- Dead in Chicago: Thriller
Dead in Chicago: Thriller
By Neal Chadwick
crime novel from the time of Al Capone
Some cold day in Chicago. It was 1929, a bad year, a bad day.
But I don't want to complain, after all I am still alive, otherwise I could not tell this story at all...
Detective novel - set in Chicago in the 1920s .
Neal Chadwick (Alfred Bekker) is a well-known author of fantasy novels, detective stories and books for young people. In addition to his great book successes, he has written numerous novels for suspense series such as Ren Dhark, Jerry Cotton, Cotton reloaded, Commissioner X, John Sinclair and Jessica Bannister. He also published under the names Neal Chadwick, Henry Rohmer, Conny Walden, Sidney Gardner, Jonas Herlin, Jack Raymond, Adrian Leschek, John Devlin, Brian Carisi, Robert Gruber and Janet Farell.
Some cold day in Chicago. It was 1929, a bad year, a bad day.
But I don't want to complain, after all I'm still alive, otherwise I wouldn't be able to tell this story at all.
There are days when everything goes wrong. And that's exactly the kind of guy I was just behind me when I went to Clunky's "Speakeasy", one of those illegal liquor stores that sprout out of the ground like rotten mushrooms in Chicago and elsewhere.
I now needed a drink, said the password at the entrance and was admitted.
When I stepped up to the bar Clunky, without losing a superfluous word, put something high-proof in front of me. The first sip still burned a bit in the throat, but to flush some of my problems down with it, it was enough. I put the emptied glass on the counter and Clunky gave it back.
On that cursed day, I had shot a man after he had killed my client.
I found that I had earned the right to a bad mood, took my drink and went to the farthest corner. For once, I didn't feel like bar talk today.
If I wouldn't be able to drive my 1924 Plymouth later, which I had parked nearby, it wasn't so bad. My 1-room-apartment was only four blocks away and until then I managed it in any case still on foot.
I closed my eyes for a few moments and was alone with myself and my thoughts.
A man named Zach Allister approached me a week ago. He had cheated a member of the Irish syndicate for a lot of money and now he feared for his life. He couldn't go to the police because they asked him some unpleasant questions. So he turned to me, Pat Boulder - private investigator and if necessary bodyguard. One week I managed to keep my client alive. I told him better get out of town. After what he had screwed up, the Windy City was simply no more plaster for him, but unfortunately he didn't want to see that.
Who doesn't want to hear has to feel or sometimes gets a bullet.
The conversation we had in my office in the corner of South Franklin/Monroe Street went through my head at that moment.
"I have urgent business here, Mr Boulder!"
"Little rendezvous with the physical - or what kind of business are these?"
"Don't get cynical, Boulder!"
"You're as dead as a pair of feet if you don't get out of here soon. The people you've been messing with don't burn for long!"
"We'll see about that!"
"They'll make a sieve out of you!"
"What you're going to prevent, Boulder! I'll pay you twice your usual rate! Look, I know you're good. But I also know you need money."
We had both been right and now Zach Allister was lying in the city morgue, pumped full of lead. It happened at a diner on Washington Road. My client had got up to complain to the manager about the quality of the coffee, a guy with an MPi in his hands had stormed in and just mowed him down.
But this hit man hadn't been happy about it for a long time. A shot fired from my.38 was the end for him.
It wasn't the subsequent interrogations with the police that had cost me the last nerve, but the prospect that history was getting around. A man I should have protected was dead. It wasn't exactly good publicity. What other client would have confidence in that?
"Are you Mister Boulder?" a female voice ripped me from my thoughts. "Mister Pat Boulder," she repeated, stressing my first name in a way that was very powerful.
I opened my eyes and saw a woman in her late twenties. The hair was dark, her finely cut face was dominated by two green-blue eyes, and the silhouette that could be seen under the tight-fitting dress was breathtaking. In one hand she held a half-empty glass, in the other a cigarette which was not yet on fire.
"May I sit with you, Mr Boulder?"
"You may. But you picked a bad day to toast with me."
"Don't expect me to spray you with jokes today, or that you could talk to me in wit!"
"Don't worry, Mr Boulder! But you must still have fire, right?"
I reached into the side pocket of my jacket and pulled out the matches. She bent over so I could give her fire. Then she sat down and I lit one for myself.
After taking the first train, I drank my glass empty and distorted my face. "Real bourbon's different than this fusel..."
"Let's talk turkey now. Who are you and who told you my name?"
Somewhere someone laughed very shrill and attracted everyone's attention. For the young lady who had taken a seat at my table this meant that she had a few more seconds to think of a sensible answer.
She bent slightly over the table and then spoke in a muted voice.
"My name is Jessica Rampell. And I know who you are from Clunky."
"Don't tell me he's talking to you!"
"Yes, introduce yourself!"
"Apparently you have that certain something!"
She smiled a little mockingly. "I guess that's it."
I grinned back. "I'm not standing at the bar for once, but rather, contrary to my other habits, I'm pulling myself together at a table and already missing a historical event: the moment when Clunky makes small talk!
"I wouldn't call it that."
"I asked him for someone to help me with a pretty delicate matter!"
I pulled on my Lucky Strike and was suddenly as sober as a Reformed preacher.
"What's it about?"
"Clunky told me you were a good private investigator."
"I'll take 25 bucks a day plus expenses. If you can afford it, I'll do almost anything for you."
"Good to know."
"But almost everything."
I thought of her as an unfaithful husband to shadow. The fact that the girl wasn't wearing a wedding ring didn't mean anything. Maybe she'd already stood him up for rage. Actually, a job I hated like the plague. But after the shooting at the diner, I longed for a boring job.
After all, my price didn't scare her and I thought that was a good omen once. But when I looked at the noble bracelet and the pearl necklace, nothing else was to be expected.
But in view of the nature of Jessica Rampell's assignment, I should have been quite thoroughly mistaken.
She blew her smoke at me. Maybe she'd seen it in the movies and thought it was worldly.
"Clunky says you know a lot of people at ńe!"
"If Clunky says so..."
"You get around a lot, don't you?"
"What are you getting at?"
"I need someone who can get you across the lake to Canada inconspicuously. The alcohol smugglers are driving this route..."
"Yes, and some of them get caught on a regular basis."
"Then it would be better if we had new papers?"
"We? There's more of them? ", I followed up, but at first I didn't get an answer. "You'd probably prefer a trip without questions or papers."
She nodded with a smile.
"Yeah, something like that," she admitted.
"What's on your tally?"
"Yes or no?" Her voice had now received a hard, metallic sound. Her green-blue eyes reminded me of the eyes of a cat.
"I'll ask around for you," I said vaguely.
I wasn't particularly keen on this job. If the client doesn't know exactly what she wants, there are always complications.
"I'd be very grateful, Mr Boulder."
"How can I reach you?"
"Not at all. I'll call you in the next few days."
I was a little surprised. But the client is queen and there was no reason not to accept her terms.
"All right," I agreed. "Whatever you say!"
I reached into my wallet and gave her one of my cards.
She took it, took a quick look at it and then put it in her handbag.
"When are you going to leave?" I asked.
"By the end of the week at the latest. By the way, I need two seats!"
"I see," I lied. I sensed some Romeo and Juliet story, but at the moment I didn't really want to hear anything about it.
"If you succeed, you'll get an extra $100," she promised me. Then she took out her wallet and put exactly $25 on the table. "And that's for you to start taking care of my case right away!"
I smiled thinly. "Money always gives me a tremendous boost to my enthusiasm," I admitted, collecting the bills while I let the Lucky Strike glow in the right corner of my mouth and put today's loot in my inner jacket pocket.
"It's really urgent, Mr Boulder!"
"I was happy to do business with you, ma'am!" I said.
She stood up and so did I.
"I'm afraid I have to go now," she explained, roaring away. I looked after her for a few more moments before she lost herself in the crowd of drinkers that had meanwhile gathered in the Speakeasy.
I breathed deeply and thought: So this damn day ends yes nevertheless still somewhat tolerably!
Who would have thought it possible?
A week went by without Jessica Rampell reporting to me. I did just as much as I thought was reasonable for $25 and asked about ways to get across the lake without a fuss.
Otherwise, I didn't have much to do this week. Most of the time I sat in my office, put my feet on the table, drank bourbon and had my secretary Kitty Meyerwitz tell me that the tide was about to go out.
"Comfort yourself, Kitty! Ebb tide is inevitably followed by high tide," I said.
She put her slender arms up to her hips. "Are you talking about a bourbon flood?"
"Where's your optimism?"
"I've lost him since Joe died and I depend on it - we depend on it! -that you'll land the fish."
She was alluding to my shot partner Joe Bonadore, whose empty desk reminded me every day that the job I was doing was not entirely safe.
It rained for days on end. Maybe that's why nobody just got lost in my office. Not even the unfaithful husbands seemed to go out the door in this weather. It was bewitched.
After all, I had ample opportunity to read the Chicago Tribune from the first to the last page.
The thing with my shot client was once on the third page. Then, in the following issues, there were a few follow-up reports on pages 18 and 19. Here in Chicago, a shooting where there is only one death is not a big deal.
The injured employees of the diner were not mentioned at all. I'm afraid my name is. That's great, I thought. I just needed that commercial.
It was Sunday when the rain finally subsided. A cool wind swept through the streets from Lake Michigan.
I slept most of Sunday in my one-room apartment on the North Side. The night before I had spent in different Speakeasys. My head was about to burst.
In the afternoon I got up and tried to clear my head with aspirin. I was just dressed and there was a big knock on the door.
"Chicago Police Department! Open the door," a hoarse voice growled muffled behind the door.
I stepped to the side of the door and opened a crack.
The curtain chain prevented the door from flying to the side through the kick that followed.
"This is Lieutenant Quincer! Open up, Boulder!"
I took a deep breath. "Confucius says hurry with a while!"
"Where'd you get that bullshit, Boulder?"
"I once had a Chinese client..."
I took the chain off. Lieutenant James Quincer entered with two other policemen.
Quincer was blonde, late thirties and about six feet tall. That big grin was as crooked as his hat. Unfortunately my job meant that I was always running into this unsympathetic guy with the mind of a butcher. In his opinion, people like me didn't belong on the street. I always told myself that it was pure envy for someone who didn't have to kowtow to any superiors, which made him a first class asshole.
But it was probably something personal.
Or my red hair. But that didn't really matter.
Every time, I took it upon myself to accept Lieutenant Quincer like bad weather.
I never succeeded.
"Come with me, Boulder, and don't ask useless questions!"
"What's going on? Is this about the shooting at the diner again? I thought I had all the answers."
"Just shut up and come with me."