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,
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“Impress on them that it must be tomorrow. First, put me through to the Albany office.”
It only took two rings and Malison was immediately connected to the Agent in Charge. “I want a very tight surveillance on Smyth. If absolutely necessary, have the police detain him on some charge or the other, but not for too long. Make sure he doesn’t stray out of town. I want to know immediately if Smyth meets with anyone and when he plans to deliver the pipe to Harlan Abby. The office will know where to reach me at any time. I have a feeling this case is coming to a head soon.”
The buzzer sounded, announcing the opening of the door to the Brier and Smoke pipe shop. Bill Clauson put a five-pound bag of light Burley on the table and walked out of his blending room to greet whoever came in.
"May I help you with something sir,” he said to the young man dressed in rumpled work close and wool cap with a union button pinned to it.
“Yea, I hope so. I got this friend what smokes a pipe and I want to get him some tobacco for his birthday, ya see. What ya got that’s good? Sumpthin’ important people smoke.” The young man said with a strange tint of an accent Clauson could not discern.
“Well, let’s see – there are so many. Our own blend Number 8 is a good one that folks seem to like. We sell a lot of it. Some who buy it are important I guess, and a lot are just plain folks. It comes packed in a two-ounce foil container or you can purchase it in eight or sixteen-ounce tins.” Clauson replied.
“Who are these important people? I want to impress my friend, ya see.”
“OK, there is a judge in Illinois who buys it mail order. And, a prominent attorney in Boston along with a famous artist who comes to the store to buy Number 8. Of course, many are business men and executives in industry. It’s a very popular tobacco that we ship all over the country.”
“Who’s dat artist you mentioned? My friend will like to smoke the same stuff as a famous artist.”
“His name is Harlan J. Abby. He lives in Massachusetts and not far from here.”
“Great I’ll take a sixteen ounce can of dat stuff.”
Clauson watched the young man exit the shop, cross the street and drive away in a sixteen-wheeler belching diesel smoke into the air.
Clauson returned to his blending room to resume his work but could not get the odd incident that just happened out of his mind. He suddenly decided someone should be told of the incident especially when the name of Abby seemed to clinch the sale. He called Scott Wadsworth and at the mention of Abby and the Calabash gourd pipe, the secretary immediately connected him. Clauson related the story of the truck driver in detail.
“I’m sure glad you had the presence to think it’s connected and I think you’re correct. Although, I have no inkling as to how it fits in. Please don’t hesitate to call me if anything else comes up related to Abby or Lucky Ryan. The FBI thinks this case will be coming to an end soon and anything can be important.”
“Happy to help,” Clauson said. “I will sure like to know how this all comes out. You will let me know, I trust.”
“Absolutely. As soon as I can. Thanks again.”
Later that day the large truck worked its way through Manhattan to Twenty-sixth street and European Consolidated Imports. The driver pressed the button that summoned one of Ryan’s thugs.
The large man who answered said, “I’ll take the package to Mr. Ryan.”
“Can’t do that, buddy. Mr. Sal Concetta told me to personally hand it to Mr. Ryan. Mr. Ryan’s orders. I can lose my job if I don’t.”
“Ok, ok. But you better be right or I’ll skin you. Follow me.”
Ryan was delighted to receive the tobacco so soon. It was only last night that he spoke to Concetta. After the driver told him the story of how he found out the Number 8 is Abby’s favorite smoke, Ryan tipped him fifty dollars and told him he might call on him again sometime.
Ryan admired the simple but well-designed label and immediately opened the tin of Number 8, scooped up a handful and inhaled the exotic aroma of the blended tobacco. On impulse, Ryan lifted an oversized pot from the pipe rack on his desk and dipped it in the tobacco tin; using his finger to shovel the tobacco into the pipe. Being quite impressed, he made a mental note to order a couple of pound tins from Clauson soon. He moved to the small antique safe painted a glossy black with elaborate gold pinstriping and vermilion accents at the corners. Placing the tobacco in the safe he quietly muttered to himself, “Here you go Mr. Abby, a future gift should it be necessary.”
Ryan had been thinking about Mic Mitchell on and off and trying to decide what to do about him. He kept thinking that perhaps Mitchell has told him all he knows about Smyth’s effort to sell the pipe and he should just let him alone. But on the other hand, He should make sure, and with what he has in mind concerning Abby, should eliminate Mitchell.
Ryan buzzed his secretary to tell her to get Sal Concetta on the phone just as she ushered Concetta into his office.
“Sal! thanks for taking care of that tobacco purchase for me. That driver did a good job. You take good care of him, you hear. He seems real efficient and might be helpful later. Tell me, have you found out anything amount Mitchell’s whereabouts?”
“That’s why I’m here, Lucky. There is nothing definite to tell you. He could be at any Boston Hotel and there are a lot of them. One of my guys, who has a cop drinking buddy, told me this cop once mentioned the department occasionally puts people in a no-name hotel on Avery Street. It has a big vertical sign on the front that simply says Hotel spelled out in light bulbs. As for the Darts, there are only a couple of bars in Boston where Darts are played. Harvard Square, in Cambridge, has one and there is one in Somerville. It is not a big thing in that area and no big tournaments anyone has heard about. That is the best I can do for you. Even though the word was out to over fifty Boston men, I only heard back from three about Darts, and one about the hotel."
“Well, you did your best, Sal. Not much to go on but it’s something. I appreciate it.”
Sal Concetta relaxed and felt the tension drain from his body. Knowing full well that Lucky Ryan is someone who doesn’t act well when disappointed, he didn’t relish telling Ryan there is no certain information about Mitchell to be had.
“What will you do now, Lucky? Sal asked. Anything more I can do for you?”
“I might take a little trip to Boston myself and check out that hotel – hang around there a little and see what’s going on. Mitchell isn’t one to sit in a room very long. He will want his Scotch and he has to eat. Maybe I will spot him.”
Ryan rose from his chair and extended his hand to Concetta; indicating it was the end of the meeting. Sal Concetta shook his hand and immediately left the office much relieved and Ryan immediately made arrangements for a ride to the airport in the morning.
Arriving at Boston Airport, Ryan enters a taxi just as a gray sky releases its rain. He left the cab at Tremont and Avery and spotted the large vertical HOTEL sign, its light bulbs shining like a beacon through the rain and mist. In the Lobby he saw Mitchell in a chair reading a newspaper. Ryan moves quickly into the lobby gift shop and bought an umbrella while keeping an eye on Mitchell through the glass wall. He decides to approach Michell but stopped as Scott Wadsworth appears and takes a chair next to Mitchell. Ryan watches from behind a postcard rack as Mitchell and Wadsworth exchange greetings, leaves the hotel and turn right. Ryan follows them, his umbrella kept low, and totally unaware of the two FBI men a half block behind him. A short distance from the hotel, Mitchell and Wadsworth turn into a deli for lunch. Ryan continues walking past the deli, deciding to wait a couple of minutes before reversing direction back to the deli. He wants to give them a little time; then find out where the two men are seated. He surveys the rectangular formation of white porcelain counter with its round, white stools on three sides. Several men are preparing food in the center area. At the far end a man is cooking on a griddle. As he discretely watches, the FBI men enter and take seats on either side of Mitchell and Wadsworth. Ryan, thinking this is not a good situation decides to cross the street and wait for them to leave. He lingers a second too long looking in the deli window. Mitchell glances out at the rain and makes eye contact with Ryan. He immediately tells his FBI minder who head for the street. Ryan moves away quickly and, turning in an ally, sees the rear entrance to a department store and makes a dash for it. He moves through the store noting all the exits; selects a side door that opens to one of the many narrow, unnamed, cobbled walkways wending their way from street to street in downtown Boston. Emerging from the walkway onto Boylston, just at the edge of Chinatown, he turns onto Washington and hails a taxi for the airport.
On the short flight back to New York, Ryan mulled over the events in Boston and thought they don’t call me Lucky for nothing. He wondered what might have happened should they have caught him. So, what is wrong with being in Boston? What could they prove? He continued to convince himself he was in the clear – unless his boys in custody in Boston happened to talk.
Smyth is getting nervous about being in one spot too long and quickly calls Harlan Abby.
“Abby, what’s the story? Have you come up with the money yet? I need to conclude this project and move on. If you can’t make the deal, I have others to talk to,” he lied.
“I’m doing my best,” Abby replied. “I have someone interested in some of my collection and will know tonight if the sale goes through. If it does, I’ll have the money in twenty-four hours at the most."
“OK, but I won’t wait another minute after that.”
“I’ll call you as soon as I find out if I’m successful,” Abby said and hung up.
Abby was shaking and wished he never heard of Smyth. Since the library meeting with Smyth he has been considering calling Scott Wadsworth as he had promised. However, the thought of owning the ancient pipe, probably the only one like it in existence, had warped his normally honest mind. What if Smyth really is the killer of the Austrian? Would he hesitate to quiet me the same way? Abby moved to the small bar in the corner of his study, poured a good size Bourbon over ice and put a match to his pipe. Reaching in the center drawer of his desk, he remover the card Wadsworth gave him and placed it in the center of the desk blotter. I must relax, he thought, and decide what to do. He took a large drink of Bourbon, leaned back in the desk chair, stuck the pipe between his teeth and closed his eyes. Soon the Bourbon and the slow, gentle puffing started doing its job and Abby could feel the tension fading away. Some time later, after weighing all the possibilities and ramifications of buying the pipe, Abby picks up the phone and calls Wadsworth.
“Scott Wadsworth, attorney at law. May I help you?”
“Yes, please. This is Harlan Abby. I must speak to Mr. Wadsworth on an extremely important matter”
“I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Abby, but Mr. Wadsworth has left for the day. The office will be open at nine o’clock tomorrow. You can reach him then.”
“No, no, you don’t understand. He told me to call him any time – day or night. This could be a matter of life or death.”
“Is this about a pipe, sir?”
“Hold on, Mr. Abby, I’ll connect you to his home. I’m glad you caught me before I left.”
After several clicks and buzzes Scott Wadsworth answered. “Abby, I’m happy to hear from you. What is so important?”
Abby related the entire story of his meeting and phone conversations with Smyth and how he felt considering the murder of the man in Austria.
“I don’t want to meet the same fate. Not a pipe in the world, regardless of its significance, is worth my life. Can you get me out of this, please?”
“Now don’t you panic, Scott admonished. Between the police and FBI, you will be perfectly safe. Tell Smyth you can get the money but it will take an extra day. Try to make an appointment with him at your home a couple of days after that. We need time to work out a capture strategy while keeping you safe at the same time. There will be some security assigned to you first thing in the morning. You will probably see some strangers on your property. They will be either police or FBI; perhaps both. Eventually, they will make themselves known to you. Call me anytime if you need to, OK?”
“Yes, I am much relieved. Thank you. Please keep me informed.”
Scott, is elated at the prospect of turning Smyth over to Karl von Ropp and Interpol, and the pipe to Jodh Sing.
Immediately, Scott called Harry Malison and told him what has transpired.
“I’ll get on it immediately with the police. Please call Dick Taranto, tell him what is going on and I might need some special cops. Have him meet me at FBI headquarters as soon as he can tonight. I’m going in immediately. You can come if you wish or we can talk in the morning. I’ll try to contact Karl von Ropp and Jodh Sing at their hotel and give them the news. They are becoming very impatient. I don’t think they understand what we are attempting. Interpol would be a lot more forward in their actions against Smyth and worry about the pipe later.”
It only took two rings and Malison was immediately connected to the
Agent in Charge. “I want a very tight surveillance on Smyth. If absolutely
necessary, have the police detain him on some charge or the other, but
not for too long. Make sure he doesn’t stray out of town. I want to know
immediately if Smyth meets with anyone and when he plans to deliver the
pipe to Harlan Abby. The office will know where to reach me at any time.
I have a feeling this case is coming to a head soon.”
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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
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