1947 Noir – 14

1947 Noir – Chapter 14 – Doctor’s Satchel

It’s almost late morning the next day and they both meet at the bathroom door; “How did you manage bathroom time with six other women living here?”

“Other than the occasional: Can I go first? It was rather orderly. So can I go first?”

“Please go. I’ll stand here gritting my teeth with my legs crossed doing the pee pee dance to hold it.”

“I’ve never had this much drama when I was living with my uncles. They always let me go first.”

“I’m kidding, take your time. Just don’t die in there.”

Less than a minute later; “Your turn.”

“Thank you.”

After Edward leaves the bathroom, there’s someone knocking on the apartment door.

“Ed? Didn’t you lock the downstairs door before we came up this morning?”

“I know I did. That has to be …”

Wearing only his boxer shorts, he opens the door; “Big Mike. It’s always good to see you, but what brings you here?”

“All the locks in this building are being changed today.”

“Okay. Not to be rude, but why are you here?”

“You weren’t here for the last few days. Because you’re here today, Alex wants to take both of you out to lunch. There’s a couple of things he needs to discuss with both of you.”

“Did we do something wrong?”

“Na. It’s nothing like that. Alex only wants to ask both of you some questions. Anyway, he found this Jewish Deli that has the best corned beef and pastrami sandwich in the world. Or at least in Kansas City. If he says it’s the best, who am I to disagree.”

“Okay. Give us a few minutes to get ready.”

“I already called the locksmith for you. He’s one of our business partners. He should be here before we leave. You’ll have to pay him when we get back. He should be finished by then.”

Dee has joined Edward and gives Mike the evil eye; “Don’t look at me that way. You don’t know how may people may have keys to the building. Alex and I want both of you to stay safe.”

“Oh alright. Will we have the only keys?”

“Yes. That way both of you will be safe. Alex and I don’t need or want keys to anything here. Just in case you understand. We don’t need or want any physical or legal connections to you two.”

“We understand, thank you. We’ll meet you downstairs.”

45 minutes later, the group of 4 is seated inside of a out of the way deli. It’s in the lower lever of an apartment building. Alex has ordered 4 lean corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, 4 orders of french fries along with 4 cups of coffee.

While they’re waiting for the food, Alex starts; “Questions have arisen concerning your latest job and I presume honeymoon. Because of who the people asking questions are, I agreed to talk to both of you about their concerns.”

“Ask away. The cleanup went exactly according to plan. So what’s their concerns?”

“How much cash did you recover from those two?”

“I remember our crew saying something about what a tight wad the guy was. They said he only had four dollars and some change on him.”

Dee answers; “The woman had three dollars and some change. That was it.”

“Did you or your people find anything else in the way of cash?”

“Nothing other than our cash payment of four thousand dollars and expense money in a brown paper bag on the front seat of the man’s car. I took two packs of ten’s for our expenses, but that was it.”

Dee is a little frustrated; “What’s this all about? Are we being accused of ripping someone off? Are we targets of revenge?”

At that moment, their food and coffees are being delivered. After the server leaves; “Nothing of the sort. Let’s have these while they’re warm. I hope nobody minds because I ordered everything on fresh onion rolls. There’s yellow and Dijon mustard on the table.”

Dee is upset; “I want to know what’s going on here.”

“There’s too many people too close by us. I’ll tell you everything when we’re not going to be overheard.”

After the food has been consumed, most of the close by patrons have left. Alex continues the conversation; “How did the job go?”

“Perfect down to the last detail, other than the return bus trips taking forever.”

“Did you find any large sums of money in either of the cars?”

“Nope. Only the money we were paid. We wore gloves and left the cars at the airport. So what’s going on?”

“As you know, those two were cops. Like almost every other cop, they were taking weekly twenty and fifty dollar bribes to look the other way. It’s the cost of our doing business.”

“That’s normal everywhere.”

“Over the last six months, they became greedy. They started ripping off drug dealers and selling the products to out of town organizations. Myself and others in our business were becoming more unhappy with those two by the week. But being police, what could we do? Nothing.”

Dee asks; “So who put the hit on them?”

“There’s a select few in the department who learned of an internal affairs investigation that would have brought those two down and put a spotlight on the whole department. Those select few orchestrated and had the hits carried out.”

Dee sets her coffee cup down; “Oh shit. No wonder the unmarked car.”

Edward asks; “So what’s the word on the street concerning those two?”

“The other organizations know you two must have eliminated the bodies. Nobody is concerned with that. Now they’re looking for the money those two ripped off.

Many think it’s hidden somewhere local because it’s obvious they didn’t spend it. They lived in small average houses and you know what kind of cars they drove. Smith’s wife is a grocery store clerk. Babcock’s husband unloads trucks at a meat packer. Their bank accounts are nothing special.”

“Any word on what the police think?”

Alex smiles; “Because of the brochures found in the cars at the airport and they bought two tickets to San Diego, they think the couple eloped and went to Guyana, South America because English is widely spoken there. I heard most everyone in the department knew they were an item.”

“Do any of the other organizations know how much money is missing?”

“Some are guessing between ten and twenty thousand. Could be a hundred thousand. Nobody will admit to how much they were ripped off for.”

Dee lets out; “Holey shit!”

“Now with those two gone, it’s business as usual. Some think they must have hid the money somewhere.”

“Do they think we have it?”

“Some are wondering that very question. My associates can sometimes be a greedy bunch. If the missing money were to be found, there would be a fight. Who gets how much and why one should get more than the other. I sure as hell don’t want to get involved in that shit storm. Depending on the amount, it could get deadly real fast.”

“I can understand why. Six organizations arguing over the money might cause a sudden and major increase in our business.”

“I see why you married Dee. She’s a beautiful woman and smart. She knows that is exactly what would happen.”
“Thank you. I’m trying my best.”

“I know that. One last thing. I understand the late Detective Smith didn’t trust banks. He remembered his mother telling him about the bank failures as a child during the great depression. Because of this, he kept the ill-gotten money in some type of case or satchel.

Now if that satchel of money were to show up, the squabbling could start a gang war none of us need. Am I making myself clear on this?”

He stares at Dee and Edward with all the seriousness in the world in his eyes for several moments before leaning back in his chair.

Edward responds; “Clear as glass. We can tell you with all honesty, the only money we seen was our payment in a brown paper bag. That was it.”

The server arrives with the meal check.

Alex tells her; “I would like to order two more of these great sandwiches to go please.”

He reaches into his pocket and gives the woman two twenty dollar bills; “This should take care of the check and keep the change for your great service.”

The woman has a smile from ear to ear; “Oh my god! Thank you Mister Morris.”

After she steps away; “Mike, these are for dinner tonight. One for you and one for Alice. Am I understood?”

“Yes boss.”

“Thank you. When I see her, I’m going to ask how she enjoyed tonight’s dinner. Am I clear?”
“Crystal clear boss.”

Turning to Edward; “About a month ago, I bought Alice and Mike rib dinners. Mike ate almost both of them. I think Alice told me she had a couple of ribs and maybe half a potato.”

“They were really good ribs. I couldn’t help myself.”

“Anyway, onto another unpleasant matter concerning you two. I have a considerable sum invested in your business. The building, the truck and car. My lawyers and accounts tell me I need to account for the sale of those assets. This is to make sure of a one hundred percent legal separation between us”

Edward asks; “What are you trying to tell us?”

Dee answers; “We need to pay for the building, truck and car to remove any connections between the two of us and him.”

“Like I said before. She’s a damn smart woman. I told you thirty five hundred for the building. Add in the car and the truck, I feel five thousand dollars would be a fair price.”

Dee smiles; “We can arrange that. Business has been good and we have the cash. If you would have asked for more, I would have asked for terms. Business has been good, but not that good. We still have overhead.”

“Okay, you twisted my arm. Forty five hundred cash and it’s a deal.”

“Thank you. When Mike drops us off, it’ll take me a couple of minutes to get him the money. It’s in our apartment.”

“Do you want a receipt?”

Edward answers; “No. We have the titles for the truck and car. We also have the title and deed for the building. Everything is in our business name. No receipt is needed.”

“Mister Morris, we’ve known each other for years. You gave me my first job out of college. Even though it was working for scumbag Chuck.”

“It paid you quite well.”

“Ten dollars a day, seven days a week, no taxes, free room and board, and a relatively easy job. I could never have hoped to make even half that anywhere else. That’s why I trust you Mister Morris. You have never done me wrong.”

“Give me your hands.”

She reaches over the table where Alex gently grasps them; “If I was only twenty plus years younger when I met you, and society was less judgmental … Ah, we’ll never know. That’s also the reason I didn’t hire you as an accountant.”

“Because I’m a colored woman?”

“Because you were so young and innocent, I didn’t want you tarnished by my business. Doing my bookkeeping would have put you in harms way. And call me Alex.”

He releases her hands; “So everything is good. The case or satchel and it’s contents will never be seen anywhere again. Are we clear on this?”

Dee and Edward answer; “We’re clear.”

“We don’t need any gang wars. Mike; here comes your dinners. Don’t eat your wife’s. She’ll probably make two meals from hers.”

“I won’t eat hers boss.”

“Now bring my guests home and pick up the money. I’ll see you back at the office when you’re done.”

Everyone left the restaurant and briefly chatted outside. Alex entered his car and drove off while everyone walks to Mike’s car.

While driving to the warehouse; “I talked to your man Larry while you were on your trip. He told me the others never seen the doctor’s satchel. I told him it could be fatal if he were to have seen a satchel removed from one of of those cars.”

“What did he say?”

“He smiled and said: What satchel? The two suitcases were opened. The contents dumped in the garbage cans. The suitcase name tags were removed and burned with the bodies also.”

Mike looks in the mirror where he sees Dee and Edward with blank stairs on their faces.

“What’s wrong with you two? I thought you’d be talking up a storm right about now.”

“After the bus rides from hell that took what seemed like forever, we’re all talked out.”

“Ah you’ll be home in a couple minutes. You can start doing what married people do when they come back from a long trip.”

“We were about to start doing that this morning before you knocked on our door.”

“I mean you’re going to pay the locksmith, turn on the radio and relax.”

Dee turns to Edward with panic; “How much money do you have?”

“Why?”

“We only have about forty six hundred and we still need to pay the locksmith.”

Edward smiles; “Remember that money Mike gave us? I put it away just in case he wants it back or some other emergency.”

From the driver’s seat; “I’ll never ask for that money back.”

Dee smiles; “Mike, you saved us once again. You’re the best.”

When everyone arrives in the apartment, Dee starts walking around, removing every heater vent cover and taking out packets of money. Edward has removed money from the freezer and is now removing the back of the radio where he pulls out more bills.

With Mike smiling while looking on; “You two are something else.”

Edward smiles; “You can’t be too careful.”

“Did you check the bread box and cookie jar?”

“Thanks! I forgot the bread box. We only keep cookies in the cookie jar.”

Mike asks; “Hey, do you still make those peanut butter cookies?”

“Yes I do. I also still make the chocolate chip cookies you used to clean me out of every time you came by.”

He starts chuckling; “Yeah, the ladies used to get pissed off because I took most of them.”

“When I made them, I had to make several batches. As soon as a batch would cool, the women would split the cookies between themselves and wrap them in waxed paper.”

“Why would they do that? The cookie jar was always right there on the counter. They could just help themselves.”

“They would hoard them from each other and you. They also used them to trade for things. Two peanut Butter cookies for a Chocolate Chip cookie. Only two of them liked oatmeal cookies. They also used the cookies as poker chips. I’ll be glad when the government stops rationing chocolate.”

Edward announces; “Let’s sit at the table so Dee can count the money.”

A couple minutes later, she’s handing Mike the cash; “Forty five hundred cash. Please recount it.”

“I was counting it as you were. It’s all there.”

Edward passes a paper bag to Mike. After he puts the money in the bag; “I see you still have some cash left, good.”

“It’s the five hundred you gave us.”

There’s a knock on the door, it’s the locksmith; “I’m here to replace every lock in the building. I’ll start here if you don’t mind. Then I’ll go downstairs.”

“That’s fine.

“Do you want to pay me when I’m finished or should I leave you the bill?”

“We’ll pay you when your done. By the way, what happens to people who don’t pay?”

“I take all my locks back. Then every few days, I remove all the new locks they had installed by someone else.”

“Wow. We’ll pay you in cash when you’re finished.”

“I looked around the building before I came up here. It will be a hundred and twenty five dollars total.”

“Thank you.”

The man and his toolbox started on the apartment front door. Mike said his goodbyes and left. Dee and Edward went downstairs to the office where he moved the counsel radio to access the floor trap door.

When he opens it, he sees the folded paper bag from the last job. He lifts the bag and gave it to Dee. She counts the cash; “Larry paid everyone including himself. The rest is here.”

“I knew we could trust Larry.”

Edward reaches in, removes the doctors satchel and walks to the desk. Breaks the lock, opens the case and sees a couple of bar towels; “That cop was stealing bar towels too?”

With Dee looking on, he removes two towels; “Holey shit! You better count this. I’ve never even seen this much money in my life.”

Dee is cool and calm counting the cash. A couple minutes later; “Those two were doing some serious business ripping off drug dealers.”

“How serious?”

“Thirty one thousand, four hundred and fifteen dollars and ninety two cents. I have no idea where the ninety two cents came from. I thought dealers only dealt in paper money.”

“Oh shit. What should we do with all that?”

“Oh sweetheart, it’s a good thing I’m an accountant. We hide it and don’t touch it. It’ll be part of our nest egg for our retirement.”

“Don’t you want to spend it? Or at least some of it?”

“No. We need to be smart. If we start spending more than we earn, the IRS will be on us like white on rice. We’ll keep it somewhere safe, like a safe deposit box at the bank.”

“Why not just keep it here? You know, close by for comfort.”

“No. What if the building catches fire? What if the building floods because of a water pipe break? What if some asshole breaks in trying to find cash?”

“So that’s why Chuck had that open safe in the corner downstairs.”

With a smile; “You really are way smarter than the average husband. That’s exactly why I wouldn’t let Larry and the others take it for scrap. The combination part is broken. The safe won’t lock. You can shut the door, but one twist of the handle opens it.”

“What did Chuck store in there? His movies?”

“He use to put his potato chips and other junk food in there. He would eat all day. He also kept other worthless junk in there.”

“No wonder he was so fat. He never stopped eating.”

“It wasn’t often he stopped eating. Now on to this. Put the money and bar rags back in the satchel. Then put the bag back in the floor and push the radio back. After the locksmith is done, we can go to the bank, get a safe deposit box and put the money in there.”

“Oh I’m so lucky to be married to a smart college graduate who happens to be the prettiest woman anywhere.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere husband.”

“Oh I like that. While we’re waiting for the locksmith, I have a question. Why don’t you do both your uncles books?”

“My uncles are self made men. Or at least they think they are. When Harold finished high school, his first job was as a dish washer in the restaurant he now owns. He has his long time girlfriend doing his books. She also helps manage the restaurant when he and Marcus aren’t around. I don’t get in the way he does things.”

“Then what about Herbert?”

“Herbert couldn’t find a job when he graduated high school. While walking by a real estate office, some white man standing in the doorway asked Herbert if he was looking for a job.

The guy bought real estate at auction. He would fix it up a little and sell it later. Herbert was the cleanup guy and he used to attend auctions with the man.

One day a funeral parlor and related graveyard came up for bankruptcy auction. Now what white man is going to bid on a bankrupt, negro owned funeral parlor and negro graveyard? That’s not gonna happen.

Herbert asked the man he was working for if he could borrow a hundred dollars to bid on it. The man bid a hundred dollars, everyone there laughed. He won with the hundred dollar bid and had Uncle Herbert sign the papers.”

“Wow! Did the man say why?”

“The said his grandfather was part of the underground railroad smuggling slaves to the north. He wanted to do something his grandfather would be proud of. He even sent Herbert to funeral director and mortician schools.”

“You’re family is so damn lucky in so many ways.”

“Not as lucky as I am to find the man I would have never guessed in a million years would be the man I would marry.”

Edward is smiling; “It’s a shame they took out all the beds from the back.”

She smiles; “I’d get on my knees and take care of you, but the locksmith might come in. That would be rather embarrassing. A kiss will have to do until he leaves.”

After the kiss, Edward is smiling as he tells Dee; “Your kisses remind me every time how much I’m in love with you. And everyone said we wouldn’t last.”

“Who said that? I’m gonna straighten them out right now!”

“I’m kidding my love. Nobody said anything except wishing us well.”

The love of his life smiles; “I wish that damn locksmith would get finished already. I’m a woman who needs attention from her husband.”

“What things do you need me to do my love?”

With a sly grin; “Oh you’ll find out two minutes after the locksmith leaves. I’ll give you a hint. I replaced the bed sheets earlier.”

“Oh my!”