Despite whatever went on inside his drug addled mind, and despite the self-inflicted tattoo that boldly, yet sloppily declared himself the “New Capone,” Danny Mackenoy was small time.
On the surface, his story read like the pages of so many others; very few friends, bad in school, truant, fighting, petty thefts, stints in juvie and everything else that would lead one to believe his destiny was either prison or an early death caused by any one of his random acts of stupidity.
On a deeper level, Danny was his own worst enemy. He wanted to be bad. He boldly slapped away every hand that ever reached out to him in earnest with an offer of honest help or reform, opting instead to dive deeper into forming the skin of a big time, hard-core crime boss. The way he saw it, he had the brains, he had the guts and there was nothing but opportunity all around him.
If Danny had anything going for him at all, it was his recent string of pure luck.
His latest scheme involved a line of robberies aimed at amassing cash, for cash meant power and power meant Danny Mackenoy could do whatever he wanted.
The plan was simple enough, steal as much cash as possible or steal whatever he could easily convert into cash. After cracking into a few houses and a gas station out in Millersburg, Danny stumbled upon the notion that drug stores, especially older ones, could render even faster results. They had cash. They had drugs. The drugs could be sold for cash and whatever was left over could help him soothe away the worries of another hectic day. Win, win, win.
Smart enough to know he couldn’t take on such an enterprise without some help, he enlisted the skills of a low-level hacker and petty thief, Hover Johnston. He also brought Petey Chambers in as his primary sales associate to move the various pills and notions into the town’s dark crevices where the lesser knowns hungered for his brand of relief, at a cost, of course.
Once Hover disarmed the security systems, which he often accomplished with a sizable sledgehammer, if there was one at all, they could walk right in and take charge. Hover stood watch at the door, while Danny went to the back to “fill his prescriptions” and otherwise relieve the registers of the burden of their legal tender.
Danny kept an eye on a number of area drug stores, to see if he could tell when their primary shipments came in so they would be ripe for the picking. But it was less an effort to conduct concerted stake out and more an exercise in smoking and aimless loitering. His decision to strike rarely grew from his research, but more from boredom and a lack of patience.
When Cowell’s Pharmacy grew ripe and in his mind, was ready for the picking, Danny was going in shit be damned.
And though he would rather have had the store to himself, Hover was already in the back doing his thing when the two old ladies stepped through the doors. Flies in his ointment to be sure, but small, frail flies at that. Nothing he couldn’t handle.
A soft step or two and he was right behind them without so much as a sideways glance. Dropping his sizable mitts on the far side shoulder of each woman, he pressed them together and brought his face to meet theirs in the middle.
“Good morning ladies. Welcome to Cowell’s. Let’s go shopping!”
He held them there for a moment as his hands curled into a grip on the shoulders of each of their coats, then pushed them forward to walk an arm’s length ahead of him.
“Young man!” Myrna said in a huff, as she tried to keep up with the pace of the man pushing them. She linked her arm through Taffeta’s and they squeezed into each other for strength and balance.
“Shut up lady,” Danny growled at the back of her head. “Just shut up. Not a word from either of you, got it?”
He pushed them through the entryway and turned down the third aisle. Taffeta tried to keep her breath calm as she squeezed Myrna’s arm and caught the blur of the various items that seemed to whiz by them from their places on the claustrophobic shelves. Candy turned into socks turned into lotions before the aisle ended and they emerged on the far end in front of the pharmacist’s counter.
Danny pushed them forward hard into the edge. Myrna whimpered as she took the brunt of the blow. Her breath came heavy.
Danny loosened his grip on Taffeta long enough to reach beyond her and slam his hand down on the small bell that sat innocently next to the sign that read, “Ring for service.”
Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.
“Hey!” he yelled.
Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.
His hand covered the bell. He lifted it up and threw it hard beyond the counter and back into the shelves with a crash.
“Hey, are you deaf back there or what? How ’bout some service?”
He gripped Taffeta’s shoulder again and shifted the ladies together along the edge of the counter so that he could see into the back better.
“Hey!” even louder. “My Nana here needs her medicine!”
The sound of some boxes falling rose up from the back, just before the disheveled pharmacist came stumbling out and into sight. Then he tripped and fell out of sight again behind the counter. Behind him, with sledge in hand, stood Hover Johnston.
“You’re not gonna believe this,” Hover shouted down to his partner. “But Doctor Drugs here was trying to sneak out the back door.”
He dropped the sledge, stepped forward and reached down to grab the pharmacist and heft him up, pushing him too, hard against the counter. A small line of blood slid down over the man’s forehead from a cut somewhere in the mass of his tousled hair.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” the older man spat out through heavy breath, his face held tight against the countertop by Hover’s arm. “How, how,” he huffed. “Can I help you?”
“Like I said,” Danny said, disgruntled at the lack of service. “My Nana here needs her medicine.”
“Which…,” huff. “Medicine.”
Danny stood tall, releasing his grip of the ladies and spread his arms wide before him. “All of them!”
In a swift movement, he stepped back then lunged forward up onto and over the counter landing right next to Hover.
“Keep an eye on ’em. All of them,” he said, before scooping up several shopping bags located behind the counter and stepping back into the promised land.
Hover released the pharmacist long enough to reach back to the floor and grab his sledge. Jumping back, he caught the man just before he slipped off to prevent him from heading to the floor.
“Where you goin’ Pops?” he said, pushing the man’s head and face back into the counter. “That’s right. Nowhere. Nobody’s going nowhere.
The man on the counter moved his eyes up enough to see the faces of the two ladies. The three stared at each other, wordlessly, with faces aptly contorted to suit their circumstance .
It took three minutes, before Danny emerged with full bags of merchandise – hydromorphone, hydrocodone, oxymorphine and some others just because he liked the colors. All his favorites. His mouth chewed ferociously on some tablets that he tossed in for fun and one small white pill stuck to the side of his cheek for a moment before it fell free and tumbled to the floor.
“That’s it,” he yelled, spitting. “Easy as pie.”
His eyes grew wide as he jumped on to the counter and crowed into the empty store like a victorious warrior.
Then he stopped suddenly, shook his head to shift the greasy long strands of his hair from his face, turned back behind him and said, “Mr. Johnston, our work here is done. While the service here was shit,” he said screaming the last word down to the pharmacist. “We ultimately got what we came for. So, I will let it go…this time, but I doubt we will ever return, and I will be telling all my friends to take their business elsewhere.”
He kicked out at the pharmacist causing him to wince before jumping to the floor, back next to the ladies.
“What should we do with him?” Hover asked, “And the old ladies?”
Danny turned and looked at the three, his mouth gnawing at the last bits of the chalky medications.
“Damn,” he said. “Well, I’m in no condition to drive right now, so ladies – you’re with me. And as for that guy…I don’t care. I suppose the moment we leave he’ll try to call the cops so…whatever might fix that would be…”
“Now you listen to me,” Myrna said through gritting teeth as she stepped forward. “We aren’t going anywhere with you. You have what you want. Just go and leave us all alo…”
Myrna didn’t get to finish before a fist filled with the handles of a shopping bag filled with drugs caught her in the cheek. She fell back slowly into Taffeta, who caught her as best she could, but she couldn’t support the weight and they both fell backward hard into the wall of the pharmacy counter.
“Myrna?” Taffeta said, trying to calm the quiver in her voice. “Myrna, honey. You’re ok. You’re ok now. Myrna?”
Myrna mustered a grown that while soft and weak, was enough to quell the burning fear in Taffeta’s chest. They sat together on the floor as Danny stepped closer to them and crouched down.
The sound burst up from behind them, behind the counter followed by a retching scream as Hover’s sledge made sure the last thing the pharmacist’s fingers would do is dial a phone…or do pretty much anything else for a good long while.
“You hear that ladies?” Danny spoke softly. “That there is the sound of anguish caused by an utter lack of cooperation pure and simple.”
“Now, my associate is not very smart. He would be all too happy to make your day miserable with a little wave of his sledge hammer. And the only thing between him and you is me. So, while I like this store enough to fill my prescriptions, this is not where I planned the spend the rest of the afternoon. So if you would be-so-kind, would you get off your fat asses and TAKE ME TO YOUR CAR!”
Danny’s words were well metered until the end when spit filled with the crusty remnants of a handful of tablets splashed into their faces.
Danny stared at Taffeta. Taffeta stared at Danny. Myrna moaned softly as a harsh redness spread across her cheek where the skin began to swell.
Heavy seconds ticked by like minutes.
Then Taffeta blinked. She looked away and hefted Myrna in her arms.
“Come on sweetie,” she said. “We’ve got to go now.”
She moved and struggled until both ladies were standing, Myrna leaning heavily against her friend.
“Now that’s what I’m taking about,” Danny said standing. “Cooperation! After you, ladies.” He swung his arm low as he half bowed inviting the two women to go before him.
Taffeta hefted Myrna one last time to make sure she had a good grip. She settled the strap of her purse on the other shoulder and slowly stepped before their captor heading toward the pharmacy door.