Memorial Day, 1921
He heard the gulls calling in the distance. The soft rush of the surf behind him, he kept his eyes forward gazing just a fraction above the audience and into the cerulean sky; his heart swelling with a mixture of pride and agony of betrayal to the point where he thought that those sitting around him must certainly hear it beating too.
The little prick. He actually pulled it off. Eloquently, no less. What was supposed to be the perfect opportunity to put Jimmy in his place—to show the city, his wife and his child what a spineless coward he was—backfired and Nucky Thompson found himself on his feet in applause with the rest of the crowd by the time the boy finished his speech. He resisted the urge to smile (he wouldn't give Jimmy the satisfaction plus it was a solemn event) yet at the same time relished the thought that he'd had something to do with it. That, somewhere along the way, Jimmy really had been paying attention.
Despite his best efforts, Jimmy was still very much on his mind as he dressed for his golf outing with Harry Daugherty. The boy was, after all, the reason he was in this whole mess in the first place. Greedy, ungrateful little bastard. This was the thanks he got after all that he'd done for him over the years?
He vented aloud but the Attorney General didn't appear the slightest bit interested. And why should he be? He'd arrived at the Memorial Day service fresh off his train from Washington and was eager to get to their noon tee-time. Now, because of Jimmy, Nucky was forced to spend an afternoon in the hot sun chasing after a stupid little ball and kissing Harry's ass. And that was just the start of the entertainment. Getting his charges moved under Federal jurisdiction would be no small feat, costing him not only time, but money. Lots of money; money he wasn't earning from the liquor business anymore because of a certain someone. His anger flared and he grimaced with determination as he exited the locker room. He was going to get out of this, and when he did there would be hell to pay.
He'd always been a terrible golfer. He hated the sport, but it came with the territory. Atlantic City Country Club was a classic links course, a par 5 he'd begrudgingly played many times over. Unfortunately for Nucky, knowing the layout didn't help his game and this outing proved to be no different. The third hole was a dogleg left and he shanked it, sending the ball into the rough.
"Tough break," Harry smiled sarcastically.
"Indeed, Bobby Jones," he replied with a dry chuckle. Then, checking himself as it dawned on him that the other man might sense his annoyance, he smiled widely and boastfully added, "He played here once, you know."
"Mm-hmm," Nucky nodded smugly (but not too smugly) while reaching into his pocket for his handkerchief. Tipping the brim of his hat slightly upward, he nonchalantly dabbed the sweat from his brow then returned it to the safety of his trousers.
His caddie- a tall glass of water of about sixteen- eyed him nervously at the signal. But the Treasurer said nothing; only raising his left eyebrow ever so discretely before turning his attentions back to the Attorney General. With that, the boy was off to look for the ball…with several extras hidden in his own trousers, unbeknownst to the rest of the foursome. Nucky continued to smile and nod at Harry's senseless banter, but he was really smiling more to himself; recalling how he and Jimmy had come up with the trick over a decade ago and he'd yet to be caught.
"Nuck,I look ridiculous."
Jimmy tried to pout but couldn't contain himself. His face broke into a smirk as he stared across the store at the man before him. "So do you," he added before erupting into a fit of snickers.
"We're a couple of swells, aren't we now?" replied the older man as he buttoned his vest.
Jimmy was used to seeing him in his Sheriff's uniform and his current ensemble- although for sport-was certainly a step up. And he had to admit, the boy also cleaned up nicely; looking almost aristocratic in his new argyle sweater-vest and off-white button down shirt. The vest was a mix of light blue, navy, and tan complimenting both the color of his eyes and his pale, Irish complexion. He'd additionally treated him to a new cap, socks to match the sweater, and shoes to complete the look.
"Yeah…I guess," Jimmy muttered, shoving his hands into the pockets of his knee-length knickers. "I still don't see why we gotta do this. You don't even like golf. Wouldn'tcha rather be fishin'?"
The kid was no fool and spoke the truth. But he was young and naïve…there was so much he didn't yet understand. It would all come in time, Nucky assured himself. He had big plans for the boy's future but, for now, needed to focus on the present.
Today they were attending a fundraising event for Vivian Lewis, the Republican candidate in the upcoming gubernatorial election. The Democrats were running Woodrow Wilson—a reform candidate—and it was imperative that they garner as much support for Lewis as possible. Maintaining an ally in Trenton would not only give him (as well as the Commodore) extra money in their pockets, but it was also good for the city- providing them with enough allocated State funding to upgrade the sewage system to account for the swelling population. All of this, of course, would have gone over the twelve-year-old's head so he stuck to his usual response when these situations arose.
"It's important to your father," he replied sternly. "Try to enunciate more while we're on the greens. Don't say, 'yeah', say 'yes sir'. And spit out your chewing gum."
The voice was quiet, the pout real this time, and Nucky couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt. It wasn't important to the Commodore that his son attend the event, it was convenient. They needed extra caddies. While Louis agreed to be seen in public with Jimmy, he resolved to let one of the other boys carry his clubs. So, Nucky and Jimmy would walk the course together.
Not surprisingly, the youth spent most of his time in the rough trying to locate one of Nucky's many botched drives. A game that would normally have taken four hours dragged on for nearly six.
The weather was unseasonably warm for early June, almost tropical. By the time they reached the back nine, Jimmy was sweating so much that his socks kept slouching. They'd had a lot of rain that spring, creating pockets of stagnant puddles in the tall grass. It was a haven for the mosquitoes and the pests wasted no time in gorging themselves, leaving welts all over his calves and ankles. Still, he didn't complain and was on his best behavior in front of both his father and Mr. Lewis. When the round was finally over, Nucky rewarded him with a five dollar bill and told him to run along. Seeing the boy's tired eyes and pink, sunburned nose, there was no reason to bring him to the "Nineteenth Hole"—he was too young for brandy and cigars anyway.
A month later, they found themselves at another booster for Lewis, although this one was much less formal—a clambake in Northside to woo the Black vote. Nucky was co-chairing the event with Albert White. A relative newcomer to Atlantic City, White was already proving himself to be a leader within the African-American community and Nucky made a mental note to nurture their business relationship as it may come in handy in the future. Eli was in attendance as well; the young deputy thrilled to be off-the-beat and engaging in some of the other aspects of his elder brother's affairs.
The heat wave that began earlier that summer carried on, with only a few breaks in between. Today the mercury soared well into the 90's. The three walked the buffet line last- allowing the guests partake in the feast-and Jimmy helping himself to a heaping plate of seafood, corn-on-the-cob and potato salad before plopping down on a calico blanket in the sand. He soon finished it all and turned his attentions to the paperback book he'd been carrying around in his pocket, while Nucky worked the crowd ensuring that everyone was enjoying themselves—no thanks to the Republican party.
About thirty minutes later an exasperated Eli pulled his brother aside for a quick word.
"We gotta get the kid outta here," he huffed.
"Jimmy? Is he causing trouble?" Nucky asked, somewhat confused. Sure the boy was known to play a practical joke or two, but he was never outright mischievous.
"No," Eli shook his head. Lowering his voice, he discretely eyed the buffet and continued, "He's yacking all over the place. The food's been out in the sun all afternoon, did you see how much he ate?"
"He is a growing boy," Nucky countered. He always quick to come to Jimmy's defense and Eli rolled his eyes. "Where is he now?"
As it turned out, the deputy already brought Jimmy back to his patrol car, but didn't want to leave without paying his adieus and explaining the situation to his brother. He was sitting in the passenger side clutching his tender abdomen when the two men approached.
"What's wrong kiddo?"
"Headache, stomachache- no big deal," he shrugged, "Think I just need to lay down for a little bit."
"Is your mother home?"
"Yeah, she should be."
"Alright then. I have to stay here, but Eli will bring you home and out of this awful heat. Take it easy."