Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Polyphemus
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Polyphemus They/ Them

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It was not even ten in the morning but the day was already hot.

As usual for August, the heat had seemed to start in the humid miasma of the swamps at the northern end of O'Connor County, radiating outwards and triumphing in an all too brief struggle against the cool breeze blowing off the Gulf. And now it had settled over it all, pressing down like a thick, soaking blanket. All over the county, men were already opening shirt collars, stains forming at the necks and armpits. Children were hastily scarfing down the rapidly melting candy bars they had planned to save for later. Glasses of lemonade and iced tea and Dr. Pepper were being poured, for those who didn't seek another form of liquid relief.

The heat was especially oppressive on the back loading dock of Hawkins Spirits, the concrete walls trapping it in but admitting no shade. The back door was shut, a refusal to let any of the air conditioned air inside the liquor store escape. Mrs. Amelia Hawkins didn't mind. The heat was nothing to her after living in a tarpaper shack with fourteen other people or working ten hour shifts in a factory churning out Sherman tanks. Her white blouse and dark slacks remained crisp and dry. The same couldn't be said of Jody's stained chinos and white James Dean T-shirt. The young man was sweating, his slicked-back hair beginning to be plastered down against his scalp.

She preferred it that way. She liked to do negotiations with heat, both literal and metaphorical.

“I'll give you 20 cents on the dollar for them.”

“No, Mrs. Hawkins. I don't mean no disrespect but that just ain't gonna cut it,” Jody said with a vigorous shake of the head. He reached down to the cardboad box at his feet, pulled out a brightly labeled bottle. The brown liquid within sloshed gently. “See, unopened and untouched. Some guys will try to cheat you and water this stuff down, sell you bottles of tea or water with brown sugar. I don't play you that way. You check the other nineteen case I got in my truck and you'll see they're all sealed shut, straight from the distillery.”

Mrs. Hawkins flicked an errant blond lock out of her face. “Well, Jody, I'd pay you top dollar if you had brought me some Old Crow or Jim Beam or IW Harper. You know, the more popular bourbons. But Old Charter? I can't do anything with Old Charter. Nobody round here comes in asking for it. And you showed up with twenty cases! I'm lucky if I sell five bottles of Old Charter a week and you're expecting me to take 240 off you.”

Jody's face twisted up with momentary anger before he remembered just who he was speaking with and he forced a look of calm indignation to take its place. “Look, me and the boys boosted this shipment up in Frankfort. Now, we could've gone to Memphis or Louisville to try and offload but we wanted to be respectful, you having gotten us our start and all. Hell, we nearly got busted by state troopers passing through Tennessee. And now you're telling us you'll only pay 20 cents? That ain't no way to do us. Nah, we want 50.”

“Alright, in light of the trouble you boys had and the distance you came, I'll give you 30 and that's cutting my own throat,” she countered. She easily recognized the young thief's last-ditch effort to play hardball- the kid was sweating and just wanted to get out of the sun already. Almost too easy.

“I'll take 30,” Jody said, letting a little too much relief into his voice. Perfect. Right where she wanted him.

They shook, and Mrs. Hawkins took out her billfold and began counting out twenties for Jody. “Unload them here onto the dock, then drive away. Pleasure as always, Jody,” she said as she slipped the stack of bills into his hand. Without even a goodbye, she spun on her heel and walked back inside, even as Jody enthusiastically signaled to his partners to begin unloading.

The air conditioning and radio made a welcome change to the sweltering heat outside. Such luxuries were almost unheard of for any shop in O'Connor County. It gave her a brief swell of pride as she waved over one of her stockboys, a lanky tow-headed kid.

“Ronnie, right?” The youth nodded, eager to please. “There's twenty cases of bourbon out back, but before we stock it I want a few cases delivered.” She grabbed a legal pad from behind the counter, began to scratch down a few names and addresses. “First one is going to Judge Sinclair. If people see him pouring Old Charter at one of his little Saturday cocktail parties, they're gonna start thinking it's fancy and they need to get a bottle themselves. Then a case each for a few friends of mine- Sheriff Dawkins, Pastor MacMillan over at the Baptist church, and one for Black Jack Rawlins up in Buck Nelly. Come on, they know you're with me, they won't bite,” she said as she saw the apprehensive look on the kid's face when he was asked to travel to Buck Nelly. “Just want to let community leaders to know I'm thinking about them.” She handed the sheet to the stockboy, watched him eagerly run out to bring his pickup around the back to load up. The other sixteen cases of Old Charter could stay out there. No one would dare steal from her.

And besides, she would need Ronnie out of the shop for a few hours. It would be better to have no witnesses.

It was collection day.

As the stockboy roared off excitedly down the road, a trail of dust behind him, she made doubly sure the “Closed” sign was up and door locked. Walking into the small office, she opened the safe. A stranger would be surprised by the safe itself- specially made by Chubb in Great Britain, thick and fireproof, the kind favored by banks and millionaires. She retrieved a thick brown envelope and a single key from inside the safe.

That same stranger would doubtlessly be even more surprised when Mrs. Hawkins moved aside a crowded bookcase to reveal a hidden door, which she unlocked and opened. Only she and Harold knew about this storeroom, what they called “Eden” because of the forbidden fruit inside. Without a moment's hesitation, she selected two items, a bottle and a Mason jar. The door was promptly shut and locked, the bookcase moved to conceal it once again, and the key deposited back in the safe with the cash and documents and more than one pistol.

She placed the envelope, the bottle, and the jar in a neat row on the sales counter, then sat down to wait, leafing through a magazine. The DJ on the radio chattered away, the air conditioner hummed.

Mrs. Hawkins didn't have long to wait. A quiet but commanding tap came on the glass door. A man was outside, in a light but well-cut tailored suit. She got immediately to let him in- any hesitation might be seen as disrespect. She undid the lock, quickly ushered him in, shut and locked the door once more. “It's good to see you again. I hope you had a pleasant flight down,” she said deferentially.

The man from Chicago sighed. “Oh, it's always some bullshit, let me tell you. They're worried about hijacking to Cuba so couldn't even bring a pocketknife along with me. Had to keep it in my suitcase.” He looked around the shop, his eyes carelessly flicking around and taking it all in. “Business been good? You get set up with those boys from Fort Worth we told you about?”

“Yes, thank you for that. The Coors they bring me goes for $15 a case here. Must be the novelty.”

“Shall we get down to it?” the man from Chicago said, his flat Northern accent stentorian over the radio. It was not a question.

She nodded in agreement and led him over the counter. “As usual, a couple small tokens for you,” she said smoothly. She handed him the Mason jar full of clear liquid. “The best moonshine in O'Connor County. I'm surprised you Northern boys have a taste for it,” she said with just a hint of playfulness, before mentally kicking herself for being too familiar with him.

The man from Chicago didn't seem to notice as he undid the lid and had a cautious sniff, before letting out a mild snort at the harsh odor. “Makes a fun conversation piece, at least. Some of the guys back home have never been further south than Pilsen, like you said it's a novelty for them. Local color. Ah, now here we go, that's the good stuff,” he said as he reached for the bottle with an appreciative smile. “Havana Club rum. Every month when I come back from the South I get people dropping round my place hoping for a glass of this. Hell, even the don sometimes, and he was down there working in Cuba before Castro kicked us out.” For the first time, he smiled genuinely. “How much do you get for this, anyways?”

“$100 a bottle. It's a lot, sure, but given the penalties for breaking the embargo it's worth it.”

“Speaking of which,” the man from Chicago interjected as he picked up the envelope. “Not that I don't enjoy the company, but you're only the first stop today. Got to see your business partners and grab envelopes from all of them.” He opened it and began to leaf through the thick stack of crisp $50 bills fresh from the First County Bank, counting quickly and dexterously. She knew better than to interrupt and stood there silently, until he nodded to himself.

“Everything in order?”

“Quite. We had our doubts, but you rednecks have really built something up the last few years. Which is why next month the tax is going up to 20%.”

Mrs. Hawkins could hardly believe her ears. “Come again?” she asked incredulously.

“You heard me. Next month all these fifties need to be hundreds. Same goes for all your business partners, I'll be telling them today.”

“The tax has always been 10%!”

“That was probationary. We were helping you find your feet. But now that you've proven you can run a capable and profitable enterprise we want a good return on our investment.”

“That's gonna cut into my income badly.”

The man from Chicago shrugged. “So figure out how to make more money. That benefits both of us.”

“You can't do us like this,” she protested in spite of herself, her face flushing with ire.

“Lady, if you keep complaining it's going up to 25%.” He glared, his eyes daring her to meet the challenge. She knew he was serious and kept silent. "That's what I thought. If you don't double this payment next time then Chicago will revoke your franchise rights. To put it another way, someone else is going to take over this territory. You're a smart broad, you'll figure it out. Now if you don't mind I'm headed out. Gotta have this same conversation ten more times today and it gets old quick.” The friendly jingling of bells mounted on the door signaled the man from Chicago's departure, and Mrs. Hawkins was left stewing behind the counter.

Where was she going to get that kind of money?


“Harold, would you be a dear and hand me a beer, please?” Mrs. Hawkins asked pleasantly, turning down the volume on the little transistor radio.

Harold Cokeley, rawboned and wiry, obediently dug into the tin basin filled with ice and pulled out a bottle of Schaefer, the humidity immediately beading on the brown glass even as sunset drew near. “I thought he'd be here by now,” he grumbled as he popped off the cap and passed it to her.

Eyes still on the small charcoal grill they had brought along, Mrs. Hawkins reached up and took it from him without looking. “Patience, hon. Mr. Rookwood is a man of his word,” she promised.

To any passersby, it would seem like an innocent quiet tailgate cookout on the stone jetty by the old Sutton place. The dock had long since ceased to launch any pleasure craft and the last Sutton had moved away during the Depression. The house up the beach was crumbling but the jetty was solid as ever and a popular place to watch the sunset over the Gulf. Indeed, it was far from uncommon to see a pickup pull up to the end of the dock and the passengers to get out with a bucket of cold drinks and a grill, much as they had done. A closer examination would reveal the M3 submachine gun at the ready on the hood of the Chevy truck, though, which was generally a little more unusual for an evening get together.

Harold opened a Royal Crown cola for himself and leaned back against the Chevy, grease gun in easy reach should the need arise. “We're gonna need to sell all that rum and then some. We've got a lot of people working for us, we really can't afford this increase unless we somehow expand our business in the next month.”

“Well, I'm open to suggestions. How do you like your burger, hon?”

“Medium. Maybe we could ask him to bring us some Cuban cigars, too? We could try selling those.”

“It's a thought. Won't throw it out immediately, but that's not quite as profitable. You want cheese on there?”

“No thanks. I see lights, I think that's them.” Harold pointed to the horizon. Highlighted against the pink and orange of the setting sun was an approaching craft.

The twilight deepened as the craft drew nearer, as Mrs. Hawkins worried over the burgers and Harold checked his grease gun- ever paranoid, he was prepared for an ambush by the Coast Guard or rival syndicates or the Tonton Macoute, Mrs. Hawkins couldn't really be certain but she appreciated the effort.

Finally the Chloe was upon them, the thick rubber tires tied to the sides butting up against the old Sutton jetty. Mrs. Hawkins grinned broadly as Harold tied them off at the cleat- she was rather fond of the old sailors. “Fellows! Good to see you both,” she greeted Rookwood and Blackthorne. “After all that time at sea I thought you might like a good old fashioned American hamburger. I'll fix you both a plate, and we've got beer and soft drinks on ice. Help yourselves!”

As the two came onto the jetty, she allowed them a moment to stretch their legs and look over the refreshments before continuing. “Now, some business. Harold and I find we're in a position to expand our business. So, I wanted to know-”

She was about to ask about the possibility of picking up Cuban cigars to go with the rum when something seized her. An impulse born of ambition, of frustration. A desire to reach higher.

Mrs. Hawkins pulled out the news magazine rolled up in her back pocket, flipped through to the photo spread she had spied earlier in the day when waiting for the man from Chicago. Two pages on the weapons being used in Vietnam. Color photographs of the American M16, the L1 used by the Australians, the HK33 wielded by Thai troops. And of course the ubiquitous AK-47 used by the North Vietnamese.

Mrs. Hawkins held out the diagrams of automatic weapons for Rookwood to see. “Do you think you can get us anything like that?”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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Thomas Rookwood

"Reminds me of 'Nam." Blackthorne commented dryly, the first thing either man had said for the better part of four hours. Rookwood didn't need to reply beyond a grunt. He knew what his friend meant. The heavy stench of the mainland was reaching out to them over the waves even as the evening breeze, a weak Southwesterly, attempted to battle back. The sun, casting a dancing kaleidoscope of colour across the waves, was setting now behind them and the heat was finally began to drop off.

Rookwood picked up a battered pair of binoculars and scanned the coastline until he located the old Sutton place, a crumbling and abandoned monolith that served to remind all who saw it of better times. The stone jetty was the only useful piece left, though popular with romantic types or teenagers out having a couple brews in the back of their parents car. On more than one occasion the jetty had been overrun with sun goers and swimmers; today it was just a single chevy pickup truck.

"The daft girl has a machine gun on the hood of the truck..." Rookwood muttered, passing the binoculars across the Blackthorne who already had a had waiting to take them.

"That'll be Harold. The boy thinks with his dick more than his head. Wonderful way to draw some attention." He put the binoculars down and vanished below for a moment before returning and handing Rookwood a semi-automatic Heckler & Koch handgun. He checked it was loaded, pushed it into a holster at his lower back and covered with an untucked shirt.

Rookwood checked his own pistol and did the same. Two rifles were mounted nearby, loaded and ready, but he let them alone. Hawkins was a customer, nothing more, but there was something about Harold that neither man liked.

The big engine rumbled beneath his feet as he put the propellors into reverse, slowing the heavy vessel so that it wouldn't rebound off the stone wall as they came along side. Blackthorne had taken a position in the bow, a rope held loosely in one hand, pausing for only a moment before jumping lightly on the jetty. He secured the bow as Rookwood threw the stern line to Harold who tied it off with considerable less skills. Rookwood glanced around once, noting the empty horizon, and then shut down the engines, allowing the stink of the mainland to replace the smell of diesel.

Both men nodded their appreciation to Hawkins as she motioned to the refreshments, craggy faces breaking into smiles to match hers. Rookwood took a coke, Blackthorne a mountain dew, and both men accepted the proffered food. They stood as they ate, glancing around the landscape without speaking. Hawkins was, as ever, polite enough to appreciate their silence while Harold fidgeted. The pair were indeed famished and it did not take them long to polish off the refreshments. The burgers were lukewarm, the lettuce and tomato suspect, but the drinks were cooling, and that was all that mattered. Better than the tuna sandwiches they had eaten for lunch.

“Now, some business. Harold and I find we're in a position to expand our business. So, I wanted to know-” Hawkins stopped as if she'd been hit and Rookwood glanced quickly at her, and then toward the sea, half expecting to see a Coast Guard cutter charging over the horizon. He almost drew his pistol as she abruptly went for her back pocket but managed to resist the impulse. If she'd wanted to do them harm, that submachine gun would have made fine work of them as they approached the jetty.

Instead she pulled a magazine from her back pocket and quickly flipped through the pages before handing it to Rookwood who felt his eyes widen. “Do you think you can get us anything like that?”

There was a long pause as Rookwood looked at the magazine before handing it to Blackthorne who had clambered back into the Chloe already and was passing crates of rum up to Harold on the jetty. There was a lull in the action as Rookwood absorbed the question.

"Anything is possible." Rookwood said at length. "I have some friends who can get their hands on pretty much anything you need, lots of surplus floating around between us and the Soviets in Cuba."

He let Hawkins maul that over for a moment, taking the magazine back from Blackthorne and flipping over another page to look at the firearms in question. "Never moved guns before."

"Try anything once." Blackthrone said as he passed another crate up to Harold who added it to the stack. Half the cargo was ashore now and Blackthorne stopped, holding out his hand to Harold who passed over a manilla envelope. A quick count confirmed the cash was there, a $100 per bottle, and the unloading continued.

"You planning to go to war, Mrs Hawkins?" Rookwood finally asked, glancing back up the woman. She was as pretty as a fellow could ask for, and she knew it. He was to old for her looks to have much of an effect on him anymore but that didn't stop him from admiring her; didn't hurt that she was one hell of a businesswoman and you had to respect that.

"We've done three of em already." Blackthorne again, still slinging heavy crates up to a sweating Harold. "Not much interested in another."
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Afro Samurai
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Afro Samurai Like a Raisin in the Sun

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Sun digested the Harlow’s usual raucous. In its place was thick heat that burned the lungs and soggy towels atop heads that couldn’t stop sweating. Kids from around the neighborhood ran barefoot in red clay roads. With just a tanktop and boxers on, Alphonse stepped outside. He leaned on the wood railing of the front porch near the dilapidated steps and from behind him the screen door swung open. Out came a woman whose rollers were still in her hair and whose cigarette was already lit and in hand.

“Mama say call her soon.” Minnie revealed dry,
“Tell her call Walter.” Alphonse returned,
“She don’t want Walter. She want you.” a drag, a savor, then an exhale,
“She say what she want?” Al took the towel and wiped his face and neck,
“Something ab-” she was interrupted by her husband’s raised voice,
“Y’all be careful out there, na! I done told y’all bout bein so rough!” one of the older kids slung a lithe child many pounds smaller than himself face first in the dirt; there were no tears from the victim, only a continuation of play,
“Somethin about some white man come asking her for 20 percent.” Minnie, too, kept on unphased,
“White man or a white man?” Alphonse looked sideways at his love who had taken her position at the top of the stairs center on the porch,
White man.” she met his eyes with prescience boding.

Country Al cussed under his breath.

“Want me to call Blood?” Minnie ashed her cigarette on the porch railing,
“Naw, this ain’t that. ‘Sides they ain’t comin this part of town no time soon. They go see Black Jack before they bother with us.”
“Seem like they botherin already.” Minnie began taking her rollers out unceremoniously,
“We worry when we got to worry.” Alphonse cast off. Minnie dug hazel orbs into her husband, quiet dissent lapsed into worry and then a made-up mind,
“You know how them men is, Al. You know what they do.” madam Harlow spoke, finally,
“We do the same thang.” pride marched fervent underneath his rebuttal,
“Not like them.” she met with a roadblock’s surety,

Maybe it was the heat or the borderline delirium of another slow day in a sloth city with nothing to offer anybody--especially not no damn twenty percent--anything, that made Al see light. Maybe it was Minnie’s always being right; either way, Al let an uncomfortable sigh pass through his lips,

“Call Walter, tell em put a line out to Hawkins.”
“She don’t strike me as the fightin type.”
“Be surprised what a white woman do when you tell her she gotta do somethin she don’t want.” Minnie smiled and let out a small laugh; Alphonse joined her,
“And what you gone do?”
“I’m bout to eat breakfast and take my ass to sleep.”
“Well I be damned! Since when I become your secretary?”
“Since you made me build this house and put all them nice clothes on you.” she didn’t find his boast funny and muffed his head with her hand,
“Keep playin they gone find yo black ass in one of them swamps.” Al couldn’t tell if she was joking or not, the hint of playfulness only indicative of how serious she was. She came from a line of women who, it was rumored, had killed their husbands with their brothers’ help and no one was the wiser,
“Reckon I’mma have a lot of talking to do come the next few days. Need my energy.”

“Mhm.” she was half-ignoring him now, her attention drawn to the kids whose numbers had grown significantly. The tensions between them had arisen and plateaued and rose again; they chased one another with sticks, and before long, the festivities had become another squabble between the older kid and the smaller one who still had clay on his face,
“Hey! Maurice Terell Jackson! If you don’t leave that boy alone, I’mma make you, hear? And then I’mma call yo mama! Is that what you want?” all the kids froze. Sticks dropped one after the other, some stopped breathing in hopes of turning invisibile,
N-no ma’m!”
“Pardon?” Minnie’s raised eyebrow accessorized the authoritative hand on her hip,
”I say no ma’am!”
“Alright then. Play nice or don’t play at all!” all the boys nodded slowly and out of tune, but the energy was gone. Groans and irritation reared,
“Y’all thirsty? Want some lemonade?” Minnie called out to them all. Faces lit up and cheers were abundant.

Alphonse mood lightened, he rose and threw the towel over his shoulder while the children rushed the porch,
“Ho, ho! One at a time. Act like y’all don’t got no home training.” Al’s reprimand made them slow to fast-walking; he watched the last of them traipse in and Minnie went to follow the last of them inside. Before she did, she paused and turned to her husband,
“Al. We gone be alright, hear?” Alphonse gave a limp nod, half-ignoring her with eyes focused on the treeline ahead. Minnie didn’t press, she had business to attend and she got to it.

Her words echoed and stuck. Their intended re-assurance did not.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by MST3K 4ever

MST3K 4ever

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Bud sat on his front porch rocking back and forth in a rocking chair sipping his coffee as the sun was just coming up over the hills. This was Bud's favorite time of the day. The world was still just waking up, the house was quiet, he had his coffee and his dog, and he had a few moments alone with God. Bud would confess each and everything that he did wrong or allowed to happen. Bud kept telling himself that the ends justified the means, and besides no major crimes were being committed under his watch.

Every time at this day Bud dreamed of that one special day. That one day his parents would be gone and he would then be able to take care of things once and for all. His parent's farm would be bought out by Burt Nelson at First County for a sweetheart of a price, and he would then take care of his "untimely demise." With the insurance money from the state, the money in his private account that Beth-Ellen would be told how to access in his will, and with a sizable amount of the money from his parent's farm Beth-Ellen and the kids would be well taken care of. They could leave and start all over again. Bud would have enough to quietly slip away and start all over again on his terms. He would also leave a note for his deputies. Bud had taken note of everything he saw in the Underworld in his county, and his last note would tell his deputies how to take everybody down once and for all. Bud came off as the easy going and charming sheriff, but Bud was cool and calculating. He knew each and every person's weak spot and he vowed that when he left Bud was going to make sure they all went down. The county would have a clean slate and law and order would a fighting chance once again.

Bud took a sizable drink out of his coffee and came back to reality. He patted his dog Buford on the head and said, "I guess it's about time for me to head on, ain't it boy?" Buford let out a snort and Bud said, "Go on and take care of your business." The dog left the porch and went into the yard as Bud stood up and stretched out. Once he stretched Bud said, "Guide me this day Lord, and forgive me I pray. Watch over the family and thank you Jesus for being with me. Amen."

Buford trotted back up to the porch and Bud patted him on the head and said, "When I go pal I'm gonna miss you." Bud opened the door and Buford walked into the house. He climbed up to his favorite spot on the couch and laid down. Bud winked at him and walked down the hall to his bedroom. There he saw his wife Beth-Ellen sound asleep. She was just as beautiful as the day he first saw her over 25 years ago. Her flowing blonde hair over her white night gown was one of the most beautiful sights Bud had ever seen, and no matter how times he saw it Bud was always amazed by it. He stood in the doorway and just studied Beth-Ellen for a moment. Bud knew he had committed a lot of sins in his time on Earth, and he was not worthy of being called Sheriff. However, with his family he knew that he got one thing right in his life. He never cheated on her and never raised his hands to her or the children. That was what Bud saw as his saving grace in life.

Bud walked over to Beth-Ellen. Gently brushing back her hair he gave her a peck on the cheek and said, "I love you darling." Sleepily she replied, "I love you too Able. Be safe out there today." Bud smiled and replied, "I will. I'm gonna stop over at Celia's and grab a plate of pancakes and bacon. Talk to you later my love." Beth-Ellen settled back into the bed as Bud turned to go.

As he headed out the door Bud saw Eddie open his door. Eddie walked out dressed in his swimsuit and a tank top. Bud looked at him and asked with sarcasm, "Visiting shut-ins for the church?"

Eddie replied, "Heading up to Dixon's lake with Tyler, Larry, Luke, Bo, Burt and a few others. Just hanging out one last time before practice starts next week. I told mama about it last night just before you got home."

Bud nodded and said, "Yeah she mentioned it before I got into bed. You've earned it. Yard looks good and your room is decent enough."

Bud started to leave, but then he stopped. He turned back to Eddie and asked, "One of the others wouldn't happen to be Elaine Dowser?"

Eddie moved his eyes around and his mouth slowly dropped open. Bud walked over to him and Eddie finally looked at him. Bud nodded, put his hand on his shoulder, and smiled at Eddie. He said, "Be careful out there boy." Eddie smiled back at him with relief and said, "I will sir."

Bud gave him a wink and walked out to his police cruiser. He started it up and heard the sweet sounds of the King himself Elvis Presley singing "Burning Love." Bud nodded and said, "No doubt that man is gonna live forever." With that Bud drove off into town.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Nightbringer
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Nightbringer Boss

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Noon. The sun was as high as it was going to be. The heat baked down on his back, and his linen shirt clung to him with the sweat. Still, “Mr Williamson” needed a proper send off. Waylon wouldn’t be happy till there was six feet of ground between them.
He stepped back to admire his work.

”How long do you think he’ll be down there?” came a voice from behind him.
”Couldn’t say,” Myers replied, removing his glove and wiping the sweat from his brow. ”Folk round here always lookin’ for uh… men like him.” There was a long silence between the two. Father MacMillan had always insisted on this code; no one suspected graves in a churchyard, but the pastor made sure each grave had a story attached to it. Made sense, he supposed. The feds never came down this way, and even if they did, Dawkins would deal with them, but you could never be too careful, not in this line of work. His pappy had been pulled in by G-men in ‘44; he hadn’t covered his tracks well enough. His Uncle Elmer had told him how as his father got pulled into the car he had been shouting: “Get Crump on the phone! Call the Boss!” but Boss Crump had never heard of Winston Myers Jr.
Waylon had been putting off visiting his father at Shelby County. He had been too busy with the boys, or with the business, and now it had been twenty-five years. Pappy would be eighty years old now, near enough. Poor, old crook.

”I had a call from Mr. Cokeley not long ago.”
”Who?” replied Waylon, pulling a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and dabbing his brow.
”Harold Cokeley? He works with Mrs. Hawkins.”
”He say what he wanted?”
”Well, he said something about a man from Chicago? And perhaps to expect a not so auspicious visit.”
”Chicago?” Waylon turned to look at the pastor for the first time. There was a pregnant pause between the two. ”We don’t deal with Chicago... we pay people so we don’t have to deal with Chicago.”
”Waylon, I’m just telling you what Mr. Cokeley told me. I’ve always said: you can take the calls yourself if...” The pastor was cut off by Waylon’s annoyed growl. He yanked the shovel out of the ground and marched towards the church, muttering to himself as he walked.
”God damned Chicago bigwigs think they make the rules. Man can’t run a damn business in peace.” The door to the rear vestibule creaked angrily as Waylon threw it open and stomped through.

He seethed for a few moments before Father MacMillan followed him through the door.
”I know it’s not the kind of visit we hope for but… you never know what these people want.”
”...Money’s what they want, Father. Money’s all people ever want. Hawkins has been payin’ ‘em off and now they want their due from us.” said Waylon darkly. He stepped through another door to the church’s kitchen, with the pastor close behind. He turned and leaned against the counter to be face-to-face with MacMillan.
”Hammond around?”
”He’s around somewhere.”
”Get ridda him. He’ll make this more difficult than it needs to be.”
There was another long pause between the two men.
”I have a sermon to prepare.” MacMillan said as he left the room.

A long sigh escaped from Myers’ lips. He let go of the shovel he had neglected to put down and it clattered to the ground. He waited for a few minutes until he was sure the pastor had gone before he stooped, opened the cabinet under the sink and reached in, a few moments later pulling out the Type 14 Nambu that had been duct-taped to the pipe and tucking it into the back of his trousers.

The sun was lower in the sky when the car arrived. The black sedan cast a long shadow as it drove slowly, one might even say menacingly towards Calvary Hill Baptist Church. From the passenger seat emerged a well-dressed man, who walked similarly to how the car had driven; every step was calculated. He made Waylon uneasy. He’d met enough city-slickers as a boy in Memphis, always thought they were too good for this part of the country. The driver was visible only by his silhouette, and the occasional puff of cigarette smoke that emerged from the barely open window. He heard Father MacMillan’s hurried greetings and nervous small talk. The man engaged in the pleasantries for a few minutes, before the words that every man who visited Calvary Hill with business on their mind inevitably uttered.

”...I need to talk to The Bishop.” That was Waylon’s cue. He had dressed up a little bit for the occasion. He had put on a clean shirt, blue with white pinstripes, but the collar still turned up at the corners with wear, and the colour had faded. The cold steel of the Type 14 pushed against his back; an ever present reminder of the gravity of this situation. He lit his wooden pipe and took a long draw, and made his way out to the front of the church.

”Ah, this must be him. I gotta say, I was expecting someone a little more…”
”Respectable looking?” Waylon said, curtly.
”You the Bishop?” the man said, blankly ignoring Waylon’s words.
”Who’s asking?”
There was a pause.
”Okay.” said the man, lighting a cigarette. ”We can play it that way, I’m not here to be anybody’s friend.” he took a few slow steps forward.
”You’ve had it easy, pal. Operating out of a church, nobody’s any the wiser. Your friend here says ‘God bless’ and sends them on their way.” he continued, casually gesturing to Father MacMillan with his cigarette. ”It’s a smart operation, I gotta be honest, I’m a fan of what you’re doing, and I want you to be able to continue without any burdens.”
He took a long drag. Waylon did the same.

”But, I hear you have connections in town and…those connections have connections with me, so the way I see it, you owe me.” He spoke as if he had rehearsed this speech, or perhaps he had repeated it enough times he knew it by heart. Each word was weighed out carefully, and each phrase was choreographed in his body language. He reminded Waylon of Uncle Elmer.
”You picking up what I’m putting down?”
Waylon didn’t speak for a moment. He took a few puffs on his pipe and cleared his throat.
”I uh… I suppose some arrangement could be made.” The man broke into a wide smile.
”Now that’s what I like to hear” he said, tossing his smoke casually to the floor. ”Hey, Bishop. Because I’m a nice guy, I won’t take anything from you today, and I’ll even forgive you not inviting me in for a glass of communion wine and some of those little wafers. But next month, and every month after that, I’ll be here, and I need twenty percent of your action.”

Waylon stiffened. Once again, he said nothing. Before he spoke again, the man’s smile dropped, and his tone shifted.
”I’m glad we understand each other” he said, darkly, taking a few steps back as he did. He nodded towards MacMillan. ”Thank you pastor, God bless.” He shot one more look at Waylon before turning on his heel and walking purposefully back to the car.

Father MacMillan turned and walked towards the church.
”That went well.” He said dryly. Waylon said nothing. He watched the black sedan disappear over the horizon before he moved a muscle.

He headed inside and grabbed the keys to his truck.
”The Calaway boys will be here soon. Deal with them.” he said as he passed the Pastor’s chamber door.

”I need to run a few errands.”

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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Special Agent John Tuttle

The street was like so many others in the French Quarter, a blaze of colour, pounding music, tight pants, and short skirts. While still a block away from the famous Bourbon Street, Dauphin Street was no less impressive for its collection of liquor serving establishments and numerous business, everything from clothing shops, to knick-knack retailers, even barristers.

One such shop, a neat little store front with etched glass declaring it Thurston at Law, was tucked into a small side ally across from an ice cream shop. If you asked anyone in the neighbourhood how long it had been there, most would shrug and tell you it had always been there. Mr Thurston was described as a medium sized man, neatly groomed, who was friendly and polite, in short, he was utterly forgettable.

On this particular day the little bell above the door tinkled as a leggy blonde, her hair hanging loose about her shoulders, tight cropped shirt exposing midriff and extensive cleavage, stepped into the front room. It looked like any other barristers waiting room. A collection of out of date magazines, well swept, with limited art and a couple of leather chairs that smelled faintly of cigarette smoke.

"Good morning!" She called out in a voice made husky by cigarette consumption.

"Good morning to you as well, miss." A man of unremarkable stature appeared at the office door. He wore a suit that was slightly to big for him, his hair was neatly combed back, and he peered at her over a pair of wire rimmed spectacles.

"I understand you do divorces?" The blonde had pushed the door closed behind her, clutching her large purse to her chest so that it pushed up her bra even more. Any further and her breasts were liable to escape the tight shirt.

"I do, come in." The barrister stepped aside and waved the blonde into his office. He stepped to the window and flipped the sign from "Open" to "Meeting" and locked the door before following the strange mix of cigarette smoke and perfume into his own office, closing this door as well. "What can I do for you, Miss...?"

"Miss Stalenhag." Replied the woman as her nervous demeanour vanished and she wasted no time in drawing a manila envelope from her bag and handing it over to the bespectacled man. He accepted it without comment, drew out the papers inside, glanced them over, and then back at her.

"Anything else?"

She shook her head.

"Alright, help yourself to a drink." He gestured to a coffee machine nearby. "I have to make a call."

He dialled several numbers into the phone and waited until it was picked up at the other end. Two clicks came over the line as he waited, doing his best not to stare at the blondes backside as she poured a coffee. There was a whirrr and then he spoke into the receiver.

"Hello, Mrs Stalenhag is here." He nodded and mhm'd a couple of times before thanking the person on the other end and hanging up. The blonde, meanwhile, had made herself comfortable and almost finished her coffee. She went to light a cigarette but paused when he shot her a sharp look. "Not in here, please."

She shrugged and placed the unlit smoke between her lips, studying the man across from her. He looked, for all intents and purposes, like any other of the thousands of men who bustled importantly through the streets of America. Her assignment had been to bring him the envelope, nothing more. She knew literally nothing about him. She suspected he was probably some sort of local informant, kept an eye on the bars and local weirdos. It was more than likely he was on the take with the local mob as well. She had seen that often enough. The only thing that set him apart from most informants, however, was his apparent lack of interest in her. She knew she could turn heads, and had even done a little bend at the waist while pouring coffee to see what would happen. Your average man would certainly have at least made a comment, but not this fellow. Probably gay.

"Anything else?" He asked, breaking in on her thoughts and she shook her head. He handed her the $20 she had been promised and then opened the door into the waiting room. "Thank you for coming. Good luck with your husband."

She smiled sweetly at him and received a ghost of a smile in reply. The second door was unlocked and she stepped out into the little ally, glancing about, and then moving into the rush of bodies that populated the street even this early in the day. By the time she got back to the restaurant where she worked she realized she couldn't remember a single remarkable thing about the man she had gone to see.
* * * * * * * * *

About the same time the blonde was returning to work, a door at the rear of the barristers opened and John Tuttle stepped into the street. Gone was the spectacle wearing lawyer, in his place was an athletic looking man in clean cream coloured pants, black belt, and blue collared shirt. He closed the door, brushed for a moment at a moustache, and then set off down the street with one hand in his pocket, the other snapping along to a song only he could hear.

The call with Washington had been an interesting one. He had been in the New Orleans area for the better part of two years now and was well embedded into local society. Three major investigations had been successful based on information he collected and several others were nearing the final stages. It was almost time for him to move to a new location. Stay to long the locals started to realize that you didn't actually fit in, at all, because they didn't actually know who you were.

Still, there were worse places to live. At least it wasn't Mississippi.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Polyphemus
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Mrs. Hawkins laughed at Rookwood's suggestion, perhaps a little too loudly. “No, not looking for a war. Not by any means. Just another way to make some money. I thought we might get a dozen or so rifles and see if the water is warm enough to swim.”

She took a pull from her beer, beginning to go warm in her hand. She had some regard for the older man, partly affection but mostly pragmatic business sense. The cases of rum Harold was currently loading into the bed of the Chevy were her biggest moneymaker and could not be jeopardized. It only seemed right to offer him an out. “Of course,” she added thoughtfully, “I completely understand if it's too much risk. Like I said, it's only an experiment, we're not looking to equip a battalion. If it's not safe for you, then we're not doing it. If we go through with it, you'll get a fair price and something extra for your trouble. Simple as that.” She extended a hand to the two men. “Shake on it?”

Rookwood considered her for a long moment, almost to the point where her hand, floating in front of him, was looking mighty awkward. Then he extended his own, the battered and calloused knuckles of the remaining four fingers closing over hers like a slab of ham.

"I reckon I can find you a few rifles. But, mark my words Mrs Hawkins, I'll never have heard of you if the feds come a knocking." Behind them Blackthorne heaved the last case of rum onto the jetty with a grunt. He finished his beer in one quick pull before flipping the bottle into a nearby metal pail where it landed with a crash.

"That fella we got our see-gars from mentioned he might know a lad with some spare kit. Better if'n Mrs Hawkins has it than the spics."

“Always a pleasure, Mr. Rookwood. Fair seas and following winds,” she called back as she lifted herself lightly into the pickup's cab.

Hurricanes, thunder
A spaceship's on the run
We're gonna bring the truth to planet earth
We're gonna move it on and on

We're on our way
We're on our way
We're on our way, we're on our way
We're on our way

“You really should have just forced him,” Harold grumbled as they drove back to into town. He turned down the radio to make himself better heard and clicked on the Chevy's headlights as the dark grew thicker.

“I've told you time and again, Harold, Rookwood is too valuable to strongarm,” she lightly scolded the young man. “He could be taking all his rum to New Orleans or Tampa or Houston, sell it to the heavyweight players. But he comes here every time with a load for us. You get me, hon? Loyalty is hard to come by in this trade.”

“You just let me put a .38 to his head and he'll bring us rum and guns for free and smile doing it," Harold groused.

“Oh, be nice.”

“Well, you shouldn't have given him a choice. If we want to make Chicago's quota we're going to need some kind of backup plan.”

“I'm open to suggestions, Harold. I don't think cigars are gonna cut it, though.”

“Well, if you're open to the idea of guns and the federal time that might go with that, might as well go all in.” He sighed, looked around the cab of the pickup as though some microphone or sharp-eared gnome might be in there listening. “I still have a few buddies in the Army. They know guys who know guys in Thailand.”

She could hardly believe her ears. “What are you suggesting? Opium? Heroin?”

Harold shrugged. “Easier to ship than guns. Takes up less space and a hundred different ways to hide it. Pound for pound you make more money.”

“Harold, what do you think is gonna happen exactly? I walk into Rite Aid and start asking people looking for aspirin if they want to try something a bit harder? Supply is one thing, but I can't make up demand. Not to mention distribution, and we're gonna have a hard time getting Dawkins or anyone else to look the other way on anything like that coming into the county.”

“Oh, and you think automatic weapons are harmless? Who do you think is gonna buy those, Mrs. Hawkins? It's not gonna be hillbillies who want to plink a few tin cans. It's gonna be those same heavyweights from New Orleans, Tampa, and Houston you were talking about. Or maybe even some of those radical types that are always hijacking planes to Cuba or shooting soldiers in Belfast. You ready to sell guns to Andreas Baader?”

“It ain't perfect, Harold, but what in life is?” she retorted.

They turned the corner into the gravel parking lot of Hawkins Spirits, the headlight beams falling on a young man leaning up against the wall of the building. Harold stiffened, reached for the grease gun wedged between the seats, but Mrs. Hawkins laid a gentle hand on his wrist. “I recognize him. He works for Shoeshine. Besides, he's just a kid, can't be older than 16.”

They pulled to a stop in front of the kid. Harold turned the high beams on, doubtless blinding the poor kid, and laid a hand on the grease gun. Paranoid as ever. Mrs. Hawkins suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and rolled down the window, leaning out the passenger side. “You got a message from Mr. Simmons?” she called to the young man over the idling of the truck engine, trying to sound as pleasant and affable as possible.

The teen nodded. “He said he wants to talk. Said you'd know what about.”

Of course she did. Chicago was squeezing Harlow and those Redline Dogs too. So of course he wanted Shoeshine Simmons, his one-man State Department, to talk things over for the future. She appreciated the other man's sense in sending a messenger, as well. Phones could be tapped, notes lost, but a kid given a few dollars to memorize a phrase that was meaningless to them was never going to make it to court.

“Well, young man, I greatly appreciate you coming down here with that message. You go back to Mr. Simmons and tell him he's welcome to come down to my store tonight if he wants to talk things over.” She motioned for Harold to cut the lights and engine as she stepped down out of the pickup, reaching into her slacks for her keys. “Come on in, son. It's gonna be a long hot drive back, why don't we open up the cooler and get you a nice cold coke for the road. Or hell, you've done a man's job, let's make that a beer. A three-two, don't want you running yourself off the road.”

The teen shyly and politely muttered some thanks, awkwardly and hesitantly grabbed a Pepsi from one of the cold cabinets before jumping into a battered old Pontiac and taking off, doubtlessly heading back to report to Shoeshine. Harold waited until the sound of the car died in the distance before turning back to Mrs. Hawkins. “You're really just gonna stay here and wait for them to show up? What if it's a trap?”

She shrugged. “There's no love lost between us, but if Harlow wanted to kill me he's had years to do it. No, they're coming to me because they think I'm either going to be easier to talk to or easier to push around than the men. All there is to it.”

“I'm calling the Jagger brothers for security. Telling them to bring over their shotguns.”

Mrs. Hawkins once again fought the urge to roll her eyes, but recognized that one day these precautions might not be too excessive. “Don't get the Jaggers. Their, uh, points of view regarding gentlemen of color are not the kind I want to mix with shotguns and negotiations. If you really insist on having the Secret Service around call Angel Nunez and his cousins. Tell him $50 and a bottle per head for an hour's work, they'll come right down. In the meantime, I'm just gonna sit and wait for Shoeshine Simmons to come here so we can talk like civilized people. And while you're on the phone, maybe make sure Ronnie got those people their free cases of whiskey.”

As if to punctuate her point, she sat down and pulled the magazine from her back pocket, beginning to read. Harold looked as though he was about to say something, but went to use the phone in back.

Mrs. Hawkins found herself once again staring at the diagrams of automatic rifles. This was the right call, surely.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by MST3K 4ever

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Bud parked his 1971 Chrysler Sheriff's car at the Sheriff's office and walked about a block up the street to Celia's Diner. It was a typical eating place for the area, everyone knew everyone, there was a radio playing country and western in the background, florescent lights and some tables scattered around with a eating bar and a few booths. It wasn't anything fancy but it was the only game in town, but Miss Celia made sure that the food was good enough to keep the competition away.

Bud walked into the diner and there was the usual assortment of characters. Mostly blue collar types on their way to work, or some of the farmers gathered in the corner talking about the news of the day. The topic of the day was President Nixon and how he was the right man to turn Vietnam around. There were a couple of people who called out to Bud, and he politely replied, "Mornin' all."

Bud sat an open table and within a few seconds Arlene his usually waitress walked over wearing a brown t-shirt and blue jeans. The red haired beauty asked while giving Bud a copy of the morning paper, "Hey there Bud. Your usual?"

Bud nodded taking the paper and saying, "You got it young lady and thank you very much."

She gave a quick wink and said, "I'll be back with your coffee."

Bud gave another nod and replied, "Ahh nothing better than a cup from here." Arlene walked away and Bud opened up the paper. It wasn't a local paper because the town wasn't big enough for a local paper. It was from Siler City about 25 miles away but they had been known to write about O'Connor County from time to time. Bud started skimming through the paper when one of the patrons asked, "Hey Bud, your boy gonna lead us to one more State Title run before he goes off to college?"

Looking up from his paper Bud thought for a moment and replied, "I like to think so. It's gonna take a huge effort though from the secondary. Lonnie Jenkins and Andy Polly are two huge losses to overcome." There were a couple of nods as Arlene came back with his coffee and said, "Breakfast will be coming up in just a bit Bud."

Bud replied, "Thank you Arlene." Taking a sip of his coffee, which had two sugars and a tablespoon of cream, Bud was a bit lost in thought about Eddie's last year. He had two scholarship offers on the table. One from Mississippi State University and the other from the University of Georgia. He and El were hoping for MSU because it was close by, but Eddie was leaning towards Georgia. He was longing for adventure in the big city, and the Dawgs were coming off of an 11-1 record while MSU was struggling. Bud and El told Eddie that the decision was his to make and they would support him, but Bud knew watching his son leave was going to hurt him. It was going to hurt him more than he could ever admit even to El. Eddie was his first born son, and it was another sign that things were about to change. He loved Ruth-Ann and was proud of her. Bud knew that his one regret so far, in terms of his plan, was that he would probably not be there to walk her down the aisle. That hurt him as well but he knew what needed to be done.

Just then one of his deputies Leroy Biggs and his wife Janet walked into the diner. Arlene walked over and greeted them and ushered them to a table. Janet was about eight months along as Leroy helped guide her to table. Leroy looked over and saw Bud there he said, "Mornin'."

Bud raised his cup and said, "Hey there Leroy. Mornin' Janet. How are things coming along?"

Janet replied, "About another three weeks. Doc Leonard says everything looks just fine."

Bud gave a nod and said, "Great to hear." Leroy said, "I'll be over to the office as soon as I can." Bud shook his head once and raised a hand slightly said, "Don't worry about it. When the new boss in your life shows up in about three weeks chances for you and Janet to get out will be very slim. Take your time I think we can hold things down for a couple of hours without you." He shot a wink to Janet as Arlene came over with a plate of four pancakes, three strips of bacon, and two slices of toast. She said, "Here you go Bud." Bud looked up at Arlene and said, "Thank you very much dear."

As Bud began to eat he glanced over at Leroy one more time and then concentrated on his food. Leroy was one of three African-American deputies on the force. He brought Leroy on about a year ago while Trace Sanders and Brian Watson right after he was elected. Bud felt an enormous sense of gratitude to the African-Americans in the town especially the Sanders family. During a bad rain storm in 1962 the river threatened to flood the town, and everyone was pitching to reinforce the levy with sandbags. Bud's father John fell in the river and almost drowned. Until Emmett Sanders jumped in and saved John's life. From that moment on Bud vowed he would help the African-Americans in anyway he could. He had it set up that when he met his "untimely demise" Trace would takeover as acting Sheriff.

After he finished his meal Bud walked towards the cash register. He looked over at Leroy and said, "See you in a couple of hours." He replied, "Yes sir Sheriff Dawkins." Bud looked at him almost disapprovingly and said, "It's Bud remember that please." He looked at Janet and said, "You need anything give us a call." She replied, "Thank you Sheriff."

Bud smiled as he turned back to the register. Celia Tyner walked over and said, "Hey there Bud nice to see you as always." Bud replied, "Likewise Celia." Celia leaned in and said, "Clem wanted me to tell you that he found the varnish for the rocking chair for Janet. It'll be ready next week."

Bud nodded as he glanced over to the Biggs' table and then back to Celia and said, "Great to hear. I know Clem doesn't do much wood working anymore, but there's no one else I trust for this job except for him. Thank you Celia." Bud pulled out two fifties he said, "One is a little extra for the work Clem has done for me, and the other should cover my bill and anything that Leroy and Janet want. It's on me." Celia, with her mouth open, said, "Bud you don't have to do that for us." Bud nodded and replied, "Oh yes I do. Now take it or I'll have you arrested for annoying the Sheriff." Celia took the money and said, "Well I can't have that."

With a quick wink and a smirk Bud replied, "That's more like it." He gave a nod and walked out of the diner and onto the office.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Nightbringer
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The engine of the ‘58 Ford rumbled underneath him. Hawkins’ Spirits was busy at this time of day, work was letting out, the men folk needed a taste of amber before they headed home to their wives. He had never developed a taste for it; being in the speakeasy for so long he had seen no end of men make fools of themselves when they’d had one too many jars. He had had every intention of storming in and demanding an explanation for his recent visit, but this was Amelia Hawkins, the Liquor Queen of O’Connor County, it wasn’t that easy. One word out of line and she could have Dawkins on his doorstep before the day was out, or worse, the Jaggers could come calling. Waylon knew his way around firearms well enough, and sure, he might be able to cap a couple of them before they filled him with lead, but then the boys would be coming home to the same thing he had when he returned from Okinawa. Still, twenty percent to the Chicago outfit, ten to the Sheriff's Office, as well as what he was already paying her? And then what happened when Chicago came calling for twenty-five percent? Thirty? Maybe this wasn’t the right way to go about it. Maybe he needed to pull in some more business from other places; Rawlins or Harlow or one of the other crooks around town?

Another fifteen minutes passed, Waylon not moving, before he put the truck back into drive and pulled away. Aunt Addie’s tenement was not far, he only had to drive a block or two before he pulled up in front of the dilapidated building.

Addie left the front door unlocked. She always had. In the Depression, people didn’t have anything worth taking, he supposed.
“Addie?” he called as he entered the cramped apartment.
“Through here.” came a weak reply. Addie was sitting as she often was in front of the television set. “Have you heard?” she asked, continuing before Waylon could reply “This McGovern is going to be running.” Waylon wordlessly filled a coffee pot and set in on the burner. “Too many damn democrats running the country these days.” she declared.
“Bill Waller’s a democrat, you like him.” said Waylon. He’d had this conversation more times than he cared to count.
“Bill Waller’s a nice man, Waylon. A lawyer. You could have been a lawyer, you were such a smart boy.”
“But instead I turned into a criminal?” he replied, smiling wryly.
“Well of course that’s not what I meant, Waylon. You just took up Elmer’s business, you didn’t have a choice.”
“Men like us never have a choice, Addie. Or at least that we tell ourselves.”
“Your pappy took you up to the city to give you a better life. Boss Crump’s money paid for this apartment, you know? You sound like you ain’t proud of the life you’ve made for those boys. And you know what? If Lyndon Johnson hadn’t squared up to Hutch Man like a school boy maybe they’d be home by now.” Waylon laughed.
“Ho Chi Minh, you mean?” he jeered.
“You know who I mean!”

Waylon poured the coffee and handed a cup to Aunt Addie, took one himself and sat in a lumpy chair, grunting annoyedly as he did.
“Addie, why won’t you let me get you some new things for this place?”
“I’m alright, I don’t need nothin’”
“I sat on comfier chairs in Guam. You ain’t bought anythin’ new since FDR died.” he teased. Addie fixed him with a hard look.
“You come here just to be cruel to your old aunt or you need somethin’?” Waylon took a long sip of coffee and sat back in the chair.
“Chicago’s come callin’...” he finally said. There was a long pause between the two. Addie took a sip of her coffee from the old tin cup.
“Pass me my Luckys.” she snapped. He did. As she pulled one slim cigarette from the carton, Waylon drew his pipe and tobacco. “Tell me what’s happened.”

An hour later the small apartment had a thick cloud of smoke hanging below the ceiling. Addie stubbed out her Lucky Strike and wiped her hands on her skirt.
“I think you’re going to have to pay them Waylon. Unless you can make some arrangement with Mrs. Hawkins, but she’s probably getting squeezed by ‘em too.” Waylon sighed and sat back resignedly.
“It’s not about the money Addie, it’s…” he paused “...well, it is, but it ain’t just that.” he rubbed his hands together nervously. He had never liked having these kinds of conversations with Aunt Addie.
“These folk are musclin’ in on Dixie territory, it ain’t right.”
“Ain’t right?!” Addie exclaimed. “Waylon, you and these folk do plenty of things that ain’t right, if you don’t mind my sayin’ so.”
“We do what we got to...” Waylon replied darkly.
“Hush now.” she retorted. She reached to draw another cigarette, but the packet was empty, and, nettled, she threw the packet back down. “Listen, it seems to me that you got two options: pay ‘em or don’t, but either way you need to get your ducks in a row.” Again, Waylon said nothing for a few seconds. He placed his pipe in his mouth, and the hot wood burned his tongue.
“Agh, damn.” he threw the book of matches down angrily and rose quickly. “Alright. I need to make a few calls around town.” and he wordlessly walked to the door.
Addie called after him:
“I need more smokes!”

He found himself back where he had been a few hours earlier: sat outside Hawkins’ Spirits. The buzz had died down somewhat now, but the bar was always busy. He turned the key and the eight cylinders went quiet.

The doorman, face illuminated now only by the dull, orange glow of a street lamp waved him in.
“Mr. Myers.”
Waylon tipped his battered sun hat and stepped through the open door. Hawkins’ Spirits was every bit as packed as it had sounded. All manner of folk from around town were here. Since Prohibition’s end, more and more people took to casual drinking; of course, there were still those who abstained, but they were getting fewer and fewer; these days the men were bringing their wives to places like this.

The boy behind the bar looked a little surprised to see him.
“Mr. Myers? I thought Ronnie brought the shipment this afternoon? I… I’ll talk to him, sir, make sure he don’t miss no more deliveries…” the young man stammered as he spoke. Waylon Myers didn’t come around town much these days, when he did, it was normally to deal with something he couldn’t send someone else to do.
“I ain’t here about that.” he said, plainly, resting his forearms against the bar. “Your boss here?”
The glass the bartender had in his hands was as clean as it was going to get, but his nervous polishing continued unabated.
“N...no sir. She out with Mr. Cokeley. Uhh, she’ll be along, by-and-by.” before Waylon could reply he continued: “Can I get you a drink Mr. Myers? We just had a shipment come by today…”
“I ain’t much of a drinker.” Waylon cut him off.
“Uhh… I got uhh, root beer? Coca-Cola? Tab?”
“Sure. Coke sounds fine.” Waylon replied quietly. He didn’t love the jitters that the small folk that knew his ‘business’ got around him, it only served to make others suspicious. He enjoyed the respect with which he was addressed though. The boy tending bar fumbled with the bottle opener, but it was only a few seconds before the ice cold coke was sat before him, the condensation dripping from the bottle invitingly.

“That’s uh, two bits, sir.” Waylon reached into his front pocket and pulled out a rough dollar bill. The boy moved to take it, but it was snatched from his grasp before he could lay a finger on it. Waylon fixed his gaze on the now sweating bartender.
“You tell her I’m here.” he said darkly. The boy took a pause before he replied.
“Yessir.” Waylon dropped the bill on the bar, collected his drink and turned on his heel before the boy could say anything else, finding a free table.

He took a single table near a window. A few of the patrons nodded to him as he passed, but he chose to forego any conversation, instead lighting his pipe and adding to the cloud of smoke that sat thick on the ceiling.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Klumsykrow357
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The bell on the door tinkled once more as two young men and a young woman entered the bar. The first one to enter was Maverick Grange, a 5'11 mulatto beau with long lashes and hazel eyes. His grease-stained coveralls were pulled down off his arms and the sleeves tied around his waist with a t-shirt over his chest. Behind him was his monster of a brother Alejandro, standing at 6'2", with his dark hair, mischievous eyes, and charming smile. A black tank top stretched over his barrel chest and military fatigues hung low about his waist. Finally, almost entirely obscured by her brother's imposing size, a petite Asian woman with long black hair: Ja-Ki Grange. She was sporting Daisy Dukes, a lightly frilled top, and aviator sunglasses which hid most of her Korean features.

Several bar patrons turned to look and grew quiet for a few moments before hastily turning back to their conversations. It usually wasn't good news when the Granges came to town. Veteran of three wars, hitman, and smuggler, Old Man Negan Grange was as reclusive and dangerous as a 50-year-old gator; his children were only slightly less so and everyone knew it. Reputation aside the biggest conflict that inevitably arose around them was that only one of the Grange children, 17-year-old Kimber, was white. Her parents, a doctor and nurse, had died in Vietnam. Alejandro and Ja-Ki had been born in Mexico and South Korea respectively, but had grown up in the States. Maverick however, was the one who attracted the most ire. To strangers, he could easily pass as simply being tan, but anyone who knew his mother knew otherwise. Lucile Grange was a proud black Creole woman, Negan was a home grown Alabama boy, and Maverick was their mixed race son. Not everyone got into his face about it, but he did make most people uncomfortable.

The three of them went up to the bar, ignoring the eyes on their backs. Ja-Ki came away with a lemonade and made her way to a table in the back. She was the most self-conscious of all her siblings and spent little time actually interacting with most folks except to interview them for articles in the local paper. She took out a pad of paper and a pen before starting to scribble quietly upon it. Her two brothers, who were not shy at all about their skin tones, lingered to chat up the barkeep a bit before picking up their beers and scanning the room for their sister. Alejandro spotted Waylon Myers sitting alone and elbowed Maverick who turned and grinned. The pair immediately made their way over, dragging up chairs to sit near the table. The two were the only members of the Grange family who even attended church, but it didn't appear to be out of faith. Virtually every time they showed up they stayed behind to drill the poor pastor on discrepancies in the Scripture or have extended theological debates. They also seemed to be very fond of Waylon, or at least fond of annoying him, and took every opportunity to talk with him.

"Hola Sen`or Myers," said Alejandro in his Latino tenor. He placed his chair backwards to the table and straddled it, leaning on its back.

"How are you?" finished Maverick, leaning back in his chair and taking a swig out of his beer.

Their two faces spread into identical wolfish grins as they waited his response.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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Thomas Rookwood

"Mr Rookwood, a good day to you sir." The Cost Guard officer was polite enough as his launch ran alongside the Chloe. His words were somewhat undercut by the four sailors who backed him with assault rifles, the heavily armed cutter beyond them. "Any luck today?"

"Morning, sir." Rookwood was equally polite. He kept his hands where they were easily visible and noted Blackthrone doing the same. "Just getting started."

They had indeed left the jetty late that morning after arguing about whether or not working on small-arms with Mrs Hawkins was a fine idea. They still hadn't hashed it out. The morning was fine, a stiff breeze from the Atlantic kept things cool, and they were en-route to do some actual fishing. Nets were carefully laid out on the deck and big windlass was freshly oiled.

"Bit late to get started, isn't it?" The two boats gently bumped into each other and lines were thrown over the cleats fore and aft of the main cabin to be quickly secured by sailors watchful for any trouble. "Permission to come aboard?"

Rookwood appreciated the request, knowing full well he had no choice but to accept and he nodded quickly. "Of course, please." He stepped back as the young officer scrambled nimbly onto the deck, closely followed by two sailors. Beyond them Rookwood caught sight of another man, half hidden in the boats cabin, watching them carefully. He wore no uniform, only sunglasses, a simple black t-shirt and blue jeans. Alarm bells began to sound in Rookwoods head.

"Take a quick look boys." The officer waited patiently with Rookwood and Blackthorne as the sailors made their way below. They were back quickly, far to quickly to have done a proper search. Quick nods to the officer as they clambered back into the launch. The nondescript man detached himself from the shadow of the cabin and leapt the gap with ease, landing like a panther on the deck. Muscles rippled along his back and shoulders. Rookwood felt his unease grow. The man wore no badge, not even a pistol, and Rookwood doubted even the Coast Guard crew knew who he worked for.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Fend off. If they try to take off, well," White teeth flashed in a tan face. "You know what to do."

The officer nodded quickly. Did Rookwood detect unease in his face as well? There was a short pause as the officer returned to his launch, the lines were detached, and the boat drew away to a respectful distance leaving Rookwood and Blackthorne alone with their unknown guest.

"Commander Rookwood, Captain Blackthrone, how nice to finally make your acquaintance." He sat back against the gunwale and looked the two men over. "My name is John Smith. I represent the United Government and I think we should talk."

Rookwood and Blackthorne glanced at each other and then back at Smith. The man wasn't smiling. He was completely at ease, his eyes were invisible behind the sunglasses he wore. Around them the sea was entirely empty save for the Coast Guard Cutter almost a mile away. They were utterly alone.

"We're listening." Rookwood grunted, trying to fight down the fear rising in his gut. They had played a dangerous game and it seemed that the Feds were not as blind as he had thought they were.

"Let's not fuck around," Smith said, pulling off his sunglasses to reveal eyes so brown they were almost black. "You're running rum for Hawkins and her crew. Thats a felony, a rather serious one, which I have to admit, I find ridiculous. But no one gives a shit what I think about booze. They do, however, give a shit about what I can do to help sort out some of the filth infesting Mississippi these days."

He spoke the words casually but Rookwood had spent enough time among men dedicated to a cause to know he was dealing with one right now. Certainly a lawman, one more than capable of handling himself. The guns on the Cutter more than made up for his own lack of personal weapon. Rookwood swallowed and nodded. Blackthorne saved him from having to say anything as he spoke up.

"Why don't you just tell us what you want then?" The old mans bravado was a nice touch but both Rookwood and Smith saw the fear behind it. What surprised Rookwood was Smiths lack of grin, or even a momentary glimmer of triumph in his eyes. Instead he tucked his sunglasses into the front of his shirt and looked between them for a moment.

"Look, gentlemen. I have read your service records. You've both done your country proud. I ain't ashamed to admit I've never served in combat, never killed a man in battle, but I do serve my country in other ways. I am here, on this boat, in the middle of the Caribbean, to ask you to help me help America." He paused and brushed a hand through wavy black hair. "Our country is under siege from gangs and criminals like the young lady I mentioned a moment ago," He held up a hand to stop any response. "Don't say nothin, you have rights. But let us say you did have connections with the criminal organizations in Mississippi, and let us did say you knew something of their operation. It would be mighty useful to me and mine to know a little bit of what you know."

"Erm..." Rookwood tried to speak but his throat was dry. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Let us say we did know a thing or two, and maybe we do know the young lady previously mentioned, what would you want to know?"

The teeth flashed again. "Now that, Mr. Rookwood, is a damn fine question." The jocular nature of the reply, accented by a quick finger point, was ominous in a way Rookwood could never have explained. "I am not so much interested in the booze, hell, there is enough of that floating around here to keep even the Navy happy. No, Mr. Rookwood, I am looking for more." All sense of humour fled as though a mask had been dropped. "I am far more interested in drugs and firearms."

There was an awkward silence on the boat as he glanced between the two of them, and then at the firearms they had aboard. "Now, there ain't no law that says an American can't defend himself, so I'm not interested in what you keep for personal use. But let us say the Mexicans offered you some cash to move a little cocaine, maybe a couple rifles, you would want to let the good guys know, wouldn't you?"

Rookwood, very aware of how recent his conversation with Hawkins had been, could only nod. The Fed was all smiles again. "Excellent. Well, here's my card. Keep it secret, keep it safe." He passed a white business card over. It showed a business name of Smiths Maritime Mechanical and gave an address in New Orleans. "You fellows talk things over, give me a call if anything comes to mind."

He gave a sharp whistle and the launch swooped back in. Smith paused as prepared to leave the Chloe, a deceptively friendly look on his face. "Remember gentlemen, we know." Another smile and he was gone. Neither Rookwood nor Blackthorne moved as the launch raced back toward the Cutter that was already gathering speed. Within a few minutes the big ship was a white spec fading over the horizon. Blackthorne spoke first.

"Well fuck."
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Nightbringer
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The two cast a long shadow across the table. He didn’t need to look up to know who had joined him. He could feel the stiffness in the bar, hear the hush settle over the place when the doors had swung open. Some people didn’t dare to even speak the name Negan Grange. The police drew straws to see who would have to take the call to head into the marshy backwaters that the family called home.

A smarter man would have kept Grange at arm’s reach, but Waylon had had dealings with the family since they had arrived. Grange put a bullet in the old pastor’s back when he had threatened Waylon’s freedom, and in exchange, Waylon looked after their needs should any ever arise. Of all the bodies secreted in the graveyard, almost half could be tied back to Negan somehow.
Both men had served time, but where Waylon had become a skeptic of the US’s involvement overseas, Grange had thrived, going to war three times over, though Waylon suspected it was not by choice.

Waylon looked up from his drink and eyed the two young men. Behind them he spied Ja-Ki, or “Jackie” in his South Tennessee drawl, nothing like her two brothers in terms of looks. He was surprised not to see the youngest, Kimber. The four of them rolled in a pack usually, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see the two boys causing a ruckus in town, or even on the pews in Calvary Hill on a Sunday. You never knew what was going to happen when the Grange boys walked into a watering hole, but it seemed that Hawkins’ Spirits was an exception. Everyone paid their dues to Amelia Hawkins, even Old Man Grange.

“Boys” he greeted them quietly, packing more tobacco into his pipe. ”You need somethin’? I’m here on business, tonight.” The two would pester him whenever they had the chance. Waylon didn’t mind, it was nice not to have to talk shop all the time, and Maverick and Alejandro reminded him of his own boys, in a way, and they were similar in age. Waylon Jr. may have had a few years on Maverick, but he wasn’t sure. The Granges were notoriously secretive of those sorts of details. In fact, Negan had told Waylon he had served in the Second World War, but Myers was sure he couldn’t be old enough. It just added to the mystery surrounding them.

He was lucky to be a friend to the Grange family, especially now. If things were going to go south with the outfit from Chicago, and Waylon suspected they might —he couldn’t imagine Rawlins or Harlow, or even Mrs. Hawkins, bowing to the same demands they had made of him— then the kind of family who fired first and asked questions later, might be a valuable commodity.
He needed to speak to Mrs. Hawkins first, to get a good grip on what her plans were. The Liquor Queen had never taken an order in her life. Hell, she was the Liquor Queen for a reason. The Liquor Princess didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

She was conspicuously absent. Mrs. Hawkins was normally around at this time of evening, tossing out barflies personally. She was a strong woman, and Waylon admired that. O’Connor County wasn’t an easy place to be a woman, even less a widow, and Amelia Hawkins had carved out a piece of it tooth and nail that was all her own. A few years ago Waylon had considered trying to make her the second Mrs. Myers, but his business got in the way, as it always did. When you’re burying ‘shine for your business associate, it was straightforward. When it was your wife, it became a lot more complicated, or so he assumed.

Waylon was a little anxious. He lazily lit a match and re-lit his pipe. He needed answers, and Mrs. Hawkins was the only one who could give them to him.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Klumsykrow357
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"Seems to be a lot of folks 'on business' as of late." said Maverick taking another pull from his beer.

"Especially Sen`ora Hawkins. She's popular as of late...but curiously absent." Alejandro sipped his beer casually before adding, "Would it have anything to do with a certain stranger's recent visit the area?"

"You wouldn't happen to know the nature of said stranger's visit would you? Or why its caused such a stir?"

Alejandro flashed a playful grin as he watched for Waylon's reaction while Maverick looked on more seriously. Apparently the two weren't here purely for pleasure either. Negan often sent his kids out to get updates on what was happening in town, though not everyone was aware of it. Alejandro was a mastermind when it came to getting information out of people even if it was by just reading how a person reacted to his words. Most folks weren't even aware he was doing it. Alejandro knew that Waylon was too sharp for such games, but it didn't stop him from playing them anyway. Maverick on the other hand was more level-headed and direct. His role was often to keep his siblings in check and make sure nothing got out of hand.

Before Waylon could answer however a sudden raised voice cut through the bar. "I said move it Kim-chi! We needs this table here!"

"It's Ja-Ki," came the icy reply, only audible because the entire bar had fallen silent, "and there are other tables."

"You really gonna sit there and take a whole table to yer lonesome and make us take sommit smaller? You ain't even drinking proper!"

"Alejandro, ve a ayudar a nuestra hermana," came Maverick's calm voice though he'd switched to Spanish.

"Ella puede cuidarse sola," whined Alejandro with an eye roll.

"Papá dijo que no hay problema." Maverick's voice had gained a bite to it, and by now Ja-Ki had removed her sunglasses to glare daggers at the man yelling at her. "Date prisa, antes de que mate a ese hijo de puta."

Alejandro clicked his tongue in disgust before standing up. "Perra se lo merecería," he muttered before striding over to the tense conversation. "Gentleman!" he said jovially, "What do you mean by causing such a scene in Sen`ora Hawkins' establishment? I know she is not here, but surely your respect for her extends even when you don't see her." "What do you-?" spluttered the man, taken aback by the suddenly appearance of a man a foot taller than him. "What would she say if she saw you talking such a way to a paying customer of hers? Tsk Tsk." "We didn't mean no disrespect to Hawkins," said one of the men hastily, "we were just-" "Buena! I would hate to have to tell her that there was a ruckus while she was gone. Here, let us show our respect with more beers eh? Vamanos! A round for our Lady of Liquor!"

He rapidly shuffled the men quickly to the bar. Ja-Ki wasted no time gathering her pen, book, and lemonade before stealthing her way out of the bar without even setting the bell off. As soon as regular chatter resumed Maverick resumed talking with Waylon. "So...is there something going on that Papa should be aware of?"
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