Evvie stood in the small kitchen of her Indianapolis home puffing lazily on a cigarette. The sound of sizzling beef filled the air and as she bit down on her cigarette holder she uncorked a bottle of cheap merlot and began to poor it into the pot of sizzling meat, onions and mushrooms. She stopped short of emptying the entire bottle into the pot, and raising the bottle to her lips, gulped down the remaining contents. She covered the pot with a lid and moved to sit at a tiny table. A vogue magazine lay open in front of her as she settled at the table and she began to leaf through the pages absentmindedly. Evvie periodically puffed on her cigarette, exhaling a cloud of acidic smoke that shrouded the room in a grey haze.
The evening was full of silence, and Evvie settled into it like a warm bath. She was clothed comfortably in a loose navy blue and white polka-dot blouse tucked into a matching knee-length pleated skirt. A silken scarf was tied around her head keeping her hair out of her face. Just as Evvie finished her cigarette, pushing the paper stub into an ashtray amidst a cloud of smoke, Aidan wandered into the kitchen drawn in by the savory smell that was wafting out into the rest of the house. He paused to kiss her on the cheek distractedly, before moving to the pot hoping that there would be a scrap of food that he could sneak off with. Evvie couldn’t help but roll her eyes at his back as he lifted the lid letting a cloud of steam escape into his face.
A throaty groan rumbled in his chest and he said, “Smells good baby. Please tell me there will be biscuits.”
She didn’t look at him and spoke into the pages of the magazine instead, “What sort of wife would I be, if there were no biscuits?”
He snorted before replacing the lid and returned to the table. He sat down with a sigh and reached for her cigarette case. He pulled a cigarette from the case and began to tap it against the table in that thoughtful manner he had. The tapping noise pushed at Evvie’s comfortable silence and fused the room with tension. Something was wrong. Worry suddenly gripped at her and she appraised the man sitting in front of her. He had on simple black trousers and a sleeveless undershirt with suspenders attached to his pants that were hanging loosely to his side. His normally greased back hair was untrained falling in loose arcs around his face and to the sides of his head. Dark circles hung beneath his eyes and his backed curved dejectedly as he slumped on the table.
Evvie bit down on her lip before asking, “What is it?”
Aidan looked down in the direction of his cigarette but his eyes were unfocused, “… Freddy’s missing. He left with a shipment and never arrived at the bar. Hank’s out looking for him right now.” He exhaled letting his cheeks puff out and pulled matches out of his pocket to light his cigarette.
Evvie’s jaw dropped in surprise, “Not Freddy…” Since Charlie’s accident, every driver brought in to replace him had disappeared while delivering a shipment. Over the last four months three drivers along with the car loaded to the max with moonshine were sent out but they never arrived at their destination. Trusted associates were sent out to look for them but no trace was ever found. It was thought that the new drivers were running off with merchandise but Freddy had been one of the first drivers brought into their operation. He would never hijack a shipment. The money gained would be far less than the money he had invested in the business.
Aidan swiped his hand through his hair in a worried gesture. “I know Freddy wouldn’t run off with the shipment. There’s an explanation somewhere, and I don’t think we will like it. However, right now, I can’t even think about that. I’m really worried about Freddy. I keep having these insane scenarios running through my head, like some demented picture show.” He finished the sentence by taking a strangled drag from his cigarette. Evvie didn’t know what to say. Freddy was almost like family and any scenario that would cause his disappearance was sure to be a bad one. Unable to voice any comfort for Aidan, she stood and moved around the table and wrapped herself around him instead. He accepted her comfort and they continued to silently embrace for an eternity of seconds.
Evvie finally began to break from Aidan’s embrace and she moved her hands through his hair pushing it back into place before moving over to the bubbling pot on the stove. She silently and mechanically began to add the next round of ingredients to the thick stock that had formed in the bottom of the pot. Aidan stayed at the table silently puffing on his cigarette and the silence returned to the kitchen, but it was no longer comfortable. All of the warmth had left the bath water.
Evvie was just beginning to add carrots to the soup, throwing them into the simmering liquid as she cut them, when the front door banged open with such force that it reverberated through the entire house. Evvie jumped at the sound and twisted away from the carrots towards the sound, her knife still firmly in her hand. Her nerves got the better of her and she stood, glued to the tile beneath her feet, watching Aidan bolt from the room. She heard the muffled sounds of tense voices but continued to stay rooted in her spot frozen in her shock.
She didn’t wait for long before Aidan returned half carrying, half dragging Hank behind him. The first thing Evvie noticed was the blood. Aidan’s white undershirt was splotched crimson and his arms were streaked in the sticky fluid as he lifted Hank with a grunt onto the kitchen table.
Aidan’s ragged voice broke Evvie from her shock, “Evvie! Help me!”
Evvie dropped the knife she held and it fell to the floor with a clang as she moved stiffly to the Hank’s side across the table from Aidan. Hank was coughing painfully and sweet covered his pale face matting his hair to his head and face. She looked down to see a small hole in the chest of his black jacket directly under his shoulder. Blood glistened around the hole in the jacket with the consistency of syrup.
Evvie’s eyes were wide as she found her voice, “What happened?”
Hank let his head fall back on the table and she could see him shake violently as he said, “They killed Freddy…”
She looked up at Aidan’s face which suddenly became a mask of hot-rolled steel. “Evvie, I need you to look at his shoulder. Can you do that?”
Evvie had begun to tremble uncontrollably but she nodded her head tightly at her husband and jumped to work. Her voice rose and filled the house, “CHARLIE!” She ran to a cabinet and pulled a mason jar of clear undiluted moonshine from the shelf and the closest knife she could get her hand on and ran back to the table so quickly that she bumped into the side. Aidan was trying to remove Hank’s jacket, causing yells of pain to erupt from Hank’s mouth. Evvie all but shooed Aidan’s hands away and began to use the knife to cut through the layers of blood soaked fabric covering the wound.
Charlie burst into the room and stopped short, shock registering clearly on his face. Evvie’s voice only shook slightly as she yelled in Charlie’s direction, “Charlie!” He did not respond and Evvie had to say his name again before he looked up from Hank’s pain riddled body. “CHARLIE! Pay attention! I need the sewing kit, tweezers and a bed sheet! Quickly!”
Evvie was only mildly aware of a conversation between Aidan and Hank as she began to cut and rip through the layers of fabric and peal them back like the layers of a putrid onion.
Aidan held Hank’s good hand as he begun to quickly ask questions. “Hank, who did this?”
Hank responded in a gruff voice, “I was driving along Freddy’s route, when I came upon them. Freddy’s car was on the side of the road. There were four of them and they were taking the moonshine from his… “ Freddy paused to yell in pain as Evvie pulled back the final layer of cloth exposing the oozing wound. Charlie ran into the room his arms filled with the requested items included a rough white sheet that billowed around him. He stumbled to the table falling heavily against it, rocking Hank’s perch and he yelled again from the jolt of pain.
Evvie began to unscrew the mason jar of moonshine as she looked up at Charlie whose face was ashen. “Charlie, cut up the bed sheet into strips.” She brought the moonshine to Hank’s grimacing face and he gulped from the jar and his head fell back to the table in a grimace. Evvie took a sip herself, letting the liquid lightning shoot through her. She coughed sharply and bought the jar over the wound. She paused and looked to Aidan who met her eyes. He leaned over Hank’s body and placed his weight onto Hank holding him in place while Evvie poured the contents of the Mason jar onto the aggravated wound. Hank responded by screaming and his body pushed and rocked against Aidan’s as the pain pulsed through his body. Evvie attempted to sooth him by shushing quietly into his ear. She grabbed a strip of cloth offered by Charlie and began to wipe the blood away from wound as the conversation continued.
Hank turned back to Aidan and he continued, “They were loading up the moonshine, and I saw… I saw Freddy. They just left his body hanging out of the driver’s side door of the car.” Hank chocked on a sob as the memories lingered like ghosts in his eyes. Aidan looked away in that moment and placed a hand on Hank’s good shoulder in a manner that tried to impart comfort to him, even when Aidan was struggling to keep himself together. As Evvie finished cleaning the excess blood from the wound, Aidan stood and exited the room. She could hear him pick up the telephone as she began to really look the wound over.
Hank’s chest and shoulder was covered with a deep purple bruise that radiated from the bullet wound. The edges of skin terminated smoothly around the dark crimson hole and Evvie was surprised by the lack of fresh blood coming from the injury. She could hear Aidan’s voice from outside the room as she asked, “Hank can you sit up? I need to see your back. Charlie help him.”
Charlie helped him sit up and she removed the ripped segments of his shirt from his back. There was no exit wound.
“Shit! Hank I need you to lie back down. The bullet is still in there. I need to get it out.” Hank grimaced at the news and his breaths were coming quickly and raggedly as he lay back down on the table stiffly. Evvie grabbed the moonshine as she said, “Charlie, go get something that Hank can bite down on.” She took another swig gaining courage from the white hot liquid fire falling down her throat. She then poured it on her hands and handed the jar to Hank who quickly took another swig.
Evvie rubbed the alcohol over her hands but was momentarily distracted by Aidan’s voice, “NO DON, I need you here NOW!” Charlie returned and pushed a wooden spoon into Hank’s mouth and took up position to hold him down. Evvie picked up the tweezers that Charlie brought for her and she paused as she stood over Hank. Everyone’s chest rose and fell with heavy breaths and Evvie paused and swallowed hard against her suddenly dry mouth. She spoke in barely a whisper, “Hank… I need you to stay as still as possible.” He nodded at her as his jaw clenched around the wooden spoon in his mouth.
Evvie then looked at Charlie and asked, “Ready?” He responded with a shaky nod. Evvie’s hands shook as she moved closer to the open sore. “Ok, here we go…” Evvie plunged her index finger into the wound and pushed through the raw meat and muscle searching for the foreign object. Hank immediately tensed and his strangled cries pushed passed the wooden spoon in his mouth. His eyes squeezed close as tears fell down his cheeks. Evvie did everything she could to dismiss Hank’s anguished cries from her mind and focused on the tactile sensations coming from her finger. The gash began to bleed in earnest again and the warm sticky fluid gushed around her finger and flowed down Hank’s chest in long streamlets. As sobs began to wrack Hank’s trembling body, Evvie’s fingers pressed against the smooth surface of a metal slug. “I’ve found it, hold on Hank, hold on!” Evvie pushed the tweezers into the wound following the line set by her finger and wrapped around the bullet. Gripping as tightly as she could, she pulled back slowly until the deformed bullet slipped out.
“I got it! It’s done Hank.” She dropped the bullet on the edge of the table and grabbed at the torn pieces of cloth to press against the wound. Hank continued to sob with relief and the spoon fell from his mouth, landing on the table with clack. Charlie was holding Hank as best he could as he mumbled into his ear, “You’re doing great…”
Evvie reached for more cloth and the moonshine one last time. This time when she poured the moonshine on the wound all Hank did was wince, his tolerance set by the anguish of the bullet removal. Evvie began to relax as the worst seemed to have passed. She pressed down on the wound trying to ebb the flow of blood and said, “Charlie, come over here and put pressure on him.” Charlie circled the table and Evvie reached for the sewing kit as Aidan came back into the room. Evvie looked up to see her husband looking like a vengeful angel of heaven. His anger was evident but it did not burn like a fire but instead froze, hardening everything about the man she loved.
Aidan paced the room with slow methodical steps as Evvie threaded the needle before sitting down next to Hank. Aidan reached out and grasped Hank’s hand and helped into a sitting position, “I got you, Hank. You’re going to be ok, and I’m going to make those bastards pay for what they did to you and Freddy.” Evvie felt a shiver go through her body as the sharp icy edge in Aidan’s voice sliced through the room.
Hank nodded, unable to speak, for fear of letting escape his confused and intense emotions. He sat up on the table shakily and let his legs dangle over the side of the table, while Evvie pulled back the cloth covering the wound. She kept one eye on Hank and one eye on Aidan as she began to close the opening in Hank’s chest. The night had started so warm. Now as she watched Aidan comfort Hank the cold crept into her and the only warmth came from the moonshine burning in her chest.ns 188.8.131.52da2