Smoke curled from the cigarette in Johnny Torio’s hand. he was finely dressed, and sat ramrod straight at the back table. It was mid day and his speak easy was empty of all but the most serious drinkers. the band was tuning up in the corner, getting ready for the night’s entertainment. Torio’s eyes missed nothing and betrayed no emotion.
There was a sharp rapping at the metal security door. The doorman looked through the slot then back at Torio. “It’s Peebles, looks agitated,” he said.
Torio sighed Nicky Peebles was one of those guys on the periphery of The Outfit, not a made man, but sometimes useful. He nodded to to the doorman. Peebles entered, his suit was worn, his tie slightly off. he was a short man, with a kind of nervous energy about him, always reminded Torio of an agitated rat terrier.
Peebles sat across the table from him his rumpled hat twisting in his hands, “Mr. Torio, sir. how do you do? I hate takin’ up your time, sir really I do. but this is important-”
Torio put out his cigarette, “To the point Nicky.”
“Right sir, right away. You know that I have a friend in the North Side Gang? Yeah well, he tole me that O’Bannion is movin’ somethin’ big by train. Cross country see?”
Torio gave him a condescending look and meaningfully lit another cigarette. “This matters to me, why? If it is already on the train it is too late to do anything about it.”
“Oh, but I ain’t got ta’ the best part, sir. that train got inta an accident, see? An’ I know that it will be at least two hours ‘fore the North Siders can get anyone out there!”
He looked at the jumpy little man, took a drag on his cigarette, and then said, “I don’t know if I should believe you Nicky, I just don’t know.”
“Oh this is the real McCoy sir, honest.”
After Nicky left Torio sat for a bit, then called over Jimmy, “I need you to get Valence over here, quick.”
“Boss, gotta say I don’t like dealin’ with that freak. He’s got the creepy eyes, and his voice always echos. Ain’t natural boss, all I’m saying.”
I know Jimmy, but hes the best driver we got, and if Peebles is right we gotta’ get out to that train, but quick.”
“Alright boss whatever you say,” Jimmy said as he headed toward the door.
The streets were cold and wet from a rain that chilled the bone, Jimmy felt a shiver run down his spine. He wasn’t a smart man, but he knew that he was caught between two places he didn’t like. He didn’t want to deal with Valence and he couldn’t defy his boss and keep all his digits in tact. “Next time Jimmy, just keep your head low,” he muttered to himself under his breath as he pulled his coat around himself tighter and lifted his collar to keep the rain off his neck.
Valance could usually be found at the Green Door Tavern up on Orleans Street, he usually had a drink in one hand and some choice bit of calico in the other, Valance liked those girls with a bit of innocence left in them. It was like he fed on it. Jimmy wasn’t a big fan of those types, those creepy SOB’s who preyed on the weak made his teeth itch. Like that priest who tried to touch him as a boy until Jimmy showed him whats for.
In spite of Prohibition the Green Door Tavern maintained a steady flow of customers looking to take the edge off the day. Its bright green door not only gave the bar its name, but also let the newer clientele that they were in the right place. Jimmy usually didn’t bother with the Door since avoiding Valance was easier if he stayed away. He knocked on the door and the guard let him in once he showed that he worked for Torio and not the feds. Valance was at a booth in the back a high ball glass filled with whiskey and an arm full of tomato. With a shake of his head Jimmy walked over to Valance’s table and had to clear his throat loudly to grab his attention. “Hey, Val! Torio wants you to take care of some business out north, drop the dames and head out.”
Valance gave Jimmy a smile that made him feel sick to his stomach, something about that cat just wasn’t right and Jimmy had tried figuring out why Valance seemed so strange to him while others never bothered to pay attention. Valance’s smile made him seem like some sort of monster, all teeth and the rest fading away, but the more he complained about it, the more he was certain he was the only one who saw it. Valance spoke, his voice harmonizing with itself, “Fine Jimmy, tell Torio I’ll be there in a minute, I got him.”