Micky O. sat on edge of a wooden bunk in a dank, subterranean jail cell. He was still dressed in his black funeral suit. The jacket and vest were unbuttoned and the collar was loose. A bruise was blooming on his cheekbone. He was apprehensive, his foot tapping with impatience. This wasn’t his first arrest, but it was how they had done it that was bothering him. He was standing behind Mr. Morris at the burial of Mrs. Grainger when two uniformed police officers and a man in brown homburg approached. He pointed Micky out of the crowd and then proceeded to arrest him in front of all the attendants.
“For bootlegging,” the man in the homburg said. Apparently several people had gotten sick, one had died and another might be joining him shortly. Someone had admitted where they had bought the hooch and eventually the trail had led back to Micky. The whole crowd had heard this. Mr. Morris was outraged. He threw a public fit and fired Micky on the spot. Micky could still see him. The memory of Mr. Morris’s purple face still fresh in his mind as the old man tried to console the grieving crowd. He claimed he would cover the cost of the funerals for the victims of the bad alcohol. Mrs. Grainger had been a strong supporter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and several of her comrades berated Micky as he was led away. An arthritic old gal even swung her walking stick at him.
Micky O. was driven to the police station and put in a room to be grilled by the man in the homburg. He was some Treasury agent, Micky discovered, but he didn’t care. He blocked the man out. He never answered a single question. He’d been through this before. Talking just dug your hole a little deeper. Leave it up to them to prove that you were guilty. The agent eventually lost his cool and smacked Micky across the face, but he still didn’t utter a word.
Now here he was sitting in a jail cell. Micky was sure that Mr. Morris would have told Lena by now. He hoped she would show up with bail soon. Footsteps approached. Micky sat up straight and waited. A uniformed officer appeared outside the cell.
“Well, O’Kinney, looks like you’re in for the night,” he said. Micky shot to his feet.
“No, no, no, just wait a little longer. I’m sure Lena’s on her way. You know, she has the kids. She probably had to find someone to watch them.” The officer was already shaking his head as Micky spoke.
“Sorry, pal, it’s too late. She’ll have to come back first thing in the morning.” The officer shrugged and walked away. At the end of the hall, he shouted, “Lights out!” The hallway turned to black as the lights were extinguished.
“Fuck!” Micky swore to himself. Somewhere at the end of the hall, a deep bass chuckle echoed out. It grew louder.
“Shut the fuck up!” Micky snapped.
“You all on your own now, Mista Undertaker,” the voice said. “How it feel?”
Micky didn’t respond. He turned back to his bunk and sat back down. Somewhere water dripped. A small patch of moonlight was cast onto the floor of the hall. He took off his jacket and used it as a pillow. The deep voice started singing to himself. Micky rolled over and tried to block it out, but he was too angry to sleep.
Suddenly Micky was jarred awake, he didn’t know how long he had slept. Voices descended the stairs.
“Now I have driven all yesterday straight from the coast on behalf of my employer. My rear is positively in distress.” A Georgian drawl was berating the accompanying officer and never letting him get a word in edgewise. “I arrive only to be told that I have come too late and am forced to stay the night in this unpleasant burg. Then report here first thing in the morning in order to represent my client…” The men stopped outside Micky’s cell. The stout man in the linen suit stood in the little puddle of what Micky realized was sunlight. As he met the tinted glass shaded eyes, the little man finished, “One Michael Padraig O’Kinney.”
Micky had never seen this little man in his life, but he wasn’t going to question it as his cell was unlocked and he was released. His bail had been paid and then some to cover the bribes. The charges dismissed. He followed the little man out of the building.
“Excuse me, hey stop! Do you mind telling me what’s going on here?” Micky asked. The little man spun on his heel. He studied Micky through his sunglasses.
“I apologize, you must truly be in the dark,” he glanced furtively around, “How about we walk along this poor excuse of a boulevard away from prying eyes. And if I’m not mistaken it will take us past your former place of employment and then to my hotel, where I have left my car.” Micky nodded and fell into step as the little man fanned himself with a handkerchief.
“My name, dear sir, is Louis P. Dauterive. I am a lawyer that handles several details for one Mr. Francisco Sicero. Have you heard of him?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of him, but what does that have to do with me?”
“You are one of those details, Mr. O’Kinney. As it so happens, no one died from your hooch. It was only a matter of you stepping on some other bootlegger’s toes and a crooked Treasury agent. Yes sir, they were trying to put you out of business, my friend, plain and simple.” Dauterive tipped his hat to a pair of passing ladies. Micky realized what an odd couple they must look like. One short man in a neat, light colored suit and another taller man in a mussed black suit.
“What does this have to do with Sicero? Why does he care if I do time?” Micky tried to straighten his disheveled suit and smooth his hair.
“Because Mr. Sicero wants to hire you to oversee one of his outfits.” Dauterive came to a stop outside the funeral home. “It requires that you leave immediately with me.” Micky gazed up at the large house. His previous career plans here were dashed when Mr. Morris fired him. No doubt the whole town knew by now that he’d been arrested. It would be better if he started over somewhere else…again.
“I need to talk to Lena first,” he said.
“Lena?” Dauterive asked.
“Yeah, my wife,” Micky walked up the sidewalk and followed it around the back of the house. His assistant burst out the back door, just as Micky was about to climb the stairs to the apartment.
“Micky! You shouldn’t be here,” the young man’s voice cracked. “Mr. Morris told me that he’s through with you and never wants to lay eyes on you again.”
“Mr. Morris ain’t even here, Tom. I need to talk to Lena,” he started up the stairs, but the boy darted forward again.
“She’s not there,” he said. Micky turned on him.
“What?” he barked.
“She’s gone, Mick.” Micky ran up the stairs two at a time. He burst into the apartment and realized it was true. It felt vacant without the constant prattling of the children even though it was filled with furniture and strewn toys. The assistant followed him inside as he searched the apartment. He grabbed a coffee can from the kitchen and opened it. Empty. All of the household cash was gone. On the kitchen table instead of a note sat the family bible laughing at him. Fucking Lena! He grabbed the book and chucked it at the hutch containing the dishes causing a cascade of broken ceramic to the floor.
“Calm down, Mick…” the assistant pleaded. Micky turned on him.
“Why? Because all this is yours now, you little prick! Morris just replaced me with you, I can tell.” He jabbed a finger into the young man’s chest. He was pushed back into the table as he caved under Micky’s anger, but didn’t dispute any of Micky’s claims. “Allow me to at least get some of my shit out of your way!”
Micky stomped to the bedroom. He emptied a pillowcase and stuffed it with a few shirts and things. He grabbed his other suit and left. His old assistant tried to follow him out, but Micky shoved him into the door.
“You better find out where Lena went, you hear me?” Micky threatened.
“But where are you going?” the boy stuttered.
“I’m not sure. I’ll contact you. You better know by then… or else.” Micky released him and descended the stairs. He stalked around the house to the lawyer, who stood staring at the sky.
“Has everything been arranged with the wife? I’m afraid I don’t have enough room in my car for anymore than you and I.”
“Yeah, everything’s settled,” Micky scowled. Dauterive uttered a “My, my, my,” and led the way to the hotel. Micky was thankful that Louis P. stayed respectfully silent for the rest of the walk. As they neared the hotel, he finally spoke.
“If I’m not mistaken, a storm will be rolling through before long, Mr. O’Kinney. We should cover some ground out of this place.”
“That sounds like brilliant idea, Mr. Dauterive,” Micky replied followed by a sarcastic laugh as he got into the lawyer’s coupe.