In Good Company Volume 8

The Death Track


I remember the old men around town gathering in Sonny's Barbershop every Saturday afternoon to swap stories. The one about Jake Ryan's murder was the best.

Sonny was making my flattop short and square before he applied two fingers covered with red pomade to make it stand up. It was hard to hear above the buzz of his clippers and I strained to pay close attention to hear every word said by the old "desperados,' as my father called them. Toby Parsons, who always sat in the empty barber's chair, its perch making him master of ceremonies, cut a corner off a block of his chewing tobacco and said, "You boys ever figure out who killed Owen Richardson?"

The old timers tipped back their broad-brimmed panamas and shook their heads. Charlie Nicks pulled out a Lucky Strike and lit up, cupping the end of the cigarette in his hands. He shook the match out and tossed it in an ashtray as he blew a stream of blue smoke toward the ceiling fan. "Bill Wilton was blamed, but it was never proved in court. Nobody knows for sure, unless of course, you're about to tell us for a fact what happened." . . .