Cylus recognized the sound of the truck as it trundled across the countryside. He walked to the edge of the hayloft and gazed off across the barren fields. The truck chugged along, puffs of exhaust rose up in its wake. The overcast sky was beginning to darken. Below him Vern sat on a stump as he sharpened a knife. His short legs kicked now and again to the diddy he mumbled under his breath. Cylus turned to the staircase and made his way downstairs.
The truck skidded to a halt on the gravel as Cylus emerged from the barn. Micky got out in a hurry and slammed the door.
“Hey!” Cylus called and he hurried across the farmyard, but Micky ignored him. He dashed into the farmhouse and Cylus heard a loud crash. He picked up the pace. Even Vern put down his knife and started walking over. As Cylus stepped onto the porch, he could hear Micky swearing up a storm.
Micky was standing in the middle of the room. The table was tossed on its side, the bottles and dirty dishes that once sat on top of it lay shattered on the floor.
“You fucking bitch!” he yelled one more time before he saw Cylus’s shadow darken the doorway. He turned around and glared at him.
“Whaddya want?” he yelled. They both stared fiercely at one another. Finally, Cylus spoke up.
“Who are you talking to?” He held a hand up telling Vern to stop in his tracks behind him. Micky scowled.
“Nobody,” he said firmly, then he cracked a crooked grin and laughed. “Nobody anymore.” He started to pace the room. He was still angry with Lena, even though she was already dead. He had had to hold it in the whole trip home, crammed with people on the train. Cylus’s eyes narrowed as he thought about the secret errand they had between them. He had been wondering during Micky’s absence if they had been connected and he was beginning to think that he was right.
“Lena?” he growled quietly. Micky stopped pacing and turned his piercing gaze on the big man. He ever so slightly shook his head and that told Cylus all he needed to know.
“Mind your own damn business. What the fuck do you want?” Micky turned his back on Cylus.
“Spots came by and left a message for you,” Cylus decided not to press the subject. After all he still needed his half of the favor for finding out where Lena was. He dug the crumpled envelope out of his pocket as Micky came over to him. He was expecting the envelope. He was no stranger to Frank’s unusual communication style. He tore it open and walked across the room. Cylus watched as he flipped the page open and read Frank’s script. Very slowly Micky reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter. He lit the page on fire and tossed it into the sink with the dirty dishes.
“How long ago was this?” he asked flatly.
“This morning,” Cylus replied. “We made sure he was convinced that you were sick. He won’t tell Frank he didn’t hand you the message himself.”
“So Vern knows?”
“He’s smart enough to know you weren’t here, but he’d rather be in the dark about anything beyond that.”
Micky gave his jacket a tug and buttoned it. “I have to get to the telephone before Frank thinks any different.” He bolted out the door to his own car.
“Wait! I’ll drive!” Cylus lumbered after him. “You have to pretend to be still a little sick, unless you had one miraculous recovery I should drive you.” Micky stopped at the car. Vern still stood in the yard with a confused look on his face. Cylus nodded at him, “We’ll be back.”
Micky sat in the telephone booth at diner in the nearest town. He was listening to the familiar clicks as the operator patched him through to Sicero’s office. He hoped he would still be there, so he didn’t have to keep trying different numbers.
“Hello?” a nasally voice answered.
“Yeah, O’Kinney for Sicero,” Micky replied.
“One minute,” the voice said. Micky tapped his foot nervously. He sincerely hoped Spots had kept his mouth shut. He knew the kid liked to talk. Usually about nothing, but he still went on and on.
“Micky,” a gravelly voice stated, “What’s this I hear about you being sick? I’m not working you too hard, am I?” It was Frank and although Micky had heard him in better moods, he did not sound angry.
“No, it’s not from work. Winter’s coming and that stuff tends to go around.” Micky pulled at his collar, but it felt as if it was tightening. “What did you want me for?”
“Down to business then? That’s fine, we’ll chat when you get to town. I have a man here from New York. I want you to meet him and he wants to sample something.”
“I’m sure you have plenty on hand…” Micky began, but Frank didn’t let him finish.
“No Micky, this is more about the presentation and making the connection. I want this man to feel special, because he’s doing me a favor.”
“When?” Micky perked up.
“You need to pull yourself together by morning, head out here, but no funny business. No side piece. You come to the sit down, then you’re on the road back to the Farm.” Micky’s heart dropped to his stomach.
“That makes for a long day. Why don’t I get a room at the Cormorant for the night and head out in the morning?” Micky said, but he already knew Frank would have an excuse.
“No, you need to get a shipment ready to follow my new friend back to New York. Bring Cylus, he can drive. Is he there?” It was as if Frank had an answer for everything.
“Yeah, he’s here,” Micky stared through the glass at Cylus nursing a cup of coffee. “I wasn’t really up to driving being sick and all.”
“Put him on and take care of yourself. I need you 100% tomorrow.”
Micky glowered for a moment alone in the booth before he tapped on the glass. Cylus looked up and Micky waved him over. Cylus lumbered over and squeezed into the booth that Micky vacated. He picked up the ear piece as Micky went to their table and slumped in his seat. Micky had thought about calling Delphia after talking to Frank, but the opportunity to see her seemed unlikely.
“Hey Cannoli, you’re going to be driving down with Micky tomorrow morning. Bring him to Libellule and when I’m done with him, you take him straight back to the Farm. No stops. I have this feeling that he’s up to something. I just can’t put my finger on it.” Cylus knew exactly what he meant, but he still needed Frank’s trust.
“What makes you say that, Frank?” Cylus shifted uneasily in his seat. On the other end of the line, Frank was the example of ease. He leaned with his elbow on the desk and rolled a cigar around in his fingers. The only light was from his desk lamp. He smirked.
“Call it a sixth sense, Cy. Arrivederci.” Frank hung up. He wasn’t about to divulge his secrets to anyone.