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Back to the World

by James Shaffer

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

Back to the World: synopsis

Johnnie Rae Piper is born in a tarpaper house outside Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle, in 1950. His mom raises and home-schools Johnnie while his father, Tom, is off fighting in the Korean War. When Tom comes home, he’s changed: he has drinking and gambling addictions.

In 1969, an unlucky number in the draft lottery sends Johnnie to Vietnam. When he returns home, a year and half later, he finds he has exchanged one set of problems for another. A local loan shark is putting the muscle on Tom, and the criminal organization is widespread. Johnnie tries to help his father, with the aid of three cowgirls: Darlene, Jamie Sue and Kelly Jo. All of them are in for a wild ride.

21: At Ed Will’s Home in Amarillo. Still Waiting

Ed Wills liked the organization. He’d worked for it for a long time. He’d found a home. The loan-sharking side of the business was his specialty. He’d run it small-time on his own before the organization came along. They’d made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. They’d been insistent in a way that made him all too glad to oblige.

He’d known the Piper family for years. Tom had even helped Ed out from time to time collecting some debts. For that reason he’d let Tom’s debt slide a little further than he should have. When his drinkin’ took hold, Tom was no good to anyone. He was like a lost ball in high grass, but he was Ed’s lost ball and, ultimately, Ed’s liability. He’d reported it right away to the next rung up the ladder.

He knew that if you tried solving your own problems without telling anyone, the organization solved them for you —permanently. Openness was their policy. “There are no problems, only solutions,” his boss, Larry, had told him. However, that bit of corporate wisdom didn’t keep Larry from kicking Ed’s ass for carrying Tom’s debt. Ed knew if you played the cowboy, you put the noose around your own neck. He wasn’t about to do that. He was content on his rung of the ladder.

The organization stretched beyond the Texas borders and into the surrounding states. Its network was solid. The money flowed easily through a conduit of banks and businesses, some legitimate and some, like Ed’s, not so legit. Information, tips, scores, hits, they all made their way through the proper channels, and everyone was in the know.

Being in the know is important to any organization. That’s why it had an open policy. It fed the fire, greased the wheels of commerce and made everyone’s life a little easier. Ed’s life, for that reason, was about to get easier and more interesting when he answered a call from his boss, Lawrence ‘Larry’ Dobbs.

“Ed. How you doin’?”

“Doin’ OK, Larry,” Ed answered. “Just waitin’ on some news from my boys out in the bush.” Larry could be a mean bastard. Ed played it cool.

“Listen. I may have some news for you. What was the name of that guy you went to collect from, who gave you the trouble?” Larry was a stickler for detail. He knew Larry hadn’t forgotten Tom’s name or the ass-kickin’ he’d given Ed, but he could play the game. He’d been doing it for years.”

“Piper. Tom Piper. Why?” Ed asked.

“Dallas got a call from Witchita from a bar in Russell, Kansas. Seems there’s an idiot by that name who signed a chit placing bets on college ball with a minimum thousand dollars a pop. He won the first round last night, and they had to make a five to one payout.

“This morning he placed a two thousand-dollar bet on another game. The odds aren’t as good, but they’re a little nervous. They called ’cause they want a guarantee to cover the bet.”

“Sounds like my guy, Larry. I’ve known the family for years. I think they have kin up in Kansas. You’ll be glad to know I’m already on it. Our guy at the Amarillo bus station got a tip that a guy fitting Tom’s description bought a ticket to Wichita. We got two guys heading up there now. Thanks for the heads-up on Russell. Soon as they call in, we’ll send them on up.”

“Good. Glad to hear it. The next call I get, I want to hear the problem’s been taken care of. You hear?” Larry gave Ed the telephone number of the bar.

“I’ll take care of it, Larry.” With that, he hung up.

Ed called and spoke to the bar owner. He got the name of the bar and its location in Russell. Then he called Harry.

“Harry, I got some news. Our guy’s in Russell, Kansas.” Ed gave him the information he needed for his boys. “Tell your guys to go to the bar and speak to the owner. Have him point out Tom Piper if he’s there. If not, find out where he’s stayin’ and grab him. Bring him down here. Got that? What do you hear from the guys going west? They haven’t called me.”

“They don’t have any solid news,” said Harry. “They’ve been checking every wide spot in the road and every truck stop all the way to the New Mexico border. Nothing yet, and they haven’t seen your car.”

“Damn! It’s probably parked up somewhere out in the desert right now filling up with sand. Damn! That car was brand-new.”

“Sorry, Ed.” Harry left a moment of silence for the Caddie, then went on. “The boys say they’ll be in Tucumcari, New Mexico, by nightfall. It’s a decent-sized town. Lotsa bars and motels. If your boy got a ride, he may be holed up there.”

“OK. Thanks, Harry. Tell ’em to keep lookin’. Give me a call when you got some news.”

“OK, Ed. Talk to you later.” With that, Harry hung up.

Ed put down the phone. If everything went according to plan, by the next morning he would be on the way to getting his money back.

Proceed to part 22...

Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer

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