Operation Underworld by Paddy Kelly

About TheBook

February, 1942. Free China is lost, the Battle of Britain has been fought and Hitler dines in Paris. World War II is nearly three years old, however the United States resists involvement. With an invitation from the Imperial Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor everything changes. In her first ten months of the war nearly 500 American ships are lost. The retooling of Her factories is estimated to take at least a year, and even before it is completed, the men who work in those factories must become Marines, sailors and soldiers. The U.S. Navy is behind the eight ball, big time. They need help. To compound their problems, the most famous luxury liner in the world, T. L. S. Normandie, has just been set alight and burned to the water-line in New York Harbor initiating wide spread hysteria in fear of German saboteurs. All originating from a misguided sense of desperation, and a well planned feign. Meanwhile, “The Boss of Bosses”, Lucky Luciano at age 45, is serving a thirty to fifty year sentence in a maximum security prison in upstate New York. In one of the most ironic decisions of the war, the Federal Government requests the founder of organized crime, Lucky Luciano, to join forces with America’s most secret service, Naval Intelligence. Luciano, has been sentenced to life in prison for a crime that warrants ten years, and is concurrently fighting deportation to an enemy nation where he will certainly be put to death, when he is asked to help the government who condemned him. In addition, he is told he must remain in prison with no chance for compensation or parole. Mike ’Doc’ McKeowen, a New York P. I., leads us through the story. Doc just wants to get his life back on track after his business partner ran off with all the top clients, and a long and painful divorce drained him of his house, his family and his dignity. Fate may have a plan for Doc, but he can’t figure out what the hell it is. Whether you believe the link between the Federal Government and organized crime is a slender thread, or as Mario Puzo wrote, ’. . . contemporary America, where law and organized crime are one and the same.’, you will learn how the foundation of the international drug cartel was laid. You will come to appreciate the saying, ‘Due Facce della stessa Medaliglia’. Crime and politics, two sides of the same coin. Titanic was an act of carelessness. Lusitania was an act of war. Normandie was an act of genius. Reviews and more information here: CLICK FOR INFO

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Normandie Capsized
Normandie Poster

Lower Manhattan
Normandie Pier 88

City Hall
Normandie Burning

Operation Underworld
(Paddy Kelly)

The serialised version of this outstanding novel

Part Two

Missed Part One - Click Here


Operation Underworld

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

Pan Am flight forty-seven from Tampa was about twenty minutes outside New York. The trip had taken nearly seven hours and the suits in the corporate office would be very pleased. There were no empty seats on the maiden flight of the new wider body DC-3 and the 257% desired profit margin would be achieved.

With two seats on either side of the aisle, it was the first sleeper transport, and boasted an in-flight bar service as well as in-flight meals. Something no other airline offered. No more lugging picnic baskets on the flight with you.

Mrs. Kaminski was grateful for the new state of the art, double paned, safety glass windows Pan Am had installed specifically for the enhancement of her travel pleasure and as the slender, dark haired beauty sat gazing out her window, mesmerized by the heavenly scenery, her excitement mounted when the New York skyline came into view. In her excitement she did exactly what the man sitting next to her hoped she wouldn't do. She struck up a conversation. As she spoke, she continued to marvel at how a single, dark, low cloud which seemed to emanate from the waterfront, hovered over lower Manhattan.

“I yust love to fly! Don jew?” The young women spoke with a heavy Cuban accent, but was very proud of her command of the English language.

“Excuse me?” Came the terse response. Her soft, perfectly tanned facial skin beamed with a broad smile. This time the young woman spoke slowly and distinctly.

“I say, I-yust-love-to-fly! Don-jew?”

“Ah, yeah. Can’t think of nuthin’ else I’d rather be doin’ lady.” The man dressed in the brown, leather bomber jacket and baseball cap answered, facing straight forward, hardly acknowledging her presence.

“Dew-jew-no-speak-inglesh?”

“Yeah, yeah lady, I speak English. Don jew?!” He replied sarcastically. The aircraft jolted for a second time with turbulence as it entered the warm airspace over the city. The stranger clung more tightly to his seat, and tried not to look scared.

“Oh, I see! Jew have afraid! Dats okay jew have afraid!” The young woman sat casually, seat belt undone and legs crossed over. She made no attempt to ignore his white knuckles, welded to the armrests of his seat.

“I’m not afraid!” The man became conscious of his loud speech and lowered his tone. “I just don’t like the air bumps!” He exclaimed as he slowly released his death grip on the seat handles.

“Air bimps?”

“Jess! De air bimps!” He replied with increased sarcasm, no longer making any attempt to conceal his irritation at the women’s intrusion on his misery.

“Oh! Jew meen disturbulance!”

“What?”

Disturbulance!” The women turned her body to face him and began to demonstrate with broad sweeping gesticulations. “Iz when atmoosferic disturbulance comes from cold air mass and warm air mass crash together and make unstable, dense air mass. So jew have disturbulance! No air bimp!” He stared, open mouthed.

“Who the hell are you lady, Charles A. Lindbergh?”

“No! Jew silly boy! Lindbergh, he a man! I Martina, Martina Kaminski. Are jew in dee Army?” After a brief hesitation, the man relented.          

“Doc. Doc McKeowen.” He gave a cursory nod. “No. 4-F, perforated ear drum. Not supposed to fly.”

“Oh! Jew are a Doktor? How nice?” Her sweet, coy voice dripped through her broad smile and all over the seats and she slowly to snuggled up to him. Doc moved over in his seat to maintain the distance.

“No lady I’m not a Doctor. I’m a private investigator.” ­She pulled back from him with a noticeable change in attitude.

“Jew a cop! Jew dun look like no cop!” She said suspiciously.

“I’m not a cop. I’m a P. I..” She looked at him quizzically. “Private Investigator." He caught site of her over-sized hand bag on the floor. "You know like when a guy thinks maybe his wife is cheating on him, say with a younger guy or something." He slid a little closer and propped himself up on the arm rest. "Like maybe she came back from a vacation say . . . in Havana, and she’s very pretty, and her husband is a little older, and they haven’t been married that long." He leaned into her.  "And he’s worried that she might go puttin’ the make on every guy she meets because maybe, just maybe she married this guy to get her citizenship. You know, stuff like that.”

The young girl was now sitting with both legs pulled up to her chest, feet on the seat with an extreme look of worry on her face. Doc noticed her concern had turned to fear, and felt a short tinge of remorse. He smiled and sat back to allay her fears.

“Look lady, I’m sorry. Really, I didn’t mean anything by it.” She did not respond, but continued to glare at Doc.

“Honest! Lady I’m sorry.”

“How jew know dees dings?! My husband, he send jew?!”

“Look, Mrs. Kaminski . . . Martina. Your first name is Hispanic, I can see your passport in your hand bag, it’s American.” Doc pointed to the small black carry-on, poking out from under the seat in front of Martina. She allowed her eyes to briefly dart to her bag and then back again. “If you were coming from Florida you wouldn't need your passport. And you’re wedding ring is brand new. Plus I doubt I would find too many Kaminskis in the Havana phone book”. The women began to relax a little. Doc wanted to stay her fears a little more.

“How did you know about that warm air mass and cold air mass stuff? That’s pretty interesting.” Martina was still trying to make up her mind who he was, and so remained in the fetal position on her seat. Without turning away from Doc she reached into the seat back in front of her and removed a trifold brochure. Like a dagger from a scabbard she pulled it and thrust it at Doc.

“I read about the disturbulance in dees!” Taking it from her, Doc glanced at the latest issue of Captain Carl’s Tips, an informational brochure published by the airline.

“They many good dings in dare. Maybe some day jew read. Den jew don be so scared and den jew don drink so much.” Mrs, Kaminski explained to her involuntary travel partner, nodding at the seven or eight empty drink glasses stuffed in the seat back, in front of McKeowen.

“Tell ya what lady, my mother dies you got the job!” As he spoke he jammed the pamphlet back into the seat packet. She was slapped by his irritation but didn't want any more tension between them.

“I sorry! I Dun mean to criticalize jew! My father? He used to drink also. All dee time!” Doc smiled and nodded, reminiscing about happier times when the woman was being quietly entertained by the clouds.

“All dee time, he drink, drink, drink, drink, drink.” She was again very animated in her behavior. Doc wished he had a drink.

“Are you anything like your mother?”

“Why jes! Sometimes people dink dat we are seesters. Why do jew ask?”

“Just wonderin’ why your father drank.” Doc was back in form.

“I dun know?” Martina seriously contemplated the question.

After the plane taxied to the appropriate tarmac, McKeowen reached under his seat and produced a small, navy blue gym bag. The initials 'Y.M.C.A.' were stenciled across one side of it and it was easy to see there wasn’t much in it.

 Doc always travelled light for two reasons. He hated carting luggage around and, he didn’t own any. He didn’t need it. The fact was that he had never been out of New York State before. Except to New Jersey, and what the hell, that didn’t really count now, did it?

Standing around the base of the roll up stairs, out on the tarmac, were several skycaps in their mandatory dark blue uniforms. The sky blue Pan Am logo on the breast pocket and brim of the cap showed they had paid their mandatory fees to work for free. These men, all of them black, made their livings solely on tips. One of them approached Doc with an oversized metal cart, and asked if he needed a grip. Doc looked at the enormity of the cart, then to his diminutive bag, shrugged and said, “Why not?”

Doc passed him the bag on which he placed the cart, tilted it back and they headed across the tarmac towards the terminal.

“Mr. MacCuuen! Mr. MacCuuen!” Doc turned to see Mrs. Kaminski running after him, her black, slide on heels clopping on the asphalt while struggling to keep her overstuffed black bag on her shoulder.

“Go on. I’ll catch up.” Doc instructed the cap. “Mrs. Kaminski. What a pleasure to see you again.” She came alongside and dropped anchor then removed her oversized sun-glasses before she spoke.

“How do jew know my husbent he’s older?” Doc sighed.

“I figure there’s plenty of young guys in Cuba, but no money, so you come here where there’s money. But not many guys your age have that much money. If they do they’re probably connected, in which case you probably wouldn’t be screwing around.”

She didn’t know whether to be pissed off, indignant or just clop away.

Anyding else, whiseguy?”

“Yeah. If my wife had a body like that she wouldn’t have time to go to Cuba.” Her anger began to leak away.

“Are all jew Irish so smart?”

“I’m not Irish. I’m Scottish.”

Outside the terminal, taxis snaked in a never ending line along the curbside. A black Checkered pulled up immediately and the operator hopped out. While the driver went around to open the trunk for his passenger’s luggage, Doc tipped the cap.

“What happen Mac? Bastards lose your luggage?” Asked the cabby, eyeing the cart.

“Yeah, second time this month.” Doc answered as he threw the gym bag into the trunk and got into the cab.

“Where to?”

“1929 Christopher Street. Don’t wake me till we get there, and don’t go by way of Brooklyn Bridge.” Doc instructed.

Nearly an hour later the taxi pulled up out side Harry’s Front Page News. Doc got out and, with the last of the bills and change in his pocket, paid the driver.

Despite the early hour of half past five, the dark of winter had set in. Traffic was flowing freely now in The Village, and the evening chill could no longer be ignored.

Harry’s Front Page, everyone called it “The News Stand”, occupied the entire ground level of 1929 Christopher Street. The corner entrance and small display window were capped by a hand lettered, green enamel sign which hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint since Lindy had seen Paris.

Packed with black wire, twirly racks, stacked with post cards that never sold, (come to think of it, nothing ever really sold except news papers and an occasional stale candy bar), you’d be hard pressed to squeeze four people in there at any one time. That included Harry.

Harry’s claim to fame was the time Mel Blanc came into his candy store and said it was so small you had to go outside to change your mind. Harry was a Bugs Bunny fan forever after.

Harry's life had long ago settled into sitting on a high backed stool all day, framed by racks of candy bars and potato chips, and was rarely seen to venture out from behind the counter. An unseen radio constantly played in the background and he read all day long. To his credit, he read only the classics. Captain Marvel, The Shadow and The Phantom. These were by far the best, for it was common sense that they were the most realistic. Every time Superman or Batman got in a fix, they would come up with some wild gizzmo they just happened to have nearby or hanging on a belt and escape certain death. Ridiculous. Who ever heard of yellow kryptonite anyway?

Harry lost a leg in the last war, and in between warm sodas and cold coffees the old man would give Doc tips on horse racing, despite the fact Doc had never been to the track a day in his life.

Doc respected Harry because he was one of those old people who could tell you what he had for breakfast on any given day, six months ago, and he seldom ate the same thing every day. This made Harry the perfect lobby watch-dog.

The ground floor of the five story building was never intended as any sort of a shop, so when the owners remodelled it, just before World War I, access to the upper floors had to be rerouted. The ground floor conversion was an attempt to keep up with the flood of businesses which swept the Greenwich Village neighborhoods just before the war broke out. Doc walked in through the glass door which opened into Harry’s.

“Doc!  Where the hell you been for a week?”

“Vacation Harry. I figure I earned it. Anybody hangin’ around I should know about?”

“Not a bad guy in sight Doc.”

Gimme a late edition, will ya.”

Didja hear the news? The Krauts sent a sub into the harbor! Sunk some big boat!”

“You sober?”

“Honest ta Christ Doc! They did!”

Doc took the half folded news paper and tucked it under his arm while he headed for the door to the upstairs offices.

“Thanks Harry. See ya later.”

“I’m tellinya Doc, this war ain’t like the last one. We could lose!”

“We ain’t gonna lose Harry. We’re the good guys. Hell, Lamont Cranston lives here!” Doc called over his shoulder, passing through the single door to Harry’s left.

The sixty year old structure was immaculately cleaned and maintained but the elevator seemed perpetually out of order so visitors and residents had to climb the ornate metal staircase to reach their destinations.

At the third floor Doc turned left down the hall towards his office. He took the paper from under his arm and, just as he began to open it, a voice called out.

“Hey Doc!” The voice startled him and he jumped as he looked to the right of the corridor a smile slowly crept over his face.

“Hey Redbone!” Tucking the paper back under his arm, he continued walking towards his office. The elderly black man, bent on one knee was repairing a lock, and as he passed by, Doc patted him on the shoulder. Redbone spoke in a slightly diluted Cajun’ accent.

“Sorry if I startled you, man. Just surprised to see ya.” Redbone said, reaching into his tool box.

Doc noticed the mop and bucket propped against the wall on the man’s left.

“Still on double duty, eh Redbone?”

Goin’ on six months now. But I don’t mind. Keeps me busy since Saddie went to sleep.” Doc smiled and nodded in acknowledgement of Redbone’s stoicism. He continued down the hall and stopped in front of a door on the left.

“Hey Redbone!”

“Yeah Doc?” Doc was staring at the glass pane on the office door as he unlocked it.

“You get time, take this damn name off the door, will ya? It’s stinkin’ up the joint.”

“Sure Doc. First thing tomorrow.”

 McKeowen unlocked the door and went in, thought for a moment, stuck his head back out, and called down the hall.

“Redbone, there’s probably gonna be a baptism tonight, so if you hear anything it’s okay.”

“Don’t be goindoinnuthin’ stupid Doc!”

The door shut and the glass panel was back lit when Doc turned on the office light inside.

'Sammon and McKeowen. Private Investigations Agency. We Peep While Others Sleep' was the only office occupied at this late hour.

The unremarkable office was only about 400 sq ft, and was partitioned to the right as you walked in the door. The partition was wood halfway up then iced glass and stood just over six foot tall. There were a pair of opaque, deco globes suspended by chain from the ceiling around the lights. An army cot, half sized ice box and hot plate on the other side were home. They wee semi-stashed out of sight. Just in case a client accidentally showed up.

Doc peered into the letter box screwed to the back of the door, but didn’t bother to remove the three or four envelopes it contained. He locked the door, dropped his bag and moved over to his desk, in the corner of the room and, exhausted, removed his coat and flopped into his chair. Staring into space he suddenly jumped up and violently kicked the chair knocking it to the floor. He stared at it for awhile to make sure it was it wasn't breathing then sighed and reached into his jacket pocket and produced an airline ticket stub. Staring at it, he shook his head.  

“Chump!” He mumbled tearing the useless document into small pieces and threw them in the air.

Standing still for another moment, he righted the overturned chair. He decided he didn't feel any better and so he went over to the sink and washed his face longer than necessary, and as he dried himself the reason for his inability to focus dawned on him. He was fighting something that he had never felt before.

After all the physical and emotional strain encountered with thirteen years on the job, and seven years of marriage, something was different. Something made him feel like nothing mattered any more. It was depression. Doc was smothered by it.

Throwing the towel in the basket under the sink, he walked back over to his desk and opened a wall cabinet behind him marked “Classified Files”. He withdrew a rocks glass and a bottle of Irish Whiskey. Pouring a full measure into the glass, he adjusted the chair and sat down.

Glancing around the room, which he realized contained the sum total of his life, he sank deeper into his depression. He saw the steel simplicity with which he used to approach life methodically eroding away and became lost in the resulting mist of confusion called apathy.

His lifted his drink and his eyes drifted off to the right settling on a picture of a middle aged man in a policeman’s uniform sitting on a shelf next to some shooting trophies. The policeman’s photo had a black ribbon tied around the upper left hand corner of the frame. A gold N.Y.P.D. badge was mounted on a dark wooden plaque, and stood next to the photo. Doc stared at the picture and after a minute smiled.

“Alright! You were right. I should’a stayed on the force.” He threw back his shot. “But ya gotta admit, it ain’t nuthin’ like the god-damn movies!”

Reaching underneath the desk and into a specially constructed compartment under the drawer, Doc removed a snub nosed .38 and a .45 Colt. After a functions check on both weapons he loaded them and placed them in separate desk drawers.

 He sat forward, leaned on the desk and slowly let his gaze drift until it fell on a picture of a woman, sitting on the shelf below the policeman’s. She was a semi-attractive brunette, late twenties and wore some sort of graduation gown. The hand written inscription read, “To Hubby, Love Forever, Mary.”

Doc downed his second drink and shook his head in the direction of the photo. He leaned back, put his feet up and turned off the desk lamp, leaving himself and the room bathed in the alternating shadows of Jimmy O'Sullivan's neon sign.

Like in those god-damned movies.

 


CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

The syncopated rhythm of the Smith-Corona keys reminded Shirley of the Morse code radio messages she heard in an Alan Ladd war movie last week. Alan Ladd! Now there’s a man! The engaging, eccentric black girl indulged her fantasies as she trudged through her work day. With instinctual dexterity, her well manicured fingers floated in mid air, coercing the keys to perform.

Perhaps without the weight of a wedding ring to encumber the fingers, they moved faster, Shirley mused. Although attractive by any standard, she was, by her own reckoning, an old maid at twenty-six.     

“Ouch! God-damn it!” Shirley cried out, quickly putting her index finger to her mouth.

“What’s wrong?” It was Nikki Cole, the receptionist stationed with Shirley at the oversized reception desk.

“I busted a freakin’ nail!”

“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“Maybe, I got potty mouth, but there are worse problems to have!”    

“Like what?” Nikki challenged.

“Like gettin’ the hiccups when you’re horny!” Shirley giggled.

“I told you that in confidence, damn it!”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell nobody. Besides, I kinda think it’s cute.” Shirley smirked as she turned back to her typewriter. “This way he always knows when you’re ready.”

 Nikki reached under the desk and produced a large pickle jar, nearly filled with nickles, and held it out to her workmate.

“About another week and we can have lunch at Grauman's.” Nikki commented as the five cent piece Shirley retrieved from her purse clinked into the jar.

Grauman's Chinese Theater? That’s in Hollywood!”

“I know.” The sounds of laughter echoed through the empty, marble plated lobby.

The curved, Deco reception desk was surrounded by a chest high counter, covered in Carrera marble. It was a large, “D” shaped island, floating in the center of a lobby set back from the elevators which appeared much too expansive for the two slender women it housed.

The dual elevators, a few scattered ashtrays and the reception desk gave the distinct impression they were put into the lobby as an after thought. There was no indication whatever that this was a headquarters for the intelligence service of the U.S. Navy.

Although no sentries were visible, a tap on one of the buzzers installed underneath the desktop where the girls were working, would summon Marine guards to assist any unwanted intruders.

As the conservatively dressed Nikki offered her help to Shirley, the switchboard buzzed. Donning the cumbersome headset the attractive auburn haired, blue-eyed twenty-something answered the incoming line.

“Good morning, Third Naval District, may I help you?” Nikki Cole and her switchboard, nick named Cary, were the primary means of communication for number 90 Church Street and the outside world.

“That would be Captain MacFall’s office sir. Just one second and I’ll connect you. Thank you Major, your voice sounds lovely in the morning too.” Rolling her eyes towards Shirley, Nikki connected the cloth covered cable to one of the dozens of brass plugs sprawled before her.

 

 

Upstairs, at the other end of the line, lay a new desk top model, black rotary Bell telephone. These latest models were much more of a pleasure to use than the old ‘licorice stick’ phones which were awkward, difficult to dial and required both hands to manipulate.

In stark contrast to the desolation of the lobby, the large, upstairs office sprawled out to cover the entire floor, and was a cacophony of typewriters and telephones. Unabated activity was in full swing despite the fact the work day was only fifteen minutes old.

“Good morning, Captain MacFall’s office, may I help you?”

“I’m sorry Major, but the Captain is in a meeting. May I take your number sir? Uh huh . . . yes sir, I have it.” There was a pause as the secretary smirked into the phone. “And your voice sounds like Ethyl Mermon after a half pint of bath tub gin. Good-bye, Major.”

Behind the secretary’s desk stood a wooden frame door with an opaque glass panel. Lettering on the glass stated that it was the office of the Branch Chief of Naval Intelligence, Captain Roscoe C. MacFall which explained why the door was closed for the better part of the day and, more often then not, locked.

 A pair of thick fingers separated two leafs of the metal Venetian blinds allowing a pair of steel-grey eyes to peer out across the sprawling office.

Like a headmaster staring at an oversized classroom, he observed the impressive collection of pre-war FBI agents, detectives, District as well as Federal Attorneys and Treasury Department operators at work in the office before him. Still facing the glass, Captain MacFall began to speak.         

“Two months into the war and we’re losing 100 ships a month. We won't be up to full production capacity for six to eight months. And now a raving lunatic who is too stupid to get into art school has got saboteurs in our back yard!" He made his way back to the head of the conference table and flopped into his high backed chair. "Hell, I thought it was bad when Dewey lost!” MacFall's bad mood was interrupted by one of the men dressed in civilian attire sitting near the other end of the table.

“Sir, we don’t know it was sabotage. The official investigation doesn’t even start until today.”

“You want to proceed on the premise that it wasn’t and wait for them to hit us again?” The Captain responded to no one in particular.

The agent had only stated what most of the half dozen operatives in the small conference room were thinking. Which didn’t make it any easier when the C.O. pointed out the obvious to him. MacFall now stood facing the men in the sparsely furnished office. An awkward silence filled the room.

       Gathered in this conference room were some of the most powerful military men in the country with, what they believed to be, the most powerful government in the world backing them. They were unaccustomed to defeat. However, now it appeared that not only had the enemy won the war in Europe and were winning the fight in the Atlantic, but he was knocking on America’s front door.

The primary goal of the intelligence group, which up until this meeting was the security of the Atlantic convoys, had now been shifted to security of the New York harbor, and it was to this end that MacFall sought ideas and suggestions. The Tuesday morning meeting continued.

“Sir!” It was Lieutenant James O’Malley. “Seems to me what we really need is inside information about what’s really going on, down on the waterfront I mean.”

“Thank you for your blinding insight Lieutenant.” The Captain rarely employed sarcasm, but he was genuinely in the dark and didn't like it.

“D.C. has tripled our allocations, broadened our legal powers beyond our wildest dreams and we’ve even stooped to hiring girls.” The tension was broken and laughter circulated the room when the lone female agent present smiled at MacFall and slowly gave him the finger. Just then the door opened, and a burly, late middle-aged man made his way to a seat.

“Has anyone considered the idea of using . . . uh . . . snitches?” O’Malley continued.

“Glad you could join us Agent Johnson.” MacFall was in no mode for lack of punctuality.

“Late at the range.” Johnson grunted back as he perused the room. “What’s all this about snitches?”

“Don’t tell us. Another 300.” The civilian agent seated next to Johnson quipped.

“Maybe I shot a 299.”

“Maybe I’m doin’ Veronica Lake.”

“We’re battin’ around ideas to upgrade intell on the docks.” MacFall interrupted.       

“So somebody suggests stoolies? Who’s the FNG?” Treasury Agent Johnson often regarded himself as the only one in the room with any level of expertise.

The OIC attempted to answer.

“It was . . .”

“I’m the FNG.” O'Malley shot back.

“You think for a New York City second the Pentagon’s gonna give you money to pay snitches?”

“We used paid informants all the time at the D.A.’s office.”

Looking around the office Johnson continued on his vein of antagonism. “Will all the D.A.’s please raise their hands?” Noting the lack of response he added, “Gee kid, I don’t see no hands. How 'bout that!"

       “I realise you’re a lawyer Lieutenant O’Malley but . . . sounds a bit thin.” MacFall prompted.

“You don’t pay them in cash, sir. You barter with them. Sort of like using military script in a theatre of war.”

“The United States Treasury is not about to print anything that can be counterfeited. You can take that to the bank.” The agent sought to quash the idea.

“You’re missing the point. You don’t actually have to give them anything. Just tell them you’re going to give them something. Or better yet, just make them think you’re going to give them something!”

“Like what?”

“Like . . . you’ll get the local cops off their back for awhile. Or like, you want to know who the dirty cops are so you can get them off the take and save the crooks money. You just gotta use your imagination.” O’Malley was a lawyer and made a persuasive argument. With her heavy South Boston dialect the lone female agent joined the fray.

“I say hear him out.”

“You would.” Johnson shot back. After an exaggerated glance around the room the woman smiled.

“Somebody fart?” She loudly asked.

“Fuck off!”

“Snappy come-back J. J.! Wonder why you’re always striking out with the girls?” Johnson glared at her.

“People!” It was MacFall once again trying to keep the train on the tracks. “Carry on Lieutenant.”

“Sir, most of us still have a lot of our old contacts. If we could somehow organize and enhance that information, we could pool it and draw up a plan of action. Theoretically we could develop one helluva network.”

“Theoretically!” Now it was one of the civilians joining in. “I was on D.A. Hogan’s staff and I don’t know about this stoolie idea. I can tell you from experience that the Mob has no sense of humor about song birds. And the Mob controls the waterfront. Period! Nobody was allowed to even think that at the D.A.’s office, but that don’t change the facts. Nothing goes on down there without their say so or them knowing about it.” Johnson saw his chance to euthanize the idea.

“Gentlemen! You too Betsy Ross. Do we honestly believe that stoolies, the most untrustworthy of criminals, the scum of the scum, are about to risk gettin’ their heads ventilated just to help the people who are being paid to put them away? It’s a stupid idea!”

“Hell! They could be bumpin’ off Germans and dumpin’ their bodies in the East River right now and we’d be none the wiser!”

“Yeah! can you see some poor dumb Kraut bastard caught down on the West Side Drive by a couple of union guys?!” The civilian agent mocked a German accent as he held his hands in the air, in mock surrender. “Nine, nine. I am nut a polleece man! I am only a shpie!” There was a ripple of laughter.

“As that may be our dream scenario, gentleman, we can’t bank on it. I would also remind you that our infiltrators are not necessarily German. They may just as well be Italian Facists or Spanish Anarchists.” MacFall interjected the sobering thought to the assembled group and everyone was involuntarily reminded that the overwhelming majority of the people they would have to deal with on the waterfront, would be Italians or Sicilians.

“Stupid is a little strong, don’t you think, Mr. Johnson?” O’Malley was careful not to use Johnson’s title. O’Malley folded his hands on the table, in front of him and looked across at the bureaucratic treasury agent.

It took a couple of beats to soak through to the rubber stamp oriented agent, but he eventually came to the realization that he was being challenged. The older man continued the volley.

“Sorry I hurt your feelin’s Junior. But we have a serious situation here. We have a lot of things to do and no time to do them! This is no time to be grasping at straws!” Although the row had essentially been reduced to the two men, civilian against military, everyone else paid close attention to where it was going.

MacFall sat in his chair at the head of the table and observed with more attention then the others exactly how O’Malley defended his argument.

“Has it been tried?”

“As a matter of fact, yes it has! And as soon as it was sent up for approval, it came right back down again. Disapproved!”

“On what grounds?” The Lieutenant knew he was loosing ground but refused to yield.

“On the grounds it was stupid! Worse yet, politically risky!”

“With all due respect to the Treasury Department, your people aren’t exactly trained for wartime counter-intel.”

“If you have a better suggestion, I’m willing to listen.” Offered the Lt. The fat balding man lost what little composure he had left.

“You know what Sonny? I’ve been in government service since before the last war! Since before you were born, god-damn it! I made my bones on the Palmer raids fer fuck’s sake! And, besides having no respect, you haven't got the faintest idea what the hell ballpark you’re playin' in!!”

“At the very least we could kick it around and see if anything comes out of it. Wouldn’t you agree, sir?” O’Malley’s calm demeanor kept pace with Johnson’s growing anger.

The pent up tension of the room became even more restrictive, and some of the men were embarrassed that their weekly meetings had come to heated exchanges. Everyone remained silent. Johnson felt he had no choice. The federal employee slammed his briefing folder shut, stuffed it into his bag and headed for the door.

“Sir, I have a full agenda, and no time for childish ideas. I’ll read a copy of the mimeo on the rest of the meeting. Good day gentlemen.” Johnson made a grandstand exit.

O’Malley remained sitting with his hands folded in front of him on the conference table. A second civilian, sitting at the far end of the table, broke the silence.

“Sir, I know Frank Hogan’s office as well as anyone. I don’t know that they’re going to be in a big hurry to reveal their mob sources. Stoolies are their primary source of success in the court-room. That’s how Dewey got to Dutch Schultz and it's the only way he could nail Luciano.”

“Jim, do you think the prosecutors office will work with us?” MacFall had already come to the conclusion that it was worth a shot.

“Sir, they are very protective of their sources of information. It gives them tremendous leeway in the court room. But, given how critical our situation is . . .”

O’Malley left his sentence hanging as he realized the direction it was taking.

“Very well. Are there any other suggestions gentlemen? Lady?” MacFall asked as the meeting pressed on.

“Yes sir.” It was the Commander. “I’ve drawn up a plan, along with a rotating schedule for a surveillance operation I’d like you to look at sir.”

“What is it?” Asked the Captain as he was handed the folder containing the details of the proposed operation.

“It’s a plan to place agents on some of the strategically located skyscrapers overlooking the waterfront. They’ll be issued binos and a hand radio, and pull six hour shifts. They can watch for any suspicious activity and radio it in.”

“What happens at night when it’s to dark to see, Commander?” Asked MacFall as he flipped through the plan outline.

Uhh . . . they . . . pack up and go home, sir.” Came the resigned answer. Nobody laughed.

“Sounds like a good stop gap measure Commander.” He handed back the folder. “See that it’s put into action.”

“Yes sir.”

“Anything else?”

The agents sensed the end of the meeting was at hand, and began to pack up. The Captain called one last time for input and then reminded various members of the group of different details requiring attention, before adjourning.

“Tomorrow, zero seven, sharp. O’Malley, need to talk to you.” As the men filed through the door, MacFall came up behind O’Malley, who was last in line, and spoke to him. “Lieutenant I’m heading across town, walk with me to the elevators. I want talk to you.”

The puzzled young officer complied, and when the duo were clear of the office and out of earshot of the secretaries, O’Malley spoke first.

“Sir I apologise. I know I was out of line, but that dumpy bastard really gets my goat with his bureaucratic attitude. I don't mean to ruffle feathers it's just . . . ” He was cut off in mid sentence as the C.O. raised his hand displaying the same smile he wore a half an hour ago.

“I’m glad you ruffled his feathers, Jim. Johnson doesn’t make much of a contribution, but we’re stuck with him until he retires next January. Just don’t make it a habit.”

“Thank you sir, I won’t.”

“Anyway, that’s not why we’re talking.”

“What is it sir?”

“If we’re going to do this thing, we need to approach Hogan’s office in the right light. At all costs they must not know how grave the situation is. Someone from here will have to contact someone from there. We’ll have to do it fairly soon, and I’d like that someone to be you.”

O’Malley was surprised that Captain MacFall had made these decisions so soon. He was also pleased and surprised at having been asked to make first contact.

“Thank you sir. I really feel there’s potential here. If we can tap into the information pool already in place . . . ” Once again he was cut off.

“Save it for the Admiral, Lieutenant. He’ll need the convincing, not me. He’s the one that’s going to have to sell it to Washington.”

“Yes sir.” The elevator arrived, and MacFall got on.

“Meet me at Hogan’s office at 1100 hours. You’ll lias with Murray Gurfein.” After the doors closed Lieutenant O’Malley hung his head and rubbed his eyes mumbling to himself.

Gurfein! Great! A lounge singer sired by a used car salesman! Only not as sincere.”

 

***

 

The elevator doors opened into the lobby and, as he crossed the hall behind the reception desk, Lieutenant O’Malley checked his watch. 10:35 a.m. It’s only a fifteen minute walk to the D.A.'s office, he thought to himself. Save cab fare as well.

“Good-bye Lieutenant O’Malley.” The echo of a female voice filled the lobby. O’Malley turned his head as he made his way to the exit.

“Good-bye Shirley.” He waved and gave a cursory smile, putting on his gloves.

“You’re incorrigible!” Nikki said to Shirley.

“If that means I think he’s cute, you’re right. I’m . . . what you said!”

Exiting through the brass plated, double doors, O’Malley was temporarily overwhelmed by the bright winter sun. The noise of the traffic combined with the cool air to remind him of how much time he spent cooped up in an office.

Walking through the streets of the city, he was distracted by the faces of the passers-by. He could not help but notice for the first time since America had entered the war a few short weeks ago, that there were no real changes in the expressions on the faces of the people as compared to before the war. Not like the film footage coming back from Europe. Those were people who had not only seen the face of war, but lived through it. There was one similarity though. The shortage of working-aged men. Fortunately in America it wasn't due to casualty rates or slave labor camps. But things were already getting tight. There was even talk about suspending the major league ball clubs for the duration. That was ridiculous! What would they do? Get women to play baseball?

Well, the men may be away fighting and dying, but at least they’re not hanging around some soup line waiting for a hand out, he concluded.

O’Malley shook the cold off as he entered the City Building. The fat, red faced security guard at the reception window asked him who he was there to see.

“Lieutenant James O’Malley. I’m here to see the D.A.”

“Yes sir. You just take the elevator to the . . . ”

“To the fourth floor and turn left.” He finished the security guard’s sentence. “Thank you very much officer.” Riding in the elevator, he was struck by a powerful sensation of deja vu. As if it was just another pre-war work day.

In the office, he was greeted by a secretary with a man sitting on her desk.

“I’m here to see Mr. Hogan.”

“Jim!” It was Murray Gurfein, one of Hogan’s prosecutors. He hopped down off the desk and made his way over to O’Malley.

“Welcome back sailor boy. Good to see you!” Gurfein hadn’t changed. Worse yet, he still acted as if he and O’Malley were old drinking buddies, despite the fact they hardly ever worked together before. O’Malley noticed that Gurfein still wore civilian clothes.

“Come on in Jimmy boy, Captain MacFall is in with D.A. Hogan. Ah, Nancy, sweetheart, could we have some coffee?” The D.A.’s secretary didn’t even give him the courtesy of an annoyed glance. She just kept typing.

The two men moved into the inner office, and Hogan took a seat behind his desk. O’Malley and Gurfein arranged chairs next to MacFall in front of Hogan, and the pow wow began.

“So, how can we help the United States Navy?” Hogan asked.

“Jim, I haven’t told the District Attorney about your proposal yet. So why don’t you give him the Reader’s Digest version, and we’ll take it from there.”

Over the next ten minutes the chief prosecutor was made familiar with the assumed potential for saboteurs to infiltrate the New York harbor, and how the Navy proposed to deal with the problem using stoolies. O’Malley couldn’t help but notice that both times he mentioned the word sources, Gurfein and Hogan shifted positions.

When he finished, both civilian lawyers sat in silence for a moment, and Hogan finally asked.

“What exactly is it you would like us to do?”

“Well, first off tell us if you think they'll work with us. I mean, do you think they’re patriotic enough?” Asked the Lieutenant.

“I think that you’ll find that most of the hoods here, despite the fact that they’re liars, cheats, thieves and murders, are good loyal Americans.” Volunteered Gurfein.

“Mussolini not only made the trains run on time, but when he first began his rise to power, he didn’t want any competition in the country, so he kicked the Mafiosi out of Italy.”

As was usually the case, with the exception of the loyal American part, the D.A.’s office was about twenty years behind on the accuracy of its information.

What Hogan said concerning the Mafioso was true. His point however, was mute. The Mafioso no longer controlled crime in New York, or in most of the rest of the country for that matter. Although names the Black Hand, La Cosa Nostra and Mafia would last well into the twenty-first century, the organization now in control was the Unione Siciliano run by The Commission.

The third year of the Great Depression was the only profitable year for Universal Studios between 1929 & 1936, thanks to one film, “Dracula”. Coincidentally it was a profitable year for men like Buggsy Siegal and Meyer Lansky, as they began to organise crime nationwide. They were not alone. They worked under the direction of the man who would become “The Boss of Bosses”, Lucky Luciano. When Lucky finished implementing his national plan for organised crime, there were only three basic differences between the Unione and any other American corporation.

The Unione could account for all of their assets all of the time, it was crystal clear who was in charge and The Commission didn’t have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. They didn’t need one, they controlled or influenced most everyone else’s to one degree or another.

“In that case Mr. Hogan,” MacFall said, “we’d like to have some names we could approach.” Hogan immediately realised he would ultimately have no choice but to cooperate. But with a little bit of the old stall game, he might be able to manipulate the ground rules.

“Well Captain, that’s probably not the best way to go about it. Let me work on it. Give us a couple of days to go through the files, and we can get back to you.” Cooperate or not he was not about to let his territory be trampled on by anyone, least of all some Washington bureaucrat.

“Well, now that that’s settled! Welcome home Jim!” Gurfein extended his hand towards the Lieutenant. O’Malley did not reciprocate.

“The Lieutenant won’t be running our side of the show, Mr. Gurfein. I’ve selected another officer.” MacFall explained.

“Oh? Who would that be sir?”

Haffenden, Lieutenant Commander Haffenden. Lieutenant O’Malley will act as liaison between our two offices.”

“I’ll appoint a man to work with you as well Captain, and get back to you with who it is.” Hogan pitched in.

“Good enough.” MacFall stood up, signalling the meeting was over. “Lieutenant O’Malley will contact you the end of the week.”       

“Look forward to working with your men, Captain.” Hogan said.  After everyone shook hands the officers left. There was a brief interval, and Gurfein turned to Hogan.

“How do you want to handle this?”

“We’d better go slow with them. Go through the files.” Hogan thought very intently as he came around from behind his desk.

“You do it. Don’t give it to anybody else. When you go through the records, see who we’ve fingered on the docks. Let’s give them only one. And for God sakes let’s keep this under our hats, huh?”

“Right-O chief. I’ll start on it right after lunch.” Gurfein began to leave. As he had the door half way open, Hogan called to him.

“And Murray. Make sure whoever you pick out of the files has an indictment. I mean an air tight indictment. One we’re going to win no matter what. I don’t want to screw up any opportunities for convictions.”

Gurfein nodded, then as he stepped through the door hesitated. Coming back into the room, he closed the door behind him, leaned back on it and folded his arms displaying a mischievous smile. Hogan looked up from his desk.

“What?”

“What about the wire taps?” Gurfein grinned.

 After a short pause Hogan instructed. “Leave them in place. This could get interesting.”

On his way out, as he passed the secretary’s desk, Gurfein asked what had happened to the coffee. With no discernible movement whatsoever, the secretary kept typing while she issued her reply. “I forgot.”

Meanwhile, outside the D.A.’s office, in the hallway, a separate assessment of the meeting was under way as the two officers walked towards the elevators.

“Are you okay with this liaison position, Lieutenant?”

“Ah . . . yes sir.”

“You don’t sound very sure of yourself.” Enquired MacFall as both men reached the elevator. After considering his words carefully, O’Malley spoke again.

“Sir we need to tread lightly with these people.”

“Rest assured Lieutenant, we’ll only tell them what they need to know.” The elevator arrived and they boarded. They were alone. O’Malley continued.

“I don’t mean just that sir.”

“What do you mean?”

“They do business a lot different than we do, sir.” The bell rang, and as the doors opened, both men stepped into the lobby. “I know, I used to work in that office.”

“You have my ear, Jim.” MacFall listened more closely.

“Sir, Dewey, Gurfein and that crowd have built a career on the fact that they got a conviction against Lucky Luciano.”

“Well, from what I understand, he needed to be put away.”

“No doubt sir, but . . .”  O’Malley was clearly not comfortable discussing the inner workings of the D.A.’s office and their Mob-like code of silence.

“Go on.” MacFall coaxed.

“The trial evidence wasn’t as they portrayed in the papers. There were some serious procedural questions. Most of those girls testified under what they believed to be the threat of physical violence.”

“Well, gangsters are brutal people. That’s why they belong in jail.”

“I’m not talking about the Mob sir. I’m talking about the prosecutor’s office, particularly Dewey.” Both men had now moved off to one side of the lobby, out of common earshot.

“What?”

“The threat of prison, sir. They wave it around like a magic wand. Testify or go to prison. The girls were threatened with unusually long prison terms if they didn’t testify against Luciano. Some of them were even coached what to say. Section 399 of the State Criminal Code says you can’t get a conviction on one person’s testimony. Your supposed to have corroborating evidence. They had no evidence, so they got hookers and people who wanted him out of the way to testify. No one can ever say the witnesses lied. The D.A.’s office is the only one who can prosecute for purgery, so any one who said what the D.A. wanted was safe. Later half of them recanted and it wasn't all due to Mpob threats. Purgered testimony alone is what got Luciano convicted. Political ruthlessness is what got him such an unusually long sentence.”

“Well what do you know, a lawyer with ethics!” MacFall said.

“Sir, don’t get me wrong. I think all those bastards belong in jail. It’s just that I don’t consider that my brand of law. We play games like that with the rules, and we’re no better than them. Or the people we’re supposed to be fighting over in Europe for that matter.”

“So, what I’m hearing Lieutenant, is that people like Hogan and Dewey have their own agendas, and are not adverse to going outside the rules to achieve their aims?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, isn’t that just good red-blooded American politics?”

“Sir, my point is, that if push came to shove, and the potential for a scandal arose, someone in that office would see it as a stepping stone to their career, and the Navy would be the loser. Not to mention the world-wide propaganda value of the fact that the United States Navy is turning to gangsters for help!” Continued the Lieutenant.

“Having second thoughts about your own plan Jim?”

“Not at all sir. Just that after working both sides of the fence, there’s a reason why most of those guys up there are not in uniform.”

“I appreciate your candor. Your point is well taken Lieutenant. ”

“Thank you, sir.” The two officers exited the building, and through the bustling lunch hour crowd, Captain MacFall nodded to a nearby hot dog cart.

“New York tube steak?”

“Why not? I’ve been eating too healthy anyway.”


CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

Seeing the New York City waterfront for the first time is an impressive sight. It is unique in the world of waterfronts. The convoluted structure of the docks allows them to encompass all five boroughs as well as border seven cities along the New Jersey shore, just across the Hudson River. The shear vastness of these structures can only be appreciated from the air, and their true splendour is best experienced during sunrise or the change of seasons. In addition it is unlikely that any other waterfront is marred by such a long and consistent history of violence.

It is here, amid the bitter sweet aromas of hemp and creosote, nearly every King, Queen or Head of State from has arrived then embarked for some far corner of the globe. While on these same timbers someone’s father, brother, uncle or son has became an unwanted coroner’s statistic.

However, these docks are composed of more then timber decks and pitch coated pilings. There are the men and women who live and work in this city within a city. Along with these temporary caretakers of the waterfront, are the terminals and warehouses which sustain life through the blistering heat of summer and the sub-zero temperatures of winter. The long, narrow buildings are large enough to house entire populations of small countries, and it is within these structures that the majority of longshoremen, stevedores or dockworkers, depending on your cultural orientation, work out their days, sacrificing their feet, knees, backs and sometimes their lives, to make ends meet.

The typical terminal had a thirty to forty foot high ceiling mostly composed of heavy glass in order to take full advantage of the sunlight. At night the work was carried on under the blinding glare of mercury vapour lamps. The rectangular footprint of the building was divided into three parts. The shoreward end of the building, furthest from the water, was usually partitioned off for office space, while the remainder of the sparse floor area was divided through the long axis into equal halves. One side of the terminal was designated for arriving freight while the opposite side was usually designated for out going freight. In addition to this arrangement dictated by practicality, there was a special corner bin designated “OS & D”, as it was in terminal 16A.

“Hey Danny! What’s OS & D?” Asked the newest member of the Longshoremen's Union everyone called ‘Kid’.

“You got that kid broken in yet? God-damn it!” The heavy set foreman scowled as he walked by the two workers. As they stood next to a 1500 pound crate of loose M & Ms.

“Not yet, Bennie. Just showin’ him around.” Danny yelled back.

“Well get a foot under it! You ain’t bein’ paid to be a wet nurse!”     

“How come he’s alway’s yellin’?” Asked the sixteen year old dockworker. Danny answered as he continued to shift freight.

‘Cause kid, he got ulcers. And he gets a bonus if he can get us to move extra freight. And he just got some bad news this mornin’.”

“Like what?” The kid asked, not really interested, but making conversation as he helped Danny.

“Like Joey Morretti is doin’ his wife.”

“Joey Morretti from here?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit!”

“Yeah.”      

Whata ya think’s gonna happen?”  

“Don’t know. He only found out a half hour ago, and Morretti ain’t come to work yet.” Danny updated the kid while they continued to move some boxes to give the illusion of working.

“Anyways, what wuz you askin’ me?”

“What’s OS & D?”

Danny looked around the floor and located a small wooden crate with a red metal tag wired to it. He motioned the kid over and began to explain.

“Okay, ya see dis here Spanish wine?” His apprentice nodded. Danny pulled back his right leg and one of his U.S. Army issue, paratrooper boots, crashed into and through the pine crate. Rich colored amontillado spilled out through the broken glass staining the broken crate and concrete a dark red. The smell of alcohol permeated the air.

“Now.” Said Danny as he continued the lesson. “Ya see that red tag?” The kid nodded. “That means this piece of freight is insured for $10,000 or more. But one of them bottles is busted. Which means now we gotta put this in OS & D. Over, Short and Damaged. Why?”

“Because it’s damaged?” The kid responded in disbelief.

“Very good.” Gesturing to the bin, Danny said, “Gimme a hand.” And off they went with ten thousand dollars worth of cracked timber and broken glass.

“When we’re done here we gotta load a flat bed with some oil ta go over ta the fish market.”

About ten or twelve yards from the bin, Danny looked up as he heard screaming coming from the office area which was just adjacent to OS & D. The screams were punctuated by the sounds of breaking furniture and through the window the pair could see the stocky foreman had just thrown someone to the floor by way of a desk, and was viciously attempting to rip the time clock off the wall. Danny, with twelve years on the wharf, understood instantly.

“Shit! Kid drop the crate!”

“What is it?”

“Looks like Morretti came to work!”

Just then Joey’s battered body came crashing through the plate glass office window and hit the concrete floor of the dock with a sickening smack.

“No matter what happens don’t interfere!” Danny cautioned at the unexpected extension of the lesson. The kid suddenly noticed colors were a little brighter, and the harbor smelled stronger than usual.

Laying there amongst the broken shards of glass, there was surprisingly little blood. As Joey began to roll over, his supervisor broke out the remnants of the office window with a metal chair, threw it at Morretti, and stepped through the broken frame and out onto the platform. The burly foreman, completely consumed by rage, steam rising from his sweaty face in the cold morning air, looked around for another weapon.

By this time most of the workers had gathered at that end of the dock to watch the latest show. Joey, now up on all fours, blood dripping from his nose, watched as his opponent spotted a bailing hook stuck into a nearby crate, and slowly moved towards the vicious tool. Joey seemed paralyzed.

An eerie silence befell the terminal, accentuating the screaming of the gulls circling outside as they fought over a piece of meat.

Morretti don’t look so good.” One of the men behind Danny and the kid whispered. The Kid looked at Danny.

“Joey’s connected on the Jersey side.” The former paratrooper narrated without turning away from the action.

“He’s took some real beatin’s in his life. His father was on the docks during the depression when all dem blacks come down from Harlem with weapons wanting to take over the waterfront.”

“What happened?” The kid asked as Danny gave the history lesson.

“Game ended Mott Street 50, Harlem 0.” Danny answered.

Watching his own blood dripping onto the concrete floor, Joey thought about his father’s description of the bloody battle when the two factions met in Greenwich Village, and how the Blacks were beaten back in an all day battle with bailing hooks and Johnson bars. That’s why he didn’t go for the hook, even though he had seen it first. He knew better. With over a dozen witnesses, Morretti knew he was home free.

Having taken the bait the infuriated foreman, held the ten inch iron hook menacingly at his side as he walked towards his intended victim. Morretti, now up on one knee, fragments of glass imbedded in the side of his baby face, and blood flowing from his forehead, smiled as he watched the big man hesitate.

Three rounds in rapid succession fired from Morretti’s thirty-eight buried themselves in the foreman’s chest, and it was his turn to lay face down in the broken glass and blood.

The kid jumped at the report of the weapon, and instinctively started towards the ex-foreman. Danny threw out an arm and blocked him. “Forget it! You wuz in the back wit me. All you heard was some shots. Got it?” The Kid couldn't avert his stare. “Come on we got a flatbed to load.”

An hour and a half later, the last of the police squad cars drove through the terminal gate, and right behind it was a flat bed loaded with olive oil. The squad car turned south towards the Battery, but the truck headed straight cross town to Fulton Street.

The overweight truck driver finished his coffee and threw the paper cup out the window, but left the cherry cheese danish hanging from his mouth as he maneuvered his vehicle up to the loading docks, in front of the Fulton Street Fish Market. After turning off the engine, he lifted his hat to wipe the sweat from his forehead, and his dirty hair stood up, mated together from grease and dirt.

Theoretically this huge complex of bins and stalls, stocked with every species of fish imaginable, was municipally owned. However, like the adjoining retail outlets, the cannery and nearly the entire distribution network, it was controlled by one man, Joseph “Socks” Lanza.

Socks Lanza was the undisputed number one power in the American fishing industry. Period. He gained and maintained control of this empire with a very logical technique. A strangle hold on union labor. Socks simply established his own unions, extorted funds for membership, and after filing some papers with the AFL, was in business.

For example, the Sea Food Workers Union, which was only one of a handful of unions run by Socks, dominated the Fulton Street Fish Market. In classic mob fashion, he covered all the bases with a separate union for each labor force. A trick learned from the D.A.’s office, where they would file up to half a dozen charges for one alleged offence, and try to get one to stick. A charge to cover all the bases so to speak.

The market, which supplied seafood from Maine to the Carolinas and as far west as the Mississippi, was teeming with activity that Wednesday morning. Unlike the bitter sweet aromas of the wharfs across town, there was only one smell here. The smell of fish. Acrid, pungent and overwhelming. The smell of fish which engulfed and permeated everything and everybody from the workers in their blood stained aprons, to the handful of clerks and typists encased in a glass boxes which appeared to be stuck to the ceilings as they overlooked the masses of workers gutting, shifting and selling their loads sixteen hours a day.

 The unsavory truck driver waddled his way across the slippery floor, and weaved his way in and out of the numerous stalls of flounder, eel and shell fish. As he chewed his cherry cheese danish with his mouth open, he considered himself lucky that he didn’t have to work under these unhygienic conditions. Making his way to the staircase leading to the office, he ascended, and, when he reached the top, ignored the paper sign on the door telling him to wipe his feet before he entered.

The heated air of the glass encased room was a welcome relief from the bitter February chill flowing through the lower level of the open market. Stepping up to the chest high counter, the middle aged driver removed his gloves and reached into his coat pocket to remove the invoice for his delivery.

“Hello Emily!” He addressed the receptionist, who although the same age as the driver, had weathered her years behind a typewriter far better than he had his years behind a Mother-of-Pearl steering wheel. His syrupy voice held no sway with her, and she showed her affection for him openly.

“What the hell you want, fat ass?” He was undeterred.

“How was your Christmas, Emily?”

“Let me tell ya, Burt. I remember three things about my Christmas. A, it was in Hot Springs. Next, it was too short. And tree, I didn’t have ta conversate with no delivery boys!” Her last comment was in synchronized harmony with the strokes of her pen as she endorsed the document in front of her, pulled the pink copy and curtly shoved it back across to Burt.

Giggling circulated the office as Burt bid Emily a fond good-bye and wished her a happy Valentine’s Day. The receptionist didn’t answer, but instead made her way over to a door with a wooden letter box fixed to the inside of it. Through a slot in the cross piece of the door she inserted the rubber stamped, endorsed invoice. Above the slot, lettered on the frosted glass panel of the door, was the name “J. Lanza, President Amalgamated Sea Food Workers Unions”.

On the other side of the door five men sat at a dark mahogany conference table, and it was a large, jowly man who was conducting the meeting.

“So what’s the story in Queens?”

“Well Mr. Lanza, as far as we can tell, some guy named Dimitri has a coupla trucks and is deliverin’ around Astoria for twenty per cent under the rate.”

“How many trucks he got?”

Shuffling through some papers, a third man reported. “Five Boss.”

“Okay, you tree.” Pointing to the three largest of the four men, “Get over to Queens.” He spoke as he made his way around the table to his desk.

“Find this prick! Work him over, good! But don’t cripple the fuck! We still need him ta pay.” Two of the men standing in front of the desk smirked at one another. Lanza continued. “Wreck one, maybe two'a his trucks. Let him know who done this.”

“Who should we say is callin’ Mr. Lanza?”

“Tell him you’re from the Fulton Watchman’s Protective Association.”

Reaching into a bottom drawer of the desk, Lanza produced three strange looking items. Homemade devices made from empty wine bottles filled with a yellow-ish substance and corked with a primitive fuse system, they were too large to fit into a conventional pocket, but small enough to conceal inside a coat.

“Take these stink bombs. Find three of the markets he’s been deliverin’ to and pop one in each of them. This way they’ll get the picture too. That’ll be the day some God-damned Ruski son-of-a-bitch moves into New York!” As the three men filed out the door, the phone rang, but before answering it, Lanza spoke to the remaining man in the room.

“Anything else?”

“No Boss. That’s about it.” This man was smaller and better dressed than the other three. In addition he carried a double strapped satchel.

“Alright then. Make the rounds, check the numbers and get back to me this afternoon.” As the man opened the door to leave, there was one additional instruction.

“And stay the hell away from Easy Emily!” Both men smiled.

Lanza picked up the phone. “Hello . . . yeah speakin’.”

“Joseph K. Guerin’s office, please hold for Mr. Guerin.” A look of surprise registered on Lanza’s face when he heard his lawyer’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Lanza?”

“Yeah! What’s up Guerin? I thought we didn’t need to meet til Monday.”

“Something's come up. The D.A. wants to talk.”

“Talk about what!? If that prick wants to talk, tell him ta come here.”

“He wants a meet.” The lawyer tried to maintain his patience.

“What the hell for? What does he want to cut a deal?” Lanza became slightly more enthusiastic about talking to the D.A.

“No! No deal!” The difficulty in maintaining his patience was that Guerin knew, although he had not told his client this, that Lanza had two chances of beating his current indictment. Slim and none, and Slim had just left town. Lawyers don’t like to lose cases, regardless of the guilt or innocence of their clients. Of course, the Mob paid as well as any corporate entity, better than most, so he would stick with the case as long as possible.

“No deal? Then fuck him!”

“Joey! I think you should meet him. It’s important!”

There was a momentary pause on the mobster’s end of the line. Finally he spoke.

“This better not be a set up! And it better be important, god-damn it!”

“It is important, and it isn’t a set up!”

Awright then. What’s the plan?”  

“You tell me what time you want to go up to the courthouse, and I’ll meet you.”

Whatta you kiddin’ me or what? I go waltzin’ up to the courthouse in the middle of the day and every punk from the Bronx ta Hoboken is gonna think I’m cuttin’ a deal, and that fuckin’ D. A.’ll, do everything he can ta get the word out that I am.”

“Lanza! It’s not a trick, trust me!”

“Trust you?! What? You stopped bein’ a lawyer yesterday?”

“Very funny, prick! When and where?”

Guerin had no stake in whether or not Lanza met with the D.A. He was not being paid by anyone for this, and it was not going to affect the outcome of Socks’ trial.

“Tell him you’ll call him. Tonight, at eight.” Lanza had already worked out all the details in his mind in the last few seconds of conversation.

“When will you call me?”

“Tonight, at seven-fifty nine. I gotta go!”     

“What’s the rush?”

“The sea food workers and some retailers are havin’ a dispute. I called a meeting to straightin’ it out.”

Straightin’ it out?! You own the unions and the retailers!”

“Yeah, they're like little kids, always fightin'. Time for Daddy to have a talk. After all, the only thing that matters is the bottom line, right?” Joey checkmated the lawyer.

“Call me!”

“Guerin, one more thing!”

“What?”

“Ask the DA if he knows who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Socks asked laughingly.

“What?”

Lanza hung up, pleased with his forthcoming plan.

Now Read Part Three - Click Here

Operation Underworld by Paddy Kelly

About TheBook

February, 1942. Free China is lost, the Battle of Britain has been fought and Hitler dines in Paris. World War II is nearly three years old, however the United States resists involvement. With an invitation from the Imperial Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor everything changes. In her first ten months of the war nearly 500 American ships are lost. The retooling of Her factories is estimated to take at least a year, and even before it is completed, the men who work in those factories must become Marines, sailors and soldiers. The U.S. Navy is behind the eight ball, big time. They need help. To compound their problems, the most famous luxury liner in the world, T. L. S. Normandie, has just been set alight and burned to the water-line in New York Harbor initiating wide spread hysteria in fear of German saboteurs. All originating from a misguided sense of desperation, and a well planned feign. Meanwhile, “The Boss of Bosses”, Lucky Luciano at age 45, is serving a thirty to fifty year sentence in a maximum security prison in upstate New York. In one of the most ironic decisions of the war, the Federal Government requests the founder of organized crime, Lucky Luciano, to join forces with America’s most secret service, Naval Intelligence. Luciano, has been sentenced to life in prison for a crime that warrants ten years, and is concurrently fighting deportation to an enemy nation where he will certainly be put to death, when he is asked to help the government who condemned him. In addition, he is told he must remain in prison with no chance for compensation or parole. Mike ’Doc’ McKeowen, a New York P. I., leads us through the story. Doc just wants to get his life back on track after his business partner ran off with all the top clients, and a long and painful divorce drained him of his house, his family and his dignity. Fate may have a plan for Doc, but he can’t figure out what the hell it is. Whether you believe the link between the Federal Government and organized crime is a slender thread, or as Mario Puzo wrote, ’. . . contemporary America, where law and organized crime are one and the same.’, you will learn how the foundation of the international drug cartel was laid. You will come to appreciate the saying, ‘Due Facce della stessa Medaliglia’. Crime and politics, two sides of the same coin. Titanic was an act of carelessness. Lusitania was an act of war. Normandie was an act of genius. Reviews and more information here: CLICK FOR INFO

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Normandie Capsized
Normandie Poster

Lower Manhattan
Normandie Pier 88

City Hall
Normandie Burning

Operation Underworld
(Paddy Kelly)

The serialised version of this outstanding novel

Part Two

Missed Part One - Click Here


Operation Underworld

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

Pan Am flight forty-seven from Tampa was about twenty minutes outside New York. The trip had taken nearly seven hours and the suits in the corporate office would be very pleased. There were no empty seats on the maiden flight of the new wider body DC-3 and the 257% desired profit margin would be achieved.

With two seats on either side of the aisle, it was the first sleeper transport, and boasted an in-flight bar service as well as in-flight meals. Something no other airline offered. No more lugging picnic baskets on the flight with you.

Mrs. Kaminski was grateful for the new state of the art, double paned, safety glass windows Pan Am had installed specifically for the enhancement of her travel pleasure and as the slender, dark haired beauty sat gazing out her window, mesmerized by the heavenly scenery, her excitement mounted when the New York skyline came into view. In her excitement she did exactly what the man sitting next to her hoped she wouldn't do. She struck up a conversation. As she spoke, she continued to marvel at how a single, dark, low cloud which seemed to emanate from the waterfront, hovered over lower Manhattan.

“I yust love to fly! Don jew?” The young women spoke with a heavy Cuban accent, but was very proud of her command of the English language.

“Excuse me?” Came the terse response. Her soft, perfectly tanned facial skin beamed with a broad smile. This time the young woman spoke slowly and distinctly.

“I say, I-yust-love-to-fly! Don-jew?”

“Ah, yeah. Can’t think of nuthin’ else I’d rather be doin’ lady.” The man dressed in the brown, leather bomber jacket and baseball cap answered, facing straight forward, hardly acknowledging her presence.

“Dew-jew-no-speak-inglesh?”

“Yeah, yeah lady, I speak English. Don jew?!” He replied sarcastically. The aircraft jolted for a second time with turbulence as it entered the warm airspace over the city. The stranger clung more tightly to his seat, and tried not to look scared.

“Oh, I see! Jew have afraid! Dats okay jew have afraid!” The young woman sat casually, seat belt undone and legs crossed over. She made no attempt to ignore his white knuckles, welded to the armrests of his seat.

“I’m not afraid!” The man became conscious of his loud speech and lowered his tone. “I just don’t like the air bumps!” He exclaimed as he slowly released his death grip on the seat handles.

“Air bimps?”

“Jess! De air bimps!” He replied with increased sarcasm, no longer making any attempt to conceal his irritation at the women’s intrusion on his misery.

“Oh! Jew meen disturbulance!”

“What?”

Disturbulance!” The women turned her body to face him and began to demonstrate with broad sweeping gesticulations. “Iz when atmoosferic disturbulance comes from cold air mass and warm air mass crash together and make unstable, dense air mass. So jew have disturbulance! No air bimp!” He stared, open mouthed.

“Who the hell are you lady, Charles A. Lindbergh?”

“No! Jew silly boy! Lindbergh, he a man! I Martina, Martina Kaminski. Are jew in dee Army?” After a brief hesitation, the man relented.          

“Doc. Doc McKeowen.” He gave a cursory nod. “No. 4-F, perforated ear drum. Not supposed to fly.”

“Oh! Jew are a Doktor? How nice?” Her sweet, coy voice dripped through her broad smile and all over the seats and she slowly to snuggled up to him. Doc moved over in his seat to maintain the distance.

“No lady I’m not a Doctor. I’m a private investigator.” ­She pulled back from him with a noticeable change in attitude.

“Jew a cop! Jew dun look like no cop!” She said suspiciously.

“I’m not a cop. I’m a P. I..” She looked at him quizzically. “Private Investigator." He caught site of her over-sized hand bag on the floor. "You know like when a guy thinks maybe his wife is cheating on him, say with a younger guy or something." He slid a little closer and propped himself up on the arm rest. "Like maybe she came back from a vacation say . . . in Havana, and she’s very pretty, and her husband is a little older, and they haven’t been married that long." He leaned into her.  "And he’s worried that she might go puttin’ the make on every guy she meets because maybe, just maybe she married this guy to get her citizenship. You know, stuff like that.”

The young girl was now sitting with both legs pulled up to her chest, feet on the seat with an extreme look of worry on her face. Doc noticed her concern had turned to fear, and felt a short tinge of remorse. He smiled and sat back to allay her fears.

“Look lady, I’m sorry. Really, I didn’t mean anything by it.” She did not respond, but continued to glare at Doc.

“Honest! Lady I’m sorry.”

“How jew know dees dings?! My husband, he send jew?!”

“Look, Mrs. Kaminski . . . Martina. Your first name is Hispanic, I can see your passport in your hand bag, it’s American.” Doc pointed to the small black carry-on, poking out from under the seat in front of Martina. She allowed her eyes to briefly dart to her bag and then back again. “If you were coming from Florida you wouldn't need your passport. And you’re wedding ring is brand new. Plus I doubt I would find too many Kaminskis in the Havana phone book”. The women began to relax a little. Doc wanted to stay her fears a little more.

“How did you know about that warm air mass and cold air mass stuff? That’s pretty interesting.” Martina was still trying to make up her mind who he was, and so remained in the fetal position on her seat. Without turning away from Doc she reached into the seat back in front of her and removed a trifold brochure. Like a dagger from a scabbard she pulled it and thrust it at Doc.

“I read about the disturbulance in dees!” Taking it from her, Doc glanced at the latest issue of Captain Carl’s Tips, an informational brochure published by the airline.

“They many good dings in dare. Maybe some day jew read. Den jew don be so scared and den jew don drink so much.” Mrs, Kaminski explained to her involuntary travel partner, nodding at the seven or eight empty drink glasses stuffed in the seat back, in front of McKeowen.

“Tell ya what lady, my mother dies you got the job!” As he spoke he jammed the pamphlet back into the seat packet. She was slapped by his irritation but didn't want any more tension between them.

“I sorry! I Dun mean to criticalize jew! My father? He used to drink also. All dee time!” Doc smiled and nodded, reminiscing about happier times when the woman was being quietly entertained by the clouds.

“All dee time, he drink, drink, drink, drink, drink.” She was again very animated in her behavior. Doc wished he had a drink.

“Are you anything like your mother?”

“Why jes! Sometimes people dink dat we are seesters. Why do jew ask?”

“Just wonderin’ why your father drank.” Doc was back in form.

“I dun know?” Martina seriously contemplated the question.

After the plane taxied to the appropriate tarmac, McKeowen reached under his seat and produced a small, navy blue gym bag. The initials 'Y.M.C.A.' were stenciled across one side of it and it was easy to see there wasn’t much in it.

 Doc always travelled light for two reasons. He hated carting luggage around and, he didn’t own any. He didn’t need it. The fact was that he had never been out of New York State before. Except to New Jersey, and what the hell, that didn’t really count now, did it?

Standing around the base of the roll up stairs, out on the tarmac, were several skycaps in their mandatory dark blue uniforms. The sky blue Pan Am logo on the breast pocket and brim of the cap showed they had paid their mandatory fees to work for free. These men, all of them black, made their livings solely on tips. One of them approached Doc with an oversized metal cart, and asked if he needed a grip. Doc looked at the enormity of the cart, then to his diminutive bag, shrugged and said, “Why not?”

Doc passed him the bag on which he placed the cart, tilted it back and they headed across the tarmac towards the terminal.

“Mr. MacCuuen! Mr. MacCuuen!” Doc turned to see Mrs. Kaminski running after him, her black, slide on heels clopping on the asphalt while struggling to keep her overstuffed black bag on her shoulder.

“Go on. I’ll catch up.” Doc instructed the cap. “Mrs. Kaminski. What a pleasure to see you again.” She came alongside and dropped anchor then removed her oversized sun-glasses before she spoke.

“How do jew know my husbent he’s older?” Doc sighed.

“I figure there’s plenty of young guys in Cuba, but no money, so you come here where there’s money. But not many guys your age have that much money. If they do they’re probably connected, in which case you probably wouldn’t be screwing around.”

She didn’t know whether to be pissed off, indignant or just clop away.

Anyding else, whiseguy?”

“Yeah. If my wife had a body like that she wouldn’t have time to go to Cuba.” Her anger began to leak away.

“Are all jew Irish so smart?”

“I’m not Irish. I’m Scottish.”

Outside the terminal, taxis snaked in a never ending line along the curbside. A black Checkered pulled up immediately and the operator hopped out. While the driver went around to open the trunk for his passenger’s luggage, Doc tipped the cap.

“What happen Mac? Bastards lose your luggage?” Asked the cabby, eyeing the cart.

“Yeah, second time this month.” Doc answered as he threw the gym bag into the trunk and got into the cab.

“Where to?”

“1929 Christopher Street. Don’t wake me till we get there, and don’t go by way of Brooklyn Bridge.” Doc instructed.

Nearly an hour later the taxi pulled up out side Harry’s Front Page News. Doc got out and, with the last of the bills and change in his pocket, paid the driver.

Despite the early hour of half past five, the dark of winter had set in. Traffic was flowing freely now in The Village, and the evening chill could no longer be ignored.

Harry’s Front Page, everyone called it “The News Stand”, occupied the entire ground level of 1929 Christopher Street. The corner entrance and small display window were capped by a hand lettered, green enamel sign which hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint since Lindy had seen Paris.

Packed with black wire, twirly racks, stacked with post cards that never sold, (come to think of it, nothing ever really sold except news papers and an occasional stale candy bar), you’d be hard pressed to squeeze four people in there at any one time. That included Harry.

Harry’s claim to fame was the time Mel Blanc came into his candy store and said it was so small you had to go outside to change your mind. Harry was a Bugs Bunny fan forever after.

Harry's life had long ago settled into sitting on a high backed stool all day, framed by racks of candy bars and potato chips, and was rarely seen to venture out from behind the counter. An unseen radio constantly played in the background and he read all day long. To his credit, he read only the classics. Captain Marvel, The Shadow and The Phantom. These were by far the best, for it was common sense that they were the most realistic. Every time Superman or Batman got in a fix, they would come up with some wild gizzmo they just happened to have nearby or hanging on a belt and escape certain death. Ridiculous. Who ever heard of yellow kryptonite anyway?

Harry lost a leg in the last war, and in between warm sodas and cold coffees the old man would give Doc tips on horse racing, despite the fact Doc had never been to the track a day in his life.

Doc respected Harry because he was one of those old people who could tell you what he had for breakfast on any given day, six months ago, and he seldom ate the same thing every day. This made Harry the perfect lobby watch-dog.

The ground floor of the five story building was never intended as any sort of a shop, so when the owners remodelled it, just before World War I, access to the upper floors had to be rerouted. The ground floor conversion was an attempt to keep up with the flood of businesses which swept the Greenwich Village neighborhoods just before the war broke out. Doc walked in through the glass door which opened into Harry’s.

“Doc!  Where the hell you been for a week?”

“Vacation Harry. I figure I earned it. Anybody hangin’ around I should know about?”

“Not a bad guy in sight Doc.”

Gimme a late edition, will ya.”

Didja hear the news? The Krauts sent a sub into the harbor! Sunk some big boat!”

“You sober?”

“Honest ta Christ Doc! They did!”

Doc took the half folded news paper and tucked it under his arm while he headed for the door to the upstairs offices.

“Thanks Harry. See ya later.”

“I’m tellinya Doc, this war ain’t like the last one. We could lose!”

“We ain’t gonna lose Harry. We’re the good guys. Hell, Lamont Cranston lives here!” Doc called over his shoulder, passing through the single door to Harry’s left.

The sixty year old structure was immaculately cleaned and maintained but the elevator seemed perpetually out of order so visitors and residents had to climb the ornate metal staircase to reach their destinations.

At the third floor Doc turned left down the hall towards his office. He took the paper from under his arm and, just as he began to open it, a voice called out.

“Hey Doc!” The voice startled him and he jumped as he looked to the right of the corridor a smile slowly crept over his face.

“Hey Redbone!” Tucking the paper back under his arm, he continued walking towards his office. The elderly black man, bent on one knee was repairing a lock, and as he passed by, Doc patted him on the shoulder. Redbone spoke in a slightly diluted Cajun’ accent.

“Sorry if I startled you, man. Just surprised to see ya.” Redbone said, reaching into his tool box.

Doc noticed the mop and bucket propped against the wall on the man’s left.

“Still on double duty, eh Redbone?”

Goin’ on six months now. But I don’t mind. Keeps me busy since Saddie went to sleep.” Doc smiled and nodded in acknowledgement of Redbone’s stoicism. He continued down the hall and stopped in front of a door on the left.

“Hey Redbone!”

“Yeah Doc?” Doc was staring at the glass pane on the office door as he unlocked it.

“You get time, take this damn name off the door, will ya? It’s stinkin’ up the joint.”

“Sure Doc. First thing tomorrow.”

 McKeowen unlocked the door and went in, thought for a moment, stuck his head back out, and called down the hall.

“Redbone, there’s probably gonna be a baptism tonight, so if you hear anything it’s okay.”

“Don’t be goindoinnuthin’ stupid Doc!”

The door shut and the glass panel was back lit when Doc turned on the office light inside.

'Sammon and McKeowen. Private Investigations Agency. We Peep While Others Sleep' was the only office occupied at this late hour.

The unremarkable office was only about 400 sq ft, and was partitioned to the right as you walked in the door. The partition was wood halfway up then iced glass and stood just over six foot tall. There were a pair of opaque, deco globes suspended by chain from the ceiling around the lights. An army cot, half sized ice box and hot plate on the other side were home. They wee semi-stashed out of sight. Just in case a client accidentally showed up.

Doc peered into the letter box screwed to the back of the door, but didn’t bother to remove the three or four envelopes it contained. He locked the door, dropped his bag and moved over to his desk, in the corner of the room and, exhausted, removed his coat and flopped into his chair. Staring into space he suddenly jumped up and violently kicked the chair knocking it to the floor. He stared at it for awhile to make sure it was it wasn't breathing then sighed and reached into his jacket pocket and produced an airline ticket stub. Staring at it, he shook his head.  

“Chump!” He mumbled tearing the useless document into small pieces and threw them in the air.

Standing still for another moment, he righted the overturned chair. He decided he didn't feel any better and so he went over to the sink and washed his face longer than necessary, and as he dried himself the reason for his inability to focus dawned on him. He was fighting something that he had never felt before.

After all the physical and emotional strain encountered with thirteen years on the job, and seven years of marriage, something was different. Something made him feel like nothing mattered any more. It was depression. Doc was smothered by it.

Throwing the towel in the basket under the sink, he walked back over to his desk and opened a wall cabinet behind him marked “Classified Files”. He withdrew a rocks glass and a bottle of Irish Whiskey. Pouring a full measure into the glass, he adjusted the chair and sat down.

Glancing around the room, which he realized contained the sum total of his life, he sank deeper into his depression. He saw the steel simplicity with which he used to approach life methodically eroding away and became lost in the resulting mist of confusion called apathy.

His lifted his drink and his eyes drifted off to the right settling on a picture of a middle aged man in a policeman’s uniform sitting on a shelf next to some shooting trophies. The policeman’s photo had a black ribbon tied around the upper left hand corner of the frame. A gold N.Y.P.D. badge was mounted on a dark wooden plaque, and stood next to the photo. Doc stared at the picture and after a minute smiled.

“Alright! You were right. I should’a stayed on the force.” He threw back his shot. “But ya gotta admit, it ain’t nuthin’ like the god-damn movies!”

Reaching underneath the desk and into a specially constructed compartment under the drawer, Doc removed a snub nosed .38 and a .45 Colt. After a functions check on both weapons he loaded them and placed them in separate desk drawers.

 He sat forward, leaned on the desk and slowly let his gaze drift until it fell on a picture of a woman, sitting on the shelf below the policeman’s. She was a semi-attractive brunette, late twenties and wore some sort of graduation gown. The hand written inscription read, “To Hubby, Love Forever, Mary.”

Doc downed his second drink and shook his head in the direction of the photo. He leaned back, put his feet up and turned off the desk lamp, leaving himself and the room bathed in the alternating shadows of Jimmy O'Sullivan's neon sign.

Like in those god-damned movies.

 


CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

The syncopated rhythm of the Smith-Corona keys reminded Shirley of the Morse code radio messages she heard in an Alan Ladd war movie last week. Alan Ladd! Now there’s a man! The engaging, eccentric black girl indulged her fantasies as she trudged through her work day. With instinctual dexterity, her well manicured fingers floated in mid air, coercing the keys to perform.

Perhaps without the weight of a wedding ring to encumber the fingers, they moved faster, Shirley mused. Although attractive by any standard, she was, by her own reckoning, an old maid at twenty-six.     

“Ouch! God-damn it!” Shirley cried out, quickly putting her index finger to her mouth.

“What’s wrong?” It was Nikki Cole, the receptionist stationed with Shirley at the oversized reception desk.

“I busted a freakin’ nail!”

“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“Maybe, I got potty mouth, but there are worse problems to have!”    

“Like what?” Nikki challenged.

“Like gettin’ the hiccups when you’re horny!” Shirley giggled.

“I told you that in confidence, damn it!”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell nobody. Besides, I kinda think it’s cute.” Shirley smirked as she turned back to her typewriter. “This way he always knows when you’re ready.”

 Nikki reached under the desk and produced a large pickle jar, nearly filled with nickles, and held it out to her workmate.

“About another week and we can have lunch at Grauman's.” Nikki commented as the five cent piece Shirley retrieved from her purse clinked into the jar.

Grauman's Chinese Theater? That’s in Hollywood!”

“I know.” The sounds of laughter echoed through the empty, marble plated lobby.

The curved, Deco reception desk was surrounded by a chest high counter, covered in Carrera marble. It was a large, “D” shaped island, floating in the center of a lobby set back from the elevators which appeared much too expansive for the two slender women it housed.

The dual elevators, a few scattered ashtrays and the reception desk gave the distinct impression they were put into the lobby as an after thought. There was no indication whatever that this was a headquarters for the intelligence service of the U.S. Navy.

Although no sentries were visible, a tap on one of the buzzers installed underneath the desktop where the girls were working, would summon Marine guards to assist any unwanted intruders.

As the conservatively dressed Nikki offered her help to Shirley, the switchboard buzzed. Donning the cumbersome headset the attractive auburn haired, blue-eyed twenty-something answered the incoming line.

“Good morning, Third Naval District, may I help you?” Nikki Cole and her switchboard, nick named Cary, were the primary means of communication for number 90 Church Street and the outside world.

“That would be Captain MacFall’s office sir. Just one second and I’ll connect you. Thank you Major, your voice sounds lovely in the morning too.” Rolling her eyes towards Shirley, Nikki connected the cloth covered cable to one of the dozens of brass plugs sprawled before her.

 

 

Upstairs, at the other end of the line, lay a new desk top model, black rotary Bell telephone. These latest models were much more of a pleasure to use than the old ‘licorice stick’ phones which were awkward, difficult to dial and required both hands to manipulate.

In stark contrast to the desolation of the lobby, the large, upstairs office sprawled out to cover the entire floor, and was a cacophony of typewriters and telephones. Unabated activity was in full swing despite the fact the work day was only fifteen minutes old.

“Good morning, Captain MacFall’s office, may I help you?”

“I’m sorry Major, but the Captain is in a meeting. May I take your number sir? Uh huh . . . yes sir, I have it.” There was a pause as the secretary smirked into the phone. “And your voice sounds like Ethyl Mermon after a half pint of bath tub gin. Good-bye, Major.”

Behind the secretary’s desk stood a wooden frame door with an opaque glass panel. Lettering on the glass stated that it was the office of the Branch Chief of Naval Intelligence, Captain Roscoe C. MacFall which explained why the door was closed for the better part of the day and, more often then not, locked.

 A pair of thick fingers separated two leafs of the metal Venetian blinds allowing a pair of steel-grey eyes to peer out across the sprawling office.

Like a headmaster staring at an oversized classroom, he observed the impressive collection of pre-war FBI agents, detectives, District as well as Federal Attorneys and Treasury Department operators at work in the office before him. Still facing the glass, Captain MacFall began to speak.         

“Two months into the war and we’re losing 100 ships a month. We won't be up to full production capacity for six to eight months. And now a raving lunatic who is too stupid to get into art school has got saboteurs in our back yard!" He made his way back to the head of the conference table and flopped into his high backed chair. "Hell, I thought it was bad when Dewey lost!” MacFall's bad mood was interrupted by one of the men dressed in civilian attire sitting near the other end of the table.

“Sir, we don’t know it was sabotage. The official investigation doesn’t even start until today.”

“You want to proceed on the premise that it wasn’t and wait for them to hit us again?” The Captain responded to no one in particular.

The agent had only stated what most of the half dozen operatives in the small conference room were thinking. Which didn’t make it any easier when the C.O. pointed out the obvious to him. MacFall now stood facing the men in the sparsely furnished office. An awkward silence filled the room.

       Gathered in this conference room were some of the most powerful military men in the country with, what they believed to be, the most powerful government in the world backing them. They were unaccustomed to defeat. However, now it appeared that not only had the enemy won the war in Europe and were winning the fight in the Atlantic, but he was knocking on America’s front door.

The primary goal of the intelligence group, which up until this meeting was the security of the Atlantic convoys, had now been shifted to security of the New York harbor, and it was to this end that MacFall sought ideas and suggestions. The Tuesday morning meeting continued.

“Sir!” It was Lieutenant James O’Malley. “Seems to me what we really need is inside information about what’s really going on, down on the waterfront I mean.”

“Thank you for your blinding insight Lieutenant.” The Captain rarely employed sarcasm, but he was genuinely in the dark and didn't like it.

“D.C. has tripled our allocations, broadened our legal powers beyond our wildest dreams and we’ve even stooped to hiring girls.” The tension was broken and laughter circulated the room when the lone female agent present smiled at MacFall and slowly gave him the finger. Just then the door opened, and a burly, late middle-aged man made his way to a seat.

“Has anyone considered the idea of using . . . uh . . . snitches?” O’Malley continued.

“Glad you could join us Agent Johnson.” MacFall was in no mode for lack of punctuality.

“Late at the range.” Johnson grunted back as he perused the room. “What’s all this about snitches?”

“Don’t tell us. Another 300.” The civilian agent seated next to Johnson quipped.

“Maybe I shot a 299.”

“Maybe I’m doin’ Veronica Lake.”

“We’re battin’ around ideas to upgrade intell on the docks.” MacFall interrupted.       

“So somebody suggests stoolies? Who’s the FNG?” Treasury Agent Johnson often regarded himself as the only one in the room with any level of expertise.

The OIC attempted to answer.

“It was . . .”

“I’m the FNG.” O'Malley shot back.

“You think for a New York City second the Pentagon’s gonna give you money to pay snitches?”

“We used paid informants all the time at the D.A.’s office.”

Looking around the office Johnson continued on his vein of antagonism. “Will all the D.A.’s please raise their hands?” Noting the lack of response he added, “Gee kid, I don’t see no hands. How 'bout that!"

       “I realise you’re a lawyer Lieutenant O’Malley but . . . sounds a bit thin.” MacFall prompted.

“You don’t pay them in cash, sir. You barter with them. Sort of like using military script in a theatre of war.”

“The United States Treasury is not about to print anything that can be counterfeited. You can take that to the bank.” The agent sought to quash the idea.

“You’re missing the point. You don’t actually have to give them anything. Just tell them you’re going to give them something. Or better yet, just make them think you’re going to give them something!”

“Like what?”

“Like . . . you’ll get the local cops off their back for awhile. Or like, you want to know who the dirty cops are so you can get them off the take and save the crooks money. You just gotta use your imagination.” O’Malley was a lawyer and made a persuasive argument. With her heavy South Boston dialect the lone female agent joined the fray.

“I say hear him out.”

“You would.” Johnson shot back. After an exaggerated glance around the room the woman smiled.

“Somebody fart?” She loudly asked.

“Fuck off!”

“Snappy come-back J. J.! Wonder why you’re always striking out with the girls?” Johnson glared at her.

“People!” It was MacFall once again trying to keep the train on the tracks. “Carry on Lieutenant.”

“Sir, most of us still have a lot of our old contacts. If we could somehow organize and enhance that information, we could pool it and draw up a plan of action. Theoretically we could develop one helluva network.”

“Theoretically!” Now it was one of the civilians joining in. “I was on D.A. Hogan’s staff and I don’t know about this stoolie idea. I can tell you from experience that the Mob has no sense of humor about song birds. And the Mob controls the waterfront. Period! Nobody was allowed to even think that at the D.A.’s office, but that don’t change the facts. Nothing goes on down there without their say so or them knowing about it.” Johnson saw his chance to euthanize the idea.

“Gentlemen! You too Betsy Ross. Do we honestly believe that stoolies, the most untrustworthy of criminals, the scum of the scum, are about to risk gettin’ their heads ventilated just to help the people who are being paid to put them away? It’s a stupid idea!”

“Hell! They could be bumpin’ off Germans and dumpin’ their bodies in the East River right now and we’d be none the wiser!”

“Yeah! can you see some poor dumb Kraut bastard caught down on the West Side Drive by a couple of union guys?!” The civilian agent mocked a German accent as he held his hands in the air, in mock surrender. “Nine, nine. I am nut a polleece man! I am only a shpie!” There was a ripple of laughter.

“As that may be our dream scenario, gentleman, we can’t bank on it. I would also remind you that our infiltrators are not necessarily German. They may just as well be Italian Facists or Spanish Anarchists.” MacFall interjected the sobering thought to the assembled group and everyone was involuntarily reminded that the overwhelming majority of the people they would have to deal with on the waterfront, would be Italians or Sicilians.

“Stupid is a little strong, don’t you think, Mr. Johnson?” O’Malley was careful not to use Johnson’s title. O’Malley folded his hands on the table, in front of him and looked across at the bureaucratic treasury agent.

It took a couple of beats to soak through to the rubber stamp oriented agent, but he eventually came to the realization that he was being challenged. The older man continued the volley.

“Sorry I hurt your feelin’s Junior. But we have a serious situation here. We have a lot of things to do and no time to do them! This is no time to be grasping at straws!” Although the row had essentially been reduced to the two men, civilian against military, everyone else paid close attention to where it was going.

MacFall sat in his chair at the head of the table and observed with more attention then the others exactly how O’Malley defended his argument.

“Has it been tried?”

“As a matter of fact, yes it has! And as soon as it was sent up for approval, it came right back down again. Disapproved!”

“On what grounds?” The Lieutenant knew he was loosing ground but refused to yield.

“On the grounds it was stupid! Worse yet, politically risky!”

“With all due respect to the Treasury Department, your people aren’t exactly trained for wartime counter-intel.”

“If you have a better suggestion, I’m willing to listen.” Offered the Lt. The fat balding man lost what little composure he had left.

“You know what Sonny? I’ve been in government service since before the last war! Since before you were born, god-damn it! I made my bones on the Palmer raids fer fuck’s sake! And, besides having no respect, you haven't got the faintest idea what the hell ballpark you’re playin' in!!”

“At the very least we could kick it around and see if anything comes out of it. Wouldn’t you agree, sir?” O’Malley’s calm demeanor kept pace with Johnson’s growing anger.

The pent up tension of the room became even more restrictive, and some of the men were embarrassed that their weekly meetings had come to heated exchanges. Everyone remained silent. Johnson felt he had no choice. The federal employee slammed his briefing folder shut, stuffed it into his bag and headed for the door.

“Sir, I have a full agenda, and no time for childish ideas. I’ll read a copy of the mimeo on the rest of the meeting. Good day gentlemen.” Johnson made a grandstand exit.

O’Malley remained sitting with his hands folded in front of him on the conference table. A second civilian, sitting at the far end of the table, broke the silence.

“Sir, I know Frank Hogan’s office as well as anyone. I don’t know that they’re going to be in a big hurry to reveal their mob sources. Stoolies are their primary source of success in the court-room. That’s how Dewey got to Dutch Schultz and it's the only way he could nail Luciano.”

“Jim, do you think the prosecutors office will work with us?” MacFall had already come to the conclusion that it was worth a shot.

“Sir, they are very protective of their sources of information. It gives them tremendous leeway in the court room. But, given how critical our situation is . . .”

O’Malley left his sentence hanging as he realized the direction it was taking.

“Very well. Are there any other suggestions gentlemen? Lady?” MacFall asked as the meeting pressed on.

“Yes sir.” It was the Commander. “I’ve drawn up a plan, along with a rotating schedule for a surveillance operation I’d like you to look at sir.”

“What is it?” Asked the Captain as he was handed the folder containing the details of the proposed operation.

“It’s a plan to place agents on some of the strategically located skyscrapers overlooking the waterfront. They’ll be issued binos and a hand radio, and pull six hour shifts. They can watch for any suspicious activity and radio it in.”

“What happens at night when it’s to dark to see, Commander?” Asked MacFall as he flipped through the plan outline.

Uhh . . . they . . . pack up and go home, sir.” Came the resigned answer. Nobody laughed.

“Sounds like a good stop gap measure Commander.” He handed back the folder. “See that it’s put into action.”

“Yes sir.”

“Anything else?”

The agents sensed the end of the meeting was at hand, and began to pack up. The Captain called one last time for input and then reminded various members of the group of different details requiring attention, before adjourning.

“Tomorrow, zero seven, sharp. O’Malley, need to talk to you.” As the men filed through the door, MacFall came up behind O’Malley, who was last in line, and spoke to him. “Lieutenant I’m heading across town, walk with me to the elevators. I want talk to you.”

The puzzled young officer complied, and when the duo were clear of the office and out of earshot of the secretaries, O’Malley spoke first.

“Sir I apologise. I know I was out of line, but that dumpy bastard really gets my goat with his bureaucratic attitude. I don't mean to ruffle feathers it's just . . . ” He was cut off in mid sentence as the C.O. raised his hand displaying the same smile he wore a half an hour ago.

“I’m glad you ruffled his feathers, Jim. Johnson doesn’t make much of a contribution, but we’re stuck with him until he retires next January. Just don’t make it a habit.”

“Thank you sir, I won’t.”

“Anyway, that’s not why we’re talking.”

“What is it sir?”

“If we’re going to do this thing, we need to approach Hogan’s office in the right light. At all costs they must not know how grave the situation is. Someone from here will have to contact someone from there. We’ll have to do it fairly soon, and I’d like that someone to be you.”

O’Malley was surprised that Captain MacFall had made these decisions so soon. He was also pleased and surprised at having been asked to make first contact.

“Thank you sir. I really feel there’s potential here. If we can tap into the information pool already in place . . . ” Once again he was cut off.

“Save it for the Admiral, Lieutenant. He’ll need the convincing, not me. He’s the one that’s going to have to sell it to Washington.”

“Yes sir.” The elevator arrived, and MacFall got on.

“Meet me at Hogan’s office at 1100 hours. You’ll lias with Murray Gurfein.” After the doors closed Lieutenant O’Malley hung his head and rubbed his eyes mumbling to himself.

Gurfein! Great! A lounge singer sired by a used car salesman! Only not as sincere.”

 

***

 

The elevator doors opened into the lobby and, as he crossed the hall behind the reception desk, Lieutenant O’Malley checked his watch. 10:35 a.m. It’s only a fifteen minute walk to the D.A.'s office, he thought to himself. Save cab fare as well.

“Good-bye Lieutenant O’Malley.” The echo of a female voice filled the lobby. O’Malley turned his head as he made his way to the exit.

“Good-bye Shirley.” He waved and gave a cursory smile, putting on his gloves.

“You’re incorrigible!” Nikki said to Shirley.

“If that means I think he’s cute, you’re right. I’m . . . what you said!”

Exiting through the brass plated, double doors, O’Malley was temporarily overwhelmed by the bright winter sun. The noise of the traffic combined with the cool air to remind him of how much time he spent cooped up in an office.

Walking through the streets of the city, he was distracted by the faces of the passers-by. He could not help but notice for the first time since America had entered the war a few short weeks ago, that there were no real changes in the expressions on the faces of the people as compared to before the war. Not like the film footage coming back from Europe. Those were people who had not only seen the face of war, but lived through it. There was one similarity though. The shortage of working-aged men. Fortunately in America it wasn't due to casualty rates or slave labor camps. But things were already getting tight. There was even talk about suspending the major league ball clubs for the duration. That was ridiculous! What would they do? Get women to play baseball?

Well, the men may be away fighting and dying, but at least they’re not hanging around some soup line waiting for a hand out, he concluded.

O’Malley shook the cold off as he entered the City Building. The fat, red faced security guard at the reception window asked him who he was there to see.

“Lieutenant James O’Malley. I’m here to see the D.A.”

“Yes sir. You just take the elevator to the . . . ”

“To the fourth floor and turn left.” He finished the security guard’s sentence. “Thank you very much officer.” Riding in the elevator, he was struck by a powerful sensation of deja vu. As if it was just another pre-war work day.

In the office, he was greeted by a secretary with a man sitting on her desk.

“I’m here to see Mr. Hogan.”

“Jim!” It was Murray Gurfein, one of Hogan’s prosecutors. He hopped down off the desk and made his way over to O’Malley.

“Welcome back sailor boy. Good to see you!” Gurfein hadn’t changed. Worse yet, he still acted as if he and O’Malley were old drinking buddies, despite the fact they hardly ever worked together before. O’Malley noticed that Gurfein still wore civilian clothes.

“Come on in Jimmy boy, Captain MacFall is in with D.A. Hogan. Ah, Nancy, sweetheart, could we have some coffee?” The D.A.’s secretary didn’t even give him the courtesy of an annoyed glance. She just kept typing.

The two men moved into the inner office, and Hogan took a seat behind his desk. O’Malley and Gurfein arranged chairs next to MacFall in front of Hogan, and the pow wow began.

“So, how can we help the United States Navy?” Hogan asked.

“Jim, I haven’t told the District Attorney about your proposal yet. So why don’t you give him the Reader’s Digest version, and we’ll take it from there.”

Over the next ten minutes the chief prosecutor was made familiar with the assumed potential for saboteurs to infiltrate the New York harbor, and how the Navy proposed to deal with the problem using stoolies. O’Malley couldn’t help but notice that both times he mentioned the word sources, Gurfein and Hogan shifted positions.

When he finished, both civilian lawyers sat in silence for a moment, and Hogan finally asked.

“What exactly is it you would like us to do?”

“Well, first off tell us if you think they'll work with us. I mean, do you think they’re patriotic enough?” Asked the Lieutenant.

“I think that you’ll find that most of the hoods here, despite the fact that they’re liars, cheats, thieves and murders, are good loyal Americans.” Volunteered Gurfein.

“Mussolini not only made the trains run on time, but when he first began his rise to power, he didn’t want any competition in the country, so he kicked the Mafiosi out of Italy.”

As was usually the case, with the exception of the loyal American part, the D.A.’s office was about twenty years behind on the accuracy of its information.

What Hogan said concerning the Mafioso was true. His point however, was mute. The Mafioso no longer controlled crime in New York, or in most of the rest of the country for that matter. Although names the Black Hand, La Cosa Nostra and Mafia would last well into the twenty-first century, the organization now in control was the Unione Siciliano run by The Commission.

The third year of the Great Depression was the only profitable year for Universal Studios between 1929 & 1936, thanks to one film, “Dracula”. Coincidentally it was a profitable year for men like Buggsy Siegal and Meyer Lansky, as they began to organise crime nationwide. They were not alone. They worked under the direction of the man who would become “The Boss of Bosses”, Lucky Luciano. When Lucky finished implementing his national plan for organised crime, there were only three basic differences between the Unione and any other American corporation.

The Unione could account for all of their assets all of the time, it was crystal clear who was in charge and The Commission didn’t have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. They didn’t need one, they controlled or influenced most everyone else’s to one degree or another.

“In that case Mr. Hogan,” MacFall said, “we’d like to have some names we could approach.” Hogan immediately realised he would ultimately have no choice but to cooperate. But with a little bit of the old stall game, he might be able to manipulate the ground rules.

“Well Captain, that’s probably not the best way to go about it. Let me work on it. Give us a couple of days to go through the files, and we can get back to you.” Cooperate or not he was not about to let his territory be trampled on by anyone, least of all some Washington bureaucrat.

“Well, now that that’s settled! Welcome home Jim!” Gurfein extended his hand towards the Lieutenant. O’Malley did not reciprocate.

“The Lieutenant won’t be running our side of the show, Mr. Gurfein. I’ve selected another officer.” MacFall explained.

“Oh? Who would that be sir?”

Haffenden, Lieutenant Commander Haffenden. Lieutenant O’Malley will act as liaison between our two offices.”

“I’ll appoint a man to work with you as well Captain, and get back to you with who it is.” Hogan pitched in.

“Good enough.” MacFall stood up, signalling the meeting was over. “Lieutenant O’Malley will contact you the end of the week.”       

“Look forward to working with your men, Captain.” Hogan said.  After everyone shook hands the officers left. There was a brief interval, and Gurfein turned to Hogan.

“How do you want to handle this?”

“We’d better go slow with them. Go through the files.” Hogan thought very intently as he came around from behind his desk.

“You do it. Don’t give it to anybody else. When you go through the records, see who we’ve fingered on the docks. Let’s give them only one. And for God sakes let’s keep this under our hats, huh?”

“Right-O chief. I’ll start on it right after lunch.” Gurfein began to leave. As he had the door half way open, Hogan called to him.

“And Murray. Make sure whoever you pick out of the files has an indictment. I mean an air tight indictment. One we’re going to win no matter what. I don’t want to screw up any opportunities for convictions.”

Gurfein nodded, then as he stepped through the door hesitated. Coming back into the room, he closed the door behind him, leaned back on it and folded his arms displaying a mischievous smile. Hogan looked up from his desk.

“What?”

“What about the wire taps?” Gurfein grinned.

 After a short pause Hogan instructed. “Leave them in place. This could get interesting.”

On his way out, as he passed the secretary’s desk, Gurfein asked what had happened to the coffee. With no discernible movement whatsoever, the secretary kept typing while she issued her reply. “I forgot.”

Meanwhile, outside the D.A.’s office, in the hallway, a separate assessment of the meeting was under way as the two officers walked towards the elevators.

“Are you okay with this liaison position, Lieutenant?”

“Ah . . . yes sir.”

“You don’t sound very sure of yourself.” Enquired MacFall as both men reached the elevator. After considering his words carefully, O’Malley spoke again.

“Sir we need to tread lightly with these people.”

“Rest assured Lieutenant, we’ll only tell them what they need to know.” The elevator arrived and they boarded. They were alone. O’Malley continued.

“I don’t mean just that sir.”

“What do you mean?”

“They do business a lot different than we do, sir.” The bell rang, and as the doors opened, both men stepped into the lobby. “I know, I used to work in that office.”

“You have my ear, Jim.” MacFall listened more closely.

“Sir, Dewey, Gurfein and that crowd have built a career on the fact that they got a conviction against Lucky Luciano.”

“Well, from what I understand, he needed to be put away.”

“No doubt sir, but . . .”  O’Malley was clearly not comfortable discussing the inner workings of the D.A.’s office and their Mob-like code of silence.

“Go on.” MacFall coaxed.

“The trial evidence wasn’t as they portrayed in the papers. There were some serious procedural questions. Most of those girls testified under what they believed to be the threat of physical violence.”

“Well, gangsters are brutal people. That’s why they belong in jail.”

“I’m not talking about the Mob sir. I’m talking about the prosecutor’s office, particularly Dewey.” Both men had now moved off to one side of the lobby, out of common earshot.

“What?”

“The threat of prison, sir. They wave it around like a magic wand. Testify or go to prison. The girls were threatened with unusually long prison terms if they didn’t testify against Luciano. Some of them were even coached what to say. Section 399 of the State Criminal Code says you can’t get a conviction on one person’s testimony. Your supposed to have corroborating evidence. They had no evidence, so they got hookers and people who wanted him out of the way to testify. No one can ever say the witnesses lied. The D.A.’s office is the only one who can prosecute for purgery, so any one who said what the D.A. wanted was safe. Later half of them recanted and it wasn't all due to Mpob threats. Purgered testimony alone is what got Luciano convicted. Political ruthlessness is what got him such an unusually long sentence.”

“Well what do you know, a lawyer with ethics!” MacFall said.

“Sir, don’t get me wrong. I think all those bastards belong in jail. It’s just that I don’t consider that my brand of law. We play games like that with the rules, and we’re no better than them. Or the people we’re supposed to be fighting over in Europe for that matter.”

“So, what I’m hearing Lieutenant, is that people like Hogan and Dewey have their own agendas, and are not adverse to going outside the rules to achieve their aims?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, isn’t that just good red-blooded American politics?”

“Sir, my point is, that if push came to shove, and the potential for a scandal arose, someone in that office would see it as a stepping stone to their career, and the Navy would be the loser. Not to mention the world-wide propaganda value of the fact that the United States Navy is turning to gangsters for help!” Continued the Lieutenant.

“Having second thoughts about your own plan Jim?”

“Not at all sir. Just that after working both sides of the fence, there’s a reason why most of those guys up there are not in uniform.”

“I appreciate your candor. Your point is well taken Lieutenant. ”

“Thank you, sir.” The two officers exited the building, and through the bustling lunch hour crowd, Captain MacFall nodded to a nearby hot dog cart.

“New York tube steak?”

“Why not? I’ve been eating too healthy anyway.”


CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

Seeing the New York City waterfront for the first time is an impressive sight. It is unique in the world of waterfronts. The convoluted structure of the docks allows them to encompass all five boroughs as well as border seven cities along the New Jersey shore, just across the Hudson River. The shear vastness of these structures can only be appreciated from the air, and their true splendour is best experienced during sunrise or the change of seasons. In addition it is unlikely that any other waterfront is marred by such a long and consistent history of violence.

It is here, amid the bitter sweet aromas of hemp and creosote, nearly every King, Queen or Head of State from has arrived then embarked for some far corner of the globe. While on these same timbers someone’s father, brother, uncle or son has became an unwanted coroner’s statistic.

However, these docks are composed of more then timber decks and pitch coated pilings. There are the men and women who live and work in this city within a city. Along with these temporary caretakers of the waterfront, are the terminals and warehouses which sustain life through the blistering heat of summer and the sub-zero temperatures of winter. The long, narrow buildings are large enough to house entire populations of small countries, and it is within these structures that the majority of longshoremen, stevedores or dockworkers, depending on your cultural orientation, work out their days, sacrificing their feet, knees, backs and sometimes their lives, to make ends meet.

The typical terminal had a thirty to forty foot high ceiling mostly composed of heavy glass in order to take full advantage of the sunlight. At night the work was carried on under the blinding glare of mercury vapour lamps. The rectangular footprint of the building was divided into three parts. The shoreward end of the building, furthest from the water, was usually partitioned off for office space, while the remainder of the sparse floor area was divided through the long axis into equal halves. One side of the terminal was designated for arriving freight while the opposite side was usually designated for out going freight. In addition to this arrangement dictated by practicality, there was a special corner bin designated “OS & D”, as it was in terminal 16A.

“Hey Danny! What’s OS & D?” Asked the newest member of the Longshoremen's Union everyone called ‘Kid’.

“You got that kid broken in yet? God-damn it!” The heavy set foreman scowled as he walked by the two workers. As they stood next to a 1500 pound crate of loose M & Ms.

“Not yet, Bennie. Just showin’ him around.” Danny yelled back.

“Well get a foot under it! You ain’t bein’ paid to be a wet nurse!”     

“How come he’s alway’s yellin’?” Asked the sixteen year old dockworker. Danny answered as he continued to shift freight.

‘Cause kid, he got ulcers. And he gets a bonus if he can get us to move extra freight. And he just got some bad news this mornin’.”

“Like what?” The kid asked, not really interested, but making conversation as he helped Danny.

“Like Joey Morretti is doin’ his wife.”

“Joey Morretti from here?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit!”

“Yeah.”      

Whata ya think’s gonna happen?”  

“Don’t know. He only found out a half hour ago, and Morretti ain’t come to work yet.” Danny updated the kid while they continued to move some boxes to give the illusion of working.

“Anyways, what wuz you askin’ me?”

“What’s OS & D?”

Danny looked around the floor and located a small wooden crate with a red metal tag wired to it. He motioned the kid over and began to explain.

“Okay, ya see dis here Spanish wine?” His apprentice nodded. Danny pulled back his right leg and one of his U.S. Army issue, paratrooper boots, crashed into and through the pine crate. Rich colored amontillado spilled out through the broken glass staining the broken crate and concrete a dark red. The smell of alcohol permeated the air.

“Now.” Said Danny as he continued the lesson. “Ya see that red tag?” The kid nodded. “That means this piece of freight is insured for $10,000 or more. But one of them bottles is busted. Which means now we gotta put this in OS & D. Over, Short and Damaged. Why?”

“Because it’s damaged?” The kid responded in disbelief.

“Very good.” Gesturing to the bin, Danny said, “Gimme a hand.” And off they went with ten thousand dollars worth of cracked timber and broken glass.

“When we’re done here we gotta load a flat bed with some oil ta go over ta the fish market.”

About ten or twelve yards from the bin, Danny looked up as he heard screaming coming from the office area which was just adjacent to OS & D. The screams were punctuated by the sounds of breaking furniture and through the window the pair could see the stocky foreman had just thrown someone to the floor by way of a desk, and was viciously attempting to rip the time clock off the wall. Danny, with twelve years on the wharf, understood instantly.

“Shit! Kid drop the crate!”

“What is it?”

“Looks like Morretti came to work!”

Just then Joey’s battered body came crashing through the plate glass office window and hit the concrete floor of the dock with a sickening smack.

“No matter what happens don’t interfere!” Danny cautioned at the unexpected extension of the lesson. The kid suddenly noticed colors were a little brighter, and the harbor smelled stronger than usual.

Laying there amongst the broken shards of glass, there was surprisingly little blood. As Joey began to roll over, his supervisor broke out the remnants of the office window with a metal chair, threw it at Morretti, and stepped through the broken frame and out onto the platform. The burly foreman, completely consumed by rage, steam rising from his sweaty face in the cold morning air, looked around for another weapon.

By this time most of the workers had gathered at that end of the dock to watch the latest show. Joey, now up on all fours, blood dripping from his nose, watched as his opponent spotted a bailing hook stuck into a nearby crate, and slowly moved towards the vicious tool. Joey seemed paralyzed.

An eerie silence befell the terminal, accentuating the screaming of the gulls circling outside as they fought over a piece of meat.

Morretti don’t look so good.” One of the men behind Danny and the kid whispered. The Kid looked at Danny.

“Joey’s connected on the Jersey side.” The former paratrooper narrated without turning away from the action.

“He’s took some real beatin’s in his life. His father was on the docks during the depression when all dem blacks come down from Harlem with weapons wanting to take over the waterfront.”

“What happened?” The kid asked as Danny gave the history lesson.

“Game ended Mott Street 50, Harlem 0.” Danny answered.

Watching his own blood dripping onto the concrete floor, Joey thought about his father’s description of the bloody battle when the two factions met in Greenwich Village, and how the Blacks were beaten back in an all day battle with bailing hooks and Johnson bars. That’s why he didn’t go for the hook, even though he had seen it first. He knew better. With over a dozen witnesses, Morretti knew he was home free.

Having taken the bait the infuriated foreman, held the ten inch iron hook menacingly at his side as he walked towards his intended victim. Morretti, now up on one knee, fragments of glass imbedded in the side of his baby face, and blood flowing from his forehead, smiled as he watched the big man hesitate.

Three rounds in rapid succession fired from Morretti’s thirty-eight buried themselves in the foreman’s chest, and it was his turn to lay face down in the broken glass and blood.

The kid jumped at the report of the weapon, and instinctively started towards the ex-foreman. Danny threw out an arm and blocked him. “Forget it! You wuz in the back wit me. All you heard was some shots. Got it?” The Kid couldn't avert his stare. “Come on we got a flatbed to load.”

An hour and a half later, the last of the police squad cars drove through the terminal gate, and right behind it was a flat bed loaded with olive oil. The squad car turned south towards the Battery, but the truck headed straight cross town to Fulton Street.

The overweight truck driver finished his coffee and threw the paper cup out the window, but left the cherry cheese danish hanging from his mouth as he maneuvered his vehicle up to the loading docks, in front of the Fulton Street Fish Market. After turning off the engine, he lifted his hat to wipe the sweat from his forehead, and his dirty hair stood up, mated together from grease and dirt.

Theoretically this huge complex of bins and stalls, stocked with every species of fish imaginable, was municipally owned. However, like the adjoining retail outlets, the cannery and nearly the entire distribution network, it was controlled by one man, Joseph “Socks” Lanza.

Socks Lanza was the undisputed number one power in the American fishing industry. Period. He gained and maintained control of this empire with a very logical technique. A strangle hold on union labor. Socks simply established his own unions, extorted funds for membership, and after filing some papers with the AFL, was in business.

For example, the Sea Food Workers Union, which was only one of a handful of unions run by Socks, dominated the Fulton Street Fish Market. In classic mob fashion, he covered all the bases with a separate union for each labor force. A trick learned from the D.A.’s office, where they would file up to half a dozen charges for one alleged offence, and try to get one to stick. A charge to cover all the bases so to speak.

The market, which supplied seafood from Maine to the Carolinas and as far west as the Mississippi, was teeming with activity that Wednesday morning. Unlike the bitter sweet aromas of the wharfs across town, there was only one smell here. The smell of fish. Acrid, pungent and overwhelming. The smell of fish which engulfed and permeated everything and everybody from the workers in their blood stained aprons, to the handful of clerks and typists encased in a glass boxes which appeared to be stuck to the ceilings as they overlooked the masses of workers gutting, shifting and selling their loads sixteen hours a day.

 The unsavory truck driver waddled his way across the slippery floor, and weaved his way in and out of the numerous stalls of flounder, eel and shell fish. As he chewed his cherry cheese danish with his mouth open, he considered himself lucky that he didn’t have to work under these unhygienic conditions. Making his way to the staircase leading to the office, he ascended, and, when he reached the top, ignored the paper sign on the door telling him to wipe his feet before he entered.

The heated air of the glass encased room was a welcome relief from the bitter February chill flowing through the lower level of the open market. Stepping up to the chest high counter, the middle aged driver removed his gloves and reached into his coat pocket to remove the invoice for his delivery.

“Hello Emily!” He addressed the receptionist, who although the same age as the driver, had weathered her years behind a typewriter far better than he had his years behind a Mother-of-Pearl steering wheel. His syrupy voice held no sway with her, and she showed her affection for him openly.

“What the hell you want, fat ass?” He was undeterred.

“How was your Christmas, Emily?”

“Let me tell ya, Burt. I remember three things about my Christmas. A, it was in Hot Springs. Next, it was too short. And tree, I didn’t have ta conversate with no delivery boys!” Her last comment was in synchronized harmony with the strokes of her pen as she endorsed the document in front of her, pulled the pink copy and curtly shoved it back across to Burt.

Giggling circulated the office as Burt bid Emily a fond good-bye and wished her a happy Valentine’s Day. The receptionist didn’t answer, but instead made her way over to a door with a wooden letter box fixed to the inside of it. Through a slot in the cross piece of the door she inserted the rubber stamped, endorsed invoice. Above the slot, lettered on the frosted glass panel of the door, was the name “J. Lanza, President Amalgamated Sea Food Workers Unions”.

On the other side of the door five men sat at a dark mahogany conference table, and it was a large, jowly man who was conducting the meeting.

“So what’s the story in Queens?”

“Well Mr. Lanza, as far as we can tell, some guy named Dimitri has a coupla trucks and is deliverin’ around Astoria for twenty per cent under the rate.”

“How many trucks he got?”

Shuffling through some papers, a third man reported. “Five Boss.”

“Okay, you tree.” Pointing to the three largest of the four men, “Get over to Queens.” He spoke as he made his way around the table to his desk.

“Find this prick! Work him over, good! But don’t cripple the fuck! We still need him ta pay.” Two of the men standing in front of the desk smirked at one another. Lanza continued. “Wreck one, maybe two'a his trucks. Let him know who done this.”

“Who should we say is callin’ Mr. Lanza?”

“Tell him you’re from the Fulton Watchman’s Protective Association.”

Reaching into a bottom drawer of the desk, Lanza produced three strange looking items. Homemade devices made from empty wine bottles filled with a yellow-ish substance and corked with a primitive fuse system, they were too large to fit into a conventional pocket, but small enough to conceal inside a coat.

“Take these stink bombs. Find three of the markets he’s been deliverin’ to and pop one in each of them. This way they’ll get the picture too. That’ll be the day some God-damned Ruski son-of-a-bitch moves into New York!” As the three men filed out the door, the phone rang, but before answering it, Lanza spoke to the remaining man in the room.

“Anything else?”

“No Boss. That’s about it.” This man was smaller and better dressed than the other three. In addition he carried a double strapped satchel.

“Alright then. Make the rounds, check the numbers and get back to me this afternoon.” As the man opened the door to leave, there was one additional instruction.

“And stay the hell away from Easy Emily!” Both men smiled.

Lanza picked up the phone. “Hello . . . yeah speakin’.”

“Joseph K. Guerin’s office, please hold for Mr. Guerin.” A look of surprise registered on Lanza’s face when he heard his lawyer’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Lanza?”

“Yeah! What’s up Guerin? I thought we didn’t need to meet til Monday.”

“Something's come up. The D.A. wants to talk.”

“Talk about what!? If that prick wants to talk, tell him ta come here.”

“He wants a meet.” The lawyer tried to maintain his patience.

“What the hell for? What does he want to cut a deal?” Lanza became slightly more enthusiastic about talking to the D.A.

“No! No deal!” The difficulty in maintaining his patience was that Guerin knew, although he had not told his client this, that Lanza had two chances of beating his current indictment. Slim and none, and Slim had just left town. Lawyers don’t like to lose cases, regardless of the guilt or innocence of their clients. Of course, the Mob paid as well as any corporate entity, better than most, so he would stick with the case as long as possible.

“No deal? Then fuck him!”

“Joey! I think you should meet him. It’s important!”

There was a momentary pause on the mobster’s end of the line. Finally he spoke.

“This better not be a set up! And it better be important, god-damn it!”

“It is important, and it isn’t a set up!”

Awright then. What’s the plan?”  

“You tell me what time you want to go up to the courthouse, and I’ll meet you.”

Whatta you kiddin’ me or what? I go waltzin’ up to the courthouse in the middle of the day and every punk from the Bronx ta Hoboken is gonna think I’m cuttin’ a deal, and that fuckin’ D. A.’ll, do everything he can ta get the word out that I am.”

“Lanza! It’s not a trick, trust me!”

“Trust you?! What? You stopped bein’ a lawyer yesterday?”

“Very funny, prick! When and where?”

Guerin had no stake in whether or not Lanza met with the D.A. He was not being paid by anyone for this, and it was not going to affect the outcome of Socks’ trial.

“Tell him you’ll call him. Tonight, at eight.” Lanza had already worked out all the details in his mind in the last few seconds of conversation.

“When will you call me?”

“Tonight, at seven-fifty nine. I gotta go!”     

“What’s the rush?”

“The sea food workers and some retailers are havin’ a dispute. I called a meeting to straightin’ it out.”

Straightin’ it out?! You own the unions and the retailers!”

“Yeah, they're like little kids, always fightin'. Time for Daddy to have a talk. After all, the only thing that matters is the bottom line, right?” Joey checkmated the lawyer.

“Call me!”

“Guerin, one more thing!”

“What?”

“Ask the DA if he knows who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Socks asked laughingly.

“What?”

Lanza hung up, pleased with his forthcoming plan.

Now Read Part Three - Click Here

Operation Underworld by Paddy Kelly

About TheBook

February, 1942. Free China is lost, the Battle of Britain has been fought and Hitler dines in Paris. World War II is nearly three years old, however the United States resists involvement. With an invitation from the Imperial Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbor everything changes. In her first ten months of the war nearly 500 American ships are lost. The retooling of Her factories is estimated to take at least a year, and even before it is completed, the men who work in those factories must become Marines, sailors and soldiers. The U.S. Navy is behind the eight ball, big time. They need help. To compound their problems, the most famous luxury liner in the world, T. L. S. Normandie, has just been set alight and burned to the water-line in New York Harbor initiating wide spread hysteria in fear of German saboteurs. All originating from a misguided sense of desperation, and a well planned feign. Meanwhile, “The Boss of Bosses”, Lucky Luciano at age 45, is serving a thirty to fifty year sentence in a maximum security prison in upstate New York. In one of the most ironic decisions of the war, the Federal Government requests the founder of organized crime, Lucky Luciano, to join forces with America’s most secret service, Naval Intelligence. Luciano, has been sentenced to life in prison for a crime that warrants ten years, and is concurrently fighting deportation to an enemy nation where he will certainly be put to death, when he is asked to help the government who condemned him. In addition, he is told he must remain in prison with no chance for compensation or parole. Mike ’Doc’ McKeowen, a New York P. I., leads us through the story. Doc just wants to get his life back on track after his business partner ran off with all the top clients, and a long and painful divorce drained him of his house, his family and his dignity. Fate may have a plan for Doc, but he can’t figure out what the hell it is. Whether you believe the link between the Federal Government and organized crime is a slender thread, or as Mario Puzo wrote, ’. . . contemporary America, where law and organized crime are one and the same.’, you will learn how the foundation of the international drug cartel was laid. You will come to appreciate the saying, ‘Due Facce della stessa Medaliglia’. Crime and politics, two sides of the same coin. Titanic was an act of carelessness. Lusitania was an act of war. Normandie was an act of genius. Reviews and more information here: CLICK FOR INFO

Operation Underworld
(Paddy Kelly)

The serialised version of this outstanding novel

Part Two

Missed Part One - Click Here


Operation Underworld

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

Pan Am flight forty-seven from Tampa was about twenty minutes outside New York. The trip had taken nearly seven hours and the suits in the corporate office would be very pleased. There were no empty seats on the maiden flight of the new wider body DC-3 and the 257% desired profit margin would be achieved.

With two seats on either side of the aisle, it was the first sleeper transport, and boasted an in-flight bar service as well as in-flight meals. Something no other airline offered. No more lugging picnic baskets on the flight with you.

Mrs. Kaminski was grateful for the new state of the art, double paned, safety glass windows Pan Am had installed specifically for the enhancement of her travel pleasure and as the slender, dark haired beauty sat gazing out her window, mesmerized by the heavenly scenery, her excitement mounted when the New York skyline came into view. In her excitement she did exactly what the man sitting next to her hoped she wouldn't do. She struck up a conversation. As she spoke, she continued to marvel at how a single, dark, low cloud which seemed to emanate from the waterfront, hovered over lower Manhattan.

“I yust love to fly! Don jew?” The young women spoke with a heavy Cuban accent, but was very proud of her command of the English language.

“Excuse me?” Came the terse response. Her soft, perfectly tanned facial skin beamed with a broad smile. This time the young woman spoke slowly and distinctly.

“I say, I-yust-love-to-fly! Don-jew?”

“Ah, yeah. Can’t think of nuthin’ else I’d rather be doin’ lady.” The man dressed in the brown, leather bomber jacket and baseball cap answered, facing straight forward, hardly acknowledging her presence.

“Dew-jew-no-speak-inglesh?”

“Yeah, yeah lady, I speak English. Don jew?!” He replied sarcastically. The aircraft jolted for a second time with turbulence as it entered the warm airspace over the city. The stranger clung more tightly to his seat, and tried not to look scared.

“Oh, I see! Jew have afraid! Dats okay jew have afraid!” The young woman sat casually, seat belt undone and legs crossed over. She made no attempt to ignore his white knuckles, welded to the armrests of his seat.

“I’m not afraid!” The man became conscious of his loud speech and lowered his tone. “I just don’t like the air bumps!” He exclaimed as he slowly released his death grip on the seat handles.

“Air bimps?”

“Jess! De air bimps!” He replied with increased sarcasm, no longer making any attempt to conceal his irritation at the women’s intrusion on his misery.

“Oh! Jew meen disturbulance!”

“What?”

Disturbulance!” The women turned her body to face him and began to demonstrate with broad sweeping gesticulations. “Iz when atmoosferic disturbulance comes from cold air mass and warm air mass crash together and make unstable, dense air mass. So jew have disturbulance! No air bimp!” He stared, open mouthed.

“Who the hell are you lady, Charles A. Lindbergh?”

“No! Jew silly boy! Lindbergh, he a man! I Martina, Martina Kaminski. Are jew in dee Army?” After a brief hesitation, the man relented.          

“Doc. Doc McKeowen.” He gave a cursory nod. “No. 4-F, perforated ear drum. Not supposed to fly.”

“Oh! Jew are a Doktor? How nice?” Her sweet, coy voice dripped through her broad smile and all over the seats and she slowly to snuggled up to him. Doc moved over in his seat to maintain the distance.

“No lady I’m not a Doctor. I’m a private investigator.” ­She pulled back from him with a noticeable change in attitude.

“Jew a cop! Jew dun look like no cop!” She said suspiciously.

“I’m not a cop. I’m a P. I..” She looked at him quizzically. “Private Investigator." He caught site of her over-sized hand bag on the floor. "You know like when a guy thinks maybe his wife is cheating on him, say with a younger guy or something." He slid a little closer and propped himself up on the arm rest. "Like maybe she came back from a vacation say . . . in Havana, and she’s very pretty, and her husband is a little older, and they haven’t been married that long." He leaned into her.  "And he’s worried that she might go puttin’ the make on every guy she meets because maybe, just maybe she married this guy to get her citizenship. You know, stuff like that.”

The young girl was now sitting with both legs pulled up to her chest, feet on the seat with an extreme look of worry on her face. Doc noticed her concern had turned to fear, and felt a short tinge of remorse. He smiled and sat back to allay her fears.

“Look lady, I’m sorry. Really, I didn’t mean anything by it.” She did not respond, but continued to glare at Doc.

“Honest! Lady I’m sorry.”

“How jew know dees dings?! My husband, he send jew?!”

“Look, Mrs. Kaminski . . . Martina. Your first name is Hispanic, I can see your passport in your hand bag, it’s American.” Doc pointed to the small black carry-on, poking out from under the seat in front of Martina. She allowed her eyes to briefly dart to her bag and then back again. “If you were coming from Florida you wouldn't need your passport. And you’re wedding ring is brand new. Plus I doubt I would find too many Kaminskis in the Havana phone book”. The women began to relax a little. Doc wanted to stay her fears a little more.

“How did you know about that warm air mass and cold air mass stuff? That’s pretty interesting.” Martina was still trying to make up her mind who he was, and so remained in the fetal position on her seat. Without turning away from Doc she reached into the seat back in front of her and removed a trifold brochure. Like a dagger from a scabbard she pulled it and thrust it at Doc.

“I read about the disturbulance in dees!” Taking it from her, Doc glanced at the latest issue of Captain Carl’s Tips, an informational brochure published by the airline.

“They many good dings in dare. Maybe some day jew read. Den jew don be so scared and den jew don drink so much.” Mrs, Kaminski explained to her involuntary travel partner, nodding at the seven or eight empty drink glasses stuffed in the seat back, in front of McKeowen.

“Tell ya what lady, my mother dies you got the job!” As he spoke he jammed the pamphlet back into the seat packet. She was slapped by his irritation but didn't want any more tension between them.

“I sorry! I Dun mean to criticalize jew! My father? He used to drink also. All dee time!” Doc smiled and nodded, reminiscing about happier times when the woman was being quietly entertained by the clouds.

“All dee time, he drink, drink, drink, drink, drink.” She was again very animated in her behavior. Doc wished he had a drink.

“Are you anything like your mother?”

“Why jes! Sometimes people dink dat we are seesters. Why do jew ask?”

“Just wonderin’ why your father drank.” Doc was back in form.

“I dun know?” Martina seriously contemplated the question.

After the plane taxied to the appropriate tarmac, McKeowen reached under his seat and produced a small, navy blue gym bag. The initials 'Y.M.C.A.' were stenciled across one side of it and it was easy to see there wasn’t much in it.

 Doc always travelled light for two reasons. He hated carting luggage around and, he didn’t own any. He didn’t need it. The fact was that he had never been out of New York State before. Except to New Jersey, and what the hell, that didn’t really count now, did it?

Standing around the base of the roll up stairs, out on the tarmac, were several skycaps in their mandatory dark blue uniforms. The sky blue Pan Am logo on the breast pocket and brim of the cap showed they had paid their mandatory fees to work for free. These men, all of them black, made their livings solely on tips. One of them approached Doc with an oversized metal cart, and asked if he needed a grip. Doc looked at the enormity of the cart, then to his diminutive bag, shrugged and said, “Why not?”

Doc passed him the bag on which he placed the cart, tilted it back and they headed across the tarmac towards the terminal.

“Mr. MacCuuen! Mr. MacCuuen!” Doc turned to see Mrs. Kaminski running after him, her black, slide on heels clopping on the asphalt while struggling to keep her overstuffed black bag on her shoulder.

“Go on. I’ll catch up.” Doc instructed the cap. “Mrs. Kaminski. What a pleasure to see you again.” She came alongside and dropped anchor then removed her oversized sun-glasses before she spoke.

“How do jew know my husbent he’s older?” Doc sighed.

“I figure there’s plenty of young guys in Cuba, but no money, so you come here where there’s money. But not many guys your age have that much money. If they do they’re probably connected, in which case you probably wouldn’t be screwing around.”

She didn’t know whether to be pissed off, indignant or just clop away.

Anyding else, whiseguy?”

“Yeah. If my wife had a body like that she wouldn’t have time to go to Cuba.” Her anger began to leak away.

“Are all jew Irish so smart?”

“I’m not Irish. I’m Scottish.”

Outside the terminal, taxis snaked in a never ending line along the curbside. A black Checkered pulled up immediately and the operator hopped out. While the driver went around to open the trunk for his passenger’s luggage, Doc tipped the cap.

“What happen Mac? Bastards lose your luggage?” Asked the cabby, eyeing the cart.

“Yeah, second time this month.” Doc answered as he threw the gym bag into the trunk and got into the cab.

“Where to?”

“1929 Christopher Street. Don’t wake me till we get there, and don’t go by way of Brooklyn Bridge.” Doc instructed.

Nearly an hour later the taxi pulled up out side Harry’s Front Page News. Doc got out and, with the last of the bills and change in his pocket, paid the driver.

Despite the early hour of half past five, the dark of winter had set in. Traffic was flowing freely now in The Village, and the evening chill could no longer be ignored.

Harry’s Front Page, everyone called it “The News Stand”, occupied the entire ground level of 1929 Christopher Street. The corner entrance and small display window were capped by a hand lettered, green enamel sign which hadn’t seen a fresh coat of paint since Lindy had seen Paris.

Packed with black wire, twirly racks, stacked with post cards that never sold, (come to think of it, nothing ever really sold except news papers and an occasional stale candy bar), you’d be hard pressed to squeeze four people in there at any one time. That included Harry.

Harry’s claim to fame was the time Mel Blanc came into his candy store and said it was so small you had to go outside to change your mind. Harry was a Bugs Bunny fan forever after.

Harry's life had long ago settled into sitting on a high backed stool all day, framed by racks of candy bars and potato chips, and was rarely seen to venture out from behind the counter. An unseen radio constantly played in the background and he read all day long. To his credit, he read only the classics. Captain Marvel, The Shadow and The Phantom. These were by far the best, for it was common sense that they were the most realistic. Every time Superman or Batman got in a fix, they would come up with some wild gizzmo they just happened to have nearby or hanging on a belt and escape certain death. Ridiculous. Who ever heard of yellow kryptonite anyway?

Harry lost a leg in the last war, and in between warm sodas and cold coffees the old man would give Doc tips on horse racing, despite the fact Doc had never been to the track a day in his life.

Doc respected Harry because he was one of those old people who could tell you what he had for breakfast on any given day, six months ago, and he seldom ate the same thing every day. This made Harry the perfect lobby watch-dog.

The ground floor of the five story building was never intended as any sort of a shop, so when the owners remodelled it, just before World War I, access to the upper floors had to be rerouted. The ground floor conversion was an attempt to keep up with the flood of businesses which swept the Greenwich Village neighborhoods just before the war broke out. Doc walked in through the glass door which opened into Harry’s.

“Doc!  Where the hell you been for a week?”

“Vacation Harry. I figure I earned it. Anybody hangin’ around I should know about?”

“Not a bad guy in sight Doc.”

Gimme a late edition, will ya.”

Didja hear the news? The Krauts sent a sub into the harbor! Sunk some big boat!”

“You sober?”

“Honest ta Christ Doc! They did!”

Doc took the half folded news paper and tucked it under his arm while he headed for the door to the upstairs offices.

“Thanks Harry. See ya later.”

“I’m tellinya Doc, this war ain’t like the last one. We could lose!”

“We ain’t gonna lose Harry. We’re the good guys. Hell, Lamont Cranston lives here!” Doc called over his shoulder, passing through the single door to Harry’s left.

The sixty year old structure was immaculately cleaned and maintained but the elevator seemed perpetually out of order so visitors and residents had to climb the ornate metal staircase to reach their destinations.

At the third floor Doc turned left down the hall towards his office. He took the paper from under his arm and, just as he began to open it, a voice called out.

“Hey Doc!” The voice startled him and he jumped as he looked to the right of the corridor a smile slowly crept over his face.

“Hey Redbone!” Tucking the paper back under his arm, he continued walking towards his office. The elderly black man, bent on one knee was repairing a lock, and as he passed by, Doc patted him on the shoulder. Redbone spoke in a slightly diluted Cajun’ accent.

“Sorry if I startled you, man. Just surprised to see ya.” Redbone said, reaching into his tool box.

Doc noticed the mop and bucket propped against the wall on the man’s left.

“Still on double duty, eh Redbone?”

Goin’ on six months now. But I don’t mind. Keeps me busy since Saddie went to sleep.” Doc smiled and nodded in acknowledgement of Redbone’s stoicism. He continued down the hall and stopped in front of a door on the left.

“Hey Redbone!”

“Yeah Doc?” Doc was staring at the glass pane on the office door as he unlocked it.

“You get time, take this damn name off the door, will ya? It’s stinkin’ up the joint.”

“Sure Doc. First thing tomorrow.”

 McKeowen unlocked the door and went in, thought for a moment, stuck his head back out, and called down the hall.

“Redbone, there’s probably gonna be a baptism tonight, so if you hear anything it’s okay.”

“Don’t be goindoinnuthin’ stupid Doc!”

The door shut and the glass panel was back lit when Doc turned on the office light inside.

'Sammon and McKeowen. Private Investigations Agency. We Peep While Others Sleep' was the only office occupied at this late hour.

The unremarkable office was only about 400 sq ft, and was partitioned to the right as you walked in the door. The partition was wood halfway up then iced glass and stood just over six foot tall. There were a pair of opaque, deco globes suspended by chain from the ceiling around the lights. An army cot, half sized ice box and hot plate on the other side were home. They wee semi-stashed out of sight. Just in case a client accidentally showed up.

Doc peered into the letter box screwed to the back of the door, but didn’t bother to remove the three or four envelopes it contained. He locked the door, dropped his bag and moved over to his desk, in the corner of the room and, exhausted, removed his coat and flopped into his chair. Staring into space he suddenly jumped up and violently kicked the chair knocking it to the floor. He stared at it for awhile to make sure it was it wasn't breathing then sighed and reached into his jacket pocket and produced an airline ticket stub. Staring at it, he shook his head.  

“Chump!” He mumbled tearing the useless document into small pieces and threw them in the air.

Standing still for another moment, he righted the overturned chair. He decided he didn't feel any better and so he went over to the sink and washed his face longer than necessary, and as he dried himself the reason for his inability to focus dawned on him. He was fighting something that he had never felt before.

After all the physical and emotional strain encountered with thirteen years on the job, and seven years of marriage, something was different. Something made him feel like nothing mattered any more. It was depression. Doc was smothered by it.

Throwing the towel in the basket under the sink, he walked back over to his desk and opened a wall cabinet behind him marked “Classified Files”. He withdrew a rocks glass and a bottle of Irish Whiskey. Pouring a full measure into the glass, he adjusted the chair and sat down.

Glancing around the room, which he realized contained the sum total of his life, he sank deeper into his depression. He saw the steel simplicity with which he used to approach life methodically eroding away and became lost in the resulting mist of confusion called apathy.

His lifted his drink and his eyes drifted off to the right settling on a picture of a middle aged man in a policeman’s uniform sitting on a shelf next to some shooting trophies. The policeman’s photo had a black ribbon tied around the upper left hand corner of the frame. A gold N.Y.P.D. badge was mounted on a dark wooden plaque, and stood next to the photo. Doc stared at the picture and after a minute smiled.

“Alright! You were right. I should’a stayed on the force.” He threw back his shot. “But ya gotta admit, it ain’t nuthin’ like the god-damn movies!”

Reaching underneath the desk and into a specially constructed compartment under the drawer, Doc removed a snub nosed .38 and a .45 Colt. After a functions check on both weapons he loaded them and placed them in separate desk drawers.

 He sat forward, leaned on the desk and slowly let his gaze drift until it fell on a picture of a woman, sitting on the shelf below the policeman’s. She was a semi-attractive brunette, late twenties and wore some sort of graduation gown. The hand written inscription read, “To Hubby, Love Forever, Mary.”

Doc downed his second drink and shook his head in the direction of the photo. He leaned back, put his feet up and turned off the desk lamp, leaving himself and the room bathed in the alternating shadows of Jimmy O'Sullivan's neon sign.

Like in those god-damned movies.

 


CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

The syncopated rhythm of the Smith-Corona keys reminded Shirley of the Morse code radio messages she heard in an Alan Ladd war movie last week. Alan Ladd! Now there’s a man! The engaging, eccentric black girl indulged her fantasies as she trudged through her work day. With instinctual dexterity, her well manicured fingers floated in mid air, coercing the keys to perform.

Perhaps without the weight of a wedding ring to encumber the fingers, they moved faster, Shirley mused. Although attractive by any standard, she was, by her own reckoning, an old maid at twenty-six.     

“Ouch! God-damn it!” Shirley cried out, quickly putting her index finger to her mouth.

“What’s wrong?” It was Nikki Cole, the receptionist stationed with Shirley at the oversized reception desk.

“I busted a freakin’ nail!”

“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“Maybe, I got potty mouth, but there are worse problems to have!”    

“Like what?” Nikki challenged.

“Like gettin’ the hiccups when you’re horny!” Shirley giggled.

“I told you that in confidence, damn it!”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell nobody. Besides, I kinda think it’s cute.” Shirley smirked as she turned back to her typewriter. “This way he always knows when you’re ready.”

 Nikki reached under the desk and produced a large pickle jar, nearly filled with nickles, and held it out to her workmate.

“About another week and we can have lunch at Grauman's.” Nikki commented as the five cent piece Shirley retrieved from her purse clinked into the jar.

Grauman's Chinese Theater? That’s in Hollywood!”

“I know.” The sounds of laughter echoed through the empty, marble plated lobby.

The curved, Deco reception desk was surrounded by a chest high counter, covered in Carrera marble. It was a large, “D” shaped island, floating in the center of a lobby set back from the elevators which appeared much too expansive for the two slender women it housed.

The dual elevators, a few scattered ashtrays and the reception desk gave the distinct impression they were put into the lobby as an after thought. There was no indication whatever that this was a headquarters for the intelligence service of the U.S. Navy.

Although no sentries were visible, a tap on one of the buzzers installed underneath the desktop where the girls were working, would summon Marine guards to assist any unwanted intruders.

As the conservatively dressed Nikki offered her help to Shirley, the switchboard buzzed. Donning the cumbersome headset the attractive auburn haired, blue-eyed twenty-something answered the incoming line.

“Good morning, Third Naval District, may I help you?” Nikki Cole and her switchboard, nick named Cary, were the primary means of communication for number 90 Church Street and the outside world.

“That would be Captain MacFall’s office sir. Just one second and I’ll connect you. Thank you Major, your voice sounds lovely in the morning too.” Rolling her eyes towards Shirley, Nikki connected the cloth covered cable to one of the dozens of brass plugs sprawled before her.

 

 

Upstairs, at the other end of the line, lay a new desk top model, black rotary Bell telephone. These latest models were much more of a pleasure to use than the old ‘licorice stick’ phones which were awkward, difficult to dial and required both hands to manipulate.

In stark contrast to the desolation of the lobby, the large, upstairs office sprawled out to cover the entire floor, and was a cacophony of typewriters and telephones. Unabated activity was in full swing despite the fact the work day was only fifteen minutes old.

“Good morning, Captain MacFall’s office, may I help you?”

“I’m sorry Major, but the Captain is in a meeting. May I take your number sir? Uh huh . . . yes sir, I have it.” There was a pause as the secretary smirked into the phone. “And your voice sounds like Ethyl Mermon after a half pint of bath tub gin. Good-bye, Major.”

Behind the secretary’s desk stood a wooden frame door with an opaque glass panel. Lettering on the glass stated that it was the office of the Branch Chief of Naval Intelligence, Captain Roscoe C. MacFall which explained why the door was closed for the better part of the day and, more often then not, locked.

 A pair of thick fingers separated two leafs of the metal Venetian blinds allowing a pair of steel-grey eyes to peer out across the sprawling office.

Like a headmaster staring at an oversized classroom, he observed the impressive collection of pre-war FBI agents, detectives, District as well as Federal Attorneys and Treasury Department operators at work in the office before him. Still facing the glass, Captain MacFall began to speak.         

“Two months into the war and we’re losing 100 ships a month. We won't be up to full production capacity for six to eight months. And now a raving lunatic who is too stupid to get into art school has got saboteurs in our back yard!" He made his way back to the head of the conference table and flopped into his high backed chair. "Hell, I thought it was bad when Dewey lost!” MacFall's bad mood was interrupted by one of the men dressed in civilian attire sitting near the other end of the table.

“Sir, we don’t know it was sabotage. The official investigation doesn’t even start until today.”

“You want to proceed on the premise that it wasn’t and wait for them to hit us again?” The Captain responded to no one in particular.

The agent had only stated what most of the half dozen operatives in the small conference room were thinking. Which didn’t make it any easier when the C.O. pointed out the obvious to him. MacFall now stood facing the men in the sparsely furnished office. An awkward silence filled the room.

       Gathered in this conference room were some of the most powerful military men in the country with, what they believed to be, the most powerful government in the world backing them. They were unaccustomed to defeat. However, now it appeared that not only had the enemy won the war in Europe and were winning the fight in the Atlantic, but he was knocking on America’s front door.

The primary goal of the intelligence group, which up until this meeting was the security of the Atlantic convoys, had now been shifted to security of the New York harbor, and it was to this end that MacFall sought ideas and suggestions. The Tuesday morning meeting continued.

“Sir!” It was Lieutenant James O’Malley. “Seems to me what we really need is inside information about what’s really going on, down on the waterfront I mean.”

“Thank you for your blinding insight Lieutenant.” The Captain rarely employed sarcasm, but he was genuinely in the dark and didn't like it.

“D.C. has tripled our allocations, broadened our legal powers beyond our wildest dreams and we’ve even stooped to hiring girls.” The tension was broken and laughter circulated the room when the lone female agent present smiled at MacFall and slowly gave him the finger. Just then the door opened, and a burly, late middle-aged man made his way to a seat.

“Has anyone considered the idea of using . . . uh . . . snitches?” O’Malley continued.

“Glad you could join us Agent Johnson.” MacFall was in no mode for lack of punctuality.

“Late at the range.” Johnson grunted back as he perused the room. “What’s all this about snitches?”

“Don’t tell us. Another 300.” The civilian agent seated next to Johnson quipped.

“Maybe I shot a 299.”

“Maybe I’m doin’ Veronica Lake.”

“We’re battin’ around ideas to upgrade intell on the docks.” MacFall interrupted.       

“So somebody suggests stoolies? Who’s the FNG?” Treasury Agent Johnson often regarded himself as the only one in the room with any level of expertise.

The OIC attempted to answer.

“It was . . .”

“I’m the FNG.” O'Malley shot back.

“You think for a New York City second the Pentagon’s gonna give you money to pay snitches?”

“We used paid informants all the time at the D.A.’s office.”

Looking around the office Johnson continued on his vein of antagonism. “Will all the D.A.’s please raise their hands?” Noting the lack of response he added, “Gee kid, I don’t see no hands. How 'bout that!"

       “I realise you’re a lawyer Lieutenant O’Malley but . . . sounds a bit thin.” MacFall prompted.

“You don’t pay them in cash, sir. You barter with them. Sort of like using military script in a theatre of war.”

“The United States Treasury is not about to print anything that can be counterfeited. You can take that to the bank.” The agent sought to quash the idea.

“You’re missing the point. You don’t actually have to give them anything. Just tell them you’re going to give them something. Or better yet, just make them think you’re going to give them something!”

“Like what?”

“Like . . . you’ll get the local cops off their back for awhile. Or like, you want to know who the dirty cops are so you can get them off the take and save the crooks money. You just gotta use your imagination.” O’Malley was a lawyer and made a persuasive argument. With her heavy South Boston dialect the lone female agent joined the fray.

“I say hear him out.”

“You would.” Johnson shot back. After an exaggerated glance around the room the woman smiled.

“Somebody fart?” She loudly asked.

“Fuck off!”

“Snappy come-back J. J.! Wonder why you’re always striking out with the girls?” Johnson glared at her.

“People!” It was MacFall once again trying to keep the train on the tracks. “Carry on Lieutenant.”

“Sir, most of us still have a lot of our old contacts. If we could somehow organize and enhance that information, we could pool it and draw up a plan of action. Theoretically we could develop one helluva network.”

“Theoretically!” Now it was one of the civilians joining in. “I was on D.A. Hogan’s staff and I don’t know about this stoolie idea. I can tell you from experience that the Mob has no sense of humor about song birds. And the Mob controls the waterfront. Period! Nobody was allowed to even think that at the D.A.’s office, but that don’t change the facts. Nothing goes on down there without their say so or them knowing about it.” Johnson saw his chance to euthanize the idea.

“Gentlemen! You too Betsy Ross. Do we honestly believe that stoolies, the most untrustworthy of criminals, the scum of the scum, are about to risk gettin’ their heads ventilated just to help the people who are being paid to put them away? It’s a stupid idea!”

“Hell! They could be bumpin’ off Germans and dumpin’ their bodies in the East River right now and we’d be none the wiser!”

“Yeah! can you see some poor dumb Kraut bastard caught down on the West Side Drive by a couple of union guys?!” The civilian agent mocked a German accent as he held his hands in the air, in mock surrender. “Nine, nine. I am nut a polleece man! I am only a shpie!” There was a ripple of laughter.

“As that may be our dream scenario, gentleman, we can’t bank on it. I would also remind you that our infiltrators are not necessarily German. They may just as well be Italian Facists or Spanish Anarchists.” MacFall interjected the sobering thought to the assembled group and everyone was involuntarily reminded that the overwhelming majority of the people they would have to deal with on the waterfront, would be Italians or Sicilians.

“Stupid is a little strong, don’t you think, Mr. Johnson?” O’Malley was careful not to use Johnson’s title. O’Malley folded his hands on the table, in front of him and looked across at the bureaucratic treasury agent.

It took a couple of beats to soak through to the rubber stamp oriented agent, but he eventually came to the realization that he was being challenged. The older man continued the volley.

“Sorry I hurt your feelin’s Junior. But we have a serious situation here. We have a lot of things to do and no time to do them! This is no time to be grasping at straws!” Although the row had essentially been reduced to the two men, civilian against military, everyone else paid close attention to where it was going.

MacFall sat in his chair at the head of the table and observed with more attention then the others exactly how O’Malley defended his argument.

“Has it been tried?”

“As a matter of fact, yes it has! And as soon as it was sent up for approval, it came right back down again. Disapproved!”

“On what grounds?” The Lieutenant knew he was loosing ground but refused to yield.

“On the grounds it was stupid! Worse yet, politically risky!”

“With all due respect to the Treasury Department, your people aren’t exactly trained for wartime counter-intel.”

“If you have a better suggestion, I’m willing to listen.” Offered the Lt. The fat balding man lost what little composure he had left.

“You know what Sonny? I’ve been in government service since before the last war! Since before you were born, god-damn it! I made my bones on the Palmer raids fer fuck’s sake! And, besides having no respect, you haven't got the faintest idea what the hell ballpark you’re playin' in!!”

“At the very least we could kick it around and see if anything comes out of it. Wouldn’t you agree, sir?” O’Malley’s calm demeanor kept pace with Johnson’s growing anger.

The pent up tension of the room became even more restrictive, and some of the men were embarrassed that their weekly meetings had come to heated exchanges. Everyone remained silent. Johnson felt he had no choice. The federal employee slammed his briefing folder shut, stuffed it into his bag and headed for the door.

“Sir, I have a full agenda, and no time for childish ideas. I’ll read a copy of the mimeo on the rest of the meeting. Good day gentlemen.” Johnson made a grandstand exit.

O’Malley remained sitting with his hands folded in front of him on the conference table. A second civilian, sitting at the far end of the table, broke the silence.

“Sir, I know Frank Hogan’s office as well as anyone. I don’t know that they’re going to be in a big hurry to reveal their mob sources. Stoolies are their primary source of success in the court-room. That’s how Dewey got to Dutch Schultz and it's the only way he could nail Luciano.”

“Jim, do you think the prosecutors office will work with us?” MacFall had already come to the conclusion that it was worth a shot.

“Sir, they are very protective of their sources of information. It gives them tremendous leeway in the court room. But, given how critical our situation is . . .”

O’Malley left his sentence hanging as he realized the direction it was taking.

“Very well. Are there any other suggestions gentlemen? Lady?” MacFall asked as the meeting pressed on.

“Yes sir.” It was the Commander. “I’ve drawn up a plan, along with a rotating schedule for a surveillance operation I’d like you to look at sir.”

“What is it?” Asked the Captain as he was handed the folder containing the details of the proposed operation.

“It’s a plan to place agents on some of the strategically located skyscrapers overlooking the waterfront. They’ll be issued binos and a hand radio, and pull six hour shifts. They can watch for any suspicious activity and radio it in.”

“What happens at night when it’s to dark to see, Commander?” Asked MacFall as he flipped through the plan outline.

Uhh . . . they . . . pack up and go home, sir.” Came the resigned answer. Nobody laughed.

“Sounds like a good stop gap measure Commander.” He handed back the folder. “See that it’s put into action.”

“Yes sir.”

“Anything else?”

The agents sensed the end of the meeting was at hand, and began to pack up. The Captain called one last time for input and then reminded various members of the group of different details requiring attention, before adjourning.

“Tomorrow, zero seven, sharp. O’Malley, need to talk to you.” As the men filed through the door, MacFall came up behind O’Malley, who was last in line, and spoke to him. “Lieutenant I’m heading across town, walk with me to the elevators. I want talk to you.”

The puzzled young officer complied, and when the duo were clear of the office and out of earshot of the secretaries, O’Malley spoke first.

“Sir I apologise. I know I was out of line, but that dumpy bastard really gets my goat with his bureaucratic attitude. I don't mean to ruffle feathers it's just . . . ” He was cut off in mid sentence as the C.O. raised his hand displaying the same smile he wore a half an hour ago.

“I’m glad you ruffled his feathers, Jim. Johnson doesn’t make much of a contribution, but we’re stuck with him until he retires next January. Just don’t make it a habit.”

“Thank you sir, I won’t.”

“Anyway, that’s not why we’re talking.”

“What is it sir?”

“If we’re going to do this thing, we need to approach Hogan’s office in the right light. At all costs they must not know how grave the situation is. Someone from here will have to contact someone from there. We’ll have to do it fairly soon, and I’d like that someone to be you.”

O’Malley was surprised that Captain MacFall had made these decisions so soon. He was also pleased and surprised at having been asked to make first contact.

“Thank you sir. I really feel there’s potential here. If we can tap into the information pool already in place . . . ” Once again he was cut off.

“Save it for the Admiral, Lieutenant. He’ll need the convincing, not me. He’s the one that’s going to have to sell it to Washington.”

“Yes sir.” The elevator arrived, and MacFall got on.

“Meet me at Hogan’s office at 1100 hours. You’ll lias with Murray Gurfein.” After the doors closed Lieutenant O’Malley hung his head and rubbed his eyes mumbling to himself.

Gurfein! Great! A lounge singer sired by a used car salesman! Only not as sincere.”

 

***

 

The elevator doors opened into the lobby and, as he crossed the hall behind the reception desk, Lieutenant O’Malley checked his watch. 10:35 a.m. It’s only a fifteen minute walk to the D.A.'s office, he thought to himself. Save cab fare as well.

“Good-bye Lieutenant O’Malley.” The echo of a female voice filled the lobby. O’Malley turned his head as he made his way to the exit.

“Good-bye Shirley.” He waved and gave a cursory smile, putting on his gloves.

“You’re incorrigible!” Nikki said to Shirley.

“If that means I think he’s cute, you’re right. I’m . . . what you said!”

Exiting through the brass plated, double doors, O’Malley was temporarily overwhelmed by the bright winter sun. The noise of the traffic combined with the cool air to remind him of how much time he spent cooped up in an office.

Walking through the streets of the city, he was distracted by the faces of the passers-by. He could not help but notice for the first time since America had entered the war a few short weeks ago, that there were no real changes in the expressions on the faces of the people as compared to before the war. Not like the film footage coming back from Europe. Those were people who had not only seen the face of war, but lived through it. There was one similarity though. The shortage of working-aged men. Fortunately in America it wasn't due to casualty rates or slave labor camps. But things were already getting tight. There was even talk about suspending the major league ball clubs for the duration. That was ridiculous! What would they do? Get women to play baseball?

Well, the men may be away fighting and dying, but at least they’re not hanging around some soup line waiting for a hand out, he concluded.

O’Malley shook the cold off as he entered the City Building. The fat, red faced security guard at the reception window asked him who he was there to see.

“Lieutenant James O’Malley. I’m here to see the D.A.”

“Yes sir. You just take the elevator to the . . . ”

“To the fourth floor and turn left.” He finished the security guard’s sentence. “Thank you very much officer.” Riding in the elevator, he was struck by a powerful sensation of deja vu. As if it was just another pre-war work day.

In the office, he was greeted by a secretary with a man sitting on her desk.

“I’m here to see Mr. Hogan.”

“Jim!” It was Murray Gurfein, one of Hogan’s prosecutors. He hopped down off the desk and made his way over to O’Malley.

“Welcome back sailor boy. Good to see you!” Gurfein hadn’t changed. Worse yet, he still acted as if he and O’Malley were old drinking buddies, despite the fact they hardly ever worked together before. O’Malley noticed that Gurfein still wore civilian clothes.

“Come on in Jimmy boy, Captain MacFall is in with D.A. Hogan. Ah, Nancy, sweetheart, could we have some coffee?” The D.A.’s secretary didn’t even give him the courtesy of an annoyed glance. She just kept typing.

The two men moved into the inner office, and Hogan took a seat behind his desk. O’Malley and Gurfein arranged chairs next to MacFall in front of Hogan, and the pow wow began.

“So, how can we help the United States Navy?” Hogan asked.

“Jim, I haven’t told the District Attorney about your proposal yet. So why don’t you give him the Reader’s Digest version, and we’ll take it from there.”

Over the next ten minutes the chief prosecutor was made familiar with the assumed potential for saboteurs to infiltrate the New York harbor, and how the Navy proposed to deal with the problem using stoolies. O’Malley couldn’t help but notice that both times he mentioned the word sources, Gurfein and Hogan shifted positions.

When he finished, both civilian lawyers sat in silence for a moment, and Hogan finally asked.

“What exactly is it you would like us to do?”

“Well, first off tell us if you think they'll work with us. I mean, do you think they’re patriotic enough?” Asked the Lieutenant.

“I think that you’ll find that most of the hoods here, despite the fact that they’re liars, cheats, thieves and murders, are good loyal Americans.” Volunteered Gurfein.

“Mussolini not only made the trains run on time, but when he first began his rise to power, he didn’t want any competition in the country, so he kicked the Mafiosi out of Italy.”

As was usually the case, with the exception of the loyal American part, the D.A.’s office was about twenty years behind on the accuracy of its information.

What Hogan said concerning the Mafioso was true. His point however, was mute. The Mafioso no longer controlled crime in New York, or in most of the rest of the country for that matter. Although names the Black Hand, La Cosa Nostra and Mafia would last well into the twenty-first century, the organization now in control was the Unione Siciliano run by The Commission.

The third year of the Great Depression was the only profitable year for Universal Studios between 1929 & 1936, thanks to one film, “Dracula”. Coincidentally it was a profitable year for men like Buggsy Siegal and Meyer Lansky, as they began to organise crime nationwide. They were not alone. They worked under the direction of the man who would become “The Boss of Bosses”, Lucky Luciano. When Lucky finished implementing his national plan for organised crime, there were only three basic differences between the Unione and any other American corporation.

The Unione could account for all of their assets all of the time, it was crystal clear who was in charge and The Commission didn’t have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. They didn’t need one, they controlled or influenced most everyone else’s to one degree or another.

“In that case Mr. Hogan,” MacFall said, “we’d like to have some names we could approach.” Hogan immediately realised he would ultimately have no choice but to cooperate. But with a little bit of the old stall game, he might be able to manipulate the ground rules.

“Well Captain, that’s probably not the best way to go about it. Let me work on it. Give us a couple of days to go through the files, and we can get back to you.” Cooperate or not he was not about to let his territory be trampled on by anyone, least of all some Washington bureaucrat.

“Well, now that that’s settled! Welcome home Jim!” Gurfein extended his hand towards the Lieutenant. O’Malley did not reciprocate.

“The Lieutenant won’t be running our side of the show, Mr. Gurfein. I’ve selected another officer.” MacFall explained.

“Oh? Who would that be sir?”

Haffenden, Lieutenant Commander Haffenden. Lieutenant O’Malley will act as liaison between our two offices.”

“I’ll appoint a man to work with you as well Captain, and get back to you with who it is.” Hogan pitched in.

“Good enough.” MacFall stood up, signalling the meeting was over. “Lieutenant O’Malley will contact you the end of the week.”       

“Look forward to working with your men, Captain.” Hogan said.  After everyone shook hands the officers left. There was a brief interval, and Gurfein turned to Hogan.

“How do you want to handle this?”

“We’d better go slow with them. Go through the files.” Hogan thought very intently as he came around from behind his desk.

“You do it. Don’t give it to anybody else. When you go through the records, see who we’ve fingered on the docks. Let’s give them only one. And for God sakes let’s keep this under our hats, huh?”

“Right-O chief. I’ll start on it right after lunch.” Gurfein began to leave. As he had the door half way open, Hogan called to him.

“And Murray. Make sure whoever you pick out of the files has an indictment. I mean an air tight indictment. One we’re going to win no matter what. I don’t want to screw up any opportunities for convictions.”

Gurfein nodded, then as he stepped through the door hesitated. Coming back into the room, he closed the door behind him, leaned back on it and folded his arms displaying a mischievous smile. Hogan looked up from his desk.

“What?”

“What about the wire taps?” Gurfein grinned.

 After a short pause Hogan instructed. “Leave them in place. This could get interesting.”

On his way out, as he passed the secretary’s desk, Gurfein asked what had happened to the coffee. With no discernible movement whatsoever, the secretary kept typing while she issued her reply. “I forgot.”

Meanwhile, outside the D.A.’s office, in the hallway, a separate assessment of the meeting was under way as the two officers walked towards the elevators.

“Are you okay with this liaison position, Lieutenant?”

“Ah . . . yes sir.”

“You don’t sound very sure of yourself.” Enquired MacFall as both men reached the elevator. After considering his words carefully, O’Malley spoke again.

“Sir we need to tread lightly with these people.”

“Rest assured Lieutenant, we’ll only tell them what they need to know.” The elevator arrived and they boarded. They were alone. O’Malley continued.

“I don’t mean just that sir.”

“What do you mean?”

“They do business a lot different than we do, sir.” The bell rang, and as the doors opened, both men stepped into the lobby. “I know, I used to work in that office.”

“You have my ear, Jim.” MacFall listened more closely.

“Sir, Dewey, Gurfein and that crowd have built a career on the fact that they got a conviction against Lucky Luciano.”

“Well, from what I understand, he needed to be put away.”

“No doubt sir, but . . .”  O’Malley was clearly not comfortable discussing the inner workings of the D.A.’s office and their Mob-like code of silence.

“Go on.” MacFall coaxed.

“The trial evidence wasn’t as they portrayed in the papers. There were some serious procedural questions. Most of those girls testified under what they believed to be the threat of physical violence.”

“Well, gangsters are brutal people. That’s why they belong in jail.”

“I’m not talking about the Mob sir. I’m talking about the prosecutor’s office, particularly Dewey.” Both men had now moved off to one side of the lobby, out of common earshot.

“What?”

“The threat of prison, sir. They wave it around like a magic wand. Testify or go to prison. The girls were threatened with unusually long prison terms if they didn’t testify against Luciano. Some of them were even coached what to say. Section 399 of the State Criminal Code says you can’t get a conviction on one person’s testimony. Your supposed to have corroborating evidence. They had no evidence, so they got hookers and people who wanted him out of the way to testify. No one can ever say the witnesses lied. The D.A.’s office is the only one who can prosecute for purgery, so any one who said what the D.A. wanted was safe. Later half of them recanted and it wasn't all due to Mpob threats. Purgered testimony alone is what got Luciano convicted. Political ruthlessness is what got him such an unusually long sentence.”

“Well what do you know, a lawyer with ethics!” MacFall said.

“Sir, don’t get me wrong. I think all those bastards belong in jail. It’s just that I don’t consider that my brand of law. We play games like that with the rules, and we’re no better than them. Or the people we’re supposed to be fighting over in Europe for that matter.”

“So, what I’m hearing Lieutenant, is that people like Hogan and Dewey have their own agendas, and are not adverse to going outside the rules to achieve their aims?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, isn’t that just good red-blooded American politics?”

“Sir, my point is, that if push came to shove, and the potential for a scandal arose, someone in that office would see it as a stepping stone to their career, and the Navy would be the loser. Not to mention the world-wide propaganda value of the fact that the United States Navy is turning to gangsters for help!” Continued the Lieutenant.

“Having second thoughts about your own plan Jim?”

“Not at all sir. Just that after working both sides of the fence, there’s a reason why most of those guys up there are not in uniform.”

“I appreciate your candor. Your point is well taken Lieutenant. ”

“Thank you, sir.” The two officers exited the building, and through the bustling lunch hour crowd, Captain MacFall nodded to a nearby hot dog cart.

“New York tube steak?”

“Why not? I’ve been eating too healthy anyway.”


CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

Seeing the New York City waterfront for the first time is an impressive sight. It is unique in the world of waterfronts. The convoluted structure of the docks allows them to encompass all five boroughs as well as border seven cities along the New Jersey shore, just across the Hudson River. The shear vastness of these structures can only be appreciated from the air, and their true splendour is best experienced during sunrise or the change of seasons. In addition it is unlikely that any other waterfront is marred by such a long and consistent history of violence.

It is here, amid the bitter sweet aromas of hemp and creosote, nearly every King, Queen or Head of State from has arrived then embarked for some far corner of the globe. While on these same timbers someone’s father, brother, uncle or son has became an unwanted coroner’s statistic.

However, these docks are composed of more then timber decks and pitch coated pilings. There are the men and women who live and work in this city within a city. Along with these temporary caretakers of the waterfront, are the terminals and warehouses which sustain life through the blistering heat of summer and the sub-zero temperatures of winter. The long, narrow buildings are large enough to house entire populations of small countries, and it is within these structures that the majority of longshoremen, stevedores or dockworkers, depending on your cultural orientation, work out their days, sacrificing their feet, knees, backs and sometimes their lives, to make ends meet.

The typical terminal had a thirty to forty foot high ceiling mostly composed of heavy glass in order to take full advantage of the sunlight. At night the work was carried on under the blinding glare of mercury vapour lamps. The rectangular footprint of the building was divided into three parts. The shoreward end of the building, furthest from the water, was usually partitioned off for office space, while the remainder of the sparse floor area was divided through the long axis into equal halves. One side of the terminal was designated for arriving freight while the opposite side was usually designated for out going freight. In addition to this arrangement dictated by practicality, there was a special corner bin designated “OS & D”, as it was in terminal 16A.

“Hey Danny! What’s OS & D?” Asked the newest member of the Longshoremen's Union everyone called ‘Kid’.

“You got that kid broken in yet? God-damn it!” The heavy set foreman scowled as he walked by the two workers. As they stood next to a 1500 pound crate of loose M & Ms.

“Not yet, Bennie. Just showin’ him around.” Danny yelled back.

“Well get a foot under it! You ain’t bein’ paid to be a wet nurse!”     

“How come he’s alway’s yellin’?” Asked the sixteen year old dockworker. Danny answered as he continued to shift freight.

‘Cause kid, he got ulcers. And he gets a bonus if he can get us to move extra freight. And he just got some bad news this mornin’.”

“Like what?” The kid asked, not really interested, but making conversation as he helped Danny.

“Like Joey Morretti is doin’ his wife.”

“Joey Morretti from here?”

“Yeah.”

“Shit!”

“Yeah.”      

Whata ya think’s gonna happen?”  

“Don’t know. He only found out a half hour ago, and Morretti ain’t come to work yet.” Danny updated the kid while they continued to move some boxes to give the illusion of working.

“Anyways, what wuz you askin’ me?”

“What’s OS & D?”

Danny looked around the floor and located a small wooden crate with a red metal tag wired to it. He motioned the kid over and began to explain.

“Okay, ya see dis here Spanish wine?” His apprentice nodded. Danny pulled back his right leg and one of his U.S. Army issue, paratrooper boots, crashed into and through the pine crate. Rich colored amontillado spilled out through the broken glass staining the broken crate and concrete a dark red. The smell of alcohol permeated the air.

“Now.” Said Danny as he continued the lesson. “Ya see that red tag?” The kid nodded. “That means this piece of freight is insured for $10,000 or more. But one of them bottles is busted. Which means now we gotta put this in OS & D. Over, Short and Damaged. Why?”

“Because it’s damaged?” The kid responded in disbelief.

“Very good.” Gesturing to the bin, Danny said, “Gimme a hand.” And off they went with ten thousand dollars worth of cracked timber and broken glass.

“When we’re done here we gotta load a flat bed with some oil ta go over ta the fish market.”

About ten or twelve yards from the bin, Danny looked up as he heard screaming coming from the office area which was just adjacent to OS & D. The screams were punctuated by the sounds of breaking furniture and through the window the pair could see the stocky foreman had just thrown someone to the floor by way of a desk, and was viciously attempting to rip the time clock off the wall. Danny, with twelve years on the wharf, understood instantly.

“Shit! Kid drop the crate!”

“What is it?”

“Looks like Morretti came to work!”

Just then Joey’s battered body came crashing through the plate glass office window and hit the concrete floor of the dock with a sickening smack.

“No matter what happens don’t interfere!” Danny cautioned at the unexpected extension of the lesson. The kid suddenly noticed colors were a little brighter, and the harbor smelled stronger than usual.

Laying there amongst the broken shards of glass, there was surprisingly little blood. As Joey began to roll over, his supervisor broke out the remnants of the office window with a metal chair, threw it at Morretti, and stepped through the broken frame and out onto the platform. The burly foreman, completely consumed by rage, steam rising from his sweaty face in the cold morning air, looked around for another weapon.

By this time most of the workers had gathered at that end of the dock to watch the latest show. Joey, now up on all fours, blood dripping from his nose, watched as his opponent spotted a bailing hook stuck into a nearby crate, and slowly moved towards the vicious tool. Joey seemed paralyzed.

An eerie silence befell the terminal, accentuating the screaming of the gulls circling outside as they fought over a piece of meat.

Morretti don’t look so good.” One of the men behind Danny and the kid whispered. The Kid looked at Danny.

“Joey’s connected on the Jersey side.” The former paratrooper narrated without turning away from the action.

“He’s took some real beatin’s in his life. His father was on the docks during the depression when all dem blacks come down from Harlem with weapons wanting to take over the waterfront.”

“What happened?” The kid asked as Danny gave the history lesson.

“Game ended Mott Street 50, Harlem 0.” Danny answered.

Watching his own blood dripping onto the concrete floor, Joey thought about his father’s description of the bloody battle when the two factions met in Greenwich Village, and how the Blacks were beaten back in an all day battle with bailing hooks and Johnson bars. That’s why he didn’t go for the hook, even though he had seen it first. He knew better. With over a dozen witnesses, Morretti knew he was home free.

Having taken the bait the infuriated foreman, held the ten inch iron hook menacingly at his side as he walked towards his intended victim. Morretti, now up on one knee, fragments of glass imbedded in the side of his baby face, and blood flowing from his forehead, smiled as he watched the big man hesitate.

Three rounds in rapid succession fired from Morretti’s thirty-eight buried themselves in the foreman’s chest, and it was his turn to lay face down in the broken glass and blood.

The kid jumped at the report of the weapon, and instinctively started towards the ex-foreman. Danny threw out an arm and blocked him. “Forget it! You wuz in the back wit me. All you heard was some shots. Got it?” The Kid couldn't avert his stare. “Come on we got a flatbed to load.”

An hour and a half later, the last of the police squad cars drove through the terminal gate, and right behind it was a flat bed loaded with olive oil. The squad car turned south towards the Battery, but the truck headed straight cross town to Fulton Street.

The overweight truck driver finished his coffee and threw the paper cup out the window, but left the cherry cheese danish hanging from his mouth as he maneuvered his vehicle up to the loading docks, in front of the Fulton Street Fish Market. After turning off the engine, he lifted his hat to wipe the sweat from his forehead, and his dirty hair stood up, mated together from grease and dirt.

Theoretically this huge complex of bins and stalls, stocked with every species of fish imaginable, was municipally owned. However, like the adjoining retail outlets, the cannery and nearly the entire distribution network, it was controlled by one man, Joseph “Socks” Lanza.

Socks Lanza was the undisputed number one power in the American fishing industry. Period. He gained and maintained control of this empire with a very logical technique. A strangle hold on union labor. Socks simply established his own unions, extorted funds for membership, and after filing some papers with the AFL, was in business.

For example, the Sea Food Workers Union, which was only one of a handful of unions run by Socks, dominated the Fulton Street Fish Market. In classic mob fashion, he covered all the bases with a separate union for each labor force. A trick learned from the D.A.’s office, where they would file up to half a dozen charges for one alleged offence, and try to get one to stick. A charge to cover all the bases so to speak.

The market, which supplied seafood from Maine to the Carolinas and as far west as the Mississippi, was teeming with activity that Wednesday morning. Unlike the bitter sweet aromas of the wharfs across town, there was only one smell here. The smell of fish. Acrid, pungent and overwhelming. The smell of fish which engulfed and permeated everything and everybody from the workers in their blood stained aprons, to the handful of clerks and typists encased in a glass boxes which appeared to be stuck to the ceilings as they overlooked the masses of workers gutting, shifting and selling their loads sixteen hours a day.

 The unsavory truck driver waddled his way across the slippery floor, and weaved his way in and out of the numerous stalls of flounder, eel and shell fish. As he chewed his cherry cheese danish with his mouth open, he considered himself lucky that he didn’t have to work under these unhygienic conditions. Making his way to the staircase leading to the office, he ascended, and, when he reached the top, ignored the paper sign on the door telling him to wipe his feet before he entered.

The heated air of the glass encased room was a welcome relief from the bitter February chill flowing through the lower level of the open market. Stepping up to the chest high counter, the middle aged driver removed his gloves and reached into his coat pocket to remove the invoice for his delivery.

“Hello Emily!” He addressed the receptionist, who although the same age as the driver, had weathered her years behind a typewriter far better than he had his years behind a Mother-of-Pearl steering wheel. His syrupy voice held no sway with her, and she showed her affection for him openly.

“What the hell you want, fat ass?” He was undeterred.

“How was your Christmas, Emily?”

“Let me tell ya, Burt. I remember three things about my Christmas. A, it was in Hot Springs. Next, it was too short. And tree, I didn’t have ta conversate with no delivery boys!” Her last comment was in synchronized harmony with the strokes of her pen as she endorsed the document in front of her, pulled the pink copy and curtly shoved it back across to Burt.

Giggling circulated the office as Burt bid Emily a fond good-bye and wished her a happy Valentine’s Day. The receptionist didn’t answer, but instead made her way over to a door with a wooden letter box fixed to the inside of it. Through a slot in the cross piece of the door she inserted the rubber stamped, endorsed invoice. Above the slot, lettered on the frosted glass panel of the door, was the name “J. Lanza, President Amalgamated Sea Food Workers Unions”.

On the other side of the door five men sat at a dark mahogany conference table, and it was a large, jowly man who was conducting the meeting.

“So what’s the story in Queens?”

“Well Mr. Lanza, as far as we can tell, some guy named Dimitri has a coupla trucks and is deliverin’ around Astoria for twenty per cent under the rate.”

“How many trucks he got?”

Shuffling through some papers, a third man reported. “Five Boss.”

“Okay, you tree.” Pointing to the three largest of the four men, “Get over to Queens.” He spoke as he made his way around the table to his desk.

“Find this prick! Work him over, good! But don’t cripple the fuck! We still need him ta pay.” Two of the men standing in front of the desk smirked at one another. Lanza continued. “Wreck one, maybe two'a his trucks. Let him know who done this.”

“Who should we say is callin’ Mr. Lanza?”

“Tell him you’re from the Fulton Watchman’s Protective Association.”

Reaching into a bottom drawer of the desk, Lanza produced three strange looking items. Homemade devices made from empty wine bottles filled with a yellow-ish substance and corked with a primitive fuse system, they were too large to fit into a conventional pocket, but small enough to conceal inside a coat.

“Take these stink bombs. Find three of the markets he’s been deliverin’ to and pop one in each of them. This way they’ll get the picture too. That’ll be the day some God-damned Ruski son-of-a-bitch moves into New York!” As the three men filed out the door, the phone rang, but before answering it, Lanza spoke to the remaining man in the room.

“Anything else?”

“No Boss. That’s about it.” This man was smaller and better dressed than the other three. In addition he carried a double strapped satchel.

“Alright then. Make the rounds, check the numbers and get back to me this afternoon.” As the man opened the door to leave, there was one additional instruction.

“And stay the hell away from Easy Emily!” Both men smiled.

Lanza picked up the phone. “Hello . . . yeah speakin’.”

“Joseph K. Guerin’s office, please hold for Mr. Guerin.” A look of surprise registered on Lanza’s face when he heard his lawyer’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Lanza?”

“Yeah! What’s up Guerin? I thought we didn’t need to meet til Monday.”

“Something's come up. The D.A. wants to talk.”

“Talk about what!? If that prick wants to talk, tell him ta come here.”

“He wants a meet.” The lawyer tried to maintain his patience.

“What the hell for? What does he want to cut a deal?” Lanza became slightly more enthusiastic about talking to the D.A.

“No! No deal!” The difficulty in maintaining his patience was that Guerin knew, although he had not told his client this, that Lanza had two chances of beating his current indictment. Slim and none, and Slim had just left town. Lawyers don’t like to lose cases, regardless of the guilt or innocence of their clients. Of course, the Mob paid as well as any corporate entity, better than most, so he would stick with the case as long as possible.

“No deal? Then fuck him!”

“Joey! I think you should meet him. It’s important!”

There was a momentary pause on the mobster’s end of the line. Finally he spoke.

“This better not be a set up! And it better be important, god-damn it!”

“It is important, and it isn’t a set up!”

Awright then. What’s the plan?”  

“You tell me what time you want to go up to the courthouse, and I’ll meet you.”

Whatta you kiddin’ me or what? I go waltzin’ up to the courthouse in the middle of the day and every punk from the Bronx ta Hoboken is gonna think I’m cuttin’ a deal, and that fuckin’ D. A.’ll, do everything he can ta get the word out that I am.”

“Lanza! It’s not a trick, trust me!”

“Trust you?! What? You stopped bein’ a lawyer yesterday?”

“Very funny, prick! When and where?”

Guerin had no stake in whether or not Lanza met with the D.A. He was not being paid by anyone for this, and it was not going to affect the outcome of Socks’ trial.

“Tell him you’ll call him. Tonight, at eight.” Lanza had already worked out all the details in his mind in the last few seconds of conversation.

“When will you call me?”

“Tonight, at seven-fifty nine. I gotta go!”     

“What’s the rush?”

“The sea food workers and some retailers are havin’ a dispute. I called a meeting to straightin’ it out.”

Straightin’ it out?! You own the unions and the retailers!”

“Yeah, they're like little kids, always fightin'. Time for Daddy to have a talk. After all, the only thing that matters is the bottom line, right?” Joey checkmated the lawyer.

“Call me!”

“Guerin, one more thing!”

“What?”

“Ask the DA if he knows who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Socks asked laughingly.

“What?”

Lanza hung up, pleased with his forthcoming plan.

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