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In The Shift, Max Hector is Out

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

As in all of Costello's books On the Hill, dialogue rules. The following excerpt is the introduction in the book, The Shift


On June 11, 1963, Max Hector stepped out of the Big Mack, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, and into the afternoon sunshine. The big iron doors slammed shut behind him. He was free for the first time in four years. It could have been sooner if he had told them what they wanted to know. A Greyhound bus sat waiting to take released prisoners to Interstate 40 and east to Fort Smith. Hector took a step toward the bus, but a late-model Ford came out out of nowhere and pulled up alongside Hector. “Hey, Max, come on, get in. Throw your bag on the back seat.”

Hector opened the back door, tossed his bag in, and got into the front. “Tommy,” he said, holding out his hand, “happy somebody remembered me.”

After shaking Hector's hand, Tommy said. “Max, you’ve got to be kidding. Listen, if you had sung, half the federation, including me, would be in the unemployment line right now, not to mention the slammer. Everyone is grateful to you.”

“Four years is a long time to keep your mouth shut. Where are you taking me, Tommy?”

“Oklahoma City International Airport,” Tommy replied.

“Yeah, where am I going from there?”

“Philadelphia. The federation bought a house for you on a nice quiet street.”

“Philadelphia. Huh? Christ, couldn’t they have sent me to a city with good sports? Bunch of assholes in Philadelphia.

“Well, you won’t be in Philadelphia, Max. Not exactly.”

“No? Where will I be.”

“Have you ever heard of a little shithole place called Belmont Hills?”

Hector looked out the window and replied, “No, never. What’s there?”

“A nice house on a nice quiet street,” Tommy answered, smiling, looking over at Hector.

Hector turned to look at Tommy. “Yeah, you told me that. The federation isn’t stupid. What else?”

“Two big cemeteries side by side that have agreed to work with us.”

Hector smiled and glanced at Tommy. “How about undertakers?”

“Oh, yeah. A shitload of them. Mob undertakers in South Philly, an Italian section of the city controlled by the mafia.”

“They’re the best kind. Oh, wait a minute, Tommy. I'm on parole, now. I can’t just get up and leave Oklahoma.”

“That’s been taken care of. The federation bribed a Federal Judge in Tulsa. He removed all of your parole assignments.”

Hector looked out the window again. “They did, huh? Son of a bitch.”

“Max every body’s hoping you had a lot of time to think creatively. You know, in the slammer like you were. You been thinking a lot?”

Hector looked back at Tommy, smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I been thinking. Got a lot of plans, Tommy. Lot of plans.”

Tommy looked over at Hector and said, “Good. Things are bad, Max. The federation is hurting. We counted the days, hours, and minutes until you got out.”

Hector looked out his window again and took a deep breath. He exhaled slowly.

“Tommy, it all comes down to the death certificate.” He looked back at Tommy and said, “Whoever controls the death certificate controls the body. Understand?”

Tommy smiled and put his turning signal on. “God damn, Max, you’re the best there is. Everybody’s sure excited you’re home.”

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