Statement No. 012:
"This is all I got, mister."
He rolled his fists over, palm side up. He held them out to me. I kept quiet.
"I don't take a dive for nobody, see? Never done it. Not one time, even. Never. I don't care what no one says to me. It's no good threatening me and I don't put up with no strong-arm stuff. I don't care who's on the end of it."
He looked over at his friend.
"Ain't that right, Jacko?"
Jacko closed his eyes and nodded.
"If that means I don't box no more, then I guess I don't box no more." Broad, square shoulders shrugged. "But I don't get why. I always gave 'em a good fight. I never took it easy on no one, and no one took it easy on me. Yeah, yeah, the championship was never in the cards for the likes of me. You don't have to tell me. Shoot, I haven't been a contender for years. But I'll tell you something about all those boys with a shot–they all had to go through me."
Jacko closed his eyes and nodded.
"Nobody gets a pass to the top in this line. You gotta have something and prove it. And do I make 'em prove it. Ain't that right, Jacko? Tell 'em, Jacko."
"That's right, Pepper. You make every one of them prove it."
"If you can't prove it to me, you know where you wind up, you wind up hugging the mat for 10. Then it's the sticks for you."
He paused again. He bit the inside of his mouth just below the lower lip. His green eyes, small and sharp and as bright as a fire, gazed downward. Then they came back up.
"I can't take no dive. I just want to fight. That's all I want. You take that away and there's nothing left. That's everything I have. That's all I have left. Isn't that right, Jacko?"
"That's right, Pepper."
"Yeah, that's all I have left. I don't know why they should want to take that away from me. I was always good for the action. I never laid down. Not once. I got hardly any years left. And he wants to take that away. Everything I got. That's all I have left, mister. That's what I had to tell you."
That, my friends, introduced me to Detlef "Pepper" Pfeffer and his manager, Stanley Jakubiak. Some interesting stuff about Pepper, if you bother—but let me put you wise so you won't have to bother. I don't know what it is about you cops and libraries. You'll bust your humps on the street, but when it comes to sitting down with books, it's like you all get nervous reactions.
So Pepper—came up through the CYO. A golden gloves boy. Has the distinction of once knocking out a referee by accident. Broke the poor sap's jaw. Showed real potential, so they said. But never made good on it. Just about washed up when he and Jacko came to see me.
Pepper spoke his piece then allowed his wide frame to lean back in the chair. He laced his thick fingers together and dropped them to his lap. He looked over at Jacko. Jacko nodded. He looked over at me. The sparse threads of his light brown eyebrows arched upward.
I procured a smoke from my pocket, tapped the end on my thumbnail, lit up and took in a deep drag, all without breaking eye contact. The gray vapor blew out around my words. "What's all that to me?"
Pepper separated his fingers and rolled them into tight fists. "I want you should square it with Mr. Lucy."
"Un huh. So it's Mr. Lucy, is it?"
"Yeah, he's the whole set up." He struck his fists together. "He's the one." He struck his fists together. "Jacko can explain it better. You explain it to him, Jacko."
"Go easy, Pepper, go easy. No good getting yourself worked up."
"I won't lay down, Jacko. You square it with him." His head bobbed and waved quickly from side to side. He struck his fists together. "I got a right to that, Jacko, don't I? Don't I?"
I let out another cloud of smoke. "You're not going to K.O. my desk, are you?"
"Naw," a long-lined grin went up one side of his face as he shooed his hands at me. "Nothing like that."
"It's like this, mister." Jacko scooted his chair half a foot closer to the desk. "You catch the fights?"
"I don't get out much. There's always the Lombardi's next door, but never mind about them."
"You know Mr. Lucy?"
"I've heard tell."
"Okay, so he's the guy what runs the works. No one, and I mean no one, gets in a ring without his say so."
"Everyone knows there's one man behind the boxing commission in this burg."
"That's right, mister. And that one man is Mr. Lucy."
"So Mr. Lucy's got this boy he's grooming. A real comer and that's the truth."
"He's got this left hook that could flatten a Nash Ambassador."
"So he's greasing the wheels. Making sure the kid advances extra-smooth like, get me?"
"And he wants Pepper—"
"That's right mister." Jacko got himself all choked up. "He wants my boy to throw a fight."
"I can't do that."
"He never asked before. Maybe it's the ranking. But now he asks. Mr. Lucy says if Pepper don't play along, he don't play ever again."
"I can't do that mister. I'm just a pug, see? I know it. I ain't getting no younger. But what else do I got? My whole life I've always played it straight and I'm supposed to throw that away now? For what? A couple lousy bucks? That ain't for me, no sir. You can point to each and every guy in the gym. They've all got their scars and they got stories to go with them. You know what they say? When they point at me?"
I blew a gray stream over my shoulder.
"They point at me and they say 'That's Pepper. He's never ever taken one lousy dive. Never.' That's what they say."
"What do you say, Mister—"
"Just make it Jacko."
"Uh huh. What do you say, Jacko?"
"I'm with Pepper, mister. This is his call, and what he says, goes."
"Uh huh. So what do you say, Pepper? Do you want to take him? Do you want to take Mr. Lucy?"
"Yeah, yeah. That's it. Let's take Mr. Lucy."
"All the enthusiasm in the world is swell, but get this—you'll be taking a risky step. Very risky. If anything goes south, anything at all, you're asking for trouble. Jacko?"
"It's your call, Pepper. All the way."
"Let's take him!"
"Uh huh. You're sure about this? No matter the risk?"
"Look at me." Pepper bent forward. The bright greens eyes squinted and he held out his huge paws. "What have I got to lose? This is all I got, mister."
So we talked it over for a bit. I let Pepper ramble on in his own way and pumped Jacko for everything he knew about Lucy. Every time I came back around to asking if they were sure, Pepper repeated, "Let's take him." He couldn't get it out of his head.
So we had ourselves a unanimous decision. We'd put the squeeze on Lucy. I'd do my homework and come up with some way and we'd put the squeeze on Lucy. Pepper didn't hesitate. Jacko never hedged. To use the lingo, Pepper wanted to get Lucy on the ropes and left me to figure it.
You can get something on anybody in this town. In any town, for that matter. There's always a way in. All you have to do is try. Sure. So I tailed Lucy for a couple of weeks. It can take awhile, if you don't have the right kind of help. But you can build up a small operation—if you can find the right panhandlers and newsies. Those boys can really cover the streets. They see everything and they hear everything. They're wise to it all. You boys have your stoolies; I've got newsies and panhandlers. Sure.
So they helped me stay on top of Lucy until he tipped just the right hand. Of all the things in this life, just the right hand turned out to be backgammon. Of all the things. Lucy's a regular backgammon nut. A fanatic. He' got himself a regular high-stakes game every Wednesday at the Chicago Athletic Association. Each and every Wednesday, like clockwork, come hell or high water. We're talking very high stakes. You'd think a mug with his background would know better. Go figure. Sure.
So anyway, he's playing till all hours every Wednesday. And he always takes this regular route home that swings by a 24-hour owl wagon on Canal where he grabs a quick coffee and, if it's late enough, an early edition. I shadowed him for three weeks. The guy's more regular than Winchell. We had him cold.
I liked it. A bleary mark. A back-alley of a throughway. Should be nice and deserted at that hour of day. I liked it. So I worked it all out and gave Pepper and Jacko a run through. Jacko said it was Pepper's call. Pepper liked it. We set it up for the following Wednesday.
They waited with me in the coupe parked across from Lucy's club on Michigan Avenue. I had them both done up in used, oversized topcoats and fedoras. Jacko's was especially used. Threadbare, his outfit was. In his lap he cuddled a dark liquor bottle filled with water. Pepper held a bloated, brown sack on the floor between his feet.
The trouble was not knowing how long we had to wait. Midnight came and went. By one a.m., I heard Pepper snoring. He snored loud. Jacko and I looked at each other. "Let him sleep," Jacko said. We let him sleep and settled back in to wait.
The doors to the Chicago Athletic Association had grown blurry long ago, so I had to wipe my eyes clear when I spotted two men stepping out from the building. The one done up in doorman duds held the door. They must've kept him on special for backgammon night. The second man turned out to be Mr. Lucy. The time on my watch read 4:45.
I turned the key in the ignition. Pepper jostled slightly.
"Better wake him. We don't want him groggy."
I pulled into traffic as Jacko gave Pepper backhand slaps on a knee. I swung a left onto Madison and drove towards Canal.
"Yeah, yeah," he blinked. "Okay. Okay."
"He's up, mister. This better work, Pepper."
The palooka hunched his wide shoulders, a considerable accomplishment in the coupe.
"This better work, Pepper. That's all I'm saying."
"Time's on our side, anyway," I said. "The sun's just starting to come over the lake." They both took a glance out the rear window. "It should still be plenty dark when we make our play."
"And that's good," Pepper nodded.
"That's right. The darker the better for what we have to do."
My company went silent.
I slowed up when we hit the owl wagon. Everything at the diner looked very regular. I sped away, heading North on Canal.
Jacko's fingers drummed on the bottle in his lap. I couldn't understand his muttering.
"What's on your mind, Jacko? Better to spill it now."
"This just better work. That's all I'm saying."
"It's not too late to call it off. But you've got to say so now. Right now."
I pulled over by a collection of waste bins, two and one-half blocks north of the owl wagon. Half a block down the trestles of the elevated train loomed across the landscape like a rusty page out of Jules Verne.
"What do you say, Pepper?" Jacko made eye contact with the lug via the rear view mirror. "Are we on?"
"S'my call, Jacko?"
"Yup. It's up to you, Pepper."
"Then I say we're on."
"Then get moving," I snapped. "You've got maybe five minutes. Everyone clear?"
Pepper bobbed his head. "Sure, mister, sure."
"Okay," I said. "Pepper, don't forget your sack. And both of you, pull your hats down low."
Jacko took his place on the west side of Canal, leaning against the concrete facade of the low building. The worn out topcoat and hat made the perfect rummy outfit. He sure made one swell looking derelict. Pepper scurried around and bent down behind the waste bins. I pulled a u-turn and sped south, back towards our mark.
Mr. Lucy had just eased into his Lincoln Zephyr when I reached the diner. I let him pull out before I made another u-turn. We had the street to ourselves and I gave him a half-block lead. When our man reached the Randolph intersection, I blinked my headlights twice, pulled over fast, and killed the engine. I slunk down in the seat, swung the rear view mirror far around, and tilted it to watch Jacko's reflection as he made his move.
He began shambling across the street as the Zephyr bore down. With 200 feet between them, Jacko reached mid-street and feinted in both directions. Lucy tapped the horn and the vehicle jogged a touch to the right. We counted on Lucy not stopping. Jacko stumbled further across when the Zephyr pulled within 100 feet. Lucy leaned on the horn. Jacko's path kept narrowing the Lincoln's corridor.
At the last minute, horn blaring, the Lincoln veered sharply to the right and missed Jacko by a couple feet. As the Zephyr plowed through two of the waste bins, Pepper hurled the bloated sack at the center of the Lincoln's grill, then he dove into the street behind the car. Jacko drifted back towards the west side of Canal. Lucy slammed on the brakes and the Zephyr lurched forward, rocked back, then settled to a stop. All was quieter than Solder's Field in June.
Lucy threw his door open, planted one foot on the asphalt and barked towards Jacko, "You old fool!" The bark echoed down Canal and faded away. The Zephyr idled and growled like a two-barrel tiger.
Jacko ignored Lucy who marched around the hood of the car. I wish I could've seen his face. Imagine how he must've look when he spotted the results of that exploded sack. Chicken blood can pass for the real thing under those circumstances. Real easy. Sure. Lucy's head jerked this way and that, real fast, then he came back around the car and peered down Canal toward the waste bins. He took two steps then stopped cold when he spied Pepper's still, crumpled form in the street.
This was the tricky part. It all came down to this moment. If Lucy checked the body, it was all over. If Pepper broke, even in the slightest, it was all over. I could only watch it play out in miniature in the rear view mirror.
Lucy stared at Pepper's body for about two minutes. I guess that was his timeframe for life and death. He glanced back towards Jacko. Jacko had sat down on the ledge of a large window, his figure turned away from Lucy, his hand tilting the bottle to his lips.
Lucy gazed again at Pepper's motionless heap. An elevated train suddenly streaked down the elevated tracks — the noise caused Lucy to whip around towards the din. Then he spun around quickly to Jacko, to Pepper. He jumped into his car and floored it. The Lincoln zoomed out of sight as the dawn of another day began to break over the city.
You have to give both of them plenty of credit. They played their parts, all right. As good as any undercover men. Jacko never flinched, not once, not even when the Lincoln bore down on him. That left just one more play in the game. And, once again, we'd have to wait for Lucy.
Our man kept a low profile all day Thursday. He never even stepped out of the house. But it was back to business as usual Friday morning when I caught up with him at the Ferris gym on North Broadway.
The place stank like all gyms. That heavy air is what hits you first, that thick perfume of cheap labor. The sounds of the place make their own kind of muffled patter. The low, muted jabs of gloves against leather, the metallic chunking of weights on the floor, the intermittent snorts of men forcing air out their noses, the soft-shoe slapping and sliding of athletic shoes on canvas. Then you catch the activity buzzing along the perimeter of the expansive room. Men shadow boxing, punching the bag, jumping rope, exercising, conferring.
Mr. Lucy stood front and center, gaping at two boys in the small boxing ring. He stood out like a sore thumb in his light shiny duds with small fedora to match. He held his arms folded across his chest, his feet spread out, his spine arched backward, his head cocked toward one shoulder. I walked straight for him, slowly but steadily.
Jacko approached from the opposite side. He saw me coming, reached Lucy first, and spoke into his ear and passed on. Lucy brought his face around in my direction, real gradual-like. When I came up to him his attention returned to the ring.
The satiny luster of his light blue hat, pinstripe suit and slacks nearly glowed in the dank atmosphere. He had those pretty boy eyes, encircled with precise lashes spaced out like the halo crown around the Statue of Liberty. His tongue kept the toothpick between his lip bobbing and weaving to mirror the action in the ring.
"I understand you cops have been looking for me. I understand you been here earlier."
"We gave you the day off yesterday. That seems more than generous."
"How nice to be given a pass. I just might go getting all soft and sentimental." He sneered which flared out one of his thin nostrils. "What do you want?"
"Just following up, Mr. Lucy."
"Is that a fact? Do you do that a lot? Follow up?"
"Yeah, we do that a lot. Do you talk insolent a lot?"
"Yeah, I do. When someone rubs me the wrong way. You wouldn't want to go getting on my wrong side, would you? Detective, is it? I haven't even et yet."
"Then it's much too early for threats, Lucy.
"Make that Mr. Lucy."
"I had it in mind that we could have a little talk here, but if you rather, we can always go downtown."
"Downtown? Isn't there a precinct station anywheres up here on the north side?"
"Just a figure of speech, Mr. Lucy."
"Oh, I see. I get you." A raised index finger told me to wait while he turned his face, covered his mouth with the back of his hand, and let out an extended yawn.
"I must be boring you."
"Yeah, coppers generally bore me to tears." He sneered again with a shrug of the shoulders. "What do you want?"
"I want to follow up."
"I got that much. You must be working on the clock."
"Don't get me wrong, Lucy. I can start pumping you, if you prefer."
"No, that's quite all right. And best make it Mr. Lucy. I won't tell you again."
"Another threat? I thought it was too early for that. Remember, you ain't et yet."
"That's right, that's right. Okay, so what do you really want?"
"It's a matter of a hit and run."
"I see, I see. A traffic violation."
"Of a serious nature."
"I thought you might."
"Are you inferring something?"
"Who me? I'm just following up."
"That's right, that's right. You guys like to follow up."
Jacko had made a complete circuit of the cavernous room and inched his way towards us around the ring.
"Where were you driving Thursday morning?"
"That's just yesterday morning."
"That's right. Thursday morning as in yesterday."
"I'll have to think."
"I thought you would. You better think careful."
"What time did you say this was?"
"I didn't say. About five a.m."
"Now see, that's way past my bedtime."
"We've had a report."
"Of course you did."
"A Lincoln Zephyr. White. Northbound on Canal Street. About five in the morning."
"How do you like that? I drive a Lincoln Zephyr myself."
"You don't say. Now that's a coincidence for the books."
"And do tell, what do you make of that?"
"I don't have to make anything out of it. We have a witness. The question is where were you at five a.m., Thursday morning? And where was your Lincoln Zephyr, white?"
"Are you accusing me of something, detective?"
"There's a man laying dead in the morgue. Hit and run. By a car just like yours. We had this report —"
"Yeah, yeah, you said that."
"Mr. Lucy?" Jacko leaned in front of him.
"Button it, Jacko. This here detective is about to cuff me for deeds of a most nefarious nature on Canal Street. Just yesterday morning."
"But Mr. Lucy, I had your car. Don't you remember?"
"How is that, Jacko?"
"Well, sure, I kinda overheard you two and I had to come over."
I jerked my head toward Jacko. "What are you trying to tell me?"
"I'm not trying anything. Mr. Lucy borrowed me his car Wednesday night. I had to visit this sick friend in Joliet? I didn't get back till, boy, maybe noontime Thursday. That's what I'm saying."
"You had the white Lincoln Zephyr from Wednesday evening through midday Thursday? Out of town? You'll swear to that?"
"Well, yeah, sure I did. I guess I'll swear to that if I have to."
Lucy wedged the toothpick in the corner of his mouth, his narrow face angled my way and his nostril flared and he gave me the full sneer. "Well, there you are."
There we were, all right. Jacko made the play sweet as could be and Lucy fell for it. He made the play smooth, about as smooth as I've ever seen. You boys could've taken notes. And it made me wonder what Jacko did before he got into the fight racket.
So that was Friday. I got a call at the office from Jacko the next Monday morning. Everything was Jake, he told me. Lucy appreciated what Jacko had done for him, stepping in like he did. Lucy asked how he could return the favor. Would two-fifty do? No? Maybe five hundred? Jacko told me he played it real cagey, and just shook his head. So how much do you want, Lucy asked? My boy just wants to fight, he told Lucy, that's all. Lucy considered it a moment then gave him the nod.
Pepper would keep fighting. Straight bouts. Nothing under the table. He may not get on many important cards, but Lucy would see that he worked. Jacko said he played it up and smiled real big and said thanks several times. Lucy even shook his hand, for crissake.
Jacko said we pulled it off. He told me he was glad it was over with. I told Jacko you can never be sure it's over. From the start I warned them. I told Pepper and Jacko taking on Lucy made for a dangerous game. I told them it would be touch and go, not a sure thing to pull off. There's never a sure thing. I told them, strong, that even if we pulled it off, that might not be the end of it. You can never be sure there's an end to it.
Some people don't take kindly to being indebted. Lucy was one of those people. That wasn't the end of it by a long shot. The news broke two weeks later. It made all the papers—in a small way, of course.
Detlef "Pepper" Pfeffer turned up dead in the early hours of a Thursday morning. Shot four times. Two rounds in the gut, one in the chest, one in the head. Dumped like a sack of dirty laundry on Canal. Left in the street next to some waste bins one-half block north of Randolph. Down for the count. Sure.
The next day, Friday, I received a caller at the office. Mr. Lucy swaggered in, shut the door behind him, and approached the desk.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you." He didn't wait for an answer. He took a seat on the couch on the far side of the desk. "So now you're some big shot private dick. That's a real step up for you."
"And what can I do for you—Mr. Lucy, is it?"
"That's right, that's right. What can you do for me? I'm just following up."
"Uh huh. You want to follow up on the demise of the late Mr. Pfeffer?"
"Never heard of the egg."
"Uh huh. And you never heard of Stanley Jakubiak. You never heard of North Canal Street. You probably never even heard of the Lincoln Motor Company."
"Oh, yeah. I've heard of Canal Street." He sneered.
"What do you want, Mr. Lucy?"
"Now that that you mention it, since we're just talking, I even heard of Stanley Jakubiak. The little man everyone knows and loves as Jacko.'"
"Talk plain? All I want is a little verification."
"When a guy gets bumped, I like to get verification."
"I want to know what you know about this whole hit and run game." He looked down at the nails of his curled left hand like they fascinated them. "I was led to believe that Mr. Pfeffer called the shots on that one. I don't mean the dumb cluck set it up or nothing like that. He was too much of a dumb cluck to lay out anything like that."
I lit a cigarette.
"But that it was his show. I'm told it was his play."
I blew smoke and nothing else.
"I'd like for you to tell me everything you know."
"I can't tell you a thing, Mr. Lucy."
"Don't play dumb with me, detective. I don't like it people should play me for dumb."
"I don't mean to play dumb. Sometimes my line of work calls for it."
"It's a matter of client confidentiality."
"I see, I see."
"Like lawyer-client. You should know all about that."
"So now you're some kind of priest."
"Something like that."
"That poses an interesting predicament."
"See, I understand your part in it. I mean, you're a professional. I'm a man who appreciates such things. You got nothing personal in this."
I took another drag.
"But I don't know how I like your not talking to me."
"I'd even do the same for you, if you were ever my client."
"I see, I see. Maybe I can fix it so's that you'd feel more cooperative."
Lucy snapped the fingers of his right hand. We sat in silence for half a minute. Lucy drummed the armrest with his fingers then jumped off the couch and quick-stepped to the door and yanked it open. I heard the snap of his fingers echo out in the hall. Lucy reentered and took his seat on the couch.
A moment later Jacko stepped through the doorway, followed close by a bruiser with the girth and personality of a Frigidaire. Jacko slowly clawed the hat off his head. His thinning, blonde-white hair lay matted with sweat. His left eye had swelled up, rimmed below by a streak of deep blue. His lower lip was split and a line of dark red had caked up on his chin.
"Come in boys, come in," Lucy sneered.
Jacko meekly approached the desk and stopped between the two wooden client chairs.
Lucy gazed again at his fingernails. "I believe you two fellows have met somewheres before."
Jacko's eyes avoided mine.
"The detective here has clammed up, Jacko. How do you like that? He has his reasons, which may be neither here nor there, but we can go into that later. Maybe you have something you'd like to tell us about this hit and run stunt."
Jacko dropped his chin again.
"You see, Jacko, I get all kinds of information. Some of it I take, and some of it I leave. You wouldn't believe all the stories a man in my position hears. Like the one about a two-bit pug who thinks he can play me like a jack-in-the-box. Stories like that go around and around. They get circulated, get me? And they fester. And just when you think they got credibility, poof! You learn a whole new story and the credibility vanishes."
I watched Jacko, but he never made eye contact.
"So now Mr. Pfeffer is shadow boxing in that big ring in the sky. And what do I come to learn? You care to tell me, Jacko?"
"No sir. I rather not put anybody in the wrong."
Lucy closed his eyes and nodded to the goon by the door.
I stubbed out my smoke. "Do you mind, Lucy? I just had the rug cleaned."
"That piece of crap? How can you tell?"
Jacko began to stutter then stopped. His chin dropped.
"Yes, Jacko? You have something to tell us?"
Jacko released a tired sigh.
"I thought not, Jacko. Shall I tell you myself? What I just learned? All right. My latest information is that is was you all along, Jacko. How about that? You! My information says you was pulling the strings all the time, not Pepper, that you ran the whole show yourself. What do you say to that?"
Jacko said nothing to that.
"So I had to wonder why. You had an interest, you managed the lug. But even so, that was quite some limb you were stepping out on. Pepper had the most direct interest of all, sure he did. So if he wasn't pulling the strings, if it was you all along, Jacko, was your interest? No comment?"
Jacko had no comment.
"Well that was only part one, see. You working up the trick was only part one of my information. Part two—now that's the part that really absorbs me. It should absorb you too, detective."
"Jacko, would you like to tell it?"
Jacko didn't want to tell it.
"I see, I see. Okay, then I'll tell it. Part two goes something like this. You led him into it. You worked it so's that Pepper thought he was calling the shots. But it was you, Jacko. It was you all the time. You played Pepper to play me. Get it? Ain't that rich?"
I said, "That's rich, all right."
"And after you had it all set up? Before you gave me the works? Do you know what you did? You paid a call on Mr. Kissel. You remember this Kissel, don't you, Jacko? Of course you do. Works right downtown. On LaSalle, as I recall. Works for a company called Liberty Mutual. They sell policies for your home, automobile, what have you. You know, he's in the insurance racket, see? This Kissel sells, and Jacko, you went there to buy. But you got no home. No car. So what did you have, Jacko?"
Jacko didn't say, so I did. "He had Pepper."
"Right you are, detective. Jacko had Pepper and he took out a policy and it was a big fat policy and he placed a bet. And now he's lost that bet."
Jacko whipped his head around. His tiny eyes stared at Lucy.
"You lost your bet, Jacko."
Jacko collapsed into the straight back on his left. His fingers lost their grip on his hat and it rolled down his leg to the floor.
"You have anything to say to that, detective? You want to follow up now?"
"Your information is news to me."
"I thought so. But I always like to get verification. You understand." He sneered and looked upon Jacko. "And I guess you have nothing to add? No? I thought so. I'm sure you're thinking plenty, but you got nothing to say."
Lucy plucked a toothpick from his breast pocket and laid it on his tongue. He motioned to the gorilla. The gorilla stepped up behind Jacko and laid a large paw on his shoulder.
Jacko breathed in and out real deep. Twice. He rose, turned towards the door, and paced slowly out of my office with the paw glued to his shoulder all the way.
Lucy slapped his knees as he stood. "Well now."
I called to him when he opened the door. "Pepper."
"What did he say?"
"Yeah. Did he give you verification?"
"I see, I see." Lucy smiled. There was no sneer in it at all. "Pepper claimed full and otherwise complete responsibility. That's what Pepper did."
Poetic injustice, that's what that was. Pepper took a dive after all. And for the wrong guy. Sure.
* The photograph displayed at the top of this page was taken by John Vachon as an employee of the Farm Security Administration, a federal government agency. For more information on the photograph, see http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa1997006445/PP/.