Sunday, March 30, 2008

Al Capone: Revenge of the Street Boys

Al Capone was on the run again. The Street Boys were apparently resurrected, and his name was on their wanted list. Williams had been missing since an old battle in which many of the hoods on Al’s side had been killed. Williams was hit and fell down. Since Al’s side was losing, they had no choice but to flee. Zack and Jack Hikert were serving a prison sentence, Jim retired from Al’s gang and Murph was still recovering from an injury so Roy Gardener was the only one left from Al’s original gangs that could fight. After the murder of McBounty, Al was more wanted than ever. The police, The Street Boys, it was all too much!

Williams had never been in such a fix! A long time ago, he was fighting side-by-side with Al Capone. Now, he was on the streets with an uncared-for injury and a damaged dignity. He knew that one day The Street Boys would find him. He carried a fully loaded pistol, but it was still not enough. After the murder of George McBounty, everything turned upside down. The Street Boys wanted him and Al was missing. With Zack and Jack in jail, Murph temporarily disabled, Jim out of the picture and Al and Roy missing, Williams had no one.

Zack and Jack Hikert had been in the rotting sewer they called a prison for ages. They still had a long sentence to serve, but Zack would hear none of it. Failed escape plan after failed escape plan, nothing worked. Al was hopefully free… and alive. Some Street Boys were in the prison, so it was dangerous. McBounty had a mouthful already… a mouthful of bullets. Now the Street Boys were just asking for it. Besides The Street Boys, Kelly was back, a fact that no one knew, except the Hikert cousins. They had to warn Al and company!

Roy was still grumbling. They were making no progress! Murph was still injured and his wound was getting uglier by the day. Jack, Zack and Williams were still missing and the gang had no intent to try to find Jim and persuade him to join the gang again. No one had a plan and just let himself free fall into a world of trouble. This was better when Al and Roy had gone their separate ways!

Jim hated this. He was allying with the dirtiest little gang he could ever find. Bandits was its name, amateur was its game! The Bandits would’ve been a nicer name, at the very least. This was horrible. And they called his trademarks mediocre? Oh, please. Jim hadn't fired a pistol in weeks, and machine guns just weren’t his kind. Bandits lived up to their name; they scavenged weapons! No wonder these people were dieing out. They could offer almost no protection! This stunk.

Murph wasn’t in a fit state to complain. He had been injured several times before, but this was the worst by far. The pain dragged on and he still got no medical help. Stopping by a hospital would make a scene; one, he was wanted, two, there’d be police officers in the hospital; wherever they went, they always injured a couple of cops. The wound was severe. No one knew if Murph would make it. His allegiance to Al meant he wouldn’t mind taking a hit or two, but this was serious. The fight was horrible, and frankly, so was the injury. Murph just hoped the pain would stop.

Bullets filled the air. Al, Roy and some assorted ragtag convicts were having a gunfight with The Street Boys in an alley. Their leader, Rick, was barking orders, once or twice taking a good shot with his own firearm. Casualties on both sides were high. Roy was dodging bullets and Al was taking refuge behind a trashcan. Rick was squabbling orders, like usual. Bullets were flying. And it happened. Rick wasn’t paying attention. Stooped behind a dumpster, Rick was hit by a bullet in the back. He cried out in pain and leaped from his hiding place in fear and alarm. At that moment, someone had taken a lucky shot. It sailed near Rick’s head and flew through his neck. The bullet had lost speed, but continued to injure Rick’s friend, Frankie. Rick stood for a moment, confused, and then collapsed. Members of The Street Boys gathered, nursing their fallen leader. Al’s side took the opportunity, gunned down some Street Boys, and then fled. Rick’s death posed a shock to everyone. Al was now in for a world, no, a Universe of trouble.

Williams was on a shady corner, leaning on a bus stop and reading a newspaper with his hat covering his face. He suddenly looked at the title: Local leader of “The Street Boys” killed. Rick was dead. This was unexpected. Then he thought Al is gonna to be killed! Once this nightmare entered his head, Williams went crazy. He decided to find the prison Zack and Jack were in and bust them out. They had to help Al.

Zack and Jack were still in prison. Zack had even killed five guards in all the prison escape plans combined, yet no progress came, except for a longer prison sentence… by now Zack was up to a life sentence! Sometimes, a shady character would stop by and murmur something, but this wasn’t very promising. Still, it was strange that creep had gotten so far near (or in some cases in) the prison. They wondered what happened to Al. A new con had told them Rick was dead and The Street Boys were crushed, but Zack and Jack didn’t buy it. Then again…

Roy was worried. Rick was shot and proclaimed dead on the scene. The Street Boys hosted a funeral, which Al and Roy interrupted with a “ceremonial killing of Street Boys by firing machine guns” and a “traditional burning of the coffin and ambushing of the escaping members.” This was unexpected. Just yesterday, a Street Boy had machine-gunned down a “Roy decoy” and another strangled one of Al’s henchmen. Were The Street Boys going to get them?

Jim had read about Rick’s death in the newspapers. He had to help Al now. Look at that, Rick, dead. Jim had to come crawling back. Bandits dealt dirt. The Street Boys were after him. Al needed help to confront the dangers ahead. Al’s group wasn’t poor and unprepared like the lousy Bandits were, so what did he have to lose? A pistol a day kept the doctor away. The odds were against him. What were his choices, if he in fact had any? Well, Jim decided to look out Al and end this once and for all so he could retire, live like a lord and not worry anymore, not to worry about anything. Now, he couldn’t, though. Not now. Now was not leisure time. It was fighting time.

Murph was badly injured. He still needed help. He bled everyday and was always exhausted. He still helped in gunfights, though. In one, he knocked three hoods down while crying in pain. He still remembered that old gunfight where he was shot. Al had about five men and the enemy had ten. Murph was kneeling beside a garbage can in an alley and shot down two men. One jack leaped out and shot at Murph, but he dodged and Murph shot him in the chest. Then Al came baring a machine gun and reloading every five seconds. The enemy side was now losing. Roy shot a guy in the side. Then another jack leaped out and shot Murph. Murph shot back, and the idiot was knocked off his feet. Al and Roy put him out of his misery and stabbed him. Now, Rick was dead. Nightmares!

Al was yet again attacked by a pack of thieving, no-good Street Boys. The bandits car-bombed Roy’s close ally, Devin. Devin’s body flew into the air and landed two blocks away. Al had those no-good pesky criminals taken care of by paid hit men. Al's bodyguard strangled a young ambassador from The Street Boys who preached his gangs message of hate by attempting to shoot Roy and therefore doing the exact opposite of an ambassador’s job. The little nuisance had whipped out a pistol and missed Roy by a hair. Al's bodyguard crept up behind him, grabbed the spook by the throat and squeezed. Then, Al took out his own gun and shot him right in his scrawny little neck. The disgrace-of-a-gangster dropped his gun and fell to the floor, dead. That ended that "business".

Williams still was on the street, asking questions, searching for answers, none of which he got. Williams machine-gunned down two ding dongs for back-talk. Many, many men he had seen experiencing grim deaths, Street Boys and not Street Boys, including the two bumbling buffoons that died a death at the hands of his machine gun, as said earlier. Williams was sure not the guy some clumsy drunk itching for a fight would like to bump into!

Zack totally bought the “dead Rick stuff”, though Jack still wasn’t sure. A new con came in, and they overheard the warden (along with a few guards and the con) talk about a “Rick murder” and a few other key words. Zack shot a guard with a smuggled-in pistol, took the key and opened his cell. He burst into the warden’s room, screaming like a lunatic. Before anyone, (all frozen with fear) had a chance to react; Zack shot open the whole room. In five seconds flat, there lay dead the guards, the warden and… Huh? Where was the con? He felt a pistol’s barrel push against the back of his skull. "Thanks for saving me. To show my gratitude, I’ll do the exact opposite for you." rasped the con’s voice. He let out a hideous, shrill, lunacy-possessed laugh. Yikes! Zack gulped. He was in trouble… oh yes. He was in one fix!

Roy was furious! His (well… finders keepers!) cars were set on fire, bombed, crushed, stolen, etc.! His friends, enforcers and informants were found in various alleys, dead. Murph was dieing, and Al had already bought his coffin months ago. Rick terrorized them, even from the grave. The Street Boys sure had a long, murderous history. Why, their bloody timeline came back to Kelly’s time! Roy knew one thing for sure: he was going to get those Street Boys.

Jim had done it. He shot Bandits’ leader. Bandits were dieing out, and Jim decided to put them out of their misery. He said he had a brilliant idea and needed to tell it to Bandits’ leader. They all allowed him through except for a stubborn one, Hank, the leader’s half-brother. He asked Jim what he had to say. Jim just shot him. Jim walked over his bleeding, collapsed body. He whipped out his machine gun and yelled to the leader, “Frank, say hello to my little friend!” The first bullet stunned Frank and the second one shocked him. The third one woke him up, the fourth one injured him, the fifth one injured him more, the sixth one rendered him incapable of attacking, the seventh one crippled him, the eighth one collapsed him, the ninth one tripped him, the tenth one mortally wounded him and the eleventh one killed him. Jim ran away then. Boy was he in trouble!

Murph was in huge pain. He barely had strength to lift a gun. He would sleep much or black out from the pain. He didn’t know if he had too many days left. Murph tried to remember the Good Old Times. What Good Old Times? Someone always interrupted them like Kelly, Rick or McBounty. A few show-downs here, some deaths here and no peace anywhere. Murph was dieing!

Al was now in a state to do anything. He had more men, The Street Boys were weakened by a few good battles and he could play commander in a few more fights. Ha, where were the police now? It was a build-your-own-mafia-family game, and Al was doing good, but nothing like a monopoly yet. Yet he did hope for monopoly as well. Still, Al’s empire was nothing like it was long ago. But he was Al Capone. There were infinite possibilities! Al was in control!

Williams had finally tracked down Al and allied with him again. Williams had a run-in chase scene with Rick’s brother-in-law, but managed to lose the shark once on a bus. From there, Williams got a clean shot at him. "That's one person that won’t be getting up soon," thought Williams. Williams found Al and explained his situation, and Al gladly accepted him back in. Williams was finally back!

Zack looked on in horror as the con was still hysterically laughing. Zack guessed as a welcome wagon, the warden put him through some or one of the many torture methods the prison adapted. The weakling couldn’t stand it and went mad. Zack had his hands up and awaited death. If only he listened to Jack, oh, Jack. Jack never wanted part in his crazy schemes. "Go get killed," he said when Zack escaped earlier at the sound of the conversation between the guards, the con and the warden. Suddenly, the crazed con stopped laughing. A pistol barrel was against his head too. "Drop the gun," ordered a cold voice. Whose, Zack would’ve never guessed. Uh-oh!

Roy was satisfied. Williams was back, Zack, Jack and Jim were probably coming. Al had the control, he was fighting those Street Boys and fighting them good. Many men had been sent to search for Jim, Zack and Jack. Many returned with data that Zack and Jack were in a prison, though where, they had no idea. Progress, finally!

Jim finished off Bandits. With Al's help, he killed them off, and they were gone and dead. He heard the word on the street and found Al. They formed an allegiance beginning with the murder of Bandits. Unfortunately, the police showed up on the scene and another gunfight began, leading to casualties on both sides. Jim had felt a few bullets brush past his coat, cutting it and sometimes, him! He was filled with bleeding yet small cuts all along his right side. All while taking cover behind a trash can!

Murph did it. Al's gang was cornered in an alley by some machine-gun toting Street Boys. They were stooping behind a few dumpsters. Murph, by now blind with pain, raised a grimy pistol and shot two bullets. They hit the remaining machine-gunners squarely in the chest and the antagonists went down with blood-splattered shirts. Al's gang confiscated the machine guns and some pistols the deceased Street Boys had on them. Murph was praised and finally taken to a doctor. It didn't help much. The doctor prescribed some painkillers, dressed up his wound and said it was probably fatal. Then came the police. Jim had to take some assorted patients and doctors hostage before the boys in blue stopped firing on them!

Al was still going good on his war against The Street Boys. Recently, a big hangout of theirs was set on fire by his boys and a crate of machine-guns that were being shipped from one Street Boy hideout to another was confiscated. Al's boys set fire to the transport vehicle (a stolen moving van) and brought out crates containing the weapons. Al also ambushed a group of Street Boys hanging out near the police station. The police began pouring out and allying with Al... for the first thirty minutes. When most of the Street Boys were gunned down and the rest fled, the cops began firing on Al's gang. The two sides fired at each other for a while before they both retreated. What events!

Williams had been becoming more violent and killed twenty Street Boys in a gambling club called Salty Jack's. He had noticed Street Boy activity there and planned for an attack date. He was further away from his Warden side than ever before. He never reflected on being a jail Warden anymore and was now fully criminal. He had held many Wardens at gunpoint, and Warden Bill was the only one who found out (after he told him) that Williams used to be a Warden. As the Warden's being held at gunpoint looked into his eyes, imagine their surprise if they found out he used to be a Warden!

Zack watched as the con disobeyed. "Drop the gun!" yelled the voice aggressively. The con smiled. "Drop the weapon! Drop it or I’ll blow your brains out!” shouted the voice, very angry at this point. "Promise?" cheekily asked the maniac. "Yes! Now shut up and drop the gun! The pistol, drop it! Drop it, drop it, drop it! I said it, and I meant it!" yelled the voice, now having a hysterical temper tantrum. "Drop it in five seconds or I swear to god I'll kill you!" yelled the voice. "Seriously?" "Yes, seriously!" "You promise you'll blow out my brains?" "Yes!" "Are you sure?" "Yes! Drop it in one, two, three, four, five!" Zack heard a gunshot and a thud. The crazy con wanted to die? Serves him right. "Follow me." said the cold voice to Zack, pointing his pistol at him. Zack was suddenly frightened. Uh-oh again!

Roy's satisfaction had not changed. Al now had some friends and contacts on his side, some fighting gunfights all the time, others doing small jobs like a hit or a car bombing. Some even gave some Street Boy hangouts a pineapple or two. Roy was particularly proud of his contribution and marksmanship. He was ranked a sharpshooter, and had claimed many lives during the war between The Street Boys and Al & Co. In fact, he had claimed many lives in his life! The war was going well for Roy!

Jim had lately been stealing weapons. Shipments for The Street Boys were as good as gone! Over the past month, he sacked three tons of Machine guns alone. He'd murder Street Boys for their weapons. Luckily for Al, The Street Boys ordered diverse amounts of weapons. Once Jim was being fired on from three sides, and a bullet clipped his shoulder. The pain and confusion brought him to his instincts; he ran at the Street Boys firing on him and knocked three down. He smashed open a crate lying on the ground and pulled out a machine gun. He yelled "Say hello to my little friend!" and pumped the trigger. The Street Boys surrounding him were knocked off their feet as the bullets riddled them. He was the shot caller, baby!

Murph's future looked grim. He was becoming unconscious for days on end. In his extreme pain, he had gone blind. Everyday he heard a laundry list of friends that had been killed. He suspected that his injury was also making him lose his hearing. The wound was beginning to affect his mind and, he feared, his personality. He often had sudden flashbacks to past events in his life. He was becoming more and more stiff and wondered if he'd become paralyzed. Also, he was speaking more and more hoarse. There were several other effects as well. This was the most serious injury he had ever had, and probably the last one too!

Al had a little stakeout. He and some of his boys hid in one of the Street Boys' favorite hangouts, the violent night club that encouraged shootouts and shooting (summed up as "gun play"), The Rusty Bullet. Al was actually worried at first, stooped down outside the club, clutching a Thompson machine gun, sweat running down his brow. He stiffened up, took out the bouncers and kicked open the door. Pondering a phrase, he yelled "Say hello to my little friend!" and pulled back on the trigger. It was a downright massacre!

Williams was contemplating his life, his priorities and path. Perhaps he chose the wrong path as a criminal. Or maybe being Warden was the wrong path after all. He read in the papers that Warden Bill, who had also become a gangster, was found shot to death in an alley, with a note from Rick's brother-in-law, Andy, who survived Williams' assault. Williams told Al he had some business to take care of and Al gave him command of ten hit men. Four were killed by Andy and his men, one was badly injured, and the remaining hit men took out Andy's men. Williams delivered the killing blow. Well, he took care of business all right.

Zack was being ordered by some cold con to follow him. "Who are you?" Zack shouted. "It's me." said the voice. A hood was pulled off. "'Dirty Work' Jack Hikert." Zack looked at the stranger who was actually Jack. "Come on, Zack. Before the guards come. We're gonna escape and we're gonna help Al. Unless, of course, you'd care to rot in this old jail." Zack picked up his pistol and came with Jack to the prison entrance. "Ain't we gonna free some prisoners?" asked Zack. "Naw, they'd kill us." replied Jack. Finally, there were going to be free! "Shh." "What is it, Jack?" "Look there. It's Benito the Butcher, kin to that idiot that tried to kill Al and Roy ages ago." "Well," Zack grinned. "Aren't we going to kill him?" Jack nodded. "Oh yeah."

Roy had a tough battle earlier. He, Al and Jim had come to steal some imported hunting guns The Street Boys ordered. They apprehended the delivery, but the rascals popped out everywhere and were firing at them. Roy raised his shotgun and took many out, while Al and his henchmen who had just arrived pumped all those Street Boys full of lead. Meanwhile, a propane truck sped into view. Al's buddy Rocko thought once and BOOM! The truck burst into flames, and the Street Boys were lying all over the place. Al and Jim intercepted the guns while Roy shot down some sharp-shooters. They had won, of course.

Jim knew that the gang war was finally coming to the end. Rick fell, Rick's brother-in-law fell, and guess who was just killed by Roy? Rick's heir and his father as well! This was going good. The Street Boys empire was falling (it was surprising that a street gang had something that could be considered a small, weak empire) and Al's empire was rising. Jim no longer had a part in this. He, Al and the rest of Al's empire wanted peace all along, to live in their own Mafia family. Once at the top, life in luxury is available. All the charades with McBounty and Kelly were just fights that needed to be fought to build the empire. Al and his men never wanted to kill all the time. A Mafia family is made of more than most people think, more organized. Jim was wondering whether they could finally reach the point where maintaining their family would only require little tweaks and they didn't have to run from the law or have gunfights with cunning rivals and enemies anymore.

Murph heard of the imminent great success and wondered if this was it. If he managed to live through this injury, he wouldn't have to risk getting another one that much. But for every person there is always the risk of death, at every moment at every possible time. For mobsters, the risk is greater, and for big-shot empire-owning wealthy mobsters, the risk is incredibly large, though in a different way than small potatoes gangsters. Gang-lords had another kind of risk, this risk medium. Murph's risk was high in almost every way. The never-ending menace of Machine Gun Kelly was being beckoned by a cue, and it was almost impossible not to notice that is was quite time for the killer to pop out. He always seemed to come into the picture at these times. Out of all the mobsters Al and company had ever faced, Kelly was the most notorious, nefarious, wanted, cunning, ruthless, determined, tenacious and mad. Kelly had a mission, a sole mission in life, but it was a mad mission. He had no taste for personal interests, a love life, wealth, or friendships. Al cared about wealth, friends and retiring in luxury. Those were his goals, not including murder. Murph thought about all this.

Al noticed that there were only two foes left to defeat: some hitman he doubted any of his gang could deal with (so he sent Williams to break out Zack and Jack so they could take care of him) and Machine Gun Kelly. The last time they saw Machine Gun Kelly was a long time ago, and he knew Machine Gun Kelly wouldn't stop until Al and Roy were dead. It was a long story of trust, jailbreak, betrayal and repeated attempts and reasons for revenge that began this eternal loathing and rivalry. No, it was more than that. Kelly's grudge against Al cannot be described in words. To the day he dies, the ruthless, pitiless killer will have a black heart and a goal for sheer villainy and murder. Loathing, evil, hate and spite make up his heart, and that makes him impossible for anyone to stop and also makes him much more than a formidable opponent and worthy foe for Al.

Williams had come to break out Zack and Jack to find, to his joy, that they had already succeeded in escaping. He should've expected this of the Hikert cousins. He reflected how ages ago, he was Al's enemy and warden, and now, he was to be part of his empire and his Mafia family! What a twisted turn of events! A lot has happened since that dreary day on Alcatraz when Al and Roy got an idea to escape. Friends and enemies alike were made, allies popping up in telephone books, wanted posters, and, sometimes, graveyards. Al, after years and years of planning, has finally arrived so close to his goal of re-establishing his empire, his family and his position that he lost so long ago. Al had taken a long and winding road to success, and Williams had been there to follow him.

Zack and Jack took after Benito "the Butcher" and a gunfight began. The police came in too, and it was obvious Benito was winning. His bullets missed Zack and Jack by inches and the Hikert cousins were running out of ammo. Taking the gun in his left hand, though he was right-handed, Zack made a blind shot hoping it would bring him luck. It did. The bullet hit Benito squarely in the chest and he fell. The police gunned him down. Not too long ago, Zack and Jack had made their escape. On their way, they bumped into Williams, who came to break them out. "Come on, by the time you came to break us out, we already did ourselves." joked Zack. Jack just nodded. Zack and Jack finally joined Al. They weren't disappointed that most of The Street Boys were dead because, of course, they were dirty work henchman and didn't fight out in the battlefield. They managed to take out some of the last key Street Boys and even an ex-Bugs-Moran outfit hit man that had it out for Al and Roy. Zack and Jack were back!

Roy knew that it was now official. The big gang war was over. The Street Boys had lost and Al's empire was to be rebuilt. But it was nowhere close to happy ending. No, a gangster's life can never have a happy ending. It is impossible. But at least everyone is pretty close to happy. Roy swore he saw Murph half-smile the other day. This was different than the rest of Al's criminal career. There was peace, and they didn't do much fighting. It was nothing like Al's wanted crisis with McBounty or their run-ins with Machine Gun Kelly. It felt strange, and by the end it began to get obvious Al was winning. Not much was happening, except The Street Boys being beaten. Roy finally had what he wanted, but for him perfect was not enough, and they were no-where near perfect.

Jim knew the fight had been wrapped up, and he began thinking of Al and his dream. The Street Boys were down, and there was nothing left to do but group up and start the Mafia family. Personally, not all of the members would be accustomed to this "empire" and "Mafia family" business as most of the time they were just rag-tag thieves. But by choosing to ally with Al even in hard times, they had done the right thing. As usual, Al had come out on top, and he planned to start building up a bit of a Mafia family in order to properly tackle the remaining big obstacles to a Mafia empire: Kelly and the Bugs-Moran outfit worshipers, who foresaw Al's victory and possible rise to power. The last difficulties were being approached and, if no new obstacles popped up, Al could finally build up a new empire that would be almost as powerful as his last one that had hit hard times (namely Kelly, McBounty and assassins). A master plan that Al never planned was slowly falling into action. All Al planned was to get rich and get a crime empire. Where would Jim fall in?

Murph reflected on all the friends Al had won and lost over the years. He thought about Al's moments of pride and Al's darkest hours. He thought about Al's empire's rise and fall. He thought about Al's gangs' rises and falls. He thought about points in Al's life where he knew not what lay ahead, and points were Al's road was crystal-clear. He thought about what would happen to Al in the future, and what had happened to Al in the past. He thought about Al's friends and Al's foes. He thought about what would happen to Al, his idea for his empire and his Mafia family. Then Murph wondered what would happen to himself.

Al had everything taken care of. The Street Boys were gone. The Bugs-Moran hit men posed no immediate threat, and he'd have them taken care of like those Street Boys. Kelly was thought to have sided with him, as a dozen of the Street Boys were found dead in an ally, and surrounding evidence and knowledge of trademarks proved it of his doing. Al knew he had ties to The Street Boys, but not exactly what those ties were. But Kelly was merely doing something that gave him self-benefit. The thought of helping Al probably sickened him. Al knew something was coming. He felt it. Machine Gun Kelly would make his blow soon enough.

Williams had sent Zack and Jack to take care of some pesky hit men who had ties to the Bugs-Moran outfit after a brief reunion with Al. He knew they could accomplish it, though it wouldn't be so much as a milestone in their possible war against the Bugs-Moran outfit. No, he who was the problem now was North Side O'Malley. O'Malley would hopefully be taken care of next. Williams had already taken out one hit man's brother and a Machine Gun Kelly-associate who used to be Tim Hermin's partner. Williams had nothing left to do. He would simply be one of Al's friends in Al's empire.

Zack and Jack had never felt so proud. Once Al rebuilt his empire, they'd not just be his official dirty work henchman, they would be his hit men! Finally, for the first time in a while mighty Al would have a few guys to call to, whether to ask for a small favor, like taking a pesky enemy mobster's brother-in-law for a ride, or something serious, like wiping out the rival crime lord. Zack and Jack knew Al could trust them. Yesiree, they already had a very important position in the premature Al Capone empire.

Roy had been through it all. He had watched friends and enemies die, obstacles topple and big shots fall. He had seen victories and defeats, and even some draws. He had watched the tide turn, and then watched their enemies' defeat. It had been glorious. A war to rival the First World War, a large-scale fight that would never truly end. And as older, tougher gangsters died or retired, new, fresh-faced young-lings would take their places. They would not know, would not appreciate the past. But perhaps it was better that way. After all, they had their own battles to fight.

Jim was kicking back, like he deserved. He came, he saw, he conquered, and now he was drinking the hell out of himself. Sure, a couple of Al's hit men were doing some odd jobs, and O'Malley remained as a nuisance, but Al faced no big threats. Now he just had to get his name out there again, re-surge as the one and only Al Capone! Life was good, life was great. The beer was good, the beer was great. He knew there was still a lot more coming up in the long run, hell, just more reason to drink! Jim remembered his old job at a local speak-easy. Maybe Al could hook him up with another! Hell, they could get a good business going. Being a criminal was alright in hard times, but now he wanted his old job back. No one to fear but the g-men, and Al had that covered. Oh, he had his fingers crossed alright!

Murph had heard news of victory, and it seemed his own personal victory was coming soon. While he was still in terrible condition, and splitting pain, he seemed to be mending. His sight had not yet returned, and he feared it never was. Even his hearing was impaired. He was not used to this, this eternal darkness. Darkness was a friend, a confident, who would shield you from all your foes. But only if you were familiar with it. In unfamiliar darkness, you didn't know who was lurking, who was ready to kill you. This darkness was unfamiliar, scary. And Murph had a premonition of a looming threat, some imminent danger he could not detect. Murph shivered.

The gang was all assembled, Al, Roy, Jim, Zack, Jack, Williams, even Murph, in the first of Al's new speakeasies. The gentlemen gangsters were enjoying illegal champagne and even vodka, sparing no luxuries for this flamboyant party. Cocktails and shrimp were passed around, with the guests being some of the most downright despicable, ornery criminals gathered under one roof. They were having a gay old time, a gentle piano playing in the background. Spirits were high, and the drinks in their glasses were low. Al and Roy were chatting with two of the guests, who were applying to be their bodyguards. Zack and Jack were swapping tips with a third con, Gerald. Williams was quietly enjoying his second drink in a corner, while Jim was eagerly downing his sixth. Murph was beside Al, clutching his elbow. An hour into the festivities, Al went up to the stage, shooing off the show girls, and requested everyone's attention, which he got (when Al Capone asks your attention, you give him it if you know what's good for you.) Clearing his throat, he said, "I hope you're all having a good time. I would just like to say, there are a couple of people I'd like to thank. Without them, none of us would be here. Of course, I am grateful as ever to Roy Gardener, my partner-in-crime. Give him a hand, folks." Roy was grinning ear to ear as the audience applauded. "But also, someone else I'd like to thank, the finest fellow I've ever met... Murph!" Roy led Murph up the stage, and had him take a bow. "Murph has stuck with me through thin and through thick, through good and through bad, and I am thankful for that. Thankful to have friends like him." Murph smiled in the moment. While he could not see his friends around him, he knew they were there, and he was happy for that. Little did he expect would happen next.

The assassin watched closely as Murph walked up the stage. Perfect! The entire party, he had been hovering over Al, too close for comfort. But now, he had his chance. Now, he would get his revenge. He raised his pistol from his trench coat, taking careful aim. His finger tightened on the trigger. The resulting shot shattered the silence of the room.

The bullet was spot-on. It lodged into Murph's chest, and he collapsed on the stage. At once, Al rushed to help him up, while Roy shielded them with his body. The gangsters around the assassin tackled him and held him own. Zack and Jack then fell upon him, and beat him to a pulp. The now-intoxicated Jim himself fell to the ground at the sound of the shot, and now looked confused and disconcerted. Williams drew his own gun quickly, and edged himself near the stage. Murph heard the wail of the ambulances and saw the tears on Al's face before his eyes glazed over.

Al stood in the hospital waiting room, his hands in his pockets. There, he looked defeated and desolate, weak and pale. An hour ago, he had it all. Now, he had lost nothing. A solemn doctor had came and told him the bad news, apologizing gravely. His striped fedora and crisp suit had now become clothes of mourning, of sorrow. He didn't know how he could be so stupid, let his guard down so much. He didn't know how someone like Murph could be so senselessly killed. And he didn't know how he could now continue in the same illegal business. But he tried to concentrate on what he did know. He did know he had tried his best to save Murph, but nothing could be done, as the doctor said. He did know the bullet had gone into Murph's heart, a fatal puncture. He did know that the assassin was hired by Machine Gun Kelly, and also acted to avenge Tim Hermin's death. He had excavated this out of the snake with brutal torture, before ultimately killing him. He did know that Murph would want him to continue, and that Murph would continue if it was Al. And he knew that whatever happened, whoever died next, and whatever the cost, he must stop at nothing to kill Machine Gun Kelly.