“Where’s the turn, Vern? You said it was coming up. Where is it?” Micky hunched over the steering wheel as he peered into the night. The headlights were off and they were trying to make their way by the light of the moon. It was easy enough in the countryside, but now they had reached the hills and trees.
“I don’t recognize anything anymore. Maybe we passed it already,” Vern grumbled. He readjusted his grip on a sawed off shotgun in his lap. Micky gritted his teeth as he kept driving. Sicero said he could sell off some of the experimental spirits Frank didn’t care for on his own free time, but this was taking a considerable amount of effort he had not expected.
Micky slammed on the brakes. The car skidded to a halt as branches entangled the front fenders.
“What the fuck is this?” Micky exclaimed, he knew he couldn’t have driven off the road. They climbed out of the truck and stared at a tree fallen across the lane.
“That wasn’t there yesterday,” Vern commented. He grabbed a hold of a thick branch and pulled. The trunk shifted slightly. “We could move it, but it’ll take some doing.” PING!
Micky jumped. He knew the sound of a bullet when he heard one. He didn’t wait for the following shout, “Don’t move!” He leapt back in the truck and shifted into reverse. Vern tried to disentangle the branches, but more shots rang out. He let off two blasts into the trees and ran for the truck. Micky put the pedal to the floor and the wheels spun as the truck tore itself free. Bullets were raining down now as Micky tore off down the narrow track in reverse. Vern fumbled to reload.
A man stepped out into the road and waved for them to stop. Micky didn’t hesitate. He didn’t slow down and the truck gave a violent lurch as it plowed over the man. He kept speeding down the road.
“A turnoff!” Vern shouted. The truck skidded to a stop. Micky turned his attention forward and sped off down the other road. Gradually, he let off the gas and slowed down. The night had returned to its usual quiet.
“I’d say this isn’t the right road either, but I don’t really care at this point,” Vern said.
“We need more guys if we’re going to keep doing this,” Micky commented to himself. “I shouldn’t be risking my ass like this.” As he finished the sentence, the truck’s engine sputtered and died. It slowly came to a halt.
“And a new truck,” Vern added. He got out and lit a lantern. He started to root around under the hood as Micky pulled out another cigarette and lit it.
The moon had drifted overhead and shone through the tree tops. Micky leaned on the truck as he held the lantern for Vern to see by.
“Keep it steady,” Vern growled for the fifth time.
“Do you hear that?” Micky asked. Vern sighed as he stood up and listened. He didn’t hear anything and shrugged.
“There’s music close by. Maybe someone’s having a party. We might not be out of luck after all.” Micky chuckled. Vern wiped his hands on his overalls and slammed the truck’s hood.
“Only if this works,” he mumbled. They climbed back in and after a few tense tries the engine turned over. Micky switched gears and they continued down the road. Gradually, lights began to twinkle through the trees. Cars were parked along the side of the road as they drove closer. Music reached their ears over the sound of the engine. An old two-story house revealed itself. Light and jazz spilled out it’s open windows.
“Is this the place?” Vern asked.
“At this point, I don’t care,” Micky said. “I’ll sell to anybody.”
Their arrival did not go unnoticed by the men smoking on the porch. They stood up and moved to the railing as the truck came to a stop. One of the men slowly stepped down the stairs and walked to the road. A few feet away he bent over and peered into the cab. Micky kept the engine running.
“You fellas look a long way from home,” the man drawled, “I’m afraid this is a private party.”
“Sounds like a pretty good shindig.” Micky tossed a glance up at the house. “We’re just a couple of traveling salesmen that got turned around in the dark. Perhaps you could point us in the right direction.”
The man’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the truck.
“Traveling salesmen? Your boy’s dressed somethin’ casual and there’s no writin’ on your truck. If you don’t mind me asking, what are you selling?”
“No gimmicks here. What we’re selling sells itself,” Micky said. He watched the man’s expression change when realization dawned on him.
“Seein’ as you mentioned it, can I assume you’re willing to sell to all, including us?” the man asked.
“As long as you have cash, that’s all that matters,” Micky replied. The man straightened up and hooked his thumbs in his suspenders.
“And how do I know the Imperial WIzard didn’t send you up here with a whole lot of poisoned hooch?”
Micky shared a look with Vern.
“Because we’ll stay and drink with you. Buy the whole lot and we’ll stay, drink the same hooch, listen to some music until you’re satisfied.” Micky pulled out his flask and took a sip. He held it out the man. He accepted the sample.
“Not bad. Where’s it from?” he asked.
“Does it matter?” Micky asked as he pulled out a cigarette.
“It matters if we could expect more. I have more reach in this community than you will.” The man slipped his hands in his pockets. “Think about it while I’ll go take up a collection.” He turned back to the house and returned to the others on the porch. Micky could tell the conversation was getting heated, but the man they had spoke to had it under control. He disappeared into the house and while he was gone more faces appeared at the windows.
By the time he reappeared a crowd had gathered in the yard. Micky killed the engine and got out. The man gave him a steady look before handing over the cash. Micky could feel the crowd holding its breath as he thumbed through it counting. He nodded, folded the money away into his pocket. Micky held out his hand.
“Pleasure doing business…”
“Jefferson. Saul Jefferson.” He shook Micky’s hand.
“Micky O.” Micky turned to the truck. “Come on, Vern, let’s get this truck unloaded!” The crowd came back to life and the music started again. The other men surged forward to help unload the truck bed. Jefferson stood next to Micky as they watched.
“Did you think about what I said?” Jefferson murmured.
“Yes,” Micky folded his arms across his chest. “The liquor is mine. I made it. I have a boss though, who takes first dibs. As long as he’s supplied we can make a deal on the excess.”
“I suppose you have to kickback on some of these profits?” Jefferson asked. Micky hesitated before he nodded.
“To who?” Jefferson was nonchalant as the party was reigniting around them.
“Sicero,” Micky said.