Illusions of Glory

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


In the year leading up to the Great Depression, Clyde, the most wanted man in America, plans to knock over the great Glory Federal.

Submitted: January 28, 2018

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Submitted: January 28, 2018

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Illusions of Glory


You knocked over eight banks on your way to Glory Federal. And, you failed. The illusionist fell short.”

Clyde slumped back in his chair with a half-cocked grin. His cuffed wrists lay across the banquet table.

“That’s what the headlines will read.” A short, stubby man waddled around the interrogation room. He wore a blue three-piece suit, stainless white cowboy hat. He looked to the police standing guard at the door. His jowls shook as he spoke. “Boys, this capture right here will make us famous. The word is out! Knock over our banks—Edgar’s banks?—and you will be brought to justice.”

The police mumbled under their breaths in agreement.

Edgar leaned-in on the far end of the table, aimed his sausage finger at Clyde. “Your days of robbing people of their hard-earned money—”

“Their money is insured by the banks,” Clyde said. “I’m robbing you.”

“I don’t want you robbing me!” Edgar slammed his fist on the table. The water in his mug rippled.

Clyde remained unmoved by the outburst. “Doesn’t feel good, does it?”

Edgar furrowed a brow. “Pardon me?”

“Being robbed, you know, ridiculous interest rates, foreclosing on helpless debtors—”

“Don’t!” Edgar marched around the side of the table, plopped down in a fold out chair at Clyde’s side. “You some—pardon my French—fuckin’ Robin Hood? You give that money you steal to the poor?”

Clyde’s smile grew wider. He glanced over his shoulder to the policemen, and then back to Edgar. “Hell no. I work too hard to just give it away.”

“You work to—” Edgar hid his anger with a chuckle. He removed his cowboy hat. His bald head glistened under the lights. After pulling a handkerchief from the front pocket of his blazer, he wiped the sweat from his smooth dome. “You’re a funny guy. It’s truly an art form, to walk the lines of being sarcastic and bona fide.”

Clyde shrugged.

“Now, when you go out there, it’s gonna be a goddamn circus,” Edgar said. “They might want to ask you questions. You don’t answer shit. I’ll take the floor. You just sit there, look pretty, like a cupcake convict.”

“No offense…” Clyde paused. His cocky smirk faded. He looked down, feeling something terribly wrong. He dry-heaved into his hand, breathed sharply, and dry-heaved again. His eyes watered from the rough coughing fit. A sparse amount of blood bespattered his palm. He swallowed the rest back, wiped his hand on his shirt. “But, uh, they’re not here to see you.”

Edgar eyeballed him. “Don’t die on me yet.”

“Let’s not waste much more time then.” Clyde started to stand but Edgar shoved him back in the chair.

“I can make your stay very bad.” Edgar’s face tensed. “So, leave that witty arrogance at the door.”

“What you’re saying is ‘don’t tell them how I’ll escape from here?”

“Escape from here?” Edgar cackled. “You ain’t escaping from here, boy.”

***

You’ve just escaped prison. They’re after you. It’s madness to rob Glory Federal this soo—”

Clyde interrupted her with a kiss. He pinched her chin, curled her dark strands behind her ear. “Arielle, everything is gonna be fine.”

Arielle pushed him away, turned from his affection. “You have to stop.”

“With what?” Clyde eased behind her, held her in his arms. Their bodies swayed.

“It was one night, one drunken night.” Arielle shot a side-glance over her shoulder.

“And here I thought you were worried about me robbing Glory Federal.” Clyde nestled his nose against her neck, kissed her gently.

“Well, that too,” Arielle said. “They won’t take too kindly to ya after making a fool of them. That Edgar fella, he made it his life’s purpose t—”

“They can’t hold me down. I’m like this…” Clyde spun her around. He pulled a playing card from the front pocket of his slacks. He held the card in his left hand, between the thumb and index finger. “One minute I’m here,” he motioned his head to the right, “and the next…”

Having seen the trick more than she could count, Arielle snatched the card away as quickly as it jumped to the opposite hand. She shook her head, unimpressed, and tossed the card over her shoulder.

“It’ll be my greatest escape yet.” Clyde kissed her again. This time she kissed back. He showed a warm smile down to her small baby bump, grazed his hand over the top.

Arielle rested her soft palm over his knuckles. They caressed the womb together. “What makes you so confident it’s yours, huh?”

Clyde winked at her. “Magic.”

Outside, rocks crackled under the wheels of an arriving car.

Clyde hurried to the window, snuck a glance.

The lonely country road was swallowed by a sea of golden wheat. Below, dust settled around a ‘34 Buick Sedan. The driver side door squeaked open.

“It’s Bim.” Clyde turned from the window. He started to the fridge but stopped abruptly. He covered his mouth, hacked into his hand. The coughs were loud, rough. He hacked from his toes. Veins appeared in his neck. He pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket, catching the bloody flam inside.

“It’s getting worse.” Arielle started toward him but Clyde waved her away.

Clyde postured up. He sniffled, folded the bloody handkerchief in two, and placed it back in his pocket. He made it to the fridge and grabbed two bottles of beer.

Bim entered the decrepit hideaway home. He tossed his coat aside on the couch. “Police are swarming the town.”

Clyde nodded while continuing to catch his breath. With watery eyes, he handed Bim a beer.

Bim studied his friend with a raised brow. “What’s going on with you?”

“He’s having one of his attacks,” Arielle said.

“It’s nothing.” Clyde swallowed the blood down with a sip of beer before bringing the topic back to the bank robbery. “We’ll have to create a diversion, something to draw the police away from the bank, away from the town.”

“Hey, hun.” Bim kissed Arielle on the cheek. She shot a guilty glance to Clyde. Bim took a swig from his bottle. “There’s a schoolhouse about a mile out. Maybe two. We can set fire to that.”

Clyde toasted him. “Make sure the damn thing is empty.”

***

Reporters crammed into a small room. People filled the rows of chairs. Most stood shoulder to shoulder along the white walls.

Clyde sat at a conference table in front of the room. Edgar perched at his side with police surrounding them.

“We have captured the elusive man that no one could catch.” Edgar squared his shoulders back, chin in the air. “My hat goes off to everyone in my town, all my very, very skilled officers.”

The room of reporters applauded the police work. In response, the lawmen tipped their hats; some even showed a twinkle of a smile.

“Now, the floor is open,” Edgar said.

The room exploded into a loud unified buzz. Everyone shouted at once.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. Let’s have a little order here.” Edgar shushed the crowd, looked to a young man in the front row. “You.”

“Dave Franks from the Boomtown Herald,” the man said. “My question is for Clyde—”

“I’m afraid Clyde won’t be taking any questions. Too many times in our society, we find ourselves glorifying the criminal, instead of the hero. Not this time,” Edgar said. “Direct all your questions to the heroes.”

“Any word on ‘Bad Boy’ Bim and Arielle?” Dave asked. “How did they manage to escape?”

“After robbing the Hillshire, the outlaws rendezvoused and took off in three separate cars,” Edgar said. “I ordered all my men after the mastermind. You cut the head off the snake and the body will wiggle around aimlessly. Don’t worry, folks. We’ll catch ‘Bad Boy’ and Arielle in due time.”

“Tiff Strong of the Gale Gazette,” a blonde reporter said. She readied her pencil above the pad. “How did y’all manage to run the illusionist down after the rendezvous?”

Edgar snickered. “Well, for a supposed magician—”

“I left my hat at a beautiful young dame’s house.” Clyde winked at the reporter. “Can I have it back?”

The crowd chuckled, but Tiff didn’t seem too pleased. She puckered her lips as her cheeks flushed.

Edgar shot a glare to Clyde, to which Clyde responded with a shrug.

“All for a hat?” Another reporter asked.

Clyde leaned forward on the table. “That was a top of the line wool Fedora. So, yeah. That hat was worth more than what I had in the bank’s bag.”

The newsmen laughed again.

“And now,” an old man from the back asked, “considering the way things turned out, was it all worth it?”

“The hat?”

The room giggled again, eating up every word the brash outlaw said.

***

Clyde sat low in his ‘35 Daimler. His eyes surveyed the bank under the low brim of a new Fedora.

The Model 18 police cars parked in front. They faced one another on each side of the bank steps. Lawmen loitered around the area, sharing small talk.

“Come on, Bim. Where’s the—” Clyde cut his words short upon hearing a faint fire siren. He smiled. “Right on time.”

A fire truck roared around the corner at the four-way stop. It sped past the businesses which lined the block. Pedestrians watched on from the sidewalk. The fire truck stopped in front of the bank, exchanged words with the officers.

“There’s a fire at the school,” a fireman shouted over the loud engine.

“At the school?” a lawman asked.

“Yeah. Whole things ablaze.”

“Go. We’ll follow ya.”

The firemen took off again. Policemen hopped in their Model 18’s and skidded out, trailing closely behind.

“Here I go.” With the ghost clear, Clyde exited the Daimler. The wind blew the tail of his overcoat. He walked inside the bank, one hand in his pocket. A hole was cut in the fabric, allowing him to hold the Remington shotgun underneath the flap. With his other hand, he twirled a toothpick in his lips while eyeing the foyer.

Customers stood in three separate lines. Five in total. Three tellers. An old guard stood at the window at Clyde’s left, presumably looking for smoke in the distance.

Clyde quietly snuck up on the guard, withdrew the revolver from the elder’s holster. Before the guard could move, Clyde pinned him against the glass. “Don’t be a hero, old man.” Clyde pocketed the handgun. He whipped around with the old man as a shield, removed his shotgun. “Everybody down!”

The people screamed. They froze, not knowing how to react.

“Dow—” Clyde dry-heaved. He increased his grip on the elder’s shoulder, bent at the waist, and hacked blood on the marble floor. He tried to straighten up but coughed again. He strained, face turned red.

The customers scurried for the door.

Clyde growled, erected his posture, and aimed his shotgun at the fleeing customers. “Down!”

The people stopped, surrendered their palms.

“On your bellies,” Clyde said, “hands behind your head.”

They got down on the floor without as much as a peep.

Clyde removed three potato sacks from his pocket. He walked by the tellers, tossed a bag to each one. “Fill it!”

“Okay, okay!” The first teller hurried the register’s cash into the sack.

Clyde grabbed the guard by the collar, forced him to the big vault down the side hallway. He checked the clock: 9:00. “Open it.”

“It’s time locked,” the elder said.

Clyde balled the man’s collar. “I know. I’ve had my eye on this one for awhile.”

The guard grabbed the steel wheel and cranked it open. The lock came undone.

Clyde shoved the old man away. He pushed the thick door against the wall.

Inside, money was currency strapped and stacked on steel shelves along three walls.

Clyde nodded with an impressed expression. He turned back to the door. From the inner pocket of his overcoat, he retrieved a roll of dynamite, lit the fuse, and placed it on the door’s lock. He casually strutted away while whistling a tune.

Sirens sounded in the distance.

“Back so soon? Sorry, ladies, gotta go.” Clyde collected the bags. As he started to the door, the dynamite exploded. Dust filled the hallway and moved into the lobby. Pieces of the door lock tinged off the marble floor.

Two Model 18’s slid to a stop in front of the bank.

Clyde rushed outside with the bags in hand. He fired a shot from the steps causing the lawmen to take cover. He dashed to his Daimler, hopped inside, and drove off. A cloud of dust scattered in the air.

***

Is there any reason why you’re not transporting the prisoner to the state penitentiary?”

“Our facilities are formidable enough to hold the illusionist,” Edgar said with a rough tone. “My officers worked hard to capture this man. He’s our trophy, our prize pony.”

“I tell ya I’m thrilled,” Clyde said. “It’s beautiful, spacious, and strong enough to keep me safe from all of you.”

The reporters chuckled.

“He’ll be plenty safe. No one will get in,” Edgar rotated to Clyde, “or out.”

“Clyde, we heard you like to write, will this be your next endeavor?” a fresh-face journalist asked. “Being, ya know, locked away for the rest of your life?”

Edgar guffawed, tickled by the young man’s tone toward Clyde.

Clyde flashed a smile to the upstart. “I might write… a poem or two. I might sing a song when I’m blue.”

The reporters stayed busy jotting every word the outlaw chimed.

“But, there is one thing you can be sure is true…” Clyde sat back in his seat, interlocked his fingers behind his head. “I’ll escape this prison, rob that Glory Federal if it’s the last thing I do.”

***

Clyde sped down the lone country road with several Model 18’s on his tail. Sirens blared over the open fields of the farmland. Clyde checked his distance in the rearview mirror. He looked back ahead. The color drained from his face.

Lawmen had the route blocked. Their Model 18’s parked nose to nose in the middle of the road with two more behind them for support. Police dipped behind the hoods and around the sides with their guns aimed at Clyde.

Clyde sighed but pressed the gas even harder, speeding the Daimler up. His mind drifted into a daydream. In an empty ballroom, he danced with Arielle under the glow of a single spotlight.

Lawmen fired their weapons at Clyde.

Clyde didn’t flinch. He was lost in a sweet memory. He snuggled under the bed sheets with Arielle, looking deeply into her brown eyes while caressing her cheek.

Bullets pinged off the hood of his Daimler, popped the tires, and fractured the glass.

Clyde stared absently ahead. “Our baby will never grow up needing,” he said under his breath, a sentiment he once shared with Arielle.

Stay with me tonight.” Arielle’s voice was in his ear.

Clyde could almost feel the tickle of her breath on his neck. He gripped the steering wheel tighter, braced himself for impact. Bullets clipped his shoulder, chest. Blood sprayed the dashboard. The Daimler continued forward at a high speed.

Lawmen scrambled. They dashed away, dove off the shoulder of the road.

Clyde crashed into the barricade of police cars. The metal crunched, scraped. Glass rained. Smoke from the engines lifted to the sky.

There was silence.

Policemen eased out from their cover, guns high. Other Model 18’s arrived. More lawmen hopped out, extending their weapons between the spaces of the doors. They surrounded the area, guns aimed at the crash.

The Daimler door opened with a jarring shriek.

Lawmen halted, cocked their weapons.

Clyde fell out to the pavement. He gasped for air while drooling blood onto the ground. He crawled through the glass before finally flailing to his back. He groaned. Blood oozed from his bullet wounds, staining his white shirt. It pooled out onto the concrete beneath him. He looked to the bright blue sky. His eyes fluttered as he watched clouds dance by.

“Hold your fire!” a voice said.

Lawmen lowered their weapons, inched into a tight circle around the fallen bank robber.

“Nice diversion with the school fire,” the familiar voice continued, “but I smelt the stench of your work quick.”

A shade materialized over Clyde. He coughed blood upon his chest, looked up to see Edgar’s fat face eclipsing the sun.

“Yes, yes, a poor mess.” Edgar turned to a fellow officer. “Check his car. Get my money back.”

Clyde smiled through the pain. His teeth covered in blood.

“You made a fine fool of me by escaping my prison, made a fool of me to the whole damn country,” Edgar said with a clenched jaw. He crouched near Clyde, fixed the bank robber’s folded collar. “But, this is fitting. I doubt even the illusionist can escape death.”

“Sir.” The young officer ran back over with three bank bags.

Edgar unzipped one, shuffled through the cash. He laughed while looking down on the famous thief. “This is it? You died over this? I take it, not enough time to get into my vault?”

Clyde choked on a laugh, spat more blood to the side.

“Sir!” a voice shouted from the back.

“What is it?” Edgar asked.

“We’ve been robbed,” the voice said.

“Well, no shit. The great Clyde has been brought down over—” Edgar shrugged. “—What I’m guessing—is just cash from the registers?”

The surrounding lawmen shared laughs.

“No, sir,” the voice continued. “They came back and got the vault.”

Edgar’s soft gaze sharpened on Clyde.

Clyde breathed a sigh of relief. He gazed to the bright blue sky as the light dimmed in his eyes.

***

Bim sped away with bags of money stacked to the ceiling in the back of his Buick Sedan.

The wind rushed through the window of the passenger door, blowing Arielle’s dark hair. She placed a palm over her womb, looked up to the sky with tears in her eyes.


© Copyright 2018 MELEL. All rights reserved.

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