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32. Paybacks - Sarge Safran sat in the corner of the diner and sipped black coffee. He sat alone. His trademark...

32.

Paybacks



Mr. Scratch stood alone in the field surrounded by piles of empty uniforms with his head hung low. A bottomless evil churned deep within him. He fumed. Scratch gritted his teeth. He raged. Scratch clenched his fists. He turned to the the gaggle of Wilmington players and he made up his mind.

To hell with the gentleman’s bet.

Scratch could not take Sarge Safran’s soul, but he vowed at that moment to take the man’s life. He was going to kill Sarge and he was going to enjoy it.

Sarge saw Scratch coming towards him. He figured it would do him no good, but he picked up the bat that Chew-on Man had left behind and shoved his teammates away to a safe distance. He refused to go without a fight.

Scratch’s fury was so focused on Sarge that he failed to see the six men walking across the left field grass. Mycroft threw popcorn kernels into his mouth and led five figures clad in trench coats.

They caught Sarge’s attention and when he glanced over at them, Scratch instinctively followed his gaze. Mycroft mumbled orders to his companions between chews.

“All right, fellas. It’s showtime.”

The five men behind him removed their coats and hats to reveal the distinctive lightning logo stitched into their Lynchburg uniforms. As Oscar Clayton, Nap Hill, Clint Jones, Art Teasley, and Ted Siddle, raised their arms together high over their heads, Mr. Aldous Scratch was able to let loose one final thought from his lips.

“Mycroft Safran, you double-crossing son of a bitch.”

The group threw their hands towards the ground and a lightning bolt of pure power and tenacity as thick as the trunk of an old oak fell upon the Devil’s Right Hand. The force from it blew everyone off of their feet and left them with a weird form of sunburn for days after. The only thing left of Mr. Aldous Scratch, the taker of souls, was a small pile of bone splinters and ash.

Mink opened his eyes after the blast and noticed that the lightning strike had blown the stadium lights out. He stood and pulled off his sunglasses. Since he normally saw perfectly in darkness, Mink grew concerned when he saw two Sarge Safrans in front of him. He knew his eyes were getting worse, but this would be the first time he had experienced double vision.

Mycroft and Sarge stood about five feet apart, face to face. It had been over fifteen years since they were last together. Before Godfrey told him only moments ago that his brother was in town, Sarge thought him dead. It was almost pitch black down on the field. They could only make out each other’s outlines. Sarge finally spoke.

“Thanks for the save.”

“Yeah, well, you’re welcome and all, but I would be lying if I told you saving your hide was the only reason I did it.”

Sarge chuckled.

“You always did play every angle.”

“As long as it benefitted me.”

Sarge thought about his brother’s words. He had to ask Mycroft, but he felt he already knew the answer.

“And this? How did all of this benefit you?”

Sarge heard that old Bayou laughter through the dark space between them. It filled him with a sense of home - and dread.

“Tristan, Tristan, Tristan. You are talking to the new, and I dare say, improved, Devil’s Right Hand.”

It was what he feared. Mycroft would never stop his wicked conniving until he was the number one, head dog of the pack. It was simply his evil nature.

Mycroft sensed his brother’s thoughts.

“Now don’t fret, Tristan. I promise I’ll lay low. As a matter of fact, I will release Charles Tanner Senior from his debt. He will now rest in peace.”

“Thanks, Mycroft. I appreciate that.”

The Safran brothers took one final moment to size each other up. Mycroft reached over and grabbed his brother by the shoulder. He squeezed it hard and paid Sarge the best compliment the man had ever received.

“Dad would have been real proud of you, Tristan.”

Mycroft released his grip, turned, and walked into the blackness. He threw a parting jibe.

“See you in the funny pages, baby brother.”

Sarge refused to leave it like that.

“We’re twins, jack ass.”

The stadium lights hummed back to life.

“I came out first.”

Mycroft was gone.

33. In Conclusion



On Wednesday, August 2nd, 1933, Wilmington’s Mayor, Frank C. Sparks, declared a city-wide, twenty-four hour hiatus from Federal Prohibition Laws in honor of the Whispers victory.  The celebration that ensued was like no other.  All parts of the town teemed with revelers and well-wishers.  Baynard Boulevard, Kentmere Parkway , Rockford Park, Tilton Park , the Eastside, Quaker Hill, Delaware Avenue, Trinity Vicinity, and Market Street all threw together impromptu parades.  Exhausted Whispers who just wanted shuteye found their doors beaten down by drunken mobs whom then carried them from block to block to be adored by the throngs.

One player was suspiciously absent from the festivities.  People searched high and wide for him so they would later be able to boast about his presence at their soirees, but none had any luck. 

Of course, no one in the city other than a select few would have known to check behind an inconspicuous-looking cottage amidst the tranquility of a horse farm’s rolling pastures.  They would have found him there, on the back porch swing, in the company of the woman he loved more than anyone else.

One notable side story to rise from the game was the success of a book about the Fury on the First written by Baltimore ’s most beloved son, Hooligan Pete.  Simply titled, I Was There: Fury on the First, Hooligan wrote a play-by-play analysis of the game and heaped praise on Sarge Safran for his master strokes in coaching. The book threatened Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth as the year’s most read.

It was no surprise that the Friday morning funeral service for Chew-on Man was jammed pack. It seemed every inch of street outside was covered by umbrellas as the city itself seemed to weep for its fallen hero.

The inside of Saint Andrew’s Church was decorated with white carnations that formed the slanted Whispers “W”. The archdiocese at first denied the catholic facilities for the service, but a generous donation from the Injun Joe Chewing Tobacco Company of South Carolina seemed to assuage any concerns the pious man had about the dead’s religious beliefs. Many politicians were present, including Delaware’s Governor and its U.S. Senator, John Townsend.

Mink sat with Simon Says and Charles Tanner Junior in the front pew next to Sarge and Delilah. He could not help but smile when he saw his friend held the singer’s hand.

The Whispers home plate had been lifted out of the ground and stood on display next to Chew-on’s remains. The little tobacco doll’s silhouette was burned into its surface, a visible reminder of the sacrifice it had made.

Before its coffin was carried outside and placed onto the miniature hearse pulled by a shetland pony, the priest asked if there was anyone present who wished to speak. During that uncomfortable moment when all heads begin to look around for any takers, Simon Says stood and walked to the podium.

The Tanzanian closed his eyes and grunted several times as he hopped around the pine box barefoot and spun his body in the traditional burial dance of his people. When he completed a circle, he unfolded a piece of paper before him and pulled a pair of bifocals from his waistline. He put them on, cleared his throat, and commenced to read the final lines of Walt Whitman’s famous poem, “O Captain! My Captain!”

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,

The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,

From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;

Exult O shores, and ring O bells!

But I with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead. 2

Mink and Sarge shot looks at one another. Their loud laughter echoed off the church walls.

After leaving the grave site, local press popped some pictures of Sarge and Delilah together in the rain. The two ducked into the back of a Rolls Royce Touring limousine that Mark DuCane graciously leant them for the occasion.

Sarge pulled a small box from his pocket and placed it in Delilah’s hand.

She eyed him suspiciously.

“Is this what I think it is?”

Sarge’s face went flush.

“If you think it’s a hayseed from Louisiana trying to ask you to marry him, then, yeah. It’s what you think it is.”

Delilah opened the velvet box and found a diamond ring. She trembled. Sarge pinched it between his thick, rough fingers and slipped it on her hand. She looked closely and saw a beautiful design of an inlaid golden heart and crown. Sarge placed her hands between his.

“Well, what do you say, Delilah? Will you marry me?”

The limousine by that time was far outside the city limits. It made its way down the country drive towards the cottage surrounded by green pastures. A group of horses trotted next to the car on the opposite side of the split rail fence. They followed it all the way to the barns.

About the Author



Colby Cox was born in Delaware and was raised on a steady diet of crime noir, comic books, and the Marx Brothers. Rapidly nearing the age of forty, he is happily married and lives with his wife and son. This book signifies the end of his mid-life crisis and it should be smooth sailing from here on out. He can found at www.libertyandin-dependence.blogspot.com.

ENDNOTES

1. Vincent Rose, Richard Coburn, John Schoenberger, “Whispering”, 1920.

2. Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!”, 1865.









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