Murtha shook hands with us suspiciously, but did not sit down. He continued to stand, his hat tilted back over his head and his huge hands jammed down into his trousers pockets.
“What’s this I hear about Jack Rubano, Carton?” he opened fire. “They tell me you have arrested him and secured an indictment.”
“They tell the truth,” returned Carton shortly. “The Grand Jury indicted Dopey Jack this afternoon. The trial—–”
“Dopey Jack,” quoted Murtha in disgusted tones. “That’s the way it is nowadays. Give a dog a bad name—why,—I suppose this bad name’s going to stick to him all his life, now. It ain’t right. You know, Carton, as well as I do that if they charged him with just plain fighting and got him before a jury, all you would have to say would be, ’Gentlemen, the defendant at the bar is the notorious gangster, Dopey Jack.’ And the jurors wouldn’t wait to hear any more, but’d say, ‘Guilty!’ just like that. And he’d go up the river for the top term. That’s what a boy like that gets once the papers give him such an awful reputation. It’s fierce!”
Carton shook his head. “Oh, Murtha,” he remonstrated with just a twinkle in his eye, “you don’t think I believe that sort of soft stuff, do you? I’ve had my eye on this ’boy’—he’s twenty-eight, by the way—too long. You needn’t tell me anything about his respectable old father and his sorrowing mother and weeping sister. Murtha, I’ve been in this business too long for that heart throb stuff. Leave that to the lawyers the System will hire for him. Let’s cut that out, between ourselves, and get down to brass tacks.”
It was a new and awkward role for Murtha as suppliant, and he evidently did not relish it. Aside from his own interest in Dopey Jack, who was one of his indispensables, it was apparent that he came as an emissary from Dorgan himself to spy out the land and perhaps reach some kind of understanding.
He glanced about at us, with a look that broadly hinted that he would prefer to see Carton alone. Carton made no move to ask us to leave and Kennedy met the boss’s look calmly. Murtha smothered his rage, although I knew he would with pleasure have had us stuck up or blackjacked.
“See here, Carton.” he blurted out at length, approaching the desk of the District Attorney and lowering his big voice as much as he was capable, “can’t we reach some kind of agreement between ourselves? You let up on Rubano—and—well, I might be able to get some of my friends to let up on Carton. See?”
He was conveying as guardedly as he could a proposal that if the District Attorney would consent to turn his back while the law stumbled in one of the numerous pitfalls that beset a criminal prosecution, the organization would deliver the goods, quietly pass the word along to knife its own man and allow Carton to be re-elected.
I studied Carton’s face intently. To a man of another stripe, the proposal might have been alluring. It meant that although the organization ticket won, he would, in the public eye at least, have the credit of beating the System, of going into office unhampered, of having assured beyond doubt what was at best only problematical with the Reform League.