By John Whitman
Pure pulp, that’s what this story has become.
A moaning crept down the stairs, and as I arched my head toward the staircase, a feeling of absolute dread climbed up my spine and sent chills down with it.
I began to ascend the bottom steps with an entitled feeling of duty to put this all to rest.
I’ve always known people like George Buckley and the Dillinger Gang to be nothing short of a disease plaguing our great country. I also knew that we, the law enforcement agents tracking them down and extinguishing them, were the blood cells of the great American vessel.
George Buckley dubbed himself Blood Indian Buckley due to his Native American heritage and, on June 5, 1934, robbed his first bank at gunpoint near the coast of North Carolina. From there, he seemed to stretch across the American South, traveling in a Lincoln and spreading fear to all those who crossed him.
Now, I could’ve joined the highway patrolmen who joined forces in the final moments of Bonnie and Clyde, but there was something about Blood Indian Buckley that had garnered a certain mystique that I craved to learn.
It was after his Georgia bank robbery that we all believed he was en route to Alabama, traveling in a childlike linear path through all the major cities. So, being the Alabaman detective in charge, I flexed every muscle I had in my power to make sure that Montgomery bank was secure, albeit hoping that the young man would so much as try to pull off his crude talents.
However, this is where George Buckley created his own mythology. Somehow, despite his Lincoln being tracked down to his cousin’s house near the border of Georgia and Alabama, he appeared in Oklahoma just a day after his Georgia robbery and pulled a job in its capital.
His whereabouts only became more mysterious after that. We flat-footed authorities began to track every visible move of George Buckley and, in doing so, we realized that he seemed to be perplexingly appearing and reappearing all over the map, robbing every major bank in the process.
However, it was never his mystique that stroked the ire of this detective. It was the kindly façade he’d paraded around the cities he pillaged, as every teller and every witness recounted him as one with a damn near happy-go-lucky outlook meshed with a certain quietude that created a concoction that could only be described, in their own words, as ‘something of a gentleman.’
But then, when he penetrated that Oklahoma City bank, something had changed. He was seen with more of an angry grin on this occasion and was now donning a scar that encompassed his left eye.
And then from there, the descriptions began to radiate a more timid, scared tone. Words like ‘menacing,’ ‘aggressive,’ and even ‘anguished’ dripped from the lips of the people he robbed. The charisma that he was cementing into his reputation had begun to fade away with no finality, just sheer abruptness.
Some see evil as a slow-burning addiction that begins as a flirtation and gradually consumes its victims, others say perhaps it’s passed from person to person, or maybe, like in the pulp magazines, perhaps there’s something of a cosmic void that erupts the nature of misdeeds upon the players of mankind.
Of course not. As I’ve always known, there are only two types of people in this picturesque country of ours: those who produce and thrive in the name of progress, and those who solely exist to trample on what we’ve created. Blood Indian Buckley was one of the latter.
I reached the top step. I’d tracked Buckley here after he murdered a woman, seemingly at random, in his own hometown of Boulder. I took a deep breath in through my nostrils and rose to what I’d like to think of as my destiny.
I turned, and there was just a splash of evening sun from the skylight, drenching Blood Indian Buckley as he slunk down on his knees, not even acknowledging my arrival. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. He let out another sound, this one a high-pitched whimper. I raised my gun to him.
He looked up, and what I saw next would will my core and haunt the crevices of my mind as I lay on my deathbed. The scar had grown somehow, reddening the left side of his face. There were what appeared to be multiple deep-seated cuts with pus oozing from them. His eyeball stuck out, the eyelid somehow completely obliterated. Had I run into him somewhere else I’d assume him to be a carnie, a bizarre freak of nature.
But this was here, and this was now; I knew it to be the young man who lived in infamy as the serial bank robber. This was the man who’d become the subject of the pulp magazines and the Weird Tales and the young children whispering to one another.
“I was hoping you’d come.”
I was at a loss for words. I made the standard recitations, as if by muscle memory: “Stand up and put your hands in the air.”
“Just shoot me.”
There was a long silence between us. He just sat there.
After a beat, “Please. Just shoot me.”
I felt a new, unfamiliar impulse rush through me: mercy. “I’m not going to just—”
Then he drew his gun, seemingly from his back pocket, and that’s when my automated fingers fired, and blew his head back onto the floor, his blood against the wall, and his consciousness to kingdom come.
I breathed quick and deep, punctuating my thoughts of reanalysis toward all this speculation on good and evil, pondering at whatever cosmic darkness could have consumed George Buckley.
All before reluctantly shrugging this off, assuring myself that those were just stories.