25 Chapter Twenty Five / Clinton

Jay Branch drove straight on and watched the night creep around the old Volvo like a fog. He was focusing on the walkthrough of the unfinished house, thinking about how he went around corners and how he could be more aware and not let anything slide past him when it mattered. He almost passed an exit in the middle of nowhere in some strange land called Clinton, Oklahoma when he noticed the small glowing sign on top of a four story pole for the small old gas station off of the ramp. He pulled off the exit and pulled up to the small dingy station that had a gravel parking lot and surprisingly cheap gas. He pulled the 850 up to the pump Island and walked over to the attached convenience store. The store was a time capsule that appeared to be straight out of the mid 1970s and Jay was pretty sure that some of the hats and t-shirts for sale on one rack in the corner could probably make someone rich on eBay in the “vintage clothing” section. The old man behind the counter that looked like he was asleep with a newspaper in his hands and the old tube television complete with aluminum foiled bunny ears playing in the corner were the only signs of life in the place. Jay spotted the big hunk of wood with the word men’s scribbled on it on the side counter and grabbed it and headed back outside to a bathroom that he had seen on the side of the building. The large quantity of alcohol and caffeine was taking its toll on his insides and he knew he would need some Gatorade or Vitamin Water if he was going to continue the living on the magic elixir. After thoroughly scrubbing the toilet seat down with wads of toilet paper he sat down for a relaxing constitution as his grandfather would always say and tried to contemplate the situation for a small moment before his peace was quickly interrupted. He could hear yelling coming from inside the store and even though he couldn’t make out the words it sounded like the place was being robbed. Are you kidding me? Jay thought and then immediately he wondered if there would be a way for this to do him some good. The thought shocked him and he hated to be a jackal like that but this was going down whether or not he was there or he benefited from it and he had bigger priorities than the old man. He slowly pulled up his pants and edged his way towards the door remembering that he had thrown the Glock in the trunk but he had shoved the little silver pistol in the front pocket of his jeans and then forgot about it because it was so small. He pulled it out and leaned his head towards the door. POP, POP he heard the sound he was now sickly familiar with, two gun shots from a pistol. And then he could hear shuffling noises and things being knocked over in the store. His heart was now pumping blood like a fire hose trying to extinguish a burning house. There was a killer outside the door; or was he still in the store and better yet did he have a getaway driver waiting out front with the car running. He knew it was insanity but he had to check, he had to seize an opportunity if it existed. He very slowly with his left hand opened the bathroom door to reveal the dark strange outdoors. There was suddenly no sound anywhere and time seemed to slow down, Jay could hear his breathing like when you see a scene like this in a movie and the breathing of the character would sound like it had reverb on it and was slowed down in the mix. He then slowly looked around the corner to see the strangest thing: the criminal was standing at his Volvo pumping gas into it. It took Jay a minute to process this but then he realized there were no other cars in the crappy gravel parking lot and the reality of the situation hit him. This asshole was going to use his car as a getaway car and take with it a backpack full of money that Jay could not live without. Without even thinking it over he began toward the robber, Jay felt as if he were floating across the gravel not making a sound like he was in a dream and then before he could give reality a second thought he was behind him maybe an inch away. He raised the pistol and stuck it to the back of the criminal’s head and said in a very cool voice that he had no idea where it was coming from.

“Make sure that the tank is full then put the cap back on slowly.”

“Aw shit man I don’t want no trouble I just gotta get as far from here as fast as I can and my bitch stole my wheels.” The big bad criminal was pleading for lenience.

“I’m sure the old man in the store didn’t want any trouble either.”

“I told him to hand over the money and I would leave and the old son of a bitch pulled a gun from below the drawer at me.” The criminal reasoned.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have stuck a gun in his face in the first place.” Jay found that he had a new found level of hatred for stupid criminals.

“Look I’ll give you half of the cash if you just take me 20 miles to Elk City.”

Jay thought about it for a minute, would he be able to let this shithead get a running start on the police and half of the money for killing some poor old man. Like some other criminal who had gotten away with Beth’s murder because maybe someone had helped them. He knew that there was no way that was going to happen and knew what he had to do.

“Where is your gun?” He said still standing behind the criminal.

“It’s in my back.” He said with his left hand motioning towards the waistband of his pants.

Jay saw a similar gun to his Glock tucked into the waist of his jeans. He grabbed it out making sure to use his shirt sleeve as to not get his prints on it; an unregistered gun and maybe even a gun with filed off numbers was one thing but a gun that could be traced to a dead old man was another. He threw the gun across the street into a wooded area by the exit for the over pass and then he said.

“Okay shit for brains, you’ve got a chance of finding that thing before the cops do so I suggest you start running now.”

In a panicked lost moment the criminal just stood frozen not knowing what to do.

“RUN BITCH!” Jay shouted and kicked the idiot in the back to get him moving. He stumbled forward a few steps and then took off across the road. Jay grabbed the nozzle still making sure to use his sleeve and made sure that the tank was topped off and then replaced the nozzle. He took a quick look around the parking lot there were no cameras that he could see. He walked around to the driver’s door pulled his keys out of his pocket and put them in the ignition and started the car. Shaking and not knowing how to feel he pulled back on the freeway in what must have been less than two full minutes from the time he had walked up behind the murderous criminal. It was at least ten miles before he looked over at the passenger seat and realized a gym bag sat in it. He pulled over to the side of the highway and looked inside of it, it contained wads of cash, and packs of cigarettes, random cans of beer and to Jay’s delight a variety of energy drinks. He shuffled his hand through the money counting more than fifteen hundred dollars. The money would be a good added to his ransom fund not enough to really matter but enough to get him a little closer to his goal. He pulled back on to I-40 knowing he would need to stop somewhere soon to get more vodka and count all of the miscellaneous cash he had to get a better idea of where he stood, but right now he needed to get as far away from the dead old man and the confused criminal as he could.

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