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 Four

“It’s Smyth, you great clod. We need to meet. I’ve something big going down and could use you. I’m in Miami and will be taking a bus to Albany. Can you get up here so we can discuss it? It could be very big money for you. I’ll be at the Regal Hotel”

Mitchell said, “Crime, but it’s been a long time. I figured you had your head in the stocks for twenty years or dead by now. You sure about this big money? If so, I’ll be there by six P.M. tomorrow.

“Mic, I have an item worth at least a million to the right person, and probably more. All we have to do is find that person.”

Mitchell sauntered to the end of the bar nearest the door, his favorite spot in case he must get out in a hurry. With his elbows on the bar and a new Scotch in his hands he wondered what in hell might be worth a million or so bucks that old Smyth has tumbled on to – must be something from Europe he has smuggled into the US. Mitchell motioned to the bartender while pushing the twenty he just won across the bar.

Nodding to his defeated opponent said, “Give him whatever he wants. If there is anything left apply it to my tab,” and walked out of the bar heading for his favorite Italian restaurant for dinner.

Back in Boston the next day, Wadsworth heard the office phone ringing as he reached the top of the stairs. It was early in the morning, and realizing he is probably the first one in, rushed to open the office door and answer the phone.

“Scott, this is Bill Clauson at Briar and Smoke in Springfield,” the voice said.

Scott replied, “Good Morning Bill. I hope you have good news for me.”

“I have that,” Clauson said. “I’ve set up a meeting for day-after-tomorrow for you to talk to Harlan J. Abby. About two o’clock, if that is a good time for you.”

That will be fine. That gives me time to get things moving at the office and drive there. See you then.”
Scott flipped the cover off the cup of coffee he picked up at the coffee shop down stairs just as the phone sounded again.

“Scott, it’s Harry. I’ve got some info on Albert, also known as Lucky, Ryan for you. He is high on the New York FBI list of people to keep an eye on. He owns an importing business there and a lush penthouse apartment. He has no police record but associates with some shady people. The folks in New York are attempting to get a line on a couple of holding companies they think he owns to shuffle illegal imports around. The records and ownership are quite confusing, and that brings them under high scrutiny. Surveillance at his warehouse, where his office is, indicates he employs several known criminals and a couple of enforcers; real hard guys. There is also suspicion of money laundering going on between the import company and the holding companies. You be very careful with this guy If you must meet him, make it on neutral ground and not his office, and I want the bureau close by.”

“Thanks Harry. I’ll watch my step and will inform you if I’m going to meet Ryan.”

Scott picked a pipe from the small rack on his desk and thoughtfully filled it and fired it. He took a couple of puffs and reached for his coffee. He sipped and puffed while thinking about Ryan and wondering if Frank Gray has heard from the European news services about Ryan. There must be something if he is importing from there. He sat and pondered the whole situation to this point until he heard his secretary settling in the outer office and decided it was time to get to work.

About eleven o’clock, Scott secretary informed him that Frank Gray is calling.

“Free for lunch, Scott? I’ve got some interesting reports on Ryan for you.”

“Yea, I think I can make it. Jake Wirth’s place?”

“Ok. See you about noon,” Frank replied.

On the way to Jake Wirth’s Scott stopped at L.J. Peretti’s. He thought he needed a break from Royal Blend; something a bit softer. Whisky blend was suggested, a Cavendish blend, with a subtle flavor and aroma from curing with Kentucky Bourbon. Mild, smooth and mellow. He reached Jake Wirth’s just as Frank did and just ahead of the noon rush. In the booth they used for many years, both finished off their Knockwurst and German hot potato salad and settled back with the last of a dark beer and lit their pipes.

“Well,” Frank started. “Your Albert Ryan certainly has a checkered reputation in Europe. His company, European Consolidated Imports, buys antiques and art all over Western Europe, but quite heavily in Italy. It is suspicioned he has close ties with the underworld there. Officials have been trying since the war to catch him smuggling, but never have. He has been in courts in several countries on one minor charge or another and always exonerated. However, authorities keep a tight eye on him everywhere. There is little doubt he is dishonest, and it is just a matter of time before he is caught either in Europe or here.”

That night, at 11:45, an Albany detective assigned to the bus station spotted Smyth getting off a bus from Miami. He followed Smyth to the taxi stand and then rushed to his car parked just beyond the first cab. When the cab pulled out the officer followed. When traffic thinned a bit, he radioed headquarters and asked for the chief.

“You stay with him and call back when he gets to a destination,” the chief ordered. As soon as he heard from the detective, he notified the Albany office of the FBI.

“Good work,” the agent in charge told the chief. Have your man hang in there for a while. I’ll assemble a team to take over. It shouldn’t take more than a half hour for them to be there. Have your man find out what room he has and meet us in the lobby. If Smyth leaves the hotel, tell your man to tail him until he comes back.”

“Are you going to apprehend him there?” The chief asked.

“No, there must be others involved in this and the bureau wants to know who they are. The FBI team took less than twenty minutes to get to the Regal Hotel. There were four agents; one watched the stairwell while another kept an eye on the elevators. On Smyth’s floor, an agent stealthily watched for visitors to Smyth’s room. Outside, an agent in a vehicle observed the hotel from across the street in case Smyth or a visitor left by car. All agents were connected by mini-radios.

Back in New York the next afternoon, Mitchell headed his rental car towards Albany, hoping to get there by six and hook-up with Smyth. On the way he tried to think of a gentle way to turn down Smyth’s proposal, just in case he didn’t like what the bugger was up to.

Smyth told Mitchell about the ancient gourd pipe, leaving out certain details. “What do you think, Mic? Do you want to make some big money?” Smyth asked.

Mitchell hesitated for a minute and asked, “Didn’t you leave something out, Smyth? How about the murder of the guy in Austria and the theft of the pipe in India? It was all in the newspapers, you know. You’re as hot as a baked potato, and not just in Austria. For old times sake, I’ll hook you up with a pipe collector in Manhattan and maybe one other, but I don’t want any of that bloody money. I’ve done a lot of things and served some time in Old Bailey. I’ve been relatively clean since I came to the U S and want to keep it that way.”

Smyth looked deeply into Mic’s eyes for a second and decided he was serious. He sat back in his chair and said, “If that is the way you want it. You have certainly changed since the old days. But you keep your mouth shut about me if you value your health. You aren’t my only friend in this country.

Mic, lit a cigarette, stood and said, "I’ll be in touch in a day or two, but don’t ever threaten me. I’ve done favors for some very heavy hitters and all this could come back and ruin your life, if not end it. It would depend on how my friends feel about you.” He turned and left the room.

As Mitchell drove away from the Regal Hotel, The FBI car that was stationed outside the hotel pulled from the curb and followed Mitchell to the rental company, and home. By the time Mitchell left his apartment, a pair of New York agent were on duty and watched him leave and enter delicatessen two doors from his building for breakfast.

With breakfast out of the way, he went out and hailed a cab. “Tenth and Twenty-sixth street, if you will, sir.” He said as he settled in the rear of the cab. “And, not the long way. I know the city,” he added.

It was a quick trip directly to Twenty-sixth street. Mitchell tipped the driver five dollars and walked East on 26th to a warehouse with gold-on-black signage indicating “European Consolidated Imports.” He tried the door and found it locked so pushed the doorbell button in the door molding. Shortly the door latch buzzed and allowing him to enter. There was nowhere to go from the small entryway but up a flight of stairs. A pair of very large men in suits greeted him at the top of the stairs, “What do you want here, Mitchell?” one asked in a rather menacing tone.

“I want to talk to Mr. Ryan. Tell him it is about a very old pipe for sale.”

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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