Crook Takes Pawn Part 100 THE END

Donnie is detained by police, as a precaution. They cuff him and put him into the cruiser. He does not struggle. Donnie contends he shot the first perpetrator because the guy had a gun. Forensics did find a pistol beside the deceased crook's body. They also found several bullets fired from the gun, embedded in the rear wall. There was also a large spray of Bird-shot pellets from the shotgun in the ceiling. Donnie said he was startled by the first few pistol shots, and ducked for cover, making the shotgun go off accidentally. It was right by Donnie's ear, which was reddened and raw-looking by the noise. Donnie shoved a wad of cotton in his ear canal to stifle some of the everyday noise which now was painfully loud to that ear.
    Donnie took down the crook with a headshot.
    "A blind-fire, from behind cover," Donnie says blackly, "Just like in the video games. I knew the spray would hit him somewhere, so I just leaned the shotgun around the top of the desk and let it fly. I didn't mean to kill him."
    As the van took off, without the other criminal, Donnie gave chase. He nailed the back tire with a blast, and the van lost control. The chain was dragging on the concrete, showering the street with brilliant sparks. Donny kept shooting at the van. He penetrated the thin fiberglass of the drivers door, hitting the asian guy in the leg. When he crashed, the leg was further injured by the pushed-back floor of the vehicle.
    Greg came to Donnie's defense. Greg gave his own testimony about the black van. Like the fiasco at Digital Dreams, the Pawn and Payday was struck in the deep blackness of night. It might've been the same assholes, for all Greg knew. He was too busy cowering in the loft of his store, too afraid to even call 911 until after they left. He did remember there were three voices. One of them was Jessie, Greg was almost certain. But Greg made no positive ID on any of the robbers. This was before he found George's service pistol in the veteran's footlocker. But Greg remembered hearing them pull away, the tires crinkling on the glass of the broken front door. Greg ran downstairs and glimpsed the jet-black van rounding the corner.
    Greg had filed a police report about the whole thing. Without a plate number, or further evidence, it didn't go far. But the police report was still on record. It gave credence to Donnie's story. If this crew had targeted close friends of Greg's, it would stand to reason it might be the same guys who stole from Greg to begin with.
    In the end, the security footage is what saves Donnie's ass. It tells a parallel version of Donnie's story, through night-vision green color. Greg is not allowed to watch it, but Ben is. Coming out of the police's media center, Ben looks almost as green as the monochromatic shade of the night-camera.
    Donnie is released without charge. He is free again, but not as liberated from rotten luck as he had previously believed himself to be. Almost 12 hours since the phone call Greg received, the three men sat together in a chicken and fish soul-food restaurant.
    Besides their orders, not a word is spoken. Donnie is defiant. In this case, he stands by his actions. Donnie meets their gaze with a head held high, and it is Greg and Ben who eventually lower their heads.
    Again, Im sorry Ben, Donnie says stably, but now that the cops have cleared me, too, I think that really says something. Im not guilty.
    I never said you conspired in this, in any way, Greg says, But it seems like so much goes wrong when youre around.
    Greg hadnt given much thought to that statement. Once its out, it becomes apparent how cold and stony it sounds.
    What I think Greg means to say, Donnie Ben starts.
    I know what he means, Donnie says, he thinks Im more trouble than Im worth. Right, Grego?
    Greg clears his throat and shakes his head. Gregs normally level-headed thinking is not as efficient this morning. Biting words are easier to speak than reassuring ones.
    What about those 20 computers I sold? Donnie asks, raising his voice slightly, Does that make me useful?!?! what about the fact Im not collecting a dime for any of the work Im doing?!?! Whats that, Greg? You spent your commission check on your bastard kid? How about that!!!!
    Greg pushes his seat back from the table and rises to his feet. No one talks shit about Raymond.
    Cmon, Greg!! Ben says angrily, calm down!!! Were all worked up!! Dont start!!
    Gregs eyes are wide and furious. He jabs a finger at Donnie.
    Lets get something straight, Donnie, Greg says with heavy breaths, dont even mention my boy when youre around me. You understand?
    Donnie stares back just as hard.
    yes, we understand you, Greg, Ben says desperately, now please sit down before they call the cops.
    Greg begrudgingly resumes his seat. The only noise is the crackling of the deep fat fryers in back. Donnie raises his hands from the table in a peaceful pose.
    Im sorry for what I said, Greg, Donnie says, but I was almost killed last night, and no one seems to give a fuck. No one has even asked me how I am, or if I was injured.
    Guilty silence follows. Greg had a candle vigil for his gunplay, but Donnie was being reprimanded. Donnie tugs at the wad of cotton jammed in his ear, shaking his head.
    Youre not the only one with a kill-count now, Greg, Donnie growls through clenched teeth. Greg and Ben look at each other in a hazardly way.
    I thought you of all people would understand, Greg, Donnie says with a harsh cry, but I guess when I step up to the line, it doesnt matter. Just one more dead bum, if it comes to that.
    With that, Donnie scoots from their table and hastily leaves. Greg sighs. Not this routine again. But Greg gets up and follows. Donnie hasnt made it far. He has sunk to his knees in the grass, beside the sidewalk. He cries deeply. Greg walks over to him, kicking a rock absentmindedly.
    Do you want me out of the business, or what?!?! Donnie shouts, turning to leer upwards with a troubled face.
    No, Donnie.
    cuz if thats what you want, Ill do it. Ill go back to the fucking streets, Ill just get my shotgun back from the cops, and take care of it all myself!!!!
    Greg shakes his head and glances at the tree looming above them. The sunlight flickers between the leaves, blinding him at times, and softening his vision as the rays beam down.
    You wont do something like that, Donnie, Greg says.
    Dont be so sure, Donnie mutters.
    If you were gonna kill yourself, Donnie, you wouldve already done it by now.
    There is no counter to this argument. Donnie picks the grass with his hands, throwing the blades into the air, where they scatter.
    I like to think things happen for a purpose, Donnie, Greg says, dropping to his large butt beside him, well just have to wait, and hope it becomes clear what that is.
    I ruined Bens business, Donnie moans, its all fucked up now. I mess up everything. Its my life. Thats my purpose: to destroy all good things.
    Dont be such a miserable jerk, Donnie, Greg says irritably, Ben is entirely insured. Hell be reimbursed.
    I bet his premiums will go up, though, Donnie replies.
    Fuck, Donnie. You know, if you dont want to be cheered up, you wont be. And if you dont want to be happy, it wont happen, either. Its up to you, bro. Its all on you.
    Just then, Ben comes to the front of the soul food restaurant. He is munching on his catfish sandwich.
    Foods done, Ben yells, before returning inside. Greg rises, dusting off his sizable ass. He extends a hand to Donnie. The former homeless man, drug addict, and current methadone user, studies Gregs palm. His eyes search if he can trust Greg. It only takes a moment of consideration before he takes Gregs grip and lets himself be helped to his feet.
Over lunchbreak the next day, Greg visits Robert. He has the $300 counted nice and neat in a greeting card. Robert answers the door to his one bed, one bath efficiency apartment. Robert walks around with an oxygen canister now. He wheels the tank to the living room, where they both sit. Greg glances at the walls. Plenty of pictures of family, but no girlfriends, or significant others. The entire room is an unimpressive grey, which matches Roberts personal life.
What brings you around? Robert asks, with a huff of air.
Not much. I just wanted to see how youre doing, Greg says.
My families been helping me through, Donnie says, pulling down his oxygen mask in order to speak better, Its beeninteresting, I guess you can say.
Right, Greg says, I bet.
Robert is not much of a conversationalist, and lets Greg know this earnestly. Instead of chatting, hed rather just watch highlights from the Iowa Hawkeyes last season. And so, they flip on the boob tube. As they study the old game footage, Greg feels the money take on weight in his pocket. Unable to wait any longer, Greg pulls out the card and hands it over.
Robert frowns and opens it. As planned, all the money cascades out of the card. It covers the floor, and Robert, with bills. Robert laughs in wonderment.
Whats all this? Robert asks with a questioning look.
I wanted to help you out a little bit, Greg says, it wasnt me, though. My friend set up a benefit tournament on your behalf. These are the proceeds.
Greg does not mention it was a video game contest. It would somehow make the idea seem more juvenile, and less grand. But Robert is frowning.
you know, for the hospital bills, Greg insists, we all want you to have it.
Didnt Rebecca tell you? Robert asks with slight apprehension.
Tell me what? Greg asks curiously.
Rebecca paid for all my medical treatments, Robert reveals, every last red cent.
Greg now looks as shocked as Robert. With large eyes behind thick spectacles, Robert reads the card aloud:
To Robert,
my buddy,
Who took one to the chest,Heres hoping,
that nothingwill stop his future breaths.Nothing, except what makes his heart catch:happiness, and joyand a life to reflectKnow that we owe you,and we can never,
Repay that debt--Youre the true hero Robert, not me.your friend, Greg Jefferson

    The card was actually meant to be funny. A picture of a man in a full body cast nurses a tropical drink with a straw. Rebecca picked it out from the Get Well Soon section of cards. She also wrote the poem. But the joke does not come across, only the seriousness of the words. Robert cries openly, but not in sadness. He hitches breath drastically, perhaps due to his shortened lung capacity.
    Thank you, Greg, Robert says, but youre wrong. You are a hero, bro. Theres no denying it. You need to remember that too, dude.
    Greg gets up and hugs Robert. It is difficult getting around the nose plugs and tank, but he manages. They grip each other tightly, in a manly show of respect. Once breaking away, Robert wipes his mushy eyes.
    I can still keep the money though, right? Robert asks.
They both laugh heartily at this.    Duh!! you know it, Robert.

    Greg returns from work. Rebecca is in the kitchen cooking supper. Julie is sprawled on the couch sleeping. An orange crayon is still clutched in her fist. Her drawing of a bird will have to remain unfinished until she resumes. Greg silently sneaks up on his beloved. She hums to herself, going from burner to burner, stirring this, checking that. It reminds Greg of the day she had a backyard cookout in his honor. But now Greg realized that the honor was really all hers. Rebecca had changed his life irrevocably,  jolting Greg from his outmode, barbaric thinking. And she continued to change, and alter everyone else, for the better. If Rebecca only knew how much she was needed in this world.
    She turns and spies him watching her. She smiles that same easy grin he has come to rely on.     Hey sexy, she says mischeviously, where are you coming from?
    I visited Robert, to drop off the card, Greg says.
    Oh, did you? Did he like it?
    Yeah, he did.
She doesnt say anything, but resumes her cooking. Greg thinks about bringing up the money she gave to Robert. But he doesnt. What would it matter anyway? Even if he wanted to, Greg could never dissuade her from giving. It was the most formidable aspect of her character.
That was some crazy shit that went down, Greg comments.
Im just glad no one we know was hurt. I never wished anything bad to happen to Donnie. I wanted you to know that.
I know, I never said you did, Rebecca.    Well, since this is his first time collecting insurance, Rebecca says, I think hell get a huge payout.
Thats what Rebecca was: A huge payout.  An unending stream of  benefaction.
    As Greg watches his lover, a strange fear stirs in him. He feels as though there is something amiss. After all has been considered, through his past dealings, Greg now found that life was like a set of scales, which weighed out ones good deeds, as well as the bad. Greg had been fortunate enough that things balanced out pretty well. But With Rebecca, those scales tipped more erratically. Having too much affluence could be just as destructive as having too many bad behaviors to account for. Greg senses that the scales will dip against them someday, to compensate for that imbalance. Rebeccas charity may somehow bury them. He will think of this moment later in life, when things do eventually alter.
    But, for now, the thought is dismissed as quickly as it came. Rebecca feeds him a piece of Turkey.
    Good, huh? she asks.
    Yes. Its all good, he says softly, Food fit for a king,
I guess that makes me your queen, then? Rebecca asks.
Yes, Greg supposed it did. Checkmate.



Uploaded 07/28/2012
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