shook his head as he knocked firmly on the door of suite #32. The glass panel
read, “We Peep While Others Sleep”. That Sammon was an asshole. Louie elicited
no response from inside so he tried again.
on Doc, open up, it’s not a process server.”
Louige Mancino not only disliked the sacred sense of tradition his family tried
to shackle him with, he despised it. He hated the tortuously long Sunday
linguine suppers. He hated the language that Americans did not speak, and he
hated that all the gangsters in the movies were Italian. But most of all he
hated his name. Why couldn’t he be Wayne or Lamont or Kent? Or some other
dashing name. Why was he burdened with the name of some dead uncle he never
up he didn’t understand why the other kids called him WOP, meatball or spaghetti
bender, but he knew it wasn’t complimentary. So after three or four black eyes
and a twice broken nose, the kids at St. Matthew’s got the idea that he wanted
to be called Louie.
hated the gangsters. He hated the punks who acted like gangsters. He hated that
everyone thought he was connected because he had an Italian name. He was
careful never to actually say he was connected. Of course, he was just as
careful to never deny it either. All he wanted was to be a P. I. and to be
called Louie. Louie the P. I. Another month of night classes and he could take
his state exam.
Mancino, Private Investigator.
why he liked Doc. Doc treated him as an equal and made a deal with him. As soon
as he finished his courses at City College in March, he could work out of the
office, on his own cases, and out of all the rotten things people said about
Doc, not one of them could ever say he broke his word. Not unless they wanted
to look stupid.
on Doc, open up. I got some good news. I know you’re in there, I can smell you
through . . . the . . . SHIT!”
words were not yet out of Mancino’s mouth when he saw them. Three bullet holes
in the hall wall to the left of the door. Not a tight little shot pattern
either, but spread out as if there had been a struggle. A cold chill ran up his
spine, and he banged harder on the door with no luck. Then he remembered.
raced down the hall as fast as his green and orange bowling shoes would let him
and slid to a halt in front of the fire hose cabinet. He ripped the door open
and the glass shattered with the impact of hitting the wall. He was horrified
to see the outline in dust of where the spare key used to be.
be how the bastards got in!” He surmised.
back to the office door, Louie The P.I. fought down a feeling of panic as he
tried to think clearly. The glass! Removing his coat to reveal his white and
blue bowling shirt, he wrapped it around his fist. Closing his eyes, Louie
punched through the glass panel on the office door. As the shards of glass fell
to the floor, he opened his eyes one at a time to see if there was any
bleeding. His sense of satisfaction at not seeing blood however seeped away as
the unlocked door slowly swung open. Halfway it hit a piece of over turned
furniture. He was aghast at the condition of the office.
floor was completely covered in broken furniture and debris. Doc’s left foot
peering out from under the desk re-ignited Louie’s sense of urgency and he
fought his way to the corner of the room to where Doc was laying, face down. Reaching Doc’s body, he slowly rolled the limp
me you’re breathin’ buddy! Tell me you’re breathin’!”
on Doc wake up . . . wake up! You can’t check out yet . . . I ain’t solved my
first case!” Louie searched the body for wounds. Doc moaned, and his eyes
opened gingerly as he watched the ceiling slowly come into focus.
the hell . . . shit! My head! Louie? What the hell you doing here?” Doc
breathed onto his friend. Louie gagged and recoiled with a wince.
Christ Doc! You smell like the Jersey Meadowlands in July!!” Doc sat up holding
his head with one hand looking around the room.
mean except for this god damned excavation crew drilling through my
I'm serious! You okay?" Doc shrugged off Louie's help.
course I’m okay! Why wouldn't be okay?”
mean like you got any extra holes?” Doc smirked.
I’m okay.” Righting his chair he eased himself into it, gingerly holding his
head with both hands.
Why the hell’d ja break the glass? I left the door open for ya!”
. . . It was stuck. Doc, what the hell happened here last night?”
I just had to talk things out with Mary. Sort’a get it off my chest, ya know.” Louie,
noticed the bullet holes were roughly in line with Mary’s photograph and began
to lose his patience.
Christ Doc! Didn't that letter from the landlord sink in? You had a baptism
last night, didn’t you?!”
courses are paying off already.” Doc said as he rose from the desk and made his
way through the carnage to the sink. “How the hell can you be so thirsty the
morning after the night you drank so much?” Doc asked to no one in particular.
got hammered last night and shot holes in the damn wall!” Louie pressed his
told you. I had to get it out of my system.” Doc maintained his patience. After
the preceding week, it was reassuring to be back amongst friends. Even if they
were beginning to sound like his ex-wife.
Louie had to get it out of his system.
know Doc, you’re not the first guy to get shit on by some broad over money. And
I ain’t Nostradamus, but I think you probably ain’t gonna be the last!”
now at the sink, listened to his friend as he drank three glasses of water and
ate a hand full of aspirin. Louie continued as he paced around the office.
is how you want to see it, Doc. It’s either a burden or an opportunity. It’s
what you make of it. Time to pick up the pieces and move on. No sense cryin’
over spilt milk. Water under the bridge, ya know? To quote Shakespeare,
'There’s other fish in the sea'.”
be condensatin’, Doc! This ain’t funny! It's a good thing those offices across
the hall are empty!”
for caring man.” Doc continued to try and lighten the tone as he dried his
serious! There’s enuff local cops got it in fer you as it is, fer Christ’s
sake. The only reason they keep givin’ you breaks is ‘cause’a your old man.” Louie
nodded to the picture of the policeman on the shelf.
Louie. I appreciate your friendship, I really do. Just lighten up on the
bitchin' will ya?” Louie appeared to calm down, and Doc continued to wash up.
it ain’t like I got an anterior motive or somethin’! I’m just worried about
gettin’ you through this shit!” Louie’s client reports were always fun to read.
thing you know you’ll be doin’ something really stupid like hoppin’ a plane to
Miami and tryin’ ta get her ta’ come back to New York.” Mancino sat down at the
desk and put his feet up. Doc put his towel down, and without looking at Louie
went into the back to change his clothes. Louie immediately understood.
me you didn’t do something really stupid Doc!” There was no response from
behind the partition. Looking down at the floor, Louie saw the pieces of torn
did! Didn’t you? You hopped a plane, you went to Florida and . . .” Louie was
cut off in mid sentence as Doc burst through the partition door in a half
told you, god-damn it! I had to get it outta my system! And I did! So let’s
drop it Louie! You made your god-damned point!!”
Doc! Shootin’ holes in the freakin’ wall . . .” He pleaded.
said DROP IT!! I’M OVER IT! She’s history! Yesterday’s news, a foot note in the
archives! End of subject! Savvy?!” Louie was taken off guard by the intensity
of Doc’s anger, and wasn't sure how to react. So he sat in silence behind the
continued to dress in front of the mirror. Louie continued to sit, and the
awkwardness of the silence intensified. Doc finished tying his cravat and
slumped over the sink holding his head in his hand in a vein attempt to reduce
it to normal size. Louie spoke first.
Turning to face Louie without lifting his head. Louie held up the empty whiskey
wanna go get a drink?”
a sick son-of-a-bitch Mancino! Ya know that?”
tension gone out of the room, they both laughed.
is this why you came up here at the ungodly hour of noon? You felt sorry for me
I didn’t have a wife any more, so you decided to take over as the pain in the
ass in my life?”
didn’t speak, but rose from the desk and as he made his way to the door
produced a folded sheet of paper from his breast pocket and handed it to Doc. He
continued across the room to the letter box on the inside of the front door.
unfolded the paper and read aloud.
and Norma Birnbaum, apartment 2B, 127 East 64th. What the hell is this?”
the hell's it look like? It’s a client.” Louie said with a smug look on his
face, knowing nothing had come into the office for over two weeks. Doc welcomed
the work with guarded optimism.
are they? What’s the skinny?”
Doris’ hairdresser, she’s a nice girl, you’ll get a kick out of her.”
she’s so nice why does she need us?”
thinks maybe her husband is screwin’ around on her, and she wants to know for
sure.” Although he had no choice, Louie was tentative about giving this
information to Doc. He knew how Doc felt about that alimony, divorce shit.
was facing the door, so Doc didn’t see him mouth the words as he spoke.
Jesus Louie! You know I hate this alimony, divorce shit!”
Louie didn't answer. He reached into the same pocket and produced five, fifty
dollar bills and laid them neatly on the desk. Doc stared, wide-eyed at the
the other hand, work is work. Where’d this come from?”
had her make the cheque out in my name. I didn’t know where the hell you were
or when you’d be back. So I took a down payment and signed the case. I told her
you’d call early next week.” Doc picked up the money.
did good Louie.”
per cent of that’s mine!”
handed him a fifty. “Here. Go buy Doris a chocolate layer cake.”
eyes lit up.
Doc! Thanks! You okay with this?”
up before I change my mind.”
ain’t no gimme. You’re gonna work this case with me.”
serious?!” Louie was thrilled. “But I ain’t got my license!”
won’t need one. We follow the guy, find out who the girl is, take a few snaps,
and show up for court. Clean and simple. What could happen?”
was pleased to see Louie so excited. He would make a good P.I. There was an
unspoken agreement that Louie would one day take over the agency.
. . . ah, sorry about flyin’ off the handle. I just want some peace and quiet,
and ta get back to work.”
there you are partner. A nice simple client to ease you back into the saddle.” Louie
was still holding the mail in his hand and Doc asked what was in it.
through the four pieces, Louie recited. “A subpoena, the electric bill, another
subpoena and an invite to join the Ancient Order Of Hibernians.” Louie couldn’t
repress his smile as Doc shook his head.
took the envelope from Louie and made his way around behind his desk. From a
drawer he took a large rubber stamp and stamped the post in several places,
'Scottish! Not Irish!' Louie laughed as Doc handed him the solicitation and
told him to put it back in the box.
Doc flopped into his chair.
do you do it? I mean spend so much time away from Doris and still have such a
healthy relationship after twelve years?”
dunno. I guess it’s . . . true love.” Louie said in a mocking voice.
It’s ‘cause she’s horny all the time. That’s why you married her in the first
Body of a woman, sex drive of a man. Hell, only way it could be any better was
if she was a rich mute and owned a liquor store.”
on shit head! I’m tryn’ to be serious here! Emotionally what makes it work?”
Doc. You’re startin’ ta sound like those phoney letters in True Romance
the truth.” Louie took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Than he sat down
next to the desk and spoke in a serious tone.
I love her so much that, that when I’m away from her . . . I’m so miserable I
feel like she’s here.”
asked for it.”
brass letters, '2B', were neatly polished and contrasted aesthetically against
the black enamelled door of the apartment. Doc knocked, and to his surprise the
door opened immediately, as far as the safety chain would allow, as if someone
were standing there waiting for him. An elderly woman, maybe early seventies
but spry, very short, undid the chain and opened the door. She was visibly
upset. Doc rechecked the sheet of paper.
looking for Mrs. Birnbaum?”
that’s me.” The elderly woman held a tissue in one hand and spoke with a Jewish
Mr. McKeowen. The detective.” Opening the door wider, she gestured for Doc to
come in, then locked up behind him.
modestly decorated rooms were immaculate, and Doc thought about his office. Contributing
to the feeling that he was visiting his grandmother’s house, was the fact that
the air was saturated with the delicious aroma of some food which Doc did not
recognise, simmering on the stove.
. . . Mrs. Birnbaum. You have a daughter, that wants to hire a private
I half no daughter.” If Louie screwed this up, I’ll brain him!
was told someone wishes me to investigate the possibility of . . . infidelity. That
their husband may be having an extra-marital affair. Is there a woman in this
building in that situation that you know of, Mrs. Birnbaum? Perhaps with
your muther half a difficult delivery? I am Norma Birnbaum! I am da voman! Andt
my husbant is cheatingt on me! Mit a rich, younger bimbo no less!” She spoke,
making her way to the kitchen.
was taken off guard. If this guy is anywhere near her age and is foolin’ around
I gotta meet him!
makes you think Ira has been seeing someone else, Mrs. Birnbaum?”
DINK?! I don't dink. I know! A voman knows dees dings. Since the war started! Maybe
he wants to sow some vild oats, who knows? In case we’re invaded maybe! Come,
sit!” They both took seats in the kitchen.
did you notice, since the war started? That made you suspicious, I mean?”
Birnbaum explained as she stirred pots and made tea.
usual. Stayingt out late. Goink to verk at odd hours. Dinks like dat.”
there been any money missing, say from his pay, or anything like that?” She
shook her finger vigorously as she spoke.
Dats how I know da little hussy is rich! He still gives me all his money, and
den some! But he still has money to play mit da hoochie-coochie!” Norma
embellished with pelvic gyrations.
does your husband do, Norma?”
is postal clerk. You know, for dee postal office.”
he works at the 42nd Street Station?” Doc asked as he kept notes.
Two years ago they give him promotion and easier job, down town. Soon, he
retires. He is seventy-nine, you know! Andt still vorkingt! We promise each
other he only vork until he is eighty. You know, that way we can spend last
twenty years or so together.” Doc's eyes involuntarily widened.
it’s important to be optimistic. Your plans may still work out, Norma. How long
have you and Ira been married?”
Birnbaum stood up straight, and allowed her slight shoulders to set back ever
is our anniversary! Fifty-seven years, two months, and seventeen days! Today!”
I should live so long! Thought Doc.
Norma, here’s what we’ll do. Why don’t you give me his work address. I’ll have
a look around, and we’ll see if we can’t work this thing out.”
yust don’t vant I should lose my Ira, Mr. MackQuen.”
don’t think that’s going to happen, Norma.”
vas in da films you know. Da real films! Not dis talkies nonsense! He vas an
actor! He vas friends mit Joelson!” She began to sob, and Doc got edgy. He was
useless around crying women.
I really need you to act as normal as possible, keep up your daily routines,
and wait for me to get back to you. Okay?” He handed her a tissue from the box
on the table. “Now what’s the address?”
on Church Street. Number ninety, Church Street.” He couldn't place it, but Doc
recognised the address. “Here, eat some soup.”
thanks, Norma. I really need to . . . “
realised he was out gunned and gave in.
1936 Murray Gurfein was instrumental in the conviction of the Boss of Bosses,
Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. This conviction, which resulted in a sentence roughly
five times greater than any “normal” criminal would receive, was intended to
put Luciano away for the rest of his life. It didn't.
with then D.A. Thomas Dewey, some of the tactics compelled many people to ask
questions. In particular why the majority of the dozen or so witnesses they
called, said nearly the same exact thing. Or why had the three key witnesses
recanted their statements almost immediately after testifying and then signed
sworn statements to that effect. Lastly there was the issue of perjury on the
part of some of the witnesses for the prosecution, along with the D.A.
threatening those very same witnesses with imprisonment if they did not testify
course there can be little doubt that the mobsters probably made some threats
as well. But apparently Dewey’s boys threatened harder, and his political
ambitions, of which he made no secret, were eventually fulfilled. He was able
to buy the Governorship of New York.
Dewey’s shady victory was three years ago Gurfein, as head of the rackets
division, had gotten nearly as much mileage out of Luciano’s conviction. And
now it was time to meet another one of these hoodlums. Only this time Gurfein
would not have the safety of a courtroom. He would meet him face to face, alone
on his own turf. At midnight.
complicate matters, he was going to ask this gangster for help. Even if he
hadn’t been “asked” by the D.A. to do this, as head of the N. Y. C. Rackets
Division it was his responsibility.
had a problem. If he came back empty handed, it wouldn’t go well for his
career. If he came back with something, he would probably have to make a deal. A
deal he had no authorization to make.
outside the City Hall, Gurfein held his watch towards a light post so the faint
glow would allow him to read his watch dial in the winter darkness.
forty-seven. Shit!” He thought to himself. Desperate to find a taxi to take him
uptown, Gurfein stepped out into the street, and peered down town into the dim
of the night. As if on cue, a cab pulled out from around the corner, and came
to a stop in front of him.
in through the back door he didn’t notice the “off duty” roof light was lit
and, before he could get himself seated, he felt the cab pull away.
and Broadway.” He instructed the driver.
know.” Came the response. The lawyer wanted to ask questions, but thought
better of it.
was at least a twenty minute ride uptown, even without traffic, which gave
Gurfein time to think. He nervously shifted his position several times before
settling down and gazing out the window into the desolation of the Manhattan
what the hell? He reasoned to himself. If the hoods cooperate the D.A. looks
good. If not, they look like what they are, a bunch of scum bags. If it all
goes to shit somewhere down the line I can always say I was ordered by Hogan to
do it, in spite of the fact I was repulsed by being told to do business with
known criminals. He practised how to say repulsed, and make it believable.
all of his self posturing, the thing he had the most difficulty dealing with
was the possibility that anyone even remotely associated with the Mob may be
shown, by their helping the War Department, to have any redeemable values.
the taxi cruised up a deserted Central Park West passed the Museum of Natural
History, Gurfein couldn’t help but think how the shadowy images of the park
seemed appropriate for the mood. His mind drifted further, noting how the
picturesque peacefulness engulfed the entire scene and how it would look in
just a few hours as the morning sun broke over the tree line, soon be shattered
by the brutality of rush hour traffic.
they passed into the nineties, one last chilling thought occurred to his
active, worried imagination. Was there any chance the Navy intelligence people
could have underestimated the current state of German technology? What if the
U-Boats had a longer range and extended sea life than the government knew
about? Unlikely, he reassured himself. America had the greatest scientific and
military minds in the world. That’s how we beat them in the last war. Besides,
the Krauts were essentially neutralized at Versailles.
were the thoughts that raced through Gurfein’s mind as the cab rounded the
corner and pulled to a halt at Broadway and 103rd. It was shortly after
midnight, when he attempted to exit the vehicle but was blocked by two men
getting in. It was Guerin and Lanza. Socks sat facing the two lawyers who in
turn were sitting with their backs towards the rear of the taxi.
we going?” Asked Gurfein nervously.
else.” Lanza quipped. Continuing on for another few blocks, the driver altered
his northerly direction and turned west until they came to Riverside Park. Another
right hand turn meant they were again heading uptown, and Guerin noticed a sign
in the park as they drove by.
Tomb Next Left.
a regular Bob Fuckin’ Hope, Lanza.” Guerin cracked. Socks smiled. Gurfein
After pulling into the park just south of the
memorial, the three men got out. Lanza paid a twenty, and deliberately waited
until the two lawyers were out of earshot before telling the driver to go over
to Amsterdam Avenue and wait.
walked past the others and across the narrow stretch of park to the wrought
iron fence overlooking the Hudson River. The lawyers followed and when they
reached Lanza, Guerin stepped off to one side to allow his client and the
D.A.’s representative to talk. Gurfein immediately began to paint the picture
the story Socks . . .”
Mr. Lanza.” Off to a good start, thought Guerin standing on the sidelines
lighting a smoke.
Navy needs our help. They been losing supply ships left, right and center to
the U-Boats. They don’t think the subs can stay out that long or that the
Krauts have enough of them to keep rotating their Wolf Packs.”
glanced at Guerin, then back at Gurfein. It was too hard to swallow. The U.S.
Navy looking for Socks Lanza to come to the rescue? Even with a war on, there’s
not a chance in hell they would want to get Mob guys mixed up in a legitimate
operation. The D.A.’s up to something.
they think the Krauts are being supplied from here. By a network or something.”
try’n ta tell me you think some’a my guys are supply'n Nazi’s!?”
But such an operation would take an organized network and a fair amount of
logistics. These guys would need fresh water, food, fuel, medicine and god
knows what else. This wouldn’t be any nickel dime operation.”
whatta ya want from me?”
can’t find any leads.”
why don't you guys do what you always do? Frame somebody. Or you askin’ me ta
exactly. The Navy wants to place agents on the boats, trucks and in the
you!” Lanza backed away as he exploded with anger. Guerin was startled. “I was
born durin' the fuckin' day, but it wasn't fuckin' yesterday!” He turned to a
startled Guerin. “Can you believe this shit?! This prick wants to put Feds
inside my operation!”
calm down!” Guerin threw down his cigarette and walked over to his client. “Calm
down, damn it!”
bastard wants to put cops in my market! Can you believe the cahoons on this
be stupid! He’s got nothing to do with it. If you agree to help you’ll deal
straight with the Navy. No one else.” Guerin reasoned with Lanza. Socks looked
at both of them and then again at Guerin. He began to settle down. As much as
any man could, he trusted his lawyer.
do I know they won’t be Feds?” He asked.
they are, or if the D.A. tries to sneak a Fed in, anything they obtain, or try
to obtain will be inadmissible. Besides, if you want I can have them checked out.”
The two lawyers exchanged glances. “But I’m telling you, I met the Navy guy
you’re going to be dealing with. He's on the square.”
he ex-cop?” He wanted as clear a picture as possible.
Strictly intelligence work.” Guerin reassured him.
walked around a little in small irregular circles and lit a cigarette.
be doing your country a great service.” Prodded Gurfein.
wouldn’t hurt your career either, would it councillor?” Socks was told that not
only would he not be given any consideration for his help, but that it would
probably not even be permitted to be brought up at his upcoming trial. There
was nothing that Gurfein or Hogan were going to do to jeopardize a conviction. His
lawyer made one last plea.
I’m tellin’ ya. It’s on the level.” Socks stood, hands in pockets assessing the
call you in a day or so. I’ll see what I can do.” With the sparkling lights of the
Jersey shoreline at his back Lanza slowly walked away . He headed in the
direction of Amsterdam Avenue when he stopped and turned.
Guerin! You comin’?”
to Gurfein as he walked away, Guerin said, “Don’t worry, he’ll do it. He’s got
no choice.” The lawyer caught up with Lanza.
I don’t want to call that prick. I want to deal with this Navy guy, what’s his
It was Gurfein calling after the other two men who were by now across the
street. “How am I supposed to get back down town?”
a cab!” Socks suggested, and then continued walking.
know, he could lean on you pretty heavy at the trial.” Counselled Guerin.
think for a second he’s gonna play Mr. Nice Guy? Let me tell you somethin',
when guys like that develop political ambitions, they find ways to bend the law
and then go around tellin’ people it’s ta fight crime. Then, after they get
away with it a’nuff times, comes the delusions of grandeur and invincibility! Then
it's only a small step to ignoring the law altogether.”
of experience talking, Joey?”
conoscerne uno, per conoscerli tuti. Ya seen one, ya seen ‘em all! Capito?”
two figures faded into the dark mist.
The next morning the two figures of Socks Lanza and
Guerin emerged from the bright sunlight and passed through the large, revolving
brass doors into the palatial lobby of the Hotel Astor. Outside the New York
winter air was crisp and cold, but inside the elaborate lobby it was a warm,
comfortable and lush. An atmosphere neither man was stranger to.
immaculate detail and spaciousness of the vestibule was impeccable. Plush,
intricately woven, red and gold carpet was bordered with black rope and ran snuggly into the richly stained and varnished mahogany
baseboard. The walls were a combination of paper and paint, coloured in soft maroon
and eggshell. The ceilings of heavily moulded plaster reliefs, were ornamented
with massive, gold plated chandeliers large enough to require a crew of ten men
to install. Once on the inner borders of the huge, rotating, brass plated
doors, save for the attire of the guests scattered about the lobby, one would
think it was still 1870.
two men made their way to the staircase on the left and ascended to the
mezzanine level. Although this was not Lanza’s first time in the Astor, he was
forced to think to himself as he looked around for sentries. “If this is a
set-up, they’re sure goin’ whole hog!” Owing to the sizes of the suites on the
mezzanine level, there were a limited number of them.
knew the suite number, and despite the growing irritation he felt for all this
cloak and dagger stuff he wasn’t making a penny on, he was curious as to how
the third reel was going to play out. He gave, two short knocks, and a voice
yelled to come in.
Each room was large enough to permanently house a family
of four, and was just as
plushly decorated as the lobby.
they call us crooks!” Lanza said in a low voice to Guerin as he closed the door
behind them. Straight ahead, down the long hall was some sort of sitting room,
and off to either side of the hall were four other rooms, two on each side.
and his lawyer walked down the hall poking their heads into each room until
they found the one which was occupied.
the hell’s he doin’ here?!” Socks blurted out. He was standing in the doorway
of the last room on the left, pointing as Guerin caught up with him.
just here to baby-sit. Socks.” Gurfein, sat in the corner, delightfully basking
in Lanza’s surprise. Lanza recalled how easy it was to bait and evade the cops
when they chased him as a teen and quickly composed himself.
tax dollars at work, eh Murray?”
least we pay taxes Lanza!” Gurfein was easily goaded.
pay taxes too, counsellor.” Socks retorted in a matter-of-fact tone. “The taxes
you haul in from the people we employ alone, more than pays the salary of
everyone in City Hall, with some left over to help the war effort. Of course
that’s only a rough estimate. It’s very difficult to know exactly how much is
extorted from us in graft.”
We’re not here to play cops and robbers.” It was the man seated behind the
broad wooden desk, an impressive figure dressed in civilian clothes. He looked
to be late forties, early fifties but well built. Socks was impressed with the
man’s presence and shook his hand with respect as the man introduced himself.
Lanza, Lieutenant Commander Charles Haffenden, thanks for coming.”
smirked silently as he thought to himself, “Mr. Lanza! Gimme a break!” Socks
sat down in the chair facing the desk. Guerin stood, as there were no more chairs
in the room. The lawyer, in his sixties was visibly uncomfortable.
Lanza I’m told you can help us.”
Commander, call me Socks.” Lanza said, pretending not to notice Gurfein’s
glance. “What is it I can do for youse?”
Haffenden had been briefed about Lanza’s legal situation, and so understood
fully the relationship between Gurfein and Socks. He also knew why the D.A’s
representative was there. It had very little to do with Lanza. He would no
doubt be tripping over himself to report back to Hogan the instant the meeting
was over. Little did he realise he
was out of his league.
Haffenden had not only been in service since 1917, he was considered a founding
father of Naval intelligence. He played in the same playground as Aaron Banks
and “Wild Bill” Donovan. While people like Hogan and Gurfein were paying for
tips and blackmailing petty criminals, men like Haffenden were spying on heads
of state and collecting data as field operatives behind the lines in enemy
I believe your lawyer has already filled you in on the details of the
difficulties we’re having with our shipping?” Guerin had no idea what Haffenden
was talking about, but kept quiet. Lanza caught on right away.
all the details.” He responded. Gurfein sat up straight and looked at
What can we do?” Continued Haffenden. Socks reached into his pocket and
produced a pen. He wrote two phone numbers on a piece of note paper he took
from the desk and slid them across to the Commander.
me at either one of those numbers in a day or so, sir.” Lanza stood along with
Haffenden, and they shook hands.
to have met you, sir.”
Socks.” Gurfein remained seated. Lanza left first and as Guerin was putting his
hat on, he turned to Gurfein and quipped, “Told ya he’d do it.” Commander
Haffenden put on his coat as well and indicated to Gurfein that it was time to
leave. Gurfein tried to get a look at the piece of paper on the desk, but
Haffenden scooped it up and put it in his pocket.
I have a right to know what's on that paper!” They started down the hall
towards the exit.
know Murray. I get the impression you’re the kind’a guy likes ordering
secretaries around.” Haffenden stopped to open the front door to the suite. He
reached in his pocket and produced a piece of paper. Outside in the hall he
addressed Gurfein again.
told you’re an expert in Sicilian?”
So?” Haffenden handed him the piece of paper and proceeded to walk down the
corridor towards the stairs.
back to me with a translation on that, will ya?” Haffenden was about to set the
ground rules for the N. Y. C. D. A.'s relationship with his intell network.
stood in the middle of the hallway and unfolded the paper.
bold, block, hand written letters, was a single word in Sicilian . . . “FANCULO!”
stood against the granite wall of Central Park pretending to read the early
edition of the Daily News in the morning cold, as he shelled his
breakfast of salted peanuts. Columbus Circle was buzzing with activity by 8:00
a. m., and Mancino had his work cut out for him. Mrs. Birnbaum told Doc that
Ira always walked to the Circle in the morning on his way to work. Louie’s
assignment was to spot Birnbaum, follow him to whatever mode of transportation
he would utilize to get down town, and then call Doc who was waiting in a phone
booth in the Woolworth Building, around the corner from the Church Street
office. Doc really didn't Louie to do this, but he needed him even less hanging
around Downtown bugging him. He didn't mind teaching Louie, but he wasn't a
positioning himself behind the line of Hanson cabs parked along Central Park
South, where he was able to see the subway kitchen on the corner of Broadway
and 59th, Louie's eyes darted back and forth across the pack of pedestrians.
Louie took the photo Mrs. Birnbuam gave Doc,
out of his jacket pocket and studied it for the tenth time. It was taken at a
family function of some sort, and showed Ira and Norma sitting at a table alone
while dozens of others around them danced and ate, almost as if the old couple
weren’t there. Louie was still puzzled by the age of the subject he and Doc
were to investigate. If this guy has got something going on the side it’s gotta
be one for the record books!
looked up with an unshelled peanut still in his mouth. Five foot two, balding,
glasses, dark suit and bow tie. Bingo! As Ira was descending into the subway,
Mancino had to fight his way across The Circle, leaving a trail of peanut
shells and dodging traffic to reach his subject in time.
fresh smell of ozone greeted Louie as he took the steps two at a time leading
down to the subway platforms and rounded the bend, past the crowded news kiosk
to the turnstiles. Reaching into his pocket, he produced a handful of change,
and mixed among the hodge podge of coins were two ten cent tokens. He selected
one and inserted it into the slot and pushed through the clicking ratchets of
the wooden turnstile and walked onto the platform pretending to read the paper.
But something was wrong.
looked up and down the platform. No Ira!
were less than a dozen people milling about. Jesus! Was this guy that good? How
could he have known he was being tailed? The space between the edge of the
platform and the wall was to narrow for him to step back and peer behind the
only place to hide, the wide steel girders supporting the ceiling. To compound
his problems, Louie could hear the screeching of steel wheels growing louder as
the Downtown express approached the 59th Street station. Walking rapidly to one
end of the platform he saw no sign of the old man. Shit! Doc won’t let this one
go! Bad enough he has to pay forty-seven dollars for a new office window, now I
drop the tail! Louie ran back up to the turnstiles. He heard the train squeal
into the station, and had a brain-storm. He double timed back down stairs and
as the passengers began to board, he ran over to the centre car, stood in front
of the door and sighted straight down either side of the train, to observe who
was boarding. He peered left, and as he turned to look down the other side of
the train, a group of five or six commuters, pushed into him.
me sir, you’re blocking the door.” Louie looked down, and gasped. He found Ira.
around the corner from Church Street, over onn Broadway, Doc was milling about
in the elaborate mosaics in the cruciform lobby of the Woolworth Building, near
a bank of phones. A security guard looked up for the fourth time in the last
quarter of an hour, suspicion etched a little deeper into his grizzled face. Doc
did the only thing he could, he smiled, waved and cursed Louie.
subject of Doc’s anger was now making his way to the back of the crowded car to
put some distance between himself and Mr. Birnbaum. When he reached the rear of
the car, he remained standing, carefully hiding behind his New York Daily
News. Ira was opening a pack of Wrigley’s, and Louie tried to note the
stations from the blur of signposts in the windows.
the train began to slow and eventually came to a stop at the Wall Street
station. Birnbaum stepped off, Louie was right behind him, and as they ascended
up onto street level, Louie checked his watch.
up from his watch, Doc noted Louie was twenty minutes late with his call. McKeowen
made a decision to walk around the corner to Church Street and chance an
intercept with Birnbaum.
was annoyed, but not really angry with Louie. He had long since taught himself
to control his anger where friends and family were concerned. He thought about
his father telling him not to join the force, and how the discussions about
medical school gradually deteriorated into shouting matches.
the corner onto Church Street Doc was struck with a strong cool breeze. Glancing
across the street, he shook his head and fought back a smile. There was Louie,
standing in a phone booth, stamping his feet to keep warm, and dialling the
phone. As Doc crossed the street, and walked up to the phone booth, he could hear
Louie giving someone on the other end a physical description and asking for Mr.
rapped on the glass and Louie half turned, covering the receiver with his hand,
while yelling to the intruder.
pal! Find another phone. This one’s . . . hi Doc.”
Mr. Tracy.” Louie slowly hung up and stumbled out of the booth. “Where’s
in there.” Louie pointed to the marble façaded Art Deco building across the
street. A large double glass door served as the entrance to the multi-story
structure and the lobby could be seen through the glass. The number “90” was
smartly lettered in gold leaf above, on the transom.
long ago did he go in?”
one minute and seventeen seconds.” Louie held his sleeve pulled up over his
watch and hoped the precise time he tried to bullshit Doc with would carry some
I’ll go check on Birnbaum. You go back to the office and see what you can find
out about 90 Church Street, start with who owns the property. Call down to the
city engineer’s office and ask for the grid and plot number on the city plan
for the Federal Building. When you get that info, cross reference the owners in
the City Property Guide and the phone book. Maybe we can find this guy's
department. You got all that?”
I’m sorry about mucking up the tail.”
sweat it. You remembered the first two rules of a successful tail. Find out
where he’s going, and never let them see you up close.” Louie looked down at he
ground. “Now go back to the shop, get that info and wait for my call.”
be sure Birnbaum was clear of the lobby Doc took his time crossing the street. Once
on the other side, he turned down the fur collar of his brown leather bomber
jacket and stuffed his ball cap into his back pocket. Approaching the entrance at an angle, he
looked up and down the street, then swung through the glass doors.
was immediately surprised by the size of the lobby and how sparsely decorated
it was. However, he was more surprised to see Birnbaum being fussed over by a
beautiful, well dressed auburn haired woman who easily stood eight or nine
inches above the old man. Doc pretended to ring for the elevator, as he
continued to keep tabs on the couple standing beside the large, marbled
reception desk. The lift hit the ground floor, the doors opened and Doc stepped
off to the side to tie his already tied shoelace. After about a minute of
fussing over his tie and jacket, the women kissed Birnbaum on his balding head
and bade him goodbye.
At least the old guy's got taste.” Doc mumbled to himself. Watching the woman
walk around and take a seat behind the reception desk, he saw Birnbaum
disappear through a pair of doors at the end of the hall. Doc decided to roll
the desk, he could hear the auburn haired woman, who was obviously the
receptionist, having trouble with some of the plugs on the switch board,
occasionally jiggling them to get a more clear connection. Shirley noticed Doc
first, and nudged Nikki.
trouble with your connections, Miss?” She gave him an annoyed look as she
answered another call, still having to jiggle the cable and hold it to hear
clearly. When she finished, he spoke
have the same type of switchboard in my office. Usually it’s just a loose jack
plug.” Doc said, eyeing the board and cables over the counter top. Shirley
stopped typing, and swung around in her chair to face Doc and Nikki. With both
arms Doc leaned forward on the marble top.
I wouldn’t have pegged you for the type who knew a lot about equipment.” Nikki
over the desk, Doc took one of the plugs and held it up, pretending to study
better be careful. Some of this equipment is pretty old.” Nikki addressed Doc
in a condescending tone.
because it’s old doesn’t mean it don't work good. Besides, once something's
aged a bit, it usually . . . fits in better." Shirley grabbed her mouth
and pinched her nose to suppress a laugh. "With it's job, I mean .” He
fiddled with the end of the phone cable.
told the newer models function better.” Nikki folded her arms across her chest
as she spoke. Doc continued to inspect the cable.
but they usually don’t stand up as long.” Twisting the brass jack plug and the
cable in opposite directions, he tightened the brass jacket clamp around the
you are Miss. Good as new.” Doc returned the cable to it’s position, purposely
leaning too far over the desk, and making direct eye contact with Nikki.
they need is to be handled every once in a while. Like it says in the
want me to buzz him?” Shirley asked, moving closer to the secret red button.
yet Shirl.” She spoke to the typist without breaking eye contact with Doc. “Why
do I get the feeling you’re the kind’a guy doesn’t follow instructions very
need them. Always know where all the parts go.”
buzz hiz ass!" Shirley chomped at the bit with her finger on the button. Nikki
raised a hand.
exactly is it I can do for you? Mr. . .”
Mike McKeowen. My friends call me Doc.”
exactly is it I can do for you, Mr. McKeowen?”
little fella that just came in?”
Birnbaum. Does he work here?”
our mail clerk. Who wants to know?”
and I was born during the day. But it wasn’t yesterday. What’s the story? You a
cop?” Nikki was genuinely curious. Doc just became a little more interesting.
I’m not a cop. Does he always work odd hours?”
more than the rest of us since the war started.”
Pearl Harbor! Doc realized.
if you’re not a cop, and you’re not investigatin’ for the D. A., who are you?”
says I’m not with the D. A.?”
if you were, first thing you would’a done was flash your badge to show me what
a big man you were. Then you would’a tried pressuring me into answering your
questions after I told ya ta take a flyin’ leap fer hittin’ on me. And for a
grand finale, you’d threaten me with some arcane law like you were some kind’a
Bey or something.”
was unprepared for the barrage, but found it entertaining.
just thought I knew the little guy. My mistake. I was looking for the Woolworth
you’re a private investigator.”
impressed.” And he was.
a P. I., and you’re following Ira ta see if he’s fooling around on his wife.” This
girl was a little too cocky, she knew something.
is he?” Doc persisted.
pullin’ my leg!”
But it would be a nice start.”
it! Buzz time!” Shirley was growing more anxious to see the two Marine guards
escort Doc out.
Shirl. He's harmless. Just a little confused."
I can't buzz 'im?"
yet. But keep your finger ready.” Shirley raised her hand and started repeating
a finger exercise while glaring at Doc. Nikki leaned forward and put both arms
on her desk to get a running start at Doc before she pounced.
back and tell that ungrateful old bat that man was offered retirement two years
before the war broke out. But because he’s the only one with a Top Secret
clearance he volunteered to stay on until they could get someone else in
sister! Don’t go breathing fire at me. That old bat, as you called her, sits at
home all day cryin’ her eyes out wondering what the hell he’s doing. Just
because these two people have been around since Christ was a corporal doesn’t
mean they’re made of stone you know!” Nikki sat back in her chair. Shirley was
impressed and lowered her finger.
got a point, I guess. I never really thought about her end of it.” Nikki was
touched by Doc’s defending Ira’s wife.
I’m sure they’re both good eggs. But there’s no way they could have been
prepared for this. Howz about I go back and tell Norma that he’s not foolin’
around and if you feel you know him well enough, maybe you could mention that
he ought’a let the wife in on the scoop down here. Fair deal?”
that her name? Norma?” Nikki was subdued as she realized in all the time she
knew Ira, she never asked his wife's name.
Fair deal, Miss . . . ?” Doc held his hand out across the counter top.
deal, Mr. McKeowen. Miss Cole, my name is Miss Cole.” She shook his hand.
name is Nikki. And she’s here Monday to Friday, eight to six and Saturday till
noon every other week.” Shirley blurted out as she suddenly lost her enthusiasm
to buzz Doc.
like you got a great agent there.” Doc nodded at Shirley as he backed away from
the reception desk. “You’ll be playin’ Radio City before you know it.”
Shirley the agent.” Nikki was embarrassed and made a mental note to give
Shirley a good balling out later. Someone entered through the front door as Doc
was preparing to leave.
you for your help ladies. It was a pleasure to meet you Miss Cole. And you too
Shirley The Agent. Careful with that finger.” Doc turned to leave. Nikki
watched him turn up his collar and don his ball cap as he passed through the
You should’a got his number!” Shirley said, slapping Nikki on the arm.
got his number when he walked in here!” Nikki held up te swear jar and Shirley dug
through her purse.
ain’t no Alan Ladd but he got potential!” Shirley droped the nickle in through
the slot cut in the cap.
man who had entered the building was now standing at the elevators when Doc
passed him. It was Treasury Agent Johnson, and after watching Doc leave, he
walked over to the two girls who were once again engaged in their work, or at
least tried hard to look like they were.
was that?” He asked in his best casual manner, dripping with suspicion.
guy.” Nikki replied to Johnson, without looking up.
guy? What’d he want?”
was looking for the Woolworth Building.” Both girls, as did all of the girls
before them, found Johnson repulsive. Nikki once reckoned, during a girls night
out, that if John Merrick were a woman he still wouldn’t have dated agent
little late for Christmas shopping, wouldn’t you say?”
agent Johnson. I ain’t baby-sitting’ the guy, just givin’ him directions. Ya
know?” Nikki’s tone was clear, even to Johnson, that the conversation was over.
Her switchboard buzzed and she took the call. Johnson was looking at Shirley,
and continued to impose himself.
of dating, when are we gonna get together, sweetheart?”
refused to call him by his official title. “Mr. Johnson, we’ve had this
conversation before. I don’t date married men. Especially ugly married men.”
got the hint and meandered back towards the elevators. As soon he was out of
earshot, Shirley spoke to Nikki.
got to be the only guy on the planet sufferin’ from penis envy!”
Shirl, how do you really feel?”
around the corner, in the ornate lobby of the Woolworth Building, Doc called
Louie and relayed what he had found out. Louie in turn informed Doc that the
location was a Federal building, filled with civilian offices, except for a few
which were Navy. Louie said he had a complete list of all the departments, but
Doc didn’t have the heart to tell him that his efforts were wasted. It looked
like Ira was on the level. He told Louie he would see him back at the office
after lunch and that he would call Mrs. Birnbaum himself.
and Louie one more thing.”
is it Doc?”
downstairs to 2C, guy in there's a lawyer. They got an unabridged Webster's. Find
out what the hell a ‘bey’ is, will ya?”
Haffenden wasted no time in launching “Operation Underworld”. Lanza’s tentative
consent to cooperate was more than enough to draw up plans, requisition agents
and supplies, and to establish a base of operations along with a channel of
covert communications. So by the time things appeared to have cleared the D.
A.’s office, and Lanza gave the Navy his okay, the ball was rolling within 24
the beginning there would be three basic areas of operations. The fishing
boats, over which Lanza had virtual control, the retail and shipping, that is
the life line from the boats to the markets, over which he had a large measure
of control and the docks and warehouses, over which he had a little control,
providing they were related to the fishing industry.
would handle all the field operations on his side, Haffenden would control all
his agents, and the only two who would know about the operation as a whole
would be Lanza and Haffenden. At least that’s what Lanza was told. However, for
the moment, both parties had a vested interest in excluding the D. A. to as
great an extent as possible.
had to conceal his involvement in order to avoid exposing the extent of his
operation if he were to stay in business. A valuable lesson he learned from the
of the cornerstones of Luciano’s success was the code of silence. Not the keep
your mouth shut while sitting under a hot police lamp and being slapped around
code of silence, although that went without saying. Instead it was the ability
to isolate information from everyone except those with the absolute need to
know. Combine this with the uncanny ability to keep locations and extents of
specific operations secret, and the results spoke for themselves.
example, a quarter of a century after Luciano’s deportation in 1945 local,
state and federal officials, in one investigation after another as well as in
sworn testimony, continued to give vastly conflicting stories concerning him
and his operations. These incongruities even exist as a matter of Congressional
shared a hotel suite with the Head of the Democratic Committee at the National
Convention in Chicago in 1932, the year FDR won. The same FDR who, earlier as
governor of New York pardoned over sixty of Luciano’s associates from Federal
prison, most of whom were drug trafficking offenders.
had as much at stake as Lanza. Although he was internationally renowned for his
work in intelligence, having been the subject of numerous books and articles,
he was in a new ballpark concerning domestic saboteurs. The world of
international espionage had changed drastically since his first tour of duty in
1917 back when, incredibly enough, few of the Naval Staff and none of the Army
Staff Officers put any credence whatsoever in the burgeoning area of military
intelligence. It wasn’t even mentioned in an official capacity at the war
prevailing attitude towards the subject was amply demonstrated by the story of
a British Colonel who, in the First World War, was presented with intercepted
German dispatches. The officer ordered them promptly returned, unopened
commenting, “Gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s post.”
that was a quarter of a century ago, and things had changed. Virtually every
major operation of the Second World War, on both sides, depended on available
intelligence prior to launch. In addition, as the war dragged on, an even more
valuable strategy was adopted. Namely, that of supplying the other side with
false intelligence. It was a much more complicated game now, and as a
consequence, Haffenden intended to isolate information from everyone except
those who had an absolute need to know.
first order of business was for Socks to meet with the Commander and get a list
of his needs. This happened the next day, and the meet was brief, as initially
needs were simple. Get as many eyes and ears as were available on station, as
soon as possible.
next step was for Socks to get a list of contacts together to allow him to
begin placing operatives into key positions. In as much as the primary concern
was to nab the enemy agents and potential saboteurs who were re-supplying the
U-Boats, the docks and the fishing boats had priority.
Intelligence agents were scattered around on the fishing vessels, by being
passed off as a friend of a friend, or somebody’s cousin on his mother’s side. Naturally
preference was given to personnel who had fishing experience and/or grew up in
the local New York districts, “On account’a day could tawk da right way”.
agents with the fishing fleet had at least two unexpected side effects. One
good, and one that would eventually counteract all their efforts at keeping the
to the onset of the project, it was not inconceivable for the shipping agents,
civilian authorities or the U. S. Navy to have to wait weeks or even months to
find out if a ship had been lost at sea. Whether lost to severe sailing
conditions or, as was more often the case, the Wolf Packs, this delay in
information was a serious hindrance to the flow of supplies.
trained agents out on the water armed with radios, bad news of the loss of a
vessel could be relayed much sooner. Wreckage could be identified, or in rare
cases survivors rescued. In the even more remote instances, if discovered soon
enough, “alert aircraft” could be launched and the offending U-Boat sought out.
negative effect was both inevitable and unforeseen. Fishing boats, like all
small sea-going craft, can only accommodate a given number of individuals. One
agent goes on, one fisherman comes off.
time of war, with money tight, rationing and the seasonal nature of fishing,
being put off the boat made for some unhappy people. This combined with the
bulky radio gear required on board, made it nearly impossible to keep the Top
Secret operation covert. Within a couple of weeks everyone on the docks knew
something was going on.
the first month, the operation was going well, in terms of logistics. In terms
of effectiveness well, that was an interesting question. Were the designers of
Operation Underworld not catching any saboteurs because they were scaring them
away, or were they not catching any because the secret was out?
Haffenden and his men, for the most part, were
in uncharted waters. American intelligence gathering capability lagged far
behind that of the warring nations and many elements in the Federal government
was very slow to understand the significance of it.
Intelligence gathered in the pre-war years indicating the Japanese were
amassing a hostile naval force, the American politicians still went so far as
to prosecute and punish visionaries such as Billy Mitchell. To compound
Haffenden’s problems, none of the allies were sharing information.
example, later in the war, when the Allies realized that the first nation with
an atomic bomb would win, heavy water became the priority. So, one moon lit
night, in a French harbour, a team of O. S. S. operatives paddled their rubber
boats toward a freighter anchored in a slip. On board the freighter was
Hitler’s last significant supply of tritium. As they made final preparations to
mine and sink the ship, it exploded, burned and sank right before their eyes. In
the sullen moonlight, the O. S. S. operatives sat dumbfounded as they watched
three canoes paddling away from the burning hulk. Klapper canoes, the hallmark
vessels of the British S. O. E.
the reasons, the early stages of the operation were not very successful. At the
same time, expanding out into the shipping branches of the fishing trade, such
as the trucking industry, the project demanded more contacts and consumed more
territory and resources. Socks complied and set it up by helping extend the net
starting with trucking company owners, dispatchers and in some cases enlisting
the help of small independents whom he would normally attempt to put out of
business, promising to lay off if they helped out.
trucks all day helped the operatives to learn their way around, but did little
to put them in close touch with any potential enemy agents. Unknown to any of
the players, involvement with the trucking unions would also initiate a
development in the operation which would have an unforeseen impact.
of the docks was a much more complicated affair. Lanza’s influence was limited
to those areas where the fishing industry flourished. With such a complicated
network of waterfronts as exists in New York Harbor, no one person or entity
could control it all. With five boroughs on the New York side, plus Long Island
and seven cities on the Jersey side, the linear area alone was mind boggling. This
did not take into account the New England states or the states further south
such as Delaware and Maryland, and, at the time, the Fulton Street Market
shipped as far south as the Carolinas.
however, were placed on the accessible piers and adjoining areas, and for a
short time, a routine developed. Communication was primarily by phone, and
operatives checked in with Haffenden on a rotational basis. They were assigned
and reassigned as needed and information was recorded.
primary record of the secret codes, contact locations and most importantly, the
names of those involved, was Commander Haffenden’s “little black book”. This
book was supposed to stay on his person at all times. At least that was the S.
O. P. for classified materials at the time. It was officially known as “chain
of custody”. In other words who had it last?
like a McGuffin in a Hitchcock film, the little black book was destined to
impose a significant emotional event on the lives of more than one player in
Operation Underworld. It wouldn’t turn out to be the stuff dreams were made of.
for the members of Lanza’s crew were really not required. At least not new
ones. They all had their passwords, known locations and contacts in place long
before the war. In fact, these men had been effectively been at war since 1931.
A ten year jump on the Navy.
interesting code that did evolve, however, was the password used when one Mob
member wanted another Mob member to know he was in on the operation.
working for the Commander”, became the verbal high sign between them.
long into the operation, the load began to show on Lanza. In addition to his
indictment, and the time he was devoting to the Navy’s business instead of his
own, a third factor began to compound his life which he had not banked on.
first hit him one afternoon at Morrelli’s Restaurant on the corner of Mott and
Hester Streets. He was having lunch with a couple of representatives from the
Brooklyn docks, one of the locations where he had no influence. Haffenden
wanted to get some men over there to snoop around the shipping piers. Lanza
told the Commander he would see what he could do, and instead of contacting the
Camardo brothers directly, Socks thought it wiser to use intermediaries.
Winter air was frigid but the crystal clear Manhattan sky allowed the sun to
impose a comfortable greenhouse effect on the area just inside the restaurant
window. The intoxicating aromas of sauces and pastries floated gently
throughout the small room, and a thin veil of cigarette smoke, highlighted by
the sun’s rays, lingered in the corner to give a Hopper-esque quality to the
three men sitting at the four seat table.
the cloud of spent tobacco, the larger of the three men ate as if it were his
last meal and, increasingly agitated by the shrill scraping of the knife and
fork of the big man’s plate, Lanza snubbed out his cigarette and broke the
whata ya tellin’ me Jimmy? I’m no good no more?” Socks looked Jimmy square in
the eye, who twirled his empty cup of demitasse.
ain’t sayin’ you’re no good Socks! It’s just that a lot a the guys are a little
edgy right now, that’s all.” Jimmy’s words were compelled to escape in between
mouthfuls of primavera. He hoped that Lanza would get the picture without him
having to spell it out.
guy’s straight up, I’m tellin’ ya. You can talk to him yerself. He’s got guys
all over the place. The docks, on trucks, on the boats.”
exactly the problem, Socks. Feds all over the place. A lotta people don’t think
that’s such a good idea, ya know?” A waiter approached the table from the side
just as Socks let go on Jimmy.
ain’t Feds! They’re Navy!” Lanza kept his voice down, but let his growing
irritation seep through. The young boy detoured to the other side of the room.
looked at the other man at the table who had been sitting in silence since the
start of the meal. It was tradition to politely avoid talk of business until
after the meal, and so up until now he only engaged in chit chat. He accepted
the signal from Jimmy, and took over the conversation.
I gotta give it to ya straight. There’s talk'a you makin’ deals.”
wit who?!” He was coming to a slow boil. Not because of the accusation, it
really wasn’t an accusation. If the Camardos said they heard rumors, then there
were rumors. And Lanza was pretty sure he knew the source.
D. A. Some guys got it figured that you cut a deal ta let the Feds in on some
of the operations, so they’d go lighter on ya.”
ain’t fuckin’ Feds! They’re United States fuckin’ Navy!”
D. A., Treasury, they’re all the law Socks.” Frankie spoke in a controlled
tone, and Socks began to see the futility of his argument. It was a tactic as
old as the frontal assault, but a lot less risky for the accuser. Once you were
put on the defensive with a simple accusation, no matter what you said, you
sounded guilty by virtue of the fact you were defending yourself. No
substantiation or real evidence was needed.
the D. A. know about this little party?” Lanza certainly couldn’t lie about
that. Frankie would never have asked if he didn’t already know the answer.
D. A.’s are only there for one thing, Socks. Ta become politicians. We got
Soldiers, Lieutenants, Captains, and a Boss, they got Assistant D. A.'s, D.
A.'s, Attorney Generals and Governors. Look at Roosevelt. Sure he helped us out
when he was Gov’ner, but what the hell, was mostly our money got him elected.” His partner was moved to chime in.
than that little worm Dewey. Frames Lucky, buys the judge and Charlie goes up
for fifty years fer a crime ain’t worth ten! Am I right Socks or am I right? Tell
me. You agree or not?”
I get yer point. Now, you look me in the eye and tell me you think I’m a fink.”
Lanza knew he risked Frankie’s friendship with this challenge, but he was too
frustrated to care.
it don’t matter what I think . . .”
me in the fuckin’ eye and tell me you think I’m a fuckin’ fink!!” Lanza was
leaning over the table now, only inches from Frankie’s face and staring him
straight in the eyes.
instinctively reached under the left breast of his jacket. Frankie reached over
to lay his hand on Jimmy’s forearm. Frankie kept eye contact with Socks, and
pointing his index finger, replied.
don’t think you’re sellin’ out Joey. I wouldn’t never peg you for a fink. Never.
But lettin’ this D. A. in on operations is bad business.” Lanza at last felt
some relief and fell back in his chair. He took a deep breath, let it out and
peered across the table at Jimmy.
the fuck was you doin’? Scratchin’ ya tit?” He asked with half a smile.
look here. You want the Camardos involved, you know who’s okay you gotta get? Right?”
Lanza didn’t answer right away. “Are we okay? Socks! Are we okay or what?” Frankie
would never deal with these bastards. Not after what they done ta him in
court.” Socks replied, reaching for the check. “Yeah, we’re okay. But do me a
favor, will ya? Frankie nodded a 'What?'
time leave this big prick home will ya? He eats like a fuckin' horse!!”