Aidan lazily draped a hand over the steering wheel as he looked over his shoulder. Pushing gingerly on the gas pedal he backed the now black Bearcat into the mouth of the cave. Evvie stood to the side holding back a mess of vines that usually hung over the opening obscuring it from casual observation. Although what observation, Aidan couldn’t guess. They were in the middle of nowhere, but Evvie was very careful about hiding her moonshining operation. Aidan could understand that it had to do with her father. She did not want to fall prey to his mistakes, but he felt confident in their little operation. Although he hoped it wouldn’t be little for too much longer.
The previous night, he had lazily shadowed his wife as she toiled over her fires while Charlie had done a majority of the brunt lifting. Aidan was required to be well rested for what came after, and now in the early pre-dawn hours, his job was just beginning. After putting the Bearcat in park, Evvie dropped the leaf wall back into place and Aidan exited the car. Evvie walked up beside him wiping her hands on a rag she had kept draped over her shoulder the entire night. Her face and hands were smudged with soot but her hair was kept neat under a rust colored bell shaped Cloche hat. She wore a pair of high-wasted men’s trousers and a red and orange floral print sailor cut blouse. In one hand she carried the floor length checkered house apron she had worn for the majority of the previous night. She had small bags under her eyes and her shoulders were hunched forward slightly as the night’s activities began to catch up with her.
Aidan had changed when he returned to the house for the Bearcat and he now wore one of only two nice suits that he owned. He had on a matching slate grey three piece single-breasted suit with a red and navy blue polka-dot bow tie, and a grey pork pie hat trimmed with a matching red and navy blue ribbon. The previous day he had gone to the barber and trimmed up his thin moustache and goatee giving him a sporty, dapper look. He leaned towards Evvie with a smile on his lips and gave her a soft kiss, cradling her bottom lip between his own. He threw his arm over her shoulder, folding her tired body into his and they walked silently further into the dimly lit interior of the cave.
Evvie had nicknamed the cave system that housed her moonshining activities the Lightning Tunnels and they were an incredibly lucky find on her part. She had discovered them when she was younger running around the back country that surrounded her property. The mouth that he had backed the car into was the only easily navigable entrance to the system and the cave quickly dead ended except for a tiny opening in the floor which opened up into a larger space below. A pulley system was currently set up over the opening and could be used to lower down supplies or pull up the finished product. While the hole was big enough for a single person, they tended to use the other entrance to the Lightning Tunnels. Set into the side of the mountain there was an entrance to the system where a mountain stream disappeared into the mouth of a large hole that acted as the mouth of the cave. While most people from the area new of the nearly 40 foot waterfall no one had discovered a way down, that is until Evvie found it. She found a small cramped tunnel approximately 30 feet from the lip of the chasm that connected with the wall of the hole. From there she had built a rough staircase down into the cave from tiny foot and handholds.
When she had shown Aidan the caves, he had been the one to discover the secondary entrance. He knew then what a perfect location it was. There was a fresh water source from the underground river. It was well hidden and nearly impossible to get to, yet had a car access that only they knew about. There was the problem of making moonshine within a closed space. The distilling process was known to produce highly flammable vapors which if confined within a space had been known to combust, but Evvie was an experienced moonshiner who made sure that there was plenty of ventilation within the cave; although, at times, they still both worried about it. The Lightning Tunnels had allowed them to ramp up production. Now that he had the Bearcat, they could control distribution as well as production and with Evvie’s high quality moonshine they could charge a premium price without the middle man to cut into their profits.
Aidan detangled his arm from Evvie and knelt down beside the pulley system positioned above the small hole in the floor. The sound of running water echoed up through the hole and he looked down the rope into the dimly lit room below his feet. He saw Charlie working below him dressed in his brown work pants and vest. He had rolled the sleeves of his cream colored button-up shirt up to his elbows. In a single movement he removed his checkered brown and red flat cap and wiped the sweat from his brow before resuming his duties. Aidan whistled down to his brother-in-law, the high pitch sound echoing off of the rough cave walls. Charlie looked up at him and gave him a thumbs-up signaling that the first batch was ready to be pulled up. He immediately moved to the opposite side of the hole and began pulling on the rope that would pull up the load. Evvie leaned over the hole and as the crate full of mason jars came into view she guided it to the side of the hole. She untied the rope and he slowly lowered the rope down the hole for the next crate.
Evvie leaned over the crate checking the load. Straw had been pushed through the stacked glass jars to keep them slightly protected from breaking. Waiting for Charlie to finish loading the next crate, Aidan asked, “So how did it turn out?”
Evvie looked up at him through her eyelashes before grabbing one of the mason jars near the top. Taking the jar she shook the clear liquid contents. Large bubbles floated to the top and quickly disappeared. Aidan raised his eyebrows in excitement. She gave him a tired smile and said, “I keep checking them and I would say that they are all about 180 proof. You’ll need to tell the bar keepers to water it down before serving it” She unscrewed the top and took a small sip and immediately sucked in a breath through her teeth creating a hissing sound. When she exhaled he could smell the incredibly strong scent of kerosene on her breath. She cleared her throat before speaking in a slightly strained voice, “I discarded the first part of the batch like I was supposed to, and I burned some of it below. The flame was blue so I’m pretty sure there are no contaminates in it.”
Impressed he asked, “How much do we have?”
With a shrug she answered, “We got about 49 gallons. I would like to keep a couple here and infuse them with raspberries and blackberries if you don’t mind.”
“Yeah that’s fine; I love your raspberry moonshine. So let’s say 45 gallons to distribute? That is not bad at all. After expenses, that’s $850 we stand to make. I can finally afford some descent shoes.” He couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear as he did the math in his head. He heard a whistle from down below and he began tugging on the rope again. For the next hour, they pulled up the bottles of moonshine and filled the secret compartments hidden throughout the Bearcat. As they finished filling the last compartment behind the driver side seat, Aidan glanced up to see Evvie look up at the partially obscured moon.
He casually walked around the car to her side and slipped a hand around her waist. He saw the moon reflect in her eyes before she turned her face downward. He could see worry frame her already exhausted features and he leaned down in order to look into her downturned eyes. Unable to see her eyes clearly, he put a hand underneath her chin and lifted her face to meet his. “Stop worrying. I’ve done this 100 times before.”
She finally met his eyes and said, “I know, I can’t help but worry though.” She licked her lips and Aidan raised a hand to cup her face.
Unable to help himself he rubbed his thumb over her lips as he answered, “I’ll be careful, I promise.”
She bit softly into his thumb and said, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
He chuckled and smiled at her before kissing her hard, slanting his mouth deeply against hers. Shocked by his sudden intrusion into her personal space she rocked back on her heels before bringing her arms up around his neck, while his hand dropped slowly from her face. He ran his hand down her body gently brushing the side of her breast before settling on her hips and pulling her harder into himself. The kiss deepened and Aidan began to pull the fabric of her pants into balls around his fist. The kiss was filled with every desperate wish they had for each other and when he finally broke the kiss for breath they fell into a frantic hug that seemed to strangle the air from both of their bodies.
When he pulled away from her to climb into the Bearcat she crossed her arms nervously across her body as she walked to the wall of leaves. She pulled the vines to the side and he slowly inched the car past her. With one last pantomimed kiss he pushed down on the gas pedal and drove slowly down the side of the mountain. He had four different speakeasies to visit before he would be able to drive home. If everything went to plan, he would be done by the time most people would be going to work. In the pre-dawn hours, there was little activity on the road and even the cops would not be around. If a cop did decide to pull him over, he could easily outrun them through the deserted roads without risking anyone’s life except of course his own.
He ensconced into the bucket seat and his foot settled into a comfortable angle on the gas pedal. He followed the road easily as it wove smoothly through the hilled countryside and he found his mind drifting to Evvie. She was inescapable. When he wasn’t with her, he thought of her. While he loved the excitement of bootlegging, at this point he felt that he did it mostly for her.
From an early age, he had learned to fend for himself. His mother had died giving birth to his younger brother who in turn also died shortly after. He lived with his father until the age of seven when he had died in a logging accident. With no other relatives he found himself in a home for orphans. Life there had taught him to be tough and to fight for the things you wanted. He had managed to carve out a life in the illicit underbelly of society running cons but when prohibition was ratified business really began to boom. Jazz and illegal boos became the great equalizer and suddenly he found himself rubbing elbows with people from all areas of society. Gender, color and wealth didn’t matter anymore. Everyone was welcome to the party, and everyone had the opportunity to advance. After getting a glimpse of what life could be like, he wanted more for Evvie. He didn’t want her working her hands to the bones to only scrape by, and he didn’t want to have to use her for cons, being forced to watch other men touch her.
His attention was suddenly pulled from his ponderings when a bright spot light lit up the car from behind and the loud warbling sound of a pneumatic siren reverberated in his ears. He glanced over to his side mirror to see what looked like a 1924 Lincoln Phaeton coming up quickly behind him and knew that the night was about to get more interesting. Aidan couldn’t help a smile and he quickly licked his lips appraising his location. He had long ago memorized all of the roadways that wound through Kentucky and as he mapped out his escape he snapped on his turn signal and began to slow towards the shoulder of the road. He pulled his hat low over his eyes obscuring his features and pulled to a stop waiting for the bull to follow suit. He draped his arms in a relaxed manner over the edge of the car, but he was anything but relaxed. His breathing began to deepen to the pounding of the blood in his ears. As the police car pulled to a stop, he took a deep calming breath focusing the adrenaline that was now starting to pump through his system. He looked from under the brim of his hat and watched the car door swing open. Aidan slowly moved one hand back to the wheel and looking forward, hovered his foot above the gas pedal. The sound of the car door closing was his starting gun and in a well rehearsed movement he pressed firmly down on the gas pedal that brought the sporty bearcat up to full speed in an instant.
Aidan could see the dust cloud he left on the side of the road and vaguely heard the shouting of the cop as the wind began to whip in his ears. He opened up the Bearcat and began to reach top speed. He howled into the night as he slid around the curve of the road, the lights of the bull wagon disappearing from view. The Bearcat bounced heavily as he crossed a small stone bridge and he cringed hoping that the moonshine was still ok. He had just reached top speed again as the spot lights of the Lincoln Phaeton came back into view behind him. They were closer than he would have anticipated. Just beyond the next turn there was a small road that tuned off of the main one and went back to cross under the bridge. The turn-off coupled with the natural curve in the road resulted in a hard U-turn. He had planned to turn down the road and turn off his lights hopefully disappearing from view before the cop rounded the corner, but the cop was too close to make that work. He began to think of an alternative when a crazy idea struck him. He had never known anyone to attempt such an idea and it seemed ridiculous to try it when the stakes were so high which of course only made him want to do it that much more.
He was at top speed as he neared the curve and he could once again hear the warbling siren behind him. He took a deep breath and slowed his speed as he reached the twist in the road. He hit the curve near the outside and pushing down commandingly on the gas turned hard into the curve. As expected the car began to slant into the curve and he felt the car go sideways. The Bearcat seemed to hiss at him as he felt the car shudder. He loosened his grasp on the wheel letting it turn through his hands and the world seemed to slow for a moment as he slid on the verge of control around the corner. Terror and bliss mingled into a single euphoric moment like a post-climatic sigh. The nose of the car pointed towards the side of the road and he had to look to his side to see the direction he was still traveling. The car rumbled angrily at him as he continued to punch the gas letting the car continue in its tumultuous arc. As the car rounded the corner onto the turn-off, he simultaneously gripped the wheel hard and let off the gas. The car continued to fish tail and for a moment Aidan was afraid that he had pushed it too far, but he was able to right it and hit the gas hard again while simultaneously shutting off the lights. He watched in his rear-view mirror as the cop raced past the turn.
As Aidan passed back under the bridge he had to force himself to stop the car. He turned off the engine and leaned back into the seat. With one shaking hand he reached for a cigarette and lit it. His lips trembled in a half-insane smile as he dragged on the butt of the cigarette, letting the calming smoke fill and warm his lungs. He exhaled in a semi-maniacal chuckle. Besides some of the moments that he had had with Evvie, that had been one of the single most thrilling moments of his life. The way the car had slid made him feel so out of control and on the verge of something amazing, like perhaps he really could bottle lightning. He struggled for a moment on whether he should tell Evvie. She would not approve of course, but sliding the car was an incredibly useful if not insanely fun driving technique, and one that he felt he should master. After one last calming drag on the cigarette he restarted the engine and drove off into the night, only slightly aware that he still had work to do.ns 184.108.40.206da2