For years, cops have whispered legends that Don Nicholas Giraldi, the gentleman godfather, kept a ledger going back decades, keeping track of every police officer, mogul, and politician who took even a cent of his dirty money. Finding the register would put mayors, senators, and even a president or two on the hook for prosecution—or blackmail. When old Nic finally kicks the bucket, one such official comes to Mike Hammer and begs him to find the book before it falls into the wrong hands.
Mike has never believed the stories of the old don’s journal, but for $10,000, he is happy to play along. Every hood in town wants to get his hands on the book, and finding it will mean pushing to the very heart of Nic’s family. No matter how many years may have passed, Mike Hammer can still push harder.
The Bibliomysteries are a series of short tales about deadly books, by top mystery authors.
About the Author
Max Allan Collins is an award-winning writer of mysteries, comics, thrillers, screenplays, and historical fiction. His graphic novel Road to Perdition was the basis for the 2002 Academy Award–winning film by the same name. Collins cofounded the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers and studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He collaborated with Mickey Spillane on several projects and is completing a number of the Mike Hammer novels that Spillane left unfinished. Collins lives in Iowa with his wife, author Barbara Collins.
Read an Excerpt
It's in the Book
By Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 2013 Mickey Spillane Publications, LLC
All rights reserved.
Cops always come in twos. One will knock on the door, but a pair will come in, a duet on hand in case you get rowdy. One uniform drives the squad car, the other answers the radio. One plain-clothes dick asks the questions, the other takes the notes. Sometimes I think the only time they go solo is to the dentist. Or to bed. Or to kill themselves.
I went out into the outer office where a client had been waiting for ten minutes for me to wrap up a phone call. I nodded to him, but the six-footer was already on his feet, brown shoes, brown suit, brown eyes, brown hair. It was a relief his name wasn't Brown.
I said, "I can see you now, Mr. Hanson."
At her reception desk to one side of my inner-office door, Velda—a raven-haired vision in a white blouse and black skirt—was giving me a faintly amused look that said she had made him, too.
Mr. Hanson nodded back. There was no nervous smile, no anxiety in his manner at all. Generally, anybody needing a private investigator is not at ease. When I walked toward him, he extended a hand for me to shake, but I moved right past, going to the door and pulling it open.
His partner was standing with his back to the wall, like a sentry, hands clasped behind his back. He was a little smaller than Hanson, wearing a different shade of brown, going wild with a tie of yellow and white stripes. Of course, he was younger, maybe thirty, where his partner was pushing forty.
"Why don't you come in and join your buddy," I said, and made an after-you gesture.
This one didn't smile either. He simply gave me a long look and, without nodding or saying a word, stepped inside and stood beside Hanson, like they were sharing the wrong end of a firing squad.
Something was tickling one corner of Velda's pretty mouth as I closed the door and marched the cops into my private office.
I got behind my desk and waved at the client's chairs, inviting them to sit down. But cops don't like invitations and they stayed on their feet.
Rocking back, I said, "You fellas aren't flashing any warrants, meaning this isn't a search party or an arrest. So have a seat."
Reluctantly, they did.
Hanson's partner, who looked like his feelings had been hurt, said, "How'd you make us?"
I don't know how to give enigmatic looks, so I said, "Come off it."
"We could be businessmen."
"Businessmen don't wear guns on their hips, or if they do, they could afford a suit tailored for it. You're too clean-cut to be hoods, but not enough to be feds. You're either NYPD or visiting badges from Jersey."
This time they looked at each other and Hanson shrugged. Why fight it? They were cops with a job to do; this was nothing personal. He casually reached in a side suit coat pocket and flicked a folded hundred-dollar bill onto the desk as if leaving a generous tip.
"Okay," I said. "You have my attention."
"We want to hire you."
The way he hated saying it made it tough for me to keep a straight face. "Who is we?"
"You said it before," Hanson said. "NYPD." He almost choked, getting that out.
I pointed at the bill on the desktop. "Why the money?"
"To keep this matter legal. To insure confidentiality. Under your licensing arrangement with the state of New York, you guarantee that by acceptance of payment."
"And if I reject the offer?"
For a moment I thought both of them finally would smile, but they stifled the effort, even if their eyes bore a hint of relief.
Interesting—they wanted me to pass.
So I picked up the hundred, filled out a receipt, and handed it to Hanson. He looked at it carefully, folded it, and tucked it into his wallet.
"What's this all about?" I asked them.
Hanson composed himself and folded his hands in his lap. They were big hands, but flexible. He said, "This was not the department's idea."
"I didn't think so."
He took a few moments to look for the words. "I'm sure you know, Hammer, that there are people in government who have more clout than police chiefs or mayors."
I nodded. He didn't have to spell it out. Hell, we both knew what he was getting at.
There was the briefest pause and his eyes went to my phone and then around the room. Before he could ask, I said, "Yes, I'm wired to record client interviews ... no, I didn't hit the switch. You're fine."
But they glanced at each other just the same.
I said, "If you're that worried, we can take it outside ... onto the street, where we can talk."
Hanson nodded, already getting up. "Let's do it that way then."
The three of us went into the outer office. I paused to tell Velda I wasn't sure how long this would take. The amusement was gone from her dark eyes now that she saw I was heading out with this pair of obvious coppers.
We used the back door to the semi-private staircase the janitor used for emptying the trash, and went down to the street. There you can talk. Traffic and pedestrians jam up microphones, movement keeps you away from listening ears and, stuck in the midst of all those people, you have the greatest privacy in the world.
We strolled. It was a sunny spring morning but cool.
A block and a half later, Hanson said, "A United States senator is in Manhattan to be part of a United Nations conference."
"One of those dirty jobs somebody's gotta do, I suppose."
"While he's in town, there's an item the senator would like you to recover."
Suddenly this didn't sound so big-time, senator or not.
I frowned. "What's this, a simple robbery?"
"No. There's nothing 'simple' about this situation. But there are aspects of it that make you ... ideal."
My God, he hated to admit that.
I said, "Your people have already been on it?"
"Not your concern, Hammer."
Not my concern?
We stopped at a red light at the street corner and I asked, "Where's the FBI in this, if there's investigating to do? A U.S. senator ought to be able pull those strings."
"This is a local affair. Strictly New York."
But not something the NYPD could handle.
The light changed and we started ambling across the intersection in the thick of other pedestrians. There was something strange about the term Hanson used—'recovery.' If not a robbery, was this mystery item something simply ... lost? Or maybe I was expected to steal something. I deliberately slowed the pace and started looking in store windows.
Hanson said, "You haven't asked who the senator is."
"You said it was strictly New York. That narrows it to two."
"And you're not curious which one?"
Hanson frowned. "Why not?"
"Because you'll tell me when you're ready, or I'll get to meet him myself."
No exasperation showed in the cop's face, and not even in his tone. Strictly in his words: "What kind of private investigator are you, Hammer? Don't you have any other questions?"
I stopped abruptly, turning my back to a display window, and gave them each a look. Anybody going past would have thought we were just three friends discussing where to grab a bite or a quick drink. Only someone knowledgeable would have seen that the way we stood or moved was designed to keep the bulk of a gun well-concealed under suit coats and that the expressions we wore were strictly for the passerby audience.
I said, "No wonder you guys are pissed off. With all the expertise of the NYPD, the senator decides to call me in to find a missing geegaw for you. That's worth a horselaugh."
This time Hanson did choke a little bit. "This ... 'geegaw' may be small in size, Hammer, but it's causing rumbles from way up top."
"Obviously all the way up to the senator's office."
Hanson said nothing, but that was an answer in itself.
I asked, "What's higher than that?"
And it hit me.
It was crazy, but I heard myself asking the question: "Not ... the president?"
Hanson swallowed. Then he shrugged again. "I didn't say that, Hammer. But ... he's top dog, isn't he?"
I grunted out a laugh. "Not these days he isn't."
Maybe if they had been feds, I'd have been accused of treason or sedition or stupidity. But these two—well, Hanson, at least—knew the answer already. I gave it to them anyway.
"These days," I said, "political parties and bank-rollers and lobbyists call the shots. No matter how important the pol, he's still a chess piece for money to move around. That includes the big man in the Oval Office."
Hanson's partner chimed in: "That's a cynical point of view, Hammer."
A kid on a skateboard wheeled around the corner. When he'd passed, I said, "What kind of recovery job rates this kind of pressure?"
We started walking again.
Hanson said, "It's there, so who cares. We're all just pawns, right, Hammer? Come on. Let's go."
"To see the senator," he said.
We might have been seated in the sumptuous living room of a Westchester mansion, judging by the burnished wood paneling, the overstuffed furnishings, the Oriental carpet. But this was merely the Presidential Suite of the Hotel St. Moritz on Central Park South.
My host, seated in an armchair fit for a king, was not the president, just a United States senator serving his third consecutive term. And Senator Hugh Boylan, a big pale fleshy man with a Leprechaun twinkle, looked as out of place here as I did. His barely pressed off-white seersucker suit and carelessly knotted blue-and-red striped tie went well with shaggy gray hair that was at least a week past due a haircut. His eyebrows were thick dark sideways exclamation points, a masculine contrast to a plumply sensuous mouth.
He had seen to it that we both had beers to drink. Bottles, not poured glasses, a nice common-man touch. Both brews rested without coasters on the low-slung marble coffee table between us, where I'd also tossed my hat. I was seated on a nearby couch with more well-upholstered curves than a high-ticket call girl.
The senator sat forward, his light blue eyes gently hooded and heavily red-streaked. He gestured with a thick-fingered hand whose softness belied a dirt-poor up-bringing. His days as a longshoreman were far behind him.
"Odd that we've never met, Mr. Hammer, over all these years." His voice was rich and thick, like Guinness pouring in a glass. "Perhaps it's because we don't share the same politics."
"I don't have any politics, Senator."
Those Groucho eyebrows climbed toward a shaggy forelock. "You were famously associated with my conservative colleague, Senator Jasper. There was that rather notorious incident in Russia when you accompanied him as a bodyguard."
"That was just a job, sir."
"Then perhaps you won't have any objection to doing a job for a public servant of ... a liberal persuasion."
"As long as you don't try to persuade me, Senator."
"Fair enough," he said with a chuckle, and settled back in the chair, tenting his fingers. "I would hope as a resident of our great state that you might have observed that I fight for my constituency and try to leave partisan politics out of it. That I've often been at odds with my party for the good of the people."
"Senator, you don't have to sell me. No offense, but I haven't voted in years."
A smile twitched in one corner of his fleshy face. "I am only hoping that you don't view me as an adversary. That you might have some small regard for my efforts."
"You're honest and you're a fighter. That goes a good distance with me."
His pale cheeks flushed red. Had I struck a nerve without intending?
"I appreciate that," he said quietly.
Sunshine was filtering through sheer curtains, exposing dust motes—even the St. Moritz had dust. Horns honked below, but faintly, the city out there paying no heed to a venerable public servant and an erstwhile tabloid hero.
"Nicholas Giraldi died last night," he said.
What the hell?
Don Nicholas Giraldi, head of New York's so-called sixth Mafia family, had died in his sleep yesterday afternoon in his private room at St. Luke's Hospital. It had been in the evening papers and all over the media: "Old Nic," that most benign of a very un-benign breed, finally gone.
"I heard," I said.
Boylan's smile was like a priest's, blessing a recalcitrant parishioner. "You knew him. There are rumors that you even did jobs for him occasionally. That he trusted you."
I sipped my Miller Lite and shrugged. "Why deny it? That doesn't make me a wiseguy any more than taking on a job for you makes me a liberal."
He chuckled. "I didn't mean to suggest it did. It does seem ... forgive me, Mr. Hammer ... it does seem a trifle strange that a man who once made headlines killing mobsters would form an alliance with one."
"Alliance is too strong a word, Senator. I did a handful of jobs for him, unrelated to his ... business. Matters he didn't want corrupted by his own associates."
"Could you be more specific?"
"No. Him dying doesn't mean client confidentiality goes out the window. That cop Hanson, in the other room, has the receipt for that C-note that I signed before coming. Spells it out in the small print, if you're interested."
The dark eyebrows flicked up and down. "Actually, that's something of a relief. What I want to ask you dances along the edges of that confidentiality, Mr. Hammer. But I hope you might answer. And that you would trust me to be discreet as well."
"You can ask."
He folded his arms, like a big Irish genie about to grant a wish. "Did you receive something from the old don, shortly before ... or perhaps upon ... his death?"
"No. What would it have been if I had?"
"A book. A ledger, possibly."
I put the beer bottle back on the coffee table. "No. Is that what you're trying to recover? A ledger?"
He nodded. Now when he spoke it was nearly a whisper: "And here your discretion is key. The don was in power a very long time ... going back to the late forties. His ways, by modern standards, were old-fashioned, right up to the end. One particular antiquated practice peculiar to Don Giraldi was, apparently, keeping a hand-written record of every transaction, every agreement he ever made. No one knows precisely what was in that book. There were other books kept, accounting records that were largely fictional, intended for the IRS but in this particular volume he was said to record the real events, the actual dealings of his business. When asked about such matters, he would say only, 'It's in the book.'"
I shrugged. "I heard the rumors. That he kept a book under lock and key, or in a safe somewhere, and all his secrets were kept in the thing. But I never believed it."
I pawed at the air dismissively. "He was too shrewd to write anything down and incriminate himself if it fell into the wrong hands? Naw. It's a myth, Senator. If that's what you want to send me out looking for, my advice is to forget it."
But the big head was shaking side to side. "No, Mr. Hammer, that book is very real. Old Nic told his most innermost associates, when his health began to fail earlier this year, that the book would be given to the person he trusted most."
I frowned, but I also shrugged. "So I'm wrong. Anyway, I'm not that person. He didn't send me his damn book. But how is it you know what his 'innermost associates' were told?"
"FBI wiretaps." His smile had a pixieish cast, but his eyes were so hard they might have been glass. "Do you think you could find that ledger, Mr. Hammer?"
I shrugged. "It's a big city. Puts the whole needle-in-a-haystack bit to shame. But what would you do with the thing? Does the FBI think they can make cases out of what's in those pages?"
He swallowed thickly. Suddenly he wasn't looking me in the eye. "There's no question, Mr. Hammer, that names and dates and facts and figures in a ledger would be of interest to law enforcement, both local and federal. There's also no question of its value to the old don's successors."
I was nodding. "Covering their own asses and giving them valuable intel on the other mob families and crooked cops and any number of public figures. The blackmail possibilities alone are ..."
But I didn't finish. Because the senator's head lowered and his eyes shut briefly, and I knew.
"You've always been a straight shooter, Senator. But you didn't come from money. You must have needed help in the early days, getting started. You took money from the don, didn't you?"
"Mr. Hammer ..."
"Hell. And so did somebody else." I hummed a few nasty off-key bars of "Hail to the Chief."
"Mr. Hammer, your country would be very—"
"Can it. I put in my time in the Pacific. I should let you all swing. I should just sit back and laugh and laugh and let this play out like Watergate was just the cartoon before the main feature."
He looked very soft, this man who had come from such a hard place so long ago. "Is that what you intend to do?"
I sighed. Then I really did laugh, but there wasn't any humor in it. "No. I know what kind of foul waters you have to swim in, Senator. And your public record is good. Funny, the president having to send you. Your politics and his couldn't be much more at odds. But you're stuck in the same mire, aren't you? Like dinosaurs in a tar pit."
That made him smile sadly. "Will you walk away and just let us decay, Mr. Hammer?"
"Why shouldn't I?"
"Well, for one thing, somewhere out there, in that big city, or that bigger country beyond, are people that Old Nic trusted. People like you, who aren't tainted by the Mob. And who are now in grave danger."
He was right about that.
Excerpted from It's in the Book by Mickey Spillane, Max Allan Collins. Copyright © 2013 Mickey Spillane Publications, LLC. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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