After the long drive back to the coast, Charlie and Jack brought Micky to the private lounge of Libellule. They made him carry the crate filled with mason jars of new whiskey upstairs by himself. Frank sat smoking a cigar in a wing-backed chair as they entered the room. He pointed with the cigar tip for Micky to set the crate down on the rug.
Micky set it down and lifted out one of the jars to hand to him. Frank pointed at the table and Micky set it down there instead. The bootlegger tried to keep his hand from shaking, but it felt like judgment day. If Frank didn’t like what he had brought, he doubted he would get a second chance. More likely, he would be taken out and shot or possibly tossed in the ocean; whatever was more convenient for Mr. Sicero that night. Micky remained tense as he perched on the edge of his seat.
“So you want to tell me what you’ve been doing out at the Farm?” Sicero asked.
“I’ve been working hard, Mr. Sicero. So hard that I lost track of time,” he shot a dirty look at Jack. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a stack of papers. “I have receipts for every dollar spent on start up costs. I assure you nothing’s being wasted.” Frank took the receipts that Micky held out and glanced at them. He stood up and went to the desk. He thought the receipts were odd, but he liked it. Maybe this small time crook knew something about establishing trust or he was a very good forger.
“Micky, take that jar out to Seymour. He’ll know what to do,” Frank ordered. He shuffled through the papers with the cigar held in his teeth. He picked up a pencil and started tallying numbers. Jack and Charlie made themselves comfortable as Micky picked the jar up and walked to the bar with it. Seymour trained his deep brown eyes on Micky as he walked up. He nodded as the jar was set down.
“Go sit down, son,” the old man said. He took the jar. Micky returned to the lounge and sat in the silence while Frank worked through the numbers. Jack and Charlie sat side by side on the davenport staring at him. Eventually, Seymour came in carrying a tray laden with several cups. The bartender held it next to Sicero as he sampled each of he cocktails. He picked up the last one in a crystal tumbler.
“Straight, the true test,” Frank said before he tossed back another swallow. He nodded. “Thank you, Seymour, that is all.” The bartender left the room.
“Ok, Micky, how much? How fast?” Frank piled the receipts back together and shoved them in the drawer.
“How much do you need?” Micky asked.
“A million cases by Friday,” Frank said. He looked at Micky and they both laughed. Charlie and Jack exchanged glowering looks.
“It might take me a little longer than that,” Micky replied. He released the death grip he had had on the arm of his chair as he relaxed.
“We’ll talk details later. For now, let’s celebrate this little miracle starting with something to eat,” Frank said. He led the way into the dining room. The Libellule manager appeared with a waiter close on his heels.
“How are you this evening, Mr. Sicero?” he asked.
“Just fine, Mort, things are looking up. Say, could you round up the numbers of how much liquor we used in the last week and bring it up?” Frank took his seat. Mort nodded and left them in the care of the waiter.
“As soon as we get my joints supplied, we can start expanding to other markets,” Frank said as he cut through his steak. “Isn’t that right, Jack?”
“That’s right, Mr. Sicero, I’ve been working on that list you wanted.” Jack turned to Micky. “I’ve got a list, see? Of venues that are looking for a more reliable supply and willing to pay good money for it.” Jack barely took his eyes off of Micky for the entire meal. The bootlegger seemed antsy. Jack could see him visibly sweating through his collar and he had the annoying habit of chuckling at the inanest things.
Jack occasionally caught a glance from Charlie and could tell that he was thinking the same thing. This guy was a flake. Undependable. Probably a coke fiend and missing a few basic components to his brain and that was Jack’s conclusion before Micky even started on the funeral parlor stories. Jack tried to loosened his collar as the room started to feel desperately hot. He’d have to excuse himself for fresh air if they didn’t stop talking about stiffs. To make matters worse, Frank was laughing. He was enjoying himself for once. The stress of investing in a grassroots liquor operation seemed to have lifted for the evening. It was with some relief for Jack when he saw Frank push his plate away.
“Charlie, why don’t you take Micky over to the Cabaret. I have to have a few words with Jack about another matter,” Frank said.
“Sure thing, boss.” Charlie pushed back his chair and got to his feet. He was already out the door before Micky caught up to him.
“Where’s the fire, Charlie?” he asked. Charlie glanced over his shoulder with his eyebrows raised.
“I thought you’d be anxious to see the girls,” he replied. He glanced down at his watch. “They’re probably not even dressed yet. It’s still early. It’d be a good night to have a smoke out on the pier.”
Charlie led the way downstairs and out into the night. A refreshing breeze came off the ocean and cooled the hot summer air. They strolled across the boardwalk and turned onto the pier that jutted out into the sea. The sound and lights from the boardwalk drifted away behind them. As they reached the end, Micky pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He leaned on the railing and looked down at the waves that swirled below. The openness of the water was completely different than the stagnant hayloft. Micky took a deep breath and let the cool ocean breeze relax him. He actually felt like going to sleep. It was too hard to sleep in the heat out at the Farm. Behind him, he heard a click. Micky recognized the sound of a gun’s hammer being drawn back. Tension instantly returned to his shoulders.
“What’s up, Charlie?” he asked nonchalantly.