out after a time and bothered me. If this Radford, or his nephew, owed Weiss $25,000, how could Sammy say that no one at Radford’s apartment knew his name? It made no sense.

I finished my dinner and went over to Boyle’s Tavern, where Joe Harris was working.

“You hear about Sammy Weiss winning $25,000?” I asked Joe.

“I ain’t heard of him winning twenty-five cents,” Joe said, and poured. Joe always slips me my first Irish free. “Where would Weiss get the stake to win that much, or the nerve to play for it anymore?”

“Yeh,” I said.

I wondered what Weiss had really pulled, or tried to. I didn’t wonder too hard. Not then.


I woke up to pounding on my outside door. My watch read six-thirty. The dawn light was gray, and the temperature in my bedroom was like the arctic tundra.

I shivered out of bed and grabbed my robe. I turned on the oven and two of my gas heaters. With my income I can choose between one warm room or five cold ones. I like space, but it’s a discouraging choice. While I lighted the heaters and wished I could afford five warm rooms without rearranging my psyche to fit the needs of the corporations, the pounding on my door did not let up.

I opened the door on Detective Bert Freedman. He was a short, stocky man with shoulders like a bear. He walked in without being invited, producing a warrant, or saying hello. It was a technical point I let pass. Freedman started a tour of my rooms.

I plugged in my coffeepot. Men who live alone too long, or live in too many places where no one knows them, develop habits instead of friends. A ready pot of coffee was my welcome to a new day. It was perking when Freedman faced me.

“You can tell me where Sammy Weiss is, or you can come down to the squad room.”

“You can close the door behind you going out, or you can have some coffee.”

“Don’t get wise with me, Fortune!”

Freedman makes big fists for a short man. He’s a hitter, a Johnny Broderick detective. But the famous Broderick was a good cop, hard and smart, while Freedman is a bad cop who is hard in place of being smart. The police have a normal quota of stupid men; no more and no less than any other big organization. I was no match for Freedman. I wouldn’t have been with two hands, but I keep a hammer handy in my kitchen. In my work I need the police, but I draw the line at Freedman. I touched the hammer.

“I didn’t ask you in,” I said. “You’ve got no warrant, and I’m not a reasonable suspect in a felony. You’re out of your precinct. Lay off, or I’ll fight back and apologize later.”

Freedman has no sense of humor. Vicious men seldom do. He watched me as if deciding whether I would really fight or not. His fists clenched and unclenched.

“Weiss told people he was going to hire you.”

“He didn’t,” I said. “What’s he wanted for?”

Freedman laughed. “He’s one Jew-boy’s gonna hang slow.”

Freedman has a mission-to destroy any of his fellow Jews who break the law. A self-appointed scourge of the tribe.

“Why?” I said.

“He’s dirt,” Freedman said. “A bug, a grease spot. You see him, or hear from him, you tell me fast. Just me, no one else.”

“If he’d shot Moses,” I said, “I’d tell you last. I’d want him to get to the Tombs on his feet and breathing.”

Freedman couldn’t really hurt me as long as I was clean with Centre Street and my own precinct squad. He opened and closed his fists a few more times, and then he left. He slammed the door.

Outraged voices along the hall complained bitterly. I hardly heard them. My mind was on Sammy Weiss. Freedman had not acted as if he wanted Weiss for punching a man-not even a rich man.

The Medical Examiner’s Building in New York is on the East Side near the river. It stands between the old buildings of Bellevue Hospital and the new buildings of New York University’s Medical School. Snow had started falling again, and it hung over the river like a swirling mist as I went down into the main autopsy room.

I was looking for the night man, Mitch O’Dwyer. There was a covered body on one of the eight tables. A murdered man on a living room floor does not make me shiver the way a body on an autopsy table does. It’s the impersonality of death that scares.

Mitch O’Dwyer looked up. “Trouble, Dan?”

“Do you have a Jonathan Radford III, Mitch?”

No matter how rich a man is, if he dies a violent death in New York he will end up on the autopsy table. In midtown that means in the M.E.’s morgue, and Mitch O’Dwyer makes the tags that go on the wrists of the dead.

“Yeh,” Mitch said. “I remember that part about ‘the third.’”

I wasn’t really surprised, or I wouldn’t have been there in the morgue.

“Can I see him, Mitch?”

“Make it fast. The docs’ll be down soon.”

There are 128 storage crypts in the morgue. New York is a big and violent city. The crypt Mitch opened contained a muscular man of medium size in his late fifties or so. He had been a handsome man with regular features, thick gray hair and an imperial beard, small eyes, and a thin, hard mouth. Weiss had been right. Radford looked rich and tough, like old Kaiser Wilhelm.

“Can I see the report, Mitch?”

“Is it important?”

“It could be.”

“Okay, I’ll look at it for you. Wait over in Phil’s.”

I went across the wide avenue to Phil’s luncheonette. The snow was thick and blowing. I ordered two eggs and coffee. Mitch arrived before my second coffee. He sat down and read from a pad:

“Jonathan Ames Radford III; age 59; 146 East Sixty-third Street. Dead on arrival at his home of 17th Squad detectives called by George Foster Ames of the same address. Death was from a single knife wound in the left ventricle.”

I sat up. “A knife, Mitch?”

“That was it. The wound was funny, some kind of knife with a wavy edge. It wasn’t found.”

“What about the time?”

“Cops got there at six-ten P.M. That was last night. The Doc estimated time of death between around noon to two-thirty P.M.”

“Any other wounds or bruises?”

“No, and that’s funny. In knifings they usually get bruises.”

I paid Mitch his ten dollars and went back out into the wind on the avenue. (What Mitch does isn’t legal, but he has six kids and the taxpayers hate to pay people they can’t see working directly for their own benefit.)

In the driving snow I walked downtown toward the Lower East Side. I wanted to find Sammy Weiss. It could be that the police only wanted Weiss as a witness. That was not the way Freedman had acted, but you could never tell with a man like Freedman. Any chance to make Weiss sweat would be a pleasure for Freedman.

Sammy was not a violent man. He was, if anything, a soft man. On the other hand he hadn’t seen anything like $25,000 in a long time, and if Radford had tried to welsh…?

One way or the other it was murder, and, witness or suspect, Weiss’s only play was to turn himself in. There’s nowhere to run from murder.

He had come to me, and while I owed him nothing, everyone needs someone on their side. There are always gray areas, even in murder. It was possible that Weiss didn’t even know that Radford was dead. Someone had to tell him, and better me than Freedman.

I plodded through the snow of the Village and the Lower East Side for the better part of the morning. I tried

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