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37

The Unknowns?

Ness grinned a little. Yeah. What do you think?

Doesnt have as much zing as the Untouchables.

Doesnt matter. No one who isnt a member is ever going to hear about it.

And this worked?

Like you wouldnt believe. Weve got enough cash to hire eight operatives-plus you-long-term. Freedom to do whatever you think necessary. Without being watched. Without being hampered by government restrictions.

David Cowles paused. Ness could see the wheels turning in the mans bald head. He had known Cowles, a member of the Cleveland Scientific Investigation Bureau, for some time now, and he trusted him. Cowles had been the genius behind several of the most successful cases the police department took credit for solving.

What do you want me to do?

Enlist men. Send them out. Penetrate the underworld. The two victims who have been identified were both criminal types. Probably they all were. If you send your men around, quietly asking questions, not acting like cops, theyre bound to find something. And if they have to use somewhat illegal means well, theyre not police officers, are they? Theyre just private citizens working for you.

Sounds risky. What if someone finds out? What if the whole thing blows up? You dont need that kind of publicity.

Me? Ness said, pressing his hands against his chest. I didnt have anything to do with it. Im only the safety director.

Cowles fingered his dark, round owl-like glasses. Im beginning to see the way this thing works. The trail ends with me.

You ever read Sherlock Holmes?

Cowles opened the small box on Ness s coffee table and took out a cigarette. Cant say that I have. Though I hear the man was very scientific.

He was. And he also had a group of private operatives. The Baker Street Irregulars, he called them. They were just kids. But they could fan out through all of London and learn anything Holmes needed to know without attracting attention. Thats what we need here. Put your men out into the city. Find the killer.

Ness leaned in closer. But heres the most important part, David. They report to you. You and only you. No one else. They dont even know Im involved. Understand?

Perfectly.

Think youll have any trouble finding men?

Nope. Already got one in mind.

Tell me.

Sure you want to know?

Ness smiled. Ill forget the name as soon as I hear it.

Fellow named Joe Teran.

Mexican?

Cowles nodded. Marijuana dealer. My evidence put him away a few years ago. Hes free now.

An ex-con? Is that wise?

Hes a smart man, Eliot. Tells me hes reformed. But he still has lots of contacts in the underworld. Not the kind of underworld youre used to dealing with, the highfalutin mobsters and such. His people are the lowest level of filth the city has to offer. But I believe those are the contacts that could prove most useful in this case.

Ill trust your judgment.

And Joe knows lots of other useful people. Heaven knows it isnt hard to find good men who need work these days. Ill have your Unknowns out on the street before the end of the week.

Appreciate it.

My pleasure. I want this creep caught as much as you do. This might just work.

Lets hope so. The people are demanding an arrest.

And the press, huh?

Ness looked at him sharply, then, after a moment, his face relaxed. Yes, the newspaper boys, too.

I know you want to keep this secret, Eliot, and I understand why. But the press are expecting you to do something. Something they can report.

Dont worry. Ive got a plan. Meanwhile, you get to work. Check in with me as often as possible. Let me know if you have any leads. Or if you need more assistance. Anything. Whatever it takes. Bring me this monster.

You going to tell Chief Matowitz about this?

Not a chance. Let them follow their path, and Ill follow mine. They can be the decoy. Deflect the attention of the press. While we catch the killer. Because weve got to catch him, David. The headlines in the papers get larger every day. Theyve totally forgotten about everything else Ive done for this city. All anyone cares about is this Torso Killer. So lets give him to them. So I can get on with my work. And my life.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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