Third Sons: March 1931
"This winter is never gonna end," says Gianni as he slides into the booth across from Chuck. "There's easier ways to make money, you know."
"I'm not going anywhere near that river," says Chuck as he holds his coffee mug in both hands. "I'm gonna stick with selling newspapers."
"Gio says we still owe him a truckload," says Gianni.
Chuck shakes his head. "I don't owe Gio nothing."
"Try telling him that," says Gianni.
"You tell him," says Chuck. "He's your brother." Mrs. Schmidt puts Gianni's hot chocolate on the table. Gianni holds the cup with two hands.
"Gio's not gonna let up until he gets his whiskey," Gianni says as he stares into the chocolate. "Driving's a lot easier than rowing, paly."
"You got us into this, Gianni," Chuck grumbles. "Gio makes a bundle and we get frostbite."
"He says this time's different," whispers Gianni.
Gianni leans forward. "He says if we bring back two loads, one's all ours." Gianni slurps his chocolate.
Chuck hears himself asking, "When?"
Once again in the back seat of Gio's Cadillac, bundled in his brother's oversized wool coat, Chuck regards the starless sky out the window. When they cross the one-lane bridge onto the island the bare, ruin'd trees form a tunnel. The darkness gobbles up the car's headlight beams.
Gio pulls the Caddy into a crumbling barn where two stripped-down Model T trucks sit waiting. Gio says to Gianni, "You know the way, right?"
"They haven't moved Canada in the last month, have they?" Gianni replies as he exits the car. Chuck takes a deep breath and follows him.
Just before they start the trucks and head out the barn, Gio tells Gianni and Chuck, "Better keep 'em rolling. That ice don't look so good."
Gianni asks his brother, "Sure you don't want to come along?"
Gio says over his shoulder as he heads to his car, "I'll sit this one out."
This isn't so bad, Chuck thinks as he follows Gianni's truck across the frozen river and up the bank on the Canadian side. Not even so cold.
Chuck notices the Canadians looking at them funny as they load the whiskey. As they pull out of the warehouse, one old guy says, "Stay dry."
Not for one second does Chuck think there's any chance the ice won't hold the heavily laden trucks, not even when he hears the loud crack as they approach the island. Directly in front of him, Gianni's truck drops flat into the river.
Chuck thinks, Why not? He floors it and aims for the back of Gianni's sinking truck. The collision pushes the lead truck up the riverbank. It also throws Gianni out of the cab and into the hole in the ice, which is now occupied by Chuck and his truck. All three are sinking fast.
Chuck sees the bottom of Gianni's shoes disappear under the dark water. He jumps out the truck's glassless window and dives in after them. This isn't so bad, thinks Chuck once again as he grabs a foot he assumes (correctly) belongs to Gianni. Chuck inches back to the surface. He flails his free arm on the ice rimming the newly opened hole. Gianni's weight and his own wool coat conspire to drag him back down.
Chuck is losing his grip on Gianni with one hand as his other hand happens upon a rope on the ice. A second after he grabs the rope he's flung out of the water. Chuck manages to hold onto Gianni's foot until they both make it out of the water and onto the ice. Gianni lies face down, motionless.
Sitting on the frozen river halfway between Gianni and the island, Chuck thinks, OK, now what? He hears a car engine rumbling on the shore. It takes Chuck a second to figure out the rope leads to the car. Another second later he realizes Gianni is sliding back into the hole in the ice.
The crates of whiskey that came loose as the truck sank are slammed by the current into the ice rim. Gianni's about to get swallowed whole. Chuck half-dives, half-slides toward his bootlegging cohort, whose head is back in the water. As he grabs Gianni's foot, the ice gives way.
As the ice gives way, something grabs Chuck's foot and yanks him and Gianni out of the water. The two paperboys are flung toward the island. Chuck's first attempt to crawl off the ice onto shore stalls until he's helped along by a swift kick in the rump. "Get moving!" shouts Gio.
Chuck does as instructed. Once on land, he turns in time to see Gio administering his version of first aid on his lifeless little brother. Gio gets Gianni in a bear hug and squeezes water out of him. Then he drops him on the ground, picks him up, turns him, and drops him again.
Gianni lays on the ground motionless. Gio smacks him across the face and says, "You got two seconds to start breathing or you go back in."
Gio gets ready to give his brother another slap but stops when Gianni starts coughing up chunks of the Detroit River. Gio slugs him anyway.
"You're lucky we're related," says Gio as he grabs his brother's collar, drags him - still hacking - to his Cadillac, and tosses him inside.
Just when Chuck is sure Gio has forgotten about him, Gianni's brother points at him and then points at the truck that made it onto shore. Chuck gets to his feet like a newborn giraffe and stumbles to the truck. As he joins Gianni in the Caddy, Gio points at the hole in the ice.
"That one's yours," he yells at Chuck before slamming the door and starting the engine. Chuck climbs into Gio's truck and hits the starter.
Shivering violently as the truck bumps along behind the dark sedan, Chuck promises God that if he survives, he'll never break the law again.
January 1967, continued
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