"Yes, ma'am," I said politely, "I'm looking for Michael Richmond."
"There he is out there," she said, pointing to the man with the suitcase I'd just passed as I came up the pathway. He was putting the suitcase into the trunk of a beat up 1947 Chevrolet Fleetline.
"He's going out of town," she said.
Like hell he is.
"Thank you," I said as I turned on my heel and headed back down the pathway.
Richmond closed the trunk and was about to make his way to the driver's side door when he saw me and sped up his journey...
A guy with a suitcase passed me as I walked up the path. He nodded, mostly with his hat, and kept going. He looked nervous.
I got to the green door, grabbed the gold door knocker and banged it as the shimmering yellow lion stared back at me like he was angry that I'd just repeatedly hit him in the face.
The door swung open and a little gray-haired woman with round glasses was standing there, grinning like some psychotic rag doll with a painted on smile.
"Can I help you, young man?" she asked in a squeaky voice...
I figured I better go on to either Richmond's or Donovan's place before Rucksack called them and told them I was coming.
Richmond was a few minutes closer than Donovan so I hailed a cab and told him the address of the boarding house on Alvarado.
Half an hour later I was walking up the concrete path to the boarding house. It was a drab looking place; a two-story house with a gable roof, gray paint that was losing the will to live, and a brown lawn that had already lost it.
I could only imagine the people inside...
"One more thing. Has Donovan or Richmond seen Max since the job?"
"I know Max tried to come back to town about a year after he left to try and get Katie and Gallagher's men got onto him and he had to flee again."
"Does Donovan still live in Oakland?" I asked.
He looked furtive.
"Don't lie to me, Rucksack. If I have to come back here you'll regret it."
"He's in El Segundo. The Four Palms, an apartment on Highland Avenue."
I nodded, "Richmond still in that boarding house on Alvarado?"
"Thanks. This conversation never happened. Understand?"
I now felt kinda bad for ole' Ricky Rucksack. I dropped the coffee table leg and offered him a hand up. He got up and fell back onto the couch.
"Ricky, do you have any idea how I might be able to get in touch with Max?"
He shook his head, "The night of the jewelry job was the last time I saw Max."
Dammit. I reached in my pocket and fished out a 20 dollar bill and tossed it to Rucksack.
"Get yourself a new coffee table. Something a bit more sturdy this time."
He quickly grabbed the money...
Duncan Gallagher was a transplant from New York. The word on the street was he'd come out here in '42 trying to dodge the draft. He worked as a two-bit gangster for any schmuck that needed someone with muscles and no conscience. Eventually he worked his way up to heading his own operation, mostly prostitution but also branched out into the bookmaking business and money laundering. I now fully understood why Max Dolan had taken a powder. You didn't get two chances to screw up with Gallagher.
The other three only survived because they could blame it on Dolan...
He started sobbing, "I can't tell you that!"
"Look, Ricky, it won't go any farther than this room. He'll never know who told me. But, one way or another, I have to know who."
He continued sobbing. I could tell this poor bastard was terrified, but that didn't alter the fact that I had to know.
"Ricky, tell me now, or I'm going to add to his handiwork."
"Duncan Gallagher," he said in between sobs.
That wasn't good. Gallagher was an Irish gangster, the only thing about him more fiery red than his hair was his temper.
I'd heard stories...
"I...I can't tell you that. He'll kill me! After Donovan, Richmond and I showed back up without the jewels he did this to me!"
He snatched at his shirt until all the buttons popped off and opened it. He had scars and burn marks all over the front of his chest.
"Good God," I said as I looked at it. Whomever did this was a sadist. I didn't blame Rucksack for not wanting to tell me. But I had to know.
He continued, "Donovan and Richmond didn't get off any easier. He thought we were lying about the jewels."
"When he what, Rucksack?" I asked as I slapped the coffee table leg against the palm of my hand.
"He-he never said. He just said they were gone."
"Yeah, they were gone, Ricky boy. He dumped his daughter in an orphanage and made off with the jewels."
"No!" Rucksack yelled. "He loved Katie. He wouldn't have left her like that. If he took off without her he had a good reason. He was only doing that one last job to have some money to go away with her."
"Who did you pull that job for, Ricky?"
He looked sick...
"So what happened?" I asked.
"He-he-he rabbited. We...we started chasing him and the guy ran his car right into a brick wall!"
"Did he die?" I asked.
"Yeah, he died!" the guy yelled like I was an idiot for even asking.
"Did you get the case full of jewels?"
"Yeah, and then the car exploded. We-we-we all went flying. It's a miracle we weren't killed."
"Did you get away with the jewels?" I asked.
"M-m-m-max took 'em. He was on his way to take them to the guy who hired us when he..."
He looked like he really didn't want to tell me, but he also looked like he really didn't want me to hit him with a coffee table leg again.
"There were four of us that pulled the job: me, Dolan, Davy Donovan and Michael Richmond."
Those were the other two known associates of Dolan's that Harrigan told me about.
"What was the job?" I asked.
"It-it-it-it...was a j-j-jewelry job. A traveling salesman. He-he-he...had a sample case, loaded with expensive jewels. We...were supposed to run the guy off the road and grab the case."
"What was the job?" I asked, realizing I just might actually get to the bottom of this.
"Who are you...a cop?"
Like a cop would've been beating this guy's ass with a coffee table leg. Of course, who knows?
"I'm not a cop. I need to find Max Dolan, so I need to know who you pulled that job for and who you pulled it with."
"I can't tell you that!"
"Yes you can," I said, "or these coffee table legs will get up and walk away before you ever do."
He looked like a kitten in a dog kennel...
"I won't ask you again, Rucksack."
"Who? M-m-m-ax Dolan? I haven't seen him in years!"
"When was the last time? Be specific, Rucksack."
"I-I-I-I don't remember."
I swung back the coffee table leg.
"Wait, wait! Uh.... about six or seven years ago, I think. Right before he left town."
"Where did you see him last?"
"Who are you, man?"
I raised the coffee table leg again.
"Okay, okay!" he yelled and put his hands up in front of him. "We pulled a job and it went bad. Really bad. That's why he left town."
"You Ricky Rucksack?" I asked as I stood over him.
He was still gasping for breath, "Never heard of him!"
I grabbed one of the severed legs from his coffee table and swung it at his knee. I heard a crack and wasn't sure if it was his leg or the coffee table leg.
He screamed and grabbed at his knee, "What are you, some kind of lunatic?"
"That's right, Rucksack. A stark raving lunatic. Now, when was the last time you saw Max Dolan?"
"Who?" he yelled.
I grabbed another coffee table leg from the floor.
"Wait!" he screamed...
"Slide it under the door!" the voice yelled.
This guy wasn't playing the game by the rules.
"I can't, sir. It has to be signed for."
I heard a potent mixture of cursing and footsteps coming up to the door. As soon as it was cracked a little I kicked it the rest of the way open. The drunk man went flying backwards, crashing onto his wooden coffee table and breaking the legs off it.
"What the hell is this about?" the guy yelled in between gasps, trying to replace the air that had been knocked out of his lungs...
"Rucksack?" he asked with a gravelly voice.
"Yes," I said.
"'Partment 33," he said as he went back to his mopping. "But, mista, I'd be careful wid dat one if ize you."
"Why is that?" I asked.
"He ain't none too friendly," he said, still mopping.
I nodded and said, "Thanks for the warning, mister."
In absence of an elevator I took the stairs to the third floor. I went down the hall, found Apartment 33 and knocked.
"Who tha hell is it?" a slurred voice yelled from behind the door.
"Telegram," I said in a loud but cheerful voice...
And so I found myself in an apartment building in Encino looking for a Ricky Rucksack to see if he could point me in the direction of Max Dolan that a little nine-year-old girl paid me a whole dollar to find. Sometimes I really don't understand my life.
There was a Negro in blue overalls mopping the marble floor in the lobby. He looked up at me when I opened the door to the building.
"Excuse me," I said, "do you know what apartment Ricky Rucksack lives in?"
I knew but I wanted to see what he said...
I took all the info from Harrigan, thanked him and turned to leave. He said, "I'll see you Saturday morning."
But the pretensive fishing trip had temporarily slipped my mind.
"Huh?" I said.
"You bastard! I knew you didn't come here for a fishing trip. You came to play on our friendship and once again weasel information outta me!"
Everyone in the precinct looked at Harrigan yelling at me, then went back to work. Nothing they hadn't seen a hundred times.
"You still want to go fishing or not?" I yelled.
"Yes!" Harrigan yelled back.
"Okay! See you Saturday morning!"
"There are five of them," Harrigan said as he looked at the list. "One is deceased and one's been in the joint for four years, so that leaves three you can check out. David Donovan, last known address is in Oakland. Michael Richmond, last known location was a boarding house on Alvarado. And Ricky Rucksack."
I gave him a funny look and he replied, "I swear that's his real name. He just got released from the drunk tank two nights ago. I'd start with him. His apartment is in Encino. And that's about all the help I can give, Randolph."
"And then we have this little pillar of the community," Harrigan said as he handed me a mugshot. It was an old picture, but it was definitely Katie's father.
"This schmuck has a rap sheet longer than Gone With The Wind, starting at age 15," Harrigan said, shaking his head.
"When was the last time you had contact with him?"
Harrigan looked, "Eight years ago."
"Damn!" I yelled.
"Well, it's not a total waste, Randolph. I have a list of known associates. Maybe one of them could lead you to Dolan."
I was afraid those associates were my last hope...