Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jack’s Last Stand

Barry received special permission to visit his Grandpa Jack in the prison hospital. It was a desperate move, but a chance Barry had to take. The old man's pineapple-hued skin showed how fast the toxins had invaded his body. He'd refused treatment for the cancer eating his cells. He was a lifer either way, he'd said.

Barry picked up the brown-rimmed bifocals lying on the table next to the bed. A scratch bisected one corner. He scanned the room, first using the upper lens, then the lower. Everything was a blur no matter which section he peered through. Barry didn't know if the old man, who wasn't really his grandfather, would wake long enough to reveal where he'd hidden the jewelry from their last heist. They'd split up after leaving the store, planning to divide the swag later. Barry had managed to make it to Mexico, where a little money spent in the right places kept the police from arresting him. Unfortunately, a flat tire halted Jack's escape. Barry’d managed to follow Jack’s condition through friends of friends who were in and out of the same prison for the past ten years.

Barry walked to the window to stretch his back. He noticed a '69 Dodge Charger in the parking lot, same model he’d used to get across the state line. This one was black instead of his bright yellow with blue lightning bolts beauty. Seeing the one below, he regretted having driven his car into that lake somewhere in Tennessee on his way south from West Virginia. It was the best car he'd ever owned.

Jack groaned. Barry twisted toward the dying man, waited a few seconds, then rotated back to the window. “Grass is all brown, Jack.” He walked to the bed. “Going dormant. Just like you, old man.” He sat on the edge of the stained, brown chair and took Jack's hand in his. “We had quite a run, didn't we?” Barry leaned in and lowered his voice. "But now it's time to give it up, Jack. You gotta tell me where the stuff is. I understood why you wouldn't do it up to now, hoping you might somehow get out of here, but it's over for you.” Barry squeezed the wrinkled hand. “Even you got to see that." The old man remained silent. Barry grabbed the tube going into Jack's nose and pinched. Jack’s eyes opened wide.

"What was that? What'd you say, Jack?”

Barry put an ear close to the man's lips. "Say it once more."

"Go to hell, kid. You never were any good at nothing."

Barry squeezed harder on the tube. His knuckles turned white.

"Let it go, son," an unfamiliar voice said. "It's over."

Barry turned. Two policemen stood in the door. One held a yellowed pillowcase with mildew spots.

"I believe this is what you came for." The cop pulled a gold and diamond bracelet from the sack. “Jack told us where the stuff was. Said he knew you’d be here when the nurse told him his grandson was coming for a visit. Said he’d rather we have it than you.”

Barry glared at Jack. "You turned me in?" Barry reached down and grabbed Jack by the neck. Four hands clasped Barry's arms and yanked him away.

"You think I didn't see you put some of the small stuff in your pockets?" Jack placed a hand on his neck. "You think I didn't know you were the anonymous tipster who called the police and told them where I was going?” Jack's breathing quickened. “I ain't that stupid." He coughed, spit up blood and lifted a middle finger, as the officers dragged Barry out of the room.

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