Chapter 24 Of “Exit From Eden” By Mary Reinholz

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June 1, 2015 · Posted in Exit From Eden -Mary Reinholz 

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PIMPS STRUT THEIR STUFF

 

About an hour before the meeting with Ted Katz , I got a call from Jason Slade at my new sublet near the Chelsea Hotel, saying he was having problems with my magazine piece on runaway girls in the East Village.

“It has some holes in it, Ryder,” he grumbled. “You should try to interview more pimps who take those little girls in from the cold and then turn them out as street prostitutes. You just have one quote. I want to nail those guys. ”

“I’ve only seen a few small time pimps in the Village,” I told him. “They look pretty down and out themselves.”
“I’m thinking of someone known as Midtown Slim, a flashy pimp,” Slade said. “I hear he generally dresses to the dimes in a three- piece suit and carries around JP Donleavy’s cult novel, ‘The Gingerman,’ He might tell you about his fellow gents of leisure.”

“It will be hard to find someone like that in the East Village,” I said. “Not a lot of dapper dudes around.”

“I’m confident you’ll find a pimp who will talk, Ryder,” Slade said. “By the way, nice story on Harvey Jewell and his views on the cops in the Mafia murder case. Jewell probably knows lots of pimps. That’s what he is, after all. Someone who makes money off of young girls. Why don’t you talk to him?”

“Whatever you say, boss,” I said. “When do you want this?.”

“Monday,” Slade said, now sounding cheerful on the waning Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve got your story scheduled for a cover next month. Just check out the scene and get me about 800 words. I’ll pay an additional $100.”

Midtown Slim wasn’t the only literate pimp in town. Was Katz more like a john? No, he belonged to another more elusive category of the male gender ruled by his sexual needs, someone I let paw me in a speeding yellow cab after Jewell’s mob distributor was shot dead in his warehouse. I remembered with some shame pawing him back. Very unprofessional.

Katz could be serious trouble, especially for a girl fugitive trying to elude the law. He’d probably turn me in himself if he learned I had a killed an Arkansas rapist in self-defense.

Nervously, I checked out the few belongings left over from my stay at the Chelsea Hotel to find the necessary props for an encounter with this nosy investigative reporter and varied predators of the street. Things like my mother’s pocket knife, the one she gave me when I left Los Angeles only a couple of months ago. A smarter girl would have rid herself of the makeshift weapon that had dispatched Jed Scott at his motel. But I had kept it as a kind of relic of a more innocent time in California. Now I slipped the little pullout blade into my tote bag, treating it like a magic charm against snakes.

Then I found something kinkier stuffed in my backpack: Sean Collins’ purple nylon shorts. They looked like a remnant of a boxing ring bout. Collins had left them behind as he exited my hotel room a few days ago, stealthily snatching my unregistered .22 caliber pistol before he went out the door. I missed that hot little rod almost as much as I missed Collins even though he had ripped me off.

Maybe his shorts were his goodbye gift, a colorful reminder that he was a fighting Irishman, one whose first arrest was for assault on 17 police officers. I knew he would have protected me had the crazed druggie Sargeant Battaglia busted into my dingy room at the Chelsea during our last night together.

Standing near a floor length mirror, I put on Collins’ shorts over a pair of black tights and then got into a long red paisley skirt with a slit up the front, adding a black turtleneck sweater purchased in L.A. For footwear, I chose my one pair of thrift shop pumps so that I would tower over this combative guy, who was already at least a half inch shorter than me.

Then I flashed again on the squalid horror of Battaglia, who made Katz seem like mere billy goat in a reporter’s clothing. After all, the Slaughtered Lamb pub was in Battaglia’s new precinct.

So I fitted Doria Nune’s blonde wig over my head of dyed light brown hair, hoping it would double again as a disguise. Doria used to wear the wig for occasional assignations with her johns when she was living at the Chelsea, working as a part time call girl while putting together Pink, her glossy erotic magazine for sophisticated women. She had nearly died in a mattress fire we both agreed had most likely been set by Battaglia .

Abruptly I called her in northern New Jersey where she was recuperating from smoke inhalation. She greeted me in a voice far less groggy than it was during my bedside chat with her the other day at St. Vincent’s Hospital in the West Village.

“C.J. Ryder—my favorite reporter,” she murmured. “I read your story in the Bugle. You really captured Jewell putting down asshole cops in the NYPD. Congratulations, sister.”

“Thanks, Doria,” I said. “Harvey Jewell made that story. He’ll say anything outrageous anything to get attention.”

“Jewell is crazy but he has balls,” Doria agreed. “How come you didn’t mention Battaglia’s name in the story?”

“Oh, I couldn’t reach Battaglia for a comment and maybe I didn’t want to. I’m just glad the copy desk at The Bugle let Jewell ramble on about a ‘bumbling pretty boy cop’ screwing up the case worse than a Keystone cop would.”

Doria chuckled drily. “Battaglia is a lot more dangerous than a Keystone cop. C.J.,” she said. “Aren’t you worried he’s going to come after you?”

“Sure, but he’d be crazy to go after a reporter in this town,” I said, quoting Sean Collins on the subject. “But he might go after you again.”

“I almost hope he tries,” Doria said, her soft voice now defiant.“ I’m living with a big burly uncle on my mom’s side who’s a shop steward for a driver’s union at the Daily Bugle. Talk about mafia connections,” she went on, sounding grim and deadly earnest. “If Battaglia shows his face around here, I’ll tell my uncle and that creepy flatfoot will get turned into road gravel.”

She was making me more nervous so I changed the subject and told her I was having dinner with Ted Katz at the Slaughtered Lamb pub.

“That’s a tourist trap, ” Doria yawned. “But Katz could be fun. I met him once at the Daily Bugle when my uncle showed me around the paper last year. He’s brash and tries to be hipper than thou, but at least he’s got a brain on him.”

She was right about that. I asked her if it was okay if I wore her blonde wig for the occasion. “I forgot to return it to you after that photo shoot at The Bugle for my women’s lib column. Just give me your address and I’ll mail it to you tomorrow.”

Doria laughed briefly. “Keep the damn wig, babes. I don’t want it. I’ve changed my M.O.. No more dates with swinish type gents. I’ve joined AA and want to keep things simple.”

She seemed to be sincere. Maybe she had left the so-called demimonde behind her. Maybe she’d next be testifying about corrupt cops before the Knapp Commission.

“I can’t talk anymore, C.J. Ryder,” she mumbled. “I’m beginning to fade. Call me again in couple of days.” Then she clicked off.

***

Katz, decked out in a two piece dark blue suit, at first didn’t recognize me when I walked into the cozy gloom of the Slaughtered Lamb pub on West Fourth Street. He had taken a table by the fireplace not far from a dangling skeleton and seemed surprised when I sat down on a tall stool across from him.

“Hey,” he said, looking up from his mug of beer. “Have we met?”

“I believe we got close and personal in a yellow cab, Katz,” I said, attempting a display of swaggering self-assurance close to his own.

The prizing winning journalist seemed to blush up to his balding pate, but he recovered quickly. “Miss Ryder. I didn’t recognize you with all that blonde hair. I’d like to take my hair down with you—all six of them.”

“You’re a scream, Katz,” I said, and meant it. The dude had a sense of humor. “Is that why you chose this particular place for our get together? I understand it’s modeled after a pub in jolly old England where the owners smeared the blood of lambs on doors to ward off werewolves. Are you trying to scare me to death?”

He chuckled softly and looked me at evenly with his baby blue eyes. “Not at all. I just thought you’d get a kick out of this place. It’s also close to the apartment of somebody I have to interview tonight. So I had a selfish motive in asking you to meet me here.”

“What are you working on?” I asked him, genuinely curious.

“Another murder case,” he said. “The widow of a man killed by his mistress in her kitchen. She was cooking up a roast and they got into an argument. Things got out of hand and she grabbed her carving knife.”

Katz lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. “Did you know that most homicides occur in the kitchen?”

“Good to know,” I said, still faking self confidence even while my stomache began to churn as I recalled grabbing my mom’s pocket knife from the dish drain when Jed Scott was choking me in a motel kitchenette.

Fortunately, our server, a bonafide blonde all in black, came by and the conversation shifted. We both ordered burgers, medium rare, and got down to shop talk. Katz wanted to know more about the owner of the Queens bar that Harvey Jewell mentioned in my story about the killing of his beloved mob distributor Vinnie deQuattro.

“You quote Harvey Jewell saying that he believes the killer is the owner of this bar that you don’t name. You also have Jewell saying that the bar owner is the father of a runaway girl who used to work for Vinnie deQuattro in his warehouse. Why didn’t you identify him?”

“Because Jewell is just ranting about his theory, Katz,” I said, not mentioning that I had planted the idea in the porn king’s head. “It’s plausible but I want to find this bar owner and see for myself if he’s the same man I saw walking into DeQuattro’s warehouse wearing gray sweat pants and holding a .38 revolver.”

“Ms. Ryder—you’re trying to be fair,” Katz said, looking at me in wonder as if he had discovered a great truth. “You’re a nice person.”

“No, I’m not.” Was Katz crazy or just plain blind? Clearly he didn’t see the ruthless killer girl facing him.

“Oh yes, you are nice, despite all your efforts to conceal it,” Katz said, slowly munching a French fry. “And I want to help you find Vinnie DeQuattro’s killer. If you need contacts in the Department of Buildings who may know this Queens bar owner or anything else, just call me.”

He whipped out his business card from the Bugle and wrote something on the back. Then he handed it to me. “I’ve put my home phone on the back of this card. Just don’t let anyone else have it.”

“I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing,” I said and accepted his card, managing a smile. Maybe Katz could help me. But not just yet. He had to have some kind of ulterior motive in being so generous.

“By the way,” Katz said. “A buddy of mine is in town from L.A. and I asked him if he knew you or had seen your byline in the local papers. He said the name Cassandra Ryder didn’t ring a bell with him. Is that your married name?”

“No, it’s a pen name,” I said, blurting out a half truth. “My ex back in L.A. had become abusive and very controlling. That’s why I came to New York. I changed my name so he wouldn’t find me. I’m hoping you won’t tell anyone else about this. It’s very personal.”

“You count on me to keep my mouth shut, Miss Ryder.”

We chatted some more, mostly about crime in the city. It was almost like a labor negotiation. At around 7:30 pm, Katz signaled the waitress for the check. I let him pay but insisted on leaving the tip. We walked into the crisp night air together and walked away from each other in different directions.

 

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