Eddie gripped the bat, his knuckles white with strain, his forehead wrinkled in anticipation of what was coming. He and the boys were crouched in the long shadows of New York’s urban sprawl, hidden from sight of the men across the street. Eddie licked his lips as he felt his heartbeat quicken; this was his first hit and he knew everything relied on him backing up the fellas. They’d just arrived last week, by boat from Ireland, and jobs were scarce, especially for poor immigrants. Donnie Jones motioned to the group with a quick jerk of his chin and the six of them quietly stood and began walking purposefully towards the storefront.
‘Uncle Ed’s’ was a meat market, unassumingly set halfway down an out of the way street in and unassuming neighborhood. Low crime in the area kept police attention elsewhere and whenever the cops had gotten wind of what was really going on in the basement of the store, a body would be conveniently found in the next borough and lead their inquisitive questioning elsewhere. But now they had a problem. Tommy Kelley, the local thug and general enforcer for the street had flipped on them and was leading the cops straight to the valuables, hidden beneath the meat locker.
They were nearly upon the three mean before they were noticed, but for their intended victims, it was too late. Eddie felt his arms rise and fall, swinging the bat towards the first man. It was a strange sensation, like watching someone else controlling his body. The man let out a startled yelp as the tip of the oak baseball bat cracked into his skull. The sound and feeling that reverberated up the wood and into his arms was sickening and he felt his stomach contract. He forced himself to keep the vomit down; this was his first job and he needed to prove he could take it. Jimmy depended on him and they needed the money.
He faintly heard Donny and the others fall on the two remaining men, his attention focused on the man on the ground, staring skyward. Dead. Eddie had never killed anyone before. He’d expected to feel proud, or maybe ashamed, something. But he felt nothing, no joy or sadness, just empty. Then he was being shouldered out of the way as two of the boys grabbed the man, Kelley he realized as the face was illuminated by the streetlight above, and dragged him into the alley they’d crossed from. He knew Donnie had paid off the garbage men to dump the bodies in their truck.
Then he was moving again, the same strange feeling of being controlled taking him over as he descended into the basement with the others. One of the boys flicked out a key and unlocked the heavy padlock on the cellar doors. Everyone shuffled inside quietly and took up positions at all the exits, just in case someone was inside the store room already. Eddie remained by the cellar doors, staring with a strange fascination at the scarlet stain on the end of his bat. The creak of the trapdoor to his right brought about his attention; this was the loot they were protecting, what they’d be paid with.
Donnie smiled, not out of happiness, but out of greed and lust for the items nestled in the hay below the floor. He drew out six and carefully closed the door in the floor, making sure it was covered up again. Eddie stared with hungry eyes at what Donnie had drawn out, six bottles filled with a golden-brown liquid, whiskey. Liquor was at a premium in the months after the ban; a bottle this size would feed him and Jimmy for at least two months. As he reached for one of the bottles, he heard the CLICK behind his head. Donnie’s smile grew as he revealed his own gun, pointing it at one of the other guys.
“Sorry boyos, but business is business and two pays better than one,” Donnie said as he pulled the trigger.
Eddie’s last thought as the bullet shattered his skull was not of anger or betrayal. His last thought was of Jimmy, his kid brother, laughing as his bat, now stained red, smacked the baseball out of the park.
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