by Jim Foreman
Warren Brewster had some business in Amarillo which needed his attention, so he decided to return during a short recess. It was almost dark when he stepped off the train. The station was deserted and the thought of walking ten blocks to his house in cowboy boots didn't appeal to him so he decided to walk around to the front of the Armitage Hotel where there was always at least one cab parked. As he walked through the rear parking lot, he was surprised to see Maggie's red Buick roadster parked next to Joe's big Cadillac. Warren stood there looking at it, wondering why his wife's car would be parked at the Armitage Hotel when the strange key he had found in her purse suddenly began to make sense.
Warren went directly to the elevators which were all stopped at the lobby with their doors open. He stepped into one of them and looked at the buttons. There was no key slot above the 12th floor button. He moved to the next but it was the same. Then he stepped into number four and there was the key slot, but he had no way to get the elevator to go to the penthouse.
He punched the button for the twelfth floor and the doors slid shut. He got off on the 12th floor and walked around looking for stairs leading to the penthouse, but found none. There seemed to be no way to get any higher without the key until he noticed a fire escape sign over the window at the end of the hall. He opened the window and stepped out onto the steel landing, closing the window behind him. Steel steps zig-zagged from landing to landing down the side of the hotel to the ground while a simple steel ladder led the ten or twelve feet to the roof. He climbed the ladder a rung at a time until he could peer over the edge of the wall. The glow of the underwater lights in the swimming pool reflected off the big windows but the place seemed to be deserted. Warren climbed over the wall and walked quietly across the terrace.
One of the sliding glass doors leading to the terrace was open and he could hear soft music and see a faint glow of light coming from inside. The plush carpet absorbed any sound his boots might have made as he tiptoed toward the source of the music and light. He was careful not to bump any of the expensive furniture on the way. He peered carefully into the bedroom. The covers were tossed aside and the sheets were wrinkled. He could hear muffled voices coming from the partially open door to the bath room.
Warren crossed to the bathroom door and peeked through the crack on the hinge side of the door. Through the narrow slot, he saw Maggie and Joe in the huge sunken tub. Joe lifted Maggie's foot from the deep bubbles and kissed her toes which brought forth a girlish giggle from her. A bottle of champagne and two glasses sat on the tile surface beside the tub.
Hot rage surged through his body and he stepped back to kick the door open and confront the adulterous pair, then he hesitated, thinking that there must be a better way to handle the situation. He retraced his steps to the ladder and climbed down to the twelfth floor landing only to find that the inside latch had automatically locked when he closed the window. That was a safety feature which prevented anyone from being able to climb up the fire escape and enter the hotel. He was glad that it was dark and no one would be able to see him as he made his way down the outside of the building. When he reached the second floor, he stepped out onto the final flight of steps which were raised so no one could reach them. They swung down under his weight and he walked away in the darkness.
Maggie didn't come home that night and Warren paced the floor until dawn, plotting what he should do. He thought about divorcing Maggie but that was probably just what they wanted him to do. For some reason, at times Warren would become excited at the thought of Maggie making love with another man and wished that she were home so he could do the same, but then the rage would return. Then he thought about going back to the hotel, climbing the fire escape and killing both of them while they slept but rejected that because it would certainly get him a ride in "Old Sparky", the electric chair down at Huntsville. Then he thought about the Texas law which said that a man could kill another man whom he found having sex with his wife, but he would have to wait until they were actually making love in order to shoot him. Warren wanted to kill Joe as soon as possible.
When dawn began to break in the east, Warren finally came up with a plan. He would kill Joe and make it look like self defense. After all, everyone knew that there was bad blood between them, especially after their fathers having killed one another. Not only would he get his revenge against Joe but also against Maggie, who would lose her lover.
Warren took a shower, shaved and went to the basement where he had several boxes of guns stored. He had acquired most of his gun collection by taking them away from drunks while he was sheriff. He selected a .32 Cal. revolver which he knew hadn't been in circulation in a dozen or more years and checked to be sure that it was fully loaded with ammunition. Then he went to the bedroom and got the 38 Special which he kept in the cabinet beside his bed. His plan was to walk into Joe's office and shoot him with the 38. Then before anyone could get there after hearing the shot, he would put the .32 in Joe's hand and fire a bullet from it into the wall. People would hear two shots fired but no one could ever swear which shot was fired first. It would be just like when their fathers killed one another on the Senate floor, except that there would be no witnesses this time and only Joe would be dead. He would probably never go to trial, but even if he did, no jury in the world would convict him.
With the two pistols hidden under his coat, Warren drove to the hotel, parked his car and walked up the stairs to the mezzanine where Joe's office was located. As he stepped into the outer office, he was greeted by Roger Bates who said, "Warren, we were just trying to get in contact with you. We are supposed to meet Howard Irving and John Polk out at Irving Field as soon as possible."
Warren hadn't anticipated anything like this to interrupt his plans so he asked, "What are meeting them for?"
"I don't know." Roger replied. "Polk caught up with me while I was on my way over here to see Joe this morning and said for me to find both of you and meet him and Irving out at the airport. He said that it was really important and that he wanted to show us something which would make us all rich."
"Why at the airport?" asked Warren.
"He said that we would have to go up in an airplane in order for him to show it to us," Roger replied as Joe came out of his office.
"Wonder what kind of half-baked scheme that drunken fool wants us to put money into this time," said Joe.
"Well, we've always made money on everything else that he came to us with before, so I see no reason why we should pass up this chance," said Roger.
They drove out to the airport in Joe's Cadillac and when they arrived, Irving was already seated in the left seat of his shiny new Spartan Executive. Its engine was ticking over slowly. John Polk, holding a ragged old suitcase under his arm, was waiting for them beside the airplane. He didn't appear to be drunk but was even more seedy looking than usual. He had red rings around his eyes, his clothes were wrinkled and he was badly in need of a haircut and shave.
"I was able to locate both of them, John. What do you want to show us?" asked Roger as they walked to where he was standing by the cabin door.
"You'll see in a few minutes. Get in, Irving has it all warmed up and ready to go." John replied as he stepped up on the wing and into the cabin, sliding into the right front seat.
Joe, Roger and Warren sat in the rear seat and as they fastened their seat belts, Irving released the brakes and the silver ship rolled toward the runway. "Where to, John?" Howard asked as he lined the ship up with centerline of the runway and received clearance from the tower for takeoff.
It's out west but let's fly over downtown Amarillo first. I've never seen what the street that was named after me looks like from the air," he answered.
Irving advanced the throttle, the big radial engine thundered with power and the sleek ship surged forward. Joe had ridden in an airliner a few times but never really liked to fly. A few seconds later the ship lifted easily into the morning air and Irving flipped the switch to retract the landing gear. There was a hum of electric motors and a solid clunk as the wheels tucked away inside the wings. The Amarillo skyline stood sharp and clear in the early sun as Irving banked the airplane to the right and pointed its nose toward the downtown area which was bracketed by the Santa Fe building on the south and the two tall hotels on the north. When he arrived over downtown Amarillo, he banked steeply so his passengers could see over the wing. He made a couple circles and then asked, "Where are we going from here, John."
"From the kind of lives we all have lived, I'd say that we will probably all go to hell," said John as he opened the suitcase which he was holding on his lap. Irving caught a quick glimpse of a large bundle of sticks of dynamite, a telephone battery and some wires; but before he could react, John touched one of the wires to the post on top of the battery.
The people going to work in downtown Amarillo that morning looked up when they heard the explosion. There was a rolling ball of smoke and flames directly above Polk street. Then they scurried for the protection of doorways as bits and pieces of airplane and five men began to rain down. The engine, which was the largest piece, crashed into the old Polk homestead which had stood vacant for years on Harrison Street.
The newspaper reported that not only had four of the leading businessmen of Amarillo, as well as an additional unknown passenger, been killed when the airplane exploded for no apparent reason, but there was also a freak accident associated with it. A 38 Special revolver fell with the wreckage of the airplane and discharged when it struck the ground. The bullet from the pistol went through the door of a red Buick Roadster that was traveling south on Polk street at just that moment, killing the driver, Mrs. Warren Brewster.