Copyright (c) 2019 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
“Our territory is expanding,” McGooganheimer said as he handed Sean a fistful of bills. He reached into the drawer behind his huge mahogany desk again and pulled out more money. “A little something for your friend,” the mobster murmured. Sean nodded and a grateful Gin Lou stepped forward to accept the cash. “I’m going to need you to start driving where you’re going.” McGooganheimer closed the drawer and Sean breathed a little easier. He knew the biggest crime boss on the east side of Chicago kept several loaded weapons in there and was never reluctant to use them.
Sean and Gin Lou stared as their employer stood up, lit a fat hand-rolled Cuban cigar rumored to cost over a buck each and then strode toward large floor to ceiling windows. He moved easily in spite of his enormous size. The top floor office in the forty-nine story skyscraper had a magnificent view overlooking South Water Street and Lake Michigan. “I’ve arranged for one of my associates to supply you with a car.” He flicked Sean a business card and Sean caught it and stuck it in his pocket without looking. The custom made silk suit Sean wore was a little large … he was still growing, but it did make him look older. “You’ll need a driver’s license,” McGooganheimer said. “How old are you?”
“Almost fifteen,” Sean lied.
The fat mobster laughed. “No, you’re seventeen,” he said. “Anybody says different, you tell them to come talk to me.”
“You know where the Department of Motor Vehicles is?”
“Yes,” Sean told him.
“Be there before lunchtime,” McGooganheimer said. “Ask for Gloria.”
The fat man waved his arm while he stared out the window his signal that the meeting was finished. Sean and Gin Lou both put on the hats they held in their hands and turned toward the door. They both stopped when McGooganheimer spoke again. “You’re a bright kid and I gots to know I can trust you,” he said. “So no lies to me … okay?”
Sean took his hat back off. “I’ll be fourteen in April,” he admitted.
Sean barely hesitated. “The raid on the Oasis Café was a sham, faked by me and Gin Lou,” he said. “McCain’s men were never involved. I needed a job and I wanted to work for you.”
McGooganheimer stood with his back to them for a long time. When he turned he was smiling. “Let’s keep this secret between us shall we? Some of my trusted soldiers find out I know … they’re gonna start having bad dreams. Now get out of here!” he ordered.
Gin Lou released his breath when they walked toward the elevators. “Me think we both go for swim in river!”
“We probably will,” Sean told him as he pushed a button for the street-level floor, “but I don’t think it will be today.”
The Chicago DMV was on the other side of the city. Sean and Gin Lou took a taxi. Sean was amazed by the lines of men waiting for soup kitchens to open. As the Great Depression worsened, men from farms all across the mid-west poured into the big cities looking for jobs. Makeshift shelters, mostly tents made of scrap cloth and paper littered most vacant lots and covered much of the city’s park area. They were called Hoovervilles in honor of outgoing President Hoover. President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt would take office on March 4th. but it was still only January 30th.
The March of the Swiss Soldiers finale to the William Tell Overture blasted on the radio. The driver reached to turn it off but Sean told him to leave it on. “I not know you like big orchestra song,” Gin Lou teased him from the back seat.
“I like this one,” Sean said. “It gets my blood pumping.”
Both boys were surprised when the music turned out to be the introduction to a new western radio program. A masked man and his Indian companion were stopped on the road into town by two sheriff’s deputies. Sean and Gin Lou both laughed when the two got away.
“I like when bad guy gets away.” Gin Lou grinned.
“I’m not so sure they were bad,” Sean said as the taxi pulled up in front of the DMV office. “Sometimes people are not what they seem!”
“This are true words … Kimosabe!”
Sean laughed. “Why did you call me that?”
“Maybe you not bad guy?”
“Did you know that Kimosabe means soggy brush in Navaho?” Sean asked.
Gin Lou shook his head.
“And that Tonto means stupid?”
“How you know so many things?”
“School,” Sean said. “… and life is the best teacher.”
The woman behind the desk at the department of Motor Vehicles laughed when Sean said he needed a driver’s license. “You don’t need a license to ride a bicycle,” she smirked.
“Can I speak with Gloria?” Sean made his voice extra polite.
“If you think you can get me in trouble with my boss you can get the hell out of here right now!” The woman stood up and pointed toward the door. “Both of you out of this office before I call the cops!”
Sean turned to Gin Lou and smiled then he screamed as loud as he could. “Gloria! Gloria! … Glo ….ria!” The furious woman came around her desk and as just about to place her hands on Sean’s neck when a door burst open behind her. “Ruth, what’s going on?” A middle aged woman adjusting glasses that had fallen down her nose looked around the room. “Who wants me?” she asked.
“These two are trying to con me into …” Sean cut her off. “McGooganheimer sent me,” he said. “I’m supposed to ask for you …”
Gloria ushered both boys into her office. “When someone comes to see me I expect to be notified,” she told her subordinate. “If it happens again you will be looking for a job.” Then she closed the door.
“We need driver’s licenses,” Sean told her. “McGooganheimer said you would help us.”
“Both of you?” Gloria looked like she was trying not to smirk. “Then I’ll need you both to write down your date of birth and some other information on these forms,” she said as she handed each boy a pen and sheets of paper. “If you’re both say seventeen…” She smiled as she looked at a message pad next to her phone. “The year of your birth has to be nineteen-sixteen.”
“Thank you,” the two boys said at once.
“It’s almost lunch time,” Gloria said moving toward the door. “I’ll arrange to have the photographer stay behind and process your photos.”
The Department of Motor Vehicle employees were just coming back from lunch break when Sean and Gin Lou left with their Illinois State driver’s licenses. Ruth Lemmon glared at both boys. “I didn’t know film could be developed this fast,” Sean said looking at his black and white card.
“It magic, Kimosabe,” Gin Lou told him with a huge smile directed at the furious clerk. “Hi O Silver away….”
Sean gave the business card to the taxi driver and both lads were astonished when the cab stopped in front of a Packard dealership. The boys were admiring a new Super Eight done up in a deep-metallic champagne-violet paint when a salesman rushed over. “Easy there,” he scolded. “Don’t touch the vehicles! This car is worth more than your daddy makes in a lifetime!” He pulled a cloth from his back pocket and began to polish the hood … muttering under his breath.
Sean handed the salesman the card McGooganheimer had given him. “Not my daddy,” he said. Sean noticed the writing on the back for the first time but didn’t bother to read it … but the salesman did. “This is for a used car,” he said. Sean shook his head. An instant after a phone call the salesman was all smiles. “What kind of car are you looking for?” his voice was like honey dripping from an overturned jar.
“I like this one,” Sean said. “But without your greasy handprints on it!” He pushed the man away who had been leaning on the hood. “You got keys?”
When the salesman scrambled away to an office to come up with a set of keys Sean turned to Gin Lou. “You think you can drive this?”
Gin Lou stared at the luxury car with wide eyes. “Show what pedals do,” he stammered. “I can make car turn.”
“You better lean fast Tonto,” Sean told him as he polished the hood with his own handkerchief. “There’s lots of bad guys in this city.”
The first stop was a music store; a speakeasy was located in the basement with its own rear entrance. Sean asked the girl working the floor to speak to the manager then he and Gin Lou looked at an assortment of string instruments. They heard a door open and a piano playing somewhere below … then the door closed. “What do you want?” A heavyset man wearing a dirty apron came up the stairs. He looked like he’d been cooking some kind of greasy food and smelled like a brewery. “I asked for the manager,” Sean told him.
“He’s busy,” the man said. “Deal with me … or go home!”
Sean turned his head, aware that the fat man was moving-in too close and pretended to admire one of the violins. “How much …” Sean never finished. He stuck out one foot and then seized the man by the collar with both hands and pulled him forward. The three-hundred pound giant hit the floor with a crash that made dust fall from the ceiling. “… is your life worth?” The fat man moaned and was just starting to stand when Sean broke a violin over his head. Two men ran up the stairs in response to the racket. “Get your busy manager up her now,” Sean glared at them. When they left, he kicked the blubbering man in the head. “I asked you a question!” Sean said.
The fat man struggled to get the wallet out of his pants pocket. Sean snatched it out of his hand and tossed it to Gin Lou. The smiling Chinese immigrant took a fistful of bills out and then flung the empty wallet at the cook. His fingers fanned the bills once like he was dealing cards. “Three-hundred twenty-six,” he said.
“Let’s hope your life is worth a lot more than that … the next time I visit,” Sean spoke to the floor.
The well-dressed manager came up the stairs with what looked like a sixteen-year old farm girl wearing a rumpled flapper dress following obediently behind. “What the Hell?” he stammered as he saw his bouncer lying on the floor.
“I’m here to collect the rent,” Sean told him.
“Three-thousand is not bad for an afternoon of work,” Sean used his key to open the Packard’s rumble-seat trunk as Gin Lou placed two empty violin cases on the floor.
“Why you take cases … no music play?” Gin Lou said.
“In a few months prohibition is coming to an end,” Sean told him. “The streets are going to be different. There’s going to be a fight for new opportunities … only the strongest will survive.”
They left the girl wearing the flapper dress at a bus station with one-hundred dollars.
For the first time in months, the sky above Chicago was without a breath of wind. The stars peeking from behind a dark curtain of clouds looked like the lights from an enormous stage not of this world. They listened to Ethel Waters sing Stormy Weather on the radio. Gin Lou turned up the volume. A frozen rain was falling softly. The Packard’s wipers sounded like a jazz drummer dusting his snare in perfect time. “We need other talents to fall back on if our charm and intelligence should fail us,” Sean told his grinning driver. “Turn here, I know a shady merchant from Italy … that will sell us music lessons.”
TO BE CONTINUED …