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Robert Finlay

Robert is a divorce lawyer living in Florida. Robert has two sons, one daughter, and a greyhound.

A short story authored by Robert as part of a collection of stories set in the same era which he is sending off to literary contests to find a publisher.


“Officer needs assistance at the MLK museum,” squawked my car

radio; “code purple.”

Doctor Martin Luther King was shot at a two-story motel, the Lorraine,

which was converted to a walk through museum after his assassination. I was on

the block, pulled over and parked.

“Detective Vance,” I said into my radio microphone, “investigating at


“Back-up on the way.”

I drew my gun, swallowed dry and pushed through the glass door to the lobby. Breathing soft, I eased over to the gallery. A patrolman was down in a pool of blood, Franklin. He worked off duty security jobs sometimes and had his gun and radio beside him. Hit and dying, I figured he had just enough left to have called in the officer

needs assistance.

I was about to radio when a beer-bellied guy stepped out of the hallway and fired toward me. I shot back in his general direction, at the same time going prone beside Franklin.

A woman shrieked in the hallway.

“Shut-up!” A slap sounded and the woman shrieked again. “Throwing me over for

some black rent-a-cop”—shrieking and another slap—“shut up, I told you!”

“Let her go,” I shouted.

“Keep your trap shut,” yelled the man, “or I’ll shoot your snout off and put a

extra hole in her.”

“Give yourself up before it’s too late.”

“One more oink out of you and this slut her gets what’s coming to her.”

The woman whimpered but did not shriek.

Police orders in code purple hostage situations are to wait for back up, so I stayed prone, put the sights of my pistol on the part of the hallway where the shooter would likely show himself and waited. I had never actually been inside the museum before. There were black and white blown up photographs along the walls. One was of a tall good-looking blonde boy, my friend, Jimmy Macloud, when he was barely a teenager. He was standing by a lunch counter waving his hand and yelling at someone out of the picture. The label read: White Heckler.

I met Jimmy in junior high school. He was a year and a half older than I was but in the same grade. He hadn’t been put back because he was stupid but because his home life had caused him to move around from his aunt to his mother then back again. He wasn’t one for books much anyway and naturally fell behind.

We both lived in a suburb on the very far edge of town. They were building everywhere but there were lots of woods around with old farms. One of them had a stable away from the main house and after dark we would walk the horses out (they needed exercise we figured) and ride around in the woods. One night we went farther than usual and came across an abandoned cottage.

“Let’s take a look,” Jimmy said.

We tied up the horses in the woods and went to the cottage. It was moonlight dark and the door was locked. We went around to the side and Jimmy shoved open a window.

“I don’t know about this,” I said.

Jimmy grinned that big grin of his, chuckled and crawled inside. Of course I followed. Jimmy struck a match. The front room had a mounted deer’s head, army plaques, a leather couch and a gun cabinet with two wooden boxes on it. Jimmy’s match went out and there was the sound of a door opening at the back of the cottage—the owner coming back from the outhouse maybe. I started for the window but Jimmy shoved me behind the couch. We hunkered down, then there was a heavy tread and lantern light.

A gruff old man swore and slammed down the window. “I’d forget my own battle-scared head if it wasn’t screwed on,” he said to himself.

My heart was hammering—a tough old veteran with all those guns and us burglars. He went into what must have been the bedroom and talked to himself some. The lantern went out and Jimmy and I waited for what seemed hours. There was snoring, then Jimmy tapped my shoulder and I crept over to the window. In the blackness I eased it open and got out with Jimmy behind me. We ran to the horses—rustlers as well as burglars—and rode fast back to the stables.

After we put the horses up I noticed that Jimmy had the two boxes that had been on the gun cabinet. He lit a match and opened them. Both had Colt .45 single action army revolvers with 3rd armored division logos carved into the handles.

“One of these is yours,” he said.

“We can’t keep these.”

“You going to take yours back?” It was my turn to laugh then shake my head. “I had enough of that cottage.”

A few weeks later when we got nerve to go horseback riding again, the stable had been knocked down and the trees cleared to build more suburban housing. The cottage was gone, too.

Jimmy’s aunt worked for a record promoter. When they phased out 78 RPM records for the smaller 45 RPMs, the 78s became obsolete. Jimmy’s aunt gave us two big boxes full of 78s and we took them down to the river and sailed them into the water. We got good, skipping the big platters three or four times. The discs were from Sun Records, all by singers who later got famous.

This is how young we were—Jimmy had heard about some secret holes being drilled in walls at E. H. Crump stadium so one night we hitchhiked to a football game. There were lots of people in the crowd but we weren’t interested in the game.

Underneath the stands was a partially blocked walkway. It was shadowy and used for storage and we had to push stuff out of the way to get through.

“This is it,” Jimmy whispered, when we had gotten about a third of the way under the stands.

It was dark but light shone through a small hole in the wall. Jimmy knelt down and looked through it. He watched and watched then I tapped him on the shoulder, finally having to pull him back so I could take a look.

What I saw took my breath away—wonderfully intimate female curves such as I had never seen.

“Hey!” came a shout, “hey, you boys.” There was a flashlight beam. “You boys come out of there.”

We started the opposite direction but the way was blocked by building materials. We went out slowly toward the light, toward a middle-aged uniformed guard. When we came out of the dark, the watchman said: “What you boys doing back there?”

Breathless from the incredible sights I had seen, all I could say was uhhh.

Jimmy came up with the old standard: “Some big boys were chasing us and we hid from them.”

The guard pinched up his face. “Sure you weren’t poking holes in the wall?”

Jimmy and I shook our heads. The guard shook his head, too, then motioned with his flashlight for us to get lost. We went up into the stands and watched football for a while. “When the guard’s gone we’ll go back underneath,” Jimmy said.

The game got to halftime. People were milling around and an announcement came over the loudspeaker.

“We have a special guest with us tonight at the game, ladies and gentlemen. He’s the pride of Memphis with one million-selling record after another and soon to be staring in a major motion picture, our very own Roc King!”

Wearing black clothes with a big mop of matching hair, King came out of the press booth at the top of the stands. He smiled and waved and you would have thought he was handing out hundred dollar bills. Every woman in the place started running toward him. There were some police near King and they formed a wedge and hurried him down to field level. By then the women from the other side of the stadium had streamed down and were joining the fray.

Jimmy and I were by the stands and a wall of women came crushing toward us to get to King. Excited and crazed, some were falling, going upside down, screaming and being trampled by the others. They were terrified-looking too, and Jimmy and I had to run to get out of the way.

School got to be too much for Jimmy and he took to hanging around a big rock and roll radio station. He was a go-for at first then running tapes and changing records for one of the disc jockeys, who happened to be a good friend of Roc King’s. So Jimmy got in with that crowd.

One day after school Jimmy called me. “You know how King rents the amusement park at night so he and his buddies can ride all the rides and play the concessions?”


“There’s an article in the paper today about King’s side kick, Hare.”

“The guy’s a smart aleck--from what I hear nobody likes him but King.”

“Nobody can stand him and last night he got drunk and staggered into the ball throwing concession, the one where life sized dummies are on a track and go round and round. You try to knock their hats off with baseballs. Hare puts on a hat, gets on the track and around he goes. Nobody can get him then I rare back and fire a fastball. Bop! Down he goes--to the hospital with a concussion. He’ll be all right but I beaned him good.”

Jimmy told me he was enlisting in the army where he planned to get more radio training. I wished him well and kept slogging on through high school. Jimmy was stationed in Germany for over a year then come back and finished his army time at Fort Dix, New Jersey. I was in college at Memphis State studying criminal justice.

Out of the army Jimmy called and asked to come talk to my mother. He was selling vacuum cleaners and part of his presentation was to turn on a high-powered light then hit her sofa cushions. In the bright light a thousand dust motes floated up and Jimmy’s vacuum cleaner was supposed to suck them all into it. My mother, who prided herself on her housekeeping, wasn’t pleased by the dust mote display and didn’t buy. Jimmy said he was a qualified announcer and doing sales only until he could get work at a radio station.

He called me a few days later and told me he was going to interview for a job with a station in Sardis, Mississippi, a small town not too far south of Memphis. He was very excited about it and I told him to “break a leg.”

Two days later there was an article in the Commercial Appeal saying that ‘Jimmy Macloud had been shot and killed while attempting to rob a rural gasoline station in north Mississippi. Cheryl Wright had been with him but was not being charged with the robbery.’

At the funeral Jimmy’s mother and aunt were heartbroken and my mother did what she could to comfort them. I talked to Cheryl after the services.

“Jimmy had gone on his interview at the Sardis radio station,” she told me. “They were hiring him and he was so happy. We went swimming at the lake then coming back home we got off the main road to find a gas station. I had on my bathing suit under my clothes and went into the bathroom to change. A big stupid redneck guy made some remark when I walked by but I didn’t pay any attention. I changed and was combing my hair when I heard one shot then another. I ran outside and the redneck had shot Jimmy. He told the sheriff Jimmy had pulled a gun and tried to rob the place. Jimmy did keep his cowboy gun in the glove compartment but he was all excited about getting a job. He would never have robbed the place anyway. The redneck just killed him. I told the sheriff and he said if I kept to that story, he’d arrest me for being an accomplice to robbery. I finally told him that I was in the bathroom when it all happened—which was true— that I was guessing at the rest and after that he left me alone. That redneck guy, Ross Barrett, shot Jimmy in cold blood, just murdered him. I know it even though I didn’t see it. There was another guy there, Dewey Floyd he called himself, and backed up Barrett’s story. Jimmy never robbed that place, though, Barrett just killed him.”

A few years later I got on the Memphis police force. One day I was reading a burglary report and recognized a suspect’s name—Dewey Floyd—white male, 36, a resident of Mississippi. He was being held in the jail and I had him brought to a visitor’s cell.

“Got a smoke?” he asked.

I gave him a full pack of Luckies with a book of matches.

“You were a witness to a shooting a few years back in north Mississippi,” I said. “A guy named Jimmy Macloud was shot at a gas station by an attendant, Ross Barrett. A girl name Cheryl Wright was with Macloud.”

Floyd lit a cigarette and you could see him relishing the inhaled smoke. He took a piece of tobacco off his tongue and looked at me with sharp narrow eyes. “What’s in it for me if I tell you about it?”

“With your record you’re looking at five years on the burglary. Talk to me; if I feel like you’re telling me the truth, I’ll speak to the district attorney. Your burglary gets reduced to breaking and entering: you get released for time served.”

“But I don’t have to testify against Ross Barrett? I’m not fixin’ to go up against that crooked sheriff cousin of his. He’s got that hick county in a bag.”

“We’re in Memphis, not Mississippi, and all you’re talking to is me.”

“You’ll get me out for time served?”

“For the truth.”

Floyd sucked at the Lucky then exhaled a large cloud of smoke. “I was settin’ on a Co’-Cola case smoking a cig at the side of the station. Jimmy Macloud drives up, goes in and pays Ross for some gas then comes out and starts to run the pump himself. Cheryl, Jimmy’s girlfriend, headed for the ladies room.

‘Don’t be forever in there,’ Jimmy said. ‘You’re not going to a prom.’

‘I’ve got to change into my city clothes,’ the girl said, smiled a really bright smile at him, waved.

Ross Barrett made some comment to her as she went into the ladies room but she ignored him. He was always jealous of anyone with a pretty woman and looking mean, he walked over to the gas pumps. ‘Tellin’ her not to be all day,’ he said to Jimmy, ‘that ain’t no way to talk to a pretty little girl.’

Jimmy barely looked at Ross.

‘Them are Jersey plates,’ Ross said. He was big but way overweight and out of shape. He thought he was tough as buffalo meat, though. Jimmy was as tall as Ross but on the lean side. Ross had a bull-ugly look on his face. ‘I said, ‘them is Jersey plates.’ ‘From Fort Dix,’ Jimmy told him. ‘You can read.’

‘We don’t like no outside agitators,’ Ross said, mean like.

‘I’m from Memphis.’

‘You got Yankee plates and I say you’s a northern agitator come to stir up trouble.’

Jimmy kind of sighed and put the gas hose back into the pump.

‘You’s Yankee scum,’ Ross said, ‘come down south to make trouble.’

Jimmy turned to Ross, who by then was facing him with his fists doubled. Jimmy said, real calm: ‘Is that what you want, trouble?’

Ross swung a roundhouse right at him. Jimmy ducked it, came up, bop, bop, bop and put three good left jabs into Ross’s face. Ross swung a roundhouse left. Jimmy sidestepped it, then bop, bop, bop hit Ross three times on the ear. Ross caught Jimmy’s chin with a grazing right. Jimmy broke Ross’s big potato nose with a solid left hook then put him down with a hard right to the belly. Ross was bloody-nosed by then, all out of breath and threw up where he was sitting.

‘Help him into the station, why don’t you?’ Jimmy told me.

I got Ross to his feet and staggered him into the station. When we got there Ross shoved me away and grabbed his shotgun. There wasn’t nothing I could do. He stepped outside and let loose a barrel at Jimmy, who had his back turned. Jimmy was hit but opened the passenger door of his car. He went into the glove compartment and came out with an old .45 but by then Ross was on him. Ross finished him off before Jimmy ever had a chance to fire back.

Cheryl came out of the bathroom screaming but she hadn’t seen anything and there was nothing she could do.

The sheriff was Ross’s first cousin. Ross told me to tell the sheriff that Jimmy had pistol-whipped him then tried to rob the station, and that Ross had shot him to stop the robbery. I wasn’t one to mess with no sheriff or his cousin so I went along with it.”

I ran a check on Ross Barrett. Two years before had been arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, for felony stalking and multiple lewd and lascivious charges. He had done six months in jail and been released. There was no information as to where he had gone. Even with his date of birth, social security and driver’s license numbers I could not find him. I figured maybe he was using another name because of the charges against him--a lot of people just won’t hire sexual offenders.

Sirens wailed and police cars with red and blue flashing lights filled the parking lot of the Martin Luther King museum.

“Them cops crowd me I’m going to kill her!” the guy shouted from the hallway.

“What does that get you?” I said back to him.

“Who are you to know my life? I’ll kill her.”

The woman shrieked. He hit her and she fell where I could see her. Then the guy stepped out from the hallway. His gun was up and he was shooting, the bullets going over me. His gut hung like a sack of grits and made a big target. I had no choice but to fire and down he went. He fell next to the woman who started shrieking again.

When Captain Brown arrived he took my gun and made a sour face. “A Colt .45 revolver,” he said, “not even double action—a cowboy gun with the 3rd armored division logo on an ivory handle. Detectives are supposed to carry reg-u-la-tion firearms.” He shoved the revolver back into my hands. “Don’t be packing that hog

leg tomorrow.”

“Who was that guy?”

“The only identification card he had was a life membership in the Ku Klux Klan—some clown named Ross Barrett.”

I looked at the large black and white blown up photograph of Jimmy Macloud.

The day the picture was taken Jimmy and I had been at a downtown lunch counter.

The cook, an old white guy in a fluffy cotton hat, wouldn’t wait on a young African American woman and her two daughters. Jimmy had waved his hand and I guess

you could say he was heckling the old cook.

“Serve them, would you!” Jimmy told him. “You’re making all us white folks look bad!”
Robert Finlay
Robert Finlay
surrency finlay.jpg
surrency finlay.jpg
Finlay Family
Finlay Family
Future groom
Future groom
Natasha, future bride
Natasha, future bride
Isn't love Grand?
Isn't love Grand?