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23

Ness closed the shutters on Chief Matowitzs office windows. He didnt want anyone observing, not even reading lips or taking cues from facial expressions. This was a private conversation. It had to be. This time, his concern was not that snitches in the police department might convey information to the mob. He was concerned that they might convey information to the press.

There must be something more you can give me, Ness said, hovering over Matowitzs desk. Toss me a bone. Something I can tell the newsboys.

There isnt.

Theres always something.

Not this time. Matowitz pushed away from his desk, creating more space between himself and his interrogator. We got nothing.

You told me you thought this was over.

I said I hoped it was over. Its been-what? Three months since the last one?

Ought to be long enough for you to catch one killer.

Maybe for the man who brought down Al Capone.

Was it Ness s imagination, or was Matowitz enjoying this subtle shift in their relationship? In the past, Ness had always held the dominant hand. Ness might come to him for help, for manpower, but given that he was the mayors specially deputized agent with an increasingly high profile, Matowitz didnt have much choice in the matter. The midnight raids were in Nesss jurisdiction, totally foreign to what Matowitz normally did. But this was different. Ness was entering Matowitzs playground, the world of homicide detection. And Matowitz was distressingly nonforthcoming.

Who have you got working on it?

Peter Merylo. Best damn detective on the force. Locked up more men than you can count. Were not just talking about rumrunners. Were talking seriously dangerous killers.

Ness wasnt nearly dumb enough to miss that jab. Then why hasnt he locked up this one?

Because we have no clues.

Youve identified two victims.

And thats a miracle. Matowitz reached into his top desk drawer and withdrew a brown file. These victims have been transients, lowlifes. Scum of the earth. Not folks with a lot of friends or family. No one keeping an eye on them. We think maybe it was some kinda mobland rubout.

Ness shook his head. Ive been up against the mob for a long time. And Ive seen the remains of some grisly executions. But Ive never seen them hack a body to bits. Thats too violent, even for the mob. Might violate their twisted sense of honor.

Then whats your theory?

Was this man still bitter that the first raid on The Thomas Club went bad? Or that he wasnt there for the one that succeeded? There must be some connection among the victims. Maybe they all knew something that someone didnt want to get out. Maybe it was a revenge killing. Someone was sure as heck mad about something.

Revenge for what?

I cant know that till I know what they all had in common. Maybe they all knew the thief. Andrassy.

Possible that Flo Polillo did. She seems to have gotten around. If you know what I mean.

Maybe it was some kind of sordid love triangle that went bad. His voice dropped. Seriously bad. Problem was, even as Ness said it, he didnt believe it. Just didnt sound right. There had been jilted and betrayed lovers since the dawn of time. But hed never heard of one responding by hacking up bodies. Hed never heard of anyone doing anything like this in his entire life. No matter how he tried to think it through, it just didnt make any sense. With all the science we have at our disposal, surely we can come up with some kind of useful lead.

Not so far. And weve got a pretty smart coroner. Hes a college man. Matowitz made a sniffing noise. Like you. Youre welcome to talk to him. Hell be back in his office this afternoon.

Ness checked his watch. Not possible. Ive got about two hundred traffic lights to get up and running. And a training session for the Accident Prevention Squad that starts at-

There was a knocking at the door. He hoped it wasnt a reporter. He wasnt in the mood.

The door opened and Chamberlin poked his head through. Boss?

Ness held up his hand. Can it wait? Im busy.

Its about last nights raid. I wanted to tell you what happened.

Another midnight raid? Matowitz looked at Ness. And you didnt go yourself? What has the world come to?

Ness frowned. I had an engagement. With my wife.

Matowitzs thin lips spread. I understand. There are bosses, and then there are bosses.

Ness did his best to hide what he was feeling.

Chamberlin cut through the silence, alleviating the tension, at least temporarily. Can I tell you about The Harvard Club?

Matowitzs eyebrows rose. The Harvard Club was a notorious gambling and booze joint in Mayfield Heights run by one of the top men in the Mayfield Road Mob, Gameboy Miller. Now that The Thomas Club was closed, it was probably the top joint in the city.

Did they know you were coming? Ness asked.

No. But they were ready, just the same. Bouncers met us at the door, armed with submachine guns. Refused to honor the warrant. Then Miller himself came to the door and said, and I quote, Anybody comes in gets their-um-their head knocked off Deleting the colorful adjective.

And you showed him the warrant?

Twice. I didnt want a bloodbath. I decided to retreat.

Ness laid his hand on his shoulder. You did the right thing. You didnt have enough men. Well go back tonight.

Matowitz rose. I cant order my men to get mowed down by those tommy-gun-toting thugs.

Then Ill ask for volunteers. There are still some officers who dont like seeing duly appointed officers of the law get pushed around by mob punks.

I dont know if I can allow that.

Are you kidding? Ness gripped the edges of the mans desk. This is the most brazen defiance of the law Ive ever seen. If you let something like this go unchecked, soon there wont be any law at all. We have to show them we mean business. We have to show them theres still law in this town. He turned back to his assistant. You understand what Im saying?

A boyish grin spread across Chamberlins face. Ill begin rounding up volunteers immediately.

Good man. Well go tonight. Ness followed him to the door.

Matowitz did not appear particularly sorry to see him go. And the Torso Murderer?

Get your men out there pounding the streets for clues. Let me know if they find anything. Ness grabbed his fedora. Ive got a job to do.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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