Mike Hanlon recalls the incident with the Bradley Gang, which occurs thirteen months before the burning of the Black Spot, in October 1929. As with the burning of the Black Spot, citizens of Derry pretend not to remember the incident. Mr. Norbert Keene, who was around during the ambush on the outlaws, says that maybe around 20,000 people lived in downtown Derry at that time. Mr. Keene asks if Mike is sure he wants to hear the story, and Mike says he is. Mr. Keene confirms that Sheriff Sullivan was present that day, though there is no record of it. The gang, Mr. Keene says, comes to Derry, thinking that they will be safe so far from the Midwest.
Mr. Keene narrates another incident that, like the arson at the Black Spot, has been kept secret. The Bradley Gang resembles many of the post-Depression outlaws who roamed the country robbing banks and seeking thrills. Ironically, the people of Derry are tolerant of the supernatural evil that lurks among them, but not of people who are criminal or immoral.
The Bradley Gang lays low for a while, then decides that they want to go hunting. They are a bit low on ammunition, so they go to Lal Machen’s sporting goods store to buy some. They order hundreds of rounds for their various guns. Lal has some of the ammo but has to order the rest. Lal invites them to come back at two in the afternoon the next day to pick up the remainder of the order. The robbers agree.
Lal is setting them up. George Bradley, the leader, offers to buy his ammo at a store in Bangor, but Lal uses the fact that the owner of that store is “a Jew” to discourage Bradley from going there. This tactical anti-Semitism works, for it helps Machen establish a bond with Bradley.
Around 1:30 PM, there are men everywhere, sitting with guns. Little Zack Denbrough passes by and is warned to leave, for there is going to be a shooting. Things remain quiet for a while, then, around 2:25 PM, the Bradley Gang’s cars arrive. Al Bradley, the leader of the gang, suspects something is up and tells one of his associates to move back. That’s when Lal Machen tells Al to put his hands up. Before Bradley can turn his head, Lal starts blasting and tears a hole into Al Bradley’s shoulder. Bradley gets back into his car and throws it into gear, which is when everyone starts shooting.
The men of Derry form a vigilante group. Instead of alerting the authorities to the Bradley Gang’s presence, they take the law into their own hands. This action addresses the prevalence of vigilante violence during an era in which people lost faith in the institutions built to protect them. There is a possible association, too, with traditional New England self-reliance, which eschews authority.
Norbert Keene recalls that the whole incident is over in four or five minutes. There must have been fifty or sixty men firing at once. Members of the gang try to fire back. Marie Hauser, one of the girlfriends, tries to surrender, Keene thinks, but crawls back inside of one of the cars after being hit in the hip. Later, she walks into crossfire. The men of Derry keep shooting. Keene figures that when men get their blood up, it does not go down easily. Sheriff Sullivan joins others on the courthouse steps and pumps rounds into the outlaws’ dead vehicle. Shortly thereafter, the picture-taking starts. Mike asks how something of that magnitude was covered up. Mr. Keene reasons that no one really cared because it was a group of outlaws and the women were “whores.” Also, it happened in Derry—not a big city.
Mike’s question to Mr. Keene is similar to Beverly’s question to Mike about why the nine recent murders in Derry have not become headline news. The violence in Derry is self-contained. During the ambush, both civilians and the sheriff join in the effort to kill and then exploit the murder of the outlaws for fame and financial gain. Usually, evidence of having captured wanted armed robbers—dead or alive—came with the offer of a cash reward. People justified the murders by convincing themselves that the Bradley Gang was composed of low-quality people who got what they deserved.
Mike asks Norbert Keene one more question—if Keene has seen the clown. Keene mentions that he was, indeed, there and wearing a pair of biballs (overalls). Keene figures that he was someone trying to disguise himself. What Keene finds strange is that the clown cast no shadow.
In this instance, the clown is not a participant in the violence but an encouraging witness. Sometimes the people of Derry do Its work for It, without any effort on Its part.