In Cicero that night, the wind was relentless, icy against their faces. DeBoia and Gaffney waited by the fence, out of sight, their pistols at the ready.
Gaffney turned toward the third man, who was hunkered behind a thatch of brush close to the house. The gang called him Hawkeye Harrow. Since he arrived from Atlantic City, he'd secured a reputation as Capone's most prized soldier. He was an expert sniper, fearsome in both skill and appearance - a static, painted tin mask covering the left half of his face, his single eye pressed to the scope of his rifle, his sights on Lorenzo Filipi.
They saw Filipi through the kitchen window, his back facing them. A perfect vantage point for Harrow to put a bullet right through the back of the Prohi bastard's head.
"He ain't moving," hissed Gaffney. "Why won't Harrow take the fuckin' shot?"
DeBoia waved him off, watching for any sort of movement. And then, almost audible over the wind, a high-pitched whizzing, and the shattering of glass - barely a noise, barely a second.
Harrow waved the other two over. His voice was menacing, gravelly. "Direct hit."
DeBoia nodded. "Good goin', kid. The wife is still inside. Take the back door."
Gaffney rushed with him to the front of the house, drew their guns, and kicked in the door. They listened for footsteps, for some sign of life. They heard nothing at all, save for branches against the window, or the groaning of the floorboards beneath them. DeBoia motioned to Gaffney. "Go check upstairs."
Out in back, Harrow's gloved hand reached for the painted doorknob. He turned it gingerly, the smell of gunpowder heavy on his clothes. He heard the men's voices as they scrambled about the old house.
There was a welcome heat - the remains of a fire, now reduced to embers, flickered and crackled in the stove. He entered the kitchen and saw Filipi, slumped over in a wooden chair like a bloodied rag doll. It reminded him of the ones he used to make for his sister in Plover when they were children. Sewing the burlap together. Stuffing them with straw. Searching Mother's sewing basket for stray buttons and bits of yarn. He listened, felt a strange sense of calm, a smile tugging at the good side of his mouth. He nodded to himself. Mission accomplished. Capone would be pleased.
His thoughts were broken by Gaffney hollering his name. "Harrow! Anybody back there?"
It was difficult for Richard Harrow to raise his voice - a jerry's trench knife had seen to that - but he marched into the house until he caught sight of Gaffney. He shook his head. "The wife. Hmm. Isn't here?"
"There's a shed out back. DeBoia's out there now lookin' for her. Good job takin' him out." He turned toward Filipi and spat, the white foam landing squarely on the dead man's crotch. Richard tried not to notice. Or laugh.
He gave another nod, his still-smoking rifle resting on his shoulder, then turned toward the back door again. Still thinking of those dolls and their round straw-filled bellies and black button eyes. He sewed Emma an entire family. And a dog, who ended up with only three matching legs because he'd run out of burlap. The fourth Emma added herself, while pretending to be an animal doctor.
Through the shadows he found his makeshift blind once again, where he packed up his rifle. He realized then there was a change in the light. Something flickered against the barrel of his gun. From somewhere behind him.
"Gaffney," he called out. "That you?"
No response. His back stiffened. DeBoia emerged from the shed and approached Harrow; Gaffney appeared a moment later.
"You're a hell of a shot, Harrow."
"Hmm. Thank you." Sheer habit urged him to salute, but he resisted. DeBoia hadn't the slightest inkling what it meant to be a soldier - at least not a real one. Harrow thought he was a self-interested prick, always trying to kiss Capone's ass and move up the ranks.
DeBoia nodded. "Yep. Hell of a shot." His eyes never left Richard's mask. Gaffney glanced around nervously, as if Filipi's wife would spring from the bushes with a pitchfork.
"Let's get outta here, boy-o." Gaffney twitched like a cat.
"Right." DeBoia backed away, still staring at Harrow - a stare laced with both admiration and dread. Harrow scowled and turned back to his gun. "You stickin' around, Hawkeye?"
"I'm waitin' here. Hmm. In case she shows up."
He watched as the two men were swallowed by the darkness, then leaned against the tree. His eye saw the shadows move again. It wasn't the moonlight; he knew by the way they shifted.
"Hey. Fellas —" he called out, but then he heard the motor, and knew they were gone. He wasn't about to leave his rifle out in the open, so he slung it over his shoulder and walked slowly, carefully, back toward the house.
Fuck, he thought when he saw the large wooden doors nested in the ground. The goddamn storm cellar. A couple of city boys — especially dimwitted ones like DeBoia and Gaffney — wouldn't know to look for one. Fucking. Blundering. Idiots…
He felt for the pistol that was hidden inside his coat. No sense unpacking the rifle just to shoot some dame. He prayed in earnest that she wasn't armed, but didn't expect she would be.
Near the cellar door, Harrow knocked his foot against something small and hard — and knew what it was before he even reached down, picked it up, tilting his head as he examined it. Smith & Wesson. Model 10 HB. He could feel through his glove and through the chill that the barrel was still warm.
Still loaded. Four bullets.
If it was Filipi's, then killing his wife with that gun would be a cruel turn of fate indeed. One that Harrow relished, at least for a second or two.
He cocked the hammer with one hand, swinging the wooden door open in one fell swoop. He struggled against the sudden gust of wind that threatened to blow it back against his head, but won out. Down the stairs, complete darkness, just barely enough light to see her standing there.
The blood throbbed in his ears. He could hardly make out her face - only that she was standing against the wall. Upright. Defiant. Completely still. And he could feel her looking at him.
And then she spoke.
"Go ahead and shoot me, soldier. I ain't armed." She stepped forward, her arms above her head. The timber of her voice dropped. "And I ain't afraid to die either."
Harrow pulled the trigger. Waited for the sickening thud of the bullet through her chest.
A click. Then, nothing. Only the groan of the wind, muffled by a thick, undying silence.