Select excerpts that give you a taste of this suspenseful story. You will want to read the entire book to discover the events that lead to a truly shocking ending.
Some background: In February 1965, Haynie Gourley turned 69. He had started Capitol Chevrolet in 1932 and worked hard to build it into one of the South’s most successful dealerships. At this juncture, he wanted to find a capable general manager to help him run the day-to-day operations so he could have more time off for golf and to travel with his wife Josephine. In the spring of 1965, he thought he had found just the right person. He proudly hired 37-year-old William E. (Bill) Powell, a former Vanderbilt University football star who had worked in the automobile business for 15 years, as general manager of Capitol Chevrolet. This move would have far-reaching consequences neither Haynie nor his family could have ever foreseen.
The next morning, Friday, May 24, 1968, after kissing Josephine goodbye, Haynie backed the car out of his driveway and headed off to work. Since 1948, he had driven straight down Harding Road which became West End Avenue, passing the Parthenon on the left and the campus of Vanderbilt University on the right. Merging onto Broadway, he went by Union Station, once a busy train station, its decline already in progress. Downtown had changed. The once glorious Maxwell House Hotel, which had dominated the corner of Fourth Avenue North and Church Street for almost a century, had burned on Christmas Day 1961. And now several businesses were moving out to the edge of town, leaving the once-thriving area desolate.
But every morning since the move, Haynie had taken a new route. He was always in high spirits as he drove off to the new building. This morning he had been especially exhilarated, knowing he had made the right decision. Josephine knew he hated to lose Powell, but now Haynie could be assured that Billy would not be cut out of the business and that it would stay in the family, as he had always planned on. He loved having his son right there with him. Now he would be free to move Billy into the third executive office.
Soon after leaving Belle Meade, Haynie made a right onto Woodmont Boulevard and crossed over Estes Road, where he had bought his first home. He reached the traffic light at Hillsboro Road. On the righthand side at the corner stood Woodmont Christian Church, designed by Edwin Keeble and almost identical to the architecture of Haynie’s own beloved Vine Street Christian Church. The soaring thin spire, one of “Keeble’s needles,” was so distinct that it had become a sort of landmark. To Haynie’s left was Woodmont Baptist Church, making this intersection instantly recognizable to Nashvillians in that part of town as the “church corner.”
Haynie continued straight, crossing Granny White Pike and Franklin Road. At this point, Woodmont Boulevard became Thompson Lane. Just after he hit Nolensville Road, Haynie made a left onto Foster Lane. At the intersection of Foster Lane and Murfreesboro Road his grand new building loomed atop the hill straight ahead. He had told Billy he didn’t think he would ever tire of seeing this splendid sight.
Haynie drove by the used car lot and up to the second level where he entered the service department and parked in his usual spot in one of the service lanes. As soon as he got out of his car, a service representative jumped into the black 1968 Caprice and whisked it away to be washed and the interior blown clean. This happened like clockwork every day. His car was waxed at least once if not twice a week. Haynie had always insisted that the cars he drove be kept immaculately clean, a habit he had formed way back in the 1920s.
At a little after ten o’clock, Hamilton Wallace Jr., was sitting in his office on the service floor when Haynie stuck his head in. Wallace had been hired by Bill Powell to head a new leasing department at Capitol Chevrolet. He had started on the sixth of May, so he had been on the job for only a couple of weeks.
From a prominent Belle Meade family, Wallace had come to Capitol from another well-known, successful dealership, Beaman Pontiac.
“Ham, I want you to know this,” Haynie began. “Bill Powell is going to be leaving us. I love the boy like a son, but we’ve had a feud and a misunderstanding about the way he’s treated Billy, and we think, both he and I think, it’s best that we sever our relationship. He’s going to be leaving, and I am hoping you will stay on with us and help along with this lease program and build this thing up.”
Wallace was taken aback at this news. Before he could respond, Buddy Rich, one of the employees from downstairs, came into the office to say that John Sloan was in Haynie’s office waiting for him. “We’ll talk later,” Haynie said, excused himself, and left.
Haynie went downstairs to his office to greet Sloan, a longtime friend and the president of the Nashville-based Cain-Sloan department stores. Sloan had just purchased a car from Capitol and was meeting with Haynie to talk about some adjustments he needed. Another friend of Haynie’s, Jimmy Tupper, was out in the showroom, also waiting to see him.
For Billy Gourley, May 24 was turning out to be a typical Friday morning. He arrived at work around 7:30 a.m. and was looking forward to finalizing the sale of a new car to one of his high school buddies. He had not given much thought to the meeting two nights before when Powell had come to his parents’ home. He had seen Thomas Jackson and Harold Summers the day before but had not talked with his father about what the men said. He figured Haynie would tell him in good time.
Around 10:20 a.m., Billy was on the showroom floor, talking with a customer, when he saw Haynie walk into his office where John Sloan was waiting. Billy then went back to his desk to finish some paperwork.
After Sloan left, at about twenty before eleven, Haynie stopped by Billy’s glass cubicle. Billy stood up and walked over to his father.
“Bill Powell wants to go for a ride and talk things over,” Haynie said. “I’ll let you know what he says when I get back.”
The dealership’s receptionist, Billie Dee Boyer, was a youngish grandmother who wore her blonde hair piled atop her head in a tall beehive and was known for her big round sunglasses. Calls in and out of the dealership and within the building ran through her switchboard. “Miss Billie,” as she was called by most of the employees, answered incoming calls and then plugged in the number of the employee or department for the transfer. She had been hired by Haynie in 1962 and was now getting used to her setup in the new building. When Haynie arrived every morning, he would let her know where he was on the premises in case any calls came in for him.
A little before 10:45, Haynie rang Boyer and asked her to place a call to Thomas Jackson in Louisville. She had done this so many times through the years that she knew the (502) 969-2361 number by heart. But before the call went through, Haynie rang back, asking her to cancel the call, that he would make it later.
A minute later, Haynie walked up behind her desk in the middle of the showroom.
“Miss Billie, I’ll be back in about fifteen minutes.” She turned her head to the left and said, “All right, Mr. Gourley.”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Bill Powell standing at the foot of the stairs, waiting for Haynie. She watched as the two men started up the steps together.
In the service department, several of the service writers were standing at their desks, filling out work orders for customers’ cars; others were leaning against their desks chatting back and forth. Haynie’s black four-door, top-of-the-line Caprice had been returned to the floor, freshly washed and shiny. The full size, boat-like ’68 sedan was roomy, measuring eighteen feet long and six-and-a-half-feet wide, and took up a good deal of space in the service lane.
Around a quarter to eleven, one of the service writers, Meacham Clark, was at the desk nearest the entrance doors. He was busy writing up a service order for a customer when he glanced up to see Haynie’s car pulling away. He noticed that Haynie was in the passenger seat, then looked back at what he was doing.
Shop foreman George Crawford had come to work at Capitol Chevrolet in 1962. It was his job to oversee the mechanical work on cars on the next level up. At 10:45, he came down the stairs to the service check-in desk and saw Haynie and Bill Powell come out from the door by the cashier’s window and walk over to Haynie’s car. He heard Bill Powell ask Haynie who should drive. Crawford chuckled to himself, knowing what Haynie would say. Mr. Gourley always had someone else do the driving if he could. Bill Powell walked around and got into the driver’s seat, and Haynie slipped into the passenger side. As Crawford continued across the service lanes, he saw Haynie’s car exit through the righthand door and disappear.
Another service writer, Chuck Williams, also saw Haynie’s car leave. He then walked over and climbed into Haynie’s Cadillac, which had been brought in the day before, and drove it to the new car department to have it washed.
According to his watch, which always ran fast, it was ten minutes before eleven o’clock when truck sales manager James Walter Hughes received a call about delivering a new truck to Baltz Brothers Meat Packing company on Elm Hill Pike. Hughes picked up a dealer’s tag from his desk and was walking outside to the parking lot opposite the back entrance to the service department when Haynie’s car glided past him. Bill Powell was driving, and Haynie sat in the passenger seat. Hughes watched as the two men pulled out onto P’Pool Avenue heading in the direction of Elm Hill Pike a half-block away. Hughes turned around and walked back inside where he retrieved the keys to the new truck.
When he came back out, Hughes put the license tag in the truck window and drove out of Capitol Chevrolet, crossing Murfreesboro Road and pulling into a Shell service station where he asked for four gallons of gas. He waited a few minutes for the attendant to work the pump and then go inside for a ticket to charge to the company account. The attendant came back out, Hughes signed his name, and headed back to the dealership.
At about the same time James Walter Hughes received the call from Baltz Brothers, Charles Edward Donnelly was standing in line at the Krystal on Murfreesboro Road. When it came his turn, he ordered a large coffee to go. The big burly man climbed back into his delivery truck, taking sips of his coffee as he drove along. He worked for Time Trucking Company, and today he had a load of paper to deliver to an ad agency that produced calendars. He turned onto Arlington Lane and came to a stop sign where the road ended at Elm Hill Pike. He looked both ways. To his left he saw a black Chevrolet slowing down to cross the railroad tracks. He immediately recognized the car and the two men inside. Should he wait for them to pass, or should he go ahead of them since they had practically stopped at the railroad tracks? He made a snap decision and pulled out. He glanced in his side mirror to see the car come up close behind him. Maybe he should have waited, knowing he was about to make a right turn and could hold up traffic.
As he approached Spence Lane, Donnelly put on his blinker. A paving crew was working at the intersection. He was relieved when a flagman waved him on to make his left turn, so he didn’t have to make the men in back of him wait after all. As he made his turn, he saw the black Chevrolet continue straight, heading on down Elm Hill Pike.
Donnelly then pulled up to the loading dock at the Francis & Lusky Advertising Agency where workers used jacks to lift the heavy paper out of the truck.
Two minutes after Donnelly made his turn, a short, thin Black man with dark skin finished making a dynamite blast at a construction site where he was leveling the earth to lay pipe for a new Kroger warehouse. He climbed into the company pick-up truck and drove over the bumpy ground to the construction trailer located on a small rise overlooking Elm Hill Pike at Massman Drive. Here, he stopped to have lunch. Sitting in the truck, he pulled out the two sandwiches his wife had packed for him that morning. As he was eating, he looked up to see a black car pull over and stop under some trees by the side of Elm Hill Pike, adjacent to the H.D. Lee Company. The workman was only a couple of hundred feet away. Watching the activity around the car, he was bewildered by what he saw. He recognized the sounds he heard, but he couldn’t make sense of any of it. In all, the black car stayed parked for around ten minutes. Then it started moving forward. It pulled into a driveway by a rock wall, backed out into the road, and headed in the opposite direction toward town. As the car passed by the workman, he noticed that the passenger was slumped forward in his seat. The car picked up speed.
The man in the pick-up lived thirty miles away. He did not own a television and had never read a newspaper. As only one of two Black workers in the company, he kept mainly to himself, so he told no one about the bizarre incident that had just unfolded in front of him.
At least twelve minutes had passed since Charles Donnelly had watched the black car go through the intersection of Spence Lane and Elm Hill Pike. He was standing on the loading dock at Francis & Lusky waiting for his receipt when he saw the same car coming from the opposite direction. Traffic had slowed because the road had been reduced to one lane. Donnelly noticed that the passenger, whom he knew well, was hardly visible. His window appeared to be down. Donnelly didn’t think much about it and went on to his next delivery.
Less than two minutes after Donnelly saw the black Chevrolet come back through the intersection of Elm Hill Pike and Spence Lane, Walter Hughes drove in the back gate at Capitol Chevrolet. He had just climbed down from the Baltz Brothers’ new truck when he was startled by the sound of tires squealing. He looked up to see Haynie’s car speed past him, headed for the building. Powell was at the wheel, but there was no sign of Haynie.
Inside the service area, Meacham Clark and Chuck Williams were standing at their desks during a lull in new check-ins. George Crawford, the service shop foreman, had come back down and was on his way over to service manager Charlie McCaffrey’s office when he heard a car coming in at a high rate of speed, horn blaring.
Everyone looked up at once. By the time Chuck Williams could get out the words “What fool is blowing his horn?” the men saw Haynie’s car careening around the corner, barely missing the side of the lower door and skidding violently to a stop next to the water cooler.
Mouths flew open, and all eyes were drawn to the driver’s side as the door opened. Everyone watched in astonishment as Bill Powell emerged from the car, stood up, then crumpled to the cement floor.
It took a moment for the scene to register, but George Crawford rushed to Powell and tried to lift him up. Then Charlie McCaffrey and Chuck Williams ran over and gripped Powell under his arms; the three men struggled to bring him to his feet. It wasn’t working. He was so heavy they only managed to drag him a few feet. People started running over, seemingly materializing out of nowhere, crowding around the scene. Powell was moaning. Everyone was asking what happened.
When they reached the back of Haynie’s car, Powell stopped a moment, pulled himself up and spread out his right hand on the lid of the trunk. George Crawford took note of this gesture. Even in the chaos of the moment Crawford thought it strange.
Dragging Powell, they managed to get him to McCaffrey’s office.
“Call the police, call an ambulance,” Powell shouted as soon as they cleared the door.
George Crawford ran to Meacham Clark’s desk and started fumbling with a phone book. Clark came up behind him and said, “Just call the switchboard and have them call.” Crawford dialed Miss Billie and told her to call the police and an ambulance.
Everyone was still shouting for Powell to tell what happened.
“Damn nigger shot me,” growled Powell, staggering as the men held onto him, finally getting him over to the opposite wall.
As they laid Powell on the floor, he began describing how a Black man jumped into the car at a four-way stop on Elm Hill Pike. Everyone who heard him immediately thought of Fessler’s Lane, located right around the corner toward town from Capitol Chevrolet and the only four-way stop on Elm Hill Pike.
Then, Powell abruptly sat up and yelled, “Get Haynie.” The men looked at each other. No one had seen Haynie.
Powell pointed to the car.
George Crawford and Chuck Williams ran back out and were joined by one of the young employees named Rogers. The passenger window was blown out, with jagged shards of glass clinging to the edges of the frame. They opened the door to find Haynie wedged face down in the floorboard. At first, they couldn’t budge him, but the men grabbed his arms and were finally able to free him from his awkward position.
They laid him out on the concrete floor. Crawford grabbed him under his arms, and Williams picked him up by his legs. Rogers put his arm under Haynie’s back for support. Haynie, unlike Powell, was totally limp and quiet; his head lolled backwards. He weighed a good bit less than Powell. The men carried him to the other end of the service lounge where they laid him on a bench.
Crawford and Williams went back over to Powell. Williams saw blood on Powell’s left pants leg, bent down, and removed Powell’s tie, making a tourniquet above his knee.
Several men asked again what happened. Powell, grimacing as he spoke, said he and Mr. Gourley were stopped at a stop sign, and “a colored man opened the back door and jumped into the car.”
“The man said, ‘Give me all your money.’ Mr. Gourley reached into his coat pocket for his wallet and said, ‘Here, James,’ or something like that, ‘you can have everything I’ve got,’ and the man started cursing and yelled, ‘Don’t go for your gun,’ and then he started shooting.”
Hamilton Wallace had not heard the commotion and was sitting at his desk filling out papers to lease a car to his first cousin, John Bransford Jr. Capitol’s housekeeper Hettie Grady came into Wallace’s office. “Mr. Ham, there’s been an accident,” she said breathlessly. Wallace assumed there had been a fender bender and took no notice and continued with what he was doing. She came back a minute later and said, “No sir, Mr. Powell’s hurt bad.”
Wallace and Bransford jumped up and ran across the hall to McCaffrey’s office. Wallace noticed that Haynie’s car was parked in a different place.
In the service lounge, Powell was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. The room was crowded; everybody was talking at once. Wallace saw the three men come in carrying Haynie. Wallace bent down and asked Powell what happened.
“We came to a stop sign,” Powell said, “and a colored man leaped in the back seat, demanded money, and when Mr. Gourley reached in his coat for his wallet, the man started cursing and cut loose with a gun and shot me and Mr. Gourley.”
Wallace pulled some cushions off a sofa to put under Powell.
“Where were you hit?” Wallace asked.
“I think in the stomach,” answered Powell.
A crowd was gathered around Powell, but no one was near Haynie as he lay still on the bench across the room. Powell overheard Chuck Williams say an ambulance would not do Mr. Gourley any good, that he was already dead.
Bill Powell shouted, “No, he can’t be dead. Get him to a doctor quick. He will be all right.”
Downstairs in the showroom, Billie Dee Boyer received the call from the service department and fumbled with a phone book for a moment when one of the salesmen, Tom Darnell, walked up. “Just call the operator.” Boyer put the call through, and the operator said she would send the police and an ambulance right away.
Boyer looked over at Billy Gourley, sitting in his cubicle. “Somebody needs to tell him,” she thought, then dialed his phone.
“There’s been an accident, and your dad’s been hurt,” she said, trying to keep her voice calm.
Billy jumped up, rushed across the showroom and flew up the stairs. He noticed his father’s car sitting in the wrong place and then burst into the service manager’s office. Bill Powell was sitting on the floor against a wall with several people crowded around him. Billy then saw his father lying alone on a bench across the room.
“What happened, what happened?” Billy shouted. Powell started the story of the Black man jumping into the car at a four-way stop. At that point, sales manager Jimmy Allen took Billy’s arm, pulled him away from the bench where his father lay motionless, and led him out of the room.
“Your dad was shot in a robbery,” Allen said, putting his hand on Billy’s shoulder. “Billy, he’s dead.”
Billy felt cold wash over him. He looked at all the people gathered around Powell.
“Did anybody call an ambulance?” Billy asked, pulling away from Jimmy Allen and heading back to his father.
Both ambulances arrived at the same time. The driver and a young attendant hopped out with a stretcher. Bill Powell shouted, “Take Haynie first.” Several employees rushed over to help.
Haynie was put on a stretcher and pushed into the back of one of the ambulances, a dark blue, low-slung Cadillac. Billy ducked his head and climbed in with his father.
“Take him to Vanderbilt Hospital,” Billy said to the driver as the attendant closed the doors. “That’s where his doctors are.”
The driver started in the direction of Vanderbilt and then called back to Billy. “If it was my daddy, I’d want him taken to General. It’s a lot closer.”
Billy gave him the go ahead to turn around. Jimmy Allen’s words rang in his head. It all seemed so surreal.
As they sped toward the hospital, Billy knew deep down that his father was dead, but told himself no, that Haynie always pulled it out in the end.
Billy felt numb. “This can’t be happening,” he thought to himself. “This is just a bad dream. I’ll wake up, and he will be okay.”
After the first ambulance left the dealership, George Crawford and several men struggled to carry Bill Powell to the other ambulance. His bulk kept the stretcher off-balance and made it difficult to steady. They were finally able to wrestle around and keep Powell from falling off.
From the back of the ambulance, Powell called out, “Please, somebody ride with me.” Hamilton Wallace climbed into the ambulance. Powell told the driver to go to Vanderbilt Hospital.
“Please don’t drive so fast and get us killed,” Wallace shouted at the driver.
In the ambulance, Powell handed Wallace his wallet and asked him to give it to his wife and to please locate her and tell her what happened before she heard it on the news and had an accident herself.
The ambulance arrived at the emergency entrance to Vanderbilt Hospital where Wallace rushed to check Powell in, then tried to get in touch with Helen Powell. He called several of her friends but was unable to reach her.
Wallace spied Josephine Gourley surrounded by several people. He did not go over to her, feeling that since he was the only person available to give information to the hospital, it was his duty to stay with Powell until he was checked in.
Back at Capitol Chevrolet after the ambulances left, Chuck Williams stood in one of the service department lanes. He was bothered by something. He had twice listened to Powell’s account of the incident and twice had seen him gesture to show how Haynie had reached into his coat pocket for his wallet to hand over to the robber.
Countless times, Williams had run errands for Haynie, mostly to pick up gifts for Mrs. Gourley, to buy her Russell Stover candy for Valentine’s Day or a wedding anniversary. Williams knew one thing for certain. Haynie had never kept a wallet in his coat pocket. Without fail, he would reach into his back left hip pocket to pull out cash to give to Williams.
At General Hospital, Haynie’s motionless form was carried into the emergency room. Billy tried to call his mother. At that moment, Josephine Gourley was at Vanderbilt Hospital. The Belle Meade police had received a call and had gone to the Gourley home to pick her up. Several people were still gathered around her at the emergency room doors when someone came out and said her husband was at General Hospital. A patrolman from Metro police who had answered a call on his radio and had gone directly to Vanderbilt Hospital volunteered to drive Josephine to General Hospital.
When his mother arrived at the emergency room, Billy could hardly say the words out loud. Haynie was dead. He had been shot in a robbery, Billy told his mother. Josephine was stricken. He saw the hope in her expression turn to pain. Someone came out with a brown envelope containing the contents of Haynie’s pockets and handed it to Billy. Neither he nor his mother went in to see Haynie.
Dr. Morse Kochtitzky, a friend of Haynie’s and a member of Dr. Tom Frist’s group, was making rounds at the hospital. He offered to drive Billy and his mother back to the Gourley home. As they left General Hospital, Billy turned to see two of his longtime buddies, Joe Ledbetter and Ben Gambill, standing by the emergency room door, watching as Kochtitzky’s car drove away.
Hal Hardin, a third-year student who was about to graduate from Vanderbilt Law School, was working a part-time job as an investigator in the Nashville district attorney’s office. He liked to joke to his friends that he felt like the comic strip character Dick Tracy because he had been assigned a gun and his own car, complete with two-way radio and siren.
Around noon, Hardin was riding with George Curry, an investigator with the district attorney’s office, when a call came over the radio that there had been a shooting on Elm Hill Pike. The two rushed to the road within minutes but could find no police activity. They were headed back toward downtown when another call came in that a body had been taken to General Hospital. No other information was given.
Hardin and Curry turned around and drove to the hospital. The two were shown into the room where Haynie had been taken. Hardin knew of Haynie Gourley and had seen him before. Now, directly in front of him, the popular Nashville businessman lay on a steel table in the hospital’s morgue. Hal gazed at the body while someone explained what had happened—that Mr. Gourley and his vice-president Bill Powell at Capitol Chevrolet had been at a four-way stop on Elm Hill Pike when a Black man jumped in the back seat of Mr. Gourley’s car and held them up at gunpoint. When Mr. Gourley reached for his wallet, the gunman cursed, and yelled, “Don’t go for your gun,” and started shooting wildly, killing Mr. Gourley and wounding Bill Powell in the left calf. Bill Powell was rushed to Vanderbilt Hospital in another ambulance.
Haynie’s shirt had been removed, and it was obvious there had been blood, but it had been cleaned off. Hardin stared at the wounds—one just below Haynie’s ear at the jawline, one to his lower neck near the collar bone and another to the left side of his chest.
Something seemed wrong to Hardin. The angles and the trajectory of the bullets made no sense. A bullet lay on the table. The men were told that it had fallen out of the back of Haynie’s coat but had not entered his body. Hardin noted how bruised Mr. Gourley was around the wounds to his head and neck, but not around the chest wound. That also seemed odd.
Hal Hardin and George Curry left the hospital, but Hardin could not shake the sight of Haynie Gourley lying on that cold steel table, his stout belly exposed, white as a sheet.
The afternoon was hot, pushing 90 degrees, typical of late August in Nashville. It was quitting time for Henry Arthur Lewis. He had just finished smoothing out a portion of ground where his employer, Walton Construction Company, was laying a two-inch gas pipe along the 1100 block of Elm Hill Pike near the I-40 overpass, a stone’s throw from Capitol Chevrolet. He would have to wait until more pipe was delivered the next day to finish the job. He climbed down from his front-end loader, crossed the two-lane road, and began walking east along a scrubby ditch about fifteen feet from the edge of the pavement.
The lean, balding, soft-spoken father of eight often looked for glass soda bottles while he was on construction sites. One of his sons liked to take the bottles to a country store near their home in Lebanon, Tennessee, to exchange for coins for his piggy bank.
Lewis hadn’t found a lot of bottles lately, but he’d uncovered a perfectly good fire extinguisher someone had tossed out. As he walked the shallow ditch across from the Mount Zeno Kindergarten, something white on the ground caught his eye.
He climbed onto the bank and bent down to get a better look. It was a pistol. The muzzle of the barrel was lodged in the dirt. The white pearl-clad grip was suspended in the air at a slight angle. Still bending down, Lewis grasped the handle and pulled the gun out of the hard, weedy ground. He inspected the weapon, turning it over carefully in his hands. The end of the barrel was packed with dirt. There was rust on some of the metal, but Lewis was delighted because it looked like he could salvage the gun. He opened the cylinder and found five spent shells; the sixth chamber was empty.
Lewis took the gun and walked back across the road. It occurred to him that just to be on the safe side he should empty the shells before he got into his car to drive the thirty-one miles home. In front of the Mount Zeno Kindergarten where he’d been working, he stopped at a pile of backfill dirt ready to be pushed into the trench where more pipe would be laid the next day. He opened the cylinder and dumped out the empty cartridges. They fell and scattered onto the freshly dug earth.
When Lewis arrived home, he placed the gun on the kitchen table, took some sandpaper, and attempted to remove the rust. With a piece of stiff wire, he punched the half inch of dirt out of the end of the barrel. Next, he used steel wool to buff the rusted parts.
Lewis’s wife walked in and asked what he was doing. He explained how he had found the gun stuck in an embankment on Elm Hill Pike and that he intended to clean it up and see if it worked.
His wife’s reaction was immediate.
“Henry, that’s the road that Chevrolet man was killed on. I heard it on the news. I’m almost sure that’s the road he was killed on.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Lewis said, then added in an attempt to calm his wife, “I haven’t been watching the news close enough. I don’t think it is.”
“If that were to be the gun, I don’t want it in my house,” she said sternly.
“Well, I don’t think it is.” Lewis said again.
After supper, his wife kept asking him to get rid of the gun. He began to think it wasn’t worth making her upset, and if she was right, he did not want to get involved in any murder case. He agreed to take the weapon to his brother’s house. Lewis was disappointed. He had been thrilled with the find.
The next day, he drove to 1400 Depot Street in Old Hickory where his brother lived and gave him the gun. His brother stuck the pistol in a drawer in a back room.
Lewis never mentioned the pearl-handled gun to anyone and soon forgot about it.