Vice Cop, page 1
I inherit money. People just keep dying and leaving it to me.”
SHARON: ‘Maybe I’m just more honest than most women. I suppose you think I’m a tramp.”
LOUISE: You know how Isobel’s parties work, don’t you? You never stay with the girl you brought….”
He was a cop. He was there to make a raid. He knew all about the special drinks and the special cigarettes. Everything was under control. Until the lights went out.
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Table of Contents
She’ll Hate Me Tomorrow
IT WAS a dull, drizzly September day in St. Cecilia. The weather would have been bad anywhere, but St. Cecila’s factories made it awful. We don’t have an anti-smoke ordinance, so most of the factories burn soft coal. When there is a misting rain, the drops dissolve tiny bits of soot on the way down and it rains ink.
Carl Lincoln and I were working the marijuana detail out of the Narcotics Squad at the time. We’re both members of the Vice, Gambling and Narcotics Division and Captain Spangler, our boss, doesn’t like his men to get into ruts. You never know from one week to the next what your assignment will be, but right now it was Narcotics.
It was a temperate day in spite of the rain and we had the squadroom windows open. What smoke the rain didn’t dissolve in falling, it pushed inside through the windows. We were sitting in the squadroom filtering the soot out of the air by passing it through our lungs when the loudspeaker boomed, “Rudowski!”
Captain Spangler always calls me Rudowski, although the name I use is Rudd. I’m not ashamed of my real name and I’m proud of my Polish ancestry. I just got tired of trying to explain to people over the phone that I was Mateusz Rudowski. They can understand me when I saw Mathew Rudd.
I said to Carl, “That probably means you too, buddy-boy.”
“Whither you go, I go,” Carl said, unhinging his lanky frame from his chair and following me into the captain’s office.
Captain Maurice Spangler is a square-bodied, grizzled man near sixty. He’s a politician-cop—you have to be in St. Cecilia to make captain—but nevertheless a good cop. He came up through the ranks, learning every dodge criminals try to pull, and how to outmaneuver them, on the way up. He’d also learned whose backs to pat and whose toes not to step on. They were equally important lessons for a captain of police.
There was a thin, aristocratic-looking man of about fifty in the office with him. He was tall and gray at the temples and reminded me of somebody I’d seen somewhere, but I couldn’t think where. Then I got it He looked like the man of distinction in the whisky ads.
In his crisp voice the captain said, “Matt, I want you to meet Mr. Martin Manners. Sergeant Rudowski, Mr. Manners. And his partner, Corporal Lincoln.”
“How do you do, Sergeant?” Manners asked in a well-modulated tone. He gave me a firm handclasp, then repeated the question and the handclasp with Carl.
The captain waved us to seats. “Mr. Manners came in to report a woman whom he believes is holding marijuana parties at her home,” he said in a tone suggesting that Manners should get a medal for performing this civic duty.
His tone, plus the fact that Manners was in his office, implied that the man was somebody important. Ordinary taxpayers don’t get in to see captains with minor complaints. They’re referred to the squadroom. He wasn’t politically important, though, because I knew every politician in town at least by name, from the big ones down to the City Hall hangers-on, and I’d never heard of Martin Manners. I figured he must be rich.
I said, “This woman is running a reefer pad?”
Manners looked blank and the captain said, “No, no, Matt. It isn’t a professional operation. She’s a socially prominent divorcée named Mrs. Isobel Whittier. Mr. Manners says she has been furnishing her guests marijuana cigarettes at her private parties.”
The captain must love this, I thought One socialite snitching on another. And both of them probably personal friends of the police commissioner, or at least with influential friends who were personal friends of old Baldy Mason. If the captain took no action, Manners might complain to the commissioner about dereliction of duty. If he acted, the Whittier woman would probably complain about police persecution. But one of the ways Spangler got to be captain was his ability to steer through such shoals without piling up on the rocks. Whatever action he took, he’d arrange things so that in the end everybody concerned would think he’d done them a favor.
Spangler lifted a small envelope from his desk and took out a brown-paper cigarette. “Mr. Manners brought this in as evidence,” he said, handing it across the desk to me.
I rolled it around in my fingers to get its feel. It was drier and raspier than an ordinary cigarette. I sniffed at it.
“It’s a stick, all right,” I said, handing it back. I looked at Manners. “You got this at one of this Whittier woman’s parties?”
“Heavens, no,” he said in a horrified voice. “I wouldn’t step into her house. I found it in my daughter’s purse.”
That made it better. He didn’t want anyone to think he’d be seen dead at Isobel Whittier’s, but it was all right for his daughter to carry sticks around in her purse.
I said, “What makes you think she got it from Mrs. Whittier?”
“She must have. How many people would a twenty-year-old girl know who could furnish her with narcotics?”
“Marijuana isn’t a narcotic,” I said. “Did you ask your daughter where she got it?”
“She said someone must have stuck it into her purse as a joke. She claimed to know nothing about it.”
“How do you know she wasn’t telling the truth?”
He made an impatient gesture. “It’s common knowledge that Isobel Whittier’s parties are little more than orgies. Everybody is whispering that marijuana is smoked at them, and even that she serves wine spiked with aphrodisiacs.”
By everybody, he meant the country club. We hadn’t heard the whispers down at police headquarters.
I said, “Your daughter attends these parties?”
“She has leaped feet first into the woman’s whole wild social group. Sharon doesn’t have a mother, and probably I’ve been too indulgent. I’ve lost all control over her.”
Had he tried an old-fashioned razor strop, I wondered? I said, “What’s Mrs. Whittier’s address?”
“Eleven-thirty-two Crystal Drive,” he said promptly. He had it memorized.
I wondered how many nights he had driven by the address, knowing his daughter was inside and worrying about what was going on. I imagined what my old man would do if he knew my twenty-year-old kid sister was in a place like that It wasn’t hard to imagine. Julie would come out of the place with one of the old man’s hands gripping the back of her neck, the other the seat of her pants. And a few people inside would be nursing broken noses. But Martin Manners was a gentleman. He wouldn’t step into Is
I glanced at Carl, saw he was writing the address in his notebook, then looked at the captain. “You know the problem we have with these private party complaints, Captain.”
“I touched on it briefly wth Mr. Manners before you came in.” He turned to Manners. “You understand that this is a very difficult type of complaint to act on. We have to have definite evidence of law-breaking to justify a raid on a private home. We can’t just barge in and hope to find evidence on the premises. If nothing were happening, we’d be wide open for all sorts of law suits. Constitutionally a man’s home is still his castle. Or in this case, a woman’s home. We’d have to have someone inside, which is exceedingly difficult to arrange with a close-knit social group such as this. If she were peddling the stuff, we could work in an undercover officer as a customer. But it’s pretty hard to get a cop invited to a private party.”
“I understood that point from what you said when we first discussed it,” Manners said. “I’ve been thinking about it while we’ve been talking. And I have a suggestion.”
“Oh?” the captain inquired politely.
“My daughter has never shown much liking for any of the several young men I’ve brought home from time to time in the hope of inciting her interest in someone respectable. She seems to think that anyone who works for a living and has a business future is automatically dull. But she is amenable to the charms of a more worthless type. The so-called playboy, the tennis or golf bum, any rich young scoundrel whose interests center around the country club in the daytime and the cabarets at night, she finds fascinating. Perhaps if we took some young and presentable police officer—not too young, for Sharon seems to prefer men more mature than she is—say about thirty years old—and had him assume the role of a rich young playboy from out of town, I could introduce him to my daughter. If she liked him well enough, after they became thoroughly acquainted it’s quite likely she would take him to one of the parties.”
“That might work,” Captain Spangler agreed.
Manners looked at me. “The sergeant here isn’t a bad-looking man. Hardly handsome, but quite presentable. And Sharon seems particularly to like men with muscles. Are you married, Sergeant?”
“No, sir,” I said.
He mused over me for a moment, then said to the captain, “In better clothing he’d be adequate, I think.”
“This is my Sunday suit,” I said. “Also my Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday suit. I have another I wear while this one is at the cleaners.”
“I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” Manners said, flushing slightly. “I meant that in the role of an idle-rich playboy, you’d have to own an expensively tailored wardrobe.”
“I can’t afford it,” I said. “I’m against crime, even in private homes, but I’m not sinking my slim savings into combatting it. Forty-nine-fifty is my limit for a suit.”
“I’d be willing to stand the expense of the whole operation,” Manners said. “Completely outfit you, furnish you expense money to squire Sharon around the night-club circuit. I’d do anything to break that woman’s hold on my daughter and see her whole wild group broken up.”
I looked at the captain and the captain looked at me. Captain Spangler makes Scrooge look like a philanthropist when it comes to approving expense vouchers, but he has no objection to private citizens spending their money. Seeing an approving look begin to form on his face, I injected a comment.
“You realize, Mr. Manners, that if we raid this place with your daughter on the premises, she’ll be in for the same adverse publicity and probable fine as the rest of the group.”
“I don’t care if she has to go to jail for a short term,” Manners said. “Maybe it would bring her to her senses.”
I shrugged and the captain said, “I think what you suggest would be an acceptable arrangement, Mr. Manners. Rudowski, it probably will take you a week or two to gain the girl’s confidence. I’m assigning you full-time to the undercover job. Lincoln, you’ll be his liaison with the division. It will be up to you to organize and carry out the raid when Rudowski gives you the word.”
I said, “Yes, sir,” and Carl said, “Check, Captain.”
“You can work out the details of your assumed role with Mr. Manners, Rudowski. I suppose you’ll move to some hotel, since you’re supposed to be from out of town. Let Lincoln know where you are.”
“Yes, sir,” I said again. Then, recognizing his tone as dismissal, I said, “Want to come out in the squadroom with us, Mr. Manners, so we can work out a story to tell your daughter?”
He had to shake the captain’s hand first and tell him how much he appreciated his cooperation. Then, as I held the door open, he preceded us out into the squadroom.
“I know why he picked you instead of me,” Carl said in a low voice. “It’s those lovely, limpid brown eyes.”
The guys ride me about my eyes a little. Some of the guys. Only the ones who know me real well. It’s because a few idiot women, mostly drunks in barrooms, have made comments about them when I happened to be with some other cop, who couldn’t wait to regale the squadroom with what was said. I don’t know why women make cracks. I’ve looked in the mirror and tried to figure it out, but they just look like eyes to me. But every so often some crazy female I’ve just met makes a remark about my eyes. She says they’re liquid brown, or poetic, or soulful, or deep pools of understanding. Once a woman told me they reminded her of the eyes of a wounded fawn. I almost belted her. Most women are nuts.
I growled, “Another crack like that and you won’t be able to open either of yours.”
THE THREE of us took seats at the long table at the rear of the squadroom to talk things over.
Martin Manners said that Rudowski didn’t sound like the name of a playboy. I suggested Mathew Rudd and he thought that was fine. I didn’t tell him it was the name I went under everywhere except in the Polish section down on the south side. I figured it really wouldn’t matter what name I used. Nobody I met in the west end would ever have heard of either Rudowski or Rudd, because cops don’t travel in that social stratum. Or vice-versa.
We decided I would be from New York City, because I once spent two weeks on vacation there and at least knew the locations of a few night spots, in case his daughter or her friends brought the conversation around to my supposed home town. Manners said he had made a business trip to New York the previous spring, so our story could be that we met at a party at a mutual friend’s house and he invited me to look him up if I ever got to St Cecilia.
“Do you play golf?” he asked.
I shook my head. “There aren’t any courses where I grew up down on the lower south side.”
“How about tennis?”
“There aren’t any courts either. I played a pretty mean game of stickball when I was a kid.”
He didn’t think that was funy. “I don’t suppose you play bridge either,” he said a little stiffly.
I surprised him by admitting I did. Cards are something every kid learns in a crowded living area, because you don’t need much room for a deck. I was playing poker when I was seven, pinochle when I was eight, auction bridge when I was nine and contract by the time I was twelve. I told him I had won the department pinochle tournament two years running, and played bridge as well as I did pinochle.
“You’ll fit in all right at the country club then,” he said in a mollified voice. “There are always several bridge games going afternoons. Sharon doesn’t care much for golf anyway, but she does like tennis. You’ll have to think up some excuse for not wanting to play.”
“I’ll plead an old hunting accident,” I said. “I’ll say I fell off my horse while riding to hounds.”
He didn’t think that was funny either. When he gave Carl an estimating glance, I suspected he was beginning to regret his choice of me as a psuedo-suitor for his daughter. But you couldn’t have made Carl look like a wealthy playboy if you sprayed him with gold. He talks all right, but he looks like a gangl
“We won’t be able to get things underway until you’re outfitted with new clothes,” he said. “But my tailor is pretty fast, so that shouldn’t take more than a day or two. Suppose we run down and have you measured now? Are you free his afternoon?”
“I don’t ‘have to be,” I said. “It’s official business. I want to see the captain before we take off, though. Excuse me a minute.”
I left him with Carl and went over to rap on the captain’s door. When he said, “Come in,” I opened it and went inside, closing it behind me.
“We’ve got it all worked out,” I said. “I’m Mathew Rudd of New York City. We haven’t decided on a hotel yet, because Mr. Manners figures it will take his tailor a couple of days to make me preseatable. We’re leaving for the tailor’s now, but I guess I’ll be around for a couple of days on regular duty while the tailor is sewing thiings together. You have any instructions you didn’t want Manners to hear?”
“Yes,” he said. “This is a rather delicate situation, Matt You recognize its potential explosiveness, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir. If we goof, the lady may raise hell. With her address, she undoubtedly has influential friends.”
“I wasn’t thinking only of the lady’s reaction,” he said. “It’s possible some of her influential friends attend her orgies. We don’t want to net somebody like the mayor’s brother-in-law in a raid. When and if you get into one of her parties, take a careful look around. If anyone is there whom it would embarrass the city administration to have involved in a scandal, call off your dogs. We’ll wait until a later party to knock the place over.”
And meantime the captain would quietly inform the person concerned that it would be wise to stay away from Isobel Whittier for a time, thereby earning his undying gratitude. That’s my careful captain.
I said, “Otherwise we knock the place over the first time I get inside?”
He nodded. “Providing you spot enough evidence to make it stick, of course. She’ll probably scream, but let her. The public doesn’t have much sympathy with the idle rich when they’re involved in orgy scandals. Nobody in the administration would dare lift a finger in her defense. It would be political suicide.”
Other author's books:
- Tweak the Devil's NoseFall GirlVice CopEdge of the LawShe'll Hate Me TomorrowGallows in My Garden
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