The Yankee Club will be released on August 12, so here’s one more excerpt. Still in the hospital, Jake is visited by two cops, his editor, Mildred and the owner of The Yankee Club, Gino, who thinks it’s time for Jake to leave.
The Yankee Club
Chapter 3 (continued)
I made it back down the hallway on the crutches. I nodded to the cop outside my door and entered the room. The nurses had changed more than the sheets. The drab hospital room resembled a cheery hotel suite.
The new bed had a thick wide mattress with crisp ironed sheets whiter than snow and a soft-looking pillow. In the corner they’d placed a chair and desk with an Underwood typewriter, a stack of paper, and a crystal vase with yellow carnations. The nurse smiled and held out a thick blue robe.
Except for the typewriter, I hadn’t asked for any of this. “You shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble.”
“Any friend of Spencer Dalrymple’s—”
“He’s not my friend.”
The nurse smirked and laid the robe on the bed. “I see.”
Maybe she’d seen something between Laura and me. For Laura’s sake I had to do a better job of hiding my feelings about her.
I propped the crutches against the side of the bed. Balancing on one leg, I slipped into the robe and cinched it around my waist.
“Jake Donovan.” A broad-shouldered man in a three-piece suit and polished shoes entered and removed his hat. “Apparently you’re well enough . . . and comfortable enough to tell us what happened last night. I’m Detective Hawkins, and this is Inspector Stone.”
His partner stood behind him, and both men flashed NYPD badges. I recognized Stone’s hawklike nose and perpetual scowl. Officer Stone had walked a beat with Mickey for two years. He never liked me, and things got worse when Mickey quit the force and we opened our detective agency.
Stone shook his head in disgust and gestured toward the pillow. “Where’s the mint?”
When the nurse left, Stone looked me straight in the eye like I was a suspect, not a victim. “Four years ago I got plugged in the shoulder. I was in the hospital for two weeks. They stuck me in a ward with a dozen guys who had serious intestinal problems, if you know what I mean.”
I sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m quite well, Inspector. Thanks for asking.”
Hawkins gave his partner a look and set his hat on the coatrack. He took out a small notebook and pencil from his suit coat pocket. “Why don’t you start with when you left The Yankee Club.”
Stone dropped his hat beside the typewriter, plopped down at the desk, and drummed his fingers on the paper.
I told them about the visit to Mickey’s office with Frankie Malzone. I left out meeting Belle Starr. I didn’t want these guys to give her the business until I’d talked to her. In my gumshoe days streetwalkers often spilled information to me they kept from cops.
While Hawkins made notes, Stone grabbed a sheet of typing paper and rolled it into the Underwood. He began to type as I spoke.
The man needed a sock in the nose. I would’ve obliged if I wasn’t such a nice guy and hadn’t taken a bullet to the leg.
I described the black sedan, the shooting, and Frankie blasting out the car’s rear window. I left out Mickey’s last words about the key in the ashtray. For now, Belle and the key were mine.
Hawkins studied his notes. “How soon after Frankie lit the cigarette did the car approach through the fog?”
The question smacked me in the gut. Was there a connection? “You think Frankie sent some kind of signal?”
“Naah.” Hawkins stuffed the notebook into his pocket. “Seems pretty cut and dried to me. We find the black sedan with the windshield shot out, we find Jimmy Vales.”
“That’s your theory?”
“An hour after Vales threatened to kill you in The Yankee Club—we got a dozen witnesses—you and Mickey O’Brien were gunned down. You think that’s just a coincidence?”
Hawkins might have been right, but I intended to find out. “We’re finished.” I gestured toward the door.
Stone ripped the paper from the typewriter. “There once was a man from Nantucket—”
“That’s enough,” Hawkins shouted.
Stone laid the crude limerick beside the typewriter. He grabbed his hat and left the room.
Hawkins set his hat on his head. “I know you were a gumshoe and Mickey was a friend of yours, but I don’t want you nosing around like this is some chapter in one of your novels. You get in our way, you’ll be typing from a jail cell.” He turned on his heel and left the room.
I rubbed my throbbing leg and pictured Frankie lighting the cigarette and Belle Starr disappearing into the fog. I needed to discover why Mickey was hesitant to discuss the case he was working. I had to check every angle to see whether Mickey had been the target.
Inspector Stone returned and pointed a finger at me. “Mickey’s dead ’cause of you. He’d still be on the force if you hadn’t talked him into becoming a dick.”
“Mickey came to me about becoming a detective.”
Spit flew from his mouth. “You breeze into the city and three hours later Mickey shows up on a slab in the morgue with a tag on his toe. I hope you can sleep nights.”
I wasn’t going to take his crap any longer. I climbed out of bed to take a sock at the bum. A jolt of pain shot through my injured leg, and I crumpled to the floor.
Stone barked a satisfied chuckle and left.
I winced, pulled myself up, and leaned against the bed. I couldn’t imagine Hawkins and Stone finding Mickey’s killer. I just hoped they didn’t get in my way when I left the hospital to investigate.
I didn’t have bourbon to take my mind off Laura and Mickey, but I had my typewriter. Grabbing a crutch, I made it to the table. I dropped into the chair and rolled a sheet of paper into the Underwood and began to type the rewrite of my final chapter.
Halfway through the rewrite an aide delivered dinner—bland-looking rice and a slimy fish fillet. I ignored the meal and finished typing an hour later, satisfied Mildred would be pleased. Now I could focus on more important matters.
I left the chapter beside the typewriter and returned to the bed. It wasn’t long until the doctor entered and removed the bandage from my leg. He examined the wound and nodded approval. No infection. If I didn’t have any complications in the next twenty-four hours, he’d discharge me. Okay, he said a day or two, but I was a quick healer, especially when I had something important to do.
After he left, I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep. I dreamed about standing on a street corner in my old neighborhood. A white ambulance drove past, and the driver shot at me. I dropped to the sidewalk as he sped away. I checked myself over, but the shooter had missed. Sweat slid down my face as I lay on my back on the cement. I was all right but couldn’t escape the impression of someone watching me.
I awoke and stared into the green eyes of Mildred, less than a foot from my face.
“Holy crap!” My editor stumbled backward and fell into the chair beside the bed. She patted her chest. “I thought . . . I thought you were . . . never mind what I thought. I never should’ve hired that driver!”
“Don’t worry, I fired him.”
I had my doubts about Frankie, but I wouldn’t share them with Mildred. “Frankie Malzone probably saved my life when he tied his belt around my leg.”
“I should’ve met you at the train. Instead I hire some hoodlum and you end up drinking at a speakeasy and getting shot. I’ll never forgive myself.” She offered no condolences over the loss of a friend. Mildred paced the room and continued to rant as I’d seen her do dozens of times.
When she finally took a breath, I pointed to the twenty pages. “I finished the chapter.”
Mildred stopped pacing and grinned. “You’re the cat’s meow!” She picked up a sheet of paper beside the typewriter. “There once was a man from Nantucket. Jake Donovan!”
“No, the stack of papers on the other side of the typewriter.”
She grabbed the pages and plopped down in the chair. Ten minutes later, a smile swept across her face. “Perfect.”
“Unless you’re Blackie Doyle.”
She clutched the chapter to her chest and approached the bed. “Some people aren’t meant to be married.” Her face reddened, and she covered her mouth with one hand. “I’m so sorry. That was a terrible thing to say.”
Mildred flashed a sheepish smile and grabbed her purse. “I’d like to stay and chat . . . ”
“You don’t chat. You talk. People listen.”
“Was that nice? You’ve got a few more days at the Carlyle Hotel to heal up before you head back to Tampa. You could use a vacation.”
I had no intention of holing up in a hotel. “That would be swell, especially since Empire Press is footing the bill.” I’d developed a knack of smiling with sincerity when I lied.
She kissed my cheek. “Call me when you get out of here. We can talk about your next book over lunch.”
After she left, the nurse came in with a sleeping pill. I welcomed the medication and soon fell asleep. This time: no dreams.
Early the next morning, a hand shook me awake. “Up and at ’em, sunshine. It’s Gino.”
I ran a hand over my face and checked the wall clock. “Seven. Visiting hours aren’t until—”
“I don’t pay attention to stuff like visiting hours.” He pointed to the empty chair outside the open door. “I figured they’d stick a cop outside your door.”
“Guess the detectives I talked to don’t think I need protecting now that they’re on the case.”
Gino checked out the room and nodded approval. “Very nice. Remind me if I get shot to come here.” He glanced around as if someone might be watching then handed me something wrapped in white paper. “Ma baked you a calzone.”
“Thanks.” I unwrapped the prize I remembered as a kid and offered Gino a bite.
“Too early for breakfast.” He slipped a flask from his suit coat and took a sip.
While I ate, Gino grew serious. “Too bad about, Mickey. Funeral is Monday at St. Tim’s.”
“What day is this?”
“You kidding me? It’s Friday . . . May fifth. Sheesh, we need to get you out of here before you go crazy. Anyways, I’m taking care of the arrangements. Mickey didn’t have nobody, except you and me.”
He cocked his head. “I don’t like that look on your mug when you said Laura. You’ll probably give me a sock in the jaw, but I gotta say it. You was always too protective of her.”
What? Of course I wanted to protect her. I’d started with keeping her safe from her old man. “You’re right. I should sock you in the jaw, but I still love her.”
“Let’s talk about something else besides feelings, okay, nancy?” He pulled up a chair. “Me and Danny done some snooping around. No one’s seen Jimmy Vales. The cops think he might’ve taken a crack at you, but I don’t know. Jimmy’s no brain surgeon, but he’s not so stupid as to threaten someone in front of a hundred witnesses then plug ’em an hour later. Am I right?”
“You’re preaching to the choir.” I finished the calzone and brushed crumbs from my gown.
“What do you say? Let’s spring you from this joint, choir boy.”
Now? “The doctor didn’t say when I could leave.”
Gino held out both hands. “You waiting for a permission slip? You’re old enough to not have to follow stupid rules. Come on. It’s your leg. You look good. How you feeling?”
“I’m a little stiff.”
“Happens to me every morning.” Gino snorted. “Let’s go. Unless you like the food and lying in bed watching your leg heal.” He set an overnight bag on the bed. “I took the liberty of stopping by your hotel and picking up some of your stuff. Frankie got you checked in.”
“How’d you get in the room?”
“I know the front desk girl . . . intimately.”
Most solved murders were cracked within forty-eight hours. After that, memories faded, clues vanished, and trails grew cold. “I wouldn’t want the hospital to think I skipped out of paying my bill.”
“So you leave ’em a note.” He held up a black lacquered cane with a silver handle in the shape of a bloodhound. “I got you something else. Check this out.” He twisted the handle and pulled. Attached to the handle was an eight-inch dagger that fit into the hollow opening of the cane. “I saw something like this in a movie once. I heard you got shot in the leg and thought you should be gimping around in style. Try it.”
I slid the dagger into the cane. I turned the handle and locked the blade inside. “Nice.”
“So we gonna do this or what?”
Before I could change my mind, I changed into slacks and a sweater. I left a note on the desk to send the bill to the Carlyle.
Gino poked his head out the door. “Coast is clear.”
I kept weight off my leg with the cane and followed him to the elevator, hoping we wouldn’t run into my doc.
Gino stabbed the down button and clapped me on the back. “Relax. You look like we just knocked off a bank.”
The elevator creaked to the lobby. In the morning haze, Gino hailed a cab while I leaned against the cane. I made a mental list of places to check and people to talk to.
Gino held the door open while I climbed into the back of the cab. Yesterday I was just a hack writer finishing a novel. To solve Mickey O’Brien’s murder I’d have to become what I’d been most of my so-called adult life. My fist tightened around the cane’s silver handle. Until I found Mickey’s killer, I was a detective.
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