Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Knock Over - A Sneak Peak for Big Picture High School


 Dear Big Picture High School Students,

As promised, here is a sneak peak of Chapter One of The Knock Over, a Moonshine Murder Sequel. I'm uploading this as an example of the process of writing: its many drafts, stages and faces. This is an early version, intended to demonstrate that.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of your classroom this past month. Thank you!






The Knock Over
by
Erin S. Gray

Copyright 2019 Erin S. Gray
All rights reserved.





All rights reserved.
Flashlight Fiction
a division of
Paper Trail Publishing
Durango, CO 81301
Published and Printed in the U.S.A.



License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to papertrailpublishing.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. The characters and events in this ebook are fictional and any resemblance to persons, whether living or dead, is strictly coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning to a computer disk, or by any informational storage and retrieval system, without express permission in writing from the publisher.

  
Chapter One


 It wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. Rusty had plans. He felt them in his pocket now—not entirely round, sharp cut edges yet smooth. The gold cross, about the length of a half dollar, he ran his thumb and forefinger over its smooth surface.
Rusty jingled the necklace in his pocket and couldn’t help but think of her. The red garnets around her neck, her piercing blue eyes looking at him. It wasn’t a diamond ring he had in mind for the proposal. He wanted a matching ring to the garnet necklace, the one given to Lenora by their good friend, Rosa. The necklace that reminded her so of her mother’s. After work, he would take it to the jeweler, have a few of the garnets removed to make a ring, then restring the necklace. She rarely wore it—too special for that. But she often pulled it out of the top dresser drawer in her rented flat and looked at it. He had seen her do it, especially when homesick for her mamma or papa. It was his hope to complete the task before she knew it was missing. And it hadn’t been all that easy to sneak it out of her one-room flat. He had to make run back into the flat on their way out that morning for work with the excuse that he had left his cap on the table. He had, so it wasn’t exactly a lie.
"What are you about, Rusty?" She had asked. He knew by the heat in his cheeks that his complexion matched his hair.
Avoiding her eyes, he shrugged. "Nothing to worry about, just a lost hat and misplaced memory." He gave her his most dashing smile, one arm wrapped around her shoulder, the other hand clenching the necklace in his pocket.
He couldn’t help but smile. Nah, it was a grin, and he didn’t care. He loved that lass. Everyone knew it.
So it was with that smile that he looked up from the teller table when the copper bell rang above the mahogany door of the Citizens State Bank. The green paneled walls and mahogany trim around the windows was intended to express the wealth and security of the bank in its traditional colors, but on a bright autumn day it took a few moments for one’s eyes to adjust to the customer entering through the front door.
“Good Morning. How can I help you folks?” Rusty asked, as he rearranged his ledger, allowing his eyes to turn the black specks in front of him into faces.
Customer interaction was his favorite part of the job. He missed that about running his moonshining business, the customers. It was worth it though. She was worth it. He brought his mind back to the present. He couldn’t daydream about her all day if he intended to keep this job and buy their way out of Silverton.
The smile dropped from his face as his eyes focused on the two men who had entered the lobby of the bank. One was quite tall, taller than Rusty and he was over six foot himself. The man pulled his white fedora from his head and black hair fell forward across his forehead. He slicked it back into place with his hand, his forefinger bearing a large gold ring with a symbol Rusty couldn’t quite make out across the room, but recognized as important nonetheless. He was wearing a brown felt jacket, a dark blue tie. His eyes were midnight black and beady, impassive, like staring into the eyes of an animal—carnal. There were no smiles in those eyes. One eyelid hung low, covering half his pupil, and he sported a thin mustache covering his upper lip. He wasn’t from around here, there was no doubt of that fact.
“Gentlemen,” Rusty said. He shot a glance behind his shoulder seeing if the bank president was sitting in his office. He knew he wasn’t there. He and his son never came in before ten. It was Rusty’s job to open the bank, make the coffee,  pull out cash from the safe in the back for the cash drawer, review the ledgers from the day before.
But the men made him nervous and he had had his share of experience when it came to shady characters.
The dark, tall man, turned to his partner, bushy eyebrows raised in an unanswered question. The other nodded his consent and Rusty’s attention was drawn to the man who had entered second. For the briefest moment, his heart jolted. His palms were suddenly sweaty and his button-up white shirt began to stick to the back of his broad shoulders.
The shorter man’s hair was drifting back along his hairline, but the auburn curls were apparent even after being pressed down from his felt cap. He wore a flannel shirt, tucked in to work trousers. Day laborer for the mill or mines. It was his eyes that were different enough from his, and he was stouter. Not a man to get into a brawl with. Neither of them were.
After the initial shock of the similarities, Rusty was sure it wasn’t him. But boy, it sure could have been. A relative. Sure enough, it had to be a relative.
“Hello Rusty,” the shorter man said as he came around in front of the tall man and sauntered up to the counter.
Rusty, behind the barred counter, still took a half step back as the tall man clicked the front door lock into place.
“Do I know you, sir?”
“Nope, but I know who you are, Rusty O’Donald.” The man pulled a toothpick from his pocket and began picking at his yellowed teeth.
Rusty tilted his head to the side to get a better view of the man by the door. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to unlock that door. This bank is open for business.”
The tall man’s response was a mere raspy whisper, but Rusty heard every word. “We got business with you, boy, that doesn’t need interruption.” It wasn’t a threat exactly, but it sure felt like one.
“You knew my brother,” the man at the counter said, flicking his toothpick toward the corner of the counter where the burnt orange ceramic ashtray sat. “Tony.”
Rusty’s eyes darted between the man at the door and the man at the counter. There was a ringing in his ears and his legs were tingling. Yes. He knew Tony. He wished he didn’t, but he did.
            “How’s Tony?” Rusty asked.
            “In a jam. You see, he owes a debt, but since you and that girl of Dominick’s had him thrown in the can, he is unable to fulfill his obligation.”
            “Well that’s a shame…I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name?”
            “Victor. And this,” he said pointing his finger behind his back, “is Joe.”
            “Well, Victor, I’m sorry to hear about Tony’s troubles, but they ain’t mine.”
            “That’s where you’re wrong.” Joe had come up behind Victor, standing a near foot taller than him, and leaned on the counter. “It is your problem. You see, Tony worked with your old partner, Dominick, right?” Joe studied the clock behind Rusty’s head, never once making direct eye contact. It should have been less nerve racking, but it wasn’t.
            Rusty nodded, and splayed his palms out flat on the counter in front of him. Sweat was soaking through the ledger, green lines smearing with the brown.
            “You see, Tony was going to buy that business from Dominick. He borrowed money from us to do the job.”
            “You know there isn’t any proof that I was involved at all in his arrest,” Rusty tried to keep his voice even. “Hell, Tony getting nailed put us all in jeopardy and lost us all our jobs, should I remind you of that, Victor?”
            “Maybe there isn’t proof of your involvement Rusty, but there is no denying that kid of Dominick’s was working with the feds, and now you and her are a hot item.”
            Rusty clamped his mouth shut. It just became a lot more dangerous in the room, a dynamite stick ready to be lit.
            Victor grinned. “That’s what I thought.”
            Rusty glanced up at Joe. “Who does he owe the money to? Who is ‘us’?”
            “Cosa Nostra.”
            Rusty’s ears began to ring. The room blurred. Cosa Nostra.
These were Trouble Boys. Mafia.
Rusty forced himself to watch the man. His lips moved and a funneled noise reached his ears. It took a moment for Rusty to realize it was the sound of Joe’s voice.
“Like I said to Victor, unfortunate event.” Joe pulled out a cigarette, lit it with a match and tossed the match in the ashtray next to the toothpick. “But the truth of the matter is that I loaned that money to Tony as a favor on behalf of the Carlino brothers up north.” Joe turned his attention from the clock he had been inspecting nearly the whole time and shot a hard look at Rusty. “You know who the Carlino brothers are, yes?”
Rusty nodded. Anybody who was anybody moonshining in the state of Colorado knew who the Carlino brothers were. Pete and Sam, the most notorious bootleggers in Colorado, as far as Rusty was concerned.  Although Joe Roma could be a contender. He wouldn’t of course confuse this Joe for that Joe. Roma was a pint-sized man. He was known for it. Roma was also known to be the giant of the bootlegging underworld in Denver. Truth is, Roma and the Carlinos brothers were the bootleggers in nearly all of the state. Sure a handful of small operations like his and Dominick’s existed, but that was west of the pass. Another time or place, he might have felt a thrill to be in the company of Carlino’s associates.
This man Joe, knowing the Carlino’s personally? Rusty wanted to doubt it. He wanted to believe that Joe was throwing around a name Rusty was sure to know to intimidate him. As if he needed more intimidation as he stood shaking and sweating locked inside the bank with two big Italian mobsters. But the story fit. And now that his mind was drifting to the Carlion’s, Joe did resemble Pete Carlino. Enough to be a cousin, he thought. Of course the Carlino’s were looking for their way into the Southwest part of the state. And it would have made sense why they wanted to knock-off Dominick—he was Tyrolean after all, an Austrian, home country enemy to the Italians, Piedmonts or Sicilians. It didn’t matter.
There was certainly a large amount of respect for the Carlino brothers. But there were equal or larger amount of caution.   
“Tony was our Durango and Silverton contact. I’m here on behalf of Pete. I owe him, said I would take a look into the situation for him.
Pete. He has a thing for explosions, dynamite and such. It’s a bit of an obsession for him, you could say. I’m telling you this so’s you understand that should we not come to an agreement, the underboss is coming in the month. We would hate to see something happen to that girl of Dominick’s.”
 Victor squared his straw hate on his head, readying to leave. “Something like what happened to Peter Dalla.”
Joe flicked his fedora back in place and pushed off the counter where he had been slouching. “Tony owes us $5,000. With interest, you owe Pete $5,500. You got a month.”
The men moved to the door.
“We’ll be checking in on things from time to time,” Joe said. “Make sure you have a plan. Would be a shame to see that air tight girl of Dominick’s messed up.”
Victor snapped the lock back and they existed. Rusty watched as they crossed down Greene Street and out of view.
Rusty’s throat clenched tight. He hands were still splayed across the desk, sticking to the ledger paper. There was a weight in his pocket and for a moment he forgot about the necklace. It seemed now so trivial and yet so center point at the same time. Lenora. Dominick’s daughter. The girl he had fallen in love with despite trying to keep her unaware of her father’s moonshining business.
And who the heck was Peter Dalla? It was meant as a threat from Victor, no doubt, but he didn’t know what it meant. Which made it all the more menacing.
The back door opened and the bank president, came in whistling and hitching up his britches over his large belly.
“Morning, Rusty.”
Rusty cleared his throat and re-stacked the papers on his desk. “Morning, Richard. Nice weekend?”
“Sure, sure, and you?”
“Fine, just fine.”
“Sir, you know of a Peter Dalla?”
Richard snapped his head up from his desk behind Rusty. “Peter Dalla! Why are you asking after that old story? Bad business. Bad business. Damn fools.”
“Who?” Rusty hesitated, uncertain if he wanted the answer.
 “Nothing you want to know about, son.”
The front door bell rang and Rusty whipped his head forward.
Lenora pushed through the doors, her auburn curls swept back into a bun, a few tendrils wisped around her high-set cheeks. She was smiling, and pulled a wrapped sandwich from behind her back.
“I would have thought you to have grabbed your sandwich when you went back in for your hat this morning. It was sitting right next to it.”
Rusty put on his best smile. “Thanks, doll.” 
Doing his best not to check out the window for the two men, he studied Lenora’s laughing eyes, a cobalt blue, reminding him of a lazy summer afternoon.
She plopped the cheese sandwich on the counter and leaned toward him, exactly where Victor had been slouching only moments earlier.
“I promised Sal I would help out with the supper shift. I probably won’t be home until after 10:00. I’m sure to have leftover pie with me though if you want to stop by tomorrow morning?”
“Sounds grand. That works out best for me anyways. Jimmy invited me out tonight.”
Lenora pushed from the counter and smiled. “Well, have a good evening then. We will see you in the morning.”
“Hello Mr. Torinto,” Lenora hollered and waved, as she stood on her tiptoes and peeked over Rusty’s head.”
“Well hello there, doll. I didn’t even hear you come in. Everything going good for you over at Sal’s? She treating you right?” Mr. Torinto had come from behind the counter and stood in the door frame.
“She’s great. Thank you for putting in a good word for me.”
Mr. Torinto waved her away. “Not at all, not at all. Anything from Dominick’s daughter.”
Lenora smiled. “Well, I best be heading over that direction. Have a good day.” Lenora waived and made for the door.
Rusty let out his breathe. He was just sure the men were going to come back in when Lenora was standing right there. He needed to get his head straight, figure out how to get out of this jam. He’d been in jams before, but this one was different. First thing he needed to do was get to the bottom of this Peter Dalla story.
 

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