Disclaimer: The Lackadaisy world, and all the characters therein belong to one Tracy J. Butler. I just can't leave well enough alone and decided to write down a story since I was learning of the horrors that late 1800s/ early 1900s immigrants had to face within the United States.
Welcome to the Lackadaisy
St. Louis 1920
Sitting on the narrow prison bunk, Viktor waited. He had been there for a few days now, and still he waited just as he had all of these long, painful days. The riot had not been kind to him, he mused; cuts and bruises marred his body, but most noticeably, his right eye had been gorged out and he was sure it was getting infected. No doctors would come near him at the station, though that was partially his own fault. He had refused the first doctor, the only doctor, that had come by, screaming in rage as he lunged towards the door, to his freedom, affectively frightening the physician, as well as most of the police staff. But that was okay too. Looking back on it, all of those stupidly frightened faces were quite laughable.
The police had come by again today, asking their questions, but as usual, Viktor had remained silent. They had yelled at him, called him stupid, but still, the large tom did not speak. All of the information they had of him had come from his immigration or war records, and even then it wasn't much, just his full name and where he had come from. Several of the younger, cockier police staff members had come by, mocking him, calling him kraut or Hun. Some were even bold enough to call him Bolshevik. There had been a moment, just one, where Viktor had thought about explaining to them that he was not Nemci or Rus, but they would not have listened to him, they might have even mocked him further. So instead of speaking, a vicious snarl escaped the tom's lips, which had sent those roaches scrambling back into their dark corners.
Similarly, all of his days went by in this fashion. He received two meals a day, one in the morning, one in the evening. One night, another foolish young tom thought to call him Bohunk, to which Viktor had grabbed the boy's arm through the bars and tried his best to rip it off. Sadly, however, because of the boy's cowardly constitution, the look in Viktor's eye had given him away, and the smart-mouth had started to turn by the time the Slovak had caught his arm. Essentially, the boy had managed to twist out of his grasp much too quickly, though Viktor was pleased he was at least able to puncture the idiot's skin with his claws. Red looked good on the boy, covered up all of that yellow.
But now, no one talked to him, not really. Every afternoon, the sheriff came in and started asking questions, the same questions he asked since Viktor's arrival, but like every day since then, the prisoner refused to answer. Americans always prattled on about their beloved freedom of speech, but Viktor thought it was more important that a man be given his right to remain silent. It hadn't been long after he had been brought to the station that the police caught on to this fact.
A trick that he had learned in the old country was it was more demoralizing and frustrating for the enemy should they be unable to make you cooperate. Enemies they were, these St. Louis police, and Viktor had no intention of proving helpful, no matter how small an act it might be. If they really wanted him to speak so badly, then they should have just taken him out of the cell and beaten him. But Americans were nicer in that respect, all of them having rights. Except for immigrants, it seemed.
All this aside, Viktor was still waiting for something to happen, for either his sentencing or for the police to let him go. He had no hope for the latter, however, and so he sat on his bunk, trying not to let the nauseous feeling that had crept up in him the other day take over him. He thought that perhaps he had a light fever, but he couldn't be sure. He wondered vaguely if he should get his eye checked.
There was some sort of noise coming from around the corner, sounding like some man arguing with the police about something. Viktor tuned it out. He didn't necessarily like speaking English, and there were still so many words he didn't know, so it was easy for him to ignore. Or at least he tried to. He hated noise, hated it. Especially after the war. Shouting, loud machines, it all took him back to that cramped, damp little trench, filled with sullied, diseased water that ate away the feet if the rats didn't. Good men, strong men, up all night groaning in agony, some crying, others whispering prayers into the night, some truly believing that Christ would come at that moment to bear them away. Explosions in the distance, gunfire, noise, noise, noise!
He was saved from falling down into that black pit of morbid memories when the police chief and a well dressed man came around the corner. The well dressed man's eyes widened slightly as he came rushing over to Viktor's cell, nearly throwing himself against the bars. The act took the Slovak by surprise, seeing as most people usually tried to get away from him upon sight.
"Viktor! Oh, Viktor Vasko, I knew it was you!" the man cried, plastering on a fake looking smile.
The large tom sat still, confused, but did not say anything. He looked to the police chief and noticed the scowl on his face. "Mr. May, I really don't—"
"Don't worry about anything, Viktor," this Mr. May declared passionately. "I'll get this all settled before you can bat an eyelash."
If this newcomer was mocking him, Viktor could not really say. He didn't understand what was going on, but he decided to keep still and let all of this work itself out. The Slovak had no idea who this Mr. May was, but from the looks of it, he was looking to help Viktor out…for what reasons, the tom couldn't say. But who was he to bite the hand that was attempting to aid him?
"How much?" Mr. May asked the chief, his posture, as Viktor could see it, was erect and proud.
"Mr. May! Don't be throwin' your money away on the likes of him! Especially now when you're trying to kept that little café—"
"Chief Denholm," the newcomer stated authoritatively. He sounded more sure of himself and respectable than any of the police that Viktor had heard thus far. It was…impressive. "This man is my friend, and I won't stand to have him rot in this jail cell for the rest of his life. I simply won't have it." He knocked his cane on the floor for emphasis. "I demand you tell me the price so that I can release him."
"I don't think you fully understand what this man's done!" the chief cried. "He went barmy in that factory, done nearly killed several people! You don't really want t' be wasting your honest money lik—"
"It's not his fault," Mr. May stated firmly. "War changes a man, though I'm sure you know nothing about that." Denholm flushed bright red. "No, this man saved my life in those trenches, and I'll have him released immediately. The price."
The chief appeared distinctly uncomfortable as he looked between Mr. May and his prisoner. For his part, Viktor made sure to keep his face in its usual scowl as he tried to hide the surprise he felt. He was certain he had never saved this Mr. May in the war, and was even more sure that, in fact, that he had never seen Mr. May before in his life. But if this idiot was confusing him for someone else, then by God Viktor wasn't going to complain. He wanted out and he would take any way he could.
"One hundred dollars."
The big tom's eye bulged out a bit. One hundred dollars? There was no way a complete and total stranger would be willing to pay that kind of money for someone he thought he might know. There was no way that this Mr. May would probably pay to get someone he did know out for that kind of price. It seemed as though all of Viktor's chances for being released had—
Viktor's mouth nearly fell open, but he wrestled to keep it closed and hide his surprise. Chief Denholm wasn't as lucky. "Are you out of your mind?" he hissed. "This man is a crim—"
"This man is a friend." Mr. May turned and gave Viktor a hard look and a questioning eyebrow, as though daring the Slovak to prove him wrong. All that the prisoner could do, however, was nod along.
Upon seeing this, Mr. May reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. There, right before everyone's eyes, he pulled out one hundred dollars. Viktor wasn't sure he had ever seen so much money in one place before, let alone held by one individual! Either this Mr. May was wasting his life's savings or he was quite a rich man.
"You price," the stripped tom handed over the bills unceremoniously. "Now, release my friend." His tone brooked no room for argument.
Looking as though he were caught between a rock and a hard place, Denholm finally nodded before calling over for one other the others to come bring the keys. The younger men gazed at one another nervously, all of them having mocked Viktor at some point, before they finally scarified someone of their own, who tentatively made his way over.
"While I'm still breathing, boy," Mr. May drawled. "I'm a busy man, got business to take care of."
That snapped the young police officer up some and he quickly walked the rest of the way over. Viktor watched with focused attention as the key was placed into the lock. He could hear the tumblers roll as the key twisted painfully slow. Finally, a clang-k of the lock opening seemed to resound across the room, and everyone froze as the door swung open on its own accord. The police winced, Mr. May raised an eyebrow, but Viktor remained seated, not saying a word.
There were many thoughts going through the tom's head, but the dominate one was why would this complete stranger bail him out? It was clear to Viktor now that Mr. May had made up the story about know him on his own accord, but he had gotten him out of prison anyway. What was this man's aim? What was be gaining by any of this?
But as a flash of impatience passed over Mr. May's face after a few moments when Viktor made no move of getting up, the Slovak stood to oblige the man who had set him free. Slowly. The chief and the rest of the police staff, who had gotten up to see the spectacle it seemed, all watched with anxious expressions. They all knew he was a danger man, so why didn't that seem to bother Mr. May?
Limping beside his savior, towering over the man, who refused to be intimidated by him, May patted Viktor on the back, as one might a very old acquaintance. "It's good to see you again, my friend. Come on, let's get you out of here and get you taken care of. I'm sure Mitzi's got supper started."
It was hard to keep a neutral expression, so Viktor settled for allowing his gratitude to show. He nodded as Mr. May guided him out of the room and chatted along. He really had no idea what the stripped tom was talking about, but he decided that it would look good for him to appear interested, especially as the police kept their eyes on him. And as everyone cleared a path for them as they went, soon enough, the two of them were outside of the station, and Mr. May was guiding him to a car.
Not really sure what to do, Viktor got into the passenger seat, as Mr. May got into the driver's side. The apparently rich fellow kept up his chattering, starting the car, before pulling away from the curb to drive down the street. It was only once they turned the corner, away from the station, that Mr. May's overly friendly attitude ceased, and a strange sort of silence settled over them.
"Well, that went well, I believe," he smiled a self-satisfied sort of smile. "Never thought I was much of an actor, but I certainly fooled them, didn't I?"
At last, after days of total silence, Viktor couldn't take it anymore. "Who are you?" His voice was hoarse from disuse.
Apparently, this Mr. May was not the sort to get offended by direct manners, a trait Viktor was sure he would learn to appreciate, as the stranger smirked over at him. "Do forgive my manners," he gave a slight bow of his head. "The name's Atlas May. You can call me Atlas." He extended a hand.
Viktor took it, feeling a little bit foolish for doing so while the other drove. "Viktor Vasko," he responded automatically, which was also foolish seeing as the man before him, this Atlas May, had already called him by name.
"Yes, I know," the other tom smirked.
"How you know?"
"How did I know that your name was Viktor Ladislav Vasko, and that you were in the Great War? Or that you were in prison after the worker's rally?" The larger tom scowled darkly, but Atlas smiled on. "I do my research, Mr. Vasko, before I make my purchases."
"'Purchases'?" the Slovakian spat. "I am being no slave. Cannot buy me."
"You misunderstand," Atlas said smoothly, quickly. "It was just an expression. Not literal I assure you." But something in his voice told Viktor that this tom didn't believe that himself, that he was just trying to appease the bigger man. "What I meant to say is that I make sure just who exactly I'm releasing from prison, I know who I'm dealing with, before I let them back into society."
This Mr. May was a smooth talker, Viktor realized, and in his experience, smooth talkers were a dangerous sort with suave Americans being among the worst in the world. They were the ones that took advantage of poor immigrants like Viktor, the kind to trick and steal without their victims ever realizing it. America was supposed to be the land of opportunity, but as Viktor and many others in his situation found out quickly, it was the land of talk-fast or perish beneath the crushing wave of poverty. Ambition was the only thing Americans seemed to understand, and from Atlas's eyes, he was a man with plenty of it.
"Vhy you, uh, get me out?" Viktor asked, suspiciously.
Once more, Atlas's smile was a bit unsettling for the still confused tom. "Straight to the point. Blunt. I like that in a man, Viktor. Don't talk much except when you have to. You're even better than I'd hoped!" The larger man frowned. "You see, Mr. Vasko, I'm running a little café called The Little Daisy. Named it after my wife," he smiled fondly, probably remembering his wife. "But with the way things have been going lately, the economy in this town, I've decided that there's opportunity for…expanding, you might say." Viktor didn't say, he was still waiting for the point. "And seeing how the government's got it in their heads to ban alcohol," May went on, "I've decided that there's a profit to be made in the selling of spirits."
"Vhat?" Viktor's eye brows rose quite dramatically. It was true he had no love for the American law system, especially after the last several days, but this man was actually talking to him, an almost complete stranger, about his plans for creating an illegal operation? Granted, he was actually glad to hear that such places would be in existence seeing as he hadn't had a decent drink in almost a year, but what did this man want from him?
"A gin join, you might call it," May went on, mistaking Viktor's disbelief for not understanding. "And because I realize that such an operation can be a dangerous one, I'm looking for cats who can carry a piece and fill a man with daylight if he's got to, if you know what I mean."
No, in fact, Viktor couldn't make out what 'daylight' had to do with anything, but from the tone of voice the other used, he was fairly certain he got the jest. "You vant I should kill?"
Atlas shrugged lazily, not looking over. "It'd only be if you had to. But what I'm really interested in you for is a runner."
"Yes. The guy that goes out and brings me back the good stuff. It could prove to be dangerous work, I know," Atlas admitted again, "but from what I've heard and seen of you, it shouldn't be trouble. Interested?"
Viktor was about to tell Mr. May that, no, in fact, he was not interested, but the words never came out due to one little detail: Atlas May had gotten him out of prison. Viktor owed this man, and he was not the sort of man that liked being in debt. This perfect stranger had come in and gotten him out. Who knows how long Viktor could have been in prison? Who knew if he was even liable for bail? What if Atlas had bullied them into that too? He wasn't sure exactly how the American law system worked, but he was not about to discredit anything ideas at the time being.
"A large offer, I know," Mr. May stopped the car before turning to look at the bigger tom. "But I'd like you to think about it."
Atlas held out his paw, and Viktor felt obliged to do the same. They shook hands, and the Slovak felt something being pressed into his palm. When May let go, Viktor looked down to find a small, club pin in his hand. "
"I urge you to consider my offer," Atlas said again, and Viktor took that as his cue to exit the vehicle. "A man in your position doesn't have a lot of job opportunities anymore," he pointed out. It did not sound necessarily friendly or concerned. "Look me up if you find yourself in need of work. Oh, and a, have that eye of yours looked to, eh?"
And with that, Atlas May drove away, leaving Viktor on the sidewalk. It was only when the car was out of sight that the Slovak realized that he was at his apartment. Atlas May knew where he lived. Viktor wasn't sure he liked that.
Walking up the steps to his apartment, Viktor took a moment to look around the neighborhood. In those long couple of days he spent in jail, nothing had changed. Sure, a certain pile of trash wasn't there, a new sign was posted on the light post there, but in general, nothing had changed. Everything was how he remembered it. After all he'd been through, after losing an eye, everything else was how it had been, peaceful, unconcerned for him. Life went on slow and steady, even as Viktor's world was shaken. It had been much the same after the war, coming back to find things all the same, like no one knew what he had been through or cared.
Sighing, he went inside and fished in his pocket for his keys. It occurred to him after a moment that he did not have his keys anymore. During his rampage at the factory, he remembered that they had fallen out of his pocket at one point, but he had been too busy fighting to have retrieved them. So, it was with a touch of sadness that Viktor was forced to break the handle off before letting himself in. He thought he could fix it later, however, so that was of some comfort.
His neat little apartment was still the same too, as before he had left for work that fateful morning several days ago. There was a layer of dust that had formed, however, but that was to be expected. He walked into the kitchen and got himself a glass of water before inspecting his home. He felt a distinct discomfort at the thought of Atlas knowing where he lived, and it made him just paranoid enough to go through his house to make sure that there was no one there or nothing had been stolen.
As he passed the mirror in the bathroom, however, the tom stopped. It was the first time he had been in front of a mirror since the rally, and now he had a chance to see just how much damage had been done to him. A part of him didn't want to look, didn't want to see what lie beneath the swab over his eye, but he knew he had to look no matter how unpleasant it would be.
His hands only shook a bit as he lifted them to his wound. As carefully as he could—more gently than anyone would have guessed he could be— Viktor removed the tape and gauze. He took a step back at the sight that greeted him. A mutated eye was sitting uselessly in the socket, or at least half of it was, the other half having been cut out by that over rambunctious police officer. It was yellowed and puss oozed out of it sickeningly. It was getting infected, Viktor knew, and he felt a wave of nausea nearly over come him. No wonder he had screamed when it had happened. No wonder he had smashed that officer's head into the ground. No wonder he hadn't been sleeping well, pain keeping him awake. No wonder he just plain wasn't feeling well.
He was certainly no doctor, but Viktor had seen similar wounds before from the war, and knew that the remains of this eye had to come out. It was starting to rot, and unless he wanted to lose much more, he was going to have to pull it out himself. It would hurt, yes, but then, things like this always did.
Walking back into the kitchen, covering his eye with one paw, lest something get into it, Viktor found his stash of old vodka. He had gotten it overseas when the war was over. It was supposedly from Finland, but it didn't really matter to him. It was vodka, and it was strong, that's all that mattered now. He'd been saving it for quite some time, but now he needed it.
He poured himself a glass and downed it quickly. Another one followed and then another. He refrained from drinking more for the time being, knowing he needed to have somewhat of a steady hand for this delicate procedure. He would drink the rest after he was done.
Thinking over everything he'd need, Viktor got out a small, sharp knife and heated it up over the fire on the stove. He washed his paws thoroughly before taking the knife and running it under the cold water. After that, he took his sterile knife and his vodka, and went towards the bathroom, but not before grabbing several clean towels from the closet that he would surely need.
Upon entering the bathroom, he lit several candles before arranging his supplies out carefully. It took several deep breaths before Viktor was confident enough to bring the knife up to his eye. He held his breath as he began cutting out the remains, and it took all of the self-control he possessed to stifle the scream that wanted to burst from his lips. A gun wound to the knee was one thing, but a knife to the eye seemed so much worse at the moment.
It wasn't a minute into the procedure before Viktor broke into a cold sweat, adrenaline from the pain coursing through his veins. The vodka didn't seem to have much effect on the pain at the moment, but he had hopes that it would come soon.
After three excruciatingly long minutes, at last, the remains of the ruined eye fell into the sink, and Viktor sagged heavily against the counter, nearly falling backwards. He couldn't tell if he was more relieved or in agony for this to occur, but his work wasn't finished. Not yet. Forcing himself to remain standing, he took the clean washcloth from the hanger and ran it under cool water. He lifted it to his face before carefully cleaning around his eye, or rather, around the hole where his eye had once been.
Taking a swig from the vodka first, Viktor then took up the old Lysol's bottle of disinfectant before pouring a little onto the cloth. His hands shook more noticeably as he brought it near, but feeling the vodka starting to take a little affect, giving him courage, the Slovak held his breath before dabbing it on around his eye socket. An agonized hiss escaped him, but he held it to his eye for several seconds before moving it to clean up around it.
By the time he was finished, he grabbed another towel and ripped off a section of it before tying it around his head, affectively covering his wound in a makeshift bandage. He grabbed the vodka bottle and slide down the wall— his legs having given out of him at last—in pain. He sat a few moment just panting, tears streaming from his remaining eye, before he brought the vodka bottle up and began drinking again.
Soon enough, between the adrenaline wearing off, the vodka, and general fatigue, Viktor closed his eye and fell asleep. He would spend the whole night on the bathroom floor.
Mitzi May watched from her vanity as her husband dressed for the day, putting on that dapper suit of his that she loved so much. He was always going hither and yon recently, forming connections and getting ready for their new gin joint. Atlas had never really struck Mitzi as the type who would so willfully break the law, but then he was quite the ambitious sort of man, and when there was money to be made, it could override anything.
After looking at herself in the mirror once more, she stood and made her way over to the box her husband kept on the dresser. She unlocked and opened it. Atlas had been saving some money for her so that she could buy the new dress she's had her eyes on for several weeks now, and today was the day she planned to collect. She couldn't wait to put on that silky purple number. It would look fantastic on her, she just knew.
But as she reached in, Mitzi found her paw meeting nothing but the bottom of the box. "Atlas, darling," she called. "Where's all the money we were saving in here?"
The tom looked over at his wife before smiling sheepishly. "I'm sorry, love, but I spent it."
"Spent it?" she gasped. "What for? You said I could use it to buy my dress."
"Don't you have enough pretty dresses?" he asked as he straightened his collar. "All your dresses look lovely, but maybe I just can't tell because your loveliness always distracts me."
"You can't talk your way out of this one, Atlas May," Mitzi frowned. "What about my dress?"
"Can't it wait until next week?" he asked, coming up behind her, hugging her tightly. "You can wait until then, can't you?"
"You'll have a hundred dollars by then?" she pushed him away lightly, giving him a disbelieving look.
"I believe so," he nodded confidently, putting on his cufflinks.
She frowned. "What did you spend this hundred dollars on?"
"On an investment, my dear, on an investment," he smirked as he walked towards the door.
"One that will return a hundred dollars?" she questioned, putting her hands on her hips.
"If I've added my variables correctly, then yes," he put on his coat and looked himself over once in the mirror. Not that he needed to. He somehow always looked put-together without the use of the looking glass.
"What kind of investment?" her ears pricked up. It was hard for her to understand all of her husband's investment deals, but if he had made one with such quick and steady return…
"One that should last us a life time." He gave her a wink. "Mind the café, and please, if someone comes in looking for me, have them wait a bit, eh?"
Mitzi crossed her arms, frowning in thought. "You've been asking me that for days now. Just who are you waiting for?"
Atlas gave a light laugh as he took his hat in hand, opening the door. "You'll know him when you see him," was all he said before he walked out the door, leaving his pouting, disapproving wife behind.
But who was she to argue with Atlas? He was the respectable man who had taken an interest in her, a traveling musician from Georgia. Thus far Atlas had always done right by her and their little enterprise seemed to be going off without a hitch. She looked down at the pearls around her neck, the first thing Atlas had ever given her…
Sighing, Mitzi decided that it was time to go down stair to the café. Atlas never asked much of her, so she could wait around a while and see if his mysterious person showed up, though she wasn't going to put much stalk into it. It was a Sunday afternoon. No one came to the café on Sundays, just a couple of regulars.
Taking one last look into the mirror, Mitzi adjusted her jewelry into perfect order before walking down the steps to join Zib at the bar.
It took a few days between Viktor's recovery from his eye and thinking over Atlas May's proposal before the Slovak found himself walking into town. He itched at the new eye patch he now wore, only to stop at once from the jolt of pain radiating from his still tender skin. Although he knew he shouldn't be, he had been a little embarrassed to go and buy the stupid thing from the nearest drug store. He hadn't felt too bad, though, seeing as the nervous man that had helped him, informed him that a few veterans had come in to buy them, and Viktor didn't doubt that. He had seen a few men, mostly British, with eyes having been eaten out by gas. If there was one thing that Viktor supposed he should be thankful for, it was that at least he still had one good eye left.
But the patch was going to take some getting used to. The leather rubbed in all the wrong ways, and the strap was a little tight. It wasn't terrible, though, and Viktor already made plans on replacing the strap later when he returned home. He hadn't wanted to go meet Atlas with an old strip of a towel around his eye. The other tom seemed a rather sophisticated type, and the last thing Viktor wanted was for the man to look down on him like everyone always did the poor immigrant. If he was going to go in there and expect to get the job running whisky and shooting down men, then he might as well look a little more professional.
He still had his misgivings, of course, about this job, but what else could he do with his life? Atlas had been right, damn him. After the workers rally, there wasn't a factory out there that would hire him, and with his low education and having no connections, he couldn't readily build himself up and start his own business. At one time, Viktor had dreamed of coming to America to farm, get a nice piece of land somewhere out west and just live a simple life, but as land cost so much and he needed money, he'd gone to a city instead to find work so that he could save up for that farm. Of course, one thing led to another, wages were too long to even barely scrape by, and then the war…well, that changes a man. He needed money now just to feed himself, and any hopes of his farm were left as a distant dream in the back of his memory, never to be achieved.
Killing was not necessarily something Viktor wanted to do for the rest of his life, but he knew he could if he had to. The war had already proven how easy it was after the first couple times. It numbs a man of the pain, desensitizes him to the suffering of others. He had even gotten good at killing. He knew he was, he'd even received a medal for it. That's probably why Atlas had taken an interest in him to begin with.
It took some time and some guess work on the directions, but eventually, Viktor found his way to the Little Daisy Café. It was a quaint little place, one that appeared as though only elderly folks or women might enter into, but that was where Mr. May had said he'd be. He tried to get a peek in the window to see if he saw Atlas, but he didn't, just a few elderly felines and a couple at the bar.
He glanced up at the sign that read, Little Daisy and then back to the slip of paper he had written the name of the café on so he wouldn't forget it. This was the place, however unassuming it appeared. He thought about turning and coming back another day, but this would have all been a waste of time if he did that. With how finicky his leg was, as well as getting used to his balance with only one eye now, it had been a lot of hassle to come out this far. He would see Atlas May today, even if he had to wait the rest of the afternoon.
So, straightening his back and squaring his shoulders, Viktor walked in. The small spattering of English stopped almost immediately as he strode inside, but he paid the silence no mind. He had an appointment to keep, after all. Ignoring the stares, the Slovak took off his cap and walked over to the couple at the bar once he realized the woman was behind the counter. She obviously worked here then, which meant she could tell him where Mr. May was.
As he approached, Viktor saw the long faced tom she was with gulp before fishing around his pocket for a cigarette and the woman worked to keep the surprise off her face. When he was in front of the counter, he threw down the tiny club pin he had received before putting his hands down to lean forward, ignoring how the other tom jumped slightly, to stare at the woman. "Ah-tlas?" he asked.
The woman blinked several times before smiling. It came off looking a bit nervous, but her recovery was admirable. "Atlas?" she asked.
"I-I'm afraid he's stepped out for a bit. He'll be back later," she added quickly after seeing his scowl.
It was unfortunate that Atlas wasn't in, but Viktor knew he really didn't have anything else to do today. Looking back out towards the window, as though he could will his would-be employer to appear, and then back to the woman behind the counter, he nodded once before made his way back to the corner booth to wait. He marveled at how rude people were, gawking at him like he was some sort of circus performer. But then, he supposed there weren't too many six foot six, one eyed Slovaks running around with a limp.
He hadn't sat for a full minute before the woman came over to him smiling charmingly. She looked cool and collected now, apparently having gotten over her first bout of surprise, and she leaned on the table in front of him playfully. "Can I get you anything, Mister…?"
She blinked several times, apparently not expecting such a blunt reply. "Sure…" She frowned. "I'm sorry, but can I have your name?" He glared at her. "To give to my husband, I mean," she added quickly, standing up straight now. "I'm Mitzi May. Atlas's wife?"
The tom gave the woman a once over before grunting. "Viktor Vasko," he said simply. He didn't hold out his hand for her to take, as he had always thought it strange that woman should shake hands too, so he settled for a nod.
She seemed to be expecting something else from him, but the tom didn't know what, so he didn't say anything and stared at her. If she had another question, she could either ask it or move along. Eventually, she nodded and walked back over to the bar, where the other fellow she was with was now lighting his second cigarette since Viktor had gotten there. He seemed like a strange sort.
After about five minutes, the door opened and Atlas May finally arrived. His wife, Mitzi, rushed over to him, and pointed towards the booth where Viktor sat. Her husband looked over, and a satisfied smile appeared on his face. "Viktor, my friend!" he called, striding over with a quickly, easy stride. Viktor felt obliged to stand as he took the other man's hand. "How've you been? You know, I've been waiting for you to pay me a visit."
"Ya, I haf…problems before." He pointed to his eye.
"Healing up all right now, is it?" Atlas asked, maintaining eye contact even as he gestured over to his wife.
Not wanting to admit what he'd had to do, or how sick he'd been the day after, Viktor simply nodded. Let the man come to his own conclusions. No one else had to know about the true happenings.
"Good, good," the stripped tom nodded as he wife brought over two cups of coffee. "I trust you thought over my offer then?"
"Ya, I think on it," he nodded, letting only a slight pause to come over them as Atlas's wife set down the coffee. "I vill vork. But," he interjected before Atlas could try and smooth talk his way into taking advantage of him. "I vant vork for good price. No cheating."
"Of course not, of course not!" Atlas smiled, taking up his coffee adding in a little sugar. "What sort of man do you take me for, Mr. Vasko?"
Viktor pushed past the easy tone of the other and tried to keep the conversation on the right track. These Americans could always talk you up a wall to get you confused and have you forgetting about the real reason you were there in the first place. "How much you pay?"
"Straight to the point. I like that about you, Viktor," Atlas nodded approvingly. "Well, providing you do your part in this whole operation and bring back the goods, how's thirty a week sound?"
The Slovak's eye nearly bugged out at the price. "Dollars? Dat much?" he questioned sharply. If this was a joke on Atlas's part, it was a poor one. The other tom would have had to have known that Viktor hadn't even made half that before working on an honest salary. "No joking? If is joke, I—"
"No joke," Atlas cut in. "Providing business is good and you do your job satisfactory, I guarantee thirty dollars a week, with added little bonuses here and there should you do…extra work. What do you say? Do we have a deal?"
Viktor eyed at the paw across from him being held out questioningly before slowly, very slowly, he took it in his own. The two toms shook hands. Atlas smiled amiably.
"Excellent! Come meet some of my other employees," he stood, gesturing for the larger man to follow. Viktor obliged.
Soon enough, he was introduced to most of the workers of the Lackadaisy speakeasy. He was shown around the back, to the garage and even down to the gin joint itself. It wasn't finished completely, but it was getting there, and from the looks of it, it was going to be grand. He was shown the ins and outs of the building by Atlas himself, which surprised Viktor considering he had just been hired. But then, Atlas probably assumed—correctly, as annoying as it was—that since he had bailed Viktor out of prison, that the Slovak would remain loyal to him as the big tom owed him. Viktor would not betray the other man, and somehow, Atlas already knew that too.
When the tour was finished, and more specifics of the job were discussed, the two men settled down at the bar below the café. Atlas lit up a big cigar as he poured them each a shot of whisky, as though to seal the deal. It was after a silent toast, and smile on Atlas's part, that the shorter man clasped Viktor's shoulder in a friendly manner, which was not wholly unacceptable to the bigger man. "Welcome to the Lackadaisy, Viktor."
And although Viktor didn't know it quite yet then, it was the beginning of a bittersweet life that plunged him into the illegal underworld in which he could never get out even if he'd wanted to. In hind sight, Viktor would come to the conclusion that this was one of the better decisions he'd ever made.
Author's Note: BIG thanks to my friend Nelo for reading over this and telling me if it was complete crap. ^^ So yeah…I tend to put lots of historical thought into stories. Have any questions, concerns, complaints, feel free to ask, though nicely.
History: After the Great War, Austria-Hungary broke apart and Czechoslovakia was formed. (They did not necessarily like the Austrians/Germans). Also, the Americans, spurred on by the British, went to attack the Russian Bolsheviks, which is pointed to as the real beginning of the Cold War. WWI was also the first time gas was used in warfare.
For everyone out there wondering, Slovakian, is a Slavic language, so it is more closely related to Russian, though it does have a noticeable influence from the German in the accent, at least, though more Russian. Hence everyone confused over Viktor's accent. I sat and listened to Slovakian so that I could understand the speech patterns better.
'Nother Note: If you liked it, please let me know, because I'm debating as to whether I should go on, as I have a few other little ideas, or cut my losses. Your responses are most appreciated. Thanks!
…And sorry if this is really random and off the wall for you Ms. Butler! Your comics along with my general nerdy infatuation with history coupled with the classes I'm taking this semester just seemed to work perfectly…in my mind…thanks for letting me play with all your lovely characters like this!
Here's a link to Tracy J. Butler's site. GO LOOK! : www . lackadaisycats