When Weiss didn’t turn around and shoot him, Faolan knew his killer would be waiting for him in Manhattan.
They’d swapped the Packard for a Lincoln a few blocks from the Chophouse and left the shotgun to ensure that the trail ended there. Faolan held onto the .45 because he knew he wouldn’t be keeping it long.
Canal Street glistened like polished leather under the streetlamps as Weiss pulled the car to the curb. Faolan climbed out, giving Weiss a parting nod. Weiss refused to look at him as he pulled into the light traffic and disappeared.
Faolan glanced at the darkened coffee shop half a block up where an old, red Ford two-seater waited. He walked toward the car and wondered who Charlie sent. When he got within ten feet, the door opened and a broad-shouldered guy in a dark rain coat and gray hat got out. The tall, boxy shape of the car made it difficult to recognize the driver until he stepped into the light.
“Howdy, stranger,” said his childhood pal Benny Siegel, flashing the devil’s own grin. “Need a lift?”
“Benny,” Faolan said, making his surprise sound glad rather than hurt. They met at the curb, shook hands, and embraced like brothers.
When you hit somebody on your own team, you wanted them to let their guard down, so you sent somebody they trusted.
Benny held him at arm’s length for examination. “Shit, pal, you look like somebody really gave you the business. You take one in the wing, there?”
“Just grazed me. Looks worse than it feels.”
Benny nodded. “Go ahead and get in. I gotta swing by the docks and get a package before we see Charlie.”
Faolan’s fingers tightened around the Colt in his pocket as Benny turned away. Put one in the back of Benny’s head, and he could take the car before anybody saw anything. Wasn’t like him to play lamb to the slaughter and his instincts told him to take action to protect himself, but if he killed Benny, they’d never stop looking for him. He climbed into the passenger seat. “Charlie got you picking up his fucking groceries now or what?”
“Benny the errand boy, that’s me. You take care of the Dutchman?” Benny tossed his hat up on top of the dashboard and pulled into the street.
Faolan’s gums ached again, almost on fire, and his whole body trembled with hunger. He forced it down. He took the Colt out of his pocket and handed it to Benny, knowing he couldn’t resist the temptation if the gun was right in his reach.
“The gun that plugged Dutch Schultz. Keep it as a souvenir.”
Benny glanced at it, nodded, and slipped it into his pocket. “He’s dead? You seen it?”
“I saw him go down. Place was a fucking shooting gallery, but them goons of his weren’t no pigeons.”
“So, there’s no telling whether this guy pulls a Jack of Diamonds is what you’re saying.”
Jack of Diamonds, that was cute. Jack Diamond, Faolan’s mentor and best friend, had a little extra juice in him that had allowed him to survive five attempts on his life. Faolan used to have that little extra juice, too, but he’d traded up and now he had more than a little. For the first time, he wondered if Schultz and his guys had also had something extra in them.
“Look, I ever blow a hit before? No. I tell you what, though, if the sonofabitch pulls through this, I’ll pay him a visit in the hospital and personally stuff a pillow down his throat, okay?”
“Ain’t necessary,” Benny said in lieu of an apology. “I believe you. I’m just saying what you know Charlie’s gonna.”
Faolan lit a Camel and let Benny go on thinking he was steamed. Between that movie-star smile and those sad, Bing Crosby eyes, Benny could seem like the nicest, most unthreatening guy in the world. Women fell for it most, but skirts didn’t mean anything to Benny.
Mess with one of his friends and you’d see Benny’s famous temper, something a lot of people never lived through. Tonight, Benny was working that temper up over Faolan’s involvement in a betrayal of Charlie a few years back. On Jack Diamond’s orders, Faolan had organized a little ride for Charlie in 1929 that he wasn’t supposed to survive. But he had survived and blamed the wrong gang for the attempt … up until someone informed Charlie of Faolan’s role.
Betrayals. Faolan’s life had been a long series of them.
Him and Jack betrayed Dutch. Dutch betrayed them. Him and Jack betrayed Rothstein. Him and Jack betrayed Charlie. Dutch betrayed him. Jack betrayed him. His brother Tom betrayed him. He betrayed Jack. He betrayed Tom. He betrayed his wife Colleen. He betrayed Charlie. Charlie betrayed Dutch. Now Charlie and Benny were betraying him.
Life’s grand pageant.
It’s my own fault for trusting people, Faolan thought. Fucking stupid to ever let anyone get their hooks into you like that. It just makes it harder when the time comes to betray them.
Faolan glanced out at the dark tenements and shops along West Street and exhaled a cloud of smoke with a bitter smile. Charlie and Benny didn’t realize that, revenge or no revenge, he’d still get the last laugh. That envelope he’d mailed tonight contained a detailed description of Charlie’s operations as well as the names of some bitter old whores who’d be happy to testify against the Commission boss. Faolan figured Dewey would be eager to change his aim once the Dutchman was out of the picture.
After all, what was one more betrayal between friends?
“So where’s this dock we’re swinging by, anyhow?” he asked, just to say something.
“Couple more minutes,” Benny said. “Won’t take long. Hey, look back there—hasn’t that same car been behind us since we got on West?”
“Who the fuck would be following us? Why, for that matter?” Faolan gave a cursory glance at his side mirror. They were being followed, all right, but there was no angle in tipping Benny.
“You’re probably right.”
“Hey, you ever been back to that Lombardi’s place I took you and Charlie to, couple years back?” he asked. “You know, the one that makes them tomato pies?”
Benny chuckled. “Yeah, I remember. Pizzas, they was called. Pretty good for dago food.” He glanced over at Faolan and went cold all the sudden. “Nah, I ain’t been back there.”
People who thought Benny was a stone killer had it all wrong. Sure, he could plug a stranger without any problem, but friends were something else. Benny needed a reason to kill a friend, a reason to hate them: a betrayal. Faolan’s trip down memory lane made Benny remember the good times for a minute, messed with his effort to build up his hate.
It hurt stabbing an old friend in the back, Benny? Faolan thought, crushing out his Camel. Your own fault for being weak.
“Was thinking of them tomato pies before,” Faolan continued. “On account of being sick, I ain’t had nothing to eat in almost a week. I was thinking how I could go for one of them pies.”
It wasn’t tomato pies Faolan was hungry for at the moment, but it was something he’d thought about while he lay in his room with his guts twisted up in knots, burning with fever. Shitting and puking and stuffing pillows in his mouth to keep his screams from disturbing the neighbors, all the while thinking of tomato pies, chili dogs, chop suey, Del Monico steaks, ice cream, hot pastrami, and all the other favorites he’d never eat again.
“Nothing for a week. That’s rough.” Benny kept his eyes focused on the road. He slowed down and watched the car behind them pass. He flashed a smile, but it was tight. “Hey, can you believe that fucking series? I mean, if Greenberg didn’t break his wrist in that second game, I guarantee you it never would have gone to six. Tigers act like it was no sweat when they won through by the skin of their teeth.”
Hank Greenberg being the only Jewish star player in the majors made him a natural favorite of Benny’s.
“You know me,” Faolan said as Benny turned onto one of the piers, “if Brooklyn ain’t in it, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass.”
That made Benny snicker and shake his head. “You and them God-forsaken Dodgers. That club’s got no future, mark my words.”
“Hey, bite your tongue. Them’s my bums you’re running down.”
There was a fog coming off the Hudson as Benny pulled to the front of one of the less ramshackle warehouses and set the parking brake.
“Like I said, this should only take a minute.” Benny climbed out and Faolan waited.
This was the hard part. He wanted to fight back, wanted to knock Benny’s ass to the ground and tear his throat out, but he had to take the dive.
His door jerked open and there was Benny, bared teeth and naked steel. In the half-second it took for Benny to shift position, Faolan could have had him.
Benny’s blade punctured his navel, popping him open like a can. A professional job.
“Mother-fucking traitor!” Benny hissed, yanking the blade out. “Charlie says ‘Thanks for the ride’!”
The next blows felt like weak punches in the stomach. Faolan’s vision went gray, and he knew he couldn’t fight back now if he wanted, so he let his body flop as his precious blood drizzled out of him.
Again and again Benny stabbed his stomach, cursing him, as everything went dark.