As Lewis Gallivan woke that Sunday morning, the sunlight glaring in his eyes, he made a mental note to buy thicker curtains as soon as Capone gave him his meager paycheck.
Still tired from a late night at work, Lewis rolled over, turning his back on the window with the thin curtains that were currently the thing Lewis hated the most. To foil his dastardly foe’s attack on his eyes, he covered his head with his pillow. Subconsciously, he knew that he should get up and out of bed, but that little voice was being smothered by the needs of the rest of Lewis’s body. Namely, the need for more sleep.
The brain, however, had one sympathetic ally in Lewis’ body, one that held immense control and influence. This ally made itself known, giving Lewis the option between getting out of bed or having to wash the sheets.
Lewis, still in that fragile state of being between awake and asleep, gave in to the demands of his bladder and lurched out of bed, stumbling towards the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, he stepped out of the bathroom a changed man. He had showered, shaved, and combed his sparse red hair (he feared that he was already starting to bald, even at the age of thirty). Fully awakened, he set about on his morning routine. He dressed himself in a brown three-piece suit, filed his fingernails, disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled his sidearm, and shined his shoes.
He set the old rag aside and held one of the leather wingtip shoes up against the light, angling it to make sure the shine was just right. In his inspection, he noticed a dime-sized spot of unwelcome color on the sole. Lewis picked up the rag again and scrubbed the dried blood away.
Satisfied, he slipped the shoe on, feeling slightly aggravated that it didn’t fit as well as it once had.
Lewis jiggled the doorknob a few times until he was certain that it was locked. He dropped the key into his pocket and turned around, ready to start his–
There was a very large, feathered hat standing in his way. “Mister Gallivan,” said an imperial, preening voice from somewhere beneath the hat.
Lewis quickly plastered a friendly smile on his face. The old bat was way too good at sneaking up on people for a woman her age. “Missus Schultz, you’re looking lovely this morning,” he lied.
Karen Schultz, allegedly aged forty, actually aged around sixty, was the landlady of the converted motel that Lewis called ‘that place I sleep at’, and was quite possibly distantly related to Satan. After her husband had died years ago (Lewis was convinced that Missus Schultz had eaten him), she had come into ownership of the motel. She was the sort of woman who went to church at seven in the morning every Sunday, referred to the priest by his first name, and looked down her nose at anyone who she deemed wasn’t ‘proper’. Lewis, being of Irish descent, fell into the category of ‘improper’ people. Of course, with the things he had done over the course of his job, he couldn’t argue with Missus Schultz’ judgment.
The old woman, her face caked in makeup that only made the mole on her upper lip stand out even farther, scoffed. “Don’t y’try and sweet-talk me, Mister Gallivan. Y’owe me rent.” She wagged a long finger at him menacingly. “And if y’don’t pay up quickly, I’ll have y’out on yer arse so fast ye’ll leave skid marks on the sidewalk. Y’unnerstan?”
“I unnerstan,” Lewis responded. “I’ll have the money soon. Just as soon as my boss–”
Missus Schultz cut him off. “It’s always excuses with ye!” She crowed. Lewis tried to edge around her towards the stairs, but the hat moved to block him. “Look at ye, sleeping in ‘till ten on a Sunday when y’should be at church…” Lewis fought back a groan. She always found some way to shift the topic so it focused on his, in her words, ‘heathenism’.
She continued her spiel as Lewis waited for an opening to get past her. “O’course, this is why y’ent married. Yer too wrapped up in yer life o’ sin an’ debauchery an’ all those horrible things–” As she spoke, she gesticulated wildly with her handbag, flailing it around like a deadly weapon full of God-knows-what. Lewis inched carefully towards the stairway. “–that y’don’t notice the good things in life! Payin’ rent on time, fr’example!”
Finally, there was an opening. As her handbag continued on its downward arc, Missus Schultz’ shoulders turned just enough to leave an open lane towards the stairs. Knowing that if he stayed any longer, the old crone would start listing off the names, addresses, and notable features of every unmarried woman in a five-block radius like a phonebook with wrinkles, Lewis took the opportunity. He slipped through, mumbled a barely-audible line along the lines of ‘look at the time, I really have to go’, and went down the stairs two at a time. Behind him, he could hear Missus Schultz’ tone making a sharp transition from annoyed to angry. He paid no mind.
On the second floor of the Lexington Hotel in Cicero, outside the entrance to the headquarters of Al Capone’s criminal empire, Lewis stared down the barrel of the Chicago typewriter prodding his nose. “What part of ‘it’s me’ is so hard to understand?” He asked the goon on the other, less dangerous end of the tommygun. The bleary-eyed thug glared at him, wobbling on his feet a little.
“No, you’re not me, ‘cuz I’m me,” the moron said with the tone of a wise hermit who’d had one brew too many. “And you can’t be me, ‘cuz I’m not Irish.”
Lewis sighed. “You’re drunk, Turner,” he pointed out, wondering what idiot had decided to give Samuel ‘Tipsy’ Turner the job of guarding the front door.
“No, I’m Tipsy Turner!” the drunken idiot corrected him. “’s similar t’ Drunk Turner, but s’not the same.”
Lewis leaned over to make it look like he was looking past Turner at the closed door behind him. “Frank, finally. Mind talking some sense into this idiot?” said Lewis, hoping that Turner would buy it and think that Frank Rio was standing directly behind him.
Turner was just drunk enough to fall for it. He turned around slightly, moving the barrel of the trench broom out of Lewis’s face. Lewis grabbed the stock and wrenched the gun out of Turner’s hands before he had the chance to pull the trigger. Turner turned back, realizing he’d been tricked, and his face met Lewis’ open palm coming the other way. He stumbled backwards, collapsing against the wall.
Turner’s drunken blush deepened, his face turning red with rage. “You Irish sonnova-” he began, but whatever he was about to say regarding Lewis’s mother was left unsaid when Lewis swung the tommygun like a baseball bat, slamming the butt of the gun into Turner’s side. Luckily for the drunkard, he had enough cushioning to soften the blow, but he still fell to the floor in a heap.
At that point, the door opened. Frank Rio, one of Capone’s most trusted bodyguards, stood in the doorway, looking at the scene before him with a slight, barely noticeable smile. What he saw was Lewis ‘Gutsy’ Gallivan, holding a tommygun like a baseball bat, and Samuel ‘Tipsy’ Turner lying on the floor, holding his side and grunting in pain. “Something wrong, boys?” He asked, voice dry.
“He fell,” Lewis said, his face as straight as a ruler. Turner pointed at Lewis and tried to grunt something out. Before he could, Lewis casually stepped forwards and buried the toe of his wingtip shoe in Turner’s gut. Turner let out a painful-sounding exhalation.
“And that?” Rio asked, obviously amused.
Lewis shrugged. “Thought I saw a cockroach.”
Rio lifted an eyebrow as he watched Turner writhe in pain on the ground. “Pretty big cockroach.”
“I always thought so,” Lewis agreed, stepping over Turner. “Capone awake?”
“Yeah, believe it or not,” Rio said, closing the door and cutting off the sound of Turner moaning. Lewis, about to hang up his hat, stopped to look at Rio incredulously. He checked his pocket watch, then brought it to his ear to make sure it was still ticking.
“Damn, he’s up early,” Lewis said, returning the watch to its pocket. He hung his hat on the rack, and leaned Turner’s tommygun on the wall next to it. “Something wrong?”
“Oh yeah,” Frank said, expression darkening. “Remember that job you pulled yesterday?”
With a stone in his gut, Lewis nodded. He remembered yesterday. He could perfectly remember all the people he’d had to off on Capone’s orders. “Yeah. We didn’t get seen, though–”
“You sure about that?” Rio asked, leading Lewis deeper into the hotel. They passed by a few other guards, who gave Rio respectful nods and politely acknowledged Lewis’s existence.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Lewis said, a bit insulted. “What, do I look like some two-bit kid off the streets? We took him to the docks, I had Harry and Phil keep an eye out, scare off any curious folk, then I–” He made a pistol with his hand and pantomimed shooting his own temple. “–y’know, then we dumped him in the harbor, and made ourselves scarce. Textbook.”
They reached Capone’s sitting room, and Frank stepped aside to let Lewis go in first. There were already three people in the room; Harry ‘Burn-It-Down’ Barbarolli and Phil ‘Fat Mouth’ Monaldi, both standing in front of a large chair containing a balding, irate man in a bathrobe monogrammed with the initials A.C. Harry and Phil turned to look at Lewis as he entered, and gave him a polite nod, which Lewis returned. He took his position next to the two men, and Frank approached the man in the chair.
“If that’s the case, tell me why the north-siders are putting a reward out for three blokes that match your descriptions,” Frank said, standing behind and to the left of the chair. “Someone saw you three.”
Lewis and his partners in crime shared a glance. “Hell,” Harry said succinctly.
“Sorry, boss,” Phil said. “I told these two to keep their eyes out, but–”
And just like that, any feigned politeness between the three men dissolved, and they turned on each other as if they weren’t standing in front of the most powerful man in Chicago. “Bullshit, Fat Mouth,” Lewis said, glaring at his ‘partner’. “Don’t pin this on me, you were the ones on lookout-”
“Yeah, but I had to tell Harry to quit whistling ‘round a dozen times–”
Harry interjected. “Yelling at me to be quiet is pretty damn counter-productive–”
“What the fuck does that even mean?”
“You’d know if you ever read a–”
The argument stopped as if someone had just pulled the emergency brake. The three gangsters broke apart, returning their attention to the man in the chair. Al Capone, without moving, regarded each of the three men in turn, as if he was at a fish market choosing dinner. Lewis met Capone’s gaze when it fell on him, not looking away or showing any weakness.
After an eternity, Capone sighed, resting his hands on his stomach. “Boys,” he said, “I am not happy.”
“No, sir,” came from three throats.
“Do you know what happens,” Capone asked, “To people who make me not happy?”
“Yes, sir.” They knew better than anyone; half of the work they did was dealing with people who displeased Capone.
“It was a simple job. A simple fucking job. I wanted this bastard gone. No fuss, no witnesses, just gone. And yet, you three…” A pregnant silence as Capone waited for them to finish his sentence.
“Messed up, sir.”
Phil opened his fat mouth to say something more, but Capone cut him off with a glare. “However. You three have served me well, and I appreciate that. Really, I do. You’ve dealt with my problems-” He glanced at Harry, who had taken out nearly fifty small stills that had been cutting into Capone’s business. “-been unerringly loyal-” He looked at Phil, who had ratted out three members of the gang who had been about to go turncoat. “-and you’ve saved my life.” He turned his eyes to Lewis. Lewis, who had, as an ordinary civilian, tackled Capone to the ground to save his life from a drive-by hit squad, and taken a bullet to the kidney in the process. Afterwards, a grateful Capone promised him whatever reward he wanted; Lewis asked for a job.
Capone continued. “What I’m saying is, I owe you three idiots. So I’m not going to kill you.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome. Now, I want you three to get out of town. Lay low for a few weeks until this all blows over, capisce?”
“I’ve got a car waiting outside to take you three to the train station. Anywhere you wanna go, you tell me now.”
“I’m thinking I might head to Baltimore. Got some friends around there who I don’t owe any money,” Phil said.
“New York for me,” Harry said with a smile. “That’s living, let me tell ya. See, New York broads, they’re-”
“And what about you, Gutsy?” Capone asked, ignoring Harry. “Anywhere you wanna go?”
Lewis frowned. “I can’t think of anywhere, sir.”
Capone looked surprised. “Nowhere? No old friends to visit?”
“No favorite cities to whore around in?”
Harry cut in. “It’s not whoring-”
Again, he was ignored. “Nope,” Lewis answered.
It was like a lump of ice had been dropped in his stomach. Lewis kept his face blank. “Yeah, but I haven’t seen them in years.”
Capone looked back at Frank. “They’ve got that farm in Indiana, yeah? The one we’ve been lending a hand to?”
“‘S right, boss,” Frank nodded. “Making sure they can get good prices and such.”
“Thank you for that, boss,” Lewis said.
“You’ve served me well, Gutsy, for an Irishman. I always reward loyalty,” Capone said, smiling like a snake. “Why don’t you go visit home again? Keep out of sight, do that…” He waved his hand in the air as if that would help him find what he was trying to say. “…All that stuff you do on farms. Playing banjos. Fucking sheep.”
Lewis grinned. “Haven’t had sheep in years, boss.”
“Pa hated ‘em.”
“Well, that’s everything I know about farms,” Capone said. “So, you want me to get you a ride home?”
Lewis frowned. It had been years since he’d seen his family – he wondered how big his niece had gotten – and he hadn’t sent as much as a letter to his mother, to his shame. But considering the last conversation he’d had with his brother, not to mention all the things he ha done in the years since then, could he really face his family again?
“I guess,” Lewis said, “It couldn’t hurt.”
As Dylan Gallivan woke that Monday morning, with the sun only just starting to color the eastern horizon, he asked himself what he had to get done today.
He was tired, but that had never stopped him before. He hoisted himself up and out of bed, taking care not to disturb his wife, still sleeping on her side. He tiptoed through the bedroom like a soldier in a minefield, carefully avoiding every creaky floorboard as he gathered his effects. Once he had gathered his work clothes and boots, he crept towards the door, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that Lauren was still asleep. He saw the steady, rhythmic rise and fall of her chest, and, satisfied, slowly opened the door.
The door opened quietly on well-oiled hinges, and it made a soft click as Dylan closed it behind him. He smiled at a job well done. He dressed in the hallway, everything but the boots. Those, he put on after he had gone downstairs. He didn’t want to wake the entire house with the sound of heavy boots clomping on the stairs. He descended, avoiding the steps he knew to be creaky, and put his boots on at the front door. They were old, heavy leather, with dirt that had long ago become a part of the sole itself. Still, they were effective, and fit Dylan perfectly.
Fully dressed, he went through the final part of his daily ritual: the morning prayer. Dylan didn’t pray on his knees; he prayed standing in front of the door, as he combed his fingers through his thinning red hair. And so he prayed to God Himself that when he took his hand away, there wouldn’t be any strands of hair between his fingers. Miraculously, there weren’t. Dylan breathed a sigh of relief; men of the Gallivan family lost hair early, and every morning that he didn’t lose hair was a small victory. Small, and probably meaningless, but it was still a victory.
The door closed behind Dylan as he drew in a deep breath of crisp morning air. The sun was just starting to rise over the Gallivan farm, casting the cornfields in a golden light. He stood on the porch for a minute, just enjoying the morning in silence and solitude.
“Good morning, dear.”
Well, still enjoying the morning.
Dylan finally noticed that he wasn’t the only person on the porch; sitting in a rocking chair, a quilted blanket on her lap, her white hair nearly glowing in the morning light, was his mother, Clara. She smiled at Dylan, her face wrinkled by age and experience.
“Good morning, Ma,” Dylan said, giving the old woman a kiss on the cheek. “You shouldn’t be up this early.”
“Bah, I’ve been doing this my whole life,” Clara said, beginning to rock back and forth again. “Only times I’ve ever missed seeing the sunrise is when it’s raining.”
“Yes, Ma,” Dylan said. “It just embarrasses a man if he can never get out of bed earlier than his mother.”
Clara barked out a sharp laugh. Dylan winced, and turned his ear towards the house to listen for the sounds of his wife and children being woken by the noise. “Ma,” he whispered, once he was sure that nobody had been disturbed. “You know Lauren and the kids need their sleep.”
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry, dear,” Clara’s voice was much softer now. “Doubt you’d be saying that if we were outside the barn, though.”
Dylan snorted. “Well, if you’re offering to help me wake ‘em up…”
“Not a chance,” Clara said, as she rocked back and forth with a content smile on her face. “You’d best get started, if you want to get anything done before noon.”
Dylan chuckled. “Yes, Ma.”
The barn doors, while heavy, offered no real challenge for Dylan, and they opened with a deep groan. Sunlight flooded into the old barn, landing squarely on the beds set up inside. The Gallivan farm hadn’t had animals in years, but the barn worked well for housing farmhands.
Presently, there were four being employed by Dylan: Leo, Hector, Sergei, and Federico. They were hard workers, but they hadn’t yet gotten used to waking up so early in the morning. Case in point, the covered lumps in the four beds groaned and turned over when the light was let into the room.
“So, you want to do this the hard way,” Dylan said. He casually strolled into the room, looking at the beds one by one to decide who his victim would be. After a moment’s deliberation, he made his decision, and stood over his chosen prey. In one swift motion, he reached under the blanket, grabbed the farmhand by the ankle, and hauled him out of bed. Leo – the youngest of the four – thumped to the ground, moaning in displeasure. “Good morning, Leo,” Dylan said, moving on to the next bed. The bed’s occupant had already started moving, not wanting to be subjected to the same wake-up Leo had just experienced. The four young men were out of bed quickly, but slow to dress, and Dylan waited for them to finish, sternly watching them to make sure none of them went back to bed.
Finally, all four were ready and lined up outside the barn, squinting in the early morning light. Hector yawned like a cat, and Sergei followed suit. Dylan felt a yawn coming, brought about by Hector, but clamped his jaw shut to stop it.
“Good morning, boys,” he said once he was certain there was no more risk of yawning. Three farmhands mumbled back a half-hearted response. Leo had fallen asleep standing up, but was woken by an elbow to the ribs from Federico. He grumbled the same response.
“That’s the ticket. Now, you know what to do. Leo, Hector, check the chickens and collect the eggs. Sergei, sharpen the tools. Federico, go into town and get the milk and the paper. Got it?” asked Dylan.
The farmhands mumbled an answer in the affirmative. They split in four different directions: Federico towards the road to Bradshire, which was about a three-mile walk. Sergei headed towards the tool shed, to make sure all the tools were in the right shape. Hector made tracks towards the chicken coop, and Leo, half-asleep, wandered off in another direction until Hector doubled back to turn him around.
The next hour passed in a busy haze. Dylan kept himself moving, always finding either something to take care of or someone to delegate the work to. Dylan loved having farmhands. They worked for peanuts and made the work so much easier. In fact, if business stayed this good, he had plans to hire more next year, or maybe even herd sheep again.
Dylan liked sheep. They were useful, made wool, and were tasty. A good animal, in his book. The Gallivan farm had raised them in his father’s time, but after his death, Dylan had been forced to sell the flock to make ends meet. Those had been bad years for business, but now? Things were looking up.
Dylan thought back to the arguments between himself and his younger brother, before Lewis had decided he’d had enough and left in a rage. During those horrible years after the death of their father, they had argued night and day about how best to run the farm. Lewis believed that business was so bad because Dylan refused to change anything from how their father had run things, while Dylan knew that the Gallivan business practices had worked for their father, and his father before him, so of course it would continue to stand the test of time.
Now, Dylan knew that he had won the argument. Only a few months after Lewis had gone, price, and the dying farm was revitalized. Dylan had been right: he hadn’t needed to change how he did business, he’d just had to wait and have faith that things would get better.
After an hour and a half of hard, sweaty work, even the farmhands were completely awake. Leo and Hector had gathered the eggs, some of which would be used for breakfast, Sergei had sharpened the tools to Dylan’s satisfaction, and Federico had returned with the paper and the milk. Dylan was amazed at how fast the kid could be. After that, they fed the farm’s two horses – Clyde and Betty – to prepare them for a long day of picking corn, and then it was time to feed the farmhands for the same work.
Upon entering the house, the farmhands behind him, Dylan was met with the smell of breakfast coming from the kitchen, accompanied by the clinking sounds of forks and knives against plates, and the rustling of newspaper. He was the first to enter the busy kitchen, unnoticed for a few seconds. His mother was seated at the table, reading the newspaper, and she smiled at his son, Martin, age five, when he put a plate of food in front of her. Tara, his eldest daughter, age seven, was standing on a chair in front of the stove, spatula in hand as she watched a pan filled with eggs like a hawk would a mouse. When Martin returned, holding another plate in need of food, she scraped a mass of half-burnt eggs out of the pan and slopped them on the plate.
As Martin turned around to bring the plate to the table, he was the first to notice Dylan, and his little freckle-covered face brightened. “Good morning, Dad,” he said loudly. Three pairs of eyes turned to look at him.
Tara was the first to give Dylan a gap-filled grin – she had lost one of her front teeth in the past week – and she echoed her little brother’s greeting. “How do you want your eggs?” She asked, pointing at the pan with her spatula.
“I’ll have them Tara-style, sweetie,” Dylan said. He knew that Tara had only figured out one way to cook eggs: half burnt, half uncooked. She was getting better, slowly, ever since she had usurped cooking duties from her mother, the other occupant of the table. Lauren Gallivan, her belly round with child, smiled tiredly at Dylan. “And good morning to you two as well,” he said, giving Lauren a quick kiss on the mouth.
“Eeewww,” Martin said, crinkling his nose as he put the plate of eggs down in front of Lauren.
Lauren laughed, and gave Martin a kiss on the forehead. “Okay, Marty, we’ll stop being so gross,” she said with a smile. “Now, help your sister with breakfast.”
The farmhands piled into the room all at once, taking seats around the table as they eagerly awaited breakfast. Sergei tried to get a look at the newspaper around Clara’s shoulder, but she swatted him away. “I just want to see the sports section,” he said, eyes pleading.
“You can have it when I’m done,” Clara said, turning the page without a care in the world.
“Sho, we shtarting frm where we shtopped yeshterday, Mishter Gallivan?” Hector asked, voice muffled by a mouthful of eggs. Lauren gave him a sharp glare, admonishing him without words. Hector, looking embarrassed, finished chewing and swallowed. Before he could wipe his mouth with his sleeve, he caught another glare, and sheepishly used a napkin instead.
“There. Just because you sleep in a barn doesn’t mean you get to act like you were raised in one,” Lauren said. “Now, say it again.”
“Yes’m. So, we starting from where we stopped yesterday, Mister Gallivan?” Hector asked again.
“Yeah,” Dylan said as he tried to ignore the burnt bits of the eggs he was chewing on. “I want to finish picking the whole row today.”
“Swallow before you talk, dear,” Lauren said.
“Yesh, dear.” He swallowed. “I mean, yes, dear.”
“Daddy’s rude,” Tara said, taking her seat at the table.
“And a bad in-flu-ants on our mental en-vel-op-ment,” Martin added, clearly proud to be using words he had learned from reading the newspaper, even if he had mispronounced them.
“Development,” Leo said automatically. Martin stuck out his tongue.
Just as Lauren opened her mouth to tell Martin to stop being rude, there was a strangely rhythmic series of knocks at the front door, audible even from the kitchen. It was a rhythm that hadn’t been heard at the Gallivan farm in years.
Knock, knock, knock-knock knock KNOCK-knock KNOCK.
All eyes in the room looked down the hallway at the front door, except for three pairs. Lauren’s eyes widened, and her mouth hung open. Clara stopped mid-page turn, and turned to look down the hall so fast that her glasses nearly flew off her face. Dylan froze solid with a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth.
“Pretty early for visitors,” Hector said.
Dylan stood abruptly, sending his chair scooting across the floor. “I’ll see who it is,” he said tersely as he stomped out of the kitchen, anger and hope filling his head like hot air in a balloon.
Clara made to stand up. “I’ll-”
Dylan cut her off. “Ma, sit down. I can handle this.”
He stormed out of the room before she could respond, closing the door behind him, even though he wanted nothing more than to slam it. Heart pounding in his ears, and his stomach full of uneasy butterflies, he walked to the front door, painstakingly aware of every breath he was taking. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob, as his body refused to obey him. He clenched his teeth, willing his wrist to rotate and turn the knob.
The knock again. Knock, knock, knock-knock knock KNOCK-knock KNOCK. The same rhythm, twice now. Dylan was certain now. It wasn’t a stranger who just happened to use that rhythm. It had to be him.
Dylan swallowed. Six years. Six years.
He turned the knob and pulled the door open, and time seemed to slow down to a molasses-quick crawl.
The man standing outside wasn’t the same man who had left the farm one night six years ago. He was older, his hairline slowly starting to retreat up his scalp. His nose looked like it had been broken a few times, and he wore a tailored, brown three-piece suit that matched the briefcase at his feet, but he hadn’t changed so radically that Dylan couldn’t hope to recognize him.
Lewis Gallivan cleared his throat. “Um, hello,” he said.
After a moment, Dylan responded. “Hello.”
Lewis scratched the back of his neck, a nervous gesture he’d had since he was a kid. “I, uh, I wanted to call ahead, but I guess you never got a phone line,” he said.
“Waste of money,” Dylan said, as he struggled to keep his emotions in check.
Lewis laughed. “I thought you’d say that, you skinflint.”
Dylan smiled. “You look well,” he said, gesturing to Lewis’s suit. His younger brother looked down.
“Uh, thanks. You look, um,” he regarded Dylan for a few moments, his gaze finally stopping on Dylan’s head. For a short moment, his face was blank. Then, he covered his mouth to conceal his grin and muffle the giggling. Soon, Dylan found himself trying not to do the same.
It was a noble attempt on both their parts, but it was a losing battle. “I guess,” Lewis said, running a hand through his own thinning hair, “I guess we both got Pa’s lack of hair.”
That was the final straw for both of them. The floodgates broke, and both men burst out laughing. They met in a hug that threatened to squeeze the life out of both men, laughing and crying happy tears. “I missed you, you bald lug,” Lewis admitted.
“Me too, you balding dolt,” Dylan answered.
At the sound of their mother’s voice, nearly broken with tears, the brotherly embrace split apart as fast as it had started. Dylan turned to see Clara standing in the hallway, staring at Lewis with tears in her eyes. Behind her, the kitchen door was open, mostly filled by Laura, who was watching the reunion with a happy smile. The kids and the farmhands were crowded behind her, trying to figure out what was going on.
Dylan stepped aside, letting Lewis rush past. Mother, crying, and son, pretending he wasn’t, embraced for the first time in nearly six years. “Oh God, I was so worried for you, you stupid boy,” Clara said through the sobs.
“I know, Ma, I know,” Lewis said. “I should have written, I really should have-”
“Oh, shut up,” Clara said.
“Mama, who’s that?” Tara asked quietly, half-hidden behind her mother. At the sound of her voice, Lewis looked up, noticing their audience for the first time.
“Is that Tara?” He asked, pulling away from his mother to approach his sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. “God, you’ve gotten so big. Lauren, you look-” Lewis stopped when he noticed Lauren’s stomach, and the young boy hidden behind her. He looked back at Dylan, astonishment in his eyes. “I can see I missed a lot.”
“Oh, you have no idea,” Dylan said, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Looks like we have a lot to talk about.”
It had taken Lewis most of a day to get from Chicago to southern Indiana. First, the train to Indianapolis had to stop midway because of some engine troubles, delaying the trip by a few hours. Then, he took a taxi from Indianapolis to Bloomington – and he was certain that the bastard had overcharged him – then another taxi to Bradshire in the early morning, and finally decided to walk home himself. He had nothing but the clothes on his back, a briefcase of toiletries he had bought at the train station, and the pistol, also in the briefcase.
The long road to the farm hadn’t changed in the six years he’d been gone. Every ditch, every rock, every dip and bump, it was all the same. Even the corn in the fields, ripe and ready to pick, seemed to have been waiting for him to return. As he approached the house – it had a new coating of paint, he noticed – he felt his nervousness be replaced by childlike optimism. He knew he wasn’t the same person who had left this place six years ago. He had seen and done terrible things, things that he was ashamed of and disgusted by, but it had all been for this farm, for this house.
He had knocked on the door, using the same rhythm he had always used. It was like his fingerprint; with those eight knocks, he was telling those who knew that knock that he was Lewis Gallivan, and he was home.
After his reunion with his family – he had been fully prepared for Dylan to punch him in the jaw, and he wouldn’t have blamed him – the rest of the day passed by in a blur. Dylan had sent the farmhands out to pick the corn by themselves, and the entire family gathered in the living room. Lewis had spent the entire train ride concocting his cover story as an automotive salesman. Over the course of two hours, the only honest thing that Lewis told them was that his landlady played bridge with the Devil every Thursday.
He learned about everything that had transpired after he had left the farm so long ago. Business had started getting better a few months afterwards – Lewis kept his face as straight as a tire iron when he was told about that. He heard all about how much of a handful Tara had been when she was growing up, and about how Martin’s first word wasn’t to be repeated in polite company, and he was told about Lucy.
Lucy had been the name of the third child born to Dylan and Lauren, almost three years ago. She was born too early, and never made a sound. After three days of clinging on to life, three days when her parents barely slept a wink to keep an eye on her health, little Lucy passed away. When she was buried in the family plot at the church graveyard, most of the town was in attendance. The carpenter who made her coffin had done it free of charge, though he admitted that he hoped he would never again have to make one so small.
That was the last story that was told. It was already late afternoon, and work had to be started on dinner. Clara, with the help of Tara and Martin, got to work, while Lauren went to bed to rest for a little while. Lewis could tell that she had been the most affected by the story about Lucy, and he couldn’t blame her.
As he and Dylan sat on the porch, shucking corn in total silence, Lewis felt something that he hadn’t felt in almost six years.
He felt dirty.
He felt guilty, and worthless, and horrible, and a thousand other things that were just as bad. He felt dirty for not having been at Lucy’s funeral to support his family. He felt dirty for having not even heard about her before today. He felt filthy for making his family have to go through those events again.
Lewis Gallivan made his living by working for the king of the criminal underworld in Chicago, doing his dirty work and disposing of his enemies, all so that he could keep his family business afloat, but only now did he feel like a truly horrible man.
“How come you never wrote?” Dylan asked, finally breaking the silence. Both men were deliberately taking their time with the chore; after years of experience shucking corn, they could have an ear completely done in the space of a few seconds, but now they removed the husk one leaf at a time.
Lewis thought about that question for a minute. “I don’t know,” he finally said.
“Liar,” Dylan pointed out.
“So why didn’t you?”
Another minute of silence. “I was afraid, I think.”
A shucked ear of corn was dropped into the pot. “Mostly that you’d write back.”
“After our big fight?” Another ear of corn in the pot.
“I’m sorry about that. Yelling at you and all.”
“Don’t be. Looks like you were right,” Lewis lied. “You really held this place together while I was gone.”
“I guess I did,” Dylan said, smiling. “So how long do you plan on staying?”
Lewis shrugged. “A few weeks, if that’s alright. My boss got mad that I’ve never taken any vacation days and pretty much exiled me from town.”
“Rough. Guest room’s yours if you want it.”
“Didn’t know we had a guest room.”
“We do now. Since six years ago.”
“Aw, you son of a-”
“Careful there. She’s your mother, too.”
“Oh, and don’t expect us to wait on you hand and foot. For a place to sleep…”
“Gotta earn your keep,” Lewis finished, his father’s favorite saying having been ground into his very being. “I know, I know.”
“Can’t wait to see if you can still keep up, city boy,” Dylan said, dropping his last ear of corn in the pot. Lewis finished his last ear a second later.
“Please, old man,” he said, picking up the pot as he stood. “I’m still in the prime of my life. Just you wait. I’ll have finished a whole row by the time that you-”
Lewis struggled to open his eyes, and was rewarded for his efforts with the sight of his brother’s grinning face hovering above him. Lewis grumbled and turned over, pulling the sheets over his head. He’d only just fallen asleep, why was Dylan already trying to get him to-
“Wake up,” Dylan hissed again, jostling Lewis’s shoulder. “Easy way or the hard way.”
“Fuggoff,” Lewis mumbled, swatting at his brother.
“Okay, the hard way.”
There was suddenly a cold hand on Lewis’s ankle. Lewis had a split second to think to himself ‘oh no’ before he was suddenly on the floor with a heavy thump.
“Christ!” He yelped.
“Shhhh!” Dylan hissed. “Everyone’s asleep.”
“So was I, you bastard!” Still, Lewis kept his voice down.
“Quit whining and get dressed, city boy,” Dylan said, headed towards the door. “If I have to come back up here, you will not have a fun morning.”
Lewis growled, but started to dress anyway. Dylan wasn’t known for making threats he didn’t go through on.
As the day wore on, Lewis began to realize that he had forgotten just how tiring farm work could be. Perhaps city life had made him go soft. By lunchtime, he was already completely sore, every muscle in his body crying out for rest. But he struggled to conceal his pain, not willing to give Dylan the satisfaction.
Martin Gallivan slowly opened the door to the guest room, peeking inside as if he was afraid that there would be someone there. He knew there was nobody on the second floor; it was late afternoon, which meant that his Pa, newfound uncle, and the farmhands were out in the fields, Gramma was listening to the radio, and Ma and Tara were starting to prepare dinner.
Meaning that Martin could search to his heart’s content.
Many people said that Martin was too clever for his own good. He asked too many questions, he stuck his nose in places it didn’t belong, and he had a history of taking things apart to see how it worked, and then forgetting how to put it back together or losing a vital piece. He was far too curious, and Uncle Lewis had piqued that curiosity.
Specifically, his briefcase.
The briefcase was too new, the leather too shiny. It looked like it had just been purchased. For that matter, if Uncle Lewis had been planning to stay for a few weeks, why had he only brought that one small briefcase, which apparently didn’t have a single change of clothes?
A quick examination from the doorway, and Martin saw that the briefcase was sitting under the bed. He carefully crossed the floor; he hadn’t come into this room very much – never had a reason to – so the floorboards were like a minefield. He carefully tested each step by applying just a bit of pressure with his toe, and slowly made it all the way across without making a single creak.
Martin picked up the briefcase and jumped up on the bed, confident that it was a safe zone. He examined the briefcase in his lap. It was locked, with a three-number combination. Martin made sure to memorize where the dials were set to, so he could return it when he was done. Knowing that the briefcase was still incredibly new, he tested a few simple combinations. Perhaps Uncle Lewis hadn’t had time to change it.
He got it on the first try. 1-2-3. The lock clicked open, and Martin opened his prize. The briefcase was mostly full of simple toiletries – a comb, a toothbrush, a nail clipper, that sort of thing – but Martin didn’t even notice them. One item in particular had caught his eye, and Martin lifted it out carefully.
A real pistol.
A real, genuine, bona-fide, Colt 1911 semi-automatic, .45 caliber pistol. Just like in the movies!
“Wow,” he breathed. His opinion of Uncle Lewis had just gone up. Martin removed the gun from its holster. It was too big for his hand, and it felt heavier than he had imagined, but Martin didn’t even care. There was no… clip? That’s right, no clip in the handle of the gun. Martin pulled back the… he wasn’t sure what the right word was, but it was the part of the gun that the hero would pull on to show the bad guy that he was ready to shoot him. It made Martin feel like a real cowboy. “Bang,” he whispered, pointing it at the wall and pantomiming a shot. “Bang.” Another shot. Martin’s finger found the trigger, and he slowly started to pull. “B-”
Lewis, as he pulled an ear of corn off the stalk, almost didn’t react to the sound of the gunshot at first. After years, he had gotten so used to the sound that he could identify the model of the gun that had been fired. Colt 1911 semi-automatic, .45 caliber. Just like the one he used.
Then he remembered that he wasn’t in Chicago anymore.
And that Dylan hated guns and refused to keep one in the house.
And that the gunshot had come from the house.
Lewis dropped the corn and ran, his fatigue forgotten. As he burst out of the cornfield, he saw that Dylan was already halfway to the house, moving like greased lightning. Lewis ran faster, running through hypothetical situations in his head. He was sure he had left it unloaded. Had there been a bullet still in the chamber? Maybe it had just gone off on its own? Maybe he was wrong, and Dylan had changed his stance on firearms? Unlikely.
Lewis raced into the house and charged up the stairs. The door to his room – the guest room – was open, and Lewis could hear someone crying. He came to a halt in the doorway, praying there wouldn’t be any blood-
Martin was sitting on his bed, crying into his mother’s arms. Ma was sitting on Martin’s other side, stroking his back and telling him it wasn’t his fault. Tara was standing off to one side, looking scared, and Dylan –
Dylan was holding Lewis’s gun, looking down at it with hate in his eyes.
Lewis could see his briefcase, lying on the floor with its contents spread out all around it. All of his toiletries, and a magazine of ammo that Lewis had been sure to remove before storing it.
Every pair of eyes but Martin’s looked at Lewis as he stood in the doorway. There was shock in his mother’s eyes, hate in Lauren’s, fear in Tara’s, and in Dylan’s –
Dylan’s eyes looked like the sky right before a storm, filled with boiling rage that could break loose at any moment, and it was directed straight at Lewis. Lewis had never seen such anger, especially not from Dylan.
His brother crossed the room in a heartbeat, and grabbed Lewis by the collar. “Outside. Now,” he growled, and dragged Lewis away.
Dylan slammed Lewis against the barn, rage still in every line of his face. “Explain,” he ordered.
“I swear to God it was unloaded-”
That answer didn’t satisfy Dylan, and his fist met Lewis’s jaw, sending him sprawling to the ground. “You brought it into my house!” He roared, pulling Lewis back to his feet. “Martin could have killed himself because of that stupid gun!”
“Do I look like some amateur chump who would store a gun while it was loaded?!” Lewis yelled back, trying to struggle against Dylan’s grip. “I – fuck, there must have been a bullet left in the chamber when I took the clip out. Dylan, I’m sorry-”
“I didn’t ask for your excuses!” Dylan yelled, his grip on Lewis tightening. His voice lowered, but still seethed with rage. “Just tell me why. Tell me why you had a gun in your briefcase.”
He was slammed against the barn again. “Are you even a car salesman? Showing up out of nowhere, just the clothes on your back and a gun in your briefcase-”
“Give me the truth!”
Lewis felt something in him snap. “Okay. Fine. You want the truth? Let me tell you ‘the truth’. No, I’m not a car salesman. Wanna know what I am? I’m a crook. A thug. Hired muscle. A hitman. I’m a gangster.” As he spoke, he could see the rage seep out of Dylan’s eyes, slowly being replaced by horror and disgust. “And my boss? Oh, maybe you’ve heard of him. One Al Capone. You know, the king of Chicago? Yeah, that’s the guy. You wanna know what I do for him? I bump people. I fit them for shoes made outta cement. I take problems and I make them not problems. That Colt 1911 has ventilated more skulls than you’ve got fingers and toes. I kill people.”
Dylan held him in place for a solid minute as he floundered for a response. Finally, his grip slackened, and he stepped away from Lewis, disgust in his eyes. “You – why?” He asked, no longer the raging storm he had been.
Lewis straightened his collar. His pulse was racing, and the raging heat in his mind clashed with the guilty chill in his stomach. “Oh, you wanna know why, huh? Just the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ isn’t good enough? Okay, you asked for it.” He was on the offensive now. He stepped up to Dylan and prodded him in the chest to punctuate each word he was about to say. “To. Help. My. Family.”
Dylan looked ready to say something, but Lewis didn’t let up. “What, did you think you were just magically able to get better prices all of the sudden? Or were you just so pleased with yourself that you didn’t even question it? You didn’t have to change a damn thing, just had to wait for the whole fucking world to change to accommodate you. You were going to drive this place into the ground, and I knew you were too stubborn to admit that times are changing. So I did what I thought was necessary. I joined Al Capone’s gang just so I could get him to pull some strings to make sure the farm could stay alive. And boy howdy, let me tell ya, getting into an Italian gang as an Irishman?”
Lewis lifted his shirt to display the scar just below his ribcage on the left side of his chest. “I saved Capone from a drive-by hit squad. Tackled him to the ground just as they started firing. A couple inches to the north, and I’d be dead.” He let go of his shirt, reveling in the horrified expression on Dylan’s face. “Capone took care of me after that. Got me to the hospital, paid my bills, all that good stuff. He said to me, ‘kid, you saved my life, and in return, I want to thank you. Anything you want, just ask’. I asked him to give me a job. I worked for him for a few months, made myself trustworthy, and then I finally asked him to help out my poor, stupid big brother on the family farm. Cost me a pretty good chunk of my monthly paycheck. Oh, but that’s not even the best part! You wanna know the really funny thing about all this?”
Dylan’s eyes said no, but Lewis didn’t care. “That hit squad that nearly got Capone, except I just so happened to be nearby when it went down? You think that was a coincidence? HA! I was the one who hired them!”
Finally, liberation. Lewis had been concealing that juicy tidbit for six years, but it was finally out in the open. “And oh man, did I tie up those loose ends nice! See, once I got out of the hospital, the first job Capone gave me was to find them, figure out who hired them, and then kill ‘em! So I did! And what a pity, I was never able to figure out who they were working for! What a damn shame! I got off scot-free, no evidence, no trace that it was all a setup! No way for Capone to find out! I could work for Capone without having to constantly look over my shoulder, worrying about people wanting to stick a knife in my back!”
All of the sudden, the thrill of honesty left Lewis, as he realized what he was confessing to. Like a man after a night of drinking, he deflated, feeling sick to his stomach. “Yeah, completely clear to do Al Capone’s dirty work. Nineteen. Nineteen men I’ve killed on his orders. It never really leaves you, you know? I can remember every last detail. Every plea for mercy, every terrified pool of piss, every pitiful sob. I mean, I don’t regret any of it. Is that wrong? None of them were ‘good men’, if you can call me a judge of character. All of them deserved what was coming to ‘em, even if it wasn’t the reason Capone wanted them killed. There was one messed up fuck, killed probably around half a dozen hookers because that’s what gave him wood. And one time, after I bumped a guy, his wife tracked me down – still not sure how – and thanked me for it. Looked like she’d been beaten. One eye bruised shut, cigarette burns all over her arms, real fucked up. Want me to go on? I could, but I don’t think you’ve got the stomach for it.”
Again, Dylan opened his mouth to talk, but again Lewis cut him off. “I know what you’re going to say. ‘Quit acting like you’ve got the moral high ground, Lewis. Like you’re better than them because you had a reason to do it’. I know, okay? I know I’m just as bad as them. But if I don’t act like they had it coming to ‘em, I think I’d go nuts.” He slumped against the wall, filled with the familiar pangs of self-loathing. “I’m sorry about the gun. I swear to God I didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber. If you want me to leave, I’ll leave, and you’ll never see me again. I’m sorry. I never should have come back.”
No response from Dylan for a long, empty minute. Finally, he took a deep breath. “I,” he said, “Cannot tell you how disappointed in you I am.”
“I know,” said Lewis.
“This conversation never happened,” Dylan said. “Understand?”
“Yeah, I understand.”
“Good. Nobody else is going to ever find out that you’re a common criminal. It’d break Ma’s heart.”
“After that…” Dylan rubbed at his temples. “I – I don’t even know. I’m so angry right now I don’t even know what to do.”
“I don’t blame you,” Lewis said. “I really don’t.”
They returned to the house, both knowing that their relationship could never be repaired after what had just happened. Again, Lewis lied to his family, saying that he owned that gun because Chicago was a dangerous city – not a complete falsehood – and it never hurt to have some protection. He apologized, again and again, for the bullet that had been left in the chamber. Still, he knew it wasn’t enough. His family refused to even look him in the eye. Dinner that night was eaten in complete silence, and Lewis went to bed immediately afterwards. In the morning, he woke up without complaint, did what Dylan told him to do, and didn’t say a single word to anyone. After a day of hard labor picking corn, there was another silent dinner, and again Lewis went straight to bed.
He had trouble sleeping that night. No matter how he tossed and turned, he simply didn’t feel tired. At around midnight, he gave up, and sat at the window to listen to the crickets and watch the stars.
Then, something on the ground caught his eye. Movement in the darkness.
Someone was out there.
Dylan awoke from his fitful rest to the sound of a creaking floorboard. He was fully alert in a heartbeat, and listening intently for any further noise. It sounded like it had come from the stairs – and there, that was the sound of the front door opening. Someone had just left the house. The kids slept on the first floor, meaning there were two options. It was either early in the morning and Ma had just risen to watch the sunrise, or Lewis was leaving.
Dylan slipped out of bed, ready to find out which one it was.
There was nobody on the porch when Dylan crept outside, so he knew it wasn’t Ma who was awake. Dylan closed his eyes to let his ears do the seeing for him. For a little bit, the only sounds he could hear were the insects, but then he caught onto the sound of boots scuffling against dirt, coming from the side of the house. He hurried, trying not to make a sound.
When he rounded the corner, he saw two men struggling in the darkness. One man had his arm around the other’s throat, and a hand over his mouth to muffle the man’s voice. As Dylan watched, the struggling man fell limp, and the attacker started to drag him away. They stepped out of the shadow of the house into the moonlight, and Dylan got a good look at the two men.
The dead man – no, just unconscious, he was still breathing – was Federico, the farmhand. The man dragging him was Lewis.
Rage starting to bubble in his veins, Dylan followed them in silence.
Lewis dragged Federico into the toolshed, far enough from the house to not attract attention. Once Lewis was inside, Dylan pressed his ear to the door, trying to hear what was going on inside.
There was the sound of a slap, followed by groaning. “Wake up,” Lewis said. More groaning. Another slap. “I said wake up!”
“Wha- what’re you-” Federico’s voice.
Another slap, then a whimper of pain. “I didn’t say you could talk. Now, I’m going to ask you some questions, you’re going to answer them. Got it?”
Another slap. Another whimper.
“No talking. Now what the fuck were you doing creeping around outside this late?”
“And what were you doing trying to open the window to the kids’ room, huh?”
Dylan felt ice in his veins. Federico had been trying to do what?
“Oh god, I can explain-”
“Hold on. What’s that you’ve got in your pocket? Let me – holy…”
“Ether! What were you doing, sneaking into the kids’ room with a bottle of ether in your pocket?!”
“I can explain-”
“You sick fuck!”
Dylan had had enough. He threw the door open, filling the doorway with anger in his eyes. A lit lantern was hanging from the ceiling, casting orange light on the inside of the toolshed. Federico was tied to a chair, half of his face turning red and tears in his eyes. Lewis stood over him, and he turned when Dylan entered. Dylan could see the bottle in his hands. “What,” he said, “Is going on.”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Lewis explained, setting the ether aside on a workbench. “So I was sitting at the window, when I saw this greasy snake creeping around outside. Went to find out what was up, and I caught him at the window to your kids’ room, trying to get it open. Knocked him out, dragged him here, asked him a few ‘polite questions’.”
“Mister Gallivan, please, I can explain-” Federico began to say.
“Cork it,” Lewis snapped.
“You have to believe me, I was trying to save them-”
Lewis raised his hand to strike Federico across the face, but the farmhand was able to get out a few more words before bracing himself for the incoming strike.
“Oh god, Capone is coming!”
Lewis’s hand froze, inches from Federico’s face. Dylan’s eyes widened in shock. “What – what the hell is going on?”
“That’s what I want to know,” Lewis said, grabbing Federico by the collar. “Sounds like you’ve got a story to tell. Start singing.”
Federico took a moment to compose himself. “A, a couple weeks back, on my day off, some guy in town offered me some money for a simple job. He – he said that someone was going to be coming here soon, and, and that they wanted a pair of ears in case he said anything in-incriminating. I – I heard your conversation yesterday. B-behind the barn. When you said that you called in a hit on Al Capone, so I – I figured that was the sort of thing that was incriminating. When I went into town this morning, I used that phone at the bus station to call the number the guy gave me, told him what I heard, and he said – he said, ‘You’ve made Mister Capone very happy. If you’re smart, you’ll get away from there before things get ugly tonight.’ I realized I’d messed up, but I couldn’t say anything because you would’ve killed me, so I – I thought that the least I could do was get the kids out of the way.”
The young man’s tears began to flow freely. “Oh god,” he blubbered. “Oh god, Mister Gallivan, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Dylan and Lewis stood there in silence as Federico kept on crying. Lewis staggered back, his face ashen, and leaned against the workbench for support. “Shit,” he said. He slammed his fist against the wall, making the tools shake. “Shit! That fat, syphilitic bastard played me! He’s probably on his way here now!”
“What?” Dylan repeated, refusing to believe what he was hearing.
“Capone set this up! He was the one who suggested I head home, and he already had a spy prepared in case I admitted anything! That slimy-”
“Mister Gallivan-” Federico was silenced when Lewis closed the distance between them in one stride and slammed him in the temple. The force of the blow sent Federico and the chair toppling to the ground, and the farmhand was already unconscious by the time he hit the dirt.
“Sorry about that,” Lewis said, rubbing his knuckles. “He was annoying.”
“Capone is coming here?” Dylan repeated, hoping that this was all a bad dream and he would wake up any second now. “Here?”
“Looks like it,” Lewis said. “Shit.”
“What are we going to do?”
“We aren’t going to do anything,” Lewis said, turning around to face Dylan. “I’m going to have to face the music.”
Dylan’s throat felt dry. “He’ll kill you.”
“Probably not immediately, unless I’m lucky,” Lewis shrugged. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go get my stuff. Only Capone gets to have meetings in his pajamas.” He moved past Dylan, his eyes empty and face blank.
Dylan felt like he should have said something, anything, at that point. A notorious gangster was headed towards his home and family. His brother was going out to die. His brother, the gangster who had killed almost a score of people, who had dirtied his own hands, heart, and soul to help his family, who had nearly brought death to his son, was going out to die.
And Dylan had no idea what to say.
When Lewis, suit on his back, briefcase in his hand, and Colt 1911 in a holster under his armpit, walked out the front door, he knew he would never see it again. He was going to die, probably before the end of the night. Capone had – somehow – figured out that he was a liar, and he was probably furious.
The door clicked shut behind him, and Lewis realized he wasn’t afraid.
Dylan was sitting on the front steps, and he looked up at Lewis’s approach. He didn’t look angry or scared. He just looked tired. Lewis sat down next to him, setting the briefcase aside.
Neither of them spoke.
“I’m sorry,” Lewis said. “Sorry for – everything, I guess.”
Dylan said nothing. Lewis continued.
“I just thought that maybe everything would turn out fine. That I could get through the whole time without you ever finding out the truth, that I could keep working for Capone, maybe even live long enough to retire.” He laughed. “And maybe at some point I’d pitch a no-hitter at the World Series. Or something else just as unlikely.” Lewis glanced at Dylan, who was still as silent as the grave. “You know, you could at least say something.”
“Don’t know what to say,” Dylan said after a moment of thought. “Should I tell you to stay or go? Should I hate you? Should I pity you? Just-” He sighed. “There’s been so much to take in these past few days. I don’t know what to think.”
“Think whatever you want about me,” Lewis said. “Just keep in mind, things are gonna change here. Can’t count on things just magically working out.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know.”
“I doubt Capone’ll try and make things rough for you, but I’ll talk to him about it. Just in case.”
Dylan laughed. “The man wants to kill you, and you think you can just ‘talk to him’ about it?”
“Yeah. I’m a persuasive guy,” Lewis said with a bit of a smile. “I can talk my way into or out of anything you can think of.”
Both men chuckled nervously, trying to stave off the fear.
“Well,” Lewis said as he stood up. “Guess I’d better get going, then. He’s probably close, if he’s been driving all day.” At the bottom of the steps, he paused and looked back. “Oh, and I suggest you should act like you had no idea I was leaving. I just up and vanished in the middle of the night. No harm, no foul, yeah?”
“And wait like a week or two to fire that farmhand – what was his name again?”
“Federico, that’s it. Yeah, if you suddenly fire him the day after I leave, that’d probably look suspicious.” He took a few more steps. “Wait, one last thing. I… I always thought Peter was a nice name, you know?”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Or Kelly. Just – putting that out there.”
Silence. Lewis felt frozen in place as he stared down the dirt road, which seemed to stretch on into eternity. “I always missed this place.”
Tears began to sting at his eyes, and Lewis blinked them away. “Take care of yourself, brother.”
Lewis put one foot forward, and started to walk.
As he walked down the moonlit road, Lewis realized that it was the perfect end to his life as a gangster. Six years ago, on a night just like this one, he had walked down this same road, more furious than he’d ever been, as a mad plan grew in his mind. He’d been young, twenty-four years old, and fascinated by the rare stories about Al Capone that he had read in the paper. After that fateful argument, when he’d accused Dylan of being a fool who was driving the family business into the ground, he’d felt like his plan might just have worked.
Before he knew it, he had reached the end of the road. Dirt met pavement perpendicularly, and the asphalt stretched towards the horizon to the left and right. Lewis sat down on a rock at the side of the road.
He wondered what would have happened if he’d decided to stay. Would Dylan have eventually figured out that times were changing, and they needed to change along with them? Would Lewis have been happier, losing himself in the menial work? Would things have been better?
Didn’t matter now.
Lewis didn’t have to wait very long. After fifteen minutes, headlights appeared in the distance, accompanied by the sound of an engine. Lewis stood up, and straightened his collar. Soon, three dark cars rolled to a stop in front of Lewis. Half a dozen goons holding tommyguns stepped out of the cars, but Lewis felt no fear as they were aimed at him. He brought his hands up.
The passenger side door of the lead car opened, and Frank Rio came out. He regarded Lewis completely neutrally. “Lewis,” he finally said.
“Frank,” Lewis responded. “How long’d you suspect me?”
“Not too long. Couple months,” Frank said. He gave Lewis a pat down, and took his gun from him. “Heard some old rumors. Capone didn’t want to do anything ‘til we were certain. Man likes you, for what it’s worth.”
“Yeah, I’m so glad to hear that,” Lewis said drily. “Do I get to talk to the fat fuck, or are you all just gonna kill me right now?”
“Better watch your mouth-”
Lewis snorted. “Or what, you’ll kill me?”
That shut him up. “Just get in the damn car,” Frank ordered, grabbing Lewis by the collar and shoving him at the lead car.
“Hey, as long as we’re being honest, I never really liked you either, Frank,” Lewis said. Frank snarled, and Lewis climbed into the back seat of the car. “Driver, I’m in a big hurry, and I need to get to the opera house on the double. Get me there in ten minutes, and there’s a shiny quarter in it for you. Oh, Al. What brings you to the sticks?”
Al Capone, on the other side of the car, just stared at him. “You’ve got a lot of balls to be talking to me like that, with what you did,” he said.
“Hey, it’s why they call me Gutsy.” Lewis put his feet up on the back of the passenger seat. Frank Rio, as he sat back down, shoved them away, but Lewis only put them back. “So what’s on the menu for me?”
The car started to move down the road. “Well, we’re gonna kill you, first of all,” Capone said. “Nothing personal. It’s just that I’m absolutely livid you tried to play me.”
“Oh, I didn’t try,” Lewis said. “I did play you. Like a piano. And I don’t regret it at all. Only reason I did it was so I could get into the gang. After that, I was as loyal as loyal could be.” He leaned forward to tap the driver on the shoulder. “Hey, you’ll wanna take the next left in ‘bout a mile. It’ll get you onto the highway quicker. Anyway, what were you saying, boss?”
“I was saying we’re gonna kill you and drop you in the harbor.”
“Oh, okay. Make sure they do it in the southern end. It’s deeper down there, and fewer people. Do I at least get a last request? One final favor for my years of service?”
“Why the hell should the boss give you anything?” Frank snapped from the front seat.
“Oh, I don’t know, because I’ve been doing his dirty work without questioning him for six fucking years? Because he still would have died if I hadn’t taken a bullet in the kidney for him? Because I’m the one who knows where all the bodies are buried, where all the money is-”
“Supposing I were to give you one last favor,” Capone said, fingers interlaced over his stomach. “What would it be?”
“Leave my family out of this,” Lewis said immediately. Only now did he feel any fear. He was certain that he was going to die, and accepted it, but he was still uncertain about his family’s fate. They were the only ones he was worried about. “Anything between us is just between us. Do whatever you want to me, I don’t care. But please, if there is anything still human in you, please don’t hurt them.”
Capone said nothing.
Lewis waited, more afraid than he’d ever been in all his life.
The king of Chicago drummed his fingers on his stomach. “Sir,” Frank said, aggravated. Capone raised a hand to silence him.
“Frank, shut up,” he said. “I’ll leave them out of this. As a reward for service.”
The fear melted away like morning fog before the sun. “Thank you,” he said.
“Won’t make a difference,” Capone said. “They won’t have me to help them along anymore. It’ll burn down eventually, just not as fast as if it was torched.”
“Thank you,” Lewis said again, worried he was going to start crying.
“If you don’t shut up, I’ll change my mind,” Capone warned. “And if you think you’ll just be getting a bullet in the head, you’re dead wrong. I think I might just rip out your tongue and hand you over to the north-siders, see how they treat one of their own who works for me.”
“I can live with that,” Lewis said. “Not for very long, but I can live with that.”
“You’re one crazy bastard,” Capone said.
“Don’t I know it,” Lewis said, tipping his hat over his eyes. “Wake me when we get there.”
His future was set in stone, he knew that. He was going to die, and it wasn’t going to be gentle. The north-side gang was full of Irishman, and they had never liked Lewis for daring to work for an Italian. Once they got their hands on him, they wouldn’t kill him right away.
He couldn’t deny he was afraid of pain. But he didn’t really care.
His family was safe.
That was all he’d ever cared about.