A Stray Boxcar: part four

In case you missed it: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

It was still raining when he parked outside of Tino’s. The restaurant was closed by this time of night, but the lights were still on. By that time, Spots had wiped away his snot and tears on his shirt sleeve. Jack peered out the window and opened the door. Micky hurried from the car into the warm shelter of the restaurant with Spots moving mechanically behind him.

Frank Sicero’s jaw dropped at the sorry sight of them soaked and covered in mud. Micky crossed to the bar without a word and poured himself a drink. Spots stood awkwardly off to the side. The bootlegger eyed him sympathetically. He grabbed another glass and splashed a little whiskey in it. Not as much as he poured himself, but enough for a jolt. He held it out to Spots.

“This’ll warm you up,” Micky said. The teen accepted it and took a gulp. He immediately started coughing, but he had to admit other than burn his throat it did spread warmth through him. Micky turned around and faced Frank.

“Now that you’ve had a bracer, why don’t you tell me what happened,” Sicero said slowly.

Micky shrugged, then laughed nervously.

“It went off without a hitch…for awhile.”

“You mean the rightful owners showed up, don’t you?” Frank knocked the ash off of his cigar.

“I still gotta go to the warehouse and do an inventory, but I believe we made off with more than half. Don’t worry about the competition. They didn’t get the rest. The police ought to have showed up too quickly for them to identify our guys, the dead ones, I mean. That’s if the competition is local. If they’re not then, they won’t know any of my guys.” Micky crossed the room and sat down in the booth. There was Spots again, lingering a step behind like a puppy. Micky sighed and slid over so the kid could sit down. He still held his glass with another gulp left untouched. Frank surveyed them as he tried to glean the details. Micky wasn’t exactly giving him a blow by blow account.

“The other booze though. What do you mean?” he asked.

“Blown to smithereens,” Spots said as his voice cracked. He cleared his throat embarrassed. He finally put his glass on the table top and pushed it away. Frank nodded slowly

“Why don’t you follow Jack into the kitchen and see if you can find something to eat,” he suggested. Jack stepped forward ushered the kid out of the room. Frank leaned in.

“What about the kid?”

Micky grabbed the kid’s glass and finished it off.

“There was a moment there…that I thought maybe it was a set up. He managed to slow my escape considerably,” Micky motioned to his mud splattered suit. “Put he was frightened out of his mind. He ain’t tough. It was probably the first time he was ever shot at and I’m tellin’ you, they had some fire power. I honestly don’t think they’re from around here. I’m pretty sure that explosion will be front page news though. They’ll be cautious about trying the same strategy again.”

“But do you think he has some smarts?” Frank asked quietly. Micky shrugged.

“He has enthusiasm, I’ll give him that much and he worked hard moving crates. He needs some toughening up.” Micky was starting to worry about where the conversation was headed. Frank leaned back and rubbed his chin.

“Still though…he might be useful.”

“Useful? Are you planning on expanding your market to the boy scouts?” Micky chuckled.

“Maybe you could look after him, teach him a thing or two.”

“Fuck no!” Micky snapped. By the look on Frank’s face, he knew it had been the wrong response. Then Frank started to grin.

“I’m serious, Micky. Why don’t you take him under your wing? You complain about how lonely the Farm is…” Micky avoided eye contact. He couldn’t imagine how many questions he’d be asked on a daily basis if he had Spots under foot the whole time. “Come on, I’ll buy you a new suit. You can’t keep walking around looking like an undertaker.”

“Don’t you need an errand boy? Or a dishwasher?” Micky pointed out. “You know Vern will be a very bad influence and I’m no angel myself. You wouldn’t want your protégé to pick up any bad habits.”

“Fine, Micky, have it your way. I’ll hang on to him. I only thought he could get a good education on the Farm with all of your miscellaneous expertise.” Frank planted his cigar back in his mouth. Spots reappeared from the kitchen carrying two plates.

“Are you still going to cover a new suit?” Micky asked as Spots pushed a plate in front of him.

“Yeah, I will as long as you consider the idea. It might be nice to have table service at the Farm.” Frank turned a big grin on Spots. The boy was oblivious to what was occurring as he sat down and began to stuff himself. Micky picked up his fork.

“Say kid, ain’t your ma worried about you or nothing?” he asked. Spots shook his head.

“My mother’s dead. I live with my aunt, but I have seven cousins and she can barely keep track of us all,” he said around a mouthful of bread.

“Micky will be returning you to your aunt anyway. In a storm like this, she has to be missing you,” Frank said. The boy’s shoulders slumped.

“But I thought…our deal…” Spots said. Micky feared that the waterworks were going to start again, but the boy managed to steel himself.

“Yes, our deal was that I’d find something for you to do. That doesn’t mean you can come curl up on the foot of my bed. Caroline wouldn’t like that.” Frank pulled out his money clip and pulled off a ten-dollar bill. He set it by Spots’s plate. “Speaking of Caroline, she’s probably pissed that I’ve been gone so long. I ought to call over to Libellule and see if she’s still there.” Frank slid out of the booth and walked into the back of the restaurant.

Micky and Spots were left sitting side by side, eating with what little stamina they had left. The dining room was quiet except for the scrape of their forks on the plates. Micky let out a long sigh.

“By the way, kid, you owe me a lighter,” Micky said.



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