(The adventure takes whole new turns)
“Apology granted,” Leo said in shock. “Now keep digging.”
Charles kept digging though the muck for a several minutes, announcing in whispers when he found another piece. It was tense work with time being short; Charles became more focused on digging and less on being quiet. Cloud cover began to thin yielding more light, encouraging Charles to dig faster.
The sound of people approaching was obscured until the last moment, when Leo heard a mix of whispers and rustling reeds. He instantly nudged Charles and whispered a sharp warning. The incoming party had moved right up to them with little notice.
Leo turned off the safety of the shotgun and Charles drew the thirty cal. The moonlight was out, making it impossible to hide.
Leo gave his brother a quick look, turning his eyes to the reeds behind them; suggesting they might run for it. A quick head shake from Charles declined the option.
Red, Tanner and Ann-Marie Gibson approached. They were all armed, ready for a fight. Red and Tanner had shotguns, braced for shooting, and Ann-Marie pointed a rather large revolver. Charles and Leo had been in tight spots before; just never this tight. The Gibsons were trouble, widely known to be mean, tough people. It would not take much of a spark to get the shooting started.
“You motherfuckers are trespassing,” Tanner said with a measure of calm, “so drop the guns and get the fuck out.”
“Just hunting. We got lost,” Charles replied with a hoarse voice. Leo realised what his brother had already figure out, which was that the Gibsons had not recognised them. They had no beef with the Gibsons but, given their profession, it would be better to stay anonymous for as long as possible.
“You look pretty nervous for hunters,” Tanner said as his companions spread out as much as the trail allowed.
“And hunters don’t carry no pistols, neither,” Ann-Marie chimed in.
“You better start talking,” Tanner growled, “or you’re fucking dead.”
“Are you cops or something?” Leo said, disguising his own voice. Accusing them of being police was the best this he could think of to throw them off.
“You guys must be pretty stupid,” Red said. “You think we’re fucking cops? What are you really doing here?”
Charles continued the play for time, half hoping a swatch of cloud would put them in the dark long enough to run for it through the weeds. “Okay, fine,” he said, keeping up the disguised voice, “we aren’t hunters. We’re working for Rob Sreyfus. He wanted to start growing some plants near the swamp, so we are scouting it out. We did get lost, though.”
The Gibsons were hesitating for real. Sreyfus was known to them; a local who was well known for being connected. More than that, Sreyfus was rumoured to have less than legal deals with the Gibson clan. It made the situation wonderfully complicated for the Gibsons, who were not great thinkers.
“We don’t want any trouble,” Charles added. “Rob will be pissed enough.” More food for thought the Gibsons would struggle to digest.
“Sounds like bullshit to me,” Ann-Marie squawked in her trashy way. “Let’s just kill these cock suckers.”
Her words hung in the air. A long, quiet gap would need to be filled, the brothers knew, or the Gibsons might fall back to their instincts for violence. They were interrupted before stalling again.
“Police! Everybody stay right where they are!” a voice blared through a loud horn, deafening them after so much quiet. Several flashlights came on in the surrounding reeds. They threw little light and the mist dulled the illumination further. The sounds of people moving through the reeds with some haste were clear.
“Fuck, it’s the cops!” Tanner burst out as he turned and fled. “Get the fuck out of here.” The other two Gibsons turned tail and followed him.
Leo and Charles set their weapons down, as slowly as they could manage. A group of men entered the trail from both sides, guns first. “Halt!” the loud horn belted out after the running Gibsons.
“I’ve got these two covered,” came the unmistakable voice of Police Chief Dingman. “Get after those three.” The cops legged it after the Gibsons, with occasional calls from the loud horn.
“Dingman, are we glad to see you,” Charles said as he raised his hands.
“Yeah, Chief,” Leo added, “we thought we were finished.”
“What the fuck?” Dingman blurted, confused. “What are you two morons doing out here?”
“On a case,” Charles said, not dropping his hands. “It turns out it involves you, even though we didn’t know it until just a while ago.”
Chief Dingman’s glare was obvious, even through the mist and partial moonlight. “Keep talking, then.”
“We were looking for stolen goods,” Leo picked up the story, knowing exactly how they needed to play things. “Sentimental items were stolen from a client, and we had some leads the Gibsons might be involved. We have reason to believe they were dumping the goods they couldn’t sell in the swamp. So here we are.”
“Did you find what you were looking for, then?” Dingman sneered.
“No, but I think we found what you are looking for,” Charles said with a smile.
“What would you know about that?” Dingman asked suspiciously.
“If I can put my arms down, I can show you,” Charles said.
“Keep the hands up, thanks,” Dingman said, “I don’t trust you assholes enough for that.”
Charles sighed. “Left inside coat pocket,” he said, feigning boredom. “And even if it’s not what you are here for, you probably know about it. And if you don’t, then you will be even more interested.”
Dingman did not trust or like the McCoy brothers, though he did not hate them. Mostly, they were just trouble. He pulled the bag of blackmail pictures from Charles’ coat, not lowering his gun. It was obvious from his glance through the bag that he had seen them before.
“How do I know you weren’t in on this?” Dingman said, taking a pace or two backward, aiming more carefully.
“Come on, Chief,” Leo argued, “you know us better than that. That’s not our style.” Leo knew Dingman would realise this.
The conversation was interrupted by a distant exchange of gunfire. They all stopped as a few straggling shots rang out, dulled by the distance and walls of reeds.
“What the hell is going on?” Dingman called though his radio. “Report.” There was a delay of nearly a minute before a response came.
“Clear for now, Chief,” a cop reported.
There was a shorter pause. “Suspects are dead, sir. It was the Gibsons. They ran for the house and we pursued. When we broke the cover of the swamp they fired on us. We returned fire.” Charles and Leo both mulled over the turn of events.
“Is anyone else hit?” Dingman asked.
“Del caught a bit of bird shot in the arm, but he’s ok. We are heading to the house, now, unless you need us.”
“I’m good here,” the Chief called back. “I’ll call this in. Proceed to the house.”
Dingman lowered his gun, and the brothers lowered their hands. “I don’t know exactly why you were here, and I don’t care much; other than you probably had nothing to do with the blackmail. No one knows about these pictures or the blackmail attempt. I kept that to myself. This little raid is officially a drug and weapons bust. It will only be a big deal now because three suspects were shot, but that also helps my case. Why did you volunteer these pictures to me so fast?”
Leo cleared his throat. “We know you don’t like us, much, but what they were trying to pull off is bad shit. Your kid should not have got involved. I didn’t want that on record in some evidence bag, word would have got out.”
Dingman paused, looking unhappy. “So here is the deal. You were never here, and you never saw these pictures. As I was attempting to cuff you, I slipped and you managed to grab my arm and strike my face. I was stunned and you ran through the swamp and got away. I’ll tell them you were headed to the house, so you have a free shot out.” Dingman pulled out his cuffs and tossed them on the ground, then struck himself in the face with the side of his pistol; a small cut opened over his eye. He smiled, “If you don’t like that deal, the same thing will happen, only I end up shooting you dead. So what’s it going to be?”
“Deal number one works, Chief,” Charles said, quickly, “we were never here.”
They turned and ran. Dingman’s pistol fired twice as they ran through the reeds for cover. They kept running.
Leo and Charles reached the truck in a state of near exhaustion. The sun was on the verge of rising, and they needed to get away without being seen. It was all back road driving until they reached the main secondary route into Gillbury. Charles fumbled through his coat, pulling out dirty pieces of gold.
“I can’t believe we got out of that,” Leo said, checking his speed. There was no need to be pulled over.
“Yeah,” Charles said, holding the gold in one hand, testing the weight, “we got lucky.”
“So how much did we get, after all?”
“Eight pieces,” he said, “about six or seven pounds, maybe.”
“Enough to pay the rent, at least,” Leo said, scratching at his bug-bitten hand.
“I suppose,” Charles agreed, inspecting the gold further. “They do have some markings on them, small but distinct; might add some value if there is any rarity.”
“Whatever,” Leo said, starting to relax. “I’m just glad we got something out of it. Now, it’s over with.”
“Over with? What are you talking about?” Charles said, pocketing the gold with a smile. “There’s gold in that there swamp!”
(That’s it for now. I have a number of story ideas for the McCoy brothers. Their tales are probably best suited for a series, anyway. If I get something together for another round, I will revisit Gillbury. As it is, I am behind on enough writing projects to leave the brothers McCoy driving home with a pocket full of gold.)