Owney Madden walked into the warehouse on Tenth Avenue. It was near the railroad yards on his native West Side. A huge Norway rat squeaked and skittered into a corner and through a gaping hole in the wall. Water dripped in the derelict structure as a light flickered in the distance as he walked to back.
Roger Toughy was a big muscular rough neck. He was a terror on the docks of the West Side. He thought that made him something. He was learning how little he really was.
He was tied to a stout wooden kitchen chair with knotted hemp rope. He struggled but he was not able to break himself free. Then he saw Owney approaching. He stopped struggling like he had been hit by lightning.
Big Frenchy and McGivney looked on as Owney approached. McGiveney stepped up as Owney stopped in front of the trussed longshoreman. “We got him ready boss. What do you want to do?”
Owney looked over to his partner Big Frenchy who just shook his head. As usual it was up to him to strike up the band and call the tune.
“So boyo what’s this nonsense I have been hearing? It seems you have been lending out on the piers without speaking to us about it. How did that happen?”
Toughy blanched and sputtered. “I didn’t mean any harm Owney. I swear. I was just trying to turn a dollar. I was always going to cut you in. It wasn’t my intention to slight you. By my sainted mother I swear it. I just didn’t get a chance to turn it in. I couldn’t find Big Bill to drop off your share.”
Big Frenchy rumbled and coughed like an old car kicking into gear. “That’s what we call bullshit pally. You know where Billy is. He is at the same place he always is. At the bar. From opening to closing. You thought you could get away without paying the fare. Tell the truth now son or it will go hard on you.”
Toughy rocked back and forth on the chair. Then thought better of it. “I know Owney. I know I should’ve come to you first. I’m sorry. Truly I am. Let me make it up to youse. I will kick back double the tax. No problem. I can be a big help to you. You let me know who you need to muscle and I’m there. Just give me a chance.”
Owney looked down and brushed some nonexistent lint off of his trouser leg. When he looked up his eyes were dead. “That’s not the question Mr. Toughy. Where did you get the gelt to put on the street? You didn’t have the money you miserable sot. Someone put up the stake. Who was it? The guineas? Schultz. Where did you get it?”
Toughy turned even paler than his pale Irish skin normally looked. He burst into a cold sweat. “No Owney I swear. I had saved up the dough. I didn’t hook up with any of the other boys. I know better than that. I was just trying to improve myself. You can’t blame a man for that.”
McGiveney spit on the floor. He went behind the tied up hood and opened a cupboard. He took out a spool of wire. Barbed wire. It had been strung across the roof and the windows of the factory to keep out vagrants and thieves. He unrolled a couple of yards and cut it with a pair of rusty shears. Twisted them together into a line with the barbs sticking out. He looked over to Owney and nodded.
Owney looked at Toughy. “Last chance boyo. Fess up before we have to put you to the question. Who gave you the money?”
Toughy shook his head sadly. “I swear Owney. I swear. Please. You know my Ma. You grew up with my brother Seamus. Please. I swear.”
Owney nodded. McGiveney swung. Swung the wire across Toughy’s face and mouth. He screamed like a woman. The wire had cut him deeply and painfully. McGiveney yanked the wire out and gave him two quick strikes one right after the other. Toughy wailed and pissed himself. Owney held up his hand.
“So son one last chance. Who gave you the money?” Toughy was shaking and sweating and silently weeping. His reputation was in tatters. There was only one thing he could salvage. His life. If he was lucky.
“It was the guineas. That Frank Costello. He gave me the money Owney. I’m sorry. My Ma is sick. I needed it. I thought I could do it without stepping on your toes. I’m sorry Owney truly I am.” Toughy sobbed as the pain etched in is face over took his conscious thought. It was not a good look for a wannabe gangster.
“I am sorry too son. I am truly sorry.” He looked at Big Frenchy and nodded. Frenchy took a short barreled 38 out of his pocket and put it against Toughy’s forehead and pulled the trigger. Blood splattered out the back of his head and sprayed the back wall and the cabinet. Toughy slumped down like a rag doll and voided his bowels with whatever was left in them.
Owney looked at Big Frenchy. “Well this is a fine kettle of fish now isn’t it George. We have to take this under advisement. The greasy dago’s offer us friendship with one hand and try to move into our house with the other. This requires a little thought. Yes indeed. A little thought.”
Owney and Demange walked out into the night without a backward glance. McGiveney looked at Toughy and shook his head. The rats would have a feast. He walked to the door and shut off the lights. Locked the door. A bad business indeed.