CURVE BALL

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Chapter Seventy-Six

To those who bet and lose, the new wager was when.

The last pitch of the 2015 World Series crowned a new team champion. In Chicago someone whispered certain words to the right people, and the legal process that was dormant all those years woke from its slumber. The authorities learned of a suspect to the 1971 murder of Linzie Kallen at the Ritz Hotel.

It was Thursday morning. Jack was in his kitchen. He had just made a pot of coffee. There was a knock at the door. He looked out the window and saw a police car parked on the street. Two officers were on his front stoop. What the hell did they want? He turned the lock and opened the door.

“Good-morning, fellows” he said with a smile “What can I do for you?”

They had a grim look. “Are you Jack Rakow?” The officer with a mustache asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“You need to come with us.”

“What’s the problem?”

“We can discuss it at the station.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Sir, don’t make it more difficult.”

He moved back from the door. The officers stepped in.

“Can I get a coat?”

The mustachioed officer answered. “Show me where and I’ll get it.”

Jack pointed to the front closet. “The black one.”

He put the jacket on after the other officer patted him down. “Sorry, but we have to do this,” he said, “I’ll cuff you in front and not the back.”

“I’m being arrested?”

“Yeah, I guess you are.”

“For what?”

“We have a warrant for you. The charge is murder.”

He said he was FBI and called himself Lou George. O.B. who took Billy Dee’s place at night was the lock-up keeper at the police station at Belmont and Western. Billy Dee had told him before he left that evening about Jack Rakow and that he was to keep an eye on him.

“Don’t want nothin’ to happen while he’s at the old 19th district,” Billy Dee warned.

Now O.B. scratched his head when George handed his Government Ids. He looked at them from all angles in the light. They looked real. Besides, they were the Feds, and O.B. didn’t want nothin’ to do with them.

“Why is the Bureau interested in a retired baseball player?” He asked.

George drew himself up to his full 5’9” “I’m just the delivery boy. Downtown wants him, not just for the murder, but interstate betting on major league games.”

“Another Pete Rose?”

George shrugged. “They’re all Shoeless Joe Jackson trying to make a buck.”

“No problem, he’s all yours. Just sign your ‘John Hancock’ and your FBI number.”

He studied the signature, shrugged and got the prisoner.

“Thanks,” George said, and gave Jack a little shove.

They exited the rear door. George led Jack to the car and made him sit in the back. He then drove out the parking lot and headed down Western Ave to Fullerton, then west.

“Hey aren’t we going downtown?” Jack asked.

George didn’t answer.

“Did you hear me?

George glared at him in the rear view mirror.

Minutes ticked by. “Who the hell are you? Jack asked.

“You have a short memory.”

Jack rubbed his handcuffed hands against the back of the seat. If George wasn’t FBI or a cop, Jack paused… after all these years? The son-of-a-bitch was … no. He sucked in air and stared at the back of George’s head.

It seemed like an hour passed. The police scanner came to life. A shooting of a female victim had occurred outside a bar west of the Belmont police station. George made a sharp turn and headed north and then east. It took twenty to thirty minutes to get there. George parked across the sign in the window that flashed Tracy’s. He climbed out and took the keys. Minutes later George slid back into the driver’s seat. “Damn fucking fool. He gunned the engine. “The fucking ambulance left to Advocate Illinois Masonic,” he mumbled to himself. “Shit.”

“Why are we going there?” Jack asked.

“Shut-up.”

They reached the hospital. George pushed him out of the car.

“You do anything stupid…” He used his forefinger and thumb to imitate a gun.

George took the handcuffs off Jack and walked behind him. He could feel George’s breath. George flashed his ID to a woman at Information.

“Who’s your friend?” the woman asked.

“He’s with me.”

“I get that.”

“We need the patient to make an identification of the shooter.” He raised his eyebrows toward Jack.

“Oh, okay,” and directed them to the elevator.

George showed his Id’s to a nurse outside of pre-op. She nodded and didn’t ask questions. “If you need me,” she said, “I’ll be down the hall. I’m going for coffee.”

George waited until the nurse left. He turned to Jack.

“See the woman on the gurney inside that room? I’m going to have a chat. You are going to stay outside by the glass door. If you move both you and the girl are dead. Is there anything you don’t understand?”

Jack gave him an icy stare. Shooter? Him? Another frame-up. Jack shifted his weight. The world has gone mad. This couldn’t be happening.

“You know I had nothing to do with this.”

George smirked. “We’ll see.”

George went into the room. Jack focused on the woman. Holy shit, he knew her, but couldn’t remember from where. He listened to George’s one-sided conversation. The bastard called her by her first name. Yes. His memory clicked… Fred’s funeral. That was Fred’s daughter lying there. Jack saw George draw from his pocket a syringe and a small bottle. No he’s not…

“Hey,” Jack yelled, “What the fuck are you doing? She’s got nothing to do with me.” He took a step towards George.

George looked up, and let the bottle fall. His hand dropped to his side. Was he grabbing for his gun? He didn’t wait to find out. Jack dove and knocked him down. They rolled on the floor and slammed into the gurney. The fight spilled into the hallway and toward an open elevator door. Alarms from the stuck elevator covered the sounds of their grunts. Jack slammed him down again. This time George hit his head and appeared stunned. As Jack rummaged through his pockets the son-of-a-bitch found a second wind and kicked Jack in the balls. He doubled over and George charged. He landed a fist to George’s face. Blood poured from George’s nose as he stumbled. Jack grabbed him and shoved him hard through the opened elevator door. He fell down the shaft. Jack shuttered and then patted himself. It just as easily could have been him.

Two hours later Jack got out of a cab. He was at County Hospital by himself.

He lit a Marlborough and inhaled deeply. Then he flicked the cigarette to the ground and rubbed it out with his foot. He looked up at the night sky. His past…his goddamn past clung like a second skin…no matter where he went or what country he was in. He had tried hiding, running away, but like his father’s Judaism the shadows followed. Now the bastards wanted vengeance not only on him but anyone connected to him. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

He felt a chill as he walked into the emergency room of the hospital. The entranceway on a Friday night looked like a M*A*S*H unit. Gurneys and people were everywhere. Nurses attached portable IV’s and yelled orders to move patients. A woman in scrubs raced by him.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I know you’re busy.”

She stopped and scowled at him.

“What floor---”

She put her hand up. “I don’t have time for this. Some one should be at Admitting. It’s around the corner.”

Before he could thank her, she was gone. He pushed his way out and saw the sign. A computer silently flashed on the ledge of the counter but Jack didn’t see any human. In fact, no one seemed to be in charge. He turned the computer towards him and entered a name. The cursor blinked twice. Then as if it received inspiration from above spit out the room number and floor. He didn’t move for a moment. He stared at the screen, then memorized the information and pressed delete. He took a breath and patted his waist. The gun rested beneath his jacket. It was another gift from the late George. Then he hurried to the elevator. She was there on the fourth floor. God, he hoped he was in time.

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