straight ahead and focused his opal-green killer eyes on Myers Hill. Even though the 1948 Chevy pick-up truck was
struggling under the weight of Al Capone’s vault, he had to coax the
six-cylinder motor to get up enough speed to get up the hill.
He gripped the
black knob on the floor shift, shifted through all four gears, and jammed the
accelerator down. With black, oily smoke
pouring out its rusty tailpipe, the tailgate rattling, and a broken spring,
causing the little green truck to tilt to one side, he charged the bottom of
As a yellow splash
of sunlight danced on his shoulder, a red flash of his girlfriend’s polished red
fingernails caught his eye. He jerked
his head in her direction.
her hands in protest. “I know you’re trying
to get away from a life of crime. But slow
“We’ll be all
dropped her hands to her lap and raised her voice. “The tires are bald. They’ll blow out.”
make it up the hill, Blondie stared straight ahead. “I know that.”
With a look of
excruciating discomfort filling her lovely face, Carolyn balled her hand into a
fist. Rearing back to strike Blondie’s
shoulder, she screamed, “Slow down!”
his foot flat to the floor. “The illegal
gold we have in the back is our future.
If we get stuck, they’ll take it.”
For a moment, Carolyn’s
cheeks grew tight with fury, but she slowly lowered her fist and jerked her
silky black hair to the side. As it flowed over her red gingham shirt of her
bra-less body, she forced a nod and tensed for a crash.
Halfway up the
hill, the motor groaned and began to lose power. Blondie downshifted into third gear. After a few yards, the truck slowed.
second gear. For a moment, the truck
gained a little speed, but it was not enough.
He double-clutched and jammed the transmission into low gear. Letting the engine run wide open, he jerked
his foot off the clutch pedal. It popped
up off the floor. The transmission
whined and the engine bogged down. Smoke
and the smell burning asbestos rolled out from under the floor. Just as it was about to stall, the engine
surged with new energy. The truck
Near the top
of the hill, the engine slowed. Trying
to encourage the truck to go faster, Blondie banged on the steering wheel. “Come on, you piece of junk.”
overworked engine protesting in a steady moan, the truck crawled toward the top
of the hill. It was going to make
it. Blondie was finally going to be a
rich man. The tension of a lifetime
vanished. With a relieved grin, he
looked over at Carolyn.
Her prominent cheekbones accented her lovely face and reminded him of a
movie star. Soon, they would have a
beautiful life together. He
reached over and gently touched her on the shoulder. Tomorrow, we’ll be married.”
reached over and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Yes, we will.”
Before the truck
got to the top of the hill — there! The
black blur of a Cadillac lurched to the right.
It swayed so far over, for a moment, it rode on two wheels. Then it leapt over the centerline and came
right at the truck. Cutting the wheel to
swerve away from the impending crash, Blondie hit the brakes. The bald tires locked up. The truck skidded toward the Cadillac.
Cadillac, horror filled the man’s face.
He jerked the steering wheel. The
speeding Cadillac flew off the road.
Blondie felt he had avoided a crash, the vault in the back shifted toward the
broken spring side of the truck. The
sideways movement jerked him across the seat.
He mashed Carolyn against the door.
As he tried to get back behind the steering wheel, the bald tires let
the truck slide off the road.
He managed to
pull his body back behind the steering wheel, but it was too late. They were rapidly heading down the steep side
of Myers Hill. He glanced off to the
left. As if they were in a race to the
river, the Cadillac sailed down the hill ahead of them. Grass and brush whipped at the front of the
Cadillac, but the heavy front bumper cut and whapped it, sending it flying into
her hands straight out and braced herself on the dashboard. The truck hit the grass.
shot into the water.
The speed of
the truck increased. Grass and weeds
flew up and plastered the windshield.
screamed, “I can’t see. Hit the brakes!”
the brake pedal with both feet, Blondie could not stop the truck. Rushing toward the water, it hit a boulder. Blondie flew up. His head clunked on the metal roof and sent a
bright four-pointed star into his mind.
He felt the truck lift off the side of the hill. As it sailed into the air, a tingling
sensation rolled in his stomach. The truck
whipped across the water with incredible speed but finally slowed and came to a
stop. Just before he blacked out, an
earsplitting squeal of steel being ripped apart burned into his brain.
later, Blondie opened his eyes. But it
was as if he were looking through a curtain of mist. A yellowish-green ribbon of river water sprayed
passed by the doorpost of the truck and brushed across his face. Struggling toward consciousness, he blinked
the water from his eyes and peered out the opened window. A hundred yards downriver, the water kicked
up, hissed into a spray, and burst into angry, raging rapids. Where jagged black chunks of rotten-teeth-like
rocks hung from the shoreline, high waves of water exploded and swelled into
pure white foam.
Blondie’s head, streaks of lightning signaled the start of a downpour. In the center of the pale-green river, the arm
of the man who had been in the Cadillac made one last dismal splash. When the fingertips of his hand slipped under
the surface, a widening pool with a core of air bubbles followed them.
to swim to the center of the river, dive down, and save the man before he was
carried to the rapids, but it wasn’t a heroic
gesture. Blondie wanted to see what the
idiot that had forced him off the road looked like, but the murky water was up
to Carolyn’s knees. With rain slanting
across the cracked and grass spattered windshield, he reached over to lift her
from the seat. Her eyes were closed.
He shook her. “Carolyn, are you all right?”
Before she could
answer, something under the truck clunked.
A powerful jolt jerked him sideways.
The truck tilted to one side and sank down. Twin torrents of mustard-colored water rushed
down the riverbank and poured over the passenger side window, filling the cab of
the truck and began covering Carolyn’s head.
Blondie took a
deep breath, bent over, and stuck his head into the rising water. Groping around, he found her arm and
pulled. It didn’t
budge. He felt the right side of her
body. One of her lovely legs and her
frail arm were mashed between the firewall and the caved-in passenger
door. He thrust his head up out of the
murky water and looked at Carolyn’s face.
Her unblinking eyes bulged wide open.
Her beautiful jaw hung open to her chest, and her wet hair was plastered
against her head.
now!” Blondie cried. “We’ve come too far
A jagged tail
of lightening zigzagged through the treetops and sizzled across the roof of the
truck. Chest-pounding thunder exploded
and echoed down the valley. Water gushed
out of the charcoal sky and pounded on the river so hard the water seemed to
tint in Carolyn’s oxygen-deprived face told Blondie the only girl he had ever
trusted had met her Maker. Pain he had
never felt before, filled his chest.
Tears welled up, but he had no time to cry. The water was rising fast. To save himself, he had to get out of the truck,
but he couldn’t free his left leg. He was scared, but the essence of any good
gangster was the ability to admit to himself that he was afraid and then have
the discipline to channel it into something that would save his life. He tried to slow his racing heart and assess
crash, Al Capone’s gold vault, as big as a coffin, had crashed through the back
window and grazed his left shoulder. Now
the vault tilted at an odd angle. It
felt as if its full weight of two thousand pounds was sitting on his left leg. Blondie pushed on the vault. It didn’t move. He stretched his neck to the left to see if
he could find a way to move the vault off his leg.
The end of the
vault was wider than the back window.
During impact, its weight had caused it to plow right through the metal
surrounding the back window. Then with
the power of a runaway freight train, it had zipped past his shoulder, hit the
left side of the steering wheel, bent it down, and stopped at the bottom of the
steering column. He could see that the
vault was jammed as tight as if it had been pounded in with a gigantic
hand. He would never be able to move it.
down and grabbed his trapped leg.
Pushing with his other foot, he pulled.
His leg slipped out an inch but seized solid. The water was up to his chest. With the rain falling fast, in minutes, the
water would be over his head. Hoping he
could signal someone in a passing car, he craned his neck and searched the far
away top of Myers Hill. But in the rain,
cars going past up on the road would not see the tracks the Cadillac and Chevy
had made when they had gone over the edge.
People would drive on by without even a vestige of curiosity. The only way he could get out the death trap
would be to cut his leg off.
into his pocket for his knife. It wasn’t there. As a
goodwill gesture, he had left his suit coat at the old Peacock Alley Bar for
Neal, the young man who had made things happen.
In his haste to haul the valuable vault away, Blondie had forgotten about
the encoded message that led to a box of money at the old Peacock Alley
foundation. His knife and the message were
in the suit pocket.
something sharp. When the vault had gone
through the back of the truck, it may have sheared off a piece of metal. If it had, he could use it to cut off his leg. He felt around on the seat. Nothing.
He felt under his arm. His 38
Colt was still there. Seven
bullets. Maybe he could shoot his leg
off. The water had covered Carolyn’s
face and rose to a foot below his chin.
“Finally I’m a rich man! Why does this
have to happen now?”
Trying to gain
a little more freedom, he wiggled his body.
His leg stayed trapped. He
pounded on the bent steering wheel and moaned.
should have told him not to trust an old gangster like Smeal. Mob guys were dangerous, and there was no
telling what they would do. But if he
had paid just a little attention to politics, he would have known President
Franklin Roosevelt had imposed a ban on U.S. citizens buying, selling, or
owning gold in 1933. To him it didn’t make any sense to make gold illegal, but the
government had done it. In January 1934,
the price of gold had risen sixty-five percent.
Making owning gold illegal and enforcing the law with a fine of ten
thousand dollars, ten years in jail, or both, stopped hoarders from profiting
after Congress devalued the dollar. Even
at the frozen price of thirty-five dollars an ounce, Blondie figured the troy
weight of the vault to be over two thousand pounds, and worth eight hundred
forty thousand dollars.
Capone had devised encrypted letters and made special keys that had led Blondie
and three young men to the notorious Jungle Inn Casino, where an unsuspecting victim,
thinking he had found the vault and was going to take it, triggered a hidden
shotgun that blew his chest wide open.
Although the man had been killed, the wooden stock of the shotgun
contained clues that led to the hidden mine, and the vault. Blondie wasn’t going
to sit back and let the wealth of the vault pass him by. He didn’t know how,
but he was determined to grab a share for himself.
Even though mob
guys said Smeal didn’t have enough sense to hold down
a blow job, he had the connections to get the gold vault across the
border. And to stay out of jail, it was
always a must to do your business through front men.
Overhead a flurry of hail rattled on the
roof. Blondie turned and looked out the open
window of the truck. The river pitched
magnificently and fired sheets of water into his face. With a vengeance, a chill wind scooped down
into the river, sending another volley of spray. It drenched his face and blond hair.
The water level in the truck rose to just
under his chin. Holding the Colt in his
hand above the water, he checked the action.
Would seven bullets be enough to shoot his leg off? Seven good shots might shatter the bone and
he would be able to rip his leg free. So
what if he would end up with only one leg.
When he cashed in the vault, he could buy a new leg and much more. He placed the gun under the water and pointed
it at his leg just below his knee.
“Wait!” he yelled.
When he had shot a man in the leg, as a
warning, the bullet had hit an artery and the man had bled to death. He didn’t want that
to happen to him. He reached down,
slipped off his belt, and clinched it around his thigh. He held the barrel of the Colt two feet away from
his leg. At that distance he couldn’t miss. He
placed his finger on the trigger, but he didn’t
fire. He thought about Smeal.
Smeal had made it seem so right. He even had a code name for the vault: “Milk
Horse.” Blondie wished he had gotten the
truck himself. If he had, it wouldn’t have been overloaded, and he wouldn’t have gotten a
beat-up 1948 Chevy truck with a broken spring.
For cryin’ out loud, it was 1962.
He would have stolen something new.
He would have stolen something with good tires that wouldn’t
have slid off the road and sent him and the only girl he had ever loved,
sliding down the steep embankment of Myers Hill and crashing into the river.
He grimaced and pulled the trigger on the
Colt. It jumped in his hand. A dull plunk came from the water, but he didn’t feel the bullet hit his leg. He took a deep breath and bent his head into
the water. The water from the cloudburst
had rushed down the riverbank and washed yellow mud into the river. He couldn’t
see. He reached down, and felt where the
bullet should have gone into his leg.
Nothing. He pulled his head up
out of the water. Maybe it was a bad
shell. He shot again. Still, nothing.
Then it dawned on him. The cold water had made his leg numb. Now the water was just below his nose. Tilting his head back, he gulped in deep
breaths of air. Then he ducked down,
bent over, and emptied the Colt into his leg.
With all his might, he tried to pull his leg free. Pain shot through his entire body. Throwing his head upward, he gasped for air,
but breathed in water.
Struggling to get his head higher, and
between coughing out sprays of water from deep in his lungs, he gulped in a few
good breaths of air. Then he yanked and
twisted his trapped leg. He contorted
with pain and belched water, but no matter how much he struggled and squirmed,
his trapped leg would not separate. At
the last moment he remembered that there were two bones in his bottom leg. He figured had only managed to shoot through
one. Now the only way he could shoot his
leg off would be to hold the barrel directly on his leg, but he had already
spent the last five bullets.
He reached down and felt his leg. Where it should have been shredded from the
bullets, it seemed unscathed. Too late,
he realized the resistance of the water had slowed down and stopped the
bullets. They hadn’t
even penetrated the cloth on his pants.
As he sat back and waited to drown, he
wondered how Al Capone had died in the coalmine that had hid the vault, but he
figured in a few minutes he would follow Al Capone’s footsteps. He too would shake hands with the Devil.
Although Blondie had always broadcasted a
tough guy image with no feelings, he didn’t want to
face death alone. Holding his breath, he
reached over, grabbed Carolyn’s limp hand, and pulled. Her lifeless body broke free. He pushed her out the window. With one eye barely above the surface of the
water, he watched her beautiful head float face up. If he could free his leg, he could pull her
to shore and maybe revive her, but the water went over his head.
He pulled on his leg. It moved about six inches. He stretched his neck and managed to lift his
head above the water. There was still a
chance. He let loose of Carolyn’s
hand. She drifted for a moment. Then the current swept her into rising mists
of the raging rapids. The last thing he
saw of her was a dim flash of her red polished fingernails just before they
disappeared in the mad swirling water.
More than ever, Blondie wanted to save
her. He pushed against the broken steering
wheel and pulled. His leg moved. The rain slowed.
He gulped down one breath of air. Like the coup de grâce on a dying man, the wind moaned overhead, bringing a
hideous squall that rushed down from the black sky and gushed into the window
of the truck. The truck turned sideways
and rolled over onto its roof.
While the rain washed away all traces of
where the truck had gone off the road, Al Capone’s gold vault, the truck, and
Blondie sunk to the bottom of the Shenango River.
As gloom and the darkness of death
surrounded him, Blondie wondered what would have happened if he had shared the
vault with Freddy Crane, the muscular black-haired kid, Rafferty Allnut, the
orange-headed wise guy with the wide-toothed smile, and Neal McCord. They weren’t the
usual fresh-faced kids whose youth made them loud and arrogant. They were quite inventive, and although they
came from the wrong side of the tracks, they didn’t
let it slow them down. When Blondie
thought about the third of the trio, Neal McCord, a little laugh escaped from
his mouth and sent air bubbles to the surface.
When Neal made love with a girl, it was said that they generated so much
excitement that people ran for tornado cellars.
But then, sadness filled Blondie's chest. He and Carolyn would never make people run
for tornado cellars.
He was out of air.
wearing a black suit emerged from the darkness and stepped into a
spotlight. After a spatter of applause,
the crowd went silent.
Looking at Freddy
Crane’s faintly American Indian face and his black, swept back hair that
accented his dark brown eyes, a person would never believe that he and his
friends had been cheated out of Al Capone’s gold vault.
Now in a heroic venture that few had the courage to attempt, Freddy was trying to get rich. As he waited to pit himself against an
unyielding force, inside his muscular
body, violence ached to explode.
Standing in the
center of a boxing ring and reaching above his head, the announcer held up his
hand. From high in the rafters, a microphone
came down on a wire. As he grabbed the
microphone, his baldhead gleamed under the bright light, and his black bowtie
contrasted against his white shirt. When
he began to speak, his nostrils flared.
“And now…for the
Silenced filled the
continued. “Six rounds of heavyweight
Freddy gasp. He had only trained to go three rounds. Something was wrong.
raced across the ring and stopped on his opponent. The opponent bared his teeth, and a guttural
sound came from deep within his chest.
raised his voice. “In this corner, from
our hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Bonebreaker Burke.”
hands, the crowd stood up and roared in approval.
his head around and looked into Terry’s eyes.
“What’s going on?”
the back of Freddy’s neck. “Your
opponent didn’t show up. I arranged for
you to box heavyweight.”
around and held up his hand in protest.
was a rare guy that really listened to Freddy and cared about what he was
doing, Freddy stood up and attempted to climb out of the boxing ring. But Terry held him back.
Terry said. “This is that guy’s first
match. You’ll take him easy.”
“But he outweighs
me by a hundred pounds.”
“No problem. He’s all fat, and you look heavier than you
Freddy didn’t care how fat or out of shape his opponent was. He didn’t want to
box a heavyweight. “Let me out of this
Terry gave Freddy
a pleading look. “We’re a long way from
Patagonia. Here, we’re
all we’ve got. We got to stick
right. If they didn’t
have each other, they wouldn’t have anything.
Freddy calmed down and mentally tried to prepare for the fight, but the
spotlight bathed him in bright light.
turned toward him. “And in this corner,
from Bomb Town, Youngstown, Ohio, Freddy Crane.”
Although Freddy didn’t live in Youngstown, infamous for its many car
bombings called “Youngstown Tune-ups”, Terry said saying they were from Bomb
Town would enhance his image and strike fear in his opponent. But Freddy didn’t
care what the announcer said. Hunger
pains from not eating to make weight and little money for food made him want to
get the fight over, collect the money, and eat.
The usual custom
of both boxers coming to the center of the ring didn’t
happen. Elbowing the referee to the
side, the announcer held the microphone and talked to the crowd.
know the rules. Let’s
have a nice clean fight.”
microphone slowly followed the cord back up into the rafters of the dilapidated
building, the announcer stepped through the three ropes of the boxing ring that
had been set up on a hardwood gym floor.
The main lights
toward his opponent’s corner. Burke was
sitting down. A white robe hung from
what looked to be shoulders of stone.
Even though the robe covered what seemed to be a potbelly, Burke looked
as big as an old steel refrigerator. Freddy
grabbed Terry’s shoulder. “Are you
nuts? He’s not all fat.” He stood up.
“I’m getting out of here.”
Terry pushed him
back down. “You can take this guy.”
“But I’m not in
shape for six rounds.”
“This guy ain’t
“Then why do they
call him Bonebreaker?”
“That’s just to
Freddy forced a
smile. “He’s doing a good job of it.”
why his opponent chickened out. This is
the only match we could get.”
across the ring. Burke sprang to his
feet. His trainer helped him slip off
his robe. The massive man stood
six-foot-six, and he didn’t have a potbelly. His tiny waist looked like Freddy could put
his hands around it until his fingers touched.
And it caused his shoulders and chest to look bigger. His big boxing-gloved fists looked like iron
wrecking balls hanging down on long lethal arms, ready to break Freddy’s little
bones. With his arms raised, Burke
danced in circles, accepting the cheers of the crowd. As Freddy watched in awe, Burke’s leg muscles
rippled like they would never tire.
The referee signaled
Freddy to stand up. Like a trapped
animal, Freddy squirmed on the tiny stool.
Protesting to Terry, he stood up.
Cheers from the crowd drowned out his protests. Terry bent down and took away the stool. Freddy glanced at Burke then at Terry.
smiled. “What are you worried
about? You’ll be wearing headgear.” Terry placed a leather boxing helmet onto
Freddy’s head and smudged Vaseline on his eyebrows. “This will keep you from getting cut.”
helmet constricted Freddy’s sight. He
wiggled it around on his head and turned to Terry.
“This thing’s too
big. Do I have to wear it?”
nodded. “Even this dump has rules.”
Freddy reached up
and adjusted the oversized headgear.
“But I’m no heavyweight.”
“We didn’t have a
choice. I bet every cent we had.”
churned. He didn’t
like the idea of not having any money for bus fare to get home. Miles of running to
get in shape for the fight had worn holes in the bottoms of his only pair of
shoes. If he lost, it would be a long seventy-five miles back home.
He looked to Terry. “You didn’t bet all the money, did you?”
confidently. “It’s a sure thing. I even borrowed a big chunk of dough from the
With his eyes
narrowed, Burke stood in the center of the ring and fiercely stared at Freddy. As Freddy cringed under the threat, Terry
handed him his mouthpiece. Freddy put it
in and clinched down. Burke waved his
gloved hand in a come here gesture.
were filled to capacity, and many people were
standing. The people cheered and called
Freddy’s name. If he backed out now,
they would think he was a coward.
behind Freddy and massaged his shoulders.
As Terry’s fingers jerked on his neck, he hoped Terry would call off the
match, and give the money back to the bone-breaking loan sharks. He tried to relax for a second, but the bell
In a blazing
fury, Burke jumped to his feet, ready for action.
Feeling as if he
were walking into an execution chamber, Freddy stepped to the center of the
Burke held out
his gloved hand.
The fight was on.
Knowing he wasn’t in shape for six rounds, Freddy knew he would have to
conserve energy. He danced around, but didn’t throw a punch.
Suddenly, the big canyon mouth of Burke’s trainer roared, “Come on,
Burke, One-two! One-two!”
could turn his head, Bam! Bam! Two, quick hard whaps landed on the top of
his helmeted head. The helmet dropped
over his eyes. He reached up with both
gloved hands and pushed it up. Like
double-barrel shotgun blasts, Bam! Bam! Two more punches shot straight into his
face. The helmet went down over his eyes
again. He pushed it up and was rewarded
with another one-two punch. Moving away,
he jerked the helmet up off his eyes and jammed it high up onto his forehead.
Terry yelled from
the corner, “Get Inside!”
Freddy moved in. Burke’s fists came at him like shots from
exploding cannons. Freddy ducked. The flying fists sailed over his head. He jabbed back. His fist only flicked air. Burke was too far away. Bam! Bam! From out of nowhere, that one-two got Freddy
again. Freddy turned and pushed up the
helmet. Then he moved in close. Burke jumped back and moved from side to
side. As if they were coming from
somewhere outside the ring, punches from his long arms flew at Freddy. Punch after punch landed on his head. As bright fireworks danced on the backs of
his eyelids, he covered up and stood his ground. He tried to jab, but hit nothing.
The bell rang.
Staggering to his
corner, Freddy felt the leather athletic supporter, boxers were required to
wear, droop down around his behind.
Riffles of laughter trickled in from the stands. When he finally made it to the stool, he
pulled up the supporter and sat down, Terry was there with Q-tips in his
mouth. He held a water bottle in one
hand and Vaseline in the other. Holding
his mouthpiece in his hand, Freddy huffed for as much air as he could suck into
his oxygen-deprived lungs. Feeling his
chest rise and fall with each breath, he turned to Terry. “I can’t make it.”
more Vaseline of Freddy’s eyebrows and handed him the water bottle. Freddy took a mouthful of water and spit it
into a dented bucket. Terry put both
hands on Freddy’s shoulders and looked into his eyes. “We can’t quit now. The crowd’s cheering for you. When you win, we win a lot of money.”
“When I win?”
Freddy questioned and sucked in a deep breath of air. “I won’t last another round.”
The bell rang.
Terry jumped out
of the way.
Freddy didn’t get up. He sat
on the stool and turned to Terry. “Throw
in the towel. I quit.”
Burke stood in
the center of the ring and waved his arm in a come-here gesture.
Freddy stayed on
The crowd booed.
Terry jerked the
stool out from under Freddy. He started
to fall, caught his balance, and staggered to his feet. Terry patted him on the back and talked in
“Go out there and
knock him out. The fight will be over.”
why he hadn’t thought of knocking out his opponent
before. If he knocked him out, it wouldn’t matter if he couldn’t last six rounds. The fight would be over. He would have enough money to have the
electricity turned back on at his mother’s house. All he had to do was knock the big lug
out. He pulled on the heavy athletic
supporter and shambled to the center of the ring.
Again, “One-two! One-two!” blared out from Burke’s corner.
Even though Burke
had an extremely long reach advantage, Freddy was sure he wasn’t
going to get caught with that one-two again.
Bam! Bam! It got him anyway. Pain raced through his eyes and exploded in
his brain. Blood ran from his nose. Fighting to gain back his equilibrium, he looked into Burke’s face.
Burke laughed as if he had already won the match. But when pain crawled into Freddy’s chest,
Freddy put his
chin on his own chest. Walking slow and
deliberate, he waded toward the long-armed skyscraping opponent. Burke’s punches rocketed off the top of his
head. He didn’t
care. He had to get close enough for his
short arms to do some damage.
Burke jumped to
the right and mockingly smiled. Freddy
stepped in and got inside. As fast as he
could, he threw three good punches into Burke’s stomach. Burke moaned and bent over. Freddy looked into
Burke’s face. His smile
disappeared. He backed away and fired
that one-two. This time it whizzed over
Freddy’s head. Freddy stepped in and
caught Burke in a clinch. Burke tried to
wiggle out of it. Freddy caught him in a
bear hug and lifted him off the canvas.
Someone in the crowd
mocked the lift and jeered, “Eeww!
That felt like a
slur against Freddy’s fighting abilities and a personal attack at him. If this were a street fight, he would have
hoisted the big bully onto his shoulder and flipped him right on his head. He’d be looking
up. Freddy flexed his knees to lift and
throw. Laughter erupted from the stands.
The referee tapped
Freddy on the shoulder. “Break it
up. Fix your supporter.”
supporter was drooping down again. He
lowered Burke and pulled the supporter up almost to his chest.
started them again.
Freddy bulled his
way in and kept punching. That helmet
went over his eyes again. Burke punched
it up. Freddy kept punching. He pushed Burke against the ropes. The loose ropes sagged and wrapped around the
sides of Burke’s body. Now Burke couldn’t jump back.
Now he couldn’t jump from side to side. Now he couldn’t make
Like a trapped
wild animal, Burke punched back. Freddy
bobbed and weaved in a steady rhythm.
Burke’s lethal punches fell out of sync with Freddy’s rhythm. Over and over, Burke’s punches zinged past
Freddy’s shoulders and swished past his head.
When he realized all of Burke’s punches had missed, Freddy punched back
with newfound strength. Even though the
laughter of the crowd changed to an oceanic roar, he could hear sounds of pain
erupt from deep inside Burke’s body.
seemingly indestructible Burke stayed bent over. Now his head was within range. To set him up for a good hit, Freddy
jabbed. Burke jerked to the right. Freddy let a powerful right-cross fly. It landed square on the side of Burke’s
face. He fell against the ropes. As his face turned purple with rage, his
enormous weight caused the posts that held the ropes to sag to the floor. Suddenly, they were standing outside the
ring, boxing on the hardwood gym floor.
his arms and looked toward the ring.
With a punch that seemed to come from outside the gym, Burke blasted him
right in the nose. Freddy felt it
snap. Spangles of tiny blue stars
exploded in front of his eyes. He lifted
his arms for defense. Burke cocked his
arms for another punch. Freddy’s legs didn’t want to move.
From out of
Burke’s corner, came, “One, two! One
In his mind,
Freddy yelled at Burke, You’re not going to blast me with that one-two again.
On the edge of
losing consciousness, Freddy tried to take a step toward Burke, but his wobbly
legs would not support him. Off balance,
he fell forward. His head crashed into
Burke’s chest. It felt like a huge hard
rock, but it stopped him from falling to the floor. He regained his footing, shook the cobwebs
out, and waded into Burke. With every
ounce of strength left in his body, he jackhammered Burke’s stomach with
Burke let the one-two fly. Bam! Bam! He
got Freddy again. Like fabulous silver
fireworks, bright stars exploded before his eyes. Through a gray haze that was filled with
spangling spiders, he followed Burke’s body and fell forward. On the way down, he kept punching. Burke’s head was a foot off the hardwood
floor. Freddy’s right cross came out of
the universe and smashed into Burke’s jaw.
Burke’s head clunked on the floor.
His body collapsed. He was out
excitedly waved the fight over. In a
blind rage, Freddy kept on punching.
Trainers and the referee seemed to come from somewhere in the middle of
all the cascading stars whirling around Freddy’s head. As they pulled him off the fallen Burke, he
looked back over his shoulder. The
people in the bleachers looked like they were fighting each other. Terry ran to Freddy and lifted his arm in
“You knocked him
out,” he said, with jubilation. “We
won. They threw in the towel.”
Freddy couldn’t breathe through his nose. He spit out his mouthpiece, opened his bloody
mouth, and sucked in deep drafts of air.
His raised arms over his head felt like a heavy iron weight. He lowered them. Terry cut the ties to Freddy’s boxing gloves
and slipped them off. As he threw a robe
around Freddy’s shoulders, a flashbulb went off in front of them. A
man with a crazed look on his face stormed out of the bleachers and rushed up
“What did you hit
him when he was down for?”
A jovial, redheaded
man walking past, said, “Anybody that can knock an ape like that out of the
ring can’t be all bad.”
The man with the
crazed look went after the red-haired man.
The bleacher crowd, booed, and cheered at the same time. Terry
jumped up and down next to Freddy.
“You won! We’re rich! We’re rich!”
stepped to the center of the ring.
The crowd went