“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.