The Bannions, from every direction and for as many reasons, pushed things their way, until all targets or causes fit the one corridor of family wishes. The power and might of their numbers, of their attitudes and abilities, made them a most pernicious band of unity tight as closed fists already past the knock-out punch and on for the kill, no matter the added punishment often unneeded.
Some victims never knew or felt the extra beating on their maligned or near dead forms, suffice to say they were dead as door nails already, as their big man so often growled in histrionic fashion.
Whenever the Roaring 20’s in the early part of the 20th century topped newspaper headlines with a notable death notice (a politician, a police official, a disgruntled handyman no less), a Bannion was in one corner of the dark print, not seen but read as easily as a grammar instruction for the lower grades, as low as one could get. Targets and tales grew in the land hardy as time, until murderous intentions came free, easy as a finger pointing with no crook in any joint of that ordered digit.
The hierarchy of the bunch began with the chief monarch, his near-holiness, Niall O’Bannion, changed to Neal Bannion and thus to Knobby to all those insidious insiders, the brothers, the sisters, the cousins, the nieces and nephews, the whole splurge of them sitting in the midst of eternal hungers for more of this and more of that, the whole world be so otherwise.damned
Knobby, as it was, was merciless in spite of the diminutive appellation. It was the case with Spuds Greenhill, a dealer of questionable cards, who pointed a finger at a Bannion member, and Knobby had his hand cut off.
“Begore!” shouted Knobby, “he can still point but to only half the crowd of us if he is so inclined. but he will never touch the ace of spades again” The words sat as but half a sentence, the rest at slight abeyance, threats swinging like forever proposals, waiting to make the cut, the permanent slice, or sink the slug inwards at a chosen chest.
When an adventurous young male advanced on one of the young Bannion girls, Nyla Ann, 18, the real but harmless knockout in the family, and the young male too pushy for Knobby, he had the lad’s car immersed in a lake a few towns distant, and not a tire track left for studious observation. The lad never called on Nyla Ann again, his wit and will at endless wondering.
Family protection kept the whole group tightly wound, and available for simplest order in the beginning for each member, like telling one youngster, smack out of the blue, “Chuckie, you go down to Riley’s Store, without a penny in your pocket, and come back with all the nickel candy bars you can get out of the place. Hear me!?” He heartily slapped the boy on the back, with “Off you go, Chuck, my boy! Off you go!”
Ten-year old Chuckie Bannion, came back with eleven candy bars tucked inside his shirt and Knobby hugged him and praised and raised him on high; a small hero in the family making.
Such inaugurations were common for the newcomers, who grew up on daring and ascendancy as they found favor and fervor in Knobby’s appetite, being insatiable for aspirants.
It all went that way until the war started, The East-West War, the Bannions versus the Salernos, the Irish against the Italians, imports all for starters, and then those made on this side of the Atlantic, the new shadows of the great trip, the minions of gangland, the new guns, the new shooters, the kidnapping specialists nee torturers, money in constant exchange for lives. Money was everywhere, just for the grabbing, along with daring, direction, minus the discount, of course.
The young were aware of habits of elders, looking out for their own edges, and when 12-year old Timmy O’Rourke counted how the school bus driver, in a constant procedure, placed girls in special seats on the aisle, guided them with ugly hands reaching every which way in the acts, and eventually catching them in his mirror, didn’t tell the principal or his favorite teacher or his father or the police, he told one of the Bannions. Knobby got it almost first-hand and the bus ended up at the bottom of a lake 25 miles away without any tracks present or visible, and the driver never went back to work at the bus company, but was heard to have moved out-of-state; permanently, it was presumed.
For that matter, of course, Timmy O’Rourke’s education was already underway and promotion to the Bannion ranks was guaranteed. If curiosity perked an individual, to this day he’d find one of O’Rourke’s sons holding down an inside chair at Bannion meetings, such was allegiance, promotion, destiny in the ranks. All one such a curiosity found out the wives of Bannion men were the beauties driving the plush Cadillacs back and forth to school: no school buses for their kids; not a chance.
This being a minute history, found on newspaper pages, headlines for sure, in the Bannion territory, not one word was uttered by Knobby Bannion about the situation, about editors of the newspapers or any particular writer or reporter, Knobby Bannion’s self-declarations kept them going after him and never quite catching an eyeshot of proof.
When the French Connection stepped in with their own method of introduction, Knobby knew war had been declared on him and his charges; it was like the draft was re-engineered for this new clash of titans and their lots.
Some folk who had been touched by an element of the Bannion clan, stepped up to volunteer, to join the ranks, to do as bid regardless of when or where it took them.
Then, in one month, the Bannion fold lost its footing when the FBI inserted a couple of agents into the mix, like dirt gatherers, earth diggers, chart and name keepers, knocking Knobby off the throne, dismembering all the joints at his command.
As one of them proudly said, “Nevertheless, at this small point of Earth, I swear it was global.”
2 thoughts on “The Bannion Interlude by Tom Sheehan”
Well done as always. But for the longest time it felt like the start of something much longer. It caught my interest, and there were parts (like the future of the kid who’d lifted the candy on Knobby’s behest) that almost dropped like burgeoning twisters on the prairie. For me, this is the start of something big—or could be.
You can take any genre and add an offshoot to it. But no matter what, the human condition in all its glory or darkness is there to see. You never hammer home a point, you let the story dip it’s toe into whatever side of life the story lands.
Excellent as usual!