Micky O. kept staring at the clock on the wall. He had watched the hands make their way around the face all evening. A quarter after eight, he folded the newspaper he had been pretending to read and rose from his chair. Delphia looked up from her embroidery as he started to pull on his suit coat.
“Do you have work to do tonight?” Delphia asked surprised.
“No, it’s only a little errand. I won’t be gone long,” he donned his hat as she gave him a questioning look. He knew she was debating whether or not to ask more questions or if he would only lie if she did. She had a certain look when he lied as if she were offended. Somehow she always knew. Delphia set her sewing aside and came over to him before he could reach the door.
“How long are you going to be gone?” she asked, a hand on his arm stopped him in his tracks. Her eyes narrowed in scrutiny.
“Not long at all, Dollface. I’ll be home before you know it.” She seemed satisfied and relaxed. “But if anybody calls while I’m gone…don’t tell them that I’m not home. I was here all night.”
Delphia’s eyes widened.
“I promise it’s nothing dangerous. I’ll be back.” Micky kissed her forehead and left her standing by the door, baffled.
Micky pulled his car in at the rail depot and got out. The air was thick with the summer humidity. The dark of night only made a fraction of difference in comfort. He watched as a few prospective passengers made their way into the station’s light. Micky hesitated and glanced around the empty street. He followed and waited patiently in line at the ticketing window. When it was his turn he purchased a one-way ticket to New York. After that, he would be on his own.
Micky walked out to the platform in hopes of catching a slight breeze. The last passenger train for the night would arrive soon. Micky fished out his cigarette case as he made his way to the end of the platform to wait. He glanced behind him as a few lighthearted people talking loudly came outside and settled on a bench. He turned back to the darkness and lit his cigarette. He sat down on the edge of the platform and waited.
An owl hooted close by. Too close.
Micky’s head jerked to the shadows.
“Come on out, Vern, I’m alone.”
There was a shuffling as Vern squeezed out from between the staged freight. His eyes darted in all directions. Micky wondered if the hair was raised on Vern’s neck like an alarming dog.
“I mean it, Vern, no one knows I’m here,” Micky assured him.
“I’m sorry, Mick…”
Micky held up a hand to silence him.
“Hey, if I were in your position, I would be suspicious too.” Vern kicked at the dirt and stared at the ground.
“How’s Spots? You didn’t kill him did you?” Micky asked. Vern shook his head.
“I don’t think so. Depends how thick is skull is, I reckon.” Vern dropped a burlap sack on the ground. It must be his meager belongings, Micky thought. “Why was he coming for me? Did Sicero send him?”
Micky nodded slowly.
“Sicero thinks you ratted out the Farm.”
“I’m not a rat!” Vern exclaimed with passion. He repeated himself again with his voice flat and defeated. He realized he would never have the opportunity to plead his case with Sicero. It was decided. Someone had already been sent to take him out.
“I don’t believe you are. That’s why I tipped you off,” Micky explained. “I have to ask your opinion though…you ever feel anything off with Cylus?”
Vern’s brow furrowed as he racked his memory and shrugged.
“You didn’t overhear any of the telephone calls he made from the diner? Did he meet up with anyone while he was on a run or when you two came to the coast?”
“He saw that dancer, Moira, somewhat regular. You know, the one that helped at the beach,” Vern said.
“Oh, I know Moira all right,” Micky spat, “He had that on the regular, you say?” Micky couldn’t imagine the lithe dancer tolerating such a heavy set, apish brute like Cylus. Vern nodded.
“He did, probably because he brought her alcohol,” Vern explained. Micky shot him a look.
“He was paying a whore off with my liquor?” Micky asked. Vern nodded again.
“He told me you said it was okay.” He kicked at the dirt again. The train blared its horn as it approached the station.
“I have the feeling that is not the only lie Cylus has told.” Micky leaned closer to Vern so he could be heard over the train. “He’s the one who convinced Frank that you snitched.” He saw the anger rise in Vern’s face and the man cracked his knuckles in a threatening manner.
“Then let’s go back and take him out! I’ll get the truth out of him!” Vern growled. Micky shook his head in resignation.
“No, it’s too dangerous. Frank wouldn’t believe me unless I catch Cylus out. He has too much pull at the moment. I got to watch my step and play my cards right.”
Micky handed the ticket over to Vern, then pulled out his money clip from his pocket. He freed all the cash and held it out to Vern. The brute slowly took it, still uncertain of what this meant.
“Get on the train and get far away from here,” Micky ordered.
“Why are you doing this?” Vern’s stony face cracked and he sniffed.
“Why wouldn’t I? We’ve been through a lot. Frank wants you dead for something you didn’t do. This is all I can do to repay you for your hard work over the years.”
The conductor called for boarding. Vern picked up his burlap sack of belongings and nodded to Micky.
“Thanks, Mick,” he grumbled as he tried to hide his emotions.
“Go on, get the fuck out of here. If they ever find you, you never saw me.” Micky jerked his thumb towards the train.
Vern brushed past him and climbed onto the platform. Micky didn’t watch him make his way along the cars and duck inside. He found an empty seat in a dark corner of a near empty passenger car. He pulled his flat cap lower and sniffed. He told himself he was too old to cry. He couldn’t help but feel utterly dejected. Hard work and not necessarily law-abiding honesty were his ethic and now he had become a scapegoat. He should have known. He should have picked up on Cylus. They had spent enough time together. Vern had taught him all the ropes and now the master was being strung up by the pupil. The train pulled slowly out of the station and the car started to rock gently as it made its way out into the night and eventually to New York.