Anything for a Pal

by Louis L'Amour

Tony Kinsella looked at his platinum wrist-watch. Ten more minutes. Just ten minutes to go. It was all set. In ten minutes a man would be standing on that corner under the street light. A green kid. Doreen would come up, speak to him, and then step into the drug store. The kid would wait, and then, after Doreen had put the finger on him, the car would slide up, and he, Tony Kinsella, Boss Cardoza’s ace killer, would send a stream of steel-jacketed bullets into the kid’s body. It would be all over then, and Tony Kinsella would have saved a pal from the chair, and paid another debt.

He looked up to the driver’s seat where "Gloves" McFadden slouched carelessly, waiting. He noted the thick neck, and heavy, prizefighter’s shoulders. In the other front seat "Dopey" Wentz puffed feverishly at a cigarette. Kinsella didn’t like that. He didn’t like to work with guys that were jerky, and any guy on the weed was undependable. Kinsella shrugged, and inhaled deeply.

This kid, Bunny Robbins he was going to knock-off. He’d seen Corney Watson pull that Baronski job. Tomorrow he was to identify Corney in court. To put the finger on him. Corney Watson had sprung Kinsella out of a Western pen one time, and they were pals. And Kinsella, whatever his failing, had one boast: he’d do anything for a pal. All around town they knew that. They used to say in the pool rooms when he was a kid: "That guy, Kinsella, he’d do anything for a pal!" Tony was proud of that. He was a right guy.

But that was only one of the two things he was proud of. The other the boys didn’t know about except in a vague way. It was his kid brother, George. Their name wasn’t Kinsella, and George had no idea that such a name even existed. Their real name was Bretherton, but when Kinsella had been arrested the first time, he gave his name as Kinsella, and so it had been for a dozen years now. But Tony was proud of George. George was ten years the youngest, and had no idea that his idolized big brother was a gangster, a killer. George was a star half-back on the team. Tony hadn’t seen him in years, but he’d paid his way through college, and into a classy set of people. Tony smiled into the darkness. George Bretherton: now wasn’t that a classy name? Maybe, when he’d put a few grand more in his sock he’d chuck the rackets and take George off to Europe. Then he’d be Anthony Bretherton, wealthy and respected.

Kinsella leaned back against the cushions. It was all set. This was one job he was pulling for nothing. Just for a pal. Corney had bumped "Baron" Baronski, and this kid had seen it. How he happened to be there, nobody knew or cared. Tomorrow he was going to testify in court, and that meant the chair for Corney unless Tony came through tonight, but Tony, who never failed a pal, would come through.

They had located Robbin’s hang-out at a downtown hotel, a classy joint. Cardoza had sent Doreen over there, and she got acquainted. Doreen was a swell kid, wore her clothes like a million, and she was wise. She’d put the finger on more than one guy. Now this Robbins fellow. He wasn’t one of Baronski’s guns, so how had he been there at the time? Tony shrugged. Just one of those things.

Why didn’t George write, he wondered? He was working in a law office out West somewhere. Maybe he’d be the mouth-piece for some big corporation and make plenty of dough. That was the racket! No danger of gang guns or coppers in that line, a safe thing.

Tony wondered what Corney was doing. Probably lying on his back in his cell hoping that Kinsella would come through. Well, Tony smiled with satisfaction; he’d never botched a job yet, and tonight he’d turn the heat on this Robbins guy and Corney would be in the clear. Why not? Wasn’t Corney his pal? And Tony’s motto was, "Anything for a pal."

Suddenly Dopey hissed: "Okay, Tony, there’s the guy!"

"When you see Doreen comin’, let me know. I’m not interested in this mug."

He suddenly found himself wishing it was over. He always felt like this at the last minute. Sort of jumpy. Prizefighters felt that way before the bell. Tense, nervous. But when the gun started to jump with the recoil he was all right. All of his nervousness streamed away with the steel-jacketed bullets. He caressed his gun lovingly.

"Get set, Tony, here she comes!" The powerful motor came to life suddenly, purring softly.

Kinsella sat up and rolled down the window. The cool evening air breathed softly across his face. He looked up at the stars, and then glanced both ways, up and down the street. It was all clear.

A tall, broad-shouldered fellow stood on the corner. Tony could see Doreen coming. She was walking fast. Probably she was nervous too. That big guy. That would be him. Tony licked his lips and lifted the ugly black muzzle of the submachine gun. Its cold nose peered over the edge of the window. The motor purred softly. He saw a man walk out of the drug store, light a cigar, and stroll off up the street. Tony almost laughed as he thought how funny it would be if he were to start shooting then, how startled that man would be!

There! Doreen was talking to the man on the corner. Had one hand on his sleeve. Smiling at him!

God! Dames were cold-blooded! In a couple of minutes that guy would be kicking in his own gore, and she was putting him on the spot and smiling at him!

Suddenly she turned away and started for the drug store on some excuse or other. As she passed through the door she was almost running. The car was moving swiftly now and Tony Kinsella smiled into the darkness. The car glided toward the curb, the man looked up, and the gun spouted fire and steel-jacketed bullets. The man threw up his arms oddly, jerked sharply, and fell head-long. McFadden wheeled the car and they drove back, the machine gun spouting fire again. The body, like a sack of old clothes, jerked as the bullets struck.

The next morning Tony lay on his back staring at the ceiling. He wondered where Doreen was. Probably the papers were full of the Robbins killing. Slowly he crawled out of bed, drew on his robe, and retrieved the morning paper from his apartment door. His eyes sought the headlines, blaring across the top in bold type:

Tony’s eyes narrowed. A federal man, eh? That wasn’t so good. Who would have thought Robbins was a federal man? Still they were never where you expected them to be. Probably, he’d been working on the Bronski case when Corney bumped the Baron. That would be it.

His eyes skimmed the brief account of the killing. It was as usual. They had no adequate description of either Doreen or the car. Then his eyes glimpsed a word in the last paragraph that gripped his attention. His face tense, he read on.

Slowly, he looked up. His eyes were strange. His face looked old and strained. Walking across to the table he picked up his heavy automatic, slipped back the safety, and still staring blankly before him, put the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

His body toppled across the table, the blood slowly staining the crumpled paper and almost obliterating the account of the Robbins killing. The final words of the account were barely visible as the spreading stain wiped it out: