Operation Underworld by Paddy Kelly

About The Book

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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Operation Underworld
(Paddy Kelly)

The serialised version of this outstanding novel

Part Four

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Operation Underworld

CHAPTER TEN

 

 

For the first time since the turn of the century the overall labor situation in America was stable. The violent union wars of the twenties were replaced by the violent labor wars of the thirties and the Depression, which in turn gave way to the retooling and re-employment required by the war effort. There was an unwritten “no strike” agreement for the duration of the war amongst the waterfront labor force, and virtually every individual or entity involved in labor utilized this time to posture and jockey for political position in preparation for the day when things would return to normal.

A significant piece of the union pie was being sought after by the American Communist Party, represented by the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. In 1942 the C. P. A. were a legitimate political party and, in contrast to any other party, stood on a platform composed almost entirely of labor issues. They held sway with large segments of the labor population of America owing to their earlier victories against vicious factory owners in New England and New York, and until the witch hunts of the Late Forties there were no widespread fears of Communists taking over the country and eating all the babies.

The labor union leaders of other factions however, were very afraid. The Communists offered members of the labor force something the other parties would not even talk about, a share in the pie. However unsuccessful this would prove to be in later years, at the time it was a difficult enticement to ignore.

The party had gained considerable momentum on the west coast and the man out there doing all the talk about pie sharing was a man named Harry Bridges.

Harry made the mistake late that February, of coming to New York. He compounded this error in judgement by letting his intentions be known, before leaving the west coast, that the goal of his pilgrimage would be to organise labor in New York.

Officially he was functioning completely within the law, as a duly elected representative of a legitimate political party and an international labor union.

But that was in California. Seems way out there on the sunny West Coast Harry hadn't gotten the word that New York labor was already organized. By some Italians.

From LaGuardia Field Bridges took a taxi into mid-town and arrived at the Hollywood Hotel about mid-morning, across from one of Luciano’s former favorite night spots, the Paradise. Although the Hollywood did not boast the elaborate floor shows of the Paradise, the service was good, the rooms spacious and it suited Harry’s love of comfortable surroundings. After all, if one were to battle the bourgeois, one had to understand its ways.

The effeminate desk clerk saw nothing unusual in the dark haired, medium built man in the dark gray suit and as Mr. Bridges registered, the desk clerk rang for a Front, and then handed the new guest his metal tagged room key. The bell boy, who had been leaning against the wall reading a comic book, took his time getting to the desk and Harry headed for the elevators. Waiting for the guest to be out of earshot, the desk clerk, in his lispy dialect, addressed the front.

“Franklin! I’ve told you time and again about that gum! Take it out of your mouth this instant or I’ll report you to Mr. Carlson!” The bellhop made an exaggerated gesture of swallowing the offending confectionary.

The frail little desk clerk, about half the size of Frankie the bellhop, did not think it a good idea to push his luck, so when Frankie approached, the clerk turned and occupied himself at the back desk.

As Frankie watched the new guest walk towards the elevator he squinted his eyes in a gesture of faint recognition. Turning the register around he read the name and smiled. He carried the two suitcases to the elevator, which had already taken Mr. Bridges up to his room. Setting them aside by the large fern, he went across the lobby to a bank of phone booths.

Lemme talk to Mr. Lanza.” Frankie felt like a kid at Christmas when he pulled the door shut.

“Who the hell is this?”

“Frankie. I need to talk to him.”

“Frankie who?”

“Frankie, over at the Hollywood. Tell him I got something for him.”

“Hold on.” The bellhop knew he had a chance to start establishing his reputation in The Unione. Frankie reckoned that if his guess was right, he would no longer have to wait for his piece of shit brother-in-law to get him connected.

“Yeah, who am I talking to?” Lanza asked impatiently.

“Mr. Lanza! This is Frankie. Frankie the bellhop, uptown at the Hollywood Hotel.

“Frankie the bellhop?”

“Yes sir. I think I got somethin’ for ya.”

“Yeah, like what Frankie the bellhop?”

“You know that Commie Pinko labor guy from California?” He had trouble containing himself.

“Harry Bridges the Commie? What about him?”

“Guess who just checked into room 1017?” By now the diminutive desk clerk had swished across the lobby and was heading towards the phone booth.

 Lanza asked in a low, slow controlled voice, registering increasing satisfaction as he spoke.

“He’s there, at the Hollywood?” There was a momentary pause on Lanza’s end of the line. “Room 1017, is dat right?” Lanza reconfirmed.

“Yes sir. I’m supposed ta take his bags up right now.”

“Well, nice job Frankie the bellhop. You still want in at the union?”

“Hedy Lamarr got nice tits?”

“Go down to Fulton Street on Monday morning. See Joey DiTorrio. Tell him I sent ya. Hey kid, what the hell is that bangin’ sound?” Lanza held the receiver away from his head and looked at it. The desk clerk had found Frankie.

Nuthin’, Mr.Lanza. I’ll take care of it, thanks.” Frankie hung up and slid open the bi-fold door. The clerk stopped his banging, and took a step back from the phone booth.

“Did you put Mr. Bridges' bags in the elevator?!” Frankie the used-to-be bellhop gave no verbal response. Instead, he walked back over to the fern and lifting the two suitcases, threw them into the open elevator. He reached in and pushed several buttons, and the cases disappeared behind the closing doors.

Removing his small round, blue and gold cap, he walked over to the reception desk, and after tossing the cap over the desk, Frankie magically produced the gum from his mouth he was supposed to have swallowed, and spat the wad on the open register book. Giving a broad smile to the clerk, who prudently remained across the lobby, he slammed the book closed and pressed firmly, being sure to smash the gum flat.

Bravely, from his safe position by the phone booths, the clerk called out that Frankie had better find another job because he was never going to work at the Hollywood again.

Oh yeah. He was going to report him to Mr. Carlson too.

 

***

 

Lanza’s luck that morning ran thin after Frankie’s phone call. Although he immediately dispatched a reception committee, by the time they arrived uptown, Bridges had left his room. Next he called Commander Haffenden’s suite at the Astor, but there was no answer.

Lanza instructed the three men to hang around the hotel and call when Bridges returned. Their wait was short. About an hour later, Harry walked across the lobby and took the elevator up to his room. Socks picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Yeah, who’s talking?”

“It’s me.”

“Commander! I was just tryin’ ta call you!”

“Have you got something for me on the other dock situation?”

“No. But we got an out of town visitor.”

“Who?” Haffenden’s anticipation quickly peeked as he harbored hope that someone had finally caught a saboteur.

“Harry Bridges.”

“The labor organizer?” Haffenden was seriously surprised.

“Yeah!”

“So?” He did not attach the same significance to this development as did Lanza. Then again Haffenden was not involved in illicit labor manipulation. Not technically.

“SO!? He’s a Commie!”

“Socks, being a Communist isn’t illegal.” It never occurred to Lanza that Haffenden would give him any opposition on this.

“What if he starts talking some of that Commie shit out here? What if he came out here to disrupt the unions? What about if he’s in cahoots with some German spies or somethin’? Then it would be illegal! Right?” Haffenden knew what Lanza was driving at. He wanted Haffenden’s okay to take care of Bridges.

If he gave the nod, and anyone ever found out he sanctioned violence against an elected representative, the operation as well as his career may be over. On the other hand, if he told Lanza to lay off, he might not have as much cooperation as he was presently enjoying. Haffenden’s long silence ended.

“Do what you gotta do. Only, I don’t need to know how. Just let me know when it’s done.” There was nothing more to say. He hung up.

Socks called the hotel and gave his men their instructions. Then he placed a second call and arranged for a flight.

Harry didn’t know it yet, but his pilgrimage was over.

 

***

 

A block away from the Fulton Street Fish Market there stood a three story brick warehouse, circa nineteen twenties. The two hobos standing at the side door were surprised when they saw the bright yellow sign nailed to the doors:

 

“CLOSED BY ORDER OF NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF HEALTH.

INFECTED RATS FOUND ON PREMISES.”

 

“What’s it say?”

What’samatter? Can’t you read? It says, ‘Closed . . . for . . . remodlin’.”

“Damn! I really liked that place too. Spacious, nice gentle ambience.”

The two disappointed men turned and walked away in search of other accommodation, and a place to share their bottle of vintage Thunderbird wine.

Originally used to store large shipments of dry goods, the warehouse was abandoned in the late thirties when temperature controlled storage and the advent of more efficient trucking came to lower Manhattan. With most of the windows broken out and literally every single fixture, removable or not, having been removed, the building was of little use to anyone except some of the less desirable hobos who had been banned from the doorways, streets and sewers of the Lower Bowery.

Of course New York being New York the building might have been abandoned but that didn't mean it wasn't occupied. Voices could be heard emanating from the basement. They were the voices of Lanza and Haffenden. The words however had a Marconian crackle to them.

In a small room, in the basement, were two men. The room they were in was in the extreme corner of the lower level, and it’s door had a crooked sign hanging by one nail which read: “JANITOR”. The two men wore bulky headsets and were intently staring at the RCA eight inch reel-to-reel tape recorder, while listening to the play-back of Operation Underworld’s two prime players.          

“What the hell do you make of that?” One of the agents asked, sliding his bulky headset down around his neck.

“Got me by the short ones! I figure the guys at the Hollywood belong to Lanza. But this other guy he’s reportin’ to has to be somebody pretty god-damned big.”

“Well, it sure as hell ain’t Luciano. Must be some new boss, moved in to take over.”

“The Commander!?”

“Where the hell do they come up with these ridiculous names?”

 

***

 

That night Harry Bridges remembered coming around the corner onto Broadway, and then the stars were swirling in front of his eyes, and his vision blurred to a haze. Now he sat in back of a car with a huge man sitting on either side of him, and his arms were pinned behind his back.

A short time later, he was in the back room of a restaurant, lying on the floor, still blindfolded, beaten and bruised, sounds of banging pots and crashing dishes surrounded him. A car pulled up outside, and he was man-handled into the back seat. At LaGuardia Field he was escorted onto a plane, shortly before take off, and he understood that except for in the movies, he had no reason ever see New York again.

 

***

 

The next morning even before he had eaten his eggs, Socks was back on the phone with The Commander.

“We don’t anticipate any more trouble concerning that Brooklyn Bridge deal. He got on a plane last night.”

“Alright. What about Brooklyn?” Lanza hesitated before answering.

“No, nuthin’ yet.”

“We need a meet after the weekend. Monday, the usual place, alone. I f you get there first, don’t order the fish.”

“I won’t.” Lanza had a nervous feeling as he hung up. Not only was this operation taking away from his own business time and making no contribution to his impending case, it appeared to be rapidly gaining in intensity and scope. Worst of all, what if Jimmy The Bull was right? No one anywhere had discovered any saboteurs.

Times for meetings were on a rotational basis per day. In other words if a day was given over the phone, it actually meant the day after, and depending on which day the meeting was actually on, the times were previously set. For example, Mondays were always three o’clock, Tuesdays were always four o’clock and so on. If a special, unscheduled meeting was necessary, a code word was used in the conversation and special couriers were utilized. Late that afternoon Socks got a special courier.

 

***

 

Lucky Luciano had a close partner, Frank Costello. Frank Costello had a top notched bookie, Eddie Erickson. Eddie would regularly meet with Walter Winchell. Every so often in order to get the inside scoop on “big time” crime stories, Winchell would pass information on winning horses to a very highly placed law enforcement official. The same official who now stood at window #3 of the betting cages.

The elderly man in the cashier’s cage read the ticket the gambler had just slid across the counter.

“Belmont. Albany Eddie to show in the third.” He looked up at the small man in the dark suit with the oval, baby face. The cashier recognised him instantly, even without the two body guards standing on either side of him. Double checking the clip board hanging next to him to confirm the results, the cashier filed the ticket and counted out the man’s two hundred and fifty dollars.

The man stepped off to one side and faced into the wall to put the money away, and one of the short, pugnacious men with him commented as he removed his wallet from his breast pocket.

“You don’t bet too often Chief, but when you do, you sure can pick ‘em.”

“You just have to know how to study the ponies, agent. That, and a little luck.”           The opened bill fold showed an I. D. card with a red stamp across it which read, “DIRECTOR” and a picture of the little man, as well as a small, toy-like gold badge. The name under the photo read: J. Edgar Hoover.

Belmont Park was the third leg of The Triple Crown and one of the oldest and largest race tracks in the country. Although races were normally restricted or suspended in the winter months, the combination of the mild weather and the wartime atmosphere persuaded the owners to extend the season.

Saturday was always the best day to be there. There were specials at the restaurant, happy hour started earlier, and there were more races to bet on. Whenever someone brought a friend to the track for the first time, they were careful to bring them in through the main arcade.

For it was here that the excitement flowed over the lucky losers at its strongest, and the absolute sensation of privilege at being allowed to donate your money to such a fine establishment was most appreciated. It is highly probable that this is the very atmosphere that first inspired Buggsy Siegel to claim to have conceived the idea of a casino in the middle of the desert, to his compatriots a few years later.

The awful stench of the food and cigar smoke, permeated the arcade and flowed out onto the first few tiers of stadium seating where they collided with the pleasant aromas of horse shit and damp turf.

“What time is it?”

“Half past five Mr. Hoover.” Looking at his watch short agent number one answered. All three men wore identical dark suits, white shirts, Fedoras and shiny black shoes so you could not tell they were FBI.

“Alright, you two go and watch the races. Meet me by concession stand three, at six o’clock.”

“But Mr. Hoover, we’re supposed to stay with you at . . .” Short agent number two began to protest, but was cut short.

“I SAID GO! GOD-DAMN IT!” They went.

He was the most successful bureaucrat in the history of Washington D.C. From the time his father got him his first job at the Department of Justice, in June of 1917, his borderline fanaticism, which he mistakenly believed to be loyalty, grew ever stronger and increasingly self-perpetuating.

In no time at all J. Edgar’s ability to manipulate knowledge and information before it reached the people, had grown to legendary proportions.

During the Deportation Hysteria of the early 1920’s Hoover worked at the Enemy Alien Registration Section, appropriately abbreviated EARS, of the Bureau of Investigation. It is from the 'reports' of the misguided scientists who testified with “scientific proof” that aliens, especially Eastern European Jews, were by-and-large undesirable, (due to everything from crime and disease to an increased tendency to display feeble-mindedness), that he first learned how easy it was to dupe the American public.

Performing center stage with a backdrop of anti-immigrant fever suited Hoover’s purist mentality as well as taught him that oldest of government bureaucrat’s tricks. Find something or some one to label a dangerous common enemy, and after shining the spotlight on them, rally supporters to mold into a power base on the premise you are the man to defeat that enemy. Before the First War it was the Eastern Europeans, mostly Jews, during the Second War it was “The Hun” and later it became the communists.       Today it's the nebulous “Axis of Evil”.

Appropriating money wherever he could Hoover began to build his empire within The Empire. However, money was not the only ingredient in the Hooverville recipe.

From his early days in the twenties Hoover learned that money and political influence bought access to the broadsheets, accompanied by sympathetic stories which would go a long way towards helping him achieve his dream of becoming a national hero.

He sensationalized his police stories through the media with consummate skill. His personally approved police dramas for the “Lucky Strike Hour”, a popular radio show, were by 1932 specifically designed to establish his bureau, and by default himself, as pop culture icons. The children’s episodes of Junior G-Men, broadcast nationwide, told youngsters how to recognize and report suspicious persons to the local authorities, as well as taught them how they should think and behave if they were going to grow up to be good little agents. Follow-up shows such as Gangbusters and This Is Your FBI continued his unending quest for popularity.

Ironically, even though it was from his hatred of aliens Hoover built a career, it was an alien that would help him establish it once and for all in the public eye by giving him Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger. From the first time “Baby Face” Nelson called them “G-men” and John Dillinger’s body was splashed across the front page, J. Edgar knew he would be a star.

His big break came in 1924 when the Bureau reached an unprecedented level of corruption. He seized the chance when he was offered and accepted the directorship of the Bureau, and took the post on the condition he be allowed to isolate it from politics, effectively transforming it into an autonomous entity.

By 1941 Hoover had been in service for twenty-five years, twenty-one of those years as Assistant Director or Director, and although most career individuals would consider themselves prime candidates for retirement, J. Edgar wasn’t even halfway through his dictatorship.

How was a multi-million dollar government organization, which was later able to enact law allowing a file to be compiled containing the details of every one of its citizens' personal lives, held at bay by a criminal syndicate which Hoover claimed did not exist? The answer is very basic. Hoover was bought.

Lucky Luciano understood two principles regarding the approach towards the American way of doing business when he established The Commission. Every man has his price and when attempting to buy someone, always start at the top.

J. Edgar’s inane fear of bad press had kept him away from open confrontations with organized crime, his policies regarding this behavior are well documented. Through his consistent and unwavering public denial of the existence of organized crime, Hoover did more to help the criminal syndicates than any other single entity up until the circus known as the “War On Drugs”, (which seems to have replaced the “War On Poverty” but has recently taken a back seat to the “War On Terror”).

David Marston, a retired FBI agent, in his much acclaimed book, Inside Hoover’s FBI, commenting on the relationship of organized crime and the FBI under Hoover, stated that, “. . . although they, [the FBI and organized crime], were presumptive enemies, in the first four decades they competed primarily for newspaper space.”

This may have been an understatement. Marston, in the same publication, comments that, “J. Edgar Hoover was the best FBI Director Organized Crime ever had.”

This attitude set the ground work for The Unione at a time when they already had controlling influence in New York’s City Hall through Albert C. Marinelli, the well known Tammany boss with whom Lucky shared a suite at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Marinelli’s rival, Jimmy Hines, another New York top political leader, shared a suite with Frank Costello, Lucky’s partner in the Unione. Both of these rival delegations were there to elect the Presidential candidate for the 1932 elections. If this sounds a little convoluted, let's simplify it.

The American Presidency is basically a popularity contest with little or nothing to do with leadership ability or competency. Who ever has the most money to maintain the highest profile wins the contest. So, in 1932 between the Great Depression and Prohibition, (only in America would someone attempt to make alcohol illegal in an effort to better society), the general public were not happy with the existing leadership, which was Republican. Ironically this opinion was arrived at largely due to political corruption. As a result it was pretty certain the Democrats would take the election. The question was, which Democratic candidate would get the nod?

This being the case, Luciano and Costello each escorted a delegation leader to the convention, along with appropriate financial donations, so that regardless of which Presidential candidate won, Al Smith or Franklin D. Roosevelt, The Unione were assured of being in the right camp.

FDR who, only a short time before the convention, as Governor of New York, set free from prison approximately sixty members of The Commission, was the front runner. In January of the following year FDR was sworn in as the thirty-second President of the United States.

Start at the top.

The FBI were no exception. J. Edgar, a man who given the chance would impose the death penalty on anyone who opposed capital punishment, loved horse racing. Eddy Erickson was a top notch bookie who worked for Frank Costello. Walter Winchell was, well Walter Winchell, anything for a story.

Costello would give Erickson the expected winner of a given race, Erickson would contact Winchell who in turn would get it to Hoover.

Ever wonder how Winchell got the scoop on so many top crime stories?

Every man has his price.

So in the space of a few short years, Lucky’s organization held considerable influence in all the upper echelons of authority, and in turn established contacts, patterns and techniques which are considered to be standard operating procedures to this day when dealing with or within the Federal Government or any large corporation.

Hoover headed over to the concession stand and ordered a hot dog. A race had just begun, so the stand was nearly abandoned. There was a man standing in the far corner, nursing a cup of coffee, and Hoover walked over to him while he ate.

“Hello Socks, how’s the fish business?”

“Stinks!” Lanza wore a hat, and was visibly uncomfortable. “Let’s drop the names, huh? Whatta' you want from me?”

“You want a hot dog Socks? They’re really good here. Not like that shit they pawn off on ya over at Yankee Stadium.”

“No I don’t want a fuckin’ hot dog! What’s this about?!”

“What the dog? I just like to treat my guests right Socks.” J. Edgar spoke while he chewed, and allowed his words to drip with arrogance. “I hear you had a guest a coupl’a nights ago.”

“What the hell you talkin’ about?”

Hoover finished his frankfurter, wiped his hands with a napkin, threw it on the floor and reached into the side pocket of his jacket. Reading from the note pad he produced, he began to give Lanza an education.

“I want a complete details concerning the Brooklyn Bridge deal. And its association with the Hollywood Hotel on Broadway. What exactly, if any, is their significance to a one Harry Bridges?” Lanza, initially expressionless, slowly smiled.

Lemme ask you a question. How come you guys always talk like you got a rod up your ass or something?” Hoover began to boil. Spectators could be heard behind him cheering the race on.                       

“Besides, you ain’t got it all.” Lanza informed him. Hoover looked at him quizzically.

“You forgot the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the Queensboro.” Lanza baited.

“I’m warning you Lanza, you ain’t as immune as you think! I could shut you down tomorrow!”

“Yeah, and if Frank Costello and a coupl’a others testified, we could shut you down today! So don’t give me that strong arm of the law, holier-then-thou bullshit. You’re just another crooked cop.” Hoover looked around nervously. Lanza clearly had the upper hand now.

“I want to know who the hell all these new guys on the docks are, and where they’re coming from!” Hoover demanded.

“They’re just new workers. Friends, relatives. We need the help. There’s a war on if you ain’t heard.”

“Yeah, I heard! And soon there’s gonna be another war on, wise guy!” Hoover threw a news paper on the counter. It was folded open to page four. Lanza picked it up and read the short story with the “X” next to it. The story reported a California labor leader who was irate at the treatment he received while visiting New York, and that he intended to ask his state representative to launch an investigation.

Lanza was taken off guard, but not shocked, he already read the paper.

Turning to page two, Lanza began to slowly, and neatly, tear out a second article which ran nearly an entire column. He spoke as he worked. Then he slid the article over to Hoover.

“You know. With all the tax money you take from the people you pretend you’re suppost’a be defendin’, maybe you could spend a few bucks on a pair of elevated shoes.”    

Livid at the insult, Hoover’s expression registered extreme anger as he eyed the lead line on the article:

 

“FBI DIRECTOR ADAMANT; ORGANISED CRIME NON-EXISTENT!”

 

The public address system announced the last race of the day was about to begin.

 


CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

Just south of the Fish Market, on the corner of Peck Street and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, was a small fish restaurant frequented by local workers. The Italians had their pick of restaurants, the Jews usually brought their meals with them, but the Irish and the British workers were blessed with The Chinaman. The Chinaman, no one could pronounce his name, owned and ran Chanze Chinese Chippy, which served the most authentic fish and chips in Ireland’s western most county, New York.

Lanza approached Chanze just before the late rush hour, which started about eleven p.m., and shook his head and smiled as he glanced at the six stove pipes Chan had installed at different points on the roof and exterior walls. The pipes served no structural purpose, but instead vented the smell of the fried fish dishes in various directions, and could be opened or shut individually so as to allow the aromas to waft in any given direction. The strategy of course, to this venting conspiracy, was to entice patrons who might otherwise waste their time eating more healthy lunches and suppers, or whatever the after pub meal might be called.  “I wish I had that guy working for me.” Lanza thought to himself.

He entered the eatery and took one of the red enamelled booths in the back. As always he sat facing the door, after all this was a popular time for his co-workers to kill each other in restaurants. An attractive Chinese girl with long, silky black hair and green eyes, one of Chan’s sixteen offspring, approached the booth the minute Lanza sat down. She looked to be in her late teens.

“You want I should bring you a menu, Mac?” She was born and raised in New York, and so spoke perfect English.

“No, I’m waitin’ on someone.” She left him alone and Lanza, looking at his watch. He was ten minutes early for the special meeting.

How the hell did Hoover know about the Hollywood? And worse yet, the god-damned Bridges job! It just didn’t make sense! Nice future, Socks. A contract on me for working with the Feds, FBI on my ass, and some big shot Navy Intelligence guy given’ me grief! Prison’s startin’ ta look pretty good!

There was no easy way out, and just as Socks began to regret his patriotic feelings, Commander Haffenden came through the door.

Socks waved, but it didn’t matter, Chanze was so small it rivalled Harry’s.

“Socks, what’s the story on Brooklyn?” Haffenden wasted no time.

“Commander, the hell with Brooklyn! We got bigger problems than Brooklyn!”

“Socks, you okay?” Haffenden was unprepared for the change of schedule. He had called the meeting to increase the load on Lanza. Now it looked as if someone had beaten him to the punch.

“Sir, I haven’t got a god-damned clue how, or when it happened, but Hoover is on to us!”

“Hoover?”

“Hoover. J. Edgar Fucking Hoover. Mr. FBI!”

“How do you know?” Hoover wasn’t necessarily a serious problem as far as Haffenden was concerned. He would likely be able to deal with him through normal channels.

However his maniacal devotion to his bureau and the fact that there was a government operation he wasn't in on had the potential to make things messy.

“Well, maybe it was the meeting I had with him at Belmont Park this afternoon. Or than again maybe it was the fact that the little sawed off son-of-a-bitch knew all about The Hollywood and the Bridges job, I’m not sure. But what I know for sure is that you gotta serious god-damned leak in your operation!!” Lanza had a hard time containing himself as he spoke. He kept looking at the door.

“Socks, nobody on my side had access to any of that information. When you called me, that was the end of it. There was no reason for me to tell anybody about that.”

“Yeah? Well, somebody told somebody! Either that or we got fairies in the god-damned phone lines!” Haffenden looked at Lanza, hesitated, and then sat back in his seat. The Commander had an epiphany.

“Maybe we do.”

“What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

“I think the only other people who know about our little merger might have a leak.”

“Fuckin’ Gurfein!” Lanza had a delayed epiphany. “Whata we do?”

 “We do what all good operatives do when they think they’re compromised. We use them!” Haffenden hadn’t felt this mischievous since he was a teenager. He was making Lanza edgy.

“You call me tomorrow at half past ten. Talk in the open. Don’t use any code. Tell me we have to meet immediately. Something’s gone drastically wrong since last night. Act panicky.” That shouldn’t be hard! Thought Lanza.

“Tell me you’ll have the microfilm from the FBI job ready to hand over. Got it?”

“What FBI job?” Lanza was feeling he was definitely in over his head.

“Just do it! Okay?” Chanze daughter returned to the table.

Youse ready ta order or what?”

  

***

 

The next morning, as prearranged, Lanza rang Haffenden and set the meeting for that afternoon at half past twelve. An hour and a half before meeting time a jazzed-up, cherry-bomb red pick-up truck pulled up outside the fish market on Fulton Street. The chrome garnished vehicle sounded its horn twice and Lanza came out of the market carrying a brown paper bag. He had no way of seeing the agent on the top floor of the warehouse a block away, but Haffenden warned him he would be watched.

As the agent in the warehouse checked his watch and went to make the call, Lanza and the driver of the pick-up pulled away from the market.

“So, Frankie the bellhop! You got the routine straight?”

“Forget about it Mr. Lanza! Just sit back and enjoy da ride like you wuz at Uncle Milty’s!” Frankie was pleasantly surprised at being called into work a day early to do a special favour for Mr. Lanza.

The pair had no sooner looped around the Battery and were heading north onto West Side Drive when Frankie saw the dark blue sedan in his rear view mirror.

“Our friends are here Mr. Lanza. Ya want I should start now?”

“Just north of the tunnel. Around pier forty.”

The pre-lunch hour traffic was yet to hit so the run north of the Holland Tunnel was about five minutes. However, right at the Christopher Street cross-over Lanza braced both feet against the dash board, sat back and gave a nod. Frankie the bellhop smiled and the two agents in the sedan watched in disbelief as the ten year old truck grew smaller and smaller, until by the time they reached the 12th Street cut off it vanished altogether.

“God-damn it! Go red! Right now god-damn it! Go red!!” The senior agent knew first hand how much J. Edgar appreciated failure. The driver floored the pedal and the sedan raced around several cars until reaching a point on the highway where they had an unobstructed view for half a mile.

“They couldn’t have just vanished!” The driver spoke to his preoccupied passenger who was consulting the neatly folded map he held in his lap.

“Pull off on Tenth Avenue! If they’re leavin’ The City it’ll be the Lincoln or the G. W.! If not we’ll get them by West 57th.” At the exit the sedan unit called in by telephone and alerted the 69th Street office of the likely intercept locations and then drove north along tenth.

The old pick-up, which was now approaching River Side Park, was used extensively during Prohibition. After refitting her with a larger, six cylinder engine, a four barrelled carburettor and the new experimental tubeless tires, slightly underinflated, she was better suited to “runs” now then in the days of running rum over the Canadian border.

“You still wanna take the bridge, Mr. Lanza?”

“No, they’ll have it covered. What time is it?”

“Twenty aft'a aleven.”

“Get off on 96th, cut across the park. Go to Central Park South. A little birdie told me we could probably find our friends there.” Twenty minutes later, as predicted, they found the dark blue sedan parked on Central Park South and Sixth Avenue.

Both agents were outside their parked vehicle and while the driver was half way through a hot dog, the senior agent stood by a telephone booth, impatiently waiting for a location check, smoking a cigarette in the cold midday air.

Lanza and Frankie had driven past them, turned around at Columbus Circle and were half a block away approaching from the west end of the park.

The corner pay phone finally rang and before he had the receiver to his ear the senior agent heard his partner yelling.

“There they are! The bastards are back!” Pointing at them he threw the remainder of his lunch into the street and drew his service revolver. His partner yelled into the phone.

“We got them!! East on Central Park South! We’re rolling!” Slamming the phone down he ran to the car as his partner fired three rounds at the passing truck. The first two shots buried themselves in the wooden bed of the vehicle, but the third shattered the small rear windshield spraying glass all over Lanza and Frankie. Lanza went straight to boiling.

“Dem crazy bastards! Shootin’ wild in the streets like that! Did you see that shit?” Without waiting for an answer he put the bag on the floor and reached into his shoulder holster. Frankie gradually accelerated after turning south onto Fifth Avenue and slowly smiled as he watched Socks do a quick functions check on the .45 Colt.

He gradually reduced his speed to allow the FBI agents to close the gap between vehicles.

“Hold her steady kid. Don’t make no sudden moves.” Breaking out some residual glass in the rear window and bracing himself against the frame, Lanza fired two rounds into the grill of the sedan, which by now was only two car lengths behind, and one into the windshield between the two agents.

Radiator fluid gushed from the grill and the fan could be heard whacking the engine.

As steam hissed out of the grill through the bullet holes the two agents, panicked by the shots, lost control of the car which snaked back and forth across first three then all six lanes of Fifth Avenue traffic. A Canadian tour bus swerved to miss the sedan and climbed halfway up a Sunshine taxi parked on the north bound side before coming to a halt.

The agent driving the sedan, struggled against the uncontrollable momentum of the huge vehicle but managed to regain steering long enough to avoid hitting the parked cars on his right. However, the serpentine pattern continued and they quickly ran out of road. Only a few seconds later they slammed through the wrought iron fence surrounding the public library at 42nd Street.

Pedestrians as well as visitors walking to and from the busy building were thrown into pandemonium as the momentum of the large vehicle sent it careening up the granite stairs and crashing violently into one of the Corinthian columns adorning the entrance.

Socks turned back around in his seat and replaced his weapon as they continued down the avenue.

“Dopey bastards!” He turned back and yelled out the window. “This ain’t Chicago ya know!!”

“Where to Socks?”

“What time is it?”

“Twelve-twenty”

“Go to Tompkins.”

Tompkins Square Park was a small park which occupied about three square blocks. The centre of the park was dominated by a large grassy field surrounded by a paved walk and benches spread out around the footpath and otter areas. Tompkins provided visitors a refuge from the urban landscape by virtue of the tall trees and assorted foliage dominating the entire perimeter. Due to its small size only four gates were available to enter or leave the park, one at each corner.

 Socks had Frankie drop him off at East Houston and Essex and told him to wait at the Tenth Street entrance. He then began to slowly stroll north on Avenue A with the bag tucked under his arm. Within one block of the park, he noticed a man following him.

At exactly twelve-thirty the party started.

Socks appeared and made his way across the brown grass towards the north west corner of the park waving in an exaggerated manner to an old man sitting on a bench, feeding the pigeons. Lanza sat down next to him and slipped him a small container which he removed from the brown bag.

Three of Hoover’s men, inconspicuous in their gray suits, and black shiny shoes, worked their way past the cripple beggar in the grass, the old lady on the bench and four old men sitting at a table playing chess

The three agents had slipped around behind Lanza and the man, and remained out of sight in their imaginary stealth. Fedoras cocked at just the right angle, arms outstretched with snubbed nosed .38's pointed at the ready, they sprang forth precisely as Lanza was helping the old man loosen the lid on the jar of heart medicine he had removed from the brown paper bag.

“Get your hands up and drop your weapons!” The cripple beggar stood behind one of the agents and held a pistol to the nape of his neck as he spoke. Turning slowly towards the right to look at his assailant, the agent saw the four chess players now had their military issue .45's aimed straight at his two partners.

“I suggest you comply, gentlemen.” It was the old man sitting on the bench who had a remarkably young voice. As the revolvers were being collected Lanza saw his cue and immediately stood and walked towards the exit in the north east corner of the park.

Two unmarked sedans pulled up to the gate to a position just behind the assorted collection of Government agents and, as the last of the FBI agents was handcuffed, and escorted into the back of the first car, they were driven away by the old woman. The Naval Intelligence Operatives piled into the second car and both vehicles u-turned and drove away the park.

 

***

 

“Excuse me. I have a delivery for a Mr. D. A. Hogan” The young Parcel Post driver consulted his clipboard as he spoke to the fat, red faced guard at the city court house behind the window.

“That’s D. A. Hogan, Knumbscull! You know as in District Attorney of New York City D. A.!” The obese guard corrected.

“I’m impressed. You can spell.” The driver leaned forward and eyed the rotund stomach of the guard. “Guess I don’t have to ask why you’re not on active duty. Meanwhile I still have a package for this guy Hogan. Where is he?”

“Some place you ain’t goin’. It’s restricted.” The guard smiled at being able to exercise what little power he didn’t have.

“Fine by me lumpy. I get paid either way.” The driver spoke as he turned to walk away. “Tell him it’s a priority shipment from the Department of Naval Intelligence, and it’s marked Classified Delivery.” He was nearly out the door. “He can pick it up between nine and five at the uptown . . . eh . . . the North Bronx station.”

The guard had a noticeable change in attitude when he heard the classified part, and forcing himself out of the booth, which he normally did only twice a day, he waddled out to the street to the driver who was already in his truck.

“You said there was a classified ticket on that package?” Trying to be humble while attempting to project authority was difficult.

“Yep.”

“Maybe you better get that upstairs. Ta the fourth floor.”

By now it was nearly three o’clock and after the D.A.’s secretary signed for the package and the D.A. got around to opening it, it was four fifteen. The three FBI agents had been in their cell at the Federal Holding Facility on Governor’s Island for nearly four hours.

The D. A. stood alone in his office, behind his desk hands on hips, staring down at the three badges, empty service revolvers and I. D. cards which lay in a neat stack on his desk, and his secretary was attempting to contact the New York office of the FBI.

Hogan knew the taps were now essentially useless, but could not bring himself to give the order to disconnect them. When a judge grants special permission to install a wire tap, he is very unhappy when he finds out it has been in place for several months, and nothing came of it. Most judges believe it reflects on the competency of the police work. Hogan had asked for two bugs, one for each of Lanza’s phones. The judges were justified in their beliefs.

 

***

 

“Which one’s Moe? Huh? Just tell me that. I Want to know which one’s Moe?” It was now seven-thirty, and although it had only been an hour and a half since their release, the three FBI agents already missed the serenity of their cell, on Governor’s Island.

“Somebody’s got to be Moe because I know I’M LOOKING AT THE THREE FUCKING STOOGES!!” The three agents stood motionless in front of the desk. Hoover’s New York office at 69th Street and Third Avenue was only used by him on rare occasions. It was situated in a good part of town only three blocks off the FDR Drive and not far from Roosevelt Island. He hated New York. Mabel, the middle-aged secretary could hear him through the sound proofed door and decided it was a good time to call it a night. She quickly gathered her things and left.

“How in God’s name did you three ever get selected for New York branch? Did you know somebody? Did you have connections? Better yet, how the HELL DID YOU EVEN GET SELECTED FOR AGENT TRAINING?!!” Hoover paced behind the big desk while the New York Bureau chief sat quietly in the corner, hands folded in front of his face. He didn’t respond when Hoover addressed him.

“I hope ta’ hell this isn’t the best you’ve got up here!” He finally took his seat. The oversized desk made his small stature look clownish as he spoke again.

“Okay, ladies. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Have the secretary, what’s her name?”

“Mabel sir. Her name is Mabel” The agent answered quickly and mechanically.

“Have Mabel contact the D.A.’s office in the morning and your three . . . agents, will go over there and collect their government issue service revolvers. You know. The ones you swore an oath NEVER TO RELINQUISH! And then you will camp out on top of Socks Lanza. Not in the same neighborhood, not in the vicinity, ON TOP!! He stops short, I want you up his ass! Somethin’ is goin’ on down on the waterfront and I intend to get to the bottom of it! Are we clear?” No one was in a hurry to speak. Finally the tallest of the three agents mustered the courage.

“Ahh, Director, we can’t go over in the morning.”

“And why the hell not, Moe?”         

“Sir the city offices are closed on Saturday.” Hoover was heating up again. He yelled through the soundproofed door for the secretary.

“Mabel! MABEL!! Find out how to get a hold of the D. A. on a Saturday morning and book me a flight to Washington, for first thing Monday!”

Mabel didn’t answer.

 


CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

Doc was different than the average working class individual. Other than being willing to take a risk, a contributing factor to the financial mess in which he now found himself, he liked Monday mornings. It’s not that it was any easier for him to get out of bed at the irritating sound of the alarm clock, but he always looked at Mondays as a time to start over. Another opportunity to keep that promise to himself he’d been breaking since New Years Day. Or to do some little thing he put off all last week.

Louie on the other hand had a much more practical view towards these things. Every year Louie made the same New Years' resolution, which was not to make a New Years' resolution. And he never broke his resolution. Not once. This way he significantly reduced the amount of personal anguish he would put himself through in the following 364 days.

Now with the new glass panel on the front door, the office cleaned up, and a new table in the right hand corner of the room for Louie to work at, Doc felt a sense of renewal as he entered the office on this peaceful Monday morning. Adding to his sense of satisfaction was another case closed. Better than that, a potentially ugly divorce case with a happy ending. Very rare. Doc felt good about it, he liked the Birnbaums.

It was nine thirty-five and Louie was late. He was always late on Monday mornings, but there wasn’t that much to do. Doc played a game of mental darts with Loiue's good excuse calendar. The subway was late, the alarm didn’t go off or Doris was sick and he had to drop the kids off at school.

Doc sat down at his desk after setting the coffee pot on the hot plate, and opened the folder someone had placed squarely in the middle of the blotter so he wouldn’t miss it. He opened it and saw it was the client report on the Birnbaum job. Louie must have done it to impress, and maybe to make up for losing track of Birnbaum last week. Just as he began to read it, the door opened and Louie came in.

“Hey Doc! Got the new window in huh? When are we gonna get it lettered?” Louie sounded extra chipper. He offered no excuse. Zero points on the dart board.

“I got Redbone working on it. Hey Louie?”

“Yeah Doc?” Louie hung his coat up and was making his way over to his table when Doc held up the report with two fingers like a used Kleenex.

“What’s this?”

“Pretty good huh? That’s the Birnbaum case. Makes ya proud, don’t it?”

“Louie, that’s not a report. I’ve seen reports, they don’t look like this.”

Louie was impervious to insults. He took a magazine out of his back pocket, sat at his table, put his feet up and began to read.

“Come on Doc. That’s a completely usable report.”

“Yeah. For the bottom of a bird cage.”

“Tell me one thing that’s wrong with it?”

“‘Followed subject as he disembowelled himself from the station’.”

“That’s right! Disembowelled! It means to remove. I looked it up! Hey Doc, look at this! Five acres of land for only 500 bucks! What a deal!”

“Yeah? Where? Siberia.” Doc crumpled the report and threw it in the trash.

“No, better, Southern Florida,” Louie related. “Some place called Coconut Grove.” He circled the article with his pencil.

“You ever been to Southern Florida Louie?”

“No. But you have. Just recently too, haven’t ya?” Louie laughed. Doc didn’t.

“You better get on the ball, Bonehead. If I’m not mistaking you got about three weeks to your State Board exam. You screw it up because you’re trying to describe the ‘ambulance of a room’ on your final test report, and your gonna be back haulin’ garbage with ya cousin Guido!”

“Come on Doc! Don’t I always pull through?” Louie opened the manual and started to idly flip through the pages. “Hey! Speakin’ of screwin’ up, you called that broad down on Church Street yet?”

“She’s not a broad Louie. She’s a good kid that’s had a tough break.” Doc removed a blank Client Report form from the files and began to fill out a new Birnbaum report.     

“Sorry Doc. You called that nice broad that’s had a tough break down on Church Street yet?” Louie lowered his magazine. “How the hell you know she’s had a tough break? She spill her guts to you already?”

“Louie, what do private detectives do?”

“Well, in this town one of two things. They pay the cops or the judges to get work or . . . they starve. Which is probably why that prick Sammon is doin’ so good uptown.”

“They detect. That’s what they do. Now get your head outta yer ass Louie, ‘cause you’re PISSIN’ ME OFF!” Louie, never saw it coming. Doc blindsided him by flinging a copy of the New York State Private Investigators' Regulations at him and nearly knocked him off his chair.

“Jesus Doc! What the hell was that for?” He sat up straight and started to pay attention. Exactly the intended effect.

“Louie, you got a lotta potential. But you piss me off with your nonchalant attitude. You better start payin’ attention! Because someday when your ass is draggin’ in the dirt, and you least expect it, some asshole cop, some irate husband or just some punk off the street is gonna put one in your back! Doris and the kids ain’t gonna make it on what their handin’ out downtown, god-damn it!” The part about Louie’s family was unexpected, by Doc as well as Louie. Doc realized he had recently developed an uncontrollable gut reaction to images of kids and family.

Louie looked down at the manual. It was impossible to find the right words. “Jesus Doc, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you cared. I'll . . . “

“Don’t say it! Just do it! Be a detective, god-damn it!”

“Christ Doc! Don’t you think I wanna be? I try my ass off to figure stuff out. Get clues, find traces. Nuthin’! And then there’s you! You look at a god-damned piece of dust and give me the history of the room! I can’t do that! Honest ta Christ Doc, I don’t know how you’re not rich! You should'a stayed on the force. You’da made Chief by now.”

Louie’s retort was disarming, but Doc wouldn't be thrown off the track of trying to focus his best friend.

“I couldn’t stay on the force because most of those guys are in it for the steady pay check and the pension. Half the shit they solve gets solved because some guy rolled over for them, the other half gets solved because the crook screws up. Look, Louie, you gotta feel it. Here, in your gut. You gotta eat it, sleep it, breath it and shit it. You gotta want it! It’s not about the money. It’s about doinsomethin’ you love. Somethin’ you’re good at. Somethin’ you’re passionate about!”           

“Yeah, but Doc. I ain’t no good at nuthin’! Hell, I nearly lost that old Birnbaum guy last week and he's older then Methuselah!” Louie looked down at the desk. Doc guessed what was coming. “And there’s something I gotta tell ya. I broke a rule. A rule of tailing.”

“Yeah, I know. He saw you.” Louie’s head snapped to the upright position, and he looked at Doc like a dog seeing it’s own image in a mirror for the first time.

“Now see, damn it! How the hell did you know that?”

“I pay attention.” Louie continued to stare. Doc felt compelled to explain. “You told me you and Birnbaum came down town on the same train, that means you got off the train at the same time, at Wall Street. I saw you were in the phone booth before Birnbaum was through the door. And, since the phone is further up the street than the door, that means at some point you had to cross in front of or by him. So I had to assume that you were made.” Louie was relieved Doc hadn’t deduced the screw up on the platform.

“The important thing is, that he didn’t see you in two separate locations during the tail. That’s a dead give away.” Louie was exasperated. He threw the book on the desk and himself back in his chair, looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes.

“Look, I’ll help you. Teach you everything I can. But you gotta work with me here Louie. Louie!” He looked back at Doc. “Focus, will ya?”

“I will Doc.”

”I’m serious!”

“I will!” Doc had no way to know if he really got through. If he did not, he would try again.

“Good. Now where were we?”

“You were just about to tell me why you’re so chicken to call that girl, what’d you say her name was?”

“I didn’t. Her name is Nikki. Nikki Cole.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“You gonna call her? Or you gonna wear your heart on your sleeve the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know. I gotta think about it.”

“Think about it? What the hell is there to think about? Ya pick up the phone, ya dial the number, she answers, ya pop the question!” Doc winced.

“Sorry, bad choice of words!”

“I don’t wanna seem too anxious. Besides I don’t even have her number.” Louie reached into his pocket and removed a small piece of paper from his wallet. He got up and laid it neatly on the corner of Doc’s desk smoothing it out a little for effect.

“What the hell’s that?”

Delancy 5 9000. Number to the switch board at the Federal Building. You know, down on Church Street.”

“What?  You think I wasn’t gonna look it up?”

“Yeah, Doc McKeowen. The original Romeo. Like the last day before Prom Night when you were tryin’ ta get up the guts ta ask Charlene Meeny ta go with ya.”

“What's your point?”

“Jesus Doc! The day before?”

“I like suspense. Besides, I already knew she didn’t have a date.” Doc tried to remain casual.

“Then during third period break, you came around the corner like a bat outta hell ‘cause you were late for gym and slam! There goes Charlene Meany bouncing down the hall on her boney ass like a little blond basketball.”

“Hey, I got the date, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but you were shittin’ like a dog in a Chinese restaurant when you asked her!”

“So, I asked her!”

“Then the poor little thing had to limp into the dance from the size of the bruise she had.”

“I suppose you saw pictures?”

“Jesus, ya asked her while she was still sittin’ on the floor! What were you doin’? Waitin’ ta see if she refused before you'd help her up?”

“Prom night? Isn’t that the same night Doris slapped the hell outta you for gettin’ so…”

“Don't change the subject, councillor! From what you told me and what I saw through that door Nikki looked pretty good to me. And you know me, I’m no judge of women.” Louie walked over to the hot plate and poured two cups of coffee. “Besides, Doris thinks it would be . . .”

“Doris!? Christ Mancino! Now I’m in the gossip columns?”

“Then give them somethin’ ta gossip about, damn it! Call her!” Louie coaxed. Doc picked up the piece of paper, and put it in his wallet.

“I’ll call her!” Louie continued to stare. “I said I’ll call! Later! I gotta be uptown at eleven. I have to go convince Mrs. Birnbaum her husband is a patriot, not a playboy.” Doc went over to the rack and put on his coat. “Meanwhile you stay here till I get back. With your nose in that Reg Book.” As he was halfway out the door, Doc turned back to Louie.

“Yeah Doc?”          

“She didn’t tell me anything about her personal life. She was defensive, but pretended she didn’t know how to fix the jack plugs on her switch board. She had pat answers to my questions, and was middle to late twenties.” As he spoke, Doc counted out the points he was making by extending the fingers of his right hand. “And she wore a charm bracelet with the name ‘Katie’ on it and a wedding ring on a chain around her neck. How did I know she had a rough break? Figure it out. See ya in a couple of hours.” Doc left. Louie hung his head as the door slammed shut.

“I hate it when he does that shit!”

 

Operation Underworld by Paddy Kelly

About The Book

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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Operation Underworld
(Paddy Kelly)

The serialised version of this outstanding novel

Part Four

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Operation Underworld

CHAPTER TEN

 

 

For the first time since the turn of the century the overall labor situation in America was stable. The violent union wars of the twenties were replaced by the violent labor wars of the thirties and the Depression, which in turn gave way to the retooling and re-employment required by the war effort. There was an unwritten “no strike” agreement for the duration of the war amongst the waterfront labor force, and virtually every individual or entity involved in labor utilized this time to posture and jockey for political position in preparation for the day when things would return to normal.

A significant piece of the union pie was being sought after by the American Communist Party, represented by the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. In 1942 the C. P. A. were a legitimate political party and, in contrast to any other party, stood on a platform composed almost entirely of labor issues. They held sway with large segments of the labor population of America owing to their earlier victories against vicious factory owners in New England and New York, and until the witch hunts of the Late Forties there were no widespread fears of Communists taking over the country and eating all the babies.

The labor union leaders of other factions however, were very afraid. The Communists offered members of the labor force something the other parties would not even talk about, a share in the pie. However unsuccessful this would prove to be in later years, at the time it was a difficult enticement to ignore.

The party had gained considerable momentum on the west coast and the man out there doing all the talk about pie sharing was a man named Harry Bridges.

Harry made the mistake late that February, of coming to New York. He compounded this error in judgement by letting his intentions be known, before leaving the west coast, that the goal of his pilgrimage would be to organise labor in New York.

Officially he was functioning completely within the law, as a duly elected representative of a legitimate political party and an international labor union.

But that was in California. Seems way out there on the sunny West Coast Harry hadn't gotten the word that New York labor was already organized. By some Italians.

From LaGuardia Field Bridges took a taxi into mid-town and arrived at the Hollywood Hotel about mid-morning, across from one of Luciano’s former favorite night spots, the Paradise. Although the Hollywood did not boast the elaborate floor shows of the Paradise, the service was good, the rooms spacious and it suited Harry’s love of comfortable surroundings. After all, if one were to battle the bourgeois, one had to understand its ways.

The effeminate desk clerk saw nothing unusual in the dark haired, medium built man in the dark gray suit and as Mr. Bridges registered, the desk clerk rang for a Front, and then handed the new guest his metal tagged room key. The bell boy, who had been leaning against the wall reading a comic book, took his time getting to the desk and Harry headed for the elevators. Waiting for the guest to be out of earshot, the desk clerk, in his lispy dialect, addressed the front.

“Franklin! I’ve told you time and again about that gum! Take it out of your mouth this instant or I’ll report you to Mr. Carlson!” The bellhop made an exaggerated gesture of swallowing the offending confectionary.

The frail little desk clerk, about half the size of Frankie the bellhop, did not think it a good idea to push his luck, so when Frankie approached, the clerk turned and occupied himself at the back desk.

As Frankie watched the new guest walk towards the elevator he squinted his eyes in a gesture of faint recognition. Turning the register around he read the name and smiled. He carried the two suitcases to the elevator, which had already taken Mr. Bridges up to his room. Setting them aside by the large fern, he went across the lobby to a bank of phone booths.

Lemme talk to Mr. Lanza.” Frankie felt like a kid at Christmas when he pulled the door shut.

“Who the hell is this?”

“Frankie. I need to talk to him.”

“Frankie who?”

“Frankie, over at the Hollywood. Tell him I got something for him.”

“Hold on.” The bellhop knew he had a chance to start establishing his reputation in The Unione. Frankie reckoned that if his guess was right, he would no longer have to wait for his piece of shit brother-in-law to get him connected.

“Yeah, who am I talking to?” Lanza asked impatiently.

“Mr. Lanza! This is Frankie. Frankie the bellhop, uptown at the Hollywood Hotel.

“Frankie the bellhop?”

“Yes sir. I think I got somethin’ for ya.”

“Yeah, like what Frankie the bellhop?”

“You know that Commie Pinko labor guy from California?” He had trouble containing himself.

“Harry Bridges the Commie? What about him?”

“Guess who just checked into room 1017?” By now the diminutive desk clerk had swished across the lobby and was heading towards the phone booth.

 Lanza asked in a low, slow controlled voice, registering increasing satisfaction as he spoke.

“He’s there, at the Hollywood?” There was a momentary pause on Lanza’s end of the line. “Room 1017, is dat right?” Lanza reconfirmed.

“Yes sir. I’m supposed ta take his bags up right now.”

“Well, nice job Frankie the bellhop. You still want in at the union?”

“Hedy Lamarr got nice tits?”

“Go down to Fulton Street on Monday morning. See Joey DiTorrio. Tell him I sent ya. Hey kid, what the hell is that bangin’ sound?” Lanza held the receiver away from his head and looked at it. The desk clerk had found Frankie.

Nuthin’, Mr.Lanza. I’ll take care of it, thanks.” Frankie hung up and slid open the bi-fold door. The clerk stopped his banging, and took a step back from the phone booth.

“Did you put Mr. Bridges' bags in the elevator?!” Frankie the used-to-be bellhop gave no verbal response. Instead, he walked back over to the fern and lifting the two suitcases, threw them into the open elevator. He reached in and pushed several buttons, and the cases disappeared behind the closing doors.

Removing his small round, blue and gold cap, he walked over to the reception desk, and after tossing the cap over the desk, Frankie magically produced the gum from his mouth he was supposed to have swallowed, and spat the wad on the open register book. Giving a broad smile to the clerk, who prudently remained across the lobby, he slammed the book closed and pressed firmly, being sure to smash the gum flat.

Bravely, from his safe position by the phone booths, the clerk called out that Frankie had better find another job because he was never going to work at the Hollywood again.

Oh yeah. He was going to report him to Mr. Carlson too.

 

***

 

Lanza’s luck that morning ran thin after Frankie’s phone call. Although he immediately dispatched a reception committee, by the time they arrived uptown, Bridges had left his room. Next he called Commander Haffenden’s suite at the Astor, but there was no answer.

Lanza instructed the three men to hang around the hotel and call when Bridges returned. Their wait was short. About an hour later, Harry walked across the lobby and took the elevator up to his room. Socks picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Yeah, who’s talking?”

“It’s me.”

“Commander! I was just tryin’ ta call you!”

“Have you got something for me on the other dock situation?”

“No. But we got an out of town visitor.”

“Who?” Haffenden’s anticipation quickly peeked as he harbored hope that someone had finally caught a saboteur.

“Harry Bridges.”

“The labor organizer?” Haffenden was seriously surprised.

“Yeah!”

“So?” He did not attach the same significance to this development as did Lanza. Then again Haffenden was not involved in illicit labor manipulation. Not technically.

“SO!? He’s a Commie!”

“Socks, being a Communist isn’t illegal.” It never occurred to Lanza that Haffenden would give him any opposition on this.

“What if he starts talking some of that Commie shit out here? What if he came out here to disrupt the unions? What about if he’s in cahoots with some German spies or somethin’? Then it would be illegal! Right?” Haffenden knew what Lanza was driving at. He wanted Haffenden’s okay to take care of Bridges.

If he gave the nod, and anyone ever found out he sanctioned violence against an elected representative, the operation as well as his career may be over. On the other hand, if he told Lanza to lay off, he might not have as much cooperation as he was presently enjoying. Haffenden’s long silence ended.

“Do what you gotta do. Only, I don’t need to know how. Just let me know when it’s done.” There was nothing more to say. He hung up.

Socks called the hotel and gave his men their instructions. Then he placed a second call and arranged for a flight.

Harry didn’t know it yet, but his pilgrimage was over.

 

***

 

A block away from the Fulton Street Fish Market there stood a three story brick warehouse, circa nineteen twenties. The two hobos standing at the side door were surprised when they saw the bright yellow sign nailed to the doors:

 

“CLOSED BY ORDER OF NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF HEALTH.

INFECTED RATS FOUND ON PREMISES.”

 

“What’s it say?”

What’samatter? Can’t you read? It says, ‘Closed . . . for . . . remodlin’.”

“Damn! I really liked that place too. Spacious, nice gentle ambience.”

The two disappointed men turned and walked away in search of other accommodation, and a place to share their bottle of vintage Thunderbird wine.

Originally used to store large shipments of dry goods, the warehouse was abandoned in the late thirties when temperature controlled storage and the advent of more efficient trucking came to lower Manhattan. With most of the windows broken out and literally every single fixture, removable or not, having been removed, the building was of little use to anyone except some of the less desirable hobos who had been banned from the doorways, streets and sewers of the Lower Bowery.

Of course New York being New York the building might have been abandoned but that didn't mean it wasn't occupied. Voices could be heard emanating from the basement. They were the voices of Lanza and Haffenden. The words however had a Marconian crackle to them.

In a small room, in the basement, were two men. The room they were in was in the extreme corner of the lower level, and it’s door had a crooked sign hanging by one nail which read: “JANITOR”. The two men wore bulky headsets and were intently staring at the RCA eight inch reel-to-reel tape recorder, while listening to the play-back of Operation Underworld’s two prime players.          

“What the hell do you make of that?” One of the agents asked, sliding his bulky headset down around his neck.

“Got me by the short ones! I figure the guys at the Hollywood belong to Lanza. But this other guy he’s reportin’ to has to be somebody pretty god-damned big.”

“Well, it sure as hell ain’t Luciano. Must be some new boss, moved in to take over.”

“The Commander!?”

“Where the hell do they come up with these ridiculous names?”

 

***

 

That night Harry Bridges remembered coming around the corner onto Broadway, and then the stars were swirling in front of his eyes, and his vision blurred to a haze. Now he sat in back of a car with a huge man sitting on either side of him, and his arms were pinned behind his back.

A short time later, he was in the back room of a restaurant, lying on the floor, still blindfolded, beaten and bruised, sounds of banging pots and crashing dishes surrounded him. A car pulled up outside, and he was man-handled into the back seat. At LaGuardia Field he was escorted onto a plane, shortly before take off, and he understood that except for in the movies, he had no reason ever see New York again.

 

***

 

The next morning even before he had eaten his eggs, Socks was back on the phone with The Commander.

“We don’t anticipate any more trouble concerning that Brooklyn Bridge deal. He got on a plane last night.”

“Alright. What about Brooklyn?” Lanza hesitated before answering.

“No, nuthin’ yet.”

“We need a meet after the weekend. Monday, the usual place, alone. I f you get there first, don’t order the fish.”

“I won’t.” Lanza had a nervous feeling as he hung up. Not only was this operation taking away from his own business time and making no contribution to his impending case, it appeared to be rapidly gaining in intensity and scope. Worst of all, what if Jimmy The Bull was right? No one anywhere had discovered any saboteurs.

Times for meetings were on a rotational basis per day. In other words if a day was given over the phone, it actually meant the day after, and depending on which day the meeting was actually on, the times were previously set. For example, Mondays were always three o’clock, Tuesdays were always four o’clock and so on. If a special, unscheduled meeting was necessary, a code word was used in the conversation and special couriers were utilized. Late that afternoon Socks got a special courier.

 

***

 

Lucky Luciano had a close partner, Frank Costello. Frank Costello had a top notched bookie, Eddie Erickson. Eddie would regularly meet with Walter Winchell. Every so often in order to get the inside scoop on “big time” crime stories, Winchell would pass information on winning horses to a very highly placed law enforcement official. The same official who now stood at window #3 of the betting cages.

The elderly man in the cashier’s cage read the ticket the gambler had just slid across the counter.

“Belmont. Albany Eddie to show in the third.” He looked up at the small man in the dark suit with the oval, baby face. The cashier recognised him instantly, even without the two body guards standing on either side of him. Double checking the clip board hanging next to him to confirm the results, the cashier filed the ticket and counted out the man’s two hundred and fifty dollars.

The man stepped off to one side and faced into the wall to put the money away, and one of the short, pugnacious men with him commented as he removed his wallet from his breast pocket.

“You don’t bet too often Chief, but when you do, you sure can pick ‘em.”

“You just have to know how to study the ponies, agent. That, and a little luck.”           The opened bill fold showed an I. D. card with a red stamp across it which read, “DIRECTOR” and a picture of the little man, as well as a small, toy-like gold badge. The name under the photo read: J. Edgar Hoover.

Belmont Park was the third leg of The Triple Crown and one of the oldest and largest race tracks in the country. Although races were normally restricted or suspended in the winter months, the combination of the mild weather and the wartime atmosphere persuaded the owners to extend the season.

Saturday was always the best day to be there. There were specials at the restaurant, happy hour started earlier, and there were more races to bet on. Whenever someone brought a friend to the track for the first time, they were careful to bring them in through the main arcade.

For it was here that the excitement flowed over the lucky losers at its strongest, and the absolute sensation of privilege at being allowed to donate your money to such a fine establishment was most appreciated. It is highly probable that this is the very atmosphere that first inspired Buggsy Siegel to claim to have conceived the idea of a casino in the middle of the desert, to his compatriots a few years later.

The awful stench of the food and cigar smoke, permeated the arcade and flowed out onto the first few tiers of stadium seating where they collided with the pleasant aromas of horse shit and damp turf.

“What time is it?”

“Half past five Mr. Hoover.” Looking at his watch short agent number one answered. All three men wore identical dark suits, white shirts, Fedoras and shiny black shoes so you could not tell they were FBI.

“Alright, you two go and watch the races. Meet me by concession stand three, at six o’clock.”

“But Mr. Hoover, we’re supposed to stay with you at . . .” Short agent number two began to protest, but was cut short.

“I SAID GO! GOD-DAMN IT!” They went.

He was the most successful bureaucrat in the history of Washington D.C. From the time his father got him his first job at the Department of Justice, in June of 1917, his borderline fanaticism, which he mistakenly believed to be loyalty, grew ever stronger and increasingly self-perpetuating.

In no time at all J. Edgar’s ability to manipulate knowledge and information before it reached the people, had grown to legendary proportions.

During the Deportation Hysteria of the early 1920’s Hoover worked at the Enemy Alien Registration Section, appropriately abbreviated EARS, of the Bureau of Investigation. It is from the 'reports' of the misguided scientists who testified with “scientific proof” that aliens, especially Eastern European Jews, were by-and-large undesirable, (due to everything from crime and disease to an increased tendency to display feeble-mindedness), that he first learned how easy it was to dupe the American public.

Performing center stage with a backdrop of anti-immigrant fever suited Hoover’s purist mentality as well as taught him that oldest of government bureaucrat’s tricks. Find something or some one to label a dangerous common enemy, and after shining the spotlight on them, rally supporters to mold into a power base on the premise you are the man to defeat that enemy. Before the First War it was the Eastern Europeans, mostly Jews, during the Second War it was “The Hun” and later it became the communists.       Today it's the nebulous “Axis of Evil”.

Appropriating money wherever he could Hoover began to build his empire within The Empire. However, money was not the only ingredient in the Hooverville recipe.

From his early days in the twenties Hoover learned that money and political influence bought access to the broadsheets, accompanied by sympathetic stories which would go a long way towards helping him achieve his dream of becoming a national hero.

He sensationalized his police stories through the media with consummate skill. His personally approved police dramas for the “Lucky Strike Hour”, a popular radio show, were by 1932 specifically designed to establish his bureau, and by default himself, as pop culture icons. The children’s episodes of Junior G-Men, broadcast nationwide, told youngsters how to recognize and report suspicious persons to the local authorities, as well as taught them how they should think and behave if they were going to grow up to be good little agents. Follow-up shows such as Gangbusters and This Is Your FBI continued his unending quest for popularity.

Ironically, even though it was from his hatred of aliens Hoover built a career, it was an alien that would help him establish it once and for all in the public eye by giving him Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger. From the first time “Baby Face” Nelson called them “G-men” and John Dillinger’s body was splashed across the front page, J. Edgar knew he would be a star.

His big break came in 1924 when the Bureau reached an unprecedented level of corruption. He seized the chance when he was offered and accepted the directorship of the Bureau, and took the post on the condition he be allowed to isolate it from politics, effectively transforming it into an autonomous entity.

By 1941 Hoover had been in service for twenty-five years, twenty-one of those years as Assistant Director or Director, and although most career individuals would consider themselves prime candidates for retirement, J. Edgar wasn’t even halfway through his dictatorship.

How was a multi-million dollar government organization, which was later able to enact law allowing a file to be compiled containing the details of every one of its citizens' personal lives, held at bay by a criminal syndicate which Hoover claimed did not exist? The answer is very basic. Hoover was bought.

Lucky Luciano understood two principles regarding the approach towards the American way of doing business when he established The Commission. Every man has his price and when attempting to buy someone, always start at the top.

J. Edgar’s inane fear of bad press had kept him away from open confrontations with organized crime, his policies regarding this behavior are well documented. Through his consistent and unwavering public denial of the existence of organized crime, Hoover did more to help the criminal syndicates than any other single entity up until the circus known as the “War On Drugs”, (which seems to have replaced the “War On Poverty” but has recently taken a back seat to the “War On Terror”).

David Marston, a retired FBI agent, in his much acclaimed book, Inside Hoover’s FBI, commenting on the relationship of organized crime and the FBI under Hoover, stated that, “. . . although they, [the FBI and organized crime], were presumptive enemies, in the first four decades they competed primarily for newspaper space.”

This may have been an understatement. Marston, in the same publication, comments that, “J. Edgar Hoover was the best FBI Director Organized Crime ever had.”

This attitude set the ground work for The Unione at a time when they already had controlling influence in New York’s City Hall through Albert C. Marinelli, the well known Tammany boss with whom Lucky shared a suite at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Marinelli’s rival, Jimmy Hines, another New York top political leader, shared a suite with Frank Costello, Lucky’s partner in the Unione. Both of these rival delegations were there to elect the Presidential candidate for the 1932 elections. If this sounds a little convoluted, let's simplify it.

The American Presidency is basically a popularity contest with little or nothing to do with leadership ability or competency. Who ever has the most money to maintain the highest profile wins the contest. So, in 1932 between the Great Depression and Prohibition, (only in America would someone attempt to make alcohol illegal in an effort to better society), the general public were not happy with the existing leadership, which was Republican. Ironically this opinion was arrived at largely due to political corruption. As a result it was pretty certain the Democrats would take the election. The question was, which Democratic candidate would get the nod?

This being the case, Luciano and Costello each escorted a delegation leader to the convention, along with appropriate financial donations, so that regardless of which Presidential candidate won, Al Smith or Franklin D. Roosevelt, The Unione were assured of being in the right camp.

FDR who, only a short time before the convention, as Governor of New York, set free from prison approximately sixty members of The Commission, was the front runner. In January of the following year FDR was sworn in as the thirty-second President of the United States.

Start at the top.

The FBI were no exception. J. Edgar, a man who given the chance would impose the death penalty on anyone who opposed capital punishment, loved horse racing. Eddy Erickson was a top notch bookie who worked for Frank Costello. Walter Winchell was, well Walter Winchell, anything for a story.

Costello would give Erickson the expected winner of a given race, Erickson would contact Winchell who in turn would get it to Hoover.

Ever wonder how Winchell got the scoop on so many top crime stories?

Every man has his price.

So in the space of a few short years, Lucky’s organization held considerable influence in all the upper echelons of authority, and in turn established contacts, patterns and techniques which are considered to be standard operating procedures to this day when dealing with or within the Federal Government or any large corporation.

Hoover headed over to the concession stand and ordered a hot dog. A race had just begun, so the stand was nearly abandoned. There was a man standing in the far corner, nursing a cup of coffee, and Hoover walked over to him while he ate.

“Hello Socks, how’s the fish business?”

“Stinks!” Lanza wore a hat, and was visibly uncomfortable. “Let’s drop the names, huh? Whatta' you want from me?”

“You want a hot dog Socks? They’re really good here. Not like that shit they pawn off on ya over at Yankee Stadium.”

“No I don’t want a fuckin’ hot dog! What’s this about?!”

“What the dog? I just like to treat my guests right Socks.” J. Edgar spoke while he chewed, and allowed his words to drip with arrogance. “I hear you had a guest a coupl’a nights ago.”

“What the hell you talkin’ about?”

Hoover finished his frankfurter, wiped his hands with a napkin, threw it on the floor and reached into the side pocket of his jacket. Reading from the note pad he produced, he began to give Lanza an education.

“I want a complete details concerning the Brooklyn Bridge deal. And its association with the Hollywood Hotel on Broadway. What exactly, if any, is their significance to a one Harry Bridges?” Lanza, initially expressionless, slowly smiled.

Lemme ask you a question. How come you guys always talk like you got a rod up your ass or something?” Hoover began to boil. Spectators could be heard behind him cheering the race on.                       

“Besides, you ain’t got it all.” Lanza informed him. Hoover looked at him quizzically.

“You forgot the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the Queensboro.” Lanza baited.

“I’m warning you Lanza, you ain’t as immune as you think! I could shut you down tomorrow!”

“Yeah, and if Frank Costello and a coupl’a others testified, we could shut you down today! So don’t give me that strong arm of the law, holier-then-thou bullshit. You’re just another crooked cop.” Hoover looked around nervously. Lanza clearly had the upper hand now.

“I want to know who the hell all these new guys on the docks are, and where they’re coming from!” Hoover demanded.

“They’re just new workers. Friends, relatives. We need the help. There’s a war on if you ain’t heard.”

“Yeah, I heard! And soon there’s gonna be another war on, wise guy!” Hoover threw a news paper on the counter. It was folded open to page four. Lanza picked it up and read the short story with the “X” next to it. The story reported a California labor leader who was irate at the treatment he received while visiting New York, and that he intended to ask his state representative to launch an investigation.

Lanza was taken off guard, but not shocked, he already read the paper.

Turning to page two, Lanza began to slowly, and neatly, tear out a second article which ran nearly an entire column. He spoke as he worked. Then he slid the article over to Hoover.

“You know. With all the tax money you take from the people you pretend you’re suppost’a be defendin’, maybe you could spend a few bucks on a pair of elevated shoes.”    

Livid at the insult, Hoover’s expression registered extreme anger as he eyed the lead line on the article:

 

“FBI DIRECTOR ADAMANT; ORGANISED CRIME NON-EXISTENT!”

 

The public address system announced the last race of the day was about to begin.

 


CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

Just south of the Fish Market, on the corner of Peck Street and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, was a small fish restaurant frequented by local workers. The Italians had their pick of restaurants, the Jews usually brought their meals with them, but the Irish and the British workers were blessed with The Chinaman. The Chinaman, no one could pronounce his name, owned and ran Chanze Chinese Chippy, which served the most authentic fish and chips in Ireland’s western most county, New York.

Lanza approached Chanze just before the late rush hour, which started about eleven p.m., and shook his head and smiled as he glanced at the six stove pipes Chan had installed at different points on the roof and exterior walls. The pipes served no structural purpose, but instead vented the smell of the fried fish dishes in various directions, and could be opened or shut individually so as to allow the aromas to waft in any given direction. The strategy of course, to this venting conspiracy, was to entice patrons who might otherwise waste their time eating more healthy lunches and suppers, or whatever the after pub meal might be called.  “I wish I had that guy working for me.” Lanza thought to himself.

He entered the eatery and took one of the red enamelled booths in the back. As always he sat facing the door, after all this was a popular time for his co-workers to kill each other in restaurants. An attractive Chinese girl with long, silky black hair and green eyes, one of Chan’s sixteen offspring, approached the booth the minute Lanza sat down. She looked to be in her late teens.

“You want I should bring you a menu, Mac?” She was born and raised in New York, and so spoke perfect English.

“No, I’m waitin’ on someone.” She left him alone and Lanza, looking at his watch. He was ten minutes early for the special meeting.

How the hell did Hoover know about the Hollywood? And worse yet, the god-damned Bridges job! It just didn’t make sense! Nice future, Socks. A contract on me for working with the Feds, FBI on my ass, and some big shot Navy Intelligence guy given’ me grief! Prison’s startin’ ta look pretty good!

There was no easy way out, and just as Socks began to regret his patriotic feelings, Commander Haffenden came through the door.

Socks waved, but it didn’t matter, Chanze was so small it rivalled Harry’s.

“Socks, what’s the story on Brooklyn?” Haffenden wasted no time.

“Commander, the hell with Brooklyn! We got bigger problems than Brooklyn!”

“Socks, you okay?” Haffenden was unprepared for the change of schedule. He had called the meeting to increase the load on Lanza. Now it looked as if someone had beaten him to the punch.

“Sir, I haven’t got a god-damned clue how, or when it happened, but Hoover is on to us!”

“Hoover?”

“Hoover. J. Edgar Fucking Hoover. Mr. FBI!”

“How do you know?” Hoover wasn’t necessarily a serious problem as far as Haffenden was concerned. He would likely be able to deal with him through normal channels.

However his maniacal devotion to his bureau and the fact that there was a government operation he wasn't in on had the potential to make things messy.

“Well, maybe it was the meeting I had with him at Belmont Park this afternoon. Or than again maybe it was the fact that the little sawed off son-of-a-bitch knew all about The Hollywood and the Bridges job, I’m not sure. But what I know for sure is that you gotta serious god-damned leak in your operation!!” Lanza had a hard time containing himself as he spoke. He kept looking at the door.

“Socks, nobody on my side had access to any of that information. When you called me, that was the end of it. There was no reason for me to tell anybody about that.”

“Yeah? Well, somebody told somebody! Either that or we got fairies in the god-damned phone lines!” Haffenden looked at Lanza, hesitated, and then sat back in his seat. The Commander had an epiphany.

“Maybe we do.”

“What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

“I think the only other people who know about our little merger might have a leak.”

“Fuckin’ Gurfein!” Lanza had a delayed epiphany. “Whata we do?”

 “We do what all good operatives do when they think they’re compromised. We use them!” Haffenden hadn’t felt this mischievous since he was a teenager. He was making Lanza edgy.

“You call me tomorrow at half past ten. Talk in the open. Don’t use any code. Tell me we have to meet immediately. Something’s gone drastically wrong since last night. Act panicky.” That shouldn’t be hard! Thought Lanza.

“Tell me you’ll have the microfilm from the FBI job ready to hand over. Got it?”

“What FBI job?” Lanza was feeling he was definitely in over his head.

“Just do it! Okay?” Chanze daughter returned to the table.

Youse ready ta order or what?”

  

***

 

The next morning, as prearranged, Lanza rang Haffenden and set the meeting for that afternoon at half past twelve. An hour and a half before meeting time a jazzed-up, cherry-bomb red pick-up truck pulled up outside the fish market on Fulton Street. The chrome garnished vehicle sounded its horn twice and Lanza came out of the market carrying a brown paper bag. He had no way of seeing the agent on the top floor of the warehouse a block away, but Haffenden warned him he would be watched.

As the agent in the warehouse checked his watch and went to make the call, Lanza and the driver of the pick-up pulled away from the market.

“So, Frankie the bellhop! You got the routine straight?”

“Forget about it Mr. Lanza! Just sit back and enjoy da ride like you wuz at Uncle Milty’s!” Frankie was pleasantly surprised at being called into work a day early to do a special favour for Mr. Lanza.

The pair had no sooner looped around the Battery and were heading north onto West Side Drive when Frankie saw the dark blue sedan in his rear view mirror.

“Our friends are here Mr. Lanza. Ya want I should start now?”

“Just north of the tunnel. Around pier forty.”

The pre-lunch hour traffic was yet to hit so the run north of the Holland Tunnel was about five minutes. However, right at the Christopher Street cross-over Lanza braced both feet against the dash board, sat back and gave a nod. Frankie the bellhop smiled and the two agents in the sedan watched in disbelief as the ten year old truck grew smaller and smaller, until by the time they reached the 12th Street cut off it vanished altogether.

“God-damn it! Go red! Right now god-damn it! Go red!!” The senior agent knew first hand how much J. Edgar appreciated failure. The driver floored the pedal and the sedan raced around several cars until reaching a point on the highway where they had an unobstructed view for half a mile.

“They couldn’t have just vanished!” The driver spoke to his preoccupied passenger who was consulting the neatly folded map he held in his lap.

“Pull off on Tenth Avenue! If they’re leavin’ The City it’ll be the Lincoln or the G. W.! If not we’ll get them by West 57th.” At the exit the sedan unit called in by telephone and alerted the 69th Street office of the likely intercept locations and then drove north along tenth.

The old pick-up, which was now approaching River Side Park, was used extensively during Prohibition. After refitting her with a larger, six cylinder engine, a four barrelled carburettor and the new experimental tubeless tires, slightly underinflated, she was better suited to “runs” now then in the days of running rum over the Canadian border.

“You still wanna take the bridge, Mr. Lanza?”

“No, they’ll have it covered. What time is it?”

“Twenty aft'a aleven.”

“Get off on 96th, cut across the park. Go to Central Park South. A little birdie told me we could probably find our friends there.” Twenty minutes later, as predicted, they found the dark blue sedan parked on Central Park South and Sixth Avenue.

Both agents were outside their parked vehicle and while the driver was half way through a hot dog, the senior agent stood by a telephone booth, impatiently waiting for a location check, smoking a cigarette in the cold midday air.

Lanza and Frankie had driven past them, turned around at Columbus Circle and were half a block away approaching from the west end of the park.

The corner pay phone finally rang and before he had the receiver to his ear the senior agent heard his partner yelling.

“There they are! The bastards are back!” Pointing at them he threw the remainder of his lunch into the street and drew his service revolver. His partner yelled into the phone.

“We got them!! East on Central Park South! We’re rolling!” Slamming the phone down he ran to the car as his partner fired three rounds at the passing truck. The first two shots buried themselves in the wooden bed of the vehicle, but the third shattered the small rear windshield spraying glass all over Lanza and Frankie. Lanza went straight to boiling.

“Dem crazy bastards! Shootin’ wild in the streets like that! Did you see that shit?” Without waiting for an answer he put the bag on the floor and reached into his shoulder holster. Frankie gradually accelerated after turning south onto Fifth Avenue and slowly smiled as he watched Socks do a quick functions check on the .45 Colt.

He gradually reduced his speed to allow the FBI agents to close the gap between vehicles.

“Hold her steady kid. Don’t make no sudden moves.” Breaking out some residual glass in the rear window and bracing himself against the frame, Lanza fired two rounds into the grill of the sedan, which by now was only two car lengths behind, and one into the windshield between the two agents.

Radiator fluid gushed from the grill and the fan could be heard whacking the engine.

As steam hissed out of the grill through the bullet holes the two agents, panicked by the shots, lost control of the car which snaked back and forth across first three then all six lanes of Fifth Avenue traffic. A Canadian tour bus swerved to miss the sedan and climbed halfway up a Sunshine taxi parked on the north bound side before coming to a halt.

The agent driving the sedan, struggled against the uncontrollable momentum of the huge vehicle but managed to regain steering long enough to avoid hitting the parked cars on his right. However, the serpentine pattern continued and they quickly ran out of road. Only a few seconds later they slammed through the wrought iron fence surrounding the public library at 42nd Street.

Pedestrians as well as visitors walking to and from the busy building were thrown into pandemonium as the momentum of the large vehicle sent it careening up the granite stairs and crashing violently into one of the Corinthian columns adorning the entrance.

Socks turned back around in his seat and replaced his weapon as they continued down the avenue.

“Dopey bastards!” He turned back and yelled out the window. “This ain’t Chicago ya know!!”

“Where to Socks?”

“What time is it?”

“Twelve-twenty”

“Go to Tompkins.”

Tompkins Square Park was a small park which occupied about three square blocks. The centre of the park was dominated by a large grassy field surrounded by a paved walk and benches spread out around the footpath and otter areas. Tompkins provided visitors a refuge from the urban landscape by virtue of the tall trees and assorted foliage dominating the entire perimeter. Due to its small size only four gates were available to enter or leave the park, one at each corner.

 Socks had Frankie drop him off at East Houston and Essex and told him to wait at the Tenth Street entrance. He then began to slowly stroll north on Avenue A with the bag tucked under his arm. Within one block of the park, he noticed a man following him.

At exactly twelve-thirty the party started.

Socks appeared and made his way across the brown grass towards the north west corner of the park waving in an exaggerated manner to an old man sitting on a bench, feeding the pigeons. Lanza sat down next to him and slipped him a small container which he removed from the brown bag.

Three of Hoover’s men, inconspicuous in their gray suits, and black shiny shoes, worked their way past the cripple beggar in the grass, the old lady on the bench and four old men sitting at a table playing chess

The three agents had slipped around behind Lanza and the man, and remained out of sight in their imaginary stealth. Fedoras cocked at just the right angle, arms outstretched with snubbed nosed .38's pointed at the ready, they sprang forth precisely as Lanza was helping the old man loosen the lid on the jar of heart medicine he had removed from the brown paper bag.

“Get your hands up and drop your weapons!” The cripple beggar stood behind one of the agents and held a pistol to the nape of his neck as he spoke. Turning slowly towards the right to look at his assailant, the agent saw the four chess players now had their military issue .45's aimed straight at his two partners.

“I suggest you comply, gentlemen.” It was the old man sitting on the bench who had a remarkably young voice. As the revolvers were being collected Lanza saw his cue and immediately stood and walked towards the exit in the north east corner of the park.

Two unmarked sedans pulled up to the gate to a position just behind the assorted collection of Government agents and, as the last of the FBI agents was handcuffed, and escorted into the back of the first car, they were driven away by the old woman. The Naval Intelligence Operatives piled into the second car and both vehicles u-turned and drove away the park.

 

***

 

“Excuse me. I have a delivery for a Mr. D. A. Hogan” The young Parcel Post driver consulted his clipboard as he spoke to the fat, red faced guard at the city court house behind the window.

“That’s D. A. Hogan, Knumbscull! You know as in District Attorney of New York City D. A.!” The obese guard corrected.

“I’m impressed. You can spell.” The driver leaned forward and eyed the rotund stomach of the guard. “Guess I don’t have to ask why you’re not on active duty. Meanwhile I still have a package for this guy Hogan. Where is he?”

“Some place you ain’t goin’. It’s restricted.” The guard smiled at being able to exercise what little power he didn’t have.

“Fine by me lumpy. I get paid either way.” The driver spoke as he turned to walk away. “Tell him it’s a priority shipment from the Department of Naval Intelligence, and it’s marked Classified Delivery.” He was nearly out the door. “He can pick it up between nine and five at the uptown . . . eh . . . the North Bronx station.”

The guard had a noticeable change in attitude when he heard the classified part, and forcing himself out of the booth, which he normally did only twice a day, he waddled out to the street to the driver who was already in his truck.

“You said there was a classified ticket on that package?” Trying to be humble while attempting to project authority was difficult.

“Yep.”

“Maybe you better get that upstairs. Ta the fourth floor.”

By now it was nearly three o’clock and after the D.A.’s secretary signed for the package and the D.A. got around to opening it, it was four fifteen. The three FBI agents had been in their cell at the Federal Holding Facility on Governor’s Island for nearly four hours.

The D. A. stood alone in his office, behind his desk hands on hips, staring down at the three badges, empty service revolvers and I. D. cards which lay in a neat stack on his desk, and his secretary was attempting to contact the New York office of the FBI.

Hogan knew the taps were now essentially useless, but could not bring himself to give the order to disconnect them. When a judge grants special permission to install a wire tap, he is very unhappy when he finds out it has been in place for several months, and nothing came of it. Most judges believe it reflects on the competency of the police work. Hogan had asked for two bugs, one for each of Lanza’s phones. The judges were justified in their beliefs.

 

***

 

“Which one’s Moe? Huh? Just tell me that. I Want to know which one’s Moe?” It was now seven-thirty, and although it had only been an hour and a half since their release, the three FBI agents already missed the serenity of their cell, on Governor’s Island.

“Somebody’s got to be Moe because I know I’M LOOKING AT THE THREE FUCKING STOOGES!!” The three agents stood motionless in front of the desk. Hoover’s New York office at 69th Street and Third Avenue was only used by him on rare occasions. It was situated in a good part of town only three blocks off the FDR Drive and not far from Roosevelt Island. He hated New York. Mabel, the middle-aged secretary could hear him through the sound proofed door and decided it was a good time to call it a night. She quickly gathered her things and left.

“How in God’s name did you three ever get selected for New York branch? Did you know somebody? Did you have connections? Better yet, how the HELL DID YOU EVEN GET SELECTED FOR AGENT TRAINING?!!” Hoover paced behind the big desk while the New York Bureau chief sat quietly in the corner, hands folded in front of his face. He didn’t respond when Hoover addressed him.

“I hope ta’ hell this isn’t the best you’ve got up here!” He finally took his seat. The oversized desk made his small stature look clownish as he spoke again.

“Okay, ladies. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Have the secretary, what’s her name?”

“Mabel sir. Her name is Mabel” The agent answered quickly and mechanically.

“Have Mabel contact the D.A.’s office in the morning and your three . . . agents, will go over there and collect their government issue service revolvers. You know. The ones you swore an oath NEVER TO RELINQUISH! And then you will camp out on top of Socks Lanza. Not in the same neighborhood, not in the vicinity, ON TOP!! He stops short, I want you up his ass! Somethin’ is goin’ on down on the waterfront and I intend to get to the bottom of it! Are we clear?” No one was in a hurry to speak. Finally the tallest of the three agents mustered the courage.

“Ahh, Director, we can’t go over in the morning.”

“And why the hell not, Moe?”         

“Sir the city offices are closed on Saturday.” Hoover was heating up again. He yelled through the soundproofed door for the secretary.

“Mabel! MABEL!! Find out how to get a hold of the D. A. on a Saturday morning and book me a flight to Washington, for first thing Monday!”

Mabel didn’t answer.

 


CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

Doc was different than the average working class individual. Other than being willing to take a risk, a contributing factor to the financial mess in which he now found himself, he liked Monday mornings. It’s not that it was any easier for him to get out of bed at the irritating sound of the alarm clock, but he always looked at Mondays as a time to start over. Another opportunity to keep that promise to himself he’d been breaking since New Years Day. Or to do some little thing he put off all last week.

Louie on the other hand had a much more practical view towards these things. Every year Louie made the same New Years' resolution, which was not to make a New Years' resolution. And he never broke his resolution. Not once. This way he significantly reduced the amount of personal anguish he would put himself through in the following 364 days.

Now with the new glass panel on the front door, the office cleaned up, and a new table in the right hand corner of the room for Louie to work at, Doc felt a sense of renewal as he entered the office on this peaceful Monday morning. Adding to his sense of satisfaction was another case closed. Better than that, a potentially ugly divorce case with a happy ending. Very rare. Doc felt good about it, he liked the Birnbaums.

It was nine thirty-five and Louie was late. He was always late on Monday mornings, but there wasn’t that much to do. Doc played a game of mental darts with Loiue's good excuse calendar. The subway was late, the alarm didn’t go off or Doris was sick and he had to drop the kids off at school.

Doc sat down at his desk after setting the coffee pot on the hot plate, and opened the folder someone had placed squarely in the middle of the blotter so he wouldn’t miss it. He opened it and saw it was the client report on the Birnbaum job. Louie must have done it to impress, and maybe to make up for losing track of Birnbaum last week. Just as he began to read it, the door opened and Louie came in.

“Hey Doc! Got the new window in huh? When are we gonna get it lettered?” Louie sounded extra chipper. He offered no excuse. Zero points on the dart board.

“I got Redbone working on it. Hey Louie?”

“Yeah Doc?” Louie hung his coat up and was making his way over to his table when Doc held up the report with two fingers like a used Kleenex.

“What’s this?”

“Pretty good huh? That’s the Birnbaum case. Makes ya proud, don’t it?”

“Louie, that’s not a report. I’ve seen reports, they don’t look like this.”

Louie was impervious to insults. He took a magazine out of his back pocket, sat at his table, put his feet up and began to read.

“Come on Doc. That’s a completely usable report.”

“Yeah. For the bottom of a bird cage.”

“Tell me one thing that’s wrong with it?”

“‘Followed subject as he disembowelled himself from the station’.”

“That’s right! Disembowelled! It means to remove. I looked it up! Hey Doc, look at this! Five acres of land for only 500 bucks! What a deal!”

“Yeah? Where? Siberia.” Doc crumpled the report and threw it in the trash.

“No, better, Southern Florida,” Louie related. “Some place called Coconut Grove.” He circled the article with his pencil.

“You ever been to Southern Florida Louie?”

“No. But you have. Just recently too, haven’t ya?” Louie laughed. Doc didn’t.

“You better get on the ball, Bonehead. If I’m not mistaking you got about three weeks to your State Board exam. You screw it up because you’re trying to describe the ‘ambulance of a room’ on your final test report, and your gonna be back haulin’ garbage with ya cousin Guido!”

“Come on Doc! Don’t I always pull through?” Louie opened the manual and started to idly flip through the pages. “Hey! Speakin’ of screwin’ up, you called that broad down on Church Street yet?”

“She’s not a broad Louie. She’s a good kid that’s had a tough break.” Doc removed a blank Client Report form from the files and began to fill out a new Birnbaum report.     

“Sorry Doc. You called that nice broad that’s had a tough break down on Church Street yet?” Louie lowered his magazine. “How the hell you know she’s had a tough break? She spill her guts to you already?”

“Louie, what do private detectives do?”

“Well, in this town one of two things. They pay the cops or the judges to get work or . . . they starve. Which is probably why that prick Sammon is doin’ so good uptown.”

“They detect. That’s what they do. Now get your head outta yer ass Louie, ‘cause you’re PISSIN’ ME OFF!” Louie, never saw it coming. Doc blindsided him by flinging a copy of the New York State Private Investigators' Regulations at him and nearly knocked him off his chair.

“Jesus Doc! What the hell was that for?” He sat up straight and started to pay attention. Exactly the intended effect.

“Louie, you got a lotta potential. But you piss me off with your nonchalant attitude. You better start payin’ attention! Because someday when your ass is draggin’ in the dirt, and you least expect it, some asshole cop, some irate husband or just some punk off the street is gonna put one in your back! Doris and the kids ain’t gonna make it on what their handin’ out downtown, god-damn it!” The part about Louie’s family was unexpected, by Doc as well as Louie. Doc realized he had recently developed an uncontrollable gut reaction to images of kids and family.

Louie looked down at the manual. It was impossible to find the right words. “Jesus Doc, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you cared. I'll . . . “

“Don’t say it! Just do it! Be a detective, god-damn it!”

“Christ Doc! Don’t you think I wanna be? I try my ass off to figure stuff out. Get clues, find traces. Nuthin’! And then there’s you! You look at a god-damned piece of dust and give me the history of the room! I can’t do that! Honest ta Christ Doc, I don’t know how you’re not rich! You should'a stayed on the force. You’da made Chief by now.”

Louie’s retort was disarming, but Doc wouldn't be thrown off the track of trying to focus his best friend.

“I couldn’t stay on the force because most of those guys are in it for the steady pay check and the pension. Half the shit they solve gets solved because some guy rolled over for them, the other half gets solved because the crook screws up. Look, Louie, you gotta feel it. Here, in your gut. You gotta eat it, sleep it, breath it and shit it. You gotta want it! It’s not about the money. It’s about doinsomethin’ you love. Somethin’ you’re good at. Somethin’ you’re passionate about!”           

“Yeah, but Doc. I ain’t no good at nuthin’! Hell, I nearly lost that old Birnbaum guy last week and he's older then Methuselah!” Louie looked down at the desk. Doc guessed what was coming. “And there’s something I gotta tell ya. I broke a rule. A rule of tailing.”

“Yeah, I know. He saw you.” Louie’s head snapped to the upright position, and he looked at Doc like a dog seeing it’s own image in a mirror for the first time.

“Now see, damn it! How the hell did you know that?”

“I pay attention.” Louie continued to stare. Doc felt compelled to explain. “You told me you and Birnbaum came down town on the same train, that means you got off the train at the same time, at Wall Street. I saw you were in the phone booth before Birnbaum was through the door. And, since the phone is further up the street than the door, that means at some point you had to cross in front of or by him. So I had to assume that you were made.” Louie was relieved Doc hadn’t deduced the screw up on the platform.

“The important thing is, that he didn’t see you in two separate locations during the tail. That’s a dead give away.” Louie was exasperated. He threw the book on the desk and himself back in his chair, looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes.

“Look, I’ll help you. Teach you everything I can. But you gotta work with me here Louie. Louie!” He looked back at Doc. “Focus, will ya?”

“I will Doc.”

”I’m serious!”

“I will!” Doc had no way to know if he really got through. If he did not, he would try again.

“Good. Now where were we?”

“You were just about to tell me why you’re so chicken to call that girl, what’d you say her name was?”

“I didn’t. Her name is Nikki. Nikki Cole.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“You gonna call her? Or you gonna wear your heart on your sleeve the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know. I gotta think about it.”

“Think about it? What the hell is there to think about? Ya pick up the phone, ya dial the number, she answers, ya pop the question!” Doc winced.

“Sorry, bad choice of words!”

“I don’t wanna seem too anxious. Besides I don’t even have her number.” Louie reached into his pocket and removed a small piece of paper from his wallet. He got up and laid it neatly on the corner of Doc’s desk smoothing it out a little for effect.

“What the hell’s that?”

Delancy 5 9000. Number to the switch board at the Federal Building. You know, down on Church Street.”

“What?  You think I wasn’t gonna look it up?”

“Yeah, Doc McKeowen. The original Romeo. Like the last day before Prom Night when you were tryin’ ta get up the guts ta ask Charlene Meeny ta go with ya.”

“What's your point?”

“Jesus Doc! The day before?”

“I like suspense. Besides, I already knew she didn’t have a date.” Doc tried to remain casual.

“Then during third period break, you came around the corner like a bat outta hell ‘cause you were late for gym and slam! There goes Charlene Meany bouncing down the hall on her boney ass like a little blond basketball.”

“Hey, I got the date, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but you were shittin’ like a dog in a Chinese restaurant when you asked her!”

“So, I asked her!”

“Then the poor little thing had to limp into the dance from the size of the bruise she had.”

“I suppose you saw pictures?”

“Jesus, ya asked her while she was still sittin’ on the floor! What were you doin’? Waitin’ ta see if she refused before you'd help her up?”

“Prom night? Isn’t that the same night Doris slapped the hell outta you for gettin’ so…”

“Don't change the subject, councillor! From what you told me and what I saw through that door Nikki looked pretty good to me. And you know me, I’m no judge of women.” Louie walked over to the hot plate and poured two cups of coffee. “Besides, Doris thinks it would be . . .”

“Doris!? Christ Mancino! Now I’m in the gossip columns?”

“Then give them somethin’ ta gossip about, damn it! Call her!” Louie coaxed. Doc picked up the piece of paper, and put it in his wallet.

“I’ll call her!” Louie continued to stare. “I said I’ll call! Later! I gotta be uptown at eleven. I have to go convince Mrs. Birnbaum her husband is a patriot, not a playboy.” Doc went over to the rack and put on his coat. “Meanwhile you stay here till I get back. With your nose in that Reg Book.” As he was halfway out the door, Doc turned back to Louie.

“Yeah Doc?”          

“She didn’t tell me anything about her personal life. She was defensive, but pretended she didn’t know how to fix the jack plugs on her switch board. She had pat answers to my questions, and was middle to late twenties.” As he spoke, Doc counted out the points he was making by extending the fingers of his right hand. “And she wore a charm bracelet with the name ‘Katie’ on it and a wedding ring on a chain around her neck. How did I know she had a rough break? Figure it out. See ya in a couple of hours.” Doc left. Louie hung his head as the door slammed shut.

“I hate it when he does that shit!”

 

Operation Underworld by Paddy Kelly

About The Book

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 Four

Missed Part One - Click Here


Operation Underworld

CHAPTER TEN

 

 

For the first time since the turn of the century the overall labor situation in America was stable. The violent union wars of the twenties were replaced by the violent labor wars of the thirties and the Depression, which in turn gave way to the retooling and re-employment required by the war effort. There was an unwritten “no strike” agreement for the duration of the war amongst the waterfront labor force, and virtually every individual or entity involved in labor utilized this time to posture and jockey for political position in preparation for the day when things would return to normal.

A significant piece of the union pie was being sought after by the American Communist Party, represented by the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. In 1942 the C. P. A. were a legitimate political party and, in contrast to any other party, stood on a platform composed almost entirely of labor issues. They held sway with large segments of the labor population of America owing to their earlier victories against vicious factory owners in New England and New York, and until the witch hunts of the Late Forties there were no widespread fears of Communists taking over the country and eating all the babies.

The labor union leaders of other factions however, were very afraid. The Communists offered members of the labor force something the other parties would not even talk about, a share in the pie. However unsuccessful this would prove to be in later years, at the time it was a difficult enticement to ignore.

The party had gained considerable momentum on the west coast and the man out there doing all the talk about pie sharing was a man named Harry Bridges.

Harry made the mistake late that February, of coming to New York. He compounded this error in judgement by letting his intentions be known, before leaving the west coast, that the goal of his pilgrimage would be to organise labor in New York.

Officially he was functioning completely within the law, as a duly elected representative of a legitimate political party and an international labor union.

But that was in California. Seems way out there on the sunny West Coast Harry hadn't gotten the word that New York labor was already organized. By some Italians.

From LaGuardia Field Bridges took a taxi into mid-town and arrived at the Hollywood Hotel about mid-morning, across from one of Luciano’s former favorite night spots, the Paradise. Although the Hollywood did not boast the elaborate floor shows of the Paradise, the service was good, the rooms spacious and it suited Harry’s love of comfortable surroundings. After all, if one were to battle the bourgeois, one had to understand its ways.

The effeminate desk clerk saw nothing unusual in the dark haired, medium built man in the dark gray suit and as Mr. Bridges registered, the desk clerk rang for a Front, and then handed the new guest his metal tagged room key. The bell boy, who had been leaning against the wall reading a comic book, took his time getting to the desk and Harry headed for the elevators. Waiting for the guest to be out of earshot, the desk clerk, in his lispy dialect, addressed the front.

“Franklin! I’ve told you time and again about that gum! Take it out of your mouth this instant or I’ll report you to Mr. Carlson!” The bellhop made an exaggerated gesture of swallowing the offending confectionary.

The frail little desk clerk, about half the size of Frankie the bellhop, did not think it a good idea to push his luck, so when Frankie approached, the clerk turned and occupied himself at the back desk.

As Frankie watched the new guest walk towards the elevator he squinted his eyes in a gesture of faint recognition. Turning the register around he read the name and smiled. He carried the two suitcases to the elevator, which had already taken Mr. Bridges up to his room. Setting them aside by the large fern, he went across the lobby to a bank of phone booths.

Lemme talk to Mr. Lanza.” Frankie felt like a kid at Christmas when he pulled the door shut.

“Who the hell is this?”

“Frankie. I need to talk to him.”

“Frankie who?”

“Frankie, over at the Hollywood. Tell him I got something for him.”

“Hold on.” The bellhop knew he had a chance to start establishing his reputation in The Unione. Frankie reckoned that if his guess was right, he would no longer have to wait for his piece of shit brother-in-law to get him connected.

“Yeah, who am I talking to?” Lanza asked impatiently.

“Mr. Lanza! This is Frankie. Frankie the bellhop, uptown at the Hollywood Hotel.

“Frankie the bellhop?”

“Yes sir. I think I got somethin’ for ya.”

“Yeah, like what Frankie the bellhop?”

“You know that Commie Pinko labor guy from California?” He had trouble containing himself.

“Harry Bridges the Commie? What about him?”

“Guess who just checked into room 1017?” By now the diminutive desk clerk had swished across the lobby and was heading towards the phone booth.

 Lanza asked in a low, slow controlled voice, registering increasing satisfaction as he spoke.

“He’s there, at the Hollywood?” There was a momentary pause on Lanza’s end of the line. “Room 1017, is dat right?” Lanza reconfirmed.

“Yes sir. I’m supposed ta take his bags up right now.”

“Well, nice job Frankie the bellhop. You still want in at the union?”

“Hedy Lamarr got nice tits?”

“Go down to Fulton Street on Monday morning. See Joey DiTorrio. Tell him I sent ya. Hey kid, what the hell is that bangin’ sound?” Lanza held the receiver away from his head and looked at it. The desk clerk had found Frankie.

Nuthin’, Mr.Lanza. I’ll take care of it, thanks.” Frankie hung up and slid open the bi-fold door. The clerk stopped his banging, and took a step back from the phone booth.

“Did you put Mr. Bridges' bags in the elevator?!” Frankie the used-to-be bellhop gave no verbal response. Instead, he walked back over to the fern and lifting the two suitcases, threw them into the open elevator. He reached in and pushed several buttons, and the cases disappeared behind the closing doors.

Removing his small round, blue and gold cap, he walked over to the reception desk, and after tossing the cap over the desk, Frankie magically produced the gum from his mouth he was supposed to have swallowed, and spat the wad on the open register book. Giving a broad smile to the clerk, who prudently remained across the lobby, he slammed the book closed and pressed firmly, being sure to smash the gum flat.

Bravely, from his safe position by the phone booths, the clerk called out that Frankie had better find another job because he was never going to work at the Hollywood again.

Oh yeah. He was going to report him to Mr. Carlson too.

 

***

 

Lanza’s luck that morning ran thin after Frankie’s phone call. Although he immediately dispatched a reception committee, by the time they arrived uptown, Bridges had left his room. Next he called Commander Haffenden’s suite at the Astor, but there was no answer.

Lanza instructed the three men to hang around the hotel and call when Bridges returned. Their wait was short. About an hour later, Harry walked across the lobby and took the elevator up to his room. Socks picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Yeah, who’s talking?”

“It’s me.”

“Commander! I was just tryin’ ta call you!”

“Have you got something for me on the other dock situation?”

“No. But we got an out of town visitor.”

“Who?” Haffenden’s anticipation quickly peeked as he harbored hope that someone had finally caught a saboteur.

“Harry Bridges.”

“The labor organizer?” Haffenden was seriously surprised.

“Yeah!”

“So?” He did not attach the same significance to this development as did Lanza. Then again Haffenden was not involved in illicit labor manipulation. Not technically.

“SO!? He’s a Commie!”

“Socks, being a Communist isn’t illegal.” It never occurred to Lanza that Haffenden would give him any opposition on this.

“What if he starts talking some of that Commie shit out here? What if he came out here to disrupt the unions? What about if he’s in cahoots with some German spies or somethin’? Then it would be illegal! Right?” Haffenden knew what Lanza was driving at. He wanted Haffenden’s okay to take care of Bridges.

If he gave the nod, and anyone ever found out he sanctioned violence against an elected representative, the operation as well as his career may be over. On the other hand, if he told Lanza to lay off, he might not have as much cooperation as he was presently enjoying. Haffenden’s long silence ended.

“Do what you gotta do. Only, I don’t need to know how. Just let me know when it’s done.” There was nothing more to say. He hung up.

Socks called the hotel and gave his men their instructions. Then he placed a second call and arranged for a flight.

Harry didn’t know it yet, but his pilgrimage was over.

 

***

 

A block away from the Fulton Street Fish Market there stood a three story brick warehouse, circa nineteen twenties. The two hobos standing at the side door were surprised when they saw the bright yellow sign nailed to the doors:

 

“CLOSED BY ORDER OF NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF HEALTH.

INFECTED RATS FOUND ON PREMISES.”

 

“What’s it say?”

What’samatter? Can’t you read? It says, ‘Closed . . . for . . . remodlin’.”

“Damn! I really liked that place too. Spacious, nice gentle ambience.”

The two disappointed men turned and walked away in search of other accommodation, and a place to share their bottle of vintage Thunderbird wine.

Originally used to store large shipments of dry goods, the warehouse was abandoned in the late thirties when temperature controlled storage and the advent of more efficient trucking came to lower Manhattan. With most of the windows broken out and literally every single fixture, removable or not, having been removed, the building was of little use to anyone except some of the less desirable hobos who had been banned from the doorways, streets and sewers of the Lower Bowery.

Of course New York being New York the building might have been abandoned but that didn't mean it wasn't occupied. Voices could be heard emanating from the basement. They were the voices of Lanza and Haffenden. The words however had a Marconian crackle to them.

In a small room, in the basement, were two men. The room they were in was in the extreme corner of the lower level, and it’s door had a crooked sign hanging by one nail which read: “JANITOR”. The two men wore bulky headsets and were intently staring at the RCA eight inch reel-to-reel tape recorder, while listening to the play-back of Operation Underworld’s two prime players.          

“What the hell do you make of that?” One of the agents asked, sliding his bulky headset down around his neck.

“Got me by the short ones! I figure the guys at the Hollywood belong to Lanza. But this other guy he’s reportin’ to has to be somebody pretty god-damned big.”

“Well, it sure as hell ain’t Luciano. Must be some new boss, moved in to take over.”

“The Commander!?”

“Where the hell do they come up with these ridiculous names?”

 

***

 

That night Harry Bridges remembered coming around the corner onto Broadway, and then the stars were swirling in front of his eyes, and his vision blurred to a haze. Now he sat in back of a car with a huge man sitting on either side of him, and his arms were pinned behind his back.

A short time later, he was in the back room of a restaurant, lying on the floor, still blindfolded, beaten and bruised, sounds of banging pots and crashing dishes surrounded him. A car pulled up outside, and he was man-handled into the back seat. At LaGuardia Field he was escorted onto a plane, shortly before take off, and he understood that except for in the movies, he had no reason ever see New York again.

 

***

 

The next morning even before he had eaten his eggs, Socks was back on the phone with The Commander.

“We don’t anticipate any more trouble concerning that Brooklyn Bridge deal. He got on a plane last night.”

“Alright. What about Brooklyn?” Lanza hesitated before answering.

“No, nuthin’ yet.”

“We need a meet after the weekend. Monday, the usual place, alone. I f you get there first, don’t order the fish.”

“I won’t.” Lanza had a nervous feeling as he hung up. Not only was this operation taking away from his own business time and making no contribution to his impending case, it appeared to be rapidly gaining in intensity and scope. Worst of all, what if Jimmy The Bull was right? No one anywhere had discovered any saboteurs.

Times for meetings were on a rotational basis per day. In other words if a day was given over the phone, it actually meant the day after, and depending on which day the meeting was actually on, the times were previously set. For example, Mondays were always three o’clock, Tuesdays were always four o’clock and so on. If a special, unscheduled meeting was necessary, a code word was used in the conversation and special couriers were utilized. Late that afternoon Socks got a special courier.

 

***

 

Lucky Luciano had a close partner, Frank Costello. Frank Costello had a top notched bookie, Eddie Erickson. Eddie would regularly meet with Walter Winchell. Every so often in order to get the inside scoop on “big time” crime stories, Winchell would pass information on winning horses to a very highly placed law enforcement official. The same official who now stood at window #3 of the betting cages.

The elderly man in the cashier’s cage read the ticket the gambler had just slid across the counter.

“Belmont. Albany Eddie to show in the third.” He looked up at the small man in the dark suit with the oval, baby face. The cashier recognised him instantly, even without the two body guards standing on either side of him. Double checking the clip board hanging next to him to confirm the results, the cashier filed the ticket and counted out the man’s two hundred and fifty dollars.

The man stepped off to one side and faced into the wall to put the money away, and one of the short, pugnacious men with him commented as he removed his wallet from his breast pocket.

“You don’t bet too often Chief, but when you do, you sure can pick ‘em.”

“You just have to know how to study the ponies, agent. That, and a little luck.”           The opened bill fold showed an I. D. card with a red stamp across it which read, “DIRECTOR” and a picture of the little man, as well as a small, toy-like gold badge. The name under the photo read: J. Edgar Hoover.

Belmont Park was the third leg of The Triple Crown and one of the oldest and largest race tracks in the country. Although races were normally restricted or suspended in the winter months, the combination of the mild weather and the wartime atmosphere persuaded the owners to extend the season.

Saturday was always the best day to be there. There were specials at the restaurant, happy hour started earlier, and there were more races to bet on. Whenever someone brought a friend to the track for the first time, they were careful to bring them in through the main arcade.

For it was here that the excitement flowed over the lucky losers at its strongest, and the absolute sensation of privilege at being allowed to donate your money to such a fine establishment was most appreciated. It is highly probable that this is the very atmosphere that first inspired Buggsy Siegel to claim to have conceived the idea of a casino in the middle of the desert, to his compatriots a few years later.

The awful stench of the food and cigar smoke, permeated the arcade and flowed out onto the first few tiers of stadium seating where they collided with the pleasant aromas of horse shit and damp turf.

“What time is it?”

“Half past five Mr. Hoover.” Looking at his watch short agent number one answered. All three men wore identical dark suits, white shirts, Fedoras and shiny black shoes so you could not tell they were FBI.

“Alright, you two go and watch the races. Meet me by concession stand three, at six o’clock.”

“But Mr. Hoover, we’re supposed to stay with you at . . .” Short agent number two began to protest, but was cut short.

“I SAID GO! GOD-DAMN IT!” They went.

He was the most successful bureaucrat in the history of Washington D.C. From the time his father got him his first job at the Department of Justice, in June of 1917, his borderline fanaticism, which he mistakenly believed to be loyalty, grew ever stronger and increasingly self-perpetuating.

In no time at all J. Edgar’s ability to manipulate knowledge and information before it reached the people, had grown to legendary proportions.

During the Deportation Hysteria of the early 1920’s Hoover worked at the Enemy Alien Registration Section, appropriately abbreviated EARS, of the Bureau of Investigation. It is from the 'reports' of the misguided scientists who testified with “scientific proof” that aliens, especially Eastern European Jews, were by-and-large undesirable, (due to everything from crime and disease to an increased tendency to display feeble-mindedness), that he first learned how easy it was to dupe the American public.

Performing center stage with a backdrop of anti-immigrant fever suited Hoover’s purist mentality as well as taught him that oldest of government bureaucrat’s tricks. Find something or some one to label a dangerous common enemy, and after shining the spotlight on them, rally supporters to mold into a power base on the premise you are the man to defeat that enemy. Before the First War it was the Eastern Europeans, mostly Jews, during the Second War it was “The Hun” and later it became the communists.       Today it's the nebulous “Axis of Evil”.

Appropriating money wherever he could Hoover began to build his empire within The Empire. However, money was not the only ingredient in the Hooverville recipe.

From his early days in the twenties Hoover learned that money and political influence bought access to the broadsheets, accompanied by sympathetic stories which would go a long way towards helping him achieve his dream of becoming a national hero.

He sensationalized his police stories through the media with consummate skill. His personally approved police dramas for the “Lucky Strike Hour”, a popular radio show, were by 1932 specifically designed to establish his bureau, and by default himself, as pop culture icons. The children’s episodes of Junior G-Men, broadcast nationwide, told youngsters how to recognize and report suspicious persons to the local authorities, as well as taught them how they should think and behave if they were going to grow up to be good little agents. Follow-up shows such as Gangbusters and This Is Your FBI continued his unending quest for popularity.

Ironically, even though it was from his hatred of aliens Hoover built a career, it was an alien that would help him establish it once and for all in the public eye by giving him Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger. From the first time “Baby Face” Nelson called them “G-men” and John Dillinger’s body was splashed across the front page, J. Edgar knew he would be a star.

His big break came in 1924 when the Bureau reached an unprecedented level of corruption. He seized the chance when he was offered and accepted the directorship of the Bureau, and took the post on the condition he be allowed to isolate it from politics, effectively transforming it into an autonomous entity.

By 1941 Hoover had been in service for twenty-five years, twenty-one of those years as Assistant Director or Director, and although most career individuals would consider themselves prime candidates for retirement, J. Edgar wasn’t even halfway through his dictatorship.

How was a multi-million dollar government organization, which was later able to enact law allowing a file to be compiled containing the details of every one of its citizens' personal lives, held at bay by a criminal syndicate which Hoover claimed did not exist? The answer is very basic. Hoover was bought.

Lucky Luciano understood two principles regarding the approach towards the American way of doing business when he established The Commission. Every man has his price and when attempting to buy someone, always start at the top.

J. Edgar’s inane fear of bad press had kept him away from open confrontations with organized crime, his policies regarding this behavior are well documented. Through his consistent and unwavering public denial of the existence of organized crime, Hoover did more to help the criminal syndicates than any other single entity up until the circus known as the “War On Drugs”, (which seems to have replaced the “War On Poverty” but has recently taken a back seat to the “War On Terror”).

David Marston, a retired FBI agent, in his much acclaimed book, Inside Hoover’s FBI, commenting on the relationship of organized crime and the FBI under Hoover, stated that, “. . . although they, [the FBI and organized crime], were presumptive enemies, in the first four decades they competed primarily for newspaper space.”

This may have been an understatement. Marston, in the same publication, comments that, “J. Edgar Hoover was the best FBI Director Organized Crime ever had.”

This attitude set the ground work for The Unione at a time when they already had controlling influence in New York’s City Hall through Albert C. Marinelli, the well known Tammany boss with whom Lucky shared a suite at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Marinelli’s rival, Jimmy Hines, another New York top political leader, shared a suite with Frank Costello, Lucky’s partner in the Unione. Both of these rival delegations were there to elect the Presidential candidate for the 1932 elections. If this sounds a little convoluted, let's simplify it.

The American Presidency is basically a popularity contest with little or nothing to do with leadership ability or competency. Who ever has the most money to maintain the highest profile wins the contest. So, in 1932 between the Great Depression and Prohibition, (only in America would someone attempt to make alcohol illegal in an effort to better society), the general public were not happy with the existing leadership, which was Republican. Ironically this opinion was arrived at largely due to political corruption. As a result it was pretty certain the Democrats would take the election. The question was, which Democratic candidate would get the nod?

This being the case, Luciano and Costello each escorted a delegation leader to the convention, along with appropriate financial donations, so that regardless of which Presidential candidate won, Al Smith or Franklin D. Roosevelt, The Unione were assured of being in the right camp.

FDR who, only a short time before the convention, as Governor of New York, set free from prison approximately sixty members of The Commission, was the front runner. In January of the following year FDR was sworn in as the thirty-second President of the United States.

Start at the top.

The FBI were no exception. J. Edgar, a man who given the chance would impose the death penalty on anyone who opposed capital punishment, loved horse racing. Eddy Erickson was a top notch bookie who worked for Frank Costello. Walter Winchell was, well Walter Winchell, anything for a story.

Costello would give Erickson the expected winner of a given race, Erickson would contact Winchell who in turn would get it to Hoover.

Ever wonder how Winchell got the scoop on so many top crime stories?

Every man has his price.

So in the space of a few short years, Lucky’s organization held considerable influence in all the upper echelons of authority, and in turn established contacts, patterns and techniques which are considered to be standard operating procedures to this day when dealing with or within the Federal Government or any large corporation.

Hoover headed over to the concession stand and ordered a hot dog. A race had just begun, so the stand was nearly abandoned. There was a man standing in the far corner, nursing a cup of coffee, and Hoover walked over to him while he ate.

“Hello Socks, how’s the fish business?”

“Stinks!” Lanza wore a hat, and was visibly uncomfortable. “Let’s drop the names, huh? Whatta' you want from me?”

“You want a hot dog Socks? They’re really good here. Not like that shit they pawn off on ya over at Yankee Stadium.”

“No I don’t want a fuckin’ hot dog! What’s this about?!”

“What the dog? I just like to treat my guests right Socks.” J. Edgar spoke while he chewed, and allowed his words to drip with arrogance. “I hear you had a guest a coupl’a nights ago.”

“What the hell you talkin’ about?”

Hoover finished his frankfurter, wiped his hands with a napkin, threw it on the floor and reached into the side pocket of his jacket. Reading from the note pad he produced, he began to give Lanza an education.

“I want a complete details concerning the Brooklyn Bridge deal. And its association with the Hollywood Hotel on Broadway. What exactly, if any, is their significance to a one Harry Bridges?” Lanza, initially expressionless, slowly smiled.

Lemme ask you a question. How come you guys always talk like you got a rod up your ass or something?” Hoover began to boil. Spectators could be heard behind him cheering the race on.                       

“Besides, you ain’t got it all.” Lanza informed him. Hoover looked at him quizzically.

“You forgot the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the Queensboro.” Lanza baited.

“I’m warning you Lanza, you ain’t as immune as you think! I could shut you down tomorrow!”

“Yeah, and if Frank Costello and a coupl’a others testified, we could shut you down today! So don’t give me that strong arm of the law, holier-then-thou bullshit. You’re just another crooked cop.” Hoover looked around nervously. Lanza clearly had the upper hand now.

“I want to know who the hell all these new guys on the docks are, and where they’re coming from!” Hoover demanded.

“They’re just new workers. Friends, relatives. We need the help. There’s a war on if you ain’t heard.”

“Yeah, I heard! And soon there’s gonna be another war on, wise guy!” Hoover threw a news paper on the counter. It was folded open to page four. Lanza picked it up and read the short story with the “X” next to it. The story reported a California labor leader who was irate at the treatment he received while visiting New York, and that he intended to ask his state representative to launch an investigation.

Lanza was taken off guard, but not shocked, he already read the paper.

Turning to page two, Lanza began to slowly, and neatly, tear out a second article which ran nearly an entire column. He spoke as he worked. Then he slid the article over to Hoover.

“You know. With all the tax money you take from the people you pretend you’re suppost’a be defendin’, maybe you could spend a few bucks on a pair of elevated shoes.”    

Livid at the insult, Hoover’s expression registered extreme anger as he eyed the lead line on the article:

 

“FBI DIRECTOR ADAMANT; ORGANISED CRIME NON-EXISTENT!”

 

The public address system announced the last race of the day was about to begin.

 


CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

Just south of the Fish Market, on the corner of Peck Street and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, was a small fish restaurant frequented by local workers. The Italians had their pick of restaurants, the Jews usually brought their meals with them, but the Irish and the British workers were blessed with The Chinaman. The Chinaman, no one could pronounce his name, owned and ran Chanze Chinese Chippy, which served the most authentic fish and chips in Ireland’s western most county, New York.

Lanza approached Chanze just before the late rush hour, which started about eleven p.m., and shook his head and smiled as he glanced at the six stove pipes Chan had installed at different points on the roof and exterior walls. The pipes served no structural purpose, but instead vented the smell of the fried fish dishes in various directions, and could be opened or shut individually so as to allow the aromas to waft in any given direction. The strategy of course, to this venting conspiracy, was to entice patrons who might otherwise waste their time eating more healthy lunches and suppers, or whatever the after pub meal might be called.  “I wish I had that guy working for me.” Lanza thought to himself.

He entered the eatery and took one of the red enamelled booths in the back. As always he sat facing the door, after all this was a popular time for his co-workers to kill each other in restaurants. An attractive Chinese girl with long, silky black hair and green eyes, one of Chan’s sixteen offspring, approached the booth the minute Lanza sat down. She looked to be in her late teens.

“You want I should bring you a menu, Mac?” She was born and raised in New York, and so spoke perfect English.

“No, I’m waitin’ on someone.” She left him alone and Lanza, looking at his watch. He was ten minutes early for the special meeting.

How the hell did Hoover know about the Hollywood? And worse yet, the god-damned Bridges job! It just didn’t make sense! Nice future, Socks. A contract on me for working with the Feds, FBI on my ass, and some big shot Navy Intelligence guy given’ me grief! Prison’s startin’ ta look pretty good!

There was no easy way out, and just as Socks began to regret his patriotic feelings, Commander Haffenden came through the door.

Socks waved, but it didn’t matter, Chanze was so small it rivalled Harry’s.

“Socks, what’s the story on Brooklyn?” Haffenden wasted no time.

“Commander, the hell with Brooklyn! We got bigger problems than Brooklyn!”

“Socks, you okay?” Haffenden was unprepared for the change of schedule. He had called the meeting to increase the load on Lanza. Now it looked as if someone had beaten him to the punch.

“Sir, I haven’t got a god-damned clue how, or when it happened, but Hoover is on to us!”

“Hoover?”

“Hoover. J. Edgar Fucking Hoover. Mr. FBI!”

“How do you know?” Hoover wasn’t necessarily a serious problem as far as Haffenden was concerned. He would likely be able to deal with him through normal channels.

However his maniacal devotion to his bureau and the fact that there was a government operation he wasn't in on had the potential to make things messy.

“Well, maybe it was the meeting I had with him at Belmont Park this afternoon. Or than again maybe it was the fact that the little sawed off son-of-a-bitch knew all about The Hollywood and the Bridges job, I’m not sure. But what I know for sure is that you gotta serious god-damned leak in your operation!!” Lanza had a hard time containing himself as he spoke. He kept looking at the door.

“Socks, nobody on my side had access to any of that information. When you called me, that was the end of it. There was no reason for me to tell anybody about that.”

“Yeah? Well, somebody told somebody! Either that or we got fairies in the god-damned phone lines!” Haffenden looked at Lanza, hesitated, and then sat back in his seat. The Commander had an epiphany.

“Maybe we do.”

“What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

“I think the only other people who know about our little merger might have a leak.”

“Fuckin’ Gurfein!” Lanza had a delayed epiphany. “Whata we do?”

 “We do what all good operatives do when they think they’re compromised. We use them!” Haffenden hadn’t felt this mischievous since he was a teenager. He was making Lanza edgy.

“You call me tomorrow at half past ten. Talk in the open. Don’t use any code. Tell me we have to meet immediately. Something’s gone drastically wrong since last night. Act panicky.” That shouldn’t be hard! Thought Lanza.

“Tell me you’ll have the microfilm from the FBI job ready to hand over. Got it?”

“What FBI job?” Lanza was feeling he was definitely in over his head.

“Just do it! Okay?” Chanze daughter returned to the table.

Youse ready ta order or what?”

  

***

 

The next morning, as prearranged, Lanza rang Haffenden and set the meeting for that afternoon at half past twelve. An hour and a half before meeting time a jazzed-up, cherry-bomb red pick-up truck pulled up outside the fish market on Fulton Street. The chrome garnished vehicle sounded its horn twice and Lanza came out of the market carrying a brown paper bag. He had no way of seeing the agent on the top floor of the warehouse a block away, but Haffenden warned him he would be watched.

As the agent in the warehouse checked his watch and went to make the call, Lanza and the driver of the pick-up pulled away from the market.

“So, Frankie the bellhop! You got the routine straight?”

“Forget about it Mr. Lanza! Just sit back and enjoy da ride like you wuz at Uncle Milty’s!” Frankie was pleasantly surprised at being called into work a day early to do a special favour for Mr. Lanza.

The pair had no sooner looped around the Battery and were heading north onto West Side Drive when Frankie saw the dark blue sedan in his rear view mirror.

“Our friends are here Mr. Lanza. Ya want I should start now?”

“Just north of the tunnel. Around pier forty.”

The pre-lunch hour traffic was yet to hit so the run north of the Holland Tunnel was about five minutes. However, right at the Christopher Street cross-over Lanza braced both feet against the dash board, sat back and gave a nod. Frankie the bellhop smiled and the two agents in the sedan watched in disbelief as the ten year old truck grew smaller and smaller, until by the time they reached the 12th Street cut off it vanished altogether.

“God-damn it! Go red! Right now god-damn it! Go red!!” The senior agent knew first hand how much J. Edgar appreciated failure. The driver floored the pedal and the sedan raced around several cars until reaching a point on the highway where they had an unobstructed view for half a mile.

“They couldn’t have just vanished!” The driver spoke to his preoccupied passenger who was consulting the neatly folded map he held in his lap.

“Pull off on Tenth Avenue! If they’re leavin’ The City it’ll be the Lincoln or the G. W.! If not we’ll get them by West 57th.” At the exit the sedan unit called in by telephone and alerted the 69th Street office of the likely intercept locations and then drove north along tenth.

The old pick-up, which was now approaching River Side Park, was used extensively during Prohibition. After refitting her with a larger, six cylinder engine, a four barrelled carburettor and the new experimental tubeless tires, slightly underinflated, she was better suited to “runs” now then in the days of running rum over the Canadian border.

“You still wanna take the bridge, Mr. Lanza?”

“No, they’ll have it covered. What time is it?”

“Twenty aft'a aleven.”

“Get off on 96th, cut across the park. Go to Central Park South. A little birdie told me we could probably find our friends there.” Twenty minutes later, as predicted, they found the dark blue sedan parked on Central Park South and Sixth Avenue.

Both agents were outside their parked vehicle and while the driver was half way through a hot dog, the senior agent stood by a telephone booth, impatiently waiting for a location check, smoking a cigarette in the cold midday air.

Lanza and Frankie had driven past them, turned around at Columbus Circle and were half a block away approaching from the west end of the park.

The corner pay phone finally rang and before he had the receiver to his ear the senior agent heard his partner yelling.

“There they are! The bastards are back!” Pointing at them he threw the remainder of his lunch into the street and drew his service revolver. His partner yelled into the phone.

“We got them!! East on Central Park South! We’re rolling!” Slamming the phone down he ran to the car as his partner fired three rounds at the passing truck. The first two shots buried themselves in the wooden bed of the vehicle, but the third shattered the small rear windshield spraying glass all over Lanza and Frankie. Lanza went straight to boiling.

“Dem crazy bastards! Shootin’ wild in the streets like that! Did you see that shit?” Without waiting for an answer he put the bag on the floor and reached into his shoulder holster. Frankie gradually accelerated after turning south onto Fifth Avenue and slowly smiled as he watched Socks do a quick functions check on the .45 Colt.

He gradually reduced his speed to allow the FBI agents to close the gap between vehicles.

“Hold her steady kid. Don’t make no sudden moves.” Breaking out some residual glass in the rear window and bracing himself against the frame, Lanza fired two rounds into the grill of the sedan, which by now was only two car lengths behind, and one into the windshield between the two agents.

Radiator fluid gushed from the grill and the fan could be heard whacking the engine.

As steam hissed out of the grill through the bullet holes the two agents, panicked by the shots, lost control of the car which snaked back and forth across first three then all six lanes of Fifth Avenue traffic. A Canadian tour bus swerved to miss the sedan and climbed halfway up a Sunshine taxi parked on the north bound side before coming to a halt.

The agent driving the sedan, struggled against the uncontrollable momentum of the huge vehicle but managed to regain steering long enough to avoid hitting the parked cars on his right. However, the serpentine pattern continued and they quickly ran out of road. Only a few seconds later they slammed through the wrought iron fence surrounding the public library at 42nd Street.

Pedestrians as well as visitors walking to and from the busy building were thrown into pandemonium as the momentum of the large vehicle sent it careening up the granite stairs and crashing violently into one of the Corinthian columns adorning the entrance.

Socks turned back around in his seat and replaced his weapon as they continued down the avenue.

“Dopey bastards!” He turned back and yelled out the window. “This ain’t Chicago ya know!!”

“Where to Socks?”

“What time is it?”

“Twelve-twenty”

“Go to Tompkins.”

Tompkins Square Park was a small park which occupied about three square blocks. The centre of the park was dominated by a large grassy field surrounded by a paved walk and benches spread out around the footpath and otter areas. Tompkins provided visitors a refuge from the urban landscape by virtue of the tall trees and assorted foliage dominating the entire perimeter. Due to its small size only four gates were available to enter or leave the park, one at each corner.

 Socks had Frankie drop him off at East Houston and Essex and told him to wait at the Tenth Street entrance. He then began to slowly stroll north on Avenue A with the bag tucked under his arm. Within one block of the park, he noticed a man following him.

At exactly twelve-thirty the party started.

Socks appeared and made his way across the brown grass towards the north west corner of the park waving in an exaggerated manner to an old man sitting on a bench, feeding the pigeons. Lanza sat down next to him and slipped him a small container which he removed from the brown bag.

Three of Hoover’s men, inconspicuous in their gray suits, and black shiny shoes, worked their way past the cripple beggar in the grass, the old lady on the bench and four old men sitting at a table playing chess

The three agents had slipped around behind Lanza and the man, and remained out of sight in their imaginary stealth. Fedoras cocked at just the right angle, arms outstretched with snubbed nosed .38's pointed at the ready, they sprang forth precisely as Lanza was helping the old man loosen the lid on the jar of heart medicine he had removed from the brown paper bag.

“Get your hands up and drop your weapons!” The cripple beggar stood behind one of the agents and held a pistol to the nape of his neck as he spoke. Turning slowly towards the right to look at his assailant, the agent saw the four chess players now had their military issue .45's aimed straight at his two partners.

“I suggest you comply, gentlemen.” It was the old man sitting on the bench who had a remarkably young voice. As the revolvers were being collected Lanza saw his cue and immediately stood and walked towards the exit in the north east corner of the park.

Two unmarked sedans pulled up to the gate to a position just behind the assorted collection of Government agents and, as the last of the FBI agents was handcuffed, and escorted into the back of the first car, they were driven away by the old woman. The Naval Intelligence Operatives piled into the second car and both vehicles u-turned and drove away the park.

 

***

 

“Excuse me. I have a delivery for a Mr. D. A. Hogan” The young Parcel Post driver consulted his clipboard as he spoke to the fat, red faced guard at the city court house behind the window.

“That’s D. A. Hogan, Knumbscull! You know as in District Attorney of New York City D. A.!” The obese guard corrected.

“I’m impressed. You can spell.” The driver leaned forward and eyed the rotund stomach of the guard. “Guess I don’t have to ask why you’re not on active duty. Meanwhile I still have a package for this guy Hogan. Where is he?”

“Some place you ain’t goin’. It’s restricted.” The guard smiled at being able to exercise what little power he didn’t have.

“Fine by me lumpy. I get paid either way.” The driver spoke as he turned to walk away. “Tell him it’s a priority shipment from the Department of Naval Intelligence, and it’s marked Classified Delivery.” He was nearly out the door. “He can pick it up between nine and five at the uptown . . . eh . . . the North Bronx station.”

The guard had a noticeable change in attitude when he heard the classified part, and forcing himself out of the booth, which he normally did only twice a day, he waddled out to the street to the driver who was already in his truck.

“You said there was a classified ticket on that package?” Trying to be humble while attempting to project authority was difficult.

“Yep.”

“Maybe you better get that upstairs. Ta the fourth floor.”

By now it was nearly three o’clock and after the D.A.’s secretary signed for the package and the D.A. got around to opening it, it was four fifteen. The three FBI agents had been in their cell at the Federal Holding Facility on Governor’s Island for nearly four hours.

The D. A. stood alone in his office, behind his desk hands on hips, staring down at the three badges, empty service revolvers and I. D. cards which lay in a neat stack on his desk, and his secretary was attempting to contact the New York office of the FBI.

Hogan knew the taps were now essentially useless, but could not bring himself to give the order to disconnect them. When a judge grants special permission to install a wire tap, he is very unhappy when he finds out it has been in place for several months, and nothing came of it. Most judges believe it reflects on the competency of the police work. Hogan had asked for two bugs, one for each of Lanza’s phones. The judges were justified in their beliefs.

 

***

 

“Which one’s Moe? Huh? Just tell me that. I Want to know which one’s Moe?” It was now seven-thirty, and although it had only been an hour and a half since their release, the three FBI agents already missed the serenity of their cell, on Governor’s Island.

“Somebody’s got to be Moe because I know I’M LOOKING AT THE THREE FUCKING STOOGES!!” The three agents stood motionless in front of the desk. Hoover’s New York office at 69th Street and Third Avenue was only used by him on rare occasions. It was situated in a good part of town only three blocks off the FDR Drive and not far from Roosevelt Island. He hated New York. Mabel, the middle-aged secretary could hear him through the sound proofed door and decided it was a good time to call it a night. She quickly gathered her things and left.

“How in God’s name did you three ever get selected for New York branch? Did you know somebody? Did you have connections? Better yet, how the HELL DID YOU EVEN GET SELECTED FOR AGENT TRAINING?!!” Hoover paced behind the big desk while the New York Bureau chief sat quietly in the corner, hands folded in front of his face. He didn’t respond when Hoover addressed him.

“I hope ta’ hell this isn’t the best you’ve got up here!” He finally took his seat. The oversized desk made his small stature look clownish as he spoke again.

“Okay, ladies. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Have the secretary, what’s her name?”

“Mabel sir. Her name is Mabel” The agent answered quickly and mechanically.

“Have Mabel contact the D.A.’s office in the morning and your three . . . agents, will go over there and collect their government issue service revolvers. You know. The ones you swore an oath NEVER TO RELINQUISH! And then you will camp out on top of Socks Lanza. Not in the same neighborhood, not in the vicinity, ON TOP!! He stops short, I want you up his ass! Somethin’ is goin’ on down on the waterfront and I intend to get to the bottom of it! Are we clear?” No one was in a hurry to speak. Finally the tallest of the three agents mustered the courage.

“Ahh, Director, we can’t go over in the morning.”

“And why the hell not, Moe?”         

“Sir the city offices are closed on Saturday.” Hoover was heating up again. He yelled through the soundproofed door for the secretary.

“Mabel! MABEL!! Find out how to get a hold of the D. A. on a Saturday morning and book me a flight to Washington, for first thing Monday!”

Mabel didn’t answer.

 


CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

Doc was different than the average working class individual. Other than being willing to take a risk, a contributing factor to the financial mess in which he now found himself, he liked Monday mornings. It’s not that it was any easier for him to get out of bed at the irritating sound of the alarm clock, but he always looked at Mondays as a time to start over. Another opportunity to keep that promise to himself he’d been breaking since New Years Day. Or to do some little thing he put off all last week.

Louie on the other hand had a much more practical view towards these things. Every year Louie made the same New Years' resolution, which was not to make a New Years' resolution. And he never broke his resolution. Not once. This way he significantly reduced the amount of personal anguish he would put himself through in the following 364 days.

Now with the new glass panel on the front door, the office cleaned up, and a new table in the right hand corner of the room for Louie to work at, Doc felt a sense of renewal as he entered the office on this peaceful Monday morning. Adding to his sense of satisfaction was another case closed. Better than that, a potentially ugly divorce case with a happy ending. Very rare. Doc felt good about it, he liked the Birnbaums.

It was nine thirty-five and Louie was late. He was always late on Monday mornings, but there wasn’t that much to do. Doc played a game of mental darts with Loiue's good excuse calendar. The subway was late, the alarm didn’t go off or Doris was sick and he had to drop the kids off at school.

Doc sat down at his desk after setting the coffee pot on the hot plate, and opened the folder someone had placed squarely in the middle of the blotter so he wouldn’t miss it. He opened it and saw it was the client report on the Birnbaum job. Louie must have done it to impress, and maybe to make up for losing track of Birnbaum last week. Just as he began to read it, the door opened and Louie came in.

“Hey Doc! Got the new window in huh? When are we gonna get it lettered?” Louie sounded extra chipper. He offered no excuse. Zero points on the dart board.

“I got Redbone working on it. Hey Louie?”

“Yeah Doc?” Louie hung his coat up and was making his way over to his table when Doc held up the report with two fingers like a used Kleenex.

“What’s this?”

“Pretty good huh? That’s the Birnbaum case. Makes ya proud, don’t it?”

“Louie, that’s not a report. I’ve seen reports, they don’t look like this.”

Louie was impervious to insults. He took a magazine out of his back pocket, sat at his table, put his feet up and began to read.

“Come on Doc. That’s a completely usable report.”

“Yeah. For the bottom of a bird cage.”

“Tell me one thing that’s wrong with it?”

“‘Followed subject as he disembowelled himself from the station’.”

“That’s right! Disembowelled! It means to remove. I looked it up! Hey Doc, look at this! Five acres of land for only 500 bucks! What a deal!”

“Yeah? Where? Siberia.” Doc crumpled the report and threw it in the trash.

“No, better, Southern Florida,” Louie related. “Some place called Coconut Grove.” He circled the article with his pencil.

“You ever been to Southern Florida Louie?”

“No. But you have. Just recently too, haven’t ya?” Louie laughed. Doc didn’t.

“You better get on the ball, Bonehead. If I’m not mistaking you got about three weeks to your State Board exam. You screw it up because you’re trying to describe the ‘ambulance of a room’ on your final test report, and your gonna be back haulin’ garbage with ya cousin Guido!”

“Come on Doc! Don’t I always pull through?” Louie opened the manual and started to idly flip through the pages. “Hey! Speakin’ of screwin’ up, you called that broad down on Church Street yet?”

“She’s not a broad Louie. She’s a good kid that’s had a tough break.” Doc removed a blank Client Report form from the files and began to fill out a new Birnbaum report.     

“Sorry Doc. You called that nice broad that’s had a tough break down on Church Street yet?” Louie lowered his magazine. “How the hell you know she’s had a tough break? She spill her guts to you already?”

“Louie, what do private detectives do?”

“Well, in this town one of two things. They pay the cops or the judges to get work or . . . they starve. Which is probably why that prick Sammon is doin’ so good uptown.”

“They detect. That’s what they do. Now get your head outta yer ass Louie, ‘cause you’re PISSIN’ ME OFF!” Louie, never saw it coming. Doc blindsided him by flinging a copy of the New York State Private Investigators' Regulations at him and nearly knocked him off his chair.

“Jesus Doc! What the hell was that for?” He sat up straight and started to pay attention. Exactly the intended effect.

“Louie, you got a lotta potential. But you piss me off with your nonchalant attitude. You better start payin’ attention! Because someday when your ass is draggin’ in the dirt, and you least expect it, some asshole cop, some irate husband or just some punk off the street is gonna put one in your back! Doris and the kids ain’t gonna make it on what their handin’ out downtown, god-damn it!” The part about Louie’s family was unexpected, by Doc as well as Louie. Doc realized he had recently developed an uncontrollable gut reaction to images of kids and family.

Louie looked down at the manual. It was impossible to find the right words. “Jesus Doc, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you cared. I'll . . . “

“Don’t say it! Just do it! Be a detective, god-damn it!”

“Christ Doc! Don’t you think I wanna be? I try my ass off to figure stuff out. Get clues, find traces. Nuthin’! And then there’s you! You look at a god-damned piece of dust and give me the history of the room! I can’t do that! Honest ta Christ Doc, I don’t know how you’re not rich! You should'a stayed on the force. You’da made Chief by now.”

Louie’s retort was disarming, but Doc wouldn't be thrown off the track of trying to focus his best friend.

“I couldn’t stay on the force because most of those guys are in it for the steady pay check and the pension. Half the shit they solve gets solved because some guy rolled over for them, the other half gets solved because the crook screws up. Look, Louie, you gotta feel it. Here, in your gut. You gotta eat it, sleep it, breath it and shit it. You gotta want it! It’s not about the money. It’s about doinsomethin’ you love. Somethin’ you’re good at. Somethin’ you’re passionate about!”           

“Yeah, but Doc. I ain’t no good at nuthin’! Hell, I nearly lost that old Birnbaum guy last week and he's older then Methuselah!” Louie looked down at the desk. Doc guessed what was coming. “And there’s something I gotta tell ya. I broke a rule. A rule of tailing.”

“Yeah, I know. He saw you.” Louie’s head snapped to the upright position, and he looked at Doc like a dog seeing it’s own image in a mirror for the first time.

“Now see, damn it! How the hell did you know that?”

“I pay attention.” Louie continued to stare. Doc felt compelled to explain. “You told me you and Birnbaum came down town on the same train, that means you got off the train at the same time, at Wall Street. I saw you were in the phone booth before Birnbaum was through the door. And, since the phone is further up the street than the door, that means at some point you had to cross in front of or by him. So I had to assume that you were made.” Louie was relieved Doc hadn’t deduced the screw up on the platform.

“The important thing is, that he didn’t see you in two separate locations during the tail. That’s a dead give away.” Louie was exasperated. He threw the book on the desk and himself back in his chair, looked up at the ceiling and closed his eyes.

“Look, I’ll help you. Teach you everything I can. But you gotta work with me here Louie. Louie!” He looked back at Doc. “Focus, will ya?”

“I will Doc.”

”I’m serious!”

“I will!” Doc had no way to know if he really got through. If he did not, he would try again.

“Good. Now where were we?”

“You were just about to tell me why you’re so chicken to call that girl, what’d you say her name was?”

“I didn’t. Her name is Nikki. Nikki Cole.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“You gonna call her? Or you gonna wear your heart on your sleeve the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know. I gotta think about it.”

“Think about it? What the hell is there to think about? Ya pick up the phone, ya dial the number, she answers, ya pop the question!” Doc winced.

“Sorry, bad choice of words!”

“I don’t wanna seem too anxious. Besides I don’t even have her number.” Louie reached into his pocket and removed a small piece of paper from his wallet. He got up and laid it neatly on the corner of Doc’s desk smoothing it out a little for effect.

“What the hell’s that?”

Delancy 5 9000. Number to the switch board at the Federal Building. You know, down on Church Street.”

“What?  You think I wasn’t gonna look it up?”

“Yeah, Doc McKeowen. The original Romeo. Like the last day before Prom Night when you were tryin’ ta get up the guts ta ask Charlene Meeny ta go with ya.”

“What's your point?”

“Jesus Doc! The day before?”

“I like suspense. Besides, I already knew she didn’t have a date.” Doc tried to remain casual.

“Then during third period break, you came around the corner like a bat outta hell ‘cause you were late for gym and slam! There goes Charlene Meany bouncing down the hall on her boney ass like a little blond basketball.”

“Hey, I got the date, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, but you were shittin’ like a dog in a Chinese restaurant when you asked her!”

“So, I asked her!”

“Then the poor little thing had to limp into the dance from the size of the bruise she had.”

“I suppose you saw pictures?”

“Jesus, ya asked her while she was still sittin’ on the floor! What were you doin’? Waitin’ ta see if she refused before you'd help her up?”

“Prom night? Isn’t that the same night Doris slapped the hell outta you for gettin’ so…”

“Don't change the subject, councillor! From what you told me and what I saw through that door Nikki looked pretty good to me. And you know me, I’m no judge of women.” Louie walked over to the hot plate and poured two cups of coffee. “Besides, Doris thinks it would be . . .”

“Doris!? Christ Mancino! Now I’m in the gossip columns?”

“Then give them somethin’ ta gossip about, damn it! Call her!” Louie coaxed. Doc picked up the piece of paper, and put it in his wallet.

“I’ll call her!” Louie continued to stare. “I said I’ll call! Later! I gotta be uptown at eleven. I have to go convince Mrs. Birnbaum her husband is a patriot, not a playboy.” Doc went over to the rack and put on his coat. “Meanwhile you stay here till I get back. With your nose in that Reg Book.” As he was halfway out the door, Doc turned back to Louie.

“Yeah Doc?”          

“She didn’t tell me anything about her personal life. She was defensive, but pretended she didn’t know how to fix the jack plugs on her switch board. She had pat answers to my questions, and was middle to late twenties.” As he spoke, Doc counted out the points he was making by extending the fingers of his right hand. “And she wore a charm bracelet with the name ‘Katie’ on it and a wedding ring on a chain around her neck. How did I know she had a rough break? Figure it out. See ya in a couple of hours.” Doc left. Louie hung his head as the door slammed shut.

“I hate it when he does that shit!”

 

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