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“My Ship Comes In” is the fourth story, a novella, in T.K. O’Neill’s Northwoods Pulp Reloaded collection of three short crime stories and this longer story.

CHAPTER 10

Barry is excited by the prospects. At least, what I could cryptically explain over the phone. He agrees to drive down and pick me up. I spend the night in a parking lot in Dory’s old Chevy. He picks me up at noon the following day in front of the entrance to Palm Gardens.  

     Everything goes well until the third day I’m in Orlando. That’s when I run across a story in the Orlando Sentinel about a van, registered to one Daniel Victor Bagley from Colorado, that’s been found on the beach near Homosassa Springs, with a severely injured young woman inside. A woman in possession of a gun that authorities suspect was used in the shooting death of Levi County Deputy Sheriff, John Teller. Fingerprint evidence yet to return from the state lab. Head trauma has evidently given Dory Lanigan amnesia, as she claims no knowledge or memory of anything from the previous two weeks. 

     I’m glad that the poor girl is alive, although why, I’m not sure. But I’m even gladder that she can’t remember anything. If, in fact, that is true. Could be a fabrication.

     I cross myself, a new habit I’m picking up.

     I spend the next two days destroying the newspapers and turning off TV news to keep Barry from putting two and two together. Taking Barry out would be tough. After that, things go by pretty smoothly, the only hitch coming after I’ve socked away my first hundred grand. 

     Giddy with greed, Barry and I start partying and don’t stop for forty-eight hours. Sunday morning, depression and loneliness hit me so bad that I’m suicidal. Wishing I could cry but unable to, I almost call Carole and ask her to join me. A voice in my head never stops harping that it’s a big mistake and for some reason I listen.

     I wait out the pain and vow to stop doing cocaine. It’s a rotten, horrible drug—and far too expensive. Now that I have money, I have to learn to manage my funds wisely. It’s just not good business to consume your own product.

     Sixteen days go by and I have nearly three hundred thousand dollars and some new clothes packed inside an Italian leather suitcase. I also have a deep-seated need to get far away from Florida. Go someplace unobtrusive and not too crowded.

     I bid Barry adieu and board a flight at the Orlando airport.  Destination: my new life. A few hours later we touch down and I realize that it’s Halloween night, October 31, 1979—two months until the new decade arrives.

     I take a cab from the airport into downtown Madison, Wisconsin and get a room at a Best Western on State Street. I have steak, shrimp and vodka gimlets in the dining room and then go back up to my room for a shower. 

     By the time I towel off, dress and look out the window at the street, it’s full of revelers. Revelers in costume. 

     There’s somebody dressed as a stovepipe. There are two “Wild and Crazy Guys” ala Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd of Saturday Night Live. Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman… they’re all there, along with just about every other creature one can imagine. State Street is filled with party animals and I believe I’ll fit right in. 

     I go into the bathroom and admire my new costume in the steamy mirror. 

     The short cropped, dyed blonde hair looks good; my clean-shaven face the same. The gray Armani suit looks fantastic with the white, silk shirt and the two hundred-dollar tie. The Cuban cigar, the silver-rimmed, tinted eyeglasses and the Rolex watch complete the picture quite nicely.

I feel ready for the eighties…

(End of Chapter 10)

See all T.K. O’Neill’s books here: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09HPBWMJF

ebook only $2.99 – through the summer!

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“My Ship Comes In” is the fourth story, a novella, in T.K. O’Neill’s Northwoods Pulp Reloaded collection of three short crime stories and this longer story.

     It isn’t long before we come to signs offering beach access. I wave and point and Dory obediently turns down the narrow shell road. After a short distance, we roll out of the mangroves and discover a beautiful little bay. There’s a good wind from the northwest, and off in the distance, whitecaps roll. But inside the long and narrow bay there is a gentle lapping of soft, blue-green water. Three cars are parked on the side of the road.

     We continue along the access road, moving parallel to the water. I can’t stop thinking they’ve already found the dead cop and it’s only a matter of time before they start looking for a white VW bus with two gun-crazy drug addicts inside. This will be enough to send every firearm-owning redneck in the area into a feeding frenzy—and who can blame them?

     On the southernmost spot on the bay I see a long point stretching out into the water. I can see only one car, out near the tip of the point. I drive on past the car and then around the point and now we are alone on the road as it jogs along a jagged and uninhabited shoreline. About a block down the vegetation begins to take over and the road narrows, encroached by gnarled creeping vines and spiky foliage. The surf is roaring in my ears and I can’t think straight. Then the road straightens out for a hundred yards and I zip around the VW, make her ride my bumper for a while. We bounce along while I check her out in the rearview. Looks to me like she’s getting uptight, constantly flipping her hair back with her free hand and gripping the wheel tightly with the other. The van is bouncing and bucking because she won’t shift out of second gear. I’m thinking maybe she’s in need of another blast of coke before the roof falls in on her castle of sand. 

     Then I see an opportunity up ahead: a small, offshoot trail going down toward the sand. I veer onto it and Dory follows, the VW’s headlights bouncing behind me like the eyes of an insane clown. I get to the beach and come to a stop. The wind howls and whines through the open window. White-capped waves slam against the shore. The sound is fierce, like Neptune himself is roaring his frustration with the state of the world. 

     I pull out a cigarette—a Kool—punch in the lighter on the cheesy maroon dashboard of the Chevy and watch her in the mirror. She has a cigarette going, too. She’s puffing on it and looking around nervously. Then I watch her climb out the driver’s door and come around to the front of the van, turning her eyes toward me as I put the lighter back in its hole. I swing my right arm onto the seat back and look at her, smiling my best fake smile. She waves at me then turns her eyes to the ocean and stretches her arms up to the sky.

     I’m still facing her, and still smiling, when I slip the shifter into reverse with my left hand and floor the gas pedal. 

     I see her eyes widen and her body go rigid. 

     The rear bumper of the Chev hits her at the knees, her body jackknifes and her head smashes violently down on the trunk lid. There’s one hell of a thunk and she goes limp like a rag doll, her last gasps and gurgles signaling the end of another wasted life. I shift into drive and pull forward until she rolls off onto the sand. I get out and drag her body to the side door of the VW. 

     Sometime soon, somebody will discover an abandoned hippie van with links to three dead people: Schmidt, Bagley and now Dory. Traces of drugs and semen and god knows what all will be found among the carpet fibers of this four-wheeled wagon of sin. SATANISTS INVADE FLORIDA! might be the headline in the Baptist Weekly.

     I stick poor Dory inside Bagley’s sleeping bag and clean out the van. I leave behind Bagley’s wallet and Elton Kirby’s wallet, keep Keith Waverly’s wallet. I stuff all forty-five kilos of coke and some clothes into Bagley’s two military duffels and throw them in the trunk of the Chevy. 

     Just before I drive away I remember to go back and close the curtains on the van and say my farewells and regrets to Dory.

     I mean, what was I supposed to do?  I really had to kill her. I could never have become partners with the heinous likes of her. And I couldn’t accept the responsibility of loosing Dory on an unsuspecting world, with her in possession of massive quantities of cocaine and a loaded handgun. So I see it as a public service. Born to serve—that’s me.

     Dan Bagley and Dory, I figure, were like two peas in the pod, except Bagley had the good fortune to be born into wealth while Dory had to learn to lie and cheat out of necessity. 

     Now I’m beginning to see a new path. The seventies are fast approaching a horrible end and I can see an inkling of the new way, the new sensibility. It is time to be done with spiritual angst and uncertainty. Now the time is right for worshipping a new god, the god the successful people are already bowing and scraping to. Money. Some refer to it as Mammon—covetousness dressed up as enterprise. With cash as your guide, there is no guilt or agonizing soul searching. No wailing or gnashing of teeth. Unless the stock market crashes. One simply accumulates—always going forward—come hell or federal investigation. After accumulating, you consume. Then discard. It’s as easy as one, two, three.

     Feeling the giddy rush of my new spirituality, I anoint my new Holy Trinity.

     Money, Sex and Drugs form the new Godhead. 

     These are things that you can feel and experience, not pie in the sky and self-denial. This time around I will not get caught short. I’ll be riding high on the crest and running the shoot, hanging five on a golden surfboard.  

     First thing, though, I have to get back to St. Pete without getting caught by the cops. Then I need some cash, a new mode of transportation and an outlet large enough to handle mucho kilos of Peruvian Marching Powder. Talk about your millstones. 

     If I think about it too much my head starts to spin. I have no choice but to take it one step at a time. I decide to wait on the beach for a while. In a couple hours it will be dark. 

     After five minutes of vacant staring at the pounding surf, my stomach is flopping so bad I have to leave. I cannot look at the VW as I drive away. I continue down the frontage road until it winds its way back to Highway 19, where I turn right and head south through Homossa Springs until I hit State Highway 98. There, I turn east, roll through Brooksville and then all the way to the freeway. It’s a soft evening with no wind. Sun is sinking, red as blood.

     As the roadside lights start popping on, the sky turns gray and then black and I’m swallowed up in the swarm of traffic. Just another white-trash night for the guy in the maroon Chevy. I’m strangely relaxed; emotion seems to have left me for the time being, and the drive is surreal, like I’m floating on air and the only sound is the hiss of the tires.

(End of Chapter 9)

See all T.K. O’Neill’s books here: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B09HPBWMJF

ebook only $2.99 – through the summer!

Amazon/Kindle: https://amzn.to/3AzETuy

Barnes and Noble Nook:  https://bit.ly/3u24Y2O

Apple: https://apple.co/3D4kb6T

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3isQyUP

Scribd: https://bit.ly/3oskPXN

Indigo: https://bit.ly/2Yo4PeC

Read Full Post »

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