home   |   -   |   A-Z   |  


25

Ness wrapped his overcoat tightly around himself and strode toward the front door of The Harvard Club. The men watching could only marvel at his bravado. After what had happened the night before, it would take extreme courage for any law enforcement officer to make his way to that door. And Ness was particularly recognizable, with his camel-hair coat, fedora, and Scandinavian good looks.

He held up his badge and knocked. Eliot Ness. Safety Director.

The door slot flew open. A beefy scarred face appeared on the other end. Blow off, copper. Anyone comes in here gets their f-

Yes, Ive heard. But Ive got a warrant, and Im coming in.

The man sneered. I got three men with heaters trained on your head.

Ness smiled pleasantly. Ive got forty-two armed men positioned all around the building. Weve got four trucks ready to carve out a new doorway, if we cant use the one youre currently blocking. Plus there are about a dozen reporters with cameras standing behind my officers, and something like a hundred or so spectators behind them. Ness took a deep breath. You cant escape. Youre spending the night in jail.

The mans bushy eyebrows knitted. Ness got the impression that thinking was not his forte.

Ask your boss what he wants to be charged with. Operating a gambling parlor, ten years with a chance of parole-or killing a police officer, mandatory death penalty.

The beefy head began to flush. Anger or indecision? Ness couldnt be sure. But he got the distinct impression the man wished hed let someone else get the door.

Step aside, Manny.

Ness knew the voice. A moment later, Shimmy Patton appeared in the slot.

Whatsa problem, Mr. Safety Director? This is private property.

The man was already free on bail, awaiting trial. Sometimes the law made Ness crazy. I have a warrant to search for evidence of illegal activities.

Hey, maybe you havent heard. That Prohibition thing-its over. We can drink now.

That depends on where you get your hooch. And gambling is still illegal.

Patton pressed a hand against his chest. Gambling? Who-me? I wouldnt dream of it. Ive learned my lesson.

Then you have no reason not to let me in, do you?

Patton glanced over his shoulder. At first, Ness had thought Pat-tons appearance at the door was a sign of his enormous overconfidence. Now he realized it was just a stalling tactic. He was buying time for his assistants to hide all the gambling paraphernalia.

Ness heard sounds of scuffling and movement in the background. After a few more moments, Patton answered. Well, geez, Mr. Safety Director. Since you put it like that. Come on in.

He closed the slot. A moment later, the door opened.

Ness stepped inside. The front room was jam-packed with patrons, mostly well dressed, mostly swilling drinks, pretending he didnt exist. The servers were dressed in low-cut outfits that bordered on public indecency, and the bouncers looked nearly naked themselves now that theyd stashed their weapons.

As you can see, Mr. Safety Director, were clean as a whistle.

Are you now? There was no trace of gambling apparatus. These men were good. And fast.

Patton waved expansively. No gambling in here. No sirree.

Not now.

Dont be a sore loser.

The only loser is you, Patton. Ness leaned out the door. Chamberlin! Bring in the men.

Hey, hey, hey! Patton jumped into the doorway. That aint right. You aint got nothing on me! Look around, blind boy. Theres no gambling.

There was.

You cant prove it.

I think I can.

You search all you want, you wont-

I dont have to search.

Chamberlin rushed through the door with five other men. Search these clowns for weapons. Were going to make some arrests.

Patton jumped in front of him. Im callin my lawyer, right now, see? You got nothin on me. Hell get you so tied up in lawsuits you wont be able to move. You got no proof, no witnesses-

Ive got better than witnesses. Ive got pictures.

What?

Little movie camera, latest scientific gadget.

Ive been here for the last hour. No ones come through that door.

True enough. But you ought to be careful about leaving a window open upstairs. He smiled. Especially when the safety director comes calling. With a ladder.

-

Ness waited outside The Harvard Club as his officers systematically loaded the operators and patrons into paddy wagons. This was the second shift of prisoners making their way downtown. Most of the patrons would probably be released after the officers scared them a little and lectured them on the evils of gambling. Locking away prosperous citizens wasnt their goal here. Putting away the Mayfield Mob was.

Matowitz is going to be sorry he didnt make this one, Ness said. Bound to be the headline story in all the papers.

Chamberlin nodded. Unless another torso turns up.

Ness grunted. Even if. This is big news. Shutting down The Harvard Club. You know how many people told me it couldnt be done? Lots.

He waved to the spectators, many of whom were calling out his name. Good thing hed tipped off the papers.

He waved again. He was greeted with a chorus of enthusiastic cries and shouts.

Ness smiled.

Out the corner of his eye, he saw several young boys drifting by. If he wasnt mistaken, it was the same group hed seen outside The Thomas Club the night they shut that one down.

Excuse me a minute, Bob.

Ness trotted toward the crowd. He smiled cordially, but passed through quickly, heading for the youngsters. When they realized he was coming for them, they began to scatter.

Wait a second, he shouted. I just want to talk.

They slowed but did not stop.

Seriously. I need your help. I want to deputize you.

That did the trick. The three boys slowly turned around.

Thats more like it. You have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I dont know yours. How about it?

The tallest of the three, who wore a felt crown-shaped cap, kicked at the dirt. My names James. But people call me Bud.

Nice to meet you, Bud.

The boy to his right, the blond kid in the dirty torn shirt, waved. Joe.

Ness shook his hand.

The smallest of them, who couldnt have been more than ten, looked uneasy about the whole situation. But he answered. Im Billy.

Good to meet you all.

Bud cleared his throat. Are you-are you really Eliot Ness?

The one and only. Far as I know.

Youre the guy who beat up Al Capone?

Ness laughed. Well, not with my fists. But we got him locked up. Hes still behind bars.

My dad said you were a real honest-to-goodness American hero.

Do you live with your father, son?

Bud kicked at the dirt again. Not anymore. Hes dead. Tuberculosis.

Your mom?

Shes dead, too.

Where do you live?

Wherever I can. Shantytown. Under a bridge. Maybe a flophouse, when Ive got a little money. But that isnt often. Most people wont hire me cause Im too young. Even the ones who will hire me dont pay much.

Any of you have homes?

Billy does. Billy nodded his agreement. But his mom doesnt like him bein around nights. She works nights. Men come back to her place.

What do you eat?

Bud shrugged. Whatever we can. Theres a restaurant downtown that lets us go through their garbage and eat whatever we find.

Ness winced. What about you, Joe? Where do you live?

My dads got a one-room on Third Street. But he aint home much and sometimes he forgets to pay the rent. He travels. Rides the rails. Says he doesnt have enough money to leave me any.

When was the last time any of you had baths?

No answer.

Any of you ever play a game of baseball?

Joe frowned. I saw one once.

Any of you have any male relatives or any kind of person to keep an eye on you?

No answer.

Well thats fine, Ness said. He placed his hand firmly on Buds and Billys shoulders. Now you do.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



Loading...