Chapter Three - The Gangsters
Stevie held his breath. Everything went quiet, except for his heart, which was thumping even harder, threatening to burst from his chest. There was a click, and the lid of the travel trunk lifted open. Stevie clenched his eyes shut against the bright light and braced himself for his dad's anger at finding him in the shed.
"Hey Daphne, look what we got here."
Stevie opened his eyes and blinked. A man with a thin black moustache and a cigarette dangling from his bottom lip and a woman with thick make-up and curly blonde hair peered down at him. Both looked as surprised to see Stevie as he was to see them.
"A spy, Jerry?" the woman suggested with a high-pitched laugh.
"What's your name, kid?" the man asked, as he reached down and pulled Stevie roughly from the trunk and pushed him onto a bed.
Stevie sat up and looked around him. The shed was gone, and he was now in a small room with a double bed and dressing table, and a window through which he could hear cars tooting their horns.
"Didn't your ma learn you no manners, honey?" the woman asked, sitting down on the bed beside Stevie and prodding him gently in the ribs. "Now, my name's Daphne, and this gentleman here is Jerry. So what's your name, kid?"
Stevie swallowed. "St, st, st—"
"St-st!?" the man, Jerry, asked gruffly, "What sort of stupid name is, St-st?"
"Aw, take it easy, Jerry," the woman, Daphne, said, smiling at Stevie. "He's just scared."
"Scared!? I'll give him scared," Jerry retorted, shaking Stevie by the arm. "Now, what's your name, kid? Who sent you? Al? Bugsy? The Feds?"
Stevie looked from Daphne, smiling grimly, shaking her head, to Jerry, cigarette still dangling from his lip, face blotched red with anger. "Answer me!"
Stevie started to cry. "My name is St-Stevie. No one set me. I climbed into the travel trunk. I heard a cat. And I—"
"You heard what?" Jerry asked, tossing his cigarette out the window.
"A cat. It was rusty coloured with white feet, and a smudged face and green eyes. And it—"
"Where'd ya hear the pussy cat, Stevie?" Daphne asked, stroking his head.
Stevie turned and pointed, "In the trunk."
Jerry walked back to the travel trunk. The lid was still open. He lifted one end of it and kicked the bottom. "I don't see no cat, St-Stevie!"
"It jumped out when my dad slammed the back door," Stevie explained.
Jerry dropped the trunk. He put another cigarette in his mouth, lit it and drew a deep breath. "You want to pass that by me again?" he asked, exhaling a plume of smoke that drifted across the room and set Stevie gagging and coughing.
Daphne handed him a small white hanky. Stevie finished coughing into it, wiped tears from his eyes and blew his nose. "My mum and dad were arguing in the house. And dad slammed the back door on his way back to the shed. And that scared the cat, and it jumped out of the trunk and hid under—"
"Shut up, kid!" Jerry shouted, his face even redder than before, reminding Stevie of his dad when he was angry. "I don't want no more of your baloney. I want that cat. Now, where is it?"
Stevie swallowed. "I told you, it jumped out of the trunk and—"
Jerry tossed his second cigarette out of the window and strode towards the bed, the back of his hand raised. Stevie turned and buried his face into the mattress.
"Don't Jerry," Daphne screamed, throwing herself in front of Stevie, "he's just a kid!"
Stevie looked up past Daphne. Jerry was standing at the side of the bed, glaring down at him. "You going soft on me, Daphne?"
Daphne wrapped her arms around Jerry, pulling him gently away from the bed. "Course not, honey," she cooed, kissing him on the cheek. "It's just he looks the same age as my kid brother. Let me have some time alone with him. You know, big sis' talk time."
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Jerry took a deep breath and turned to straighten his tie in the dressing table mirror. "Okay, Daphne, you got ten minutes to make St-Stevie here see sense and talk." Jerry slipped on a jacket from behind the door and grabbed a narrow-brimmed hat. He unlocked and opened the door and turned to face Stevie sitting on the bed. "Otherwise you'll be seeing stars, kid, you capeesh?"
Stevie gulped and nodded. Daphne kissed Jerry on the cheek again and locked the door behind him when he left the room.