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Don of Dixie: Part Three

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Part three of a three-part series. If you missed the previous two installments, go back and read part one or part two first. If you’d like to receive alerts on new short stories, sign up below. Otherwise, enjoy the final installment of Don of Dixie, where Southern mafiosos run rampant until a local vice cop partners with a Texas narco to end lawlessness in Dixieland.

John F. Kennedy, beloved and young, waves to a crowd in Dallas from the back of a convertible car.

CLAP! A shot rings out. President Kennedy’s head snaps back, his body falling limp. Kennedy’s wife scrambles for safety. Members of Secret Service jump into action.

Back at the Austin-American Statesman, Jackie Sanders sits at her desk. She gets a call. Eyes wide, she does the only thing she can think of: write.

The next day, a newspaper from the Statesman with the leading headline, Kennedy, Connally Shot; Kennedy Succumbs.

Night at the Egyptian Lounge in Dallas. It’s a seedy, backwater restaurant built with brick, neon sign across the front.

Inside, Tim Overton and gang sit in large, semi-circle booth. With them are members of the Dallas mob, including Don Joseph Civello and proprietors Joe and Sam Campisi.

Rounding out the crowd is Beverly Oliver dressed in a scarf, husband George McGann, and Jack Ruby, the eventual murderer of Lee Harvey Oswald.

“Crazy times, Don Civello,” Freddie Hedges says.

Don Joseph Civello—leader of the powerful Dallas mob—raises an eyebrow. “Oh?” He says, his voice like gravel.

Tim silences Freddie with a wave of his hand.

Beverly Oliver doesn’t pick up the hint. “You’re telling me,” she says. “I was there! I was at the shooting.”

The table is silent.

“Well, sure I was,” she continues, hoping for a bigger reaction. “Don’t you recognize the scarf?” She motions to her babushka-looking shawl.

George McGann stands up, grabs his wife by the elbow, ushers her away from the table. “Come on, Bev, we’re leaving.”

Flustered, Beverly follows her husband out of the lounge.

The table relaxes. “That’s better,” Don Civello says. “Now, where were we?” He nods to Tim Overton.

“Thank you for meeting with us, Don Civello,” Tim begins. “Glad to see you survived the Apalachin Meeting.”

“Glad?” Don Civello asks.

“Unsurprised,” Tim replies, backpedaling.

“Of course,” Don Civello says, “sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.” He glances at Jack Ruby, who ignores him, focused on his steak.

“That’s actually why we’re here, Don Civello,” Tim replies.

“Is it?” Joe Campisi interjects.

“Only the Don takes matters into his own hands,” brother Sam Campisi adds.

“I understand,” Tim confirms, re-tooling his approach. “We’re here to ask for your blessing, Don Civello.”

Don Civello nods. “Ask.”

Tim pauses to consider his next words carefully. “As my associate said, and as you well know, we live in new times. The cops are getting wise. We’ve been getting pinched left and right.”

“Sounds to me like you don’t have the skills—or the balls,” Jack Ruby sneers. “How is this our problem?”

“Don, Austin P.D. has been hot on our tail, and my little birdies tell me that they recently enlisted the help of a Texas Narco,” Tim replies, laying out the facts. “It won’t be long before he sticks his nose in places we don’t want, Dallas included. It’s time we…evolved.”

“Evolved?” Don Civello asks, barely engaged.

“Yeah, evolved,” says Fat Jerry.

Tim shoots Fat Jerry a look, pulls out a map from his breast pocket, flattens it, traces the interconnected web of roads.

“Thanks to the Interstate Highway Act,” Tim continues, “all of the south is linked together with roadways. Whereas before, we operated as independent factions in small pockets, now, we can expand, widen our reach.”

“Why would we want to help you?” Joe Campisi asks.

“Not help,” Tim redirects, “just allow us to pass. Austin is getting too hot, and the crimes too petty. We now have access to the entire south. Why continue to operate where the cops know us?” He raises an eyebrow. “Why operate where there are cops at all?”

Don Civello leans forward, engaged for the first time. “What are you suggesting?”

“There was something no one thought about when they passed the federal Interstate Highway Act. Small towns with populations less than one thousand don’t have a county board seat.”

“And?” Sam Campisi asks, not understanding.

Tim smiles, finally in control. “And no county board seat means no Sheriff. No law, save for a lone night watchman.”

Don Civello leans back, considers Tim’s words. “And what do you plan on doing in these towns with no law?”

“Bank robberies,” Tim says.

Don Civello pauses, thinking. Joe Campisi leans over, whispers in the Don’s ear. Don Civello nods.

“And you want free passage through Dixieland?” He asks.

“Yes, sir,” Tim replies.

The Don pauses again. “Twenty percent of your rake,” he says finally—a demand, not a request.

“Of course, thank you, Don Civello,” Tim says, raising his glass. Everyone does the same.

Tim and posse get up, trying to leave while they’re ahead.

Don Civello calls after them, quiet and firm. “Remember, Overton, Dallas runs Dixieland, not the city to the south.”

A weathered apartment complex on the outskirts of town, worn and tired.

Jackie Sanders walks up its cracked steps towards her apartment after a long day’s work, the night air crisp. She reaches her door, puts in the key, gives it a kick to open.

Inside, the apartment is modest, not unlike the Overton’s home—but warmer, more inviting. Jackie enters, tosses her coat on a plaid, mid-century couch, walks toward the modest kitchen.

On the walls are framed stories with Jackie’s byline from The Daily Texan, University of Texas’ student newspaper. She passes by an open door, her mother calling out.

“Is that you?” She asks Jackie.

Jackie stops in the doorway, leans against the doorframe. Inside is a small bedroom, faded flower-print decor turning yellow with time.

Her mother sits up in bed, lit cigarette, curlers in her air. “I’ve been waiting up,” she says, “why didn’t you call?”

“You didn’t have to do that. I was working late.”

“That’s what I was worried about. The Woman’s Club has been talking; what’s this story you’re following? Sounds dangerous.”

“The Overton beat?” Jackie asks. “It’s nothing. Don’t listen to those old hens.”

Jackie’s mom stares at her daughter, not convinced. “Just be careful, ok? And Jackie? I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, mom. And don’t worry, Overton and his boys are harmless. Nothing I can’t handle.”

A solitary bank on the outskirts of Kyle, Texas. It’s an old western depository, teller windows with bars. Cozy and ornate, marble floors line the small space. The bank is quiet, no one watching, nobody inside.

Outside the bank, Bobby Joe Ward and Freddie Hedges sit in a muscle car, casually smoking cigarettes, Tim Overton at the wheel. Beside the car is another vehicle, occupied by Fat Jerry, Hank Bowen, and Darrell Overton.

All of them look calm. They’ve done things like this a thousand times before, only this time, it’s a bank.

Tim rolls down his window, talks with the other car. “So?” He asks.

“So what?” Fat Jerry replies. “Let’s do it. You already cased this place.”

“No sign of the nightwatchman?” Tim asks.

Darrell Overton laughs. “The watchman? Baby brother is afraid of some old townsfolk here in the Texas bush.”

Cut to Kyle Town Hall, where an old nightwatchman sits behind a desk, sleeping, brim of his cowboy hat pulled down over his eyes. His feet are up, his boots off, toes poking through holes in his socks—clearly not a threat.

Back at the depository, Tim and gang brazenly approach the front door. They all carry duffle bags—some full, some empty.

Inside, the bank is calm, quiet, the door closed.

BOOM! The door shakes violently. Stops. We hear someone give it a kick. It swings open, casual.

Framed in the doorway is Tim Overton. His lackeys scurry around him into the bank.

“Toss me the nose-puller,” Freddie says.

Bobby Joe Ward tosses a pair of pliers to Freddie, who jumps over the counter and starts opening safety deposit boxes. The rest of the crew rush to the back where they’re confronted by a giant vault.

“Shit,” Bobby Joe Ward exclaims. “We need to get through this to access the safe.” He knocks on the thick metal, looks around the vault’s seams. “I think we can strip the doorframe.”

Bobby Joe uses a blowtorch to cut off the vault’s hinges. The crew peels off the frame, wrestles the metal door down. Behind it is the safe, operated by a copper wheel.

“Shit. A Cannonball,” Bobby Joe Ward says, identifying the make and model of the safe.

“Cannonball?” Tim asks.

“Toughest safe to crack,” Bobby Joe confirms, grabbing a drill and getting to work anyway.

After a while, no luck. He opts for the blowtorch. Still no luck. The Cannonball safe looks beat up, but very much secure.

Tim starts to get impatient. “If we take any longer the cock’s going to crow,” he points out.

Bobby Joe throws down his tools. “Can’t get it.” He pauses, then, “Let’s take it with us.”

“Take it with us?” Tim replies, confused.

“There are more tools at the transmission shop,” Bobby Joe replies. “I need time to crack it.”

Just then, Freddie Hedges appears with a duffle bag. “Hey, what the hell is going on?” He asks.

“Bobby Joe here can’t crack the safe,” Hank replies.

“Who cares?” Freddie asks, shaking his duffle bag. “I have about five thousand in bills and at least half that in coins. Damn thing’s heavy, let’s get out of here.”

“We’re taking the safe,” Tim tells him.

“Taking the safe, didn’t you just hear me?” Asks Freddie. “If these coins are that heavy, how much do you think the safe weighs?”

“We can winch it,” Bobby Joe replies.

“With what?” Hank asks.

“With one of those damn diesels,” Bobby Joe says, nodding outside.

“Do it,” Tim confirms.

Outside the bank, Tim Overton sits in his muscle car, trunk to the depository. There’s a rope that snakes from the bumper to the safe.

“Ready?” Tim asks.

Bobby Joe Ward is by the door. He nods.

Tim revs the engine, gives it all he’s got. The rope goes taut. The car whines against the resistance.

Snap! the bumper breaks free from the car. The vehicle lurches forward, speeds off before stopping.

Tim gets out, calls back. “Guess that won’t work. Any other suggestions?”

Darrell Overton wheels a flatbed dolly through the bank’s front door. “Will this help?”

Bobby Joe Ward is next to him. He smiles.

The two muscle cars tear down Highway I-35 away from the scene of the crime. Tim and gang let out a collective whoop!

Inside Tim’s car, Bobby Joe Ward sits in the back with the Cannonball safe. He tries to crack it while they speed down the highway.

Hank Bowen calls back from the passenger seat. “You’re not going to get it.”

“Like hell I’m not,” Bobby Joe retorts.

“Dump it,” Tim says from over his shoulder in the driver’s seat. “I don’t want the evidence back at my shop. It’s too hot.”

“Dump it, are you crazy??” Hanks exclaims. “There has to be close to fifty thousand in there!”

“We’ll get it from another bank,” Tim assures them. “This is just the beginning, boys.”

Bobby Joe smiles, laughs maniacally. “Let’s dump it!” He agrees.

Tim joins in the laughter, manic. Before long, Hank can’t help himself. He laughs, too.

Thud! On the side of I-35 a Cannonball safe slams into the soft ground. It sticks into the mud, partially covered by grass and brush. On the front of the safe, it says, Property of Kyle, Texas.

In the distance, two muscle cars speed away.

Back at the depository, the nightwatchman is awake from the commotion. He walks toward the old western-style bank.

He notices the front door wide open; evidence of commotion everywhere. He peers through the doorway, apprehensive.

Inside, mayhem. Papers flitter in the brisk morning air. Deposit boxes strewn across the floor. Doors stripped, smashed.

The nightwatchman is shocked. He runs back towards the town hall.

Inside the M&M Courts Motel, Tim and gang laugh around whores, celebrating their first bank heist, however bumbled.

Judy Cathey is there, conservative compared to the working women. Sue Overton is there, too, patron and employee.

“Come here, sugar,” Tim says to the girls. Judy and Sue don’t know who he’s calling over. “Both of you, come over here! Tim’s got a gift for you.”

They sit in Tim’s lap, one on each leg.

Tim’s voice grows quiet. “Bank heist. Seven thousand.”

“Only seven thousand?” Sue asks, unimpressed.

Tim shoots Sue a look.

“Well, I think it’s just swell, Tim,” Judy says. “Just swell.”

“Now that’s more like it,” Tim replies. “Thank you, girls.” Tim motions to Fat Jerry, who tosses him a bag of bootie.

“For us?” Judy asks, innocent.

“No, not for you,” Tim replies. “For you to take care of.” He nods at Sue.

She understands, grabbing the bag of cash and coins with effort, taking Judy by the hand. “Come on, let’s go to the shop.”

“The muffler shop?” Judy asks, not getting the hint. “Why do we have to go to the muffler shop…” Judy’s earnest voice trails off as they walk away.

Tim relaxes, lights a cigar.

“Your tricks sure need to learn a thing or two about the business,” Fat Jerry says to Tim.

“They’re not tricks. That’s my wife, and my girlfriend.”

“Whatever you say,” Fat Jerry replies, shrugging. “You hear what the papers are calling us?”

“What?” Tim replies. Clearly he hasn’t.

Fat Jerry tosses down the paper. On the front page is a column by Jackie Sanders. “Dixieland Mafia. Got a good ring to it, ain’t it?”

Tim considers it. “It does.”

“So, what’s next for the Dixieland Mafia?” Fat Jerry asks.

“What’s next?” Tim replies. “Well first, Austin, then the South.”

“And then the world, right?” Fat Jerry says, half-joking

“Damn right,” Tim confirms, “and then the world.”

The duo clinks glasses. They laugh, grab a girl.

Within the police station, Harvey Gann sits in his office, feet on his desk. It’s nighttime, dark and quiet, no one else around.

He leafs through documents from the Overton file, stares at mugshots on the corkboard in front of him. He’s tired.

In walks Ernie Scholl, knocking on the open door.

“Come in,” Harvey says, not looking up from his documents.

“Anything?” Ernie asks, hopeful.

Harvey tosses the file down in disgust. “Well, it’s Tim Overton. I know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. But we still can’t prove a damn thing.”

Ernie is smiling, almost overjoyed. It annoys Harvey.

“What’s got you so excited?” Harvey asks.

“Information from a reporter at The Statesman.”

“Information? What kind of information? I already told you I know it was Overton. We can’t prove it.”

“Not information about Kyle. Information that Overton and his boys plan on doing it again…and again, and again.”

Harvey leans forward in his desk, engaged. “I hope you’re saying what I think you’re saying.”

“Harvey, I’m a federal agent. I was sent here to investigate drug running, but now I hear about this bank robbery, not to mention the prostitution, and, well, I’d say we have a federal conspiracy on our hands.”

“You know what you’re saying, don’t you?” Harvey asks cautiously.

“Of course, I’m the one saying it.”

“It’s going to be a big undertaking. A lot of resources.”

Ernie nods, agreeing. “Proving a conspiracy in federal court will require a boatload of admissible evidence proving a chain of overt acts that further a criminal enterprise. We’ll need to document the robberies, meetings between co-conspirators, tools and weapons used, all of it, and then link it together in court.”

Harvey picks up the phone. “I’ll call the D.A.”

“It’s nearly midnight,” Ernie replies.

“Good. Maybe we can get started by morning.”

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