The Devil's Freight

Discussion in 'The Drivers Lounge' started by RickyRicardo, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. RacerX69

    RacerX69 Retired Gear Jammer/IBEW Retired/Wingnut

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    Is Jellico where Ricky is hiding for the last few days? After all, he has been putting up a lot of video showcasing the hilly and rugged terrain from there. Perhaps he found a nice place there to hole up, and we may never get to read the rest of the story about Isaac, Sampson, and whatever became of Buddy's son, Matt.
     
  2. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Chapter 6 continued
    Anybody following along should have figured out this chapter is more background on Isaac Hill. I'm having fun with it and thinking it would make a nice story on its own but everything will tie in later on. Although I don't mention the years, it should be evident by now that these events occurred many years ago. The intent is to cause the reader to wonder just how old this guy can be and maybe how human he can be. Enjoy.


    The Knox County Sheriff’s Office was located on the eastern edge of the Knoxville city limits, just two miles from the truckstop where Jud was gunned down.

    “I didn’t expect to see you this soon. We just sent a telegram to Sheriff Tinsley in Corbin a few hours ago,” Ben Tobler, the Knox County Sheriff told Isaac. Tobler was in the front office chatting with the desk sergeant when he heard the powerful Ford rumble to a stop in front of the forties era block building.

    “Well, I’m here, Sheriff, and I appreciate you seeing me. Sheriff Tinsley said I would be able to pick up my truck. I have notarized proof of ownership,” Isaac responded.

    “That won’t be a problem, Mr. Hill. That will save me the trouble of having to dispose of it, although the county could certainly use the revenue gained at an auction,” Tobler said without a bit of humor.

    “I’m sure you will make up for it with the cargo you have surely unloaded from the trailer,” Isaac shot back, his tone bitter.

    Color crept from beneath the sheriff’s collar as he spoke, clearly annoyed, taking on an air of indignation.

    “Let me assure you, sir, that there is no profit to be made by this department or this county from the confiscation of ill gotten goods. In these cases we make every effort to see them returned to the rightful owner.”

    I’m sure you do, Sheriff, Isaac thought, keeping that comment to himself. He had no fear of Tobler, but wanted to conclude his business with as little friction as possible, not wanting a bad start to get any worse.

    “I’d like to bring my man home as well, give him a proper burial in the Veterans Cemetery in Lexington. He has no known family and I feel it’s my responsibility as his employer,” Isaac told the sheriff.

    “I don’t have a problem with that. I’ll show you to the coroner’s office. There will be some expenses involved of course.”

    “Of course,” Isaac intoned, managing to keep the sarcasm from his voice.

    “I’m just a mite curious about that automobile you have there. It doesn’t look like something a man like you would be driving,” Tobler said, trying unsuccessfully to keep his tone neutral, an accusatory note slipping through.

    “Is that so? And just to be clear, how would you define ‘a man like me’?”

    “Sheriff Tinsley assured me you were a respected business man around Corbin, which is why I have extended these courtesies in regards to this grave matter.

    “I bet if I was to raise the hood of that car I would find a motor more suited to the racetrack up at Bristol than the public highways. And if I was to crawl underneath I’d most likely find some heavy duty two ton springs and oversized brake drums.”

    Billy stood stone faced, as was expected of a hired hand, enjoying the encounter taking place before him, pleased that his boss was taking no #### from the peckerwood law man, the ####### most likely responsible for the cowardly slaying of his friend. He only hoped Isaac remembered the high caliber firearms, not so well concealed in the car, should Tobler lose his cool and invent an excuse to start snooping around.
     
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  3. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “You could very well find these things, Sheriff, and I would have no idea of their import. As Sheriff Tinsley related to you, I am a man of business, not acquainted with the intricacies of automobiles. I spotted this car in a man’s front yard in North Carolina while traveling on business. It had a for sale sign on the windshield. The owner told me it would be a powerful and reliable car for travelling, especially in the mountains. I have a title and a bill of sale. It can all be verified.

    “And I do appreciate the courtesies you have extended to me thus far.”

    Sheriff Tobler gazed over the top of Isaac’s car, working a wooden match stick from one side of his mouth to the other, either deep in thought or trying to send that impression.

    After a long minute he spoke. “It’s a goddam moonshine car and we both know it. Make that all three of us.” He said it with the air of a man unwilling to concede an argument or even agree to a tentative compromise.

    “Be that as it may, I’m not sticking my nose into the affairs of a man from another state who hasn’t broken any laws here, that I know of anyway. In just a short while you will be on your way back to Kentucky and I will get on with the affairs of this county.

    “I’ll lead you boys down to the truckstop and personally tell the deputy there that the rig is being released to you. When y’all get done, just come on back up this way. The county morgue is the next block up on the left, old gray block building with a flat roof. I can’t let you take him ‘less he’s in a box, so I reckon y’all can just load him up in the semi.”

    “We’ll follow you to the truckstop now,” was all Isaac said as he motioned Billy to the car.

    “The gall of that son of a #####,” Billy said as he fired up the black coupe. “I #### sure wouldn’t turn my back on him, would you boss?”

    “No, I wouldn’t Billy, not by a long shot,” Isaac said as Billy released the clutch pedal sharply, unmindful of the dust and gravel he slung up behind them as he tore out of the parking lot.
     
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  4. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    The familiar red Diamond Reo was parked at an odd angle to the back of the building; parked the way a man would park who was just running in for a quick cup of coffee and a slice of pie.

    Isaac bought that truck especially for Jud to operate. It had the latest turbocharged diesel engine and a four by four, twin stick transmission, designed to pull the steep mountain grades and have more than ample top speed on flat ground.

    Now it sat in a dusty windblown parking lot, its driver’s blood sprayed over the three bullet holes in the door, the side glass shattered by gunfire.

    But what offended him most was the fat deputy sporting a wrinkled uniform sitting on the truck’s step eating a Moon Pie. He was talking with his mouth full to an equally slovenly deputy who stood before him rolling himself a cigarette, loose tobacco spilling upon his shirt.

    “A real crack outfit they got here,” Billy said with disgust. “Them boys ain’t fit to polish Jud’s boots. I’m half a mind to knock lard ### off that truck.”

    “Don’t worry son, they’ll get theirs soon enough,” Isaac told him.

    “All yours, Mr. Hill. Nobody’s tampered with it, I promise you that,” Tobler said as he handed Isaac the key to the rig after shooing his two men away.

    “And once you’ve met with the coroner, I’m thinkin’ your business will be done here.” A not so subtle suggestion to get out of town and not let the screen door hit you on the ### on the way out, Isaac surmised.

    “And you’d be thinking right, Sheriff. Our business will be concluded indeed,” Isaac responded with a smile.

    As Tobler got into his patrol car Billy Banks raised the hood on the Diamond Reo to check the oil and water levels before starting the engine. As he did so, Isaac heard a woman’s voice speaking in a loud whisper from somewhere behind him.

    He turned slowly to discover an attractive woman waving frantically from an open window, motioning for him to please walk over.

    “Yes, ma’am?” he asked as he came closer. The woman was clearly upset, if not afraid.

    “Are you a friend of Jud’s?” she asked. It was then he realized she had been crying.

    “I was his employer, but yes, he was my friend. He was a good man.” This simple statement brought on fresh tears.

    “I am so glad to hear that, to hear somebody say something good about him.”

    “I’m only speaking the truth,” he told her. “My name is Isaac Hill. And you are?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry, please forgive my rudeness. I’m Karen Owens. Jud was a good customer, a real nice fella and I’m thinkin’ we was starting to maybe get kinda close and all of a sudden this happens…look, I can’t be seen talking to y’all but there’s some things you have to know. There’s a bus depot a mile and a half east of here. There’s room to park the truck around back. Meet me there in two hours.”

    She had barely completed the sentence when Isaac heard a gruff male voice from within the building calling out her name, demanding she hurry up with whatever task she had been sent on. Isaac quickly returned to Billy’s side, not wanting to cause the woman anymore grief from her boss should he look out the window and suspect she was talking to him.

    “What was that about, boss?” Billy asked him.

    “Good question. Said her name was Karen Owens and sounds like she was sweet on Jud. Seemed mighty broken up about what happened back here and knows more than we’ve been told thus far,” Isaac told him.

    “That sure ain’t no surprise considering what anybody has told us.”

    “Indeed, son. See that door? What does that tell you?”

    “Not sure what you mean boss.”

    “Those bullet holes are coming from the outside. That means he was trying to get in the truck, not come out blazing. It means his back was turned while he was being fired upon. I’d be interested to know how he managed to get one of the ######## before he died.

    “We will be meeting Karen later. Perhaps she can fill in the blanks for us. Now let’s go get Jud.”

    The Diamond Reo fired right up, belching smoke black as coal from the chromed exhaust stack, then settling into a rumbling lope like a mechanical steed anxious for the track. Billy was envious of Jud being assigned this truck, but would rather have his friend back than any ###### old truck, or anything else for that matter.

    Isaac pulled his car up close to the passenger side of the idling rig, the side of the truck not facing the building. After a thorough look around for prying eyes, he passed the cut down Remington up to Billy followed by a box of shells.

    “Both barrels are loaded. Just flip that thumb lever and she’s ready to release hell. Keep it at arm’s reach.”
     
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  5. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Billy parked the rig in an abandoned gas station across the street from the county morgue while Isaac pulled into a parking slot designated for visitors in front of the unwelcoming gray structure that had an unmistakable aura of death about it.

    Isaac was overcome with the absurd feeling he was in the middle of an old western movie as he told Billy to remain outside and keep watch. But being more than just a modest business man as some folks believed, he had a sixth sense about these matters and alarms were going off in his head.

    The .44 Magnum was too large to conceal under his business suit but the .25 semi automatic rested comfortably in his shoulder holster. Not his weapon of choice, but would have to do for the time being.

    He was greeted in the reception area by a dour faced woman of indeterminate age behind a cheap metal government issue desk. She had the air about her of a lifetime civil servant who felt some degree of superiority over the common folk forced to earn a living in the private sector.

    The threadbare beige carpet was the perfect shade to camouflage the ground in grit that had become impervious to vacuuming. The room had the stagnant odor of an unventilated, abandoned house with dead rodents stashed here and there.

    “May I help you, sir?” the woman asked imperiously. The phrase was uttered as more of a command than a question.

    “I’m here to meet with the coroner. I was sent by Sheriff Tobler,” Isaac told her. As if you didn’t already know that.

    “And you are?” she asked, almost spitefully.

    “I think you know who I am. Could you please summon the coroner,” Isaac retorted, in no mood for her attitude.

    Her response was more of a snort than a word as she stood abruptly, sending her wheeled chair backwards into a small set of shelves behind her, toppling a cheap ceramic flower vase containing even cheaper artificial flowers. The descending vase was accompanied by a threesome of photographs in metal frames with glass encasements, presumably of family members, and an oversized quartz ashtray in the shape of Arkansas creating a minor cacophony as the assortment of items crashed to the floor.
     
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  6. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    It was no longer necessary to summon the coroner for he dashed in from the adjoining office to investigate the disturbance in the normally quiet building, with him and his receptionist generally being the only live people present.

    “What in the world is going on out here?” he asked of nobody in particular.

    “He, he, he…” the receptionist stammered as she pointed an accusatory finger at Isaac before storming across the room to a door labeled PRIVATE, snatching it open and slamming it behind her.

    “Seems to be a mite high strung,” Isaac said as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. “I’m Isaac Hill, here to get Jud Kowoski. I imagine Sheriff Tobler told you I was coming.”

    “Yes, he did. I’m Terry McClean,” he said, extending his hand distractedly, bewildered at the scene that had so quickly come and gone, the only evidence being the debris on the floor behind her desk. Nobody had ever ruffled Rachael Madigan’s feathers like that before.

    “I imagine you want to make a positive identification before signing for the… uh, before signing any papers.”

    “You were going to say ‘signing for the body’. That’s okay, I’m not that squeamish. And yes, we should be certain I leave with the correct corpse.” Isaac said this with a twinkle in his eye which McClean, who had perhaps the most morbid job imaginable, found disturbing.

    Although not air conditioned per se, the sliding cooler compartments that lined an entire wall made it feel as if it was. The coroner unlatched door number six and glanced at the tag wired to Jud’s big toe before sliding out the stainless steel tray.

    It was him alright, Isaac confirmed. Jud’s face was intact; however his head was gone from an inch or so above the eyebrows. McClean had taken the liberty of placing an old straw hat, the type a farmer might wear, over the opening.

    “I hope you don’t mind I did that,” he said.

    “I don’t mind at all. It was the Christian thing to do.” Isaac imagined the hat came in on another dead guy whose head was intact and didn’t need it as bad as Jud did.

    “Can you tell where the head shot came from, what direction?” Isaac asked him.

    “No, sir. To be honest, there isn’t enough there to work with.”

    “What about these other wounds, the right leg and the left arm? What is your opinion on those?”

    McClean suddenly appeared agitated. “Look mister, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. I’m a coroner, not a crime scene investigator. I’m not required nor expected to make any judgment calls.”

    “So that would be the job of the homicide detective?”

    “We don’t have one. In Knox county that falls on the Sheriff himself or whomever he appoints. The only exception is when the State Investigators are called in and in this case they weren’t.”

    “I see,” Isaac said softly. “Terry, look me in the eyes.”

    Before he could object Isaac had locked eyes with him. He tried pulling away and found he didn’t want to; he enjoyed the warmth that spread across his forehead and the tingle that ran down his spine. It was almost sensual.

    “Now talk to me like a man. You’re the professional here, not that buffoon of a sheriff that doesn’t know a thing about what you do. Tell me about these wounds.”
     
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  7. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “Certainly,” McClean began, as smooth and confident as professor lecturing a class room of freshmen medical students. “The holes in the victims legs are rear entry wounds. It was my understanding he was on the truck steps elevated two feet from the ground. The rounds entered at a slight downward angle, meaning the shooter was standing erect, maybe thirty feet away.

    “The weapon used to shoot him in the elbow was a higher caliber, possibly a rifle. It entered from the rear as well, only at an upward angle, meaning he too was on the ground and the victim was elevated, possibly had his arm outstretched reaching for something.”

    “Very good, Terry. Now what about the head shot?”

    “I had a piece of skull to work with from the left coronal suture region. That was the entry point which is further evident by the greater amount of missing bone and brain matter from the right side of the head as the exit of a bullet generally disperses far more material than the entry.

    “I surmise our victim was in a kneeling position and the large caliber round, certainly from a rifle, was fired from a short distance at a sharp downward angle.”

    “Execution style,” Isaac said.

    “Exactly.”

    Isaac broke eye contact with the coroner by turning to one side, then continued speaking. “I believe there was some mention of a box to bring my friend home in?”

    Terry McClean felt the floor move beneath his feet accompanied by another tingle coursing through his spine. His world seemed to be refocusing as he realized Isaac had just asked him a question.

    “Pardon? What was that about a box?” McClean asked, embarrassed that he was caught not paying attention to the conversation, or so he thought.

    “Sheriff Tobler mentioned a charge for a coffin. I’ll need something to get him home in.”

    “Oh yes, of course. The basic pine box is $27. Now you realize he hasn’t been embalmed and once we remove him from this cooler he won’t last long. It goes downhill pretty fast.”

    “I imagine it does,” Isaac interjected.

    “You can have him embalmed at the funeral parlor. He could be ready about this time tomorrow.”

    “No, that won’t be convenient, not at all.”

    “I thought you might say that. In that case, we can add dry ice to the coffin. I suggest two blocks. There would be a charge, of course.”

    “Of course. You mentioned a pine box for $27. That sounds like something you would use for an indigent or a pauper. Am I correct?”

    “Yes, sir, you are. I can get you a light oak unit for $84. Not top of the line, but quite nice for the price. The dry ice is another five bucks.”

    “How fast can you make this happen?” Isaac asked as he handed Terry three fifty dollar bills. “I’m not expecting any change,” he added.

    “Have your man bring your truck to the curb in one hour. It may be even sooner. I’ll have the light oak box sent down here and get some trusties from the jail to load it up for you after I have prepared your friend for his trip home.” Although it went unmentioned, the fact that his brother owned the funeral parlor sped up the process greatly. And the sheriff would be more than happy to spare a couple of inmates if it meant closing this matter that much quicker. And what amounted to a month’s pay going into his pocket was more than enough incentive to accommodate his new friend’s wishes.

    “Very good. Very good indeed, Mr. McClean,” Isaac said, offering a handshake. “It has been pleasant doing business with you.”

    “Likewise, Mr. Hill. Allow me to escort you to the door and I will get the ball rolling on this matter immediately.”

    If looks could kill, Rachael Madigan’s glare at Isaac, as the two men walked through the front office, could have wiped out a squad of heavily armed infantry.

    After exchanging brief pleasantries with Isaac outside on the steps, Terry returned to the reception area to find Rachael standing before her desk with her fists on her hips, scowling at him like a mother would an unruly offspring.

    “I just cannot believe you were being friendly with that boor of a man after the way he treated me. Word is he’s a gangster for God’s sake. I’m a good mind to call the sheriff right now and…” was as far as she got.

    “Rachael, shut up. For once in your miserable life just shut the hell up,” Terry McClean told her calmly as he walked into his office and closed the door behind him, leaving her opened mouthed and speechless. He’d been saving that up for sixteen years.

    *
     
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  8. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “Just stay with me, but don’t tailgate. We are going to be model citizens leaving here,” Isaac instructed Billy as he climbed into the cab.

    Looking over the roof of his car he returned a good-bye wave from Terry. He smiled inwardly at the sight of Rachael Madigan scowling from behind a front window, knowing that he had changed two people’s lives forever.

    Isaac was ninety percent sure of what had befallen Jud Kowoski; Terry McClean nailed down the other ten percent for him. He had the what, now he wanted the who. He was hoping Karen Owens had the answers he sought.

    Isaac felt a bit of relief leaving Knox county a mile beyond the truckstop, but not much. He knew county lines, or state lines for that matter, meant little or nothing to rogue officers of the law. In fact, they often tended to be even more ruthless outside of their jurisdictions. Isaac accepted that as a matter of course and knew the rule of war was that there are no rules.

    In the days before the K-Town Truck Plaza the Clement County Depot was where truckers stopped for rest breaks and fueled right alongside the big busses bringing passengers from New York City and New England to Nashville, Tennessee and points west.

    The old diner was still in operation but not the busy spot it once was with more folks travelling by automobile and most truckers going down to the K-Town where showers and a bunk house were available.

    The thought occurred to Isaac that Karen could be setting him up, or being coerced into it. He was almost a hundred percent she was being straight with him but he wasn’t gambling his life on almost.

    He pulled off the main road into the depot lot, circling around the main building in search of an area where the big rig would be the least conspicuous, if not entirely hidden from view from the highway. As luck would have it there was an unused shop building where tire repair and mechanical work was once performed for truckers in need of repairs.
     
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  9. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Motioning Billy to follow, they parked the vehicles on the far side wall of the old shop. Isaac stepped to the rear of his Ford and retrieved a leather suitcase from the trunk. Inside, among other items, were two tan colored coats constructed of a coarse, denim-like material.

    The coats were obviously well worn; worn by men who did things such working on oil rigs or locomotives, judging by the rips and stains. There was what appeared to be the crimson shade of blood imbedded into the sleeve of one of the coats.

    They were slightly oversized, with a deep inner pocket on each side. The pockets were secured with heavy thread that was double stitched, enabling to manage the weight of something substantial. Something like a double barreled Remington cut-down or a large caliber revolver.

    The coats also served to change the men’s appearance substantially. Without close inspection, no one would suspect this rough neck to be the well dressed business man they saw in town just an hour ago. People tend to notice the obvious, neglecting the finer details.

    Isaac kept his .25 in the shoulder holster under his suit jacket while dropping the big .44 in one of the inner pockets of the rough hewn coat which he wore over his suit.

    Billy’s red plaid shirt with the pearl snaps was likewise disguised by the other coat, the shotgun nestled inside one pocket and a handful of spare shells in the other. An old leather snap brim hat, also from the suitcase, covered most of his sandy blond hair.

    It was understood that if there was a violent confrontation, everything would be hammer down, full tilt boogie. Show no mercy and expect none. If they made it back to this spot, that would be fine, but the primary goal was to take down those back shooting ######## if they presented themselves, although Isaac doubted they would make a play here.

    They walked to the diner with the forlorn gait of two men just relieved of a grueling twelve hour shift performing tedious labor. Billy kept his head down, staring at the ground as if searching for an alternative to his lot in life. Isaac moved his head about as if afflicted with a nervous condition, but in reality was surveilling the area, watching for watchers.

    There seemed to be no one observing them from the outside and they would just have to take their chances on the inside, but they would go down hard if need be.

    Karen was seated in a corner booth. He was pleased that she had chosen a seat with a good view of the highway and the bus depot. He was also pleased that their impromptu disguises worked so well, for she showed not a hint of recognition as they entered the diner, unless she was that good of an actress. He would soon find out.

    Karen looked startled as the would be strangers approached her booth. Confusion turned to recognition as she made eye contact with Isaac.

    “I didn’t recognize y’all for a second there, but I can’t say as I blame you for wanting to lay low. From what I’m hearing, y’all ain’t real popular around Knoxville right now among certain folk,” Karen told them.
     
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  10. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Before she had a chance to offer them a seat a large man, apparently the cook, approached the group from behind the dining counter, a butcher knife in one hand, hanging to his side.

    “Everything alright here, Karen?” he asked, eyes locked on Isaac.

    “Yeah, Bo, everything’s okay. These are the two fellers I told you about. I trust them good enough.” Only then did Bo notice that both of the strangers had slipped a hand inside their respective coats.

    “Alright, then. Holler if you need anything.”

    “How about bringing them out some coffee and something to eat if they want it. It’s on me,” Karen said.

    “It’s on me if they’re friends of yours,” Bo answered.

    “Just coffee will be fine,” Isaac said. “And we are appreciative, sir.”

    “Y’all sit down, please. That’s my brother, Bo. He’s kinda protective of me and he’s not the biggest fans of that bunch y’all have been dealing with today. They gunned down our first cousin a couple years ago right along side of the road one night. They said he was running shine but he wasn’t, not that night anyway. Not a #### thing in his trunk but a spare tire. And if he had of been on a run he #### sure wouldn’t have pulled over and got out of the car, unarmed at that. They never would have caught that old Plymouth Hemi of his if he didn’t want them to.”

    “I’m terribly sorry about your cousin, Karen. It may not be much solace to you now, but their kind often get their own payback in the end,” Isaac told her.

    “You’re right. It’s not so helpful to hear that after they seem to be getting away with it over and over again. And when I find out my own employer is in cahoots with them, it’s just too much. I really liked Jud. I don’t know what all he was up to but he seemed like a decent man to me, maybe more than decent. He was always dressed nicely and very polite. He didn’t use vulgar language and sit around telling filthy jokes like them other truck drivers. He was a good tipper too and never tried to grab my ###.

    “And I’ll tell you what I liked most; he would tell me about the bluegrass in Kentucky and the nice horse ranches y’all have up there. He told me about looking out over the Atlantic ocean from the Georgia coast and all them places I’ve never been to. Hell, I ain’t never been no further than Chattanooga in my whole life. I was sorta hopping he would offer to take me someplace one day and probably would have if they hadn’t blowed his head off right before my very eyes.”

    Karen’s face was red with anger, her voice raw with emotion. She wasn’t crying but the redness of her eyes suggested she had been doing so very recently, or perhaps she wasn’t sleeping.

    “So tell me what happened, Karen. Tell me everything,” Isaac said, quietly yet firmly.

    After a brief hesitation she described the incident in detail, nonstop, a trancelike quality to her delivery.
     
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  11. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    “There was an odd feeling in the air that day, to me anyway. This cop car was sitting out front off and on all day. It was backed in so it was facing the highway so I never saw their faces. They just sat out there smoking cigarettes and watching every truck come and go. Every now and then Bernard, he’s the boss, would take them out cups of coffee. Don’t that beat all, I thought. He won’t lift a finger for a customer but here he is performing curb service.

    “Then about ten minutes before Jud got here two more cops showed up, except they were in plain clothes. I knew they were cops by the way they talked to the uniformed guys outside and by the way Bernard acted around them, like he was kissing their ###. He ain’t like that around anybody I ever seen. I’ll never forget them as long as I live, especially the one with the red hair. It was thick and curly and the color of an old rusty nail, burnt looking. The other one was nearly bald and had a moustache.

    “Them two hid back in the kitchen. They pulled me aside and said don’t make no small talk with Jud, like they knew he would be sitting in my area. Just take his order and keep my mouth shut they said.

    “Jud came in like usual. He always parked in the back. He never said it but I always figured he didn’t want nobody parking too close to that pretty red truck. He had on some new pointy toed cowboy boots on he said were made in Mexico.

    “Anyway, he said he only had time for some pie, apple was his favorite, and he had black coffee. I thought it was odd his buddy wasn’t with him.”

    Isaac interrupted her to ask, “What buddy would that be?”

    “This other trucker he’d been sharing a booth with off and on for the last five months or so. Always joking and carrying on like they were the best of friends. I learned different pretty quick that day.”

    Isaac was curious about that statement but let her continue at her own pace.

    “When Jud paid his tab I walked away just like they said but I knew something was terribly wrong. I couldn’t stand it no more and I turned to warn him as he headed for the door. The bald cop grabbed my arm and snatched me back into the kitchen. I tried to run back to Jud but he blocked my way. He drew back to hit me so I ran the other way, back to the store room and locked myself in. I raised the window in there, planning to climb out but that would have been suicide.”

    Karen began crying as she continued.

    “I saw his buddy running up behind him and he started shooting at him with a pistol. I tried to yell out but I couldn’t. I was in disbelief, or shock, like this couldn’t be happening. Then I heard a louder gun go off from my left. I looked over and it was the rusty headed cop with a rifle.

    “Jud was able to get his own gun out of his truck to defend himself but he was in the open and had no where to find cover.

    “But he managed to gut shoot that double dealing ####### of a friend. Must have pumped half a dozen rounds into that boy before red shot him down like a dog with that deer rifle.”

    She stopped talking then and brought her hands to her face as if trying to push the tears back in that wouldn’t stop flowing.

    Isaac waited several minutes before speaking. “What about you, Karen? I worry about you going back there. They will know you talked to me. I’ve seen two of their cars circle the lot since we sat down. I figure they saw the truck behind the old shop by now.”

    “I never planned on going back anyway. Today was my last day. I figured it wouldn’t take them long to figure out I was in that store room. I could deny I looked out the window but it wouldn’t matter. They’d kill me just to be on the safe side.

    “I’ll be safe out here. They won’t come over the mountain where my people are. That’d be like a mouse going into a rattlesnake den. The Feds give up looking for stills back there twenty years ago if that tells you anything.”

    “Indeed it does Miss Karen. I think you’re a strong person and a lovely lady. How may I contact you in the future, should the need arise?”

    “You’re a different kind of fella yourself, Mr. Isaac. If you ever get the notion to correspond with me, just send it right here and Bo will get it to me.”
     
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  12. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    After shifting the Diamond Reo into the highest gear he planned on using for awhile, Billy Banks unwrapped the big roast beef sandwich that was given to him by Bo as he climbed into the rig along with two glass bottles of Coca-Cola. He did the same for Isaac.

    He intuited the men passed up lunch in the diner more as a time consideration than a lack of hunger. He couldn’t blame them, for if he were in their shoes he too would want to be out of the Volunteer state before sundown if at all possible.

    Bo looked forward to any correspondence his sister might receive from Isaac in the hopes that it contained a detailed account of the slow, tortuous demise of certain officers of Knox county for he surmised him to be just the man with the mindset and ability to make it happen without the slightest hint of remorse or fear of consequence.

    Isaac did want as much daylight travel time as possible, but not out of fear of reprisal but for tactical reasons. If he was in open view, so were his would be predators. Predators whom he intended to become prey. He stationed Billy and the Diamond Reo in the lead position, enabling himself to run interference, if necessary, in the more nimble Ford coupe.

    The long grade between Knoxville and Lake City was as straight as could be enabling a northbound driver to see the valley two miles behind him in his rear view mirror.

    Isaac was now certain the baby blue Buick Electra with the distinctive wrap around front fins was the same one he saw trolling through the bus depot. He saw it again parked in front of a general store ten miles back. Two men in suits and fedoras were propped against the trunk lid smoking cigarettes. They not so casually turned their backs as Billy came around the curve in the semi. They already had the doors open, climbing in the Buick as Isaac passed by. Very subtle, you incompetent clowns Isaac said to himself.

    Billy was forced to slow down to crawl as he came up behind a heavily laden coal truck belching clouds of smoke as the driver steadily downshifted as he climbed the steep grade. A passing lane was a quarter of a mile ahead, but for now there was no choice but to slow down and wait with the steady stream of oncoming traffic.

    The Buick had been maintaining what would have been a discreet distance to the untrained eye but Isaac picked them up a few miles back when they were holding an eighth of a mile. Now that traffic was bunching up at fifteen miles per hour in the single travel lane the Buick’s driver had no choice but to close the gap. Now, at nine vehicle lengths back, the blue behemoth of a car stood out like a whale on land to Isaac.

    Isaac moved to right side of the road giving Billy a clear view from his left mirror at the line of cars behind him, hoping he too would pick up on the tail.

    When they reached the passing lane Billy fell out, easily overtaking the coal truck, with the black Ford in tow. Seven automobiles and a Colonial Bread van passed the coal truck after Billy and Isaac did but no sign of the blue Buick as they started down the north side of the grade.

    Isaac reckoned his pursuers had stayed behind the coal truck in order to build up another gap between them, perhaps thinking they hadn’t been made. No matter because Jelico lay ahead, the Lake City grade a mere bump in the road in comparison. Invariably, heavy trucks would have traffic strung out this time of day, car drivers anxiously awaiting the intermittently spaced passing lanes so they can move around the big rigs.

    Isaac hoped for as many slow trucks as possible. The Diamond Reo was hot to trot compared to most trucks on the road and pulling a virtually empty trailer it was downright fast.

    The southern side of Jelico mountain was a twenty mile climb broken up by a series of nearly level stretches giving the uninitiated traveler the false impression of reaching the plateau on each of these areas only to find another pull steeper than the last.

    The uphill lanes had the occasional wide spots to accommodate overheating vehicles while the downhill side had pullout areas for trucks to cool their brakes. The area Isaac was waiting for was at the crest of the pass, before the shorter, but steeper, five mile downhill grade ended at the Kentucky state line.

    The stretch of gravel was perhaps a hundred yards long and wide enough for two big rigs to clear each other. A copse of trees a dozen feet deep separated the lot from the asphalt highway, provided truckers a little shade for a daytime nap and a buffer zone from moving traffic. On the right side was a rocky slope that angled sharply into a sheer drop-off ending a thousand yards in the gorge below.

    Isaac caught the occasional glimpse of the Buick Electra, and although the sightings were fewer and farther between, the last one being twenty minutes earlier, he knew they were back there. The hunters would soon become the hunted.
     
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  13. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    If this was a movie...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Mrclean091

    Mrclean091 Member

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    Excellent. Good idea on pics.
     
  15. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Isaac pulled into the left lane to take the lead. Seeing an oncoming vehicle a few hundred yards away he downshifted into second gear, nailing the throttle, bringing smoke from the rear tires. Despite the stiffened rear suspension the hood seem to float into the air with the massive application of torque to the drive wheels. Billy couldn’t suppress a broad grin at the roaring sound of the exhaust emanating from the twin pipes as the coupe blew by his cab, completing the pass with ample distance to spare.

    The sign ahead read Truck Parking Area Next Right. Isaac made a pointing gesture over the roof of his car and Billy gave the air horn chain a light tug of acknowledgement.

    Not bothering to signal, Isaac veered off into the parking area, creating a cloud of dust, the oversized tires slinging gravel inside the fender wells. He rolled two thirds of the way down, positioning them parallel to the thickest area of trees.

    Before Billy had come to a complete stop behind him, he was out of the car, Colt in hand, motioning his partner out of the passenger side of the truck. Not needing to be told to bring it, Billy had the cut off as he leapt from the cab, following Isaac down the side off the trailer.

    Just beyond the trailer landing gear Isaac ducked beneath the trailer and while in a crouched position reached up and flipped a latch, unlocking the three by three feet trap door. He pushed it upward before hoisting himself inside the trailer. Billy followed, again not needing to be told what to do.

    “Dang it, Boss, I had no idea,” Billy said, truly impressed. The trap door blended with the floor so well he had never noticed it as many times he had been in the trailer.

    Rather than answer, Isaac led them to the rear of the trailer with his penlight he had the foresight to bring along.

    Jud’s coffin had been placed lengthwise in the trailer and secured on four sides with wooden blocks nailed into the wooden floor to prevent it from sliding around. The end of the box was three feet from the trailer door. There were two feet of clearance on either side of the four feet wide container.

    Isaac and Billy walked along each wall and were positioning themselves on each side of the roll up door when they heard gravel crunching beneath tires, obviously not from a diesel tractor judging from the lack of engine noise. There was an undecipherable murmur of voices that seemed to separate and split to each side of the trailer before fading out entirely. Footfalls could be heard as the pair of men from the blue Buick eased alongside the trailer, guns drawn, making their way to the cab, and then on to the Ford coupe.

    Perplexed at the absence of their quarry they made a pass through the wooded area to no avail. There was nowhere else remaining other than the mountainside. Knowing it was useless, they peered over the precipice anyway.

    One of the men then pointed at the rear of the trailer. The other shrugged as if to say “why not?”
     
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  16. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Isaac pulled into the left lane to take the lead. Seeing an oncoming vehicle a few hundred yards away he downshifted into second gear, nailing the throttle, bringing smoke from the rear tires. Despite the stiffened rear suspension the hood seem to float into the air with the massive application of torque to the drive wheels. Billy couldn’t suppress a broad grin at the roaring sound of the exhaust emanating from the twin pipes as the coupe blew by his cab, completing the pass with ample distance to spare.

    The sign ahead read Truck Parking Area Next Right. Isaac made a pointing gesture over the roof of his car and Billy gave the air horn chain a light tug of acknowledgement.

    Not bothering to signal, Isaac veered off into the parking area, creating a cloud of dust, the oversized tires slinging gravel inside the fender wells. He rolled two thirds of the way down, positioning them parallel to the thickest area of trees.

    Before Billy had come to a complete stop behind him, he was out of the car, Colt in hand, motioning his partner out of the passenger side of the truck. Not needing to be told to bring it, Billy had the cut off as he leapt from the cab, following Isaac down the side off the trailer.

    Just beyond the trailer landing gear Isaac ducked beneath the trailer and while in a crouched position reached up and flipped a latch, unlocking the three by three feet trap door. He pushed it upward before hoisting himself inside the trailer. Billy followed, again not needing to be told what to do.

    “Dang it, Boss, I had no idea,” Billy said, truly impressed. The trap door blended with the floor so well he had never noticed it as many times he had been in the trailer.

    Rather than answer, Isaac led them to the rear of the trailer with his penlight he had the foresight to bring along.

    Jud’s coffin had been placed lengthwise in the trailer and secured on four sides with wooden blocks nailed into the wooden floor to prevent it from sliding around. The end of the box was three feet from the trailer door. There were two feet of clearance on either side of the four feet wide container.

    Isaac and Billy walked along each wall and were positioning themselves on each side of the roll up door when they heard gravel crunching beneath tires, obviously not from a diesel tractor judging from the lack of engine noise. There was an undecipherable murmur of voices that seemed to separate and split to each side of the trailer before fading out entirely. Footfalls could be heard as the pair of men from the blue Buick eased alongside the trailer, guns drawn, making their way to the cab, and then on to the Ford coupe.

    Perplexed at the absence of their quarry they made a pass through the wooded area to no avail. There was nowhere else remaining other than the mountainside. Knowing it was useless, they peered over the precipice anyway.

    One of the men then pointed at the rear of the trailer. The other shrugged as if to say “why not?”
     
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  17. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    After flipping the safety catch they started slowly raising the door. When it had been raised about a foot Isaac used a firm two handed grasp to forcefully ram the roller door upward with all his might. The ensuing seconds of confusion were what Isaac had counted on.

    Billy held the shotgun in a two handed grip, gripping the business end of the weapon like a baseball bat. He was on his knees enabling him to execute a lateral swing in perfect alignment with his intended target. The Colt was wrapped behind his head when he uncoiled like a tightly wound steel spring. The polished hardwood grip made contact with flesh on the jaw bone just below the left ear creating an audible splat/crunch that could have been heard across the road.

    Blood, saliva, and teeth spewed from the man’s mouth, twisting his head to a severe angle, the force of the impact sending his fedora flying, revealing a full head of rusty colored hair. Although not relinquishing his hold on the bolt action rifle, the shock of the attack and the intense pain that resulted made him forget he was holding it.

    The sight of the red hair and the hunting rifle sent Billy into a rage, knowing this was the man Karen described, the man who murdered his friend. He reversed the shotgun, released the thumb catch safety and lined the barrels up on the man’s broken face.

    He could have sworn he heard Isaac’s voice speaking to him from another place. Don’t kill him. Not yet.

    But Isaac wasn’t even paying attention to him for he had his own problem to attend to. The moustachioed cop was faster than Isaac had bargained for. By the time he released the door and scooped his revolver from the floor his opponent had already withdrawn his .38 Police Special from his belt holster and was squeezing the trigger.

    The bullet tore through Isaac’s trouser leg and into the end of the oak structure that was Jud Kowoski’s final resting place. He never got off another shot.

    The boom of the .44 Magnum was deafening as the back blast reverberated inside the cavernous metal trailer. The fat hollow point roundmade its entry into the shooter’s inner forearm, at the crook of the elbow. The lower half of his arm dropped down at an unnatural angle, swinging back like a screen door on broken hinges, the disconnected hand absently releasing the .38.

    The cop looked down at first in bewilderment, then horror as he saw his forearm dangling by mere scraps of tendons like so many threads.
     
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  18. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Isaac and Billy were on the ground quickly, herding the broken men to the cliff side of the trailer, ordering them to their knees.

    “If I wanted you dead, you would be already,” Isaac said without preamble. “You guys are operating under a black flag. Is this your deal or is somebody running you?”

    Moustache just stared at the ground. Red attempted to speak. Blood from his severed tongue spilled down his chin as he worked his shattered jaw in an effort to form words.

    “Shut up #######!” Moustache yelled. “We ain’t no goddam snitches.”

    The outburst was ignored by Isaac butt Billy took the opportunity to kick him in the kidney region. “No, you shut up, #######. The boss is talking.”

    By this point Isaac had no use for Moustache and didn’t care what Billy did to him for he was tapping into a reliable source of information; clandestine cigarette and liquor warehouses, prostitution rings, missing jurors and compromised cops. And citizens executed for knowing, or often just suspecting, too much.

    The confessors words sounded like somebody trying to talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles, but Isaac’s apparent comprehension of the garbled nonsense confirmed what Billy had suspected for some time now.

    His boss had a special gift. Whether it came and went at random times or Isaac could turn it on and off at will was still a mystery to him. The source of this power was a mystery as well. Did it come from God or Satan and did it really matter? Raised in the Pentecostal church, Billy was taught there was no middle ground and made a quick prayer of forgiveness for doubting his childhood teachings.

    After being pulled aside and given instructions by Isaac, Billy went to the cab of the truck and removed an old shop rag from under the passenger seat which he rolled lengthwise in the fashion of a tube. He then dipped the makeshift wick into the right side diesel tank, allowing the rag to absorb the flammable liquid.

    Meanwhile Isaac led their captives to the Buick at gunpoint, directing them into the back seat where he buckled them in. Moustache may have had the ability to unbuckle himself with his good arm but he seemed to lack the strength. He was growing paler by the minute due to the amount of blood draining from his severed limb and the kick to the kidneys seemed to have robbed him of whatever remaining resolve he may have possessed.

    Red, despite his caved in face and sore neck, was in otherwise good physical condition but made no effort to resist or escape. He gave off an aura of one who has made peace with himself and his maker and was prepared to accept his fate.

    Billy returned with the diesel soaked cloth as Isaac closed the door on his passengers. He instructed Billy to insert it into the car’s gas tank, working it in slowly as to not let it bunch up, and leaving only a couple of inches on the outside.

    Isaac started the Buick then backed it up a few yards enabling him to swing out in an arc and put the front of the car more or less square with the edge of the drop off. With the car in position he motioned for Billy to light the fuse.

    As Billy withdrew his Zippo from his jean pocket Isaac turned to face the two men in the back seat. “Well, gentlemen?”

    Red mumbled a few indecipherable sounds, a tear escaping as he made eye contact. “You’re welcome, son. You’ve done the right thing.”
    He turned his gaze to Moustache who merely said, “#### you.”

    Not bothering to answer, Isaac opened the door and placed the gear selector in DRIVE while keeping his right foot on the brake pedal.

    Still on level ground, if not at a slight upgrade, the Electra barely crept forward as Isaac released the brake and slid from the seat in a smooth motion, shutting the door as he got both feet on the ground. Red actually gave him a little wave while Moustache was emotionless. Motionless also, for his skin was as pale as possible for a person who was still breathing, if in fact he still was. Isaac thought he would expire from loss of blood before the explosion took him.

    The front tires dropped over the hump giving the driverless car some momentum, covering the first stage of the slope in a few seconds before taking the big plunge. The rear tires rose into the air as the nose dropped on the severe incline, an incline that was nearly vertical. Bouncing and teetering all the way down it was a miracle the vehicle never rolled over completely. Now Billy understood why Isaac buckled the passengers in, not wanting them scattered along the slope where they could be more easily identified on the off chance they were found before the coyotes that roamed at night found them first.

    The big blue Buick came to a complete stop at what would become its final resting place, nose first against a boulder the size of a billiard table.

    “I’ll just be ######,” Billy said, almost in a whisper as one of the rear passenger doors slowly swung open. Before he had time to contemplate who was sitting where the car blew up.

    The deep WHOOOOMPH resonated through the gorge like dry thunder. Mini avalanches sprang to life as if wishing to participate in the mayhem. An eruption of fowl in the grove behind them was actually more startling than the explosion for it was unexpected.

    The secondary explosion, this one more visual, occurred as the gasoline itself went into a blaze, the primary detonation being the more volatile fumes.

    “Time to skedaddle, son,” Isaac said.

    As he turned to walk away Billy saw the sizeable blood spot on Isaac’s trouser leg.

    “Dang, Boss, you’re hit. We need to tend to that,” Billy said.

    “No, we need to roll. We’ll tend to it later.
     
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  19. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Samson did a fine job repairing the bullet hole in Jud Kowoski’s casket with some wood filler and sandpaper. Only the closest of inspections would have revealed the original oak plank had ever been tampered with, much less sustained gunfire.

    He did a fine job with Jud also. In fact, fixing his old friend proved easier than repairing the box he would be buried in. The fully jacketed .38 caliber round passed through Jud’s right shoe and into his heeland where she stops nobody knows, for there was no exit point to be found.

    Samson simply replaced Jud’s shoes with a pair of Isaac’s old dress shoes on the off chance anybody was inquisitive enough to inspect the man’s feet, should anyone even bother to open the coffin, which was an equally unlikely event. The chance of either happening was nearly zero but Isaac seldom, if ever, left anything to chance.

    Unlike Jud’s shot to the foot, Isaac’s leg was a different, for he could still bleed and feel pain. After a safe and rapid descent down the north side of Jelico mountain he and Billy stopped at an old truckstop in Williamsburg, Kentucky just as the sun dropped from view behind a ridgeline to the west.

    Isaac’s sock had absorbed a considerable amount of blood. The bullet had passed through the inside of his left calf, missing the bone and passing through muscle. There was no damage to any arteries so the bleeding, as bad as it looked, could have been much worse.

    Billy bought a half pint of vodka in the truckstop to rinse the wound and a white tee shirt from the suitcase in the trunk served as a tourniquet. Isaac was starting to feel the effects of the blood loss but insisted on making it home without another stop. Billy went back inside to get him a large paper cup of black coffee with extra sugar, for energy if nothing else.

    Ten miles north of Williamsburg Billy slowed the Diamond Reo down to ten miles per hour as he crossed the south fork of the Cumberland river, flowing some fifty feet below the bridge. He first tossed the Colt .44 Magnum through the open passenger window, out into the black night and down to the rapid currents below. With a second or two of hesitation he did the same with the double barreled Remington. Leave nothing to chance. Isaac kept his shoulder holstered .32, for it was a registered purchase and it played no part in the mayhem they left behind in Tennessee.

    *
     
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  20. RickyRicardo

    RickyRicardo Active Member

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    Isaac was sitting in a rocking chair on his wrap around porch sipping on some hot tea when Billy eased up to the house in his Chevy Bel Air at eleven the next morning, just as Isaac had requested.

    “Mornin’ Boss,” Billy said as he approached the porch steps.

    “Good morning, Billy. Would you care for some tea? I’ll have Samson bring you some,” Isaac said as he motioned Billy to sit in another rocking chair.

    “No, sir, but I appreciate it. I had some breakfast in town already. How’s your leg feeling?”

    “It only hurts when I walk but I’ll survive. I deserve more than that for my error.”

    “What are you talking about, error? You were a regular Stonewall Jackson down there. Them boys never knew what hit ‘em.”

    “Ah, but the devil is in the details, as they say.”

    “How’s that Boss?”

    “I underestimated my opponent. Instead of laying down my weapon to use both hands on the door, we should have used one hand each, leaving us each a hand to hold our weapons.

    “I made the assumption they would be as clumsy with their guns as they were with their tailing technique. But that fellow was a fast draw. Had his aim been true I would have found myself lying beside Jud in that trailer and after they shot you, we both would have tossed over the cliff.”

    Billy had no suitable response but respected his Boss even more for admitting what he perceived as a failure.

    “Anyway, that’s not why I asked you to be here this morning. First of all, I know you loved your friend, as did I, but we cannot attend any funeral. I made arrangements this morning for his body to be shipped to the veterans cemetery in Lexington tomorrow. I saw to it to have an American flag on his casket.”

    Seeing Billy was about to object, Isaac held up a finger, stopping him. “Hear me out, please.”

    “The Buick has probably been found by now, possibly yesterday if somebody saw it before dark. The Tennessee State Police will be the investigating agency. It is possible they may figure out who owned the car by the numbers on the engine block, which if original will match the title records.

    “They will never identify the bodies though. They may even think it was a drunk driver who was thrown clear and walked away, leaving his passengers to burn to death. With the front seat empty, they could imagine a number of scenarios.

    “But Tobler will know. He won’t tell the State boys because he can’t account for his men being so far out of their jurisdiction off the book. But by God he will know what happened and he will call Tinsley with some concocted charges to arrest us on.

    “Tinsley will believe Tobler over us because he’s a law man. That’s just the way it works. It doesn’t matter if we can prove our innocence or not because once we leave here in cuffs we will never make it to Knoxville and we will never be seen again. I give him two days to put it together and we have to be long gone by then.”

    Billy took a moment to absorb what he had just heard before responding.

    “I ain’t got nothing of value besides that old Chevy right there and what money I got in my back pocket. Aside from this job you provided me I don’t have a single responsibility in the world. Hell, I could be in El Paso by the end of the week and over in Juarez whenever I wanted drinking tequila and courtin’ senoritas and nobody would miss me or give a #### where I was.

    “But you have this fine home, your trucking business, the horses, your brother to take care of. You cain’t just up and disappear like that.”

    Isaac nodded thoughtfully. He was grateful to hear Billy’s concern, for it reinforced the decision he had made.
     
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