by Carolina Reid, 2155 words
Loggerhead Road extended in front of Tyson and Tom as far as the eye could see. Tom’s body wobbled on his seat. His weight shifted from side to side as his feet reached too far for the pedals on the bike he had never ridden before. The men were less than five minutes into their ride and Tom could already feel pain radiating up his shoulders from the stress in his wrists. How could he possibly make it 50 miles, let alone around the next corner Tyson would certainly take too sharply…
“You’re quite the biker, I had no idea we’d be going this fast,” Tom huffed. Despite years of holding slick conversation and negotiating smooth business deals with some of New York’s finest mobsters, Tom resorted to icebreakers with Tyson. He hadn’t gotten his heart rate up in years and feeling light-headed, couldn’t tap into his former charismatic ways. He was sure Tyson could hear him but Tyson said nothing in response.
“So if you don’t want to talk about your chickens, how about your wife? Or the rest of your fam—-”
“Listen,” Tyson cut him off. “I need to average 25 mph on this ride to achieve my desired heart rate, so you’ll have to cut to the chase before I leave you behind. I know who you are and a little about your logistics and finance work in New York, Tom.”
Tom’s front wheel shifted and he nearly lost balance. After moving west with Delia, he had kept a low profile. He hadn’t left the house much, especially after Delia had found such a nice new place for them. He ordered food to be delivered and paid for everything with cards that were connected to Delia’s identity. He was known around New York decades ago but he’d been out of his usual debauchery for enough time that he figured his crimes were unknown by someone as pioneering as Tyson Clucker.
“Oh!” He tried to cover, “who knew word of the humble work of a multi-generational wholesale grocer and importer like myself would make it’s way ou—-”
“You don’t fool me, Tom.” Tyson’s words were tight and succinct. “I know about you, so let me tell you about me. This state sees less than 1% of my business. And this whole country sees less than 50% of it. I do 2 billion a year in revenue just in the poultry industry. I have my hands in the profits of 8 other majorly influential industries. You and I both know what that means…”
Tom, who had been giving every iota of effort he had to stay caught up to Tyson, was exhausting himself so quickly that his head felt foggy. Tyson’s numbers jumbled together in his mind. Normally, he followed business talk easily, but he was lost.
“Quite the…” Tom huffed, “…business…man…” He still couldn’t figure out how much Tyson knew about him.
“Here’s the point. I know you used to work with a lot of wealthy guys when you lived in New York. I don’t know what it is you do exactly, and I don’t really want to. I know you’d end up with a happy sum of money, and those guys would hand a lot less over to the government.”
Tom stopped pedaling. His hands seemed to go numb and his eyes were locked on the small blur of heat waves where the road touched the sky. He could feel his heartbeat through his forehead and heard it in his ears. His bike came to a stop, sliding off his seat for his feet to touch the ground. Tom was both exhausted and shocked. Only real mobsters said ‘logistics and finance’ the way Tyson had earlier. Usually the billionaires that Tom targeted were wealthy enough to hire a man like himself to “handle their money, especially their taxes” but too naive to realize it was through illegal endeavors. Or maybe they just wanted to ignore that part of it.
“I play games the same way you do, Tom. So I’ll be frank.”
Tom sensed in this moment that although Tyson was wealthy like his “clients” back home, he wasn’t naive at all. Tyson knew exactly what Tom and Delia were up to and wanted in.
“I’ll trust you to handle $250 million for me this year. How you do your magic, I don’t care. Maybe you’ll follow through with your little animal shelter donation gimmick, maybe it’ll be an overseas thing, maybe you still have mafia connections back home. Whatever happens, I want a positive return for myself and no extra work.”
Tyson finished his words while making a circle back to where Tom had stopped. “I think this is where our ride together ends. I’ve got a workout to do.” He finished his sentence with clarity and sped off down the road.
This was the quickest business meeting Tom had ever had. With his legal clients, there was so much paperwork and organization. And with his felonious regulars, there were often threats and weapons. Other than some scratches, a few days of sore muscles, and a bruised ego, Tom hadn’t had to do much at all to bring Tyson Clucker into agreement.
Just less than two hours later, after leaving Tom in the dust early into the ride, Tyson was within a mile of his estate when he noticed Rhode Island Reds filling the road in front of him.
Tyson didn’t have to think twice to know something was terribly wrong. He raced the last stretch to his gate and from lengths away, could see the door to his biggest poultry house was wide open. As birds flooded out the opening, wings flapping in chaos, he could see blood splattered throughout the area. It wasn’t the value of this part of his operation that he cared about–this single house that held 10,000 birds was a drop in the bucket of his poultry business, which Tom had just learned was a drop in the bucket of his annual income and investments–rather, it was likely someone had been on his property. Tyson hated nothing more than the thought of someone disrupting what he felt was his kingdom.
He pulled his cell phone from his jersey pocket as he dismounted his bike, heading directly towards the poultry house. The birds flowed out the door and around him like a river current. He didn’t care much about the well-being of the birds but his anger rose as mud filled the clips on the bottom of his feet.
“Where the hell is Jose?” He yelled into the air. He had employees to manage these things and was livid that it seemed no one was in sight.
He opened his phone, and clicked on his wife’s cell phone number. This morning, he had awoken to an empty bed. Cathy, his wife, had left the house in her white Tesla before he was even awake. This had made Tyson a bit uneasy, as he was just as possessive of his wife as he was of his land. He held his phone to his ear and before the phone even rang, he heard the crashing sounds of a line that had been disconnected. Little did he know that by this time, Cathy had already undergone facial reconstructive surgery to secretly escape the wrath of her husband and he would never see her again.
He cursed the disconnected line and dialed 911. At their answer, he could feel his rage bubbling in his stomach.
“There’s been a robbery at my farm operation! And I haven’t seen my wife in God knows how long!” Tyson shouted details of the scene to the operator in panic and dismay, not realizing that his frustration was encouraging him to push the truth. “There’s blood everywhere! And I have reason to believe she’s been kidnapped.”
They assured him they’d send enforcement immediately.
Pino pulled into the parking lot of Animal Farm shaking his head. Through his time working for his cousin Tom and in other similar family ventures, he’d seen some wild things–cantaloupes engineered to grow their fruit around a brick of cocaine for subtle transport, an X-ray of his brother’s abdomen with more than $6,000 cash inside, trophy hunters who were so gluttonous that they had the skeleton of every animal they had killed dipped and displayed in precious metals.
But what he’d just seen truly stumped him. He pushed open the door to Animal Farm.
“Yo Delia, honey, you around? It’s your Uncle Pino. Don’t believe anything your dad tells ya.” Pinot was the kind of guy who talked to an empty room as if it were filled with old friends. He was comfortable immediately.
“Pino?” Delia responded from afar.
“Darlin’, you wouldunna believed the looney tune I just saw–some Tesla-owning schmuck was a-racin’ that sucker around on those country roads like he didn’t know left from right with, I tell ya, I tell ya, you never believe your Uncle Pino anyways, but chickens, real live chickens, flyin’ outta the windows.”
Delia met Pino in the lobby and signaled towards her office. Pino was so consumed in his own story, he missed her signaled and continued blabbing. Arms flailing, heart racing, excitement fluttering, his adrenaline from witnessing a murder while securing a major deal was still on high and he couldn’t hold back.
Phil, just one room over, was restocking the shelter’s supplies. His old detective ways encouraged him to listen to the police blotter on the radio while he accomplished menial tasks. He could hear the hoopla from the next room but Delia had already warned him that her eccentric watermelon-loving uncle might be stopping by so Phil didn’t check on them. That is, until the blotter spoke up.
“All units to be made aware of reported stolen vehicle: white Tesla with license plate C10284Y. Company marked vehicle with red chicken logo on the side. Owner of the vehicle also reporting raid at poultry house. Any available units to respond to robbery.”
Phil’s interest piqued. He knew based on the vehicle description that this had to be a raid at the Clucker family estate and because of their high profile in the community, he turned the blotter up louder.
“Suspected kidnapping in association with robbery” he heard through the airwaves, not knowing the story had been misreported thanks to the manic-state that Tyson had originally called in the report.
Phil stuck his head into the lobby at the perfect time. Pino was bent at the waist, catching his breath from telling his story so passionately while Delia was propped in the doorframe, rolling her eyes.
“Hey Delia, we might want to be ready for some bird intake–I know we won’t house them for long but just heard of some nefarious behavior at the Clucker compound and I know some of those PETA-type folks have brought birds here before after what they think is a noble rescue.”
“What you mean by nefarious behavior, huh?” Pino perked up immediately, “I just seen some kid making off with some birds but I’ll be damned…”
“Kid?” Phil pondered. “Oh god, they said a suspected kidnapping as well?”
“Well, all I can say is that kid didn’t have enough meat on his bones for a sandwich, couldunna been more than 12 years old. Doubt he’d ever be strong enough to be able to kidnap no one…”
Delia had said nothing after initially greeting Pino. At first, she was overwhelmed by his exuberance when he burst in the door. Then consumed by Phil’s suggestion to prepare for intaking birds at the shelter, the type of animal she hated the most. But now Pino was talking about a youngster in a car with the birds and Delia felt nauseous.
“Well,” said Phil, “maybe the kid isn’t the one who has been kidnapped but rather the kidnapper… And having watched lots of crime shows,” Phil tried to cover up any clue he’d give for his knowledge in the field, “something tells me this isn’t what the police might think it is…”
That was the moment Delia knew exactly what was going on. That idiot kid Tim had actually tried to pull off this mission he had wanted to rope her into; he had actually attempted to set the birds free. How he might be the one driving the Cluckers Tesla, she had no idea. But this was also the moment she realized Phil and Pino had absolutely no idea what was going on. And Delia lived for moments like this–when she, the youngest person in the room who was often patronized just because of her gender and good looks, was already steps ahead of leadership-hungry, ego-driven men like Phil whose full story she didn’t trust, and sleazy, sloppy men like her uncle who had spent decades working for the smartest con men around but still couldn’t tie his own shoes.