Part two of a three-part series. If you missed part one, go back and read it first here. If you'd like to receive updates on upcoming short stories, sign up below. Otherwise, enjoy this second installment of Don of Dixie, where Southern mafiosos run rampant until a local vice cop partners with a Texas narco to end lawlessness in Dixieland. Based on a true story.
It's dark and quiet alongside Highway 290 near Katy, Texas, about a hundred miles west of Austin. No streetlights, no cars on the road.
Three police vehicles wait in silence behind stalks of withered corn. Harvey Gann, lead detective, sits in an undercover car with Ernie Scholl, Texas narcotics. Everything is calm, placid, crickets the only sound.
Suddenly, headlights cut through the black. A car approaches. It passes by the hidden police force and parks on the opposite side of the road, lights off.
Harvey and Ernie slouch in their seats as they watch the vehicle drive by. "Here we go," Earnie says in anticipation.
"Wait for it," Harvey responds, too familiar with Tim Overton.
Just then, A second car approaches, headlights knifing through the night. It stops next to the first. Bobby Joe Ward and shady accomplice Wayne Jesse James exit the second car, pile into the other vehicle.
"Now," Harvey says, signaling from the shadows.
WAIL! Cop cars scream into view, sirens on. They box in the vehicle, shine lights on the car. In the driver’s seat is Tim Overton, Bobby and Wayne in back. They shy away from the light. Tim looks surprised, then...
Screech! He kicks the car into gear, maneuvering free and speeding away.
Vroom! The cop cars follow him in close pursuit. A police chase ensues down one-lane roads in a patchwork of flooded rice patties and withered farmland.
The cops inch closer. Bobby Joe Ward empties a large burlap sack out the window, knowing they're caught. Eventually, Tim, Bobby, and Wayne give up—pulling over and exiting the car, hands raised.
Cops encircle the trio, slam them against the hood, stuff them into the back of a squad car.
Harvey and Ernie hang back in the shadows. A police officer approaches the two detectives.
"What did you find?" Harvey asks.
"Nothing," replies the police officer, shaking his head.
"Nothing?" Ernie asks, exasperated.
"They’re clean," the officer says. "Tim’s already asking for his lawyer."
Harvey throws up his hands. "Well search the area, dammit, we saw them dump their load. It’s got to be around here somewhere."
Back at the station, Tim, Bobby, and Wayne are fingerprinted. Mugshots taken. Tim’s separated from the others and shoved into an interrogation room, hands cuffed.
Alone in the room, Tim sits in a plastic chair, bright light in his face.
Creak! The metal door opens, groaning against rust and years of use. Harvey Gann enters, stands across from Tim.
Tim scoffs, leaning back in his chair. "I should've known," he says.
"Should've known better," Harvey retorts.
Tim smiles but is silent. He’s already said enough.
Harvey sits down, casual, matching Tim's demeanor. "I thought you were smarter, Tim, I really did. Wayne Jesse James and Bobby Joe Ward? That’s quite the company. What in Heaven’s name could you be doing with them all the way out there near Katy?"
Tim remains silent, smile on his face.
"You wouldn’t be meeting your boys from Dallas, would you?" Harvey ventures.
Tim keeps it quiet.
Harvey leans forward. "Tim, let me paint you a picture—of a young man who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Started knocking over convenience stores and forging checks for quick cash. You know, small-time stuff. But that wasn’t enough. His ego got in the way.
"Little by little, those small-time jobs became larger ones, and it caught the eye of the law. Now, this man didn’t know that, he’s too brash, too brazen to care, and he eventually got sloppy, made a mistake, big one, too, and it was the federal pen for him, trading cigarettes for the right to keep his butthole pure."
Tim considers Harvey’s words, leans in until his face is inches from his counterpart, calm. "Where's my lawyer?" He asks.
Just then, the sound of commotion outside in the hallway.
Crash! The door burst open. In walks sleazy lawyer John Webster "Webbie" Flanagan, dressed in an ill-fitting suit.
A booking officer follows right behind, addressing Harvey. "Sorry, sir, but he insisted."
Harvey waves off the officer, expecting this.
Webbie makes a big deal of looking over his client. "How you doing, Timmy?" He asks.
"Better if I were out of here," Tim replies.
"You hear that?" Webbie says to Harvey. "You’re unlawfully incarcerating my client, causing him undue mental stress."
The booking officer tries to step in. "Now hold on. This is something you’ll have to take up with the Judge—"
"Judge?" Webbie scoffs. "Please, this will get thrown out the second it’s heard in court. Where’s the admissible evidence?"
The cops are silent.
"Where's the evidence?" Webbie repeats, irate.
Back by Highway 290 near Katy, police officers search the area in the black of night. They come across the burlap sack, empty, soaked through with water and mud, useless.
Dawn rises at the police station. Webbie Flanagan leads Tim and gang outside—all free men. They laugh, slap each other on the backs, cavalier.
Later that day in the Austin American-Statesman newsroom, Jackie Sanders sits at her desk, glum. Up walks Lou Vega, unable to pass up a teachable moment.
"Who died?" He asks.
"What?" She replies, noticing Lou for the first time. "Oh, it’s nothing. Thought I had a lead on that Tim Overton story. Turned out to be a dead end."
Lou slaps Jackie on the back. "Don’t worry. Guy like Tim Overton? There’ll always be more opportunities. You can bet on it."
Lou walks away, leaving a spark in Jackie's eye. She gets back to work, picking up her desk phone, resolute.
On the east side of Austin sits a weathered bar and grill built with wood and thatch, Ernie's Chicken Shack across the front. The smooth sound of blues wafts through its open windows and doors.
Inside, tables are packed tightly around a stage where a young B.B. King plucks his guitar. Tim Overton sits off to the side in a reserved area with Darrell Overton, Hank Bowen, Freddie Hedges, Fat Jerry, and Webbie Flanagan.
“Where’s the evidence?" Fat Jerry says, laughing, recounting events from earlier. "That’s good Tim, that’s really good."
"I can't take all the credit," Tim replies, raising his glass. "To Webbie Flanagan, the best damn lawyer money can buy."
Everyone cheers. Webbie adopts an 'aw shucks' attitude. "Thanks, y’all, but it’s time I blew this pop stand. Rather not toe the line of our client-attorney confidentiality agreement. You understand."
Fat Jerry puts a hairy arm around the lawyer. "C'mon Webbie, it’s just us."
Webbie glances at the arm, hiding his disgust. "No offense, but that’s what I’m afraid of." He looks at Fat Jerry, wanting to leave, too afraid to remove the thick arm from his shoulder.
"You heard the man," Tim says to Jerry. "It’s time our lawyer is off."
Fat Jerry grins at Webbie Flanagan, releasing the lawyer.
Webbie can't help but look relieved. "Call me if you need me," he says, happy to depart.
"Bet your britches," Tim replies.
Webbie leaves in a hurry, wanting to quit while he was still ahead. Replacing him is proprietor Ernie Gildon, a gun-toting, dice shooting cowboy—comfortable with Tim’s crowd.
"Hiya, Tim," he says, nodding. "Jerry, Darrell. What can I do for y’all?"
Jerry leans forward. "Say, Ernie," he says, "why’d you rename Cheryl Ann’s? I like Cheryl Ann’s, reminds me of a girl I used to plug."
"Had to," Ernie replies, shrugging. "Damn whites from University kept calling early and booking my tables, causing trouble over here one the east side. Ernie’s Chicken Shack sounds more…rural, don’t ya think?
Tim glances at the patrons, a healthy mix of blacks, whites, and Latinos. "Certainly looks that way. Speaking of, who’s that over there on the guitar?"
"Oh, Riley?" Ernie replies. "Calls himself B.B., B.B. King."
"Must’ve made a deal with the devil to play that good. Tell him Tim Overton sends his best." Tim places a hundred dollar bill on the table.
Ernie picks it up. "I certainly will," he says.
Tim tosses down another bill. "Here, take one for yourself. I appreciate what you’re doing here on the east side. You can owe me."
Ernie tries to return the money, not wanting to owe Tim much of anything. Tim refuses.
"Thanks, Tim," Ernie says, cautious. "Anything else I can get you? More whiskey? Girls?"
Tim looks at his wristwatch. "No thanks, Ernie. In fact, we best be going ourselves."
Tim gets up, pats Ernie on the cheek, walks out of the Chicken Shack, posse in tow. Patrons give the group a wide berth, their reputations preceding them.
A shabby cabin on Lake Travis with a wrap-around deck right on the waterfront. Inside, shiplap walls and old beat-up furniture, racks of stolen suits everywhere.
Tim and gang roar with laughter, emboldened. Fat Jerry, Bobby Joe Ward, and Hank Bowen pack duffle bags. Freddie Hedges, Darrell Overton, and Wayne Jesse James clean guns.
Tim nods, picks up a shotgun. They all file out.
The night is quiet outside of Renfro-Sommers Drugstore. The pharmacy is part of a large and sprawling strip mall. A patrolman walks the perimeter.
Suddenly, footsteps on the roof. Commotion by Renfro-Sommers. The patrolman grabs his keys, unlocks the drug store, enters.
Inside, empty pill bottles litter the ground, paper everywhere. Shelves lean at odd angles. Ransacked—a scene of mayhem.
The patrolman is shocked. Looking up, he discovers a hole cut right through the ceiling, Milky Way shining through.
Across town, Freddie Hedges, Darrell Overton, and Wayne Jesse James crouch below the window of a second drug store—a coordinated robbery at two locations, simultaneous.
Freddie smashes the window with a crowbar. They enter.
RIIIING! An alarm sounds the moment they touch the ground. No one panics. They’re pros—or they just don’t care. They rifle through the apothecary’s fridge for dope, grab anything they can find, haul ass away from the scene.
It's dark in Harvey Gann's home, its decor that of an old farmhouse, lights off for the night. Harvey is fast asleep in bed, his wife, Betty, beside him.
Ring! The bedside phone breaks the silence.
Harvey wakes, sits up in a hurry, grabs the phone out of reflex. "What is it?" He asks, already alert. Harvey listens to the other head, his face turning sour. "I’ll be right there."
Betty wakes up, this type of commotion a common occurrence. "Who was that?" She says, annoyed.
"The office. I have to go"
"I'm sure it can wait 'til morning."
"It can’t." Harvey gets out of bed. Leaves.
His wife watches him go, silent.
Back at the scene of the crime is Wayne Jesse James, parked in the getaway car. He melts some pills, ties himself off, shoots up. He sinks into his seat, mouth open, eyes rolling in his head.
In the background, a police car pulls up, flashing its lights.
Taken to the police station, Wayne Jesse James sits in an interrogation room hunched over a table, barely conscious, falling out of his chair. Questioning him is a plain-clothed detective, badge dangling from his neck.
Harvey Gann and Ernie Scholl watch through mirrored glass.
"This has Tim Overton written all over it," Harvey says, sure of himself.
"How you figure?" Ernie asks.
"Semi-coordinated burglary? Rough attempt at pinpoint precision?" Harvey nods to Wayne Jesse James. "Cavalier attitude. Sounds like the Overton gang if you ask me."
Ernie shakes his head. "This guy won’t confess."
"He won’t have to. We caught him at the scene of the crime shooting up the stolen goods. Last we heard, Wayne Jesse James was staying at the Overton lake house. Easy to connect the dots."
"Alright then, let’s call off the hounds. Let poor Wayne Jesse get some rest. I’ll call the D.A. about a search warrant." Ernie turns to go.
Harvey stops him with a warning. "We should be careful," he says.
"About what?" Ernie asks, not understanding.
"About all of this," Harvey replies.
"Harvey, once we have the warrant, it’ll be over for Tim and his boys. A job well done."
"You clearly don’t know Tim Overton."
Undercover cops hide atop a high ridge, peering down on at the old, rickety cabin on Lake Travis. With them are police officers in riot gear.
Ernie Scholl and Harvey Gann lead the group, staking out the cabin with binoculars. Through them, we see a Cadillac approach. In the driver’s seat is Tim Overton. With him are Darrell Overton, Fat Jerry, and a prostitute we don’t recognize.
Harvey smiles. "Go time," he says.
One-by-one the police descend from their perch, fan-out, encircle the cabin.
Tim and gang don’t notice, unloading their car. Tim whistles an old country tune with glee. It's calm. All else is quiet.
Harvey signals from the ridge.
WHAM! Austin P.D. pounces on Overton and his crew, guns drawn.
Tim reaches into the car for a shotgun before putting up his hands, futile. Darrell reflexively grabs for his pistol. Tim shakes his head—they give themselves up.
Inside the cabin, it's dark, shades drawn. An orgy of ex-convicts and prostitutes getting high off dope taken from the drugstores.
Hank Bowen hears commotion on the front porch and pulls back a shade to look. He sees Austin P.D. descending onto the cabin and bolts up from the couch. "Shit! Cops! Cops! Flush it. Get rid of everything!" He yells.
People jump up in a panic.
Freddie Hedges runs out the cabin’s back door, racing into the woods surrounding the lake. Within a matter of seconds, he’s tackled by the police.
Back towards the front of the cabin, Tim Overton is in handcuffs.
A police officer reads him his rights. "Tim Overton, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…" The officer puts Tim in the back of a squad car, drives away.
With Tim gone, Harvey Gann and Ernie Scholl make their way down the ridge. The cabin is roped off with caution tape, a crime scene.
Ernie addresses a forensics officer. "What did you find?"
The officer counts on her fingers. "Dilaudid, sodium pentobarbital, heroin, cocaine, prescription pills, you name it. We caught one of the accomplices flushing drugs down the toilet, but they kept their main stash in an armadillo hole behind the cabin. Caught another one of ‘em on his way there."
"Armadillo hole?" Harvey asks, unable to keep a straight face.
The officer nods, serious. "Armadillo hole."
"Good," Ernie interjects. "Anything on their persons?"
"Tim Overton had a sawed-off shotgun and his brother had a concealed pistol, unregistered. And there were pills in the glove box of the Cadillac, of course."
"Thank you," Ernie says, nodding.
The forensics officer walks away.
Ernie turns to Harvey. "Well, looks like you got ‘em."
Harvey pauses, lights a cigarette, raises an eyebrow.
"Still don’t think there’s enough evidence to stick," Ernie asks, "even after all this?"
Harvey chuckles, taking a deep drag. "When it comes to Tim Overton and his boys, I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they hatch."
Nighttime at the Austin American-Stateman. Inside the newsroom, Jackie Sanders sits at her desk, receives a phone call. Her eyes light up, hanging up the phone and getting to work.
While Jackie mashes keys on her typewriter, Tim Overton is processed, his mugshot taken. He uses his one phone call; he's relaxed.
Unbeknownst to Jackie, Tim's lawyer Webbie Flanagan is on his way to the home of Billy Brammer, aid to President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Webbie arrives at the doorstep of Billy Brammer wearing a pair of alligator shoes. Billy is waiting to meet him on the front porch.
Webbie beams a smile. "Billy! How are you? How’s Lyndon?"
Billy shakes Webbie's hand. "John, it’s been a while." He pauses at the sight of Webbie's gators. "Nice shoes."
"Thanks," Webbie exclaims, "I’ve got a whole carload outside. I’ll give you a pair." Webbie puts an arm around Billy’s shoulder, walking him inside. "Now remind me, how well do you know the District Attorney in Abilene?"
The Austin American-Statesman hits the newsstands. The leading headline reads, Dope Raid Nets Elite of City’s Underworld, by Jackie Sanders.
A young boy stands in front of the Statesman, sells the paper in suspenders and a baseball cap. "Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Tim Overton and gang caught for drug running."
Within the Austin American-Statesman, Jackie is applauded, pats on the back all around. Seasoned reporter and reluctant mentor Lou Vega stands at the edge of the merriment, not partaking.
Jackie makes her way over, smug. "What’s wrong, Lou? Mad you didn’t break the story."
"What story?" He retorts.
"What story?" Jackie replies. "I was right. Tim and his boys are crooks."
"I could’ve told you that. Anyone could’ve told you that. Common knowledge doesn’t make a story."
"But he’s caught. Booked. Charged. The cops got ‘em, and I reported it." Jackie is proud.
Lou shakes his head. "Your naïveté is endearing, it really is."
Tim and gang sit around a poker table in the garage of Tim's muffler shop, all free men, surrounded by grease and classic cars.
Fat Jerry deals a hand, smiling, cigar in his mouth. "Nothing but gun charges," he says to himself, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Gun charges ain’t nothing," Tim growls.
"Ain’t nothing, but sure beats drug charges," brother Darrell pipes in.
"We shouldn’t have been pinched at all," Tim says, angry. "Who vouched for Wayne Jesse, anyway? Idiot. Can’t even wait to tie off."
"That would be your baby brother," says Hank.
Tim’s gaze turns to Darrell. He stares daggers.
"Hey, I got gun charges, too," Darrell says defensively.
"Well ain't that a relief," Tim retorts, sarcastic.
"You’re big blind, Tim," says Fat Jerry.
Tim looks at the pot, knocks on the table. "Call."
Jerry burns a card, lays three up. The group continues to play as they talk.
"And on top of that, they found our stash," Tim says, his gaze now falling on Freddie Hedges.
"Hey, I was just trying to get to it before the pigs did," Freddie says. "They would’ve found it, anyway."
"Would they?" Tim asks with a sharp tone. "We buried it out back for a reason."
"Yeah, well, they weren’t supposed to know it was us in the first place," Freddie says, trying to deflect Tim's ire back to Darrell.
"I’m getting sick of this petty horse shit," Tim says. "We’ve been forging checks and knocking over joints for years now, and the pigs are always on our ass. And for what? A few bottles of dope. A few suits."
"What are you saying, Tim? You quittin’?" Fat Jerry asks before throwing his hand on the table with glee. "I’ve got a boat."
Everyone folds their cards in disgust.
Tim gets up, dons his hat. "I’m going for a ride." He exits.
Inside that old and dusty Texas diner, Judy Cathey works the day shift, buzzing from table-to-table, laughing with the patrons, self-assured with experience.
Ding! A bell rings. "Order up," the gruff diner cook yells.
Judy Cathey turns to the kitchen, grabbing a hot plate. She turns back. In the doorway is Tim Overton, leaning against the frame, smoking a cigarette. He’s cool; calm. A layered individual.
Tim tips his cowboy hat. "Ma'am."
"Hi," Judy says, surprised, clutching the hot plate. He enters, walking to Judy, who can’t take her eyes off him. "Tim. Overton. You served me and my boys."
Tim smiles. He knew she would. "I’m taking my car for a ride down the road a piece. Interested?"
"In what?" She asks.
"Joining," Tim says, matter-of-fact.
Judy is flush. "Oh, well, I can’t—"
"Sure you can. You can do anything your little heart desires."
"But what about the diner?"
"It’ll be here when you get back," Tim says, grabbing Judy’s hand and escorting her outside without protest.
Tim’s muscle car screams down deserted roads and newly formed highways, flat countryside all around. Beside Tim, Judy Cathey laughs, soaking in her luck.
"So, where to?" She plucks.
"Depends. Where you wanna go?"
"Me?" She asks, surprised.
"Sure," Tim laughs, "anywhere."
"How about Kyle?"
Tim snorts. "The town? If you can even call it that."
"Yes, the town! It’s quaint. There’s a little diner that’s to die for."
"There can’t be more than a few thousand people in Kyle."
"Less!" Judy exclaims. "It’s so small they don’t even have a county board seat. A customer told me."
Tim is immediately interested. "Oh?"
"Yeah, can you believe that? If I lived in Kyle…" Judy’s voice drones on, high pitched.
Tim revs the engine, an idea forming. He smiles, puts his foot on the gas, barreling down the road.
Stopping at a phone booth, Tim Overton calls his brother. "Darrell? Tim. Get the boys together, we’re taking a trip."
"Where to?" Darrell asks through the receiver.
"Dallas," he says, smiling.
— End of Part Two of Three; Check Back Soon for the Final Installment or Sign Up for Updates Below —