A Burning Cold Morning (Part 49)

Tom did try to escape, making a break toward the same back office area where Leo had gone, but the officer was telling him to halt or be shot before he made it through the door.  He was taken into custody and, after several hours of unresponsive interrogation, finally told the police most of the truth including that Leo O’Malley had been his accomplice.  A detective took everything down before returning Brinnegan to his cell, stating that he should probably plan on being locked up, “for a good long while.”  

Leo, who had scouted out a secondary escape route to be taken on foot if things went badly, managed to use the alleyways of the area to elude capture.  It had helped that the officer who returned unexpectedly to the station had been alone, and that it took ten minutes for more police to respond to his call for assistance.  By that time Leo was almost a mile away at a city planning commission meeting, an event he had thought might be a good cover during any possible emergency escape from the robbery.  He had actually used the session as part of his planning, a fact he had not shared with Brinnegan, and slipped into the back row just as the chairman called the meeting to order.  He sat their dutifully for the next two hours of discussion, getting sleepy as the adrenaline eased out of his system, nodding off a few times before stepping out to use the restroom.  There, after closing himself into one of the stalls, he got to work.  Breaking the small clasp lock on the briefcase using a pliers he had brought with him, he transferred the money and his now unloaded gun to a black drawstring bag, and then wrapped the briefcase inside a burlap sack.  Stepping outside, he placed the the burlap package behind some large bushes next to the building, tossed his jacket into a trash can and then walked off down the road.  He had taken his glasses off to further alter his appearance, which made for a few challenges as he could not see well without them, but he managed to walk another two miles without incident.  Checking into a nondescript, but not too seedy, motel he drifted off to sleep with the black bag full of money under his pillow.   

The next morning he had some thinking to do.  He realized that he had been fortunate to escape capture the day before and that he was unlikely to get that lucky again.  He did feel a sense of accomplishment despite what had happened, as he felt his back-up planning had went well and he had anticipated possible problems.  The pliers, burlap sack, secondary escape route and hiding in plain view at a public meeting were all things he was sure he would not have thought of earlier in his criminal career.  He was becoming more accomplished and that made him feel good, plus he had all of the robbery money to himself.  Leo knew though that Brinnegan would give him up, in fact he probably already had, and that he needed to inconspicuously leave the area very quickly.  

Diner

Diner

Leo pondered all of this while sitting at a small diner that was associated with the motel, and he was interrupted by a small, thin man who was sitting at the table next to him.

“Hey friend, hey, hello, hello.”  

Leo shook his head, realizing that someone was talking to him.  He looked over and saw the man, dressed in a blue suit and white shirt, a red necktie hanging loosely around his neck.  

“What?” Leo replied.

“You, I was just trying to get your attention but you were way, way off in your dreams, I think?”  The man spoke in a rushed, clipped manner and his voice tended to squeak a little at the end of sentences.  It was fairly irritating.

“I’m thinking, not dreaming.  Leave me alone.” Leo turned his head away as he spoke.

“It’s ok, ok, no problem.  I just figured, you know, just wanted to make sure you were ok.  You were staring off into space for a long time, long time, maybe ten or fifteen minutes.”

“What’s that to you?” Leo snapped back.  “Leave me alone.”

The man inched his chair a foot closer to Leo, blocking the aisle way between the tables.  “Ok, ok, I just thought that maybe you were, you know, like me, out on the road too much and thinking of home.  I do that a lot, you know, a lot of thinking about home.  It’s hard to be out on the road so much isn’t it?
“Who said I’m out on the road?” Leo asked.

“Well, I guess, well I did, you know, because I thought you might be, I am.  I am on the road a lot.”  

Just then a waitress approached and the man had to slide the chair back toward his table.  Leo hoped that would be the end of it, but it was not.  As soon as she had sauntered past, poured coffee two tables away and then walked back, the man pulled his chair right up next to Leo.

“Like I was saying, I’m on the road all the time, all over the place.  Just leaving here today and gotta go to Pomona next, then San Bernadino, Palm Springs, it never ends you know.  But you know, you know, right?  You’re a salesman too, I bet.  What’s your product?”

Leo was very annoyed at this point but had heard one thing that caught his attention.  

“You say you’re going to Pomona?”

“Yes, yes, you going there too?  Maybe we can meet up after the day, you know, have a drink or dinner?  What’s your line, anyway?  Vacuums?”

“Actually, I’m needing to get to Pomona myself.”  Leo was thinking quickly as he spoke.   “My vehicle broke down here the other day, gonna take a few more to have it ready I guess.  You wouldn’t mind giving me a ride, would you?  I could pay for gas, I’ll even buy your breakfast.”

Pomona 1927

Pomona 1927

The man, who then introduced himself as Chuck Creely, eagerly accepted and then talked Leo’s ear off all the way to Pomona.  Leo never did mention what he might be selling or why he needed to get to Pomona, but Creely hardly seemed to care as it was clear he was just lonely and wanted to talk.   When Leo was dropped off, with a false promise to meet up for dinner at five o’clock, he almost felt bad for the man.

…to be continued

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