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17

Robert Chamberlin hunched over Ness s desk, feeling as tired and frustrated as he ever had in his entire life. He had been an athlete in his younger days, and he still considered himself to be in excellent shape. So he shouldnt be completely tuckered out by forty-five minutes of talking. But he was.

Sir, are you sure about this? Youve got almost three hundred names here. Thats a third of the force.

What surprises you? That there arent more? We both know the Cleveland police department is rotten to the core.

But that doesnt mean you can start firing everyone.

Im not firing them. Not all of them. Ness pointed to the explanatory lines on the chart. Most are just suspended, like before. Some are being transferred.

But-so many!

Bob, you know as well as I do that Ill never be able to go after the mob effectively, or the labor racketeers, or anyone else, if there are spies in the department informing them of every move I make.

But sir-you must see that cutting so many people will stir up animosity in the police department.

Ness leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. Well, Bob, my general impression is that theyre not all that crazy about me over there as it is.

Chamberlin burst out laughing. You may be right about that.

I know I am. And I dont blame them. Now, Matowitz is okay- even after that fiasco at The Thomas Club, hes getting better press than he has in his entire career. But the rest of the men, the rank and file. Working hard, day in, day out, walking the beat, paid too little and appreciated even less. And then some out-of-town hotshot sails in and starts stealing all the headlines. No, they have every right to their resentment. He paused. And I have the right to clean out the dirty ones. Fairs fair.

Sounds like youve got it figured out.

Well, I am a college man, you know.

I believe Ive heard the police officers mention that once or twice. And the way you dress. And the way you talk.

I cant help it if my voice is somewhat high-pitched.

It isnt that.

Then what?

You really want to know?

If I didnt, why would I ask?

Chamberlin pushed his wire-rims up his nose. Its the things you say. Gosh. Gee whiz. Holy moley.

And whats wrong with that?

Lets just say that most of the men on the force go in for more colorful expressions.

That kind of talk is for people who havent had the education to express themselves more intelligently.

Be that as it may, it perpetuates your Boy Scout image.

And whats wrong with being a Boy Scout? Anyway, I want this list of suspended officers on Matowitzs desk before close of business.

Its your funeral.

Why did you agree to work with me, Bob? You couldve stayed with Chief Matowitz.

They werent using me, sir. Not like they should.

And how should they use you?

Im smart, sir. Not to toot my own horn-

I think you already did.

Well-I dont care. Its true.

And Chief Matowitz didnt appreciate you?

Mostly had me making coffee. Running errands at the five-and-dime. He lowered his head. Walking his wifes dog.

Ouch. And you thought you could do more?

I- He swallowed, then started again. I know why your raid on The Thomas Club failed, sir.

I know why it failed, too, kid. Frescone and his men had time to hide the gambling paraphernalia.

Its more than that. From what Ive heard, The Thomas Club is very elaborate. They have table games-blackjack and poker and stuff. They have off-track betting. Run a policy game. Roulette. They didnt have time to stash so much stuff, even if they were using lightweight tables with breakaway legs, like some of the parlors do. He paused. They did, however, have time to move the people.

Ness looked at him levelly. Huh?

The people. Patrons. Much easier to move people than all that equipment.

Move them from where?

Chamberlin grabbed a rolled up paper from his briefcase. May I?

Ness nodded. Chamberlin spread it across Nesss desk.

This is an architectural plan of The Thomas Club. At least as it was constructed, thirty years ago, to serve as a warehouse.

Where in the world did you get this?

City Hall. They have to be filed to get a building permit.

Ness rubbed his forehead. I didnt know that.

Dont feel bad, sir. Most people dont. But I did. Because-

Because youre smart.

Chamberlin averted his eyes. Yes, sir. He removed two photographs from his briefcase. These pics were taken by the press about a month ago, inside The Thomas Club.

Thats just like what I saw.

But compare it to the blueprint, sir. Notice anything strange?

It only took Ness a moment. The building is bigger than it looks. Or was.

Thats right. To be specific, what looks like the rear wall, isnt. There must be a passageway somewhere. A hidden door.

Ness immediately grasped what Chamberlin was saying. Theres another room in the back. A hidden room. Thats where they do the gambling.

I-I think so, sir, yes.

Fire lit in Nesss eyes. So next time, we raid the rear.

I dont believe its quite that simple. They reinforced the front door and the skylight. Even if you find the hidden door or doors, I think you have to assume its reinforced as well.

Probably doubly reinforced. All right, Bob, this is your operation. How do we get in? Fast enough to catch these crooks in action.

I have some thoughts on that, sir.

I figured you did.

But before I share them, um-could you talk to Chief Matowitz about a full-time appointment? Not just a loan arrangement. I want to work for you.

Ness looked at him sharply. Have any idea how much work, how many hours, that might involve?

Havent I been out with you every night?

Good point. Can you keep your nose clean?

Absolutely.

Got any objection to working days at a time?

Not the least.

Got a wife?

Nope.

Probably better that way. You sure you want to do this?

I am, sir. My mother says youre doing Gods own work, right here in Cleveland. I want to be a part of that. I want to help you any way I can.

Ness grinned, then slapped Chamberlin on the shoulder. Then youre on the team, pal. Now tell me how we get into that club.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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