Charlie drove back to the small town near the Farm. The waitress looked up as he entered and accidentally spilled the coffee she was pouring onto the counter. Coffee in this heat? Charlie thought. He sat down at the telephone and waited for the operator to put him through. Within a few minutes, he heard Frank’s gruff voice.
“What the hell is going on out there?” he asked.
“I have no idea exactly. That Micky O. seems a little unstable to me. I don’t know if he’s slept at all during the past two weeks, but the good news is he’s got something to show for it.”
Frank leaned forward in his chair as Charlie spoke.
“He does? Did you try it?” Frank asked.
“No, Jack did. He sent me to call you while Micky puts together a care package for you,” Charlie said.
“I see…” Frank tried to conceal his excitement as he mulled his thoughts over, “Hurry back and bring Micky O. with you.”
“Alright, boss, but it might take a little time to get Micky presentable.”
“I’m not running a beauty pageant here, Charlie, just bring him down!”
“I will. I’m only saying this guy is…he’s missin’ something. He could be a liability.” Frank tensed at the other end of the line.
“Even more reason for me to see him face to face,” Frank growled before he hung up. He wasn’t about to have a serious conversation over the telephone. Charlie walked up to the diner counter and smiled at the waitress as she cleared a plate across the room. He waited for her to come over and ordered a glass of lemonade. He’d let Jack take care of Micky for awhile and he nursed the ice cold lemonade for as long as he could.
Jack watched as Micky filled several quart mason jars from the barrel and set them in a crate. The heat was sweltering, the air of the hayloft stagnant. He walked over to the hay door and loosened his tie. He stared out at the road hoping to see a plume of dust as Charlie returned, but there was no sight of him. When Jack wasn’t looking, Micky slipped the notebook in his back pocket protectively. He wasn’t about to do all the work and get none of the credit.
“That’s all of it,” he announced. Jack turned around and stared at him.
“How about you carry it downstairs? Charlie will be back any minute.” Or at least he hoped Charlie would. Micky forced a smile and heaved the crate up. He brought it out to the yard and set it down. He finally noticed Vern passed out in the grass. The shade had disappeared and Vern’s skin was turning pink. Micky left Jack standing by the crate as he went to the farmhand.
“Vern! Get up!” Micky shook him. Vern’s eyes fluttered open and he belched. He rolled over intending to go back to sleep, but Micky pulled him back and slapped him.
“What? What is it?” he mumbled.
“Do you have any idea what day it is?” Micky asked. Vern’s eyes tried to focus on him as he thought.
“Tuesday?” he guessed.
“I don’t fucking know,” Micky whispered, “But Sicero sent his guys here.” Vern very quickly sobered and sat up.
“Shit! When are they coming? Are we fucked?” Vern exclaimed.
“We’re already here,” Jack said. He had walked around the corner of the barn and stood in the last remaining sliver of shade, “And yes, in my opinion, you’re fucked, but lucky for you, I’m not the one that calls the shots.”
Micky glared at Jack. He didn’t trust this guy one bit. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe it was the coke, but Micky felt like he was walking a thin line.
“What’s that look for champ?” Jack asked. Micky kept staring at him.
“What look? The sun’s in my eyes and you think I’m giving you a fucking look.” Micky chuckled. The plume of dust Jack was desperate to see rose in the distance. Vern struggled to his feet as they watched Charlie pull in and stop. He got out of the car and came over.
“Sicero wants us to bring the bootlegger with,” he told Jack.
“Why? What for?” Jack asked. Charlie shrugged. Jack stared at the two dirty men with disgust. “Micky O. clean yourself up. You’re going to see the boss.”
Micky hid his excitement as he sauntered over to the water pump and started filling a bucket. Charlie and Jack murmured amongst themselves. Micky poured the bucket of ice cold water over his head and shook the water out of his eyes. He refilled the bucket and carried it inside the farmhouse. He tried his best to scrub off the accumulated grease and dirt. He managed to shave in a spotty mirror. He noticed he had dark circles under his red eyes. He sighed and resigned himself to less than his best. He emerged from the farmhouse to find Charlie and Jack sitting in the porch chairs. Vern sat on the edge with his head in his hands.
Jack took one look at Micky.
“Jesus, who fucking died?” he asked. Micky kept his composure and brushed nonexistent dust off his black suit. He patted the notebook safely stowed in his breast pocket.
“Your mother,” Micky sneered. Vern glanced up and made eye contact with Micky as he stepped off the porch. He watched the bootlegger stroll to the car. Charlie and Jack got out of their seats and followed.
Micky wasn’t convinced he was in the clear. Sicero didn’t have faith in him and he would have to prove he was invaluable. These thugs he sent underestimated Micky and he was fully prepared to let them think whatever they wanted, at least for now.
He made himself comfortable in the backseat as they began the long drive back to the coast. He let the car jostle him to sleep.