Billy Fred Holloway, hatched down in Florence Hollow, had always been a mean sucker – not tough, just mean. He spread the word he was in the arson business; even painted a match on the door of his F150. He wasn’t afraid of no law ‘cuz by damn he had the absolute biggest balls inHendersonCounty. He’d burn down the courthouse, so he said.
He advertised by torching several churches in rural eastTexas. ThenWashingtondecreed ATF would investigate all church fires in theUnited States, including a grease fire at the revival. The woods were teeming with Feds. ATF, Eliot Ness’s old outfit, sent Kobock and Caroline Ortega and a gaggle of others intoEast Texaswith orders not to come back without somebody in ‘cuffs.
Percy “Prissy” Peters had this girlfriend, Eula Mae Eubanks. He was trying to carry her and his wife and four fat kids on the shrinking income of Peters Funeral Home. A syndicated outfit from St. Louis had cornered the funeralizing business in the territory.
Eula Mae, a local, had worked the past year as a dancer at Green Frog Topless on Harry Hines over in Dallas. She learned a basic rule of life: ugly women prancing around nekked aren’t guaranteed a living. Then God gave her Prissy and she was off the stage and Prissy was bankrupt. But Peters Funeral Home was fully insured.
Prissy made contact with Billy Fred and his dog-robber, John Sammy Clinton, and gave them his last hundred in cash as a retainer. “We’ll put that sucker on the ground, ‘jes like we did them churches,” Billy Fred bragged. “And you better pony up the other four hundred after the job or we’ll pull off your dick.”
Billy Fred was dumber than a fender off his F150 and John Sammy was below zero on the IQ scale. They’d burned down rural buildings, but Peters Funeral Home was in a populated area. They always dumped gasoline, then stepped out, tossed a match, and boom. Liquid gasoline won’t actually burn, but the oxidizing fumes will explode like last year’s Fourth of July.
Arson king Billy Fred waited outside as the good-eye while John Sammy went in, poured five gallons around, stopped in the doorway, and dropped a match, just like on T.V. The blast distributed Peters Funeral Home all over the neighborhood. John Sammy landed about thirty feet away, his carcass basted well done with third degree burns. Billy Fred dumped him at theAthensHospitalwith chunks of his hide peeling like a rotten banana.
Kobock and Ortega found John Sammy wrapped in menthol saturated gauze in the burn unit. He put the funeral home, four churches, two barns, and Mrs. Shankle’s chicken coop on Billy Fred, then died. Prissy Peters burst like a tossed water balloon and sobbed out the whole dizzy deal. Billy Fred was sleeping in daddy’s shack down in Florence Hollow, his gasoline soaked clothes stuffed under his bed, strips of John Sammy’s flesh stuck to the seat of the F150. “Fuck y’all,” Billy Fred said. “Ain’t scart of jail. I got the biggest balls inHendersonCounty.”
That should have been just about it. Then the U.S. Magistrate inTylerturned Billy Fred loose on a PR bond. Personal Recognizance meant no cash in the game. Kobock, who’d played linebacker for Missouri State and was well known for a short fuse, considered slam dunking the Magistrate.
Sure as sundown, months later, everyone showed up for trial except Billy Fred. The judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Kobock and Ortega hooked ‘um to Florence Hollow to “closely interrogate” a few of Billy Fred’s kinfolk. Finally it was Aunt Emma said: “He’s headed toDetroit.”
“Detroit…up by Texarkana damned near to Oklahoma,” Ortega asked. Raised with seven older brothers on a tomato farm north of Brownsville, Ortega could give as good as she got.
“No,” said Aunt Emma. “Detroitup inMinnesotadamn near toCanada. He’s gonna walk across the border. He hitched a ride to thatDFWAirportplace.”
Kobock called thatDFWAirportplace and found Billy Fred’s flight was due to land in an hour at thatDetroitup inMichiganplace. A telephone call and a carload of agents were enroute toDetroitMetropolitanWayneCountyAirport. In another hour or soDetroitcalled. They had the tough guy and would stash him in the Wayne County lockup until Kobock and Ortega could come claim him.
The next morning, Kobock and Ortega met aDetroitagent at the slammer. When jailers brought Billy Fred down, he had a fat lip, a black eye, and was lost in hysterical tears like Santa had died. “He wasn’t beat up like that when we brought him in,” the Detroit agent said.
“Hadda fight in the holding cell this morning,” the jailer said. “Doc says he ain’t hurt.”
“Did you check to see if he’d been raped?” Ortega asked. She gestured at Billy Fred’s crotch area.
“Doc says no rape. Dunno why the hell he’s bawling like that,” the jailer said.
Billy Fred sobbed all the way to the airport, sobbed while TSA briefed them on transporting a prisoner, sobbed as they frog-walked him in leg irons down the aisle, sobbed as they parked him in the seat between them.
“You reckon something happened to the biggest balls in Henderson County?” Ortega asked.
“Damned if I know, but if he don’t die of dehydration, it makes him easier to transport,” Kobock said.
A fat lady across the aisle demanded to know what injustice they’d perpetrated against this poor man, trussed up like an animal.
“He raped a 91 year old widow, ma’am…and her dog too. A white Bichon named Fluffy,” Kobock said. “But far worse, we’re afraid you’re witnessing a tragic historical event: the total collapse of the biggest balls inHendersonCounty. Now that’s a hell of a thing.”
Gary Clifton was forty years a federal officer (ATF/FBI). In 1987 published a novel, Burn Sugar Burn (publisher’s title) in national paperback. In 1987, published three short fiction pieces via Writer’s type. Short fiction pieces in Fedruary editions of Spinetingler and The Broadkill Review, with other pieces pending by online magazines. Clifton has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.