury members, prosecutors, and possibly the so-called Untouchables, if anyone could touch them. Capone thought that surely he could, with enough money. And he might even have to buy and threaten an appellate court judge, a court officer who would demand an enormous fee. Bribes were expected as a way of life. It wasn’t even questioned.

Walt’s haul of loot was Capone’s get-out-of-jail card.

The driver had agreed to call law enforcement and give the gang’s exact location whenever he could. He would be outside working on his car's engine when the police and sheriff’s men showed up. Then, he would walk away and avoid a prison term, arising from getting caught in a previous heist while moonlighting for himself.

*****

After lunch and a shower at his motel the day following the heist, Walt was four hours into a nap. He rested peacefully and dreamed of warm beaches, warmer women, and cases of rum. He was just starting to awaken when he heard a bullhorn announce that they were surrounded.

The mole driver was on a different team at another motel, but Walt didn’t know that. He didn’t know there was a mole but he immediately suspected it. Two of Walt's men were an adjacent room, and loyal Shorty was staying in the room with him. When the bullhorn sounded, the driver, Fred, and long-time associate, Buck, came flying in through the open door between the two rooms. They all scrambled to secure their weapons. Walt scooped up the eleven cloth bags filled with gems. He had secured them from all four of the teams. He emptied a pillow case, and stuffed all the cinch bags into it.

Anyone got a plan? he asked as he peeked out the front window from around the curtains.

Yeah, charge 'em an' see how it went, Buck nervously joked; he was the senior member over the others, except for Walt.

We've got grenades, dynamite, and Tommies from the Armory break-in, the driver said. Bet those A-holes don't.

I wouldn't be so sure, Walt said, as he closed the curtains. He stared at the driver, wondering whether or not to shoot him; but they were badly out-gunned.

Shit! We are surrounded! Shorty exclaimed a second later, looking through the rear window of the motel. They got cops and marshals back here, too. I don't know about you three, but I'm not going back to prison!

It looks like a car lot with all the fucking black sedans! Fred yelled, briefly looking out the front window.

Shorty had survived two stints in prison and a gunshot wound to the chest during a robbery. He was as tough as an alligator and had a temper like an irritated water moccasin.

Walt studied Shorty a moment. Shorty was still young and flexible.

Walt then looked at the other two. They both nodded back at Walt their understanding of Shorty’s intentions. Charge they would. They’d fight to the death. They had all expected to die like that, anyway.

Buck got his name from the razor-sharp knife he kept constantly with him, and from his proficiency in using it. Shorty—well, his name needed no explanation, once a person appreciated his height. The driver, Fred, was new; and none of them knew him well. It was certain there had been a mole somewhere in the sixteen-man gang. Walt stared suspiciously at Fred, but there was nothing suggesting him as the rat.

Walt devised a simple plan. Shorty, you're the logical choice. Stick a white pillow-case on the end of your machine gun, through the rear door, and go out with it like you're giving up. It's going to look awfully suspicious; but they probably won't shoot right away. Turn around like you're going to help Buck out. Then toss a coupl'a smoke grenades and dive back in. When you can, toss a coupl'a No. 5 frag's out too.

Shorty stared into Walt’s steely eyes. It was almost a death sentence.

Buck will be firing over your head with a Thompson from around the corner, Walt continued. So don't stand up right in front of him. That should draw a bunch of 'em around back when the shooting starts--like we're going out that way. Then we'll all go out the front throwing smoke and melting down our barrels.

Fred, spoke up, Our vehicles will probably be disabled or packed with cars around them. What should we do for a ride?

‘That’s why we’re going out front, Walt explained. He thought a minute and advised, Try to make it around the front of the parking area in the smoke, starting to the left. Turn right when you come to that row of rooms, and work behind the cops. See if a car or two can be heisted. Beyond that... Well, good luck--to all of us. He traced each set of eyes with his own. Stay low and don't stop firing." Walt sounded cool, but his expression was grim.

Shorty started toward the door, and then stopped. He looked back again at Walt and then disappeared out the rear. After two small popping noises, thick white smoke filled the view from the room’s rear window. Then, the fireworks started, as Shorty and Buck opened up with their submachine guns. Shorty turned around toward the cops and fired through the pillow-case. Then, Buck helped him back into the room. Walt eased open the front door and tossed out two smoke grenades, followed by two sticks of dynamite taped together. He and his men waited for the blasts, but the dynamite didn’t explode.

Shit! They must have pulled out the fuses, or they were bad. Open the door again, Walt directed, himself behind an overturned end-table.

Fred did so, quickly ducking into the bathroom for the inevitable hail of gunfire that followed. Walt tossed out two more sticks bound together, but away from where someone could yank out the shortened fuses. Fred stretched around the bathroom door with his left leg, and kicked the front door shut. There was a terribly loud blast that blew out the front window and shredded the cigarette-yellowed curtains.

Walt looked back for Buck. Come on, Buck! he yelled. Then, he saw Buck dragging Shorty's nearly limp body. Leave him!

It wasn’t meant to be cruel or disloyal. It was just Shorty’s time.

Shorty looked up from the floor at his three buddies who were getting ready to bolt out the front. Drag me over there. I'll cover you, he moaned.

Buck dragged Shorty by the arms, leaving a red swath on the wooden floor. They handed him his Tommie-gun. Walt grabbed a revolver off the bed, and handed it to his mortally wounded friend saying, Save one for yourself, Shorty. Just use five bullets on the cops.

Shorty nodded and held his bleeding groin with his left hand. He already had a two foot wide pool of blood under him and it was increasing quickly. His fate was not in doubt.

Walt opened the door and tossed out two more smoke grenades, followed by two fragmentation grenades; but the cops had left a row of vehicles in front of themselves for just such an occurrence.

Let's go, Walt said quietly after the blasts.

The shooting from the police slowed after the last two grenades were thrown. White billowing smoke swirled around from the smoke grenades. Walt and his men ran to the left, concealed in the cloud. The cops’ heads bobbed up and down in the smoke, like turkeys looking for love.

Shooting each other was a real possibility for the cops as well as for Walt’s crew, so they all held their fire for the moment. Walt and his men scurried quietly in front of that row of rooms, and then to the right in front of the next row of rooms. They could still hear Shorty firing from the floor at the doorway, where Buck left him, to draw the cops’ attention away from them. Then, it sounded like popcorn.

Fred suddenly exhaled a puff of air and fell as a bullet found his chest. For an instant, Walt saw the cop who had fired, but then white smoke enveloped him. Buck started back for Fred, but Walt grabbed his shirt sleeve.

Let's go, Walt said in a whisper, looking ahead. The two men continued to run hunched over, parallel to the row of motel rooms leading to the rear of the parking area. Light smoke still enshrouded them, and they ran as quietly as possible, hurriedly working toward the back of the crowd. Where the air cleared in whorls, they found the last row of police vehicles and started checking for one to steal.

Suddenly, Buck was staring at the backside of a cop who was facing the motel rooms. He slid his knife smoothly out of its sheath, and the officer in charge of the entire operation was soon lying on the dirt parking lot, clutching his bloody neck with his hands.

A bullet whizzed past Walt's head.

Should have gone for the chest dumb-fuck, he yelled, as he dropped the deputy with a single shot.

Suddenly, blood and brain burst through Buck's low forehead, splattering Walt. Buck flopped limply to the ground at his feet.

Walt jumped into a patrol car, fired it up, and floored it in reverse. He didn’t even bother looking behind him as he ducked under the dashboard for protection. Bullets hit the car and others whined past. He smashed backward into two other vehicles parked on the side of the small entry lane leading to and from the motel, before he rose to look. Then, he headed for the nearby highway.

By then, the whole pack of law enforcement men knew that Walt was leaving. They would not be far behind.

Their cars being swallowed by the enveloping haze might give Walt enough time to get away. He dropped two smoke grenades on the road as he flew along the dirt-and-gravel lane, and then he turned onto the two-lane highway. He had to think quickly if he was going to survive. He looked left and right, and then glanced down briefly at the jewelry in the pillow case, wondering if he would ever have the chance to spend any of the loot—Capone’s loot, really, minus a diamond or two for himself.

He suddenly heard a flap-flap-flap coming from the rear right of the car.

Crap! Walt said.

A lucky shot had hit the tire. He looked ahead. Would the car make it a little further? On the outskirts of town, there was little evidence of the city behind, except for an old white farmhouse just up ahead with open crop-land and a couple of fences with weeds growing up. He could hide in the house. But if the cops spotted his car and saw a dead farmer and his wife… It was too close to town. Better not to go there, he decided. Then, he saw smoke rising from just over a hill. He still had control of the car although it had slowed a little. He knew there was no margin of error if he was to live.

A small cluster of homes ahead came into view. The car just had to make it. Walt looked in his rear-view mirror. He could see the police cars trailing him, as they crested a hill perhaps half-a-mile behind. It began to feel like he was driving on a square board instead of a round tire. He knew not to stop at the first house he came to.

He turned off the highway onto a cobbled brick street, and turned left at the second house where he stopped. He flew out of his car and noticed a dozen bullet holes in the rear of it. He had been lucky so far. He knew he had used up a whole lifetime of luck, just getting that far.

Walt flew into the house. The wooden front door had been left open, a screen door allowing in some fresh air. More luck used up. There was a couple sitting in the living room and listening to the radio as they sipped tea.

Walt screamed at the man of about fifty and at his terrorized wife to lie down. Then, he bound and gagged them. He had picked that particular house because it had a garage and maybe he could get his hands on a new car. But, when he checked, the garage was empty. Walt pulled down the stairs leading up into the storage space over the detached garage to throw off the cops. Then, he left and ran out back, across the rear of the property and through a neighbor’s yard, jumping a garden as he did. He ran between two houses, looking left and right for a car to steal.

A car to the right turned the corner at the intersection just as Walt came to a large fire ball bush, brilliantly red to attract attention in the fall. Drat the luck, he said to himself, but he had no choice but to hunker down there. The police car was slowly approaching. Walt could even see the cop’s head as the man scanned the peaceful neighborhood, looking for a lone gunman. The cop’s seatbelt could be seen dangling outside from the closed driver’s side door, as if he had been in a hurry to chase down Walt.

Walt was squatting behind the four-foot high bush. If the cop spotted him hiding there, he was toast. Walt trembled slightly. He couldn’t remember ever shaking that much before, even when he fled the motel--maybe because he now had more time to think about his dire predicament.

He suddenly jumped up and ran out into the street, his pistol tucked in the rear of his trousers. A man with a gun! he screamed. He ran straight for the cop. The cop had two things Walt needed and one he didn’t. The cop had a gun, a car, and a life.

Which house? the sheriff’s man asked.

Walt pointed at a house and, as the deputy looked over, pulled out his gun and shot him in the head. The gunshot was a problem. Walt knew that any cops nearby had probably heard it. Soon, they would be there after him; but at least he still had a chance.

Walt got the rolling car stopped, dragged the body out, hopped in, and floored the accelerator. He fled out toward the rear of the town and then onto a county road. A mile ahead, he came to a farm house where a woman was hunched over her roses, picking weeds. He drove up slowly, got out smiling, and walked toward the woman.

I need to speak to your husband, Walt said.

Oh, you’ve got the wrong house. I’m a widow, she replied.

Fucking perfect! Walt grabbed the woman and pushed her inside. He tied her up in a rear bedroom and gagged her. He quickly searched the house and found some bib-overalls.

Who do these belong to? he asked her after loosening her mouth gag.

They were my husband’s.

Do you have kids? he asked as he browsed family pictures setting about.

Two sons, two daughters, the woman replied. It was obvious from the family photos.

Which one is away? he asked.

Lawrence. How’d you know? she asked.

He gagged her again and changed into the best fitting of the work clothes. Surely, the cops would stop by. If the cop who did was a local boy and knew the family, Walt was in serious trouble; but at least it wouldn’t be a whole gaggle of the goosey cops, he figured.

He searched the house, looking for anything that might be useful. A pot of coffee was going and the contents were still warm. He found an old pipe the husband had smoked, but no tobacco. Walt slipped on the son’s tight work boots which hurt his feet. Then, he slid his pistol into a front pocket and waited. He found a magazine and sat in a rocking chair inside the house.

A car engine announced a visitor. Through the screen doorway, Walt could make out the face of the deputy sheriff pulling in. The officer got out of his patrol car and walked up cautiously. With the pipe in his mouth, Walt rose slowly from his chair and made a show of tossing down the magazine, both hands free of a pistol, as he slowly walked toward the door.

Where’s Mabel? the cop asked. Who are you?

I’m Lawrence, Walt replied, pipe in one hand, coffee cup in the other, as he stepped outside. Then, he set the pipe and cup on a planter at the front porch window.

There was a momentary look of surprise from the cop. He said they were looking for an outlaw, last seen heading that way.

I heard the sirens, Walt said. Mom’s in town shopping.

The cop sounded strained as he spoke, Okay, but look out for anyone suspicious. Then, he turned to leave without nodding, smiling, or even looking like the conversation was finished.

In a heartbeat, Walt had his pistol in his hand, but still in the pocket. If he pulled it out and the cop was just saying goodbye, his cover was blown. But if the cop knew there was something fishy and Walt didn’t draw… Well, it was good to be on the safe side. The deputy spun as he drew, but he was too late. Walt shot him in the chest and then again after he went down.

Two cops today, Walt mumbled. No, three. Then, he smiled, his hands not shaking the least little bit. When he could see something coming, sometimes it was almost too easy. He drove the police car around to the back of the house and parked it. Then, he threw the key ring into a field and stole the woman’s car. By the time they found the old lady with her pissed-in panties, and the cop with his chest running blood all over the lawn, Walt would be long gone.

Cool thinking had kept him alive. It always had. He didn’t feel completely invincible, but he knew he was too smart to be taken easily. It would take more than one dumb cop, or even a car full of them, to nab him. He thought he was more likely to be eventually killed by bad food or a jealous lover, preferably by the latter. He had been in and out of more scrapes than most men had had nightmares about.

He pulled into the parking lot of a farm machinery factory at the next town and parked. He found another car to steal. He turned the fuel valve and ignition on and hit the starter on the floor, and the new car coughed to life. He had the gems and a fresh car and he sped away, headed on to Chicago. The 1928 Model-A Ford could do thirty easy, almost forty on the flatter stretches.

*****

When Walt finally got to Chicago, he called Capone's office, Is Snorkey in? he asked politely of Capone’s secretary. He assumed that the two men would be celebrating with lines of cocaine in a matter of minutes.

You must not have heard, his secretary replied. Mr. Capone was arrested; it’s his tax problems.

When?

Yesterday.

Well, that’s an interesting change in circumstances, Walt thought.

Capone would still want the jewels at least under his control, even from jail or prison. Ralph Capone would see to that—brutally, if needed. He was the bad brother. Despite his public appeal and polished charm, Al Capone was a brutal man also, prone to fits of temper and deepening grandiosity; but his brother Ralph was much worse. On the other hand, Al could be engaging and playful. There was a lot of new money to celebrate over--maybe a million dollars--half of that after being fenced. But Capone would not be engaging and playful—certainly not forgiving-- from prison. Despite his own occasional airy illusions of grandeur, Walt knew his life depended on getting the loot to Capone, and not losing it somehow--because that would mean certain death for him. There would be no explanation good enough to keep him alive if he lost the gems, because Capone’s freedom depended on Walt getting him the jewelry from the heist.

Walt began to worry about his own survival, given the changed circumstances. He ran by his house in Chicago to pick up a copied ledger that detailed a year’s worth of Capone’s financial activities. Walt might need it as leverage against Al Capone someday, if his boss ever turned on him. Everything was different now. Capone was in jail, and Walt had his boss’s loot.

*****

As he drove toward his hometown of Possum Trot, Arkansas, on his way to Dallas, Walt wondered how far Capone's reach from prison might extend. Was it worth the risk of keeping the gems? Probably not--not from Al Capone. No, he wouldn’t try to steal from Capone. Walt would hide the booty in his hometown. If he was recognized in Possum Trot, it wouldn't seem all that unusual--a city boy back to consider his roots and visit a family member or two, although Walt didn't know if he had any family still living there.

Possum Trot would be a good place to hide the stuff; then he would head to Mexico to lay low for a while until Capone got his attorney to free him. Capone had always gotten any charges against himself dropped; and always for Walt too, at least of late. Walt would get the gems to his boss eventually, and then they’d celebrate like royalty.

Walt wondered where exactly to hide that much booty. It had to be someplace other than his old house or in his old neighborhood; those would be too obvious; but it needed to be where he could drive up and fetch it quickly without drawing attention. It had to be somewhere in Possum Trot that wouldn't be built on or somehow discovered. He was far too well known to just stay in Chicago and keep the loot hidden there.

As kids, he and some friends made a swing off an oak tree behind the old service station in town. It was the first Ford-authorized repair shop in the county. It was seventy yards up from the small Cul-de-Sac River and was perched on rocky ground. If the old service station was still there, no one would build behind it--with rusting car frames and oil for a lawn--at least not for a while. For a moment, he thought fondly about the old swing and his gang back in those days. Then, he remembered the strict, boring, and hard life there. Men whittled

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