It was a quiet night at the Blind Tiger. T.G. was working the bar, wiping it clean between rounds of drinks. It might have been a dingy hole in the wall, but he tried hard to give it a sheen of class.

Johnny slouched back in his usual chair by the door, bat leaning on the wall behind him. He bobbed his head lazily to the jazz record he'd heard a hundred times before. So far, it had just been the typical sort of crowd tonight. No one starting trouble, and no one trying to skip their tab. He couldn't complain.

Around eleven, there came a knock at the door. Johnny cracked the door and poked his head out, expecting another local looking for a drink. What he found was a scrawny man in a felt hat and scarf backed by a significantly larger man who seemed to have mistaken a steam engine for his right hand. He eyed the prosthetic for a few moments. “You gentlemen here for business or pleasure?”

The scrawny man cleared his throat and spoke up in response. “Oh, you know. A bit of one, bit of the other.”

“I thought we were here for business...” The gargantuan behind him whispered and was quickly silenced by his companion.

“Business, then...” Johnny looked them over again. They were an odd pair, that much was certain. But whatever they were, they weren't cops. “Well, come on. Last thing we need is someone spotting that tank of yours skulking in our alley.”

He opened the door fully, letting the two inside. The larger man had to duck his head and practically squeeze himself through the frame. Johnny pegged him at six and a half, seven feet tall. Not someone to mess with even without that mechanical nightmare mounted on his wrist. He closed the door behind them, expecting them to continue inside, but instead they stood there, looking over the Tiger and its clientele.

“So...where do you get the booze?” The question seemed almost absent-minded. Had to be. No one would just ask that.

“We have it. That's enough, I think.”

“But who do you get it from?”

Johnny gave the inquisitive man a hard stare that he hoped said stop asking stupid questions. “I'm just the man at the door.”

He seemed to get the hint. “I understand... Hey, I'm Quincy. Quincy MacGowan. This is Hank. Didn't mean to get off on the wrong foot. Can I get you a drink?”

“Johnny... And I try not to drink on the job...” Still, nice of him to offer.

“Well, if I'm still around when you get off, Johnny, let me know.” Quincy winked.

Johnny didn't get off until the Tiger was closed, but it seemed rude to shut him down twice. “What sort of business did you say you were here for?”

Quincy looked out over the bar, then back to him. “We're... looking for a few particular talents. What sort of people might we find here?”

Johnny looked into the bar. “You're looking at them. Toward the front there're the 'dapper gents' that like to get sauced before they hit the local brothels. In the back, you'll see some circus folk. Not the friendliest, but they always pay their tab. Throw in a regular or two and there you go...”

“Circus folk come here often?”

A shrug. “As often as anyone else.”

Johnny could see the gears turning in his head. “Alright. One other question... You know anything about Lumbergo?”

“Doesn't mean anything to me... But that woman at the bar there? Think I might have overheard her talking about it.”

“Alright... Well, thank you, Johnny. We'll leave you to your work.”

Johnny nodded, watching the two of them walk into the bar. They asked a lot of questions. And Quincy was pretty vague about what they were here for. He figured he'd clean some tables, and if he happened to overhear some conversations while it was quiet in the Tiger? Well, that was just plain coincidence.

Their conversation wasn't very thrilling. They needed a tinkerer and someone to get through a window. Sounded like some sort of break in, but they were skimping on details. And god damn. How long did it take to get a bunch of carnies drunk enough to talk?

He finished with tables long before they finished with carnies, heading back to the door. It wasn't until they'd moved to the bar to talk about Lumbergo that something caught his ear.

“-maybe if you see something else, you could see us next week at Mercurio's.”

Mercurios... The name left a bad taste in his mouth. No wonder he didn't recognize either of them. T.G. had recently struck up a side deal with the newer mob family, much to "He With the Ziccardi Uncle" Johnny's chagrin. It was bad news, but there was no going back on a mob deal.

Knock knock knock. “Johnny boy!”

Speak of the devil. Val Russo, one of the top enforcers of the Ziccardi family. A man known as much for his booming laughter as for his taste for cold blooded murder. Mostly of Mercurios... He had to distract him. If Val realized there were Mercurio goons in here, there'd be blood. And he didn't know if he'd even bet on Piston Hand against a pissed off Val.

He opened the door and Val was instantly inside, one arm was around Johnny's shoulder, the other hand ruffled his hair. God, he hated that. “Johnnyyyy! How long you gonna ride the door in this joint, eh?”

“Come on, Val. You know the Tiger needs me.”

“We need you more, kid. You could go far in the Ziccardi family. Just look what it's done for your uncle Alberto, eh?”

And look what Uncle Al had done for his dad...

Val's reputation did him justice. Everyone in the bar could hear Val's booming baritone. A sidelong glance told Johnny the Mercurio pair had realized just how much shit they were in. They made their way slowly, quietly for the exit.

“C'mon, Johnny boy. Just one job. Maybe you'll get to put that bat of yours to use!” Val laughed a little too hard at that idea.

Johnny shivered, a blood-soaked bat flashed through his mind. “Maybe later, Val. It's not in the cards right now.”

Val stepped around and grabbed Johnny by the shoulders. “Johnny, you look me in the eye. You could be big, kid. Might even take you under my wing personally,”

Quincy and Hank were sidestepping behind him. Hank was surprisingly nimble for a man his size with a giant tank of steam on his back. Johnny was grateful for that.

“I'm serious. You gotta take this opportunity while you can. Or you're gonna end up rottin' here as a doorman, going home to that tiny apartment of yours every day for the rest of your life. I love you, kid. You're practically family. But you've gotta own up and accept that. Eh?”

Johnny gave him the most sincere smile he could. He honestly liked Val, murderous brute that he was. At least he liked how Val treated him. “I'll think about it. Promise you that much.”

Val grinned, laughing and slapping Johnny on the arm just as the door shut behind the nearly-dead Mercurio boys. “Attaboy, Johnny. I'll have you working with me yet.”

He rustled Johnny's hair once more and carried on into the bar. Johnny collapsed in his chair, letting out the quietest sigh of relief he could manage.

Whatever the hell those Mercurios were looking for here, they'd better have found it. And it had better have been worth it. If Val had realized Johnny was helping them out, he'd have been as dead right alongside them. Whatever they were doing, they owed him something for the help.

Maybe he'd go find Mr. McGowan and have a word...