- Author: Clive Cussler
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The bootlegger : an Isaac Bell adventure / Clive Cussler and Justin Scott.
p. cm.—(An Isaac Bell Adventure ; 7)
1. Bell, Isaac (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Private investigators—Fiction. 3. Prohibition—Fiction. I. Scott, Justin. II. Title.
Endpapers and interior illustrations by Roland Dahlquist
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Also by Clive Cussler
TWO MEN IN EXPENSIVE CLOTHES, a bootlegger and his bodyguard, dangled a bellboy upside down from the Hotel Gotham’s parapet.
The bodyguard held him by his ankles, nineteen stories above 55th Street. It was night. No one saw, and the boy’s screams were drowned out by the Fifth Avenue buses, the El thundering up Sixth, and trolley bells clanging on Madison.
The bootlegger shouted down at him, “Every bellhop in the hotel sells my booze! Whatsamatter with you?”
Church spires and mansion turrets reached for him like teeth.
“Last chance, sonny.”
A tall man in a summer suit glided silently across the roof. He drew a Browning automatic from his coat and a throwing knife from his boot. He mounted the parapet and pressed the pistol to the bodyguard’s temple.
The bodyguard froze. The bootlegger shrank from the blade pricking his throat.
“Isaac Bell. Van Dorn Agency. Sling him in on the count of two.”
“If you shoot, we drop him.”
“You’ll have holes in your heads before he passes the eighteenth floor . . . On my count: One! Pull him up. Two! Swing him over the edge . . . Lay him on the roof— Are you O.K., son?”
The bellboy had tears in his eyes. He nodded, head bobbing like a puppet.
“Go downstairs,” Isaac Bell told him, sliding his knife back in his boot and shifting the automatic to his left hand. “Tell your boss Chief Investigator Bell said to give you the week off and a fifty-dollar bonus for standing up to bootleggers.”
The bodyguard chose his moment well. When the tall detective reached down to help the boy stand, he swung a heavy, ring-studded fist. Skillfully thrown with the full power of a big man’s muscle behind it, it was blocked before it traveled four inches.
A bone-cracking counterpunch staggered him. His knees buckled and he collapsed on the tar. The bootlegger shot empty hands into the sky. “O.K., O.K.”
• • •
THE VAN DORN DETECTIVE AGENCY—an operation with field offices in every city in the country and many abroad—maintained warm relations with the police. But Isaac Bell spotted trouble when he walked into the 54th Street precinct house.
The desk sergeant couldn’t meet his eye.
Bell reached across the high desk to shake his hand anyway. This particular sergeant’s father, retired roundsman Paddy O’Riordan, augmented his pension as a part-time night watchman for Van Dorn Protective Services.
“How’s your dad?”
Paddy was doing fine.
“Any chance of interviewing the bootlegger we caught at the Gotham?”
“The big guy’s at the hospital getting his jaw wired.”
“I want the little one, the boss.”
“Surety company paid his bond.”
Bell was incensed. “Bail? For attempted murder?”
“They expect the protection they pay for,” said Sergeant O’Riordan, poker-faced. “What I would do next time, Mr. Bell, instead of calling us, throw them in the river.”
Bell watched for the cop’s reaction when he replied, “I reckoned Coasties would fish them out.”
O’Riordan agreed with a world-weary “Yeah,” confirming the rumors that even some officers of the United States Coast Guard—the arm of the Treasury Department charged with enforcing Prohibition at sea—were in the bootleggers’ pockets.
Starting this afternoon, thought Bell, the Van Dorns would put