Writer’s Bone’s ongoing fiction series The Newspapermen follows the tireless reporters of a major metropolitan newspaper in the late 1930s. If you need to catch up, order a stiff drink and read Chapter 1: Ink and Drink Club.
CHAPTER 10: HOOK ‘EM PART 2
By Daniel Ford
Will Graham set the evening edition of City Scribe down on the empty chair next to him. He reached for the beige paper cup on the floor and swallowed the remaining black liquid.
“Holy hell,” he muttered, forcing the cold coffee down his throat. He dropped his half-finished cigarette into the cup.
“You need a refill, love?”
Will scratched his head and eyed the husky nurse smiling above him.
“Well, I suppose, sweetheart,” he said. “You mind not using yesterday’s grounds this time?”
Her smile faded as she stood up straight. Will’s concentration remained on the tile floor. She coughed and lumbered away.
Will rubbed the back of his neck, trying in vain to work the kinks out. He had been sitting in the hallway for hours. The armed police officer outside of Henry’s room would nod in solidarity every so often, but was more concerned with trying to stay awake. Will consulted his watch and discovered daylight wasn’t too far away. There was no one to take over his vigilant watch, but he always thought better in the early morning.
He glanced back at the newspaper. Henry’s photo took up the upper left hand column.
The cub finally landed above the fold and he can’t even enjoy it, Will thought.
Will's conscience brought him further down the rabbit hole of guilt. Why hadn't he done more to protect his reporters? What did a dying paper have to gain by causing trouble? Why couldn't he be a better father and husband?
"What did I goddamn tell you?" A voice growled.
Will hadn't notice a whale clad in pinstripes approach.
"Do you realize this is it for you and City Scribe?" Montgomery Edwards barked. "Today's story earns us one more day of advertising, but that all dries up once the city has its say."
The lumpy man sat down in the empty chair.
“How did you let this thing get so far away from you?” Edwards asked.
Will didn’t answer. He thought back to the night of the gala almost a year ago. The incredulous look in Henry’s eye as he protested covering that shame of a press conference. Shirley’s youth and determination oozing out of her. Their journalist spirit reviving something long dead in Will. They wouldn’t take no for an answer, much like Will had done once upon a time.
His wife had kicked him out, he had abandoned the booze, and a reporter in his charge was inhaling his last breaths.
“I wanted them to find the story,” Will admitted. “I was blind to everything else.”
“That’s an understatement,” Edwards replied. “Where’s Shirley?”
“I wish I knew,” Will lied.
“I swear, that dame ends up dead…”
“I’m sure you said the same thing about Harry,” Edwards said, pointing to the door leading to what was left of the cub.
“You said Harry. His name is Henry. Get it right before you talk to the press.”
“I am the press, Will. I’ll tell those other animals anything I please.”
“Why would Albert Moruzzi want his own son said dead?” Will asked.
“You don’t know?”
“What do you mean?”
“When that fruit cup came to you, he didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“I think his father was afraid Al Jr. would bring home a future son-in-law if you know what I mean.”
“Why would he hide that from me? Especially if he was asking for protection.”
“You know a lot of those people that want to broadcast it?”
Will nodded, already thinking a few steps ahead. A mob boss still wouldn’t order a hit on his own flesh and blood even if he was embarrassed as hell about the lad’s lifestyle. Someone must have found out. There had to be pictures. Even so, why a death sentence? Couldn’t money solve that problem?
“Where’s Junior Boss now?” Edwards asked.
“Safe enough, I guess,” Will said, unsure of how true anything he said was at this point.
“I get the feeling there are going to be more bodies, Will. And more questions we can’t answer. Any idea who might have some?”
“Fintan,” Will replied. “We have to find Fintan.”
* * *
Shirley gripped Henry’s Colt 1911 as she quietly walked down the alley.
Before receiving instructions from Will, she had wanted to cry. She had no such feelings now. It wasn’t revenge she had on her mind, it was justice. Every hunch they followed had been right. Something, and someone, awful was controlling their city. They just needed proof. Henry had been shot, and likely would die, trying to find it.
Shirley crouched behind a dumpster, avoiding the headlights of a passing car. She pulled Henry’s bloodstained notebook out of her pocket. She tiptoed just far enough down the alley in order to catch some of the streetlamp’s glow. She double-checked the address Henry had scrawled before he lost consciousness.
She swung the reporter’s notebook closed. Shirley read the numbers above the warehouse’s distressed wooden door a few feet away. She was in the right place.
Shirley crept up to the door and pressed her ear up against it. She couldn’t hear anything. She thought for a moment, wondering if she should follow Will’s advice and take the safe route. He said to call him at the hospital and he’d get the authorities involved.
But what if they aren’t on his side? Shirley thought. We’re as good as dead already, we might as well go all the way.
She backed away from the door and took a breath. She raised the Colt and kicked the door open at the same time.
The flickering light bulb above her head as she walked in directed her to a flight of stairs. She descended slowly, both of her hands now gripping the pistol. When she reached the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, she felt around for a light switch. If she was going to get shot, she at least wanted to see the bullet coming.
Her fingers passed over a fleshy mound. Her breath caught in her throat as she felt cold steel wrapped around its neck. She stumbled away, knocking into the missing switch and filling the small basement with light.
Blood oozed into every crack in the concrete floor. Shirley couldn’t swallow the bile making its way out of her stomach.
Across the room, Hal Fintan’s bloated corpse, chained and beaten, stared at her. The carnage didn’t end there. Sitting in a chair, facing the pile of metal and flesh, was Albert Moruzzi Sr. holding a .38 Special with a bullet hole in his forehead.
Shirley noticed a note pinned to his blood-spattered suit. She collected herself, strode over to the dead mob boss, and yanked if off the fastener.
“It’s all mine,” it read.
“Son of a bitch,” Shirley muttered, recognizing Albert Moruzzi Jr.’s handwriting.
She crumbled the note and ran from the scene.
TO BE CONTINUED...