A moment later yet another man entered, about the same age as the Senator, wearing a white linen suit that was savagely wrinkled. The body it encased was large and soft. He carried a walking stick. He glanced once at Paul then, without a word to anyone, he retreated to the corner. He too looked familiar but Paul couldn't place him.
"Now," Gordon continued. "Here's the situation, Paul. We know you've worked for Luciano, we know you've worked for Lansky, a couple of the others. And we know what you do for them."
"Yeah, what's that?"
"You're a button man, Paul," Manielli said brightly, as if he'd been looking forward to saying it.
Gordon said, "Last March Jimmy Coughlin saw you..." He frowned. "What do you people say? You don't say 'kill.'"
Paul, thinking: Some of us people say "chill off." Paul himself used "touch off." It was the phrase that Sergeant Alvin York used to describe killing enemy soldiers during the War. It made Paul feel less like a punk to use the term that a war hero did. But, of course, Paul Schumann didn't share any of this at the moment.
Gordon continued. "Jimmy saw you kill Arch Dimici on March thirteenth in a warehouse on the Hudson."
Paul had staked out the place for four hours before Dimici showed up. He'd been positive the man was alone. Jimmy must've been sleeping one off behind some crates when Paul arrived.
"Now, from what they tell me, Jimmy isn't the most reliable witness. But we've got some hard evidence. A few revenue boys picked him up for selling hooch and he made a deal to rat on you. Seems he'd picked up a shell casing at the scene and was keeping it for insurance. No prints're on it -- you're too smart for that. But Hoover's people ran a test on your Colt. The scratches from the extractor're the same."
Hoover? The FBI was involved? And they'd already tested the gun. He'd pitched it out of Malone's window less than an hour ago.
Paul rocked his upper and lower teeth against each other. He was furious with himself. He'd searched for a half hour to find that damn casing at the Dimici job and had finally concluded it'd fallen through the cracks in the floor into the Hudson.
"So we made inquiries and heard you were being paid five hundred dollars to..." Gordon hesitated.
"...eliminate Malone tonight."
"Like hell I was," Paul said, laughing. "You got yourself some bum wire. I just went to visit him. Where is he, by the way?"
Gordon paused. "Mr. Malone will no longer be a threat to the constabulary or the citizens of New York City."
"Sounds like somebody owes you five C-notes."
Bull Gordon didn't laugh. "You're in Dutch, Paul, and you can't beat the rap. So here's what we're offering. Like they say in those used-Studebaker ads: this's a one-time-only offer. Take it or leave it. We don't negotiate."
The Senator finally spoke. "Tom Dewey wants you as bad as he wants the rest of the scum on his list."
The special prosecutor was on a divine mission to clean up organized crime in New York. Crime boss Lucky Luciano, the Italian Five Families in the city and the Jewish syndicate of Meyer Lansky were his main targets. Dewey was dogged and smart and he was winning conviction after conviction.
"But he's agreed to give us first dibs on you."
"Forget it. I'm not a stool pigeon."
Gordon said, "We're not asking you to be one. That's not what this is about."
"Then what do you want me to do?"
A pause for a moment. The Senator nodded toward Gordon, who said, "You're a button man, Paul. What do you think? We want you to kill somebody."
Copyright © 2004 by Jeffery Deaver.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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