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 sheâ€™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.
â€œHey you!â€ she said. â€œStop! What are you doinâ€™ in here!?! Get outta here!â€
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.
â€œGet over here!â€ 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 assailantâ€™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.
â€œEverybody just stop!â€ the man with gun shouted. â€œFreeze!â€
He pointed in the direction of the cluster of people.
â€œNobody move and the girl donâ€™t get hurt,â€ 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 manâ€™s face.
â€œIâ€™d advise you to let her go and tell your friend to put his pistol down,â€ he said.
Jamesâ€™ 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.
â€œStop it!â€ the man said. â€œStop moving!â€
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 manâ€™s head but only landed a glancing blow that was even more cushioned by his hat.
â€œDonâ€™t mess up my hat!â€ 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 didnâ€™t hurt the man at all. Then Virgil Thomas cocked the hammer on his Colt New Service revolver, the large barrel still in the manâ€™s face. The manâ€™s eyes widened and he shoved Miss Edington off him. Then he raised his hands.
â€œKeep on him, Virgil,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œMiss Suzanna, you can just see if heâ€™s got anything in his pocket,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
She quickly checked the manâ€™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 driverâ€™s license in it as Virgil Thomas took a step back, still pointing his pistol at the manâ€™s head.
â€œDonâ€™t rob me!â€ the man said indignantly.
She saw that the name on the driverâ€™s license was Antonio Giovanni. She tucked the wallet back into his pocket. He looked very confused.
Johnson, meanwhile, grabbed the other manâ€™s gun arm. The two struggled as James rushed forward and tried to pull the gun from the manâ€™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.
â€œHold it!â€ he said.
â€œOh no, you drop your gun or your friend gonna have brains all over the place!â€ Virgil Thomas said.
Miss Edington took the stolen revolver out of his pocket. She backed away from the man.
Johnson put up his hands.
â€œListen to Virgil,â€ 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.
â€œThis donâ€™t involve you,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re just gonna walk outta here.â€
â€œNo, youâ€™re not,â€ she said. â€œWhyâ€™re you here?â€
Thatâ€™s when Johnson crashed into the man from behind, knocking them both to the floor. The man didnâ€™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.
â€œWhatâ€™re you doing here?â€ Miss Edington said. â€œWho sent you?â€
The man sighed.
â€œWe were sent to â€¦ to ambush the chemist and retrieve the sixth bottle,â€ the man said.
â€œWhat chemist?â€ she asked.
â€œThe pharmacist. The owner. The guy that works here.â€
â€œAll right. All right. So â€¦ whatâ€™s your boss want with â€˜em?â€
â€œTo deliver them to who theyâ€™re supposed to go.â€
â€œTo deliver them where theyâ€™re supposed to go?â€ Johnson said. â€œI thought Flannery bought â€˜em.â€
â€œHe got the wrong delivery, okay?â€ the man said. â€œHeâ€™s got the wrong package. He was supposed to get the wine he got. And â€¦ can you get off me?â€
â€œIâ€™m not comfortable with this. Iâ€™m very uncomfortable with a man on top of me, okay?â€
Miss Edington giggled.
â€œI know a guy, if youâ€™re that â€¦ you know,â€ the man went on. â€œBut I am not comfortable with this.â€
She giggled again. Johnson didnâ€™t move.
â€œSo, you know where these bottles came from?â€ James asked.
â€œYeah,â€ the man said.
â€œWhoâ€™s your dealer?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œNo,â€ the man said.
â€œHm,â€ she said.
She gestured at him with the gun.
â€œGo ahead,â€ he said.
â€œWhy does it matter that Flannery has the wrong bottles?â€ Johnson said.
â€œBecause heâ€™s not supposed to get these,â€ the man said. â€œThese are special.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve seen those bottles,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œSpecial how?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI donâ€™t know!â€ the man said. â€œTheyâ€™re special! He wasnâ€™t supposed to get â€˜em.â€
â€œHm,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œYouâ€™re telling me you didnâ€™t notice whatâ€™s inside the bottles?â€ James said.
â€œTheyâ€™re crates,â€ the man said. â€œTheyâ€™re in crates.â€
â€œThey seem mighty important,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œWe were just told to get the other one from him,â€ the man said. â€œAnd thatâ€™s all we were gonna do. Just get the last one and go on our merry little way.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll replace them with the regular wine heâ€™s supposed to get.â€
â€œWhy couldnâ€™t your dealer just tell Flannery that he got the wrong shipment?â€ Johnson said. â€œWhy does it have to go down like this?â€
â€œYeah?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œIâ€™m just doing what I was told, mister,â€ the man said. â€œAnd I would really appreciate you getting off me. I just do what Iâ€™m told. I was told to wait and get the last bottle. Thatâ€™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.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Miss Edington said. â€œAnd what were you planning to do with Flannery?â€
â€œNothing,â€ the man said. â€œGet the bottle.â€
â€œGet the last bottle of wine. Take it back.â€
â€œHey, itâ€™s a dangerous world. You can never be too careful. You got guns!â€
â€œI got your friendâ€™s gun.â€
â€œYour nigger friendâ€™s got a big gun!â€
â€œYes, he does. Because people like you grabbing me.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t grab you!â€
â€œNo, but your friend did.â€
â€œI-I ainâ€™t him.â€
â€œHeâ€™s grabby. We call him Grabby.â€
â€œNo, you donâ€™t.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t grab nobody. Just wanted the wine bottle.â€
â€œUh-huh, and youâ€™re going to stay here.â€
They waited for the police to arrive, Johnson telling his prisoner heâ€™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.
â€œAll right, whatâ€™s happening here?â€ he asked. â€œOkay, everybody put their weapons down.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Miss Edington said.
Both she and Virgil Thomas lowered their pistols. The man looked at the pretty woman.
â€œDo you want their guns, officer?â€ she asked.
She took another pistol out of her purse.
â€œYes maâ€™am,â€ he said. â€œWhatâ€™s the situation?â€
â€œThis is Flanneryâ€™s shop,â€ Johnson said. â€œIt was closed upâ”€â€
â€œThese men!â€ Dr. Flannery said suddenly. â€œI know her and I know him and I him and I know the negro.â€
He pointed to each one of them in turn.
â€œBut not him,â€ he went on, pointing to the man on the ground. Then he pointed to the other Italian man. â€œOr him. They broke into my shop. Both of them broke into my shop.â€
â€œIâ€™m guessing you two are the burglars,â€ Officer Randolph said.
â€œThereâ€™s just been a misunderstanding, officer,â€ the man sitting on the floor said.
â€œUh-huh. Misunderstandings donâ€™t generally involve guns.â€
â€œThose arenâ€™t our â€¦ I donâ€™t have a gun.â€
â€œYes, because Iâ€™ve got it.â€
â€œNeither does my friend.â€
â€œBecause Iâ€™ve got it as well.â€
Officer Randolph took statements from everyone in the place and handcuffed the two perpetrators together.
â€œDo you want to press charges, sir?â€ he asked Dr. Flannery.
â€œOh yeah,â€ Flannery said. â€œYeah they broke, they â€¦ uh â€¦â€
â€œIâ€™m guessing you want to press charges,â€ Officer Randolph said.
Dr. Flannery thought about it for a few moments.
â€œIâ€™m thinking this was just a terrible misunderstanding,â€ he finally said.
â€œSo youâ€™re saying itâ€™s a misunderstanding,â€ Officer Randolph said.
â€œI think so. But they shouldnâ€™t have been in my shop, but, you know, theyâ€™re just young boys.â€
â€œNo, they shouldnâ€™t have.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re just young boys so I think they could be let go. Boys will be boys.â€
Miss Edington glared at the man.
â€œWell, weâ€™re going to have to do something with them,â€ Officer Randolph said. â€œItâ€™s breaking and entering.â€
He determined he would take them in and process them. Though he didnâ€™t care about the negro having a weapon, he still confiscated the manâ€™s pistol.
â€œAnd youâ€™re here with â€¦?â€ he asked the large man.
â€œUh â€¦ Miss Suzannaâ€™s â€¦ manservant, sir,â€ Virgil Thomas said to the police officer.
â€œYes sir,â€ Miss Edington said. â€œHe is my servant.â€
â€œMr. Flannery?â€ Officer Randolph said.
â€œYes sir?â€ the old pharmacist replied nervously.
â€œI see youâ€™ve got something there.â€
He pointed at the package Dr. Flannery still carried.
â€œOh yes,â€ Dr. Flannery said. â€œItâ€™s just a package that â€¦ uh â€¦ Miss Edington â€¦ this is Miss Edington. I was talking about buying it from her.â€
â€œYou know her well?â€
â€œWe â€¦ we know each other somewhat â€¦â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t â€¦ I donâ€™t think it has anything to do with this.â€
Officer Randolph thought something was off but didnâ€™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.
â€œMr. Flannery,â€ she said.
â€œI think we should drink this wine,â€ he said nervously. â€œI feel like drinking wine.â€
â€œMr. Flannery, I donâ€™t think we should drink that wine because those men were here for that,â€ she said.
â€œI concur,â€ James said.
â€œLetâ€™s drink some other wine,â€ 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.
â€œVirgil, youâ€™ve got to drive,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œIâ€™ll be fine,â€ he replied.
She noticed the man was sweating.
â€œOh Virgil, weâ€™ve been through a lot, havenâ€™t we?â€ she said.
â€œI feel naked right now,â€ he replied. â€œI tell you what.â€
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 â€œFlannellyâ€ for six bottles of wine. She showed the rest.
â€œFlannery, youâ€™ve got to come clean with us about where you got this from,â€ Johnson said. â€œBecause if there are people coming here saying youâ€™ve got a wrong shipment, trying to reclaim itâ”€â€
â€œOkay,â€ Dr. Flannery said.
â€œâ”€with hired thugs â€¦â€
â€œI told you before. Itâ€™s knockdown prices and Iâ€™m guessing itâ€™s illegal.â€
â€œItâ€™s cheap wine. Very cheap. And so â€¦ itâ€™s â€¦â€
â€œBut this isnâ€™t for you,â€ James said.
â€œWhat?â€ Dr. Flannery said.
â€œI know the story,â€ Johnson said. â€œWho did you talk to?â€
â€œWhat do you mean itâ€™s not for me?â€ Dr. Flannery said.
James pointed at the piece of paper Miss Edington had found.
â€œOh,â€ Dr. Flannery said. â€œWell, they mustâ€™ve gotten the wrong â€¦ I mustâ€™ve gotten the wrong box.â€
â€œIt looks that way,â€ Miss Edington said. â€œAnd they came with guns so â€¦ I donâ€™t know what you got there â€¦â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t either!â€
â€œYou can have it, if you want â€¦ for free.â€
Miss Edington just looked at him as he looked at the piece of paper.
â€œI just â€¦ wait a minute,â€ he said. â€œWho the hellâ€™s Flannelly?â€
â€œNo idea,â€ James said. â€œWell, thatâ€™s a coincidence.â€
â€œIf thereâ€™s a shady alcohol distribution thing thatâ€™s putting out squid waterâ”€â€ Johnson said.
â€œWell, Iâ€™ve never seen anything like this before in my life, Joell,â€ Dr. Flannery said.
â€œWell, I understand.â€
â€œI usually get this!â€
He pointed to the regular bottle of wine.
â€œAnd I donâ€™t have a problem with you getting regular wine,â€ Johnson went on.
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know where that came from,â€ Dr. Flannery said. â€œThatâ€™s why I was hoping â€¦ it must be something â€¦ until you told me the Chinese do this all the time â€¦ I â€¦ I â€¦â€
â€œWhy just take one bottle and try to sell it?â€ James said.
â€œWell, I was trying to see if Miss Edington would have an interest in purchasing it,â€ Dr. Flannery said. â€œAnd if she did â€¦ because sheâ€™s obviously â€¦ 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.â€
â€œFlannery, I want to make it clear, Iâ€™m not mad at you,â€ Johnson said. â€œIâ€™m trying to investigateâ”€â€
â€œYou look mad,â€ Dr. Flannery said.
â€œIâ€™m concerned about what else this shady distribution is doing if theyâ€™re doing strange things with their wine.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. I just â€¦ these gentlemen came in and they were willing to sell me the wine â€¦â€
â€œThis didnâ€™t belong to you!â€ James said.
â€œHow did youâ”€?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI thought it did!â€ Dr. Flannery said. â€œI didnâ€™t see the label. They just brought it and left it here.â€
â€œSo, you didnâ€™t talk to anyone about it?â€ Johnson said. â€œThey just showed up with wine?â€
â€œNo,â€ Dr. Flannery said. â€œIt 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 â€¦ câ€™mon. This was the first time Iâ€™ve ever noticed anything strange. It was that crate.â€
â€œSo you donâ€™t have any other information about the people that this came from?â€ Johnson said.
â€œI didnâ€™t ask. When a dealâ€™s that good â€¦ and itâ€™s easier to ask forgiveness from the law than permission. Well, it is. I couldâ€™ve just claimed ignorance. â€˜Oh, I thought it was a legitimate distributor.â€™â€
â€œWe want to look up if thereâ€™s any other Flannellys in town?â€
â€œSure,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œWell, thereâ€™s a telephone booth in the corner by the window. Thereâ€™ll be a telephone directory in there. Wait, I have a telephone directory. Itâ€™s over here.â€
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.
â€œYouâ€™re a very nice lady,â€ he said to her as he poured himself a second glass of wine.
â€œWell, I would suggest not going back to them even if they are cheap,â€ she said. â€œBecause this is â€¦ not good.â€
â€œAll right. Youâ€™re right.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t want any more of this.â€
She hefted the package.
â€œNo!â€ he said. â€œGod no.â€
â€œAll right then,â€ 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 didnâ€™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.
â€œNow how do we approach this man without being strange?â€ Miss Edington asked. â€œWeâ€™re just strangers coming up, asking about his wine.â€
â€œWell, you make a good point,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI think you might be best to approach,â€ 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.
â€œUm â€¦â€ he said. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œYes sir,â€ she said. â€œToday I had a man come up with this.â€
She held up the package.
â€œAnd I think this actually belongs to you,â€ she said. â€œMay we talk?â€
â€œUh â€¦ what â€¦ is it?â€ he said nervously.
â€œItâ€™s a bottle of wine.â€
â€œUh â€¦ uh â€¦â€
â€œI know, Prohibition and everything, but â€¦â€
â€œNo no! Iâ€™m afraid youâ€™re mistaken!â€
â€œI donâ€™t think I am, sir.â€
â€œUh â€¦ you must be â€¦ I â€¦ donâ€™t â€¦ that â€¦ uh â€¦ that couldnâ€™t â€¦ that shouldnâ€™t be â€¦ uh â€¦ um â€¦ uh â€¦ itâ€™s not â€¦ thereâ€™s â€¦ uh â€¦ um â€¦â€
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.
â€œWell, I was in the neighborhood anyway and itâ€™s nice to get to know people,â€ she said. â€œIf you would let me.â€
â€œOh, well, thatâ€™s nice but I have to leave soon,â€ he said. â€œI have an appointment. But thank you for stopping by.â€
â€œMay I come back later?â€
â€œMay I come back later?â€
â€œYou â€¦ uh â€¦ I donâ€™t like wine â€¦ itâ€™s not my â€¦â€
â€œWe can just get to know each other. So, you have time?â€
â€œNo â€¦ Iâ€™m very busy. Iâ€™m sorry but â€¦â€
* * *
James and Johnson, in the back seat of the nearby Packard, had been able to hear the entire conversation.
â€œThis guy is untrustworthy,â€ Johnson said.
â€œWell, I mean, obviously this is the address,â€ James said. â€œAnd heâ€™s just denying this.â€
â€œYeah. Oh, he definitely wants to dodge it. Thereâ€™s something shady about those bottles.â€
â€œOr heâ€™s very stubborn about not being caught with alcohol. Either one makes you wonder why heâ€™s getting shipments of wine to his house.â€
â€œExactly. Thereâ€™s no need for all of those men.â€
â€œYes, for normal wine.â€
â€œYou know, thereâ€™s no need for all those men!â€
â€œThis is obviously not just alcohol that heâ€™s getting.â€
â€œWhat is Suzanna doing!?!â€
* * *
â€œI saw five men come away from your house just now,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œThey are â€¦ uh â€¦â€ the man said.
â€œYes, delivery men.â€
â€œAnd what do they deliver?â€
â€œThey deliver â€¦ that was â€¦ thatâ€™s none of your business!â€
â€œBut it kind of is.â€
â€œQuite frankly, Miss â€¦ I-welcome-you-to-the-neighborhood-to-be-all-snooty-and-ask-me-all-these-questions.â€
Virgil Thomas cleared his throat questioningly again. She didnâ€™t know what he meant by it though.
â€œAll right then, sir, I guess Iâ€™ll just keep it for myself,â€ she said.
She turned and walked back to the Packard with Virgil Thomas. She heard the door close behind them.
â€œYes, Miss Suzanna, you just give me the word and Iâ€™ll do whatever needs done,â€ Virgil Thomas said. â€œSo â€¦ you keep that in mind.â€
â€œI see, Virgil,â€ she said. â€œIs that what that lookâ€™s for.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll visit him later, Virgil.â€
â€œWell, we could visit him again right now.â€
â€œWhatâ€™re you going to do to him?â€
â€œWhatever needs to be done. Up to you, Miss Suzanna. I work for you, Miss Suzanna.â€
â€œYouâ€™re my employer.â€
â€œI know Virgil.â€
â€œYou ever just need anything done that needs done, you just let me know. You just say my name.â€
Back in the car, James told her he didnâ€™t trust the man. She talked to them about him as Virgil Thomas put the motorcar in gear and drove away.
â€œHereâ€™s the deal,â€ Johnson said. â€œHe said he had an appointment later tonight, right?â€
â€œYes, he did,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œEither heâ€™s just trying to dodge your questions or maybe he actually has something going on.â€
â€œSo, maybe we could come by later.â€
â€œIf we get all the stuff we need and are prepared, we can come by again and, maybe, not use the front door.â€
â€œI would agree with Joell,â€ James said.
â€œWe should at least check first,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œAnd if he has guests, or if he is out, we can do it without anyone getting hurt,â€ Johnson said. â€œOr if he was out we can do it without anyone getting hurt.â€
â€œWell, he was getting dressed,â€ Virgil Thomas said from the front seat. â€œSo â€¦ weâ€™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.â€
â€œHm,â€ she said. â€œNone taken.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t have to do this,â€ James said to her. â€œWe can do this ourselves.â€
â€œIf you feel like it. I just wish he wouldâ€™ve invited me in! We couldâ€™ve talked about it.â€
â€œHe was very rude,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
â€œYes, he was,â€ she said.
â€œHeâ€™s obviously hiding something,â€ James said. â€œHe obviously doesnâ€™t want us to know something.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m sure if he ordered something like this â€¦ I imagine heâ€™s hiding a lot.â€
â€œHeâ€™s working with some bad people,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
â€œYes, he is,â€ she said.
â€œSo, where we going?â€ Virgil Thomas said. â€œWhat we got to get?â€
â€œI mean you understand the situation weâ€™re in,â€ James said.
â€œVirgil, we can go back to our house,â€ Miss Edington said. â€œItâ€™s in the neighborhood.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll stop by the house,â€ Virgil Thomas said, looking at Johnson in the rear-view mirror. â€œYou need something from your place?â€
The man nodded.
They first drove to Miss Edingtonâ€™s house on Magellan Street. They got her shotgun and Virgil Thomasâ€™ burglar gun, an Ithaca Auto & Burglar sawed-off shotgun. They also left the bottle of wine there. Then they drove across town to Milo Jamesâ€™ apartment building on Somerset Street in Upper South Providence. The man went to his apartment and retrieved his .38 revolver. Then they went to Johnsonâ€™s terrible flophouse on Hudson Street in the West End.
â€œDamn Joell,â€ James said as they pulled up front. â€œI got some space.â€
â€œI have all my money in a sock,â€ Johnson said.
â€œWell, now I see why you are the way you are about rich people,â€ Miss Edington said.
When Johnson went into the dirty building, Virgil Thomas turned to look over the back seat.
â€œMaybe you should give that boy a job,â€ he said.
â€œHm,â€ she said. â€œHe could work in my yard. He could plant me some flowers.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know if he knows nothing about gardening. Whatâ€™s he do for a living?â€
â€œI donâ€™t â€¦ I donâ€™t â€¦â€
â€œHeâ€™s one of them union people.â€
â€œOh, thatâ€™s right.â€
â€œHe causes trouble.â€
â€œYeah, I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™d offer him a gardening job.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t know.â€
â€œDepends on his pride. You can do it but I donâ€™t know how heâ€™ll take that.â€
â€œHe probably wonâ€™t like it so Iâ€™ll just leave him be.â€
Johnson came out of the nasty building, a man in a ragged jacket and a dock workerâ€™s cap following him.
â€œYou son of a bitch!â€ he screamed at Johnson. â€œYou son of a bitch! I know you were in my apartment! You son of a bitch!â€
As they approached the motorcar, the madman lowered his voice to a whisper.
â€œYouâ€™ve seen â€˜em!â€ he said. â€œThey come from the sky!â€
â€œI know they do,â€ Johnson said.
Crazy Jeff Straczynski turned and walked away.
â€œLove you too, Jeff,â€ Johnson called.
â€œTheyâ€™re the burrowers beneath!â€ 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 Flannellyâ€™s house once again, Virgil Thomas parking a half block away. It was about 5 p.m.
â€œDoes somebody new want to approach this?â€ 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 heâ€™d seen.
â€œSounds like heâ€™s about to have some friends,â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œHm,â€ James said. â€œOver?â€
â€œYeah. I donâ€™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?â€
â€œWaiting for somebody or going to somebodyâ€™s house,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
â€œHe could be bringing food to somebodyâ€™s house,â€ she said.
â€œMm-hm. You could always ask him.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m going to stay in here because heâ€™s already seen me.â€
â€œWe could just push our way in the house and say â€˜What the hell are you doing, boy?â€™ Thereâ€™s always that. Iâ€™m just saying. Iâ€™m just saying.â€
â€œVirgil does have a point though,â€ Johnson said. â€œIf we just go in the back or the front quickly and get in with weapons drawn, we can get some straight answers.â€
â€œYou think thatâ€™d be okay?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œBut he knows what we look like!â€ James said. â€œHe will know what we look like.â€
â€œHe donâ€™t necessarily need to know who we are,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
â€œIâ€™m not saying do it right now, but itâ€™s not a bad plan,â€ Johnson said.
â€œWe donâ€™t know how involved this guy is!â€ James said.
â€œThen weâ€™ll find out,â€ Virgil Thomas said. â€œI wouldnâ€™t take â€¦â€
He pointed to the floor on the back seat where the shotgun and the sawed-off shotgun were.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t bring â€˜Abigail,â€™â€ he said, rolling his eyes.
Itâ€™s what Miss Edington had named her double-barrel shotgun. She knew Virgil Thomas never liked the idea of weapons having names. He didnâ€™t name his own firearms and didnâ€™t understand why white people did, she learned after a conversation with him one night.
â€œBut all the others that yâ€™all have, ainâ€™t nobody gonna see,â€ he said. â€œI just work here.â€
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.
â€œYou can take a shot at it,â€ she said. â€œHopefully not a real shot.â€
â€œAsk him about the wine, if you do,â€ Virgil Thomas suggested. â€œThe wine is connecting all this together.â€
â€œIâ€™m not going to do that if youâ€™re not okay with it,â€ Johnson said to James. â€œBut I think itâ€™s a good idea.â€
â€œTo â€¦ to what?â€ James said.
â€œTo get in there and get answers from him directly,â€ Johnson said.
â€œBust in the back door and shove a gun in his face,â€ Virgil Thomas muttered.
â€œI think itâ€™s either that or wait to see what heâ€™s doing,â€ Johnson said.
â€œI want to know if he leaves, but if he donâ€™t â€¦ what do we do then?â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œAnd if he has company over â€¦ thatâ€™s not going to be a good time for that,â€ James said.
â€œWell, if we go in right now and his company comes not long after that â€¦â€ Miss Edington said.
â€œIf theyâ€™re coming for dinner, theyâ€™ll be at least another hour,â€ Virgil Thomas said.
â€œAll right, to hell with it,â€ Miss Edington said. â€œLetâ€™s go.â€