Sunday, August 10th, 2014
Issue: 16   Editor: FlameS

A Day in the Life Phantom

A Day in the Life

A crisp, quiet evening. A light fog hovers low over the fields and hills. It rolls gently, covering all in sight. An empty gravel road. In the distance, a pair of lights appear. They track nearer and nearer. A distant rumble, honing closer. Then, suddenly, a classy 1922 Model A Duesenberg comes screaming around a bend. Its 95HP engine working profusely; the driver shifting into its 3rd gear. It drives by in a flash, its chrome nickel steel body catching the moonlight as it speeds by.

Inside, the driver checks his rear-view mirror nervously. A few drops of sweat trickle down his face. He wipes them off with the cuff of his shirt. No time to get nervous. This is his chance. He glances over to the co-passenger. Bernie, his name. Bernie has his eyes closed, his wide-brimmed gangster hat pulled low to cover them. A flash of metal as he shifts in his seat. A .38 Smith & Wesson 6-shooter. Bernie had been hired on as the navigator. The map he was supposed to be reading was at his feet, crumpled under a few bags of chips and some empty beer cans. Bernie hadn’t said more than 4 words all night. He was a cronie, a henchman. All he cared about was getting paid. The more people he had to hurt in the process of doing jobs, the better. A follower. Sheep. That’s all Bernie was.

‘I’m going to do better,’ the driver thought. Too long has he been in the shadows.

He checks over his shoulder. Three Tommy guns lie in the back seat. Another shady character lies there snoozing, his head against the side window. Drooling slightly. Francis. I believe that’s what he had said his name was. His greasy hair almost down to his eyes. His blue-and-red plaid suit contrasting massively with the nice black leather interior of the Duesenberg. Francis was the defender. He had brought $40,000 worth of bullets just in case they encountered any heat.

The driver checks the rear-view mirror again. Nothing. Empty. Just the ever-present fog. It has been smooth so far. Hopefully they can make it across the next two states without hiccups. Going clear across the country at nighttime was a feat in itself. Doing so with 200 cases of Cognac.. That was just madness.

Just that morning he had woken up in his dump of a place. Cold. Damp. Wet patches across the walls, cracks in the ceiling. It wasn’t much. But it WAS home. He had gotten up slowly, rubbing his eyes. He nearly kicked over the ashtray of cigarettes that was next to him on the floor. He stumbled over to the sink in the corner, splashing cold water on his face. Maybe he shouldn’t have had so much moonshine. But heck, it had been free and booze was hard to come by these days. For months now he had struggled to get by. Travelling to suburbs like Camden and Paterson, sticking up ‘Mom & Pop’ stores for $200 here, $300 there. Jobs were hard to come by. He’d gotten sick of scraping by. Wondering where his next meal was going to come from. The life of a Thug, a non ‘Made-man’ was tough. He knew he needed to prove himself. He ran his hands through his hair, looking up into the mirror. A smile on his face, as he recalled the events of the past 7 days.

Luck had shown him a fortunate hand early last week. He had just robbed a small grocery store, a lousy $75, when he turned the corner and saw a sight from heaven. A lady was just walking into her house, arms full of bags. Behind her, her husband, carrying 3 suitcases himself. On the street, a Model A Duesenberg, shiny and brand-new. It couldn’t be more than a few weeks old. He could tell from the lights, this was the newest model. The couple disappeared into the house. He strolled over, checking over his shoulder. The street was deserted, bar a few kids playing hopscotch at the end of the street. Even if they saw what he was about to do, there was no way they would be able to identify him from that distance. He slid into the drivers seat. He ran his hand under the steering wheel, his knuckles connecting with metallic objects. A jingle. The fool had left his keys in the ignition.

His fingers turned the keys, the beastly roar of all 95HP oozed out of the engine. This was his lucky day. The passenger door was still open, so was the boot. But there was no time to waste. He shifted the car into its first gear, and slammed on the gas pedal. Just then the man walked out of his front door. What he saw was a heart breaker for him. The passenger door slamming closed, the remainder of his travel luggage tumbling out of the boot. A few small suitcases and his cane strewn across the pavement, as his prized Duesenberg (only 2 weeks his possession) disappeared around the corner, the boot jittering in the wind. A metallic clang every time it nearly shut. Almost as if it the car was waving goodbye.

The driver had legged it across town, stopping only at a payphone to call his cousin who had a farm on the outskirts of town. His old abandoned barn would suit perfectly for re-painting and storing the Duesy. The next few days after he had spent asking around, until eventually he found out about a Booze Run from New Jersey (where he lived) to Nevada that needed a driver. It took the organizer some convincing to let him drive, since he was only a Thug, but he put up his crummy apartment as collateral. He had spent a full day re-coloring the Duesy and forging plates, and then another day driving around to get a feel for the car.

The organizer had invited him to a pre-day meeting, just to run through specifics. It had been simple enough. Him and two others would report at the organizers secret distillery in Jersey City. They’d load up the crates in the trunk of the car, and then drive all night, all day, and all night until they reached Nevada. They had an address there and they would pass along the booze. They’d be paid in cash, ditch the car, buy a new one, and train it back to New Jersey. He was promised $200,000-$300,000 for one run. In just under 72 hours. All he had to do was risk his freedom. If he were to be caught, he’d be in jail for a good long time. Anyway, at the briefing is where he had gotten offered free moonshine, and had his fair share.

He had splashed some more water in his face. ‘Seventy-two hours, and I can change my life around,’ he had thought. This was his chance.

A flash of lightning brought him back around to now. He snapped out of his thoughtful daze - back into his stolen Duesy - back into the driver seat. Lightning? That was odd. It was a clear sky tonight. Was his mind playing tricks on him? His eyes searched ahead, it was still dark out. He glanced up at the rear-view mirror yet again. Still nothing. Everything was still peaceful. Still, he didn’t feel calm. Something was stirring deep inside of him. A bad feeling he couldn’t shake.

There! In his rear-view mirror, he caught another small flash of something. In the distance. What was it? He leaned forward, checking the top right of the front window. The moon was peeking through the clouds; it was nearly full. There was an empty patch of sky just ahead, the moon climbing towards it. As it did so, he checked his mirror again. His eyes opened wide in shock. He had definitely seen a flash just then. The light of the moon had hit glass, and reflected towards him. Glass, in the middle of nowhere? He looked again, and was now certain. The glass was in the form of lights on top of another car, way back in the distance. A black car with white stripes on the side. With a rectangular light on the roof. It could only mean one thing.

‘Coppers!’ he yelled, startling his co-passengers and waking them up. Francis, in the back, grabbed one of the Tommy’s and peered out of the back window. ‘Where? Are you sure?’

Just as he said it, blue and red lights streaked across the fields. The police car switched on its headlights and its siren, and came screaming down the hill towards them.

The driver tightened his grip around the wheel. He was not going back. If he went to prison now, he would have nothing when he came out. No apartment. No job. No savings. Everything he owned was involved in this deal. He switched gears back to second, pressing down hard on the gas.

He was not.

To be continued

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