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This is the fourth chapter of a nine-chapter serial story to be published weekly in NeXt. The story takes place in the 1920s during Prohibition, when alcohol was illegal. It explores the life of gangsters and the harsh reality of their criminal enterprises.

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Our story so far: Kenny discusses Prohibition with his uncle.

>Chapter Four / The Pierce Arrow

Kenny had seen a Pierce Arrow a few times.

Once in awhile, some rich people from Montreal would drive through Plattsburgh on their way to New York. Or some rich people from New York would drive through Plattsburgh on their way to Montreal. They would stop for gas, or to get something to eat, and everyone would gather to look at their beautiful Pierce Arrow.

But Kenny had never seen a Pierce Arrow in Altona until the Saturday morning Eddie Nickels pulled into Pepe's barnyard in a long, shining new Pierce-Arrow Series 33 Seven-Passenger Touring Car, just like the one in the magazines.

Kenny wasn't in a good mood. All week, he had sat in class thinking about the weekend, when he would go back to the farm and cut firewood with Pepe and his uncles.

But when Raymond dropped him off at the farm on his way to work Friday night, Kenny found he wasn't going into the woods with the men; he was going to stay at the farm, catching up the work that had been going undone during woodcutting.

Pepe had sold his horses and bought a tractor years ago, but when there was heavy hauling to be done in the woods, during sugaring or woodcutting, Paul would bring his team of oxen over from the apple orchard in Chazy.

Kenny wanted to lead the gentle, powerful pair into the forest to haul wood, but, instead, he was alone in the empty barn, shoveling their manure into a wheelbarrow.

He had finished that job and was splitting wood for Meme's cookstove when the Pierce Arrow came up the dirt road into the yard.

The man behind the wheel was wearing a striped jacket and a straw hat, and sitting next to him was the most beautiful lady Kenny had ever seen. And if the Pierce Arrow looked just like the beautiful cars in the magazines, the lady looked just like the beautiful ladies in the magazines, too, only they were both in color.

The man glanced over at Uncle George's Buick roadster, parked outside the barn now that the oxen were being kept inside. "Is this where George Rascoe lives?"

Kenny stuck the ax into the chopping block and came over to the car. "Yes."

"I gotta talk to him," the man said, opening the door and stepping out. "Is he around?"

"He's out in the woods. They're cutting wood." He looked at the man, who didn't seem very patient. "I can go get him, but it'll take a while."

The man continued to look at him, and Kenny realized that, while he didn't say anything, he meant, "So go get him."

"Do you want to come inside?" Kenny asked. "Or, would you like to come sit on the porch?"

The man stepped away from the car and the lady came out, too. She was dressed just like the flappers in the magazines, and, when she saw Kenny trying not to stare, she smiled at him as if there were some little joke just between the two of them. Kenny blushed.

She whispered something to the man and he asked, "Is there some place we can wash up?"

Kenny knew what they wanted, but he wasn't sure how to answer. "There's a tap in the kitchen," he said. "But everything else is, um, outside."

She giggled and the man said, "Nevermind. We'll sit on the porch."

"I'll go get him," Kenny said.

"Tell him Eddie is here and I have to make an early pickup. Tell him plans changed."

"OK."

Kenny ran across the hayfield toward the woods, but, as he ran, he thought. Uncle George probably didn't want Pepe and the others to see Eddie. Meme wasn't likely to come out on the porch; she didn't speak very much English and didn't really like to talk to strangers.

Kenny knew it would be better if nobody saw Eddie and the beautiful lady.

He found Martin and Pepe limbing a tree Paul had just felled, and, when he asked for George, they nodded off past a thick stand of beech saplings.

George had nearly cut through a maple when Kenny burst through the bushes and said, "Eddie's here."

"Eddie?" George looked toward where the others were working.

"Plans changed," Kenny said. "He has to pick up early."

George looked toward the house, then again toward where his father and brothers-in-law were cutting wood.

"I can help him, if you tell me where it is," Kenny offered.

"Where what is?" George asked.

"I saw what was in the back of your car last Sunday, in the barn," Kenny said. "What do you need me to do?"

George thought another moment, looking once more toward the woods, and then toward the farm house.

A few minutes later, Kenny was standing on the runningboard of the Pierce Arrow as it slowly drove down the road, away from the farm and back toward the highway. "Right there, that little shed," he said.

Eddie pulled over. Nobody had used that old shed for years, and the door hung on one hinge. Kenny and Eddie began hauling the burlap bags full of bottles up to the car and stowing them in the back.

When the shed was empty, Eddie reached into his pocket and took out a money clip. "Thanks, kid," he said, and peeled off a five dollar bill.

Kenny had seen a Pierce Arrow before.

But he'd never held a five dollar bill in his hand.

Next week: Kenny tells a lie.

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Funded by the New York State United Teachers and New York Newspapers Foundation. Text copyright 2011, Mike Peterson. Illustrations copyright 2011, Christopher Baldwin.

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