by Rick Beck

Chapter 10

Eyes & Ears

Returning to the desk with the good Smith Corona, George took a bag from the bottom drawer. Going to the reporters bathroom, he took off his shirt and tie, putting on the green Ban Lon shirt he'd brought with him for that evenings trip to Loey's.

George combed his hair in a way that made him look a little rougher than he was. A coat and tie was standard issue for many of the hoods who were forever trying to look more respectable than they were. George decided, a more casual look was in order.

Returning to the desk where he'd left his jacket, George removed his wallet and anything that would identify him. He kept ten dollars and his metropolitan bus pass. Everything went into the bottom drawer with the white shirt and tie. Leaving his jacket on the back of the chair would clearly indicate the desk was being used, and no reporter was going to sit there before he returned in the morning.

George left the City News building as a hood from Detroit. He walked two blocks to the bus stop, got on the bus that went by Loey's, and before eight, he was seated with a shot of Johnny Walker in front of him, but he didn't drink it, even if he did want a stiff shot. He needed to keep his wits about himself, and he couldn't shake the feeling he was being followed.

The day's events had him rattled. It was a new feeling for George. He usually maintained tight control over his life. Harold's threatening demeanor told him it wasn't over between them. He hadn't seen the last of Harold Sizemore.

His posture was perfect, and he was looking at a spot over the bar, and he let little change his focus. He sipped, though he wanted to toss it back and order two more. He needed to keep his cool. He needed to go very slow. He was not there to drink. George had come to go fishing, and depending on what he caught, he might end up furnishing Jack Carter with what he needed.

Someone he'd talked to a couple of times at the bar came to stand by the booth, where George sat alone.

"you've been busy? I haven't seen you this week," the familiar face said.

George moved his attention away from the chosen spot over the bar. He looked up into a face he'd had a drink with before.

George gave him a curt nod. Aloof but approachable for serious conversation.

"Jason, how goes the wars?" George asked soberly, but he did not ask Jason to sit with him.

"Good days, bad days. I'm holding my own," Jason said.

"See that you do," George said. "The consequences are harsh if you don't."

Georges attention shifted back to the spot over the bar. He wasn't there to socialize. He was on assignment, and he did not intend to risk blowing his cover with the unscrupulous he sat among.

Jason walked away.

By this time, everyone who was any one, knew George's story. He was a heavy hitter out of Detroit. He'd come to the city on family business. Each time he went to Loey's, George felt his persona deepening. He had gotten into the gangland role he played. It had become a lark, but this escapade had real world consequences if he slipped up even a little. That hadn't crossed his mind before.

For the first time, George realized that someone from Detroit might come to Loey's, once they came to town.

A visitor from Detroit wouldn't know George from Adam. He realized that he didn't know a single street name in Detroit. Should someone who knew Detroit question him, his ruse would be finished. He knew Detroit had a football team but for the life of him, he couldn't remember its name. No one from Detroit would fail to know the name of the city's football team.

His best move was to nurse his shot and stay for an hour. If Trask didn't show up by nine, George would head for home and give up his undercover life. That day's encounter with trouble told him, if you ask for trouble, you're likely to find it.

With half his shot gone and nine o'clock fast approaching, someone walked up to the table, as George kept watch on his spot.

"George. I was hoping you'd be here I need to talk to you. Do you have a few minutes? I'm up to my neck in it."

George didn't speak. He indicated with his head for Drew Trask to sit across from him. Trask sat down, looking around the bar as he did.

"You seem to be stressed, my friend," George said, looking into the man's face. "Is there something I can help you with?"

"You don't know the half of it, George. I'm in a bind. I know you aren't going to tell me your business, but I've got myself on the wrong side of Jimmy?"

George raised one eyebrow. Trask looked away from his face.

"You have me at a disadvantage," George said, playing his role to the hilt. "Might I ask, Jimmy who?"

"I forgot you're from out of town. Jimmy Vogal. He's a regular here all of his boys drink here. Loey's is cool and we don't need to worry about cops. Jimmy and me had a falling out. It's a long story. If I skipped town and went to Detroit, do you think they'd hire me on to do the work I'm good at," Trask said. "I'm good at what I do."

"I'm sure you are, Mr. Trask. We aren't in the kind of work one is hired for. No one is going to hire you without checking your references, and might I be so bold as to say, many men are good at the same things you're good at. Detroit has plenty. Why hire an unknown from who knows where, when you have a dozen such local men to pick from and you know who those men are?"

"I know. I figured as much. You, being who you are, well, I was hoping you'd put in a good word for me," Trask said, continuing to look around nervously.

George let pass any idea he'd help Trask find work elsewhere.

"You can't be too careful, Mr. Trask. Odds are against the hiring of outsiders in our business," George said.

"Yeah, same here. Cops are always trying to get inside our operation. You can't be too careful."

"You can't," George said, sipping from the shot glass.

"You're almost out. Let me buy you another one," Trask said, waving down the waitress before George could stop him.

"This Mr. Vogal sounds like a serious fellow. He seems to have his fingers in a lot of the local pie," George said.

"Vogal. Jimmy. He's the guy I hang with. Was. He's got it in his head that I gave him up on a job we pulled together. He couldn't be further from the truth. Did I mention that job to you? It was a nifty caper. I don't mind telling you. I held the music store owner's family hostage, and Jimmy went with him to get the cash from his store. Anyway, the local heat pulled Jimmy in for questioning on that job. They have him pegged for pulling the job. I don't know how they came to that conclusion. It was only the two of us, and we agreed not to tell anyone that we did it. My cut was two large. Jimmy takes more, because he's the brains," Trask said, continuing to look around the bar while telling George the story.

George absolutely stopped breathing two sentences into Trask's recitation. If he'd been sweating before, he was perspiring big time now. If Drew Trask remembered that he told George about the music store heist, it would be a short night.

George took another sip of Johnny Walker, but just enough to wet his parched throat. This was no time to lose control. He needed to continue to look in total control, while being detached from anything Trask said to him.

The waitress dropped another shot down in front of him. Trask threw back the shot, pulling a five out of his shirt pocket.

"Hit us again, Hon. Keep the change," Trask said with a smile.

George suddenly wanted three more shots. He needed to excuse himself and get the hell out of Dodge. He'd heard almost everything Trask was saying before. It reinforced the music store caper. It wasn't what Jack wanted, although he could use it to put Vogal away, but not long enough for it to do Trask any good.

"What you describe puts you on the spot. If Mr. Vogal is as astute as he sounds like he is, it's difficult to say how he might look at a traitor in his midst. In Detroit, someone goes against the family, he is dispensed with so he can't hurt the family. How it's done here, I don't know. You describe an unhealthy situation for the mug on the outs."

"For me," Trask said.

"I'll take your word on that. If I were you, and I'm glad I'm not," George said, clamming up as he saw the waitress approaching.

"Yeah, you were saying?" Trask asked before the waitress put the two shots on the table.

Trask sat back uneasily.

"There you go. Sweets for the sweet, Babydoll," she said.

The waitress walked away.

George leaned forward, lowering his voice. Trask leaned forward so that their faces were closer together.

"Should I be in a situation like the one you describe, I'd want to have some information that could do me some good, and that my nemesis might not want being bandied about, and I'd use it to get myself off the spot. The spot you are on, and want off of."

"What kind of information is that?" Trask asked.

George couldn't believe Trask was that dumb. Was he being set up? Was Trask suspicious of him and he was trying to trick him? No, Jack knew Trask was on the outs with Vogal. His story rang true.

"You've spoken of a collaboration between you and the man you're on the outs with. Knowledge is power, my friend. If you know something that hurts your nemesis, well, if you found a way to use it to remove the man in question, your problem would be solved, or so it seems to me, Mr. Trask."

"Anyway, he figures me for dropping a dime on him. We've been in it together for a couple of years. I wouldn't do that. I don't talk about jobs we pull. Not to strangers. Not to the heat," Trask said, looking at George's face again.

George's underarms were soaked. He felt the sweat running down his sides. The nylon shirt would hide the perspiration. It was all George could do not to bolt. This clown was about to remember that he told George about the music heist the week before. He needed to excuse himself and get out of there. He had an appointment. That was it. He was running late and he had to go.

"You can't explain? You must get along if you're in business together," George said in a business like fashion.

George was ready to excuse himself, when Trask opened a door that put the conversation on the right track.

"The cops pulled him in on that caper. No one knew who pulled it. No one but Jimmy and me. We agreed we'd keep it to ourselves."

"Does sound like you have yourself in a difficult spot," George said.

"You telling me. Jimmy's got a temper, and there's something else. I know he offed a guy. I drove the damn car. I'm an accessory. He's going with the guys wife, you see. Between the wife and him, well this guy Stein, we lay for him one night, and Jimmy caps him."

"He is not a man who is going to forget who his driver was," George said. "Now there's this robbery?"

"Yeah. That's what I'm saying. He's going to remember I drove him to do Max Stein. When he does, my life is over. I don't know what to do. What would you do?"

"I shouldn't get into such a situation," George offered before sipping from his original drink, which is below a half full by now.

"How do I keep from getting my ass blown away?"

"The driver role, and the killing, they don't know who did it?"

"The cops. No. They got nothing. It was a pop and go. He stepped out of the car. Walked up to him, bang, back in the car and we're gone. No one was on the street. He worked in a business area. Everything closes early and Stein worked late. Nothing to it."

"That little caper will have Jimmy wanting to cap you, just in case. If he thinks your dropped a dime on him for a heist, he's going to take no chances with a murder," George said, talking too much and sweating even more.

George sipped a little more of the Johnny Walker. What he wanted to do is throw both of them back and order more. He needed to cut and run before Trask recovered his memory.

"I see what you're saying. The cops got nothing. I give them Jimmy, and they let me slide on the accessory deal."

"You are way out ahead of me now. I said nothing about giving any one to any body, put I'd say your proposal is sound, should I be in your situation, I might think about what I know. Solid way to achieve what you're after, but I don't remember a thing about any one's business. Not even if they tell me about it, and it's a good lesson for you, Mr. Trask. Remember nothing you are told about someone else's business. You'll stay healthier that way."

"I got that. I don't know a thing about a thing, but I do know enough to see that Jimmy don't do to me what he did to Max. I mean cool as ice. Of course when there's a babe involved, well, all bets are off. You sure don't want no hoods dating your woman. I learned that lesson too," Trask said.

"Mr. Trask, doesn't Jimmy drink at Loey's. You've mentioned drinking here with him. Why are you putting yourself in a place where the man you want to avoid can get his hands on you," George said, reaching for his drink to shut himself up.

"Man, George, you're a life saver. I knew you was smart. Yeah, you're right, I need to split. I always do my drinking here," Trask said.

"I shouldn't drink here until your problem is on ice, but that's me, I'm a careful sort. I don't visit establishments where I might cross paths with an adversary," George said.

"Good policey, George," Trask said, laughing. "I shouldn't either. I'm going to split," Trask said, getting up and flagging the waitress.

"Hey, here's for our drinks. Is this enough to give him another round, babe?"

"Yes, Sir. That's plenty," she said, taking a second five dollar bill out of Trask's hand.

Trask headed for the exit, and the waitress brought another shot for George. He hadn't drunk all of his first shot yet, and if he drank any more he'd puke on the spot. The back of his Ban Lon was soaked. He was afraid his pants were wet. He'd never been that nervous.

He needed to get to a phone. Not around here. He'd catch the bus back into center city. George hated leaving all that beautiful liquor on the table, but it was necessary.

"Hey, Hon," he tried. "Find a home for those, would you. I've got to go, and I wouldn't get far if I drank those."

"I can help with that," she said, finishing the nearly empty shot, she collected the other two to sell along the way.

"Everybody must get get stoned," he remembered from a Dylan song.

As George neared the exit, he caught sight of a face he recognized, but from where. He wasn't about to stop and find out which face was the face he thought he knew. He left Loey's for what he hoped would be the last time.

George decided to walk across the gravel lot to safe some steps to the bus stop. He wanted to get to a phone as fast as he could. He had Jack Carter's number memorized. He wanted him to have the news as soon as he could get it to him.

George heard something that he didn't like. Someone had followed him out of the bar. The face he recognized? He wasn't about to look back.

George didn't have time to look back. Georges time had run out.

There was a voice, low, gravelly.

Harold's voice?

And the lights went out on George's world.

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