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The road to nanty glo (a.., p.1
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       The Road to Nanty Glo (A Dan Wilder Short Story), p.1

           Chris O'Grady
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The Road to Nanty Glo (A Dan Wilder Short Story)
The Road to Nanty Glo

  A Dan Wilder Short Story


  Chris O'Grady

  * * * * *

  The Road to Nanty Glo

  Copyright © 2011 by Chris O'Grady

  All authors retain copyrights to the works of fiction contained herein.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.

  For information address: Twit Publishing PO Box 720453 Dallas, Texas 75206 or email Craig Gabrysch at [email protected]

  The following work is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  * * * * *

  “The Road to Nanty Glo” is a Dan Wilder Short Story. Two other short stories, “Double Take” and “Good Fences Make Good” have been published in previous Twit Publishing Presents: PULP! anthologies and are currently available for free download.

  Also available is The Glorieta Pass, the first full-length Wilder novel.

  The Road to Nanty Glo

  by Chris O'Grady

  Wilder drove the convertible into the small town around 3:00 AM.

  The car radio was on.

  “All units be on alert for a green and yellow convertible . . .” He slowed, found the side street he wanted, and parked in a block behind where three other cars were parked.

  “License SD 1404. This car may be stolen. The driver is wanted for questioning in connection with an armed robbery in Uniontown . . .”

  Switching the radio off, Wilder got out of the convertible with a carry-on bag.

  He took out car keys as he went to the car he parked behind. Using the car keys, he opened the car’s driver-side door and slid behind the wheel, putting the bag on the passenger seat beside him.

  When he drove off, his headlights revealed a roadside sign just outside town: Route 40.

  Switching on the car radio, he found the station he’d been listening to in the convertible.

  “. . . may be armed and dangerous. Last seen passing through Keyser’s Ridge, Maryland. Believed headed toward Cumberland. All units along Route 40 be on alert . . .”

  Wilder steered with his left hand while his right scrubbed an electric razor over the stubble on his chin and cheeks.

  A roadside sign ahead said 219. An arrow pointed to the left. Wilder slowed and made the turn off 40 onto 219.

  He put the electric shaver into the bag beside a pair of binoculars, a waste cloth, and a semi-automatic pistol. Picking up the gun, he hefted it, a thoughtful look on his face as he peered ahead.

  Just before dawn, he pulled off the road above a wooded valley, got out, went around the front of the car and stood at the edge of the drop-off for a moment, looking down at the pistol in his hand. Glancing both ways along the road, he saw no other cars, and hurled the pistol out and down among the trees below, just as the sun came clear of the hills to the east.

  After watching the flight of the gun until it disappeared among the tree foliage, he got back into his rented dark blue hardtop and drove off.

  Around noon, a mileage sign beside the road said: JONESTOWN – 10 miles.

  He was halfway there when he saw a couple of eating places ahead. Both had parking areas around them.

  The one on the left was a restaurant.

  On the right was an open-air hotdog counter. It was roofed over so customers would be in the shade.

  Wilder turned into the gravel parking area of the hotdog stand, passing a black Buick already parked off to one side, facing the road and the restaurant across the street.

  Two men were sitting in the Buick’s front seat. One was stocky. A slimmer one was behind the wheel. Both stared fixedly across the road at the other restaurant. They paid no attention to the newly-arrived hardtop.

  Wilder also parked facing the road, but farther back. Going over to the lunch counter, he climbed onto one of the stools and gave his order.

  Inside the restaurant across the street, some people were seated at tables, eating. A few others were at the bar watching the TV news.

  One of the men eating sat facing away from the TV set, but he started to listen when the TV news reader said: “. . . still no trace of Vincent Miller. Authorities in Philadelphia believe he may have met with foul play.”

  Vincent Miller stopped eating while he listened to the TV announcer behind him, but he didn’t turn to look at the TV set. His face looked drawn and anxious. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. Glancing furtively right and left, he tried to see if anyone was watching him.

  The TV announcer went on: “A source close to the Federal District Court refused to be quoted, but Miller’s sudden disappearance seems linked to the pending trial of East Coast crime czar Salvatore Gianucci . . .”

  Miller tried to continue his meal, but he couldn’t. Putting his fork down, he pressed the cloth napkin to his mouth and held it pressed there. He stared down at the tablecloth, his elbows bracing him on each side of his plate. Finally he took the napkin away from his face and rose.

  On the TV screen a couple of women appeared.

  “ . . . Miller’s wife and daughter were interviewed earlier today by this reporter, but denied knowing anything of Miller’s whereabouts . . .”

  Leaving money on the table on top of his check, Miller left without looking at the TV set and crossed the restaurant’s parking lot to his dark green sedan.

  The two men in the Buick parked across the street watched him intently. The driver turned the ignition key and started the Buick. When Miller’s green sedan drove out of the restaurant’s parking area across the road and turned to its left, the two men in the Buick waited until their quarry’s car was tiny in the distance. Then the smaller man in the driver’s seat nodded, drove out onto the road, turned right, and went after Miller’s sedan.

  As the Buick disappeared in the distance, Wilder went on eating his hotdog at the outdoor counter until a State Highway Patrol car turned into the restaurant’s parking area, across the way.

  Guardedly, Wilder watched the Trooper get out of his patrol car and saunter inside the restaurant. When he was gone, Wilder put down the rest of his two-thirds eaten hotdog, wiped his mouth with the paper napkin, and strolled unhurriedly over to his hardtop. Driving onto the highway, he turned right and went northward in the same direction Miller’s green sedan and the black Buick had gone a short time before.

  Wilder shrugged out of his suit coat as he drove along the bases of tree-covered ridges that formed the eastern side of the narrow valley. A little stream flowed on the left beside the road below a steep gravelly drop-off. Beyond the stream rose the wooded slopes of the west side of the valley.

  When his car topped a rise, about an eighth of a mile ahead, he saw a dark green sedan going off the left side of the road. It plunged down the slope toward the nearly dry streambed below.

  A black Buick stopped on the left side of the road, too. Both its front doors opened and two men climbed out.

  Wilder’s foot eased up on the gas pedal. He watched the two men run down the slope toward the green sedan, which rolled over when it neared the bottom of the slope. It slid the rest of the way to the bottom.

  Driving nearer, still watching, he eased over to the left across the center line in the highway and ran the window down beside him, so he could see better.

; Pulling over to the left edge of the road, he stopped behind the Buick. Both its front doors were still wide open.

  Below the road, the green sedan finally settled upright in the few inches of water in the streambed.

  The two men from the Buick reached the overturned car and started tugging at the driver’s door.

  Wilder shoved his gear stick into park. Beyond the Buick, another car was approaching from the other direction.

  Turning to look back down at the accident scene below, his eyes widened slightly with surprise. The two men had gotten the driver’s side door open, but instead of pulling the injured man out, the slimmer of the two men raised his arm with a short dark object in his hand.

  Wilder could see blood streaming down the driver’s face, but he was still conscious. He could see the man’s eyes turn abruptly from stunned shock and pain to sudden awareness, and then fear, as he looked from the face of one man to the other.

  “No, please, I won’t tell them anything!” he cried out.

  That was all he said, or all Wilder could hear. Then the one with the sap started swinging it.

  The bigger of the two men, the one not doing the dirty work, turned away with a satisfied half-smile on his face, until he glanced up at the road and saw Wilder watching all this from his stopped car.

  Wilder nodded. “Well, well!” he murmured. “Some of the boys putting in an honest day’s work.”

  The slimmer one stopped hitting Miller and straightened with a sigh. His work was done.

  The big one nudged him with an elbow and tilted his head at the road above. The killer looked up and saw Wilder watching.

  They started climbing up toward the roadside.

  Facing forward, Wilder shoved the gear handle into drive and swung the steering wheel to the right, driving past the rear of the black Buick and onto the middle of the road, just as the approaching car slowed beyond the Buick.

  Wilder got his renter straightened and picked up speed.

  The woman at the wheel of the car brought it to a stop, just beyond the Buick. She was wearing a light-blue scarf draped around her neck and she craned her head to see what was going on down in the gully.

  As Wilder drove past, he yelled: “Better keep going, lady!”

  She whipped her head around and gave him a disgusted look.

  Checking his rearview mirror as he put distance between himself and the murder scene, he saw the woman get out of her car, just as the two killers came up into sight on the roadside.

  One of them went around the front of her car between it and the front of the Buick. The smaller one came around the back end of her car and headed toward her. He glanced briefly at Wilder’s car, then turned, and both men closed in on the woman.

  Wilder shrugged.

  “Okay, sister, it’s your funeral,” he muttered.

  When he realized what he had just said, he grinned wryly.

  “Funeral is right. That babe is history.”

  Back at the murder scene, the woman looked bewildered, then concerned, then fearful. She backed away, groping behind her for the door handle of her car.

  Then the two men reached her. The bigger one’s hands closed on her throat. Her hands tried to claw at his wrists. The other one, Brownsuit, reached from behind her and pulled her hands away from Graysuit’s wrists.

  Graysuit’s face didn’t change as he strangled the woman. When he was finished with her, he jerked a thumb toward her car.

  “We’ll put her in her trunk. Get her car keys.”

  As he drove along, Wilder relaxed at first. Then he frowned.

  “Those two saw my face,” he muttered.

  Thinking about it, he nodded.

  “It could be my funeral, too, not just Miss Good Citizen back there.”

  His face tightened as he thought about it.

  “I’ll know them if I ever see them again, so they’ll know me, too.”

  He glanced down at his shirt-sleeved forearm.

  “At least they don’t know what color suit I’m wearing.”

  He briefly laughed.

  “No, they just know what car I’m driving.”

  Now he started thinking about it seriously.

  Okay, it was a renter. He could ditch the car.

  For a moment, he was satisfied. Then he shook his head and grimaced, as if he tasted something he didn’t like.

  Pulling over to the side of the road, he stopped, his face angry.

  No, he could walk away from the car, but he couldn’t walk away from his face.

  He thought it through and sighed, shaking his head. Almost absently, he studied the long lines of the wooded hills across the narrow valley, the distant ridges and rounded tree-covered mountains.

  “Not good getaway country, either,” he murmured. “Half a dozen men could cover every road around here. And those two back there will be able to get all the help they need.”

  Noticing movement in his rearview mirror, he looked at it closely. A car was far behind: a black car.

  Wilder’s hand jerked the gear handle into drive and took off. His off-pavement tires spun and threw dirt. When the wheels got back onto the pavement and had good grip again, he sped down the highway.

  The black car was coming up fast. Wilder sped up, but although the black car soon fell behind, it was still there. He couldn’t shake it.

  Highway 219 made a half-left turn ahead. Slowing, Wilder made the turn. Now he was headed northwestward. A roadside sign said Jonestown — three miles.

  He checked his rearview mirror again. Still far behind, the black car was hanging in there.

  Up ahead on the right was a gate with a sign above it saying: CONEMAUGH VALLEY AIRPORT.

  A quarter mile in from the highway, the airport entrance drive stopped at a terminal building surrounded by parking areas in front and on both sides. On the field beyond the terminal, he could see a windsock at a slant. That would be the airfield.

  Wilder drove past and finally came to a decision.

  “No,” he growled, “it’s no use running. I’ll have to fix it right here, both of them.”

  He relaxed, relieved to have made up his mind.

  Switching on the car radio, he fiddled with the dial until he heard a police report: “Unit 27 reports an accident on Route 219. Man down. EMS vehicle needed ASAP . . .”

  Ahead on the right, a sign said Jonestown. Beyond it was a diner where the road crested before it started down past a dry cleaning place.

  Before Wilder started down the ridgeside stretch of the highway, he checked his rearview again. The black car was getting closer.

  Partway down the hill, a big neon sign said: NANTY GLO MOTEL.

  Nodding, he made his decision, and turned in. At the top where the entrance ramp leveled off, he stopped in front of the office.

  For a moment, he sat there and studied the layout of the rooms inside the square. He got out and entered the office. As the door closed behind him, the black Buick stopped outside, beside the highway, just short of the motel’s entrance ramp.

  Wilder could see the Buick out there with his peripheral vision, but he made sure he didn’t look out the office’s big front window facing onto the highway. He didn’t want the Buick’s driver to know he’d been spotted.

  Inside the Buick, Graysuit made sure the car outside the motel’s office was the one he wanted. Then he worked the gears and eased the Buick back up the hill a bit, so it wasn’t blocking the motel’s entrance ramp. He still had a good enough view of most of the open-ended U-shaped courtyard in there. Most of it was surrounded on four sides by rental units.

  He watched the guy inside the office dickering with the motel manager.

  Checking his rearview mirror, he saw the dead woman’s car come into sight over the top of the hill behind him. Running the window down beside him, Graysuit stuck his left arm out and jerked a thumb up near the roof of the Buick at the motel office.

  At the wheel of the other car, Brownsuit saw the signal. Slowing, he peered
up the motel ramp and nodded when he saw their quarry’s car parked in front of the office. Holding up his right hand, he gave Graysuit the three-ring sign that said he had seen the car they were following, but he continued past the motel and drove on downhill.

  Inside the Buick, Graysuit watched the other car drive off, but his eyes widened in surprise. He leaned forward, trying to see better.

  What he saw was a six inch corner of the murdered woman’s silk shawl hanging out of the closed trunk lid of her car.

  Shaking his head, Graysuit muttered: “You’re slipping, little guy.”

  Inside the office, he could see the quarry take a room key from the motel manager.

  Wilder got into his rented car and drove across the motel square to unit 17 in the far northeast corner, the one he had asked for. He parked facing outward, in case he had to leave fast, then went inside the dim motel room, dropped the carry-on bag on the bed, switched on the ceiling light, and found a news program on the TV set.

  Taking off his suit coat, he flung it onto the bed in disgust.

  “Now the bastards know what color suit I’m wearing!” he growled. “I’ll have to wear the other one.”

  Returning to the outside door, he locked it, then closed the venetian blind on the front picture window. Carefully, he peered out. The Buick was still parked out there beside the highway.

  He took a couple of not-too-thick packages of paper money out of the bag. They were still in wrappers. Removing the wrappers, he put them in an ashtray on one of the two endtables beside the head of the bed and set them on fire.

  Taking a money belt from the carry-on bag, he distributed the loot from his previous night’s heist. Then he took his other suit out, a gray one, laid it on the bed, carefully folded the blue suit, and put it into the suitcase.

  All the while, he listened absently to the TV news reporter telling about the man’s body found in the car in the ditch, out on Route 219. They were still calling it an accident. Maybe they’d keep calling it an accident.

  A siren sounded out on the highway. Going to the window, Wilder looked out carefully. An EMS vehicle went by, headed uphill, southward. The afternoon shadows were getting longer outside. The high ridge top across the valley was not far below the westering sun.

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