The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Fiction: The
Park Allen Gang
Gingerbread Man and Cheese
feds! Park, the feds are outside. Jesus, there must be two hundred
of them! How did they know we were here?
The six of them,
four men and two women, finagled their way to the head of the line as
the Mal-Wart doors opened at precisely six in the morning.
strained to be seen over the foothills that surrounded the Phoenix valley,
just enough so that the robbers could see the gleam of expectation in
the shoppers eyes shatter like paper-thin champagne glasses in
an opera house. By the time the dozens of early-risers realized what
was happening, it had already happened.
Roscoe Young wheeled on his boots, whipping the mane of his blond wig,
and sealed the entrance doors behind him with a specialty key. He smiled
back at the fallen faces on the other side, the ones denied the pleasures
of a daybreak sale. Behind Roscoe, leaping over the first of twenty
cash registers while fingering his false mustache, Park Allen greeted
the uncertain faces of the Mal-Wart staff while motioning with his Buntline
Special for the accomplices to fan out through the store and round up
any stray employees.
Now in case you havent noticed it yet, Park
announced. This is a robbery. Armed robbery. He nodded towards
the gun. Im going to have to ask that no one operate their
cell phones or any other electronic devices until the building has come
to a complete stop.
Roscoe laughed. That Park Allen could act calm at the most stressful
Park continued. Now, dont worry about those shoppers out
there. Just worry about staying coolheaded. He heard footsteps
behind him and stepped to one side, never losing sight of the nearly
two-dozen blue-jacketed employees. Duchess?
Stephanie crinkled her nose at the nickname. Just this guy. Says
hes the manager. Worked here three years.
Anybody works here three years, Roscoe acknowledged,
gets to be the manager. Go stand over there with your associates.
Isnt that what you call your employees?
The rest of the gang returned without report and paired off along the
registers. Rachelle and Laramie coded open the first set, while Chet
and Stephanie helped themselves to the second tier. Roscoe continued
to mollify the crowd outside while Park kept a low hold on his revolver.
Everything okay out there? he asked.
Roscoe nodded without looking back. Yep. Always is. And
that had certainly been the case. The Bell Road store was their third
Mal-Wart and same as always everybody cooperated, especially the folks
who didnt know what was going on.
Now well be gone here in a few minutes, Park
explained, somewhat in an effort to speed up his gang in their work.
And after were gone, youll naturally want to notify
the police. Now, you folks all know each other. Let me ask you: Who
here will be the first one to call the cops on us? Who do you think?
One by one the employees looked up like sheep on the witness stand,
their heads pointing in the direction of the young man identified as
Oh-ho! Roscoe bellowed. So thats how you
get to be the boss? You stab people in the back.
Park Allen nodded. Yep, same old story. Duchess, you want to do
Stephanie crinkled again. Please dont call me that again
and yes I will.
From her purse she extracted a coil of twine. Motioning the manager
to turn his back to her, she spun the spool around both his wrists a
half dozen times, held the extended spool tight, and watched as Rachelle
severed it with a pair of Mal-Wart scissors. Stephanie knotted the twine
as the manager stared at his shoes.
Finished? Park called out to the entirety of his gang. They
announced that they were. Good. Okay. Now we have to be going.
But we apologize for the inconvenience. Im sure most of your customers
will not have exact change, so thisll kind of mess that up for
you. Just make sure you dont let this little weasel take our bad
deeds out on you. And you! Park addressed the manager. Dont
be so eager to be on the side of the corporation. They were doing fine
before you came along and theyll be fine long after theyve
sacked your sorry ass. Read me?
Lets go! pleaded Roscoe, unlocking the first
of the two door keys. The gang bellied up to the entrance and as the
second of the two locks spun free, they squeaked through the onrush
of impatient shoppers, none of whom seemed at all concerned about the
opened cash register drawers, the idle and open-faced associates, or
the incapacitated store manager. More than five minutes elapsed before
anyone got around to calling the police.
They were cruising up the 101 Loop around the Valley when Park asked,
So girls, how much did we haul?
They sat three across in the front and back of a 1995 Ford Taurus sedan.
The girls rode in the rear with Laramie. After some quick counting,
Rachelle responded. Two thousand one hundred and eighty dollars.
Roscoe leaned across Chet and said to Park, They stash most of
the cash in those underground vaults and can only get out so much of
it at a time. By the time they pull out a few thousand bucks...
Park acknowledged, Right, right. By then the cops are lobbing
in tear gas. Steph, Rachelle, dont forget to hold out ten percent
for tithing, okay?
They nodded. Laramie shook his head, a site captured by Park Allen from
his vantage of the rearview mirror. Something youd like
to share with the rest of us, Laramie?
He continued shaking his head. So each one of us pulls in, what?
About three hundred apiece? Lotta work for just a little payoff.
Park had been waiting for discontent. All smiles, he tossed his disguise
out the window. I guess you think we should be going after high-tech
money, right? Something more white collar?
Well, yeah, I do, Laramie spoke with stealthy defiance.
The days of nickel-diming the local mart are over, Park. These
days, the real money is in bonds, municipal holdings, securities scams.
Park nodded, still all merry in the face. Guess my time
is up, then, huh? I mean, since I dont know how to commit that
kind of robbery? See, I figured liberating two grand from the largest
employer in the world might just be a white collar crime.
Laramie hardened his position while everyone else fell silent. A tension
grew rigid in the car. I think that we need new leadership.
Parks foot slipped on the gas and the Taurus lurched forward for
just a second. Tell ya what, Lar. Park slowly brought the
car to a stop right on the shoulder of the Loop. Tell ya what.
Since youve been bucking me and the rest of us for a couple weeks
now, I think its time we cleared the air. Best thing to do is
shoot it out. Right here. Right now.
Roscoes head swiveled to the left. He looked at Park as if the
latter might have suddenly transformed from a master thief into a self-destructive
maniac. But he said nothing.
Laramies tone thawed. Now, Park...
Park waived him off. Dont you Now Park me. Youve
been itching for this chance for weeks. Here ya go. Well do a
duel, right on the 101. Shoot to the death. One thats left standing
gets to lead the gang. All in favor?
Four voices let out a collective if unsteady aye. Park opened
the drivers side door. Get your gun and lets get this
over with. Folks, if I lose, I wish you all the best. Laramie, you ready?
Laramie cleared his throat, nodded that he was as ready as he ever would
be and eased himself out of the back seat. As soon as he stood upright,
Stephanie pulled shut the door and Park roared the engine, sailing the
car back onto the road, leaving a querulous Laramie to wonder what the
hell had just happened. Roscoe and Chet roared laughter. Stephanies
eyes glittered. Rachelle chewed on her thumb, trying to repress a smile.
Well, Roscoe reckoned aloud. Thats almost
four hundred each, after tithes.
Four of the five remaining gang members sat on the living room
floor in the newly acquired safe house. Roscoe occupied himself with
a series of magic card tricks, all of which culminated in turning up
four queens, seemingly at random. Rachelle, his girlfriend of two years,
worked a New York Times crossword puzzle in pen. Chet, the youngest
of the gang, stared at the portable television set, its picture blazing,
its sound muted. And Stephanie, who had met up with Park at the same
time Rachelle joined, studied with some intensity the photographs in
Peoples wedding issue.
Perhaps because he was the youngest, Chet took it upon himself to break
the silence. Roscoe, howd you and Park meet up?
The amateur magician slid the playing cards aside and put an index finger
to his lips. Not too loud. Dont want the neighbors to find
out were here.
Chet appeared properly crestfallen.
Its okay, honey, Rachelle reassured him. We
just dont want some local hero to call the realtor. Or the police.
Chet fingered the beginnings of the soul patch hed been
growing. You all used to live here, right? But you moved out?
Stephanie grinned. Naturally Park saved a key. Then yesterday
he called the realtor and told her he was some big shot from Pennsylvania,
coming in two weeks to buy the place for cash. In other words, the realtor
wont be showing this house to anyone else for a while.
Roscoe tapped the top of a playing card. I thought you wanted
to hear how I met Park? The wounded look returned to Chets
Both of us, Roscoe began, apparently with some satisfaction
at having mastered Chets attention, had worked for years
at the same multinational. I was a marketing VP. He was in middle management.
Wed never met. But we were both laid off about the same time.
Neither one of us could find a job. Not as good as the one we had. You
know how it goes. He paused, not so much waiting for an answer
as simply to develop the proper rhythm for a story he had told many
times before. So I ended up working as a waiter. At Dennys.
Dennys? Chets face took on a boyish quality
that even the patch of fuzz on his chin couldnt mask.
Then one day in strolls Parker Allen. Looked terrible. Jeans
hadnt been washed in a month. Needed a shave. Hair all messed
up. And he really looked tired. Like he hadnt slept in a week.
He draws my table and orders a ton of food. Wolfs it down. And I know
this guys gonna skip. Cant have any money. So I bring the
check. Twenty dollars and change. He says fine, but can he have another
cup of coffee? The second I go back behind the counter, he shoots out
through the door.
Roscoe paused again, noting that even Stephanie and Rachelle,
whod heard this story at least a dozen times, were somehow drawn
in, their eyes wide with imagination.
Roscoe grinned. I hated that damned job. $2.13 an hour plus
tips. So I chased after him. He couldnt run all that fast. He
was tired, like I said. Plus he was on a full stomach. So I yelled for
him to stop, and when he didnt, I tackled him. Knocked him right
down on the grass. But when I spun him over to punch him out, the bastard
was laughing. Laughing!
Chet pulled an index finger to his own lips.
The storyteller smirked. Right. So now Im furious. Just
before I was going to knock him out, he sings in a little girl voice,
Run, run, fast as you can. You cant catch me. Im the
gingerbread man. There was just no way I could hit him after that,
Good thing for you, you didnt.
Everyone froze, as if the room itself had just jumped. Park Allen
stood looking in from the kitchen, hands on his hips, his smile beaming
out across the distance. Dont worry, he teased. I
just got back, so I didnt hear all the good things Cheese was
saying about me. Hows it hanging, Kid? Duchess? Rachelle? Who
wants to tell me where these sandwiches came from? He indicated
the dozen or so sliced and cut lunchmeat on wheat bread sandwiches stacked
on the short table.
Now dont flip out, Park, Roscoe said, getting
to his feet. The girls were over at the grocery.
Stephanie grabbed a sandwich, as if to protect it from eminent
destruction. The guy at the deli counter gave them to us.
Really? Park stepped closer to the stack, admiring
its height. And why would he do that?
Rachelle swallowed hard. Because we were hungry? she
Keeping his voice low, Park paced a circle around his henchmen.
Oh, you were hungry? I see. I thought we had a rule? When we need
food, we steal it. He made it back to the stack and picked up
one of the offending sandwiches.
Aw, for Gods sake, Roscoe admonished. The
girls were there and the guy offered.
Park spoke around a mouthful of bologna. Our rule is that we hit
grocery stores for personal items, like razors, pantyhose, shaving cream,
and that kind of thing. For food, we go to chain restaurants.
Stephanie cradled her sandwich like a child. Youre right.
Youre right. Good though, huh?
Park cackled as he joined the others on the floor. Yeah, it sure
is. Kid, you get one?
Chet nodded as his gaze lowered in the manner of a modest pet praised
by his owner.
Seizing the opportunity to change the subject, Roscoe asked, You
take the money to the shelter?
Park nodded. Yeah. One thing about it: if we ever need a place
to hole up for a few hours, those Sisters will see to it. Say, whats
Laramie doing on TV? Turn that up!
Sure enough, the image of their former accomplice shone from the screen
in living color.
They watched the news telecast at 6pm and then again at 10pm, just to
make sure theyd heard it right the first time. Laramie Ullum stood
next to a podium, an attorney of his choosing on either side of him,
announcing through those same attorneys that he had participated in
that mornings hold-up of the Bell Road Mal-Wart, that he had been
an accomplice of Park Allens gangs involvement in at least
forty other robberies throughout the Southwest, that a percentage of
the proceedsestimated at hundreds of thousands of dollarshad
been funneled into domestic terrorist organizations, and that heLaramie
Ullumwould be testifying to all of this before the grand jury
in exchange for substantial consideration from the U.S.
District Attorneys Office. At this time, both reports concluded,
neither the Justice Department nor the Office of Homeland Security chose
to comment on the case, citing potential civil liberties issues that
were at stake.
After the first telecast, no one in the safe house spoke. Roscoe resumed
his magic tricks, although he could not produce more than three queens
at a time. Rachelle sputtered out the occasional soft obscenity while
scratching out entries in her puzzle. Chets eyes narrowed to tiny
hollow points as he gazed imperceivingly at the TV set. And Stephanie
busied herself by writing variations of her name in the margins of her
For his part, the gangs leader paced between the kitchen and living
room, punctuating his stride with periodic punches of his fist into
his opened hand. The only consolation, he reassured himself, was that
Laramie hadnt known about the house. Theyd be safe here
for at least another day, or for two at the most. In the meantime, only
two parts of the news report actually troubled him, one part being easily
anticipated, the other completely beyond his kin to fathom. The first
partidentifying the gang members and severely exaggerating the
extent of their crimesthat was typical Laramie. Hell, if thatd
been true, theyd all be in some country without an extradition
treaty laughing up their martini glasses at that idiot traitor. But
the other partthe part about terrorismthat part worried
Park Allen a considerable bit. Not that there was a shred of truth to
it. The Sisters of St. Simon and Jude ran a shelter for indigents, not
a terrorist organization. The government had either planted that idea
in Ullums head or hed thought it up on his own, although
Park was damned if he could figure out why.
After the last broadcast, when Chet and the couples were nestled off
in their respective beds, Park turned to Stephanie and explained his
bewilderment. If all Laramied done was tell them the truth,
hed have gotten maybe a six months suspended sentence. But when
he throws in all these other crimes, plus the terrorism crap, even with
that so called consideration, hes still looking at ten to twenty
Stephanie grinned at him, hoping to calm his mood. He knew she hated
for him to act this way, so he eased off. She elbowed him in the ribs.
He sure looked funny standing on that freeway when we drove off.
Park laughed and felt peaceful as Stephanies giggles mingled
with his bellow. He loved the sound of her laughter more than anything
in the world.
Seizing the moment, Stephanie whispered, Park, please dont
call me Duchess. I hate that. My name is Stephanie.
You know why I do that?
She did not know, but had wondered.
I do that because back when I worked for a living, back
when I had a big house and two cars and went to three parties a weekback
when I had it madeI guess it sounds corny, but I felt empty because
I didnt have anyone important to share it with. Nobody substantial.
But after I hit bottom I met you and for the first time I actually feel
alive. And I promised myself almost two years ago that Im going
to make you the happiest woman in the world, someone people will look
at coming down the street and honor and respect, like royalty. Thats
why I do it.
For nearly two minutes, Stephanie lay so still that Parker couldnt
tell if she were breathing. He was about to ask if she was alright when
she preempted him. Honey, you can call me Duchess. I like it.
How about Dutch?
She giggled again and that was the last sound Park heard that
A little after midnight, the dreams came calling. Park had been
having vivid dreams of late, something that hadnt visited him
in twenty years. This dream, or this endless loop of manifest content,
replayed in his minds senses until nearly morning. In the dream,
he sat outside a large hospital on a cold and windy day, wearing nothing
but an ER gown, feeling hungry and wondering where all his friends were.
He thought he saw some of them coming toward him and tried to stand
to greet them, but was too weak to rise. When they finally approached,
he saw it was a Mother and Father with their little daughter. Laugh
at the bum, the Mother said. The child looked at Parker quizzically.
Go on, laugh at the bum, encouraged the Father. Then all
three of them burst into a unified laughter of ridicule. Bum,
bum, bum, blubbered the child, pointing a bent finger at Parker,
who checked his gown to make sure he wasnt exposing himself. Looking
to either side he noticed empty vodka bottles, broken mirrors with cocaine
residue, and cold half-eaten sandwiches. Lets get the bum,
cried the little girl, and the family came toward him, their smiles
suddenly full of dripping fangs. When Parker tried to stand up, he fell.
When he tried to crawl away, he slipped. Against the open slit in the
back of his gown he felt a breeze of hot breath with an odor of week-old
Each time he had the dream that night, he woke up safely next to Stephanie,
who purred comfortably beside him. And each time he managed to get back
to sleep, the dream came creeping back, like a hangover that tricks
you into thinking its over. By 6am, he gave up and went into the
kitchen to make himself some coffee. And that was when he saw through
the kitchen window the first of several federal agents in the process
of surrounding the house.
Stephanie shuffled and yawned her way into the kitchen, looking for
Park. He tracked her movements, and before she could say a word, he
whirled around to face her, made a series of spastic hand gestures,
and watched her dash off to alert the others.
By the time she unknotted Roscoe and Rachelle, and pried Chet from whatever
dream fantasy he may have been having, Park had fired up the houses
exterior public address system. Roscoe and Rachelle positioned themselves
at different windows while Chet loaded revolvers on the floor. Without
looking away from the glass, Roscoe made a sweeping motion with his
arm, which Park took to indicate that the place was indeed surrounded.
Park rolled his tongue around in his mouth for a moment, as if searching
for courage in the cavity. Lets see what happens,
he whispered, and threw the switch.
For just an instant the crackle of connecting leads escaped from the
four obscured speaker boxes mounted on the brick wall in the backyard.
Park inhaled, held it, and commenced to shout: Who the Sam Hill
is in charge of this operation?!?
They all watched from inside as the twenty-odd agents froze their advance,
seeming to grip their rifles tighter.
Park breathed deeply again and resumed. This is Under Secretary
to the Assistant U.S. Attorney General Myron Reddinck speaking! I demand
to hear from the Agent in Charge of this operation! Pick up your bullhorn
A tall, stout man of about thirty years lifted an orange loudspeaker
to his mouth. My name is Commander Hadley Masters, Mr. Under Secretary,
sir! May I ask your position in relation to us?
Thats classified, Masters! And if you dont mind,
Ill ask the questions here! Is that all right with you?
Masters looked profoundly confused. Yes, sir!
You have a face like an English bulldog! Anyone ever tell
Uh, no sir!
Oh! Then I must be a goddamned liar! Is that what youre
accusing me of, Commander Hadley Masters?
Are you a bulldog or the Commander of this operation?
I am the Commander, Mr. Under Secretary, sir!
Well, Masters, while your team of misfits has been parading
around this house, the local police force has the Parker Allen Gang
holed up in the same goddamned store they were in yesterday!
Sir, the Mal-Wart?
Very good, Masters! I see you got the memo! And I do not
intend to lose the opportunity to subdue these pussy-faced terrorists
to a squad of local cops! So, Commander Masters, you had best order
your troops to return to their units and proceed to where the suspects
or Ill have you shot for insubordination! Is
that clear as a Summer sky?
As clear as an unmuddied lake?
Then why the fuck arent you moving, bulldog?
Sir, on whose authority shall I redeploy the agents?
Parker reflected on what a good question that was. Masters should get
a promotion for that, if he didnt get an official reprimand. On
the authority, you malingering moron, of the Attorney General of the
United States! You may take the matter up with him, Commander! Then
well reassign you to issuing sodomy citations to three-balled
polar bears in Juneau, Alaska! Do you like Alaska, Commander?
Masters wiped the sweat from the crease above his eyes. No
Do you like three-balled polar bears?
Do you enjoy sodomy, Commander Masters?
Sir, request permission to redirect the Commanders
Commander Masters, if that gang gets booked by anyone other
than your agents, I will personally fly you to Juneau and tie you down
while the bears shit on your bulldog face!
Understood, sir! All agents, withdraw and redeploy to 8316
West Bell Road! Suspects are still considered armed and dangerous! Notify
Belay that last instruction, you fucking imbecile! The PD
will know youre coming when you get there!
Agents! Operation is redirected! Holster and retain all
firearms! Redeploy under Code 6 and move out!
Sure enough, all twenty-some agents and their obedient Commander backed
up, reconnected in the front yard, marched off to their unmarked vehicles,
and sped away.
A small round of applause met Park as he threw down the switch
and turned around. Stephanie had even fallen over, strangling on her
Park actually blushed. Thank you, folks. But theres not
much time. Theyll be back here in less than fifteen minutes. Chet,
this is important. I want you to take the women to the Toyota, drive
it to the motorcycles, then ride three of them out to the campsite.
I know you havent been there before, but theyll show you
the way. Once youre on those bikes, if theres any trouble,
I want you to split up. Dont lead the cops to the camp. Chet,
make sure each of you has a weapon on you. Loaded.
Chet never once blinked. What about you guys?
Cheese and I?
Roscoe Young sighed. My name is Roscoe.
Then I have done you a huge favor. Cheese and I will meet
you all there tonight. Remember, if they catch us all together, itll
be a long time before anybody hears from any of us.
At that admonition, they all shared the same countenance: dread.
The camp, to the extent that it appeared to be one, rested almost twenty
miles northwest of the Black Canyon Freeway in a large dry wash whose
only other regular guests were the occasional Autumn run-off, rolling
balls of mud-heavy sagebrush, and narrow, towering, skipping dirt devils.
Nevertheless, the washs abrupt banks provided excellent cover,
and on cloudy nights, such as this one, when the temperature dipped
into the lower 40s, you could use a small campfire with little
risk of detection. The two men sat just downwind of the flames, back
to back, their revolvers resting on their bended knees.
Listen, Cheese. When they get back, do you mind if I talk
to Rachelle about something?
You dont need my permission.
But she used to be a shrink, right?
You think you need one?
Aw, hell no. Well, Ive been having this same nightmare
over and over. Think she knows anything about dreams?
Roscoe adjusted his hat to better consider the question. She
might. Shes smart. So you think theyll make it here okay?
Oh sure. Like you said, Rachelles smart. Stephanies
street smart. And that guy,
You know hes been to prison?
Park shuddered at the utterance. Chet? But hes just...
A kid. I know. That kid is twenty-seven. He did an eight
year stretch for grand theft auto and aggravated assault. Hes
only been out for two months.
We only picked him up two months ago!
Wow. Some people never learn, do they?
Overhead, the clouds blinked and let through just a breath of moonlight.
Even with that, you couldnt see the city. Phoenix had tentacled
out a lot in just the last two years alone, but reaching the camp from
any part of it still required a monumental effort. For their part, Park
and Roscoe had driven the Taurus to within half a mile of the garage
where theyd stashed their Kawasakis. From there they managed to
dodge much of the deserts inherent treachery, at least until they
came to within five miles of the hideout. Near the foot of an enormous
boulderso enormous it blotted out the sky and so incongruous it
might have been a lone meteor from millions of years agorested
two fueled-up dune buggies. After making certain they both started,
the guys picked one and sailed across a landscape that might have flipped
a lunar rover.
How much do we have left?
Park smiled at the way Roscoe always adjusted his hat prior to
letting his ideas roam. One hundred twenty-eight thousand four
hundred dollars. You gonna shoot me for my share?
Roscoe ignored the question. You ever think about what we
could do with that money? All of us? Together? Youre a smart guy,
Park. A good leader, anyway. I know the business world, so I could help
with connections. The girls are hardworking and Chet would do anything
Park sneezed at the cool night air and laughed at himself for not having
a handkerchief. I know what youre saying, Cheese. I just
dont know if I have it anymore to make it in the business world.
When I lost everything else, I lost who I thought I was, too. Oh, even
before the fall, I pretended to be a great hard-ass of a manager. But
inside I was always somewhere else, being who I really am. Just maybe
who I really am is whats sitting here right now. The clouds
overtook the moon again and the campfire spat in response.
Parker understood what Roscoe was driving at. Hell, hed considered
it himself. Hed imagined the bunch of them running a bar somewhere
in lower Canada, treating the customers right, and grinning as the money
rolled in. But with all the things hed done over the last two
years that hed never imagined himself doing, something fundamental
within himself had changed. Or emerged. They had all changed, for that
matter. Well, maybe not Chet. So the kid was in prison? He seems
Roscoe nodded, this time without the hat adjustment. I was thinking
maybe he started out like we did. Not a manager or an executive. Just
maybe full of himself. Full of anger. Ambition. Energy. And maybe he
just found out one day that getting beat down wasnt worth the
Cheese, thats pretty good. Rachelles not the
only shrink in the gang.
Roscoes back stiffened against Parks. Listen.
I heard something out there.
Park and Roscoe lay on their stomachs, facing the direction of the city,
facing the source of the sound. Separated by ten yards, with the campfire
muted behind them, they lay with their guns drawn and secured in the
dirt at the end of their arms.
Roscoe whispered, Who do you think it is?
Park said nothing.
Maybe its that chump, Masters, and his brigade?
Park stared straight ahead.
Will you say something, please?
At last, Parker Allen spoke. You know what I think? I think
that I need to take a piss. So I really hope its not Masters.
Id hate to die with a full bladder.
Calm under pressure.
The beams of two flashlights twinkled and were gone. The men held their
breaths. Half a minute later and a few feet nearer, the spectacle repeated
itself. Roscoe focused straight ahead as he asked, You know
what Im thinking?
Park nodded. Me too. Thats okay. Let them come to us.
Half an hour later, the two people signaling were close enough to be
Rachelle! Roscoe cried, getting to his feet.
Stephanie! Park half-shouted.
The girls came running.
Roscoe grabbed Rachelle at the hips and pulled her up to kiss her, spinning
the both of them in a circle and laughing like virgin newlyweds. Park
gave Stephanie a bear hug and planted a playful slap on her ass. Its
good to see you, everyone said.
Roscoe let Rachelles feet down to the ground. Wheres
She looked up at him. Even under the night clouds, he could see her
eyes water over. Hes dead, she told him.
Stephanie broke free of Parkers grasp. You dont know
that, Rachelle! You dont know that for sure!
Rachelle turned to the challenge, as if through an air of wool. We
were on the bikes, she explained. Riding the Black Canyon
north. Chet was in the lead. Steph and I abreast behind him. She said
What happened? the two men said together.
Stephanie looked away from Rachelle. We saw it before we
heard it. He flipped backwards off the bike. Then we heard a shot. The
bike spun out. We almost ran over him.
Park seized her by the shoulders. Are you saying he was
Her lips trembled. Yes, thats what Im saying!
It had to be someone up ahead of us. So we dodged his bike and took
the next off ramp. He separated at the exit and met up at the boulder.
Roscoe looked from one of the girls to the other. You dont
mean you just left him there?
Stephanie stuttered, Chet. Landed. Fell. On his head. Rachelles
right. He has to be dead.
Parker ran his hands across his face. I dont get it! Why
would the cops, even the feds, shoot him? In two years we have never
so much as pulled our triggers!
Stephanie absorbed the ground with her gaze. I dont think
it was the police. We heard on the radio. Theres a $500,000 reward
for each of us. Dead, alive, who cares?
Sweet Mother, Roscoe shook. Its like the
She continued. They know Roscoe and they know you, Park.
They only know Rachelle and me by our first names, although they have
pretty good descriptions. And they knew about Chet Wilkins. That was
his last name. Wilkins.
Roscoe removed his hat altogether and held it in front of himself.
Okay, boss. This is the time for you to come up with a great idea.
Parker smiled, although the smile tasted bitter, like spoiled lemons.
Tomorrow night, he said with the solemnity of a sacred vow.
Tomorrow night we blow the vault at Mal-Wart.
That next morning, at the beginning of what wasunbeknownst to
half the Parker Allen Gangtheir final day together, Roscoe and
Rachelle had breakfast with a couple they met at the Sidewinder café.
The Sidewinder catered to the more affluent set, those inclined toward
ingratiating and being ingratiated, although it wasnt always easy
to tell who was doing which. The Davidsons were particularly taken by
the young couple, especially Mr. Davidson, who found Rachelles
purposeful cleavage to be quite the pleasant eyeful. The Davidsons were
taken in another manner as well. Rachelles purposeful cleavage
afforded Roscoe the opportunity to pick the wallet from Mr. Davidsons
inner jacket pocket. And so, although this half of the gang of necessity
paid for four light breakfaststhereby violating one of their own
rules of conductthey did manage to compensate by acquiring a vast
array of unsecured credit and charge cards, providing themselves with
one of several means to an end.
Two hours later, after some very fast yet calculated shopping, Park
and Stephanie entered the Maricopa County Library. In his pale cream
suit and hat, his grey-dyed temples and withering moustache, Parker
resembled an aging academic in need of a young female assistant, a role
Stephanie filled quite nicely in her flowing flower-printed dress. As
they entered the facility, Parker whispered, Duchess, Ive
never seen you more beautiful. You sure you know how to use these computers?
She assured him that she did and walked him over to the first one with
high speed Internet access. While passersby winked at one another over
the cuteness of the pair, they busied themselves: Stephanie showing
Park how to find what he wanted, and Park soaking up the information.
While Park and Stephanie drew condescending stares in the library, Roscoe
and Rachelle, having donned a quick wardrobe change, made a call on
the Foothills Construction Company. From their muddy work boots to their
overpriced cowboy hats and through their starched denim overalls, they
resembled middle income contract workers. It may have been Roscoes
gold money clip or Rachelles ostentatious pocket watch that tipped
the perceptions in favor of their being owners rather than laborers.
Whatever it was that gave the nod, less than half an hour later, they
left with all the explosives they would need for the evenings
With their preparations complete, both couples visited Symington Park
to unwind a bit and share some unhurried time together. Roscoe rented
a paddle boat for himself and Rachelle to take across the lake, and
Parker and Stephanie sat together on a picnic table, sharing hotdogs
and Cokes, making small talk with kids playing hooky, marveling at the
way the Phoenix city-scape meshed with the landscape surrounding it.
Mal-Wart closed at ten that evening, so a little after nine, the four
surviving members of Park Allens Gang began entering the store.
There was no similarity whatsoever in their attire, and because they
staggered their entrances in five-minute increments, no one would have
sensed that any of the four had connections with one another, unless
the tiny headphones and battery-packed chargers they all wore gave it
away, which they did not. Each of them started out with an empty shopping
cart and a list of acquisitions. As someone had joked years earlier,
you could find everything you needed to live on in a Mal-Wart. Well,
Parker and his gang could prove that to be true. By the time each had
concurred on the total number of employees in the store, their carts
were half full and ten PM had arrived.
The instant the last customer passed through the exit, Stephanie and
Rachelle began herding the employees to the front of the store, while
Roscoe used his trusty key to once again lock themselves inside. Parker
held the cashiers at bay, easing them with jovial chatter, and Roscoe
removed half a dozen rods of curtain from his cart, draping them over
the doors so that no one from the outside could see in. Thats
twenty-four of them, Stephanie announced as she motioned the staff
into the foyer. Including this guy.
Parker laughed. Look, Cheese! Its the same manager. Well,
Mr. Manager, guess they rewarded you by putting you on the night shift.
Duchess, Rachelle, you want to secure his hands, please?
With Stephanie and Rachelle competently guarding the Mal-Wart
personnel, Park and Roscoe were free to carry on with their business.
In less than five minutes, Park showed Roscoe precisely what they were
looking for. In the right rear corner of the store, behind a wall stacked
high with paints, a bare shelf held its own, at least until Park pulled
the shelf from its mooring, at which time the base of the paint can
wall displayed rollers. See? We just slide this to the left.
There before them was a narrow spiral staircase that descended
to a very special part of the store.
Be hard to tell there was a store above us from down here,
Parker observed once they made it to the bottom and crossed into a dark
and low-ceilinged room.
How does this work? Roscoe asked.
Parker was pleased to explain. Simplicity through technology,
my friend. As soon as a cashier up there gets two hundred dollars in
their register, they signal a manager, who comes over and removes all
the currency, except for ones, fives and tens. They need those for change.
But he takes the twenties, fifties and hundreds back to his office where
he shoves them into different tubes...
One for each denomination?
Right. Then he shoots the tubes down a suctioned shaft,
where it disappears. Where does it go?
Somewhere down here, Ill bet.
You win that bet. You know anything about hydraulics?
Roscoe shook his head. Me neither. Has something to do with air
pressure against fluid, or fluid pressure against air. Anyway, this
gage right here he tapped it with his foot, has to maintain
a pressure of at least 20 pounds per square inch to keep those tubes
securely floating in their limbo. When the pressure drops below 20,
the tubes all collect right here. Parker indicated a steel chamber
that resembled a safe, only because of the built-in combination lock
on it front.
Now that manager upstairs has no idea what the combination
is. Whod trust him with it? So what we have to do is, first, sever
the link between this conduit and the money chamber, and second, reduce
the pressure to under 20 psi. Swing that hydraulic jack over here, will
A couple minutes later they had a block of wood wedged between the jack
and the conduit. Now, Parker explained, when we blow
the conduit, the force goes up rather than down. We dont want
to blast a hole in the floor. You have that quarter-stick of blasting
Roscoe slapped it into Parkers hand, the same hand that
wedged it at an angle between the jack and the conduit. Motioning for
Roscoe to move to the far side of the room, Parker lit the fuse and
joined his friend in the corner.
The rooms acoustics made the explosion sound nuclear.
Roscoe screamed, Are you telling me they didnt hear
that up there?
Lets find out. As they walked over to inspect
the damage, Parker pressed the send button on his headphone communicator.
Duchess, everything okay up there?
She responded, One of the employees popped the manager in the
mouth because he wouldnt stop complaining. Thats all.
You didnt hear an explosion?
See, Cheese? This room is so well insulated, they couldnt
hear one of your farts up there if you let it rip. Look, the conduit
Meaning that nothing is going past here and into the chamber.
Now all we need to do is drill two holes in this section here, so the
air and water are no longer pressurized. We could just blow it, but
that might burn up the money. Who knows? Power drill?
Less than five minutes later, Parker had drilled two holes in the hydraulic
canola and both water and air began gushing out from each. Read
that meter, Parker suggested.
Roscoe grinned up in amazement. Parker, youre a genius.
Its falling! 60, 50, 40, 35
Youll know when it gets to 20.
Sure enough, a few seconds later, the first of the money tubes
spilled out through the crack in the conduit.
As Roscoe began tossing tubes into a duffel bag, Parker pointed out,
If youve ever wondered how this place can afford to pay
people to stand at the door all day, just to catch a shoplifter, this
is how. Todays Friday. This is a superstore. Guaranteed they did
eighty grand in business today.
Half an hour later, both bags were filled. Parker called out on his
communicator. Were coming up, girls!
Hold on, Rachelle called back. I think we have trouble.
Roscoe groaned. What kind of trouble?
Fuck me! Rachelle squealed.
Stephanie clarified. The feds! Park, the feds are outside.
Jesus, there must be two hundred of them! How did they know we were
Parker said to Roscoe, although not to the girls, They know
because I tipped them off.
Whatre you saying?
Trust me, Cheese. Its better that we know where they
are. Dont worry. Hey, Duchess, just stay inside. Dont open
the doors. Dont let them see you. Theyll all be moving on
in just a few minutes. Love ya, honey.
Parker Allen, I love you to, but I hope you know what youre
So do I. Hey, Cheese, you feel that vibration under your
feet? Guess you know why you picked up so many explosives now.
Stephanie cut in from above. Park, somebody set off a bomb!
I know, Duchess. Its the Bank One up the street. Ill
bet half the buildings gone.
Rachelle squealed again, this time with glee. That Masters guy
is screaming at the whole parking lot. Fuck me! Theyre leaving!
Roscoe tapped Parks shoulder. They wont come back?
his head. They might, except for the fact that a second bomb is
going off at the BofA across from the Bank One in five minutes. And
five minutes after that, M & I gets the same fair and balanced treatment.
Park and Roscoe lugged two duffel bags crammed with tiny tubes crammed
with cash up the spiral staircase, across the acres of store and into
the foyer where everything was indeed just dandy, other than the manager,
whose lower lip still oozed blood.
Now for the hard part, Roscoe sighed.
Park couldnt meet his colleagues gaze. Right.
You wanna tell Rachelle? Ill talk to the Duchess.
Roscoe disappeared into the employee lounge and a few moments later
Stephanie emerged, her headphones dancing from one hand to the other.
Weve probably got about 75 grand between the two bags.
Right. Quite a haul. Are we ready?
Park gently held Stephanies shoulders. This isnt
up for discussion. Theres a black panel van out behind the store.
You and Rachelle get in, hand the driver an envelope. Therell
be five thou in it.
Park, what are you talking about?
After Chet got shot, I realized its just a matter
of time for us if we stay here. The driver will hand you each an envelope
with fake passports and phony documents to match. Study them on your
way to the airport.
I am not leaving you.
Dont make this harder than it is. Therell be
two pair of airline tickets. The first pair will take you to Montreal.
Stay in a hotel there for twenty-four hours. Then use
No! NO! NOOO!!!
Use the other tickets to fly to Paris. Stephanie, YES! Rachelle
speaks French, so youll be able to get along. Youll also
have a package waiting for you when you land. The Euro equivalent of
I said no!
You have no choice. Listen to me. Cheese and I will catch
up with you in about two months.
If they dont kill you first. She brushed his
hands off her shoulders and punched him in the chest.
Yes. If they dont. But you two will be alive.
If its such a great idea, why are you crying?
Park handed her an envelope. I always cry at great ideas.
Give me a kiss.
A half hour later, the girls were on their way to Sky Harbor Airport
and the guys had said goodbye to the employees, after securing a promise
that they would not allow the manager to phone the police. The walked
out the front doors, their duffels over their shoulders.
You know what I was thinking, Boogie? I was thinking that maybe
you and I ought to get cleaned up, maybe get a couple rooms at a nice
hotel, say down in Tucson, and in the morning, have the biggest breakfast
of our lives. You know, ham, eggs, French toast, bacon, biscuits and
gravy, the works!
That sounds fine, Park. The occasion?
I was thinking we could lay low for a while. I mean,. Hell,
weve got plenty of money, even after giving the girls theirs.
We can live somewhere between modest and highfalutin for a couple
months, then hop a plane to Par-ee, and if we stop pulling jobs, the
heatll back off.
Maybe it will.
Thats what Im saying.
Thats far enough, buckos! a voice said from
Drop them bags, damn ya!
They turned to find two grisly characters with rifles trained on them.
Park and Roscoe dropped their bags.
Let me guess, Roscoe sneered. Bounty hunters?
The first one ignored the question as he said to his comrade,
One million bucks standing right there!
His associate nodded. One goddamned million motherfucking
Whats in them bags? the first one inquired.
Roscoe spread his hands. Its two of your cousins.
Oh, you know them better as Mom and Dad.
What happened next could have played out ten times in the span it takes
to explain it. The first hunter discharged his rifle, striking Parker
above the left elbow. That bullet had no more than broken flesh before
Roscoe snatch-dragged his revolver from his shoulder holster and took
out the shooter with a clean headshot. The second bounty hunter released
his load into Roscoes midsection and a moment later lay dead from
the retaliatory shot Park delivered.
Roscoe? Roscoe, how do you feel?
Of all the stupid questions.
The gut shot had to be terminal. Parker had never seen so much
blood in his life. He cradled his friends head with one hand and
pressed against his belly with the other, trying to hold Roscoes
Park, Roscoe sputtered. Dont tell Rachelle.
I wont, buddy.
I never fired my gun before.
You always were lucky.
Park, sing me that song.
What song? Oh. The song.
Roscoe tried to swallow and ended up spitting down his own chin.
Parker sang, Run, run, as fast as you can. You cant
catch me, Im the Gingerbread Man.
By the time the song was over, Roscoe was gone.
Park had taken the precaution of securing false identification
for himself. That proved to be helpful during his stay in the Arrowhead
Hospital emergency room. Upon release, he called a taxi company with
little idea where hed tell the driver to take him and his two
duffel bags. He waited on the corner, consumed with his own thoughts,
consumed by loss, so much so that he didnt notice the family approach
as he waited by the curb.
Look at the bum, cried the little girl, jarring Park
Allen from the darkness of his daydream.
The mom, who resembled an older version of Stephanie, shared a
smile with her husband, who looked like a younger version of Park, and
together they paused so their daughter could take in the majesty of
the unfortunate situation before them.
Twenty-seven years and a few weeks later, Damein Smith, twelve year
old explorer that he was, returned home with a diary in his hands.
Dad! he hollered, out of breath. I found a gangsters
Mr. Smith examined the small leather-bound document. It reeked
from whatever fluids had washed across its cover over the years. But
each of its weather-worn pages remained blank, except for a brief section
right in the middle. As best Mr. Smith could make out, the words were:
"Being a legend is a burden. The fact is that the man
you may know as Parker Allen did not die outside that Mal-Wart in October.
He lived almost thirty more years, the owner of a small horse ranch
south of Flagstaff. He only killed one man, and that man needed to be
I dont know if lifes worth the trouble. I dont
know if love conquers all. I just know that Roscoe Young was the best
friend I ever had. All these years later, I still miss him. If theres
a Heaven, hes there.
The diary was signed David Allen Wright.
Mr. Smith gave the matter some thought and threw the diary in the fireplace
where it was quickly consumed.
© Phil Mershon
Phil Mershon surviving Democratice Fundraising
When Doves Burn Two- 9/27/04
Phil Mershon's Survivors guide to the US Election
all rights reserved