Authors: Gerry Tate
GERALD J. TATE
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, and places written within are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events or locales are coincidental.
Copyright Â© 2011 Gerald J. Tate
BETTY, CHRISSIE, GLORIA and PEARL
Special thanks to Sandy and Eda,
Ian, James and Noel, and all those
who gave me encouragement
to write the Cappawhite trilogy.
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so will ye be
Prepare to follow, after me
TABLE OF CONTANTS
It wasn't the sound of the distant riverboat horn that shrilled its way across the clear morning sky. Nor was it the clinkety clank of the old diesel train that ran noisily over the cross tracks behind the house. It was something else that awoke Dan Winters violently from his slumber. It was the dream. The same frightening dream that had roused him from his sleep every night for some months now, a dream that felt so real he could almost reach out and touch it.
And it wasn't just the frightening element of this dream alone which had left him deflated and puzzled. It was the woman's face.
This woman who had appeared to him every night, beautiful, and yet somehow familiarâ¦
As Dan tossed and turned on the bed, Lynn angrily flicked at the bedside lamp switch and rubbed at her tired eyes as she yawned heavily.
“That's it Dan. Either you go visit Doc Brooks today, or I will,” she threatened. “This has been going on for much too long now,” she added firmly.
Dan held his throbbing head and moved slowly away from the bed.
“All right, I'll go see her.”
“Yeah, yeah, I promise,” he mumbled. “I promise.”
There was something else about the dreams that concerned Dan, wherein he had another, separate life with a different wife. It was the realism of it all. Why even the surroundings in the dream were firmly etched into his brain. It was also the powerful violent headaches that started the moment he awoke. Like the feeling he used to get as a child, when he swallowed his ice cream too fast. This feeling though, relentless and unforgiving, felt to him like some sort of unending torture.
Bad thoughts occupied his every waking moment.
Maybe it's some form of nervous breakdown I'm having, or worse,
Dan quickly showered, slipped on his nightgown and slippers, and silently walked downstairs.
He knew Lynn wasn't going to take much more of this, but even the thought of going to see the doctor and what she might tell him, frightened him.
His mind wandered back to an old boxing idol his father had watched sparring and fighting in the ring many years before and after Dan was born. Tommy Johnston was his name, and his father had idolised this man, and had maintained a close friendship with him as Dan grew older. Dan had met this tough fighting man many times over the years.
*Â Â *Â Â *Â Â *Â Â *
âTommy Johnston' was from the old school. âIn tight and at em,' was âTommy Johnston's' motto.
âNever give your opponent the chance to figure you out kid,' Tommy would say. âJust give em the old one two, the old one two works every time.'
Tommy had cauliflower ears, and a nose that would make Quasimodo squirm, and large hands that could shovel coal should the need arise.
Tommy didn't have much style though, but when he hit, he could knock down a brick wall.
âTake em out Tommy,' was his well earned nickname, but by the time Dan had left high school, âTake em out Tommy' just wasn't taking em out anymore. In fact, âTommy Johnston' had been taken apart financially by his two divorces and his two children that rumour had it weren't even his anyway.
When Dan started his own boxing career as a young man, Tommy would come and watch him, from the side, and he would give Dan advice and some encouragement.
âTommy Johnston' would end his fighting days scrapping in what can only be described as a circus, and for twenty dollars a night. But there was no fear, there was never any fear. âTommy Johnston' was the bravest fighter Dan had ever known.
Dan would often hear people talk about fighter's like, âHenry Homicide Hawk Armstrong,' who held three world titles at three different weights at the same time. They would talk about, Lewis, Marciano, Ali, Norton, and many others. But no one ever talked about âTake em out Tommy' anymore.
It was simple, cinema and television coverage had made sure that all these other fighters were legends. But if you asked anyone about âTommy Johnston,' then not many people would have even heard of him.
What most people didn't know though, and a lot of âHomicide Hawk's' people tried to keep quiet, was that as a young fighter, just starting off, âTake em Tommy out,' took out âHomicide Hawk' in an amateur bout. The great âHomicide Hawk,' who would later knock out over one hundred opponents during his fighting career, taken out by a nobody.
This was Tommy's world fight, his gold medal, and he would never forget it, or let anyone else forget it for that matter when they met him. In Dan's eyes though, there was no one better, and as his father would always say, âTommy Johnston' fought from the heart.'
But âTommy Johnston' had something else. âTommy Johnston' had headaches, and âTommy Johnston' had bad dreams, just like the headaches and bad dreams Dan was having now.
Tommy had been plagued with, â the curse,' as he called it, ever since he was a young boy, but he fought those headaches and bad dreams the way he had fought his fights, and only a very few people even knew that he had this condition when he began boxing. Dan's father was one of a select few and trusted people that Tommy let in on the secret, and Dan only found out when he overheard his father talk to his mother about it one time.
Tommy though, would never under any circumstances, let the doctor's know.
Then, after Dan had hung up his gloves and was busy building his career as a reporter, and as the years past, he lost touch with the old boxer.
When he finally did bump into âTommy Johnston' again, it was on a cold wet windy evening in town, many years later.
An old dishevelled looking tramp had just approached him from an ally, with his hand out, and Dan almost threw up as the man's sickly drink fuelled breath wafted into his face. Dan handed him a single dollar bill, but felt cheap and embarrassed, and quickly moved off.
Dan didn't really like beggars; he believed that in today's society begging just shouldn't be tolerated. To Dan there was just no excuse.
No sir. He simply didn't give handouts to these sorts of people, and would normally avoid them like the plague, so he still couldn't figure why he'd given to this old stranger. This tramp though, seemed somehow different. It was the eyes, Dan guessed. This old guy had the worn out eyes of a man who had done and seen everything. Eyes that said, âI didn't ask for it to be this way buddy, I could have made it if people hadda gave me a goddamn chance.'
Dan shook his head and somehow felt sorry for this old pathetic figure who was now staring behind him in recognition as he walked away.
“Gwive em the old one twoo kwid,” the tramp croaked, and Dan spun around. The pathetic almost ghost like figure in the stained brown coat with the dollar bill in his hand, smiled at Dan.
“You dwon't wemember me kwid?” Tommy drooled. Dan stared hard as the recollection surged through his brain. The face may have changed, and the voice may be slurred to hell and back, but Dan knew.
The old man in front of him was a virtual skeleton, his face bruised and cut, but Dan wouldn't let âTake em out Tommy' see how shocked he was. Tommy deserved better.
“You stwill bwoxing kwid?” Tommy asked, his voice badly twisted, almost meaningless, forcing Dan to think of a badly distorted and aged Humphrey Bogart.
It was as though someone had cut Tommy's tongue in two, Dan felt.
“Um, no Tommy, I gave it up some time ago. I'm a reporter now.”
“I wemember you kwid, pity you dwid, cwause' you had so much pwotential.” Dan was surprised that Tommy remembered even seeing him fight.
“Naw, Tommy, I was a sad ass,” Dan laughed. “I was on my back so many times they were thinking of putting ads on the soles of my shoes,” Dan joked. Tommy didn't laugh, but stared at him for a moment, then clumsily ran in close, pretending to mix it with Dan, lightly punching him on the arms. But surprisingly, and for a man of his age and physic, his punches still hurt.
“Wemember kwid, the ole one twoo, the ole one twoo.”
“Yeah Tommy, I remember,” Dan said, as he backed off, and unwittingly wiped his coat as though he had just caught some incurable, unmentionable disease.
Tommy didn't even notice, or if he did he just didn't care anymore.
“Hows your fwather kweepin these dways?” Tommy slurred, forgetting that he attended the funeral all those years back.
“Yeah, he's fine,” Dan lied, not wanting to further confuse the mixed up old man.
Tommy smiled and nodded his head.
“You still, um, getting those headaches you used to get all the time Tommy?” Dan awkwardly asked.
“You know suffin kwid? I ownly gwot those aftwer I pwunched out Hwomicide Hwawk. Dwid you know I pwunched Hwawk out?”
“I know Tommy, I know.”
“Yep, thwose dwamn pwains,” Tommy whispered, as though by just saying it would bring one on.
“So you still have them Tommy? Huh?”
“I stwill hwave them, yeah, and those bwad dweams, I stwill hwave those twoo.”
Dan emptied his wallet with tears in his eyes, and slipped him every loose note he had, which was sixty eight dollars, hugged him goodbye and told him he would see what he could do for him. There was just no way that this man should be allowed to live on the streets like this, especially with winter closing in fast, Dan thought.
As he walked away, Tommy swung a right hook, the money clutched tightly in his huge fist, and Dan was certain that âTommy Johnston' wasn't even aware of how much he had just given him.
He thought about the cuts and bruises on Tommy's face, when the old man would have been fighting among the other winos and junkies.
He really wanted to bring him home, but he knew with a man like Tommy it would have been impossible, and now Dan felt guilty.
But he would write a column in his newspaper, a full page column if need be. And he would embarrass the fighting fraternity into doing something for Tommy and others like him.
He swore it to himself.
Two headache filled days later, and with the week-end over, Dan made some phone calls to people with some pull in the boxing world. Phone calls about Tommy, and he was promised that they were on the case and would get back to him.
Five weeks later though, Dan had still heard nothing, so he rang the same people he had spoken to before. Now though, no one would take his calls.
*Â Â *Â Â *Â Â *Â Â *
Dan wandered down to Al's gym on Main Street. A place where one time he used to spar and train every day for hours at a time, until he was just too fatigued to train any more.
He recognised no one inside, and now he felt embarrassed that he didn't maintain some kind of contact with the place throughout the years.
A young man was swinging clumsily and lazily at a punch bag, and Dan wasn't impressed, while another young man shadow boxed in the corner, and Dan couldn't help but think that this boy had potential by the bucket load.
Suddenly an older man with a torn brown boxing glove in his hand approached Dan.
“Keep your damn elbows high, and stop slouching,” he shouted across to the boy on the punch bag.
“Just can't get the quality these days,” he moaned at Dan.
Dan could somehow feel that the man instinctively knew that he had been a fighter once, even though Dan had never met him before. Most fighters had a knack of identifying one another. Maybe it was the walk, or the stance. Or maybe on most occasions it was the swelled eyelids, or the flattened nose and busted ears that gave it away. Dan had none of these features, but he was sure the guy had somehow known him as one of their own. When he first spoke it was in a friendly manner.
“Can I help you champ?”
“I'm here to enquire about âTommy Johnston,'” he told the man in the stained tattered blue tracksuit.
“You a friend of his mister-um?”
“Dan Winters, and yeah, I'm an old friend.”
Dan held his hand out to shake the man's hand, but the man ignored him and moved slightly back.
Now the friendliness had disappeared, and Dan couldn't figure out why as the man stared at him in an intimidating manner.
Dan quickly felt uncomfortable. But Dan had met them all in his profession. Weirdoes of all shapes and sizes. People who would cut their own grandmothers throat for a nickel, and unfriendly people like this asshole. Dan though, simply done what he did best in a situation like this. He would play fire with fire.
The man stared at Dan, as if searching for some sort of recognition, then nodded as though he'd just solved the biggest problem since mankind began.
“Dan Winters, yeah, I remember you, lightweight, am I right?”
“Um, no,” Dan replied, “I fought middleweight.”
“If need be.”
The man stared at Dan, head cocked, and Dan began to feel embarrassed. He was about to break the tension and say something, anything, when the man almost shouted, beating him to it.
“Yeah, I know you Dan Winters!”
The man pushed his hand out “Names Manny,” he said, but this time Dan ignored him.
The man dropped his hand to his side and awkwardly rubbed it hard against his trousers, but he wasn't finished as he eyed Dan intently.
“I remember you all right, the, um-Bill Dewey fight, eighty-two, he beat you on points, right?”
“Um, eighty-three, and no, I beat Dewey on a knock out decision,” Dan answered.