“Hangman, Hangman, hold it a little while? I think I see my friends coming, riding many a mile.’
Troy glanced up at the karaoke stage. A chill ran down Troy’s spine as he turned back to Stan Gallows, seated in the booth across from him.
It was an ironic song choice; Troy hoped fervently that it was not prophetic.
“My friends you get some silver? You get a little gold?”
‘Got my money, boy?’ Gallows drawled, leaning back on the leather couch to pick his yellow teeth with a toothpick.
‘I’ve tried Stan,’ Troy met the older man’s steady gaze, ‘I have five grand, and I’m trying my best to round up another five. You’ve got to give me more time!’
“What did you bring me my dear friends? Keep me from the gallows pole.”
Gallows shifted his bulky mass forward again and punched a plump finger in Troy’s direction, ‘You’ve had plenty of time, Troy. I can’t keep the heat off you for much longer if you don’t come up with the goods.’
‘I didn’t do it, Stan, you know that. Give me more time?’
Sighing theatrically, Gallows took on a compassionate expression, changing the timbre of his voice to one of paternal concern, ‘You’re a good kid and I don’t want to see you locked up, but…I need more incentive to make that pesky evidence go away.’
“I couldn’t get no silver. I couldn’t get no gold. You know that we’re too damn poor to keep you from the gallows pole.”
Troy’s eyes began to shine with tears of helpless rage, his shoulders shook uncontrollably. Troy’s father had been Stan Gallows partner on the force until his murder five years before. Troy had been fourteen at the time and had heard his father arguing with Gallows that night.
Young and afraid of the burly man he’d grown up around, Troy hadn’t told anyone at the time that he’d heard his father accuse Gallows of taking bribes and fabricating evidence.
“Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while?”
The evil that had emanated from him that night, as Troy’s father confronted Gallows and threatened to expose his dirty little secrets, had terrified the teenager.
After his father’s death, Gallows had hung around Troy’s family a lot, on the surface out of concern, but Troy suspected that Gallows knew what the boy had overheard. The big mans constant presence seemed more like a silent threat to Troy. A demonstration that Gallows could get to any one of them at any time.
“I think I see my brother coming, riding many a mile.”
Troy had finally confided the truth in his older brother Joey. Joey had just joined the police academy and had been sceptical at first.
“Brother, you get me some silver? Did you get a little gold? Ah what did you bring me my brother? Keep me from the gallows pole.”
Level-headed and methodical, Joey began to spend his free time looking back over the case files of their father’s murder. One night he’d come home looking both excited and traumatized. When Troy questioned him, Joey admitted he may have found some proof but needed to check out a few more things.
“Brother I brought you some silver, yeah, I brought a little gold. I brought a little of everything. Keep you from the gallows pole. Yes, I brought you. Keep you from the gallows pole.”
Joey had gone out that night, and had never returned.
‘I know what you’ve done,’ Troy hissed angrily, ‘You killed my father and my brother and now you’re setting me up to save your own arse. You’re a fuckin’ monster!’
To Troy’s amazement and anger, Gallows simply smirked at him.
‘Prove it,’ Gallows laughed, ‘Who are they gonna believe, eh? A junkie or a twenty-five year veteran of Queensland’s finest?”
‘Bastard!’ Now tears of frustration really did roll down Troy’s gaunt cheeks. He was a junkie all right, sent to hell by the devil across from him. Troy had first found solace at the bottom of a bottle, but had soon progressed to something that took away the pain much longer.
“Hangman, hangman, turn your head awhile. I think I see my sister coming, riding many a mile. Sister I implore you, take him by the hand. Take him to some shady bower. Save me from the wrath of this man. Please take him, save me from the wrath of this madman.”
Gallows looked up at the stage where the singer was now being accompanied by a pretty blonde woman.
‘Speaking of sisters,’ Gallows drawled, ‘Yours has turned into a fine piece of meat. Maybe I’ll take her as part of your down payment.’
“Hangman, hangman, upon your face a smile. Tell me that I’m free to ride, ride for many a mile.”
Maddened with rage, Troy threw his beer glass at Gallows face and leapt across the table, ‘You bastard! She’s fuckin’ sixteen, you sick animal,’ Troy sank his teeth into the arm that Gallows had flung forward to protect himself, ‘You stay the fuck away from her!’
“Yes you got a fine sister; she warmed my blood from cold. She brought my blood to boiling hot. Keep you from the gallows pole.”
Two men dressed in t-shirts and jeans hurried across the room, loosing guns from behind their belts.
‘On your feet, Gallows,’ one yelled as Troy fell back on the table, ‘You’re under arrest for murder.’
Gallows expression gave away nothing. Without a single sign of surprise or pity, he looked back at Troy lying prostrate on the lacquered table. Troy’s short was torn, revealing the hidden microphone taped to his chest. Blood from the knife sticking out of Troy’s stilled heart oozed over the edges to drip slowly on the floor.
Gallows turned away with a sneer. The music went on as though nothing had happened.
“Brother brought me silver and your sister warmed my soul, but now I laugh and pull hard, See ya swinging on the gallows pole.”
© Alison Pearce 2008
Short story written for Twisted Tales’ Twisted Karaoke
Competition. Inspired by (and the lyrics that are included within) Led Zeppelin’s – “Gallow’s Pole”