From the author: D.B. Cooper and Bigfoot do one last job.
COOPER AND THE FOOT
By CJ Hurtt
All we had to do was wait. The gas station was two blocks south and the woods were just a few steps to the north. It was the only place he could go. Sure enough, he rounded the corner and smashed right into a brick wall of knuckles, anger, and fur. His newly mangled face was a mask of regret and blood. Lenny was in some serious trouble.
“You going to stay down and be a good boy?” Bigfoot asked. Lenny gasped. It was understandable. No one expects an eight-foot-tall monster to have the voice of an A.M. country music radio superstar. If Foot bursts into a heartbreaker about losing your only love or truck, you would not be blamed for expecting the Grand Ole Opry to come calling within seconds. You know, if they actually respected their heroes.
“Coop?” Bigfoot was looking at me. I must have gotten lost in the reverie a bit as I sometimes do.
“Coop?” Foot asked again. Right. Task at hand. The sirens were getting a bit closer, but they weren’t breaking records in their approach. We still had time to deal with the blood, teeth, and larceny that laid on the ground there.
“Here’s the deal, bucko”, I said, “You fell and you’re going to wait right here for the cops to find you. I understand that this may take a while, but they will get here eventually. If you decide that you’d rather run…well, you’d do well to remember that it was us that found you when they couldn’t.” It was my usual State of the Bad Guy address.
A very dim bulb lit up in Lenny’s head. “Hey, I know you!” he blurted out while dribbling his blood and caps down his chin. Everyone does. Like my cohort, I’m a literal poster boy for mystery. “You’re D.B. Cooper!” he shouted. I rolled my eyes. I’m like a patron saint to the sticky fingers set. They’re always small timers though and lack the vision of what I’m about. His eyes shot back to Bigfoot. Full stop.
“Yeah. You know me too,” Bigfoot said. I could tell by the way his shoulders slumped that it bothered him that he wasn’t recognized first. Not that being recognized is a goal either of us should have. Still and all, the big guy is a bit of a hothouse flower about it.
“So, like I told you,” I said, trying to get the plan back on track before we were all hauled away to our respective cells and cages, “You fell. You’re a terrible criminal and you’ll never, ever do it again.” The downed criminal slowly nodded his head as the reality of the situation sank in.
“Can…I…” he asked.
“But um…Can I get a picture with you guys?”
“What? Like, you have a camera on you?” Bigfoot. Always with the pertinent questions.
“Seriously, man. You know we can’t be taking pictures with the jerks. We can’t have our picture taken at all. You understand that fame is the last thing we want?”
“Easy for you to say.” His mug just hung like gallows.
“What in the heck are you talking about, Foot? You have any idea just how much name recognition you have?”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just that one picture they have of me. It makes me look like a guy in a suit! I’m not some dime store novelty!” He was working himself into quite the tizzy.
“Ok, man. Keep the bellow down. We got to get out of here.”
We ran down the street and into the trees at the end of the empty street. I could hear the cops yelling at our recent catch to stay down. I had little worry that he would babble too much. Even if he did, so what? This was Polton, the “eccentric” jewel of Central Oregon’s crown. Our mayor was a literal pack of wild dogs. The place was crazy.
We were no more than fifty feet into the woods when my friend stopped cold and lifted his arm straight out. I looked to where Foot was pointing. A gnome in a trench coat was smiling at us as he lit a cigarette.
“Nice day, gentlemen?”
The air stank of Vincent Malloy and his greasy legal tender. This was not the crisp smell of money earned honestly or the fragrance of cash honestly stolen. This was lucre from foul deeds and he was rank with it. His soul was a torn dollar bill on the soiled floor of a gas station restroom. He was a freelance snoop. Paparazzi, he preferred. Like all scum, he felt that the right exotic sounding word covered up his story enough that we couldn’t read it.
“Vincent”, Foot said.
“C’mon, Foot, let’s go,” I said.
“What’s the rush?” Vincent had his camera out. The lens was pointed down and he pretended to adjust the f-stop. “Figure you guys owe me a picture anyway.”
“How do you figure that?” I knew what he was going to stay, but I had to hear it myself. The jerk had a real sense of entitlement.
“What? You think that sack of cash was a gift? You know nothing is free in this business.”
Here we go, I thought. “You know that waterlogged pile of paper can hardly be considered cash,” I said.
“You seemed pretty intent on getting it in the first place. You put yourself, not to mention others, at a pretty big risk for that ‘pile of paper’. Foot here says you haven’t shut up about it since.”
Foot rolled his eyes and looked away, but I knew he had been talking out of school. Stupid heap was convinced he’d get some glamor shots out of the grime-lord there despite the fact that Vincent had never so much as pointed the lens at him.
“I could just take the picture. You’re standing right here,” he said. It was true. He could have. And when they found his head a few blocks over, he would have his wish of being in every newspaper coast to coast. Vincent wasn’t one to protect his sources.
“You guys just run along,” Vincent said while jutting his chin back the way of the sirens, “sounds like the heat is coming up a bit here anyway. We’ll be talking again soon,” he said with a chuckle. He started strolling away as if he had won some kind of victory for bottom feeders everywhere.
We walked in silence save for the sound of our thrashing about the wilderness. For two fugitives of mystery, we made a lot of noise. We crashed through the underbrush. We crashed through the parks. We crashed through the wilderness. We didn’t crash through the headlines though. Not anymore. Well, not too often. Slow news days we might show up. November 24th, I was always given a mention.
I took the flask from my jacket and took a swig. The nice, familiar burn of cheap scotch worked its way down my gullet. I had lost everything in a night of noise and wind. Scraps of paper flying everywhere, a chute that was sewed shut by the jokers in the Bureau, and nothing but the woods rushing up to greet me with death. It makes a guy get excited when he thinks he’s gotten some of his life back.
Vincent had shaken down some idiot kid who had found some of my haul littering a creek bed. At least that’s what he said. I dunno. The rumpled dosh in the back was mostly tatters and bits of green. Hell, the bag was probably more likely to get me somewhere than that “money” he left outside our camp.
“You know you can drink that at home,” Bigfoot said.
“Yeah. Let’s get a move on.” And with that, we were just two more dupes trying to find their shack. When we found it, I crashed. Hard.
If you’ve never awakened to the sounds of an eight-foot-tall cryptid singing Slow Hand to the squirrels and deer, you have lived a far less interesting life than I have. I mean, he sounded just like the guy. I stepped out of our shack of tarps, pallets, and tarpaper and into the day. My head felt like it had been hit with a hammer and my gut wasn’t much better. The sun was too bright. Grass too green. Squirrels too happy. And all through it, Foot was serenading.
“Will you shut it, Foot?” I asked. Begged.
“You know, I think I’d like to get my hair done like his. You know, go big, like my man did.”
“You seriously want…”
“Twitty hair. Yeah. I could rock that.”
“You…you. What the hell are you going to do? A full body perm?”
“Come on. Don’t be like that. Just the hair on my head. My mane as it were, I guess.”
I sat down on a stump and tried in vain not to imagine that. The previous night had been rough enough. Well, I suppose the night had been pretty fun, but man, was the morning ever pissed off about it. I knew that I had to get my drinking under control, but I wasn’t ready for that level of commitment just then. As the baritone rumble of my conspirator echoed through the woods, I just sort of faded away. I stared at the top of the hill to my left. There’d come a day that I’d finally work up the nerve to walk over to the other side of it. Foot would try to stop me, but I also knew that he understood that it had to happen eventually. At least I hoped that he understood. I shuddered to think that all of his tryna-save-ya-from-yourself-because-you-have-a-good-heart stuff was in earnest. Gah. The worst.
That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate having a friend. Foot was certainly a one of those. It’s sentimental and dumb and about the worst thing to ponder while a hangover does a Hellfire and Brimstone number on your sinful head and guts, but there you have it.
I looked back towards Foot. He, the squirrels, the deer, and that idiot Vincent were all staring at me. “What?” I asked. I was in no mood for any of this pastoral woodland malarkey.
The idiot had brought us a simple job. You know, the kind that don’t exist. There has never been a simple job in the history of the world. This is especially true of any work brought your way by supernatural beings that live in the forest.
“It’s my niece,” he began, “she’s in a bit of trouble and you two are good at keeping the creeps at bay.”
I looked over at Foot. “You going to say it, or am I?”
“Say what?” Vincent asked, looking around quickly. Talk about paranoid.
“If we were so good at keeping the creeps at bay, then you wouldn’t be standing here,” I said. Foot hung his head. He was probably trying to look embarrassed over what his friend just said, but I could tell that he was really just trying to hide his smile.
Vincent wasn’t too happy about the jab. Normally, he didn’t mind a few shots thrown his way as long as he got what he wanted in the end. That wasn’t the case this time. Little shit was agitated. “Really?” he asked, “You gonna act like that right now? Look, I need you guys to do something, I have money, and I’m pretty emotionally invested in the outcome since this about family and all. You get the picture?”
We did. We also got the hunger pangs. A few non-water-logged dollars would go a long way. So, Foot and I heard him out. It took Vincent a half hour of jumping around and putting on a show about how wronged his whole family had been, but here’s the general idea: Vincent’s niece, Clare, got a job in the city. Apparently, she had some kind of Glamour cast on her and no one sees that she’s a gnome. Anyway, she hooked up with this scumbag named Tommy. Tommy now has her doing all kinds of illegal shit and it’d be on Foot and me to convince her to come home. It was heavily implied that if we had to kill Tommy, that’d be ok too. Vincent left with a deal in place. I’d get the rest of my stash, Foot would get a proper photo, and the two of us would be five grand richer.
The next night, we snuck into town. We started at the Red Dog, a bar Vincent said Tommy liked to hang out in. It was one of those poorly-lit joints that are basically illicit stock markets. Also, they serve drinks. We sat at a booth toward the back of the place. From there, we could keep an eye on the door and the few dozen miscreants milling about.
“Hey. We need names for this,” Foot said.
Bigfoot leaned in a bit, martini in hand. “I said that we need to have names. You know, fake ones. Our cover.”
“Call me Twitty,” he said.
“No,” I said.
“Oh, come on.”
We nursed our drinks and the side eyes we were getting from the regulars. We were pretty obviously not in our element. I was starting to get nervous. In a scene like that, you were on a countdown to violence. Now, none of those lowlifes knew that Foot could have wrecked that place without so much as a second thought, but I definitely didn’t want to have to go through the whole process of them finding out. By my reckoning, we had about fifteen minutes left before bloodbath time when Tommy finally walked in.
Tommy was shorter than I imagined. It made sense in retrospect though. Once the Glamour wore off, Clare was only maybe four feet tall. So, there was Tommy. Short. Bald. Heavily muscled. He had a few tattoos of the skulls and spider variety. Mug shot material if there ever was any. I nodded at Foot and we started toward our mark.
The sea of ugly parted as we drew closer. A lot of mean looks, but no one tried to stop the businessman and his poorly dressed giant friend. When we reached Tommy, he was busy talking to another criminal. That guy looked much more serious about the life than Tommy did.
“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but Tommy…right?” I asked.
Tommy turned around. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Twitty and this is my friend Walter. We, uh, we’re friends of friends of yours. You just don’t know it yet.”
That was just great. Foot got his way with the stupid codenames and Tommy got his hackles up. It was going swimmingly at that point. The only thing I had to do was smooth all this over and get Tommy to take us to Clare and then figure out the next step.
“Yeah? Who is that you know?” Tommy asked.
“We’re pals with Vincent,” Foot said. I imagined just walking away at that point. I mean what could have possibly have been the outcome other than Loser McPettythief telling us to get lost? It was that or a serious beating, right?
“Oh, you know Uncle Vinny? Shit, man! Let’s get you a drink! Mike!” Tommy called to the bartender, “Get these guys a round. On me!” Mike poured them strong and handed them over without so much as a nod.
“So, Vinny wants her to come home I’m guessing. That guy has never liked me. I dunno why. I mean, I didn’t call the cops or scientists or whatever when I found out he was from some kind of…” he was lost for words.
“Fae realm,” Foot said.
“Right. Fae realm. I mean, we’re all from somewhere, right?” Tommy laughed and raised his glass. We did likewise. “He just never approved of anyone dating his niece is all. You know he adopted her after her parents died, right? Anyway, I appreciate you guys trying to be cool about this and all, but she isn’t leaving with you.”
Foot set his drink down. The bloodbath clock had resumed its countdown. “Why is that?” he asked.
“It’s not just me saying this,” Tommy said, “Clare herself is making the call here. Trust me, she wants no part of the woods anymore. She’s happy right here.”
“Is that so?” I asked. Then my head exploded. The clock had struck zero so quickly that I didn’t even get the chance to fight back. I went down to the floor with no stops. The side of my face bounced off the linoleum and I got to see Foot throw some jerk through the air. He took a cattle prod to the back right before things went black. Black and quiet. I was out.
I was in a dreamless void for who knows how long. The pain woke me up though. Whoever hit me in the back of the head wasn’t much concerned about my surviving the ordeal. I hoped that I would be given a chance to thank them personally. I went to touch the back of my head to make sure that my brains were still inside my skull, but my hands wouldn’t move. I was tied to a chair because of course I was.
I opened my eyes. I could make out the shapes of a few people. Foot was chained to the chair next to me. He was snoring loudly. I was a little jealous. It would have been nice to get a little sleep. He would at least be facing the next adventure fully rested.
“I don’t know who you idiots are, but my uncle apparently has finally reached the bottom of the barrel.” I was kind of relieved that there was at least one person who didn’t know me. I was also relieved that Foot was still out as his feelings would have been surely hurt.
“I’m not all that sure what’s going on here either,” I said, “but your uncle is worried about you. Says you fell in with a bad crowd and would like you to come home. Personally? I don’t care either way.” Foot was starting to stir. There was going to be hell to pay if he got loose.
“If he’s so worried about me, why didn’t he show up here himself? Why send you two?” Clare asked. She was leaning against the wall of the room. I looked around the best that I could. Concrete block walls. A few kegs stacked up. Bare light bulbs. We were in the Red Dog’s storeroom. There were also five or six tough guys standing around looking eager to resume killing me. Whatever this situation was, Clare was clearly not a hostage. She was running this show and seemed quite comfortable to do it. But, something seemed off.
“How come you’re still wearing your Glamour?” Foot asked, joining us finally.
“Does it matter?” she asked, not even a glance in his direction.
“It might,” I said. “Motivation is always an important factor. Kind of provides a context for actions sometimes.”
Just then one of her goons walked up to her with a newspaper. He showed her something and they exchanged whispers. I took another quick lookaround. No Tommy. When I looked back at Clare, her eyes burned a hole right through me.
“So, you’re the jackasses that screwed up my heist. You know those cops threw Lenny in the psych ward because of you? I thought I recognized you,” she said while pointing at me. Then she turned her gaze to Foot. “I assumed you were just a hired bum or something,” she said, “but I know who you are now.”
“I’m an eight-foot-tall, six hundred-pound cryptid! How did you not recognize me?” Foot yelled.
“You cost me ten grand. You know that?” she asked. “Now, you’re going to get it for me. A certain rival of mine is having a card game tonight. Your job is to go collect the cash. Bring it all here. If you don’t, I will kill you and burn down the forest. Ok?”
It was certainly not ok. But, it was also easier than dying slowly. Foot and I had limited options and, to be honest, I missed stealing very much. Looking back, maybe I just allowed myself to use the situation as an excuse to commit a serious crime. It’d been a while and I was D.B. Cooper.
The hired muscle untied us and marched us out of the room. When I reached the door, Clare yelled out to me. “Hey! You asked about me still wearing the Glamour. You know how you look just like your wanted poster? Well, I don’t. I can look like anything that I want to. Remember that. You’re trapped by your image. Not me.” We were then given an address and a detailed description of how we were going to die if we didn’t deliver.
Twenty minutes later we were going up three flights of stairs and standing outside a painted door in a crappy brick building deep in downtown. Some parts of Polton, the cops don’t go to if they don’t have to. I’m pretty sure this building was in a neighborhood that wasn’t on any official map.
“Hey, Foot. Before we do what we’re about to do, can I ask you something?”
“Yeah. What’s up?”
“Why do you always stop me when I try to climb that hill by our camp?”
“There’s nothing up there for you. Trust me. Also, you have shitty timing. We have a robbery to commit here. If you get us murdered because your head isn’t in the game, I’m going to be so pissed,” he said.
“Fair enough. Ok. Let’s go.”
Foot looked at me. “Been an honor, man,” he said, and kicked the door clean off its hinges.
You have not lived until you’ve seen a room full of crime family luminaries shit their pants at a Sasquatch raging through the living room. Foot had three guys broken in half by the time the first mobster thought to draw his gun. It was far too late for that. Foot just smashed the guy with his former friend. Their skulls met with a wet thud.
As the blood and rage flew around the room, I kept my head down. I wanted the money. I was the bag man. Foot was obviously handling the violence. Hell, I figured, maybe the guy had missed wrecking shit as much as I missed theft. Once you’re good at something, you just want to keep at it.
The pile of cash was in the middle of the table. I grabbed a garbage bag from the kitchen and started filling it. I could almost feel the wind in my hair and hear the sound of the jet engines. Once the bag was full, I jumped. I jumped forward and grabbed Bigfoot by the arm.
“Time to go, buddy!”
I paused at the door and looked behind us at the carnage. Cheap furniture, cracks in the plaster, and blood everywhere. Some of it not put there by Foot. There was a broken TV sitting on a milk crate by the couch. I wasn’t looking down on it though. Hiding from the heat isn’t pretty. I knew that if anyone did.
Into the night we ran, laughing. Hell, if you’re going to get extorted into doing something, might as well try and enjoy it, right? A big, black car screeched around the corner. Two familiar faces were inside. The guy who shocked Foot and Tommy. “Get in!” they yelled. I gave a quick thought to just running with the money, but the math didn’t pencil out. We hopped in and rode in silence.
We eventually pulled into the alley behind the bar. If the bar was grime central, imagine what kind of stuff it threw in the garbage. That’s where we found ourselves standing. “You guys did ok, for two idiots,” Clare said. She handed the bag back to Tommy and nodded.
“You can go back to the forest and tell my uncle I am home. He can shove that family honor nonsense up his ass.” And, with that, she turned around and walked away. We were free. And then my head exploded for a second time.
I woke up in more pain than I ever imagined possible. It took a second to figure out that I was alive. It was a bit of disappointing news, to be honest. I was also laying facedown outside our shack. Foot was nearby drinking from a canteen. He looked very tired. More so than I’ve ever seen him. Defeated, really.
“How’d we get here?” I asked.
“They dumped us off at the tree line. I carried you home from there.”
“How long was I…we out?”
“The rest of last night and most of today.” I was going ask something else, but Vincent took that moment to come crashing through camp.
“Well, where is she?” Vincent demanded.
“She isn’t coming back, Vincent. Trust me, that might not be a bad thing,” I said.
“What? How dare you? How could you mess this up so badly?”
“Look. We found her, ok? She is entirely in her element. Trust me on that. She does not want to come back here,” Foot said.
“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Vincent.
“She’s running a crew. She’s like a mastermind. Money laundering, drugs, robbery. About as gangster as it gets. She is not interested in living in a mushroom house or whatever,” I said.
“You worthless pieces of…” Vincent was bright red. “You can forget your money and your stash and definitely kiss your picture goodbye!”
Foot kicked a stump over and started to howl. He was angry, but I suspected he knew this would have been the outcome no matter what. I stared at the hill. The sun was just starting its decent. The day would be over before too much longer. The night would rush in and we’d have another day soon enough, but never really soon enough. You know? Not for days like this.
I wondered what we’d do next. Vincent was sure never to forget. Clare was probably going to keep an eye on us too. We’d have to stay clear of the city for a bit. That was fine, I supposed. And I guessed we wouldn’t starve without that money.
“Coop. Vincent is gone. Coop?”
I was pretty down about the stash though. I had gone through a lot of trouble for it and it haunted me. What little I had was a comfort, but still. I needed that pile to be whole. I didn’t expect anyone to understand that though. That kind of thing means something different to different people.
“Coop. Hey! Oh, never mind.” Foot started to sing to himself.
I started climbing. The sound of Foot making his way through Hello Darlin’ receded behind me. With every step forward, his voice faded farther away. I could hear the stream and birds. The wind in the trees. My own footsteps as I treaded through the grass.
When I reached the top, the world was silent. I had meant to come up here many, many times, but Foot had never seemed to let me. I finally understood why. I wasn’t surprised at all though. It made perfect sense if you gave any thought to it at all.
“You, uh, you ok with this?” Foot had appeared behind me. I didn’t notice when he stopped singing. I certainly didn’t hear him make his way up there after me. But, that made sense too. We just stood there for a while and said nothing, watching the skeleton swing in the breeze. Picked-clean bones hung in a cheap suit, strapped to a parachute caught in a tree. An open canvas bag was tied to the skeleton’s waist. A few bills blew out in the wind. I took out my flask and unscrewed the top.
“Can I get some of that?” Foot asked.
“Sure thing, Twitty.”
It had been a hell of a week, I can tell you that.