Union Bust td-7, page 1part #7 of The Destroyer Series
( The Destroyer - 7 )
When a giant transportation union controlling all air, train and truck traffic is born, not only does this conglomerate pose a threat to the local leaders, but the entire country is at risk until Remo Williams moves in to dissolve danger in a deadly game.
* Title : #007 : UNION BUST *
* Series : The Destroyer *
* Author(s) : Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir *
* Location : Gillian Archives *
What were they going to do, kill him?
Jimmy McQuade had worked his installer crew to the limit, and he wasn't going to work them one more hour, not if the district supervisor got on his knees and begged, not if the president of the International Communication Workers threatened to kick him out of the union, not if they raised the double overtime to triple overtime like last week, during Easter.
His crew was falling asleep at the job. A half hour before, one of his senior linemen working outside made a mistake a rookie wouldn't think of, and now the old man assembling one of the gaggle of WATS lines connections had passed out.
"Okay. Everybody off the job," said Jimmy McQuade, shop steward of Local 283 International Communications Workers, Chicago, Illinois.
"Go home and sleep. I don't want to see any of you for two days. This overtime pay isn't going to do dead men any good."
Heads lifted. One young man kept working on his knees.
"We're going home. We're going to rest. Somebody shake the kid," said Jimmy McQuade.
A gray-haired worker, telephone cords strung around his neck like leis, patted the youngster on the back.
"We're going to rest."
The young man looked up, dazed.
"Yeah. Rest, Beautiful, baby. I forgot what it was like."
He curled over his installer's box on his tool holster side and snored away in bliss.
"Leave him. Nobody's going to wake him," said Jimmy McQuade.
"It's about time," said an installer dropping his tools at his feet and making his way across the stacked beams and sacks of concrete to a bucket the men used to relieve themselves.
The plumbing had been installed, but so rapidly and by so few men that the toilets did not work. Some of the plaster was falling and it was only a day old.
The management had brought in carpenters to repair that by putting up plaster board. The plasterers did not object. Some of the men, Jimmy McQuade knew, had objected to the local president of the Plasterers' Union. What they got were little envelopes that paid them for the time they would not be working. Like typesetters in newspapers when advertisers brought in pre-set ads.
The difference was that the plasterers had nothing in their contracts stipulating such payment. But that was the plasterers. Jimmy McQuade was communications and he had worked at his job for twenty-four years and had been a good installer, a good supervisor, and a good union man. Supervisors were rarely made stewards. But the men trusted Jimmy McQuade so much that they insisted a rule of Local 283 be altered to allow him to hold both posts.
The amendment passed unanimously. He had to leave the union hall quickly because he didn't want anyone to see him cry. It was a good job until this building.
All the trade unions involved were secretly griping about it, he knew. Which was strange because there was more money coming in on this job than anyone could remember. Some of the electricians bought second homes on this job alone. It was the overtime. Some rich lunatic had decided a ten-story building would go up in two months. From scratch.
And if that wasn't weird enough, the telephone system they wanted would have been ample for the Strategic Air Command headquarters. Jimmy knew a couple of men who had worked on that one. They had been screened as if they were going to personally get the plans to the hydrogen bomb.
Jimmy McQuade had been screened for this job. That should have warned him. He should have known there would be something screwy, that just maybe he would find himself not a shop steward or a crew supervisor but a slave driver working men sixteen-hour days nonstop for two weeks to meet the district supervisor's order:
"We don't care what else isn't ready. They want the phones. And they're going to get them. The phones have to be in and operating by April 17. I don't care what expenses, what delays you have. April 17."
That was management. You could expect that sort of excitability from management. What was surprising was that the union was worse. It had started at the screening.
Jimmy McQuade had not known it was a screening. He had been invited by the international vice-president himself to union headquarters in Washington. The union would pick up his lost time. He had thought at first he was going to be appointed to some national labor post.
"I guess you want to know why I asked you here," said the international vice-president. He sat behind a desk remarkably like the one used by the vice-president of the phone company. Although here the window opened to the Washington Monument instead of Lake Michigan.
"No," said Jimmy smiling. 'I thought we'd play pinochle until the summer, then maybe go golfing until the fall."
"Heh, heh, heh," laughed the vice-president. He didn't sound as if his mirth were real. "McQuade. How good a union man are you?"
"I'm a shop steward."
"I mean how good?"
"Do you love your union?"
"Yeah. I guess so."
"You guess so. If it were a choice between the union or going to jail, would you go to jail? Think about it."
"You mean if someone were trying to break the union?"
Jimmy McQuade thought a moment. "Yes," he said. "I'd go to jail."
"Do you think union business is anybody else's business?"
"Well, not if we're not doing anything illegal."
"I'm talking about giving information about union business to people outside the union."
"Even if they're some kind of cops?"
"Yeah. Even if they're some kind of cops."
"You're a good union man. You've got a good union record and a good work record. There's a job starting that's important to all good union men. I can't tell you why, but it's important. And we don't want to go advertising it around."
Jimmy McQuade nodded.
"I want you to select a fifteen-man crew of good union men, good workers who can keep their mouths shut. It's a job that would call for more than fifteen men, but that's the minimum, absolute minimum for completing this job in time. We don't want to be using any more people than we have to. If we had time, I'd do the damned thing myself. But we don't have time. Remember. Men who can work and keep quiet. There will be plenty of overtime." The vice-president reached into his large desk and brought out two envelopes. He held forth the fatter one. "This is for you. I find it good policy never to let anyone else know what I'm making. It will serve you well to follow it. There may be a lot of pressure in this job, and what may be a small friction at the beginning, becomes a bigger one later on. This smaller one is for the men. Don't take it out of the envelope in front of them. Individually, personally on the side."
The vice-president handed Jimmy McQuade the smaller envelope.
"It'll take me about two weeks to get the right crew," said Jimmy McQuade.
The vice-president looked at his watch. "We got you for departure from Dulles in forty minutes. Maybe you can make some phone calls from the airport. You can also make a few from the plane."
"You can't phone from an airplane, a comm
"That should be your biggest worry. Believe me, on that flight the pilot will give you anything you want. Take a stewardess, too, if it won't tire you out. You begin tonight. It's a small suburb outside of Chicago. Nuihc Street. That's it. Funny name. It's a new street, named by the builders. Actually it's just an access road now. For the bulldozers and things."
The vice-president rose to shake Jimmy McQuade's hand.
"Good luck. We're counting on you. And when you're through, there's more than just that envelope. What the hell are you doing with those envelopes?"
Jimmy looked at the envelopes, puzzled.
"Don't walk out of here holding them in your hand. Put them in your pocket."
"Oh, yeah," said Jimmy McQuade. "Look, I'm working at another building and the company…"
"That's been squared. That's been squared. Get out of here. You're going to miss your plane."
Jimmy McQuade had opened the envelopes in the cab taking him to the airport. There was $3,500 for him, and $1,500 for the men. He decided to switch envelopes and give the men the $3,500, keeping the $1,500 for himself. This resolution kept wavering all the way to the airport, descending on the men's side, ascending on his until he was back to the original split.
He sat in first class and ordered a drink. He wasn't going to ask the stewardess to let him make a phone call from the plane. He would sound like an idiot asking that.
Halfway through his rye and ginger, the pilot came down the aisle.
"Why the hell are you sitting here? We got the linkup to ground telephone."
"Oh. Yeah," said Jimmy McQuade. 'I just wanted to finish my drink."
"You're wasting a fortune in time. Take the drink with you."
"Into the cockpit?"
"Yes. C'mon. Wait. You're right."
"I thought so. Federal Aeronautics Authority rules."
"The stewardess will bring it. No point unsettling the passengers."
When the surprised telephone crew reached Nuihc Street at two in the morning, they found only steel beams and men working under floodlights.
Jimmy McQuade looked for the builder. He found him guzzling coffee, yelling at a crane operator.
"I can't see the fuckin' roof. How the hell am I going to set it right?" yelled the operator.
"We'll get a flood up there. We'll get a flood," the builder yelled back. He turned to Jimmy McQuade.
"Yeah. What do you want?"
"We're the phone installers. It looks like we're four months early."
"No. You're late."
"Where do you want the interoffice lines, in the cement?"
"Well, do what you can now. You have the plans. You could be stringing outside wire."
"Most of my men are inside."
"So work 'em outside. What's the big deal?"
"You don't know too much about phones, do you?"
"I know they're going to be working by April 17, is what I know."
That was the first complaint. The president of the local said it wasn't up to him. Call the vice-president. The vice-president told Jimmy McQuade he didn't receive the money because it was an easy job.
Two weeks later, one of the inside men threatened to quit. More money came for Jimmy McQuade from Washington. When the other installers found out about this episode, they all threatened to quit. They all got more money.
Then one of the men did quit. Jimmy McQuade ran after him down Nuihc Street, now paved to a three-lane-wide thoroughfare. The man wouldn't listen. Jimmy McQuade phoned the vice-president of the union and asked if he could recruit another man to fill the crew.
"What was his name?" asked the vice-president.
"Johnny Delano," said Jimmy McQuade. But he did not get another man. Nor did the quitter return.
And when the lineman committed the mistake of a rookie and the installer passed out, Jimmy McQuade had had it. Enough.
The kid slept over his tool box, and all the others filed into the new elevators, which they hoped would work this time. Jimmy McQuade went with his men.
He went home to his wife who had not known his body since he started the job. She embraced him passionately, shooed the kids off to bed, and undressed him. She took great care in the shower, and put on the special perfume he loved.
When she entered the bedroom, her husband was dead asleep. No matter. She knew what would wake him. She nibbled at his ear and ran a hand down his stomach to his navel.
All she got was a snore.
So Mrs. McQuade accidentally spilled a glass of water on her husband's face. He slept with a wet face. At 3 a.m. there was a buzz at the door. Mrs. McQuade nudged her husband to answer it. He slept on.
She donned a bathrobe, and mumbling curses about her husband's job, answered the door.
"FBI," said one of two men, holding forth identification. "May we speak to your husband? We're awfully sorry to disturb you at this hour. But it's urgent."
"I can't wake him," said Mrs. McQuade.
"It's urgent," said the spokesman of the pair.
"Yeah, well lots of things are urgent. I didn't say I wouldn't wake him, I said I couldn't."
"He's dead tired. He's been working without any really good sleep for almost two months."
"We'd like to talk to him about that."
Mrs. McQuade looked up and down the street to make sure no neighbours were watching, and reassured that at 3 a.m. this was highly unlikely, she invited the two agents into the house.
"He won't wake up," said Mrs. McQuade, leading them to the bedroom. They waited at the bedroom door.
"He won't wake up," she said again, and shook her husband's shoulder.
"Wha?" said Jimmy McQuade, opening his eyes.
"For this he wakes up," said Mrs. McQuade.
"It's the FBI. They want to talk to you about overtime."
"Tell them to do all the work they can outside if inside isn't ready yet."
"Well, ask one of the older men. Do what you can. We can order any special parts we need."
"The FBI has come to put you in jail for the rest of your life."
"Yeah. Good. Do it." said Jimmy McQuade and went off into his comfortable dark world.
"See," said Mrs. McQuade with a strange sense of relief.
"Could you shake him again?" asked the spokesman for the pair.
Mrs. McQuade grabbed the closest piece of her husband and squeezed.
"Yeah. OK. Back to work," said Jimmy McQuade bounding from bed. He looked around, saw two men without tools in their hands, and finding nothing in the room that needed connecting, suddenly realized he was not at the building site.
"Home. Yeah. Hello, honey. What are these men doing here?"
"We're from the FBI, Mr. McQuade, we'd like to talk to you."
"Oh," said Jimmy McQuade. "Well. Okay."
His wife made a big pot of coffee. They talked in the kitchen.
"Some pretty interesting things are going on at your new job aren't they?"
"It's a job," said Jimmy McQuade.
"We believe it's more than a job. And we'd like your help."
"Look. I'm a good citizen but I'm a union man, too."
"Was Johnny Delano a union man also?"
"Was he a good union man."
"Was he a good union man when he quit?"
"Yeah. He couldn't take it and walked off the job. But he's a good union man."
The spokesman of the pair nodded and put a candid-size glossy photograph on the white formica of the kitchen table.
Jimmy McQuade looked at it.
"So. You got a picture of a pile of mud."
"The pile's name is Johnny Delano," said the FBI man.
Jimmy McQuade looked closer. "Oh, no," groaned Jimmy McQuade.
"They were able to identify him because there was a finger left. All the teeth had been crushed. Often we can ide
"Okay. Okay. Okay. Stop. I got the general drift. What do you want? And put that picture back in your pocket."
"I'd like to stress that we're not in union busting. It's just that your union is providing something that is going to hurt your members. We're also not in the union business. But we have evidence, and we suspect that your union and other unions, specifically the International Brotherhood of Drivers, the Airline Pilots Association, the Brotherhood of Railroad Workmen and the International Stevedores Association, are planning to harm this nation in such a way that neither the nation nor the union movement would survive."
"I never wanted to hurt the country," said Jimmy McQuade honestly.
And the two agents questioned him until dawn. They got his agreement to put two more men on the job. Themselves.
"That'll be dangerous," said Jimmy McQuade.
"Yes. We think it may well be."
"Okay. I never wanted to hurt anybody, I always thought unionism was protecting the working man."
"That's what we think, too. This is something else."
"We're going back tomorrow."
"You're going back today."
"My men are beat."
"It's not us who are going to do the forcing. You can reach us at this number and we'll be ready when you get your crew together. Don't forget to leave out two of your regular men."
The agents were right. Shortly after ten that morning, the vice-president of the International Communications Workers came to his door.
"What the hell are you doing, wildcatting, you sonuva-bitch!"
"Wildcatting? My men were dying on their feet."
"So they're soft. They'll get in shape."
"They got out of shape on this job."
"Well, you get them the hell back there if you know what's good for you."
And Jimmy McQuade got his men the hell back there, knowing all along what the vice-president meant. Only this crew had two men who seemed to be doing a lot of strolling through the building together.
WARREN MURPHY SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Dr. QuakeChild's Play (The Destroyer #23)Assassin's PlayoffDeath TherapyBrain DrainSweet DreamsKing's Curse
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