The car screeched to a halt outside a warehouse. The headlights shown on Vern as he stood beside a truck half-loaded with wooden crates. Micky stepped out and walked over to him.
“What the fuck happened?” he asked. Vern pushed up the brim of his hat.
“Some guys held up one of the ships that was coming up from the islands. They’ve been ferrying the booze to this warehouse all night. The security guard down here tipped us off. You’ll find Cylus inside with the guys, but they haven’t said who they work for.”
“Is the security guard still here?” Micky asked. Vern pointed over at an older man holding a flash light. Micky walked over to him.
“Are you the one that called?” he asked with a smile. The old man nodded.
“Yes, I am. I know these docks like the back of my hand. No one operates out of here, but Sicero and these guys show up with their funny accents. I says ‘What’re you doing out here so late?’ and they says they rented this warehouse last week and they’re fishin.’ I fished these waters since I was fifteen. I knows a fisherman when I see one and they weren’t it.” The man took a cigarette from behind his ear and put it in his toothless mouth. He struggled to pull a match out with his knobby, arthritic fingers.
“Here, old timer,” Micky pulled out his lighter and lit it for him. The man leaned in and puffed on his cigarette. He nodded and the smoke drifted out of his nostrils.
“Plain disrespectful, they was.” The old man frowned.
“Why don’t you call it a night, pops? We’ll take it from here.” Micky pulled out his money clip and took out several bills. He held him out for the man to grasp in his knobby fingers. The old man jerked his chin at the truck.
“That’s mighty decent of you, but I could use a little of that if you could spare,” the old man said.
“How about I have some dropped off in the morning as long as we’re not disturbed,” Micky offered. The old man nodded.
“See you in the morning then,” he said as he shuffled back to his guard shack. Micky strode over to the warehouse and stepped inside. Spots rushed up.
“The ship is sinking!” he exclaimed in a panic. Micky gave him a back hand across the face.
“Then what the fuck are you talking to me for? Take the thieves’s boats and get the fuck out there! We’re already going to lose enough shit as it is,” Micky ordered. He pointed at Cylus holding a baseball bat while he stood behind four tied up men. “You stay!” Spots ran off into the darkness with the other spare men. Micky crossed over to Cylus and stared at the thieves who were bound and gagged on their knees.
“Who are they?” he asked. Cylus grumbled and gave one of them a shove.
“As far as I know, Italians, fresh ones. We had to gag them, because they kept talking back and forth in that gibberish.”
“Gibberish, huh?” Micky reached into his pocket and his fingers slipped into a pair of brass knuckles. “Which one of you speaks English?” He nudged one with his toe.
“Speak English?” he asked again. The man stared back at him blankly. He nudged the next one and repeated his question and the same with the next. They all stared at him without a response. He came to the fourth young man, who couldn’t be much older than 16. He grabbed him by the hair and dragged him out of line. He kicked the boy down and landed a solid blow on his face with the brass knuckles. The boy moaned, but said nothing. Blood trickled from the split on his brow.
Micky looked over at the other men. The expressions on their faces was only feigned calm. You could still see the slight furrow of their brow and beads of perspiration forming. Cylus pulled the gag out of one of their mouths.
“Who do you work for?” he growled. The man looked between him and Micky, but said nothing. Micky pulled his fist back and cracked the boy’s face again. Blood spurted out of his nose and the boy let out a short shriek. The man without the gag addressed the boy in Italian, then shot Cylus a dark look of contempt. Cylus reached down and shoved the gag back in. He went to the next man and removed his. He repeated his question and the man didn’t answer either. Micky didn’t have time for this. He was already pissed that his night was ruined. The boy started muttering in his language. Begging. Micky hauled him up by his shirt front.
“What was that?” he asked. He gave the kid a good shake. He didn’t say anything intelligible. The man without the gag spit at Cylus and he responded by jabbing him in the stomach with a bat. The man doubled over and swore at them in English.
“Fucking cocksucker, we don’t have time for this shit. You don’t want to spill who you work for, fine, but it’s going to cost you,” Micky shouted, “Like your little friend, right here.” He started landing jabs on the kid again. Something else cracked in his cheek, his forehead. Again and again, Micky hit him.
“Micky,” a stern voice cut across the dark warehouse. He stopped with his hand cocked back. His grip shaking with anger. His now unkempt hair fell across his face. He looked over where the voice had come from. Frank walked calmly out of the darkness and right up next to Micky. He stared down at the young man, who had blood oozing off his face. The boy had stopped begging. He coughed and spit out his front teeth.
“That’s enough,” Frank tapped once on Micky’s shoulder. His grip on the boy released and he stood up.
“They weren’t talking,” Micky explained as he smoothed back his hair. Frank held a hand up to silence him. The sound of boat motors grew louder outside. He addressed the captive men in Italian and the three still on their knees looked back and forth between each other. The one in the middle that had spit squared his shoulders, looked Frank dead in the eye and said one name.
Frank nodded slowly in understanding. The man watched as he took the bat from Cylus. Frank tossed his cigarette on the ground and smothered it with his shoe. He walked behind them and gave Cylus a wide grin the prisoners couldn’t see. In one swift movement, he lifted the bat up and cracked it down on the skull of the man that had spoke. The captive slumped forward onto his belly.
“As soon as Spots and the boys have those boats unloaded…” Frank shoved the bat back into Cylus’s grip. “Take them out there, tie ‘em to the railing and make sure they go down with the ship. Micky walk me to my car.” Frank pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the flecks of blood of his hand. Micky followed Frank back into the darkness and outside. Frank tossed the stained handkerchief at him as he reached the car.
“You need to scrutinize your men. All of them. Anyone who ever so much as drove a truck or lifted a crate, especially if they came to the beach. Understand? There’s a leak somewhere and now New York might be stepping on our toes.” Frank climbed into the back of the car. “I mean it, Micky, I need you focused.” Micky’s hands rose in plea.
“I’m focused, trust me. Don’t I look focused?”
“No, Micky. You’re too busy chasing skirts and you’re too loose with your money. Every time you come to town one of the Cabaret girls quits and moves to the big city to become a star,” Frank growled.
“That’s not true, boss,” Micky shook his head, “And I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that…”
“Now’s not the time to talk about that. Just find the rat!”
Micky’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. He shut the car door and stepped back to watch the car drive out of the yard. He wiped the rest of the blood off his hands and shoved the handkerchief in his pocket. Another night ruined.