Merylo, Zalewski, and Ness sat together at the counter of the diner just down the street from the Central Police Station. It was Merylo’s favorite place; he came at least twice a week. Agreeable of Ness to meet him here, Merylo thought, so far from the office, on his turf. First time that had ever happened.
“Here’s the thing, Peter,” Ness said, as he polished off his club sandwich. “I’m closing down the investigation.”
“What?” Merylo and Zalewski both looked at him bug-eyed. “Why?”
“What’s the point? There haven’t been any killings for a long time.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
“Probably won’t be any ever again.”
“You don’t know that.”
Ness hesitated a moment. “At any rate, I can’t afford to devote so many resources to one dead investigation, and neither can Chief Matowitz.”
“Have you talked to the mayor about this?”
“In fact, it was the mayor’s idea. He wants to put this thing behind him.”
Zalewski wiped his mouth with a paper napkin. “Should’ve known. Politics. Do a clean sweep before reelection time.”
“Something like that.”
“I’m just surprised-well, if you don’t mind my saying so-I’m surprised you’re going along with it, Mr. Ness.”
Ness looked away. “No sense in beating a dead horse.”
Zalewski looked down quietly. “No. I guess not.”
“So what am I supposed to do now?” Merylo asked.
“What you always did. Investigate crimes. Current crimes. You’ll go back to reporting to Chief Matowitz. Like it used to be. You’ll be happier, I’d imagine.”
“Here, let me get this.” Ness grabbed the ticket and put a dollar fifty down on the counter. “That should cover it. Enjoyed lunch. Hope to see you boys again soon. And thanks for all your hard work.”
They watched as the safety director left the diner.
“Can you believe that?” Zalewski asked.
“Yeah,” Merylo replied, as he finished off his pastrami. “I can believe it. He’s a politician now. Not a cop. He’ll probably be running for mayor next.”
“So, are you going to do what he says?”
“He’s not my boss. Not anymore.”
“You know what I mean. Are you going to stop investigating the torso murders?”
Merylo stared straight ahead, his eyes fixed on the image in the mirror behind the counter. “Never.”
“… so it’s really a good thing. I can be more use to the country working for the government.”
Chamberlin could not hide his surprise. “Back to the Treasury Department?”
“Not this time. The Army.”
“No. They’re creating a special post for me. Where I can be of the most service. You know-war is coming.”
“That’s what I hear.”
“We’re all going to have to contribute. Pull together. Help out any way we can.”
“Of course. Maybe now you’ll have more time to spend with the wife.”
Ness did not answer at first. “Yeah.”
“Well then.” Chamberlin drew his tall frame to attention. “Best of wishes, sir. The Army is lucky to have you.”
“Thanks, Bob.” He started for the door. “Oh, by the way. I wasn’t going to say anything…”
“I know, Bob. I know you were the leak.”
“I can’t imagine what you’re talking about.”
“You’re the one who kept feeding information to Congressman Sweeney. And then he sent it to the press. When he wanted it publicized. The secret interrogation. The Kingsbury raids. It was you.”
Chamberlin looked down at the floor. “I suppose there’s no point in denying it?”
Ness shook his head.
“It was nothing personal, you know. But it was illegal-all of that. If we allow our public officials to violate the law, soon there will be no law. And a guy has to look out for himself. I liked working for you. But I could see you wouldn’t be around forever, not the way you shook things up. I had to think ahead.”
“You going to work for Sweeney now?”
“He offered me a position, if I ever needed one.” He paused. “Think I might wait and see how the elections come out first.”
“That’s sensible. Good politics.”
Ness pressed his fedora down onto his head. “It’s ironic, you know. I cleaned up the police department. The mob. The labor racketeers. But I forgot to clean up my own office.” He opened the door.
He paused. “Yes?”
“You never said-what are you going to do for the Army?”
Ness smiled a little. “I’m going to keep people safe, Bob. That’s what I do.”