Beyond the Western
The Red Bench
Scott A. Gese

Image Source: Pasja-1000 / Pixabay

A mysterious stranger admits his criminal past to a reporter.

Beyond the Western

Robert “Bob” Bass had been feeding the birds along Waterfront Park every day for the past ten years. He was a creature of habit, showing up at the exact same time each morning. 9:45am on the nose. He always sat on his favorite bench. The red one next to the big maple tree. The birds had come to expect him and he never disappointed them.

A local reporter had heard about Bob through a friend and he decided to pay him a visit, hoping to uncover a light-hearted story for his Sunday column.

It was a brisk Autumn morning. The reporter arrived at the red bench around 9:30. Bob had yet to arrive. He waited patiently as he sipped on a warm coffee and watched the river before him flow by.

At precisely 9:45, an older gentleman dressed in a dark trench coat and fedora hat came walking toward the bench. He had a cane in one gloved hand and a paper sack in the other. He took a seat on the bench as he did each morning. Ignoring the reporter, he removed his gloves, opened his sack and began feeding the birds with the seed it held.

“Excuse me,” remarked the reporter as he introduced himself. “My name is Drake, Drake Dannors. I’m a reporter for the Daily Herald. I understand you’ve been pretty religious about your morning routine of coming down here to this very bench to feed these birds. I’m wondering if I could ask you a few questions. I thought there might be a story here.”

Bob never so much as turned his head to acknowledge Drake. “There’s no story here, young man,” he replied as he continued feeding the birds.

“Surely there must be something in your past that would make you want to come down here to this exact bench and feed these pigeons each morning for the past ten years? What on earth would cause you to do this?” Asked Drake.

If Bob had a story, he showed little interest in sharing it, “It’s like I said. There’s no story here. Now leave me alone.”

Drake was a good reporter. He could smell a story and Bob’s reluctance made him think it might be something more than a light-hearted piece. He was persistent. Each morning for a full week he would meet Bob at the red bench. He stayed and made small talk until Bob left.

Finally, Bob couldn’t take it any longer and he relinquished. “Drake, I’ve been giving it some thought. I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

He took a minute as he stared out at the water beyond the sidewalk and the birds. He then took a deep breath and began.

“I’m dying. I have that damn Cancer. I won’t be around much longer and I need to get something off my chest before I leave this place.”

Drake was expecting to uncover something, but he wasn’t expecting a full confession. He was all ears.

Bob continued. “Ten years ago I was a bad man. A criminal of the worst kind. A real drain on society. I had power enough to have men killed, and I did. I had their bodies dumped in this very river. I orchestrated some of the most sensational criminal events this city has ever known.”

Drake stopped him. “You’re pulling my leg, right?”

“I wished I were,” replied Bob. “Can I continue, or should I be talking to a priest?”

“Continue, by all means,” replied Drake.

“Ten years ago, after a very dark time in my chosen career, I had an epiphany. A sudden flash of insight beyond the realm of my own understanding. Don’t ask me to explain it. I can’t. All I know is that in an instant I was a changed man.

I couldn’t continue down the path I was on. I dropped off the radar. Hid myself in plain sight, and for whatever reason, I’ve felt compelled to sit on this damn bench each morning and do nothing more than stare out at the water and feed these damn pigeons. My penance I guess.

My name’s not Bass. Go home, do your homework, Drake. You’ll discover the rest of the story and along with it, who I really am.”

Bob Bass stood and walked away, leaving Drake with half a bag of feed and half a story to ponder over. He needed an ending. For some reason, Bob was making him work for it.

Drake did do his homework. He dug into the papers archives, looking back a full fifteen years into the cities history. Specifically it’s organized crime history.

He found plenty, including the disappearance of the cities high profile crime boss. It was speculated he had been murdered by his own men. His body was never found. With a little more digging, Drake not only discovered the true identity of Robert Bass, he also had a good idea as to how he remained hidden in plain sight for so long.

What he was thinking could blow the lid off a very wide spread political scandal. One that could send people to prison. He needed to confirm his hunch. Hopefully convince Bob to give up some information.

For several days Drake returned to the red bench hoping to get more answers. Each morning he waited patiently for Bob, but the old man never showed.

© Copyright 2020 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.