Read 79 Park Avenue Online

Authors: Harold Robbins

79 Park Avenue

This book made available by the Internet Archive.

TfflS BOOK IS A WORK OF FICTION

Neither the references to local prostitution and gambling, nor any of the other events and persons described in this book, reflect any actual incidents or portray any real persons. If by chance the name of a living person has been used, it is unintentional, since all the characters are imaginary. The names of a few public figures such as Thomas E. Dewey have been mentioned in passing, to fix the time and locale of the story, but they are not characters in the story.

And they began to go out one by one, beginning with the eldest, till Jesus was left alone with the woman, still standing in full view. Then Jesus looked up and asked her, Woman, where are thy accusers? Has no one condemned thee? No one. Lord, she said. And Jesus said to her, I will not condemn thee either.

The State vs. Maryann Flood

fw^

I PULLED the car into the parking-lot across the street from Criminal Courts. Before I had a chance to cut the engine, the attendant was holding the door for me. I eased out slowly, picking up my briefcase from the seat beside me, I had never rated this kind of service before.

"Nice day, Mr. Keyes," he said, falUng into step with me as I walked toward the exit.

I looked up at the sky. It was—^if you liked gray December days. I nodded. "Yes, Jerry."

I stopped and looked at him. There was a grin on his face. He didn't have to tell me that he already knew. I could see it. That was why I rated today.

"Thanks," I said and cut across the street to the courthouse. It had been only twenty minutes since I myself found out. Eight miles and twenty minutes ago, in a hospital room in the Harkness Pavilion. Yet they knew it down here already.

The Old Man's face had been gray with pain against his

pillow. I was standing at the foot of his bed. "You're gonna have to take it, Mike," he whispered.

I shook my head. "No, John. I can't."

"Why?" His whisper had an almost eerie quality.

"You know why," I answered. I hesitated a moment "Give it to one of the others. You have enough assistants. Why pick on me?"

His whisper exploded into a sharp sound. "Because they're all political hacks, that's why. You're the only one I can trust, you're the only one I hired for myself. All the others were shoved down my throat, and you know it!"

I didn't answer even though I knew he wasn't speaking the truth. Ever since Tom Dewey had been D.A., the office had been free of poUtical persuasion. The only thing political about the office was John DeWitt Jackson's ambitions.

His eyes were fixed on mine. I couldn't turn away from them now. "Remember when you first came to me? You were a cop then, and the soles of your shoes were almost an inch thick. You had your law diploma in your hand. You even called yourself by your fancy real name, Millard Keyes. There were marbles in your mouth when you asked me for a job. I asked you: *Why my office?' Do you remember your answer?'*

I remembered, all right. That was the only time I didn't use the name people called me by, Mike. I didn't speak.

"I'll tell you what you said." He raised his head on the pillow. "You said, I'm a cop, Mr. Jackson, and there's only one side to the law for me.'

"I gave you the job because I believed what you told me." His head sank back against the pillow wearily and his voice returned to a whisper again. "Now you want to run out on me."

"I'm not running out on you, John," I said quickly. "I

just can't take this case. It's not fair to me, and I'm afraid I wouldn't be fair to you. I told you that when it first started."

*'I wasn't worried about you then and I'm not worried now," he whispered vehemently. He turned his face away for a second. "Damn this appendix! Why couldn't it keep another few weeks?"

In spite of myself, I smiled. The Old Man didn't miss a trick. He pulled out all the stops. "You know what the doctor said. This was one time he couldn't freeze it for you," I answered with a proper show of sympathy.

He nodded sorrowfully. "That's doctors for you. On the eve of the most important trial of my career."

I knew what he meant. A few months from now the boys would be sitting down in the back rooms all over the state. By the time they got around to opening the windows to air out the smoke and whisky fumes, the next Governor would have been picked out.

The Old Man had timed it very cleverly. Not so early they would forget, not so late they would have decided. But now he was scared. What would serve for him would serve for the others. And he didn't want to take any chances.

He looked down the bed at me. His eyes filled with an inexpressible sorrow. "Mike," he whispered, "you've never been like the others. You've been almost—^well, almost like a son to me. You were my one hope, the only thing in the whole damn oflBce that I was proud of. You were my boy.

"I'm not a young man any more. I've made my plans, and if they miss, I accept it. It's God's will." He shrugged his 'shoulders almost imperceptibly in the white cotton hospital nightshirt. He was silent a moment; then his voice grew

hard. "But I don't want any slimy, son-of-a-bitchin' opportunists climbing up my ladder!"

We stared at each other silently for a few moments, and then he spoke again. "Go into court for me, Mike," he pleaded. "You got a free hand. You're the boss. You can do anything you like. You can even ask the court to dismiss the charge on the groimds that we haven't been able to make a case. You can make a monkey out of me if you like. I don't care. Just don't let any of the others climb on my body."

I took a deep breath. I was licked and I knew it. I didn't believe he meant a word of what he had said, but it made no difference. He was mean and crafty and gave away ice in the winter, but there were tears in my eyes and I loved every lying bone in his body.

He knew it, too, for he began to snule. "You'll do it, Mike?"

I nodded. "Yes, John."

He reached under the pillow and pulled out some typewritten notes. "About the jurors," he said, his voice stronger now. "Look out for number three—"

I interrupted him. "I know about the jurors. I've been reading the minutes." I headed for the door. I opened it and looked back at him. "Besides, you promised me a free hand —remember?"

The reporters hit me almost before I set foot on the courthouse steps.I smiled grimly to myself as I tried to push my way through them. The Old Man must have been on the phone the minute I left the room.

"We hear you're taking over for the D.A., Mr. Keyes. Is that true?"

He wouldn't have gotten an answer even if I had been so minded. I hated people who made it sound like keys. The name was Keyes, rhjining with eyes. I kept walking.

They followed me with a barrage of questions.

I sto'pped on the steps and held up my hands. "Give me a break, fellers," I pleaded. "You know I just came back from my vacation this morning."

"Is it true that the D.A. sent you a telegram before he went into the hospital the day before yesterday? That the adjournment was only to give you time to return?"

I pushed my way through the revolving doors, turned right, and headed past the press room for the elevators. A couple of flashbulbs exploded, sending crazy purple spots flashing across my eyes. At the elevator door I turned and faced them.

"We'll have a statement for you at the noon recess, gentlemen. From then on I'll try to answer every question I can. All I want now is a few minutes alone before I have to be in court."

I ducked through the door, and the operator shut it in their faces. I got out on the seventh floor and went to my office at the end of the hall.

Joel Rader was waiting there for me. He came toward me, his hand outstretched. "Good luck, Mike."

I took his hand. "Thanks, Joel," I said. "I'U need it." Joel was one of the men the Old Man meant. He was bright, tough, and ambitious, just a few years older than I.

"How's the Old Man?" he asked.

"You know him," I said, grinning. "Bitchin'." I walked toward my desk.

"Man, you should've heard him the other day when the doctor gave him the sad news," he said, following me. "Practically tore the doctor's head off."

"I can unagine," I said, tossing my hat and coat on the small wooden bench opposite my desk. I sat down and

looked up at him. "I didn't mean to cut in on your deal, Joel," I said.

He smiled insincerely. "You're not cutting in, Mike," he answered quickly. "After all, you worked with the Old Man on the investigation. I understand."

I understood, too. He was clearing himself in advance in case anything went wrong. That didn't mean he wouldn't have wanted it for hunself. He was headline-happy, but he wasn't taking any chances. "Is Alec around?" I asked. Alec Carter was the other attorney who assisted the Old Man in court with Joel.

"You know Alec." Joel deadpanned. "But he left the Old Man's notes on your desk for you."

I knew Alec. He had nervous kidneys and spent most of his time in the can before going into court. He was all right once he was in the courtroom. I looked down at the desk. The neatly typed notes were in front of me.

I turned back to Joel. He beat me to the punch. He was five years my senior in the office and wasn't going to give me a chance to dismiss him.

"I'll be in my office if you need anything, Mike," he said.

"Thanks, Joel," I answered, watching the door close behind him. I fished a pack of butts out of my pocket and lit one before I looked down at the papers on my desk.

The indictment was right on the top of the pile. I picked it up and stared at it. I turned my chair so that the light from the window behind me would fall directly on the paper. The heavy black type flashed up at me.

People of the State of New York against

Maryann Flood, Defendant

I could feel a sudden pain clutching at my heart. This was it. Everything that had gone before was like nothing. Now I have to Uve with it. I closed my eyes. I shouldn't have let the Old Man con me into it. The roots went too deep.

I took a deep breath and tried to clear the pain from my chest. I wondered if I would ever be free of her. I remembered the first time I had seen her. It seemed a thousand years ago. But it wasn't that far back. It was the summer of 1935.

Remember what it was hke that season of anxiety? Men out of work, the summer heat resting heavily on their already overburdened shoulders. My father was like the others. Two years of being a house superintendent had made a prematurely aged man of him.

I had a job of a sort. At the comer newsstands at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue. Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Putting the multiple-sectioned papers together. I came on at nine o'clock at night and worked through until ten-thirty in the morning. I was sixteen then and Mother insisted I shouldn't miss Mass. So I made the eleven o'clock Mass at St. Augustine's on my way home.

This Sunday had been no different. I got into church at the last minute, crept into an almost deserted rear pew, and promptly fell asleep. Almost before I had shut my eyes, I felt a nudge in my side.

Automatically I moved in to allow the newcomers to enter the pew. Again the nudge. This time I opened my eyes. It took almost a minute before what I saw registered. Then I drew in my breath and let them pass.

I gave the older woman no more than a glance. The faded gray-blond hair and weary face didn't interest me. She passed me muttering something under her breath which

I took for an apology. It was the girl, her daughter, who hit me where I lived.

The ash-blond Polack hair that fell like shimmering gold around her face, the wild wide mouth slashed sensually with scarlet, the slightly parted lips and white teeth just showing beneath their shadows. The thin, almost classical nose with nostrils that flared suddenly below highly set cheekbones, the brown penciled line that delineated her eyes.

Her eyes were a book in themselves. They were wide-set and lazy brown, flecked with hell's own green an'jund the edge of the irises. They were warm and bright and intelligent and hinted at a passion I was yet to understand. They touched you and drew you, yet chased you in a subtle manner. I tried to look beneath their surface, but couldn't get through the invisible guard. There was something about brown eyes I could never fathom. You couldn't look into them and read them the way you could blue eyes.

She looked away from me as she passed in front of me, and a million tiny electric shocks ran through my body. Her mother, who was twice her size, had passed without touching me. But not she.

"Excuse me," she whispered, a hidden laughter in her voice.

I stammered an imintelligible answer that was lost in a rustle of clothing as the congregation knelt in their pews. I looked at her as I got down on my knees.

She was already kneeling, her hands folded demurely on the rail before her, her eyes down. Beyond her, her mother rested her head heavily on her clasped hands, praying indistinctly in some foreign tongue. My eyes came back to the ^1.

Her body swelled against the light summer cotton dress. A warm muskiness came from her, and I could see the faint

patch of perspiration spreading slowly on the dress under her arm.

I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on my prayer. A few seconds passed and I began to feel better. It wasn't so bad if I kept my eyes shut. I felt the girl shift slightly next to me. Her thigh pressed lightly against mine.

I opened my eyes and looked at her. She seemed to be unaware of the pressure, her eyes shut in prayer. I moved slightly away from her and held my breath. Her eyes still shut, she moved with me. I was at the edge of the pew now and could move no farther without falling into the aisle.

I stayed there as best I could and tried to concentrate on God's Word. But it was no use. The devil was at my side.

At last the prayer was over and the congregation got achingly to their feet. It was not until then that I dared open my eyes and look at her.

She didn't look at me; her eyes were focused carefully forward. I started to step out of the pew, but she was already passing me. I stepped back in the pew, and she stopped and stepped back with me.

I was startied, but she smiled politely and let her mother cross in front of her. She leaned back against me as her mother passed out into the aisle. Then she slowly turned completely around.

I stared into her eyes. There was a teasing laughter m them that I had never seen in any eyes before. A wild, dangerous fire that crept into my soul. Her lips parted in a smile and suddenly I heard words from her, though I could swear her lips never moved. "Havin' a ball, Mike?" she breathed.

*It wasn't until a moment later when she had been lost in the crowds of people pushing up the aisle that I realized she knew my name.

Slowly I moved up the aisle, wondering who she was. Maybe it would have been a better life if I had never found out

I drew the blinds down on memory. The papers were still in my hand. They stilkhad to be read. In another forty minutes I would be in court. Slowly, in order to concentrate, I began to read the indictment word by word.

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