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Stepping out onto the fresh snow covering his front steps, Dorsey carefully planted each booted foot and reached over to check his mailbox. He felt around inside, concerned that his gloved fingers might miss something important, and came tip with only one business-sized letter. The thick envelope was a standard white with the letterhead of the District Attorney, County of Allegheny, embossed in the upper left corner. Ali hell, Dorsey thought, won't this guy ever give it a rest?
Two appointments behind, Dorsey hurried to his Buick, used his teeth to pull the glove from his right hand, and fished around in his parka's zipper pockets for his keys. Once inside and behind the wheel, he flicked on the windshield wipers and was immediately disappointed at the globs of snow and ice that held tight to the glass. He climbed back out of the car, searched the front and back seats for an ice scraper, came up empty, and settled on his newly arrived correspondence. You can read it later, Dorsey told himself, using one of the envelope's short sides to scoop away the snow that clung to the bottom of the windshield. If the smear isn't too bad.
Traffic was sluggish through South Side, the streets only partially cleared by the day's second plowing, and Dorsey didn't pick up any speed until he had crossed the Birmingham Bridge and gotten through the park to Squirrel Hill. He took a right onto Murray Avenue, put the Buick into neutral, and carefully drove the downward slope, a thin two-way with parked cars hugging both curbs. His foot continually tapping and releasing the brake, Dorsey moved past storefronts that displayed their names and wares in English and Hebrew: a few bakeries, afishmonger, two delis, and a Judaic center. Two parking meters up from Sollie's, he wedged the Buick next to the curb, the front tires buried in freshly shoveled Snow.
The meeting, Dorsey recalled as he diagonally crossed the sidewalk to Sollie's, was originally scheduled for the next day, in the attorney's office. In the mid-afternoon when there's no rush and the secretary brings coffee the way you like it and the attorney explains why he needs an investigator and what he needs to find out and you tell him if it can be done and how much it's going to cost. Not like now, not after last night's phone call. Now you had to settle for some liquid crap in a Styrofoam cup and maybe a glazed donut on the side, But then again, a good glazed donut is a good glazed donut.
The plate glass that fronted Sollie's was steamed over from coffee urns and a short order grill. From the sidewalk, through the blur, Dorsey could make out a service counter, a display cooler, and a smattering of chairs and tables, mid-morning empty. Except for one chair near the cooler, holding a small man wrapped in an overcoat. Dorsey stepped inside expecting to renew an old acquaintanceship with an attorney he really didn't care for. What he found was a man he had never met, but knew too well.
"So, you'll sit? We should have coffee with our talk. Even if we didn't have business, I was hoping to meet you one day."
"Goddamn," Dorsey muttered, looking down at the old man who gestured hum toward an empty chair at his table. "Chick Rosenthal. What in the bell do we have to talk over?" Even as he spoke, Dorsey took the seat he was offered.
"Business, of course," Rosenthal said, waving to the counterman, indicating two coffees. "Always business. All my life, always business."
Dorsey accepted the coffee, served to his surprise in heavy white mugs, the kind that begged for a donut and a dunking. Chick Rosenthal, in the flesh. The man who had organized and controlled illegal gambling in the eastern end of the county for over forty years. Sports betting, a race wire, and numbers when there was a buck to be made in it. Before the state decided to move out his kind with a daily lottery of its own. He was a short man, horseshoe bald, wearing a tight collar and print tie beneath his overcoat. Dorsey knew him to be in his mid-seventies and he looked it except for the soft pale eyes that seemed to exude tranquility.
"Shouldn't we wait for Attorney Chalmers?" Dorsey asked, lifting the mug to his lips, blowing away the rising steam. "Na, he's not going to show, is he?"
"The law is a busy profession," Rosenthal said. "I should know, my younger son just opened his own practice. His older brother, he's partnered with three other neurologists." Rosenthal used a metal creamer and lightened his coffee. "No, Chalmers won't be here. I just use him to set things up for me. Especially with people who might not agree to meet with me."
"Don't drink so badly of me," Rosenthal said. "and don't believe everything you hear about a person."
"Actually," Dorsey said, "all things considered, what's said about you is mostly positive. Chick Rosenthal, The Clean Jew. Gambling and nothing else. No drugs, no whores. But that business about getting rid of the competition, keeping things in proper working order, well, that doesn't help with your image."
Rosenthal set down his coffee mug. "I hate that Clean Jew business. Just some nickname hung on me by some gentile cops and federal agents who never could prove a thing against me. And about that rough staff, I've never been part of that. Now my partners, Dominic and his boy Angelo, you'd have to talk to them about how they conduct their business." Rosenthal lifted his mug and took a sip. "That's another thing that separates me from them."