Escape by Charles R Kittle by Charles R Kittle - Read Online



New York speakeasy owner Drake Lauren and his sidekick Danny escape from a torrid gun chase, and in a moment of reflection, Drake takes up residence in a Massachusetts community. In a world apart from New York's wickedness, Drake senses, searches for something he can't grasp. He flounders, unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the rush of sensations he finds in this parochial New England region. Two charming but unsettling women enter his life. Though trying to resolve his New York connections he knows he can't break free of gangsters determined to eliminate him. And while searching for the path to redemption he discovers it's neither clear nor guaranteed—and complicated by women who add their demands. Drake needs a daring solution.
Published: Whiskey Creek Press on
ISBN: 9781611603163
List price: $3.99
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Escape - Charles R Kittle

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Chapter 1

It must have been more than half an hour after we left downtown Manhattan before my heart began to slow down. And while we were still racing too fast in near-total darkness I took another quick look in the rear-view mirror. No headlights behind us. I let a shaky breath out, thinking that there had been a few minutes when we were being chased when I thought it was all over. But after shoving the headlight switch off and snapping a couple of screeching turns that nearly rolled the Packard over I managed to shake the car with its guns blasting away behind us.

After one last wild skidding turn I decided it was probably safe to ease off the gas pedal and let the big car slow down and at the same time I checked both rear-view mirrors again. The road behind was like a painted black slate except for the weak glow from a few widely-spaced street lights.

I glanced across at Drake and said, What do ya think? And as long as I’m still driving, would you tell me where in hell we’re going to go now?

Before flicking the headlamps toggle switch to the On position I heard a heavy, tired sigh come from Drake as he pushed back against the passenger seat and scrubbed his cheeks like he’d just woken up from a deep sleep.

He said, Keep goin’ this way…north. Try to find a road heading up toward Connecticut. I used to have a friend up in Massachusetts. He’ll put us up for a couple of nights until things cool off.

I nodded, didn’t say anything, but was wondering how all this was gonna work out, what in hell we were gonna do, and what he thought now that things had really heated up. You’re the boss.

I glanced across at him in the dim glow of the dash lights to see how he was doing. It had been a tough year but he still looked good. Funny that the women thought he was handsome, and maybe he was with that strong face—some called it masculine. His nose was straight and about the right length but there was nothing remarkable about his chin or mouth; the kind you don’t notice when you look at someone, but his eyes were dark and he could look right through you if he wanted to. His hair was kind of mussed up now—all that long dark brown hair that he combed straight back like a lot of guys do these days. A bunch of people thought we were brothers, and I could see why, but I’m six feet tall, a couple of inches taller than him, and my hair is lighter brown.

So how far is it? It’s after two now. Are we gonna drive all night?

Drake heaved another heavy sigh telling me he was really pissed. He shook his head and said, It’ll probably take us about three or more hours to get there. Look for signs to Connecticut or Massachusetts.

Seeing it was already past two that meant it could be six before we got there, wherever there was. Then, damn it, I heard a squeal of tires behind us. The big car with the guns had found us again. I flipped the headlight switch off and jammed my foot on the gas, making the car leap under us.

What in hell are you doing? Drake growled.

Look back and you’ll see.

I kept my foot on the gas, weaving the car from one curb to the other, and looked for a dark side street; someplace where there weren’t any street lights. I could see a guy lean out the window with a tommy gun, and a second later there were a bunch of flashes.

Duck. The bullets are flyin’ again.

I jerked the car right, almost rolling us over as the Packard skidded on just two tires, bounced and raced into a dark, narrow street. I didn’t know where the street went, but it was too late to change directions. At the end of the dark block I turned a quick hard right, hoping the guys behind would figure we’d go back to the way we’d been going.

Just before the first side street another blast from that damn tommy gun lit up my mirror.

Head down!

I didn’t hear or feel any thuds this time and then yanked the wheel hard right again, nearly hitting and bouncing off a brick wall when the car jolted up on the narrow sidewalk. I jammed the gas and at the end of the block snapped another right, down-shifted into second and the Packard bolted ahead like it had been stung in the ass. When I yanked the shifting lever into third gear I thought the shifting lever might have bent.

The good old Packard hardly touched the road as it roared down the street. It was completely black behind, but to be sure we lost them I snapped a couple more turns and glanced up at the mirror again. Nothing. Drake turned, looking over his shoulder out the rear window. Think we lost them?

Don’t know.

Let’s hope.

I was pooped and didn’t look forward to driving all night, but what he said was what we did. The needle on the gas gauge wobbled near the Full mark so there was no need to worry about it, but I had no idea if we’d be able to find an open gas station between now and morning.

* * * *

We were still roaring too fast for the narrow road we’d turned on and there were no more street lights, causing me to almost miss the Route 7 sign pointing to Massachusetts. Only two or three cars came along on the narrow road which was good since I kept the heavy Packard speeding a little fast for all the bends and curves. We blew through Canaan, Connecticut, and a minute later another sign flashed like one of those arcade flip movie machines—this one the Massachusetts state line indicator.

I poked Drake’s arm. We’re in Massachusetts. How much further?

Not sure. I’ll know the place when I see it. It’s on this road just before we get into the downtown section of the city.

I gotta get some sleep.

Yeah, I bet. Sorry about this, Danny. I should have seen it coming. I knew those bastards wouldn’t be satisfied with only half of goddamn Manhattan. I knew it from the start, but I thought we could work something out…

Seems like they’ve come up with their own idea on how to work it out.

I flicked a glance in his way and let my foot off the gas pedal as we coasted into an intersection. You gonna try to square things?

Drake seemed to think about it before he sighed and said, I dunno…

He appeared sad; his head was kind of hanging down like it was awful heavy.

* * * *

About a half hour later Drake pointed and said, That’s it.

I slid my foot from the gas pedal to the brake.

That big house ahead on the right, the one set way back. Pull into the driveway. I’ll check and see if he’s there.

I turned and parked in the driveway. Drake got out, stretched and then hiked to the front door.

Several minutes later Drake turned around, stepped off the stone steps and headed back to the car. I’d just lit a cigarette and was enjoying the break, but you couldn’t miss the hard frown on Drake’s face as he got closer.

He shook his head and said, My friend sold the house and moved away. This guy doesn’t know where, but was pretty sure he wasn’t in the city, said my friend lost everything in the stock market crash.

So now what? I asked, wondering if it was all right to toss my half-smoked cigarette onto the groomed lawn.

Dunno, but for the short term we’re going to a hotel. The guy said there’s a hotel a couple of miles ahead. We’ll get some rest there and then decide what to do.

I was way too tired to argue as I dropped back onto the seat.

Sort of sudden like we rolled into a major intersection of what appeared to be the city’s business district. Everything was still quiet, no traffic to speak of, and right there on our left was the Wendell Hotel, a six or seven-story brownish building. After parking in front I looked around a little and happened to notice a nice park, a city green with a big statue of a Civil War soldier.

The hotel was decent and bigger than I expected, but who cared? I was too tired to look around. I just wanted some shut-eye.

* * * *

Something was shaking my shoulder back and forth. It made me mad and I started to roll to one side and come up swinging, but just before I cocked my arm Drake spoke, saying, All right, all right, I’m awake. I worked my legs over the edge of the bed and massaged the sides of my head, trying to clear the cobwebs. Drake loomed over me with his hands on his hips, and he had this little smile on his face. He’d worked out something.

What’s so damn important it couldn’t wait?

"You’re going back to New York and after you do a few errands down there you’ll come back and then we’ll talk. I like having you around, Danny, but I can see where you might prefer New York, and that’s okay with me if that’s the way you want it.

But I’m going to cool it for a while, might find and rent a place, stay for a bit.

I tried to digest what he said, but had to ask, What about the speakeasies, the gang? You just gonna let Adonis, Big Bill Dwyer or some other goon take over your territory?

I didn’t say that, Danny. I said we’ll see. But I’m going to let things cool off. I want to think about where we’re going and whether it’s worth it. You should know what I’m talking about. Last night—and that wasn’t the first time you and I dodged a few bullets, and it won’t be the last. And like I’ve been saying right along our speakeasy days may be about over; you know, the repeal of prohibition’s just around the corner. Maybe two or three years before the states repeal it. And you’re right about Adonis and Dwyer. They’re not going away. They’ll keep on trying and sooner or later they’ll succeed—

Not if you do it first. Why sit around and wait for it? Why don’t you go after them for a change?

Drake scrunched his face and after a second he nodded, his hair flopping sideways.

We could, sure, but it won’t end there. There’s always going to be another gangster around the next corner. It won’t end until they repeal prohibition.

He was probably right. The wars wouldn’t quit until either everyone was dead or booze was legal again. So now what?

Drake’s gaze settled on the floor as he turned away and walked to a window where he looked out and after pushing his hands into his pants pockets he spoke again. I’d like you to go back to the city. Take a train. They won’t be looking for you at Grand Central.

Then he faced me and said, I’ll give you a letter to take to my bank: New York Trust. Tell them I’ll call in a day or two to get my account transferred up here. Then pack up a few things of mine, you know what I wear, and be sure to pack the ledger books. Pack them with the rest of my stuff—put it all on a train to this hotel.

He paused like he was thinking and then said, If you don’t want to come back that’s okay. You don’t have to, but like I said, I like having you around. It’s up to you. But I’m done…for a while, and knowing Joe Adonis, Big Bill and their thugs…when they catch on I’m not there they’ll move in like a couple of bulldozers. So if you stay there be ready to fight it out.

He looked at me with those hard dark eyes and after a second I stood up, tried to shake the wrinkles from my pants and then tucked in my shirt. I’ll think about it on the way down. When do I go?

Chapter 2

After dropping Danny Groggins off at Pittsfield’s Union Station at the lower end of West Street, Drake Lauren inquired about real estate and house rentals. And after receiving a couple of agency names Drake went to the Packard and took a mini tour of the city’s business district before seeking out a realtor. Later at the Elm Street Property Broker’s building he explained to a middle-aged man behind a very cluttered desk he might be interested in renting a house. The man stood and introduced himself as Simon Murphy and after what seemed like a mini appraisal of Drake he said he knew of a very nice house that Drake was sure to like. Drake agreed to follow him to a place on Crofut Street, an upper-end residential street that Drake and Danny had driven by much earlier that same morning.

* * * *

The realtor turned his Ford Model A jalopy into a circular drive and stopped after he had it pointed back toward the street. A striking vintage brick and stone manor house stretched out behind and extended beyond the driveway in both directions. Drake followed and parked behind the Ford. He stepped out and waited for Murphy, a heavyset man of about fifty years of age with an abundance of long graying hair and wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a suit that needed serious pressing.

Murphy gathered some loose papers from the front seat and walked toward and alongside Drake’s ostentatious Packard. There he slowed while he removed the wrapper from a stick of chewing gum and pushed the gum into his mouth. He glanced again at Drake’s auto, letting his hand brush against the dusty but finely-crafted coachwork. His fingers swept over the rear fender where he felt something: a depression. He paused and studied a small round hole, the size of a finger, that chipped the paint, marring the polished metal surface. He arched his eyebrows, and before he commented he noticed another and then a third and two more holes of similar size in the rear panels of the sedan. He was puzzled for an instant, but without commenting he moved on to the front door of the house where he noticed Drake had taken several steps back to obtain a more expansive look at the front of the mansion.

Murphy read a favorable expression settling on Drake’s face and then said, "This place was built during the so-called Gilded Age, around 1880 to the early 1900s. It’s one of about thirty summer and year-round mansions in this area.

Here, let me unlock the door. You can look around and be sure to check the terrace and gardens in the rear. There’s more than three acres. Murphy scooted to the door, twisted a key in the lock and pushed the big wooden door open.

Drake walked ahead and after two or three steps stopped in the wide ornate foyer. It was dim in the high-ceilinged room, forcing him to wait a moment before he looked around and then advanced. A huge living room with an over-sized fireplace was visible on his left and on his right was a huge formal dining room.

That door on the back wall of the dining room leads into the kitchen, Murphy said. And further right you can see the French doors that go outside.

After a few seconds Drake appeared puzzled and said, What’s the deal? The house is still furnished… He waved an arm, noting, Carpets, curtains, chairs, divans, tables, even paintings on the walls. The place looks like people are still living here.

No, no, they’ve moved to the Boston area. The owner, like a number of people around here, got caught short in that stock market mess of a couple of years ago. And the way things are he knows he can’t sell the place for what he’s got in it so he’s decided to wait it out, hoping someone might be willing to rent it to cover his costs.

Drake nodded, adding a hint of a frown before wandering further. Murphy hurried along after him, improvising as he went along, and pointed. Take a look in there. It’s a den and library; still full of books, a desk, a nice leather sofa and a couple of chairs. A great retreat for a guy. And beyond that is a wonderful sun porch.

Interesting. How many bedrooms? He gestured back toward the stairs.

Murphy stopped chewing his gum, adjusted his glasses and shuffled through the loose papers in his hand. Six bedrooms, four baths. There’s a balcony up there, too, that looks out on the back gardens.

What’s the rent?

Murphy needed no notes to answer the question. He pushed the gum to one side of his mouth with his tongue and said, It’s a fair price, considering all the extras here. He’s only asking twelve thousand a year—a thousand a month.

Drake puckered his mouth as he pondered the figure and then looked beyond toward the kitchen area. Let me see the rest of the place, then we’ll talk.

* * * *

After finalizing the details of the rental Drake asked about local banks and which one Murphy thought he would recommend with regard to transferal of funds from his New York bank account. Before going their separate ways Murphy then asked, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but is there a Mrs. Lauren? I mean this is a very large residence.

Drake didn’t miss a beat and said, No, there’s no Missus. But I do have a few associates who might visit from time to time.

Murphy tossed a little nod of his head, resumed chewing gum, strolled toward his car, and before sliding onto the seat said, I’ll have the agreement drawn up and bring it to the hotel. We can finish up the details there. Meanwhile drive around and get to know our city a little better.

Chapter 3

By the time the train reached Grand Central I felt a lot better. Another hour of sleep, a cup of coffee and a bagel helped a lot. I hadn’t got it all figured out, but Drake’s business came first, the rest would come later. It seemed pretty clear he hadn’t thought this whole thing through.

He can’t believe Adonis Dwyer or Vito Genovese won’t come looking for him when they realize he’s gone. And they’ll find him. They’re good at that sort of thing.… Goddamn good at it.

So as soon as I delivered the letter to Drake’s bank then talked to the club gang and paid off those who wanted to leave, I’d go straight to my place and Drake’s to pack as much into the suitcases as they’d hold and get the hell out of New York. I didn’t know anything about this hick burg Drake’s decided to settle in, but it looked okay and a little peace and quiet wouldn’t hurt my nerves none, either. Well, that’s the way I saw it, and it would have to do until something better came along.

Trying to look nonchalant, I hiked across the cavernous room in Grand Central Station. Next I’d get a cab and go to Drake’s bank and after giving them Drake’s letter I’d go to my apartment and then to Drake’s place and next to the bus station and put some Wendell Hotel labels on the bags and then…what? Hang around ’til after five or six or until the gang shows up at the clubs. Then fill them in and pay off those who want out.

But now I needed a place to hole up… Maybe one of our clubs would be okay. When the crew arrived that would be it. Then back to Grand Central and wait till a train heads up to Pittsfield again.


I forgot to check the train schedule.

* * * *

By early evening I finished most of the chores and was lucky, I hadn’t seen anyone I knew. The fewer people who saw me the better—less chance of the word getting around that I was in town and better chance of staying alive. I still hadn’t called the train station, and worried there might not be a train later, and the Adonis goons were probably watching all our places. So after a long minute of weighing my options I decided to find a hotel and hang out in their lobby and wait ’til club opening time.

I wandered into the Hotel Ennis, a place on east 42nd Street. It wasn’t much of a place but it was