The Morrow Family Saga, Book Three: Laughing, Chapter Seven

Tobias French had never felt this hungry. He had never had a day where he wondered where his next meal was going to come from. At least not until now. He had thought that his pops was indestructible. Unsinkable. Untouchable.

Well, until Mikey and his Mob goons had appeared. That was when the cracks in his pop’s facade began to appear. At thirteen, Toby was used to doing as he wished. He was used to going and creating mayhem indiscriminately. He wasn’t used to having to keep his activities down to a minimum.

But Mikey had made it clear. There was to be no rape. There was to be no theft. There was to be absolutely no unsanctioned activities whatsoever.

Toby could go out and pick fights with people, that was fine. But everything Toby was used to doing was now off limits. Except obtaining and drinking  alcohol. And that was something Toby loved to do.

It was illegal, but not overly noticed. It made him forget the mess his life was–at least for a little while. It kept him out of trouble where other less noble endeavors were concerned. And it was easily stolen or obtained.

Hell. If he’d really wanted to, he probably could have built a still and made his own liquor. Had he explored the subject, Mikey probably would have found a market for the excess. But Toby didn’t like to work for anything. He was used to being given all he had. Or simply bullying others to get it.

Working took too much effort. Besides. One got too little out of working for it to be worth it. Why work for it when you could just take what you wanted?

He frowned. At the moment, he was hungry. He wanted something to eat. He needed it.

Pops wasn’t able to just give him money anymore. But, then, even pops was getting a bit thinner. He no longer looked like Mr. Toad from Wind In The Willows. He now reminded Toby of a ferret. Or a rat.

A nine year old appeared around the corner, but didn’t see Toby in time to turn and run.  Toby’s arm flashed outward quickly, grabbing the poor boy by the collar. “give me your money or I’ll give you a thrashing you’ll never forget.”

The boy’s eyes grew wide with fear at the threat. “B-but I-I don’t have any money. Just a nickle.”

Toby drew his free hand back like he was going to strike his victim. “Then give me the nickle before I pound you good.”

The boy hurriedly rummaged in his pocket and handed Toby the nickle. Toby slapped him despite the boy’s obedience.

The boy cried out, then looked at him. “What was that for?”

Toby sneered. “For not carrying more. Now git lost.”

The boy turned and vanished back the way he had come. Toby knew that a nickle could get him something to drink or maybe a candy bar, but not both. He frowned.  Life was just too unfair.

***

Hickenlooper had been in deposition with Jim Wallace for seven hours. Every one of Wallace’s questions centered on whether or not Hick was taking bribes or had any connections to a man named Toffer French. Bourke was not a happy man. The frown on his face let Jim know it.

“Do you know of a man named Toffer Elger French?”

Hick nodded. “Yes.”

Jim had looked up with  a raised eye brow. “How do you know of him?”

Bourke kept his eye on Jim. “Through the files handed over to the Justice Department.”

Wallace seemed unfazed. “Had you heard of him at any time before that?”

Bourke shook his head. “No. I am not from Des Moines County or the city its self. I am from Cedar Rapids. I had no chance, nor any desire to meet the man or any in his family. I only dealt with the Morrows, since I served as their lawyer for a while before entering politics. They always made an effort to come to my office in Cedar Rapids and never requested me to go to Des Moines.”

“I see.” Wallace was still unmoved. “So you have never taken money from the French family or their business?”

Bourke gave him an exasperated look. “No. I do remember being warned that French Industries was a company to steer clear of. Shoddy products. No one likes shoddy products.”

For seven hours, Wallace grilled him. Many of the questions were similar, just worded a bit different, and it irritated him. He was a lawyer, for Christ sake, not a crook. Wallace, on the other hand, was a collector of blackmail files, a gum shoe that made his living finding out secrets and then keeping them.

After Wallace paused, Bourke looked at him. “You done?”

Jim smiled up at him and nodded. “For now.”

Bourke looked down at him after standing. “If you’re looking for corruption and a background on the French family, I suggest you go to Des Moines. Ask those in the State legislature, not here in DC. Most of us have been here since before he became a household name, and we’ll outlast him. Only those from within the Des Moines county precinct will actually know him and what power he has on who. The rest of us are not as buy-able as you think.”

Jim nodded. “Thanks for the advice, Hick. And thanks for your time.”

Bourke turned and left the room stiffly. Jim knew that he’d angered the Iowan, but he wanted to get to the bottom of this new item of interest. He wanted to know who had been corrupted by Toffer French. It was his new favorite mission. He needed more ammo, more leverage for his business.

Perhaps he would release all he knew as a memoir. He would have to wait and see. For now, he was going to chase down every bit of information on the French family and their political connections. He was going to find out who might need to be exposed. What he would do after that relied on what reaction he got from those he found to be in bed with the devil.

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