In The Style of Hollywood's Old Gangster Movies...


A Deadly Christmas


By Big Jim Williams



"Louie, you touch that money and I'll kill you!"

The short fat man jerked his hand back from a scattering of greenbacks alongside two Santa Claus hats and masks on a small table.

"But, Blackie," pleaded Louie, "I cased the liquor store. The money's half mine, like always."

"You almost got me killed," growled Blackie, a tall, flabby ex-boxer. "You should of known the clerk had a shotgun under the counter!"

"I swear I didn't know. I figured with Christmas coming, he'd have a pot full of money."

"And you saying, 'Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas and give me all your money!' was stupid!"

"Ah, gee, Blackie. It's Christmas. I thought it would be a nice touch."

Blackie groaned and shook his head.

Louie sat at a small table in the corner of an old waterfront warehouse. A shielded light bulb dangled from the ceiling. It produced a small circle of light over both men, the only illumination in the dark empty building.

They had used the site before, a quiet out-of-the-way place to split their take. They easily jimmied open the steel door by the loading dock.

Blackie tenderly touched his shoulder through a gaping hole in his old Navy pea coat. When he withdrew his hand, his fingertips were red with blood.

"If I hadn't ducked, that son of a bitch would have killed me!"

"He wasn't supposed to have no gun."

"I had to shoot him!" Blackie paced on the other side of the dingy table. "Now I got a murder rap hanging over me. And we didn't get enough money for a bag of burgers and fries, or to buy Christmas presents."

Louie dragged the back of his hand under his runny nose. "Blackie," he pleaded, "I didn't know he'd stuffed the big dough down a floor safe."

"It was your job to find out, dummy!" Blackie's angry voice echoed through the cavernous warehouse. He picked up the few bills on the table and threw them back down. "All we got was sixty-four bucks from the register. Then you pulled your Santa mask off..."

Louie squirmed in his chair. "I was scared," he said.

"...and looked right into that damned overhead security camera. Stupid! The cops'll find you...and you'll lead 'em right to me."

"Blackie, I wouldn't never do nothin' like that."

"You'd spill your guts. Tell 'em everything."

"No! Never!"

"Louie, that was our last job together."

"Ah, no, Blackie. We go back a lot of years. Remember the good old days when we started stealing bikes together. Then we moved up to cars, muggings, a little loan sharking, and —"

"You couldn't even steal an old lady's purse."

"Ah, you gonna bring that up again?" Louie twisted his sweaty palms together. "That was a long, long time ago."

"It was last month!"

"But," pleaded Louie, "I didn't see her cane!"

"She was all bent over. Could hardly walk. All you had to do was snatch her purse and run. And it was at night!"

"That old broad chased me half a block. I didn't know she could run like that. She was screamin' and yellin', and hittin' me with her damned cane. Almost tore my ear off."

"And you dropped her purse," sighed Louie.

"No, I didn't. I threw it at her."

"But you didn't take the money out first."

Louie slumped in his chair. "I forgot."

"You forgot?"

"Yeah..."

Blackie leaned forward, his big hands on the desk, and stared into his partner's blinking eyes: "Louie, it ain't the first time you screwed up. Remember when you tried robbing a soup kitchen in a homeless shelter?"

"I thought those bums paid for their food."

"Dummy!"

"And when I sent you into a store to steal new color TV sets and you stole the old black-and-white trade ins!"

"I dropped my flashlight! I couldn't see."

"But this is gonna be the last time you screw up! You're Louie the Loser, that's for damned sure."

"Blackie, don't call me that," pleaded Louie. "I hate it. I'll do better next time."

"There ain't gonna be no 'next time.'" Blackie pulled a revolver from his coat pocket and pointed it at his short partner.

"Careful with that thing, Blackie!"

"I can't afford having you around no more, Louie."

"But we always spend Christmas together."

"Not no more."

Louie waved his arms. "Okay, Blackie. Okay. I'll go. He shoved the $64 across the table, and pushed his chair back. Its scraping sound echoed through the vacant warehouse. "You...you keep it all, Blackie, and the Santa masks and hats, too, 'cuz you bought 'em. My kids will be disappointed, but I'll figure a way to buy 'em some nice toys for Christmas. I'll get some dough somehow."

Louie stood and forced a sickly grin. His hand shook as he buttoned his old stained topcoat, and pulled a black watch cap onto his round head. He slowly backed out of the tight circle of light, his frayed shoes dragging the gritty floor, his frightened eyes on Blackie's gun.

"Louie, you just gonna walk away?"

Louie stopped. Sweat covered his face, eyes wide with fear. "Ain't...Ain't that what you want, Blackie?"

"You don't have a clue what I want." Blackie steadied his gun in both hands and continued pointing it at his rotund partner. "Louie, you've screwed things up for me for the last time."

"Careful with that thing, Blackie," repeated Louie. He continued moving backward toward the exit. "I've seen what it can do...like to that clerk in the liquor store." He reached the metal exit door, nervously fumbled for the knob behind his back, and gave it a twist. "I'm...I'm...I'm gonna —"

"Gonna what?"

"Leave like you want, Blackie. You're right. You keep all the loot. You deserve it. I screwed up. Buy somethin' nice for yourself for Christmas." He released a nervous laugh: "And, Blackie...?"

"Yeah?"

"Merry Christmas."

"Yeah, Merry Christmas."

"Don't worry, Blackie, I'll find another store to rob so I can buy some nice presents for the kids. They've got liquor stores all over. I'll see you at —"

Louie never completed the sentence as two lead slugs pierced his chest, instantly ending his life. He saw the flashes but never heard the reverberating shots in the hollow building, because the dead can't hear. His body slammed against the door, where it hung for a few seconds, then left a fishtail trail of blood as it slowly slumped into a sitting position on the floor.

The big man stuffed the smoking revolver back in his pocket, and picked up the few greenbacks from the table. He started to walk away, then turned and pocketed the two Santa Claus masks and one hat. He pulled the other Santa hat over his head and walked to the door. He easily spun the door-blocking corpse to one side like a sack of lumpy potatoes.

"Louie the Loser!" he huffed, staring at the graying body. "Louie the Loser!"

He buttoned his torn pea coat, opened the metal door, flipped off the single warehouse light, stepped outside, and quietly closed the door.

"Damn! But it's cold!" Blackie's breath fogged the air.

Millions of snowflakes began filling the night sky like tiny feathers. Blackie turned up his coat collar against the icy lake wind, and lighted a cigar after two tries. He pulled the tasseled Santa cap tighter on his head, slipped on his gloves, and carefully walked down the slippery loading ramp to the street.

Colored lights blinked from a tall Christmas tree in a nearby park, circled by carolers whose joyous voices mixed with the faint sound of a foghorn. Blackie listened to the Christmas song before smiling and quietly joining in singing, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas..."

He stopped under a streetlight as a young couple hurried by with their arms full of wrapped Christmas presents.

"Merry Christmas," they said.

"Merry Christmas," happily replied Blackie. Snowflakes collected on his coat as he watched the man and woman move across the street, smile, wave, and disappear around a corner.

Blackie waved back. "I love Christmas," he said. "The snow. The lights. Santa Claus. The music. The presents. Being with family and friends for a big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, from a big fat turkey to pumpkin pies covered with whipped cream. I love it, especially the way people are nicer to each other. Christmas: it's such a wonderful time of year!"


Big Jim Williams, author of the audio books, THE OLD WEST, and TALL TALES OF THE OLD WEST, has also written for Suspense, Rope & Wire, Western Horseman, Shoot!, Livestock (Texas) Weekly, American West, Orchard Press Mysteries, Radio World, Writers' Journal, WritersWeekly, Cardroom Poker News, Sniplets, and other magazines, and the anthologies, MURDER TO MIL-SPEC, THE LAST MAN, and AT HOME AND ABROAD: PRIZE-WINNING STORIES. He helped judge Rope & Wire Western Magazine's 2011 writing contest, and was a guest speaker during the Assistance League of Sacramento (CA) Writers' Conference in March 2012. He welcomes emails at: bigjimwilliams2@cox.net.


Copyright 2012 Jim M. Williams. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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