Through the darkness, Earl Tuepelo watched his headlights illuminate the oncoming country road. And he listened to the windshield wipers. With a quick glance at the lighted clock on the dash of the new, 1964, Cadillac convertible, Earl saw the time was 8:45 PM.
It had been raining most of the day. Earl felt the car heater gently blow warmth against him as he drove, even though it was spring and not really that chilly outside.
Earl was dressed in his drying boxer shorts and damp white socks. The leather seat felt warm and comfortable behind his bare back and the back of his legs.
This was a fine automobile, he told himself. It was made with a man as tall and strong as Earl in mind. Earl promised himself that—in say, a year or maybe fourteen months—he would buy a new Cadillac himself.
Buying a new Caddie would be easy. He could pay cash and wouldn't even scratch his share of the money that was in the duffel bag stashed back the trunk.
But Earl wouldn't pay cash. The transaction would be a business expense. A legitimate business expense of small business. A business showing a health profit again, after a string of bad financial shocks.
Earl would have Jay Jay paint 'Tuepelo's Auto Service and Garage' on both sides of the car. Really nice and professional. Just like the big metal sign Earl had Jay Jay build and erect next to the State Route in front of the place.
What, exactly, Earl asked himself, had that printer-guy called it? The logotype of his business? That was it. That was just the ticket.
Hell, Earl told himself, as he watched the wet trees on both sides of the road pass by in the bright light of the high beams, he would even have the phone number of the business painted on each side the car. Yes, Earl thought, he liked that idea; after all, it would be his new—Cadillac—work car. But it would be a white Caddie; not red like the one Earl was driving now, he decided.
Jay Jay would paint the logotype on the trunk and the hood. The final touch would be having the motto: 'What Ever It Takes To Do The Job' painted in crisp red letters with yellow shadows along the back edge of the trunk.
Earl would have Jay Jay center the motto, using the key hole of the trunk lock. That way, every driver of every car that Earl passed would be able to read it.
Yes, Earl firmed his square jaw and squinted his left eye thinking on it, they would be able to read it and know.
Read it—and know what? he asked himself. Well, Earl figured, they might not know, know. At best, Earl conceded to himself, they might have an inkling when they read that motto. If they read the motto.
Because, Earl conceded, to really know—each driver he would pass in that new Caddie would either had to have been a Marine who landed and fought with Earl's Platoon on Guadalcanal and other choice island spots in the Pacific; or, had just spent the last four-and-half hours of this lousy day with him.
The first two-and-a-half of those last hours, Earl spent digging a grave for two men. Using, as a pick and shovel, the lug wrench, jack stand and hubcap of this new, 1964, Cadillac convertible. In the pouring rain. Out in the Geiger Reserve National Wilderness, just this side of the middle of nowhere.
As he approached a rise in the wet country road, Earl saw out in front of him, a bit of light reflecting off the phone lines and electrical lines, strung up between the utility poles above the ditch on his side of the road. He flicked his high-beam head lights to low, knowing a car was coming from the other direction that he couldn't see because of rise.
Earl wished he could have done more for Gabe and Auggie.
They had deserved better than that deep, wet hole in the ground.
Earl had grown up with those two boys. They'd done some fishing and swimming together as kids. The three of them had gone hunting a half-a-dozen—maybe ten—times in high school.
As the Cadillac convertible crested the rise of the road, a car passed by going in the opposite direction. Earl glanced in the rear view mirror above the dash, watched the red tail lights recede, and flicked the high-beams back on.
Earl knew he and Gabe and Auggie had really gotten to know each other, and become true friends, while serving in the Marine Corps.
The three young men had been together during basic training and then, some how, during their combat training; serving in the same platoon of a Combat Team in the Marine Corps' First Battalion.
That was where they had gotten to know their other Marine buddy from the platoon, George C. T. Child.
The 'Indian' had been what the other recruits had called him. George was Lakota Souix. He was almost as big as Earl. The joke during basic training had been that if George wore two pair of socks he'd be the same height as Earl. And Earl had been a really big guy.
For awhile, Earl remembered, guys in the platoon had tried to call George 'Two Socks', but that hadn't lasted long. After everybody had somehow found out George's real family name was Thunderchild—that was the 'T' in C. T. Child—and they saw the things George could do with knives; well, 'Two Socks' hadn't seemed to fit.
And nobody had ever tried to call him Thunderchild. It just had seemed to the young recruits that that kind of nick-name for a marine; well, that would have had to have been EARNED. Just being born with it, wouldn't cut it.
Then a few weeks later, somebody had discovered the 'C' stood for Cussatcha.
Now that name, the whole barracks agreed, seemed to fit George to a tee. Mostly because no body ever heard him cuss. Ever.
When the Drill Instructor yelled, "What kind'a fuckin' name is that for a Marine?" —Earl remembered the tone in his friend's voice when George had said, standing at attention, "Translated from the Lakota, Gunnery Sergeant! Cussatcha means 'Cuts Your Balls Off Laughing', Gunnery Sergeant!" —Nobody else knew Lakota, so nobody could verify that exact translation.
But then, none of the guys had doubted George, either. Not even the Gunnery Sergeant.
After having gone through training together, Earl, Gabe, Auggie and George had gone off to war—in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
The two squads that the four young men had been in, were part of a four squad platoon that naturally had been on the same ship crossing the Pacific. And, once in the Pacific Theater, they had spent time together in New Zealand, training and waiting to be deployed.
Then, they had lived through the combat landings and island jungle-fighting on Guadalcanal; and later, on the Jap side of New Guinea, New Britain, at Cape Gloucester.
Oh yes, and then there was that little place called Peleliu. Even Earl didn't like to think about that island.
But it had been on Guadalcanal where their platoon had gotten their motto: 'What Ever It Takes To Do The Job.'
They had been through a hell of a lot together, Earl told himself. It had seemed that up until today, even the Devil himself didn't want them.
So, earlier in the day—outside the Bank—Earl had done what his combat instincts had dictated. Retrieve his fallen comrades.
And after the engagement, Earl had done what he had to do. Which had included burying two old friends. Using only a Cadillac lug wrench, jack stand and hubcap.
There had been no other tools to be had and nobody else to help dig.
here had been no mourners other than Earl Tuepelo. Not an honor guard and rifle salute provided by the local post of the V.F.W. No flowers or visitation. No folded flags. No tearful good-byes from family and loved ones.
And Earl was the only friend in attendance. Shit, Earl told himself, George hadn't even there.
And Auggie and Gabe had really wanted George to come along.
Earl felt a little bad about that. He had told the boy's he would ask George in on the Bank job. But Earl really hadn't been able to bring himself to just come out and ask that of George.
George and his young family were doing so well and all. Plus, George was working for the Forest Service as well as helping his wife run Angell's Inn and Guest House.
Yes, it was the Inn that Gabe's parents' once owned. But after the war, Gabe hadn't wanted any part of it. Gabe hadn't seemed to want anything; but to just keep on the move. Like he could out-distance his demons; out-run his nightmares.
So when it had come to asking George to join the boys for the heist, Earl had known George didn't have that back-against-the-wall motivation that faced Auggie, Gabe and himself.
Earl had asked George if he might be interested in joining a high-risk, onetime, business venture, but that was all.
Of course George hadn't been interested enough to even ask for more details. Maybe he hadn't wanted to know more details.
George always had an ability to sense situations, Earl reminded himself. And a few times, Earl would swear, he had seen George whistle up the wind. Once, a really good one; it had been exactly what they'd needed. And twice, it had been just a nice refreshing breeze.
But, Earl hadn't wanted to rile George's senses about the heist. 'Cause, if George didn't know anything specific, he wouldn't have to choose between his good friends and doing what was right.
George could be one straight laced, son-of-bitch, Earl laughed to himself. Because he wasn't the kind to cry. And the rain on the windshield was bad enough tonight.
.... There is more of this story ...