The lieutenant had been very emphatic and Patrolman Hoffman was not a man to disregard a superior officer; especially as the lieutenant was attached to Homicide and was a detective. No one was going to pass through the door and get into that room. No one. That is, of course, with the exception of the day and night nurses and the doctor.
Looking down from his six feet four inches of muscle and brawn into the upturned face of the slender man in the immaculate pin-striped suit, Officer Hoffman again repeated himself.
“You heard me,” he said. “I made myself very clear. No one. No one at all. Those were my orders and I’m going to follow them.”
“You do just that, Officer,” Steinberg said. “Go right ahead and follow your orders-and the next thing you know you’ll be walking a beat somewhere so far out in the sticks they’ll have to fly your relief in by helicopter.”
Officer Hoffman very carefully removed the toothpick from the side of his mouth.
“A wise shyster from the city,” he said. “You know all the answers, yes? Well, let me tell you something, mister. You may be a big shot over in Manhattan, but out here, in Nassau, you ain’t nothing. Less than nothing.”
“Keep your voice down, Officer,” Steinberg said. “This is a hospital after all, you know. And perhaps you would like to look at this,” he added, taking a folded piece of paper from his pocket. “That is, of course, if they taught you to read. It happens to be a note from the assistant D.A. It’s an order permitting me to see my client, Jake Riddle. I don’t give a damn for you or your lieutenant. I happen to be Mr. Riddle’s attorney and I have every right to see him. This little paper says so. And I’m going into that room and I’m going to talk to him. Alone.”
He handed the paper to the other man.
Steinberg whipped out a second piece of paper.
“His permission,” he said. “So just roll over and I’ll go on in.”
Officer Hoffman carefully read both papers and then handed them back.
“And how do I know you are Leon Steinberg?”
“Oh, my God.” The attorney reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a wallet. “Do I look like somebody who’s going to go in there and shoot him?” he asked. “Do I…”
“It would be a good thing if you did,” Hoffman said. “The dirty cop killer! O.K., go on in. But five minutes. That’s what the doc says. Five minutes. And if you can get a word out of that rat in that time, you’ll be doing a lot more than we’ve been able to do.”
He reached down and turned the key in the door and then opened it.
Steinberg entered the sterile white room, unconsciously observing the barred window and slightly repelled by the heavy anesthetic atmosphere.
He waited until the officer had closed the door of the room and once more turned the key in the lock. Then he moved over to the high white bed and leaned down, speaking in a low, hoarse voice.
“How is it, Jake?”
Jake opened his eyes and stared at the lawyer.
Looking down at him, Steinberg knew that the Assistant D.A. had been right; knew he’d been telling the truth when he’d said that the man was dying. That he wouldn’t even need a mouthpiece.
Steinberg wondered if he’d be able to talk at all.
“Dommie’s dead,” Steinberg said, “but Vince made it. Only he hasn’t turned up yet and Fred’s worried. You’re going to be all right, boy,” he said as Jake again closed his eyes. “You’re going to be O.K. and we’ll get you out of it. Be sure of that-we’ll get you out. But try and tell us what happened to Vince.”
Once more Jake opened his eyes.
“I’m dead,” he said in a choked whisper. “You know it-I’m dead.”
“Don’t be a fool,” Steinberg said quickly. “You’ll be O.K. But try and think now, kid. What happened to Vince?-Fred’s gotta know. We gotta find Vince.”
Jake groaned and tried to turn away, but quickly fell back on the bed. Five minutes later, when Hoffman opened the door to tell Steinberg his time was up, the little lawyer was still pleading with Jake.
Steinberg picked up a cab a half a block from the hospital and gave the driver the address. It was an apartment hotel in upper Manhattan, and the driver didn’t want to make the trip that far out of his territory, but Steinberg slipped him a ten spot and so he drove him. On the way, Steinberg muttered to himself under his breath.
“Fred ain’t gonna like it-not one little bit. He just ain’t gonna like it.”
One thing was good about it, though. Dommie was dead and Jake couldn’t last much longer. And Jake hadn’t talked. Jake wasn’t talking to anyone, not even to his own mouthpiece.
* * *
Bella Riddle looked across the oilcloth-covered kitchen table at her son and raised the napkin to wipe her eyes.
“Sammy,” she said. “Sammy, I want you should eat your food.”
“You’re not eating, Mom,” Sammy said.
“It don’t make no matter. Eat. You’re a growing boy and you gotta eat. And when you finish, I want you to go over to Grandma’s for a while. Maybe for a few days.”
Sammy pushed the plate away and his delicate, sensuous lips formed a stubborn line.
“I’m not hungry and I’m not going to Grandma’s,” he said.
Bella felt the tears starting again, but she made an effort to control herself.
“Sammy,” she said. “Sammy, what’s got into you anyway? A course you’ll go to Grandma’s. Just for a few days. Just until Daddy is better and maybe gets outta the hospital.”
“Daddy isn’t going to get better,” Sammy said.
“Of course he’s going to get better. What are you saying anyway, Sammy? An auto accident can happen to anyone. What kind of son…”
“Listen, Mama,” Sammy said. “I was downstairs a while ago. I got a tabloid. It was no auto accident. I didn’t think so this morning when the cops came ’cause cops, that many cops, don’t come around because of an auto accident. So I went downstairs and I could tell the way people looked at me. And I got a tabloid and I read all about it. I know what happened. I know all about it so there ain’t no use you’re trying to kid me.”
He stopped talking suddenly, feeling the tears coming to his own eyes. He gulped a couple of times and then spoke again, his voice suddenly thin and high-pitched.
“Oh, God,” he said, “how’m I ever going back to school? How’ll I ever even go out on the streets again. My old man a thief and a cop killer!”
“Sammy! Don’t talk that way, Sammy. Don’t dare say those things about your Daddy. He was only doing it for us. Only trying to do things for you and for me. Your Daddy is a good man. A fine…”
“A good man?” Sammy said through bitter tears. “A good man? He’s nothing but a…”
“Sammy, stop it,” his mother cried. “Don’t say it, Son. Maybe Jake made a mistake; maybe he did a wrong…”
“Mama, I read the story in the papers,” Sammy said. “It was no mistake. You always said Daddy worked in a restaurant. But it was all a lie. He’d been in jail. He had a record. He was a gambler and bookie. The papers said so and so there’s no use kidding ourselves. My old man is a crook and a…”
“He did it for us, Sammy,” Bella said. “Don’t talk ill of him now. It was for me and for you…”
Sammy stood up and shoved the table away. He wasn’t crying now and his voice was suddenly deeper and harder.
“Nuts, Mama,” he said. “Uncle Merv has four kids and he takes good care of them without robbing and killing. He’s no smarter than Daddy. You’ve said so plenty of times. A lot of men take care of their wives and kids and aren’t crooks. But me… my old man’s a cop killer. I’m proud of him, Mama-real proud. He always said I should be good and live a decent life so he could be proud of me. Yeah? Good. And so now I should be proud of him because he’s a thief and a cop killer, is that it?”
He suddenly turned and ran from the room.
Bella started to get up from the table and then slowly sank back into her chair. She dropped her head into her arms and this time there were no tears. Nothing but dry sobs as her heavy shoulders slowly weaved from side to side.
* * *
Gerald had bought all of the New York newspapers. A quick look through the morning papers turned up nothing, but there were comparatively complete stories in the early editions of the afternoon sheets.
He had to admit that the police moved fast. They didn’t have all of the answers, at least according to what the press had learned, but they did have a lot of them.
The guard had had a lucky break; police admitted that the only thing which had saved his life was the fact he had been dragged from the office by the thieves. He was going to be all right after a day or so in the hospital, but the police sergeant was dead and one of the gangsters had been killed outright. The other cop. Hardy, was not expected to live and already had been given last rites.
A second mobster, identified as Jake Riddle, ex-convict and known bookie, forty-four years of age and married, and the father of a teen-age son, was also dying. During a moment of consciousness he had been questioned, but had refused to talk. He’d asked to see his wife and child and the request had been refused.
It was believed that a third and fourth member of the gang had made a clean getaway in a second car. One of the mob cars, a Ford sedan stolen twenty-four hours previously from a parking lot in Garden City, had been abandoned at the scene of the shooting after a stray bullet had disabled it. Hardy, the patrolman who was not expected to live, had been able to tell investigating officers that a second car was driven off at the time of the shooting. The newspaper said that he had made a partial identification of the automobile.
Hanna, reading this last, paled slightly. A partial identification? He wondered just what the phrase meant. He realized that when Hardy referred to a fourth member of the gang, he must be referring to himself. He could feel his pulse quicken as the thought struck him.
One of the newspapers devoted several paragraphs to the loot itself, itemizing much of it and mentioning that its total value was well over a quarter of a million dollars. It also added that the gems were fully insured.
The dead bandit was identified as one Dominick Petri, an ex-con in his early twenties, known to officials as strictly a small-timer. Police were believed to know the identity of one of the escaped pair and claimed he was a youth who had served time with young Petri in a state reformatory.
Gerald carefully rechecked every news column, but nowhere did he see anything about the discovery of a young man’s body, filled with bullets, somewhere on a lonely road on Long Island’s North Shore.
He carefully folded the papers and stacked them on an end table when he was through with them. And then he did something he had never done before in his life.
He opened a bottle of Bourbon which had been given to him by Maryjane’s father the previous Christmas and taking a water glass from the kitchenette, poured about two and a half ounces into it. He added an ice cube and a little water and returned to his small living room and sat down and lifted the glass to his lips.
Downing the drink with a wry expression, he sat back and as the warmth of the liquor hit his stomach and spread through his veins, he felt fine. Fine and relaxed.
A drink before dinner was a fine idea. He wondered just why in the world he’d never tried it before. There were a lot of things he’d never tried before that he was suddenly determined to try.
He felt a pleasant warm glow throughout his body and suddenly he laughed aloud. He was the new Gerald Hanna. Yes, there were a lot of things he had been missing that he would soon experience. A lot of things.
His mind went to Maryjane Swiftwater then and as he thought of his fiancee, his face took on a rather hard, uncompromising expression and he shook his head ever so slightly. The idea of trying out something new with Maryjane completely failed to entrance him, although in the not too distant past he had frequently contemplated that thought with a great deal of frustrated desire and certainly no degree of distaste.
Things had certainly changed.
It was the sound of the doorbell which suddenly brought Gerald back to reality. As he stood up his eyes went to his wrist watch and he saw that it was exactly six-fifteen. He was expecting no one; he rarely if ever had visitors. For a fleeting moment it occurred to him that Maryjane might have come down from Connecticut, but quickly he dismissed the idea as utterly farfetched. Walking toward the front door, his face assumed a curious, but not alarmed expression.
There were two of them; a long thin man with iron-gray hair and a horselike face who wore old-fashioned pince-nez glasses, and a short, round, surly man with a slightly soiled white shirt under an unpressed, badly fitting suit. The thin man did the talking.
“You Hanna? Gerald Hanna?”
Gerald half blocked the doorway with his body as he answered.
“Well, are you?”
“Detective Lieutenant Hopper,” the thin man said, at the same time turning the palm of his right hand and exposing a gold shield. “May we come in?”
The short man needed no invitation, but pushed through the doorway, not waiting for Gerald’s weak, forced smile and for him to move back.
As the fat man brushed past him, Gerald felt suddenly faint. These men were police and there could be only one thing in the world which brought them to his door. Somehow or other they had traced the car to him.
He stepped back and made a conscious effort to control his quaking emotions.
The lieutenant followed the other man into the apartment, shrewd eyes quickly darting around and casing the room. Gerald gestured toward the couch and went himself to the big red-leather chair and slowly sat down. The lieutenant seemed to fold up as he slouched down on the couch, crossing long legs so that his trousers were hitched up to expose several inches of thin, scrawny bare shanks over his shoe tops, where his black socks lay in folded rings unsupported by garters. He removed his battered, gray slouch hat and ran a lean fingered hand through his short hair.
The fat man walked over by the window and just stood there, between Gerald and the door.
Gerald hesitated as Hopper took a notebook from his pocket and methodically folded back its imitation-leather cover.
“You home alone, Mr. Hanna?”
“Why yes,” Gerald said. “That is, I live here alone. Rent this apartment from people by the name of Sanderson. A Mr. Miles Sanderson and his wife. They are in Bermuda at present.”
“I see. You own a car, do you, Mr. Hanna?”
Instantly he knew that he’d been right. It was the car all right; they’d managed to trace it to him somehow. He might have known. His luck had been just too phenomenally good. But even as the thought went through his mind, Gerald was catching his second breath.
So they’d traced the car. Well, he’d expected that they might. He was prepared for that eventuality. Wasn’t that why he’d made his preparations; wasn’t it a contingency which he had foreseen?
There was no point in getting worried, no point in permitting himself to become confused and upset. Now was the time when he must play it smart; it was the moment he knew must come and the moment he had prepared himself for.
“Chevrolet,” he said. “Fifty-six convertible. Why?”
“Just wanted to know. Where’s the car now?”
“Why downstairs in the garage,” Gerald said. “Or at least it was a few minutes ago. Say, just what’s wrong anyway, Lieutenant? Have I done something…”
“Have you?” Hopper asked, looking up quickly, his face enigmatic and bland.
“Well, I mean, is something…”
“Where were you last night?” the lieutenant interrupted.
The fat man moved across the room and stood in front of Gerald.
“You don’t hear good, do you?” he said.
Hopper raised his eyes but not his voice.
“I’ll handle it, Harry,” he said. He spoke softly. “Harry-Detective Finn here-feels you should know where you were last night. It’s a simple question. Where were you?”
Gerald coughed and took out his handkerchief and wiped his mouth. “Sorry,” he said. “Well, I spent the evening playing poker. In New York. A friend’s apartment.”
“Start with the beginning. What time did the game start, who was there, where was it? You might even start before that. Just what do you do for a living?”
“I work for the Seaboard Life Insurance Company,” Gerald said. “Wall Street, New York. I’m an actuary. Been with the firm for seven years. I played poker last night at the apartment of a man named Bill Baxter, on East Seventy-eighth street, Manhattan. He’s a salesman with the same firm I work for. Quit around five-thirty and had dinner with Bill and then went with him to his apartment. Several other men from the office sat in on the game. We started playing around eight o’clock.”
“You win?” Finn cut in.
Lieutenant Hopper looked at him and frowned.
“Go on,” he said.
“Well, there was Doc Kline, Herb Potter, Shelley…”
“Never mind the rest of ’em. This Baxter got a phone?”
Gerald gave him the number, as well as Dr. Kline’s number and that of Herb Potter and he noticed that Finn, rather than the lieutenant, wrote them down in a little notebook of his own.
“When did the game break up?”
“Sometime after midnight. I can’t tell you exactly when, but I know it was pretty late. I was going to leave earlier, but the boys…”
“Never mind that,” Hopper said. “You left after midnight. Then what?”
“I came home and went to bed.”
“You came home alone? Did you drive?”
“Yes. I drove and I was alone.”
“Just how did you come home?”
“You already said that. I want to know how-what route you took.”
“The way I always do after a game. Took the Drive up to the Triborough Bridge, cut over past the airport and picked up the Cross County Highway. Turned off on Northern Boulevard and drove directly out to Roslyn. Turned off the boulevard at…”
“And you don’t remember just what time you got here? That right? Did you stop anywhere along the way? Maybe get a cup of coffee or something?”
“Nowhere. I came directly home, put the car up and went to bed. You see, I had to get up early this morning to go up to Connecticut…”
Gerald stopped suddenly, realizing what he was saying. It was a slip and he tried to recover.
“That is, I was planning last night to go up to Connecticut-I always go up early on Saturday mornings to spend the week end-and I wanted to get up early.”
“But you didn’t go up, huh?” Finn interrupted.
“Now, Harry,” Lieutenant Hopper said. “All right, did you go up?”
“No. When I woke up this morning I had a splitting headache. So I called my fiancee and told her I thought I’d skip it this week.”
“Want to give me her name and address and phone number?”
Gerald gave it to him. For several minutes after Hopper wrote it down in his book, he sat staring at the note paper and saying nothing. At last he again looked at Gerald.
“So, as near as you can remember you got home some time after midnight. You can’t say exactly when. Now, did you notice anything, anything at all out of the way while you were driving home? Say during the time you were driving along Northern Boulevard?”
“Nothing-no, nothing that I can recall,” Gerald said. “Say, maybe you can tell me what this is all about? After all, I…”
“You didn’t loan your car to anybody after you got home?”
“Anyone else got keys to it? Some friend maybe…”
“No, I have the only keys. I had an extra set, that came with the car when I bought it, but I wouldn’t have the faintest idea where they are now.”
“All right,” he said. “Now tell me, if you didn’t go up to Connecticut this morning, well then, just what did you do?”
“Got up rather late, and made breakfast. Telephoned my fiancee, as I have already explained. Then went for a ride, driving into New York, where I did a little window shopping.”
Gerald went on to explain that he had taken the Sanderson’s car and why he took it. Explained that they had asked him to use it now and then while they were away so that the battery wouldn’t run down.
Hopper asked him how he happened to go into town if he’d been feeling bad, and he explained that around midmorning his head began to clear up. So he’d decided to go into New York and shop. He gave them the address of the parking lot where he’d left the car and he was relieved when neither officer marked it down.
He said that he’d gotten back in the middle of the afternoon and had just been laying around the house taking it easy since.
He was still explaining when Finn again suddenly interrupted.
“When did you see Jake last?” he said.
Gerald looked at him, baffled.
“Jake. That’s right,” Finn said.
“I don’t know anyone named Jake,” Gerald said.
“How about Dommie-Dommie Petri, or maybe Vince Dunne-you know either of those boys, maybe?”
Gerald still looked baffled as he slowly shook his head. But his mind was racing. There was no question about it now. No question at all. Jake would be the Jake Riddle mentioned in the papers. And Dommie would be the one who had been killed by the police bullets. But Dunne-who was Dunne?
Suddenly he remembered the single paragraph in one of the afternoon papers. The one which had mentioned that police were questioning a girl named Sue Dunne. This Vince must be some relative and he must have been the third member of the gang. The one whose body Gerald had left beside the road.
“Dommie,” Gerald said. “Dommie Petri. The name seems to ring some sort of bell. But I don’t know just why. I can’t remember ever meeting or knowing anyone with that name, but still…”
Lieutenant Hopper stood up, looking tired and just a little bored.
“Let’s take a look at the Chevvie,” he said. “Don’t mind, do you?”
“Of course not.”
The lieutenant followed him out of the room and down the inside stairs to the garage. It wasn’t until they had entered the concrete room that Gerald noticed that Finn, his partner, remained upstairs.
Lieutenant Hopper must have been acutely sensitive or perhaps a little psychic.
“He wanted to make a phone call,” he said, vaguely waving at the rafters above his head. “Hope you don’t mind. Had to call his wife about something or other.”
Gerald said he didn’t mind. But he didn’t believe the wife story. Finn would be calling to check on the poker game. Well, that was fine. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Hopper walked over to the Chevvie and Gerald saw him quickly look at the license plate.
“This yours, eh?”
Hopper nodded. He walked slowly around the car, not touching it.
“Leave your keys in it overnight?” he asked.
Gerald instinctively reached for his pocket and then blushed.
“Why yes,” he said. “Sometimes I do. The fact is-” he leaned over to look at the dashboard of the car “-the fact is I did last night. I see they’re still in the ignition.”
“How about the garage door? That locked?”
“Sometimes, when I think of it. Mostly, though, it’s left unlocked. No one around here ever bothers anything.”
“I see. Then someone might have taken the car out last night after you got home, used it, and brought it back, assuming the door was left unlocked. It could have happened that way. Right?”
Gerald smiled, a little patronizingly.
“I doubt it,” he said. “I doubt it very much. I’m not a very heavy sleeper and I would certainly have heard the car starting. I’d have heard them when they returned. No, I don’t think there is much chance…”
“But it could have happened.”
“Well, yes. It’s possible. But I certainly don’t…”
“You drink much during that poker session last night?”
“Not much. A couple of beers-maybe three or four.”
“One shot of Scotch, early in the evening.”
“And nothing after you got home?”
Hopper grunted. He walked over and opened the door of the car and looked inside. He didn’t take long, but Gerald was aware that his eyes missed nothing. He pulled the front seat cushion up and checked under it and then replaced it. He slammed the door and went to the rear of the car and opened the trunk, which was unlocked. There was nothing there but the spare tire and tools for making a road change.
Gerald noticed that he completely ignored the windshield.
They spent a few minutes more as Hopper asked a number of additional questions, none of which seemed to have significance. And then, finally, they returned upstairs.
Finn was seated on the couch and he had removed his hat. He was smoking a cigar and it smelled vile.
“Well, sorry to have bothered you,” Lieutenant Hopper said, reaching for his own hat where he had placed it carefully on a side table before going down to the garage. “But you see how it is. As I told you downstairs, we’re looking for a Chevvie with New York plates which end with the number ‘3’. You just happen to have one. And we have to check everybody. Sorry to have taken up your time.”
The fat man slowly got up from the couch. He spoke without removing the cigar from the corner of his heavy mouth.
“You always get all the New York newspapers?” he asked.
He didn’t wait for an answer, but went to the door and opened it.
The lieutenant followed him out, also without waiting for Gerald to say anything. He closed the door after himself.
* * *
Neither of the officers said a word until they were in the black, unmarked police cruiser which they had left at the curb. Lieutenant Hopper started the engine and Finn slumped back on the cushions.
“Well, what do you think?”
The fat man shrugged.
“Who knows?” he said. “There was nothing at all around the place. Except a big pile of today’s newspapers. Nothing else. I got that Baxter guy on the phone and the poker game thing is on the up and up. Of course we’ll check with the others, but his story certainly seems to be O.K. Should be easy to check that part out. Only thing is, the game ended a little later than he said. But I guess it’s easy enough to miss up on the time, especially during a card game. And when you got no wife home waiting to beat your brains out.”
He took the cigar butt from his mouth, looked at it with an expression of mild disgust and then replaced it and scratched a match and relighted it.
“Seems like a clean-cut lad,” he said. “How was the car?”
“Windshield O.K.,” Hopper said. He hesitated a minute and then released the clutch and pulled away from the curb.
“It’s a damned funny coincidence though,” he said. “Two Chevvies, both with New York plates ending in ‘3’ and both out there on Northern Boulevard around the same time of night. Of course, Hardy could have been wrong about the number on the plates. A guy who’s filled with lead…”
“Hardy could be right, too, and Hanna still be in the clear,” Finn said. “He’s not the type for this sort of caper. These clean-cut boys-Sunday school boys-hell, they go in for rape and an occasional murder. That’s their dish. No, if his background checks out, he won’t be our pigeon. We’re after someone who’s tied in with Riddle and Petri. Dunne’s the lad, for my money. And Dunne has disappeared.”
“Case of time,” Lieutenant Hopper said. “Just a case of time. Punks like Dunne don’t stay disappeared for very long.”
“They don’t stay out of jail very long, either, thank God.”
“Only long enough to kill a cop or two,” Hopper said, his voice bitter.
* * *
The little man in the horn-rimmed glasses leaned away from the table and carefully capped his fountain pen before joining it with half a dozen others in his inside breast pocket. He pushed his chair out and stretched and then spoke in a garrulous voice.
“That’s it, Mr. Slaughter,” he said. “Your total worth is exactly $348,675.4.”
Slaughter grunted, reaching for the glass which held the Scotch and water. The ice cube had melted and the glass was still half full.
“And outside of sixty-two thousand in back taxes, seventeen thousand in withholding taxes, your debts are a little more than three hundred and ten thousand.”
Irving Wiener took a certain amount of quiet satisfaction in quoting the figures. He liked to be right, exactly right. It gave him a certain feeling of real superiority and he couldn’t resist a little shrug of self-complacency as he finished speaking. He was nothing, nothing more or less than a servant to a man like Slaughter.
“Your bar is making money,” Wiener said. “The cafeteria breaks even and most of your concessions are all right. But that night club…” he threw up his hands.
“The night club is new. It’ll pan out,” Slaughter said.
“That well may be,” Wiener replied. “But these other items-these things which you have listed as a’s and b’s and c’s and so forth. I just can’t understand.”
“You’re not supposed to understand,” Slaughter said. “It isn’t your business to understand. All I want from you is to know where I stand.”
Once more Irving Wiener shrugged.
“It’s very simple,” he said. “You need money. At once-or at least within the next thirty days. If the tax people take out a lien, and they will, along with the creditors who are beginning to act…”
“Yeah, I know. I know all about it. So I’ll get money. Don’t worry about it. I’ll get money.”
“There’s nothing in these figures,” Wiener waved at the papers stretched out on the table, “nothing here that tells me where. I certainly wouldn’t know…”
“There’s a hell of a lot you wouldn’t know,” Slaughter said. “A hell of a lot you wouldn’t even want to know. Just you do the work I’m paying you for and don’t even think about anything else. I’ll do all the thinking that’s necessary.”
He started to push the papers away and as he did the phone on the desk rang and he quickly reached for it. For a moment he listened and then spoke into it quickly.
“Five minutes,” he said. “I’ll be clear-in just five minutes.”
Wiener took the hint. Standing up, he reached for his hat.
“Have to be going now,” he said. “But you had better start…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Slaughter said. “Just snap the lock so the door is open as you leave. I’m expecting someone.”
He didn’t bother to stand or to say good-by.
By the time Slaughter had gone to the portable bar and mixed himself a fresh drink, Steinberg had slunk into the apartment noiselessly, relocking the door after himself. Slaughter asked him if he wanted a drink, purposely holding back his impatience.
Steinberg shook his head.
“It’s good and bad,” he said. He looked around the apartment and sat down nervously. “This place, Fred,” he said. “Makes me nervous. How can you tell that it might not be bugged?”
“Don’t be a damned fool,” Slaughter said. “Who” the hell’s going to bug me? Nobody’s got…”
“They bug everyone nowadays. Why even…”
“Just stop worrying,” Slaughter said. “Let’s have it. You saw-Jake?”
“That’s the good part,” the lawyer said. “He’s dying. Can’t last more than a few more hours. And he hasn’t talked, He won’t talk.”
“I know that,” Slaughter said, “Of course he won’t talk. Good God, Jake’s got that kid of his and he knows. Knows what would happen if he talked. I never worried about Jake. But did he talk to you? What’s with the punk? Did he…”
“Nothing,” Steinberg said. “Absolutely nothing. He didn’t know a thing.”
“Was he conscious; was he able to make sense. Hell, he has to know.”
“He was conscious all right. Weak and could hardly speak, but he understood me. The only thing he remembers is the rumble and getting shot. Saw the kid for just a bare moment and the kid had the stuff. He was climbing into the car. That’s all he knows. Everything.”
“This second car the police yak about? How about that? Did Jake see any second car?”
“He saw nothing. Nothing but the cops, shooting at him. There was no second car, not that Jake saw anyway.”
Slaughter downed his drink in a gulp and again cursed. “I just don’t get it,” he said. “Of course the newspapers could be wrong. They could have got a bum steer from the cops. But it don’t sound like it. The kid had to make a getaway somehow and a second car makes sense as far as that goes. The thing is, he would have had to have it planned and I know damned well that young punk didn’t have the brains to be a double-crosser. Nobody could have reached him. He wasn’t smart enough. No, I just can’t buy that second car thing. On the other hand, where the hell is he? Why hasn’t he made a contact?”
“Maybe the cops got him. Maybe…”
“Don’t you believe it,” Slaughter said. “Don’t you believe it for a minute. Not that they aren’t capable of something like that. The papers said they checked the kid sister, but that was only natural. They knew Dunne hung around with Dommie. But they didn’t get him. It would have leaked out somehow. No, the insurance company is making too big a stink about the jewels. If they’d have got him, they’d have got the loot.”
“Maybe the cops just glommed onto…”
“Even the cops aren’t that stupid. Money-yes. It could happen. But not hot ice. No, the kid got away somehow.”
“Well, then maybe he just powdered. Figures on fencing the stuff himself.”
Slaughter slowly shook his head.
“I can’t see it,” he said. “Not that kid. Hell, I know the sister; I know what kind of punk he was. Just smart enough to know that he’d never be able to unload without connections and he had no connections. Somebody else, yes. But not the Dunne kid.”
“All right, Fred,” he said, “then you name it. What
“It could be that the rumble just plain threw him into a frenzy; scared him half silly and he’s hiding out someplace. With Riddle and Dommie gone, he may just…”
“He’s got my number,” Steinberg said. “That’s the one thing we know he’s got. Jake drilled it into him; told him if anything happened the first thing he should do is call my office. He wouldn’t be afraid to call his lawyer. No, something…”
“There’s nothing to do but sit tight. Sooner or later he’s got to call. You got someone on the phones, just in case…”
“Twenty-four hours a day,” Steinberg said. “And the office knows where I am. They’ll contact me the very second there’s word.”
“All right then,” Slaughter said. He looked down at his wrist watch.
“Seven-thirty,” he said. “Solly’s on his way up. Hang around and we’ll have some food sent in. We can play a few hands of pinochle and just sit tight and wait it out for a while. There ain’t nothing else to do. It just may be that that call will come in.”