Rusty’s Broken Christmas

There lay a few people able to pull a bank job like Rusty Simmons.

He was a good man, excellent stature with the men in crime who constantly enjoyed drink and bar with him and never let him get away easily. Many times he’d been called a liar on the amount of money which he had made through various thefts which proved most damaging to any who did. Yet his temper was never lost. Always, a clear and present view he struck into the person; who dared question him. Like all he carried with him a pistol, and was a handyman at keeping it well-hidden. There were plenty of places for a man like him to hang his hat, but in 1903 the areas of New York City had so many choosings that he laid himself there. A recent job he had done had given enough for a year in a nice place, with good people and some others who never minded a rich dick like him being amongst their fine company at night.

Smoking a cigarette enjoying coffee on a cold, damp winter morning he noticed one of the laymen who were working on the building nearby. As usual he came in checking on things that in no way could have needed so much upkeep nor was any good if it did. Every time he came out it was with a tall man, a strong, tall man who wore a fine suit and cut his hair short so he looked good motioning with his hands. There’d be other times that this man exit the building with people, never giving much away except that this was obviously his place of business. The police had once come by and left very much whistling, counting their checks. As he did, there were a few policies that changed in the nearby stores. More of the product that he sold went into their frames along with a few wall decorations, all which made the room shine more. Prices stayed the same, thankfully, and nobody had much brash idea as to fight.

There was a period of calm in the stock market as some foreign war was rumored to start soon, only eyes in New York could see a way to make money from it. At a nightclub, Rusty smoked and listened to jazz. The band was in high gear, moving about and stomping their feet. Their energy unmatched as it would be any other night. With a nice glass of wine twirling between his fingers Rusty enjoyed watching. He was nodding off with it, lost in the spectacle of another free night.

A woman, dressed in a white dress which clasped the skin lightly sat down in his booth; then a man dressed in a tight tuxedo sat down edging his way to make sure Rusty could not escape. He began clapping as the song ended.

“Yu Rusty Simmons, ain’t ya?” Silently, and equipped with his heater Rusty let him know he was. “’ve been looking for ya. You know who I am?”

“No.”

“Important person, I am.” A waiter stopped by the table.

“Is there something I can get you, sir, and the lady?”

“Large bourbon and for her a cup of chardonnay.” The waiter nodded, then began with the next table. “’ve been looking for you Rusty.”

He shot his eyes towards the woman who seemed in a deep gaze, her eyes unable part with the sound of each instrument picking up their own solo, was no hurry to leave or even worry.

“So you’ve been looking for me.” He moved over so there was talking room. “What I do?”

“An old buddy of mine lost some work recently because of you. Because of a job you did. The heist of an old woman’s jewel store, don’t worry I don’t run the store.” He dabbed his cigarette. “He was promising some toughie here in town some protection for it, amongst other things.” He waved his hand unnecessarily. “Now is in a lot of trouble with him, and his partners. It was his to protect and his life is in plenty of danger.”

“What’s it to me?”

“Says he knows a guy, someone who can help him out get some cash quick. Make things even again. Mentioned you. I did some back-checking and you’re good kid, clean as a whistle even when using a piece. Know Mickey Wilson?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“He vouched for you, and vouches for me.” He trailed off making sure to eye the waiter to serve his woman first. The waiter did so with not so much embarrassment make it seen he was serving the woman first, and lay the drinks down. Rusty drank some during the talk. Would he like a refill? He paused then said yes. “My tab.” The waiter nodded and let us back to our talk. Rusty smiled. Grabbing the woman’s attention he was mostly ignored, distantly respecting.

“I’m sorry I didn’t catch this person’s name, the one whose store I robbed.” Rusty asked.

“Name is Harry Stevens.” He sighed, amused. Harry was a guy who constantly got himself into trouble with everyone and everything as long as he had a wink in him, one that meant he would be shot. “He’s already got my bad side, real bad. Might be some danger if you don’t.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Besides saving his life?” Rusty shrugged. “I want you to go find the guys who did it, if you can then take back what they stole—if they’re right there offering. Otherwise, find out who did and find me. Save Harry and I’ll throw in something wise, for the waste of time on a bastard.” He smoked. Concentrating.

“I’m not need in the money for now.”

The man Jeffries McNan, smiled pleasantly. “Then he dies.” The next song finished and everyone applauded. He started to talk to his girl over which table they were to move for, and shying her some. Rusty’s refill came. Jeffries turned on him and stood.

“I’ll be needing a place to find you, since Harry’s brother always appealed more to me. Might actually cry if I don’t help…”

“Name‘s Jeffries, find me at the Pullard Lounge.” Rusty nodded. Lifted his drink, and began to think.

The next morning was brisk, so he bundled up carrying with him a scarf as snow began to flurry on and off. He had put into Harry a call and had been told to meet him in his office, which doubled also as his home. The trolly ride was slow as the driver followed regulations and made sure of a nice, smooth ride. It was three and a half weeks before Christmas and the streets weren’t busy on this Sunday morning. He arrived to a busy business district. Only around were travelers.

Harry had left the door open and Rusty had checked his pistol as he entered. Once inside he heard Harry call to him from what sounded a bathroom, assuring himself he locked the door behind him. Looking around things were straight, he was a collector—some sort of thing a union man could pass as cool. The next room was the true winner. A nice leather couch, a cabinet full of drinks, chair, and a nice view out towards downtown. He emerged from the bathroom in a robe and fresh from the bath. They shook hands, happily.

“It’s nothing to worry about I had promised already the money from my true guy,” Harry said, discussing the problem, “in a few days I’ll have forgotten it.” Surprised, Rusty paused asking for more. He got a cup of coffee and an offer for a smoke. Smirking Rusty took both.

“This guy Jeffries was serious about me working something out after all he found me out of nowhere to say your life is in danger.”

Harry waved him off. “It’s not a thing, I have protection he’s trying to work some trouble up for the whole shabnag.”

“What’s in the works?”

“Peaceful times mean bad things and something’s got to move. Right now there’s been a move from importing tiles, other building materials from Europe and construct them here. So, there’s been a move to corner the market. My guys have a good piece.”

“And Jeffries?”

“Some competition, nothing to worry about.”

“So this thing where you let his store get robbed is just apart a plan?”

He nodded. “There’s a big project coming up which we’re going to swoop up and be set for a time I can’t believe. Just the price we have to keep proper.” Rusty got the deal. Smiled. Harry wouldn’t mind him hanging round, and there was plenty of coffee left. They talked as he had noticed a music box and listened. Convinced that Harry wasn’t in trouble, and caught up in the tailwinds of a crime, Rusty made himself to leave.

“You still handy with a piece?” Harry asked. “Might be some trouble, you need the money. I’ll call.”

“I’ve never been one for denying money but I’ve been good so far; besides a stranger walks in asks if you want a friend to die what am I to do except investigate?” They both laughed. “Besides danger be if you didn’t have some backers.”

“You don’t worry about me, say hi to my brother when you get the chance.”

“Will do.”

Rusty enjoyed the trolly home and spent some time at a local stadium watching some semi-pro football. Both teams were competitive and neither had issue in keeping the crowd interested. They ran good runs like most, but when the gold-orange team went back to pass they were remarkably accurate. Feeling good they kept faking run and passing until they were intercepted. And soon they ran out of the steam that they had before. Twice more intercepted. The score was soon just three points with just four minutes to go.

Sensing the opportunity of defeat in their own home stadium, the coach already disappointed with their quarterback whom Rusty could tell he had trouble with; benched him. He had argued and been much of a showboat claiming his ownership of the team over the coaches and worse been somewhat of a bad sport. Many on his own team were displeased, and it was causing trouble. Rusty inquired with some of the other fans there who said that he was on his way out because they had a brand new quarterback whom was family with many on the team, and a talent. They also added that the quarterback had won them plenty games a long time ago.

The new quarterback stepped in deep on his own territory. Calming down he ran some maneuvering measures then proceeded to quietly push them down to their forty. There the defense sensed their time was almost up and became inspired. And the new guy didn’t give in. He hiked it and hid the ball so well that everyone thought it was a run. Meanwhile he hooked round and ran uncontested for a first down and then some. The defense demoralized had to rush back to position as he he hurried the offense. He handed the ball to his halfback who went straight up the middle, furiously. They had to burn a timeout and they were just a first down away from victory. Easily, he called for a run. The other team was clogging the line, and when he saw that he turned round at the halfback. He could tell that the running back was still a little shaken from the past run, and a little too shy to speak on it.

There was just three yards and an all but assured victory. This being his first game he didn’t want to screw things up when he was given such a good chance, but the running back couldn’t do it and it be a waste of play. He gave a signal to the fullback, who registered it. On the hike he gave it to the fullback, who barreled through with heavy help from the offense line to the first down marker. Now on the clock was a minute and a half. With just two timeouts left, the game was theirs. They subbed out the running back and ran three running plays the let the clock drain. Smiling, Rusty made his way to the bookie and collected a few dinners.

He bought a nice bottle of liquor along with some bread and snacks, all fitting in a brown paper bag. The cold had picked up again and already the chocolates he bought were calling for him. Two men were waiting outside, and one flashed his policeman badge. They had grim looks. “Mr. Simmons?” He nodded.

“What’s the issue?”

“A friend of yours has been found dead, Harry Stevens, you know anything about it?” Instinctively, he shook his head no. “We do know that you had just visited him earlier this day,” the detective implied.

“I did, but he’s a friend, I’d never do no danger to him.” They weren’t convinced. And it was cold. “Upstairs? I live alone.”

He could see both detectives agreed. “Inside the lobby is fine.” Rusty opened the door and set his things down on a table. “Anything I can do to help. Of course there is no doubt I was there today, I left him happy after some coffee and his music box.” Harry lived in an expensive place, and had signed in a guest log with his own credentials.

“Anybody that can back up your place after the time you left?”

“I was at a football game, someone there could testify. I didn’t know many of the people there, but I have my ticket somebody could connect the dots.” Rusty sounded hopeful.

“We’ll take the ticket on our way out then find out. Anybody want to do him harm anything like that?”

“Not that I know of.”

“You know what he was involved in?”

“Naturally.”

“We did some looking into you, Simmons, a straight shooter. Lived by the ‘code’ all his life; good money, good connects, and whatever it is a great fighter. No arrests, no charges, a clean, golden boy for all of New York to frame themselves as crime heroes. You weren’t involved though in any of Harry’s business.”

“Like you said I’m for hire.”

“And what do you do, for hire?”

“Drive trucks.” Both detectives paused, unable to control their laughter.

“Alright, be warned though don’t leave town. We may have other reasons we want to capture the killer than just to bring to justice another criminal’s death.” They brushed out, shoving away the ticket from the football game. Rusty grabbed his things and headed upstairs.

 

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