A Stray Boxcar: part one

Frank Sicero ordered his driver to stop at the corner down the street from Tino’s. It had rained for several days and today a weak sun shown through the clouds. He decided to buy a newspaper and walk down to the restaurant. The shopkeeper nodded good morning as Frank took his paper. He glanced at the front page, then tucked it under his arm and started towards Tino’s.

A youth darted out of the alleyway as he passed. The boy was probably around fifteen or sixteen years old by Frank’s guess.

“Mr. Sicero! Mr. Sicero! I got somethin’ you wanna hear!” he said urgently. Frank brushed past him.

“Move it, kid,” he growled, but the kid kept pace with him.

“No really, Mr. Sicero, you want to hear this!”

Ahead on the street, Frank’s bodyguard had parked the car and was starting towards him. He had his steely eyes set on the kid.

“Please Mr. Sicero, it’s about a mother lode of liquor. It’s sittin’ there for the takin, but you gotta act fast.”

Frank paused and glanced around. No one had heard what the kid had said. Jack met up with them.

“Is this kid bothering you?” he asked. Frank slowly shook his head.

“No, let him in,” he told Jack. He gave the kid a glance that said Shut up. They finished the walk to Tino’s and went into the foyer. Jack shoved the kid up against the wall and gave him a rough pat down. He found a small blade that he held up for Frank to see.

Sicero walked into the dining room and sat at a table.

“So what is it, kid, that you have to tell me?” Frank asked as he unfolded his newspaper.

“First things first…”

“What you want me to pay you?” Frank snapped before the kid could finish his sentence. The kid had a hurt look on his face and Frank softened.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Jacob Petrofsky, sir.”

“And what is this information going to cost me? Or was it a ruse just to get my attention?”

“I..” Jacob’s eyes wandered to Jack standing by the door, before he looked down at his toes. “I want to work for you. I’m a fast learner, I promise.”

“Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Nah, they can’t teach me anything else I can use, but you can. I want to learn about the business.” Jacob was fervently pled his case. Frank burst out laughing.

“Are you hearing this, Jack? He seems to think we’re running some sorta secondary school here.” Jack chuckled as Jacob’s face turned red from embarrassment.

“Mr. Sicero, I mean it. I know what you guys do. I promise I can be useful,” Jacob argued.

“You’re too young. You haven’t even grown out of your spots yet,” Frank growled. Jacob’s shoulders slumped, but his jaw was set defiantly. Frank let out a deep sigh.

“Fine, I’ll find something for you to do if whatever you have to tell me is useful.”

Jacob nodded.

“A few miles to the north there is a railroad siding. I happened to be nearby last night when the 4am stock train shunted a boxcar onto the siding and left it. I thought it was strange, so I had myself a looksee.” Jacob paused for effect and rocked back on his heels. Frank was not as patient of an audience as the boy thought.

“What was in the boxcar?” he snapped.

“Liquor, Mr. Sicero, crates and crates of it. Sitting there, free for the taking until whoever it belongs to comes to collect it.”

Frank was intrigued. It seemed like a farfetched story, but it was an ingenious plan if one could get around all the shipping manifests, bills of lading and permits.

“Is this siding near a crossing?” he asked. Jacob perked up.

“Yes, it is! Is that important?”

Frank nodded.

“I think whoever owns this lot is planning to transfer it to trucks…or it could always be picked up by another train. Jack, drag Micky O. out of the cat house and get him down here. He’s had enough fun.” Frank turned his attention to his newspaper. “Spots, I suggest you sit down while we wait.”

Realization struck the boy and he quickly took a seat. Frank Sicero was listening to him and he was ready to burst with elation.

Micky was awoken by a loud banging on the door. He rolled over to find the bed empty. He was once again alone. The person outside banged again.

“What?” Micky shouted.

“Sicero wants you down at Tino’s now!” a man said. Micky rolled over. A hangover was telling him to go back to sleep. The messenger banged on the door again.

“Alright! Alright! I’m up, I’m coming!” Micky shouted back. An action that quickly made his head pound. He sat up and buried his head in his hands for a moment, then started the arduous task of dressing.

By the time, Micky O. walked into Tino’s, coffee had been made. Frank refolded his newspaper and set it aside. He pushed an empty cup towards Micky. The bootlegger filled it up from the carafe as he eyed the kid sitting across from Frank.

“What’s with the kid?” he asked. Jacob shot out of his chair.

“I’m not a kid!” he barked. Micky looked him up and down, but didn’t respond to him. Instead he spoke to Sicero.

“What the fuck is this?”

“Spots wants to learn the business.” The kid turned on Frank.

“My name ain’t Spots. It’s Jacob, Jacob Petrofsky,” he said firmly. Frank pointed a finger at him.

“Your name is whatever the fuck I say it is. If I want to call you Daisy, you answer. How’s that for your first lesson?” Jacob held his tongue and Frank turned his attention back to Micky. “Spots has informed me that there is a boxcar full of liquor sitting on a railroad siding north of town. I want you to go out there and see if it’s as he says. If it is we need to make arrangements to empty it into trucks after dark before anyone else comes to retrieve it.”

Micky frowned and took a sip of coffee.

“I see,” he replied. “And if there isn’t any liquor?”

Frank leaned back and gave him a knowing look.

“If and only if there isn’t and never was any liquor,” Frank said. They both settled their eyes on the kid as his eyes darted between them nervously.

Continue reading: Part Two

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