The instant the Crawford gang entered the Farr Creek Savings Loan and interrupted his transaction at gun point, Bud Tucker knew the carnival fortuneteller was right; he was going to inherit young. Dicky Crawford, the gang’s leader, had vowed to the newspapers that he would kill as many bankers as he could before J. Edgar Hoover and his G-men tracked him down and put him out of his misery the way they did a month before to Dillinger.
Crawford blamed the banks for his wife’s suicide. She had put a gun in her mouth the day the Sheriff came to evict them from their small farm. Already Crawford had murdered three bank presidents, two in Indiana and the other in Columbus. Now he was in the back office forcing Bud’s Uncle Frank to open the safe. Bud was Frank’s only heir and he could barely hold back his glee. He crossed his fingers and prayed Crawford would up the score to four.
The shots of a Browning automatic rifle jarred everyone in the bank. Old Miss McVeigh, Uncle Frank’s secretary, screamed. One thug with multiple scars on his cheeks went to pistol-whip her, but Milton Kaminski, the bank’s janitor, stepped between them and took the barrel full in the face.
I’ll be damned, thought Bud.
This was the first time he’d ever seen Milt stand up to anyone. Back in grade school, Bud always snatched Milt’s lunch and took any pennies he had in his pocket. Not that he ever ate the swill Mrs. Kaminski made, it was just that Milt’s crying and sniveling like a baby made picking on him fun.
Besides, the Kaminskis were deadbeats who never paid rent. Why his Uncle let them squat in that shack by the city dump was beyond him. As the bank’s future owner, it was only right he take Milt’s lunch. After all, stealing from Uncle Frank was the same as stealing from him, right?
Bud sneered at Milt lying on the bank floor, blood gushing out of his nose and staining the oak floorboards. As soon as the Crawford gang left, he’d make Milt clean it up, and then fire him. Give the Kaminskis twenty-four hours to vacate their shack.
Crawford, a short, spindly man in a cream pinstriped suit, stepped out of Uncle Frank’s office carrying a smoking BAR and a bag of money. He backed toward the front door, when he suddenly stopped and looked directly at Bud. The young man nearly wet his pants. Crawford pointed at Bud’s up-raised hands and asked, “Is that your money or the bank’s?”
Bud had forgotten he was holding that day’s rent collections, almost a hundred in small bills. He had been about to make a deposit when the robbers burst in.
“This?” said Bud. “It’s mine.”
“Liar,” yelled Milt from the floor. He climbed to his feet and pointed an accusing finger at his tormenter. “That’s Bud Tucker. He’s the bank president’s nephew. And now that Mr. Tucker is dead, Bud owns the bank.”
Milt’s outburst was so uncharacteristic and jarring it forced Bud to see him as a person for the first time; and what he saw made his skin turn to gooseflesh. Milton was the spitting image of Frank Tucker. They both had the same green eyes, brown hair, oval face and slight build. No wonder Uncle Frank let his whore live in the old shack for free and then gave his bastard son a job!
Dumbstruck by the realization, Bud didn’t see Crawford point the BAR at his chest.
Milt was horrified as he watched Bud gunned down. All those years he hadn’t fought back because his mother believed it was wrong to harm one’s kin. And now, when Bud’s life hung in the balance, he had let spite and greed goad him into betraying his only cousin.
It had been a week since the carnival came to town and he visited the fortuneteller. He’d been so happy when she told him he would inherit young. Every night since, he fantasized about what he’d do when he became rich. It hadn’t occurred to him that such musing was the same as wishing his father and cousin dead.
Milt stared at the blood on his hands and hoped Dicky Crawford would kill him, too; but when he looked up again, the gang was gone.
Richard M. O’Donnell‘s works have appeared in Every Day Poets, Every Day Fiction, Sniplits, North Coast Review, Bear Grrr, Binaryorganic, Mind Fair, Kaleidoscope, Heartlands, Many Voices, The Gamut, Diskazine, The Alchemist, Telescope, Intro and The Plum Creek Review. His short story collection, Rice Wine, was published on Disk 1983, and he has received two Ohio Arts Council grants. His has a MFA from BGSU. He is the co-founder of The Oberlin Writers Group where he is working on his novel, Flowers and Arrows. His online publication links can be accessed at http://wormsview.com.
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