Spots pulled off the main road and followed two ruts into a patch of trees. After a few turns they emerged into a grassy field. In the distance a weathered farm stood alone. Cylus’s hand found its way into his pocket. His fingers closed around the grip of a pistol and he tried to blot out every other thought in his mind besides the job at hand. Just like in the old days when he was sitting outside a bank. He looked up and saw the blank windows of the leaning farmhouse gaping down at him. Spots maneuvered the truck around the house towards the barn.
“This is it,” Spots announced as he parked outside the large doors. As Cylus got out and shut his door, another truck began rumbling over the field. “Are you coming?” Spots stood in the gap of the barn door. Cylus pulled his hand out of his pocket and followed.
Crates upon crates were stacked in the barn. They all contained what was passing for whiskey these days. A few surly men loafed about waiting. One was inspecting his sawed off shotgun. He glanced up and caught Cylus’s eye. They sized each other up. The man with the shotgun finally nodded and Cylus returned it. His hand had absentmindedly sought out his pistol again. Spots jabbed him with his elbow. Cylus realized they were headed towards a more dapper looking fellow. His suit was far too nice. It made him look out of place in the old barn.
“Who’s this?” The man said.
“An old friend of Frank’s…Cylus Connolly,” Spots replied. He nodded at the man and said to Cylus, “Micky O.” Cylus held out his hand, but Micky just stared at it.
“A friend? And what am I supposed to do with him?” Micky said with disdain. “Give him a tour?” Spots and Micky O. both laughed. Cylus frowned.
“No, Mick, he’s a heavy. He’s going to be riding along,” Spots said.
“You gotta piece?” Micky asked.
“Of course,” Cylus replied gruffly. He whipped the pistol out of his pocket. In a flurry of clicking hammers, the other men came to life and pointed their cocked weapons at Cylus. He froze. Micky held his hands up in disbelief.
“Spots, what is he doing?” Micky said under his breath. Spots waved his arms to calm everyone, even as more men poured in the door. Sweat burst out on the young man’s brow. He was out of his depth. Cylus flipped the butt of his pistol in his hand and held it out to Micky. The bootlegger took it and the atmosphere relaxed. Micky tucked it in at his waist.
“You can have it back when we head out,” Micky scowled. He straightened his shirt cuffs and turned to address the small gang of men. “All of this in the trucks, NOW!” He waved at the piles of crates. The man with the shotgun pushed his way through the crowd towards Cylus.
“You’re gonna ride with me,” he said gruffly. It sounded angry, but Cylus spoke the same language and knew it was on the verge of kindness. This man was going to show him the ropes. Cylus shed his coat and began lifting crates into the trucks. It wasn’t long until he had broken out in sweat. He had spent too much time loafing around in Mexico. He paused to catch his breath and noticed Micky’s cold stare boring into him. He resolutely stared back. His mentor passed by.
“Keep moving,” his low voice growled. Cylus walked back to the stack of crates and lifted another to take to the truck.
Spots was talking Micky’s ear off. He had stopped listening several minutes ago and was watching the new guy work. Cylus was out of shape, but a brute of a guy. Moving crates would do him some good. Micky wasn’t as surprised by his appearance as he let on. Frank Sicero had contacted him beforehand and had asked him to make a place for Cylus in return for a favor at a later date. Micky agreed because there was something he wanted: less time stuck on this fucking farm. He had enough guys that could cover the work without supervision, but Frank didn’t trust anybody these days. Maybe if this Cylus guy worked out, Frank would let Micky leave him in charge of ‘the Farm’ once and a while.
“Shut yer yap,” Micky finally said. He had interrupted Spots’ story midsentence.
“What?” Spots said offended.
“I said shut up!” Micky scowled louder. “Why don’t you got check the crate count?” Spots gave him a dark look and stalked off to count the load. Micky pulled out a cigarette and twirled it in his fingers. He walked towards the trucks as the barn emptied. He watched Spots scurry around trying to tally each truck. He darted back to Micky as he tucked the cigarette behind his ear.
“I’m pretty sure it’s three hundred and sixty,” he reported.
“Yes, it is,” Micky replied.
“What? You already knew?” Spots gritted his teeth.
“Of course, I know. I got every inch of this farm up here,” Micky cocked his hat and tapped his temple. “I know how much liquor I got. Now you know, so when they unload these trucks they can’t say I shortchanged them.” Canvas tarpaulins were pulled over the loaded crates and the men retreated to the truck cabs. Cylus felt a tap on his arm.
“You’re at the wheel,” his mentor said. Cylus followed him to a truck and got behind the wheel. Micky appeared at his door.
“Connolly, your piece.” He held the gun out to him, “Don’t go waving it around now, Vern always has an itchy trigger finger.” Micky laughed as he nodded to Cylus’s companion. The gruff man grinned. Cylus didn’t respond as he tucked the pistol away. The smile fell off of Micky’s face.
“Mind you, this is a trial run. I’m doing Frank a favor lettin’ you tagalong. So don’t fuck up!” Micky moved away and shouted, “Move out!” The engine’s roared to life and the trucks pulled away from the farm in a line. By now the sun was halfway gone behind the horizon. The sky was streaked with orange fading to a dark pink before drifting to purple.
Micky watched the trucks disappear over the field. The rumbling engines faded away to the quiet of the countryside. The crickets were beginning to chirp and an errant bird called out before roosting. All alone, he walked to the farmhouse and went inside. A single naked light bulb hung from the ceiling. In the dim glow of the dying sun, he pulled the string and the ring of light it cast swung around the room. He sat at the worn-down table, pulled a whiskey bottle towards him and poured himself a drink. He finally lit his cigarette that he had tucked behind his ear and took a long drag. He reached over, picked up a deck of cards and began shuffling absentmindedly. Another night of boredom, absolute silence and the lingering scent of death he was never rid of.