We climbed the stairs to the second floor. In the darkened corridor I inhaled the familiar odor of cigarette smoke, old carpet, and desperate lives.
We stopped in front of the familiar office with O’Brien Detective Agency etched into the frosted glass door. Muffled voices came from inside.
I tried the door. Locked. I slid my hand along the top of the dusty door frame and grabbed the key.
I unlocked the door and entered the dark outer office. From a radio on the secretary’s desk came the announcer’s fervent voice: “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty—” I clicked off the radio.
“Hi-yo, Silver.. I love that show.” Frankie’s gaze swept the room lit only by the dim corridor light. “No one’s home, kemosabe.”
Mickey wouldn’t go off and leave the radio on. I flipped on a desk lamp, and the phone rang. It rang a second time. I answered, “O’Brien Detective Agency.”
No one spoke. Only shallow breathing.
“O’Brien Detective Agency.”
“Who’s this?” An unfamiliar man’s voice, but I noticed a faint Boston accent.
“Jake Donovan.” Did I detect a note of surprise in the man’s voice that Mickey hadn’t answered, or was I being overly suspicious?
The line went dead.
I hung up the receiver and opened the door to Mickey’s office. The room was dark except for when the red neon Reed Hotel sign across the street blinked through the partially open blinds.
Mickey sat slumped over on the wooden desk. Except for his face flat against the green desk blotter, the desktop was organized as usual, a notepad beside the phone, a bottle of Canadian whiskey, an empty glass, and a brass ashtray overflowing with Lucky Strike butts.
Even in a wrinkled gray suit and in need of a shave, with his slicked-back black hair, he resembled the actor Lyle Talbot. Although not quite the ladies’ man he professed to be, my former partner was tough, resourceful, and fearless. Only Mickey knew he was the inspiration for Blackie Doyle, a fact that would no doubt surprise the fan I met on the train, Dorothy Greenwoody.
Mickey had changed the office: one desk instead of two. He wasn’t as tidy as I’d been. File folders and tattered telephone books from a dozen cities lay scattered on a corner table. A four-bladed fan on a metal filing cabinet stirred the office air, lifting the corner of scattered at Mickey’s feet.
Frankie peered over my shoulder into the room. “Maybe he’s dead.”Dead drunk.
In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great
Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.
Michael Murphy is a full-time writer and part-time urban chicken rancher. He lives in Arizona with his wife of more than forty years and the four children they adopted this past year. He’s active in several local writers’ groups and conducts novel-writing workshops at bookstores and libraries.