START WITH THE LETTER…
This was never about the green-gray-wrinkled denominations of dead presidents. It was about blistering eyes wide open.
From the suit in the well-kept suite with a tanned-toned-pedicured wife in a 5,000-square-foot red-stone structure across from the Country Club Golf Course to the beagle-bellied drunk in a goddamned trucker’s cap married to a callus-handed wife in a beat-down trailer of rust planted down a hard-to-find country back road where the land is waiting to be sold and timbered for corporate America. What we wanted to do was wake up every one of you cocksuckers from your stoops of comfort and mundane day-to-day upper, middle or lower bullshit. No social class is safe. Welcome to our goddamned awakening! —The Disgruntled Americans
GO BACK TO when a matte-black-primered Chevy Astro van with a 350 small-block thumping under the hood wheels down the faded lot of yellow lines, backs into the first spot in row 11, three men inside, brothers. It’s early. The engine kills and they wait. They wait and watch patrons disperse and scatter from vehicles like piss-ants drawn to fresh pulp, rushing into the Harrison County Walmart, smoking cigarettes, drinking pop or coffee, discarding cups and butts on the asphalt.
The men’s eyes light up as a gray box-shaped armored truck with bold blue letters spelling BRINKS pulls up to the south doors of Walmart, the HOME & PHARMACY end. Two uniformed guards step out, each with a nine millimeter strapped to his right side. The three brothers check the digital bands wrapped around their wrists. Four minutes total. That’s how long the guards have to shoulder through the crowd of moans, groans and all-day stench of shoppers. Go to the door beside the service desk. Collect the cash. Get back to the truck. Cut down the parking lot’s row 10 and head to their next stop.
Kenny, the oldest brother, a county cop who retired six months ago, and Ronnie, brother number two, a Walmart employee, wait exactly one minute. Just enough time for the Brinks guards to get into the money room next to the service desk. Kenny slides open the van’s side door. Steps into the cold November air that menthols his bones. Dressed in black overalls, full black beard glued to his face that is makeupped with military green, brown and black as if hunting, a knit cap over his head, mirrored shades.
Ronnie gets out behind Kenny, outfitted identically, following him, eyeing the packed lot of happy-go-lucky motherfuckers; he’s batting cleanup if needed. Everything moves in distorted slow motion. Beneath their overalls they wear Kevlar vests. Wilbur, brother number three, stays in the van. He’s the wheelman, looks identical to his brothers with a .45 Kimber resting on his right thigh. He keeps tabs on the side mirrors and out the windows, his blood pressure amped. Seeing Kenny and Ronnie walk into Walmart, he picks up his cell phone, fingers a text message to his cousins, Kraut and Marty: “NUKE ’EM!” Starts the dominoes’ descent.
CUT TO RURAL ANARCHY, to Marty and Kraut, two burly and bearded bikers who run 135 Auto Parts. They have balls, big brass motherfuckers that clink when they roll over in their sleep.
Marty gets the text while waiting in a late-1980s Silverado in the First Savings Bank parking lot, less than half a mile from the police station but a mile down the road from Walmart. He’s dressed like his cousins—knit cap, gloves, camo-polished features, fake beard, armed.
Marty navigates from the bank parking lot, pulls up at the Harrison County police station, circles around, stops behind an empty cruiser. The guys’d been running tabs on this for weeks and weeks, playing everything out, driving by on timed runs, always noting a vacant pork transporter in the lot. Marty gets out, leaves the Silverado running. Slaps a hunk of putty with a detonator on the cruiser’s gas cap. Gets back into the pickup and hauls ass back past the bank. Around the curve. Hangs a right onto 62 West, then a left onto Old Forest Road. Removes his cell phone. Presses the center button. The county cruiser expands and discharges into an arcing ball of heat, flames and tread. Shuddering the earth, shattering the glass windows out of the police station. Marty is a memory heading westbound.
Kraut sits in the liquor store parking lot, watching the brown-gravy-bricked fire station, waiting. Then he hears that first window-rattling boom.
The howl of sirens abrades the air, horns roaring from the fire truck screeching out of the fire department’s bay garages. Leaving two engines behind, the rig hangs a right onto Old 135 South, mashing the accelerator to the police station.
Kraut pulls from the liquor store’s black pavement, hangs a right onto 135 for a split second, then another right into the fire station’s drive up to the open bay door of the firehouse. Exits his vehicle, steps inside with three sticks of duct-taped dynamite, flames the fuse, tosses it beneath the first fire truck. By the time Kraut turns back onto Old 135 North, the explosives detonate, blowing the big engines and local tax dollars to shreds, along with morsels of baked clay and wiring of all dimensions.
He cuts through neighborhoods. Hits 62 West, hangs a right onto Williar Avenue, then a left onto Hillview Drive, pulls up beside the fence that squares in a monstrous grain-silo-size steel water tower the lime green color of sunbaked duck shit, big black bold letters spelling CORYDON across the front. Kraut halves the chain with red and black bolt cutters, opens the gate. Plasters C-4 at the front, rear and sides of the tower. Circles around, gets back behind the wheel and hauls ass down the snaking road to the stop sign. Hangs a right onto 62, runs the stoplight, passes the fire truck as he removes a cell phone from his pocket. Smiles, lipping the words “Good-bye, water pressure.” Thumbs the center button, detonates the C-4. Holes rip into the steel tank; a tidal wave of shrapnel and water surges across the land.
SKIP BACK TO the Walmart parking lot, just two minutes before the explosion at the police station. Hollis, brother number four, gets the text from Marty: “MOVE IT!” Steps out of a rusted 1976 Monte Carlo. Walks through one set of doors at Walmart’s north entrance, past the peach schnapps–smelling Santa Claus–attired greeter dinging a damn bell with a bucket for donations. People pay him no mind as he kneels next to the rough-rock interior wall, pretends to tie his boot. Pulls from his overalls a chunk of Play-Doh-looking putty, tiny electric probe in its center, presses it into the wall. Walks across to the other side of the two double doors, into a small, shotgunned area where kids search a Redbox movie kiosk for the latest releases. Hollis presses more putty-plus-detonator into the polymer-coated brick behind a stuffed-animal snatch-and-grab machine. Then he slips back out, bumping shoulders with the overflow of holiday patrons. Looks out, every row of parking filled. Cold air wipes his camoed face. He glances down the sidewalk to the Brinks truck, hears the first explosion off to the south, nearly a mile away, knows it’s the police cruiser.
Counting Mississippis until he hears two more blasts in the distance, Hollis watches uniformed and plainclothes police officers rush out of Walmart. Their mode is panic.
Working down the sidewalk, Hollis’s heartbeat pastes his throat. Almost to the armored truck, he smirks, takes out his cell phone. Waits for the screams from inside. Hears them. Fingerprints the button on his cell phone. The entryway behind him combusts with brick, glass, steel, blood and more screams. His feet press the concrete fast until he meets the Brinks guard from the side, tattooing his temple with his Kimber, brother Kenny now taking up the rear.
GO BACK EIGHT WEEKS EARLIER, to Kenny and his brothers running down a checklist of all that is wrong with the world around them, their anger festering like hazardous fumes heated within a sealed container, turning to hate, ready to blow.
They are fed up. Fed up with their jobs and those who determine employment. Fed up with the corporations that years before purchased farmland for pennies on the dollar, fed up with fighting wars that others would not, fed up with arresting mangle-minded men and women who’d be back out on the street by the end of the week doing the same dumb shit that got them busted—DWI, domestic battery, B and E, the list was unending.
Kenny is the leader, the oldest brother of four, a 20-year veteran of the Harrison County police force. He’d watched as robberies in the community morphed from simple home break-ins into foot-stomp-the-door-down when you were home, the escalations coming with the flood of methamphetamine, oxycodone, heroin. Men, women, teenagers—any and all took your wares and valuables, hocked them for pennies at the local pawn shop to lace their fix. They’d get busted, but the charges would be knocked down to misdemeanor after misdemeanor for doing state- or county-funded self-help programs—second chance after second chance. In Kenny’s mind it was bullshit; they needed a bullet to the rear of their brains. To be buried instead of crutched by a failed system. Add to that his disenchantment with a sheriff who sided with the politicians instead of the officers—knowing damn good and well it was the wrong decision—a sheriff who always looked the other way to keep his job. Kenny’d wasted enough time, retired six months ago, and now he wants actions, not words.
While Kenny had cared for their ailing father, the three younger brothers had fought in purposeless wars that had become nothing more than 10-second time slots of death reported on the evening news. The brothers had watched the landscape that birthed and raised them be bled out by big businesses expanding into corporations with small-town politics. Their family farm, sold when their father had fallen ill. The investors holding out until he was on his deathbed, low-balling them while the medical bills were cannibalizing his existence.
The mom-and-pop groceries the brothers had once known were smudged memories replaced by Walmart. The local-owned hardware and lumber stores disappeared like desolate vapors in a busted mason jar, put out of business by do-it-yourself home improvement centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Gas stations bulldozed. Replaced by something bigger and better—BP or Shell or Marathon supermarts. Diners offering home-style meals abandoned for the artery-stoppers of McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Taco Bell and DQ. All brought the promise of greasy employment where the workers could cash their checks and pump their earnings back into the places that employed them, keeping them entrapped.
Ronnie, the number-two brother, had been short-fused by wartime’s hail of bullets, flipping an ignition switch on the directives that coursed though his brain. He worked for Walmart in the oil-change area. Couldn’t keep a job anywhere else because of his PTSD. Two tours in Afghanistan hunting Taliban, blowing mountain bunkers, parting the bearded evil smirks from the faces of men he’d smoked out.
Kenny had pulled security at Walmart on the side during holidays, got Ronnie’s foot in the door. Ronnie gets 30 hours a week—just enough to keep benefits at bay—and he has to deal with Gilbert Stines, a general manager and sexist slob who dons a closet of Looney Tunes ties and a 1970s porn mustache and who always yammers on about who the fuckable females are on each shift. Sometimes pinching or patting an ass, getting away with it by threatening their employment if they bark to corporate about sexual harassment. What Ronnie wants to do when he witnesses Gilbert copping a feel in the break room is plant a garden of size 12 infantry boots up the GM’s backside until he’s shitting -vulcanized-rubber outsoles.
Brothers three and four, Wilbur and Hollis, both Iraqi Freedom veterans, work down over the hill at the union-represented factory that’d been bought up by the Canadians. They had left to fight a war, came back to jobs with their wages sliced by $4 on the hour regardless of contracts. They make frames for Ford and GM. Some co-workers punch the clock to fuel addictions to meth or booze or both, wearing their bodies down for a vice that ruptured their souls. Others have mouths to feed, car loans and mortgages to pay. All have time in and can’t afford to start over somewhere else, even if they wanted. They are trapped in the dead-end labor pool of existence, dealing with plant managers. The guys who wanted to go outside the bargaining unit, ignore the contract, throw a bone to the union reps to bend the other way—these are the same guys who thought it was fair to cut union wages by four bucks on the hour while health insurance went up, the cost of living went up and the managers still got their raises every year. Same guys who go to Lisa’s Bar, want to share a stool next to the workers, buy them a drink after a long shift, pretend everything is cool when it isn’t even close—a fuel-saturated situation waiting to be ignited.
These discussions parted the four brothers’ lips every Sunday down at Kenny’s 100-acre plot in English, from before noon until late evening, when the big questions came up as they stood in the dead field target-practicing on six sand-filled plastic drums stapled with paper targets. Questions like: Where does it all end? When does some educated fuck open his eyes? When does some blue-haired sack of shit put ego, greed and politics aside and make things good again for the common man?
Shouldering an AR-15, pinching one eye closed, the other ball-bearing wide at the target some 50 yards away, Ronnie says, “They forced Daddy to take that million-dollar real estate offer. It sounded nice but we all knew after the taxes and medical was paid, he’d be lucky if he could afford bologna and saltines to endure his last days here on this goddamned ground.”
Kenny pulls the slide on his .45 Glock, looks to Ronnie. “You’re right. At first he thought he was rich. Still, he died the way he wanted, with no damn debt.”
Ronnie indexes the trigger, the rat-a-tat-tat jerk of gunfire chiseling his shoulder, circular holes ripping the targets. Empty brass piles on the brittle earth.
Ronnie indexes the trigger, the rat-a-tat-tat jerk of gunfire chiseling his shoulder, circular holes ripping the targets. Empty brass piles on the brittle earth. And Ronnie yells, “You mean he died with nothing, not even his dignity.”
Ronnie thumbs the clip release of the smoking AR-15, and Kenny says, “Compared to the millions the buyers make from their supercenters they build, I agree, it’s an insult. Especially to those generations of family who lived from that land with nothing more to show than Polaroid picture albums, age spots and a broke-down body before they took residence in the dirt.” Kenny pauses, steps forward, raises his Glock, two-hands it and walks to within 20 feet of the drums. Rapid-fires the pistol. When it’s empty, he turns, walks back to Ronnie and says, “Here’s one for you. Three years ago, the Walmart in Clarksville, Indiana was the number-three profit maker in the world.”
Ronnie smirks, presses a brass-filled magazine into his rifle and says, “Know what I say, some clever son of a bitch needs to trim the fat from these I-like-taking-it-in-the-ass-lazy-as-fuck Americans. Just go into that superstore like Jesse fucking James, full tilt, with enough armed men—when one of them armored trucks comes in for they morning haul, bring the blaze, plant one in that sexist GM’s belly while creating complete and total havoc in everyone’s little world-retina-view. Say ‘Looky here, motherfuckers, we’s sick of your control, taking all of our other choices away and leaving us with only one. Oh, and we’s taking your loot.’ ”
Kenny passes Ronnie, whose anger has created slobber in the corners of his mouth. He goes to a large rough-cut wooden table he built with a canopy over the top, where Wilbur and Hollis stand listening while readying their .45s. Kenny drops the clip from his Glock onto the table where boxes of .45-caliber shells are stacked and says, “It could be done, done by us.” Kenny pauses, thumbs bullets into his clip and finishes with “I say we do it.”
Ronnie wipes spittle from his mouth, busts up laughing. “Get the fuck out of here, you was a pig, big brother, was ole Johnny motherfucking Law for, what, 20-some years? Me, I’m just some disgruntled American war vet, running my fucking chops, venting my frustrations with the ‘this land is my land, this land is your land’ that’s become a sweltering pile of horseshit.”
Kenny says, “I was a cop. I ain’t no more ’cause I’s fed up dealing with a buncha educated and uneducated idiots who was running the county into the soil. Way I see it, problem we have in this day and age is the same dumb shits that govern our employment are of the same mentality of those running our country into the goddamned ground at the general population’s expense. This ain’t just happening here, it’s happening all over the country and no one has done nothing about it.”
Hollis and Wilbur look at each other, purse their lips, smile and say, “You’re right.”
Ronnie holds a shit-eating grin and says, “Okay, Mr. I’s Fed Up, then how you proclaim we’d do it? Hell, why would we do it?”
Kenny says, “The question is, why wouldn’t we do it? We do it to open some eyes, to make a stand, start a movement——”
“A movement?” Hollis interrupts. “You mean like all them Occupy Wall Street shit birds who wasted four years taking gender studies and was surprised they couldn’t get jobs? Then wasted tax dollars by camping out in cities, trashing them, getting drunk and stoned and raping women?”
Kenny says, “No, them fucktards wanted free shit because they thought they was entitled to it. I’m talking about like-minded people, those who’ve worked, dirtied their hands, watched the system fail. And we’d be getting the big-dick marker out to say we’ve had enough of your ways. We’d do it smart, methodical and as cold-blooded as need be to assure we pull it off. Everyone would be expendable. We scope out every obstacle. And create our own diversions. We hit their shit first, then we wait for the dominoes to fall and do the deed.”
Ronnie says, “Smart and cold-blooded I get, but that don’t give much intel to your way of thinking.”
Kenny tells him, “You were in the military, all three of you were soldiers, I was a cop. We all been trained to go into the field of battle. Who do we depend upon when the guns begin blazing, when a suspect flees or shit doubles down into a backfire?”
Ronnie says, “The men in my unit, we’re a team, we cater to one another, no man left behind.”
Kenny says, “Bull’s-fucking-eye! So we remove the ones that depend on one another from the equation, we scramble their shit. All that’s left is us to rain down with our will.”
Ronnie smirks, “And how we go about the removal?”
Kenny says, “We’d need explosives, dynamite, C-4, some disposable vehicles, burner phones and guns.”
Ronnie looks to Wilbur and Hollis. “What’ll you guys think of your big bad ex-Dirty-fucking-Harry brother over here talking shit?”
Hollis says, “Goddammit, we’re in. Tired of the suit-and-tie guys, the union reps that act like they’s doing the best they can do for us, day after day, and treating us like we’re lower forms of life after we done give our time to Uncle Sam.”
And Wilbur chimes in, “I’m sure our cousins down at 135 Auto can get us some throwaway vehicles. Hell, I bet they’d wanna be in on it.”
Hollis says, “And as far as explosives, owner down at the gun range in Kentucky got major connects.”
Kenny says, “Rumor is he’s tied to the KKK and Aryans. Heard through the grapevine the ATF has been getting a lot of buzz on him, but he’s smart, knows how to deter the heat, ain’t been caught yet.”
Hollis asks, “What about the innocent folk?”
Kenny says, “Innocent folk? Shit, all people are concerned about anymore is what’s going on with reality TV, or who movie stars is poking or what sex video they’s filming, who’s got a bigger smartphone, or when the next goddamned Iron Man movie is coming out. No one cares about the soldiers, the law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, farmers, the working class, those that care for everyone else. People in this day and age could tell you who won last year’s Oscar before they could tell you who was the last vice president. This ain’t about being innocent anyway, innocence is expendable. Hell, it ain’t even about the fucking money as far as I’m concerned.”
Hollis asks, “What’s it about, then?”
Kenny tells him, “Money is secondary. There would be cash, but you gotta remember, in this day and age plastic rules. They’ll think it’s about money, but it ain’t.”
Ronnie flips a can of Kodiak dip from his pocket, nestles a chew into his lip, cuts in with “This is a fucking wake-up call. To everyone that’s forgotten about independence.” Pausing to spit, he says, “It’s about the corporations stealing the rural blind, buying farmland to build their superstores, creating jobs that just take the money right back in. It’s about that sad sack who tells you what to do at your job every day when he don’t even know how to do your job and don’t wanna know, don’t even care about you, it’s about what everyone has lost and don’t even know it. Their salvation.”
Kenny says, “It’s about things that can’t be said. It’s about folks being blind, being satisfied with the same old shit, over and over, never taking a stand. Instead they tell themselves it’ll get better, but it never does.”
Wilbur says, “I know I’s sick and tired of being told thanks for serving our country every time someone sees me wearing a cap with my rank and the war I fought in or some sad sap that knows me. I didn’t serve our country—I fought in a war that others were too damn weak and stupid to fight. Shitting in one hand and wiping with the other.”
Look at all these rocky-road-eating motherfuckers. Still got yesterday’s gravy on their chins.
Kenny says, “And they still are. Look at us, we pull out and go right back into another war to bomb ISIS.”
Hollis joins in, “And the president is talking about the U.S. training rebels to fight them. Didn’t we do the same shit with bin Laden, didn’t the CIA train he and his people to fight the Russians in Afghanistan? Look what happened all them years later, 9/11. And we got North Korea and Syria on deck.”
Ronnie shakes his head. “I served two tours for that war. Fucked-up situation, don’t no one ever learn by they past mistakes.”
Wilbur says, “I got the point, but we’re losing the thread. If we gonna do it, other than how, the next question would be, when?”
Kenny stands in thought for a moment, clicks a full clip into his Glock. “We do it on the biggest goddamn money day they got besides the Christmas sale. Black Friday.”
The brothers’ eyes meet with evil grins.
CUT TO THE PRACTICE DRIVES, always in a different car. Kenny and his brothers sit in the Walmart lot, taking notes. Scoping out the entrances and exits. The 15 cameras that watch from the roof. The numbered parking rows and which are closest to get in and get out. The pickup times for the Brinks armored trucks, how many guards, what they carry. How much time they take to pick up the cash and leave.
Ronnie says, “Look at all these rocky-road-eating motherfuckers. Still got yesterday’s gravy on their chins.”
After a month of study, they have it down. Kenny reviews a list of bullet points. “I know they hire a minimum of 10 off-duty cops on Black Friday. They have radio contact with each other and all-door access to get from place to place without fighting the crowd. To remove them, we blow up a police cruiser in the department’s parking lot. That’ll cause some of the security to leave. This’ll alert the fire department. When they leave the firehouse, we hit it, blow one of the fire engines left behind, ’cause they won’t bring all their rigs. At the same time, we blow the big water tower. Fire department will say fuck the police, go to save their own shit. But there won’t be no water pressure.”
Wilbur asks, “Who’s blowing the cruiser, the fire rig and the water tower?”
Kenny tells him, “Marty and Kraut. They’re scouting as we speak. Getting their routes down.”
Wilbur asks, “And we’re——”
Kenny tells him, “Doing the robbery.”
Ronnie cuts in, “Okay, then what about Brinks?”
Kenny says, “Brinks doesn’t monitor shit, they won’t have a clue. For them it’ll be business as usual. We hit the guards as they exit. This has to be a perfect domino effect to work. You need to be backed in the first spot in row 11.”
Wilbur questions, “How the hell we do that?”
“Get here early and get the spot. Wait. When Ronnie and me come out, you gotta come barreling to us. Hollis, by this time you’ve taken out the north entrance, creating mass hysteria. You’ll be down the walk, help with the guards. When we get in the van, we’ll have 60 seconds to get to the other end. Hang a left onto Pacer Drive, one minute to the next stop, where we hang a right onto Corydon Ramsey Road, then speed down and hang a left onto Quarry Road. Every available law enforcement unit’s gonna be south; we go northwest, keep to the back roads.”
“Where do we switch?”
“Talked with Marty and Kraut. They drop a swap vehicle at the old church out off of 337 night before. When they’s done lighting up Harrison County, they’ll do the same as us, take the back roads to the old church. We meet and leave the cash and a big fucking surprise for later.”
“Like we discussed, this ain’t about the money. It’s about a movement.”
Ronnie tells him, “Fine, where we gonna go after all is said and done?”
Kenny tells him, “Underground. Way this works, we can’t have no fuck-ups, we’re in the watermark of technology, everything is traceable. Some trailer-trash motherfucker pulls out their smartphone, it’ll be on YouTube, go viral and every major news channel in the country will see us. We need disguises.”
Ronnie laughs. “That’s easy—fake beards, camo makeup.”
Kenny says, “And there’s the phone call.”
Ronnie asks, “Phone call?”
Kenny tells him, “Yeah, this is gonna be bigger than any of us. Whoever makes the call won’t be able to use things like voice chat or a cell phone no more. They’ll bring in the feds, they’ll have voice recognition, use Patriot Act rules. Which means all bets are off and lawful tactics are suspended for homegrown terrorists. ’Cause that’s how we’ll be labeled.”
CUT BACK TO BLACK FRIDAY, 10:02 a.m. The Brinks driver flips through paperwork for his next stop when three ground-quaking explosions detonate within moments of one another. Wide-eyed, he sees smoke mushrooming to the south, then to the east. “What in the fuck?” Through his front windshield and out his side mirrors he watches off-duty cops run from the exits and out into the lot, where patrons stand mannequin-stiff, staring at the black smoke billowing up into the sky. Officers slide into their cruisers, turn on sirens and bark tires out of the lot.
Kenny storms into Walmart’s south entrance, bumping through the mad rush of customers. He putties a square of C-4 on the wall inside. Ronnie pushes through the crowd and into the store. Snaps two 20-minute road flares, tosses them into the men’s clothing area not 30 feet from the doors. People begin yelling.
Turning around, he sees the Brinks guards are already out the exit, carrying satchels of cash. Kenny shadows them; Ronnie not far behind. Gilbert, the GM with the 1970s porn mustache, cuts down the last cashier’s aisle, beads of moisture plastering his piglet features. He tries to cut off Ronnie while barking orders over his radio, but there’s no response but static; his security is MIA.
Ronnie smiles. The north entrance detonates. The GM drops the radio, palms each of his ears, hambone-knees crack on the tiled floor. Tears streak from his orbs as he cries, “NO!” Ronnie’s mind flashes back to Afghanistan, eyes gloss over with the madness of bearded men in pajama-like clothing firing AKs.
Kenny makes it out to the sidewalk, eyes Hollis to his left ramming his matte black .45–caliber Kimber into the left temple of guard number one’s skull. Kenny takes the cash bag from the guard’s grip while pressing his pistol into guard number two’s back; tells him, “Do anything stupid, your buddy gets graved on the sidewalk.”
Behind him in the store, Gilbert begs from the floor at Ronnie, “Why’re you doing this?”
Flames and smoke blossom from the clothing area. Shoppers fall to the tile, coughing. Others run, trampling bodies and shouting “Fire, fire!”
Ronnie looks down upon Gilbert, shouts, “Fuck you, sloth!”
Gilbert eyes Ronnie, twists his head oddly and says, “Ronnie?”
Ronnie points his pistol downward. The world around him loses its sound. He plants a silver-dollar-size hole in the GM’s soft pink facade. Pulp-organ-skull-matter scatters and noise roars back into Ronnie’s ears with the rush of blood to his face.
Bodies press and bump, knocking Ronnie around. He elbows, punches and feeds his pistol butt to faces. Kenny looks back into the store and hollers, “Fucking move it!”
Ronnie is busting skulls to get out the door when shots from inside ring out. He turns to the overcast of smoke that hangs like early morning fog laced with orange heat, takes a thud in the chest from some salve-faced man wearing a Duck Dynasty cap and yelling, “Fucking rag-headed fuck!” He’s firing a nine-millimeter handgun. Tears a patch out of Ronnie’s left forearm.
Ronnie returns fire. Parts the man’s shoulder, then his face, and more people are diving to the floor in holiday horror.
Out on the sidewalk, Kenny holds one of the sacks of cash, the guard yowling, “You’ll never get away with——”
Ronnie’s lungs huff as he runs out of Walmart. He presses his Kimber to the man’s skull, tugs the trigger. Turns to the other guard, does the same. Blood colors the side of the armored truck the shade of war.
Wilbur barks the van’s tires up onto the sidewalk behind them. Ronnie steps to the armored truck’s passenger side. Points his pistol at the driver. Fires two shots. Splinters the glass and the driver’s complexion.
The brothers go around the back of the Brinks truck and open the rear door, intent on grabbing more money. A guard inside combusts the air with shotgun fire. Lights up Hollis’s side profile; he drops. Ronnie unloads on the guard, blowing brains and scalp all over the inside. “Motherfucker!”
Ronnie kneels, lifts and shoulders the mangled mess that is Hollis up and around to the van. Kenny slides the side door open. Gunshots from patrons ring out from the parking lot, dotting and dinging the van’s side. Ronnie throws Hollis inside. Wilbur yells, “Holy shit! Holy shit, Hollis, they fucking killed Hollis!”
Kenny reaches for one of the AR-15s on the van’s floor, hands it to Ronnie, tells him, “Start mowing the lawn!” Ronnie shoulders the AR-15, creates a rainfall of splintered glass around cars and trucks. Piercing hoods and doors as he tells Kenny, “Blow the fucking south entrance!”
Kenny pulls his phone out with one hand, grabs Ronnie by the collar with his other and jerks him backward into the van. Ronnie keeps hosing the parking lot with gunfire, spraying chaos. Kenny shouts to Wilbur, “Fucking move!”
The van swerves from the sidewalk, past the smoking north entrance strewn with debris and bodies. Kenny thumbs the center button on his cell phone. The pharmacy end comes apart like fresh stitches of rubble. Wilbur swerves past oncoming vehicles lost within the mass hysteria, hits buggies and patrons, who thud and bounce up over the hood. Adrenalized, Ronnie drops an empty clip from the smoking AR-15, clicks in a fresh one, looks at his brother’s gory face. Starts driving scarred knuckles into the ceiling.
A state trooper sirens red-and-blue up beside the van from nowehere. Caps a round into the open door.
Wilbur hangs a hard rubber-burning left onto Pacer Drive. A state trooper sirens red-and-blue up beside the van from nowhere. Caps a round into the open side door of the van. Clips the muscle of Kenny’s right arm. Ronnie delivers an ice storm of gunfire onto the cop, spattering the cruiser’s interior and front windshield crimson, causing the cruiser to swerve to the right and crash off the side of the road. Wilbur keeps the pedal mashed all the way to Corydon Ramsey Road, the side door still gaping, cold air glazing the men like fresh icing to a warm cake as they hit the Quarry Road. Other than a roaring engine, tires rounding on pavement, all that can be heard is the wail of sirens channeling distance.
GO TO METAPHORS FROM THE DEAD where Wilbur’s shovel pats the earthy grit over the unmarked grave of Hollis. Ronnie and Kenny stand wounded, watching. Knowing everyone is expendable, that he did not die in vain. That they’d made some noise. Opened some eyes. But they aren’t done.
GO TO THE FBI leading the investigation, with everyone else—the ATF, Harrison County PD, Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the fire marshal—butting heads over jurisdiction, over “this is my backyard” bullshit because the outsiders view the locals as too podunk to be involved. Everyone wants to be the first to get that big break into how the fuck this happened, take credit in front of the cameras.
FLASH BACK TO KENNY and his final play. Wilbur looking to Kenny, eyes blazed by red, “Now what?”
“We do as we planned. Finish this and go underground.”
Ronnie’s on the same page as Kenny, looks to Wilbur. “We all talked this out beforehand. This is what Hollis wanted. What we all wanted.”
GO TO THE DAYS BEFORE BLACK FRIDAY, when cash is exchanged for several prepaid burner phones. Bought by a man with a fake beard, shoe-polished features, in overalls and driving a black-primered van, plates removed before entering the lot, nothing for cameras to trace. After purchasing the phones, the man gets into the van and drives down the road out of eyeshot, pulls over, puts the plates back on and drives away.
CUT TO AFTER THE EXPLOSIONS, to after the robbery, to after the burial of Hollis. To taking care of the burner phones, each used only once, the last phone used to make the brag call—the anonymous tip about the old church. Melting lead wheel weights onto the phones down at 135 Auto. Traveling down to Mauckport, tossing some of them into the Ohio River and then turning west to toss the remaining phones into the Blue River.
JUMP BACK TO THE LETTER. The starched-suited lead federal investigator gets the anonymous tip from dispatch and hauls ass out off of Highway 337 to a private blacktopped drive that leads to a graying, abandoned church nestled way back in the sticks among several hundred acres of farmland. The state police SWAT team and local PD have already arrived. The van and trucks used in the robbery and in the police car, water tower and firehouse explosions are parked in a half-circle, nose to butt, in a 30-foot-by-30-foot area.
Two Harrison County cops walk around the vans, looking under them, through the driver- and passenger-side windows. The lead SWAT officer, hands gloved, gives the letter, in its envelope, to the fed. He’s lean, not a hair out of line on his skull.
With the SWAT team standing around the vans, the fed asks, “Who fucking alerted the Harrison County podunks?”
“No idea, sir.” Clearing his throat, “They beat us here.”
“Jesus fucking Christ. Everything secured?”
“Those podunks touch anything?”
“Any idea who owns the property?”
“No, sir, but we’re searching courthouse records as we speak.”
“Any signs of the responsible party?”
“No, sir, just this envelope…addressed to——”
Wearing black latex gloves, the fed takes the envelope from the SWAT officer’s grip, eyes it carefully. Opens it. Removes the letter. Takes in every word. Red arcs across his face; he grits his pearl teeth. Eyes dart quick when one of the Harrison County podunks yells, “Holy fucking shit, the goddamned money’s inside of here, fucking look, it’s right fucking——”
Before the fed can muster, “Don’t touch a fucking thing!” the officer’s right hand cups the van’s passenger-side handle. Opens the door maybe a quarter inch. All that’s heard is a squeaking hinge before the hidden C-4, rigged within the door panels of each vehicle, combusts the entire 30-by-30 space. Everything within pissing distance becomes a monstrous ball of flames and combustible parts. Some -mechanical. Some human. All incinerated.