A Burning Cold Morning (Part 80)

As that year moved into spring Leo felt that he definitely needed to get some additional money stashed away to ensure that he could properly provide for his growing family.  This marked a period of time in which very slowly but steadily his time and attention were more focused on the planning and commission of crimes.  Although he still stuck mostly with bank robberies there were some occasions when he returned to stealing cars or grifting.  He ran a few fake jewelry schemes in Nevada and New Mexico, including one in which he narrowly escaped capture in Reno.  He had been running that operation under an alias of course but the close call did scare him enough that he mostly stuck with banks and cars after he managed his getaway from the police.  Leo, when home, played the part of father in a forced but kind way, trying to interact with Sharon especially when she was playing outside in the yard or at the park.  That seemed to be much more comfortable for him than other parental tasks such as teaching life skills, reading stories or enforcing discipline.  He and Amanda continued with a strained, lukewarm relationship and Leo spent most of his free time pouring over out-of-town newspapers.  He often would leaf through eight or more of these every day, seemingly skimming the pages in a manner that made no sense to his wife.  She questioned him about it a couple of times but his non-responsive answers made it clear he was not interested in discussing it with her.  As it seemed harmless enough she just figured he was restless to be back on the road or was looking for information to help him with sales opportunities while he traveled.  

As the end of 1962 approached, Leo’s performance for King Manufacturing had hit a low point.  Internal documents reveal that the executives in the company had been aware of the decline going back to at least 1957.  It seems as though they had held several meetings to discuss Leo’s roles with the company and the possibility of firing him had come up first in 1959.  That time he was saved mostly by his prior reputation, although he was confronted with the issue and made aware for the first time about the company’s concerns.  He turned things around starting after that meeting and lasting through the fall of 1960 when things began again to decline.  There were some highs and lows in his performance after that, seemingly always just enough to head off another confrontation.  However, by November of 1962 the company general manager had seen enough and called Leo back to Flint for a meeting.  He arrived over an hour late blaming an issue with his vehicle.  As always, Leo was sharply dressed and still exuded confidence and charisma. 

His issues were of course caused by the criminal activities which were taking up more and more of his time.  Bank robbery had become an extremely risky thing to do as law enforcement tactics had evolved as had bank technology and security.  Leo found himself having to do more extensive planning and surveillance than ever before to ensure success, all of which took him away from his real job of selling for King Company.   The general manager started the meeting with an abrupt statement.

“Right now Leo, you are basically here to convince me not to fire you.”

Leo blinked back in reply, took a deep breath and replied, “You know, after all this time, that’s a bit of an unfair way to jump on me.”

“Yes, well that may seem so, but the issues with your productivity really have to be faced by you and quite frankly, by us.  You have been with us a long time, eighteen years in fact, and there were some great times in there.  Your record as a sales manager back then and for many years, really top-notch stuff Leo.  That’s not now though, and your previous success has well, basically it is why you still have a job right now.  But you’ve burned up all of that goodwill and consideration.  These last years have been several variations of poor or awful and we need to move on.  Look at this report on your productivity.”  He slid a few sheets of paper across the large wooden desk toward Leo. “Your run is done, maybe you can find another start at something else, get your fire going again like back in the day with us.”

The GM steepled his fingers together as he finished speaking, peering at Leo over the top of his reading glasses.  Leo looked down at the top page of the reports, saying nothing and not picking them up.  Several tense seconds clicked by on the wall clock behind the desk, the GM continuing to stare at him.  Finally, Leo looked up and delivered a very impassioned response, citing a long litany of good deeds done for the company mixed in among details about the increasingly difficult sales scene in the United States.  He went on for over ten minutes and finally the GM gave in and stated, “exactly one more chance Humbert, just this last one.  Go out and save your career and you better start at it right now.”

Nothing came of that chance as Leo was much too involved in casing a bank in Billings, Montana to spend much time selling. On March 3, 1963 the GM called him at his hotel and stated he needed to see Leo again back in Flint.  When Leo told him that he was working a “hot sale” and could not return immediately, the GM replied that Leo needed to be sitting in his office on March 6th or he would be terminated.  That day passed without Leo showing up and so ended his career at King Manufacturing. 

He did not inform his family about losing that job and continued to act as if he was still a traveling sales manager.  It was now necessary for all of his income to be made from crime as he had no intention of trying to arrange another legitimate career.  This actually made him happier as he had grown increasingly frustrated with the normal business and work world.  The seven year period where he had been devolving slowly back into his old lifestyle had made him realize that it was the only situation with which he was actually content.  It was high stress, dangerous and exciting, all things which he felt suited him perfectly.  

…to be continued

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