A Short Story by Ernie Whitenack

Copyright © Ernest N. Whitenack 2018
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, printing, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Chapter Six

In the office of European Consolidated Imports, Ryan is thinking about the pipe and who his competition might be. He instructs his two enforcers to find Mitchell and ask him if anyone else has been contacted about the pipe. They find him, a Scotch in his hand, leaning on his usual spot at the bar on 41st Street. The men, positioned on either side of Mitchell, squeeze in on him and asked the question.

“Honestly, I don’t know. All I have done is find the collectors by calling tobacco shops and give the names to Smyth. I don’t know who Smyth has contacted, if any. I haven’t talked about the pipe to anyone other than Mr. Ryan. Here now, give me some room and I’ll write the names down for you.”

Mitchell hurriedly fished a pencil and pad from his pocket and wrote down the names and where they live.

“Thanks Mic. Now, that’s the kind of cooperation Mr. Ryan likes, and it saved you from a good thumping.”

As the two men left the bar, Mitchell, with a shaking hand, gulped the rest of his Scotch and motioned to the barman for a refill. He carried it to a booth, sat down and started to think about what just happened. Ryan, in the few jobs Mitchell did for him, never indicated that side of his personality, although those two goons should have given him a clue. What will happen if Ryan doesn’t get the pipe, who will get the blame, he thought while lamenting he even listened to Smyth. He always brought trouble. As much as he like the idea, he figured it was time to get away from New York.
In the morning Scott sat at his desk planning his day and filling a pipe. Just as he dropped the extinguished match in the ashtray, Harry Malison entered.

“How did you get past my secretary?” Scott asked.

“Never mind that now. I have news about Mitchell.”

“OK Harry! That was fast. It must be worthwhile to get you here so early.”

“You can say that again. Before he came to America soon after the war ended from England, Manchester to be exact, he was a small-time gangster, although maybe a street hood is more accurate. He has served three short-time jail sentences for minor offences over a few years; nothing he can brag about. He also hustled Dart games for money and played, expertly incidentally, in several international tournaments. He made big money at these tournaments and for endorsements of darting equipment. Along the way, he became a celebrity and appeared to give up his former life. Between darts and work as a plumber, he made a good living. Unfortunately, Smyth looked him up one day and wanted him to help on an art theft. Mitchell declined and Smyth threatened to spread some lies about him that could get back to the police and can frame him for a jewelry store robbery. Mitchell said no and three days later was in a police station answering questions. Luckily, Smyth didn’t follow the dart scene and Michell had creditable witnesses to the fact of his playing in a three-day tournament in Belfast. His innocence meant nothing to the press and the story made headlines all over Great Britain. Most of his dart endorsements ended quickly. The authorities helped get him a passport and an entrance visa for the United States after suggesting he might be better off somewhere else.”
Scott leaned his chair back and looked at the ceiling for several minutes before he reached for his draw-stringed suede tobacco pouch. He filled his pipe with Royal Blend and lit it before speaking.

“Harry, we have to talk to Mitchell,” he said, as the large ball of smoke moved slowly toward the ceiling.”

“Your right, of course, but how can we do it and be sure Mitchell won’t tip our hand to Smyth; other than bringing him into protective custody?”

“Well, there is the reward,” Scott suggested.

New York:
After a restless night and a very late breakfast, Mitchell hung around the 41st Street. bar the whole afternoon and never hustled one game of darts. He walked around, talked to a few regulars and finally ended up at his spot at the bar.

“Drink, Mic?” the barman asked.

After several seconds Mitchell turned and replied, “Did you say something?”

“Are you sick, Mic? What’s bothering you? You’ve been roaming around here all afternoon like you are in a trance.”

“Nothing you can help with, me good lad. I might have myself twixt a rock and a hard place and can’t find a way to pry myself loose.”

“Anything to do with those hard ones who were squeezing you at the bar yesterday?”

“Don’t you know it!”. But don’t you worry. I’ve a seed of a plan working in my head,” Mic replied, walked out the door and hailed a cab.

Lucky Ryan’s secretary entered his office, after knocking, “Mr. Ryan, I found out that Alfredo Costa from the Bronx died two months ago, and his pipe collection was immediately place with an auction house. It included a very extensive collection consisting of many antique carved Meerschaums, some Native American carved stone and Peace pipes, peasant pipes from all over the world and a dozen or so custom-made Briar pipes. Harlan J. Abby still resides in in South Hancock, Massachusetts. However, I can find nothing regarding his collection; only that he is a noted artist and keeps his life very private. Will there be anything else this afternoon, Sir?”

“No, you can run along. Thank you,” Ryan answered as he thought, well then, it’s just me and Abby. That means it’s mine, one way or the other. Old Mic better not be holding anything back; better have another talk with him tomorrow.

Mitchell went directly home rather that going to a restaurant, stopping only to pick up Chinese food at a place a couple of doors from his building. He ate quickly, finished a bottle of PBR, Picked up the phone. He started to dial, but hesitated, hung up and removed the mouth piece to check for a bug. Satisfied, he searched for listening devices throughout his apartment. Finally, back to the phone and ordered a rental car for early the next morning.

The private phone rang at Malison’s office just as he was leaving for the day. “Harry Malison here.”

“Harry, New York here. Mitchell has been acting a little off usual today. He had a visit from two large men yesterday at his favorite bar on 41st Street; the same men we ‘ve seen coming and going from Lucky Ryan’s place of business. One of my men went in today and overheard a snippet of a conversation that indicated Mitchell thinks he is in trouble, and worried.”

“Thanks. I’m glad you caught me before I left the office. OK, here is what I want you to do, and I do have full control over this case. Pick him up ASAP and bring him to Boston. I have an offer for him. Tell him he will be staying several days and not to worry. If he has things to handle there, we will make every effort to accommodate him. Call my home when you have him and I’ll meet you at the office. This office has several hotel rooms always set aside if you don’t want to drive back this evening.”

In New York, the FBI watched Mitchells apartment until 10:30 P.M. and radioed in to say they will be taking him in fifteen minutes, and to have the closest police patrol watch the rear door of the building.

Mitchell opened the door just as far as the three security chains allowed. “Yea, who are you blokes and what do you want?” Mitchel said in his toughest voice inflection.

“I’m agent Carlson and this is agent Hoyle of the Federal bureau of Investigation. Here is our ID. May we come in? It is imperative, and in your best interest to talk to us.”

“About what? I ain’t done nuttin!” Mitchell replied using the same voice.

“No one says you have. We have reason to think you are in danger and want to help you.”

“Really? Come in. I can give you a minute or two.” Mitchell said as he freed the security chains.

To convince him they were on to the whole thing, Carlson and Hoyle related just enough regarding Smyth and Ryan, and Mitchell’s visit to both, as well as a bit about the pipe and murder in Austria. Mitchell, thinking quickly, realized cooperation might be a good way out.

“OK, so you’ve been on to Smyth for a while. Until a few days ago, I hadn.t heard from him for years –didn’t even know he was alive, considering his enemies, or that he was in this country. As for Ryan, I just run an errand for him once and a while. He pays well. So, what do you want from me?”

“Hoyle rose from his chair and walked across the room and bent low and close to Mitchell. “We want you to go to Boston with us and talk to a couple of people there; an Interpol agent and an Indian professor. Maybe a couple more.”

“Here now, and why would I want to do that? Mitchell asked belligerently.”

Hoyle bent closer, his open jacket reveling the revolver clipped to his belt. “Because, Mic my boy, if you don’t we will have to arrest you on suspicion of complicity to murder. A pipe collector in Austria for which Smyth is the prime suspect. You have already confessed you do errands for Ryan who is under investigation for several gang killings. And, we have proof that you worked for Smyth in the old country.

Carlson, now standing in front of Mitchell continued, “On the other hand, if you do this voluntarily, you will be protected, and I have heard rumors of a large reward for the return of the pipe theft in Austria and the murderer’s conviction.”

Carlson and Hoyle went back and sat down and just stared at Mitchell who looked stunned and pale. He was sweating and wringing his hands.

“I don’t know anything about murders. What are you guys trying to do to me? I’ve been trying to keep clean since I came to America. I hustle darts, do some plumbing and a few favors. I’m even trying to get in the union.”

“We told you, go willingly and a lot of this will probably be forgotten. Why don’t you get packed and we can be on our way.”

“I’m already packed,” Mitchell said. “I’d figured things with Ryan are getting too hot and decided to get away for a while. I’ll have to cancel my rental car.”

“Good decision, Mic. Anything else you need can be taken care of in Boston. You will be well cared for there.”

As the car pulled away from Mitchell’s building, another, holding Ryan’s men, took its place. The two “heavies” came to put more physical pressure on Mitchell regarding people interested in the pipe.

Chapters:  Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6 | Ch 7 | Ch 8 | Ch 9 | Ch 10 | Ch 11Ch 12Ch 13

Ernie Whitenack was born in 1928 in Springfield, Illinois and moved to Massachusetts in the mid 1930's. He is a Korean War veteran, worked as a photographic illustrator for 43 years and is now retired.

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