Authors: Terrence McCauley
Sympathy For The Devil
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Manhattan – 1930
his prey from the shadow of a doorway.
He eyeballed the second floor window of the building across the street, taking in the panic of Vinny Ceretti. He watched Ceretti yank a suitcase from the top shelf of a closet and throw it on the bed. The stupid bastard was in such a hurry to skip town that he’d forgotten to pull down the shade.
But Quinn knew people did stupid things when they ran for their lives. He’d seen men act like this before. Many, many times.
Quinn knew Ceretti was clearing out because a man named Fatty Corcoran had been left bleeding on the floor at Ames’ Pool Hall halfway across town. Corcoran was Archie Doyle’s right hand man, and Archie Doyle was the biggest crime boss in Manhattan, maybe even the country. They didn’t call him The Duke of New York for nothing.
Quinn knew Ceretti had set Corcoran up to take a bullet. And Ceretti knew Archie would send Terry Quinn to ask him why.
Quinn watched Ceretti struggle with stubborn dresser drawers, toss clothes in the suitcase, then slam it shut and pull it off the bed.
Then the light went off. The bastard was on his way down.
Quinn took a final drag on his cigarette and flicked it into the street. Time to go to work.
Ceretti took his time. Quinn figured he was listening for strange noises and scanning odd shadows in the stairwell. Quinn knew it was a fifty-fifty shot he’d come out the front door. He had a man covering the alley just in case.
He spotted Ceretti’s head pop out behind the front door. He looked up one side of the street first, then the other. He even looked right at Quinn, but Quinn had done this before. He was too deep in the shadows to be seen.
Ceretti pulled the brim of his cap low over his eyes and began walking quickly along Thirtieth Street, lugging the big suitcase at his side. When he headed east, Quinn knew he was heading toward Penn Station. Quinn already had men there. He had men at Grand Central and all the bus and ferry terminals, too.
Quinn let Ceretti get a good half a block or so ahead, then began to follow on his side of the street; in the shadows.
At six feet, four inches tall and two hundred and ten pounds, Terry Quinn wasn’t supposed to be fast or quiet. Most didn’t realize he was both until it was too late.
He had no problem keeping up with the much smaller man. Even in the darkness, Quinn knew these streets like the back of his hand, sidestepping all the cracks and holes in the sidewalk.
Ceretti stayed in the streetlights along Thirty-First Street, like a rat scurrying along the base of a wall back to its hole.
Quinn heard Ceretti’s rapid footsteps echo in the rain-soaked streets. Fatigue and panic would take hold. Soon, every step would sound like a whisper: Dead man. Dead man. Ceretti twitched around every few seconds to see if anyone was following him. He saw no one.
Quinn navigated the darkness with ease.
Ceretti wiped at his nose with the back of his hand. He searched desperately for a cab. But Quinn knew no cab would come. He’d ordered them to stay out of the area until further notice. Working for Archie Doyle had its privileges.
Ceretti kept walking. Faster now, peering into alleys and side streets for signs of danger. The lonely sounds of Gotham drifted out of the darkness to greet him – vermin squealing in garbage cans, a dropped liquor bottle rolling along the pavement, cats screeching, mumbled voices, boozy snickering, a husband and wife yelling.
And in this chorus of the night beat the constant, unnerving rhythm of Ceretti’s own steps on pavement. Dead man. Dead man.
In the shadows, Quinn followed.
Ceretti kept his head down as he ducked into Penn Station. He passed beneath the tall columns and imperious stone eagles that glared down with menace in their carved eyes. Quinn followed him in, but hung back even further now. He’d posted ten Doyle men throughout the station. Ceretti wasn’t going anywhere.
Quinn watched Ceretti make a bee line for the ticket window and push cash across the marble ticket counter at the clerk.
The drowsy old ticket seller handed him his ticket and his change.
Quinn gave Ceretti a long leash now, letting him head to his train unwatched, his ticket to freedom in hand.
Quinn stopped by the ticket window and leaned on the marble ledge. “What track, Mike?”
The ticket seller’s sleepy expression didn’t change. “Track 88, pulling out in five minutes or so. Better hope he doesn’t get wise and look for it on the big board.”
Quinn pulled an envelope from his coat and slid it beneath the ticket window. “Thanks. And Archie said you better not piss it all away on the ponies this time.”
Mike snatched the envelope and put it beneath the counter, grumbling to himself as Quinn walked away.
Quinn watched Ceretti walk faster now. The little man’s suitcase was almost as big as he was. Ceretti didn’t look up at the Departure Board. He didn’t look at fellow passengers. He didn’t look at anything. He just walked as quickly as he could to Track 88 and boarded the train at the first open car.
Quinn hoped he wouldn’t have to search the whole damned train for him, when a window shade in the fifth car down got pulled down.
Quinn hopped on board just as the train was pulling out of the station. He took his time, moving through the car to Ceretti’s cabin. It was the only one with the door closed and the shade pulled down.
Quinn knew Ceretti was desperate and probably armed; a dangerous combination. He pulled the .45 from his shoulder holster and held it at his side. He rapped a knuckle on the glass and heard Ceretti stifle a scream.
“Tickets,” Quinn said. “Tickets, please.”
“Hold your horses,” Ceretti said on the other side of the door, half laughing, half crying. He was still smiling when he opened the door. “I’ve got it right...”
The smile dropped faster than the ticket when Terry Quinn stepped forward and filled the doorway.
Quinn shoved him hard back into the cabin, sending him bouncing off the wall onto the bench. “Going somewhere, Vinny?”
Ceretti’s breath came in shallow spurts. He started to shake. The dark steel of Quinn’s .45 glinted in the dim compartment light. “Y...y...yeah. I’m heading to Chicago t-to see my m-m-mother. She’s sick.”
“Since when did you have a mother,” Quinn said. “Word has it you’re quite the billiards fan these days.”
Ceretti’s lower lip quivered. “H...h...how’d you find me?”