Cylus had spent the rest of the day puttering around his shabby rented room until the sun sank. He knew somewhere out in the city lights Frank was considering what to do with him. That made Cylus nervous. He paced the room for hours. He would have loved to go out and had a few drinks, but he was penniless. He really needed this job from Frank.
A fist pounded on his door. Cylus opened it cautiously to see the young man from Tino’s standing there.
“Hurry up, Mr. Sicero is waiting downstairs.” Cylus immediately abandoned the door and grabbed his coat. Spots looked around the room. “Jesus, Cannoli, why not open a window?”
Cylus held his tongue, he really needed this, even if it meant tolerating this little puke. He came out into the hall and shut the door behind him. Spots stepped right up to him and frisked him.
“Always got to be careful,” he said. Spots led the way out of the boarding house to Franks’ fancy car. The big ape sat glowering at the steering wheel. The dark silhouette in the backseat must be Frank. Spots clambered in the front. Cylus paused momentarily on the sidewalk.
They could just be taking me out to a field to put a bullet in my head, Cylus thought. All eyes were on him. They must have seen his indecision. Frank leaned over and unlatched the door. Cylus swallowed the lump in his throat, before he climbed in.
“Good evening, Cylus,” Frank greeted. His voice was even, but Cylus still picked up a tone of satisfaction. “You can head out now, Bjorn.” The driver pulled out onto the road and began driving through town.
“Have you made up your mind?” Cylus asked cautiously.
“No, I have a couple different options. Perhaps I’ll decide before the night is over.” Frank stared out the window at the passing streets. He did not elaborate. The car pulled out onto the dark coastal road.
Where are we going? Cylus thought. The twinkling lights from houses grew farther and farther apart until it was just the headlights that lit up the night. This is it I’m a goner. He probably already has a hole dug. Cylus shifted uncomfortably. The leather of the seat squeaked beneath him. No one in the car spoke to him during the ride. They pulled into a dockyard and his stomach flipped. He had heard stories about bodies washing up in fishing nets. He noticed that several vehicles were parked in the alleys of the yard. Too many cars for this time of night.
Just great. Now I’m going to be used as an example, Cylus frowned. He didn’t move when the car came to a stop. Spots opened the door for Frank and the boss stepped out.
“By the way, Cannoli, do you still box?” Frank asked.
“Not recently,” Cylus grumbled. “But I was doing a bit in Mexico here and there.”
“Good, then you’re not too rusty. I had a fighter drop out. You’re going to fill in.” Frank turned towards a warehouse and started walking inside. A wave of relief washed over Cylus. At least, he wasn’t going to be killed yet. Boxing was something that he could do.
The bell dinged. Cylus’s shoulders slumped. He could barely lift his arms after so many rounds. He stumbled back to his corner, out of breath. His potbelly heaved with every breath and he cursed how out of shape he’d gotten. He glanced over at Frank sitting in the front row. His hands folded calmly in front of him. Cylus recognized the bloodlust in his eyes. He had seen it many times before. The smug satisfaction of another one of Frank’s plans unfolding. He always had that look during a bank heist and it’d linger for a day or two, until he grew bored again. Then he would plan the next robbery. Now Cylus’s punishment was a part of that plan. The boxing match was only a test. Frank had to make sure his old friend was prepared to do whatever he was told.
The ring bell sounded again and Cylus hoisted himself to his feet. He tried to hold his gloves up and lumber out into the ring. The other man had taken quite a beating from Cylus’s iron fists, but he was younger, fitter and hungrier for the win. Cylus tried to throw a jab, but the young man snuck a fist through his weak defense. It caught Cylus off balance and he fell to the canvas. He was still conscious, but he was exhausted. So what if Frank kills me. It’ll be a relief at this point, Cylus thought. The crowd was a blur. The boos and cheers blended together in one thick blanket of noise. Cylus didn’t rise. He laid there and waited for the ten count. He wanted it to be over. He barely comprehended the hands lifting him to his feet and helping him out of the ring. His gloves were taken off his hands and his clothes were thrown into his arms. He was bundled into Frank’s car.
Frank returned to the car after another hour. Cylus was startled out of a light sleep to sound of the car door. He tried to shake the fog out of his head. Frank studied the battered man as they pulled out of the dockyards.
“Well, the old dog still has a little bite left in him,” Frank joked. Cylus managed to nod.
“I’m sorry I lost…” he murmured.
“I’m not,” Frank said. He pulled out a wad of cash and started organizing it just like after a bank robbery. He meticulously faced all the cash and separated it into denominations.
“You bet against me?” Cylus asked quietly. He was surprisingly hurt by Frank’s lack of faith.
“Of course I did, Cylus. You have to bet with your mind, not your heart. I know how many miles you got on you. Besides, you already look like you’ve gone out to pasture.”
“I’ll do better next time. I’ll get into shape…” Cylus moved slowly as he tried to pull on his shirt. Frank disdainfully grabbed the sleeve and tried to help. Sometimes Cylus was truly hopeless and helpless. He remembered briefly the days when Caroline had her hands full looking after him. She would have made a good mother. She was the caretaking type, unfortunately she never got the payout she deserved for all the love she poured in.
“No, Cylus, you’re not fighting again. This was just a test and I sorta wanted to see you get your brains knocked out. No, I’m sending you out to the Farm.”
Cylus’s swollen face gave him a heart wrenching look.
“You mean I can’t stay in town and help you?”
“No, Cylus. I said you had to earn. You start at the bottom.” Frank took a few dollars and stuffed them in Cylus’s shirt pocket. “That should be enough to feed you, maybe buy a new shirt. Rest up, Spots will come by and pick you up in a couple of days.
“When will I be seeing you?”
“You see me when I want to see you, Cannoli.” The car came to a halt outside of the boarding house. Spots opened the car door and unceremoniously helped Cylus out. They left him standing on the pavement still clutching the rest of his clothes.