Cylus and Vern returned to the Farm after another successful and uneventful delivery. Vern was still a bit tipsy when Cylus woke him.
“We’re here,” Cylus growled. Vern rubbed the sleep from his eyes and sat up. He looked around the farmyard with his eyes squinted against the sun. They got out of the truck and walked to the house. Micky O. sat on the porch, once again dressed too well to blend with the rural surroundings. He had playing cards in his hand and was trying to flick them one by one into an upside down hat. He paused as they came forward.
“You’ve seen better days, Vern,” he commented. Vern mumbled something. Micky laughed as he abandoned the cards and got to his feet. He pulled a fat wad of cash from his pocket and counted out several bills. He held these out to Vern. The heavy-eyed drunk took them and staggered off to hay loft to sleep.
“So you gotta couple of runs under your belt now, huh?” Micky said as he counted Cylus’s share. The big man shifted uneasily and glanced around the farmyard. He didn’t know what to expect from this Micky guy, but he needed this job to work out. He needed Frank to trust him again.
You want to make some more?” Micky O. asked. He held out a few bills to Cylus. The big man looked at him sideways as he took the money.
“Depends…” he growled. Micky elaborated.
“I have an errand that needs doin’,” he said. “It might need a heavy hand, but it’s simple. I need somebody to go to a town in particular, find a man in particular and ask a very specific question and return with the answer. By any means necessary, of course.” Cylus stared at him and didn’t return Micky’s smile.
“Do you think this answer is going to come easily to this particular man?” Cylus asked.
“Probably not, but he’s your average citizen. I think he can be persuaded.” Micky pretended to count his money as bait for Cylus. He had to stand there watching as he considered the offer.
“Okay,” Cylus finally said.
“Okay, what?” Micky said.
“I’ll do it. How far is it?” Cylus and Micky negotiated the particulars and soon Cylus was on the road again.
Cylus pulled into the address that Micky gave him. It was now evening and the sun was sinking rapidly. He stepped onto the wraparound porch and rang the bell. After a few minutes a young man finally came to the door.
“Is there something I can help you with?” he said serenely.
Cylus squinted at him. Why was Micky even interested in this guy?
“Yeah, I’m looking for a Tom Dayton,” Cylus said as politely as he could.
“That’s me. Is this about one of your loved ones or are you here on someone’s behalf?”
“What?” Cylus asked, surprised.
“The newly deceased. Is it your loved one or are you representing someone in grief?” the young man repeated.
“Er…I’m representing someone else,” Cylus lied.
“Come in, come in. It’s a bit late for calling, but sometimes these things happen at the most inconvenient times, but here at Morris Funeral home we like to accommodate and ease the transition as much as possible.” Tom Dayton held the door open and Cylus entered the foyer. “This way.”
Dayton led Cylus back through the old house to the office and offered him a seat. Cylus looked around the wood paneled room and the paper strewn desk.
“Are you alone here?” Cylus asked curiously.
“Yes and no,” Dayton replied as he sat. “But I think I know what you mean. There is usually always someone else here, but yes, I run the day to day affairs here for Mr. Morris. He lives elsewhere.” Dayton chuckled as he nodded at the floor. Cylus had seen that same look on Micky’s face. He knew there was something off with the bootlegger, maybe this funeral home shit had something to do with it.
“But back to the affair at hand. What can I do to help you, Mr.?” Dayton pulled a pad of paper in front of him.
“Er…Smith,” Cylus replied quickly, “There is something you can do for me.”
“Yes, Mr. Smith,” Dayton noted that on his notepad and waited patiently. Cylus struggled internally with his task.
“I see, I know these things are difficult. They haven’t actually passed yet have they? I want you to know that it is good to be prepared ahead of time. These things can really pull the rug out from under you, if you know what I mean.”
“No, it’s not…” Cylus stuttered. He stood up to his full height and loomed over the room. “You need to tell me where Lena is and you’re going to do it now.” Dayton visibly shrunk in his seat.
“I need to know and you’re going to tell me.” Cylus came around the desk. He grabbed the pen and jabbed it into Dayton’s grip. “Write it.”
“No, not until you tell me why,” Dayton tried to push his chair away from the desk. Cylus shoved him back into place and shoved his head into the table top.
“Micky O. wants to know.” Dayton held a hand to a welt forming on his forehead.
“No, I won’t tell him,” his voice shook.
“You’re not telling him, you’re telling me.” Cylus tore his hand away and twisted his arm. “Which hand do you write with?”
“What?” Dayton gasped.
“WHICH HAND DO YOU WRITE WITH?” Cylus repeated. Dayton didn’t answer, only trembled. Cylus knew he had a 50/50 chance of getting it right and he was 100% sure that he didn’t care. He grabbed the letter opener and stabbed it through Dayton’s left hand. The young man shrieked and clutched his wrist as he stared at his impaled hand. Cylus clapped a hand over Dayton’s mouth and held him in his chair. He held the pen up in front of Dayton’s nose.
“Just write down where Lena is and that hand is the only bad thing that happens to you.”
“Are you going to hurt her?” Dayton squawked. He still stared at his bleeding hand.
“I don’t know. My only job is to find out where she is. I was told that you would know that information and nothing that you’ve said has convinced me that you don’t know. It’s only a matter of you telling me. Then I can go home and sleep in my own bed and well, you can live to see tomorrow.”
“He’s gonna hurt her. I know it,” Dayton stuttered. Cylus clapped him on the shoulder as if to comfort him. This guy might have some useful information, something that could be used as leverage down the road.
“Why? Who is she?”
Dayton gulped, “Lena? That’s Micky’s wife. She left when he was arrested and Mr. Morris chucked him.”
“Yeah, Old man Morris owns this place.” The young man was starting to become skeptical.
“Micky…worked here?” Cylus asked. Dayton nodded.
“Yeah, you must not know him very well,” Dayton bit his lip quickly.
“No, I don’t. We’re not friends and I can’t say what he wants with this information, but I can understand. I’d do just about anything to find out where my wife is right now.” Cylus reached in his pocket and pulled out his revolver. He pressed it against Dayton’s skull, pushing the young man’s head down until his face was inches from the notepad.
“Do you know where my wife is, Tom?” Cylus growled.
“Um…no?” Dayton sobbed. Sweat was breaking out on his forehead. His hand was still bleeding onto the desk.
“Then tell me where to find Lena.” Cylus pulled back the hammer on his gun. Dayton scrambled for the pen and scribbled. Cylus looked over Dayton’s shoulder to make sure the note was legible. Then he slammed the butt of his gun into Dayton’s skull. The young man collapsed unconscious over the desk. He plucked up the notepad and stuffed it into his pocket. He made a swift exit from the house into the darkened street.
Homes with cheery and bright windows lined the street. Cylus walked to the truck as casual as he could. No one took notice as he revved up the truck and drove out of town. He blinked his tired eyes and tried to keep his focus on the road, but he kept thinking about what Dayton had said. The fact that Micky O. had been an undertaker gave Cylus the creeps. His general attitude already left Cylus to believe he had a few screws loose.