By Andrew Ricchiuti
Two years after the Great War, the city contained anarchists, Bolsheviks and violent labor leaders. Some people claimed they were all the same. I didn’t know. I didn’t care. In my job, I chased and caught all three.
Today wouldn’t be any different. The newspaper headlines screamed about yesterday’s bombing. My bosses read the papers. Then they scream for me. If I want to keep my job, I stop the screaming.
I waited in the back room in the 3rd police precinct. The cops brought in a suspect for the bombing. They claimed he sent them a note warning he’d also set up the other bombing today in Weeklander’s department store. He sat and didn’t say a word.
Picture an anarchist in your mind. If you did, you’d see my suspect. He appeared about twenty six years old, lanky and with a frenzied look on his face. He wore baggy clothes without any sense of style, faded from too many washings. Long bushy hair and an unkempt beard completed the look.
In my mind, I compared his look to mine. I dressed like an American. He looked like a newly arrived Eastern European. I came off as an Italian turned American. At least I hoped I did. I even called myself Joe instead of Giuseppe.
Who knows? I’d bet the locals saw both of us as wild anarchists, one from Eastern Europe and one from Southern Europe,
No matter. Time to get to work. They called me here because me and my partner Lenoid are the best when it comes to dealing with anarchists.
We both served in the Great War on the American side. After the war, we each joined the justice department. When the federal government formed the squad to fight the anarchists, they selected us as members. They felt immigrants from our two countries formed the bulk of this country’s anarchists. An Italian and a Russian would know everything about anarchists. Right?
“Why did you set yesterday’s bomb?” I said. “Why did you just place it on the side of the road? You’re lucky it didn’t hurt anyone when it exploded.”
“Why did you place another bomb in Weeklander’s today,” I continued. “By the way, where you left it, it wouldn’t cause any damage. It was too secluded. The room is too well-built for your bomb. Why did you send the police a letter warning them about the bomb?”
Still no answer.
“Do you speak English?”
“Look at his face. He understands every word,” my partner Leonid said. Leonid just arrived in the precinct. I could see he felt he knew the suspect’s nationality. “He’s Russian. Just like me. Except, he’s a bolshie. Right comrade?”
“Yeah. I understand.”
“So, why?” I said.
He didn’t answer at first. He suddenly started mumbling. I couldn’t hear much, but what I did hear sounded like Russian. Leonid confirmed my guess.
“He said they told me to do it,” Leonid said.
“What? Who? Why? Ask him what his name is.”
Leonid spoke in Russian. The Russian listened, shrugged and started speaking in English,
“My name is Boris,” he said. “Your government. They told me to do it. I want to become a detective. They said if I did these things, I’d be able to work with them. So, I did it.”
I didn’t like what he said. We needed to find out if he spoke the truth.
“Someone in our government wanted you to bomb Weeklander’s department store?” I said. “Why?”
Boris shook his head. “Not just bomb the store. They wanted me to kill Mr. Weeklander. I couldn’t get near him, so I planted the bomb where I thought he would walk. I was wrong. I found out later that he never came to that floor.”
“You’re confessing to attempted murder and planting the bomb?”
I thought about what he said. Who in the government would contact an immigrant and set them up to commit a crime? Why was Boris admitting everything? What protection did they promise him if he did what they asked?
Boris spoke in Russian to Leonid. He seemed agitated, but waited for a response from Leonid. I watched as he barked out some more Russian when Leonid didn’t answer. Leonid shook his head and leaned over to me.
“He thinks I’m a bolshie like him,” he whispered to me. “He thinks he can trust me. He said he has to finish the kill so he can get the job.”
“We need to find out who’s offering this job,” I said. “Is there really a federal worker who’s going to hire him if he kills someone?”
Leonid spoke to him again in Russian. Boris listened and nodded.
“I tell you anything you need to know,” Boris said.
“Good,” I said. “What part of the government is offering you the job? Who contacted you?”
“They said they are new,” Boris said. “They’re detectives. It’s small. They want to grow and become big. Like the Pinkertons or Burns.”
“They’re not government,” Leonid said. “I think he’s talking with a private agency.”
“You’re probably right. We need to get more info on who they are.”
“I can take you to them,” Boris said. “They told me where to find them.”
“I signed out a car before I came,” Leonid said. “Let’s go.”
Boris gave us an address on the West Side. We arrived in minutes. Residential buildings and a few factories sat back from the narrow street. Boris pointed to a four story building to our left.
“There,” he said. “That’s where I met them.”
It looked strictly residential to me. A few people lingered on the steps. They watched us approach. Nobody looked interested or afraid.
“Second floor in the back,” Boris said. “That’s where we met.”
We hurried up the stairs. We moved towards the back apartment. As we got close to the door, I gave Boris a slight shove towards the door. I pulled my gun. Leonid did the same.
“Knock,” I said to Boris. “Tell them you need to talk to them.”
We stood on either side of the door while Boris knocked. No answer. I reached across
him and tapped the door with the barrel of my gun. The door swayed open. I motioned Boris to step to the side. I signaled to Leonid. He nodded. We both ran into the apartment and checked the rooms.
“Empty,” I said.
Leonid holstered his gun and looked around. “It doesn’t look like anyone lives here.
Maybe they just used it as a meeting place.”
“Why are you in here? What are you doing?” The words came from a burly guy with a
red face. We showed our identification.
‘”I’m the super for this building,” he said. “What do you need?”
“Who rented this apartment?”
“No one. It’s been empty for months.”
“Not according to Boris. He says he’s been to several meetings there.”
“The guy outside by the door.” I steered the super out of the apartment. I didn’t see Boris there. “He was just there.”
“Oh, him. I just gave him a note from his friends. They paid me to give it to him. He read it and ran off.”
Leonid came and joined me. “Boris disappeared,” I said. I turned back to the super. “Did he say where he was going?”
“Nope. Why would he? We don’t know each other.”
“We’ve got to find him,” I said to Leonid. “Who knows what he’s up to now?”
“Maybe the note will tell you,” the super said.
“Maybe, but how will I know what the note said?”
“You could read it. It’s on the floor over there. After he read it, he crumpled it and
dropped it on the floor.”
Leonid stepped over and picked up the note. He read it. “He’s going to a playhouse on Fifty-Fourth Street. They want him to try again to kill Weeklander. They found out he has tickets for tonight’s show.”
I took the note from him. It showed today’s date. Who would date a murder instruction note? Why did Boris drop it here where it was easy for us to find it?
“We better get over there.”
We got in Leonid’s car. It didn’t take us long to get to Fifty-Fourth Street the way Leonid drove. We arrived and ran out of the car. A crowd of people flooded the street. All the doors of the playhouse stood open.
“He must’ve beat us here,” I said.
“No way,” Leonid said. “He walked. We drove. Must be something else.”
I grabbed the arm of the guy nearest me. “What’s up? Why’s everyone in the street?”
“A bomb. Anarchists left a bomb under a seat.”
“Did it go off?”
“No. The manager received a note. It warned that the bomb would explode in an hour. That ended about fifteen minutes ago.”
“It couldn’t be Boris,” I said. “He couldn’t get here in time. Somebody else left the bomb and the note.”
“Let’s talk to the manager,” Leonid said. “He must be the hysterical guy guarding the
Neither us nor our badges impressed the manager. He just wanted to continue his show. Why couldn’t all these anarchists be stopped? He did let me see the note.
“It looks like the same handwriting as the other note,” I said. “Could Boris have written this note before?”
“Or, maybe, he wasn’t the one who wrote the first one,” Leonid said.
“Why would he say he did?”
The manager interrupted us. “Look. Over there,” he said. “By that saloon. The man going in. That’s an anarchist if I ever saw one. Why don’t you get him?” He pointed to Boris.
We hurried to the saloon. We spotted Boris drinking a beer and attempting to blend in with the crowd. He tried to hide from us, but we arrived at his side in a minute.
“Why did you run from us,” I said.
Boris shrugged and gave us a resigned look. “They wanted me here, so I went. I had to go. I want that job.”
“Who are they?” I said.
“I told you before. The government. Just imagine what I can do if I’m one of them and working for them. “
“Did you write the note?”
“The note the playhouse received. And, the note we received about the bomb at
“Not really. They wanted me to say I did. They thought that would satisfy you I was who you wanted.”
“What about Weeklander?”
“They do want me to kill him. I’m just having bad luck with him. I’ll get him sooner or
“No you won’t. It’s good luck you didn’t get him. You’d be up for a murder charge if you did.”
“It doesn’t matter. They said they’d protect me and keep me out of any trouble.’
“You believe them?”
“Of course. They’re government agents. Just like you.”
I thought about what he said. An idea came to me. I tossed it around in my mind looking for where it could go wrong. A few things could throw it out of whack, but it was worth a try. I motioned Leonid over.
“Where’s Weeklander”? I asked.”Is he okay?”
“Sure. No problems. I’m not sure he knows what’s happening.”
“Has anybody seen him?”
“No, we hustled him away from the crowd. I doubt if anybody noticed him. They were
too busy taking care of themselves.”
“Good. Explain to him what’s happening. Tell him he’s dead. At least that’s what we’ll tell the world. We keep him out of sight. Make sure he’s protected. Use either our people or some cops you’re sure you can trust.”
“Boris killed him?”
“We’ll say he did. We’ll also say we’re looking for him and expect to have him in custody very soon.”
“They’ll come looking for him. He’s a danger to them. Whoever they are, they can’t take a chance that he’ll lead us back to them. He’ll be a target.”
“I’ll talk to him. He doesn’t really have much choice. Remember, he’s not an innocent in all this.”
Boris agreed to go with my plan. I didn’t give him a chance to refuse. I told him they
would consider him a danger to them. They would try to kill him. He didn’t care.
“I can still become a government detective?” he asked. “I’ll be on the government’s
“We’ll worry about that later. We put out the word you killed Weeklander. Stay around
me. Your friends will probably contact you again. Let me know when they do. Then you tell them Weeklander is still alive. See what they do. We’ll be watching and keep you safe.”
I had barely finished speaking when a kid slunked up to Boris and handed him a note. He read it and gave it to me. They wanted Boris to meet them in Dillion’s saloon on the next block.
They must be in the area.
The kid waited by Boris. “They’re waiting,” the kid said. “Will you go?”
“Yes,” Boris said.
“Okay,” the kid said. “Follow me. I’ll take you to them.”
Before I could say anything, Boris left and followed the kid. I stalled until I could safely follow them unseen. I got to Dillion’s and saw them enter the saloon.
I tried to get close enough to see inside. It didn’t work. The place didn’t have many people in it. I’d be easy to spot if I tried to enter.
I watched them through one of the windows. The kid said something to Boris and
motioned towards the back. Boris nodded and walked to where he pointed. This didn’t look good.
I ran into the saloon and kept going to the back room. It was empty. I saw an unlocked door. It opened outside to an alley that ran the length of three buildings. Nobody. The alley was empty. Boris disappeared.
Leonid came through the door. “We lost him again?” he asked. “I wonder if he left on his own choice or somebody forced him to go.”
“What’s the difference? He’s gone. Did you see the kid anywhere? The one who passed him the note?”
“I did pass a kid on the way in. Skinny kid, kinda surly looking. Must think he’s hot stuff. He parked himself at the bar and was drinking a beer.”
“That’s him.”Let’s go.”
We approached the kid and stood on either side of him. He looked at each of us and took a slug of his beer. He rolled a cigarette, lit it and waited for us.
“Little young for drinking beer in here, aren’t you,” I said.
He laughed at me. “You’re going to arrest me for drinking a beer?”
“No. We want some information though. About the guy you gave the message to.”
“It’ll cost ya. Nothin’s free. Ten bucks.”
“No way. I’ll give you five if your information is good.”
“Okay. What do you want to know?”
“What’d you tell him?”
“Just that a couple of guys wanted him. They were next door behind the butcher shop.”
“That’s not much for five bucks. What’d they look like?”
“Couple of guys. Both about your age. One small, one big. Nothing special about them. They did have the same look about them, like you. You know, cop like.”
I took the five out and waved it slightly. “That’s not much. Not worth the five.”
“I got more. I listened to the guys talk. They didn’t know I heard them. Your friend, the bolshie, they convinced him to go after the guy again. Whoever that is. The only thing is, they’re going to stop him before he gets him.”
“What? They want him to kill someone, but they’re gonna stop him before he does?”
“Right. Crazy, isn’t it?”
“When is this going to happen?”
“Right now. The guy they sent him after is still at the playhouse. They’re either on the
way or they’re there .now.”
I gave him the five. Leonid was already out the door. I followed. We had to get to
“Do you know where they took him?” I asked.
Leonid shook his head. “No. My guess is they took him into the upstairs office. That’s the fanciest place in the playhouse. Weeklander would only stay in the most comfortable spot. Only the best for him.”
“Let’s go there.”
Once we arrived at the playhouse, we rushed up to the office. No Weeklander. No security. I hoped we didn’t get here too late. I looked for Boris. I couldn’t find him.
“You start in the basement,” I said to Leonid. “I’ll work my way down from the top. Be careful. We’ll keep going until we meet. If you find them, keep them in sight until I get there. We’ll take them together. I’ll do the same if I find them first.”
I worked my way down the stairs. I stopped at each floor. I looked for Boris, but didn’t see him. I also looked for two guys who I didn’t know. I didn’t know what they looked like, but hoped I could recognize them from the type described by the kid.
Two floors down, I saw them. They looked like the kid had said. They had the cop look. I knew it well. They also looked dangerous. They carried themselves with confidence and authority.
I didn’t approach them. Instead, I walked by them and stopped by the elevator. I heard them speaking. They discussed Boris and their plans.
“I told him Weeklander would be in second floor conference room,” the small one said. “I said he should let him get comfortable and then he should barge into the room. He shouldn’t shoot away. First, he should get Weeklander to write down how he has oppressed his workers.”
“That should give us time to come in and save Weeklander,” the big guy said.
“Right. We’ll kill Boris as we do it.”
“What if he shoots Weeklander before we get there?”
“No way that happens. Remember, we picked Boris because we knew he couldn’t
“You tipped off the newsmen something might happen? They’ll be there?”
“Yeah. They’ll write their story. The business people will realize the anarchists are after them and they need protection. We’ll get the publicity for saving Weeklander. Our new detective agency will get off to a good start.”
They went through the doorway to the stairs and started their way to the second floor. I watched them go down the empty staircase. It would take longer than the elevator, but nobody would notice them.
It all made sense now.
I needed to get to the second floor before them. The elevator came. I entered and pressed the button for two. It was up to me. I’d probably get to the floor before Leonid. That meant I’d have to handle this until he got there.
I made it just as they arrived. The three of us entered the conference room at the same time. They didn’t look happy to see me. Boris stood in the front of the room He held a gun pointed at Weeklander who was on the floor. In his other hand, Boris held a pen and paper.
“You write what I tell you,” Boris said to Weeklander. He waved the gun at him. “Start.”
“He couldn’t even get this part right,” the bigger detective said.
“Now what?” said the other guy. He pointed at me. “What do we do about him?”
The big guy turned to me and pulled his gun. I pulled mine out at the same time. We
stood pointing our guns at each other.
“Wait. No shooting,” the small guy said. “Let’s talk this through.”
“Yeah. Let’s do that,” Leonid said as he arrived. He had his gun out and covered both.
“Write, I said,” Boris’ voice broke the silence, “do it.”
Weeklander looked at all of us. I could see he thought one of us should do something, but didn’t know who or what.
Boris waved his gun again. “Start writing,” he said, “or I start shooting.”
Weeklander covered his head. He didn’t look at Boris.
Big turned away from me. He pointed his gun at Boris and shot him. He fired two more times. All three shots hit Boris. He crumpled to the floor.
Leonid fired at Big. His shot hit Big, but didn’t drop him. Big swung his gun to fire at
Leonid. He was too slow. Leonid fired again. This time Big fell and didn’t move.
I looked at the small guy. He waved his hands in the air. “No more shooting,” he said.
“Not necessary.” He walked to Weeklander and helped him to his feet. “Are you okay, sir?” he said.
“What are you trying to do?”I asked him.
“My agency saved Mr. Weeklander,” he said. “My partner lost his life protecting him.
That’s the type of agency we are.”
“You’ll never be able to spin that story,” I said. “I’m about to arrest you for your part in all this.”
He laughed at me. “Go ahead,” he said.”Do it. I’ve got people who are backing me. I’ve got Mr. Weeklander as my witness to my part.”
I cuffed him.
I shouldn’t have bothered. They released him an hour after I brought him to the station house. He didn’t hold a grudge. He treated Leonid and me as friends. He even offered us jobs in his agency.
We refused his offer.
Bio: Andrew Ricchiuti lives in New Jersey and writes and reads short fiction. He has had a flash fiction story published on Yellow Mama webzine and another upcoming story on Pulp Modern Flash. In the far past, he has contributed to Country Magazine and War Cry in addition to some other forgotten sites.
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