A car rattled down the two ruts that made up the drive of the Farm. It was a surprise visit. Vern ducked around the corner of the barn and pulled out his gun, just in case. The car parked and Jack got out followed by a kid holding a rucksack.
“What the fuck is this?” Micky O. shouted from the porch as he stepped out of the farmhouse. Vern put his gun away and came out into the open. Jack stood still. He let Micky and Vern come to him.
“What’s he doing here?” Micky asked as he pointed at Spots. “I told Sicero I wasn’t babysittin’.”
“Spots needs to learn how to drive,” Jack said.
“How’s that my problem?” Micky asked.
“Let me rephrase it. Mr. Sicero wants you to teach him how to drive.” Jack waved his hand at the countryside. “You got all this open space and if everything’s humming along as you say you have plenty of free time.”
“I suppose that’s a direct order, huh?” Micky asked. Jack nodded. He turned back to the car and opened the door.
“Don’t look so dejected. I thought you wanted more company out here.” Jack grinned, “Have fun and give us a call when you think he’s good enough to trust with the Boss’s car.” Jack got in the car and fired up the engine. Micky scowled as he watched the car drive off. Spots stepped up to his elbow and held out a balled up rag.
“This is for you, Mr. O,” Spots said. Micky’s eyes narrowed at the sound of Mr. O. Nobody called him that. Who the fuck would want to be dubbed that anyway. He took the lump of rag from the boy’s hand.
“What’s this?” Micky pulled back the rag to reveal an engraved silver lighter and matching cigarette case. Spots shrugged as Micky held it out for Vern to see, “Would you look at this, Vern?”
“You said I owed you a lighter. I used some of the money I earned from the Boss,” Spots explained. Vern picked up the cigarette case and turned it over once.
“Pretty nice,” Vern commented.
“I think he’s getting sweet on me, Vern,” Micky said. Both men chuckled. “Suppose he thinks I’ll put out now?” More snickering. Spots’s lipped were pulled in a firm line as he held his tongue.
“You got taste, kid. I’ll give you that.” Micky stuffed the rag and its contents into his pocket. Spots’s expression broke into a relieved smile.
“Alright, stop wasting time. Go stow your effects, then I wanna know what Sicero’s been teaching you,” Micky said. He started walking towards the porch. He stopped when he noticed Spots trudging along behind him. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”
“I’m going to drop off my stuff like you said, Mr. O,” Spots replied.
“No, you’re not sleeping in my house,” Micky said. Spots was surprised by his answer. The bootlegger turned to Vern. “Take him around back, wouldya? Make sure he doesn’t get lost. You, go follow Vern to the bunkhouse.” Micky waited for Spots to turn and sullenly amble off with Vern before he turned back to the house.
Spots followed Vern to a low, long building. The floor was dirt and it still had the faint smell of animals. It was dark except the light cast from the open door.
“Why don’t you take that one there?” Vern suggested as he pointed at a bunk pieced together from odds and ends of discarded wood. Spots stepped forward and deposited his rucksack on it.
“Why so many?” he asked. “I thought it was just you and Mr. O.”
“Most of the time it is, but we hire extra hands whenever we bottle or ship. It gets it done faster. The drivers need to be rested, because we won’t make any stops if we can help it and they’re plum beat by the time they make it back,” Vern explained.
“But no security?” Spots asked. Vern’s eyes narrowed.
“Not usually necessary.” Vern waved him out of the bunkhouse and back into daylight. The kid made him wonder if perhaps they should have another set of hands around for security.
That night they sat on the porch as the sun went down. The night air was getting colder and Spots shivered in his worn out jacket. Micky noticed the sleeves were getting a little too short. He picked up the whiskey bottle sitting next to his chair and used it to nudge Spots.
“Why don’t you have a drink? It’ll warm you up,” he suggested. Spots’s face lit up. Sicero had been very strict about him being clear headed in the Boss’s presence. Sicero did not want to have to repeat himself. Spots took a big gulp from the bottle and the alcohol burned not just his throat, but all the way down to his esophagus. He started coughing violently. He felt the bottle jerked out of his hand.
“Take it easy, kid.”
“Sorry, Mr. O,” sputtered Spots. Micky shook his head.
He started thinking about how he had mentioned the isolation at the Farm to Sicero. Of course, at the time he had been referring to female company and now he was sent a kid. He looked up at the horizon and shook his head again. A few memories from his prison days had crept up from the depths of where he kept them. He shoved them away and topped off his tin cup with whiskey. He set the bottle down within reach of Spots. The kid could help himself if he really wanted to. I’m not his guardian, Micky told himself.
The bootlegger emptied the glass down his throat and let the warmth of the whiskey was over him. He wiped his cold, damp palms on his trousers for the fiftieth time that day. Lena had called them his dead hands. It wasn’t his fault they felt the way they did. It had bothered him the way his wife had cringed when he touched her, but it wasn’t only her. He felt it with each handshake, every hooker, and eventually his own children. Dead bodies don’t cringe and he’d dealt with enough of them. Not to mention he’d siphoned the funds of the grieved to line his own pockets.
“Boss?” Micky forced his mind back to the present. It was fully dark now. Vern was nudging his shoulder, then pointed at Spots. The boy was doubled over at the edge of the porch and vomiting.
“What the hell!” Micky muttered under his breath. He stood up and staggered over to Spots. The boy’s dinner was spewed all over the grass. The kid dry heaved a few times, then wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
“Hey kid, why don’t you head back to the bunk house?” Micky suggested. Vern held out a lantern as Spots kept apologizing. “It’s fine, but take the light and get to bed or else you’ll never stop getting ribbed for this.” Spots obediently took the lantern and stumbled off into the night.
“Boss, I’ve been struggling with a thought. It was something the boy said earlier about it only being us out here with no security,” Vern said. “Strange question for a kid…security.”
“Yeah, I suppose it is, but are you asking if he’s a mole? I don’t think he is…he pissed himself during that whole boxcar affair. The kid can’t be that good of an actor,” Micky replied as he eased back down in his chair. He picked up the whiskey bottle and scrutinized how much was left. Where the fuck was I? he thought.
“But what would you say about maybe having another man or two around?” Vern asked. Micky was still shaking his head as he set the bottle down.
“If I mention it, Sicero might go overboard. We’re not Death Valley, here. Nobody notices us right now, but I know they will when we have two suits perched at the end of the drive armed to the nines. If you get too many people around…fuck, it causes too much suspicion.” Micky pulled out a cigarette and tested his new lighter.
“I see…” Vern replied, hesitantly. “I guess if you don’t need anything else, I’ll turn in.”
“If that kid springs out of bed in the morning keep him occupied. I don’t want him up here knocking on my door,” Micky said. Vern stepped off the porch.
“Sure thing, Mr. O.”
“Oh, fuck off, Vern,” Micky mumbled around his cigarette as he sunk lower in his chair.