Double Down, by Gary Clifton
Bad Billy Jack Black was born South of Longview in a chicken-coop on the edge of Grifford’s Holler behind his grandmother’s cabin in the pine trees of Rucker County. His Mama, Freda Sue, was stoned, drunk, nuts, violent, and on parole for murder. Beyond that, she wasn’t so bad. Grannie wasn’t about to allow her daughter inside her humble little house, baby dropping be damned.
Billy Jack went downhill from there. At twenty, counting juvenile arrests, he’d been in east Texas county jails twelve times – add that to a year he’d done in the Texas Department of Corrections for armed robbery and three months in the nervous hospital at Terrell. Folks around Grifford’s Holler agreed Billy Jack was the sorriest, baddest ass in six counties – mean enough to eat a live chicken or a kitchen table leg – maybe both at once.
Billy Jack was a sort of combination KKK’er, outlaw motorcycle gang guy, and white supremacist when he took up with Ella Sue Crocker, who’d just turned sixteen. Ella’s ol’ Daddy, Fred, with a lengthy arrest record of his own, was still a tad or two closer to being fully human than Billy Jack. Hey, Fred could actually spell his own name. He owned and operated the Two Dollar Cigar Store on the holler’s edge. Liquor was prohibited, although Fred had accumulated quite a stash bootlegging after hours, running crooked card games and the like.
Against his better judgment, Fred allowed Bad Billy Jack and Ella Sue to stay in a back room of the cigar store. So when Billy Jack commenced whaling hell out of Ella Sue, Fred was close enough to the action to take notice – strong, angry notice. Fred did the proper Grifford Holler ritual. He beat Billy Jack near to death with a Louisville Slugger.
Ella Sue, whose rep for stupidity preceded her by fifteen minutes, sat, both eyes still black from Bad Billy Jack’s last beating, in his hospital room at Longview, mooning over the prospects of his recovery. During the long conversation, Ella Sue mentioned ol’ Daddy Fred had cash – buckets of it – hidden beneath the floor of the cigar store as well as “in one of them safety re-pocket boxes at Citizen’s Bank”.
That was it, by Golly. Money talk morphed into conspiracy to murder ol’ stupid Fred like a greasy gear. When Bad Billy got back on his feet, they’d off ol’ Fred and the cash would be theirs. Man, it would be easy stuff, then ice cream and a new Ford pickup – hell three Ford pickups. “How much them Ford pickups cost, Ella Sue?” Bad Billy asked.
Ella even had a plan. She’d honey-talk daddy into allowing them to move back into the rear of the cigar store. Ella would steal one of the pistols Fred had hidden around the place. They’d stage a fight. Ella Sue would scream bloody murder, Fred would rush in, Bad Billy would let the air outta his old ass, the cash would be theirs.
Man alive, Bad Billy thought, a piece of cake. THE PLAN slid along like a new yo-yo. Bad Billy actually apologized – sort of – and in three weeks he was snoozing with Ella back at the cigar store. Then the big night! Ella Sue showed Bad Billy the revolver – a great big sucker. Then Bad Billy tossed in a kicker. “You gotta cap his ass, Ella Sue,” he ordered. “Jes stick this baby up to the old fool’s chest and pull the trigger three times. I gotta tarp in the back of my truck to wrap the body and haul him off.” Ella Sue eyed the hog-leg like it was a rotten orange and said nothing.
Murder was doggoned easy, Bad Billy thought as he finished the pint of Jim Beam prior to the final act. They waited until all customers had filtered out of the cigar store. Then he smashed a chair against a wall and Ella Sue screamed like a scalded dog. Fred crashed through the door, Louisville Slugger at the ready. Ella Sue held up the revolver and started cranking off rounds – except she let fly with five instead of three. Ella Sue never learned to count so good.
“That oughta settle your ass,” she stood over the shuddering body at room center, cordite wafting from the pistol barrel. “Reckon this sucker really dead,” she looked up.
“Deader ‘n hell, babe,” Ol’ Fred said. He slid the revolver from her hand and put the last round in Bad Billy’s head. “Lemme get that tarp outta Billy’s truck and we’ll bury his sorry carcass down by the landfill.”
“I allays been lovin’ you most, Daddy,” Ella Sue gushed as she stepped back to avoid the widening pool of crimson spreading rapidly around Bad Billy Jack Black’s corpse “Daddy, he don’t look so damned tough no more…reckon you be movin’ back in here wif’ me now?”
Forty years a cop, Clifton has been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued, lied to and about, often misunderstood, and is currently retired to a dusty north Texas ranch waiting to see what comes next. He has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.
5 readers love this story!
Tags: betrayal, Gary Clifton