Meyer Lansky sat at a table in Lindys. He was quite uncomfortable. A plate of cheese cake and a stale coffee sat in front him. Dreck. He hated this joint.
Not that he hadn’t been there many time before. When he was working with Arnold Rothstein he was there all the time. He just didn’t care for the food. When you were a real Yid from the Lower East Side you didn’t go for the gentrified uptown nonsense they fed the tourists. Still it was a good meeting place. Neutral ground as it were.
He was there because he had a message from Owney Madden. When you got a message from Mr. Madden it behooved you to listen to it. Or at least listen to him. His rep preceded him. With the current situation with the Italians it was not the time to open a second front with the Irish. One war at a time.
The front door opened and two immaculately dressed walked in. Owney and his erstwhile partner Big Frenchy. Unlike the Italians and his some of his own landsman the Irish had no problem partnering up with other ethnics. Oh they hated them to be sure. But they still wanted to make money off of them. Meyer always admired that about them. They were good whores. Taking on all comers.
Meyer stood as the two men walked up to his table. Owney Madden stretched out his hand. “Nice to see you Meyer” he said. “Same here Mr. Madden.” “Please call me Owney. I hope we can be friends as we have some mutual interests. You know my partner Frenchy?” “Not personally I think this is the first time we have met. Let’s sit down. Do you want a nosh?” “Coffee would be nice.”
Meyer signaled the waiter who brought over two cups and saucers and some coffee. The waiters were well trained when gangsters gathered. They didn’t hover. Nobody wanted to hear something they weren’t supposed to hear.
“I imagine you are wondering why I reached out to you” Owney said. “I know you are still partners with Charley and I want to get a message to him. Through a third party and not one of his fellow grease balls.”
Meyer shifted his eyes back and forth quickly. “Yes we are still partners. I am not involved in what he does with Masseira if that is what you are asking Owney. We have our own thing. Separate.”
“Oh I know Joe the Boss doesn’t hold with dirty Micks or Kikes like you son. But that slimy fuck Costello came to see me with a proposition. He was going to supply booze at reasonable prices delivered to my door. At a very reasonable price. It seems too good to be true. In my experience when things seem too good to be true they are indeed too good to be true. Now I find out that Costello is putting money out on the street on the Docks on the West Side. Seems a little duplicitous to me. Wouldn’t you say so Meyer?” Owney sipped at his coffee. Politely. Because he really preferred tea. It was important. You see it showed him that Lansky had not done his homework.
“I agree with you Owney. That doesn’t add up. But I am not partners with Frank in this. That’s a separate deal with Charley and some of his paisans. Not part of my thing at all.”
“Give us some credit here Meyer” rumbled Frenchey. “We know you are part of a combination with Charley and Costello and Waxey Gordon and that psycho Dutch Schultz. Everybody knows you are the brains of the outfit. The question is how smart are you?”
Meyer was taken aback. The Irish seemed to be well informed. Too well informed. He had to wonder how. It must have been their contacts with the cops. Every Irishman in New York was either a cop or a gangster. Sometimes in the same family.
“You seem to know a lot about my business. Still and all I don’t put anyone else’s business out on the street. All I can do is take your concerns to Charley. He is not a free agent in all of this you know.”
“I know he is the head dago no matter what anyone says. He will be running the show soon enough. I can feel it. So I would like to start off on the right foot with him. You need to let him know he has to set his boys straight. Or I will. And I don’t think he wants that. In fact nobody wants that. It’s bad for business. I know you appreciate that Meyer. So please pass the message. Stay out of the West Side and we have no problems.”
“Fair enough Mr. Madden. I will let him know. I am sure we can figure this out to our mutual advantage.”
“Owney please Meyer. I am sure we can figure it out too. Next time we will sit down for a nice pot of tea over by me. Maybe we can come up with some mutually beneficial ideas. Once he clears up his situation.”
Meyer shifted in his seat. These Micks knew too much. If they dropped a dime to Joe the Boss it would all blow up. They would have to move. Immeadiately. Madden was giving him a message.
“Absolutely Owney. Let’s do something soon. I will bring Charley with me next time. It is time youse guys met.”
“That would be good Meyer. That would be good.”