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UNREMARKABLE

ISBN: 978-1-932926-50-7 (eBook edition, Smashwords Edition)


Copyright © 2018 by Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee


Cover Design: Angella Cormier


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.


Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the authors or the publisher.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system without written permission of the publisher, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review


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Geoff and Coy dedicate this book to our moms (Connie, Linda, and Lynn) who encouraged our fantastical imaginations and who share our deep love of reading. This book, and who we became as adults, are all thanks to you.




“This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it.”


~ Al Capone



Prologue



“Al Capone murdered me tonight.”

I could hear the creak of the chair as the agent leaned forward. His face was in shadow, not that I would have been able to see him anyway. I’m pretty sure that he introduced himself to me, but I forget his name. I couldn’t think straight or feel much of anything; drugs, I guessed. I knew that my words were true, but it was just taking my body some time to realize the facts. I could feel the bandage on my head, wrapped too tight, covering my face and wrapping around to cover my left eye. My right eye was swollen to a narrow slit through which I could barely make out my surroundings.

I knew that I was in a hospital; the sharp smell of alcohol and antiseptic assaulted my nose. I was lying in a hospital bed; I could see the white sheets that were stretched over my body and the frame of a white metal bed past my feet. A dim light came from my left, its feeble glow barely reaching the foot of the bed. Something was taped to my left arm, and I could just make out a large bandage across my chest. “Gevalt! Mom’s going to be pissed at me,” I sighed, and then had to laugh at the absurdity of my words.

The man in the shadows spoke. “Mr. Imbierowicz, I need you to tell me exactly how Alphonse Capone murdered you.” He didn’t seem to be bothered by the incongruity of that statement. Apparently, he could see the same thing that my body had not yet figured out.

“Call me Saul. My father is Mr. Imbierowicz,” I said with a croaking rasp. I coughed and pain overcame the drugs and shot through my chest. I had a metallic taste in my mouth and I spat out a glob of blood and phlegm across the white bedding. Somebody to my left held a glass of water with a straw to my mouth. I smelled the scent of lavender and caught a glimpse of red hair. My heart leapt, but it was quickly dashed as an unfamiliar voice said, “Here, drink this.”

I sipped the water slowly, letting it quench my parched lips and wash the bloody taste from my mouth. I got too greedy and water dribbled down my chin, which was quickly wiped away by my red-haired imposter. “Not too quickly, you’ll have plenty of time to finish.” She’s obviously not a doctor, I mean, has she even seen me?

At that point a blurry figure stepped up to the bed, lifting a clipboard. I could hear pages being flipped. A man’s voice said, “There’s nothing more we can do for him. At best we can make him comfortable. You need to leave.”

“No,” the seated man said. “I need Mr. Imbierowicz to tell me what happened.” His voice was sharp and authoritative.

“As his doctor I insist that you let him be.” The doctor’s voice had risen to match my visitor’s authoritative tone. Here I am, literally lying in my death bed, and these two schmucks are getting in a pissing match over how soon I would die. If I was a betting man, I’d take the under on my dying in an hour.

The shadow in the chair stood and moved away from me, grabbing the doctor by the arm. I could hear muffled voices from across the room. Heated whispers at first, then the doctor clearly saying, “Very well, but it’s on your head.”

I convulsed in a coughing fit. Pain pounded through the drugs. More blood came up, and again the straw was held to my lips. Before I could take a sip the doctor commanded, “Nurse, see to your other patients.” I heard the glass being set on the table, and then watched my red-headed vision walk out of the room. Even partially blind, my good eye lingered on her retreating form. “Too bad I’m already dead,” I muttered. I never did get that sip of water.

A few seconds passed and my visitor purposefully cleared his throat. “I’ll leave you alone now,” said the doctor. “But if anything happens to my patient you need to inform me immediately.” I heard footsteps and the door shutting briskly. My visitor returned to his chair and sat down. I watched as he wiped something from his pants, then crossed his legs. “Now that we are alone, Saul, let’s start at the beginning.” The man’s voice was polite, though it had an edge of insistence to it that commanded respect. The chair creaked as he pulled something from a pocket. “I hope you don’t mind if I take notes. I want to make sure I get all the details.”

I sighed, and stared at the dark ceiling. “What would a goy like you want from me? I’m gornisht. A nobody.” I turned my head toward the table with the lamp.

“I don’t think you’re a nobody and neither did Al Capone. He has had many men killed over the years, but he only gets personally involved for special cases.”

I turned and squinted toward the chair. The man leaned forward, his face still half in shadow. He pulled a pack of Lucky Strikes from his inside jacket and tapped out a cigarette. A match flared, and then he leaned over and placed the lit cigarette in my lips. I took a deep drag, then blew out a stream of smoke. “Normally the condemned man gets his cigarette before being killed, not after.” I chuckled, which was a mistake, as pain rippled across my chest. I coughed up more blood, spitting it out around my cigarette.

The chair creaked again as my questioner leaned back. He lit his own cigarette, the flare of his match reflecting in his eyes. “I think there is something special about you Saul. What is it? Why did Al Capone kill you?”

I leaned back into the pillow and closed my eyes, taking another drag on my Lucky. “Until about two weeks ago I was the most unremarkable person in the world. All that changed on February 14.” I blew out a stream of smoke. “St. Valentine’s Day.”



Chapter 1



The cold February air stung my cheeks as I stepped off the L at Sedgwick station. Turning the collar up on my overcoat I moved through the morning commuters waiting to board the L and head to work. I still wasn’t used to working the night shift at the Post Office, but at least I didn’t have to fight the morning commute.

Sedgwick wasn’t my normal stop; I lived a few blocks west and to the south on Racine Avenue, my small apartment overlooking the ‘picturesque’ North Branch of the Chicago River. Exiting the station, I paused next to the iron pillar supporting the track to get my bearings. I heard the squeal of brakes and the clack of wheels on the tracks as the L left the station.

“Hey, stranger.” The voice was silky, with just an edge of seductiveness to it. I turned toward the sound.

“Moira!” I exclaimed. She stood next to the station door, a lit cigarette held lightly in her left hand. Moira wore a cream-colored blouse with a green tie that matched her eyes. She had on riding pants and calf-length brown leather boots. Her red hair was tucked under a green felt cloche hat, with the brim rakishly turned up. Despite the cold weather, she only had on a light brown jacket. “Aren’t you cold?” I started to take my coat off to give it to her.

“My valiant knight,” she said as she took a drag on the cigarette and stepped toward me, putting her hand on my chest. I could just make out the subtle scent of her lavender perfume through the harsh cigarette smoke. “But don’t bother, Saul. I like the cold weather. It invigorates me.” She gave me a playful look with those lovely green eyes, then she grabbed my hand and headed across the street. I struggled to keep up and dodged the fender of a taxi, as well as the driver’s curses.

“Try to keep up, Saul,” Moira teased. “I’m starved, and there’s this great coffee shop up on Clark I want to try.”

“We could have had a cup of Joe at the diner at the Post Office, or at Sam’s place near my apartment.” I know I was whining, but I was cold and tired from working ten hours the night before and didn’t like having to come up north to be able to meet Moira. “This place better be good.”

Moira gave me a look but didn’t say anything. We headed east toward Lake Michigan. At North Clark she turned and headed up the street for about a half a block, finally stopping at a typical coffee shop, the last of the morning regulars heading out for work.

“Yeah, this place looks really special,” I quipped.

“Dry up, Saul. This place is really swanky.” She smiled, flashing white teeth. “Besides, they have great pie.”

We went inside and sat down at a booth. The waitress dragged herself over, obviously put out that she had to deal with more customers. We both ordered coffee. Moira ordered a slice of apple pie, and since I hadn’t eaten since my ‘lunch’ at 2 a.m., I ordered eggs over easy, hash browns, and pancakes.

“My, aren’t we hungry,” Moira said as the waitress went to get our coffee.

“I could eat a pig, but I’ll settle for eating like one. I don’t think my mother would like it if I ate one.”

“I don’t think this place is Kosher,” said Moira, smiling as the waitress set our coffee down with a glare.

I ignored Moira’s comment, and added sugar to my coffee. “So, last night when you were leaving my place you said you had something special to tell me. What’s up?”

Moira took a sip of her coffee, and then set the cup down. The bell to the shop rang as the last remaining customer left. “Oh, it’s nothing important. You are taking me out to dinner tonight, aren’t you?”

“I have to work tonight,” I protested.

“But its Valentine’s Day,” she stuck out her lower lip in a pout. “You can take me out to dinner before going to work. I know this place where we can get a real drink.”

The waitress returned with my breakfast and Moira’s pie. A big piece of ham covered the hash browns and eggs. The waitress gave me a smirk. I frowned, but didn’t say anything. She turned away with a laugh.

Moira reached over and grabbed the ham and flung it on the floor. It landed with a dull splat. The waitress started to say something, but Moira stopped her with a look that even gave me chills. The waitress seemed to recoil, then quickly went back to doing something else.

“I’ll come to your place at seven and we’ll go to the Lexington.”

I nearly spit coffee all over Moira at the suggestion. “Who do you think I am, Al Capone? I can’t afford to take you there.”

Moira laughed and reached across the table to hold my hand. “Honey, you’re no Al Capone. But you can take me to the Lexington. I know some people. Don’t be such a wet blanket.”

“I’m not being a wet blanket,” I protested. “You know I just started working at the Post Office. I haven’t even gotten my first paycheck yet.” I was starting to sound like a wet blanket, but it was the truth. I had been able to pay the rent for my apartment using money that I’d saved from my bar mitzvah, but I needed the paycheck in order to keep it. I was splurging with my breakfast. I usually just grabbed a cup of Joe and a sinker for ten cents from the shop at the Post Office.

Moira just ate her apple pie, looking at me impatiently. Glaring at me, more like it. I was starting to feel pretty intimidated by her stare. I picked at my eggs and tried to ignore her, but she continued to watch me. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Fine. I’ll take you to the Lexington tonight.”

Moira smiled and patted my hand, “Of course you will.”

“I’m glad to know that I had a choice in this decision.”

Moira grinned at me, then raised her coffee cup at the waitress indicating that she wanted a refill. The waitress sheepishly walked over. “I brewed a fresh pot just for you.” As she poured the steaming coffee into both of our cups, Moira narrowed her eyes and asked, “Don’t you have something to say?” The waitress seemed to pale, lowered her eyes, and said, “I hope you know I was just joshing with you with the ham. I didn’t mean anything by it, honest.”

“No offense taken. I actually thought it was pretty funny.”

“But I didn’t,” Moira said flatly.

“Can I get you anything else?” the waitress asked nervously.

“Well, the pie was really good,” Moira said in a sing-song voice. “So you should bring us two more slices on the house.”

“That’s not necessary,” I protested. “It was just a joke. Nobody was hurt.”

“No, that’s okay. I’ll take care of it,” the waitress insisted. She turned and walked toward the counter.

Moira smugly leaned back, shaking her head. “Honestly, Saul. You can’t let people push you around like that.”

“What? She didn’t mean anything by it. She could get in trouble for giving us the pie for free.”

Moira just laughed. “Come on, Saul. We deserve it for what she did to you.”

I sighed, and decided that it was best to not press the issue any further. I’d be sure to leave enough of a tip to cover the cost of the pie.

The waitress brought two plates with extra-large slices of pie on them. I noticed the white name tag with red letters spelling out “Gladys”. “Thank you, Gladys. Can you bring us the check, please?” I asked. She smiled politely and hurried away.

“I think you kind of scared her,” I said.

“Good.” Moira’s fork dug into the pie.

We finished up our breakfast about twenty minutes later. It really hadn’t been any better than the shop at the Post Office, and I told Moira that, but she just laughed it off. We spent the time eating our pie and not really talking about anything special. Moira occasionally giggled to herself, and when I asked her what was so funny, she’d just say “Nothing.”

Moira and I had met just a week ago and most of our conversations were the same. Small chit-chat and not much else. I guess that was my fault as I spent most of the time just staring at how beautiful she was. Meeting Moira had been part of my lucky week. I started my new job at the Post Office as a mail sorter on the fourth of February. Three days later, I first laid eyes on Moira at the coffee shop at the Post Office. It was love at first sight when she sat down next to me at the counter. And the funny thing was that she thought the same thing.

We saw each other the next couple of mornings at the diner, and I invited her back to my apartment on our third meeting. I was afraid that I was being too forward, but she smiled and said sure. We didn’t do anything other than just talk over coffee—though I wanted to do something more. Moira seemed to be more amused than upset by my boyish attempts to kiss her. She laughed it off and said, “In time, tiger.”

We went out for dinner and drinks at a speakeasy she knew a couple of nights ago. I had been nervous about going to a speakeasy with her. Not that I was a stranger to drinking or any kind of prude or anything. I was just scared that she’d leave me to sit alone while she went and flirted with better guys. I mean, I’m a pretty good guy, but I’m just an average Joe—plain brown hair, sappy brown eyes, not very tall, and on the skinny side, despite my mom’s attempts to fatten me up. Nothing special. I guess I was just still amazed that Moira wanted to be with me. I hadn’t needed to worry. Moira had spent the evening chatting and flirting with me. Not that there weren’t plenty of opportunities for her to flirt with others. It seemed like every Joe in the joint came up and tried to get her to dance or was trying to buy her drinks. The guys always went away disappointed. The joint—it was called The Green Mill—was not a bad gin mill, and Moira seemed to be great friends with the barman so we got our drinks for free. I knew that night that Moira and I had something special going.


We left the coffee shop and headed back out into the cold. I turned to head back to the L station, but Moira grabbed my arm and headed up the street.

“This way, Saul. There are some friends of mine I want you to meet.”

“What? Now?” I asked dumbly. I was wasting a lot of time that would be better spent sleeping, especially if I was taking Moira out tonight.

“Sure. It won’t take long.”

I shrugged and let her lead the way. I was dead tired, but I couldn’t really resist.

“I don’t have anything to wear to the Lexington,” I mused to Moira. “I’ve not had a suit since my bar mitzvah, and I don’t think I can get into that one anymore.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll let you borrow my tie.” She shook the green tie she was wearing in my face with an impish smile.

“Ha. Ha,” I said. “I’m serious. That place is ritzy, full of rich snobs. Even if I had a suit I wouldn’t fit in.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Moira repeated. A black Cadillac passed us heading up the street. Moira turned her back to the road and gave a small shiver.

“Are you sure you’re not cold? You can have my coat.”

“It’s nothing,” she said, her voice a bit distant. She pulled out a cigarette and I pulled out my Ronson to light it. She took a long pull on the Chesterfield, blowing the smoke into the frigid air. “Like I said, I know some people at the Lex. They’ll make sure we get in and it won’t matter what you wear.” She leaned over and gave me a slow kiss. My mind swam; it wasn’t our first kiss —that had been at the speakeasy—but the other kiss hadn’t been like this. I could feel her tongue playfully reaching out and tickling my own tongue.

She broke the kiss and looked past me up the street. I turned but she grabbed my arm and we continued, her right arm entwined in my left. I heard the sound of a car backfiring a couple of times. I glanced up from gazing at Moira and saw the same black Cadillac idling in front of a garage with a sign that read, SMC Cartage Co. Two cops were leading two other men dressed in suits toward the car.

BANG!

I nearly jumped out of my shoes at the sound. One of the men being led by the cops stumbled, a gout of blood shooting from his shoulder. The cops pulled their revolvers and pointed them toward Moira and me. I protectively stepped in front of her as I raised my hands, yelling “Nooo!”

More gunshots exploded around me. The cops fired toward us, and more shots rang out from behind us. Moira’s red hair flashed before me and I felt a sharp pain in my chest, falling to the ground. Moira fell on top of me. I cowered, hands over my head as several more shots were fired. I looked up and could see the cops pushing the two men into the car. The men fell in, then one of the cops got behind the wheel, and the other jumped onto the running board and fired two more shots as the car pulled away. I glanced behind me and could see two men running down the street, their overcoats flapping behind them as they ran.

Everything was suddenly quiet except for the frantic barking of a dog coming from someplace nearby. I crawled out from under Moira and gave her a shake. “What the hell was that?” My ears were still ringing from the gunfire. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

I shook Moira again. She didn’t move. A deep fear settled in my stomach as I turned Moira over. She lay in a pool of blood. A ragged hole was in her left chest, right about where the heart would be. Her blouse was stained red, and her green tie had a sickly, mottled color. “No, no, no,” I mumbled. I felt her neck, but I couldn’t feel a pulse. “No, no. This didn’t happen.”

Blood covered my hands and was soaking into the knees of my pants. I could hear the wail of a police siren in the distance. I stood up, muttering “This isn’t happening.”

The sirens were getting closer. It wasn’t safe for me to be here; you never knew what the cops might do, and I didn’t want to be there to find out. Panic gripped my heart and I ran across the street and down an alley, fear and dread propelling me away from Moira’s dead body.



Chapter 2



I ran for several blocks, my legs carrying me away from the nightmarish scene. I’m sure that I was quite the sight, running through the streets with bloodied clothes, but I didn’t care. I saw the diner where Moira had eaten her last meal and I skidded to a stop. Gladys the waitress stood outside the entrance, a cigarette perched on her lips. I started to say something, but the look she gave me, followed by her scream, compelled me to run on. I ran and ran until I couldn’t breathe. I finally stopped in an alley, hiding behind a trash bin and away from the people on the street. Bending at the waist, my hands resting on my blood-stained knees, I tried to catch my breath. Images of the gunfight and Moira’s blood spreading on the cement played in my head like some demented movie. I gagged on bile, and then vomited behind the bin. I spat out the sick remnants of my breakfast, and then sat down on the cold pavement.

I was dazed and winded, and had a pain in my chest. Suddenly thinking that I might also have been shot, I grabbed at my shirt feeling for a hole or blood. I couldn’t help but remember Uncle Jakob telling me about fighting during the Great War and how soldiers would check themselves for wounds after a battle. I pulled up my shirt to look, the cold air biting at my skin, but all I saw was the beginning of a bruise. Moira must have fallen into me when the bullet struck her. I didn’t know how she’d gotten in front of me, and I couldn’t make sense of why she would have done that.

I don’t know how long that I sat there, but eventually I crawled back onto my feet. My first thought was to return to where Moira had been shot. A part of me knew that I should go back and tell the police what had happened, and what I had seen. But if I went back looking like this, the cops would arrest me on sight. Hell, Gladys would probably tell the cops that Moira deserved it after the misery that she put her through this morning, And I’d never get a chance to tell them what really happened. Straightening my clothes, I walked out of the alley as casually as I could and continued home. I didn’t remember the rest of the walk, making the necessary turns or crossing any streets to get back to my apartment at 1313 North Racine, but I apparently made it without incident since the next thing I knew I was climbing the stairs to my third floor apartment.

The floor creaked as I reached the second floor landing and I froze. I knew that meant that Mrs. Rabinowitz would know somebody was here and poke her head out. As if on cue, her door cracked open. Mrs. R was a nice old lady who lost her husband last summer, and I think she had been trying to fill the void left by his passing by focusing on my life. She was worse than my mom in that way. When I had moved in, she and Mom had met and Mrs. R had promised Mom that she’d look out for me and keep her informed of everything that I did. She was thin and shorter than my sister, with a pronounced stoop to her posture. She had grey hair that was always meticulously pinned up on her head. Normally I would have greeted her warmly and chatted with her about my day, but right now I wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat or to listen to one of her lectures. She started to call out to me, but before she could say anything I waved her off, saying, “Not right now, Mrs. R. I’ll catch up with you later.” I don’t know if I stunned her by my abrupt greeting, or if she caught a glimpse of my bloody clothes as I turned to head up the stairs, but she didn’t say anything and quickly closed her door.

I unlocked my door, closing it behind me. My apartment was one of two on the top floor of the tenement. It was on the right side of the building, the door from the hall opening onto the small kitchen—sink, small hotplate, an old icebox that actually needed ice to keep anything cold and a few functioning cabinets, which were painted the same odd canary yellow color as the walls.

I had only been in the apartment for about two weeks and hadn’t really bothered to decorate. The apartment had come furnished, such as it was, with a table and a couple of chairs in the kitchen, a ratty couch and a floor lamp in the front room of the apartment overlooking the street, and a bed and wardrobe in the bedroom in the back. There were rugs in both the bedroom and the living room, but bare wood floors in the rest of the place. I had brought with me my only possessions: two quilts, one from Nana and the other from Grandma Imbierowicz, my clothes, an alarm clock, and a family portrait of mom and dad standing with me and my younger sister at my bar mitzvah. Mom had reluctantly lent me some dishes, a single coffee cup, one glass, some cutlery, and an old frying pan. She’d have preferred that I ate all of my meals at home, but I had insisted on making my own way.

I pulled the cord for the kitchen light, which cast a feeble glow and gave the yellow walls a sickly hue. I walked over to the sink and picked up the dirty glass that I’d used at breakfast and filled it with water. I raised it unsteadily to my lips and took a quick drink, rinsing the bile from my mouth. I threw my coat over the table and headed for the bathroom. The bath was filled to capacity with a cast iron tub, toilet, and sink. I looked at my face in the cracked mirror; there were small splatters of blood on my cheek. As I turned on the water, I noticed that my hands were caked with dried blood—Moira’s blood. I started franticly scrubbing my hands and face, but the blood came off too slowly. I felt dirty all over, covered with blood and drenched in a cold sweat. I tore off my clothes as I ran water in the tub.

The water was cold, but I didn’t care. I scrubbed my hands and legs until I had removed all of the blood. The entire time I was re-living the events of the morning. Moira meeting me at the L. The dull slap of a ham steak hitting the diner’s tile floor. Moira’s glare at the waitress. The cold air and how great it felt when she kissed me. Then the confusion of the gunfight, and the gut-twisting fear when I saw Moira lying in a pool of her own blood.

I almost vomited again, but I had nothing left and just dry heaved a couple of times. I sat in the cold water, catching my breath. “Why did I run away?” I asked the tub.

I didn’t expect an answer, but I couldn’t help but hear Mom’s voice in my head telling me, “Don’t be a shvuntz. You need to go tell the police what happened. You need to go tell them about this poor girl’s death and that you had nothing to do with it.”

“But the cops were there already,” I whined back silently. “They’re the ones that shot Moira.”

Mom didn’t answer. Neither did the tub.

Between the temperature of the water and my slow realization that I would never see Moira again, I was beginning to feel cold. Shivering, I pulled the plug, letting the pinkish water drain out and dried off with a threadbare towel. I left the blood-stained clothes on the bathroom floor and dressed for bed. It was after noon, and I needed to sleep. I wouldn’t even have time to mourn Moira’s death; I would lose my job if I missed work. I set the alarm clock and crawled under the quilts.

As I drifted off to sleep, a cruel thought came to me. At least I didn’t have to go to the Lexington.



Chapter 3



My alarm clock woke me up at 8 p.m. Despite nearly eight hours of sleep I was completely exhausted. I had the strangest dreams, filled with grinning wolves chasing me down endless alleys. As I hurried around a corner I nearly ran into Moira, standing with her hands on her hips and looking at me in the same way that she had looked at the pie that she’d devoured this morning. Needless to say, I hadn’t slept well.

I dragged myself out of bed and did my ‘morning’ routine. I was still getting used to working the graveyard shift. 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. was not a shift that any sane person would like, but it was a job and postal work paid pretty well. At least well enough that I could get out from under Mom and Dad’s roof, and it was a far cry better than working at the Armour meat packers like Dad.

I picked up my clothes from the bathroom floor and tossed them into the bottom of the wardrobe. Mom would give me hell about the blood, but I could tell her a lie about how it got on my clothes, and with Dad working forever and a day at the packing house, she knew how to get blood stains out of any piece of clothing. I took a proper bath—one advantage of my shift was that I always had hot water at night—then dressed in clean clothes. I made myself coffee in a rusty, third-hand coffee pot that I’d picked up at a junk shop and pulled a day-old bagel—well—more like three days old—from the cupboard. I was out the door and heading for another day at the Post Office by 9:30 p.m. I didn’t have to worry about Mrs. R stopping me to chat as she was always in bed by 8 o’clock.

I got on the L at the Racine Street station, and took it around the Loop to the Post Office. My mind was still preoccupied with the events of this morning. There was a couple sitting at the back of the train, holding hands. They were dressed for the town, and she held a small bouquet of roses. I suddenly remembered that it was still Valentine’s Day and, had events been different this morning, I’d be at the Lexington with Moira right now. The couple caught me staring at them and I awkwardly turned away.

I got off the train and entered the massive Post Office building, taking the stairs up to the third floor where the sorting room was located. The sorting room was a large space filled with dozens of stations where the mail was sorted in order for it to get to its destination. Bags of mail were dumped into wheeled bins that were brought into the sorting room so that the sorters could examine each piece and place it in its proper slot. Once we sorted the mail at night, the mail carriers would pick up the mail in the morning for delivery. I clocked in and headed to my station without talking to anybody. I picked up a stack of letters from the bin and started sorting them into the slots.

“Hey, Saul. Did ya hear the news?”

I looked over to Joe Klein, who stood at the sorting station next to mine. Joe was my co-worker and had become a good friend in the past couple of weeks. He sounded excited.

“What news? You finally get that dame to go out with you?” I laughed. Joe had been trying to get Francine, the waitress from the coffee shop downstairs, to go out with him for forever, or at least for the entire time that I had been here.

“What?” Joe sneered, which was odd since he always liked talking about his soon-to-be girlfriend. “No, the news about the killin’.”

My stomach jumped, and I fought back bile in my throat. “What killing,” I replied as evenly as I could.

“What killin’?” Joe practically yelled. “How can you not know? What killin’?” Joe sighed and shoved a couple of letters into a slot. “The killin’ that’s in all the papers. What they’re callin’ a massacre.”

I breathed a bit easier. If Joe was saying it was a massacre, then it couldn’t be about Moira’s death. “Look, Joe. I had a wonderful date with my beautiful gal after work yesterday, then crashed in bed for the rest of the day until I got up to come here and enjoy your smiling mug. I haven’t heard about any massacre, so spill the beans.”

Joe leaned over conspiratorially, even though half the sorting room had heard him earlier. “The papers say that seven of Bugs Moran’s gang got killed.”

I whistled. “Was it another gang?”

“The papers are saying it might be Capone’s gang, but there’s no proof.” Joe grabbed some more letters from the bin. “Hell, I heard that Al has been down in Florida for weeks.”

I laughed. Joe always liked to talk like he knew Al Capone personally. “So where’d this massacre take place?” I picked up a new stack of letters.

“Up on North Clark Street in some garage. The Daily News has got.…You okay, Saul?”

I had just dropped the entire stack of letters onto the floor and I felt the blood drain from my face. I quickly knelt down to pick up the letters. It’s just a coincidence, I told myself. There’s lots of places on North Clark Street where this could have happened. I stood back up. “I’m fine. I think it’s just something I ate.”

“That’s cuz you Jews don’t eat proper food,” Joe said, going back to his sorting. “You need to eat some good pork chops or bacon sometime. Maybe a nice slab of ham.”

I winced at the memory of Moira flinging the ham to the diner’s floor. I went back to sorting and let Joe go on with his rant against my faith. Not that I was especially religious, mind you, since I usually went to Temple just to make Mom happy. I knew that once Joe got started on a new topic he wouldn’t come back to talking about the massacre at the garage unless I brought it up.

But now it was hard to concentrate on my work. Did the papers know about Moira too? I kept telling myself that this massacre had to have happened someplace else. I don’t know how I managed to get through until our break; my mind was filled with all sorts of dread and fear. I kept glancing toward the sorting room doors, expecting the cops to come busting through to haul me away for questioning.

Joe and I headed down to the coffee shop at lunch. The place was busy as usual. Somebody was getting up from the counter just as we came in and left behind a copy of last night’s Daily News. I grabbed the seat before Joe could and looked at the paper. The headline seemed to scream “MASSACRE 7 OF MORAN GANG” and there was a picture of several dead bodies, the wall behind them riddled with bullet holes.

I ordered the special and a cup of Joe. While I waited for my food to come I read through the article. “Killing scene too gruesome for onlookers. View of carnage proves a strain on their nerves. Victims are lined against wall; one volley kills all. Assassins pose as policemen; flee in ‘squad car’ after fusillade; Capone revenge for murders of Lombardo, officers believe.”

The description all fell into place with my jumbled memories from yesterday morning. The sound of the car backfiring must have been gunfire, and the policemen that were leading the two ‘criminals’ out of the building were probably the assassins. But there was nothing in the article about a shoot out outside of the garage or anything about a dead woman.

The article listed the dead: Peter Gusenberg, Frank Gusenberg, Al Weinshank, John May, James Clark, Arthur Daves, and Frank Porter. But I didn’t see the name Moira Kelly. Where was her name? Did they not include her because she was a dame? How could they have not found the body, or seen the blood?

My food arrived but I ignored it. Maybe she’s still alive? But there was all that blood and she had no pulse. A glimmer of hope took root in my mind. The cops were pretty thorough, and the news hounds wouldn’t have let a dead woman stop them. Hell, they would have made that the front page headline “WOMAN SLAIN IN GANG WAR”, with a graphic picture of the dead woman. Anything to sell a paper.

No, Moira had to be alive. Maybe the cops had gotten her to a hospital? But now I had a feeling of guilt—not an uncommon thing for the son of a Jewish mother. If she’s not dead, then I left her there, all alone. I had abandoned her, and because of me she might have died, or be at death’s door even now.

“Hey Saul,” Joe grabbed my shoulder.

“Huh?” I looked up from the paper. My dinner was untouched and the coffee was cold.

“Break’s over. We gotta go back. You know that Mr. Dickenson will dock you if you’re late.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I stood up.

“You hardly touched your food,” Joe said as we headed out of the shop. “You sure you’re feelin’ okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just wasn’t very hungry.” We reached the elevator and I pushed the call button. “I guess that I’m just shocked by all of the crime in our fair city.”



Chapter 4



The morning sun filtered through the windows of the sorting room. I finished sorting the last of the letters in my bin, and then turned toward the door.

Joe tossed a stack of letters back into his bin. “Come on Saul, let’s go see if my girl can get us some breakfast. I’ll even make sure she leaves the pig off your plate.”

I winced again at the memory of yesterday’s breakfast and hesitated. Our usual morning ritual was to head to the coffee shop. I’d order coffee and a donut, and Joe would spend his time trying to convince his ‘girlfriend’ to go out with him. She’d lead him on, finding some excuse to say no at the end. I was starting to think that Joe preferred being led on. I don’t know what he’d do if she actually said yes. “Um, not this morning Joe.” I put my hand on my stomach. “I’m still not feeling well. I’m just gonna go home.”

Joe gave me a quizzical look, but smiled and said, “Okay, pal.”

He seemed let down, probably because this was the second day in a row I was going to ditch him. “Let me know if your girl says yes this morning.”

Joe perked up once I got him thinking about something else. He gave me a wave as I headed out the door.


I was tired and famished. It was after noon and I had lost track of how many hospitals I had entered. I never knew that there were so many hospitals in Chicago. I’d tried all of the ones in the north—those closest to North Clark Street. I’d gone south to Mercy and St. Luke’s. I probably should have gone to Cook County first, but what can I say, I’m not really good at planning stuff out.

I walked into Cook County, the sharp smell of alcohol and antiseptic filling the air. If I had to smell that all the time I would never want to be in a hospital. I walked up to a large desk where a bespectacled woman sat. She wore a starched white nurse’s uniform and had light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail.

“Hello,” I said with a smile. “I’m looking for a woman who might have been admitted here yesterday.”

The woman gave me a bored expression as she peered at me over the frame of her glasses, but said, “Name?”

“Moira Kelly. She might have come in at the same time as that gang killing up on Clark Street.”

She looked at a ledger book, her finger tracing down a list of names. “Nobody here by that name.” She set the book aside.

“She has red hair,” I persisted. “And she would have had a gunshot wound.”

The woman gave me a shocked look. An orderly wheeled a gurney past the desk. “I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “But the only person who came in yesterday with a gunshot wound was that man there.” She pointed to the gurney as it passed the desk, and leaned closer to me, whispering, “Only he had fourteen bullet holes in him.” She sat back down, “and he died yesterday afternoon.” She went back to her work.

I almost collapsed from exhaustion. Hope had been the only thing keeping me going, and she’d just burst that bubble. I mumbled, “Thanks anyway,” which she ignored, and I staggered outside.

The air was sharp and cold, but it did little to relieve my weariness. Instead, I felt numb all over. I couldn’t come to terms with the two contradictory thoughts in my head; that Moira had to be alive because there had been no body found at the scene, and that she had to be dead because she wasn’t in any of the hospitals.

I headed up the street, wandering aimlessly but subconsciously in the general direction of my apartment. All the while a commentary ran through my head. Maybe somebody in the neighborhood saw her and took her in to treat her? “And what, these kind strangers were doctors and surgeons?” My mother’s voice mocked me.

I should go to the police to see if maybe they had found the body and had somehow convinced the press to keep it out of the papers. “Don’t be a schmendrek,” my father’s voice taunted me. “You want them to question you about what happened and why you ran away? That’s not what somebody who is not guilty of something does.”

I waved the thought away as if swatting at an annoying gnat, pulling off my cap and scratching my head in thought. I don’t know what to do. Should I check the morgue? My Dad’s voice persisted, ”You’d face the same questions there as if you’d gone to the police, though they can’t arrest you there.” The only other place for me to check is Moira’s place. “But honey, you don’t even know where that poor girl lived,” Mom chided me. Lived? What do you mean lived? Moira’s still alive! “Okay, honey. If you say so.”

I shook my head, finally clearing my parent’s voices from it. A guy can’t catch a break. I moved out so I could get away from my mother’s patronizing tone, but apparently I managed to bring it with me. I continued to wander, eventually reaching my apartment. My legs felt like rubber, and all I could think about was how wonderful my bed would feel as I fell into it. I begrudgingly forced my legs to drag me up the three flights of stairs. I paused on the landing of the third floor, realizing that Mrs. R hadn’t come out to greet me. I didn’t worry about it, as I was grateful that she wouldn’t delay me from reaching my bedroom. My neighbor seemed to be taunting me; I could smell coffee brewing in the hall. As I put my key in the door, it pushed open. I hadn’t turned the key to unlock it.

I stepped into the kitchen, a little slowly due to fatigue. The kitchen light was on, the bare bulb casting its harsh light on the canary yellow cupboards and walls. Two strange men were sitting in my only kitchen chairs, their hats perched on my kitchen table. They each had coffee in front of them, and since I only had one coffee cup, one was using my only glass. The one on my right, who had the glass, was a broad-shouldered man wearing an ill-fitting brown suit, with a white shirt and ugly red tie. He looked like some of the guys my dad worked with who carried entire sides of beef from the cutting floor to the freezer. He had a distinctive face; he had broken his nose so many times that it seemed to point to his right ear.

The one on my left, holding my coffee cup, was a bit smaller, but still as formidable. His suit was better cut, a dark blue color with a matching tie. His brown eyes seemed to pierce through me over the brim of the cup. Glass looked tough, but Cup’s intensity scared me more.

Cup set his coffee down and said, “Your coffee tastes like shit, Mr. Imbierowicz.”

I know I was tired because I said, “Well, I didn’t ask you to drink it, momzer.”


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