Owney Madden got out of the big Packard and slammed the door. He straightened his back and stretched. Put his head back and took a deep breath. He loved the smell of the city. The smell of wet asphalt after the early evening rain was a bracing tonic for his soul. Ever since he had come back from Sing Sing he always stopped to savor his freedom. Simply because he knew how fleeting freedom could be. They could take it away from him so quickly. He had to enjoy it while he could.
He reached up to make sure that his fedora was set at its proper place. Jaunty but not at a foolish angle that some of the boyo’s aped as they tried to be stylish. Owney liked to look right. Not foolish. He couldn’t afford to look foolish. It would be a death sentence.
He approached the door of the ginmill and stopped. His driver Feeney jumped in front of him to open the door. Owney nodded at him and walked through the door. Les majeste could not be tolerated. You had to show that you were the king. All the time. Without exception.
Owney stood at the front of the bar and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dark interior. There were several men all sitting separately at tables and booths along the wall. One man sat alone at the far end of the bar nursing a whiskey. A nondescript man. A tired….. no an exhausted man. A man in his thirties who looked like he was much older. One you would pass in the street without a backward glance. He had on workingman’s clothing and was wearing a tin flat cap. Shabby but clean he seemed like every other poor soul that was wandering through this Depression. Except for one difference.
He had killed more men than anyone else extant in New York City.
Owney took off his fedora and held it behind his back where it was immediately taken by Feeney. He shrugged out of his overcoat as Feeney took it off his shoulders like some great lord’s valet in Buckingham Palace.
He walked down to the bar and stood next to the man at the end of the bar.
“Excuse me Mr. Deasy but I wondered if we might have a word?” Owney inquired gently. So gently that the bar tender took a step back. You didn’t want to be around Owney Madden spoke softly.
Generally that meant that someone was going to die.
Sean Deasy slowly turned his gaze to the dapper gang leader. His eyes were dead. Unfathomable grief and horror could be glimpsed in brief flecks and flashes. Or at least his conceit was that they were visible for all to see. Which is why he seldom looked anyone in the eye. He knew Medusa’s pain. It was his own.
“Madden is it?” he whispered in soft brogue with a voice strained by drink and grief. “I am not of a mind for craic these days. So you will forgive me if I turn my attention to my dram and my thoughts. Both of which are my own.”
“I don’t want to disturb you in your thoughts. Truly that is the last thing I would want to do. But I have something I need to talk to you about and I would ask that you spare me a few moments if you could find it in the goodness of your heart. It is passing important.”
Sean Deasy looked at Owney Madden and thought for a moment. Dangerous men recognize each other. Much as the python and the cobra could see each other and each go their separate ways. There was nothing to be gained by combat with someone as deadly as yourself.
“You are a serious man Mr. Madden to be sure. So I suppose I should listen. Set and tell me what it is you want to say.”
“Thank you Mr. Deasy.” Owney sat on the stool next to him. The bartender rushed up and set a cup of tea in front of him without having to ask. Owney seldom drank when he was out in the world. He couldn’t allow himself the distraction.
“You have had word of your brother I would reckon” Owney said. “He was released by the government and is living quietly in Dublin.”
“So is it a Collins man you are Mr. Madden and come to take revenge? I don’t much care anymore so do your worst. It is all of the same to me.”
“No not a Collins man at all Mr. Deasy. Sure and enough the Big Man was a true hero but that is none of my business or the business of any of the Irish on this side of the ocean. We left all of that behind. Much as I assume you have as well.”
“Left it behind? Would that would be so. I carry it with me every day. A burden it is. A burden sure enough.”
“My business is of a different sort. As no doubt you are aware. A business that could use a man of your talents. You have spent yourself in the service of a cause. A cause that has broken you and your brother and left you alone on these shores bereft of kith and kin. I would change that if you would let me.”
“I have no kin Mr. Madden. I have foresworn my brother ever since he signed over his soul to betray his mates to the swine in the Free State. Me Ma is long dead and Da was never but a faded memory. I have nothing. I want nothing. Other then to be left alone.”
“Well be that as it may there might be one slight difference. Do you remember a young lass by the name of Kate O’Malley?”
The Irishman sat up straight in his chair. “Kate O’Malley? I have not heard of her in many the year. Last I had heard she had married the butcher’s son and had a couple of wee bairns clutched to her breast. What is Kate O’Malley to me Mr. Madden? I reckon you have the wrong of it.”
“That might have be so some time ago but she is here now. In New York. And she is asking for you. I just want to know if you want to see her. I can bring her to you. Or you to her. If that is what you want.”
“Why would you do that Mr. Madden? I admit I don’t want to be beholden to any man especially to buy a pig in a poke.”
“I simply want to show my friendship to you Mr. Deasy. We all need friends. Especially men such as ourselves. We need to know we have friends in a pinch. Because a pinch is sure to come.” Owney picked up his tea and took a small sip. “So would you like to be put in touch?”
Sean Deasy rubbed his eyes and thought for a moment. “Aye I think I might at that. I would like to see her once again. Is she well?”
“It is not for me to say. I think she might use some help. I have helped her in a small way. Mainly with money. But she needs more than that. Meet with her and decide what you will. I just wanted you to know. We can talk about our business once that is sorted. There is no hurry. I will be in touch.”
Owney stood up and nodded. He walked to the front of the bar. Feeney held out his camel hair coat and Owney slipped his arms in. He buttoned it and took his fedora and strode out into the night.
Sean Deasy watched as he left and then turned to his drink. He picked it up and looked through it. Placed it back on the bar. He had to think about what he was going to do.