Early writings to the eBook explosion

I suppose, from the first book I ever read I knew I wanted to write. I cannot remember that first book, but it doesn’t matter. The written word, and storytelling, stretched out in front of me.

My initial effort began at the age of eight in an old exercise book. You probably know the kind. They invariably displayed the times tables and other information on the back. My first story was one that I entitled ‘Murderous Home.’ The story involved just three characters. A greedy nephew with the belief his miserly uncle had buried his money under the floorboards, thus killing him for it, and burying the uncle under the floorboards. Plus a detective, in the wake of neighbours being alerted by the smell, arrested the nephew for murder. Looking back on this childish offering, there was something rather Poe-ish about it, reminiscent of The Tell Tale Heart.

As an only-child I suppose books were both my companions and my baby sitters. My mother could quite comfortably leave me in a store to browse the books, while she did her shopping. When she returned she would find me in the same place. In those days Woolworths had big dumper baskets dotted about the store, containing various items.

As a child I quickly grew out of fairy tales, unless of course they contained an evil villainous character. After Christmas my parents took me to the local pantomime where I had my initial sighting of a wonderful character called the Demon King. As his name suggests he was a devilish, evil and grotesque individual. And I loved him. I can’t recollect exactly in which pantomime he appeared, but when he was made conspicuous by his absence the following year I vowed never to go to another panto unless he was in it. So I never did. I was only about five or six.

Even then I loved villains. From the age of twelve I devoured crime novels with relish. My uncle used to procure several of the old Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler novels from the nearby American airbase. I was hooked and couldn’t get enough of the tough talking, gun toting gumshoe detective. ‘The snazzy blonde eased into my office. Rosebud lips screaming scarlet before she opened her mouth.’ That kind of thing. I think, to this day, those books made such an impression on me, I tend to write that way sometimes. In fact I was actually told by a reviewer that my books reminded them of the old Fifties gumshoe tales. Until a few years ago I only wrote for my family. My aunt mostly.

Like myself she devoured books, even reading them at the meal table. She would often ask if I had a book she could read. ‘And I don’t mean the ones you buy in a shop,’ she said.

It was my family who encouraged me to try and get my work published and send my books into the big wide world. What if no one liked them? But I did undertake such a venture.

It wasn’t long before an agent was interested. Having sent the preliminary three chapters, plus synopsis and enquiry letter, he was adamant he would be able to place the work before a publisher. In hindsight perhaps I should have agreed to his terms, but he wanted to change so much of the story, particularly the conclusion, which I loved and had spent such time working on. How foolish I was to allow stupid pride to blind me. I was upset, and told him so in a letter. He too was upset because he suggested offering me help free of charge, to get my book into shape, that my writing had such potential as did my story. Although I have published several books online, my interest continues to lie in pursuing the ultimate goal. The bricks and mortar book shop.

Since I first published my novel All Of them Vampires! in 2011, the self publishing world seems to have exploded. In 2011, self-pub had taken off, but not to the extent it has now. I published another book, one that had been lying in my garage forever, ‘Staying Out’. After a shaky start, but gaining some publicity for my books, ‘Vampires’ practically flew off the virtual bookstores, as did ‘Staying Out’. I was voted third favourite author on Smashwords. This was the days before reviews were compulsory. As long as my books were selling, reviews meant precious little.

To conclude on a puzzle and the subject of reviews. I’ve noticed on Amazon that authors with 20-plus reviews do not appear to be, according to the B.S.R. selling many books. While authors with few reviews are always selling books. Last year on its release, my novel, ‘Progeny Of A Killer’ was flying off the shelves. How many reviews did it have? Two.

You can buy all my books at Amazon, including The Aidan McRaney Trilogy: ‘Stalking Aidan’, ‘The Devil in Soho’ and ‘Progeny Of A Killer’. Hope you have enjoyed my ranting. Please leave a like on Facebook or an RT on Twitter.

Bless you all.

Behind the Mask. How my research for ‘Progeny Of A Killer’ took me to jail.

progeny of a killerThe sentence wasn’t lengthy, merely a couple of hours, although I wish it had been longer. I would have loved to have spent the night. I have never visited such a place that held so much sorrow and tragedy as Dublin’s Kilmainham gaol. I knew I wanted to include it in my novel. In Progeny Of A Killer, Danny Corrigan is the son of a deceased IRA man who vows revenge on the British refers to the gaol to Aidan McRaney – who is also Irish – as McRaney is sent into to infiltrate Corrigan’s lair.

“You ever see the solitary black cross in Kilmainham?”

“Sure I saw it. When I was a kid. But I didn’t understand. I just didn’t understand.”

I had to admit the memory of visiting Kilmainham, of seeing the black cross over the solitary mound, had given me nightmares. It was the fear that those long dead heroes would ultimately rise from the mound and amorphously drift into my room at night.

Corrigan is obsessed with the Uprising, and their leader James Connolly in particular. It is historical fact that after being wounded in the leg, Connolly was taken by ambulance to Kilmainham, where he was tied to a chair and executed.

But the saddest tale of all has to be that of Grace Gifford who married Joseph Plunkett, another of the  rebels. Their wedding night took place in the chapel at Kilmainham. The next morning, Joseph faced a firing squad. Although the chapel has been refurbished, there is no disguising the poignancy and desolation of that place.

The visit made a great impression on me. I could easily imagine Joseph and Grace, knowing the only night they shared was to be their last, taking their vows. Then they would spend their wedding night in one of those narrow dingy cells. No amount of refurbishment can eradicate that. The entire building is steeped in sorrow and bloodshed.

Having researched Irish history quite predominantly over the years, I knew a story had to be written. Perhaps the aftermath of the Troubles. How many others like Corrigan entertain the desire for revenge? Except I am sure no one is as obsessed with Irish history as this man. Enough to exact his vengeance, not by bombs and doorstep assassinations, but by kidnapping children and inviting paedophilia and white slave trafficking,

Corrigan is also  a collector of porn and of  children being  tortured. He also collects beautiful girls of a certain age for his brothel. The girls are usually no more than 15 or 16. He has ‘buyers’ and the girls are sold to them.

I had already planned my novel. The characterisation. The plot. Then I visited Kilmainham saw the black cross and knew it deserved a mention, as does the Easter Uprising. As it is its centenary next year, maybe I’ll pen another book in relevance.

WIN Gritty Thriller ‘Progeny Of A Killer’!

Progeny Of A Killer JM Shorney Contest

 The violence is meticulously detailed.

Fast-paced writing, great story, flawed but interesting protagonist, and a vile and repellent villain.

Progeny of a Killer is a gripping thriller that will keep the reader in suspense until the last page.

Those are just a drop in the ocean of reviews made about Progeny Of A  Killer, an edgy story that enmeshes London’s underworld with the machinations of a madman obsessed with a brutal history.

Now you can win Progeny Of A Killer from Goodreads!

What Can Rave Reviews Book Club Do for you?

Since becoming an Author/ Member of Rave Reviews Book Club, I have met some really fabulous people. Although they reside in many different countries, I have begun to regard them as friends. Enough to know them by their names, and, even without the RRBC hashtag on Twitter I support them by retweeting often.

Suffice to say I have only been on RRBC for a matter of weeks. Already I have become Member Of The Week, and have journeyed on an amazing Blog Tour, for which 4 Wills Publishing did a fantastic job. The  lovely members who were pleased to host the blog posts I’d written  were so supportive.

The first time I had ever done a Blog Tour I was quite ignorant of everything it entailed.  I wrote the blogs, and 4 Wills did the rest. I was amazed and delighted with the incredible support I was given.

Supporting each other is what it’s all about. Let’s face it,  we Indie folk do need help, advice and assistance in this ‘needle in a haystack’ world of Self Publishing, where it’s so easy to become a lone voice that no one listens to. We’ve all been there. I know I have. Mood swings don’t cover it. The highs, the  lows riding  the literary rollercoaster. The excitement when we make a few sales. The despondency when we don’t.

But receiving support doesn’t mean accepting without giving. As I am getting to know other members (I love to tweet) I  check out their books on Amazon and promote them.

Though I think for me, one of the  most enjoyable ways to support, meet and have a laugh at the same time, is through Chatovod. I do try to ‘sit in’ on these online chats as often as I can. It is only if I’m out or at work that I’m not able  to attend them.

We get to meet Nonnie for a start. Our founder lady, whose brainchild has been invaluable help to Independent authors. Plus the other members who are so incredibly down to earth, and have such a great sense of humour.  I  have also  been quite moved by some of the poignant true life conflicts behind our author’s writings.  You only know this when you sit in on the Chatavods.

At the conclusion of my Blog Tour I was privileged to meet these lovely people during my own Chatavod,  who shared such support for my work and downloaded  my books.

Rave Reviews Book Club unveils the Independent Authors books that we wouldn’t know existed otherwise. So many varied genres to choose from.  So many  lovely Author/ Members to get to know…

‘Bad Boys’ Blog Tour

This week I’ll be appearing on a few blogs that have kindly agreed to allow me to post. The theme is the Bad Boys Blog Tour.

What is it that we of the female species love about the Bad Boys? The Rebel Without a Cause James Deans  of this world. Leather jacketed Marlon Brando, brooding and sexy in the crime/boxing thriller, On The Waterfront never fails to set feminine pulses racing.

The first post is a short story called The Tainted Dress, which is based on a true story. Today’s is a blog post of Interviews of characters from Progeny of a KillerInterviewing my own creations was incredibly fun to do. I hope you enjoy both of these, and the other posts coming up in the next few days, as well as an exciting Q&A I’ve got lined up!

The Safe: Part Eight

The guilt set in as soon as I returned home and got into bed. Who else had I to turn to but myself? To exact a kind of justice for Mama. Sheriff Anderson was of no use. Would he only come to our aid if Mama was dead? That eventuality was beginning to loom larger everyday. I had discovered something from old Alfie Tressler prior to the robbery. Trenchard’s first wife had fallen down the stairs while pregnant. Rumour circulated in Chattanooga, where he had lived before. Trenchard, in a fit of anger and drunkenness, had pushed her. His wealth and status had succeeded in acquitting him when the finger of suspicion had travelled in his direction. How long before the same happened to Mama? With the money we could get out. The trouble was I had had to commit a crime to exact that justice.

The house was quiet, and I knew Trenchard had gone to bed. I lay awake, my heart beating erratically when I considered the night’s events. I hoped that Billy was wrong in his assumption that Alfie might have  set us up for his own ends. I’d stuffed my share of the cash into a drawer. All two and a half thousand dollars of it. Mama had a sister in Huntsville. Maybe we could go there, out of his clutches, and Mama could have her op.

When the strident raps on the outer door issued, a crazy sense of lightheadedness  washed over me. I couldn’t sleep, so I was up, listening at my door. I heard Trenchard curse and warn Mama to stay there. “Who in God’s name is it at this time of the night? Disturbing decent folks peace.”

Cracking  the door ajar, I watched him fasten the belt of his robe.

The anxiety increased when I heard Mort Anderson’s voice, followed by Trenchard inviting him into the hallway. From there I had a clear view.

“What is it, Mort?” Trenchard demanded. “Has something happened at the bank?”

‘”I think there might have been a robbery, Ike.”

“What do you mean, ‘think’? Well, has there been a robbery or not? I’m in no damned mood for guessing games at this time of night.”

“I was doing my rounds and I saw a light in your office. The door was unlocked. I found old Alfie Tressler bound and gagged.”

“What?” Trenchard spluttered. He held his chest as if he were about to collapse. “What… what did Alfie say?”

“He wasn’t saying much. First off, he reckoned that his eyes ain’t what they was. He couldn’t see what they was doing, or what was stolen.  Only that they was masked. He didn’t even know how many of ’em they’re were. The poor old boy is practically blind.”

“Only when it suits him.” Trenchard bunched a fist. “It must have been my safe.” He spoke as if to himself.

‘Good old Alfie, I knew you wouldn’t let us down,’ I thought with a smile.

It was a smile that was short-lived however, when Anderson said, “I do have a witness though.”

A witness? But I had seen no one.

“Yeah. Seems they saw a coupla guys run across the street from the bank and get into Billy Parker’s pick-up.”

Momentarily Trenchard said nothing, but I saw his leaned-out frame visibly stiffen. Both fists clench against his robe.

“Did you hear what I said, Ike? You okay?”

“Yes I heard.”

“Look, I’ll go and talk to Parker. I ain’t saying it was Billy. Someone might have stolen his vehicle. Though he ain’t reported it missing.”

“And he won’t either.”  Trenchard’s face was now  an angry mass of vengeance.

“You want to get dressed and come to your office, Ike? Ike?”

“Later. I have something to deal with first. You go ahead. I’ll join you.”

“I can wait. I got the car outside. What you gonna do?”

“I said wait outside,” Trenchard hissed. “Remember who elected you, Sheriff. You answer to me.”

“Look, Ike, I ain’t called that in…” Anderson had removed his hat. Now he twirled it in his hand nervously.

So Trenchard was responsible for pulling Mort Anderson’s strings too, but I was in far too much trouble to even dwell on that fact.

“What’s goin’ on, Luke?” Johnny appeared from his room, rubbing at his eyes.

“Get back into your room, and stay there,” I hissed at him. The last thing I needed was for him to witness whatever might occur. I repeated the order at his hesitation and he dived back into his room.

He wasn’t the only one. I closed the door, and hoped to make it back to bed. I had undressed and was wearing my pyjamas. For a man of Ike Trenchard’s years, he bounded up the stairs pretty agilely and burst into my room before I could prevent him.

“What is it, Ike?” I pretended nonchalance, but the cold grey eyes that bore into mine were filled with an hatred I had never occasioned to ever witness on a human being. If that’s what he was.

“Don’t play the innocent with me, boy. I know it was you and that Parker kid that broke into my office. Masking your faces like a coupla hoodlums. The old man musta told you about the safe. How much did you take?”

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I protested, when pushing me back onto the bed, he towered above me. ” I…I don’t know nothin’ about no safe.”

His robe slipped open, revealing his sinuous frame. His breathing issued raspy and dry. A bony hand shot out and his fingers wrapped around my neck, I knew in that terrible moment of realisation, that he intended to kill me. “I always knew you was a bad ‘un. Beyond hope now.”

I was aware that his free hand had also  grabbed the guitar that rested against my night cabinet.

” Wh-what you gonna do with that?” I thought, please, not that

“How much money did you take from my safe?”

“I…told you I didn’t…”

“Wrong answer, boy.” He released the stranglehold on my windpipe. My throat was sore, and I was gasping for breath  when raising the guitar above his head, I knew what he was going to do.

“Okay, okay, it… it was me,” I gasped.

“What you doing to my son?” Mama burst into the room. My brother, white and scared, trembled  behind her.  “Leave him alone. If he says he didn’t steal any money…”

She attempted to wrest the guitar she knew I loved so much from his grasp when Trenchard, flinging out an arm, hurled her so belligerently against a sideboard, that both Johnny and I screamed her name. Relief shot through me when she roused herself, and my brother helped her to rise.

It all came out then. Why I had stolen the money.

Mama stared, half collapsing against Johnny, with disbelief.

“This is the man who foreclosed on our farm, Mama. On other folks farms so he could steal their money.”

“Oh you’d say anything wouldn’t you, boy? Because I’m gonna see you sent down for ten.” His thin lips twisted ugly around the words. “What will your precious Mama and that snivelling brother do if you ain’t around? I can do it too. I practically own this town.”

“You’re a bad man, Isaac Trenchard.” Mama stood there, her hair dishevelled and greying before her time. “My son doesn’t have a criminal bone in his body. It’s what you’ve driven him to. There was no one else who would help me, because they were all so scared of you. All the folk around town.”

“Yeah, you’re such a goddamned big shot in this town ain’t you, Trenchard?” I taunted. The stinging blow he cracked across my face was expected. Though I held a hand to my cheek, I continued to hold my ground. “Such a big man that you kicked a little dog, then shot him in the head for good measure.”

“You bastard! You bastard!” Johnny was crying, about to charge into Trenchard until Mama restrained him. He buried his head in her nightie, her arms coming around him.

“That damned critter was always whinin’.”

“And my sister? She had the courage to stand up to you and you killed her baby.”

” Wh-what’s that gotta do with me?” Guilty colour flowered Trenchard’s face but he continued to maintain that it wasn’t his fault.

“Lorrie lost her baby?” Mama echoed in a trembling voice.

“Yes, Mama, the night he pushed her out of the chair. Billy told me.”

I really believed Mama was about to pass out, for she teetered, and almost fell against the door. Then recovering her composure, dragging Johnny with her, she  exited the room.

“Now it’s just you and me, boy,” Trenchard sneered. “You can tell me why you’ve been doing these wicked things.”

” For Mama. Because I figured I needed some kind of… of justice for what you’ve done to her.” I allowed my words to falter, when Mama appeared again. Gripped in both hands was the double barrelled shotgun Trenchard kept in their bedroom. Before he managed to turn around, Mama fired. Trenchard was catapulted back against the wall with a surprised expression on his face when he dropped onto the bed, blood flowering up through his robe a river of crimson.

“What’s going on? I thought I heard a shot.” Sheriff Anderson burst into the room. In the aftermath of the shotgun’s reverberation, a terrible, infinite silence reigned. My pyjamas were splashed with Trenchard’s blood. Johnny was crying quietly. Only Mama was strangely calm when she held her hands outstretched to Anderson for him to cuff her.

The Safe: Part Seven

Convinced Alfie wouldn’t set us up, I found the old man lunching at the diner. I offered to buy him a coffee and we talked. Conspiratorial conversation revealed that Alfie usually cleaned out Trenchard’s office in the evening, after banking hours. By then Trenchard would be home. I knew that of course. That particular night he chose to arrive home later than usual. From my bedroom window, I caught him rubbing lipstick from his mouth on a handkerchief before he entered the house. No one spoke much that evening. Mama had taken to her room, so I took her meal into her. Even that small consideration on my part encountered another angry tirade from Trenchard, forcing Mama to abandon her sanctuary.

“What were you thinking letting those boys do the cooking? They could have burnt the house down. Cooking was women’s work,” he admonished. He dragged Mama out physically and had her cook for him. The meal Johnny and I had prepared was committed to the bin untouched.

We refused to respond to his invariable moans about having to endure pigswill every night. I longed to suggest why didn’t he eat at the diner like he normally did. Guess both the anticipation admixed with fear for what Billy and I were about to do had driven me to silence.

It was too late to back out now, as Billy rolled the pick-up to a halt outside our house. Mama wanted to know where we were going, I lied we were going to see Lorrie in hospital, without of course referring to the fact she had lost her baby.

Billy parked the pick-up a few hundred yards from the bank. I was scared, I had to admit, mainly because I was carrying Pa’s Colt .45. Though I’d kept my promise that the clip would be empty. Billy produced a Smith and Wesson .38.  Checking the weapon I saw four slugs up the spout. I might have known.

“I said empty, Billy,” I hissed.

“Fuck that. And I told you, if the old man is pulling a doublecross, then we got some back-up,” he said, covering the lower portion of his face with a bandanna.

My stomach was so full of knots I could barely breathe. Maybe I shouldn’t have involved Billy. Now he was acting like Jesse James. He reminded me about masking my own face when we alighted from the pick-up. I did so, reluctantly. We’d donned Stetsons to cover our hair; Billy’s suggestion. Now I was really beginning to feel like one of those Old West outlaws.

Alfie was expecting us. I mean, he hadn’t said as much anymore than I had. After all, who goes round sprouting stuff about pulling a hold-up. The bank was closed, but I remembered the side entrance. Billy and I slipped in there. Billy held the .38 upraised, and he levelled the gun on the old man.  Alfie was there right enough, squinting his rheumy eyes up immediately he saw us.

I closed the door with a boot heel, drawing the Colt.

We had obviously taken him by surprise. Because he elevated his hands at Billy’s order to do so.

“This is a hold-up, Alfie,” I said, without raising my voice. Billy even threatened to shoot him. I wondered if he would carry out his threat if old Alfie decided not to comply. I raised the .45. Alfie blanched and begged us not to shoot him.

“Just open that safe, old man, and maybe I might decide not to kill you.” Billy was obviously enjoying this. From my own earlier trepidation, maybe I was too. After the way he’d treated us, getting back at Trenchard was enough. This was for Lorrie and her baby. For Blue. And for our Mama.

“Quit stalling. We don’t have much time,” I told him.

The old rheumy eyes attempted to penetrate our masks. “Sure, sure,” he agreed.

Momentarily I wondered if the old man had lied to me. There was no safe and no money here after all or that he believed I wouldn’t have the guts to pull a robbery, but I was angry and desperate.

The room was spacious and fancy. A large green baize covered desk  was the focal point of ostentation. Opposite the desk was a painting I recognised as a Monet. So Trenchard appreciated fine art.  It took but a moment for old Alfie, despite his shaking, to slip aside the painting and reveal the small, blue safe.

It was obvious that Billy was on tenterhooks, because he kept moving agitatedly from one foot to the other. I stiffened when he curled a gloved finger around the .38’s trigger.

The money was there alright. More than I had ever seen in my life. Billy whistled behind his mask when he saw it. Our eyes locked and held. Each with but a single thought. How easy it would be to grab the lot. We was owed after all. But we didn’t. Just enough to help Mama and Lorrie. About five thousand in all. Even if Billy did shake his head at what he considered my foolishness.

So that old Alfie shouldn’t take the blame that he might be in on it, I opted to tie him up. Not too tightly of course. Much against my better judgement, Billy suggested gagging him.

So we stuffed our pockets, and got the hell out of there, and into Billy’s pick-up.

The Safe: Part Six

“If you wasn’t holding that spade, Luke Franklyn, I’d fucking challenge you to a fight.” Billy Parker said, alighting from his pick-up and moving across the yard.

Having no idea why he said it, I was far too preoccupied with burying Blue. I made Johnny stay with Mama. So it was left to me. I was in the process of filling in the small grave, tears ever present, when Billy arrived. He wore an angry expression, and he hadn’t bothered to shave. He stalked across the yard, wanting to know what I was burying.

“If it’s Ike Trenchard, I ain’t  seen nothing.”

I wish,’ I thought. “No it’s Blue.”

“Blue! Your dog! You’re kidding me! What did he die off?”

“Ike Trenchard’s boot kicking him across the barn and a gunshot wound to the head.”

“I’m sorry, Luke.” Billy wore a pained expression, and he muttered something about adding that to Trenchard’s long list of misdemeanours.

“Why did you want to fight me, Billy? ‘Cos you gotta know I ain’t got no fight left in me anymore.”

“Because you let that bastard hurt Lorrie.” A fist bunched, he rasped into my face.

“I wanted to do something, believe me, but I knew he’d take it out on Mama. I’m sorry, Billy.” I’d finished shovelling the earth, placed a small wooden marker, and wished Blue a, “farewell buddy.”

“Yeah, so am I.” Billy turned his back, kicking up the dirt angrily with his boot. You could visibly see the aggression straining at his temples. I knew him well enough to know he was the kind to do something about it. Old Alfie Tressler’s words came back to me. I’d thought about that safe of course. Figured the money was owed us. But we could go to jail. Only when Billy said, “Lorrie lost the baby,” did I realise I scarcely cared  anymore. Trenchard had gone too far. When I asked Billy if it was because of what Trenchard had done, and if he’d told Mama yet, Billy nodded. He said that it was, that he couldn’t bring himself to confess about the baby to Mama the way she was.

Billy was right of course. After all that had happened, now Lorrie losing her baby, I knew this would destroy Mama. But right now, with the anger bursting out of Billy, I was compelled to do something about it. When I dragged him into the barn and closed the door.

“What is it? You got a real odd look on your face,” he said.

“What I got to tell you about stays between us, Billy, understand? That means we don’t tell our families, and that includes Lorrie.”

“They’re ain’t no secrets between me and her.”

“Well this is one secret that has to be between us.” I practically pushed him down on the stool. Billy Parker wasn’t the kind of guy you could push around easily. I must have appeared wild and angry, because the frown deepened on his face. He said he thought I was going loco. Maybe I had when I told him to hush up and listen while I related what old Alfie had told me about the safe in Trenchard’s office. The safe where he kept more than thirty thousand bucks.

“I always knew that old bastard had a lotta dough.” Billy’s mouth clenched in company with the fist he bunched against his jeans leg. I figured he was halfway there, because the clenching ceased, and a light appeared in his eyes where before there had only been darkness. “You suggesting what I think you are, old buddy?”

I nodded.” Just take what we need that’s all. The money for Mama’s op, and maybe a little more for housekeeping and stuff. I figured its owed us.”

“Hey, man, listen to yourself,” Billy tossed his dark hair with derision. “Thirty thou in a safe, and you’re planning to take what? A measly one and a half?”

“No more, Billy.” I was so intent on making him understand that I had unconsciously grabbed the collars of his jacket. “I ain’t no thief. It’s just that I’m desperate, and I don’t want Mama to die while that old man keeps all that dough in his safe. I’m sorry.” I apologised, releasing him.

“Sure I understand,” he said, straightening his collars where I had grabbed hold of him. “So what’s your plan? And how do you know old Alfie can be trusted? That he ain’t setting you up.”

“Alfie wouldn’t do that. He needs the money for an eye operation. Poor old guy’s goin’ blind. Everybody know’s that.”

“You have a plan?” Billy arched a brow.

Did I have a plan? I’d thought of nothing else but getting just enough money that was owed us. By his own admission, Alfie knew the safe’s combination. I hadn’t really considered a plan, though.

“I fuckin’ knew it.” Billy slapped a hand against his knee. “So you think we’ll just walk into that office where old Alfie’ll be waiting to open the safe, hand us the dough? There you go, boys, how much do you want?”

Guess I didn’t really have a plan, but what Billy outlined seemed the most reasonable.

“We’ll have to mask our faces ‘course.” Billy was already caught up in this. “You got a gun?”

” A gun?” I felt the colour ebb from my cheeks at what he intimated. “We don’t need guns. Somebody could get hurt.”

“Just a precaution, that’s all in case the law start sniffing round. Like I said, how far can you trust old Tressler? He’s one of Trenchard’s employees ain’t he? You said yourself the old boy wants money. What’s stopping him handing it over, then telling Trenchard who done the robbery so that he can get the reward. So brings me back to what I asked. You got a gun?”

“No.” My hesitation was painful, and I might have known Billy would pick up on it. “Yes I guess I have. My Pa’s Colt .45. But I’ll make sure it’s empty.  What about you?”

“I got an old Smith and Wesson lying about the place somewhere.”

“Well you keep it empty, okay.”

“Sure, you’re  the mastermind.” Billy’s tone fairly bristled with sarcasm. The expression on his face warned me that he might have other ideas.

The Safe: Part Five

I know I should have gone home to Mama and Johnny, but I decided to hang around instead. See what Trenchard was up to.

I discovered him enjoying breakfast with a woman. Clients he called them, but none were averse to his charm and generosity, as Mama had been in the early days of their courtship. He sat facing the woman in a place called The Little Bakery. She was young and pretty, and Trenchard sickened me when he kissed her hand. Perhaps, however, while he was otherwise engaged I might try and ask for a bank loan. So I had few assets, but I was desperate enough to attempt anything, short of murder.

I had not got much further than the steps of The Municipal, when I encountered old Alfie Tressler. Alfie was one of the bank’s oldest employees at over seventy. He reminded me of the Old West tellers with his eye shade, his arm bands on his shirt sleeves and black pinstripe vest.

His legs were very bowed, and he blinked owl-like from behind his wire spectacles.

“Well, if it isn’t young Luke. You looking for your Pa?”

“My Pa is dead, Alfie.” I hadn’t meant to sound quite so offhand. Alfie was such a likeable fellow and reminded me of my old grandpa. But as far as I was concerned I had only ever had one father.

“I know, I know what you mean.” Sympathy rode his voice. “So what are you doing at the bank?”

“I don’t really know. Maybe I figured I could try for a loan, but I guess they wouldn’t give me one. So where you headed?”

“Just to the store. You wanta walk with me? I could use the company.”

“I guess so.”

The town was becoming busy, though the hour was still early. Although I knew Alfie was a bank employee, as we walked, the old man and I, I decided to lay bare my soul and relate everything that had occurred. I half expected him to sing Trenchard’s praises, tell me that it was all my imagination, but he didn’t. When I mentioned that Mama needed almost a thousand dollars for her treatment, Alfie shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry about your poor Ma, that I am. But he won’t give it, no more’n he’ll give me the cash for my operation.”

“You need an op, Alfie?” I echoed surprised. “What for?”

He pointed to his eyes. I saw how rheumy they were, and filled with water. “It’s the cataracts, Son. They say I’ll be blind in a year or two. Then what’ll Mister Trenchard do? Won’t even give me a pension. No sir. Not a goddamn pension. Course, he got money, and plenty of it.” The old man grew excited, and with surprising strength and agility he dragged me down a back alley.

“I know that, Alfie. Guess he keeps it all in the bank.”

“No, no he don’t, Son. He has a private office, see, where he…” he cleared his throat, “likes to entertain his clients. All roses in vases and sweet smelling cushions and the like. I should know ‘cos I havta keep it nice. On the wall there’s one of ’em fancy paintings. Behind this ‘ere painting he keeps his safe. His safe mind you, ain’t nothing to do with the bank. I reckon there’s over thirty thousand dollars in there, and… and it’s only me and Trenchard that knows the combination.” His cracked old voice had dropped to a whisper.

“Sure, Alfie. Then he must do well at the bank to have that much money.”

“No, that’s from after the War. What with that and the Depression, Trenchard was one of ’em who made sure the farmers got poorer, and the bankers got richer. I mean, he got all the dough from the farms he foreclosed on, including your Pa’s.” Alfie shook his head. “You ain’t getting my meaning are ya?”

“I’m sorry, guess I’m too choked up with anger right now.”

“Ain’t that the best time?”

“Best time for what?” I ran a hand through my hair absently.

“For a-robbin’ that safe.”