The headlights created a halo of light on the road. Trees thrust their limbs into the edge of visibility. The road was rough. Dirt and gravel. They were a long way from anywhere, on their way to somewhere. Cylus stared at his white knuckles as he gripped the steering wheel. He was very tired and was trying his best to focus on the road. Next to him, Vern hadn’t spoken in quite some time. In the distance Cylus could make out the light cast by the truck in front of him. He yawned loudly and shook his head at an attempt to clear his mind.
“It’s only another hour out. Don’t worry,” Vern said.
“Shit!” Cylus exclaimed. “You haven’t moved in fucking twenty minutes. I thought you were asleep!” Vern shrugged.
“Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t.” Vern looked at him, “Who needs to know?”
Cylus chuckled. Vern was right. Cylus wouldn’t say a word. They would get paid either way. Vern adjusted the shotgun in his grip.
“So…who the hell are you?” Vern asked, “Spots said you know the boss.”
“Yeah, I know Frank Sicero,” Cylus replied reluctantly. “He’s doing very well for himself these days.”
“Yeah, he does very well. Not the case when you knew him?”
“No, back then, we were nomads. Living in hotels, stealing cars to keep from being tracked. We mostly hit banks. I live for the moment, but Frank, he was the planner…he must have been tucking cash away the whole time.”
“Yeah, and the girls liked to rip off department stores. We’d go right up to the jewelry counter and they’d try things on to their heart’s delight. A little distraction, a few quick moves of the hand, and a ‘no thank you, she’ll have to wait for her birthday.’ We’re already out of the store before the clerk even notices.”
“Girls?” Vern asked.
“Our wives, Caroline and Margot.”
“Wives, huh? The four of you? Yeah, yeah, I think I remember reading about that,” Vern was putting the pieces together, “That was some ten years ago?”
Cylus nodded, but he realized Vern was staring out the window. “Ten years is about right. We had a good run for almost three years.”
“Chicago? Wasn’t there something that happened in Chicago?”
Cylus shifted in his seat uneasy. He mumbled his reply. “Yeah, we split up after Chicago.”
Vern gave him a curious look.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Cylus growled. A few minutes of silence passed between them. Vern stared out the window. Cylus remained tense as he clutched the steering wheel.
“What have you been doing the last ten years then?” Vern finally asked.
“Doing? Not much of anything really,” Cylus admitted. “Mexico. I’ve been in Mexico and doing whatever it is you do in Mexico.”
“I see. Laying low.” Vern murmured. He gazed out at the darkness again. Cylus rolled his shoulders in an attempt to relieve the tension that settled there. He didn’t want to talk about what had happened in Chicago.
“Why did you come back?” Vern asked.
“Sometimes you just want to go home.”
Vern nodded. He understood. No matter how much fun you were having after awhile you still just wanted to go home. But then he remembered that Cylus had said they’d been constantly on the move. The gang had been living in hotels. If Cylus had spent the last ten years in Mexico, then that was probably the longest he had stayed in one place. If he had in fact stayed in one location in such a large country.
“Are you originally from around here?” he finally asked.
“No, New England.”
“But you said you wanted to come home.” Vern stated. Cylus was backpedaling in his mind.
“Well, yeah, when I said home I meant the U.S.” Cylus nodded as he tried to convince himself.
Vern stared at him, but Cylus kept his eyes on the road.
“You outta take a bump,” Vern finally suggested. Cylus looked at him as Vern pulled a pill case out of his pocket and passed it to Cylus. His eyes dark, sleep tugging on his eye lids, Cylus accepted the offer. He popped the lid of the pill case open and tapped some of the white powder onto the back of his hand. He snorted it and passed the pill case back to Vern.
“Thanks,” he said. It hit him like a wall of silk. He was alert. He could make out each piece of gravel in the shine from the headlights. He felt like he could drive all the way back to Mexico now. Without realizing it his foot depressed the accelerator.
“Take it easy,” Vern said, “We have to keep our distance from the other truck.” Cylus reluctantly let off the gas.
“Frank’s wife, Margot, was a great driver,” Cylus blurted. “If you ever saw a woman behind the wheel like that…whew! She was a sight!” Vern cocked his head, but didn’t comment.
“Frank made this plan for a bank in Chicago, but then he nixed it at the last minute and we drove through to St. Paul. He ended up in the hospital with appendicitis.” Cylus leaned forward on the wheel. “We sat around for a few days, me and the girls, but I kept thinking about that bank. Frank was always good at planning, but this time he got cold feet. When I brought it up after surgery, he told me to forget about it. ‘Times are changing,’ he said. I didn’t listen.” He clutched the steering wheel harder. Vern kept silent.
“I reworked his plan using only three people. That meant Margot was inside the bank. I didn’t account for how green she was on the trigger. Everything happened so fast…” Cylus paused, “After the guards pulled guns and fired…I only remember that we needed to get out of there and fast. Margot shrieked and fell. Caroline was screaming. I ran out and got to the car. As I fired up the engine, I saw Caroline dragging Margot out the front door of the bank. As I drove past, Caroline’s eyes glued onto mine. I didn’t stop. I kept going. I headed south and didn’t stop until the car needed gas. Days later, I found out that Margot died there on the steps.”
Vern waited for Cylus to continue, but he just stared out at the road.
“And Caroline?” Vern finally asked.
“She did time. Frank said three years.”
“I saw her once, I think…” Vern began, then paused to read Cylus’s non-reaction. “I thought she was just his old lady, but I remember her name was Carol or the like. Gorgeous. Bitter. That sort of anger scares me in a woman.”
The cab of the truck fell into silence. Cylus finally broke it.
“Probably was. It sounds like her.”
“And Sicero gave you a job after all that?” Cylus nodded.
“And you still wanted to work for him? Even after he and your wife…” Vern couldn’t finish the question. Cylus nodded again. Street lights appeared in the distance. The trucks slowed and Cylus hit the breaks.
“Keep calm. It’s just a checkpoint on the city limits. Micky O. has everything greased.” Vern said this confidently even as his grip tightened on his shot gun. The trucks slowed to a crawl. They pulled into the edge of a small town, in the distance lights from a city loomed. A car was parked across the road. Vern readjusted the shot gun. Cylus’s mind clung to the pistol in his pocket even though his hands seemed glued to the wheel. Two policemen walked out from a small store and approached the lead truck. The sound of voices drifted towards them, but Cylus couldn’t make out the words. The first policeman took something from the driver and tucked it in his chest pocket. The second cop walked along the trucks with a flashlight. He shined it into each cab. The light fell on Cylus’s face. Then Vern’s, back to Cylus.
“Geez, you two must be brawlers. Any do any boxing?” the young policeman commented.
“No where, you’ve been,” Cylus replied. Vern nudged him in the side to keep quiet. The policeman studied Cylus’s scowl. Unable to place the face he left them and went to the last truck. After a few minutes, the first policeman waved the line of trucks through town.
Cylus relaxed as he hit the accelerator.
“Next time, don’t bring attention to yourself,” Vern grumbled. “Although crooked, they’re still the law. They might still pin some of those bank heists on you just to make a name for themselves.”
Cylus shrugged. He didn’t care about doing time anymore. Truthfully, there wasn’t much that he had interest in. A drink and decent food, somewhere to lay down at night. His needs were simple.
After they passed through the small main street, the trucks started to make their way over a long bridge. The city lights loomed high over them. After crossing the bridge, the caravan turned off the main road.
“Turn off the lights,” Vern ordered. Cylus did as he was instructed. It didn’t take long for his eyes to readjust to the darkness. The city resonated its own light. They crept along the shadowy street.
“Pull over here,” Vern ordered. The truck in front of them was already doing the same. A man got out of the lead truck and began walking further down the street. He disappeared into a building. Vern and Cylus sat tense in the truck waiting. Light spilled onto the street as a garage door opened. Spots appeared and waved them forward. The trucks pulled into a large auto shop garage. In the back sat a milk delivery truck. Several men stood about waiting for the trucks to pull in. Young men came forward and started unloading the crates.
“You can earn a little dough from these guys if you help unload,” Vern added. “If you’re up to it after the long drive.”
“Are we staying the night here?” Cylus asked.
“Some head back right away. If you want to stick around, I know a few places and a few girls,” Vern suggested. Cylus mulled the idea over.
“Ok then…I should probably earn a little spending money,” Cylus got out of the truck and started lifting crates out of the truck.