Chapter 3 – Family Pow Wow
A movement at the back of the house caught Tom’s eye, and he paused to take a closer look. He could see Pops sitting outside on the patio. He couldn’t see anyone else’s face, but he knew there were people out there. Pops looked angry and was talking heatedly. Tom couldn’t hear what he was saying because the glass door was closed tightly.
He wanted to talk with Marshmallow before he left, but was already late. Tom weighed his options. He wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to get caught in the middle of some endless family debate. But he decided to go out back anyway if only to check in and let them know he was leaving.
Tom slid the door open quietly. Pops stopped speaking, and everyone looked in his direction. It took Pops a few seconds to compose himself. He took several deep breaths while Tom looked around the room at each of his uncles and his cousin, Christian. His eyes circled the room and landed on Marshmallow to the side of the door. Her face buried in a bunch of pillows as if she were crying. He pursed his lips and took a deep breath.
“Sorry,” he mouthed quietly toward Pops. “Didn’t mean to interrupt anything. I woke up late and missed breakfast. I’m gonna hit the road and head to school.”
Pops had composed himself and smiled broadly.
“Sure, Tom. Have a good day. You didn’t miss breakfast though. We were just having a little family pow-wow here and didn’t even get around to cooking anything. Did you find something to eat?
Tom shook his head and backed out the door to slide it shut. He wasn’t sure what they were talking about in there, but it sure didn’t look like anything he wanted to be a part of.
Pops stood up and pulled some cash out of his pocket. He extended it toward Tom.
“Here. Grab yourself something to eat on the way or at the school cafeteria later.”
Tom looked at him strangely. Something must really be off today. Pops never gave him money for anything. His eyes ran around the room again briefly studying each face before landing back on Pops short, dark hair and his large, crooked nose. Pops still had that same goofy smile on his face.
Before Tom could say anything, Uncle Torvald shoved him roughly to the side with his shoulder as he barged into the room. He smirked at Tom as he grabbed the twenty dollars out of Pops hands.
“Hey,” Tom and Pops both hollered simultaneously.
Pops reached out and jerked the money back away from Torvald.
“I already gave Tom five dollars. He don’t need it. Besides, I got to scrounge up the money to pay the light bill.” Torvald whined.
“The light bill has been paid already. You’d just waste it on booze. Besides, this is an advance on something I need Tom to do for me.” Pops growled.
Tom’s heart sank. He didn’t know what it meant exactly, but it didn’t sound good. He knew his uncles didn’t hold down regular jobs. They mostly lived off welfare checks, food stamps and random gigs that took place late at night. Tom never tried to figure out what they did, but he was pretty sure that he didn’t want any part of it.
The worst part was that he had always wanted to fit in and be accepted by them. But they had always treated him like a kid. Mostly they just ignored him. He had tried to wiggle his way in once or twice when he was younger and a lot more naive. They always brushed him off though.
Lately, he had sensed like they were eyeing him differently. Sizing him for something, and he didn’t like the looks of it. He wasn’t so sure that he wanted to be a part of whatever it was that they were up to. Especially now that he had started mowing lawns over the summer and had begun making his own money. He didn’t feel so dependent on their goodwill.
“No, thanks. I’m good. I got a bit of money here. And I just came out here to let you guys know not to worry about me if I’m late getting back from school. I’m going to look for a job and fill out some applications and stuff.” Tom muttered before turning to leave.
Pops came running up behind him as Tom walked down the hall toward the door.
“Hey. Wait up! What was that all about? You gonna turn down free money?”
Tom snorted, “Free money. Huh? Look I appreciate it. I really do. But it’s time I man up around here and start pulling my own weight. I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Sure, Tom. I understand and appreciate that. And you’re right. You are big for your age. It’s time your uncles and I let you be a part of things. It’s just hard seeing you as anything other than the little toddler that we all give piggyback rides to years ago. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I think I’ve got the perfect initiation ritual for you. If you do well, it will help your uncles see that you’re grown up and big enough to be a part of what we do. And you can make some really good money at it.”
“Sure, Pops,” Tom replied slowly. “We can talk about it tonight after I get back from school. I’ll be happy do anything for the family as long as it doesn’t involve killing people or selling drugs.”
Pops grinned. “No, of course, it’s nothing like that, kid. But it is urgent, so I’m just gonna lay it on the line. I might not be here when you get back from school. I’ve got to head out of town with your uncles. We won’t get back till late. Then we’ll need your help down at the museum.”
Tom looked at him incredulously. “At the museum? Late? I didn’t know you guys had taken an interest in art and history all of a sudden.”
“Yeah, well. You know, people take up new hobbies and interests all the time. Right?” Pops said with a shrug.
“And I’m the smallest of the bunch, so I get to crawl through the air vents to pick out a picture for your new collection,” Tom said with a scow. “And since I’m a minor, it won’t be such a serious charge.”
A horrified look crossed Pops face. But it was gone as quick as it had come and Pops started to laugh.
“No, Tom. Of course not. Well, yes, we do our share of shady stuff. So, I’m not surprised to think that. But no, you won’t be doing anything illegal per se.”
“Per se? Huh?” Tom definitely like the sound of that. “So, what is it then?”
Tom glanced at his phone to check the time. He was late for his first class already. It would silly to rush off now. Best to hear Pops out and then ask him to sign a note explaining his tardiness.
“Why don’ t you fill me in on the details now then? I’m already late for class anyway. And what’s going on in there. Why is Marshmallow crying?” Tom asked softly lowering his voice at the end.
“We lost one of our biggest clients. Well, they would have been our biggest client. It’s why we came to this town. They promised us some good money. We thought this would be the time that we really made something of ourselves. You know we haven’ been doing well financially. Things have been tight and all. We thought this was our lucky break. But unfortunately, we just got word that our client is, um, didn’t make it through the night.”
“You mean he got what he deserved and was killed?” Tom asked quietly.
Pops shuffled his feet nervously as he hemmed and hawed about it. “We’re not sure on all the details yet. So, I can’t give you any specifics. But it sounds like there was some sort of misunderstanding with someone who didn’t see eye to eye with him.”
“So, what do you want me to do?” Tom asked.
“We just need you to keep an eye on the museum for anyone suspicious going in or out after hours.”
“It closes at 5:30 p.m. if I’m not mistaken,” Tom muttered. “I won’t have much time to look for a job after class.”
“Yeah, but I can give you some money for it,” Pops mumbled back.
“I don’t want your money. I can do it to help the family. But all I have to do is keep an eye on the museum after hours. Till what time. And what am I looking for?”
“Torvald will be down to relieve you at midnight. We should be back well before then. But if you can hold down the fort till then, it would be really nice. We’ve got to bring back a delivery for the museum. But we can’t hand it over till the morning. Hence the keeping an eye on the museum. I can’t tell you much more than that because there is a lot that even I don’t know. And even if I did, the less you know, the better for you if things go south.”
Tom pondered the information Pops had given him. He was no dummy. There was no way Pops would have him do something unnecessary as an excuse to give him some money. Tom sensed that whatever they were going to do was a little shady if not outright illegal. But it must be serious if Pops was asking for his help. So, he nodded in agreement.
“Sure, Pops. I’ll be happy to do that for you. But why are you going to do this if your client is dead?”
Pops smiled in relief.
“Thanks, I thought about leaving Christian here, but we could really use the extra hand. I appreciate it. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be alright. We’ll get paid. There are others who work with him who still want the delivery made.”
“So, then why does everyone have a long face in there?” Tom asked while nodding his chin in the direction of the patio behind Pops at the other end of the hall.
“Oh, the client was someone that Marshmallow knew really well back in the day. She took the news pretty hard. And it made us all realize how serious this thing is that we’ve gotten ourselves into. None of us saw this coming.”
Continue Reading Chapter 4 – Dream Come True >>>