Read David Bishop - Matt Kile 04 - Find My Little Sister Online
Authors: David Bishop
Tags: #Mystery: Historical - Romance - Hollywood 1938
When he got close, he took off his hat and raised his head into the light
, Carter Mitchum.
“How you doin
’, Scribe. I saw what happened, but wasn’t close enough to do anything more’n watch. Not without a high-speed chase which the boys downtown frown on. You okay?”
“For a few minutes there I thought I’d be cooling my dick in the morgue. I got lucky.”
“I’d say so,” the stoic Mitchum said. “You had good reactions. That bought time until the locals poured out on the street to keep the shooter from coming back to finish you off.”
How’d you happen to be around?”
t figured that Tony Cornero had paid Mitchum to watch me. Nobody called me Scribe other than Tony, until a moment ago when Mitchum referred to me that way.
admitted it when I braced him on it.
Cornero’s your friend. I like Tony. It’s that simple. If you’re okay, I’ll be seeing ya around, but this ain’t no round-the-clock job I got here so you’d be wise to figure I ain’t around.” I nodded. Carter slapped me on the back, got in his car and was gone just as the sirens reached my ears.
The coppers were about two blocks
out when Mitchum drove off. The cops questioned me and after spending the better part of an hour waltzing with them, I headed home. By then it was after four-thirty, and the sun was casting itself on the eastern horizon.
I ran down the list of possible folks who could have arranged the late night attempt on my life. Cohen didn’t seem likely. I had been writing about
Meyer Harris Cohen, as his mother named him, for a good while, unless he didn’t like my referring to him as the Mickster. Jack Dragna was unlikely. Somehow I didn’t get as many tips and rumors about the old-line Sicilian mobsters, maybe because of their oath of
. Siegel, maybe, but I couldn’t see a clear reason. As for the coppers, I hadn’t done anything too recently that would motivate the cops to rub me out. Besides, I didn’t think they wanted any more heat pointing at them to go along with being suspected in the bombing of Harry Raymond.
That left Johnny Breeze. He had to know I was asking a
round town about him. Showing a picture of Frances who may or may not be his new moll—Raker had said her name was Frances. Breeze liked operating in the quiet, known only to those who hire him and those whose life bulbs he turns off permanently. The people in that latter group no longer in any condition to mention his name, or anything else for that matter. The only other possibility was the unidentified stranger I had seen several times while out with Callie. He seemed to be following us, but wasn’t very good at it. The guy wasn’t Johnny Breeze and likely not someone who worked for him. Breeze had a reputation of working alone or with a moll. Besides, this guy wasn’t good enough at shadowing to work for a man like Breeze.
I was too tired to think
about it more, but there was no time for sleep. The next issue of my twice-a-week column was due tomorrow.
Bomb Trail Leads to LAPD
I can now report that Harry Raymond whispered that Eddie Kynette, LAPD special detective, was behind the bombing of his car. At the time of Kynette’s arrest, Police Chief James “Two Gun” Davis, returning from a trip to Mexico with the LAPD pistol team, stopped to exonerate Kynette. Mystically, he had been able to do so before returning to the station and reviewing the evidence. A character witness from the chief of police is usually pretty good stuff for a guy who has been fingered for any crime. But investigators have traced fragments from the pipe bomb to Kynette, who, along with two other officers, has been pinched for the attempted murder of Harry Raymond. Not the kind of thing that police officers anywhere should be charged with performing.
The Examiner has published an investigation
naming former Police Commissioner Harry Munson as a courier of underworld money to the administration of L.A. Mayor Frank Shaw, our fearless leader who at times has worn a mustache that reminds me of the budding European troublemaker, Adolph Hitler.
is well underway to have a special election in a few weeks to recall Mayor Shaw for corruption and elect a new mayor for the City of Angels. The story is that Judge Fletcher Bowron will run in the special election to remove Shaw. This story is running hot. I’ll bring you more as it congeals.
On a personal note, late last night an attempt was made on the being of your humble columnist. They nearly killed my car, but
, fortunately, your favorite columnist will keep reporting the truth and rumors about the bad people who do bad things in our City of the Angels.
Good night Mr. and Mrs. Los Angeles and the gambling ships at sea… . Good Luck, Suckers!
* * *
My recent articles had been shorter than usual. I knew this was because of the time I was spending with Callie. Time I greatly enjoyed and felt she
did as well. Our relationship had moved to touchy, feely, but I had resolved not to push it. I knew she appreciated what I was doing to hopefully find Frances. Still, I was determined not to put her in the position of thinking she had to respond to my advances to keep me on the job.
Last night, May 3, 1938, Tony’s S.S. Rex, the flagship of the small gambling fleet that serviced the not
faint-at-heart Angelinos, formally opened for business.
Strings of light bulbs washed the pier in light along where the water taxis waited to transport gamblers and diners. Tony
hired a three-piece band to set up on the pier to stoke people into the mood for frivolity. He even had one well-endowed cigarette girl from the Rex milling among the throngs waiting to board a water taxi, her tray crowded with complimentary cigars, cigarettes, and chewing gum. He wanted to include complimentary drinks, but the law said no, even to a cash bar. Tony had no license to serve alcohol on the pier. Some of those waiting moved down the pier to where it was less crowded and began dancing to the mixed sounds of the music and the ocean captured by the pier. They were ready to party, and would not be delayed by the pace at which the water taxis were able to transport people. In the distance, the Rex stood upon the water lit up against the horizon.
few people, who, perhaps, were not supposed to be there, dodged the cameramen from the local papers and magazines taking shots of Hollywood celebrities and second-level actors and actresses with recognizable faces.
had immediately filled with more than three thousand gamblers while more folks waited on the Santa Monica Pier. The fleet of water taxis was raking in the quarters charged for the one-way trip. It seemed that everyone, high rollers and regular Joes alike, wanted the same thing—to be part of the grand night. Callie came with me hoping that Frances would be in attendance. The Rex operated twenty-four hours a day, but Frances never appeared. I had wanted to leave at ten, but Callie kept holding out. We finally left at midnight. Frances was a no-show, Callie was despondent.
After taking Callie back to her car, I went home
, and, braced by several cups of coffee, used the morning to polish the final spit to my column, which in large part focused on the glitz and glamour of the grand opening of Tony’s Rex. A few hours after the sun came up, the phone rang.
,” I said after my new growth whiskers brushed the mouthpiece.
, my name is Joe Sica. I work for Mickey Cohen. The boss wants to see you.”
“I don’t ask Mr. Cohen those things and here’s a tip, Mr. Kile. If you know what’s good fer ya, you
’ll do likewise. Get me?”
“Okay, Mr. Sica. But I sorta need to know where.”
“At his haberdashery. You need me to pick you up?”
“No, thank you
, Mr. Sica.” Maybe caution had gotten the best of me, but taking a ride with one of Mickey Cohen’s gunsels did not seem the best way to start the new day, especially after my car had been recently laced up with a Tommy gun. “I know the location, Mr. Sica. When?”
“When Mr. Cohen w
ants to see somebody, the boss means right away. It’s close to noon so you should drop whatever you’re into. Get me? Don’t keep him waiting.”
Sica hung up without waiting for a confirmation. I had been summoned. Be
ing invited to interview a top mobster like Mickey Cohen was a reporter’s dream. Of course, I had not in fact been told that Cohen was offering an interview. The nightmare part was whether or not I would live long enough to include the guts of that meeting in my column.
* * *
Mickey Cohen’s haberdashery didn’t have the prices I was used to seeing in the stores where I shopped. Mr. Cohen required people pay for his clothes the same way he required people to pay for everything he provided,
through the nose
. I’d heard that everything in his store was available only in his size, but I could see that was not true. His store carried other sizes, although maybe only those of Benjamin Siegel, Joe Sica, Joe’s brothers, and other connected friends. None of the pants looked long enough for High-Pockets Harry.
shook my hand. He was more pleasant than I expected, perhaps the lull before the storm. He asked if I wanted to join him for some ice cream. It was hot. I said yes.
He sent High-Pockets out for a supply.
“You know the flavors, Pockets. Get ‘em all. I’m sure our guest will find one he likes.” We sat down in his backroom. High-Pockets locked the door on his way out, which seemed unusual. This was supposed to be a man’s clothing store in the middle of a business day.
aving me to sweat a minute or two, Cohen said, “The Mickster. You used it in your column. I could tell you meant no disrespect. I like it. Yeah. It’s got a nice ring to it. I’ve admired your work for some time. I thought you’d like an interview. Ask whatever you want,” Cohen said. “After you’re satisfied, I’d like to talk about you doing me a little favor. That sound okay?”
“I love ice cream, Mr. Cohen. The interview sounds good.
As for the favor you want, I’ll wait to hear more about that.”
Mickey Cohen s
miled, crossed his short leg over his other short leg, then reached down and straightened the crease in the trousers. He had on a white shirt, the collar button loose, and his bright tie yanked a bit off center. He wore a dark gray Knox Backswing hat, tilted a bit to one side. His smile was cold, thin, and hard. Clearly, he didn’t like the idea of his doing something for me, with my only maybe doing something for him in return.
,” he said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. “That’s good enough for now. Let’s start with the interview. Ask whatever you got. I’ll answer what I can.”
First, the obvious question, what’s the story behind your arrest the other night by Detective Donahoe?”
“Pretty much what’s been reported,” Cohen said. “Detective Donahoe’s got this idea that I’m behind a
bunch a robberies. Donahoe’s a good and honest cop, but he’s wrong. The trial will clear all that up. Beyond that my attorney would not want me shooting off my mouth. So, if you want this here interview to last much longer, you gotta change the subject.”
“Is it true your friend Benjamin Siegel is outside the U.S. to avoid prosecution in Ne
w York on racketeering charges?”
“From what I hear he’s away on holiday
in Europe with a friend of his.”
“Would the friend be the Countess di
“The two of them
’s going to the Frasso Villa outside Rome. So, yeah, he’s with her, far as I know.”
“Any truth to the rumor out of Europe that he’s meeting there with Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister and Hermann Goring, the commander of the German Luf
twaffe and Hitler’s second in command?”
twaffe? That some kinda German waffle?” Cohen laughed at his own joke more than I did, but I tossed in enough of a chuckle so that the number one muscle in L.A. knew I appreciated his ability to adlib humor.
“That’s Germany’s air force, Mickey.”
“You think I didn’t know that?” he said, his face turning hard.
Why would your boss meet with two of Hitler’s top guys?”
Right now, Germany’s a legit country. ‘Sides, we ain’t established that Mr. Siegel is doing any of that there. All I know is he’s vacationing with the countess and the two of them is headin’ over to her family villa.”
“Is Siegel coming back to face up to these charges and claims by the New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey?”
“Benjamin Siegel is a standup guy, law-abiding and all that sorta thing. What I know is that Siegel will handle it and he will be proven as innocent as the guy is.”
“The talk in Tinseltown is that while in Europe Mr. Siegel is going to meet up with his movie pal, George Raft.”
“Them guys is pals. Everybody knows that. Since they was kids. Whenever them two get together nobody should be surprised. Beyond that, I know nothing.”
“Speaking of pals, what’s this I hear that you and Reverend Billy Graham are becoming pals?”
Cohen laughed loudly. He took off his hat, ran his hand across his thinning hair, and put the hat back on. “Ain’t that sum’thin’, Mickey said. “A top guy like Reverend Graham saying that I had the makings to be one of greatest orators of all time. That’s a speechmaker ain’t it?” I nodded. Cohen gave off a tight grin. “Only in America,” he said, his eyebrows raised as far as he could set them while he shook his head.
“So, how did you meet Reverend Graham?”
“A friend, Jimmy Vaus, took in one of the reverend’s sermons after reading a big piece on him in the Examiner. Jimmy was so overwhelmed that he set up a meet with me and the reverend and, well, we hit it off.”
“Is this the same Jimmy Vaus who has done wiretap work for you and the local coppers as well as the FBI?”
“Allegedly.” The Mickster grinned. “Now what’s this I hear about somebody spraying your car the other night? I thought you was a columnist, not some mug.”
“That was my impression too.”
“Apparently, somebody didn’t get the word. You got any idea who was behind it?”
“No. The only one I’m sure didn’t is you.”
“Me? Why would you suspect me? Or, for that matter, why wouldn’t you suspect me? I seem to get blamed every time some hick spits on the sidewalk in this town.”
“If they had been your boys, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be in the morgue.”
Mickey Cohen laughed. He obviously took it as a compliment. He also nodded his head agreeing with my assessment.
I wanted to ask you to do me a favor, so I sure wouldn’t’ve sent no boys after ya. Okay, Mr. Kile. Time we should talk about that favor I want from you.”
“I said I’d listen. Shoot.” As soon as I said it, I wish
ed I hadn’t. Inviting Mickey Cohen to shoot is never the best way to say anything.
’re tight with Tony Cornero, right?” I nodded. “Tight like me and the reverend. Tighter I’m sure. I hear Tony just launched his new, spectacular gambling ship, the S.S. Rex. Right?”
I nodded again.
“May third was the date. I went out for the grand opening.”
” Cohen said, “the story is the D.A. Buron Fitts and his bunch at City Hall want him shut down. Some big wigs in the capitol up in Sacramento are onboard with the idea. Want it very much I’m told.”
So I’ve heard. Of course, shutting down Tony’s ship would also work well for you and Mr. Siegel’s business interests.”
Mickey spread his hands and toggled his head back and forth side-to-side.
“Tony’s argument,” I said, “is his gambling ships are outside California waters so the local and state police have no jurisdiction. What’s that got to do with me and with you for that matter?”
“I want you should deliver a message to your pal.
Tony needs to show respect to Mr. Siegel and myself. If he does, we think we can help with the locals and state boys.”
trim off the fat, Mickey. You want Tony to give you and Mr. Siegel a piece of his action for protection. If you can arrange it, that is. As I see it, the mayor and D.A. Fitts are playing it straight. Neither of them is fishing for a payoff.”
“I think you got that right,” Mickey said. “However,
the D.A. is gonna have to bring whatever he wants done to the courts and the politicians. So, it ain’t just up to the D.A. by his lonesome.”
Mr. Cohen, this stuff is between you and Mr. Cornero.”
“I agree, Kile. All I’m
askin’ is that you should set up a meet so that me and your pal can talk this out. Let him hear the pitch. Don’t cost him nothing. He may just like what he hears. I guarantee he’ll make more with protection than trying it naked. Okay?”
“I’ll tell Tony you want a meet. That’s it. The rest is up to you and him.”
“That’s all I want, Mr. Kile. Tell him I’ll meet him wherever he says and he can pick the when.”
“It should be soon,” I said.
“When’s soon, Kile?”
“Soon is not immedia
tely, but before later.”
“I like that, Kile. Keep in mind, if we reach an accommodation, it’ll take a little time to put in the fix. So, yeah, soon is real good.”