Lou Ryan's new case: Dames, Gams, Goons, Goners & Bribes
"Lou, wake up! Unlock the door, Lou."
What the hell..."What's all the racket about?" Oh, that's right, the dame works here.
"Oh, doll, yeah, hold on; I forgot you start work today."
"You know, Lou, you are going to have to take your business more seriously, since my livelihood depends on it."
"Sure; do you mind if I have a little coffee, first? I am not so alert this early in the morning."
"Lou, it's almost ten-thirty. I thought you would be angry at me for showing up so late."
The dame evidently wasn't a morning person either. I like that. I plugged the hot plate in, and started the coffee. The phone started ringing.
"I'll answer it, it's my job, you know."
"Go right ahead doll, I hate talking on that thing anyway."
"Good morning, Lou Ryan detective agency, how may I help you?"
"Yes, okay--yes, yes I understand. We will be expecting you sir. Okay, sure, thanks, goodbye."
"Well that was cryptic. Who was it?"
"It was Mr. Zeke Turner. He said you know him. He wants to meet with us at noon."
Yes, my old buddy, Zeke. I wonder what's got his fedora in a crunch.
"So, did he say why he wanted us?"
"Nope, he just said he would be here at noon to discuss something important."
The dame and I sat down and drank our coffee. The fog was beginning to lift from my brain. I haven't seen Zeke in a few years. We live in the same city, but he works on the north shore. We lost touch after I quit. I just couldn't take all those snobby clients with their domestic issues. Zeke was pretty sore about the whole deal.
Zeke was right on time with his old rat-tat-tat knock right before he entered the office.
"Hello, you scruffy ol' gumshoe. Long time no see."
"Yeah, back at you, How's life on the ritzy part of town?"
"Hey, it could have been all yours, too, buddy."
"Yeah well, that fancy stuff is not for me, see. I like this place fine. I look out my window and see real people. No appointment necessary; besides, it gets boring following some snooty guy's cheating wife all day."
"Boy, are you behind the times, buddy. Don't you ever read the Tribune?"
I sat down with my feet up on my desk while Gloria sat on the chair meant for clients, pretending to be taking notes. The pad of paper had a few words and a bit of scribbling. Zeke kept pacing while he told his story.
"I was hired by a society dame to protect her from her husband. She claimed he was involved in a conspiracy plot to murder a judge. The dame had a feeling her husband was catching on to her snooping, because she had one close call with death. She was coming out of a shop one evening, when a mugger grabbed her purse and was about to stab her when he was interrupted by an off duty cop. The mugger ran off with her purse, but failed to stab her. She hired me after that event, saying she was certain he meant to kill her; not just steal from her."
"Well maybe the dame was wrong. He may have been trying to scare her into giving up the purse without a fight. It doesn't mean he was really going to stab her."
"Yeah, that's what I thought, too. I took the job because I figured it was easy money. Later, I'd tell the dame she was safe and all, and that I couldn't take her money anymore. She paid me five grand up front as a retainer, you know. I mean, that's the money these rich folks throw around, Lou."
"It must be nice, Zeke; then what happened?"
"Well, I followed her around day after day. I made myself as invisible as possible, you know, so her husband and his goons wouldn't get suspicious. Then one night I got a phone call to be at the Water Tower at midnight. The voice was whispery, but he said if I wanted to help Mrs. Drake he could give me some reliable information that would help make a case against her husband."
"Whoa there, Zeke, didn't you smell a set-up? Or did all that sweet bouquet of success block your senses? They could have plugged you when you showed up at the place, They‘re toying with you, Zeke."
Zeke didn't respond right away. He reached on the floor near the file cabinet and grabbed a rolled-up newspaper. "You should read these once in a while, Lou." He unfolded the paper and turned it toward me. My jaw dropped.
There on the headlines was the reason Zeke came to me. I read them to myself: Local Socialite's Body found near Water Tower. I didn't have to read the rest of the story at the moment, to get the picture.
"Now do you know why I need you, partner?"
I just nodded my head, stood up, and pushed my chair over to him. He collapsed into it as if a huge burden had been lifted from his chest.
"I let my client down, Lou; we need to find that rat bastard."
"There won't be any we involved, here. That judge is not the only sucker whose life is in danger. They are on to you, Zeke. You need a safe place to hide. I need to find out what cases are coming up in court. If I spot a connection to a case involving Drake's interests, I could get to the presiding judge first."
"I can get you that court schedule and the judges names. I have a friend who is a court stenographer. She will be finished around three O‘clock; then I can call her"
Zeke was getting plenty of information from the court dame. I had a feeling there was something more than friendship going on there. After about ten minutes of gabbing and a lot of scribbling, Zeke made these kissing sounds and hung up the phone. It was just too syrupy for me.
"Okay, here's the list of upcoming court cases and the presiding judges. The judges whose names appear second are the back-ups, in case the first judge can't do it."
I looked down the list until one case jumped out at me. I saw the name, Ernesto Carrillo; Ernie to those who know him. He was the muscle sent to inflict pain on those poor suckers who were late paying their gambling debts. This was an extortion case, and if he was one of Drake's goons, he would have a lot of information that could be traded for a deal. Drake wouldn't want to take a chance with him on trial.
I looked at the judge's name. Judge Gerald Casey was listed as presiding judge, and Judge William Toomey was the back-up. This had to be the case. I don't know Judge Casey, but I do know that Toomey never refused a good bribe. A couple guys were talking about him at Sam's barber shop.
The pieces are coming together. If Drake got rid of Casey, Toomey would have to take his place. He could be paid a hefty sum to throw the case. Whatever the missing parts are, they would have to wait until tomorrow. It was too late in the day to snoop around the courthouse.
We got Zeke settled into Gloria's flat. I was surprised she didn't put up more of a fight when I suggested she could stay at my place. She was happy to do it--a little too happy. She grabbed a couple blankets, a pillow, and a few other things from her closet and threw them into a bag.
I gave the dame the cot, and I threw my sleeping bag on the floor. It was all very civilized, see. She was a little chatty, but finally drifted off to sleep. I was happy to have a few moments of quiet time to think about the case. It didn't last long because I nodded off quickly.
The smell of coffee filled my nostrils in the morning. I started to open my eyes and noticed a gorgeous pair of gams above my sleeping spot. I worked my eyes up the legs and to the mug of coffee held out for me. Above that steamy mug I saw Gloria's huge smile, The floor isn't the most comfortable place to sleep, however, waking up to this view is just perfect.
I finished reading the article in the newspaper. This Drake guy was some fancy developer. He had his hands all over the city. Although the missing purse and fatal stab wound made it look like a mugging gone bad, the coroner believed Mrs. Drake was killed elsewhere, and dumped at the Water Tower. It looks like Drake's goon got clumsy, because her death appears suspicious. Obviously the mugging cover-up wasn't going to hold water.
The dame went out to get some fresh rolls at the bakery down the street. I considered slipping out before she got back, to get a head start, but she got back before I could leave.
"Were you running out on me, Lou? You know you have to get some food in your stomach before your long day of detective work. Here, sit down and have a bite. They're still warm."
The dame sure knows how to be convincing. I sat down and ate a roll, and then another one. They were good, and hit the spot just fine.
"Thanks, doll. I've got to head over to the courthouse, you hold down the office."
"Sure, Lou, I'll keep an eye on things."
I worked over in my mind how to approach Judge Casey with the news that he's about to become room temperature. I hope I can convince him to cooperate.
I found his office on the third floor. The trial is set to begin in a week. That leaves a small window of opportunity for the hit man to get to him. I hope I can convince the clerk to let me see his honor.
"Hey, hello, there sir, I need to see Judge Casey on a little personal matter. Do I just knock on his door over there?"
I tried to keep on walking without waiting for an answer, when I heard a familiar click.
"Whoa--hold on there buddy, there's no need to be pointing that thing at me. It might go off, you know."
"I think you'd better just turn yourself around nice and easy, and walk out the same way you came in here, Nobody gets past me to see the judge unless they have an appointment."
"You don't understand; I've got some very important information to pass on to him. It's a matter of life and death, you know."
"Yeah, I've heard that one before, too. Move on out, now, before I have you jailed."
"Wait, I'm a private detective and..."
"I don't care what you are, you're not getting in his office without an appointment."
There was a scream in the hallway.
"Oh, help, me, somebody please, help me!"
I knew that voice. I didn't know whether to be happy or mad. The sucker ran toward her voice and gave me a clear passage to the judge's chambers. I don't know why Gloria came here, but if she could occupy that idiot clerk for a few more minutes, I think I can persuade the judge to see me.
"Who are you, and how did you get in my office?"
"Calm down, Judge, I am here to help save your life."
It's amazing how the right words can stop a guy in his tracks and make him listen.
"It has to do with the Ernesto Carrillo trial. I have reliable information that there is a hit out on you. Somebody does not want you to preside over this trial, Judge."
After I blurted out those words, the clerk figured out he was duped. He burst into the office with his gun in one hand, and poor Gloria by the hair with his other hand.
I was red mad seeing him hold her that way. "Now, you get your nasty mitts off that girl, do you hear me!"
"Stand back before I plug you one. Judge, I'm sorry these two pulled one over on me. I heard the girl yelling and thought she was in trouble. That's how this goon got into your office. I'll just collect him now and bring both of them down to lock up."
"No, wait Mr. Mann, let him stay. I want to hear what he has to say. Please let go of that poor girl's hair and show her to a seat in the outer office. Give her some water, she looks pretty pale."
"Yes, sir, I'll do that, right away."
The guy gave me one of those sneers that told me I don't want to meet him in a dark alley. It didn't matter, I was where I needed to be, no matter whose feelings got hurt over it.
"Please, sit down, Mr. ahh,--what is your name, please?"
"My name is Lou Ryan. I am a private detective. I was hired by someone who was working for the now dead Mrs. Drake. I'm sure you read about her unfortunate demise in the papers, judge."
"I am familiar with the murder of Jonathan Drake's wife. It is a terrible tragedy. He is quite a pillar in this community, and I do hope her killer is brought to justice."
"Yeah, well, that pillar has a big crack in it judge. Let me fill you in on the details."
I explained to the judge about the events leading up to Zeke's visit. I saw him frown as I explained Drake's dirty dealings, including Judge Toomey. Well, that venerable man said some words that almost made me blush when he heard about his fellow judge. I told him it was going to be hard to find someone we can trust, since Drake had some officials in his pocket.
The judge listened until I finished. We exchanged phone numbers so I could fill him in on the progress of the case. I told him I had an idea of who could be trusted, and would get back to him after I laid the groundwork.
He knew the part he had to play to stay safe. I left his chambers, waved to the tough clerk with the itchy trigger finger, and grabbed Gloria's hand and led her out of the office.
When we reached the street, I stopped and turned to Gloria.
"What the hell were you thinking, following me today? One of Drake's goons could have been around, You know how they treat dames who get in the way."
"Aw, don't be mad, Lou. It was a good thing I showed up, don't you think? I mean, that big guy was getting angry. Anyway, you would have never got in to see the judge if I hadn't pulled that ‘help me' act. Tell me you're not mad at me?"
"Nah, doll, I'm not mad. You worry me though. You kind of jump right into danger without thinking. Besides, how can you answer all those phone calls you imagine me getting if you're following me around the city?"
"I just thought that you might need a backup plan. Zeke said these were some dangerous characters. I would be too nervous waiting, not knowing if you were okay."
"Forget about it...let's get back to the office. I've got some serious work ahead of me if I'm going to get Zeke out of this mess."
"Yeah, that's what I think works best. You set up things on your end, and I'll do my part here. The judge is in total agreement of my plan. Don't worry, this is going to work out fine. Sure--we'll talk later." I finished my conversation with my little ace in the hole. The dame went out to get us some deli sandwiches. If the judge did his part, everything would go nice and smooth. He said he would call me when it was time. My phone rang loud; breaking my train of thought.
"Lou Ryan, here--ah, yes judge, good work. Sure, my man is in place, it will be easy judge. You keep a low profile."
The judge removed his name from the court calendar, claiming there was a family illness and he had to leave town. He let this information leak to his pal at the Tribune. He was sure his buddy would place an article in the paper. Tomorrow, the judge will be safe, because the hit can be canceled. I need to find out about more of Drake's associates. I will have to stake out his joint.
This morning I woke up before Gloria. She looked like an angel asleep on that cot. I slipped out so she wouldn't be able to follow me. Today I needed a clear head and no dame around to worry me.
Michigan Ave is a place I avoid. It's full of phony people doing busy stuff that nobody cares about. If I'm going to find out who Drake's friends are, then I need to spend time here. I have been watching his building for two hours. I noticed a man wearing an expensive suit entering the offices. He looked familiar to me. Like most of the snobs in this neighborhood, he has had his mug in the papers. He is a gangster, contractor named Guido Petrocelli. He took over the territory after I killed Vinnie over all that nasty Gloria stuff. Now I'm sure this Drake is involved in organized crime. Guido wouldn't visit him in person unless they were friends.
Guido is in the construction business, Drake is a developer, and it seems that their hands are all over the building trade in this upper north side. This means big business, and that means protecting their cash flow at any cost.
Guido left after twenty minutes. Soon, another guy entered the building. This one wasn't as well dressed. He looked like an enforcer. I have developed quite an instinct about these things. The bulge on the left side of his jacket is also a dead giveaway. He's the guy I need to follow.
When the bulge stepped out, he started walking south. He went right past me as I was looking at a menu in a nearby window. He didn't give me a second look because I watched his reflection in the glass. I waited a wise amount of time to start the shadowing.
He stopped in front of the newsstand for a few moments. I slipped between two buildings to stay out of sight. I was about to take another look when he walked by me, and headed back in direction of the Drake place.
I walked down to the newsstand and read the paper. Judge Casey off Carrillo Case! It was right there on page one in bold print, right under the headline: Chicago gets tough on Organized Crime. That judge does have a friend at the Tribune.
So, the thug saw the newspaper and knew the guy he is supposed to hit is no longer a threat. He went back to report the news to Drake. Things are going right on schedule. My next stop is the courthouse. This time I would be hanging around Judge Toomey's office, but I had another important meeting first.
My guy let me know that everything was set up. Judge Toomey was expected to be in his office at two o'clock.
I hung around the hall near Toomey's office, holding a stack of papers in front of me that looked like official court documents. So far nobody questioned my being there. It wasn't long before the bulge showed up with a brown paper bag, folded tightly in his clutch. He walked right over to Toomey's door and stepped in. I wasn't very far behind.
"Yes, sir, may I help you?"
Toomey's office clerk stared at me with one eyebrow raised. It was like I fouled up his day by being there.
"I have these court papers that have the judge's name on them. I just need his signature on the last page."
"You shouldn't be here, sir, that's why there's a downstairs clerk. He takes the paperwork to the judge and returns the copy back to you--downstairs! Nobody gets into the judge's chambers without an appointment."
There goes that whole appointment talk again, and I was getting tired of it.
"Well, since I‘m here already, how about I just hand these to you and you can send them downstairs when they're signed." As he reached out to grab the papers, I gave him a right cross to the jaw. He never knew what hit him. I had a little help from my brass knuckles.
I held my ear to the judge's door. I could hear the bulge making his case.
"Your Honor, Mr. Drake hopes this will be a mutually beneficial relationship."
This was it, the money exchange was coming. I burst into the office holding my .38 on Drake's goon. The judge had a wad of cash in one hand and was reaching into his desk drawer with the other one. "You're not going to want to do that judge. It's over."
He looked desperate; beads of sweat started rolling down his face.
"Keep your hands where I can see them." I called to my new friend and his backup. "Okay, boys, you can join the party."
Within minutes, the undercover cops were all over the judge's chamber. I turned to look by the doorway, and there he was with a large grin on his face.
"How's it going Officer Smith? I take it you got everything you need to put Drake, this judge, and the thug away for a long time."
"I do, Lou, I certainly do. Thank you for trusting me with this bust. I owe you another one, buddy. "
"Forget it, you did me a solid, here. You got my friend out of a jam, and you saved a judge's life."
Officer Smith had obtained a warrant signed by a grateful Judge Casey to plant a listening device in Toomey's chambers. Everything was heard by the district attorney, and the mayor.
The badges took out the trash under the lead of my pal, Officer Smith. This bust will help the young cop get his promotion to detective. I don't regret letting him hire me to follow his wife. I got that sweet thing out of a bad contract, and made Smith happy. It's not bad having a cop on your side when you need one. It's a good thing I don't need one most of the time.
Everything will fall apart for this Drake character. Someone is going to squeal to make a deal. Bribery will be the least of his problems. Soon, there will be enough evidence to convict Drake of conspiracy to murder his wife. It was a good day's work.
I called Zeke from the judge's phone. He was happy to be able to return to his own place and get his life back. I was happy to get paid.
I went back to the office and offered to take Gloria out for a little celebration. The dame deserved a good steak after all her hard work. She liked the idea. She liked her cut of the pay, too.
I decided I like having the dame around. Her enthusiasm digging into that steak told me she is just as happy being associated with me.