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8

From the December 13, 1935, Cleveland Plain Dealer:

and this reporter was not the only one impressed by the tireless energy and enthusiasm shown by Ness on what was only his second day on the job. Although the two burglars escaped pursuit by jumping to another rooftop, Ness accepted an invitation to join the officers on their nocturnal patrol of the crime-ridden Roaring Third, with its rampant vice, gambling, and illegal liquor. Ness then accompanied them as they responded to a five-alarm fire at a nearby warehouse, and in the small hours of the morning participated in a raid of a local house of prostitution. Unfortunately, when the police entered, they found the building had been vacated.

Obviously, Ness announced, someone in the department tipped them off. I will find out who it was, he added, making it sound less like a prediction than a promise. I will demand their badges.

It is still early days for our new safety director. But already he is forming an excellent reputation with the people in government and law enforcement-everyone but those who know their days on the force may be numbered, because this is a man who means what he says. Six feet and 172 pounds of fight and vigor, an expert criminologist who looks like a collegian but can battle vice with the best of them, Eliot Ness is dedicated to his job of ensuring law and order in the city of Cleveland. Mayor Burton should be complimented for hiring a safety director without political ties or aspirations who has a spotless record of battling corruption

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Ness squeezed the paper in his fist and slapped it against his desk. Did you read this, Robert? Did you read it?

Robert Chamberlin, the man temporarily assigned by Chief Matowitz to help Ness get situated, nodded. Indeed I did. Great press. The papers love you.

That doesnt matter.

Chamberlin blinked. Well, now. Thats the first time since I entered government service that Ive heard that.

Ness bounced out of his desk chair and paced around the office. He had always had a hard time sitting still. What matters is whether I have the clout to clean up the city. These newspapers are helping me get it.

Youre the safety director, whether they like you or not.

Yes, but for how long? And what exactly are my powers? Do I take orders from the mayor or am I independent? No one seems to know. I cant do anything without funding, and the city council controls that. No, I need popular support if Im going to accomplish my goals. Thats why I play along with those newsboys.

Chamberlin fingered his wire-rimmed glasses. Is that why?

Yes. Means to an end, thats all.

I see.

You have any idea how much five hundred traffic lights cost?

I dont even know what a traffic light is.

Ness laughed. You will. And then theres the cost of motorcycles, ambulances. Two-way radios. All the latest scientific innovations. Everything this city needs to relieve congestion and make driving safer. But all of it has a price tag.

Im sure the city council will give you whatever you need.

As long as supporting me looks like the popular thing to do. Any news on the brothel raid?

I think its a lost cause, Eliot.

No such thing, Robert. Our only problem has been that we move too slowly. The word gets out to the crooks. Gosh, even when it doesnt, these mobsters can usually get everything and everyone hidden away between the time our officers knock and the time we get in. We have to move faster. And we have to plug up the leaks.

Easy to say, Eliot. Hard to do. There are too many suspects, too many police officers who knew about the raid.

And it could have been any of them?

It could have been all of them.

Get me names, Robert.

I cant be sure, Eliot. I have suspects. But nothing certain.

Then Ill put them on suspension. Then well try the raid again and see what happens.

You cant do that. Chamberlin was a tall, lanky man, experienced in dealing with bureaucrats and politicians-which had not fully prepared him for working for someone like Eliot Ness. Ness liked that. He knew Chamberlin was more political than he, and that was fine. He could use help in that particular arena. You cant take away a mans job without proof.

Not talking about firing them. Suspension with pay.

I dont know

I have to know who I can trust, Robert. Outside his office door, a man was painting his name, just above the words SAFETY DIRECTOR. He liked the way it looked. I have to find my Untouchables.

We will, sir. But you must be patient.

Ness chuckled. Not my best virtue. His eyes were fixed on the letters on the door. FBI agents got their names on the doors, at least the top ones. He wondered if they looked the same.

By the way, Eliot-your wife called.

Ness looked up abruptly, breaking out of his reverie. Edna?

She wanted to know if youll be home tonight.

Well-of course Ill be home. He paused. Im not exactly sure when. The light flickered back into his eyes. Chief Matowitz and I have made special plans.

Anything youd care to tell me about?

Ness winked, then he grabbed his hat and headed toward the door that now bore his name. You can read about it in tomorrows papers.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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