Location: Outside Chicago (Dirt Road) (Day)
We ended up postponing our booze run for a couple of days, ’til Vince could drive again.
I was pretty angry with him about the whole mess.
[Heroine]”I’ve been around to the casinos and the small clubs we supply…they’re about dry.”
[Vince]”I heard. You aren’t the only one bendin’ my ear on the subject lately.”
[Heroine]”You had Donovan check this out?”
[Vince]”The meeting’s way out of his jurisdiction, but as far as he knows, nobody’s interested in us or our supplier right now.”
[Heroine]”Are we on time for this meet?”
[Vince]”We’re early. Should be at the rendezvous inside a half hour. Settle down, will ya?”
[Heroine]”I’m not the one who got myself laid up for two days!”
[Vince]”No, but you been the only one nursin’ and naggin’ me ever since.”
[Heroine]”Believe me, buster, if I knew being your nursemaid was part of the job…”
[Vince]”Look, [USER_FIRST_NAME], I said I was sorry, but sometimes taking a punch, a knife, or even a bullet goes with the territory…
[Vince]”…so either let it go or tell me what’s really going on with you.”
(Please select one)
A: “I’m just nervous is all.”
B: “There’s nothing going on.”
C: “Just let’s get this done!”
(He’s right…I’ve been on him ever since he came in bleeding the other day.)
[Heroine]”I’m just nervous is all. It’s dawning on me this is a pretty big job I took on.”
[Vince]”You’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ve got you covered.”
(I believed that…up until the other day.)
[Heroine]”Just forget it. I’m fine.”
[Heroine]”There’s nothing going on.”
[Vince]”You been acting all flummoxed for days now. Come on.”
[Vince]”I can’t be your right-hand guy if you don’t talk to me.”
[Heroine]”Just starting to realize what a big job I took on.”
[Heroine]”The speak is a lot on its own…”
[Heroine]”but there’s the store upstairs and the casinos and other speaks we supply…”
[Heroine]”A lot of people depend on me now.”
[Vince]”Welcome to the cold cruel.”
[Vince]”For what it’s worth, doll, I think you got what it takes. So does Cliff.”
[Heroine]”Let’s just get this done!”
[Vince]”You see me driving here?”
[Vince]”There’s not much I can do to get it done any faster, so shake the ants out of your pants!”
[Heroine]”Sorry. I know…it’s…a lot of people are depending on me.”
[Heroine]”All I was thinking when I bugged Uncle Charlie to put me in charge”
[Heroine]”was how much fun it would be…”
[Heroine]”…how much gas the kids at home would get out of finding out”
[Heroine]”that I was running a speakeasy in Chicago…but now…”
[Vince]”Startin’ to feel the sharp edge now, huh?”
We hit a rough patch of road about then and the truck started jumping and shaking to beat the band.
A light rain started up.
The road sign said we were a couple of miles from Joliet when we turned down another stretch of washboard claiming to be a road…
…and eased up next to an old decrepit building.
Location: Warehouse (Exterior) (Rain)
[Heroine]”This place looks like it’s been empty for years. What’s that god-awful smell?
[Vince]”Used to be a tannery.”
[Vince]”The stink inside is so bad that it don’t even attract hoboes, so we know we’ll be left alone.”
We stood in the lee of the building, out of the rain.
Vince put his jacket over me and offered the whiskey he was carrying.
[Heroine]”Yeah. I’ll have a sip…but only because I’m cold.”
It burned going down, but the fire it lit in my stomach was nice.
[Vince]”Yeah. I like the Irish stuff better. Don’t tell Donovan.”
[Heroine]”So, you want to tell me where you were the other night when you came back bleeding?”
[Heroine]”And where you went after?”
[Vince]”Father Caruso and Sister Bridget needed my help with a kiddie carnival over at St. Mary of None’ayerbeeswax.”
I cracked a smile in his direction.
(He’ll talk when he wants to and not a minute before.)
There was the sound of a big truck in the distance.
Vince reached behind his seat and came back out with a machine gun.
[Heroine]”Are you…going to need that?”
[Vince]”Ounce of prevention.”
The closer the truck got, the bigger it sounded.
The truck pulled near us and two big men stepped out of the cab, joined by two more men coming around from the back.
All were carrying guns.
I caught myself shaking, and pulled Vince’s jacket tighter around myself.
(I have never been so scared in my life!)
Vince took a few steps toward the men and one of them broke off and moved forward.
(Hogan) [???]”If you’re Moretti.”
[Vince]”What’d happen if I wasn’t?”
[Hogan]”Since you ain’t a cop, a Prohie or a Fed, I’m assumin’ you don’t want to die, so why don’t you shut up and show me the cash.”
[Vince]”After I see the merchandise.”
Hogan signaled to one his men who pulled the truck around so it was back to back with ours.
Vince and I walked over, joining Hogan as he pulled a canvas panel open, revealing dozens of barrels.
He deftly hammered a stopcock into one of them, then filled a glass tumbler with amber liquid.
[Hogan]”This is the bourbon. There’s whiskey, rye, brandy, gin.”
[Hogan]”The boss says to tell you it’s all medicinal quality…top shelf.”
(Medicinal quality. That’s funny.)
(One of the only legal ways to sell this stuff anymore is as medicine…)
(…so half the country came down sick the week after Prohibition came in.)
[Vince]”That’s the straight stuff all right. What do you think, doll?”
I took a sip and fought to suppress a cough.
[Heroine]”My rheumatism’s all better. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll fill up my flask here…”
I turned away to preserve a bit of modesty, but they all caught a flash of leg.
[Heroine]”…’cause I feel a cold coming on.”
Vince showed Hogan the money, but held onto for the moment.
We stepped back while Hogan’s men unloaded a batch of lumber from our truck…
…then transferred the barrels into our truck.
They then filled out our truck bed with the wood, concealing the barrels.
(The trip back’s gonna be slower.)
The transfer complete, Vince paid Hogan.
[Vince]”We go first. Wait half an hour, then you can head out.”
[Vince]”Tell your boss we appreciate the supplies.”
[Hogan]”Long as the money spends, he don’t care who buys. But I’ll tell him.”
We climbed into our truck and drove off, watched by those hard men.
[Heroine]”Holy…! I forgot to breath there for a while.”
[Vince]”You did good. Held yourself together…even gave’em a little thrill there with the whole garter flask business.”
[Heroine]”Come’on, they didn’t care.”
[Vince]”Hogan forgot to count his cash. Bootleggers ALWAYS count the cash.”
[Heroine]”Haha! Guess I’m turning into a real femme fatale.”
[Vince]”Grab the smokes out of my pocket and light me up one, will you?”
I did…but between my shaking hands and the bouncing of the truck, it took a minute.
We drove along in silence, the miles rolling by…until we got near Chicago again.
We came around a curve in the highway to find an accident with several police cars blocking the road.
(Oh, no! They’re going to see us and search the truck and…)
Vince must’ve sensed me tensing up.
[Vince]”It’s just cops. They ain’t lookin’ for booze…”
[Vince]”Hey, officer. What happened here?”
[Cop]”Some damn fool ran off the road, but not before he dumped his whole load of what looks like pig parts…”
[Cop] “Stinks something awful, whatever it is…”
[Cop]”We’ve got a path clear, but we’re only letting vehicles through one at a time for now.”
[Cop]”Tell the truth, we’d been done an hour ago,”
[Cop]”but the Prohies showed up to make sure the cargo was on the up…No hooch, you unnerstand?”
[Cop]”Brought’cher girl along on your run?”
[Vince]”More fun that way.”
The cop leered at me and chuckled. I managed a weak-tea kind of smile.
[Cop]””Hey…Mike’s givin’ me the signal. Go on ahead through. Just keep it slow.”
As we started to move, we got a better look at the wrecked truck…
and the two men in brown suits and snap-brim fedoras watching us as we crawled along…
[Vince]”Those guys are the Prohies. Scootch over here next to me.”
One of the men…his eyes a chilly blue…seemed too interested in us.
He shouted something I couldn’t hear to his chubby partner, then he waved at Vince.
[Prohie 1]”Hold up there.”
(Oh, hell! He’s going to search us!)
Chilly Blue Eyes came over to the window.
His partner, Chubby, came to my side of the truck and climbed up on the running board, sticking his head in the cab.
[Prohie 1]”Riding pretty low there.”
[Vince]”Got a load of wood.”
[Prohie 1]”Firewood or lumber?”
[Vince]”Both. Mostly firewood. Season’s coming.”
[Prohie 2]”Who’re you, missy?”
[Vince]”She’s my wife, pal. What’s it to ya?”
[Prohie 2]”Just seems funny, you bringing a woman along on a haulin’ job.”
[Vince]”Like I told the cop back there, makes the trip a lot more fun.”
I was so scared, I hadn’t realized how excited I was.
Then Vince took my chin in his hand and turned my head toward him…
…and exactly how excited I was got real clear real quick as Vince started kissing me.
The kiss just went on and on. Chubby chuckled in a way that made my skin crawl.
That seemed to set Chilly Blue Eyes off.
[Prohie 1]”All right! All right! Enough! Move on.”
Vince broke the kiss, smiled a satisfied smile and gunned the engine.
Chubby couldn’t get off the running board fast enough and ended up on his back in the road.
I glanced back out the window and saw Chilly standing over his partner, shouting at him.
I couldn’t hear much, but it seemed like Chilly thought Chubby was a disgusting, godless lecher.
[Heroine]”Geez, that was close!”
(My heart is absolutely POUNDING! What a thrill!)
[Vince]”Ahhh, they were just looking for a bribe. Those Prohies’re all on the take.”
[Heroine]”What? Did you…bribe them?”
[Vince]”I slipped my guy a fiver while we were kissing.”
[Vince]”He gets to keep it all himself ’cause Fatso was too busy takin’ in the view to notice.”
[Heroine]”Five dollars! You must be nuts!”
[Vince]”Hey, you haveta spend money to make money, right?”
[Vince]”By the way, can’t help noticing you got a nice pink color in your cheeks.”
[Vince]”That from almost getting’ busted, or from my kissing?”
(I don’t know! Both?)
[Heroine]”No, I was thinking about how good this shipment’s going to look when I enter it in the books.”
[Vince]”You got an adding machine where your heart should be.”
[Heroine]”You got me all wrong. It’s being flush that makes me blush.”
Vince got a kick out of that, and I got a kick out of giving him a kick.
We laughed and joked…and sipped a little of our new hooch…all the way back to the Box.
Location: Alleyway (Night) (bg033.jpg)
When we got to the Ice Box, Cliff and Julius came out to help wrestle the barrels into the downstairs storeroom.
[Cliff]”That’s a lot of booze.”
[Heroine]”It’s the straight stuff, too, so water it down about ten percent when you bottle it up for distribution.”
[Heroine]”And don’t call me ma’am.”
[Cliff]”You got it, boss-lady.”
[Heroine]”I’d punch you, but I’d just break a nail.”
[Cliff]”When did you get so hard-boiled?”
[Heroine]”I came out of the package that way.”
[Heroine]”Now come on, get that stuff stowed away before a cop walks by and busts us all.”
Location: Ice Box (Interior) (Night/Without People)
Cliff put a few of his trusted guys to work bottling the new booze, then came up to tend bar.
We opened up to a modest rush of customers.
I dragged Vince out on the floor to dance to a few of the new tunes the combo’d been rehearsing.
I could feel the excitement and danger of the day still running through me.
[Vince]”You’re on fire tonight, doll. Bootlegging agrees with you.”
[Heroine]”Beats having a toothache.”
[Vince]”Seeing you like this makes me want to take you in the back room an’ do you like Scott did Antarctica.”
[Heroine]”Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole, then died coming back. Why would you want to do me like that?”
[Vince]”How do you know all that stuff?”
[Heroine]”It’s called reading, Vince. You should try it sometime.”
[Vince]”Damn. I like a woman who reads books.”
[Heroine]”So you don’t have to?”
[Vince]”Shut up and Charleston, doll! Cleo’s singing our song.”
(That’s “I’ve Found a New Baby”…hmm. What does Vince think he’s got going on here?)
I caught Andrew from the corner of my eye.
He was coming from his usual post in the anteroom behind the front door and making a beeline for us.
(Why’s he holding his eye? He looks like he’s hurting!)
[Andrew]”Miss [USER_FIRST_NAME]! Mr. Vince!”
He extended his hand. There was a rock with a piece of paper tied to it.
[Heroine]”Andrew! What happened? Are you okay?”
[Andrew]”I’ll be fine. Some mook just knocked an’ when I answered, he slammed this rock at the peephole. Clipped me in the eye…”
[Andrew]”…by the time I got the door open, he was gone…”
[Andrew]”but it looks like there’s a note on this thing. Figured you’d want to see what it said.”
We took it to the bar and untied the note.
It was crudely lettered, but its meaning was clear:
[Note] “Tell Ice Box Flaper: Clos the Box and Leaf Town or Be Sory.”
[Heroine]”Well…I’m guessing the author’s not a college man.”
Vince let loose with a string of curses that started out under his breath, then got louder.
He slammed a stool against the bar…
…the pulled his little Beretta pistol and fired a single shot, shattering a bottle behind the bar a few feet from where Cliff stood.
The band stopped, the patrons turned…mostly regulars…stopped whatever they were doing and stared.
[Cliff]”Hey! You know what that bottle cost?”
[Vince]”Yeah, I do! I bought it!”
(Please select one)
A: Ask him what he’s doing.
B: Step away from him.
C: Yell at him.
[Heroine]”Vince?! What’re you doing?”
He turned and looked at me, but didn’t seem to see me.
He growled, raising a fist and spun around, like he was trying to find another target.
The pistol still smoked, forgotten in his hand.
Cliff came over the bar like a freight train with the brakes off.
He grabbed Vince by the arms, pulling the gun down and removing it from his hand.
Vince struggled with him for a minute, but his wildness wasn’t a match for Cliff’s controlled strength.
After a moment, he managed to haul Vince to a corner table and sit him down.
I backed away. Fast. The look in his eyes scared me.
(It’s like he’s gone nuts!)
Cliff came around the bar like runner making for home.
He wrapped his huge arms around Vince from behind, stripping the gun from his hand.
Vince fought back at first, but Cliff had the upper hand and he was in control of himself.
He just lifted Vince off his feet until he stopped struggling then, hauled him over to a table in the corner and dropped him in a chair.
[Heroine]”Hey! Those are my profits you’re shooting at there! Put the gun away!”
Vince turned toward me, a wild look in his eyes.
[Cliff]”[USER_FIRST_NAME], back off! He’s out of control.”
[Cliff]”He’ll hurt you without even knowing what he’s doing!”
(The way he’s looking at me, I believe it!)
Vince was still waving the gun around.
Cliff chopped at his arm as it passed and disarmed him then, grabbed his wrist and pinned it to the bar.
[Vince]”Let me go! I’m going after ’em now!”
[Cliff]”You’re not going anywhere until you calm down, pal.”
Cliff rolled over the bar, never letting go of Vince’s arm, and dragged him to a table in the corner.
Julius got the band rolling again and, before you knew it, everyone was dancing, talking, and drinking again.
Neil noticed me noticing this sudden decision to pretend nothing happened.
[Neil]”The crowd’s all regulars tonight. They’ve seen Vince go off before…”
[Neil]”just part of the scenery.”
[Heroine]”He does this often?”
[Neil]”I wouldn’t call it “often”…”
[Neil]”in geological terms, he’s like one of those volcanoes that goes off every so often…”
[Neil]”Saw a lot of guys come out of the war like that.”
[Neil]”Least little thing’ll set ’em off sometimes…other times, nothing seems to get to ’em.”
[Neil]”Even stuff that should.”
He was watching me carefully, like he was trying to read my mind.
[Neil]”Cliff’s the only one who can settle him down when the fit takes him.”
[Heroine]”What triggers it?”
[Neil]”Different guys, different things.”
[Neil]”For Vince, seeing someone getting pushed around gets him going…”
[Neil]”usually, it’s someone he cares about.”
[Heroine]”But no one was pushing me! It was a stupid NOTE?!”
[Neil]”Maybe not so stupid. Charlie had enemies.”
[Neil]”You’re boyfriend seems to think it’s a more than an empty threat.”
[Heroine]”He’s not my…”
I trailed off.
[Neil]”You might want to tell him that.”
(Does Vince think we’re…? And does he think I’m in danger? Really in danger?)
Vince and Cliff were walking back toward the bar, Cliff’s hand on Vince’s shoulder.
The wild look was gone from Vince’s eyes, but he looked drained.
(There’s more to this than an idle threat stuffed through the peephole…)
(this has to do with Uncle Charlie’s shooting…)
[Heroine]”Cliff, is he okay?”
[Heroine]”Your name Cliff now? I asked him, not you.”
[Cliff]”He’s in the neighborhood of fine. Give him a drink, a smoke, and a square meal…”
I ordered up a steak from the kitchen. Cliff took care of the smoke and the drink.
As he ate his meal and drank his whiskey, I sat down beside him.
[Heroine]”You feeling better?”
[Vince]”Aces, doll. Never in doubt.”
[Heroine]”Ready to talk turkey with me about what you’ve been up to?”
[Vince]”I don’t know what you’re…”
He must’ve seen something in my eyes…
(Like how burned up I am!)
…’cause he didn’t even try and finish.
[Heroine]”I don’t want to hear a line, Vince. You can’t be my right-hand guy if you don’t talk to me, so spill!”
He looked into his drink, then started to speak…