By Kohan L. Eybergen
Donny was staring out of the passenger side window of the car, thinking about what his kids were up to at school, as Angelo drove down the hot Chicago street. The windows were both cracked open, cigarette smoke trailing up from each man’s hand to escape outside. Donny and Angelo sat in relative silence; they had only just met one another that day before setting out on their job.
“When did you start working for Frank?” Angelo asked, breaking the silence. “You look familiar.”
“Just over a week ago. This is just a part-time gig for some extra cash.”
“Hope you’re liking it so far. I started working for him in ’28, so it’s been almost nine years now.” Angelo flicked his cigarette butt out of the window, grabbed another from the box, and offered the pack to Donny.
“No thanks; I’m only a casual smoker. My youngest daughter’s got asthma so I don’t smoke at home, so when I do, I get headaches.”
“Ah, a family man. How many you got?” Angelo broke into a smile.
“Three. One boy, he’s fourteen, and two girls, they’re eight and six.”
Angelo laughed. “Must keep the wife busy then huh?”
“Well, she died about a year back now. Cancer.”
“Ah shit man, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s alright, don’t worry about it. What about you?”
“Nah, never got the chance to settle down; too busy with work I guess.”
The two men stayed silent for a few moments before Angelo broke the quiet with another question. “So if this is just part-time for you, what do ya do then?”
Donny hesitated for a moment before answering. “I bartend at a place every weeknight.”
“Marco’s, just a few streets off downtown.”
“Marco’s! No shit! That’s why you look so familiar, I’ve met my cousin Moe there a few times for drinks. Small world, huh?” Donny nodded his head and Angelo told him a few stories about his cousin Moe. “And then Moe says, he says to the guys, ‘I already drank your beers, but you can have ‘em back in about an hour if you want ‘em, and these guys look pissed, but there’s five of us and only two of them, so they just left.” Both men laughed briefly before falling silent again.
Donny reached forward to turn on the car’s radio. “Do you mind? The Cubs game started a few minutes ago.”
“Not at all, I love baseball.”
“No problem.” Angelo kept driving as the radio commentator announced the score of the ball game. “You play at all? Men’s league or anything?”
“I used to play minor league back before the war. Was pretty good too, but then I took a bullet in the right shoulder in France in ’17; haven’t played an organized game in years.”
“Damned shame, man. Me and some of the other boys have a team in the men’s league and we’re looking for a third baseman.”
“Well, I’ll think about it. Thanks for the offer.” Donny smiled, thinking about how maybe this part-time job could work its way into something bigger.
Angelo pulled the car up to the curb and parked across the street from a sky blue painted business front. The sign above the door read O’Donnal and Son’s Shoes. The two men got out of the car and walked across the street towards O’Donnal’s shop and Angelo lit another cigarette.
“Just follow my lead, tough guy,” Angelo told Donny, who had a slightly nervous expression. “Relax man, it’s easy.” Donny nodded and Angelo opened the door and walked into the shop, Donny at his heels.
“You Sean O’Donnal? The owner?” Angelo asked the short, heavyset man behind the front desk.
“Yessir.” O’Donnal smiled a rather lopsided smile full of crooked, browning teeth; Donny thought he gave off an air of simple-mindedness.
“Excellent.” Angelo glanced sideways at Donny and winked before continuing. “We’re here on business as representatives for Frank Morretti.”
O’Donnal’s expression changed to a death mask at Angelo’s words. “I…I don’t have the money right now. I need another month.”
“Morretti already gave you an extra month of lenience, O’Donnal, and he’s none too pleased with you. Ain’t he Donny?”
“That’s right.” Donny straightened his posture, showing off his full height. Angelo and Donny both towered over the little man behind the counter.
“I know. I’ll pay next month, I promise! I’ll pay with twenty five percent interest if Morretti wants! I swear I’m good for it!” The little man was panicking now, and his heavy face was turning a violent shade of scarlet.
“Oh yeah?” Angelo said while taking a short length of thick chain out of his suit jacket pocket. “I’m not sure you understand, O’Donnal. You’re already two months late, and Morretti wants us to make sure you fully comprehend what happens to folks who don’t make good on their deals with him.”
Donny was feeling more confident now that he was immersed in the thrill of the shakedown. “Morretti’s a very serious man O’Donnal. Very serious, and very upset by your unwillingness to make good on your deal.”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I swear I’ll pay next month, I promise!” He was stammering. Donny moved the bottom of his jacket aside to reveal a revolver strapped to his right hip. Angelo walked around the side of the counter, trapping O’Donnal behind it.
“You’ll be paying with more than money O’Donnal. We can’t just let this slide or people will start thinking they can cross Morretti left and right. And we can’t have that, can we Angelo?”
“You’re damned right Donny. Get it Mr. O’Donnal?”
“Fifty percent interest! Fifty! I swear, next month, please!” O’Donnal was yelling now.
The door to the shop’s storeroom behind Angelo burst open and a young man with a shotgun hustled through it. Both Donny and Angelo turned quickly at the sound of the door as O’Donnal shouted “No! Idiot boy!” The young man sent a round of buckshot into Angelo’s chest before turning to Donny who was reaching for his revolver. The young man was quicker than Donny and he pumped the shotgun and squeezed the trigger before Donny could get a round off. The buckshot tore through Donny’s right shoulder, and he dropped his revolver and sank against the wall, sliding to a seated position on the floor.
“Stupid boy! They’ll kill us now and torch the shop!” O’Donnal stepped over Angelo’s body and ripped the gun from the young man’s hands.
The young man stood stunned. “I…I heard yelling Pa. I panicked!” The colour was draining from his face.
“It doesn’t matter now. We need to leave, son, right now!” O’Donnal and his son moved across the room to the door, avoiding the pool of blood on the floor surrounding Donny. The O’Donnals left hastily, taking nothing with them except the shotgun.
Donny lay slumped against the wall, sliding slowly lower, soaked in his own blood. His vision was blurring; he was thinking about his three kids who would soon be arriving on the school bus to an empty home. They would think that he was working late at his new job he thought to himself as he closed his eyes and slid to rest on the floor.