A Piece of the Action - Stephen Solomita - ebook

A Piece of the Action ebook

Stephen Solomita

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In 1957, a young cop boxes his way to a gold shield, and finds corruption everywhere he turns. Before he became one of the most feared detectives in the New York Police Department, Stanley Moodrow was a boxer. A big kid with sledgehammer fists and a body that didn╔t know when to quit, he won his first twenty bouts handily, and might have gone pro if he saw a future in it. But the men in Moodrow╔s family have always been cops, and he wanted to join their ranks. As a young recruit, Moodrow knows that the pain he has suffered in the ring puts him a step ahead of the fresh-faced youngsters around him. Using his boxing talent as a way to get the attention of the brass, he wins his detective's badge in record time. But when he starts life among the elite, he learns that there is nothing in the department that can't be bought. Even the blood of the innocents has a price tag.

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CONTENTS

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

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About the Book

In 1957, a young cop boxes his way to a gold shield, and finds corruption everywhere he turns.

Before he became one of the most feared detectives in the New York Police Department, Stanley Moodrow was a boxer. A big kid with sledgehammer fists and a body that didn’t know when to quit, he won his first twenty bouts handily, and might have gone pro if he saw a future in it. But the men in Moodrow’s family have always been cops, and he wanted to join their ranks.

As a young recruit, Moodrow knows that the pain he has suffered in the ring puts him a step ahead of the fresh-faced youngsters around him. Using his boxing talent as a way to get the attention of the brass, he wins his detective’s badge in record time. But when he starts life among the elite, he learns that there is nothing in the department that can’t be bought. Even the blood of the innocents has a price tag.

About the Author

Stephen Solomita (b. 1943) is a prolific author of thrillers. Born in Bayside, Queens, he worked as a cab driver before becoming a novelist in the late 1980s. His first novel, A Twist of the Knife (1988), won acclaim for its intimate depiction of New York’s rough patches, its gritty style, and its dark vision of urban terrorism. This debut introduced Stanley Moodrow, a disaffected New York Police Department detective.Solomita wrote six more novels starring Moodrow, moving the character into a PI practice, and concluded the series with Damaged Goods (1996).

A Piece of the Action

A Stanley Moodrow Crime Novel

Stephen Solomita

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2013 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1992 by Stephen Solomita

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Erin Fitzsimmons

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-442-5

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book is for Kathy.

I would like to thank Mrs. Kathleen Roche of the Hagstrom Map Company, Inc., for supplying me with a vintage N.Y.C. 5-Boro Atlas. The Hagstrom 5-Boro has been the cab driver’s bible for as long as anyone can remember. I also have to thank my researcher, Judy Appello. Someday, back issues of publications like the Daily News, Billboard, Variety, and Vogue will be nicely stored in computers attached to laser printers. But, for now, access means hours of peering at microfilm that looks like it was printed in the nineteenth century and lost rolls of dimes poured into copiers that don’t (or won’t) work.

This is a work of fiction. Despite the well-documented (by the Knapp Commission) existence of the pad. Example: The pad was almost exclusively controlled by the patrol division of the NYPD. When it came to corruption, detectives, like Sal Patero, were strictly on their own. A word to the wiseguy.

One

December 26, 1957

JAKE LEIBOWITZ STOOD IN front of the bathroom mirror, trimming his tiny mustache and cursing his eyesight. He was all of thirty-seven years old and already his eyes were going bad. Walter Winchell’s column in the Mirror was nothing more than a gray blur. If he wanted to read, to keep up with the fast crowd, he was going to have to get glasses.

“With the Jews, it’s always the eyes,” he said to himself. “If I don’t watch it, I’ll end up with coke-bottle glasses and a gray beard.” He shook his head in disgust. “Now I’m talkin’ to myself, again.”

But he couldn’t be angry with himself. Not on the brink of a New Year’s which had the promise of ushering in a really new year. He’d been waiting a long time to get his big break, long enough to know there might not be another one coming. He intended to make the most of it.

“I got lost for a while,” he muttered, lifting the scissors to the edge of his upper lip. “But I ain’t lost now.”

The jet-black hairs of his mustache were no more than an eighth of an inch long. When he stepped far enough away to bring the mirror into focus, they melted into one another like a dark smudge on a piece of paper.

He tossed the scissors into the bathtub. “I shoulda gone to the barber this afternoon. Gotta look good for the wops.” He picked up a hairbrush and began to tear at the tight curls on his head. Jake kept his hair short, but he couldn’t keep it down. His curls, especially in wet weather, stood out in every direction. Even in a suit, he looked more like a shaggy-headed beatnik than a nice Jewish gangster. That’s why he never left his apartment without wearing a hat.

Jake loved hats the way some men love shoes, kept a dozen in his closet (his mother’s closet, he reminded himself, mustn’t forget that little fact) and usually tried on most of them before leaving the apartment.

“I never met a hat I didn’t like,” he said, chuckling at his own joke.

Soon, very soon, he’d have enough hats to fill a dozen closets. And he’d shop for his suits at Brooks Brothers instead of Robert Hall. Maybe he’d even have a tailor make one up by hand. But not a Jew tailor with glasses so thick they looked more like binoculars. He’d go to Chinatown and find a tailor from Hong Kong. Let the chink make him a gray sharkskin suit, then buy a pair of Italian shoes and a matching tie and, of course, a snap-brim fedora.

“It shoulda happened long ago, Jake,” he told himself. “If life was fair. Which it ain’t.”

The bitch about it was that you could control a lot of things in your life, but you couldn’t control everything. For instance, you couldn’t control wars. He’d been a twenty-year-old kid when the war broke out, and he’d been coming up in the world. The Depression (they called it the Great Depression though he couldn’t see anything great about it) had hit the packed immigrant neighborhoods of the Lower East Side with the wallop of a Colt .45. Even the gangsters had suffered. He should know, his father had been a gangster. At least until they found him floating in the East River.

That was in ’33 and life for the Leibowitz family had been harder than hard after Poppa made the mistake of challenging the wops. The wops had a genius for organization. They based it on their families and the villages they’d come from in Sicily. Jews didn’t do that. There was no Pinsk gang, no Bialystoker mob. Jewish gangsters wanted their kids to be doctors (or, at least, to marry doctors). And there were a lot more Italians than Jews in the good old U.S.A. All the Jews had come to New York (most of them to the Lower East Side which, in the 20’s and 30’s, seemed more like the Warsaw Ghetto than Manhattan) while the Italians had spread out. A wop who wanted to kill a Jew could call in a button man from Boston or Providence or Chicago. A Jew who wanted to kill a wop usually did it himself.

Still, even considering all that, even considering his poppa’s big mistake, Jake Leibowitz had done okay. He’d begun by shoplifting his way through the middle of the Depression, working with several other boys, including an Italian. Then, in the natural course of things as he understood them, he’d graduated to commercial burglary, shimmying through unlocked bathroom windows until he’d outgrown his specialty. Until he was old enough to pick up a rod and take what he wanted.

It was too bad about the war. Too bad, because he’d understood the essential lesson. The wops didn’t really care what you did to put bread in your mouth as long as you took care of them, as long as you gave them a piece of your bread. What was that old saying? The only sure things are death and taxes? For Jake, the wops were the government and the tribute he paid them was the gangster version of the graduated income tax.

Jake took another step backward and the face in the mirror jumped into focus. It wasn’t a bad face, all in all. True, his eyes were set too close and his thin nose had a definite hook. But those eyes were a mild blue and the nose was small. Meanwhile, his cleft chin (as formidable as Robert Mitchum’s) dominated his beak, just as high, prominent cheekbones dominated those narrow eyes.

“A regular Tony Curtis,” he observed. “Only bigger.” He tightened his chest muscles until the individual bands of tissue criss-crossing his ribs stood out like leather straps. He’d always been strong and the war had made him stronger. Not that he’d spent any time fighting the Germans or the Japanese. Jake’s career in the regular army had ended ten minutes after he arrived in Fort Dix to begin his basic training. Sergeant T. Blair Johnson, in the manner of drill sergeants everywhere, had put his face within two inches of Jake’s, and screamed out a series of obscenities, most of which concerned Jake’s mother. Two days later, when Sergeant Johnson finally woke up, he was lying in the base hospital, recovering from a fractured skull.

“It was the war,” Jake muttered. “The war put me in a bad mood. It wasn’t fair.”

Jake had first reported to the induction center on Whitehall Street in the spring of 1939. The army had evaluated him thoroughly, then declared him 4F, which was supposed to mean permanently unfit for duty. So why, in 1942, even though millions of schmucks were volunteering, had they called him back, reexamined him, overlooked his extensive criminal record, and re-classified him 1A? He’d stopped asking himself the question three weeks later when he got a telegram: Greetings, it began.

What had bothered him most, as the packed bus drove through New Jersey on its way to Fort Dix, was how happy the other recruits were. They’d laughed and joked, bragging about what they would do to the Krauts and the Japs, a bunch of schmucks eager to get their brains blown out. And for what? There was nothing in it for them. Nothing but crumby food, aching bones and an early death.

“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” Jake tossed several punches at the face in the mirror. His hands were very fast. Always had been. The redneck sergeant unlucky enough to greet the bus carrying Jake Leibowitz had been out before he knew what was happening. That was part of what Jake called “Plan B.”

Plan A had been just to disappear, stretch it out until he was caught, then do his time. But there was no way for him to operate if he was on the run. He was just getting started with the wops, doing them little favors, hoping for a piece of the gambling east of Canal Street. If he spent the rest of the war (and the damn thing could last for ten years the way it was going) in Toronto with Uncle Bernard, his career would be up shit’s creek. Permanently.

Better to step right up and take your medicine. Better to pound on some officer, do a year in the joint and get back to work. The wops were being drafted, too. If he got out before they did, there’d be plenty of action.

By the time the bus had arrived at Fort Dix, Jake was too crazy to wait for an officer. Which was just as well, because they ended up giving him eighteen months for what he’d done to the sergeant, six months more than he expected. If he’d beaten an officer, they probably would have given him five years.

But even the extra six months would have been okay. As long as he behaved himself, he’d be out in a little over a year. He was going to a joint called Leavenworth, in Kansas. How bad could a joint in Kansas be?

“Leeeeee-bow-witz,” Deputy Warden Blackstone had drawled. “What kind of name is that, boy? Is that a Jewish name? Are you a Jewwwww-boy?”

Standing in front of the Dep, flanked by a pair of massive, blond, crewcut sergeants, Jake finally understood that the earth did not end at the far side of the Hudson River.

“Yessir,” he answered.

“Leeeeee-bow-witz, are you from Newwww Yawk City?”

“Yessir.”

His fellow convicts had been no more accepting than Dep Blackstone. They thought all Jews were soft, flabby tailors. Hiding behind thick glasses, cringing over their prayers. Jake had had to prove himself again and again. Each time he did, a court-martial added a few years to his sentence. The end result was the opposite of what he’d intended. By the time he’d gotten out, WWII and the Korean War were over. The wops didn’t even remember him.

On the other hand, twelve years in the slammer had given him a confidence and maturity he might otherwise have never achieved. After a time, somewhere in the spring of ’45, the names had stopped. No more “kike” or “sheeny.” But that didn’t mean his fellow cons had seen him as one of the boys. They’d held their tongues because they were afraid of him, not because they’d liked him.

Jake had begun to talk to himself on the day he’d realized that he couldn’t fight his way to acceptance. He would never be one of them. It was like the Italians, in a way. A Jew could work with the Italians, but he would never be equal to the lowest Sicilian. Meyer Lansky, whose name was in the papers almost every day, was a good example. He’d created his own gang because he could never get in with the wops, could never become an ordinary soldier, much less a Don.

“Them old Jews was tough,” Jake said. “Hymie Weiss? Bugsy Siegel? Louis Lepke? Hell, Arnold Rothstein was king of New York when Al Capone was still suckin’ on his mother’s tit.” Stepping into his bedroom, Jake began to dress. “But they musta not had kids or somethin’. The kids I come up with’re movin’ outta the neighborhood. Goin’ ta bullshit Queens or Brooklyn. Can’t wait to get away.”

He pulled a silk undershirt over his head, then stepped into silk boxer shorts. It was kind of depressing—the only luxury he could afford went on the inside where no one could see it. But that was all going to change. He’d put a lot of effort into attracting the wops’ attention. Doing a warehouse here, hijacking a truck there—fencing the loot to a Jew with a loose mouth. He and the only two pals he could dredge up—Izzy Stein and Abe Weinberg.

One day, two gorillas had arrived on his doorstep. He’d known them right away. They worked for Antonio “Steppy” Accacio. Steppy Accacio, if he wasn’t exactly Sam Trafficante, was an up-and-comer, a connected man with a finger in half a dozen Lower East Side pies.

“We only just heard about ya,” one of the gorillas, Joe Faci, had said politely.

“I understand,” Jake had responded, just as politely. “Whatta ya gotta get?”

“Ten percent. And it would be good if you would fence ya merchandise with our guy on West Street.”

“I got the money upstairs.”

“We’ll go with ya.”

“Nah, it’s my mother’s apartment. She’s home.”

Faci had thought about it for a minute, searching Jake’s face. “That would be all right,” he’d responded. “Ya won’t be long, I hope?”

“Two minutes.”

Jake had made it in one and a half, emerging with a stuffed envelope he’d been saving for months.

“How come we didn’t know about ya before this?” Faci had asked, accepting the envelope. “You ain’t such a young guy.”

Jake had explained about the army and Leavenworth and Faci had listened with respect. He would go back to his boss and pass the information over with the envelope. Jake Leibowitz had done twelve years of very hard time. He was a man you could work with. A man you could trust. He wouldn’t open up the first time the cops slapped him around.

Fifteen minutes later, his mustache as good as he was going to get it, Jake Leibowitz sat in the front seat of his mother’s 1951 Packard Clipper and studied his two companions intently. The both of them, Izzy Stein and Abe Weinberg, were top-notch in his book. Loyal and bright, they were everything good Jewish boys were supposed to be. Except, he had to admit, for the “good” part. And they weren’t boys, either, but hardened ex-cons who’d somehow failed to take advantage of the G.I. Bill.

“Ya know what to do, right?” Jake looked hard at Izzy who looked away. “Ya know who I’m talkin’ to, right?”

Izzy shrugged. “Whatta ya worried about, Jake? Ain’t I been doin’ it all along?”

What bothered Jake was that Izzy, though he’d done two short bits up in Elmira, had never worked with a gun before Jake recruited him. Not that Izzy was soft. Izzy’s prior criminal career had been characterized by a very practical truth: you could get yourself pinned for a hundred burglaries and not do as much time as an eighteen-year-old kid who ripped off the local gas station with his father’s .38.

“It’s one thing to hold a piece on some truck driver who’s crappin’ his pants,” Jake said calmly. “What we’re gonna do here is entirely different.”

The set-up was pretty simple, really. The whorehouse was run by a married couple, Al and Betty O’Neill, who’d fallen behind on their payments to Steppy Accacio. Al and Betty were making noises like they didn’t see any reason why they should pay the cops and the mob. Accacio wanted to teach the loving couple a lesson they should have learned before they went into the whore business. Namely, he wanted Jake and his boys to pistol-whip the crap out of the pair of them. Jake could keep whatever he found on the premises for his trouble.

“What it is, Jake,” Faci had explained, “is Steppy wants that you should put ya hearts inta ya work.”

“I get too enthusiastic,” Jake had replied, “it might be they won’t wake up. I ain’t a doctor, Mr. Faci. I can’t tell the difference between almost and dead.”

“Findin’ that line,” Faci had flatly declared, “is the difference between being an artist and a mug.”

Izzy finally raised his head. He met Jake’s eyes and held them. “You got nothin’ to worry about, Jake. I already decided to do it. I ain’t some fairy who’s gonna chicken out at the last minute.”

“How ’bout you, Abe? You hot to trot?” Jake turned his attention to a grinning Abe Weinberg.

“Ready, ready, Teddy, to rock and roll.” Abe held up a six-inch sap. “I brought my pal, Elvis, along for the ride.” He dumped the sap in his coat pocket and dragged out his .45, the one he’d taken off an MP in 1944. “I don’t wanna mess up Little Richard doin’ balop-bam-boom on some pimp’s head.”

Jake, unable to keep a straight face, broke into a smile. He wanted to ruffle Abe’s hair the way you’d rub the head of a smartass kid, but he was afraid that he’d never get his hand back out. Abe was crazy into rock music—Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson and, of course, the King, Elvis Presley. To Jake, they looked like a bunch of greasy-haired punks, the kind that hung out on the corner and never went anywhere, but Abe worshiped them, even the niggers. He sang all day (except when Jake told him to shut up) and combed his long straight hair into a greasy four-inch pompadour. His favorite outfit was a black leather jacket, black denim trousers and black motorcycle boots. He would have been wearing them right now, if Jake hadn’t ordered him to put on an overcoat.

Izzy was Abe’s exact opposite in every respect but the most important one, his relationship with the law. Izzy was small and wiry, whereas Abe was tall and broad. Izzy’s beak was so big it almost covered his thin mouth and receding chin, while Abe looked like a damned Irishman. Tall and raw-boned, Abe’s tiny, upturned nose and the spray of freckles across his cheekbones were almost ridiculous on a man named Abe Weinberg.

“Look here, Abe, I want ya should calm yourself down a little bit,” Jake said.

“Ya know somethin, Daddy-O, you got a way of takin’ all the fun outta life. Like, don’t be cruel, okay?”

“Cut the crap, Abe. I don’t want them people unconscious before they tell us where the money’s hid. You don’t hit nobody. Ya wave that friggin’ forty-five and keep ya distance. Understand?”

Jake’s temper was legendary. Abe understood that. When Jake lost his temper, it stayed lost.

“Don’t be so nervous, Jake.” Abe’s voice was soft and soothing. “It’s gonna go all right.”

“It better.” He took a second to look into the eyes of both men. “C’mon, let’s get it over with.”

They made no effort to hide themselves as they crossed the street and approached the red door marking 800 Pitt Street. This was a lesson for the whole neighborhood, a lesson from the wops to any fool who believed he could operate independently. Not that there was anyone out on the street. The light rain was mixed with ice, now. It was more than enough to discourage the locals.

Jake knocked twice, paused, then knocked twice again. The door opened immediately and the trio stepped inside. The fat man standing in the hallway, Al O’Neill, began to back up as soon as he saw them.

“Where ya goin’, pal?” Jake asked, his .45 rising until it pointed directly at Al O’Neill’s mouth. “You got a hot date or somethin’?”

“What, what, what …”

“Where’s the bitch? She in the back?”

“You want a woman?”

“I’m talkin’ about your old lady,” Jake said. He stepped forward and jammed the barrel of his .45 into the fat man’s mouth. “Don’t fuck with me.”

O’Neill brought his hand to his mouth. Blood ran down along his fingers, soaking into the cuff of his shirt. “Don’t kill me,” he whispered. “Please, don’t kill me.”

“I want the bitch,” Jake repeated. “I want the bitch right now.”

“Please, please, please.”

“Shit.” Jake drove his foot into the fat man’s crotch. “I know the bitch is in here somewheres. Take us to her or I’ll blow ya friggin’ head off.”

Jake knew exactly where Betty O’Neill was, but now that he’d demanded obedience, he couldn’t very well back down. He cocked the .45 and the sharp click of the hammer settling into place had a sobering effect on the retching Al O’Neill. The fat man pushed himself to his feet and led Jake down a narrow hallway to a door at the rear of the building.

“It’s me,” he called, pushing his way inside.

The thin, almost haggard woman sitting behind the desk was every bit as shocked by the appearance of Jake, Izzy and Abe as her husband had been. Her reaction, on the other hand, was far different.

“You coward,” she screamed at her husband. “You just let the bastards in.”

“I didn’t,” Al protested. “They used the signal. If you weren’t so goddamned cheap, we woulda had a peephole and I wouldn’t have to let people in without knowin’ who they are.”

Betty O’Neill rose to her feet, her eyes riveted to her husband’s. “Ya coulda asked,” she screamed. “Ya coulda asked who it was.”

“What’re you, a moron?” Al was spitting pieces of white enamel each time he spoke, but he didn’t seem to notice. “You wanna ask guys comin’ to a whorehouse to shout their names out? If ya didn’t squeeze every nickel until it bleeds, you woulda listened to me and paid Accacio his vig.” He suddenly turned to Jake. “Look, I tried to make her pay up. I swear. But ya can’t make this bitch do nothin’.”

“Shut the fuck up.” Jake swung the .45 in a long arc, bringing the barrel down on the pimp’s bald skull. He put so much force into it that he was sure the .45 was bent and he made a mental note to check the automatic before he fired it again. The blow, he noted with satisfaction, had split Al’s forehead, from the hairline to the bridge of his nose. The flow of blood was astonishing.

“Where’s the money?” Jake asked calmly.

“You talkin’ to me?” Betty said. Despite everything, she was still defiant.

Jake nudged her unconscious husband with the toe of his shoe. There was no response. “Where’s the money?”

“What money?”

“Whatever you got. And it better be plenty.”

“It’s only nine o’clock. We’re just gettin’ started. I didn’t take in more than fifty bucks the whole night.”

“Izzy,” Jake said, “would you talk to the woman?”

Izzy nodded solemnly. He handed his .38 to Abe and moved behind the desk. Betty, her anger suddenly transformed, put her hands up defensively.

“Hey, look at this,” Izzy said, grabbing the woman’s left arm. “She’s a dope addict.”

Jake looked at the dark scars running up the woman’s arms and shook his head in disgust. Now it made sense. Betty O’Neill was putting Steppy Accacio’s piece of the pie in her arm. It was pretty amazing. Before the war ended, nobody Jake knew had even heard of heroin. Sure, there were hopheads around, but they were getting opium from the chinks or morphine from the crooked doctors. The heroin had started coming into New York with the returning G.I.’s. Now, it was everywhere and the profits were unbelievable, like Prohibition all over again. Convincing the wops to give him a piece of the dope action had become Jake’s major goal in life.

“See if ya could find her stash,” Jake said.

“Right.”

It didn’t take long. Most junkies couldn’t stand being more than a few feet from their scag and Betty O’Neill was no exception. Izzy pulled twenty bags of heroin out of the center desk drawer and held them up for Jake’s inspection.

“Take ’em in the toilet,” Jake instructed. “And flush ’em down.”

“No,” Betty said. “It’s not mine. I mean it’s not all mine. It’s for the girls, the ones that use.”

Cute, Jake thought. The O’Neills were dealin’ dope on the side. And not givin’ Steppy his piece. Jake took the heroin from Izzy and cradled it in his palm.

“What it is,” he said, “is that you should tell us where the money is if ya wanna keep your dope. And I’m talkin’ about all the money, not just what you got in the drawer. I want what you got under the floorboards. Or behind the wall. Or in the ceiling. Now, what you should consider is that I’m gonna find it anyway. If I can’t beat it outta you, I’ll wake up your old man and get it from him. Ya can’t protect the money, but ya could keep ya dope. I know you Irish got potatoes instead of brains between your ears, but I think even a spud-head, like yourself, could figure this one out.”

Jake was right. Betty O’Neill, after considering his proposition for a moment, crossed the room and pulled up a section of the floorboard to reveal a small pile of banded fives, tens and twenties. Jake estimated the take at close to six hundred dollars. He put the money into his pockets, filling his jacket and his overcoat, then nodded to Izzy.

“Do what ya gotta do,” he said.

Izzy, perhaps to impress his boss, approached the job enthusiastically. He used his fists and the leg of a chair instead of his .38, but the only drawback to this approach was that he had to hit Betty O’Neill thirty times to produce the desired effect. Each time he drove his fist into her ribs, he received two rewards: the sharp crack of splintering cartilage and Betty O’Neill’s equally sharp scream.

“He hits pretty hard for a little guy,” Jake observed.

“Gotta rip it up,” Abe sang, “gotta tear it up.”

Izzy kept at his work until Betty stopped screaming. Then he let her drop and all three men turned to leave. When they saw the small brown man standing in the doorway, they did a double-take worthy of the Three Stooges.

“Que pasa?” Luis Melenguez asked as the three men stared at him, wide-eyed. “Que pasa,” he repeated, as Abe Weinberg pulled Little Richard out of his coat pocket. “Que pasa, que pasa, que pasa,” as the hammer drew back and the automatic exploded and a .45 caliber slug blew the back of his head off.

“What’d ya do that for?” Jake asked, wondering if he should be angry or not. “It was just a friggin’ spic.”

“I hadda make my contribution, didn’t I?”

Two

January 2, 1958

NYPD PATROLMAN STANLEY MOODROW sat before a full length mirror in the boys’ locker room of Robert Lehman High School and watched while his trainer, Sergeant Allen Epstein, wrapped his huge hands with a narrow strip of white gauze.

“Tighter, Sarge,” he hissed. “A little tighter.”

“You sure?” Epstein answered, dropping the gauze bandage to reach for a roll of white surgical tape.

“I gotta go six tonight. I don’t wanna hurt my hands in the first round.”

“You can’t hurt your hands punching air, Stanley. This guy’s fast.”

Moodrow tried to frown, but found himself grinning instead. Punching air? The phrase summed up his whole career. “Punching air” and “too damned big.” It was funny, in a way. The last fight of a boxer’s career wasn’t supposed to be held in a Brooklyn high school. And it wasn’t supposed to be the most important fight of that career. The last fight was supposed to come after a career filled with main events in Madison Square Garden, with championship belts held aloft, with popping flashbulbs and crowds of reporters.

Moodrow turned away from Epstein and curled his hands into fists. Satisfied, he studied himself in the mirror. Or, at least, he studied that portion of himself visible in the narrow glass. If he wanted to see the whole of his six foot six, 245-pound frame, he’d have to stand on the other side of the locker room. But he didn’t want to see his chest or his shoulders. Stanley Moodrow was looking into his own eyes, looking for any sign of indecision.

“Too damned big,” he thought. That’s what his first serious trainer, Sammy Turro, had told him. “You’re too damned big, Stanley. Ya stay in the fight game, ya gonna get your ass kicked.”

Moodrow had begun his fighting career in 1948, when he was fifteen years old. Most kids take up boxing because they’re afraid, but not Stanley Moodrow. He was always the biggest kid in his class, always a head taller than the tallest student. Maybe that was why, despite his good grades, he was cast as a dummy, a dope. The other kids made fun of him and he reacted, as kids will, by beating the crap out of them. That ended the teasing, but it hadn’t made him popular.

No, the end result of his schoolyard victories was that the losers, the hoods and the dummies, came to admire him, while the rest of the school left him entirely alone. Stanley Moodrow knew all about losers—growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, there was no way to avoid them—and he wanted no part of their lives. Lost in arrogance, they hung out on every street corner, sucking on bottles of beer, dreaming of easy scores and easier sex. Right up until the day a judge sent them up the river.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!