Carlos Webster was fifteen the day he witnessed the robbery and killing at Deering's drugstore. This was in the fall of 1921 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
He told Bud Maddox, the Okmulgee chief of police, he had driven a load of cows up to the yard at Tulsa and by the time he got back it was dark. He said he left the truck and stock trailer across the street from Deering's and went inside to get an ice cream cone. When he identified one of the robbers as Emmett Long, Bud Maddox said, "Son, Emmett Long robs banks, he don't bother with drugstores no more."
Carlos had been raised on hard work and respect for his elders. He said, "I could be wrong," knowing he wasn't.
They brought him over to police headquarters in the courthouse to look at photos. He pointed to Emmett Long staring at him from a $500 wanted bulletin and picked the other one, Jim Ray Monks, from mug shots. Bud Maddox said, "You're positive, huh?" and asked Carlos which one was it shot the Indian. Meaning Junior Harjo with the tribal police, who'd walked in not knowing the store was being robbed.
"Was Emmett Long shot him," Carlos said, "with a forty-five Colt."
"You sure it was a Colt?"
"Navy issue, like my dad's."
"I'm teasing," Bud Maddox said. He and Carlos' dad, Virgil Webster, were buddies, both having fought in the Spanish-American War and for a number of years were the local heroes. But now doughboys were back from France telling about the Great War over there.
"If you like to know what I think happened," Carlos said, "Emmett Long only came in for a pack of smokes."
Bud Maddox stopped him. "Tell it from the time you got there."
Okay, well, the reason was to get an ice cream cone. "Mr. Deering was in back doing prescriptions -- he looked out of that little window and told me to help myself. So I went over to the soda fountain and scooped up a double dip of peach on a sugar cone and went to the cigar counter and left a nickel by the cash register. That's where I was when I see these two men come in wearing suits and hats I thought at first were salesmen. Mr. Deering calls to me to wait on them as I know the store pretty well. Emmett Long comes up to the counter -- "
"You knew right away who he was?"
"Once he was close, yes sir, from pictures of him in the paper. He said to give him a deck of Luckies. I did and he picks up the nickel I'd left by the register. Hands it to me and says, 'This ought to cover it.' "
"You tell him it was yours?"
"Or a pack of Luckies cost fifteen cents?"
"I didn't say a word to him. But see, I think that's when he got the idea of robbing the store, the cash register sitting there, nobody around but me holding my ice cream cone. Mr. Deering never came out from the back. The other one, Jim Ray Monks, wanted a tube of Unguentine, he said for a heat rash was bothering him, under his arms. I got it for him and he didn't pay either. Then Emmett Long says, 'Let's see what you have in the register.' I told him I didn't know how to open it as I didn't work there. He leans over the counter and points to a key -- the man knows his cash registers -- and says, 'That one right there. Hit it and she'll open for you.' I press the key -- Mr. Deering must've heard it ring open, he calls from the back of the store, 'Carlos, you able to help them out?' Emmett Long raised his voice saying, 'Carlos is doing fine,' using my name. He told me then to take out the scrip but leave the change."
"How much did he get?"
"No more'n thirty dollars," Carlos said. He took his time thinking about what happened right after, starting with Emmett Long looking at his ice cream cone. Carlos saw it as personal, something between him and the famous bank robber, so he skipped over it, telling Bud Maddox:
"I put the money on the counter for him, mostly singles. I look up -- "
"Junior Harjo walks in," Bud Maddox said, "a robbery in progress."
"Yes sir, but Junior doesn't know it. Emmett Long's at the counter with his back to him. Jim Ray Monks is over at the soda fountain getting into the ice cream. Neither of them had their guns out, so I doubt Junior saw it as a robbery. But Mr. Deering sees Junior and calls out he's got his mother's medicine. Then says for all of us to hear, 'She tells me they got you raiding Indian stills, looking for moonshine.' He said something about Junior setting a jar aside for him and that's all I heard. Now the guns are coming out, Emmett Long's Colt from inside his suit . . . I guess all he had to see was Junior's badge and his sidearm, that was enough, Emmett Long shot him. He'd know with that Colt one round would do the job, but he stepped up and shot Junior again, lying on the floor."
There was a silence.
"I'm trying to recall," Bud Maddox said, "how many Emmett Long's killed. I believe six, half of 'em police officers."
"Seven," Carlos said, "you count the bank hostage had to stand on his running board. Fell off and broke her neck?"
"I just read the report on that one," Bud Maddox said. "Was a Dodge Touring, same as Black Jack Pershing's staff car over in France."
"They drove away from the drugstore in a Packard," Carlos said, and gave Bud Maddox the number on the license plate.
Excerpted from THE HOT KID © Copyright 2005 by Elmore Leonard. Reprinted with permission by William Morrow, an imprint of PUB2. All rights reserved.
The Hot Kid
- Genres: Fiction
- hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow
- ISBN-10: 0060724226
- ISBN-13: 9780060724221