Falling Beneath the Magnolia

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Night of Broken Glass,

Staring out across the Mississippi River he observes a ship. The ship carries logs and the wood is stacked nearly forty feet high. Bruce stands on the sandy shore of the riverside. This section of the river stretches for three miles. From the West the river came from Memphis. following the river East would lead to New Orleans. The two bends of the river would provide an excellent place to ambush the cargo ship carrying the microwaves.

“What are you thinking?” The voice asking belongs of thin man in glasses. The man spoke with a Texas drawl, his name is Gary. It took Bruce and Gary two hours to reach this section of the river.

Gary is a high-ranking member within Bruce’s outfit. Bruce rarely worked with Gary given his veteran status, when he did work with him it was for high stakes operations. Gary is nine years older than Bruce and commands a massive amount of respect. Tall and lanky, Gary has a large Adam's Apple that is the size of a tennis ball. His fingers are long and creepy, but his most distinguishing feature are his thick glasses. Despite Gary’s waspy appearance, he is a stone-cold gangster. In short time Gary had been alive, he had made the gang nearly one million dollars. He was the kind of man who always had a dozen irons in the fire.

Back in the Big Easy, Gary ran one of the biggest sport books in the city. He had 400 gamblers committed to placed bets with him every week. However, Gary never collected on money owed, that was for leg breakers like Mickey and Bruce.

There is one thing in this illicit life that Gary is good at, that is stealing. Those thin hands of his might as well have a coating of glue. There was nothing in this world that could be denied to him. Being sticky fingered had helped to bolster Gary’s reputation, by 18 he had cemented his own legendary status.

Bruce hadn’t answered Gary yet, he still looked at the logging ship puttering along the river. Finally, he had form a rough idea of what would was needed to complete the task. He sees several other boats coming and going along this stretch of river.

“Well the night of the raid, we will need no visibility. Also, I think I have found a way to slow down and possibly stop the cargo ship. See that ship carrying those logs. If we knocked all those logs into the river, the ship might slow to avoid puncturing the hull. We could angle the portside, in order to take the brunt of the obstruction. With enough time and men, we could bucket brigade the microwaves onto our waiting ship.” Says Bruce.

“How are we going to knock those logs off that ship? There are straps holding them place but the sheer weight of the wood is keeping it all stacked.” Gary raised a valid point.

“That’s where it is going to get complicated. We will need someone on the take. I remember my college buddy has a cousin that works for H&H as a river pilot. If we offer him say, seven grand I am sure he would allow us to ram his ship.” Answers Bruce.

“If we do get him on the take, that’s a big if… We will need a massive ship to ram his, looking around there is nothing that I see that can move that ship, let alone knock its cargo from the deck?” States Gary.

The idea suddenly came to Bruce.

“What about one of those River Casinos, one of those five deck paddle boats. At 14 knots, that ship would be like at battering ram!” Gary nodded his head in approval.

“With the right man on that casino ship, the guy on the take, and our men waiting to strike it, you plan just might work? For the visibility. We will set the woods 10 miles ahead on fire and 10 miles downriver. Using the two fires on either side of the river, plus the cover of darkness I think we can pull this off.” Informs Gary.

“I want to put my friend on the casino ship. I trust him plus I feel it would help to keep his cousin in check. How many men will we have?” States and asks Bruce.

“We will have all 15 men from your outfit, plus myself and Lucifer. In addition, we will have another 8 men who will meet us at the rendezvous with the trucks. We will need more men, Dellara won’t want the entire gang occupied with one job. We will probably need at least 8 more.”

“We can always grab some guys from the bayou?” Suggests Bruce.

“No, Marcello will know if we use locals. We will need to use men that won’t be missed, plus we are already going to be significantly out of pocket on this job, so we aren’t going to pay for this extra help.”

Bruce understood what Gary meant.

“Well if we are gonna use my friend Chuck for this job. When I last spoke to him he mentioned that he uses a crew of black men for jobs.” Gary looked at Bruce slightly perplexed leading Bruce to explain.

“He works for the Chicago outfit as a shylock. He has been running some sort of pawn shop in the southside as a front. He would have the guys Chuck will want more cash for his effort.”

“That’s fine we can spare an extra four or five grand. We just can’t risk the trouble of 8 more people knowing what we have done. Are you sure you trust this guy?” Asks Gary.

“With my life. He and I used to pull stick ups and bits in college. I robbed my first bank with Chuck, he will play his part.” Gary nodded his head.

“Looks like we have a plan, the cargo will be moving soon… Three weeks to be exact. We will need to take a trip to Chicago in the coming days.”

“I will make the arrangements.” Says Bruce as they turn away from the river and make for his car.

Gary fiddled with everything in the car on the way back. Bruce didn’t mind, Gary was one of those guys who always had his hands moving.

“McKean you got one nice ride here, how many miles you got on it?”

“109,000, most of those were bootlegging miles. She has a custom engine, watch this.”

Bruce pressed on his pedal and the car lurches forward, far exceeding the speed on the speedometer. Gary opens Bruce’s glove compartment while admiring the interior. Gary withdraws a picture from the inside of the glove compartment.

While looking at the picture Gary lets out a low whistle. “Boy this is some peach, where was this taken, who is she?”

Bruce glances at that photograph. It was he and Callie Bee after a formal. She wore a blue dress that hugs her curves. This picture is one of the few he had in color, her dark hair shines from the flash of the camera, a row of evergreens are in the background.

“That was taken in Memphis in December of 1961. I escorted my girlfriend Callie Bee to a winter formal.”

“She sure cleans up nice, what did you do to fuck it up?”

“Who said I fucked up?” Blurts out Bruce.

“Well you look happy in 61, yet here you are driving back to the dirtiest city in the country.”

“Look I don’t think you want to hear about some old fling.”

“We are going to be working long hours on this job and I know nothing about you other than you drive a Red Chevy and that you carry a browning. So, spill the beans kid, ain’t like we’re pressed for time.”

They still had forty minutes till they reached the French Quarter. Bruce sighs and laments to Gary’s wishes.

“Ah, well about a month before I robbed my first bank, our school had gone through this nasty riot.”

“You mean you went to Ole Miss?”

“Yeah” Replies Bruce. He had been hard pressed to find a man in the south who didn’t know of the 1962 riot.

“Callie Bee had gotten some sort of shellshock or trauma from the riot.”

“Did she get attacked or something?” Asks Gary.

“No, well not really. I walked her home that night and the riot began to break out around us, the tension was just at the tipping point before everything truly exploded. We were almost back to her house when she saw her friend walking scatter brained towards the Library and by extension the riot. I ran after her and before I got there she was attacked. I save the friend and snuck off campus. On my way out I overheard men. They wanted to abandon their search for James Meredith, to check out the sorority houses.”

“What did you do?” Asks Gary.

“Well I got off campus and got back to my house and armed up, then went back through campus using the underground tunnels. We fought our way through the riot just to get to the house in time, as a group of men kicked at the door. Callie Bee saw us fight on the lawn, and she saw me get knocked out.”

“Yeah ladies don’t like seeing there boys get beat. So, you got knocked out, ha. Was he the small one out of the group?” Jests Gary.

“Actually, I had just knocked out the fat kid in the group when I got clubbed like a seal in the back of the head.”

“Christ” Mentions Gary, while Bruce continues.

“After the riot she didn’t trust men, she was weary of the cops especially, since she blamed them for not stopping the riot.”

“Boy there was nothing to be done for that, you had thousands of men going to that school from as far out as Birmingham. I remember some men in the bar talking about taking the ride. A thousand cops couldn’t have stopped that powder keg.”

“Anyways I timed the bank robbery with this pancake breakfast Callie Bee planned for her sorority. I worked there as a front; it was a favorite place of the law. The owner managed to pass a rule convincing them to turn of their radios inside the restaurant. I put the owner up to that, I made sure over the 7 months I worked there that it was enforced. Then the day of the breakfast when their radios were off I robbed the bank on the other side of town.”

“And she found out and dumped you?”

“No, I arrived and as still on the mental high of the robbery, not to mention I was in a room full of cops and I tried to keep my composure. I entered the pancake eating contest. During the contest a trooper grouped her, he cornered her by the bathrooms making her piss herself.”

“Did you kill him?” Bruce shook his head.

“No, at least not then. I got grilled by the cops after the robbery. The cops needed someone to blame. My boss from the restaurant eventually remembered I put her up to the idea in the first place. They came at me hard and got nothing. The trooper knew she was my girlfriend and made a run at her. He ended up tricking her with some fake warrant, then he made her… do things. It was her friend who told me. I confronted her as he dropped her off, several days later she broke it off with me.”

“That’s a rough go of it” Says Gary. He took one more look at the picture before placing it back into the glove compartment.

“How did you kill him?”

“Come on, you know not to ask shit like that.”

“Seriously I want to know, I need to know you can handle yourself. All I know about you is that you can crack sucks and you are a decent earner.”

“Fine I killed him with a tree.”

“What?”

“On Thanksgiving, I cut down a tree and it fell into his dining room killing him and his brother.”

“Fuck! You are a vindictive little shit. That’s just what I need!” Gary claps Bruce on the shoulder.

He felt sick to his stomach opening up that old wound. He struggles everyday to forget Callie Bee; he stuck his hand into the pocket of his jacket to feel the ribbon with his fingers. The familiar touch sent a calming feeling through his body.

They didn’t speak much more during their trip. Bruce parked at his apartment building after dropping Gary off. Bruce made his way over to Breeze Street. Dellara told him to meet him at the Barbershop around four to brief him.

As he approaches the Barbershop he sees Dellara’s bodyguard Buddy outside. He stood guard over the entrance. Buddy shakes his hand as Bruce passes.

“He’s waiting for you in there.” Mentions Buddy.

When Bruce enters the Barbershop, he notices an unfamiliar man sitting in the waiting area reading a newspaper. He would have to be vague with his report to avoid tipping off a stranger to their plans. Dellara sat in the chair, he is laying down, half his face is covered in shaving cream. The other half looks pink and freshly shaved.

“There is the golden goose himself. Walter was just thanking me for getting him his money back. I was happy to tell him that it was you who retrieved it. Now did you and Gary get it sorted out?” Asks Dellara.

“We sketched out what we will need. Gary and I will be taking a trip to Chicago in a few days.”

“That’s good. I have something I need you to do tonight.”

“Name it.”

“Those river street punks from Purdue Street are causing trouble again. It appears that Dellmore skid mark is trying to rally men to his cause.”

“They have a less than a baker’s dozen; he could add twenty more men and it wouldn’t make a difference.” States Bruce trying to calm him down.

“I have had Donald with his ear to the ground, he says they are in hiding. Yet he still signed up 5 new men, and he has Xi out from under our thumb. Xi’s Chinese easily give him a dozen more. I don’t need to remind you about the hierarchy in this city. Marcello, then me. I will not share anymore power near the top. You’re gonna get down to the Cat House and grab Mickey, take half a dozen warm bodies to Purdue street and-“

Bang!

The sound of gunfire rings outside the room. Bruce reacts and pulls Dellara off the chair. Walter’s blade rakes across Dellara’s cheek drawing blood. Dellara crashes to the floor with Walter following behind. Bruce topples a bookshelf to use a cover and turns to face the door.

But a man is feet from him, the one who had been holding the newspaper! Buddy had checked the man for guns, but he must have hidden a knife. Since the enemy has a blade drawn, he bounds for Bruce as the immediate threat. Using his surroundings Bruce whips the heavy barber’s chair around by using the chair’s foot pedal.

The chair crashing into the side of the man momentarily knocking him off course. Bruce moves aside his leather jacket and grips his 1911 with his left hand. Drawing the weapon clean he already had a round in the chamber. Bruce squeezes the trigger once.

Bang!

His round takes the assailant in the chest and drives him to his back.

Bruce had dropped to his knee, The second assailant bursts through the door at the same time Bruce dropped to his knee. To engage the man storming the shop Bruce aims to the right and ducks.

Bang!

Bruce’s heart skipped a beat as the gunman’s round strikes a jar of barbicide. The dark blew liquid splatters all over Dellara, who’s suit jacket took the brunt of it. Bruce will only have one chance to get him, he squeezes twice. His shot, pegs the gunman in his shoulder and stomach, knocking him off his feet into the closing shop door.

Sprinting over to the gunman he kicks the gun out of his reach and covers both the men. Within seconds several members of the Breeze Street Crew arrived. Dellara ordered that the man be taken to Wayne. No cops were called, no locals would be so stupid.

“I want that Son’o bitch alive. Send for Lucifer I need questions answered!” Shouted Dellara once the man had been carried away.

Dellara had been hurried off to the Cat House. They had closed and bolted the doors. Tossing everyone including the bartenders out. Bruce had made his way over after he had told Dom his Captain what happened. When Bruce arrived at the bar Dellara was in a manic state.

He calls for Bruce as soon as he walks into the room.

“Come here boy…”

Dellara is at the bar with Neil. Neil is another Captain, like Dom Neil ran an outfit of men. Bruce never had much of an interaction with Neil. Bruce gives him a courteous nod which is returned as Neil passes to give Bruce and Dellara privacy.

As Neil nears the door Dellara shouts to him last minute orders.

“Neil, you tell Vinny to make sure those boys are carrying somethin heavier than 38’s.”

He claps Bruce’s shoulder to keep his attention.

“Boy, you really save my bacon. This had to be one of the River Street punks. Before the botched hit, I wanted you to smash their store and rough up locals till someone in that crew turned up. here’s a list of their relatives and addresses. While you’re looking for them, I want you to level that Hooverville they call a neighborhood.”

Dellara takes a shot of whiskey and then another to calm his rage. Unfortunately, the liquor just befouls his mood further. His demands become erratic and barbaric.

“Hell, I want you to go further than that. I want you to destroy every shop, you need to make Kristallnacht look like a few plates dropped on the floor. Beat the owners and their wives… Anyone over the age of 16 that is a blood relation of these River Street punks is to be killed. Once you turned that place into a hallow shell they will show themselves. While you do that, I am gonna make sure the police are occupied. Be a loud as you need to, Donald is gonna cut the phone lines, do your best to avoid using lead, shots will attract attention. Get going the sun's gonna to set, i'll meet you in one hour when the preparations are made.”

Bruce had walked out of the Cathouse to see that Mickey and Albert along with 17 other men were waiting for him. He stood on top of a milkcrate near the bar entrance to speak to the men. It was weird to see all their faces looking to him for leadership.

Searching the ranks, he sees that many of them had already been given a run down of their objective, Bruce had no way of knowing this other than, but since nearly all of them held some sort of blunt object in their hands. Be that object a wooden baseball bat, or a sledgehammer like Mickey held. Bruce’s theory held water.

“Listen men you know what happened. We are going to set this right. You are to smash everything from the Bakery to the Dellmore Shop. Only the shopkeepers and their wives. Three rules. No gunshots, no rapes and no fires. Everyone else over the age of 16 is fair game, we are going to hit these buildings.”

In Bruce’s hand is a list of names. Listed on the sheet of paper are the names of seven businesses. He quickly reads off the names. The names belonged to seven families. The bakery, tavern, pet shop, jewel, butcher shop, Dellmore shop and Purdue street boarding house were all owned by these people.

“Anyone adult found in these businesses is to be beaten and dragged to the Dellmore shop.”

With his orders given, Bruce followed his men to three box trucks. He felt nervous as he zipped up his leather jacket, he is so nervous his fingers stumble on his zipper. Albert stands on the tailgate of the center box truck. He hands out ski masks to the men as they go to their assigned vehicles. Bruce takes one as he passes, he slips it over his head when he takes his seat.

He adjusts the masks in order to prevent the mask from slipping. Bruce preferred to use pantyhose when committing crimes, pantyhose didn’t do as good of a job at concealing a criminals identity. The biggest advantage is that your vision isn’t affected so you can perform at the top of your ability. Getting into a shootout while wearing a ski mask is a pain in the ass, the eye holes always moved.

The drive to the seventh ward is nerve-racking some of the men crack jokes in the back. Bruce being up front stays quiet. To calm his shaking hands, he smokes through two Parliaments. As they approach the entrance to Purdue Street he sees the bald head of Donald waving them down. The driver slows down as Bruce leans out the window.

“Who is that?” Asks Donald seeing only two masked men in the cab.

“It’s McKean. Are we ready to move in?”

“Phone Lines are cut, I have men covering the alleyways they will stop any stragglers, we have left the West end alley unguarded to lure Dellmore back, I haven’t seen a single sign that any of the River Street outfit are in the area.”

“They are here somewhere, I doubt they would hide out in the bayou, how many men do you have?”

“Outside of the men guarding the alleyways I have eight men including myself.” States Donald

“I want four of you to hit the bakery, the other four take the deli next-door. Drag any adult you see down to the Dellmore shop. Beatings only do not kill any of the shopkeepers.” Orders Bruce

“What about the River Street outfit?” Asks Donald.

“Kill them and any male related to them over the age of 16” Bruce felt the need to reiterate his points from earlier.

“No fires, gunshots or rapes.” Bruce motions the driver to keep moving.

He sees Donald and three men walking to the Deli. The three trucks continue down Purdue Street and stop in front of the Dellmore shop. Bruce’s score of masked men begin to break up into groups.

Bruce looks at the six men following him to the Purdue Street pet shop. Bruce looks down and spies Alberts shitkickers on his feet, Bruce is unable to identify who his other men are under their masks. He leads his small squad to the front door of the shop. The door is made of one sheet of glass, inside the barking of puppies can be heard. Turning to his men Bruce gives them quick instructions.

“Take the shopkeepers down to the Dellmore shop, take the puppies, kill anything else.”

Albert lifts a crowbar and smashes the shop door; he then takes the bar to the shop windows but by that time, Bruce follows the other two men into the shop. He bursts through the breach to observe the shopkeeper taking a blunt object to the face!

Two men begin to steal the puppies, the shopkeeper's wife storms down the steps from the apartment upstairs. She screams as Albert scurried over to her and sends a fist into her mouth. Bruce watches as the woman hits the ground hard, the sound of teeth dropping to the floor is drowned out by the barking of terrified puppies.

Bruce finds a woman cowering behind the counter, he drops the heavy register from the counter onto her head. The stunned women then takes his foot into her cheek. Bruce then bends down and rips the woman by her hair. She refuses to get up and is subsequently dragged on the floor a distance of fifteen feet. Clear of obstruction Bruce gives in to his savage inhibitions.

Giving the women before him a beating by kicking at her abdomen, he only stops when he sees Albert step on the unmoving face of the male shopkeeper. He leaves the huddled mass cowering before him to stop Albert from hitting the man again.

“Asshole he’s done you hit him like that again and you will kill him. Drag his ass down to the shop!” Restrains Bruce, he wanted them to be afraid not in shell shock.

Looking around the shop all the puppies had been taken, the cats, birds and turtles were all killed in their cages to send the message. Blood from the animals leaks from the broken cages and soaks the floor, these people wouldn’t forget tonight anytime soon. One of his men returns from the apartments upstairs he tosses an eight-year-old-boy at Bruce’s feet.

“What should I do with him?” Asks one of his men. Bruce kneels down and felt a pinch of guilt fare up while looking at the terrified boy who shakes when staring at Bruce’s masked face.

“Listen to me boy, go upstairs and hide under your bed, if you come out we will kill you” Bruce lets go of the boy and he scurries up the stairs.

“Spread word that no harm is to come to the children, at least not yet.”

“Yes Sir!” Leaving him Bruce checks on the status of the raid.

Outside Bruce sees that Albert tossed the shopkeeper down by the tailgate of the truck, at least a dozen other beaten shopkeepers have all been corralled on that curb. Bruce decides to check on the progress of the raid further down the street. All over the street he could hear glass smashing and the cries of the sheep.

As he walks to the boarding house he sees three more shopkeepers being dragged to the Dellmore shop. When he is halfway to the boarding house Bruce is shocked to see the body of a person fall out of a third story window. More like he was tossed, the person seems to fall in slow motion, he smacks the concrete with a loud thumb, he is slow to move, he manages to roll over.

Quickly exiting the boarding house Bruce sees one of his man holding a sledge hammer. Bruce assumes that this man is Mickey. Mickey charges over to the man tossed from the window. By that time Bruce can see the person on the ground he discovers it is a boy no older than 17. Mickey now stood over the boy a bloodthirsty look is seen in his eyes. Bruce stood fifteen feet away when Mickey brought the hammer down on the boy’s skull.

The boy had been staring up at Mickey he couldn’t move from his fall, he hurt everywhere… He looks up as the hammer comes down on his face! The tip of the hammer caves in the top of his skull, pink and dark red gore explodes onto the ground!! Mickey steps away from the boy as the boy’s legs continue to twitch…

Bruce gags at the carnage but keeps his stomach around the men. All around him he sees people being beaten and dragged. They had found seven male relatives of the gang, all of which Mickey gladly put to death. Albert had set up a wooden crate as a chopping block in front of the Dellmore shop. They would force a boy to the ground, while the boy was on his knees Mickey would give him one good smack with the hammer. Every time one of the boys were killed several of the nearby women would cry out in anguish.

This terror went on and continued for nearly half hour, Bruce by that time had made his way to the Dellmore Shop. Nearly a score of residents lay in the street bloodied and beaten. Out of the Dellmore shop a boy Bruce recognizes is pushed towards the chopping block. Albert forces the boy to his knees. He is the younger Dellmore boy that Lucifer had shot the day Bruce had made his bones.

Mickey stands near Bruce and holds out the bloody handle of the sledgehammer. Oddly Bruce does not understand.

“What you want me to do it?” he asks in a low voice only Mickey and Albert can hear. Albert stands up and motions for one of the other men to hold the Dellmore boy down. Albert lifts his mask so Bruce can see his lips, Albert Replies.

“All the men are waiting for you to do it…”

Sure, as shit when Bruce turns around to look at his men, he sees nearly thirty pairs of eyes looking at him. Bruce takes the sledgehammer from Mickey. It is much heavier in his hand; the handle had become slippery from gore.

The weapon felt foreign in his hand, this out of body experience he is having makes him feel that time is moving slowly. He didn’t want to do this, this was wrong. He knew this is wrong, but he couldn’t turn back.

Albert and the other man continue to hold the boy down, while Bruce walks around front to stand shoulder width apart from the boys head. Using his arms, Bruce lifts the hammer. He begins to think of the fortune this boy’s mother told, night after night her words left Bruce scratching his head. The notion angers him and now he has his reason to kill this boy! All magic needed to be stamped out, he would start with this boy!

His decision made Bruce begins to bring the hammer down!

Bang!

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