Beyond The Pale Of Forgiveness by J E F Rose
“You understand Titan Studios has purchased the rights to do a movie” Daffy told the has-been ex-hero. “I am writing the screenplay about the long ago legendary shootout in the back alley behind Cleardan House. As a courtesy Titan Studios has offered you’re a money order for personal interviews, to attend the premiere, and do interviews to promote the movie.”
“Yes” the has-been replied as the aging and all but forgotten man replied wearily. Weary of the pain of a bad leg from the long ago shoot out which haunted him long after the fame paled. Weary of trying to live up to the phony fame of the hero he never was. Weary of being forgotten after the fame tarnished into cheap brass. “Yes. I thought we might get a percentage of the profits too?”
“Ahhhh no” Daffy explained “The money order is it. 700 gildas. And free tickets to the premiere. A bit part for your wife. Publicity about your wife’s latest play.”
“Ah” Joe Dupeii replied softly. “I had hoped for more…..”
“I have some questions if I may?” Daffy said. “Before I can write the screen play.”
“Are you playing me?” the forgotten man asked.
“I have not decided what role I am going to play yet” Daffy replied as he mentally decided he would definitely NOT play this pathetic failure who had long ago outlived his fifteen minutes of fame. “About the shoot out Sir?” Daffy asked. “There are still surprising questions about the shoot out Sir.”
Joe Dupeii rubbed one hand over his forehead but then nodded and patiently waited for the questions. “Yes. I was always afraid history would note the discrepancies. I wouldn’t have attempted to sell the story except….. you see….. we ….. need the money now……”
“How familiar were you with the Harbor when you were assigned to the day beat controlled by Cark?” Dffy asked.
“So you did not know about the Uptown Tunnel Construction and it’s impact on the harbor?”
“Why would the construction of a railroad link impact the harbor? I was there to keep sailors from getting drunk and smashing dives, and to keep whores from rolling sailors. Basic and simple bread and butter law and order. Sims showed me all the pubs. The dives. The brothels.”
“He did not talk to your about Prince Puski and Joey Riggins then?”
“He knew Prince Puski and Joey Riggins?” Joe Dupeii’s face clearly was amazed. “I thought Siddy Sims was just your ordinary uniform constable sheriff. He rescued a dog from a warehouse fire. That was it as far as fame was concerned. At least as far as I knew.”
“Why were you at the warehouse at midnight with Sims? And why were you carrying an Army Revolver instead of your standard issue?”
Joe Dupeii sagged wearily.
“Why were…” Daffy started to repeat.
“I heard you the first time Mr. Gilbert-Blackheart!” Joe Dupeii replied with quiet fatalism as he hung his tired head. “Sims appeared at my rented room. He said something was going down at the Amerceable Warehouse. I said my shift was over. Nighttime was theirs to play with as they would.”
“Cark and Jactii.”
“You knew they were crooked. Had they threatened you yet?”
“We were day. Daylight was the other side of the coin. The slime only came out at night. By then….I …… but… I mean…… Anyway! Sims was alright so I figure I would be alright too! Just do my job and keep my head down! Keep my nose out of their nighttime shenanigans. Hustle a transfer as soon as possible. Just keep my head down and look the other way. Sims did it. I figured I could do — at least long enough to secure a transfer anyplace else! It was 1889 Mr Gilbert-Blackheart. A rotten time! The best a man could do was keep their head down and look the other way! But I never took a bribe if that is your next question!”
“No. I know.” Daffy pretended to scribble notes. Joe Dupeii looked away and shook his head wearily.
“Sims appeared agitated” Dupeii explained. “I never saw him that way before. He said ‘We have to go there now!’ and I said why? Sims was insistent. I did not want to go. But Sims was …..insistent. He kept saying we had to go. Duty. Duty. Duty. He had to ‘do his duty at last’ he said. And he needed someone to guard his back he said. He said he ‘did not what to be attacked again’ and he needed someone to ‘guard his back this time’. Something like that! So we went.
It was dark. Foggy. You could barely see anything before your face! We broke into the warehouse as shots rang out. He cried out ‘Cott! Cott Don’t!’ Before I knew it Sims fired and then we found two bodies down! Cark. Carney. Both bleeding and dying or dead. Sims stared at Cark. Cark was writhing. Hemorrhaging blood. Sims just stared. I tried to back away. Cark stared up at Sims and Sims stared down at Cark. Cott Carney was plainly dead. Sims held out his gun and his hand was shaking. He held out his gun —at Cark. Cark was drowning in his blood. I screamed to Sims that we had to get out of there! But he just kept pointing his gun at Cark while Cark drowned in his own blood! ‘Did I do it?” he said. ‘Who did it? Did I do it?’.
Then more shots rang out and Jactii cried out from outside. ‘Help!’ so I yanked Sims out of the warehouse and we stumbled —literally — over some bodies. Could not tell who! Blood running into the gutter! Blood everywhere. One man’s face was blown off! Jactii ran up in the foggy darkness and yelled that the Amerceable Gang had us surrounded and were shooting! I did not know what to do!
Then we saw Morgan Amerceable run up to us in the fog. Glare at us with wild eyes. Screaming! Then he run away. Jactii cried out that Morgan was shooting people and we had to stop him. ‘Men down! Men down!’ Jactii pointed to another man yelling he was a plains clothes officer. Sting. Plains clothes officers. And men were down. Men were down! It was horrible! One man’s face was blown off! I did not know that a bullet fired into a face would blow a face off like that…”
“No but a bullet fired into the back of the skull exits in a huge wound and that blows a face off” Daffy replied. Joe Dupeii appeared not to hear him. He continued his tale with the same dead sounding voice:
“So Sims suddenly jerked himself together and said ‘we have to stop that drug crazed manic from killing any more people! He ran after Morgan Amerceable. I followed. I did not know what else to do! So I followed Sims. We chased Morgan Amerceable into the accurst fog! I had no idea where we were! The flickering gaslight was nought but dirty orbs of pallor. Almost no moon. Clammy and cold and dark as the back of your hand! I was scared — shitless!
Then more shots rang out! I had no idea who! Or where! Then suddenly Sims was down! Blood all over the place! Suddenly we were down a dark back alley and I realized that Morgan Amerceable was trapped. Dead end. Shooting wildly! So was I! I was petrified. We both shot at each other at the same time. I fell wounded. So did he! His gun clicked and clicked. Empty! I crawled up and grabbed his gun. He crushed himself against the wall of that stinking dead end alley and screamed ‘Turn around! Turn around! HE is going to kill both of us!’ I turned around and shot wildly into the darkness. Emptied my revolver! I was being shot at by everyone! All sides! Bullets flying from every side! But I had no more bullets! Then….I don’t know. Finally Navy Military Police ran down the alley and found us. And later I heard that Morgan Amerceable had shot and he killed Sims and Jactii. I was proclaimed the hero of the hour! I woke up in hospital famous. The rest ……. well…….” Joe Dupeii shrugged wearily.
“Why did you bring an Army revolver instead of your standard issue?
“First thing I grabbed.”
“Ballistics say a Navy revolver killed Sims and an Army revolver killed Jactii.”
Joe Dupeii closed his eyes and slumped down in the chair. He did not say anything.
“Friendly fire? Chaos of the moment?”
Joe Dupeii shrugged wearily. “Everyone branded me the hero of the hour. I woke famous. Feat accomplished. No questions asked. Everyone assumed. So I assumed. No one said anything to dispute it. I was in hospital for months. The wounds….some of the wounds…. one wound especially…. just never healed. I was on a lot of painkillers for a while. I did not know half of the time what anyone was saying …or what I was saying…. to buttress or refute….. I ….coasted on my dubious claim for fame for five years but every sheriff in the department loathed me. I rather loathed myself I guess. There was some big time scandal going down. 1890. Something tied to that railroad construction tunnel disaster that killed so many people. Prince Puski and Joey Riggins being assaulted. Then Joey Riggins suddenly vanishing. Something about the Royal Vaults. Mystery explosion. King ADA coming on board and more exactly Queen Flavia coming on board and then both of them demanding that law enforcement clean up its act. Murder higher up the greasy pole. Corruption. Mayoral scandal. Internal Investigations. All sort of things were happening! I don’t know. I just tried to keep my head down! But I was implicated. I don’t know why! What did I have to do with the tunnel disaster? But I was tarred with the rest of the bad apples! I was pressured to quit. Take medical retirement. So finally I did quit.
What do you do Mr. Gilbert-Blackheart when you are a famous has-been? Twenty-five Mr. Gilbert-Blackheart! Twenty-five and a has-been. Bad leg. I was drinking a lot too back then. The leg never stopped hurting until my wife payed an expert to do a proper operation. I just wanted the damn thing amputated to stop the pain. But the last operation finally cleaned out the metal that kept the flesh from healing. But for a while…. until I met my wife. ….my last wife…. I was …well…. I did that lousy play to scrape some money together to buy a saloon! Pathetic I know. I loathed myself doing that obscenity night after night! But I needed the money! The saloon did not last. Nothing I ever did has lasted Mr. Gilbert-Blackheart — except marry Belle. And now we need the money! What else can I say? We need the money!” Joe Dupeii hung his head and shrugged wearily.
“Are you going to tell the truth?”
Daffy turned around toward the voice. Belvedere Aureate stood by the open door.
“I am writing a screenplay that will sell tickets to a movie. Entertainment. Felix has bought the rights to entertainment. What sells tickets? Entertainment. What do you want out of this?”
“Dearest” Joe Dupeii whispered. “Save yourself. Don’t worry about me! It does not matter! Really! Please dearest! You are the only bright thing in my dark and dismal life! I don’t want my dark shadow to blight you!”
Belle Aureate pivoted around and grabbed the tired fifty four year odd has-been. Daffy stared in fear. Then she kissed the worn face fiercely. “You are my trophy lover! Do you hear me! My trophy lover! My precious treasure! From the moment I saw you, as a child, on stage in that silly play I told my soul I would have you! My love! My one and only love!” Then she spun around and hissed at Daffy with a suddenly fiercely feral face: “I would not have sold the rights if I thought some punk like you would stick his nose into things long ago buried and try to ignite a fresh scandal. We don’t need money that much.”
“Morgan Amerceable spent over 34 years in prison for something he did not do. Does that factor into anything?”
Belvedere Aureate picked up the money order and tore it into confetti. Then she threw it into Daffy’s face. “Get out! Bastard! Get out of here! We don’t give you the rights to nothing! We will sue you! I will kill you before you can hurt my Joe!”
“We need the money dearest” Joe Dupeii whispered. “We can’t stop it anyway so you might as well profit from it even if I am humiliated even further. I did not deliberately do anything wrong! I just looked the other way when others did! So what is the worst that can happen? I will be called a phony? I am already called a phony! A failure! A has-been. ‘Dusty Shadow’ in the latest article. Divorce me dearest! And I can be your butler. Or your chauffeur. Your goffer. A lot of men still fancy a beautiful actress like you! Do what you need to do! And I will ….stay downstairs and wait…..I don’t mind! A little crumb of love is enough for me. I don’t mind! Dearest! Please!”
Belle Aureate turned around and slapped Daffy in the face over and over, her face livid, like some harpy monster, the face changing into the face of his own mother. Joe Dupeii jumped up and grabbed her and held her gently in both arms while Daffy ran for his life.