Monday, May 15, 2023

A Canadian Historical Mystery by H. Paul Doucette


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Rum Bullets and Cod Fish 

The year is 1924 and Prohibition is spawning a new breed of criminal. Rum runners. Jerome Conway is the undercover investigation officer whose job it is to uncover the ringleaders behind the illegal importation of liquor from St. Pierre, Miquolon, and the Caribbean destined for distribution to the US based mob. His task is a complicated and dangerous one which leads him into the dark corners of illegal activities and the underbelly of society. If he is to be successful in his quest and emerge unscathed, Conway will need to be smarter and quicker than the felons he is chasing.







The November night sky was clear, black, moonless; the only lights a myriad of brilliant white stars glinting like so many pinholes in an ebony canvas. Beneath them the sea rolled with long three-to-five-foot swells pushed by a fresh nor'easter wind; which was unusual for this time of year. The small fishing boat plowed its way over the sea at ten knots, riding up and down with an easy roll.

Ken Joudrey stood at the wheel, his trained eyes looking from the small magnetic compass set in the frame of the woodwork to the window of the wheelhouse, straining to see any sign of a signal in the blackness.

“’Ere,” he called without looking away. “You ‘bout done?”

“Yeah,” his younger brother, Bill, yelled as he finished pulling the heavy tarpaulin off the wood covered five by five hatch. “You see anythin’ yet?”

“No. Hurry up an’ git yer arse up forward to look out.”

“Yeah, yeah, keep yer pants on.”

The boat was a forty-five-foot inshore fisher powered by a rebuilt diesel motor out of Ingramport on St. Margaret’s Bay. It usually trolled heavy cod lines for haddock and pollock from wooden casks set on deck, but it was getting harder to make a decent living from fish these days. Normally there would be at least four men on board. But not tonight. Tonight, they were not out here for the fish; tonight they were on their way to collect a bigger cargo and more money. Illegal liquor.

They had been running liquor from ships offshore for about seven months now and were doing quite far. It was risky business running liquor, especially this far out from shore, with the constant pressure from the Canadian Customs patrol boats that were always trying to catch them.

“Everythin’s ready,” Bill said as he entered the tight wheelhouse.

“Good. Take the torch an’ git up top an’ start signallin’. Ya knows da drill,” Ken said. “We should be close by now.”


Ken reached for the throttle and pulled it back about a quarter of the way, slowing the boat to about eight knots. The boat responded quickly to the drop in speed by reacting to the swells more acutely.

A few minutes later, Ken spotted a quick glint of white light in the darkness. A second later, Bill banged on the roof. “Did ya see that? There, about three points off to da port.”

“Got it,” Ken called out as he pushed the throttle forward and steered for the light.

Ten minutes later, he was manoeuvring the boat alongside the schooner on the lee side. Bill tossed a bow line to a crewman on the schooner while Ken went and secured the stern. Almost at once, the work of transferring the cargo commenced as the schooner’s crew began slinging cases of whisky and rum in cargo nets over the rail. Ken and his brother, with the help of two men from the ship, stowed the cases on deck in the shallow cargo space that normally held fish. Thirty minutes later, two hundred and twenty cases were piled on deck: twenty-six-hundred and forty bottles of booze at thirty dollars a bottle equaled seventy-nine thousand two hundred dollars. Bill and the two men covered the load with a heavy tarpaulin, securing it to the gunnels.

Ken was on the schooner with the captain. He had taken a strongbox filled with hundred-dollar banknotes from inside the boat’s cabin and handed it to the man, who opened it and thumbed the notes.

“Looks okay,” he said in a thick New England accent. He was obviously a Gloucester fisherman. “Good luck on yer run back.”

“T’anks,” Bill said. “By da by. Ya didn’t see or ‘ear any a CPS patrol boats did ya?”

“No. Least not in da last two days.”

“Okay. I’ll be away den.”

He slipped over the rail, stepping on the covered cargo hatch cover and headed for the wheelhouse.

“Okay, Bill, let go lines.”

Minutes later, he was increasing his speed and spinning the wheel to a heading that would take them towards Halifax Harbour and their final destination, a spot on the Northwest Arm. Within minutes the schooner dropped out of sight behind them. He looked down at the compass waiting for the heading he wanted before easing off the wheel. As was the custom when running the liquor, he left his running lights off until he saw the lights of the outer harbour buoys.

The boat was handling with more difficulty now that she was headed into the wind and battling the swells. It cut through the water at about seven knots due to the increased weight from the cargo. The trip would take just over an hour if everything stayed as is.

He was about twenty minutes into the run when his brother leaned inside the wheelhouse.

“We gots trouble,” he said.

“What?” Ken asked, looking quickly over his shoulder.

“I t’ink dere’s a patrol boat back dere. I ‘eard its engine.”

“Shit. Go back to the stern an’ keep an eye open. Yell if ya see anythin’.”

Bill disappeared as he pushed the throttle hard, trying to get a few more revolutions out of the motor.

Minutes later he heard Bill yelling from the stern. Then...his heart stuttered.

“This is CPS Patrol boat Beebe,” a voice blared out of the darkness; the speaker obviously using a megaphone, as a beam of light suddenly lit up the stern. “Heave to and shut down your motor and prepare for inspection. If you do not comply, we will open fire.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Bill said as he came into the wheelhouse. “Whadda we goin’ to do?”

“No choice,” Ken said, resigning himself to his fate. “Can’t outrun ‘im an’ ain’t ‘nough time ta dump the cargo. Shit.” He reached out a hand for the starter and flipped a switch, killing the motor.

He knew what he was facing. He had seen the Beebe soon after it was stationed in Ingramport. For now, his fate was in the hands of the law. He and his brother stepped outside the wheelhouse with their hands up just as the cutter eased alongside and three CPS officers scrambled over the rails. Two more men stood at the ready on the cutter, holding rifles.

Ken Joudrey stood silently as the men began to untie the secured tarpaulin. All he could think at that exact moment was someone in Halifax was about to have a bad night. An expensive bad night.

“It’s liquor,” one of the men said to the skipper on the cutter as he held up a bottle of dark rum. “Looks like a coupla hundred cases.”

“Okay,” the skipper said. “Cover it up and prepare to take the helm. We’ll head for Halifax and turn this lot over to the Mounties.”

“Aye, aye sir.”

“You there,” the skipper called to one of the men holding a rifle. “Bring those two on board and shackle them. Put them in the main cabin. I’ll see to them once we get under way. Then go tell the radioman to report in that we’re returning to port and request to have the RCMP waiting to take this load and these men into custody.”

“Yes sir,” one of the men said pushing the brothers toward the cutter.

As the two crossed over the rails Ken thought he heard someone say, “Looks like the informant was dead on.”

Ken and Bill Joudrey were sitting on a leather settee with their backs against the bulkhead in the main cabin of the cutter. Their wrists were bound together with iron braces coupled by six inches of linked chain. A table was secured to the deck in front of them. On the opposite side of the table, a crewman sat staring at them. He had a pistol holster attached to his belt.

“This ain’t yer night lads,” he said with a smirk on his face, breaking the silence.

“Piss off,” Bill snarled which caused Ken to kick him under the table, an unsubtle signal telling him to shut up.

The Sambro light flashed off the port side, signalling they were nearing the harbour entrance. The helmsman could just make out the outline of Point Pleasant at the southern tip of the city. He checked his heading, making sure he was in the channel. The other boat was forty feet astern and following in the cutter’s wake.

“Make for the Government Wharf,” the skipper ordered once they passed between George’s Island and the seawall. He raised a pair of binoculars that hung around his neck. “Good. The Mounties are there with a truck.”

An hour later, the Joudreys were sitting in a cold cell up in Rockhead Prison. They were formally charged with the smuggling of illegal contraband under the Prohibition Act and would face a judge later that day. Their precious cargo was off-loaded and taken to a secure warehouse to await destruction.

As it happened, just at the moment they were being processed into the prison two men were being let out. One of the men, Len Purcell, saw them, which was lucky for them since he also worked for Allister Fenwick as his middleman and knew Ken Joudrey. Purcell was waiting outside the gate for his ride to come and pick him up.

Once his ride arrived, he told the driver to get him to a telephone. The driver headed for a nearby corner grocer where Purcell got out and went inside.

“You got a phone?” he asked the old man behind the counter.

“There,” the man said, pointing at the back wall.

Purcell headed for the phone and lifted the receiver off the hook and dialed.

“Boss,” he said when the call was answered. “It’s me, Lenny.”

“What the hell are you doing calling me at this time of day?” Fenwick snapped.

“Look, I jus’ got cut loose from da Rock an’ I seen the Joudreys bein’ taken inside in shackles.”

“What? What did you say?”

“Da Joudreys. Dey been arrested.”

“Damn it. Right. Listen closely. Nose around and see what you can learn then get back to me right away, do you understand?”


“Go.” Fenwick snapped and hung up.

He hung up and walked back to the front of the shop, pausing long enough to drop a dollar banknote on the counter. “Thanks.”

Purcell called back around four o’clock.

“What did you learn?” Fenwick asked.

“Word is the CPS got a tip ‘bout a boat makin’ a run. Seems whoever spoke to them knew enough ‘bout where the schooner was waitin’ to make its delivery. Anyway, they captured the Joudreys with the whole shipment. One a’ my mates sez he seen them off loadin’ a coupla hundred cases down at the Government Wharf ‘round ‘bout eight this mornin’. The Mounties took the lot away in a truck.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah,” Purcell said.

“You say one of your contacts said something about the CPS being tipped off. How does he know that?”

“Knows one a’ the crewmen on the cutter that captured them who sez they got a call.”

“Did he say who made the call?”


“Okay. You did good. Keep your ears open for any more information and see if you can find where the Mounties took the cargo.”

“Yes sir.”

Fenwick hung up the phone and sat back in his chair. ‘An informant,’ he thought; ‘odd, usually the people outside the city are quite helpful to the runners.’ But, for now, the main problem he had to deal with was to try and find out where the cargo had been taken, and to get the Joudreys out of jail, which would be simple enough. All it needed was a phone call to his barrister. The other problem would require help from a higher authority. Fortunately he knew just who to call.




Chapter One



It was an unusually mild day for November, despite being overcast, probably because of the light wind blowing onshore from out of the southwest. Barrington Street was busy as usual with cars, trucks, and trams. Pedestrians crowded the sidewalks likely taking advantage of the fair weather to visit their favourite shops.

I had been summoned to Halifax by my boss, Walter McCarthy, head of the Customs Preventive Service on the east coast, headquartered here in Halifax. I was his main ‘trouble shooter’ in dealing with the rampant smuggling going on, especially in illegal liquor. My name is Jerome Conway, Jerry to my closer contacts. I was employed by the Canadian Government as a Customs agent however for the last couple of years I had worked exclusively for McCarthy as his personal investigator operating out of the small outports up and down the coast. But today, I was on my way to a special meeting at headquarters. I had new orders to report to Halifax for re-assignment to a new case, although I had no idea what it would be. The meeting was to be held at the Department of Marine and Fisheries building in Halifax.


* * *


I joined the Customs Preventive Service in 1920 shortly after the Americans declared their Prohibition Act. At the time I was employed with the Toronto Police with five years’ service. Word had come around that a government agency was looking to hire men with police training. It was rumoured that this agency was a good place to work, offering more challenges and faster promotion than the police force, so I applied and was accepted. I was thirty-one at the time. Since signing on, I quickly proved myself and was promoted to Investigator.

Four men sat around the large oak table in the meeting room; two on one side, one sat opposite them, and the fourth man sat at the head of the table. The two men on one side were dressed in uniforms; one was with the Provincial Police, the other in the uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The man sitting opposite them was dressed in mufti, as was the man sitting at the head of the table.

The man in mufti was John Lee; an American representing the Bureau of Prohibition which was attached to their Department of Justice. McCarthy, at the head of the table, was with the Canadian Customs Preventive Service. He was the one responsible for calling this meeting.

Walter McCarthy was fifty-five with white hair and thick bushy eyebrows, he was a career civil servant and politician, a product of the English school system. At present, he was serving as the District Chief Preventive Officer for Halifax. He had been ordered to chair this meeting by his superiors in Ottawa.

At the moment there was a heated, and at times animated, discussion going on between the two police officers and the American. They were arguing over the problems arising from the illegal liquor business that was going on unchecked in both their countries.

“Gentlemen,” McCarthy said, rapping his knuckles on the top of it. “This is getting us nowhere. We already know what the problems are and the need to find a solution. This is not the time for fighting over jurisdiction.”

The three men stopped talking and turned to look at McCarthy.

“Alright,” John Lee snapped. “What do you propose?”

“Yes sir,” Phillip Jacobs, the Mountie added. “What do you suggest? Matt and I would really be interested.” He was referring to the man beside him, Matt Murphy.

“Well, it just so happens that I may have an answer for all of you.” He pushed a button on the intercom sitting on the table and a moment later the door opened, and a man stepped inside.


* * *


“Allow me to introduce Jerome Conway. He is one of our investigators currently working the St. Margaret’s Bay area with numerous small fishing villages along its shores and key points of contact for the runners. I have called him here to meet with us because he will be the fifth member of our group. Take a seat,” McCarthy said, gesturing me to an empty chair next to Lee. “The man sitting beside you is John Lee; an agent with the American Bureau of Prohibition. The others I believe you know.”

I reached across the table and shook hands with Jacobs and Murphy then took Lee’s hand as I sat down beside him.

“Now that everyone is here allow me to outline my plan,” McCarthy said. “But first, I want each of you to read this before we begin.”

He passed a copy of a single sheet of paper to each of us.

“As you see, two nights ago one of our cutters, acting on an anonymous tip, intercepted a runner carrying a significant amount of contraband alcohol that the runners received from a vessel sitting outside the three-mile limit. It is estimated to be valued at approximately eighty thousand dollars.”

“Bloody hell,” Murphy said.

“Quite so. I think that this might be just the break we have been waiting for.”

“How so?” Lee asked, setting the piece of paper down.

“As you know, the biggest problem we have been dealing with has been the support these runners have been enjoying from the local communities, including here in the city.”

“Uh-huh,” Lee said. “We have a similar problem back in the States.”

“True, but the difference is that the support here is voluntary, not coerced.” He was alluding to the influence the mobsters and gangs exercised in the States. “As I was saying, we have an opportunity here to infiltrate their operations and perhaps even identify the key people at the top.”

“I’m guessing that is why Mr. Conway is here?” Lee said, giving me the once over.

“Precisely. He is one of the Service’s best investigators. And no one knows this traffic or trade better than him.”

“Hmm. Okay. Tell us your plan.”

I think now would be an excellent time for each of you to tell us what your involvement has been in dealing with the liquor trade. Perhaps you should start,” McCarthy nodded to Phillip Jacobs.

“Right,” Jacobs said, leaning forward. “Our main focus has been on shutting down the landing areas where the runners have been delivering the liquor. Unfortunately, we haven’t been having a great deal of success: too many places, not enough ships, or manpower. In spite of that, we have managed to intercept and confiscate over ten thousand cases and barrels of liquor as well as seizing a number of boats so far this year. Most of the cargoes came from the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off the southwestern coast of Newfoundland. Ottawa has been working with the French Government to deal with the problem on the islands. We have been working cooperatively with Matt here and the Provincial Police on trying to follow the liquor once it lands.” He turned to look at Matt Murphy.

“That’s right,” Murphy said, taking over at this point. “Unfortunately, it has proven to be a difficult endeavour. These people are either well insulated within their various communities,” he said, looking at McCarthy, “or they are well connected...politically.”

“So what you’re saying is you don’t know who these people are?” Lee asked.

“Not exactly,” Murphy continued. “We know some of the players, particularly in the small out ports and villages along the coast but, like I said, they are protected by their fellow fishermen and families. No one will talk. We know they’re landing the liquor and caching it somewhere but so far, we haven’t been able to get anything solid to make a case to take to the Crown Prosecutor.”

“I believe your people have also experienced similar difficulties,” McCarthy put in, looking at Lee.

“You could say that, yeah,” Lee said. “But our situation is more dire than what you’re facing here. Our main problem has been coming from the criminal gangs like you suggested, particularly, Capone and his bunch in Chicago. They have been organizing, and to a great extent have centralized their power and hold over the illegal liquor traffic, among other things...and they aren’t afraid to use deadly force to maintain that power and control.”

“So we’ve been hearing,” Jacobs said. “Is it really that bad?”

“Worse. Which is why we’re hoping that something can be done up here; before the liquor gets to the States.”

“Well,” McCarthy cut in, taking back the conversation, “as you are aware, here in Canada our legal system and laws are different; very similar to yours but still different. For example, we have a completely different attitude when it comes to guns and gun violence. That is not to say there is none, but it tends to be the exception and not the rule. That being said, I believe that what I am about to propose might bear fruit and, if not putting an end to the trade, we can curtail a significant portion of the criminals’ apparent immunity to the weight of the law.”

Everyone sat quietly waiting to hear his proposal, especially me, since it was beginning to look like I was going to be in the thick of it.

“Simply put, we attack the problem from the land side. To that end, I suggest setting up a small task force dedicated to exposing the links between the criminal element and those providing protection from capture and arrest. This group will be answerable to my office alone and will open investigations into these connections and compile the evidence to bring to the Crown Prosecutor for arrest warrants.”

“We tried that in New Jersey last year,” Lee said, cutting in. “We found our man floating in New York Harbour with a bullet in his head.”

“That is regrettable,” McCarthy said. “All the more reason that we must try and deal with the problem as a joint effort from this side of the border. We obviously cannot engage in any actions in the United States and nor should we. As I understand it, your agency along with others have been dragged into dealing with those who are actually engaged in the trade at the street level.”

“That’s right,” Lee said. “Although there are some people trying to ferret out the corrupt politicians and others who are making the criminals’ job easier while making ours more difficult.”

“My thoughts exactly,” McCarthy said. “I think that we have the same problem here and that is what I propose this group should be concentrating on. To that end, I have requested Mr. Conway here to join our little enterprise. I believe you have worked together before, Matt?”

“Yes sir,” Murphy said. “We worked together down in Yarmouth about a year ago. Good to be working with you again.” He nodded at me.

“Likewise,” I said.

“Perhaps it might be instructive to hear a few words from Mr. Conway before we go on.”

“I gather, from the little I’ve heard, your plan is to go after the top people running this business?”

“That is the general plan,” McCarthy said.

“Good. It’s about time we stop pussy footin’ around these people simply because of who they are. I agree that they should be the targets of any investigation. It won’t be easy, maybe even risky; some of these people are highly placed businessmen and government officials, maybe even a judge or two. Look, so far, we’ve been dealin’ with the problem from the supply end of the business with varying degrees of success, but the source of the liquor is still out of our control and jurisdiction in most cases. I think you’ll agree with me,” I said, looking at Murphy and Jacobs who nodded, “we pretty much know who is doin’ the transporting and who some of the runners are but not so much who is runnin’ them or who owns the delivery ships.”

“That’s right,” Jacobs said, nodding.

“So how do we tackle the problem?” Lee asked. “I take it you have a plan and it’s going to involve the Bureau?” John Lee said, cutting in.

I looked at McCarthy.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” McCarthy said. “Ottawa has been in touch with Washington, and they have agreed, that in this case, it would be to our mutual benefit to pool our resources and work together.”

“Go on,” Lee said, sounding wary.

“You see this as a problem?”

“Not really. In fact, I think something like this idea of yours should have been put together at the start.”

“Excellent. Then we are agreed that we combine our respective resources and attack the problem by going after the people enabling their operations on this end?”

Everyone at the table nodded.

“I propose that this operation be undertaken with only those of us present here. I will direct the operation. Constables Murphy and Jacobs will handle the routine business of investigations and interceptions as usual. However, any intelligence or information will be reported to me alone. Mr. Conway here will do what he does best: infiltration and interrogation. He will report only to me. As for our American brother, I hope that we can count on his agency to provide any intelligence from the American side of the border.”

“That won’t be an issue,” Lee said. “When I get back, I’ll pull together the resources from the FBI, Treasury, and Customs. The only problem might come from my superiors.”

“How so?” McCarthy asked.

“A lot of them are politicians which means they’ll have their own agendas so to speak and will want to know what we’re doing. Remember, to a politician information is leverage, power. And don’t forget, there is a strong possibility that many of these people could be on the gang’s payroll.”

“Hmm, that could be an issue. Maybe we can work out something between Ottawa and Washington. Good. If we are all agreed, then let’s prepare to adjourn for now. I’ll put the plan in motion and advise Ottawa.”

The meeting went on for another forty minutes during which time a general course of action was laid out. In broad terms it went as follows.

John Lee and his Bureau of Prohibition would be responsible for acquiring intelligence on the American side as to who the gangs were working with here in Nova Scotia. Matt and Phillip would continue their efforts at confiscations and seizures but would also try to source out any names of higher ups in government, business and the justice department who might be connected to the trade. For my part, I was to work independently by trying to infiltrate the operators running the liquor to establish a line back to those enabling the trade.

I glanced at the wall clock for the fifth time: it read 6:45. The meeting was just winding up, and everyone was heading out. McCarthy asked me to stay behind for a moment instructing me to wait outside with his secretary.

Nancy Slaunwhite was twenty-seven; five-foot-four in her stocking feet. She had thick light brown hair that framed her face beautifully, with high cheek bones and blue eyes. Despite the business-like clothes she wore, she had a slender and supple figure. We had known each for some time now. She joined the department about a year after I did.

“Looks like something big is brewing,” she said, looking at me. “This is coming straight from the top.” She said this as if it explained everything, which of course it did.

“So what’s new in your life these days? Got yourself a fella yet?” I asked, making conversation. Actually, we had gone out to dinner once or twice before. I liked her...a lot, but she was a career woman determined to make a success of herself. I respected that about her although I thought it was a waste of a good woman. That kind of thinking would put the feminists on the warpath, I thought with a smile.

“No,” she said, smiling. “You know, no time and besides, there aren’t a lot of men who’d be happy with someone like me.”

She was right, of course. There are not a lot of men, especially in this part of the country, who would accept an intelligent and independent woman like her.

“So that means you’re free for a night out then?”

“Maybe,” she said coyly. “Depends on what you have in mind.”

I just smiled at her and enjoyed seeing the faint traces of a blush on her cheeks. As far as I knew, I was only the second or third man she had ever shared herself with.

McCarthy and John Lee exited the meeting room together at that moment.

“Where are you staying?” McCarthy asked him.

“At the Queen Hotel.”

“Very good. One of the better establishments in the city. Are you free for dinner?”

“Yes, I am. What have you in mind?”

“I thought I would have you join me at my club. I believe tonight is fish night. Usually very good. We can have a quiet chat. Get to know each other a bit better.”

“Sounds good to me. What time?”

“Let’s say, seven,” McCarthy said. “It’s not far from here; an easy ten-minute walk from your hotel. Just go down to Hollis Street then head north. You won’t miss it.”

Thanks,” Lee said as the two men shook hands. “Seven o’clock.”

I was about to follow McCarthy when Nancy gestured with her hand. I glanced at her as she mouthed, “Eight o’clock.”

I winked at her then left the office with a smile on my face as I thought of the night ahead.

“So what do you think of my plan?” McCarthy said when we entered his office.

Not bad...if it works,” I answered, taking a seat in front of a small wooden desk.

I had worked on a couple of past assignments for him as his special agent. This was a fact that very few people knew about my job.

“Quite. I am trusting that you will do your usual best on this. What was your read on the others?”

“Matt Murphy is a very capable officer who also has a sharp brain in his head. Jacobs. I can only say that the word on him is he’s very good at his job and has a reputation for having no tolerance for law breakers. I can’t speak to Lee.”

“Hm. That is my assessment on Murphy and Jacobs as well. According to information sent down from Ottawa, our American cousin has a formidable reputation within the Bureau of Prohibition, particularly in regard to his dealings with the gangs. Apparently, he has had two lethal encounters with them in the line of duty.”

“Jesus,” I said.

“Yes, well, to go on.” McCarthy sniffed, he was a bit of a prude and somewhat religious, so he didn’t take kindly to any profanity.

“Sorry,” I said.

“The American Justice Department, in collaboration with sister agencies, has compiled a significant volume of intelligence information on the gangs, their leaders, and many of their soldiers. So he will be an invaluable source of information for identifying possible links to people here.”

“That’d definitely help. If he can provide us with suspected contacts here it’ll give me starting points.”

“I agree. You will, of course, operate independently as always, with a free hand to pursue any line or lead you unearth with the full support of all resources at our disposal. I leave it to you how you will choose to involve Murphy and Jacobs, bearing in mind that our special relationship should remain between us.”

“Yes sir, I understand. Do you want me to report in daily as usual?”

“Not this time, I think. Call only if you need something and have something specific to report. You will communicate directly with Miss Slaunwhite, as usual. Well, I think that about covers it for now. I have to make ready for my dinner with Mr. Lee. Good luck. Oh, before I forget, what cover name are you using?”

“Thought I’d stick with my own this time. No knows me here.”

“As you think best. Thank you.”

I headed out and as I passed Nancy’s desk I winked again and said I’d pick her up at eight.




Chapter Two



In another part of the city three men sat in the well-appointed library of a house on Young Avenue in Halifax’s south end. Rows of leather-bound tomes on a wide variety of subjects filled several shelves along one wall. In the middle of the room was set a large oak table around which were placed six matching chairs. A lamp was situated in the centre of the table with a large stained-glass shade. Several volumes sat unopened near the lamp. A half dozen upholstered, wing-back Morris chairs made up the remaining furnishings along with a mid-Georgian Chippendale styled side table laden with crystal decanters.

The men were seated in the plush upholstered wing back chairs with a small round table near to hand upon which sat a crystal decanter of aged Scotch whisky. Two of the men were dressed in tailored black pin-stripe suits and shirts with silk ties. The other, a white-haired man of about fifty-five, wore a deep red smoking jacket. His name was Allister Fenwick, and this was his home.

Fenwick was a very successful and influential businessman with various business interests – not all of them on the up-and-up. He was very well connected in the upper reaches of society, including many in the provincial government.

Born in Upper Canada in 1865 to a prominent family, he later was sent to England to study at Oxford University where he majored in business and economics. Shortly after returning home, he headed east to Nova Scotia with a letter of introduction from a notable English Lord addressed to the owner of an import company.

He married the owner’s daughter, six years later and, as a wedding present from her father, he was advanced to the position of Vice President in charge of international sales. He took over the company upon his father-in law's death five years later. He was first contacted by a member of the Capone organization with a lucrative business opportunity involving the importing of illegal liquor from the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon and the Caribbean. He took the opportunity and subsequently became quite wealthy.

“What went wrong?” one of the men asked. There was no mistaking his distinctive accent; he was from Brooklyn, a borough of New York City.

“What do you mean?” Fenwick said, taking a sip of his French Cognac.

“Ya know what I goddamn mean,” one of the men snapped. “We’re payin’ you good money for protection from the authorities.”

Antony ‘Tony’ Caruso was a mobster working for Al Capone’s organization in Chicago. The other man, Sammy O’Leary was from a Boston based Irish gang. Both men were hard cases with a number of killings to their credit. Their presence in Nova Scotia was to ensure that the illegal liquor continued to flow into their respective markets. The fact that the two men were together lent some weight to the rumour that Capone was trying to set up a criminal organization based in the States which he would be the head of.

“I know what you’re paying me for, however, even though I have a wide network of contacts within the government and local law enforcement, even I cannot predict or prevent the actions of an overzealous police officer.”

“So take care of him,” Caruso said as if it were that simple.

“That is not how we handle these matters here. Shooting a law enforcement officer is simply not done, especially if that officer is a Mountie. It would be the same as you killing one of your federal agents.”

“Whaddya mean? They’re still just cops.”

“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is our national policing agency. Think of them as being like your US Marshall Service and the FBI combined. Killing one of them would bring down problems you could not imagine, and we do not need.”

“Okay, I get it. But we can’t afford to lose shipments as big as the last one. Something gotta be done,” O’Leary said, joining the conversation.

“Something will be done,” Fenwick said, looking at him. “I believe I have a solution that should take care of any more missteps like this last one.”

Both men gave him a hard, dangerous look.

“It better,” Caruso said, his voice full of menace; hard, cold. “Any more losses’ll be on you. Understand?”

“Yes.” Fenwick was smart enough to take the Italian’s meaning and it sent a chill down his spine. He was being put on notice that they would not accept any more mistakes or screw ups. It was time to start looking out for himself.

Ten minutes later, he stood at the bay window in his sitting room, looking out onto the tree lined street as the two men drove away. The leaves were gone now, littering the street and surrounding properties. Looking at them reminded him of death. He was not feeling particularly happy at the moment, in fact, truth be told, he was feeling the cold chill of fear as he recalled the implied threat made by the two Americans gangsters. He was not accustomed to such a feeling, and it angered him; it was beneath him somehow to be afraid.

He knew when he decided to enter the seamier side of life that there would be risks but the lure of enormous tax-free profits was too great. And money meant everything: power, prestige, influence, position. These were things he knew all too well now. He was well connected professionally, as well as politically, and he had established many resources here and in places like Montreal, New York, and Chicago.

There would be certain risks dealing with the mobs in the United States but none that threatened his life...until now. Maybe it was time to reconsider his situation and look at stepping away, he thought just as a car drove past. ‘Yes’, he said to himself. It was time to call it a day, perhaps even consider returning to his ancestral home in England. He chuckled softly at the thought, thinking of the kind of reception he would receive.

He left England in his third year at Oxford under a cloud of scandal. At the time, he spent quite a bit of time availing himself of the seedier pleasures offered by the underworld: gambling, liquor, women. He had overextended himself at the tables at one point and ended up owing the house a substantial amount of money. When his father learned of it, he cut him off from his generous allowance. However, he was able to come to an arrangement with the criminals holding his markers that ultimately led to his discrete resignation from the college. A year later, he was inducted into the gang.

Then, in 1918, soon after the end of the war, he saw the coming of what would become the Prohibition Era and recognized an excellent money-making opportunity. He took his idea to his bosses and convinced them that they should get in on this now. They agreed and he was sent to Canada to set up the operation in Halifax. Within a year he had put together a plan and armed with enough capital backing, set out. Since then he had established a lucrative money-making operation worth millions of dollars, of which he took a generous cut.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door opening.

“Pardon the intrusion, sir,” his manservant said as he stepped inside. He wore the uniform of a domestic servant: a white four button jacket, shirt with a black bow tie and black pressed pants, their cuffs just reaching the shined black shoes on his feet. “There’s a telephone call for you. Shall I transfer it here?”

“Yes, thank you, Mark,” Fenwick said, without turning around.

“Sir,” the man said then quietly closed the door as he left.


* * *


The day following my meeting with McCarthy and a delightful night with Nancy, I was back in my room at the Waverley Inn on Barrington Street. Around ten-twenty the front desk rang. It was Nancy calling to say I was to come in to see McCarthy at two o’clock. Apparently, there was a development that had some bearing on our operation. I said I would be there. This meant I had time to look for a place to stay that was less conspicuous than the Waverley.

What I needed was a place where I would fit in with the locals. Then I would begin by getting in with some of the bootleggers to get a line on their suppliers. After that, figure out who was running them. Sounded easy enough, but I knew from past experience that not only was it not easy, but very risky, even dangerous.

I headed out and stopped a moment to strike up a conversation with the doorman: Ron Pottie; an Acadian Frenchman from a place called Arichat in Cape Breton. He was an affable older man always ready with a smile and a good word. I asked him if he knew where I might find decent rooms in town; not too rich or flashy, just clean and quiet. He directed me to a place owned by his brother. It was on Artz Street up by the Dockyard and close to the harbour. He said he would call ahead if I was interested.

I met with his brother’s wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Pottie, an hour later. She was a matronly looking woman in her early fifties, full bodied with an ample bosom and a friendly face, rosy cheeked and all.

The room was on the second floor at the rear of the house with its own entrance at the top of a steep flight of stairs rising up from the backyard. It was clean with a single bed, dresser, small drop leaf side table with an ewer and basin on it. There was even an RCA radio.

Her husband was away fishing on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland at the moment. We settled on a fair rent which, for five more dollars a month, included home cooked meals. Hell, who was I to turn down a regular home and a cooked meal! We agreed on the rent and her conditions: no booze, no women. I said I would move in later – after my meeting with McCarthy.

I went back to the Inn and packed what little I had; I always travel light. I headed downstairs and checked out. I decided to have lunch before going to the office and took a corner table in the dining room. The waiter came over and took my order: a bowl of fish chowder, cup of coffee and fresh baked rolls. While I waited for my order to arrive, I took out the file of papers McCarthy gave me before I left his office the day before. They contained background information on local villains active in the booze trade as well as a few names of some of the city’s more respectable residents that he believed were involved as well. I raised an eyebrow when I saw a few of the names on the list.

There were two judges, four sitting provincial MPs and at least a half dozen prominent members of the business community and a couple of city officials. Damn, I thought, this was not what I expected to see; bootleggers, local criminals and the like, yes, not the cream of the city’s elite. I saw the waiter approach carrying a tray with my lunch and quickly closed the file, putting it back into my travel bag. The meeting with McCarthy was looking like it was going to be explosive.

Later, at Customs Headquarters office, I entered the outer office where McCarthy held forth. Nancy was at her usual place behind a desk next to the glass paneled office door with the word DIRECTOR stenciled on it. She graced me with an amazing smile when I stepped inside.

“Hi,” I said, smiling back. I stepped up to the desk and dropped a piece of paper on it. “This is the address of a room I just rented for the duration. No phone. There’s one in the house. Number’s there as well.”

“Thanks,” she said, picking up the paper and slipping it in one of the drawers.

“Anything happen since yesterday?” I asked, nodding at the closed door.

“Nothing special. The American was here this morning to say good-by. He’s heading back to Washington. Other than that...,” she shrugged.

Just then a green light blinked on her phone, signaling that the boss was ready to see me.

“Later?” I asked with a smile.

“Maybe,” she answered coyly as I turned and rapped on the glass then went in thinking happy thoughts. They didn’t last long.

“Ah, Jerome,” McCarthy said from behind a large oak desk. “Sit.”

He gestured me to one of two thick leather chairs in front of the desk.


“No thanks sir.”

“Have you looked over the file?”

“Yes, and I have to say it wasn’t what I was expecting to see. Surely, these people can’t be involved in this business?”

“Not involved, but suspected with good reason,” he said. “I’ve had most of them under surveillance for some time now, discretely of course, and have satisfied myself that these particular people warrant more consideration. Especially the ones with an asterisk next to their names.”

I did notice that four of the names had an asterisk next to them when I read the file earlier.

“However, these people will not be your primary concern. They are being handled from another direction. I gave you their names because you need to be aware of them in connection with your actual purpose here.”

“Which is what, exactly?” I asked.

“As you will recall, at our last meeting I related to you and the others that one of our cutters based out of St. Margaret’s Bay intercepted a runner two nights ago, resulting from on an anonymous tip. The load has been confiscated and the men, two brothers, are being held up in the city prison.”

“I remember.”

“Well, this could be an opportunity. To that end, I have taken steps to ensure they do not make bail or release with the Crown Attorney until I give the say so.”

“Go on, I’m listening.”

“I propose you make contact with these brothers and maneuver yourself into their confidence.”

“Just like that,” I said with a hint of sarcasm in my voice. I had worked with him long enough with a high record of successful investigations that I got away with a certain amount of impertinence.

“More or less, yes,” he said, ignoring my tone of voice. “What I propose is to deliver you to the prison in shackles and placed in a cell in the same block as them. Your cover will be that you were caught trying to bring in a carload of illegal liquor from out of province.”

“That’s convenient. When and where exactly am I to be arrested?”

“This evening. You’ll be stopped just outside the city by two of Jacobs men. Jacobs is aware of the ploy, of course, but not the arresting officers. You will be taken straight away to the prison.”

Looks like Nancy was going to be disappointed, I thought, not to mention yours truly.

“Now listen carefully. I have reason to believe that the Joudreys, the brothers, are connected to someone very prominent in the city; a businessman or a politician, I’m not sure which, and reports have come in about certain underworld figures arriving here from New York in the last several days. I suspect that the local personage may be working with the Americans. If so, then you will need to establish that connection as well.”

“Any names?”

“There was a list of names sent from Immigration at the entry point but none that stood out. I have asked John Lee to check the list against the various agencies in the States for possible identification.”

“How will I contact you?” I asked.

“The usual way,” he said.

The usual way was by telephone using a special number that only he, Nancy, and I knew.

“One more item. If you are successful and they take you in, remember that there is someone from their home base who turned them in. If you can find out who that person is, you may have an ally.”

“Yes sir. That it?”

“Yes. Go to this address. There is a truck waiting for you. From there you’ll drive to this location where you will load four thousand dollars worth of liquor. You’ll be stopped just outside of Bedford. Good luck.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, standing up and exiting the office.

Nancy looked up at me. I saw the disappointment on her face.

“No fun tonight?” she said, noting the look on my face.

“’Fraid not, baby. But we got a rain check, right?”

“Anytime. Be careful.”

I had just enough time to return to my new room and let Mrs. Pottie know that I would be away for a few days on a job. I paid her for two weeks to keep the room available and as a place to leave some of my stuff. She didn’t press me for information instead said she was happy I found work so quickly.

McCarthy had arranged for Phillip Jacobs to meet me at a location up in the north end of the city not far from my soon to be new home: Rockhead Prison – McCarthy had a warped sense of humour. I parked my car on a side street and went to the corner to wait for Jacobs. I didn’t have to wait long. He pulled up to the curb and stopped.

“Get in,” Jacobs said, leaning toward the open passenger window.

“What about my car?” I asked as he pulled away.

“Where is it?”

“Back there on a side street.”

“I’ll have it picked up. Gimme the keys.”

I handed him the keys and gave him a brief description of the car.

“Where we goin’?”

“The truck is parked over by the Northwest Arm. You’ll head out on the Bay Road which will take you to Highway Three which will take you in the direction of Yarmouth.”

“Where will your people be to make the arrest?”

“About a mile after you get on the highway. By the way, are you armed?” he asked.

“Yeah. Why?” I asked. “You think there’ll be trouble?”

“Not from my people but there have been incidents in that part of the county.”

“Like what?”

“Robberies; a couple of cases of attempted hijackings. However, according to our reports the targets seem to be trucks carrying regular trade goods.”

“Is that a regular route for movin’ the booze?”

“We think so. I know some of the runners make for Truro and beyond but most of the runs are to Yarmouth.”

“Any armed violence?”

“Luckily not yet, although we’ve been told sometimes there have been weapons, mostly shotguns, hunting rifles, that sort of thing. In any case, I think you’d better leave your weapon with me. Don’t worry,” he said when he saw me hesitate, “it’ll be with me when you get out the prison. You’ll get it back then, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, reluctantly handing him my M1911 .45 automatic gun butt first.

“Christ, where the hell did you get your hands on this cannon?”

“Souvenir from the war.”

We arrived at an area where several transport trucks were parked near a small rail siding and loading dock. He stopped the car, we got out, and he led the way to a two-and-a-half-ton rig with a tarp covered half box.

“This is you. Here’s the keys. Remember, my people will take you about a mile down the highway. Good luck. If everything goes well, I’ll see you tomorrow at the prison.”

“Yeah?” I asked, looking at him.

“I’ll be one of the officers sent to interrogate you.”


We shook hands then I got in the truck and started up the diesel motor and shifted into first gear.

Everything after that point went off as planned without a hitch.

I was stopped by a patrol car with three officers inside shortly after ten o’clock in the planned area. They shackled me up and unceremoniously dumped me in the back seat of the car while one of the men climbed into the truck and wheeled it around across the road and headed back to the city with us following behind.

Once we entered the city, the truck turned off onto another street. Our car continued in the direction of the prison. I could see the outline of the prison against the night sky. It was a daunting and foreboding place, more than enough to send chills through me.

The prison was built in the late eighteen hundreds on land acquired from a local farmer. It was constructed of granite and stone that had become weathered over time. An octagonal building section rose above the walls. Once we drove through the high gates, I could see two wings jutting out from the center building. I guessed these were where the cells were located. Large, barred windows extended across the face of each wing.

I was quickly processed and put into a prison uniform then escorted by two heavy set guards to a cell. It was big enough for one with a single cot and commode. The door was made of steel bars, leaving no privacy to the inmate. I could hear noises from some of the other cells; snoring, muttering and the like.

As soon as the guards locked me in and left, I stretched out on the cot and went to sleep. It had been a long day.

The guards returned at six in the morning, rapping their riot sticks on the cell bars. I rolled to a sitting position and shook my head. There should be a law against getting up this early, I thought as stood and did my business.

There were twelve of us in lock-up. Most were in on non-serious crimes ranging from public intoxication to burglary.

By six-fifteen we were hustled out of our cells and marched in line to the commissary for breakfast which was surprisingly good. It had to be since all inmates were required to work while incarcerated. I spotted the Joudreys easily enough; they looked so much alike. I made my way over to where they were sitting and sat down opposite them.

“You’re new,” Ken Joudrey said, opening the conversation. “When’d ya get here?”

“Last night,” I said, scooping a forkful of scrambled eggs into my mouth.

“Yeah? What dey git ya for?”

“Who’s askin?” I said, eyeing him.

“Take it easy,” he said. “Jus’ askin’. No ‘arm meant.”

I chewed on my food for a moment then swallowed. I picked up my tin cup of coffee.

“Caught runnin’ a load a liquor jus’ outside the city.” I glanced over my shoulder checking on where the guards were. “Name’s Conway.”

“Joudrey,” Ken said. “Dis one is my brother, Bill.” Runnin’ liquor ya say.”

“Yeah. I got a deuce and a half I hire out. Got a call for from one a’ my contacts sez someone’s lookin’ for someone to take a load ta Yarmouth. A C-note’s in it. So...”

“Know who hired ya?” Bill asked, joining in.

“Nope. Didn’t ask. Didn’t wanna know, if ya get me. But a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks, right? I mean, a run ta Yarmouth pays what, fifty to eighty, ninety tops...maybe. I figured it was a special load. So? What’s yer story?”

 “We...” Bill started to say as his brother cut him off.

“Let’s jus’ say we got caught with sumthin’ we shudna had,” Ken said.

“Hey, ain’t none a’ my business,” I said, throwing up my hands. “How long ya been in here?”

“A coupla days.”

“No shit. I thought ya hadda go before a judge before they could lock ya up?”

“Guess they’re busy,” Bill said.

“You guys got a lawyer or sumthin’?”

“Da people we work for ‘spose ta send someone,” Bill said, ignoring the hard look from his brother.

“Don’t mind him,” Ken said. “E’s got a big mouth.”

“Yeah, well, at least ya got some help. Me, I’m on me own. I reckon I’m headin’ for some hard time.”

“You not workin’ fer anybody?” Ken asked.

“I was workin’ independent. More money. After this I jus’ might go on a payroll with someone.”

Ken eyed me as I finished my breakfast. It was clear he was working his way to a decision. After a few minutes passed, he leaned forward.

“In about an hour they’ll be puttin’ us to work. Stick close to me an’ Bill ‘ere. We been working down in da quarry. We can talk away from the guards.”

“Yeah? ‘Bout what?” I asked.

“A job. Now shut yer yap an’ make sure ya git on the quarry detail.”

There was a large open pit area on the Narrows side of the prison called the Rockhead Quarry. Male prisoners laboured there, crushing rock into an appropriate size for the city to use in many of its construction projects. The work area was a large open lot at the bottom of a high rock face. I saw a large crushing machine at the opposite end and a tractor. It was then that I noticed almost all the inmates were working with shovels and wheelbarrows.

As luck would have it, I was pulled from the line when we were marched to the yard area for work detail assignments. Turned out that a couple of detectives wanted to talk to me. I was escorted into the interview room where I saw two plainclothesmen waiting for me. One sat at the table while the other stood, leaning against the wall. I didn’t recognize either of them, so they weren’t part of Jacobs’ crew which meant this was to be a real interview.

They were good and pressed me fairly hard right from the start, but I played my part and kept quiet. Forty minutes later, a guard was called in and told to take me away. I was taken out to the quarry  where they handed me a shovel.

“Now git ta work,” the guard said as he turned and left me alone. I scanned the area looking for the Joudreys. Once I spotted them, I slowly made my way across past several inmates who were loading wheelbarrows.

“Why’d they pull ya from da line?” Ken asked, pushing his shovel under a pile of crushed rock with his foot.

A coupla detectives wanted to know who I was workin’ for an’ where was takin’ the stuff,” I said, pushing my shovel beside his.


“They cut me loose once they knew I wasn’t gonna talk. Ya said sumthin’ ‘bout a job?”

“I know sumbody might be interested in a good driver with his own rig.”

“Ain’t mine anymore,” I said, spitting on the ground. “Confiscated it when they took me in.”

“Don’t ya go worryin’ over dat. Dis guy’s got pull. Git it back quick enough.”

“I’m listenin’.”

“Not ‘ere, not now. Later when we git outta ‘ere.”

“Whaddya mean when we get outta ‘ere?”

“Guy we work for has a lotta pull, like I said. He’ll git us out. If ya wanna earn some real dosh an’ git yer rig back, then join up wit’ us. Okay?”

“If it gets me outta ‘ere an’ my rig back, then yeah, I’m okay with that,” I said. “When ya figure all this’ll happen?”

“Soon. Jus’ stay close.”

“Hey, you two,” a guard yelled. “More work an’ less talkin’.”

“Yeah, yeah, keep yer pants on,” Ken muttered. We went back to shoveling the crushed rock.

Step two complete.

Later that afternoon, the brothers were called to the warden’s office. Twenty minutes later, the guard came for me. Turned out their lawyer finally arrived, and they convinced him to include me in the bail.

Step three complete.

Once we were processed out and given our street clothes, we left and were taken to a house in the city and told to stay put, someone would be there soon to talk to us.

The house was in the west end of the city. I couldn’t get the street name, but it was a well-to-do neighbourhood judging from the look of the house. A two-story wooden building with a small, grassed front yard, a couple of oak trees and a low hedge fronting the sidewalk. We were greeted by a middle-aged couple and taken into the front parlor  where we were told to wait. They offered us tea and sandwiches which we accepted. The lawyer left ten minutes after we arrived.

“How’d you manage to get that lawyer fella to spring me?” I asked after the couple finished serving us the refreshments.

“We tole him that the boss would be wantin’ to talk to ya,” Ken said. “’Sides, he’s got people ‘e knows, if ya get my drift.”

“An’ why would that be again?”

“He always needs good men, ‘specially ones wit a truck who ain’t particular ‘bout what he’s carryin’. Why?”

“No reason,” I said. “Jus’ curious. “ ‘Spose he pays good?”

“You won’t have any complaints.”

“Sounds good.” I picked up a sandwich. It was sardine with a bit of mustard. Not a particular favorite of mine but beggars can’t be choosers as they say.

“So? How long ya been workin’ for this fella?” I asked casually.

“’Bout a year,” Bill said, speaking for the first time since we got out of jail.

Ken shot him an angry look, then cut in, “Dat don’t concern ya. If ya get on, you’ll be runnin’ on the road an’ probably won’t be seein’ us agin.”

I put up a hand and said, “Didn’t mean ta pry.”

“Yeah, okay,” Ken said. “Cain’t be too careful ya know.”

“Whaddya figure we’re doin’ waitin’ here?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Dunno,” he said. “Never did this before. Guess we jus’ hafta sit an’ wait an’ see.”

We didn’t have to wait long. Twenty minutes later we heard someone enter the house. The woman who brought us the tea and sandwiches opened the door to the parlour and a man stepped inside.

He was dressed in a black pinstripe suit, shirt, and a silk tie. He had a fedora on his head which he didn’t remove. He looked Italian, which meant the mob. I sensed an air of death about him. I had seen men like him before: mean; dangerous.

“You two the Joudreys?” he asked, looking directly at the brothers. I immediately picked up on his Brooklyn accent.

“Yeah,” Ken said. “Who’s askin’?” It was clear he had no idea the danger he was in. They had just lost a valuable shipment of alcohol, and someone was not very happy about it.

It was just possible that this man was here to find out why or to kill them.

The man ignored the question and turned his eyes on me.

“Who da fuck is dis?”

“He’s wit us. We figured da boss could use a good man wit his own truck,” Bill said.

“Hey, buddy,” Ken said. “Who da ‘ell are ya? Did da boss send ya?”

“All you gotta know for now is I’m the man ya gotta talk to. Now. Tell me exactly what happened to our shipment?”

“We got stopped by da Customs cutter,” Ken said.

“Why didn’t ya make a run for it?”

“Da boat was to heavy an’ it was da Beebee what was chasin’ us.”

“What’s this Beebee?”

“Customs cutter outta Halifax an’ da Bay.”

“Don’t you usually know where the customs boats are before ya pick up da cargo?”

“Yeah,” Ken said. “Only dis time we musta been told the wrong information.”

“Where do ya get this information?”

“A cousin works at one a’ da radio stations down in da Bay. ‘E knows where da cutters are.”

“So he’s da one who gave you the wrong information?” the man asked; his voice full of menace.

“Looks dat way, but I tell straight, he’s no sellout.”

“You willin’ to stake yer life on dat?”

“Damn right.”

The man paused for several moments then, turning back to me, asked, “What were you in for?”

“Runnin’ a truckload booze from Halifax,” I said.

“Who for?”

“Dunno. Didn’t wanna know.”

“They say you have yer own rig?”

“That’s right. A Ford deuce and a half ragtop. Although, I ain’t got it no more. It was seized when the cops picked me up.”

“Don’t worry ‘bout that. We can get it back. If we do dat means you’ll come work for us, got it?”


“Yeah? On what?”


He stared at me for a moment. “Okay. There’ll be plenty of dough you play yer cards right.

“Then I’m in.”

He nodded slightly then turned back to the brothers. “You two can take off an’ head back to where ya come from. Your boat is down at pier twenty-one. When you get back, I want you to nose ‘round an’ see if ya pick up anythin’ might point to someone who ratted ya out to Customs.”

“Ya t’ink someone...” Ken started to ask.

“Don’t know,” the mobster said, looking at him. “Jus’ seems strange dat cutter turnin’ up at jus’ the right moment.”

“Jesus. Ain’t got no idea who wudda done sumthin’ like dat. Most folk down home are related, see.”

“I don’t give a shit ‘bout dat. Jus’ look, got it?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure.”

“Good. Now take off. Yer boat is down at dat government dock.”

“T’anks,” Ken said as he and Bill stood up and headed for the door.

After the Joudreys left, Caruso turned back to me.

“Talk ta me,” he said, coming back to me. He sat down on the chair recently held by Ken Joudrey and pulled out a .45 automatic, setting it on the small table between us.

“Whaddya wanna know?”

“You figure it out.”

Twenty minutes later, he re-holstered his gun and stood up. I gave him the prepared background story I had and where I was staying along with a phone number.

“Go back to yer rooms an’ wait dere. We‘ll be in touch.”




Chapter Three



Walter McCarthy sat behind his desk pouring over the latest reports from the Patrol Cutters. The information did not look promising: too many ships waiting offshore just outside the legal limit, too many fishermen running between them and the coast, not enough cutters fast enough to intercept them. The idea of Prohibition he understood, however, he felt increasingly frustrated by the lack of support from the government that demanded he put an end to the illegal traffic. He dropped the last page in his hand and turned to look out the window behind him.

It was another dreary day; overcast, wet and cold. A brief smile creased his face as he thought the weather was appropriate today. Then, at that moment a woman’s voice sounded from the intercom on his desk.

“Sir,” she said, “a call from Washington on the line.”

He turned back to his desk and reached out to the intercom, depressing a switch.

“Thank you, Miss Slaunwhite.” He then reached for his phone.

“McCarthy,” he said into the mouthpiece.

“Walter,” John Lee said. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“Not really. I have been going over the latest reports from our offshore services. It doesn’t look too good. We have some moderate successes, of course, but not nearly enough.”

“We have the same problem down here. But that’s not why I’m calling. I received a call from one of contacts at the Bureau. It looks like two mob men have been reported headed for your area. They might even be there already.”

“I see. That’s all I need; the mob here.”

“They were able to get their names and general descriptions. The Bureau has records on both men. It doesn’t look good, I’m afraid. Both men are serious gangsters with several killings credited to them. One of them is from Chicago via New York. Name of Antony Caruso, aka Tony. The other one is from one of the Boston Irish gangs. His name is Liam O’Leary. According to the FBI and our border services, they crossed over into Canada four days ago in Montreal.”

“And you say they are supposed to be here in Halifax?”

“That is the consensus.”

“Hmm. Conway will have to be alerted to their presence,” McCarthy more to himself than to Lee.

“How is that part of your operation going by the way?”

“He was picked up and jailed a couple of days ago. He was put in the same cell block with two brothers who were intercepted several days ago running a boat load of liquor. If I know my man, he has probably made contact with them by now.”

“I hope you get the word to him about Caruso and O’Leary. It’s a good bet if they’re in your backyard, they’re there on business. Maybe even with one of the principal players up there. If so, then this would be an excellent opportunity.”

“Yes, I agree. Conway is very capable of handling himself, however, I will definitely alert him all the same.”

“Something else to consider. If they are there to meet with their Canadian partner, then this last capture isn’t going to sit well with them. These people aren’t forgiving, especially if it costs them money. So be prepared for the possibility of bodies turning up. Might be a good idea to give a head’s up to that Mountie, what was his name, oh yeah, Jacobs.”

“Good idea,” McCarthy said. “I’ll alert him right away. Is that it?”

“Yes, for now,” Lee said. “I’ll be in touch as more information comes in. Good luck.”

“Thank you.” McCarty hung up the phone then depressed the button on the intercom. “Miss Slaunwhite, will you come in here, please?”

A moment later Nancy Slaunwhite stepped into the office, notepad and pencil in hand. She came over to the front of the desk and sat down.

“First thing, get hold of Constable Jacobs at the RCMP office. Next, take this down and pass it along to Conway when he checks in.”

I gave a detailed account of the call with Lee concerning the two American gangsters.

“Oh my,” she said when she finished writing. “Does this mean he’s in danger?”

“I don’t think so,” he said, noting the look of concern on her face. “But it is best to be aware of the situation and to be prepared. He will be fine. He is a very capable person, as we both know very well.”

“Yes sir,” she said, standing up. “I will get Constable Jacobs right away.”

“Oh, you better call Matt Murphy as well, but Jacobs first.”

“Yes sir.”

She managed to reach Constable Jacobs on her first try.

“This is Mr. McCarthy’s secretary,” she said when he came online. “He needs to speak with you. One moment, please, while I transfer the call.”

“Ah, good,” McCarthy said when he picked up. “She was able to get hold of you.”

“She was lucky,” Jacobs said. “I just about to head out. What’s up?”

“I received a call from our American cousin. It appears there may be two known and dangerous gangsters in our city. They may be here to meet with the local contact for their liquor shipments. However, my main concern at the moment is what they might try when they learn of the recent loss of product. As Lee pointed out, these people aren’t known for their forgiving natures.”

“True. Did he manage to give you any details?”

“Yes.” McCarthy then related the names and descriptions of Caruso and O’Leary.

“Does your man Conway know?”

“Not yet. He has not reported in. On that point I think in light of the present danger these men pose, we might be well advised to make an adjustment to our strategy.”

“What have you mind?”

“Perhaps adding one more member to our team to serve as his back up, so to speak.”

“Good idea,” Jacobs said after a brief pause. “However, I don’t think we should start adding more people.”

“Oh?” McCarthy asked curiously.

“The more people we add, the greater the risk of something leaking out about what we’re up to. No. I think you’re right about covering him, but we should do it with the resources we already have.”

“Do I detect an idea?”

“Yes. Why don’t we put Matt Murphy on it. Maybe insert him as Conway’s helper on the truck? Or something like that.”

“That’s an excellent idea. I leave it to you to work out the details. Conway is staying at rooms up near the dockyard.” He gave Jacobs the address and phone number of Conway’s residence. “I will pass this along when he reports in. I think it best you call him instead of him having your number.”

“Okay. Leave it with me. In the meantime, I’ll have my people begin watching for those two men.”

“Good. But no one is to approach them at this time, yes?”

“Of course. I’ll keep you updated.”

“I as well,” McCarthy said. “Goodbye.”


* * *


Ten minutes after my meeting with Caruso I was on the street, walking in the general direction of my lodging. I was careful to watch for any sign of being followed or watched. I spotted a corner chemist shop up ahead and went inside. I asked for a pack of cigarettes and if they had a phone I could use.

The clerk gave me a pack of Player’s Navy Cut and pointed to the end of the counter where I saw a black rotary phone. I paid for the cigarettes and stepped to the end of the counter. After a quick look through the plate glass window at the entrance to make sure there was nothing familiar outside, I picked up the phone and dialed.

“Mr. McCarthy’s office,” Nancy said into my ear. The sound of her voice triggered a very nice memory.

“It’s me,” I said, all business now.

“Oh, good. I was hoping you’d call.” She sounded serious.

“Oh? What’s up?”

“We had a call from John Lee, the man from the Prohibition Bureau in the States?”

“Yeah? And?”

“Lee informed us that according to his sources there are two known gangsters reportedly here in Halifax. According to him these men are dangerous and known killers.” She gave me their names and descriptions.

“Yeah. I already met one of them; Caruso.”

I gave her a detailed run down on everything that happened since our last meeting.

“It looks like I’m going to get on in the inside of their operation. Tell the boss I still have no idea who’s running things yet or how their operation is set up. Also, let him know that the Joudreys are out and have their boat back. They’ve been ordered to go back home. It looks like these people think there’s a rat in the woodpile, so if he knows who this informer is, he better take steps to cover him. If Caruso finds out who it is I wouldn’t give a plug nickel for him seeing a new day.”

“Okay,” she said. “Just you be careful.” I thought I detected something in her voice.

“My middle name, baby” I said. “Right. I better get going. Caruso said he was going to call me. I’ll check in tomorrow if I get the chance.”

“Okay.” Then the line went dead.


* * *


Nancy got up and went to McCarty’s office, rapping on the glass panel as she opened the door.

“Jerome just called,” she said. He gestured for her to sit down. She repeated his report in precise detail from her notes in the pad she always carried.

“Very good,” McCarthy said when she finished. “Looks like he’s penetrated their operation, at least as far as passed the front door.

“Have you had any luck reaching Jacobs?”

“He’s on patrol,” she answered. “I left a message for him to call me. I took the liberty of not mentioning your name since you want this to be an in-house operation.”

“Very good thinking. Put him through as soon as he calls.”

“Yes sir,” she said, standing up and returning to her desk.


* * *


The call came in a six-thirty. I had just finished a delicious fish chowder with fresh made biscuits with my landlady. I was in my room enjoying the last of the tea she made when she tapped softly on the door to my room.

“There’s a call for you, Mr. Conway,” she said from the other side of the door.

“Thanks,” I called out. “I’ll be right there.”

I got up and headed down the hall to where a candlestick phone sat on a small end table. I lifted the earpiece that lay beside the rotary dial and leaned close to the mouthpiece.

“Yeah?” I said. I knew who it would be.

“Be at the corner of...” There was a brief pause, and I heard a muffled voice in the background, then, “the corner of Barrington an’ Proctor at noon tomorrow. Watch for a black Talbot. Get in, keep yer mouth shut. Got it?”

“Got it,” I said and depressing the hook on the side, disconnecting the call. I realized from the accent that it wasn’t Caruso.

I checked to make sure Mrs. Pottie wasn’t in earshot then picked up the earpiece again and dialed. I knew McCarthy worked well into the evening, so I was sure he’d pick up.

He did...on the third ring.

“It’s me,” I said. “I just got a call from one of the gang’s people. I’m to be picked up tomorrow evening at six. I’m guessing they’re taking’ me to meet somebody. It’s lookin’ like the plan is starting to come together.”

“And they gave you no idea what this was to be about,” he asked when I finished.


“Hm. I think you are right about the plan working, although I am not overly comfortable with you going into a meeting not knowing what it is about.”

“Them’s the chances,” I said. “I figure it’ll be one of two things: one, they want to know more about me; or two, they got somethin’ they want me to do.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

“If it is about putting me to work, it might be a good idea to be on the lookout for anyone trying to release that truck I was using when they arrested me.”

“Why? Do you think they would try and get their hands on it? I do not see...”

“I told them that it ‘s my truck. They offered to get it back for me as part of their offer to join up.”

“Good idea. I will take steps immediately to ensure I am notified of such a move. I will have Miss Slaunwhite call you. If you are unavailable, she will leave word of some sort at your lodging. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” I said then hung up and returned to my room.

I had to admit I wasn’t too happy about going into an unknown situation without my gun. Jacobs still had it. I’d have to make a point of getting it back as soon as possible.

The next day I arrived at the rendezvous point ten minutes early and was standing there, leaning against the stop sign smoking a cigarette, when I spotted the Talbot coming down the street. It slowed as it neared me then came to a stop. The driver leaned across and cranked the passenger side window down a crack.

“You Conway?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Git in.”

I flicked the cigarette into the street then got in as instructed. The driver eased the clutch out and the car started to roll away before the door was closed.

We drove north along Barrington Street then turned onto Kenny Street. I saw the truck I was driving when they picked me up parked beside the curb in front of a single-story wooden house. My hunch was right. I guess McCarthy didn’t get the word soon enough.

‘Jesus’, I thought, ‘that was quick’. Whoever was running this operation must be really well positioned to have that much influence.

The driver pulled into the gravel space at the side of the house and turned off the motor.

“Out,” he said. “We’re ‘ere.”

“Now what?” I asked.

“Inside.” He gestured for me follow him.

We went in through the front door. Inside, he signaled for me to head down the hall toward the kitchen at the rear of the house. As I neared the door, I noticed a wooden table with three chairs around it. There was a large pot sitting on it along with a couple of mugs.

“Take a seat,” my guardian said, “’help yourself to a coffee.”

I sat down on one of the wooden chairs, ignoring the coffee. I pulled out my cigarettes and extracted one, lighting it with a match. Buddy stood vigil at the door, leaning against the jamb. It wasn’t long before I heard footsteps coming down the hall behind me.

“You see yer truck outside?” a man said when he came in and sat across from me.

“Yeah,” I said. “I won’t ask how ya managed to get it back.”

“Smart fella. So you still wanna work for us?”

“That’s why I’m here,” I said, taking a pull on the cigarette.

“Good. My name’s Lenny Purcell. I’m the one that’ll be puttin’ ya work.”

“Okay by me,” I said. “What’s in it fer me?”

“Ya mean besides gittin’ yer truck back?”

“Yeah, besides that,” I said.

“Two hundred a trip.”

“Plus gas?”

“Yeah, okay. Plus gas. This is your chance to show us if you got what we’re lookin’ for. There’s a shipment comin’ in up in Cape Breton outside Glace Bay later tonight. You hafta pick it up an’ deliver it to a place in Eastern Passage by tomorrow morning. Think ya can handle that?”

“Yeah. No problem. That’s a long haul, maybe seven hours up and, dependin’ on how heavy the load is, maybe eight, nine hours comin’ back. How big a load?”

“Two hundred cases plus a half dozen barrels.”

“Yeah, eight, ten-hour return trip,” I said, calculating for the weight.

“I’ll be ridin’ along wit ya ta help out with the drivin’. I know where to go both ends.”

“The company’ll be good. You done much long distance driving?”

“Don’t worry ‘bout dat,” Purcell said, “I’ve done enough.”

I figured this would a good time for introductions.

“Jerome Conway,” I said, offering him my hand. “Glad to have ya ridin’ with me.”

He accepted my hand. He had a solid and firm handshake, and I could feel the roughness of his palm. He was definitely used to hard work: probably fishing.

“When do we head out?” I asked.

“No later than three o’clock. We’ll be driving straight through both ways,” he said, standing up. He pulled out a large envelope and handed it to me.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Half your payment. You get the rest when the job’s done.”

I opened the envelope and fingered through the banknotes inside: all twenties.

“Here,” he said, taking his hand out of his pocket. It held a small wad of more banknotes. He peeled off three twenties and passed them to me. “Gas an’ meals.”

“Thanks,” I said taking the notes.

“You need more, let me know.” He put the wad back in his pocket. “The truck is gassed an’ ready to roll. After we make the delivery, you’ll come back to the city an’ drop me off. If everythin’ goes good, you’ll be hearin’ from us again for more runs. By the way, ya carryin’?”

“If I need to, why? You expectin’ trouble?” I asked.

“Never can tell. Been a coupla attempted hijackin’s lately. If ya got your own hardware best ya take it along. That gonna be a problem?”

“Don’t know. I wasn’t expectin’ to sign on where I might hafta kill someone.”

“Then don’t get stopped.”

Shit, why didn’t I think of that, I thought, but kept my mouth shut.

I made arrangements to pick Lenny up at two-thirty down by shipyard then headed for the truck. I made it back to my digs and once inside called McCarthy.

“Looks like I’m in,” I said. “I’m on my way up to Glace Bay in an hour or two to pick up a shipment for delivery back here somewhere over in Eastern Passage.”

“Very good,” he said. “Very, very good. Have you learned who is running the operation yet?”

“I met with someone named Lenny Purcell who seems to be running this part of the operation, but I didn’t get the feeling he was the top man.”

“Oh? How so?”

“Call it a gut feeling. He just didn’t come across as someone with the kind of pull to get me outta jail and get the truck back.”

“I see. Well, I trust your instincts. Now, what about this shipment?”

“Three hundred cases being landed outside Glace Bay sometime tonight. I’m guessing it’s coming in from the French islands.”

“Most probably. Are you going up there alone?”

“No. Purcell’s ridin’ with me; supposedly as a second driver and paymaster. Oh yeah, another thing, it was suggested that I carry a weapon.”

“They must expect trouble?”

“Don’t know, but we do know that there have been a number of attempted hijackings by rival operators lately. My main concern is what might happen if the local constabulary stops us.”

“Quite so. I will have to alert Constables Jacobs and Murphy to bring them up to date. I am sure they can make the necessary arrangements to lessen that possibility.”

“Good. Also, if you can reach Jacobs before two o’clock, tell him I’d like my gun back. He can deliver it to me at my digs.”

“Is that all?” he asked.

“For now, yeah. I’ll check in after I get back,” I said.

“Make sure you get names when you are up there, particularly, the name of the boat and any crewmen.”

“Yes sir.”

“Have a safe trip. Good luck.” He hung up.

It was an hour after talking with McCarthy when Mrs. Pottie called me to the phone again. This time it was Jacobs.

“Hi,” he said when I picked up. “Hear things are moving right along?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Looks that way. McCarthy tell you everything?”

“More or less, yeah, unless you have anything new to add?”

“Not yet. I’ll be headin’ out soon to pick up my minder, a fella named, Lenny Purcell. I think he’s a local fisherman lookin’ for extra dosh like most a’ them these days.”

“I’ll check him out. McCarthy said you also reported there might be a possibility of gun play. What’s that about?”

“Not sure, but as you probably know already, there’s been reports of attempted hijackin’s by rival operators. That’s not my main worry, though. Goes with the territory. It’s the possibility of a run in with any of your people or Murphy’s. I don’t know how far Purcell will go if we’re stopped by any police. Mind you, if it comes to it, I can and will deal with it. But it would help if you can somehow see to it we get a free ride.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Jacobs said. He sounded like he was already working on the matter.

“Great,” I said. “Oh, one more thing...”

“Your gun,” he said, cutting me off. “Where do you want meet to get it?”

“Can’t risk it. I don’t know if I’m being watched.” I told him where the truck was parked and suggested he swing by and put the gun under the driver’s seat. Luckily, I had a spare key that was not taken when I was arrested. I hung up feeling a bit better knowing the plan was far.

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