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Circle of Friends Part 2 - Prohibition Underworld

Posted by Max_Writer , in Call of Cthulhu, Campaign Log 30 March 2017 · 298 views

CoC 1-6e Jazz Age

Miss Edington strode into the pharmacy. To her right was a counter and a soda fountain. The aisles were to the left, running parallel to the front of the store. She turned onto the aisle where she’d seen the figure and found two large men in ill-fitting suits and hats, each of them with dark hair, thick necks and jaws, and swarthy skin. Their hats were pulled low over their faces.

 

“Hey you!” she said. “Stop! What are you doin’ in here!?! Get outta here!”

 

Both of the men, who had been stooping, stood up straight. They were both about six feet tall and thick. One of them had a scar on his face. One of them pulled a small revolver while the man nearer her stepped forward.

 

“Get over here!” he muttered.

 

He grabbed Miss Edington by the hair and dragged her into the aisle. She squealed.

 

Virgil Thomas rushed forward, drawing his pistol, and made it to the end of the aisle even as she tried to bring one of her heels down on her assailant’s foot. The heel slid off the cheap shoes and crashed into the floor. Johnson rushed forward, crashing into the man holding Miss Suzanna and punching at him, catching the man in the shoulder. The man looked at him, a little confused. James rushed the man and tried to pull his free arm behind his back but the man pushed him off.

 

“Everybody just stop!” the man with gun shouted. “Freeze!”

 

He pointed in the direction of the cluster of people.

 

“Nobody move and the girl don’t get hurt,” the man holding Miss Edington said.

 

Virgil Thomas took a step, the ruffian between him and the gunman, and shoved his large-barreled pistol into the man’s face.

 

“I’d advise you to let her go and tell your friend to put his pistol down,” he said.

 

James’ eyes went wide. The gun was right next to his head and it would probably be bad for his ears if Virgil Thomas fired.

 

Miss Edington struggled to get free.

 

“Stop it!” the man said. “Stop moving!”

 

Johnson suddenly rushed the man with the gun. The man aimed the pistol at him but then hesitated, possibly not wanting the kind of attention gunfire might draw. He raised the pistol up as Johnson punched the man in the left eye, popping him a good one. The man let out a shout and then cursed. He brought the pistol down on the other man’s head but only landed a glancing blow that was even more cushioned by his hat.

 

“Don’t mess up my hat!” Johnson said.

 

In the doorway, Dr. Flannery fled down the street with a wail.

 

James punched the man in the jaw but it was just a glancing blow and didn’t hurt the man at all. Then Virgil Thomas cocked the hammer on his Colt New Service revolver, the large barrel still in the man’s face. The man’s eyes widened and he shoved Miss Edington off him. Then he raised his hands.

 

“Keep on him, Virgil,” Miss Edington said.

 

“Miss Suzanna, you can just see if he’s got anything in his pocket,” Virgil Thomas said.

 

She quickly checked the man’s jacket pocket and found a small revolver. She tucked it into her purse while she continued to search. She found a wallet with a driver’s license in it as Virgil Thomas took a step back, still pointing his pistol at the man’s head.

 

“Don’t rob me!” the man said indignantly.

 

She saw that the name on the driver’s license was Antonio Giovanni. She tucked the wallet back into his pocket. He looked very confused.

 

Johnson, meanwhile, grabbed the other man’s gun arm. The two struggled as James rushed forward and tried to pull the gun from the man’s hand unsuccessfully. The man continued to struggle against him. Johnson tried to disarm the man without success. James also tried to get the pistol from the man without luck. Then the man pulled his arm free of the two.

 

Johnson punched the man in the gut but it was not a good blow. James swung an uppercut, catching the man in the jaw. He stepped back and brought his gun to bear, aiming between the two men.

 

“Hold it!” he said.

 

“Oh no, you drop your gun or your friend gonna have brains all over the place!” Virgil Thomas said.

 

Miss Edington took the stolen revolver out of his pocket. She backed away from the man.

 

Johnson put up his hands.

 

“Listen to Virgil,” he said.

 

James also put his hands up.

 

The man turned and fled back towards the front of the store. Johnson went after him. James put his arms down and looked back at Virgil Thomas, Miss Edington, and their prisoner. Miss Edington headed for the front door.

 

Miss Edington ran around the corner and pointed the pistol at the man. He pointed his pistol at her.

 

“This don’t involve you,” he said. “We’re just gonna walk outta here.”

 

“No, you’re not,” she said. “Why’re you here?”

 

That’s when Johnson crashed into the man from behind, knocking them both to the floor. The man didn’t lose his grip on the gun. James ran around the aisles to Miss Edington. The man looked at Miss Edington, dropped the gun, and pushed it away from himself. Miss Edington grabbed the pistol. Johnson pulled himself on top of the man, holding him down.

 

“What’re you doing here?” Miss Edington said. “Who sent you?”

 

The man sighed.

 

“We were sent to … to ambush the chemist and retrieve the sixth bottle,” the man said.

 

“What chemist?” she asked.

 

“The pharmacist. The owner. The guy that works here.”

 

“All right. All right. So … what’s your boss want with ‘em?”

 

“To deliver them to who they’re supposed to go.”

 

“To deliver them where they’re supposed to go?” Johnson said. “I thought Flannery bought ‘em.”

 

“He got the wrong delivery, okay?” the man said. “He’s got the wrong package. He was supposed to get the wine he got. And … can you get off me?”

 

“Well …”

 

“I’m not comfortable with this. I’m very uncomfortable with a man on top of me, okay?”

 

Miss Edington giggled.

 

“I know a guy, if you’re that … you know,” the man went on. “But I am not comfortable with this.”

 

She giggled again. Johnson didn’t move.

 

“So, you know where these bottles came from?” James asked.

 

“Yeah,” the man said.

 

“Who’s your dealer?” Miss Edington said.

 

“No,” the man said.

 

“Hm,” she said.

 

She gestured at him with the gun.

 

“Go ahead,” he said.

 

“Why does it matter that Flannery has the wrong bottles?” Johnson said.

 

“Because he’s not supposed to get these,” the man said. “These are special.”

 

“We’ve seen those bottles,” Miss Edington said.

 

“Special how?” Johnson said.

 

“I don’t know!” the man said. “They’re special! He wasn’t supposed to get ‘em.”

 

“Hm,” Miss Edington said.

 

“You’re telling me you didn’t notice what’s inside the bottles?” James said.

 

“They’re crates,” the man said. “They’re in crates.”

 

“They seem mighty important,” Miss Edington said.

 

“We were just told to get the other one from him,” the man said. “And that’s all we were gonna do. Just get the last one and go on our merry little way.”

 

“No.”

 

“We’ll replace them with the regular wine he’s supposed to get.”

 

“Why couldn’t your dealer just tell Flannery that he got the wrong shipment?” Johnson said. “Why does it have to go down like this?”

 

“Yeah?” Miss Edington said.

 

“I’m just doing what I was told, mister,” the man said. “And I would really appreciate you getting off me. I just do what I’m told. I was told to wait and get the last bottle. That’s all. He got the wrong shipment. Why is he messing around with the bottles of the wrong shipment? Huh? Yeah. Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah.”

 

“What?” Miss Edington said. “And what were you planning to do with Flannery?”

 

“Nothing,” the man said. “Get the bottle.”

 

“Hm.”

 

“Get the last bottle of wine. Take it back.”

 

“With guns?”

 

“Hey, it’s a dangerous world. You can never be too careful. You got guns!”

 

“I got your friend’s gun.”

 

“Your nigger friend’s got a big gun!”

 

“Yes, he does. Because people like you grabbing me.”

 

“I didn’t grab you!”

 

“No, but your friend did.”

 

“I-I ain’t him.”

 

“Uh-huh, but─”

 

“He’s grabby. We call him Grabby.”

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“I didn’t grab nobody. Just wanted the wine bottle.”

 

“Uh-huh, and you’re going to stay here.”

 

They waited for the police to arrive, Johnson telling his prisoner he’d get off of him if he agreed to sit still. The man agreed, glad to get him off him.

 

Dr. Flannery returned a couple minutes later with a Providence Police Officer. The man was young, probably only about 19 years old, tall, and good-looking. It was Officer Abraham Randolph, one of the policemen who had been part of the raid on the North Star Amusement Arcade and Pleasure Pier in May. He had been on his regular Downtown beat when Dr. Flannery had run up to him, claiming there were burglars in his establishment. He had escorted the man down the block and found a woman and a negro apparently holding two Italian men at gunpoint.

 

“All right, what’s happening here?” he asked. “Okay, everybody put their weapons down.”

 

“All right,” Miss Edington said.

 

Both she and Virgil Thomas lowered their pistols. The man looked at the pretty woman.

 

“Do you want their guns, officer?” she asked.

 

She took another pistol out of her purse.

 

“Yes ma’am,” he said. “What’s the situation?”

 

“This is Flannery’s shop,” Johnson said. “It was closed up─”

 

“These men!” Dr. Flannery said suddenly. “I know her and I know him and I him and I know the negro.”

 

He pointed to each one of them in turn.

 

“But not him,” he went on, pointing to the man on the ground. Then he pointed to the other Italian man. “Or him. They broke into my shop. Both of them broke into my shop.”

 

“I’m guessing you two are the burglars,” Officer Randolph said.

 

“There’s just been a misunderstanding, officer,” the man sitting on the floor said.

 

“Uh-huh. Misunderstandings don’t generally involve guns.”

 

“Those aren’t our … I don’t have a gun.”

 

“Yes, because I’ve got it.”

 

“Neither does my friend.”

 

“Because I’ve got it as well.”

 

Officer Randolph took statements from everyone in the place and handcuffed the two perpetrators together.

 

“Do you want to press charges, sir?” he asked Dr. Flannery.

 

“Oh yeah,” Flannery said. “Yeah they broke, they … uh …”

 

“I’m guessing you want to press charges,” Officer Randolph said.

 

Dr. Flannery thought about it for a few moments.

 

“I’m thinking this was just a terrible misunderstanding,” he finally said.

 

“So you’re saying it’s a misunderstanding,” Officer Randolph said.

 

“I think so. But they shouldn’t have been in my shop, but, you know, they’re just young boys.”

 

“No, they shouldn’t have.”

 

“They’re just young boys so I think they could be let go. Boys will be boys.”

 

Miss Edington glared at the man.

 

“Well, we’re going to have to do something with them,” Officer Randolph said. “It’s breaking and entering.”

 

He determined he would take them in and process them. Though he didn’t care about the negro having a weapon, he still confiscated the man’s pistol.

 

“And you’re here with …?” he asked the large man.

 

“Uh … Miss Suzanna’s … manservant, sir,” Virgil Thomas said to the police officer.

 

“Yes sir,” Miss Edington said. “He is my servant.”

 

“Mr. Flannery?” Officer Randolph said.

 

“Yes sir?” the old pharmacist replied nervously.

 

“I see you’ve got something there.”

 

He pointed at the package Dr. Flannery still carried.

 

“Oh yes,” Dr. Flannery said. “It’s just a package that … uh … Miss Edington … this is Miss Edington. I was talking about buying it from her.”

 

“You know her well?”

 

“We … we know each other somewhat …”

 

“Okay.”

 

“It doesn’t … I don’t think it has anything to do with this.”

 

Officer Randolph thought something was off but didn’t press the issue. He took the two men away along with all of the weapons that had been used in the scuffle.

 

Dr. Flannery closed and locked the front door of his shop, turning on the lights but leaving the closed sign up. He made his way behind the counter. Miss Edington paced back and forth in front of him.

 

“Mr. Flannery,” she said.

 

“I think we should drink this wine,” he said nervously. “I feel like drinking wine.”

 

“Mr. Flannery, I don’t think we should drink that wine because those men were here for that,” she said.

 

“I concur,” James said.

 

“Let’s drink some other wine,” Dr. Flannery said.

 

He went into the back and returned a moment later with another bottle of wine. Miss Edington looked at it carefully. Nothing floated in it. He dropped a prescription card on the counter as well. It had his name on it. He opened the bottle and got several tumblers, pouring himself a drink and leaving the bottle, open, on the counter. He told them the crate of strange wine was missing from the back. Johnson also looked at the bottle while Miss Edington lit a cigarette. Virgil filled one of the glasses up to the rim, looked at the rest who shook their heads, and then drained it in a long swallow.

 

“Virgil, you’ve got to drive,” Miss Edington said.

 

“I’ll be fine,” he replied.

 

She noticed the man was sweating.

 

“Oh Virgil, we’ve been through a lot, haven’t we?” she said.

 

“I feel naked right now,” he replied. “I tell you what.”

 

Then she noticed a piece of paper on the floor near where the men had first been hiding in the aisle. It appeared to be a handwritten shipping label, possibly from the stolen crate of wine. The name on it was “Flannelly” for six bottles of wine. She showed the rest.

 

“Flannery, you’ve got to come clean with us about where you got this from,” Johnson said. “Because if there are people coming here saying you’ve got a wrong shipment, trying to reclaim it─”

 

“Okay,” Dr. Flannery said.

 

“─with hired thugs …”

 

“I told you before. It’s knockdown prices and I’m guessing it’s illegal.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“It’s cheap wine. Very cheap. And so … it’s …”

 

“But this isn’t for you,” James said.

 

“What?” Dr. Flannery said.

 

“I know the story,” Johnson said. “Who did you talk to?”

 

“What do you mean it’s not for me?” Dr. Flannery said.

 

James pointed at the piece of paper Miss Edington had found.

 

“Oh,” Dr. Flannery said. “Well, they must’ve gotten the wrong … I must’ve gotten the wrong box.”

 

“It looks that way,” Miss Edington said. “And they came with guns so … I don’t know what you got there …”

 

“Well, I don’t either!”

 

“Hmm.”

 

“You can have it, if you want … for free.”

 

Miss Edington just looked at him as he looked at the piece of paper.

 

“I just … wait a minute,” he said. “Who the hell’s Flannelly?”

 

“No idea,” James said. “Well, that’s a coincidence.”

 

“If there’s a shady alcohol distribution thing that’s putting out squid water─” Johnson said.

 

“Well, I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life, Joell,” Dr. Flannery said.

 

“Well, I understand.”

 

“I usually get this!”

 

He pointed to the regular bottle of wine.

 

“And I don’t have a problem with you getting regular wine,” Johnson went on.

 

“Well, I don’t know where that came from,” Dr. Flannery said. “That’s why I was hoping … it must be something … until you told me the Chinese do this all the time … I … I …”

 

“Why just take one bottle and try to sell it?” James said.

 

“Well, I was trying to see if Miss Edington would have an interest in purchasing it,” Dr. Flannery said. “And if she did … because she’s obviously … I saw her name in the paper a year ago and it seemed really strange and I thought, if she was into the really strange and she wanted to buy one, then I would offer to sell her more if she wanted it.”

 

“Flannery, I want to make it clear, I’m not mad at you,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to investigate─”

 

“You look mad,” Dr. Flannery said.

 

“I’m concerned about what else this shady distribution is doing if they’re doing strange things with their wine.”

 

“I don’t know. I just … these gentlemen came in and they were willing to sell me the wine …”

 

“This didn’t belong to you!” James said.

 

“How did you─?” Johnson said.

 

“I thought it did!” Dr. Flannery said. “I didn’t see the label. They just brought it and left it here.”

 

“So, you didn’t talk to anyone about it?” Johnson said. “They just showed up with wine?”

 

“No,” Dr. Flannery said. “It was three months ago. They were willing to give me a good cut rate deal on the wine. I can still prescribe wine to people for heart conditions. Or people who say they have heart conditions. Because … c’mon. This was the first time I’ve ever noticed anything strange. It was that crate.”

 

“So you don’t have any other information about the people that this came from?” Johnson said.

 

“I didn’t ask. When a deal’s that good … and it’s easier to ask forgiveness from the law than permission. Well, it is. I could’ve just claimed ignorance. ‘Oh, I thought it was a legitimate distributor.’”

 

“We want to look up if there’s any other Flannellys in town?”

 

“Sure,” Miss Edington said.

 

“Well, there’s a telephone booth in the corner by the window. There’ll be a telephone directory in there. Wait, I have a telephone directory. It’s over here.”

 

He handed them the Providence Telephone Directory. There was one Flannelly: Malcolm. His address was in the Blackstone Neighborhood at 65 Hazard Avenue. Miss Edington took the bottle of wine, slipping a $5 bill to the man.

 

“You’re a very nice lady,” he said to her as he poured himself a second glass of wine.

 

“Well, I would suggest not going back to them even if they are cheap,” she said. “Because this is … not good.”

 

“All right. You’re right.”

 

“You don’t want any more of this.”

 

She hefted the package.

 

“No!” he said. “God no.”

 

“All right then,” she said.

 

He let them out and went back to the counter for more wine.

 

They walked back to the Packard and headed across town to Hazard Avenue. They had looked more closely at the thing in the wine on the way. Johnson realized it was no known strain of marine life. Even though the cork had been jammed back into the neck of the bottle, the life-form had reacted badly to oxidation. It looked like it had withered considerably. Johnson was really glad he didn’t drink the wine.

 

The street was a place of large, fine houses in the Blackstone Neighborhood. Number 65 was an impressive brick two-story house with a driveway that led to a garage around the back. It stood on the other side of a deep front yard with a brick walk leading to the front stoop. Virgil Thomas parked a few houses away.

 

They had arrived just in time to witness a package changing hands on the doorstep of the house. The brief exchange was between five tall men in humorless gray suits and the recipient, a younger man with wet hair and dressed only in a bathrobe. The door closed and the company of men walked calmly away from the residence without a smile between them, to a waiting black Packard sedan. They looked around, got into the motorcar, and drove away.

 

“Now how do we approach this man without being strange?” Miss Edington asked. “We’re just strangers coming up, asking about his wine.”

 

“Well, you make a good point,” Johnson said.

 

“I think you might be best to approach,” James said to Miss Edington.

 

She nodded and left the Packard with the package holding the bottle of wine. Virgil Thomas went with her. She knocked on the door. It was opened by a young man with dark hair, still damp. He wore pants and a shirt, unbuttoned the top.

 

“Um …” he said. “Can I help you?”

 

“Yes sir,” she said. “Today I had a man come up with this.”

 

She held up the package.

 

“And I think this actually belongs to you,” she said. “May we talk?”

 

“Uh … what … is it?” he said nervously.

 

“It’s a bottle of wine.”

 

“Uh … uh …”

 

“I know, Prohibition and everything, but …”

 

“No no! I’m afraid you’re mistaken!”

 

“I don’t think I am, sir.”

 

“Uh … you must be … I … don’t … that … uh … that couldn’t … that shouldn’t be … uh … um … uh … it’s not … there’s … uh … um …”

 

Miss Edington glared at the man who was doing such a poor job of lying to her.

 

Virgil cleared his throat quietly and gave her a look. She was unsure what he meant by it so simply turned back to the man in the doorway.

 

“Well, I was in the neighborhood anyway and it’s nice to get to know people,” she said. “If you would let me.”

 

“Oh, well, that’s nice but I have to leave soon,” he said. “I have an appointment. But thank you for stopping by.”

 

“May I come back later?”

 

“What?”

 

“May I come back later?”

 

“You … uh … I don’t like wine … it’s not my …”

 

“We can just get to know each other. So, you have time?”

 

“No … I’m very busy. I’m sorry but …”

 

* * *

 

James and Johnson, in the back seat of the nearby Packard, had been able to hear the entire conversation.

 

“This guy is untrustworthy,” Johnson said.

 

“Well, I mean, obviously this is the address,” James said. “And he’s just denying this.”

 

“Yeah. Oh, he definitely wants to dodge it. There’s something shady about those bottles.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Or he’s very stubborn about not being caught with alcohol. Either one makes you wonder why he’s getting shipments of wine to his house.”

 

“Exactly. There’s no need for all of those men.”

 

“Yes, for normal wine.”

 

“You know, there’s no need for all those men!”

 

“This is obviously not just alcohol that he’s getting.”

 

“What is Suzanna doing!?!”

 

* * *

 

“I saw five men come away from your house just now,” Miss Edington said.

 

“They are … uh …” the man said.

 

“Uh-huh?”

 

“Delivery men.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Yes, delivery men.”

 

“And what do they deliver?”

 

“They deliver … that was … that’s none of your business!”

 

“But it kind of is.”

 

“Quite frankly, Miss … I-welcome-you-to-the-neighborhood-to-be-all-snooty-and-ask-me-all-these-questions.”

 

Virgil Thomas cleared his throat questioningly again. She didn’t know what he meant by it though.

 

“All right then, sir, I guess I’ll just keep it for myself,” she said.

 

She turned and walked back to the Packard with Virgil Thomas. She heard the door close behind them.

 

“Yes, Miss Suzanna, you just give me the word and I’ll do whatever needs done,” Virgil Thomas said. “So … you keep that in mind.”

 

“I see, Virgil,” she said. “Is that what that look’s for.”

 

“Oh yeah.”

 

“We’ll visit him later, Virgil.”

 

“Well, we could visit him again right now.”

 

“What’re you going to do to him?”

 

“Whatever needs to be done. Up to you, Miss Suzanna. I work for you, Miss Suzanna.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You’re my employer.”

 

“I know Virgil.”

 

“You ever just need anything done that needs done, you just let me know. You just say my name.”

 

Back in the car, James told her he didn’t trust the man. She talked to them about him as Virgil Thomas put the motorcar in gear and drove away.

 

“Here’s the deal,” Johnson said. “He said he had an appointment later tonight, right?”

 

“Yes, he did,” Miss Edington said.

 

“Either he’s just trying to dodge your questions or maybe he actually has something going on.”

 

“So, maybe we could come by later.”

 

“If we get all the stuff we need and are prepared, we can come by again and, maybe, not use the front door.”

 

“I would agree with Joell,” James said.

 

“We should at least check first,” Miss Edington said.

 

“And if he has guests, or if he is out, we can do it without anyone getting hurt,” Johnson said. “Or if he was out we can do it without anyone getting hurt.”

 

“Well, he was getting dressed,” Virgil Thomas said from the front seat. “So … we’ll have a little time, but I would guess not too long before he goes. Them rich people, they take a long time to get dressed. No offense, Miss Suzanna.”

 

“Hm,” she said. “None taken.”

 

“You don’t have to do this,” James said to her. “We can do this ourselves.”

 

“If you feel like it. I just wish he would’ve invited me in! We could’ve talked about it.”

 

“He was very rude,” Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Yes, he was,” she said.

 

“He’s obviously hiding something,” James said. “He obviously doesn’t want us to know something.”

 

“Well, I’m sure if he ordered something like this … I imagine he’s hiding a lot.”

 

“He’s working with some bad people,” Virgil Thomas said.

 

“Yes, he is,” she said.

 

“So, where we going?” Virgil Thomas said. “What we got to get?”

 

“I mean you understand the situation we’re in,” James said.

 

“Virgil, we can go back to our house,” Miss Edington said. “It’s in the neighborhood.”

 

“We’ll stop by the house,” Virgil Thomas said, looking at Johnson in the rear-view mirror. “You need something from your place?”

 

The man nodded.

 

They first drove to Miss Edington’s house on Magellan Street. They got her shotgun and Virgil Thomas’ burglar gun, an Ithaca Auto & Burglar sawed-off shotgun. They also left the bottle of wine there. Then they drove across town to Milo James’ apartment building on Somerset Street in Upper South Providence. The man went to his apartment and retrieved his .38 revolver. Then they went to Johnson’s terrible flophouse on Hudson Street in the West End.

 

“Damn Joell,” James said as they pulled up front. “I got some space.”

 

“I have all my money in a sock,” Johnson said.

 

“Well, now I see why you are the way you are about rich people,” Miss Edington said.

 

When Johnson went into the dirty building, Virgil Thomas turned to look over the back seat.

 

“Maybe you should give that boy a job,” he said.

 

“Hm,” she said. “He could work in my yard. He could plant me some flowers.”

 

“I don’t know if he knows nothing about gardening. What’s he do for a living?”

 

“Causes trouble.”

 

“I don’t … I don’t …”

 

“He’s one of them union people.”

 

“Oh, that’s right.”

 

“He causes trouble.”

 

“Yeah, I don’t know if I’d offer him a gardening job.”

 

“I don’t know. I don’t know.”

 

“Depends on his pride. You can do it but I don’t know how he’ll take that.”

 

“He probably won’t like it so I’ll just leave him be.”

 

Johnson came out of the nasty building, a man in a ragged jacket and a dock worker’s cap following him.

 

“You son of a bitch!” he screamed at Johnson. “You son of a bitch! I know you were in my apartment! You son of a bitch!”

 

As they approached the motorcar, the madman lowered his voice to a whisper.

 

“You’ve seen ‘em!” he said. “They come from the sky!”

 

“I know they do,” Johnson said.

 

Crazy Jeff Straczynski turned and walked away.

 

“Love you too, Jeff,” Johnson called.

 

“They’re the burrowers beneath!” Crazy Jeff yelled at the man before he ran away.

 

Miss Edington perked up. She had heard the term somewhere before.

 

Johnson opened up the motorcar door and climbed in. He had retrieved his revolver and his baseball bat. They set off back across town to Flannelly’s house once again, Virgil Thomas parking a half block away. It was about 5 p.m.

 

“Does somebody new want to approach this?” Miss Edington said.

 

They discussed how to approach dealing with the man a second time. James suggested knocking and running away to see if anyone was home or looking in the back windows.

 

James headed up the driveway to the back of the house and then peeked into the windows. He saw the man who had come to the door through the kitchen windows. He could hear the rattle of pots and pans and saw the man was wearing evening clothes with an apron. He smelled something being baked. He crept back to the Packard and told them what he’d seen.

 

“Sounds like he’s about to have some friends,” Miss Edington said.

 

“Hm,” James said. “Over?”

 

“Yeah. I don’t think a man would be in a tux, cooking in his kitchen for no reason. Then again, why is he cooking in his tux?”

 

“Waiting for somebody or going to somebody’s house,” Virgil Thomas said.

 

“He could be bringing food to somebody’s house,” she said.

 

“Mm-hm. You could always ask him.”

 

“Well, I’m going to stay in here because he’s already seen me.”

 

“We could just push our way in the house and say ‘What the hell are you doing, boy?’ There’s always that. I’m just saying. I’m just saying.”

 

“Virgil does have a point though,” Johnson said. “If we just go in the back or the front quickly and get in with weapons drawn, we can get some straight answers.”

 

“You think that’d be okay?” Miss Edington said.

 

“But he knows what we look like!” James said. “He will know what we look like.”

 

“He don’t necessarily need to know who we are,” Virgil Thomas said.

 

“I’m not saying do it right now, but it’s not a bad plan,” Johnson said.

 

“We don’t know how involved this guy is!” James said.

 

“Then we’ll find out,” Virgil Thomas said. “I wouldn’t take …”

 

He pointed to the floor on the back seat where the shotgun and the sawed-off shotgun were.

 

“I wouldn’t bring ‘Abigail,’” he said, rolling his eyes.

 

It’s what Miss Edington had named her double-barrel shotgun. She knew Virgil Thomas never liked the idea of weapons having names. He didn’t name his own firearms and didn’t understand why white people did, she learned after a conversation with him one night.

 

“But all the others that y’all have, ain’t nobody gonna see,” he said. “I just work here.”

 

Miss Edington felt it was a bad idea for her to go back to the house. Virgil Thomas noted they could wait in the car and let the other two men do it.

 

“You can take a shot at it,” she said. “Hopefully not a real shot.”

 

“Ask him about the wine, if you do,” Virgil Thomas suggested. “The wine is connecting all this together.”

 

“I’m not going to do that if you’re not okay with it,” Johnson said to James. “But I think it’s a good idea.”

 

“To … to what?” James said.

 

“To get in there and get answers from him directly,” Johnson said.

 

“Bust in the back door and shove a gun in his face,” Virgil Thomas muttered.

 

“I think it’s either that or wait to see what he’s doing,” Johnson said.

 

“I want to know if he leaves, but if he don’t … what do we do then?” Miss Edington said.

 

“And if he has company over … that’s not going to be a good time for that,” James said.

 

“Well, if we go in right now and his company comes not long after that …” Miss Edington said.

 

“If they’re coming for dinner, they’ll be at least another hour,” Virgil Thomas said.

 

“All right, to hell with it,” Miss Edington said. “Let’s go.”







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