Any facts?”

“No,” I admitted. My neck was getting very wet.

Gazzo didn’t care about my neck. “Radford was an important man. There’s a stink already-hoodlums running loose; crime in the streets; no one safe in his home: the usual. We want Weiss.”

“It wasn’t a random crime, Captain. Weiss was invited in.”

Gazzo ignored me. “Facts, and experience, tell us that Weiss made the mistake he’s been ready to make all his life. Everything points to it, nothing points away from it. You have nothing, Dan. You don’t even have a legitimate client. Up top they don’t want you muddying the waters and maybe helping Weiss without meaning to.”

“Maybe the waters need muddying.”

“You want me to tell the Chief that?”

I leaned in the window. “Look, Captain, I haven’t been nosing around long enough to even have a hunch. Weiss came to me, and I’ve been sort of automatically following up. Maybe it’s reflex, or maybe it’s a subconscious feeling that Sammy needs help from someone, but I want to find out more.”

“You’re saying we won’t find out all there is to know?”

I took a deep breath. “I’m not sure you’ll try. When you have a prime suspect, you don’t go around fishing for new suspects in the shadows. No police force could, Gazzo. Until you rule out Weiss, you won’t look for anyone else.”

“You’re saying we won’t find out if he’s innocent?”

“I’m saying you won’t think about anyone else while you have Weiss. You’ve got too much crime and too few men. You can miss things. Remember that kid in Brooklyn who sat in jail for ten months with everything pointing to him until one of your men, on a hunch and his own time, proved the kid was innocent? Maybe no one will get a hunch about Weiss. Maybe you’ll take too long, and facts will disappear. Maybe Weiss is so scared he’ll panic and get gunned down. Even if he’s guilty, Captain, I might turn up some mitigating circumstances.”

Gazzo just sat there. “The Chief doesn’t want you in this, Dan. I told him you’ve got a good record, so he won’t make it official, but stay out of our way, and co-operate. Plain enough?”

“I’ll do the best I can.”

He didn’t push the message any farther. He signaled the driver, and the car pulled away, leaving me alone in the snow. I felt very alone. The power of the police over me, like most power in our society, was mainly economic. But I have an edge. I don’t have to be a detective or work in New York. No one depends on my success. I have no status to keep and no investment to tie me down. I had to give up a lot of comforts and trinkets to get that edge. In a money society you can be independent with money, or independent of money. Anywhere in between you’re under the thumb.

That is true enough, but I didn’t kid myself. The police have other powers not so legitimate. A private detective can bend a lot of laws, and a chief of detectives can turn a bend into a break. That power is harder to use in a city the size of New York, but it was there. I would have to be careful.

I would have liked to ask Gazzo about what he knew, about why the police were so sure Weiss was their man, about the circumstances and the alibis of others, but you don’t ask those things when you’re being told that the higher powers don’t want you around. I would have to dig myself-especially into that $25,000 Weiss said he had won from Walter Radford.

Cellars Johnson sat alone at the green table in the cellar on Houston Street where he holds his steady game. He was dealing poker hands to himself.

“Take a hand,” Cellars said.

Cellars squeezed his cards as if it were 4:00 A.M. in his regular game and all the night’s winnings were in the pot. His black face sweated, but his eyes were a blank wall. In a real game even his sweat glands would have been under control, and there is nothing that happens around the Village that Cellars doesn’t know.

“Have you seen Sammy Weiss?” I asked.

Cellars studied his cards. I had jacks over fives.

“Bet fifty,” Cellars said. “I saw him maybe two A.M. last night.”

“Raise fifty,” I said. It’s easy to gamble big in the mind, for fun. “Did he play last night?”

“He couldn’t show the cash.”

“How much cash do you ask now?”

“A hundred to sit down,” Cellars said. “Gimme two cards.”

I took one card myself. I still had jacks and fives.

“Bet the pot,” Cellars said.

“Raise the pot,” I said. The big plunger. “I heard Weiss won $25,000 from a kid named Walter Radford.”

Cellars didn’t seem to hear me. He tossed in his cards. “Let’s see what you raised a pot bet on.”

I showed him my two pair. It was just a game for laughs. Cellars didn’t laugh.

“You don’t even see a pot bet by a two-card draw with a lousy two pair,” Cellars instructed. “I folded three queens.”

He was telling me that in a real game I might get away with that kind of playing once, maybe twice, but in the end I’d be begging cab fare. Cellars can’t play bad poker even for fun.

I said, “You know anything about this Walter Radford?”

Cellars gathered the cards. “You for or against Weiss?”

“For, I think.”

He began to shuffle. He needs the cards in his hands. “A party named Radford had Costa’s place up in North Chester closed down ten months ago.”

“Who’s Costa?”

“Carmine Costa. Independent operator. No book or numbers. A casino operation with some private games.”

“Why was he closed?”

“Who knows? You know Westchester, Dan. Costa opened up in the next town.” Cellars began to deal solitaire. “Weiss ain’t such a bad guy. I hear the heat’s on him big. Freedman been around twice.” He looked up at me. “Paul Baron, too.”

“Paul Baron?” I said. The name rang a faint bell, but I couldn’t place it.

“Alias The Baron, Baron Paul Ragotzy, some other names,” Cellars said. “A con artist; the badger games. He handles the cards, too.”

“He was looking for Weiss?”

“Once last night, and once today.”

“What did he want?”

“Just Weiss.”

“How about a woman? A redhead, tall, probably a showgirl or stripper in some club.”

Cellars shook his head. “No, just Freedman and Baron. Only one of Baron’s women is a tall redhead. Misty Dawn. She works the Fifth Street Club.”

I stood up. “Thanks, Cellars.”

Cellars nodded, but he was thinking. I waited. He seemed to be making some decision.

“Weiss ain’t such a bad guy,” Cellars said again.

I still waited. I knew that Cellars was deciding to tell me something. It was a hard decision for him.

“There was a game, about two months ago,” Cellars said. “I played. Baron was there. He brought a kid. Walter Radford IV. I remember that number part, you know?”

“Thanks again,” I said.

“Sure,” Cellars said. “Come back for the action.”

The snow had stopped, and the Fifth Street Club was open. I went down into the dim light of the deserted bar and ordered an Irish. It was just too early for the cocktail hour. In the main room one drunken group was trying to eat what had to be a very late lunch. The bartender had cunning eyes and a loose mouth.

“I’d like to buy Misty Dawn a drink,” I said.

“So would a lot of guys.”

I laid a five-dollar bill beside my whisky. In a club Like that one, the girls usually had orders to drink with any customer, but it was early. The five was to make the bartender eager to help me. He took the bill and vanished

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