A Burning Cold Morning (Part 14)

Now that the moment was upon him, he was more nervous than he had hoped to be and was a little angry at himself because of it.  Leo wanted to be a cold, hard criminal, part of the Pendergast machine, and getting the shakes because he had to pick a lock in the darkness was no way for such a person to act.  His was, however, trembling as he tried to get the lock open and the picks fell several times from hands which were also starting to lose feeling from the cold.  Frustration building inside of him, Leo took a deep breath and tried again, still to no avail.  Glancing at his pocket watch he realized that ten minutes had already gone by and it was very close to ten o’clock.  Fumbling the picks again, he picked them up and this time, with his eyes squinted up in frustration and foggy breath blowing out in ragged bursts, he managed to get the lock open.  He then quietly pushed the door open, threw his packages into the car and waited for the bells.

Church Tower Kansas City

Church Tower Kansas City

Ten o’clock came and went but nothing happened.  Leo sat there in the vehicle of one of the most powerful men in Kansas City, in possession of two items that were going to be hard to explain, armed bodyguards only a short distance away, and with the the cold creeping into his body and waited in silence.  Ten oh-three, ten oh-four, and still nothing but the cold air and his own breathing.  At ten oh-five something slammed from the direction of the house and Leo almost took off running, but nothing else followed that sound and the silence returned.  Finally, at ten oh-eight the bells pealed in the distance and Leo pushed the button to start the Renault.  Nothing happened, so he pushed it again to no effect.  Realizing that he was going to have to hand-crank the engine, he swore and jumped out.

As he slid the hand crank into the generator unit, Leo could still hear the bells although he knew that was not going to last much longer.   The man he had paid had stated that after a few minutes of them ringing the priest, who lived two houses away, was going to come looking for a reason.  It took two attempts but finally the vehicle fired up and Leo sped out of the storage shed, clipping the edge of the door with the back wheel,  just thirty seconds before the bells stopped ringing.  He could hear the last sounds from them fading into the night as he turned east onto Twenty-Seventh Street headed toward Union Cemetery.

Leo still did not have a solid idea about hiding the car but his immediate plan was to stick to the middle of the city.  The Rabbits firmly controlled everything down by the river and the Goats had most of the southeast portion, east of the KC Rail Line, under their power.  That left a portion of the city, roughly bordered by four schools, where one was least likely to run into an operative of either side.  Turning north off of Twenty-Seventh, Leo took Broadway and then turned into what he considered to be the safe zone on Sixteenth Street.  As he passed the Webster School a small feeling of relief came over him although the adrenaline was still pumping fairly strongly through his body.  His senses were on high alert and several times he thought he caught the sound of a vehicle approaching; however, each time this proved to be false.  Turning north on Oak Street, two blocks later Leo arrived at Central Place, a park area almost directly in the center of his safety zone.  Still without a plan as to what to do for the remainder of the night, he pulled the vehicle over into a dark, tucked away corner of the park and listened for any sounds of pursuit.

As he sat there, finally out of immediate danger, the adrenaline finally left his body and his hands and legs began to shake uncontrollably.  Scolding himself again, Leo tucked his hands under his armpits and clenched his leg muscles in a attempt to get the shaking to stop.  Eventually it did of course and his breathing, which he had not noticed was irregular and fast, also returned to normal.  The night settled in quietly around him again, and although he was getting very cold Leo felt a strong sense of accomplishment.  He was certain that this was going to get him an invite to join up with Pendergast.

It was forty minutes later, around eleven o’clock, when Leo heard the distant but approaching sound of what seemed to be several vehicles.  Knowing that it was extremely unusual for multiple vehicles to be on the road late at night, and especially on Christmas Eve, he had the sudden sinking feeling that the theft had been discovered.  Knowing that these possible searchers would eventually make their way to his location, Leo started up the Renault again and headed back out onto Oak Street.  He was making things up as he went at this point, so he headed south down Oak even though that brought him closer to Goat territory.  Going that direction had to be better than going toward the river where someone was sure to recognize Shannon’s vehicle.  Willing the car to be quiet, Leo eased it down the road, watching and listening intently as he went.  Crossing over Eighteenth he was suddenly lit up by the headlights of another vehicle and a small yelp escaped his lips before he could control it.  As the vehicle went past, two old men who hardly looked his way, Leo fought down the impulse to shout profanities at them.

He could now see two sets of headlights trailing behind him on Oak, and seeming to gain ground.  Making a quick turn onto Twentieth Street Leo pressed the car hard and was soon going almost forty miles per hour.  The headlights turned his way, still seemingly in pursuit, so he turned hard onto Holmes Street and then west onto Twenty Third.  The lights still followed him; however, and he made another attempt to lose them by turning onto Grand Ave and really pushing the vehicle as hard as he could, eventually reaching a speed of forty-four miles per hour.  As he crossed over Twenty-Seventh Leo saw that he was back in the area of Union Cemetery and he impulsively slammed the brakes and pulled in, careening through the open gate and onto the dirt road that wandered among the graves.

Union Cemetery Kansas City

Union Cemetery Kansas City

Although he could no longer see any lights behind him he was certain that the chase was not over, so he drove deep into the cemetery and pulled the vehicle behind a large stone monument.  Shutting it down, he leapt out, taking his packages with him, and ran to a small copse of trees about twenty feet away.  Out of breath and sweating, he sat down and waited.

…to be continued

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