CHAPTER FOURTEEN

I had Tom in the chair, tilted far back, for an hour and a half. He was getting purple in the face. If it had been a set of lowers I was putting in, he would have remained sitting upright, but the uppers require the patient to be almost horizontal so I can look right into the upper gums and sockets from the tooth’s point of view. The saliva ejector squeaked and hissed and kept his mouth dry.

I had prepped Tom’s eyeteeth, or canines, by grinding them into pegs over which the ends of the six-unit bridge would fit. I spent the better part of an hour checking and rechecking the fit, using De Mark and articulating paper to locate humps and high spots I wanted to remove. I checked his bite and removed the interferences with a greenstone and the polishing wheel. When the occlusion, or bite, was perfect, I was ready for Susan to mix the cement. Susan mixed it perfectly in one minute. It was a brand-new wonder cement that creates a chemical as well as physical bond between the bridge and the teeth. Called glass ionomer, the cement contains ions of fluoride which slow-release into the teeth constantly and prevent decay. Great stuff!

I applied the cement, inserted the bridge firmly and finally, and it was done. The entire upper permanent bridge lit in flawlesslybetter than any glove. There would be no wiggle or waggle. No fuss, no muss. Tom could eat anything _and his permanent front dentures would not come out or slip. He would not have to put them to sleep in a glass every night. He would not have to buy Polygrip, Dentu-Creme, or any of that elderly stuff.

I liked doing this kind of work because it demanded a lot of skill and patience. And when I was finished my patients were always very happy with the result.

“You do good work, Doc,” said Tom, admiring himself in the mirror. “And I can talk now too. You can’t imagine how sick I was of sounding like a dress designer. The only thing is, my mouth feels all tingly and fuzzy.”

“Well enjoy it while you can, old sport,” I said as I cleaned up and hung up the white smock. “Because when the local wears off there’ll be some discomfort for a while. Now here’s Joe in the parking lot. Let’s go.”

Out on 128 Joe told Tom about recent developments in the case, including a brief and bloody bio of one Carmen DeLucca. Tom said he was sick of hearing about the Mob the way the Germans must be sick of hearing about Hitler. But like me, he couldn’t believe for a second that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty. However, the more we explained to him, the more silent he became.

At the South Shore Plaza shopping mall we got coffee and studied a map of Braintree. Pearl Street, where the old Slater and Morrill factory stood, was about a mile away. We drove over there, and found nothing.

Joe drove while Tom and I consulted the street map and one of my library books which had a detailed map of the robbery scene. As we passed up and down the section of Pearl Street indicated, we saw not even the slightest indication that it was anything special. No historical marker, no privately erected sign, not even a memorial water bubbler for the two watchmen killed. Nothing.

“I’ll be damned,” mused Joe as he nursed the cruiser along in a crawl. The guy behind us leaned on his horn and Finally passed us right in the middle of an intersection. As he flew past he glared at Joe and shouted, then roared on and ran the next red light.

“Where the hell are the cops when you need ’em?” said Joe, staring out of his unmarked car.

“Pull over here,” said Tom, pointing. “This is right smack dab where it happened.”

We got out and walked around. Nothing was left of the Slater and Morrill factory. In its place was a rubble-strewn field of weeds. About a hundred yards down the road and pretty far back I saw the remains of the Rice and Hutchins factory: a rickety red-brick smokestack just like the one Andy Santurnio had been found in. I pointed it out to Joe.

“Surely that’s more than coincidence, Joe.”

“Don’t be too sure. There are lots of old smokestacks left behind when they pull down factories. It’s because they’re too tall to wreck; they can’t get the wrecking ball up high enough, even on the biggest derricks. The only really safe way to take them down is to build a scaffolding around them and do it piece by piece, which is too expensive. Only way to do it cheap is to dynamite ’em, which they should do, because they’re a hazard. They fall over and it’s like a bomb.”

We strolled along the fields, using my book as a reference to key spots. The railroad track was right where it had been in the 1920s, minus the depot shack where the money was delivered in the morning. On the day of the robbery, the payroll had been kept there until mid-afternoon, when the two guards, Parmenter and Berardelli, came and took it away in two locked boxes. But they never

made it to the factory. We walked through the scene, trying to reconstruct it, and half-closing my eyes, I could almost take myself back to April 15, 1920.

The men in the depot shack received the money as scheduled when the train pulled through that morning. They paid little attention to the men lounging nearby, watching the train. Later, on the witness stand, they recalled that these early-morning visitors were obviously casing the job, making sure the money had indeed arrived. Things were quiet until just before three o’clock…

I squint my eyes and look across the road to the nibble field, but now it’s a red-brick factory with a belching smokestack and people in skimmer hats in the yard. Some of the workingmen wear cloth caps. Two men emerge from the building and walk purposefully along the road, which is Pearl Street, then across it toward the shack. They go in. A few minutes later they come back out, each carrying a metal bank box. They are armed but guns aren’t drawn. They usually make the transfer by car or wagon, with a shotgun guard, but today for some strange reason they walk.

Back across the street, then up along the road past Rice and Hutchins, they approach the grounds of Slater and Morrill. As they near the big red-brick factory, two men who have been leaning idly against the wall step out and walk toward the street, intercepting the two guards with the metal boxes. As they get within a few feet of the guards, guns appear in their hands. There are a few shouted orders. Quickly and without warning one of the bandits shoots, and the chief guard, Frederick Parmenter, falls mortally wounded, clutching at his middle. Alessandro Berardelli, his assistant, panics. He drops his box and begins to run back across Pearl Street, where he is cut down by pistol fire. Then one of the gunmen raises up his pistol and fires a lone shot into the air.

This appears to be a signal, because an instant later a large touring car,. a big Buick, roars down the street and stops. The bandits begin to jump in, but one of them hesitates and walks back to Berardelli, lying in the street. He takes deliberate aim and shoots the fallen man point-blank, killing him, then returns to the car and gets in. The car, a dirty greenish-brown in color (or was it dark-blue? The witnesses later argue), speeds off down the road, a wicked-looking shotgun protruding from the rear window. At the railroad crossing gate the big car stops and the bandits order the gatekeepers to raise the drop gate immediately or they will be shot. They do this, but not before one of them gets a good look at one of the killer bandits and hears his voice. The car roars off, turning left at the intersection and speeding away, the occupants flinging special round-headed tacks (which always land point upward) behind them.

Ingeniously, the driver of the big car reverses direction in a two-wheeled hairpin turn half a mile down the road and heads back toward the scene of the crime on a parallel road. This incongruous reverse has its intended effect; the pursuing police are totally confused and allow the big Buick to proceed unchallenged out of town.

The robbery, planned carefully and executed like clockwork, is successful. But two men have been gunned down in cold blood. Neither guard had a chance to draw his sidearm; they were shot down without reason. Parmenter didn’t die right away, however; he lived just long enough to describe to the police the man who shot him. Other witnesses, leaning out of factory windows when they heard the noise or watching the car speed by, saw him too. And these, along with the gatekeeper, described a man who looked exactly like Nicola Sacco… .

“What did you say, Doc?” asked Tom, who was staring at me. I came to and realized I had been standing dead still and staring at the rubble field and smokestack. And worse, I had been muttering to myself too.

“I said that of all the days to pick to miss work and go off on an all-day errand, Nick Sacco had to pick April fifteenth. And at the same time here’s a guy standing right about where you are now who looks just like him, pumping shots into those, guards…”

Tom scraped gravel back and forth with his toe, like a batter at the plate, and shook his head slowly. His hands were deep in his coat pockets and he was hunched over. Joe was behind him, standing near the road in silence.

“Oh I don’t know, Doc. Jeeez. I mean, maybe he did do it. Sure looks like it anyway. I was so sure he didn’t because all my life I was told he didn’t. Like all good Italian, boys I was taught the basics, you know: don’t eat meat on Friday, go to confession, FDR is the greatest President who ever lived, Joe DiMaggio is the world’s greatest ballplayer… and Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent.”

“Sounds pretty good to me,” I said. “So what’s changed?”

“Lots. For instance, we eat meat on Fridays now, right? We don’t go to confession much anymore, right? And it looks like Roosevelt made some mistakes.”

“What about Joe DiMaggio?”

“You kiddin’? He’s still the greatest. That’s not changed. Except there might be one just as good since-“

“Who might that be?”

“Rico Petrocelli. Who else?”

“Let’s get out of here. I’m getting depressed. Hey Joe!”

We got in the car and rolled away. Joe didn’t say much either. We stopped at the McDonald’s across the street and bought coffee. I asked the girl at the register if she knew the significance of Pearl Street. She didn’t. And she’d never heard of Sacco and Vanzetti either. She couldn’t have cared less.

“Sounds like a kinda spaghetti, dudn’t it? Like Ronzoni?”

In a few minutes we were purring along on 128 again, heading back north. Neither Joe nor Tom wanted to make the second stop at Dedham after what we’d encountered at Braintree, but I insisted. The old film clips had entranced me and I wanted to see the courthouse and the jail where the two defendants had spent seven years while the whole world watched and waited.

The courthouse had not changed a bit; it was still the gray, quasi-Greek classical building with a high dome and an American flag on top. When we reached the second floor, which was the entrance to the courtroom and judges’ chambers, a security officer approached us quickly and asked if he could help us. In a case like this everybody knows that “Can I help you?” really means “Get the hell out of here.” But Joe flashed his badge and we went inside. The courtroom had not changed at all except for one detail: they had removed the medieval prisoner’s cage at the far end. Otherwise I could almost see Katzmann and Thayer, Thompson and Ehrmann, the jury and its foreman, Harry Ripley (who was a former police chief and who hated “dagos”), and the two defendants locked in their cage. We cased the whole place, looking for photographs on the walls, plaques or markers, perhaps a framed statement or scroll. There was nothing. I asked the rather plump, pale woman in the county clerk’s office about the case. As soon as heard the names she brought her index finger up to her pursed mouth.

“Shhhhh!” She giggled. “We don’t talk about that!”

We left and walked around the courthouse. Twice. Aside from a historical plaque set in a boulder telling about some early schoolhouse, there was nothing. Not any kind of plaque or marker- even one hostile to the defendants. There was nothing. And that seemed strange, considering the fuss New Englanders make over history. They’re forever holding parades for people who’ve been dead a hundred years. But here, where the world’s attention had been riveted during the summer of 1927, there was not a thing to mark the occasion or any mention made of it.

We went on to the jail. Things had not changed much there either. Again Joe flashed the badge and we went through the lobby and into the cell blocks. We were shown the cells that Sacco and Vanzetti occupied during their long incarceration. We saw the courtyard where they exercised. It was in this very courtyard that Celestino Madeiros caught Sacco’s attention one day. He whispered:

‘Wick! I know who pulled the South Braintree job!”

Sacco ignored him and returned to his cell. Why? Ehrmann said it was because he feared that Madeiros was a plant, a spy put there by the government to get a confession out of him. They had tried that the year before. But there could be another reason Sacco had ignored him: because he, Sacco, had pulled the job.

The courtyard was ringed with barbed wire and a new, shiny type of concertina wire that was drawn from a flat strip of metal with prongs extruded from its edges. It looked like old ripped-apart tin cans. It looked about as attractive as a swarm of maggots. Then I recalled two things from the reading I’d done. One was the reminiscence of a guard who one day overheard Sacco and Vanzetti arguing about who had the best singing voice. To resolve the dispute, each convict sang to the other. The song they sang was “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The other thing wasn’t so cute; it was the recurring periods when one or both of the prisoners had to be taken to Bridgewater State Mental Hospital for treatment and observation. It seemed that the length of the confinement, and the men’s inability to accept or believe what was happening to them, drove them crazy now and then. It was supposedly especially hard on Sacco, who missed his wife, son, and infant daughter dreadfully. Of course, the other side of the coin was the argument that the men were faking to buy time and public sympathy.

Is it a vase, or is it two faces? Is it the top of the basement stairs or the bottom of the attic stairs?

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” said Joe with a groan. “I’ve had enough for one day.”

We walked back inside and down the corridor and overheard one of the guards yelling at an inmate.

“I am held here wrongly, mon,” said a deep booming voice. “I am held on suspicion, nothing more. And because I came here in a leaky-sponge boat, does that take away all my rights? You hear me talkin’, mon?”

The guard slammed the door with a clang and passed us in the hall. “Fuckin’ jig,” he muttered under his breath so we could all hear, especially the man behind bars. He was huge and rich chocolate-brown, with green eyes. He gripped the bars, and the big muscles of his jaws bunched and leapt at the sides of his face. He rocked sideways, back and forth, back and forth, as he gripped the steel in front of him. He swayed to and fro on his feet, like an elephant eating hay.

“What’s the huge black guy in for?” Joe asked the superintendent.

“Vagrancy and resisting arrest. Don’t think it’ll stick though. He’ll probably walk in a week. Why, you want him?”

“Naw. just curious. He one of the Caribbean boat people?”

“Uh-huh. Jamaican. Nothing but trouble, the whole bunch of ’em, and they’re coming farther north every day now. Oughta kick ’em right back out. Oh, but he’ll walk; you wait and see.”

On the way out of the cell block something- I’m not sure what it was- made me retrace my steps to the cell that held the giant Jamaican. He looked at me.

“What did you do that they put you in here?” I asked.

“Nothing. They call it vagrancy. I am an illegal alien. I was arrested loitering at a bus station. Are you a policeman?”

“No. A doctor. What is your name?”

“Amos Railford. Fisherman and carpenter. You will help me? I cannot pay now, but later-“

“Amos Railford, are you innocent of any crime except being here? You’ve heard of a polygraph, or lie detector? Would you take a polygraph test?”

“Hmmmmph!” He snorted, and jerked at the bars two inches in front of his face. His forearms bulged like Popeye the Sailor’s. His chest was a bronzed, chiseled slab of muscle two feet wide. I was a little thankful for the bars. ‘

“Will you take it?”

“Yes, mon.”

“And what is your bail set at?”

“Bail? I don’t know.”

“Thank you Amos. Good luck.”

I walked back down the corridor, smelling that peculiar and depressing jail smell so well described by Raymond Chandler. On the way out I could not help thinking that nothing much had changed since 1927, except perhaps the appearance of those on the lowest rung.

We walked back to the courthouse building. It was just a couple of blocks. Sacco and Vanzetti made the trip there and back every day during the weeks of the trial, surrounded by armed guards. I stood facing the courthouse steps and recalled the film. Turning toward the jail, I took myself back in time. The small, squared-off Datsuns and Vegas became rounded Packards and Overlands. The people wore wool and cotton instead of polyester. The women had on wide hats with flowers on top; the men wore top hats, boaters, snap-brims, and bowlers. A crowd came dance-stepping around the comer, heading my way. Throngs of onlookers pressed close. Kids shouted and ran around the edges of the crowd. A big square of blue-coated policemen formed the nucleus of the mob, each one toting a Winchester pump scatter-gun. Here they came bouncing fast up the street. They were jump-roping without rope. The cars zigged and zagged. People waved their arms and hopped around. Where was Harold Lloyd? Buster Keaton? The mob was close now, approaching the courthouse steps. I could see the two defendants: Vanzetti with his proud carriage, tipping his snap-brim hat, gesticulating to the crowd with raised fist. Injustice! he is crying, and for him it certainly is. Almost everyone agreed that Bartolomeo Vanzetti was innocent. The other man, though- what’s going through his mind? Sacco walks on silently, having to pause when his companion does because they are chained together. But he says nothing, looking straight ahead, noncommittal. Is he scared? Seething with outrage? Bored? Or is he lying? Is he merely disgusted with himself at having been caught?

A car horn jerked me out of my reverie, and I moved off the street. The driver rolled down his window and grinned.

“Don’t tell me. Don’t tell me- I know what ya wuz lookin’ at. Yuz lookin’ at the jail and then the court building. Well, I tell ya, mistah… they wuz guilty!”

He drove on, and we got back into Joe’s cruiser and went back home.

After dropping off Tom, Joe and I went back to the house.

Joe’s mood was still dark. He paced the living-room carpet, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, muttering to himself. The only words I caught were “can’t believe it… just can’t believe it,” over and over again.

“Can’t believe what?” I finally asked. “That they were probably guilty?”

“Not that so much. I’m thinking of Andy. I can’t believe the community would turn against him. You know the Sons of- oh hell, skip it.”

He returned to pacing and muttering until the phone rang. Mary answered it in the kitchen and called Joe.

“[oey, you know anything about Christopher Columbus?”

“Sure. He discovered America in- what? What the hell are you asking me a stupid-ass question like that for?”

“No, dummy. There’s a guy calling you from the Christopher Columbus. What’s that?”

Joe rushed toward the kitchen like a fifty-yard man out of the blocks. “Gimme that,” he said, panting.

There was a short, intense conversation in the kitchen, with hoarse whispers and oaths. Comments like “you’re goddamn right that’s what I thought. What would you think, for Chris-sake?” and “I didn’t mean you, Mike. I was thinking of the young guys- “

Mary and I waited in the living room until he was finished, which wasn’t long. He came stomping through the room and hooked his finger at me. I followed him out the door as Mary sank dejectedly onto the couch and stared at the wall.

“Don’t worry, Mare. This is just a short visit in the North End. Be back in two hours. Promise!”

“I’m coming too then.”

“Can’t. The Christopher Columbus is a men’s club. See you.”

The neighborhood social club was on Fleet Street between two others. The North End is famous for these men’s clubs. On any weekend in nice weather the front doors are generally open and you can hear the television blaring out the progress of the Patriots or Red Sox games and, further in the background, an aria. The weather was slightly chilly and the door, with no markings or signs on it whatsoever, was closed. Joe opened it and walked in. The men inside stared at us. Then I realized they were staring at me. I was a stranger. My presence in this private drinking and social club was tolerated only because I was with Joe, who was an ex-officio member.

We walked through the front room, which contained the TV, bar, and pool tables, and into the back one, which had a carpeted floor, a smaller bar, a stereo from which a rich baritone crooned, and a big green felt card table. As we entered, all seven men at the table rose at once. Three of them, younger men, left as if on prearranged signal and went back to the front room. The cards had been turned face down, the play having stopped in the middle of a hand.

Of the four men who approached us smiling, I recognized Gus Giordano immediately. He came up and hugged me first, which set the mood of acceptance right away. The men beckoned us to sit down in the leather chairs, which looked as if they were purchased secondhand from a bar that went bust. They drew theirs up around us, facing us like a panel. Or perhaps a tribunal?

The leader, a man named Mike, spoke first. He was at least seventy, razor-thin with a veiny forehead, pale skin, white hair, and a thin beaky nose. He had piercing black eyes and wore a big old-fashioned hearing aid. He chain-smoked as he drank coffee.

‘Joey, that big Irish guy you hang around with, Heeney?”

“O’Hearn. Kevin O’Hearn. My partner.”

“Yeah, him. Well, he told Angie Catardi, who walks the beat here, that you thought we were behind the Santuccio murder. Joseph, shame on you.”

“I didn’t say you were. It crossed my mind is all. And I didn’t mean you guys.”I was thinking of the young hotheads. You know. They’d do anything to save the community morale. Maybe get carried away.”

Mike pulled a piece of newspaper out of his trouser pocket and handed it to Joe.

“Take a look at that; It appeared in today’s Globe and will appear for another two weeks. The Sons of Italy and the North End Improvement Association, which you will recall Andy was president of, are putting up a ten-thousand-dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killers. Now c’mon, pal- don’t say those things about your friends, huh?”

Gus leaned over and put his hand on Joe’s shoulder. I thought my brother-in-law was going to cry.

“I guess I never really believed it. But who else, who else would give a shit about those papers enough to do that? Tell me, who?”

I swept my eyes around the circle of four faces, three of them with big mustaches. All were solemn and silent. I saw them shake their heads back and forth slightly, slowly, in bewildered sadness and resignation.

“All I know is Carmen DeLucca- may he drown in his mother’s bloodworks for the families. An enforcer. Scum. We would never do such a thing and never truck with his kind of filth. Shame on you, Joseph- a member of the Sons yourself. Shame on you and may God and the saints forgive you for thinking it,” intoned Mike. He did not look angry. He was profoundly hurt. His eyes were glistening.

The message delivered, we had coffee and beer and talked for fifteen minutes to leave the meeting on an upbeat note.

“Will you keep in touch, Mike? The rest of you?” asked Joe as we left the back room. “Tell me anything you hear, okay? And listen: you guys know Paul Tescione well. No no- forget that crap. I know you know him. I’ve met him briefly once. I know he does some good around here. Stay on the wire with him, huh? Let me know if DeLucca’s back with the Outfit, okay? I gotta know.”

“Thanks for coming, Joe. Doctor Adams, nice to see you.”

“Hey. Thanks for asking us,” said Joe.

We left, and heard the young men called back to the game.

“Okay,” said Mike as we left. “Seven-card stud and Gus is showing a possible straight!”

***

Things settled down a bit afterward. Life’s petty pace ground forward, trying to churn out the yardage. The needle moved up out of the Dead Zone and into Boring, its natural home. The days rolled by, tasting like wet cardboard. A few incidents of note occurred, but they served only to punctuate the tedium. To underscore it. –

One: Sam Bowman got a new secondhand safe and retrieved his loot from Nissenbaum’s. He still lacked a partner however, and the future of Dependable Messenger Service was none too rosy.

Two: Moe Abramson was finding another foster home for the luscious morsel Loretta Popp, better known as Lolly. He had told her it was only a matter of days before she would start packing. She raised a fuss, but it was no use. She proposed marriage, but he wouldn’t listen. She proposed to continue living in sin with him, but he turned a deaf ear. And that figured. Moe’s not only a sap, he’s the world’s biggest puritan too. As soon as he finds anything the least bit pleasurable, he drops it like a red rivet. Old John Winthrop had nothing on him.

Three: Joe told us the Boston Public Library reported vandalism in the archives. This, and the fact that somebody broke into my office and rifled my files, told us all that the Wise Guys were still hunting for the hot item. But Joe figured they’d never get it now. He also figured they’d leave me alone, finally. He said his activities had now turned to focus on the apprehension of Carmen DeLucca.

Four: Mary and Janice went to play tennis out at the country club. A minor point dispute then erupted into a full gale, force eight. Mary told me afterward that she’d “had words” with Janice. Considering what her version of “words” meant, Janice was lucky to be alive. Worse yet, Janice called me the next morning at work; I wasn’t sure whether Susan Petri was listening in on the line or not. I hoped not, because the gist of the brief conversation was that Janice was going to give me no more quick feels if I was going to kiss and tell.

“Blabbermouth!” she said, sniffing.

I went on to explain to her that I hadn’t said a thing. Mary knew. She would always know.

“And that’s why there’s no future in it, Janice, don’t you see? There are certain immutable laws. Two and two is four; the sun rises in the east; and Mary will always find out.”

“But what about in the boathouse? When all the others leave to go into Wolfsboro, and there’ll just be the two of us in our bathing suits, and-“

“Won’t work. There’ll be a crack of lightning and a pillar of smoke… and Mary.”

Janice said that it was still her favorite fantasy, and that I was in that fantasy and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. She hung up.

To top it off, Susan and I had two fraidy cats in a row in the chair. Now I’ll be the first to admit that visiting the tooth-puller isn’t everyone’s favorite pastime. In fact, a lot of the time my job makes me feel somewhat like Bela Lugosi and gets me down. But life is life, and involves some risk and pain, and it should be borne with as stiff an upper lip as one can muster. We had to face two twenty-five-year-old crybabies back to back. They fought the needle; they were afraid of nerve damage; they broke into tears when I described what was going to happen. Now I’ve tried it the other way: not telling them what will happen. That’s when pandemonium really reigns. We’ve had shouting matches, tantrums, threats, the works. As the second fraidy-cat filed out whimpering, I collapsed behind my desk and switched on WBUR. They were playing a nice piece by Luigi Boccherini, the Baroque cellist and composer. I like the cello anyway, and the music was particularly soothing.

“Why didn’t you just put her out?” asked Susan as she cleaned up.

“I really don’t like to do that. Too many things can happen when they’re out. Besides, in a fearful patient the effects of sodium pentathol are uncertain; sometimes it makes things a lot worse afterwards?

“Well, thank God that’s all for today. Did I tell you Mrs. Reubens canceled?”

I brightened. “No, you didn’t.” I looked at my watch. It showed three-twelve. I could go home. Or I could go somewhere else. Somewhere that had been on my mind a great deal lately and wouldn’t let me alone. I called Susan over to my desk.

“Listen carefully,” I said. “I’ve got some business to attend to up in Lowell. I’m going up there alone for a few hours and I’m not telling anyone. I’m only telling you in case of an emergency here or in case I don’t come back.”

She stiffened; her eyes widened.

“Don’t do that; it’s not really that daring. But I’m afraid I’m going to break the law a little teeny bit. That’s one of the reasons I don’t want a lot of people to know about it.”

“Not even Mary?”

“Most especially not Mary.”

“Oh…” There was a hint of accusation in her voice. “Who are you uh, going to break the law with?”

“What? With nobody else. This is a solo operation, Susan; I’m going alone.”

“Oh. I just thought… you know. There was that woman on the phone and- “

“Well, you thought wrong. Now I should be back here, or home, by between six and seven. Don’t tell anybody where I’m going, but if something big comes up, give them this number- it’s a bar- and tell them to tell the folks there to come find me around the corner.”

“Okay, Doctor Adams. I’m sorry I thought-“

“Forget it. It’s just that certain people, no matter how sincere their intentions and how noble their character, can’t stay out of trouble. My life is living proof of that. Good-bye; be sure to lock up when you leave.”

I went out into the lot, climbed into the Scout,. and headed north to Lowell. I’d left Susan the number at the Lucky Seven, and right underneath it the address of Johnny Robinson’s apartment. Joe said the place was closed and sealed by the fuzz. But I had to get in there; that’s where the hot item was.

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