Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Father O’Malley was on his knees behind a lectern sorting through a few remaining religious icons and deciding which of the gilded objects the destitute parish could liquidate when Sean O’Brian entered the Church of the Devine Light. A cold wind blew through the mostly empty pews and circled the barren walls. The figure of Jesus hanging on a cross was all that was left from a decade of glitter and prosperity. “I heard about your mother; I’m so sorry,” the Priest said.
“She didn’t have much,” Sean said as he dropped a gold wedding band and a silver necklace chain into the priest’s reluctant hand, “but I would like her buried behind the church … she was a good woman.”
“Your mother was rich in faith,” Father O’Malley told him. “I will find a way to bury her properly.” He tried to hand the ring back. “You might want to keep this as something to remember her by.”
“I see her smile each time I close my eyes,” Sean said as he pushed the priest’s hand away. “I hear her voice when I’m alone and her singing each time the wind blows through the streets. I don’t need a piece of gold to remind me of what will never leave my heart.”
“You’re a good boy,” the Priest said as he patted his back. “If you need a place to sleep you are welcome to stay here. I try to find enough food to keep my flock from straying.” He gestured toward a small room adjoining the chapel; it was filled mostly with ragged women and wide-eyed children clutching at their skirts. “The streets are filling with wolves.”
“Thank you father,” Sean said as he turned toward the double doors. “But I made a promise to my mother … that I intend to keep.”
Father O’Malley looked after him with one eyebrow raised. He had counseled Ava O’Brian in confession many times. “You don’t have to worry about fighting in my church.”
“It’s not about fighting,” Sean began to cry. “I have to make the world give me …”
“Give you what?” Frustrated sympathy shone in the priest’s eyes.
“Everything,” Sean told him. “I have to make this new world give me everything.”
“Sauce” Branson and Gordano Donelli had Gin Lou Lee pushed against a broken baseball fence that a whiskey truck had ran into and were rubbing snow in his face when Sean entered the school yard. “We told you to bring a hundred jacky-jumpers,” Donelli told the terrified boy.
“No more gun-powder,” Gin Lou bawled. “Father trade all food … family hungry!”
“You Chinks can eat garbage,” Branson laughed holding up the small string of firecrackers he’d taken from the son of Chinese immigrants. “I want twice this many tomorrow.”
“How does garbage taste?” Sean asked quietly. He smiled when both of the bullies turned to stare at him.
“How the hell would we know?” Donelli sneered.
“I suppose it depends on what you call garbage.” Sean picked up a metal post and broke away the mesh wire clinging to it.
“You and Lee are both garbage!” Branson laughed.
“In that case have a bite of this!” Sean viciously swung the metal post and caught Donelli smack in the side of the head. He jumped back as Branson charged forward and then thrust the rod into his bulging stomach. Sean kicked Donelli in the head when he attempted to stand and then dragged a moaning Branson by the hair and dumped him on top of his unconscious friend.
Sean twisted in the air and then sat down hard on the pile. Branson gasped; long ragged breaths. All the wind had been knocked from his lungs. “I’ve seen stray dogs trying to get into the garbage cans behind the school,” Sean pointed. “We’ve got a few minutes before Sister Mason rings the bell. See if you can find a couple of dog turds … fresh would be best … but frozen will do.”
“I can do that.” Gin Lou glanced at Sean and then looked at the pile of arms and legs he was sitting on.
“My new friends …” Sean punched Branson in the face. “Are going to find out what real garbage tastes like!”
The Café on the corner of Illinois Avenue and Lake Drive was a front for illegal booze and horse racing. Sean had never been in the back room before. A dozen men were counting stacks of money on two tables. An Italian guard with a rifle strapped across his shoulder was busy putting his hands all over a young waitress and ignored him. “Bugs McCain is going to hit this place in two minutes,” Sean yelled.
A couple of the men counting money actually laughed. “Benny McCain is a stooge,” one said as he lit a cigar. “McGooganheimer gets protection from the boss himself.”
“Shouldn’t you be in school?” The waitress brushed away the fingers dangling across her chest and tried to keep her too short skirt from rising. She was trapped in a corner and was obviously grateful for the distraction.
“Get out of here kid … or so help me I’ll take off my belt!” The man with the gun now turned vicious mean eyes on the boy. The oily mustache above his lip danced as his mouth turned into a snarl.
“I’m not making this up,” Sean sounded frantic. “Three black cars just pulled up out front. A dozen men are taking those short rifles with the big round cylinders out of violin cases.”
“Thompson machine guns?” One of the money counters stood up and dropped his stacked bills on the table. Eyes began to look worried.
Suddenly the café area behind Sean erupted with a storm of loud bangs. Men and women screamed; smoke was everywhere. The two tables upended as the money counters scrambled out of their chairs and fled toward the back door. Clouds of loose cash hit the low ceiling and rained to the floor. The man with the rifle lost it and shattered one of the overturned tables after Sean’s outstretched boot sent him cartwheeling across the floor. Sean handed the coughing waitress two fifty dollar bills. “You’ve got looks,” he said. “Why not take a train out to Hollywood.” The dizzy guard was rising to his feet. Sean used the butt of the gun to knock him out.
Gin Lou’s round, smiling face appeared in the doorway right after the waitress scampered. “Father pack plenty powder very tight … sound like war where people eat!”
“Anyone left out there?”
“Much smoke! Everybody run into street … no come back here for long time.”
A police siren could be heard in the distance coming closer. Sean tossed Gin Lou a couple of empty flour sacks. “We’ve got to work fast … make sure you pick up every bill!”
The candy store that Machine-Gun McGooganheimer used as his headquarters had just opened when Sean walked in and plopped the bags filled with money down on the counter. The man with the gun from the night before leaned against a rack filled with Baby Ruth bars. His head was bandaged and both of his eyes were blackened, a beating that obviously came after the ruckus. Several of the money counters also lingered. They looked as if they’d been up all night … with no sleep. “It’s almost all there,” Sean said. “I don’t steal from my employers.”
“It was a fake raid!” the man with the black eyes blurted. “Lots of bang with no bullets!”
“And I tried to warn you.” Sean turned toward McGooganheimer. “I saved the loot before McCain’s thugs could get their hands on it.”
“Is this true?” The Scottish/German mobster was as large as an elephant when he rose from his seat glaring at his men. “Did this boy warn you about the raid before it took place?”
“He came in yelling about McCain and guns out front,” one of the counters stammered. “We thought it was a joke!”
“That’s right … they all laughed before they ran,” Sean said.
“How many men came in from the street?” McGooganheimer stared at his men. He’d been over this point for hours. “You told me they got the cash!” The shooting was faked but his own soldiers swore that McCain’s men had been there in force.
Several of the money counters looked at Sean with pleading eyes. “There were twelve all carrying machine guns,” Sean agreed. “They must have been under orders not to use them.”
“Big Al wants any violence from the families kept out of the papers,” McGooganheimer said. “We got control of the mayor, the cops and all the rackets so long as the public don’t start seeing bodies and us as the bad guys.” He lit a cigar. “We’ll show McCain how fake raids are done when we’re ready.” He looked at Sean. “Until then, let’s be thankful some of us used their noggins.”
McGooganheimer smiled as he patted the money bags. “How much are we paying you?” He obviously thought Sean was one of his number runners. None of his men had the nerve to set their furious boss straight.
“Ten bucks a day,” Sean lied. “But I’m worth it!”
“We’ll make it fifty,” McGooganheimer said reaching into one of the bags and thrusting a fistful of bills toward Sean. “I’ve got some special jobs for you starting tomorrow. In the meantime … buy yourself some candy.”
TO BE CONTINUED …